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Nancy Martin (Pennsylvania (orig. NY))

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The White Queen
The White Queen
by Philippa Gregory
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Let The Wars Rage On!!!!, 4 Oct 2009
This review is from: The White Queen (Hardcover)
If you've read my last few reviews, you'll already know that I am on a quest to read only great books for the rest of this year. I'm not looking for mediocre; I'm not looking for good; I'm looking for flat out great books. I've been right on target with many of my recent reads....Cutting For Stone, The Help, That Old Cape Magic...and now it was time for Philippa Gregory's newest, The White Queen. Before I start reading a book, I usually come to Amazon and glance at the reviews. And I do mean "glance" when I say it because many of the reviews here give too much away. Needless to say, when I saw all of the three and four star ratings, I thought that perhaps I should pass on this one for fear of ruining my "great book run." But I had loved so many of Gregory's other books in the past that I decided to go for it.

Her Boleyn series gave us a look at the Tudor dynasty courtesy of King Henry VIII. This newest book is apparently part of a trilogy which will take us through the Plantagenet reign. The "Plantagenet" reign?? This was one I knew nothing about although, once I started reading and found out it was about the War of the Roses and the Lancasters versus the Yorks, some old history classes started coming back to me. The best part of reading a historical fiction book, about a time in history of which you are ignorant, is that some of it reads like a thriller. Since this book covers the kingdoms of Henry VI, Edward IV and Richard III, I had no idea when one would end and another would begin. Each time Edward IV went off to war, I waited with bated breath to see if he would return. I read many of these pages as if I was a graduate of the Evelyn Woods' School of Speedreading making my way through them as quickly as I could because I couldn't wait to see what was going to happen. As I already mentioned, since I had no recollection of this time in history, I was not sure if Edward was King for a long time or if his reign was short-lived. I didn't know if he died in battle, died of some illness or lived until old age. His death came as a shock to me and what ensued thereafter was even more shocking.

Since this book is mostly about King Edward IV of the York dynasty, it details the battles he fought with cousins and even his own brothers to attain power and then keep it. It is also a story of a King and Queen who actually loved each other and struggled to maintain power and peace so as to pass the reign on to their son Edward V. Unfortunately, it is also a story of a family with a curse and that is the curse of ambition. While Edward's family is fighting amongst themselves as to which brother should really be on the throne, it is his wife Elizabeth Woodville's family who is causing most of the problems. When King Edward IV married Elizabeth Woodville (in secret), she was a commoner. So her family's rise to prominence is not taken too kindly by England's nobility. In the end, this is the story of how the great Plantagenet family finally destroyed themselves in a bloody struggle known as the War of the Roses.

Midway through the book, I was still wondering what all of these reviewers were complaining about because I really thought this book was so darn good. It has everything I'm looking for in historical fiction....intrigue, betrayal, adventure, deceit, death and, of course, love, And while Edward and Elizabeth were hoping to continue a dynasty with their son Edward V, it is their daughter Elizabeth who will create her own dynasty when she marries Henry VII of the Tudor family. She will become the mother of Henry VIII and will also be the subject of the third book in this trilogy called The White Princess. But first we'll get to see the real power behind Henry VII in Gregory's next book, The Red Queen, which covers Henry's mother, Margaret Beaufort.

So while historically this period in history is mostly remembered for its wars, Gregory brings to light what went on beyond the battles and I found this family every bit as fascinating as the Tudors. Let the wars rage on until the next book comes out.

Rules of Vengeance
Rules of Vengeance
by Christopher Reich
Edition: Hardcover

5.0 out of 5 stars Is There Anything Sweeter Than Vengeance?, 28 Sep 2009
This review is from: Rules of Vengeance (Hardcover)
At the beginning of every Christopher Reich story, I usually find myself wondering why I read this author's books because the first fifty pages make me so darn nervous. I guess the answer would be found in a similar question..."Why does someone ride a roller coaster?" They do so because it gives them the chills, a thrill and that sudden quiver of excitement. Well, I read Reich's books for the same reason and he is one author who has yet to disappoint me.

But my real question is Reich not on the tip of everyone's tongue when they talk about the best mystery/thriller authors out there? When this category comes up, readers always think of Connelly and Lehane and Finder. But guess should be Connelly, Lehane, Finder AND Reich. In any other Reich review I've ever written, I usually talk about how I discovered him all on my own some years ago when he penned Numbered Account (a favorite). I've read everything since so I now consider myself not only a fan but an expert on this author.

