Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Girl Who Disappeared Twice

The Girl Who Disappeared Twice by Andrea Kane
Forensic Instincts #1



Despite all her years determining the fates of families, judge Hope Willis couldn't save her own. Her daughter taken, she's frantically grasping at any hope for Krissy's return. Her husband dead-set against it, Hope calls a team not bound by the legal system. 

Forensic Instincts: a behaviorist. A techno-wizard. An intuitive. An ex-Navy SEAL. Unconventional operatives. All with unique talents and personal reasons for joining Casey Woods's group, they'll do whatever it takes. 

Able to accurately read people after the briefest of encounters, Casey picks up in the Willis household signs of a nervous spouse, a guilty conscience, a nanny that hides on her phone. Secrets beg to creep into the open. 

Forensic Instincts will dig through each tiny clue and eliminate the clutter, working around the clock. But time is running out, and Casey's team knows that the difference between getting Krissy back and her disappearing forever could be as small as a suspect's rapid breathing, or as deep as Hope's dark family history.

--The Girl Who Disappeared Twice
by Andrea Kane
Copyright © 2011 by Andrea Kane

My Review
At the beginning of Chapter 5, I figured out who kidnapped Krissy.  Truthfully, I had my suspicions almost from the start, but at this point, I knew.  Of course, I had no clue as to the kidnapper’s motive, or the truth behind Hope’s “dark family history,” so I kept reading.  Right about the half-way point, when Casey is talking to both Hope and her mother about that “dark family history,” I knew who was responsible for that one as well.  Again, didn’t know the motive and all the whys and wherefores, so I kept reading. 

I don’t know why I honed in so quickly on these two.  Perhaps because I’ve read a lot of mysteries (or stories that have mysteries in them) and I’ve learned to spot the odd turn of a phrase or the “subtle” hint that is the keystone to the mystery and from there can divine the answer to the puzzle.  Goodness knows I’ve ready plenty where the bad guy remains a mystery to me up until the very end.  I guess there was just something about the way Kane dropped her hints…they whispered to most people, but they shouted at me.

Okay, my Nancy Drew sleuthing skills aside, what did I think of the story?  I thought it was great.  The team of Forensic Instincts is well organized and run (and fun!) and by the end of the story has picked up three new staff members which they truly needed.  And I love the added complication of Casey being romantically involved with Hutch, a member of the FBI Task Force assigned to the case.  They’re both dedicated to solving the case, but the methods Casey sometimes uses causes a bit of conflict between them.  It’s a delightful complication that will surely continue into the ensuing books in the series. 

Will I read the next book, The Line Between Here and Gone?  Yes, it will go into my queue, because I want to learn more about this team and see how Casey and Hutch resolve their next conflict (there’s bound to be one).

I just hope I don’t figure out the answer, or at least part of the answer, to the mystery so quickly.  If I do, I may have to chalk it up to the writer’s skill and will be leery of the third book in the series (whenever it’s released).

I give this story THREE STARS.


Brainrush by Richard Bard

When terminally ill combat pilot Jake Bronson emerges from an MRI with extraordinary cognitive powers, everyone wants a piece of his talent--including Battista, one of the world's most dangerous terrorists.  To save his love and her autistic child, Jake is thrust into a deadly chase that leads from the canals of Venice through Monte Carlo and finally to an ancient cavern in the Hindu Kush Mountains of Afghanistan--where Jake discovers that his newfound talents carry a hidden price that threatens the entire human race.

by Richard Bard
Copyright © 2011 by Richard Bard
Published by Amazon Digital Services, Inc.

My Review
An earthquake during an MRI causes Jake to receive an electrical shock and his life is changed forever.  His new-found mental abilities come to the attention of the Institute for Advanced Brain Studies in Venice, Italy and its founder, Signore Battista.  His institute is conducting ground-breaking research into autism and believe Jake's new abilities are the key to finding the cure.

But Battista is doing far more than just autism research and he's much more than he seems.  If his plan succeeds, he will unleash a jihad in America.

...but again, there's even more behind this man's agenda. It has to do with a mysterious object hidden in the Afghani mountains, almost as old as man itself, with glyphs inscribed on it that no one has been able to transcribe...until Jake.  When Jake unlocks the obelisk, life on earth suddenly has more to fear than Battista's jihad.

