Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Last Detective (by Robert Crais)

Reviewed by Tracy L. Karol

Having read the books before and after this, I'm writing my review from that perspective. But reading to book at the time, I really enjoyed it just as it was -- not knowing what would come later.

This book focused on Elvis Cole but really brought in more of his partner, Joe Pike (my personal favorite). Elvis is in love. He's watching his lover's son, Ben, when the boy is kidnapped. Naturally, his girlfriend blames him and starts to see all his flaws, as well as what a "violent" person he is, along with Joe, even though only the two of them can save young Ben. You really have to feel for Elvis, because he truly loves this woman (though I found her rather annoying) and, without giving away any spoilers, none of this was his fault.

This was a good installment in the series. Again, Robert Crais manages to write a book with enough backstory that you don't have to be a regular reader to pick up this book. You can start anywhere in the series and understand what's going on. At the same time, he doesn't annoy his regular readers with too much backstory, but gives a little more history of the characters each time. You really saw Elvis suffer this time, and the complexity of the relationship between him and Joe Pike.

Do yourself a favor and read every Robert Crais novel you can. And then read them again. I think I've read "L.A. Requiem" three times, at least.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Torn (by Chris Jordan)

Reviewed by Tracy L. Karol

I read "Taken," "Trapped," and now "Torn." Each had me riveted. I picked up Torn at a used bookstore (sorry Amazon), while I normally read everything on my Kindle, but I was looking for a book for my husband that the Kindle didn't carry and stumbled across it. Glad I did.

In "Torn," Shane is back to rescue another missing child. This time we learn a little more about Shane himself (if I remember correctly -- I might have to read the others again, which I probably will just for fun anyway). No one thinks the boy is alive except for his mother, Haley, whose husband died the year before. Turns out she has good reason for believing what she does: her husband had been in hiding his entire adult life from a cult-like group run by his father, and had hinted that something might happen to him. There is little evidence to suggest Haley's son is actually dead, and you can feel her agony. But she is no victim and insists on becoming a partner with Shane.

I won't give away any spoilers, but if you've read Jordan's previous two novels, you'll be happy with this one. And glad to see that he leaves it open for more sequels.

Oh, and if you have a Kindle, BUY the book. You won't be sorry. I would have read it much sooner had I found it on there.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Apostle: A Thriller (by Brad Thor)

Reviewed by Tracy L. Karol

5 stars

This was my favorite Brad Thor novel. I waited for the price to go down before I bought it on my Kindle, but I would have paid the extra few books had I known how good it was.

In this installment, our hero, Scot Harvath, has been fired from his job at the CIA by the new president, who ran on a platform of "change" and was elected largely due to the maneuverings of a media maven. (Any of this sound familiar?) The new administration is quick to make changes, ushering out programs and leaders and bringing in "new" and "diverse" but not necessarily better (or qualified) people to take their places. Harvath is fine with it -- he's ready to work in the private sector. But he's a patriot, and when duty calls he's unable NOT to answer.

Turns out the beloved new president and is media mogul friend need a guard dog when times get tough and her (Stephanie Gallo's) daughter, who is a doctor working in Afghfanistan, is kidnappaned and the people holding her ransom don't want money -- they want the release of a known Taliban terrorist.

All Gallo's money is of little use, and the campaigning, the peace, the closing of Gitmo, the Geneva convention -- none of that matters when her daughter's life is at stake. This truly makes one wonder if those who protest for the freedoms and securities of these terrorists -- because they certainly are NOT soldiers -- would fold when their own lives were at risk. Do they realize they sleep easily at night because brave men and women are willing to risk their lives? Or that they can protest because a soldier gives them that right?

No matter...Gallo begs the president for help, but he's not willing to budge, until she blackmails him, which leads to a subplot. Of course, this president is not clean. There are some interesting parallels in this book, but not too close to get Thor into trouble. Enough that you can easily spot them, though.

Without the official backing of the United States, Harvath must do what he can to free the terrorist and save Julia Gallo. Not an easy task, and not something he's willing to let go, considering what this terrorist might do in the future. But I won't give away any spoilers. Besides, you'll be so hooked you'll read the book in a matter of days.

Highly recommended. Great job. I eagerly await the next installment.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Out of Control (by Suzanne Brockmann)

Reviewed by Tracy L. Karol

4-1/2 stars

I'm not sure what it was about this book that had me so hooked. Certainly Suzanne Brockmann has a knack for writing great characters, and Ken "Wild Card" Karmody wasn't exactly the alpha male to end all alpha males, but I really, really liked this couple. I've read this book several times, and I truly wish SB would go back to writing characters that she seemed to like.

Granted, she wrote this when patriotic fever was at its pitch, but still -- the story is solid, Karmody proves himself a worthy hero (despite his "nerdy" ways, which actually are rather sexy), and the heroine is no slouch, even though she is rich beyond what most of us will ever dream of and way out of Karmody's league. I love the jungle plot and the dialogue between the characters, and how Karmody finally comes to realize that he loves this woman and faces down reporters at the end.