Last year, he delighted his fans by starting a series with Dr. Jonathan Ransom as the main character. Working for Doctors Without Borders, he was the perfect protagonist as his job takes him around the world. But it wasn't just Jonathan we were following. It was also his wife Emma who, we found out in Rules of Deception, works for a secret US agency referred to as "Division". This agency does things even the CIA and FBI can't touch. "Deception" ended on such a note that Emma was forced to go into hiding while Jonathan returned to Africa, once again helping those in need. Vengeance finds them meeting up again in London but this will be no honeymoon for The Ransoms. Considering that this doctor is married to someone who is a secret spy/assassin means that their marriage is not going to include a white picket fence and a dog.

There is one thing I can say about Christopher Reich and that is you can never figure out where he is going with a story until HE decides you are going to get there. And, once you do arrive, he still confuses you to the point of wanting to email him and ask him exactly what is going on. You think you know how it ends, but you probably won't know if you're right until the next book comes out.

I'm a huge proponent of reading books in order and honestly feel that to really appreciate Rules of Vengeance, you should read Rules of Deception first. This way you can understand the relationship between husband and wife or, dare I say, mentor and apprentice. For it's hard for this doctor to be married to this woman and not have some of her expertise rub off on him. And it is this rubbing off that will save Jonathan's life as he escapes from the police when he is accused of doing something his wife has done. As everyone is searching for Emma Ransom (after she car bombed a Russian convoy), they feel the only way to catch up with her is to follow her husband. The chase is on and it's quite a ride as Jonathan has them traveling from country to country in Emma's pursuit. But while they just want to catch her, Jonathan wants to stop her as he realizes what her next assignment is.

Emma Ransom (although we find out this isn't even her real name) is so diabolical that I can't even imagine this marriage lasting past this book. As I was reading I was thinking, "how can these two even go out for dinner together." I can't imagine where Reich is going to take us in the next book in this series other than having Division recruit Jonathan as one of their own. He certainly has the skills.

So you did good by me Mr. Reich. For all you other reviewers out there, just know that this is one author who reads these reviews. He's great at taking constructive criticism but, as you can imagine, that is something that is not usually dished out on his behalf. Once again, I applaud you on another great one!!!

South Broad
South Broad
by Pat Conroy
Edition: Hardcover

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lost On Broad Street, 24 Sep 2009
This review is from: South Broad (Hardcover)
Most of the reviews I've read on this book read like a broken record..."I've waited so long for Conroy to write a new book", "I so wanted to love it and I didn't" or "It didn't live up to my expectations". And these are the reviews from longtime Conroy fans. Yet, even with all of this, most reviewers admit that even a "not great" Conroy book is far better than most of what else is out there. So will my review read like these broken records? But I will say that somewhere along the way, when Conroy was walking "south of Broad", he turned left when he should have turned right and what we're left with is the problem most of the reviewers are writing about.

The book is divided into five parts. While reading the first part, I emailed a friend of mine telling her that I was 100 pages into South of Broad and loving every word I was reading. So, at this point, I couldn't understand all of the so-so reviews. Then I got to Part 2 and I started to understand. Part 3 justified these so-so feelings. Thank goodness for Part 4 and Part 5....otherwise this review might have been heading south all on its own.

It all begins on Bloomsday, June 16, 1969, when, as an upcoming high school senior, Leopold Bloom King meets eight people who will change his life forever. All in one day, his future will be set out before him as it is these eight people who will become his lifelong friends. For those of you who don't know the significance of Bloomsday, it refers to James Joyce's novel Ulysses where all the events take place on the same day, June 16, 1904, in Dublin and, the main character in Joyce's novel happens to be named Leopold Bloom. So it almost makes sense that our Leopold Bloom King will have events occur all on the same day that will shape his life as well. Just in case you're wondering, Leo's mother is also a Joycean scholar and lives and breathes everything James Joyce.

So begins our journey into Leo King's life (better known to his friends as The Toad). As I mentioned before, the book is divided into five parts. The first part delves into Leo's life as a child, living through his own brother's suicide and the ramifications of what this can do to a young child. By the end of Part 1, he has been through hell and back and is ready to begin his senior year of high school, where his mother is the principal and his father is a science teacher. Nobody can tell a story like Conroy and he excels in this part of the book. He tells of Leo's morning newspaper route and I swear no one could make a mundane task such as this sound so exhilerating. In this section, he also explains Leo's upbringing as a Catholic, with a mother who is an ex-nun and whose after newspaper route routine includes serving as an altarboy at morning mass every day. Having grown up going to Catholic elementary school with three brothers who were all altarboys, I could so relate to this part. I could almost smell Conroy's description when he says, "the smell of the Catholic world washed over me" as Leo is entering the church to serve mass.