I would have finished off this review by saying it’s wide open for a sequel, but guess what?  Bard already wrote one!  I have a few other books in queue, but the sequel is already in that queue and should be read and reviewed within a month or two.

I give this story FOUR STARS.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Dancing on the Head of a Pin

Dancing on the Head of a Pin by Thomas E. Sniegoski
The Remy Chandler Chronicles, #2

Once he was known as the Angel Remiel, but generations ago, Boston PI Remy Chandler chose to renounce heaven and live on earth, where he found a secure place among us ordinary humans…

But now, having lost the love of his life, Remy finds himself turning more and more away from his human friends and his everyday existence. He’s begun to seek out dangerous jobs—those that involve the supernatural, those that bring him into contact with his past.

Like his latest case: the theft of a cache of ancient weaponry stolen from a collector who deals in antiquities of a dark and dubious nature. The weapons, Remy knows, were forged aeons ago and imbued with unimaginable power. If they fall into the wrong hands, they could be used to destroy not only Heaven but also Earth. And to prevent that, Remy Chandler must decide whether he is willing to lose the last of his own humanity…

 --Dancing on the Head of a Pin
by Thomas E. Sniegoski
Copyright © 2009 by Thomas E. Sniegoski

My Review

A few months after the death of his beloved Madeline, Boston P.I. Remy Chandler is slowly starting to get back to his life.  It’s difficult for him, having never before suffered such a heart-wrenching loss, but time goes on and he needs to keep going. 

He’s also struggling to hold on to the humanity he so carefully crafted the many millennia he’s lived on earth.  He’d only let his angelic nature out twice in the last fifty years, once to Madeline and once to a cop who is now one of his closest friends.  In order to avert the Apocalypse, however, he had to become Remiel and do battle as an angel of the Host Seraphim.  Now, he’s having a hard time keeping that part of him inside.

Life in Boston—and around the world—has changed subtly since the Apocalypse was averted.  Things are darker now, more surreal, and supernatural things are happening all around.  Like the black-market selling of an angel’s internal organs.  He’s investigating that particular case with his friend Francis, a fallen angel and guardian of Tartarus, when he receives a call.  An antique weapons collector has had several of his prized pieces stolen.  He agrees to check it out and quickly discovers that the missing weapons are known as the Pitiless, a sword, battleax, twin daggers and a pistol made of material not of this earth. 

The Fallen angels of Heaven want the weapons in order to free their master, the Morning Star, from his tomb in Tartarus so that the great war of the heavens can resume.  Remy must do everything in his considerable power to stop this from happening, even if that means shedding his prized human form forever.

I give this story FOUR STARS.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Zero Day

Zero Day by David Baldacci

John Puller is a combat veteran and the best military investigator in the U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigation Division.  His father was an Army fighting legend, and his brother is serving a life sentence for treason in a federal military prison.  Puller has an indomitable spirit and an unstoppable drive to find out the truth.

Now, Puller is called out on a case in a remote, rural area in West Virginia coal country far from any military outpost.  Someone has stumbled onto a brutal crime scene, a family slaughtered.  The local homicide detective, a headstrong woman with personal demons of her own, joins forces with Puller in the investigation.  As Puller digs through deception after deception, he realizes that absolutely nothing he’s seen in this small town, and no one in it, are what they seem.  Facing a potential conspiracy that reaches far beyond the hills of West Virginia, he is one man on the hunt for justice against an overwhelming force.

--Zero Day
by David Baldacci
Copyright © 2011 by David Baldacci
Published by Grand Central Publishing

My Review

John Puller is a U.S. Army Special Investigator sent to Drake, West Virginia to aid local law enforcement to figure out why a high-ranking military officer and his family were killed.  Puller piggy-backs onto the locals' investigation and discovers more than just this one family has been killed.  There doesn’t seem to be any connection between the two families, and yet there has to be, right?

Coal is the major source of revenue for the town and some people don’t care much for Puller’s investigation, but Puller’s not there to make friends.  He’s there to solve a murder and wherever the clues take him, that’s where he’s going to go.

