Saturday, December 31, 2011

With a Tear in our Eye...

...we say goodbye to 2011. I make my book count this year at 65 (okay, that should probably be 64 since one of them is a repeat).

So here are a few stats:

Top 5 of 2011

1. The Enemy – Lee Child
2. Collide – Megan Hart
3. The Keeper of Lost Causes – Jussi Alder-Olsen
4. X Plagues – Mary Nealy
5. White Wind – Susan Edwards

This would have been a Top Ten, but I didn’t read enough books this year to have ten that I absolutely loved. If I had to pick five more, they would likely come from Lee Child and Susan Edwards. And maybe one David Baldacci.

Favorite new-to-me authors:

1. Mary Nealy (X Plagues)
2. Jussi Alder-Olsen (The Keeper of Lost Causes)
3. Susan Edwards (White Dawn, White Dusk, White Shadows. White Wind)
4. Harry Dolan (Bad Things Happen)

There were more new-to-me authors this year, but these three were my favorite. I’ll keep an eye out for Mary Nealy to see if/when she writes another book, Jussi Alder-Olsen has written three books in his Department Q series, but since I don’t read Danish, I’ll have to wait for the other two to be translated to English and released here in America, and the next four installments in Susan Edwards’ White series will be out in February 2012.

I would like to add a fifth “honorable mention” favorite author: Steven James. I’m still reading his first book, The Pawn. Since it’s the year end and I’m still reading it, it hasn’t made my review list yet, but I already know I like his writing and he’ll be one of my favorites in 2012.

So thanks to my busier schedule, I haven’t read as much this year as I did last year (79 books in 2010, 65 in 2011), but with good reason. Going to the gym several days a week took some reading time away—though I compensate by listening to audio books as I work out—and starting school in October took away even more. I don’t like that I spend less time reading for pleasure, but given what I’m gaining in exchange (lost almost 60 lbs and working on a college degree), I’d say it’s for the better. I hope to read at least as many books in the coming year.

2010 saw a lot of Nora Roberts and Jayne Ann Krentz and 2011 was a blitz of Lee Child. I know 2012 will have a lot of Susan Edwards as I read the remainder of the White series, but I hope to discover more new-to-me authors that I will love as much as these.

How about you? Have you been inspired to read more in the new year?

Oh...and I suppose it goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway, yes, this blog will continue into the new year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Deliver Us from Evil

Deliver Us from Evil by David Baldacci

Evan Waller is a monster.

He has built a fortune from his willingness to buy and sell anything . . . and anyone. In search of new opportunities, Waller has just begun a new business venture: one that could lead to millions of deaths all over the globe. On his trail is Shaw, the mysterious operative from The Whole Truth, who has tracked Waller to Provence and must prevent him from closing his latest deal. But someone else is pursuing Waller: Reggie Campion, an agent for a secret vigilante group headquartered in a musty old English estate-and she has an agenda of her own.

Hunting the same man and unaware of each other's mission, Shaw and Reggie will be caught in a deadly duel of nerves and wits.

--Deliver Us from Evil
by David Baldacci
Copyright © 2010 by David Baldacci
Published by Grand Central Publishing

My Review
Evan Waller is a man with two lives. In his past, as Fedir Kuchin, he was a war criminal and mass murderer from the Ukraine. He faked his death to avoid prosecution and emerged as Evan Waller, Canadian businessman. He made his millions in human trafficking and now wants to branch out into international terrorism by dealing in nuclear material.

Unaware of his previous identity, Shaw and his boss, Frank, want to take him down because he threatens the balance of power in the world. They figure his upcoming vacation in Provence, France, is the perfect place.

Reggie Campion and her team also think Provence is the perfect place to take down Waller. They, unlike Shaw, are aware of his previous identity. Her organization tracks down war criminals who have escaped persecution and deliver final justice to them. They are aware of his current identity and profession, but they want to take him down for his past deeds.

The nuclear deal is abruptly aborted, so Shaw is called off Waller’s tail. But before he can leave Provence, Reggie’s team takes him hostage. Seems Shaw and Reggie—working under aliases—were getting too close for comfort and Reggie’s boss orders Shaw’s detainment.