Part 2 fast forwards to twenty years later when Leo is now working for the same newspaper he delivered every morning as a teenager. All of his friends are still with him and, as a reader, it is fun to catch up with what they have done with their lives. Part 3 finds them all heading out to San Francisco in search of one of the infamous eight who has gone missing. It is these two parts that fell short for me and I can't put my finger on the reason but trust will happen to you as well. At this point, I emailed that same friend and said I hope one of the later parts of the book brings me back to his life as a senior in high school because so far Conroy hadn't shed any light on those years. Conroy did not disappoint and, once again, writes a good section in Part 4 about this time in the friends' lives. The last section, Part 5, brings us up-to-date with all of them once again, in 1989, as they try to stave off the wind and rain of Hurricane Hugo, while at the same time trying to keep out of the line of fire of someone who is bent on killing them all.

Yes, you read right. Conroy has a killer in this book. This is the part that I just didn't get and didn't feel the need. There's so much I could write about this book but I have to remember that I'm writing a review and not an English paper. This is one author whose descriptions and storytelling I like much more than his dialogue (in this book at least). I felt the dialogue was a bit fatuous (for lack of a better word) and most times, I just didn't like the repartee between the characters.

But the best part of the book is about Charleston itself. Because many of these characters are hurting and Charleston is a city "who" can actually heal you. Let's face it -- Charleston is as real a person as the characters in this book are and, perhaps, as real as Pat Conroy himself. This book is a love affair with Charleston as much as it is a testament to James Joyce's Bloomsday. I finished this book and wanted to book the first flight out to South Carolina. But I also have to say that this book also says something about Conroy's life as a Catholic because he's obviously trying to lash out for something that might have happened to him or someone he knows. Again, growing up as a Catholic, I can totally feel his pain.

Is this a book I won't forget? -- Yes. Is this a book I would recommend to my friends? -- No. The reason is that I only recommend great books to my friends and this is just a "good book". Sad to say, it's just not vintage Conroy. But is he still one of my favorite authors of all time....the unequivocal answer is YES!!!

That Old Cape Magic
That Old Cape Magic
by Richard Russo
Edition: Hardcover

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Looking For That "Happy" Place, 24 Sep 2009
This review is from: That Old Cape Magic (Hardcover)
I would like to think of Russo as being one of my favorite authors but don't feel qualified to make that statement since this is only the third book I've read by him....Empire Falls and Bridge of Sighs being the other two. But I will say that I've loved all three and look forward to going back and reading some of his earlier works. So when writing this review, I'm not sure if his writing style has changed or if he has, in fact, gotten better. All I know is that I think he's a great storyteller and That Old Cape Magic keeps proving that point over and over with each page you turn.

I've been so looking forward to August '09 because there were four books coming out that I've been eager to read....South of Broad by Pat Conroy, Rules of Vengeance by Christopher Reich, The White Queen by Philippa Gregory and That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo. I thought I'd start out with the Russo book and right off the bat I've hit a home run. I loved it!!!!!

There are many authors out there who write stories with very little dialogue and, most times, they are not my favorite books simply because the author's storytelling capabilities aren't good enough to pull this off. In Russo's book, I didn't care if the characters said one word to each other because the story he was telling was just so interesting that I failed to notice the lack of discourse.

And this is an author who definitely loves his bridges. As I've already mentioned, I've only read three of Russo's books but each one prominently mentions a bridge. In Empire Falls, it was the Iron Bridge that separated the mansion of the Whiting's from the rest of blue collar Empire Falls. The Bridge of Sighs is an actual bridge located in Venice and it's the last thing a prisoner walks over before being imprisoned in that famous city. Is Russo trying to tell us something? Do his characters cross over into their own prison of sorts as a penance when crossing these bridges? In this book, the bridge of note is the Sagamore Bridge. It represents two weeks of happiness to Jack Griffin's family as it leads to Cape Cod....their ultimate vacation place and their reprieve from the Mid f'n West as his parents liked to call it.

Russo has so many subplots in this book, one of which is the story of a childhood summer on Cape Cod where young Jack meets young Peter Browning and has the most idyllic two weeks of his life as Peter's family is everything Jack wishes his was and Peter is the friend he always wanted. Four decades later, as a would-be novelist, it is this story (Summer of the Brownings) that Jack is destined to tell and it's something he's had in the works for years but he can never seem to finish it. It makes me wonder if this story (That Old Cape Magic) is also something that Russo has been dying to tell for years and perhaps he too has been sitting on it for a long time.

This is only one of the stories Russo tells. He goes through Jack's life with his academically snobbish parents, Jack's marriage to someone he makes unhappy, Jack's desire to be rid of his parents' influence and, most importantly, his desire for a place to scatter their ashes. This book is chock full of everything an avid reader is looking for. I can't say enough about it.