As Puller investigates, he uncovers some of Drake’s dirty secrets and its dark past, a past that has nothing to do with coal mining and everything to do with the potential destruction of Drake.  And West Virginia.  And a good chunk of the Eastern portion of the United States.

I personally don’t understand how David Baldacci can keep so many different series going (Camel Club, King & Maxwell, Shaw & James) and then turn around and start a brand new one!  But in true Baldacci style, he’s crafted an intriguing tale full of twists and turns without bogging down the story with too much history or technical detail.

Like all of the Baldacci stories I’ve read, the mystery starts out small and in no time escalates into a huge, complicated and complex conspiracy, so it’s a bit formulaic, however, Baldacci crafts a uniqueness into each story that keeps them fresh and keeps me coming back for more.

Although there are similarities between John Puller and my own favorite fiction hero, Jack Reacher, this story is definitely not a Jack Reacher clone (as some have suggested).  I definitely felt some of Reacher in Puller, as they are both intelligent men and determined to see justice done at whatever cost.  But they are different, too, in that Reacher relies on his wits and Puller has the entire Army and its resources at his back.

At the end of the story, Puller takes some well-deserved time off.  He packs a bag, loads his cat (named AWOL—love that!) into his car and takes off, driving aimlessly across the country.  Doubtless he’ll run into a mystery or two in his travels that beg his unique skills to solve.  I’m definitely keeping an eye out for the next installment in this series.

I give this story FOUR STARS.

The Voynich Cypher

The Voynich Cypher by Russell Blake
Second in the Dr. Stephen Cross series

When a sacred relic is stolen from its subterranean guarded vault, Dr. Steven Cross, amateur cryptographer, becomes embroiled in a deadly quest to decipher one of history's most enigmatic documents - a 15th century parchment written entirely in unbreakable code; The Voynich Manuscript. Stalked by secret societies, and aided by the daughter of a murdered colleague, a trail of riddles catapults Cross from England to Italy to the Middle East, where a Byzantine web of ancient secrets leads him to a revelation so profound it will change the world order.

--The Voynich Cypher
by Russell Blake
Copyright © 2012 by Russell Blake

My Review
The basis of this story, the Voynich Manuscript, is a real thing.  Its exact age is unknown but is believed to be several hundred years old.  About a hundred years ago, it was “rediscovered” by Wilfred Voynich and has been on display at Yale University ever since.  Cryptologists all over the world consider this document the Holy Grail of ciphers and would likely give their entire fortunes for the key to its decoding.
Steven Cross, an amateur cryptologist, thinks he may know the key, but without a missing portion of the document, he cannot decode it, and neither can anyone else.

A year ago, he contacted another cryptologist, Winston Twain, about his theory but never heard back.  Now, out of nowhere, Twain calls his office.  Before Steven can return his call, Twain is murdered.
Shortly afterward, Twain’s daughter, Natalie, shows up on Steven’s doorstep.  Her father was murdered because of the Voynich, she tells him, and the only way to solve the crime is for them to band together and do what they can to decode the document.

A missing section of the document, a potential key to its decoding, has been held secretly by the Catholic Church.  The Church won’t even admit to owning it, but no worries, Natalie says.  I stole it two weeks ago.  Between the two of us, we can figure this thing out and find out who killed my father.
Can these two decipher the Manuscript before those who wish to keep its secrets hidden—and those who wish to know its secrets for themselves—deal with them in a most permanent manner?

The characters of Steven and Natalie are very well developed and I couldn’t help but like Steven and wanted him to be successful in his mission.  Natalie rubbed me a bit wrong, however.  I dislike characters that always seem to be able to contact the right people and make the right thing happen at just the right time in order to keep the story going.  A little bit of that is okay, but Natalie’s “connections” went a touch too far in my opinion.  Still, I did like her and the story wouldn’t have gone very far without her.  I also didn’t care for the way Natalie was constantly referred to as a “girl” when she was obviously a woman.  I suppose it was Steven’s way of keeping her at arm’s length, but once that bridge was burned, it was silly to keep referring to her that way.  There were also a few minor plot holes that I glossed over in favor of simply enjoying the story.  An interesting adventure worth a weekend’s read.