Waller/Kuchin manages to escape Reggie’s trap in Provence and now he turns his sights on getting his revenge against the people who would seek to take him down. And he finds a most unlikely route…through Katie James.

Sometimes you want the details, and other times, you don’t, wanting to rely on your own imagination to fill in the blanks. Think of the scene in “Silence of the Lambs” where Clarice Starling is shown a picture of one of Lecter’s victims. We see her reaction to the photo, but we never see the photo. The horror of what she’s seeing is left to our imagination. Baldacci doesn’t leave the horrific actions of Fedir Kuchin/Evan Waller to our imaginations. He tells us, in graphic, gory detail, exactly how evil and sadistic this man is. It’s a testament to a skilled storyteller and yet, I can’t help wondering how good the story might have been if he had left something to our imaginations.

Baldacci created a wonderful heroine in Reggie Campion, and as the story progressed, I couldn’t help wondering when/if Katie James was going to make an appearance beyond more than just a phone call and a quick “hi” at a Paris cafĂ©. She almost could have been edited out of the story entirely, except she’s the route Kuchin/Waller takes to get to Shaw. I liked Katie in The Whole Truth but I have to confess, I like Reggie more. She’s more of a match for Shaw than Katie ever was.

I give this story THREE and a HALF STARS.

The Whole Truth

The Whole Truth by David Baldacci

"Dick, I need a war."

Nicolas Creel is a man on a mission. He heads up the world's largest defense contractor, The Ares Corporation. Dick Pender is the man Creel retains to "perception manage" his company to even more riches by manipulating international conflicts. But Creel may have an even grander plan in mind.

Shaw, a man with no first name and a truly unique past, has a different agenda. Reluctantly doing the bidding of a secret multi-national intelligence agency, he travels the globe to keep it safe and at peace.

Willing to do anything to get back to the top of her profession, Katie James is a journalist who has just gotten the break of a lifetime: the chance to interview the sole survivor of a massacre that has left every nation stunned.

In this terrifying, global thriller, these characters' lives will collide head-on as a series of events is set in motion that could change the world as we know it.

--The Whole Truth
by David Baldacci
Copyright © 2008 by David Baldacci
Published by Grand Central Publishing

My Review
Defense contractor and multi-multi-millionaire Nicholas Creel is not happy. The world is seemingly at peace, no major wars going on, and that’s not good for business. He needs a war, so he has his perception manager, Dick Pender, start one. And start one he does. He plants false stories about the Russians and the rumors spread with the speed and efficiency you’d expect from our internet-driven society.

Shaw hears the stories, but he has other things on his mind. A kind of global policeman for a shadowy international agency, he travels the world to take care of problems, big or small, that might impact the global power balance. He’s very good at what he does, going into hairy situations that would get most people killed within the first two minutes and always manages to come out alive. He’s ready to retire so he can marry Anna Fischer, the love of his life, but his boss has a stranglehold on him that he cannot easily escape.

Katie James, an award winning journalist on a downward slide fueled by alcohol, happens upon Shaw as he attempts to take down a group of drug dealers in Scotland. Barely escaping with their lives, they go their separate ways, only to be reunited as they join forces to take down the man responsible for starting Cold War II.

The story is marred by occasional clichĂ©’d dialogue and implausible characters, but it also fast paced and full of action. The plot is both believable and unbelievable, in that you can’t believe something like this could really happen, and yet you’re afraid it really could. A good escapist read.

I give this story FOUR STARS.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

White Wind

White Wind by Susan Edwards
Dakota Territory, 1828

Alone in the world since the death of the man who raised her, Sarah Cartier is forced to flee her home to escape her abusive guardian. No sooner does she ride off into the untamed wilderness than she is swept away by Golden Eagle, the Sioux brave who saved her life once before. Insisting that Sarah belongs to him, Golden Eagle brings her to his village to learn the ways of his people. Her fantasies becoming reality, Sarah is a willing captive--but she fears the danger she'll bring when her guardian finds her.

