Steve's Reviews

Steve's Reviews

I first met Nancy when she was the manager of the highest grossing (per square foot) B. Dalton store in the country and I was still in the midst of a 40+ year banking and investments career. She introduced me to many authors that rekindled my love of reading. Spending a lot of time on airplanes (or waiting for them) was made a lot easier with my new "friends." I am now retired and split time between Florida and Indiana with reading and golf competing for my time. I have nine grandchildren and most of them are readers as well - one of my favorite things to do is take them to our local bookstore and turn them loose!

The Last Cruise                                           

 Author:  Kate Christensen                 Fiction                     

Being a relatively frequent cruiser, I jumped at the opportunity to read the advance reader copy of this novel. As shown in the rating, this is not my favorite book. The Queen Isabella is about to make its final journey from Long Beach to Hawaii and back. We meet the characters as they arrive in Long Beach - Christine, former writer and now farming in Maine, and Valerie, current writer who has invited Christine to accompany her on her assignment. Mick, the chef who was a last minute addition to the crew. A classical quartet, Miriam, Sasha, Jacov, and Isaac, who have worked for the cruise line for many years. And the head of the cruise line, Larry and his wife Rivka. This is a character study of these people, reflecting on their pasts and on the here and now as the ship encounters both predictable and unpredictable problems. I am still waiting for the action I expected. And (spoiler alert), the ending was no ending at all unless a sequel is planned though I hope not). Nonetheless, thanks to Doubleday and Edelweiss for the opportunity to review the ARC.

A Noise Downstairs                                   

 Author:  Linwood Barclay                                   Fiction

Paul Davis, a professor at West Haven College, is driving along a lonely country road when he recognizes the car of a colleague, Kenneth Hoffman. Hoffman first diverts to make a stop to dispose of a heavy object in a dumpster and then moves back to the main road. He pulls to the side of the road and Davis stops to offer help. But help is not needed as Davis sees two bodies wrapped in plastic in the back of Hoffman’s car. Hoffman hits Davis in the head with a shovel, but a police car had seen Hoffman’s car’s broken taillight and manages to save Paul and arrest Hoffman. Fast forward eight months. Davis is still suffering consequences from the blow to his head including memory loss and blackouts. Hoffman has pleaded guilty and is in prison. But strange things start to happen when Paul’s wife, Charlotte, buys him an old Underwood typewriter. Is Paul going crazy or is he suffering more bouts of amnesia? He hears the sound of the typewriter clicking in the middle of the night and typed notes are on the platen when he gets there. Is the typewriter what Hoffman disposed of that night? Can Anna White, his therapist, help him through, or will she become part of the problem? Quite frankly, I thought the first 3/4 of the book really dragged, but then everything started to fit together at a rapid pace. I have long enjoyed Barclay’s books (my favorites remain Bad Moves and Bad Guys) and while this is clearly not my favorite, it is still a good read. Thanks to HarperColloins and Edelweiss for the Advance Reader’s ebook.

The Target                                            

 Author:  David Baldacci                            Fiction             

This is the third book in Baldacci’s Will Robie series, although why it is not called the Robie/Reel series as his partner, Jessica Reel is as much a main character as Robie. And, in my opinion, the best so far. The intelligence community, led by DCI Evan Tucker, have set in motion a plan to bring down the North Korean government. But it goes bad and Robie and Reel are called upon to at least minimize the damage. And, in Paris, the “insider” from that rogue government throws another obstacle in their way. To maintain face, the powers that be in North Korea order a retributive strike. In the midst of all this, Jessica must confront her past, a secondary plot that clarifies how she got to be where she is. I still feel that Baldacci is one of the best in this genre (and there are still 2 more books in this series).


Bloody Sunday                       

 Author:  Ben Coes                    Fiction          

This is the 8th book featuring Dewey Andreas. And, as usual, the action begins on page 1. A highly specialized team of medical professionals are flying to Pyongyang, North Korea to examine the supreme leader, Kim Jong-un. Within 24 hours he is handed a diagnosis that sets in motion a potentially world changing event - the use of a nuclear bomb on the U.S. Andreas is ready to quit his job in clandestine services and move to Maine when he approached by President J. P. Dellenbaugh to take on one more mission. He is sent to Macau to discover why both North Korean and Iranian representatives are converging there. And then he must stop Jong-un from executing the plan. Clearly drawing upon current events and political alliances, the action is non-stop, and there is even a teaser of what is to come in the next book in the series. Coes, in my opinion, is in the top tier of thriller writers today. Thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the advanced reader’s copy of this timely novel.



The Killer Next Door                        

 Author:  Alex Marwood                       Fiction                     

23 Beulah Street in London is an old house converted into 6 apartments. Each of the tenants has a story as to why they are living in this rundown building owned and managed by a crude, greedy, and lecherous old man. Vesta, nearing 70, has lived there all her life. Cher is a 15 year old runaway from the north. Houssein is an Iranian awaiting his immigration papers from the government. Collette, the main character, is running from her previous employer, a money launderer. Thomas and George are the last two, both recluses. Although these residents mainly keep to themselves, they become united after an unfortunate incident one hot summer night. But, as the title suggests, one of them has a secret more devastating than the others. While that secret is alluded to early on, it takes a while to get all the details. An interesting character study that has its gruesome moments, it is not for the faint of heart. Marwood is a British author, so the idioms and language are sometimes difficult, and as in the other book I have read by him, the subject matter can be off putting to some.




 Author:  Catherine Coulter               Fiction                     

This is the 23rd book in Coulter’s FBI Thriller series, but the first I have read. When offered the chance to receive an ARC of the novel, I jumped at the chance as I have seen the author’s name quite often, and book sites showed consistently good reviews. I obviously don’t agree. Agents Sherlock and Savitch (the recurring characters) are awakened by their home alarm system and manage to chase off the intruder, who they determine to be Victor Presser, obviously a protagonist from an earlier book in the series. Victor has escaped from a mental health facility, and clearly still has issues. At the same time, chief Ty Christie witnesses a murder across the idyllic lake where she lives. It turns out the victim was a defense attorney turned federal prosecutor. The attorney had been spending time there with another FBI agent, Sala Porto (even the names in this book confounded me), who was knocked out and locked up and left to die. In dragging the lake for the body, many other bones are brought up leading law enforcement to believe a serial killer was as work, but when, for how long, and who? So there you have the background. What ensues is a choppy story that is not particularly well written. I did finish, and truthfully the ending saved the book from a lower rating. Thanks to Galley Books and NetGalley for the opportunity to review this book.



The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry       

 Author:  Gabrielle Zevin                    Fiction          

A.J. Fikry owns a book store in Alice, Massachusetts, a place that is only reachable by ferry from Hyannis. And it is not necessarily the most successful bookstore given its location. His wife was killed in an automobile accident a couple of years before this story begins. A series of events change the very predictable life he had been leading, not the least of which are the theft of his retirement, a rare volume of Edgar Allen Poe poems, and the discovery of a 2 year old child left in the store along with a note. This is a story of life and love, and books and bookstores (imagine a book reviewer liking a book about books!). It is a story of change with characters you aren’t ready to leave at the end. I am not necessarily a fan of “feel good” books, but thoroughly enjoyed this one.