Sunday, February 27, 2011

Infinity: Chronicles of Nick

Infinity: Chronicles of Nick by Sherrilyn Kenyon

At fourteen, Nick Gautier thinks he knows everything about the world around him. Streetwise, tough and savvy, Nick and his quick sarcasm are the stuff of legend…until the night when his best friends try to kill him. Saved by a mysterious warrior who has more fighting skills than Chuck Norris, Nick is sucked into the realm of the Dark-Hunters: immortal vampire slayers who risk everything to save humanity.

Nick quickly learns that the human world is only a veil covering a much larger and more dangerous one: a world where the captain of the football team is a werewolf and the girl he has a crush on goes out at night to stake the undead.
But before Nick can even learn the rules of this new world, his fellow students are turning into flesh-eating zombies. And he’s next on the menu.

As if starting high school isn’t hard enough, now Nick has to hide his new friends from his mom, his chainsaw from the principal and keep the zombies and the demon Simi from eating his brains, all without getting grounded or suspended. How in the world is he supposed to do that?

--Infinity: Chronicles of Nick by Sherrilyn Kenyon, Copyright ©2010 by Sherrilyn Kenyon, published by St. Martin’s Press

My Review

I have to admit, when I first started reading this novel, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’ve loved Nick practically since the beginning of the Dark Hunters series and I wasn’t sure I wanted to know all the details of Nick’s teen years. I felt I knew enough and I like a little mystery in my men. But when I realized the series would also give me more background on some of the Dark Hunter characters, I decided to give it a go.

Nick is your average 14 year old high schooler…if your average high schooler is from the wrong side of the tracks, being raised by a single mother, dad’s in prison—where he can stay, thank you very much—going to an expensive private school on a scholarship where he risks getting beaten up and/or insulted in some form or another practically on a daily basis.

But life at this average high school is about to become decidedly un-average when a student is attacked on school grounds by a zombie. Nick’s life is changed when his eyes are opened to a world he never knew existed in his own back yard.

And…um…I’m not sure what else to say. Yeah, a whole lot of things happen. Nick finds out that the zombies his friends Bubba and Mark were always talking about are real, there are vampires and werewolves running around the city and the people he always thought were just a little bit crazy turned out to be completely sane. And he needs to trust them, otherwise he just might go a little insane himself.

I was all set to tear into a huge, deep gaping chasm of a mistake in this story when Kenyon managed to redeem herself toward the end of Chapter 13. You see, I’ve read all the stories in Kenyon’s Dark Hunter series and I know when Nick meets Simi for the first time and how that meeting impacts their futures. Now in Infinity, Nick’s meeting her for the first time at age 14. How can he meet her for the first time in his late 20s if he meets her at 14? Big, huge, deep gaping chasm of a mistake…right? But, as I said, Kenyon redeems herself, and very nicely too, and explains away the error, because it’s not an error. Get it? No? Read the book and you will. Pay special attention to Ambrose’s words in Chapter 13.

Infinity: Chronicle of Nick was written for the Young Adult audience, so if you’re expecting the same, ahem, action as in the Dark Hunter novels, you’ll be disappointed. Nick’s a teenager, and while he notices girls, nothing more happens than a quick little kiss. Just one. But it’s a fun story and a great introduction to the life of one of the most interesting of all the Dark Hunter characters.

I give this story THREE STARS.

Running Blind

Running Blind by Lee Child

Soldier-turned-soldier-of-fortune Jack Reacher goes after a serial killer in a conventionally but nonetheless deeply satisfying whodunit. In today's armed services, you lose even when you win--at least if you're a woman who files a sexual harassment complaint. Amy Callan and Caroline Cooke were both successful in their suits, which ended the careers of their alleged harassers. But Callan and Cooke ended up leaving the service themselves, and now they're both dead, murdered by a diabolical perp who keeps leaving behind the same crime scene--the victim's body submerged in a bathtub filled with camouflage paint--and not a single clue to the killer's identity or the cause of death. The FBI hauls in Reacher, who handled both women's complaints as an Army MP, as a prime suspect, then offers to upgrade him to a consulting investigator when their own surveillance gives him an alibi for a third killing. No thanks, says our hero, who's taken an instant dislike to FBI profiler Julia Lamarr, until the Feds' threats against his lawyer girlfriend Jodie Jacob bring him into the fold. While Reacher is pretending to study lists of potential victims and suspects and fending off the government-sponsored advances of Quantico's comely Lisa Harper, the murderer is getting ready to pounce on a fourth victim: Lamarr's stepsister Alison. This latest coup does nothing to improve relations between Reacher and the Feebees, all of them determined to prove they're the toughest hombres in the parking lot, but it does set the stage for some honest sleuthing, some treacherous red herrings, and some convincing evidence for Reacher's assertion that all that profiling stuff is just plain common sense. -- Copyright © 2000 Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. Copied
--Running Blind by Lee Child, Copyright ©2000 by Lee Child, published by Putnam Books

