Monday, August 31, 2009

Vanished (by Jospeh Finder

Reviewed by Tracy L. Karol

Tracy Karol "" (Texas) - See all my reviews Vanished I like Joseph Finder. I first read him with "Paranoia" as a Kindle freebie, and that pushed me to buy "Power Play," which I thought was even better. "Vanished" is written several years later (I'm catching up) but I decided to buy it anyway. I do wish I'd waited a few days as I kept watching the Kindle price and it hovered at 12.22. Right after I finished the book it went down to 9.99. Oh well; it was still worth the money. Apparently Finder plans this to be the first in a series featuring Nick Heller, a former special forces soldier who now works for a corporate security firm. Nick is an interesting guy. He reminds me a bit of Jack Reacher, but only in his military background and his, for want of a better word, aloneness. He is stubborn and determined to do the right thing and do it himself. Other than that, he's really not like any of the current crop of heroes (he's no Mitch Rapp or Elvis Cole type, for instance). Finder has created his own unique character, which I like. Nick grew up rich, with an older brother who was smart but geeky and a father who was a crook. Think Madoff. The old man is still in prison and is famous for his crimes. The two brothers don't get along well, but Nick likes his brother, Roger's, wife, Lauren, and her son. For their sakes he makes an effort to be around. One night after dinner Roger is kidnapped and Lauren is attacked. While Lauren is in the hospital, her son calls Nick for help. There has been no ransom demand; Roger has simply vanished. The book is very intense and interesting. Roger and Lauren work for the same company, where apparently they met, and Roger makes a good living but is unhappy that he isn't doing better. Lauren is assistant to the CEO. It soon becomes obvious that Roger may be complicit, at least in some way, with his own abduction -- either by helping the abductors or by getting himself into a situation in which he was way over his head (following in his father's footsteps). Soon Nick is investigating a government/defense contractor, Paladin, that might have Roger. I don't want to give more away, but the good guys and the bad guys are not who they seem (I guessed one but was off on most of the others). "Vanished" has twists and suspense to thrill any reader of suspense fiction. I look forward to seeing how Finder works the kinks out and develops the characters in the next installment. I think he will only get better, and Nick Heller will join the ranks of Jack Reacher and others as some of my favorite series characters.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

"If I Am Missing or Dead: A Sister's Story of Love, Murder, and Liberation (by Janine Latus)

Reviewed by Tracy L. Karol

I read this book several months ago and was really bothered by some of the reviews, which is why I finally decided to write my own. The author has been attacked for telling her own story and not much of her sister's, Amy, who was murdered. But that is a big part of the story. Amy hid what was happening to her and the results were tragic. Janine also does a great job at delving into their shared childhood and what led both sisters to the choices they made. Haunting, powerful and tragic. A reminder of what to watch for in our own lives.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Fear the Worst (by Linwood Barclay)

Reviewed by Tracy L. Karol

5 stars

I actually feel guilty because I absolutely LOVE every book I've read by Linwood Barclay but for some reason I seem to forget about him (he's not on my "watch list") until I stumble across one. I'm so glad I found this one. He never disappoints. If you are looking for a good thriller, look no further than Linwood Barclay.

In this outing, Tim Blake is a divorced dad, not really over his ex, probably not living up to his full potential in life, but comfortably. His 17-year-old daughter Sydney is spending the summer with him instead of living with his ex and her boyfriend, a rich car dealer. (It just so happens that Blake is also a car salesman, but not such a sleaze as the new boyfriend, Bob).

Sydney goes missing one morning after a fight with her dad. When he tries to find her, he discovers that the place she said she worked never heard of her. Her best friend, who you know is somewhat hinky and is obviously wild, tries to help (perhaps too much?). Blake does everything he can to find Sydney. Think of the movie "Taken" but with and ordinary father who doesn't know what happened to his daughter and with cops who are not really helpful.

This book had me on the edge throughout. I really, really enjoy Barclay's novels. I honestly couldn't figure out what was going on completely until the end. My only complaint would be that the ending was a bit abrupt -- I would have liked to see an epilogue to tie up a few loose strings, but otherwise it was top notch. I'd also recommend his other thrillers. And keep him on your watch list. Great writing and great thrillers, suspenseful reading!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

"The Whole Truth" by David Baldacci

Reviewed by Tracy L. Karol

Baldacci is back in top form with "The Whole Truth." I was not a big fan of the Stone books, but this was Baldacci back at his best. In an international thriller dealing with the topic of "perception management," (this of is as extreme public relations, but with spins that are outright lies) Baldacci masterfully introduces a topic that is widely known and used in politics but not to the general public. It could be, in fact, how the last election was won (though not, obviously, through a fictious war -- possibly through financial misdeeds). The truth doesn't matter to the bad guys in this novel -- only the perception of the truth and what it can do for them in the public's opinion. The bad guy needs a war, so he has a team manufacture one for him so he can continue to sell his weapons. There are even references to real-life events. This is one book everyone should read if they want to know how politics really work.