The blue-eyed beauty has haunted his dreams ever since their first encounter. Now Golden Eagle is determined to claim her as his own. As future chief, Golden Eagle is betrothed to the daughter of another tribe. Consumed by passion for Sarah, he knows he will be forced to choose between love and duty...
--White Wind
by Susan Edwards
Copyright © 2011 by Susan Edwards
Published by Carina Press ebooks

My Review
Remember Emily Ambrose and John Cartier of White Dawn? They’re gone now, but their daughter Sarah is all grown up…and in danger from her guardian cousin Willy. He’s determined to have her and her inheritance for himself. If she doesn’t agree, he’ll tell everyone the secret of her true parentage.

So she runs and lands in the path of Golden Eagle, a warrior she met several years earlier. He and other warriors are looking for the men who kidnapped and murdered two of their women. Concerned for her safety, he convinces her to return with him to his tribe as his captive. It’s the only way he can keep her safe.

Sarah quickly adapts to the ways of the Miniconjou tribe and to loving Golden Eagle. But their future is uncertain because Golden Eagle is set to wed Wild Flower, the daughter of Chief White Cloud of the Hunkpapa, an arrangement made to bring peace to the two tribes. Neither Golden Eagle nor Wild Flower wish to wed each other, but marriage between the eldest son of Hawk Eyes and eldest daughter of White Cloud must occur to fulfill the terms of the peace treaty. Time is running out, and it’s running out faster than either could imagine, for Cousin Willy is hot on their trail. He wants Sarah and her money, and he won’t stop until he finds her.

Readers of the series, of course, know Sarah’s secret, and can easily deduce the solution to Golden Eagle and Wild Flower’s dilemma. Susan Edwards hides this solution behind a dark veil…you can see its form but can’t quite make out the details.

This story captured my imagination and wouldn’t let go until the final page. I can’t wait for the remaining books to be released. Don’t miss out on this series!

This story was first published in 2003, the remaining stories in the series following naturally. They’re being re-released by Carina Press and the first four books are available on their web site. Click here to order from Carina Press or the below link to order from

I give this story FOUR and a HALF stars.

I received an Advance Uncorrected Proof from NetGalley.

White Shadows

White Shadows by Susan Edwards
Dakota Territory, 1838

Night Shadow is driven by the need for vengeance, to find and punish the man who murdered his family and kidnapped his sister. And what better way to exact that revenge than by stealing his enemy's intended bride on their wedding day: a woman for a woman. He will release his captive if and when his sister is returned to him.
The daughter of a great chief and no meek maiden, Winona fights her captor every step of the way. But she cannot deny that the warrior's touch arouses something in her that her betrothed never has. She sees through the anger in Night Shadow's eyes to the despair within, and knows in her heart it is her destiny to help him learn to live again.

Night Shadow is mesmerized by Winona's beauty and spirit, and soon realizes he must face his past and end the hatred in order to offer her a future.
--White Shadows
by Susan Edwards
Copyright © 2011 by Susan Edwards
Published by Carina Press ebooks

My Review
Winona, daughter of Chief Hawk Eyes, is preparing to marry the man she loves, Hoka Luta, the medicine man of another tribe. But Night Shadow has other plans.

Night Shadow wants his revenge and is determined to keep Winona at arm’s length until he has his sister back, but he can’t help his attraction to his spirited captive. She’s promised to another, but the longer she’s with Night Shadow, the more she realizes how weak her love for Hoka Luta is, and how strong it is for her captor. When he finally tells Winona his story, she is determined to help him expose the traitor and find his sister.

Little did anyone know his sister was closer than anyone could imagine…

The location of Night Shadow’s sister was almost convenient, but under Susan Edwards’ skillful storytelling, it didn’t seem convenient. I certainly never saw it coming…I figured his search for her in White Shadows was going to be the setup for a future novel, but it is nicely concluded in this one.

The “captive falling in love with her captor” is a well-used, almost predictable plot and it weakens the story a bit, but the attraction between Night Shadow and Winona is strong and well written. A wonderful addition to the series.

This story was first published in 2003, the remaining stories in the series following naturally. They’re being re-released by Carina Press and the first four books are available on their web site. Click here to order from Carina Press or the below link to order from

I give this story THREE and a HALF STARS.

I received an Advance Uncorrected Proof from NetGalley.