My Review

Where do I begin?

First things first…another fabulous story.

After living in one place for three months, Jack Reacher has itchy feet. He tries to quell them with regular trips into New York City to be with Jodie, but it’s not the same. For a man who’s used to being on the move with little more than a toothbrush and the clothes on his back, being anchored to one place and struggling with the burdens of property do not sit well with him.

One evening in the city, he gets himself involved in a minor act of vigilantism against one of New York City’s many “protection” gangs that, under normal circumstances, would barely get a rise out of the NYPD (I’m guessing). But the act is witnessed by two FBI agents, agents that have him under surveillance because he fits the profile of a potential serial killer. So in trying to help out the owner of a restaurant he’s come to enjoy, he gets arrested by the FBI. They’re willing to drop the charges, however, if he’ll agree to help them hunt this killer.

Reacher says no.

Two victims so far, they tell him. Former Army soldiers, victims of sexual assault. They had successfully pressed charges against their abusers and then subsequently left the military. Reacher had met them both while working as an investigator for the Military Police. In fact, he’d met a number of the women on the list the FBI had gotten from the Army. Help us get this killer before he kills more of these women, they say to Reacher.

Reacher says no again.

You knew he would.

The strong-armed tactics the FBI employs to get his cooperation may work with most people, but not with Reacher. He thinks about a dozen steps ahead of everyone else and before they can haul him off to Quantico, he lays down a bit of groundwork. See, they made the mistake of threatening Jodie (the love of his life, from Tripwire, saying they would let that “protection” gang know about his interference and how they could get revenge on him through her. That was their first mistake and because he’s smarter than them, he’s able to remove the threat without seeming to raising a finger (it’s awesome, by the way, how he’s able to do it!).

With the threat removed, Reacher walks away, literally. He walks out of the building and off the FBI compound at Quantico. He realizes he’s enjoyed the past couple days, moving about between NYC and DC and doing something besides worry about property taxes, insurance, home maintenance, getting a job and having to mow the damned lawn. Again. Once back in New York, however, the FBI is waiting for him. The killer, who had been killing once every three weeks, has upped the interval, and he’s killed the step-sister of one of the FBI Agents involved on the case. Now Reacher has no choice but to get involved. Before, he was playing with the FBI, not wanting to get involved but enjoying his involvement nonetheless. Now playtime is over and it’s time to get serious. And when Jack Reacher gets serious, the bad guys had better watch out.

Okay, okay, a bit cliché’d, but I like it!

As much as I enjoyed this story, I had a couple problems with it.

One, at the beginning of Chapter 13, it’s Sunday morning and Reacher walks into the FBI cafeteria. On the table is coffee, a basket of Danish and doughnuts and the Sunday papers: the Washington Post, USA Today and the New York Times. The problem? USA Today doesn’t have a Sunday edition. They’ve never had one. Not now, not ever.

Two is the way Child portrays the FBI investigators as idiots. Reacher had to keep pointing Agent Blake (the agent in charge of the investigation) and the others in the right direction, telling them what to do next. For example, once they discovered the significance of the delivery box in murder victim #4’s barn, they should have automatically backtracked to the previous three victims to see if they had similar delivery boxes. They did, but only after Reacher told them to. He also had to tell them to check with the other potential victims to warn them about a delivery box. Once the box became significant, even I knew what needed to be done. The agents should have known as well without Reacher telling them. This is the FBI, for Pete’s sake. They should know how to conduct an investigation. Did their ability to free-think disappear once they finished their elite training? Also, why would they keep the relative of one of the potential victims on their team? She should have been removed the moment the connection was made, no matter how good her track record was. But they stubbornly kept her on.