I hope Baldacci continues writing in this style. It was truly one of my favorites, and though I read it months ago and am just now getting around to writing the review, I plan to read it again to remind myself what is at stake. And, of course, for the pure please of his writing.

"Secret Sanction" by Brian Haig "Can You Handle the Truth?"

Reviewed by Tracy L. Karol

OK I couldn't resist the title of this review. I am so glad Amazon offered a "freebie" deal on Brian Haig's books (buy one, get one free) or I would never have discovered this wonderful author. His style truly reminds me of a mix between Nelson DeMille and Robert Crais. I LOVED the character of Sean Drummond.

First, the plot, which has probably been covered extensively since this book was written so many years ago. Drummond is a JAG attorney assigned to determine whether a group of special forces troops in the Balkans should be prosecuted for crimes (they supposedly massacred a bunch of Serbs).

You should know a bit about Haig. He is the son of Alexander Haig, former SecState to Reagan. He also worked under Nixon. Some of this seeps through in Brian Haig's writing. He refers to Drummond's father as someone who loved Nixon, but he also seems to respect him very much.

This book is about duty, honor and country and could easily be written today. Those who march for peace will probably not like parts of it. I'd have to say, get over it. This is war. Granted the time period and the fight was a humanatiarian war, but the atrocities were very real and only become clear as the novel progresses. Drummond is witty, sarcastic and self-deprecating. I look forward to reading more about this character, and certainly more from this author. So glad I discovered him. Thank you, Amazon, for offering this buy one, get one free deal!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Time Traveler's Wife (by Audrey Niffenegger)

Reviewed by Tracy L. Karol

(4.5 stars)

I begged Amazon to make this book available on the Kindle, but it never was. I almost bought it years ago but for some reason never picked it up. When I saw the movie trailer, I knew I had to read the book before I saw the film. Easier said than done. I scoured every bookstore in both Austin and San Antonio (used and new), Wal-Mart, you name it -- Barnes and Noble told me it would take a week to get. After being spoiled by getting a book in less than a minute on my Kindle, I wasn't willing to wait to order it, but I was about to do so from Amazon. Then lo and behold my local HEB grocery store was stocked full of copies of "The Time Traveler's Wife." Grabbed one and finished it in days. (Sorry for those of you who don't live in Texas and can't get to an HEB!)

I really liked this book, although I spoiled the ending for myself by accidently opening the back and reading a "book club guide" question. Glad I can't do that on the Kindle.

Most of you probably know the plot by now. But a quick summary: Clare waits, literally, her entire life for Henry, who has a condition that causes him to unexpectedly time travel. It's often brought on by stress (it was compared to epilepsy, which I found interesting since I have epilepsy and could relate to the stressors that caused Henry to disappear).

This was a true love story. While Clare knows, from the time she is six, that she is in love with Henry, he doesn't discover the same until he is an adult. The science could be explained a bit better and I had a few other quibbles, but nothing major. The crux truly was that Clare spends her life waiting for Henry -- waiting for him to appear as a child, then waiting to meet him, then waiting for him to return to her. I won't give anything away, but there were parts that reminded me a bit of the movie "Somewhere in Time."

The story was very poignant. I laughed, cried, and was touched. I'm a bit amazed that the author hasn't written anything else in the intervening years, but I see that she has something in the works. I eagerly await the film. I pictured Eric Bana as Henry while I read the novel.

Highly recommended for romance and literature fans.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Power Play (by Joseph Finder)

Reviewed by Tracy L. Karol

I bought this book after getting hooked on Paranoia, which I got as a Kindle freebie. Power Play was even better. While you had somewhat of an anti-hero in Paranoia...though still good guy, Jake Landry, our hero in Power Play, was my kind of man. Thrown into a corporate getaway setting where he clearly does not belong and knows only his ex, Ali, he's the outsider who is the only one capable of saving the group of execs when a band of thugs targets them. Throughout the book Finder expertly sprinkles backstory about Jake and Ali and Jake's troubled past...which is what gives him the skills to survive this ordeal. The plot twists make this a thriller that will keep you up well into the night. And I have found a new author to watch. 4.5 stars, highly recommended.