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 eleven 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!


Author:  Fredrik Backman                      Fiction

Beartown is a small town in the middle of the Swedish forest. The whole town lives for hockey, but the various levels of teams have not been very good until now. A group of teenagers have been playing together for years and they are now on the verge of winning their national championship. When they win the semifinal game, a celebration turns into a nightmare. An unspeakable act will turn the town upside down as the players, the citizens of the town and the leaders of the hockey hierarchy must face their own feeling and reactions. A wonderfully written story of a game, of friendship, of responsibility, and ultimately of redemption. Lots of likeable and unlikeable characters who will move you throughout.

The Fifth Column                            

 Author:  Andrew Gross                          Fiction

In 1939, Germany is aggressively attacking its European neighbors, but in the United States, the support for entering another war is far from unanimous. In fact, in New York City, there are many pro-Nazi demonstrations and rallies. After one such rally, Charles Mossman is sitting in a bar bemoaning the loss of his job and the seeds of failure of his marriage, when four guys draped in Nazi flags come in and Charlie reacts with tragic results - the death of a teenager and a subsequent prison sentence. Two years later, he is out of prison and is trying to get his life back together. His wife has moved to a small apartment in Yorkville, a NYC neighborhood, with his daughter. During his twice weekly visits, Charlie meets his wife’s neighbors, Trudy and Willi Bauer, who portend to be Swiss citizens and are very fond of Emma. But Charlie notices some strange visitors to the Bauer apartment, and begins to think that all is not what it seems to be. Charlie refuses to step back from what he thinks is some kind of conspiracy, and even the fears of a “fifth column”, an enemy intrusion not on the battlefield, which fuels a well-intentioned, poorly executed adventure to determine what is going on. A good story, but I just did not like the way it was written - Charlie is sort of a bumbling detective, and the “bad guys” are somewhat stereotyped. Nonetheless, it kept my interest despite the fact that I had suspicions early on of what was going on as each new character was introduced. Gross is a good story teller, but not a great writer. My thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the opportunity to review this ARC in exchange for my review.

Elevator Pitch                                                 

 Author:  : Linwood Barclay                                   Fiction

Is New York City under attack? On a normal Monday, an elevator with four unrelated people rises to the top of an office building in Manhattan killing all. On Tuesday, another elevator in a different building is the scene of another “accident.” And on Wednesday, a third building’s elevators claim two more victims. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that these are not coincidence, but Mayor Richard Headly, aspiring to higher office, is slow to react and then the response is clumsy at best causing a panic in this most vertical of cities. Barbara Matheson is a contributor to an online newspaper, Manhattan Today, and seems to be “after” the mayor. As she tries to report on these tragedies, she is led into the complex relationship with her daughter as well as that of the mayor and his son. Add to all this, the Flyovers are a radical group trying to stand up for those in the center of the country (flyovers being the people that those from either coast fly over but ignore) who have plans of their own to create mass confusion in the city. Barclay once again does a great job of telling a tale with many plot lines that hold several surprises and that will keep your attention to the very end. My thanks to William Morrow and Edelweiss for the opportunity to review the ARC of this book.

Cold Paradise                                  

 Author:  Stuart Woods                              Fiction

This is the 7th novel by Stuart Woods featuring Stone Barrington. Barrington, ex-cop turned lawyer, is called to warm and sunny Palm Beach, Florida to help a wealthy eccentric, Thad Shames, find Liz, a woman he met in passing but who he feels may be the love of his life. It turns out that the woman is a former client of Barrington's, Allison Manning, who he thought was dead, having been convicted of the murder of her husband, Paul, on the island of St. Mark's. Allison/Liz also hires Barrington to help her clean up a years-old insurance fraud (involving her “dead” husband). Things just get dicier from there. Stone calls on his NYPD detective friend, Dino, to come down to help him. These are all characters from earlier novels in this series (of which there will be some 53 this year!). Of course, there is what seems to be an obligatory female friend that Stone finds and beds, and plenty of humor between Dino and Stone. The story is fast-paced with plenty of twists and turns. These books are clearly not going to win literary awards, but they are very entertaining. I listened to this book and it is exactly the kind of book that works in the environment of driving or walking.

The Girl Who Lived Twice                                 

 Author:  David Lagercrantz                      Mystery             

This is the third book written by David Lagercrantz in his continuation of the Millennium Series featuring Lisbeth Salander as the main character. But this edition is more the Mikael Blomkvist book than the Lisbeth Salander book. Blomkvist is a writer for the Millenium magazine and has been featured prominently in the earlier books. The main plot line is the death of a vagrant on the streets of Stockholm, a death which stems from a Mt. Everest climbing expedition 10 years earlier. Mikael, along with a new love interest, as well as others are drawn to discovering who this vagrant was, how he came to be in Sweden, and what was he trying to communicate regarding his history as a Sherpa guide in Nepal. The secondary plot line is Lisbeth’s history with her twin sister, Camilla, a relationship that was deeply flawed since their childhood. I am not sure if this is a spoiler, but the ending was so contrived, it was almost unbelievable - Lisbeth is portrayed as a superhero, and the result of the final confrontation defies logic. The original Stieg Larsson trilogy was so good that, in my opinion, it has become apparent that the attempt by Lagercrantz to continue the series will never measure up.



Cilka’s Journey                                   

 Author:  Heather Morris                       Fiction

This is the sequel to The Tattooist of Auschwitz. Cilka, whose real name is Cecilia Klein, was introduced to us in that book. At the age of 16, she was taken to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Her will to survive allows her stay alive, but after the war, she is charged as a Nazi collaborator (she learned that her survival depended on doing some things she would never have done given a choice) for sleeping with the enemy. She had been “adopted” by one of the Nazi commanders which gave the appearance of cooperation with the enemy. So after being liberated from the concentration camp, she is convicted and sent to Siberia where she once again puts survival over morality (if that is the right way to put it). Once again, Cilka must do what it takes to survive under unthinkable circumstances, and although the threat of extermination is gone, the climate and the prison personnel are formidable foes. While the Tattooist was based on interviews with Lale Sololov, this book is truly fiction as the author was never able to speak with Cilka although Lale definitely did talk about her when being interviewed. The gulag system did exist in the USSR from the mid-1930’s until after Stalin’s death in 1953, and the conditions are well documented now. Another emotional story from a very good author. Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for the opportunity to review the ARC of this book.



 Author:  Brad Thor                        Fiction

This is the 19th book in the Scot Harvath series by Brad Thor. And, as always, the action begins on page 1 and is non-stop. A Russian aircraft crashes in Murmansk Oblast, a remote region in northwest Russia. Back in the U.S., Reed Carlton, head of the Carlton group, Lydia Ryan, Deputy Director of the CIA, and Lara Cordero, Scot Harvath’s fiancee, are found murdered at Carlton’s home in New Hampshire. Conspicuously, Harvath is not there, but he was supposed to be. It doesn’t take long for the heads of the major U.S. intelligence and security departments to figure out what happened. But where is Harvath, and who is behind this brutality. Another pulse-pounding adventure as Harvath must survive both the elements of the Russian winter and those who want him, dead or alive. It will be interesting how Harvath handles the changes that this book portends. One of the best series in the thriller genre. The books have been consistently above average since the first novel in the series (The Lions of Lucerne) appeared in 2003.