I can accept sticking to the tried and true, but when it’s obvious something needs to be done, and you don’t do it, you cross the line from stubbornness to stupidity.

Third—and this is the biggie to me—the killer uses hypnosis to control the victims, to the point where they actually have a hand in their demise. I have to call foul on this one. You can do a lot of things with hypnosis, but you cannot make someone do something contrary to their nature. If you’re a natural exhibitionist, maybe you could be hypnotized to walk down your town’s Main Street naked, but for us shyer types, uh-uh, no go. If you have no desire to smoke, you cannot be hypnotized to suddenly light one up. It won’t happen. This myth was debunked on TV by The Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters (episode “Voice Flame Extinguisher,” originally aired April 11, 2007) and of course, there are thousands of links on the Internet that support this.

The desire for self preservation is one of the strongest instincts we humans have and, knowing all this, I don’t buy the killer’s method actually working. The Motive and Means are top-notch and well plotted, but the Method fails.

I give this story THREE AND A HALF STARS.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Closers

The Closers by Michael Connelly

He walked away from the job three years ago. But Harry Bosch cannot resist the call to join the elite Open/Unsolved Unit. His mission: solve murders whose investigations were flawed, stalled, or abandoned to L.A.’s tides of crime. With some people openly rooting for his failure, Harry catches the case of a teenager dragged off to her death on Oat Mountain, and traces the DNA on the murder weapon to a small-time criminal. But something bigger and darker beckons, and Harry must battle to fit all the pieces together. Shaking cages and rattling ghosts, he will push the rules to the limit—and expose the kind of truth that shatters lives, ends careers, and keeps the dead whispering in the night…
--Hot Mahogany by Stuart Woods, Copyright ©2008 by Stuart Woods, published by Putnam Books

My Review
After three years of doing his own thing, Harry Bosch is rejoining the Los Angeles Police Department, working with his old partner, Kizmin Rider, in the Open/Unsolved Unit. (Ever watch Cold Case? Then you’ve got the idea.) While some people are happy to see Harry back on the job, some people are not, and they let him know it. Harry doesn’t let it bother him, though. He’s just happy to be working again.

The first case Harry and Kiz pick up is the unsolved murder of a sixteen year old teenager, Rebecca Verloren. She was taken from her bedroom in the middle of the night and shot in the woods behind her house. The gun was found on the scene. DNA on the gun, which wasn’t around at the time of the murder, hit on a known felon, Roland Mackey, but he didn’t have any noticeable ties to Becky.

But there could be a connection. Mackey was rumored to be a kind of white supremacist, and Becky was mix-raced. Could Roland’s old gang have something to do with her murder? If not them, then it was probably her boyfriend, the one she got pregnant by but never told her parents about…the boyfriend or the pregnancy.

Mackey looks good for the murder, but his DNA on the murder weapon means he had the gun in his possession, not that he killed Becky. Not enough proof. So Harry and Kiz work to find the proof. Along the way, they uncover a nasty little secret the department has been hiding, a secret that, if uncovered, could cost Harry his job barely before it’s begun.

I have several of Michael Connelly’s books, but unlike my usual procedure with series, I’m not reading these in any particular order. It does leave me slightly disoriented at times and raises some minor questions in my mind about Harry. Perhaps one day I’ll retrace my steps, find book 1 and start from there. Then my questions will be answered. Maybe...

I give this story THREE STARS.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Tripwire by Lee Child

After spending 13 years in the military police, Jack Reacher is perfectly content to dig swimming pools by day and bounce at a Key West strip club by night. A man named Costello comes looking for him but is found dead the next day. Tracking Costello's employer takes Reacher to upstate New York and Jodie Garber Jacobs, the daughter of Jack's old commanding officer, Leon Garber. His dying request was to meet with his protege. Why Leon needed to see Jack so desperately is a mystery, but an attempt to kill Reacher and Jodie clarifies the situation. People serious enough to commit a daylight double murder want Reacher and Jodie dead. The question is why? The motive lies in a $100 million Long Island land swindle, and Reacher's opposition is wealthy, ruthless, and as cunning as Reacher.
--Tripwire by Lee Child, Copyright ©1999 by Lee Child, published by Putnam Books

My Review

Book 3 in the Jack Reacher series finds our hero living in Key West. He’s been there for three months, a record for him ever since the Army cut him loose. During the day he’s digging pools by hand, and at night, he works as a bouncer in a strip club. He hadn’t planned on staying that long, but something about the transient lifestyle of the area appealed to him, and so he stayed, waiting for that “itch” that tells him it’s time to move on. That “itch” comes in the form of a New York detective named Costello. His client, Mrs. Jacob, is looking for him. Reacher doesn’t know a Mrs. Jacob, tells Costello he’s not Jack Reacher and Costello moves on. Later that night, two more New York men show up at the strip club, also looking for Reacher. After dispatching them, and later finding Costello’s dead body, Reacher decides that maybe now would be a good time to move on. His destination? New York City and the mysterious Mrs. Jacob.