This is one book I highly recommend, and I hope to see Suzanne Brockmann go back to this style of writing. I'll read it again (for the 4th time?) just for the pure pleasure of it. It reads fine as a stand alone, though it is part of a series. No plot problems with this book.

Great job, Suzanne Brockmann! Please go back to this style of writing!

L.A. Requiem (by Robert Crais)

Reviewed by Tracy L. Karol

I don't even remember why I picked this book up, but I didn't realize at the time that it was part of a series. I admit that when I did I was a bit disappointed because I was afraid I wouldn't be able to follow along.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, there's nothing better for a reader than to find a great writer and realize that he or she already has a body of work published and you can go back and read it all, rather than waiting a year or two for the next book to be published.

L.A. Requiem introduced me to the wacky, wise-cracking world of Elvis Cole, private investigator ("the best detective in the world" as he calls himself) and his enigmatic partner, Joe Pike. Of the two, it's hard to say which character I like better. Elvis Cole narrates in first person, and he's truly funny, but tough. Joe Pike has a dark side, but he's loyal and in this book you really get to see some backstory of Pike (as I realized later, after reading some earlier Robert Crais books). If I had to date one? I think I'd have a good time with Cole, but be hopelessly attracted to Joe Pike.

I've read every book written by Robert Crais since I picked this one up, and I've never been disappointed -- even with the ones that aren't in the series. My understanding is that Crais has sold the movie rights to his books that don't feature Cole/Pike (such as "The Hostage") but won't sell the Elvis Cole books. Which is fine with me, because I don't know if any movie could live up to my expectations of the great characters Robert Crais has created.

You can pick up the Cole series anywhere, as I did, but do yourself a favor and start near the beginning. Every single one of his books are worth at LEAST one read (I've read most several times). I can't wait for the next installment, and understand it will be another Joe Pike novel.

Five stars -- Highly recommended!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Beautiful Lies (by Lisa Unger)

Reviewed by Tracy L. Karol (4 stars)

This book is not easy to pigeon hole. Unger's writing style is a cross between first person, almost a journal and even something of a blog at times. She breaks all the rules, but as the saying goes it's OK to break the rules as long as you know them, and Unger knows them, clearly. Still, be warned if you aren't a fan of nontraditional writing styles you should either avoid this book or open your mind to some great new writers...I suggest the latter.

Ridley Jones is both the narrator and main character in this novel, which seems to focus on how the little choices we make each day change the course of our lives. I didn't feel a lot of suspense through the book, but it did make me think and I read it in less than two days...a mark of a good read if it pulls me away from other things to finish it. In Ridley's case her little choices added up to one big one...saving a young boy's life, which led to the unraveling of her own. To me the subject was brilliant...I often womder what if I hadn't stopped impulsively to apply for that job where I met my husband? Or how many times have we avoided a deadly wreck because we left the house 5 minutes late? Ridley finds out that her life has been a lie based on little choices she makes. Unger's literary style works perfectly with this type of writing. I would have liked a bit more mystery or suspense but overall it really held my attention. Certainly recommend it.

Gone Tomorrow: A Jack Reacher Novel (Lee Child

Reviewed by Tracy L. Karol

Jack Reacher is one of my favorite fictional characters, along with Mitch Rapp, Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. I keep wondering who will play him in the films. In Gone Tomorrow he is back in top form: a hero who won't let go as he is sucked into yet another crisis. This time it's when he mistakenly id's a woman, Susan Mark, as a suicide bomber on a NY subway. As he works to unravel the mystery of why this woman really killed herself, as usual he won't let go when the authorities tell him to stay out of it. But this time Reacher is taking on a more global enterprise, and the hero in him refuses to let sleeping dogs lie (literally) when the pieces start to come together. The suspense builds, and it's an interesting twist as it's one of the few Reacher books told in first person. Much better than his last novel. I highly recommend it and look forward to the next installment in the Reacher series. This was not my favorite Lee Child book (that honor goes to one of his earlier efforts), but he's certainly back in top form and it's up there with the best of them.

On a side note, I also bought this on the Kindle and am rating the book, not the price. If you wait a week or so, maybe a bit longer, the price usually drops to the 9.99. I'm giving this 5 stars instead of 4 to make up for the 1 star ratings people gave because of the pricing. I bought a Kindle book today that I could have waited a few weeks for until the price went down, but wanted it bad enough to pay the extra few bucks. Just some advice...wait if you want to pay the lower price.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Book Reviews

I've reviewed many books on and I will repost them here, as well as add more depth to the reviews. If you have a book you'd like reviewed, please contact me and I'd be happy to review it for you. The first reviews will start showing up in the next few days as I build this site. In the meantime, you can find me on Amazon by searching for my name under profiles.