Thursday, July 22, 2010

Stalemate by Iris Johansen

Eve Duncan, a re-occurring character, is what is called a "forensic sculptor," which means she takes a skull and sculpts over it her interpretation of the face, based upon forensic measurements and - to a great extent - intuition. She has never yet been proved wrong. However, she generally works for families of missing children or law enforcement agencies - hoping with each skull she brings home, she might find her own 7yr old daughter, Bonnie, missing and presumed dead for many years.

When she receives an offer from the infamous Luis Montalvo - who is a well-known and wealthy arms dealer in Columbia - twice she firmly declines. He has tried to get her to travel to Columbia to sculpt a skull and she refused - however, the third time he makes an offer she cannot refuse in all good conscience, and she goes - in order to save an innocent family, and also with the promise that Montalvo will help her finally find her daughter. She goes without telling her partner Joe an ex-FBI agent who follows her south. She finds Montalvo as a dangerous criminal but also someone with heart and passion. Eve ends up being key to a war between criminals.

I have read two other book from Iris Johansen, Firestorm and Pandora’s Daughter. I had another sent to me but the “bad guys” in that one were with child molesters and I couldn’t read it. All three were good reads, I really liked Firestorm though

The Art of Mending by Elizabeth Berg

This book was lent to me with a stack of books, so I didn’t “pick it,” but I’m glad I had the chance to read it. I am interested in other books by this author now.

Laura Bartone, a quilt artist, and her husband Pete reconnect each evening by sharing an experience from the day and a memory from the past. (I love that) The story does the same kind of thing, mixing memories from Laura's present-day life and those of her childhood.

Laura is excited about the annual family reunion in Minnesota. When they arrive, her sister Caroline insists on a meeting of just the 3 siblings, including their brother Steve. She wants to talk about how they grew up, suggesting that she was physically and emotionally abused by their mother. Steve and Laura do not have the same memories and struggle with this concept. Caroline has always been different and overly dramatic, are they sure she is being truthful? Then their father is hospitalized. Laura tries to deal with that grief while continuing her business and raising her two teenagers. Whether she believes Caroline or not, Laura must take the time to reach out to her sister and learn ways to mend the family.

Laura says "There is an art to mending. If you're careful, the repair can actually add to the beauty of the thing, because it is testimony of its worth."

I liked this book. It dealt with some tough questions. In a family we all remember things differently. We all have hurts from the past. What if we don’t agree or can’t accept their memories, how do we push on. I liked also how the book dealt with daily living and parenting the teens too.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Silent Sea by Clive Cussler

This is the 7th book in the Oregon series from Clive Cussler and Jack DuBrul. The Oregon appears to be a dilapidated freighter manned by a ragged looking crew when in reality it is a high tech and highly armed ship whose crew is known as the Corporation, and is led by Captain Juan Cabrillo, a former CIA field agent. He and the crew perform black ops for the CIA and also private security for different world leaders at handsome prices. All of the Oregon books I have read I have totally enjoyed, their ship is cool.

The story begins on Dec 7 1941 on a small island off the Washington coast. For generations a family have been searching the pit or shaft for the rumored lost pirate treasure. In the present we are off to the jungles of Argentina with the Oregon crew. The CIA have sent them to recover a satellite, Argentina is in political turmoil. Finally we end up in Antarctica where there is something mysterious and dangerous going on. The book is nonstop action. The plot is well thought out and you’ll warm to the Oregon cast of characters

Simple Genius by David Baldacci

I read this book years ago and just had the opportunity to listen to it on audio with my hubby. Good read. Re-occurring characters Sean King and Michelle Maxwell, former Secret Service now turned Private Investigator’s. I have not read other books about them, but now know they are out there waiting for me.

The book starts out with two story lines, one about Michelle and her personal problems and the other about Sean and the job he has taken to pay for Michelle’s therapy. Michelle picks a fight with a really big guy on the wrong side of town. She survives physically but emotional is a wreck. Sean hires his friend Dr. Horatio Barnes to help her but she has to enter a psychiatric facility.

Wanting to keep Michelle in therapy, Sean takes a job at a highly secretive “think tank” called Babbage Town. The scientists there are very protective about their codes and quantum processors. But one of their team, Monk Turing has died and they need to know if it was murder or suicide. The installation is located across the river from the CIA’s highly classified facility known as the Farm. Monk Turing’s 11 year old daughter Viggie is emotionally and socially disabled, but she is a mathematical genius. Sean has a difficult time finding information. He is also worried about his Michelle and how much she can handle.

I liked the book, it had a bit too much technical info about codes for me but Paul loved the details. It made me want to read more of David Baldacci

True Blue by David Baldaccis

I like David Baldacci. We just listened to two of his books on our trip. So I went with True Blue. It is aboubt two sisters in the Washington DC police force. Beth is the Chief of Police and Mace Perry was a police officer but has just served two years in prison because she was set up. She is one tough cookie. Too tough for me. She is bitter, angry and wants to know the truth and get revenge. I like police officer novels. But the two women are just too tough and the story has several things happen that are too far fetched for me. Mace gets out early from prison and the next day is invited by Beth to check out a murder scene. really? Mace meets an attorney there, Roy, the one who found the body and they become friends, deciding to solve the murder before the cops in order to get Mace reinstated. Mace makes some ilegal choices in her pursuit of the truth and Beth let's her do it. There is another murder, another lawyer, but Beth, the DC police and FBI are taken off the case from higher ups. Mace gets a job with a professor to work with people from the projects. Another "ya right;" Roy challenges the head of a gang on one on one basketball in stead of getting shot. The story is okay. Not a good one for Baldacci. I give it two stars