Although this is the second in a series, it easily stands alone as an independent story.  While reading it, I had no idea there was a previous novel, although it does makes sense because we are given very intriguing hints about Steven’s background before he moved to Italy.  I hope to get to the first and third books in the series before the year is out.

I give this story THREE and a HALF STARS.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Deep Down

Deep Down by Lee Child
A Jack Reacher Story

Summoned by Military Intelligence to Washington, D.C., Reacher is sent undercover. The assignment that awaits him: The army is meeting with its Capitol Hill paymasters for classified talks on a new, state-of-the-art sniper rifle for U.S. forces. But vital details about the weapon are leaking—straight from the Capitol and probably into the hands of unidentified foreign arms dealers. The prospect of any and every terrorist, mercenary, or dictator’s militia getting their hands on the latest superior firepower is unthinkable. That’s where Reacher comes in. His task: infiltrate the top-secret proceedings and smoke out the mole. His target: a quartet of high-powered Army political liaison officers—all of them fast-track women on their way to the top.

According to his bosses, it’s a zero-danger mission. No need to draw a gun . . . just chat over drinks. But Reacher knows that things are rarely what they seem. And he’s learned the hard way never to underestimate an opponent. Or four. Lessons that will come in handy when he starts digging for the truth—and gets his hands a lot dirtier than he expected.

--Deep Down
by Lee Child
Copyright © 2012 by Lee Child

My Review

The time:  1986. 

The place: Washington, D.C. 

The problem: Someone is leaking classified information regarding designs on a new sniper rifle.

The solution: Send in Jack Reacher.

Reacher is sent to sit in on talks about the designs on a new sniper rifle, but he’s not there to sell the thing.  He’s there to figure out which of the four Army political liaison officers is the mole.  Based on the information he’s given, he has a pretty good idea which one it is.  But when she’s killed in a motor vehicle accident, his attention switches to the other three.  He needs to figure out which is the guilty party quickly before he’s the next one going to the morgue.

This is the second short story released by Lee Child and while perhaps not as enjoyable as the first short (Second Son), it’s still a glimpse into Jack Reacher’s past and a chance to learn what makes him such a great investigator.  If you’re a fan, I don’t even need to tell you to buy it because you will anyway (like I did).  If you’ve never read any of the Jack Reacher books, this story should be enough to whet your whistle and make you want to read more.

But you’d better read fast.  His 17th novel, A Wanted Man comes out September 11th.

I give this story FOUR STARS.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The President's Vampire

The President’s Vampire by Christopher Farnsworth
A Nathaniel Cade novel, #2

For 140 years, vampire Nathaniel Cade has been bound to protect and serve the United States of America.  Cade’s existence is the most closely guarded of White House secrets: a superhuman covert agent who is the last, best line of defense against an ever-threatening gallery of nightmarish foes that ordinary citizens couldn’t begin to imagine.

When an ancient evil – one ominously familiar to Cade – is resurrected, the President’s Vampire and his human handler, Zach Barrows, must track down its source.  The prime suspect is a shady private defense contractor who may be dealing with powers far deadlier than any mortal weapon.  It’s up to Cade and Zach to drag the forces of darkness into the light…

--The President’s Vampire
by Christopher Farnsworth
Copyright © 2011 by Christopher Farnsworth

My Review

An old enemy is about to unleash an even older threat upon the world and only Nathaniel Cade can stop it.  He had dealt with this particular threat nearly one hundred years ago and thought it gone from the earth, but some things never go away.

Cade’s enemy, going by the name Colonel Graves, has found a way to create a race of reptilian killers called “Snakeheads” using a virus.  One bite, and within minutes, the victim is transformed into a killing machine.  They know no thought except to kill and that means only one person, one thing, can stop them.  But the oath that drives him is the very thing that keeps him from taking out the heart of this particular kill factory.  When Zach is double-crossed and taken prisoner, can Cade find a way to rescue him and put an end to these killers before they’re let loose on a crowd of holiday shoppers?

While this story is as well-designed as its predecessor, the constant switching back and forth between our heroes and the poor people who have the misfortune to become Snakeheads got to be tiresome.  As soon as the story started to move, you have to shift gears into the mind of another unfortunate soul minutes before they’re infected, then they die, and then you can get back to the story.  It got to be a little tiresome after a while.  But for that, it was a good story, and I’m definitely going to go for the third in the series.