Once in New York, he tracks down Costello’s office and find a number for Mrs. Jacob. Her secretary gives him her address and tells him to hurry or he’ll be late. Late for what, Reacher wonders, but rather than ask, goes to the suburban address. There, he finds he’s crashing a funeral reception. The deceased is none other than General Leon Garber, Reacher’s former boss (who made an appearance in Die Trying) and mentor in the Army. And Mrs. Jacob is Garber’s daughter, Jodie, whom he remembers fondly as a skinny teenager from 15 years ago. She’s not a skinny teenager anymore. She’s a lawyer in a New York City firm with a growing reputation of brokering deals between failing companies and their creditors. Reacher’s impressed with her success, however, he finds himself thinking thoughts that he shouldn’t be thinking about the daughter of a man he admired and respected.

After everyone else has left the reception, Reacher finds himself alone with Jodie. The reason she was looking for him, she explains, is not because Leon was ill and dying, but because he had gotten involved with something and, since he was dying, he wanted to pass the task on to Reacher. But Jodie doesn’t have any details, hoping she’d be able to find Reacher in time for her father to pass the task on himself.

It’s a good thing Reacher managed to track Jodie down when he did, as the two goons he ejected from the Key West strip club have decided to pay Jodie a visit. He gets Jodie to safety, they find out who had given Garber his task, and the hunt is on.

Mr. and Mrs. Hobie lost their only son, Victor, in Vietnam. But the Army never officially declared him dead. Thirty years later, he’s still considered MIA. They simply want to know the truth about their son…thirty years is a long time to hold on to hope. Garber agreed to help and started the ball rolling. Now Reacher needs to pick it up and see where it takes him.

Meanwhile, in New York City, Chester Stone, the third generation owner of a family business, is in trouble. He needs $1.1 million dollars to cover operating costs for the next six weeks, but the money isn’t there. He and his CFO juggle and recalculate, but it’s like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. Finally, the CFO says he knows about a guy who makes loans to businesses in their sort of situation. Stone makes the appointment and the next day pays a visit to “Hook” Hobie, so named because instead of a prosthetic right hand, he sports a lethal-looking silver hook. Hobie agrees to lend him the money, in exchange for an equity position in the company and 6% interest for the six weeks. Stone agrees, the deal is signed, and the money transferred. Stone breathes a sigh of relief, believing his worries are over.

But they’re only beginning. Hobie puts his newly acquired stock on the market, sinking the value of the company in an instant. Now Stone owes $17 million and has no way to repay. But Hobie has a payment plan. He wants everything. Every Thing Stone owns down to the very clothes on his back. Oh, and a sweet piece of property on the beaches of Long Island Sound. All Hobie needs to do is demonstrate to Stone in no uncertain terms that he holds all the power. He’ll have it all. All he needs is Stone’s signature. And that of a certain female New York City lawyer with a reputation of brokering such deals.

Little does “Hook” Hobie know that Reacher and Jodie are looking for him, too. And Reacher always finds what he’s looking for.

There are some minor unanswered questions, such as what happened to Stone and his wife (I didn’t mention the part she plays in the story, but she is important) at the end. I suppose it’s logical to assume they picked up the pieces, repaired or dissolved the company, and got on with their lives. There’s also the question of the exact nature of Hobie’s relationship with one of his assistants, Tony. I don’t think they had a “relationship” (wink wink nudge nudge), but Tony obviously knows the truth about Hobie and cares a great deal for the man, much more than a superior/assistant business relationship. But the origin of that relationship is unknown and leaves me wondering.