Wish You Well by David Baldacci

I am a great David Baldacci fan. His books are thrillers, edge-of-your-seat who dunits, and Paul and I enjoy them. I typically go into the library and clear out a shelf of an author, just dive into a large stack of their books. This time I came away greatly surprised, because Wish You Well is nothing like his others and I love it. Baldacci interviewed his Mom and Grandmother on where and how they were raised in the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. I read it all in one setting and when I closed the book my soul felt full,complete, it felt like something I can't describe with words. As I have been thinking about it for a couple days, I still can't think of a way to describe the good feeling I had. I will say it was one of the best books I have ever read.
It is about Jack Cardinal's family, his wife Amanda, daughter Lou age 12 and her brother Oz, age 7rs. They move from New York City to the Appalachian mountains in Virginia to live with Great Grandmother Louisa. She is in her eighties and has lived on the mountain all her life. The mountain, now there is a character that fills the pages of their lives and of the book. Baldacci describes the mountain and all it "is" in such a way that you feel who have been there, that you are a part of what is living and breathing. Their whole lives depend on what they get from the land. The story is told through Lou. It's about tradegy, friends, political issues, love and of hope. Definitely about hope. I could have said much more about the book but I kept editing myself as not to tell you too much. I do hope you read it and enjoy it as much as I have. Oh, I went on Amazon and read a few of their reviews, at least three other people I read about also felt that it touched them in ways they couldn't describe. enjoy.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Dragonbone Chair by Tad Williams

Tad Williams is a highly acclaimed Fantasy novelist and this series: Memory, Sorrow and Thorn is considered one of the must-reads of the fantasy genre. Book One, The Dragonbone Chair, sets the stage and introduces our hero, Simon (and other key players as well). This book is part coming-of-age-story, part classic-good-verses-evil-drama, part political intrigue, with just a hint of first love. I found here, a good mix of round and flat characters. I was very interested in the events of the story. I liked it. I feel compelled to read the rest of the series to find out what happens. All that being said, I went in to this book hoping to be captivated and swept away. I was not. 700+ pages should have flown by in a week's time. It took me nearly 2 months to finish it. I'm not sure why, but it just didn't grab me. Even though I liked it, I didn't find myself wondering what would happen next whenever I had to put it down. Even though I liked it, I didn't feel any sense of urgency to get back to it as soon as I possibly could.
I'd recommend this one if you already love fantasy, but probably not if you're just getting acquainted with it. I wish I could give it 4 stars, but I have to go with 3.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

Warning - Spoiler Alert: This is definately a book to be experienced so feel free to stop reading now and just go read this book and get your own first impression. No, really, I think that might be best. Smile.


What memories make up your life? How did you become the person you are today? Have you ever wondered about who you are or have you ever wanted to be different? What do you remember about being young?
These questions and more are what 17 year old Jenna Fox is trying to discover and understand about herself as she awakens from a year long comatose state after a horrifying accident. Since she is suffering from amnesia, everything is a different perspective. Her parents seem paranoid by worrying about a lot Jenna has yet to comprehend, her grandmother, Lily seems distant and mysteriously bitter towards her and who were her friends again? Although, Jenna has been told the basics and given DVD's of who and what she was - a dancer, a daughter, a student, a friend etc... It does not make her feel any more complete as a person. More than she even realizes, she desires to feel whole again. So, she aims to truly discover who she is from her memories that she is making from the world she knows now. Yet the old memories creep in and haunt her desire to become different or more real. It's all so confusing!
This book uncovers so much about humanity, courage, identity and friendship in this new world of Jenna's that her parents seem wrapped up in and are part of creating somehow. It didn't feel that it started out dystopian with sci-fi elements but it sure ends up that way which I thought was uniquely clever. I loved how layer by layer - slowly and poetically - it was uncovered and brought to my attention. I had to think and piece together all the details to make sense of it all. All the while, considering each question, questioning each character and their motives and wondering what I really knew at all.
In the end, I question everything. I just love it when books do this!

272 pages, Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) (April 29, 2008), My rating: 4 stars

Meaning I pulled from the book:

Pg. 21: He laughs again. Why does he do that? He is more curious than I am. "You're a tough critic, Jenna Fox. I create art because I need to. It's just something in me. Like breathing."
How can a pine serpent be in him? Especially one that will not last. "This will be gone by tomorrow."

Pg. 131: I look at my hand curled in my lap, the bandage now covering the secret. The sick feeling of when I first saw it returns. In one moment, one brief glance, reality can flip. Whatever we believe can vanish. Believing in something doesn't really make it so.

Pg. 182: She pulls me close again, my head on her chest. I can hear her heartbeat. Familiar. The sound I heard in her womb. The whoosh, the beat, the flow that punctuated my beginnings in another dark place. I had no words for those sounds then, just feelings. Now I have both. I can remember it as clearly as I remember yesterday.

Pg. 192: There is not much to clean. My room is still sparse. "It is life near the bone where it is the sweetest, " I say to the walls. I amuse myself with my cleverness. I run a cloth over my desk and chair and I am done.

Popular excerpts from Amazon, sorry, I don't know the page #'s:

The dictionary says my identity should be all about being separate or distinct, and yet it feel like it is so wrapped up in others.

Are the details of our lives who we are, or is it owning those details that makes the difference?

How much can you really trust your memories - and if you lose them, can you get them back? Can you get yourself back?

Maybe that is all any life is composed of, trivia that eventually adds up to a person, and maybe I just don't have enough of it yet to be a whole one.

Other ideas about this book:

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