I give this story THREE STARS.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Comeback Love

Like Nicholas Sparks and Robert James Waller, first-time novelist Peter Golden knows how to write the kind of nostalgic fiction that men and women alike fall for. In Comeback Love, a universal story about lost love, he offers an evocative debut that begins in the tumultuous 1960s and ends in the feverish thrill of present-day New York City.

Over thirty-five years ago, Gordon Meyers, an aspiring writer with a low number in the draft lottery, packed his belongings and reluctantly drove away, leaving Glenna Rising, the sexy, sharp-witted med student he couldn’t imagine living without.

Now, decades later, Gordon is a former globetrotting consultant with a grown son, an ex-wife, and an overwhelming desire to see Glenna again. Stunned when Gordon walks into her Manhattan office, Glenna agrees to accompany him for a drink. As the two head out into the snow-swept city, they become caught up in the passions that drew them together before tearing them apart. And as the evening unfolds, Gordon finally reveals the true reason for his return.

Comeback Love is a bracing journey into the hearts of two lovers who came of age in the 1960s. Plumbing the depths of youth, regret, and desire, Peter Golden deftly illuminates the bonds that mysteriously endure in the face of momentous change.

--Comeback Love
by Peter Golden
Copyright © 2012 by Peter Golden
Published by Washington Square Press

My Review

Replete with flashbacks to the late 60’s, a time of music, free love, and the start of an unpopular war, Gordon and Glenna relive the past, the reasons they came together and the reasons that tore them apart.  With Gordon’s son missing in Iraq, can Gordon finally lay some old demons to rest, and perhaps find out whether or not the feelings he’s carried all these years can rekindle an old flame. 

Peter Golden has penned a dramatic tale that shows the real way people lived in that time, the problems and questions they faced and the realization that even though they thought they knew everything, no one really had all the answers.   They also face the reality of today, when they are older and wiser…but still don’t have all the answers.

I received an Advance Uncorrected Proof from NetGalley.

White Dreams

White Dreams by Susan Edwards

Nebraska Territory, 1857

To Star Dreamer, seeing glimpses of the future is more a curse than a gift. Haunted by the belief that she could have prevented the death of her husband, she struggles against the Sight--even if it means leaving her people to hide from the Spirits in the white man's world with handsome Grady O'Brien, a man who inspires passions Star thought were long buried.

After losing his wife, Grady vowed never to love again. But the beautiful and wise Star Dreamer tempts him to risk his wounded heart a second time. Their budding relationship faces opposition in a world bound by prejudice. And when they rescue a free black woman from slavers, Grady and Star incur the wrath of a dangerous man known only as the Dragon--a man who won't rest until he enslaves Star herself...

--White Dreams
by Susan Edwards
Copyright © 2012 by Susan Edwards
Published by Carina Press ebooks

My Review

After the marriage of his daughter, Emma, to Sioux chief Striking Thunder, Colonel Grady O’Brien returns to St. Louis with his youngest daughter, Renny.  Before leaving the Sioux, however, Striking Thunder’s sister, Star Dreamer, insists on coming with him, along with her daughter, Morning Moon.  Renny is a handful, and the Colonel, unused to her antics, needs someone to take control of her.  Star, who has visions of the future, knows hers lies with the Colonel in the city.  Reluctant to see her go, but knowing each must follow their own destiny, Star’s family bids her well.

Star surprisingly adapts well to city life and quickly takes over the care of the two girls and the running of the household.  She is met with resistance and suspicion, but it isn’t long before she finds her way around these obstacles.  Her growing feelings for Grady, however, won’t be so easily conquered.

Grady, himself, is at war with his emotions.  Drawn to Star from the moment they met, he strives to keep distance between them.  He promised her father and brother—now his son-in-law—that he would keep Star and Morning Moon (now calling herself Matilda) safe in the city.  When Star unwittingly finds out about a forced slavery racket, she works to find out who is responsible.  Will she, before they find her first?