But anyway, I am so loving this series! Jack Reacher is my new hero. You can have The Dark Knight, the kids from Heroes and any other pop culture hero out there (okay, the kids from Heroes are a bit passé, but you get my point). I’ll take Jack Reacher. Oh, and Lee Child. This guy really knows how to create a deeply layered psychological thriller. I was going to take a break from this series after the first two or three books, but now I’m itching to get started on Book 4, Running Blind.

I give this story FOUR STARS.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Promises in the Dark

Promises In The Dark by Stephanie Tyler
On the run, in each other’s arms, with one last chance to survive…

A rugged Navy SEAL, Zane Scott was part of a failed mission to rescue Dr. Olivia Strohm from abduction by the terrorist group Dead Man’s Hand—and her anguished screams have haunted him ever since. So when he gets word that the beautiful physician has escaped from her captors in Africa, he’s got personal reasons to storm the continent and save her.

Like her would-be liberator, Olivia carries the burden of a dark secret from her past. Ruthless and relentless, the DMH has threatened to hunt her down—and to systematically hurt anyone she’s close to. The last thing she wants is to be rescued—even by someone as shockingly handsome as Zane. Yet the hotheaded special ops hero has come for her, and together she and Zane just might have a shot at not only stopping DMH’s reign of terror, but also saving what’s left of their souls.
--Promises in the Dark by Stephanie Tyler, Copyright ©2010 by Stephanie Tyler, published by Dell, an imprint of Random House, Inc

My Review
The continuation of Lie With Me, Promises in the Dark continues the story of the Scott brothers, focusing on Zane and Caleb (but mostly Zane). Inexplicably drawn to Dr. Olivia Strohm, he searches for her for six long months after she was kidnapped by international terrorist group DMH. She’s managed to escape her captors and disappear into the African desert. Zane tracks her down, though, and to get her back to the States, he must get her to Freetown, a coastal African that holds too many memories for Zane.

Meanwhile, brother Cael has taken on babysitter duties as he rescues Vivianna Clare, the daughter of a master computer programmer—and a pretty darned good programmer in her own right—before DMH can get their hands on her. Her father wrote a program vital to the nation’s security and DMH has stolen a copy. Now DMH and Vivi are in a race to find the only flaw in the program. DMH wants to exploit it and Vivi wants to fix it. Who’s going to win this race?

I give this story THREE STARS.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Die Trying

Die Trying by Lee Child

Jack Reacher is in both the wrong and the right place at the same time when FBI Special Agent and daughter of the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Holly Johnson is abducted from a Chicago street. It is the wrong place because Reacher, a former army major drifting around the country, is kidnapped as well. It is the right place because only he has the instincts to foil the complex, deadly plan of the kidnappers, a Montana militia group headed by a charismatic, brilliant, but psychotic leader.
--Die Trying by Lee Child, Copyright ©1998 by Lee Child, published by Jove Books

My Review
Die Trying is the 2nd book in Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series. It’s the end of June, less than a week before Independence Day, and Jack Reacher is strolling down the city streets of Chicago. He bumps into a young woman coming out of a dry cleaners, balancing an armful of clothing in one hand and a crutch with the other. As he helps her regain her balance, two armed men appear and force them into a car. They’re driven to another location, handcuffed together, and tossed into the back of a van. As the minutes stretch into hours, Jack and his companion, who introduces herself as FBI Agent Holly Johnson, get to know each other.

Meanwhile, in the almost-abandoned mining town of York, Montana, Beau Borkin and his militia followers have taken up residence. A special room has been constructed for their prisoner in the town’s courthouse building. But when the van returns, minus one of the kidnap team and with an additional prisoner, Borkin adjusts his plans and decides on a way to use his additional prisoner.

Back in Chicago, Holly’s co-workers have retraced her steps and have the surveillance footage from the dry cleaners. The two gunmen and the car’s driver are easily identified as compatriots of Beau Borkin, but the fourth man, the tall one holding Holly’s arm, is harder to I.D. Eventually, they get one from the military—Major Jack Reacher, highly decorated, former military police investigator, released from the Army a year earlier.

Jack Reacher and the other kidnappers are now their number one priority. But there’s a traitor on the FBI team, someone who is feeding information to Borkin and his militia. Borkin is determined to declare York County, Montana as a new country, free from the tyranny of the United States, and he’s going to declare his country’s independence on July 4th. Can Jack and Holly find a way to stop Borkin and his people before they stage their own explosive July 4 fireworks?

I give this story FOUR STARS.