Evil at Heart by Chelsea Cain

>> Monday, November 30, 2009

Evil at Heart by Chelsea Cain
Genre: Crime Thriller
Series: #3 in the Gretchen Lowell – Archie Sheridan series
Publication Date: 2009
Pages: 306
Challenges: Clear Off Your Shelves
Source: purchased used

Just like the first two books in this series (Heartsick and Sweetheart) this one falls in the seriously disturbing but good category. Twisted, gruesome, but again, one I stayed up late to finish the last 80 pages in one sitting.

If you haven’t read the first two books skip on over this next paragraph – it’s impossible to talk about this book without even giving minor spoilers to the first two.

Two months after his last encounter with serial killer Gretchen Lowell, Detective Archie Sheridan is still in the psych unit at the hospital. He could get out, but he doesn’t seem to want to. Gretchen is still on the loose and has become a media darling. So far Gretchen and Archie have kept their agreement – he won’t kill himself and she won’t kill anyone. Journalist Susan Ward is both appalled and intrigued by the celebrity of Gretchen. Tours of her crime scenes, T-shirts, Fan websites are all just a little too weird considering she’s a brutal killer on the run after escaping prison. But then the bodies (and body parts) start showing up. Archie, Susan and Archie’s partner Henry are all deeply intertwined in the events that result. Is Gretchen still out there and killing? Can Archie keep off the drugs and find her. Will his strange attraction to her get in the way again?

OK – spoiler free from here on out.

Once again, Chelsea Cain keeps the action moving and the blood flowing. It’s gruesome, it’s twisted, and yet I can’t stop reading. I liked this one a lot. I probably liked it even more than the second book. If you liked the first (and second) one, I do encourage you to continue with the series. There are questions answered and characters exhibit some growth, but there are also questions left unanswered and some new disturbing elements introduced.

As far as I’m concerned I’ve enjoyed the Archie and Gretchen story, but I’m ready for Chelsea Cain to take on a new story. She’s a talented writer who I’d like to see break out of what could become a rut if she’s not careful.


Rating 4/5

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I think I might be a freak

>> Friday, November 27, 2009

I enjoy the holiday season.



There. I said it. I know that many people find the holidays stressful or depressing. I get that. I understand and sympathize, but I just can’t empathize and I’m going to admit that I don’t think I want to. I wish the folks I know who feel this way didn’t, but I don’t feel obligated to participate in it.

I come by my enjoyment of this time of year naturally. My Mom loved Christmas. She liked decorating, she liked having the family around, and she even liked shopping (I definitely didn’t get that gene). We never really DID a lot; it was more about being together.

We’ve seriously simplified our holiday traditions over the years. We’ve disconnected from the gift exchanges, we only go to the events and gatherings we truly enjoy, and look forward to the handful of get-togethers that have become annual traditions.

I love seeing the neighborhood lit up and decorated. I love seeing the spirit of giving alive and well in my community. Yes, I wish it were that way all year round, but I can still appreciate that this season encourages it and be happy for it.

This weekend, we’ll decorate inside and outside the house. Monday morning I’ll put up my Christmas lights in my cubicle at work. I’ll pull out my cranberry cream cheese bread recipe and figure out when everyone will actually be at work on the same day so I can take some to share. I’ll take the long way home from work so I can drive around and see the decorations. I’ll say Thank YOU to the folks who work hardest at this time of year.

This year I’ve decided to stop fighting or trying to defend my feelings. They just are. Just like the feelings of those who don't like this time of year. I like the holiday season, some of my friends don’t. That’s fine – it would be a very boring world if we were all the same. That may mean I need to disconnect a bit, but that’s OK. I think I need to put holiday seasonal stuff in the same category as I do politics and religion. I absolutely refuse to discuss politics or religion with friends and co-workers. When those discussions or debates start, I simply remove myself from the conversation. I think I’m going to start doing the same thing with holiday hating. Just not participate in it. I’ll flip to my holiday playlist on the ipod and relax.

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The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi

>> Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi

Genre: Non-Fiction
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 315
Challenges: Clear Off Your Shelves
Source: purchased new

I added this book to my list after my friend Eleanor recommended it highly (you can read her review at GoodReads)

Douglas Preston is a successful mystery writer. In 2000 he and his family moved to Italy so he could work on a novel. While there, he met and befriended Mario Spezi, a journalist who for years had been writing about a famous serial killer in the area. This killer had been dubbed The Monster of Florence. When Preston found out that one of the double murders in the case had happened not far from the house where he and his family were staying, he wanted to know more. Spezi filled him in on the history and together the two decided to write about the case. Before long it the research developed into a personal investigation. This book is the story of their investigation and also of the questionable handling of the case by the Italian authorities. Preston and Spezi developed doubts about the official investigation due to the seemingly bizarre turns it took. At times it appeared to be a case of making the evidence (or lack of it) fit the most recent theory (whether or not the theory seemed realistic). Soon, Preston and Spezi themselves were under suspicion by the authorities and the case took yet another of its bizarre turns.

