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 Forgotten                                

 Author:  David Baldacci                   Fiction                     

This is the 2nd book in Baldacci’s John Puller series. Army Special Agent John Puller is a former Ranger, and currently assigned to the Criminal Investigation Division who uses his special skills outside of his army duties. The book opens with an unidentified man (who just happens to be very large and very strong) escaping from an abandoned oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico. At the same time, Puller’s aunt, Betsy Simon, dies by drowning in the water feature in her backyard. But before her death, she sent a letter to her brother, a retired general, and John Puller’s father. The letter is short on specifics, but the father (whose health, especially mental, is rapidly failing) commands his son to find out what it means. Puller is still on R&R leave from the Army so off to Paradise, Florida he goes. But Betsy is already dead by the time he gets there. Her death is ruled an accidental drowning by the local authorities - there are lots of old people in Florida who can fall and not get up. Puller’s background causes him to think that there is more to Betsy’s passing and thus begins an investigation that will uncover a very shady business led by a less than scrupulous, but very wealthy man (Peter Lampert), connections to more deaths in the small community, and some old and new (and perhaps unexpected) alliances to finally figure out what is going on. Centered on the panhandle of Florida and the gulf waters, the action builds to a frenetic conclusion. Baldacci is one of my favorites, and this book does not disappoint.

Good Me Bad Me                                           

 Author:  Ali Land                                    Fiction

Annie is the daughter of a serial killer. She finally called the police to report the crimes, and now has a new name, Milly, and a new home (albeit a foster home in the home of her psychologist (Mike)). She is a troubled young lady to say the least - tormented by her love for her mother yet preparing to testify against her in a London courtroom. Tormented, too, by the daughter (Phoebe) of her psychologist and the daughter’s friends at school. And then there is the abuse she suffered as a child. As the trial approaches, the tension builds - will she be able to testify? Can she deal with Phoebe’s bullying? Is Mike the right guy to see her through? A good story, but not great. And probably just not my cup of tea. The writing style - more phrases and cropped sentences than what I am used, just did not work for me. The book was narrated by Milly - both in the present and in her mind, and sometimes you weren’t sure where she was. I know there are a lot of great reviews from the book’s release in England (where the story is set) which is why I wanted to read it in the first place. But just ok for me. Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advance reading copy.

Enemy of the State                                  

 Author:  Kyle Mills for Vince Flynn                          Mystery             

This is the 17th book in the Mitch Rapp series created by Vince Flynn and the third written by Kyle Mills since Vince’s passing. And after a bit of a slow start in The Survivor, Mills has hit another home run. The American and Saudi governments had reached an agreement after September 11 to keep the details of Saudi involvement under cover in order to continue and build on a strong alliance with the two governments. Then the King’s nephew is found to have participated in an operation to fund ISIS. Is Saudi Arabia moving away from that agreement? In order to get to the truth, Mitch Rapp is called in. But it must be a totally black operation so he resigns from the CIA. Without his usual backup (Scott Coleman is still recovering from injuries from the last case), Rapp assembles a team of mercenaries, most of whom have been his enemies in past books - Grisha Asamov, Donatella Rahn, and Kent Black, as well as his live-in friend, Claudia Gould as his logistics director. And then there is basically 400 pages of non-stop action. As Rapp becomes more and more isolated, the Saudi Intelligence Chief, Aali Nassar, one of the few non-royals in the Saudi hierarchy, attempts to convince King Faisal of his own loyalty and of Rapp’s criminality. And Rapp must depend on those he has not trusted in the past. Lots of characters that had not appeared in many books (Donatella Rahn, for example, had not appeared since the 3rd and 4th books in the series) shows how much Kyle Mills has immersed himself in this series. Don’t miss this one


Dead Tomorrow                              

 Author:  Peter James                   Mystery                     

This is the 5th book in James’ Detective Inspector Roy Grace series. And maybe the best so far! Grace is now leading the Brighton and Hove major crime division. His life is now busier than ever between his job and as his relationship with Cleo, senior pathologist continues to blossom. When a body is found in the English Channel by a dredging vessel, his life becomes even more complicated. The body has had its major organs surgically removed, and there are more anomalies at the seabed that divers must research and recover - two more bodies with the same characteristics. Caitlin Bennett is 15 years old and has been suffering from acute liver disease for several years and is in dire need of a transplant. Her mother, Lynn, has become frustrated with the National Health System and begins to look elsewhere for a solution - she will do anything to save her daughter. She will turn to a company that traffics in human lives (that is the main underlying theme of this edition in the series). As Grace and his team race to identify the bodies, Lynn must raise a ridiculous amount of money to save her daughter. The two stories converge at a breakneck pace as Grace tries to save a young girl from Eastern Europe while Lynn will stop at nothing. A disturbing topic to say the least, but I couldn’t put the book down.


Glass Houses                              

 Author:  Louise Penny                   Mystery                     

This is the 13th book in Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series. Gamache is now the Chief Superintendent of the Sûreté du Québec, which has been fighting a losing battle to the drug cartels due to the previous issues (corruption) on the force. The book opens with Gamache testifying in a murder trial - but it will take a while to find out who was murdered. It quickly switches back to Halloween of the previous year, when a mysterious person appears on the green in Three Pines, masked and dressed in black robes (the cobrador). The normally peaceful village becomes terrified - who is this dark figure and what is it doing? And why can’t Gamache do something about it? When the cobrador is found dead in the church basement, Gamache and associates must determine why and of course who. And thus begins a complex story that winds back and forth between November when the cobrador appeared and mid-summer when the trial for the murder is taking place, but not chapter by chapter. Frankly, the movement between the two time periods is often very subtle and you have to think about where you are. Gamache has put into motion a plan to stop the cartels - which is not really explained until late in the book. As is often the case, Gamache is troubled with the decisions he has made or must make. And, as usual, the final chapters are where the many plot lines converge and race to the conclusion.

The familiar characters from earlier books in the series (Reine-Marie, Ruth, Myrna, Clara, Gabri, Olivier, Beauvoir, Lacoste) are all there (with the usual humor from Ruth making me laugh out loud). This book was completed after Louise Penny’s husband passed away, and the author’s note at the end of the book explains her grief (don’t read it until you have read the book though - it does contain a spoiler). I think that had an impact on her writing as it is not the smooth yet complex style we have been accustomed to in earlier novels in the series. But it is a worthy addition to the series


Eastman Was Here                                      

 Author:  Alex Gilvarry                        Fiction                     

Alan Eastman is an over-the-hill reporter and author - his claim to fame is a book he wrote as an imbedded reporter during WWII. He is, to say the least, a most unlikeable character for the first 100 pages of the book. Crude is an understatement. His marriage is failing, he is having affairs, his writing has been less than remarkable. So he decides to head to Vietnam in 1973 as the war is winding down. And while in Vietnam, his writing continues to go nowhere, his mind games about women continue, and basically the character study of a very, very unlikeable character continues. I kept trying to find something to like about this book - and failed. In fact, I cannot figure out why I kept reading- I guess I couldn't believe it wouldn't get better.

So how did I wind up reading this book? I get emails from a book reviewer in Florida and she is giving away this new book. So I enter and I win the book. I guess I should have read her review more closely. I really don’t get what Gilvarry was trying to accomplish with this book. Take a pass