As I read my way through this series, I found that I enjoyed those that focused on life among the Sioux the best.  So did I not like this one set in the white man’s world?  On the contrary, I enjoyed this story as well.  Star is definitely in control of her life and her destiny, though she constantly strives to deny her gift of prophecy.  She has it in her to be a strong, confident woman, something she couldn’t quite be among her people, but among Grady’s, her true self comes out.  I enjoyed her transformation and adaptation to his world, and more, I loved that Grady did not try to force her to conform, but allowed her the freedom to find her own way into his world and into his heart. 

This story was first published in 2004, the remaining stories in the series following naturally.  They’re being re-released by Carina Press and the first eight books are available on their web site.  Click here to order from Carina Press or the below link to order this book from (and find links to the others available in this series).

I received an Advance Uncorrected Proof from NetGalley.

White Flame

White Flame by Susan Edwards

Nebraska Territory, 1856

After waiting years for her estranged father to come home, Emma O'Brien decides to brave the wilderness to fetch him herself. But the journey takes a detour when her party is attacked by Arikara warriors, and Emma is taken captive. Rescue comes in the form of Sioux chief Striking Thunder, but to Emma's shock, instead of releasing her, he claims her as his slave. Emma is not sure what is more infuriating: the arrogant brave, or the way he awakens her passions...

Striking Thunder seeks revenge on the men he holds responsible for his wife's death, and the feisty redhead is the perfect bait. He cannot believe the spirits have destined her to be his bride, nor can he deny she stirs something within him that no other woman ever has. Though his duty to his people is clear, it is not long before Striking Thunder's heart is enslaved by his own captive...

--White Flame
by Susan Edwards
Copyright © 2012 by Susan Edwards
Published by Carina Press ebooks

My Review

After the death of her mother, Emma’s father, driven by grief, leaves his daughters in the care of his sister and returns to the Army.  Years later, after the death of her aunt,  Emma and her younger sister, Renny sail down the Missouri river to Fort Pierre to try and convince her father to come home with them.  When the boat runs aground, she accepts an offer from Captain Derek Sanders for the two of them to look at the countryside while the ship’s men work to free the boat. 

When their excursion is met by Yellow Dog and his band, Derek promises to protect Emma and Renny, but secretly, he is in league with this particular group of natives.  He’s trying to stir up trouble between the Sioux and the Army, hoping to clear everyone out of the area so he can harvest the gold he knows is in the land.  But when they attack them instead, most of his men are killed and Emma and Renny are taken captive, then separated.  Emma fears she will never see her little sister again, but at the same time, is determined to make an escape and find her.

Striking Thunder wants his revenge against those who attacked his people and killed his wife, Yellow Dog and his renegade band of warriors and the Army Colonel who ordered the attack, Grady O’Brien.  He tracks down Yellow Dog and destroys him and his group.  When he finds the white woman they had been holding captive, he promises to bring her to the nearest fort.  However, when he learns she’s O’Brien’s daughter, his plans change.  Emma will now be his instrument of revenge and takes her back to his people as his captive for the winter while he and his men make plans.

What he didn’t plan on was the intense desire he would feel for this flame-haired white woman.  Nor did she plan on falling in love with the Indian chief.  Striking Thunder refuses to believe his sister’s prophesy that Emma is his destiny and he presses on with his plans while Emma waits anxiously for the spring and the promised return to her old life.  But destiny has a mind of its own and when the time comes, each will have to make a choice for the future.

I didn’t much enjoy book six of this series, and this one makes up for it.  Returning to the People and the land, Edwards reaches deep into her knowledge and creates a story of longing, both between the main characters and the secondary characters as they work to resolve their feelings over the losses and what the future holds for everyone. 

Emma wants to be reunited with her sister and father and return to her life in St. Louis, but as Striking Thunder points out, was she really happy in that life?  His people may be poor by her standards, but they have everything they need and they are happy in their lives.  Slowly, she comes to see that and against her will, begins to adapt to their ways.  And when that moment comes, when she is reunited with her sister and father, can she convince Striking Thunder that what he believes is untrue?  And can she make the right decision for all their futures?

This story was first published in 2004, the remaining stories in the series following naturally.  They’re being re-released by Carina Press and the first eight books are available on their web site.  Click here to order from Carina Press or the below link to order this book from (and find links to the others available in this series).

I received an Advance Uncorrected Proof from NetGalley.