This is a true story that if it was written as a fictional mystery thriller would be dismissed as totally unbelievable. It reads like a fictional murder mystery because that’s what Preston writes, but this time around, he’s caught up in the story himself. So there’s some objectivity that goes by the wayside before it’s all over with, but it’s still a fascinating story.

It’s interesting to me that the current sensational media murder trial in Italy (American student Amanda Knox) is being prosecuted by the same person who led much of the case in this book.

I’ve never read anything else by Douglas Preston, but this book makes me want to check out some of the books he’s written with Lincoln Child. I had some minor quibbles with the writing, but I’d still like to check out Preston’s fiction.



Rating 4/5

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Wordless Wednesday #8

>> Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cascade Bay Orcas Island, Washington


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Hold Tight by Harlan Coben

>> Friday, November 20, 2009

Hold Tight by Harlan Coben

Genre: Suspense/Thriller/Mystery
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 477
Challenges: Clear Off Your Shelves
Source: purchased new

Once again Harlan Coben has delivered a quick reading, fast paced, multiple storyline thriller that made me hate to get to the end of my daily train commutes and lunchtimes.

Mike and Tia Baye are a successful suburban couple with a teenage son and younger daughter. When 16 year old Adam becomes more and more uncommunicative following the suicide of his friend, his parents are understandably concerned. When they decide to install spy software on Adams computer so they can see where he’s spending all his computer time and who he’s talking to in chat rooms and via email, they find far more than they bargained for.

That’s the primary storyline in this one but there are also several others that take most of the book before they all start to spiral together.

This book is a combination of several versions of a parent’s nightmare, murder mystery, crazy serial killer, and suburban family drama turned feud. It’s a whirlwind of jumping between storylines and waiting for them to start linking up. Coben populates it with a huge cast of characters and as usual some of them are from his previous books making minor cameo appearances.

Parts of this are frightening because they are so very plausible. I think that’s one of the reasons I liked it. It was a series of moments characters wish they could have taken back or rewound and not done or said. All of these by the many characters combined built into a spiral that spun out of control.

It’s the kind of fast paces suspense story that I expect from Harlan Coben, who continues to be one of my favorite authors.



Rating 4/5

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Movie/TV Tie-in Book Covers

>> Thursday, November 19, 2009

I’m not a fan.

I’m a member of the ‘the book is almost always better than the movie’ group. It’s not that I have anything against making movies and TV shows based on books. I watch and enjoy many of them. But when I buy a book, I want the book cover not the DVD cover.

Yesterday I went to the bookstore to buy a The Blind Side by Michael Lewis. This book has been on my TBR list for a long time. My friend Eleanor read it when it first came out and has been telling me ever since that it’s one of the best football related books she’s read. Granted the upcoming (or already released? I don’t know) movie is what prompted me to remember that I wanted the book, but when I went to buy it I almost didn’t. The only copies I saw were the covers with the movie promo picture.

The Blind Side Movie Cover
Sorry, not interested. Lucky for me I did find off to the side a single copy of the original paperback edition with its original cover so the day was saved and I now have the copy I want.

The Blind Side
This is not the first time I’ve had to look hard to find the edition I wanted. The Sookie Stackhouse Series has a wonderful set of quirky covers, but they’re getting harder and harder to find. What’s prominent on the shelves are the covers with images from the HBO series True Blood (based on the books).

Living Dead in Dallas HBO coverLiving Dead in DallasI’m buying this set,
<----


not this one. ---->










I’ve been known to seek out used editions (being thankful here that I live in the land of Powell’s Books) in order to get a copy of a book that does not have the movie or TV tie-in cover.



Yes, even though it’s Johnny Depp, I’ll be purchasing


Public Enemies Movie CoverPublicEnemiesthis edition of Public Enemies,

<----


and not this one. ---->








How do you feel about Movie or TV tie-in covers? Like ‘em? Don’t like ‘em? Don’t care? Or does it depend on whether you read the book or saw the movie/show first?

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Wordless Wednesday #7

>> Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Contented Cats (Howie and Phoebe)


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Sweetheart by Chelsea Cain

>> Monday, November 16, 2009

Sweetheart by Chelsea Cain
Genre: Crime Thriller
Series: #2 in the Gretchen Lowell – Archie Sheridan series
Publication Date: 2008
Pages: 325
Challenges:
Clear Off Your Shelves
Source: purchased new

This is the sequel to
Heartsick which I loved for being seriously twisted but Oh so good. This one falls in that same category.

Gretchen Lowell is a beautiful, sadistic serial killer. Archie Sheridan is the detective who finally caught her, but not before she held him captive for 10 days and tortured him. She’s in prison and he’s still in torture. His wounds have healed, but he’s far from healthy. He’s still addicted to both painkillers and to Gretchen. While battling his emotional and physical issues, he’s also involved in a new investigation when a body is found in Forest Park. Susan Ward is a reporter for the local newspaper. She’s a bit of a rebel (with turquoise hair this time) who is about to break the story of her life. A well known and loved local politician is about to have his past blow huge holes in his reputation. Susan and Archie got to know each other during a previous investigation. They find themselves in a mutually beneficial situation again when Susan needs help with a story and Archie needs publicity for an investigation. But then things are all spectacularly sidetracked when Gretchen escapes from prison and comes looking for Archie.

The multiple stories in this book are all interesting on their own, but you just know that they’re going to intertwine in ways that will put Archie, Susan and their families and friends in danger. The gruesome factor is pretty high as it was in Heartsick, so this series is not for the nightmare prone. The chapters are pretty short and the pace is fast so it’s a book that you can lose yourself in easily. I went to bed last night with 125 pages to go and finished it before I went to sleep.

Archie is seriously messed up. I want to root for him at the same time I want him to get some help before he damages his family any further. Susan is likeable and incredibly irritating at the same time. The good guys are not always easy to support in this series, but Gretchen is such pure evil personified that you want them to succeed.

I enjoy reading books set in Portland. It’s fun to read about familiar locations. I like that Chelsea Cain manages to include some Portland insider type stuff without being too excluding to readers who aren’t from the area. The storyline that is clearly taken from a couple of well-publicized local political downfalls from recent years was fun to see.

I’m going to be looking for the third book in the series very soon.




Rating 4/5

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Audiobook – Tea Time for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith

>> Friday, November 13, 2009

Tea Time for the Traditionally Built by Alexander McCall Smith

Series: #10 in the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series
Genre: Fiction
Publication Date: 2009
Read by: Lisette Lecat
Source: Library


This series remains just completely enjoyable to me. It’s one my reliable audiobook selections and I typically get on the library waiting list early as soon as I find out the next book is on the way.

In this 10th book in the series it’s once again a slow paced and thoroughly charming visit to Botswana. Mma Ramotswe and her assistant Mma Makutsi spend more of their time making observations about life and people than they really spend in accomplishing any actual detective work. The long anticipated demise of Mma Ramotswe’s beloved tiny white van is looming. Mr. J.L.B Matekoni’s apprentices are no closer to completing their apprenticeships. Mma Makutsi’s engagement may be threatened by her longtime nemesis Violet Sephoto. The primary case for the detective agency is this one has them working for the owner of a local football team to find out if their streak of recent losses is due to someone on the team fixing the games.

I just love listening to Lisette Lecat read this series. I cannot imagine reading the books because I find them so thoroughly enjoyable in the audio version.

I did manage to catch the first episode of the HBO version of this series and hope to watch more of that to last me until the next book in the series is released. I enjoyed the first episode both for what they retained from the book and the changes they made for TV.





Rating: 4/5

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The Blade Itself by Marcus Sakey

>> Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Blade Itself by Marcus Sakey
Genre: Crime Thriller
Publication Date: 2007
Pages: 331
Challenges:
Clear Off Your Shelves
Source: purchased new

The blade itself incites to violence – Homer

Danny Carter grew up in Chicago. His dad worked hard, but Danny got mixed up with the wrong crowd as a kid and ended up a petty thief. Seven years ago he and his partner Evan held up a pawn shop and things went dreadfully wrong. Danny has put that all in his past and had gone on to build a new life of respectability despite the fact that he did it by hiding the truth of his past mistakes. When Evan suddenly reappears in Danny’s life he’s unsure what to make of it. Evan is newly released from prison and ready to join up with Danny again and return to their old ways. When Danny says no, Evan refuses to accept that answer. With his past mistakes now threatening his new law abiding, responsible life, Danny has to make an impossible choice. Things soon start spinning horribly out of Danny’s control.

While I found this book in the mystery section, it’s really not a mystery at all. It’s much more of a suspense thriller type of story. Will Danny be able to refuse Evan’s request? Are they still partners or not? Just how much and what does Danny owe Evan and how many people will the threatened, hurt or killed before it’s all over?

I was impressed with this first novel by Marcus Sakey. I was impressed enough that I’ve added the rest of his books to my TBR list. I’ll be passing this one along to The Hubster to put in his ‘you need to read this’ stack.

Yes, in some ways is a bit predictable, but it’s a fun thrill ride of a story. It’s fast paced enough that I read it in a couple of days.


Rating 4/5

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Wordless Wednesday #6

>> Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Maple leaves in our front yard


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here.

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Dexter in the Dark by Jeff Lindsay

>> Monday, November 9, 2009

Dexter in the Dark by Jeff Lindsay

Genre: Crime Fiction
Series: #3 in the Dexter series
Publication Date: 2007
Pages: 302
Challenges:
Clear Off Your Shelves
Source: purchased new


I read the first two Dexter book before there ever was a Showtime series. The whole concept of a serial killer as hero was such an interesting twist. How great that he works for the Miami police department as a blood spatter specialist even though he claims to hate blood. After all how can you not root for a serial killer who only kills people who deserve it. What makes the series for me is the great writing and dark humor. Since this is the third book in the series, spoilers for the first two are nearly impossible to avoid, but I will avoid spoilers for this third book.

This book picks up some of the story from the second book. Dexter and Rita are engaged and she’s planning the wedding while Dexter continues his quest to appear normal despite his admission (to the reader) to not having any emotions. Now that he knows that Rita’s kids have the same tendencies he does (his ‘dark passenger’) he wants to teach them the things his foster father Harry, taught him. They need to learn to appear as normal as possible and to learn to channel their own dark passengers in the Harry Way. While helping investigate a series of brutal murders, Dexter finds himself at a loss. His dark passenger seems to have gone into hiding and Dexter is unsure and even fearful about what is behind these murders.

This time around the story goes beyond Dexter and the crimes he’s helping investigate. The history of the evil or whatever the dark passenger may be is explored. It’s an interesting change of pace and while it takes the story on a bit of a different track than the first two books, I still enjoyed the book.

There is enough of what I expect in a Dexter story that I wasn’t feeling too sidetracked. Dexter’s foul-mouthed sister is still the same as ever – demanding and nursing a huge chip on her shoulder. The rest of the guys they work with are a great supporting cast and provide the openings for some of the best of the dark humor. Yes, there’s some blood and guts, but there’s also Dexter’s growing relationship with Rita’s kids and a handful of laugh out loud moments tossed in the mix.

Before you ask, yes I’ve seen some of the Showtime series. I thought the casting of Michael C. Hall as Dexter was brilliant and when I heard that was who would be playing him, my immediate response was “perfect”. We watched the first season this past summer. It pretty much follows the first book. We have the second season on DVD, but haven’t watched yet. I’ve heard that the TV series veers away from the books which I think is good. I like that both will remain as viable series on their own.



Rating 3.5/5

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The Ruins by Scott Smith

>> Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Ruins by Scott Smith

Genre: Horror/Suspense
Publication Date: 2006
Pages: 369
Challenges:
Clear Off Your Shelves
Source: purchased new

This one initially landed on my TBR list thanks to
Bellezza’s review a couple of years ago. Then MyFriendAmy’s review a few months ago made me target this one for sometime around Halloween when creepy scary stuff seems appropriate. Years ago I read a lot of horror books, but haven’t picked up much from that genre in recent years. I did enjoy this little side trip into the genre because it’s just that time of year, but I don’t think I’ll be going on a binge of reading horror books any time soon.

The story involves 2 young couples on a vacation to Cancun. While there they befriend several other vacationers including a group of guys from Greece despite the language barriers and a guy from Germany. When the brother of the German man fails to return from a side trip into the interior jungle, he convinces the 2 couples and one of the Greeks to accompany him in following his brothers planned journey. What is expected to be a day trip soon turns into a fight for their very survival. The brother’s trail leads them to an hill with an ancient mine shaft and a terrifying presence that lies in wait for unsuspecting victims to happen along.

I thought that the author did an excellent job of telling the story and building the suspense. At the beginning the suspense is about what will go wrong, and later it’s about which, if any of these people will even survive. Be forewarned that there are some gruesome and gory things that happen and Smith makes them all too vivid. Despite the gruesome parts, it’s a well done scary tale. He shifts the focus primarily among the four Americans as the story progresses. Their personalities lead to very different approaches to the building tension and terror.

I know a movie was made of this story a few years ago, but I have no desire to see it. I just don’t need that level of scary and gruesome in pictures, thank you. I’ve also read enough of about the movie to know that the story is changed quite a bit. The book was good but not great. I didn’t feel like any of the primary characters was particularly likeable except maybe the German. It was definitely hard to put down once I got started though, and certainly not something I’d recommend someone read shortly before a vacation to Mexico or anywhere in the jungle.




Rating 3/5

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Wordless Wednesday #5

>> Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sunset and Surf - Yachats, Oregon


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