On a personal note, I really related to the main character in this book being so close in age and experiencing two weeks of bliss each year while on summer vacations with my own family. In my case, it wasn't the Cape, it was Riverhead out near the Hamptons. Taking that car ride from Brooklyn, New York and traveling on Montauk Highway until we finally passed "The Big White Duck" which was, in a sense, our Sagamore Bridge, is something I vividly remember. From that point on, my three brothers and I knew everything was going to be happy. My mother liked my Dad more during those two weeks of the year and even thought her four kids weren't too much of a burden.

Russo talks about happiness perhaps being "a place". This gave me some food for thought because I clearly could relate to that place (Riverhead) bringing me more happiness as a young child than anything I had ever known. Are we all searching for that happy place? Surely Jack was in That Old Cape Magic. You'll have to read the book to see if Jack finds his "place of happiness".
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Breakfast at Sally's: One Homeless Man's Inspirational Journey
Breakfast at Sally's: One Homeless Man's Inspirational Journey
by Richard LeMieux
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner At Sallys -- Or Wherever, 24 Sep 2009
Call me insensitive; call me unsympathetic; call me jaded; but don't call me someone who thought this book was inspirational. I usually get my book recommendations from other reader friends or from high ratings from other Amazon reviewers. In this case, I got this recommendation from one of my doctors who told me the book was terrific. After he said that, I immediately came home and checked out the Amazon reviews and it looked like all of the reviewers concurred with my doctor. Why is it then that I don't agree? It's probably because of all of the adjectives I've attributed to myself above. Let's face it.....I didn't like Tuesdays With Morrie either.

But I still can't understand why so many people think this book is so good and even consider it "inspirational". How can I be so wrong? I teetered on despising it. I get the whole homeless thing and how it happens and how it happens many times to people who had great jobs and have lost everything...even their families. But the thing I don't get, and the thing I'll never get, is why don't they just get a job? Okay I know that a job at McDonalds or in a retail store is not going to give them the kind of life they are used to but at least it will give them a bed to sleep in and a stove to cook on. But instead, this particular homeless person (author) decided to live in his car and take handouts from people who actually went to work every day and made money so they could be able to donate this same money to places who in turn feed the homeless.

During parts of the book, I felt like I was reading about the daily existence of high school kids where they go over someone's house in the middle of the day to watch TV and smoke some weed. Because many days, this is what Richard Lemieux did.....when he wasn't playing on the homeless softball team, of course. And why don't I consider someone who lives in their car and drives their friends around during the day, homeless!!! His situation was so much better than someone living on the street. But such is the life of Richard Lemieux who finds himself no longer with the company he founded and the family he supported. His homeless journey will lead him to write a book about his experiences.

The inspirational part of the journey for me wasn't that of the homeless people but that of the people at the Salvation Army and other charity organizations who are so selfless in giving up their time and money to help these people. That was what was truly inspirational to me.

And I know that the writer of the book is not an experienced author but this book read like a high school senior's journal. You might wonder why I even finished it and I'll still wondering what the answer is to that question. I'm sure many of you will not agree with me but I feel I must state my case and my reasons for not being among the dozens of "lovers of this book". I think I mainly feel sorry for his family who had to take this journey with him whether or not they did it alongside of him or in the background.

And lastly, all the political bashing just made me dislike the book even more. I guess the author loved the theory of capitalism and achieving the American dream when it was all going well for him but, once the tides turned, it was obviously the system's fault and apparently not the author's. Well at least he's made enough money from this book to get out of his car. I sure hope he's made it up to his poor dog who was forced to live in a car while Richard went about his daily activities with his friends. At least Richard got to get out of the car most of the day while poor Willow had to stay in there. I think I had better end it here before I get myself even angrier over this situation. Needless to say, it's not a book I'll be recommending to anyone. One last thing the cover picture meant to look like someone who has no teeth or is that accidental?? See I told you upfront I was jaded.
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The Narrows
The Narrows
by Michael Connelly
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars The Straight And Narrow Of It All, 23 Aug 2009
This review is from: The Narrows (Paperback)
After finishing The Narrows, I realized it was the 16th book I had ready by Michael Connelly which means I have read more books by this author than any other. Fans of Connelly will understand the reason for this is simply that he doesn't write a bad book (Chasing The Dime being the only exception). Of the 16 books, this was the tenth one in the Harry Bosch series, a character much beloved by Connelly's readers.

Harry starts off this book as a retired LAPD homicide detective....retired not because of age but because he was sick of the bureaucracy. Connelly loves to have characters from one book/series show up in another and this is the case with The Narrows as Harry is asked by Terry McCaleb's (Blood Work, A Darkness More The Night) widow to look into Terry's death. Terry was a retired FBI agent who had crossed paths with Harry during his career. At the time of his death, he was a heart transplant recipient operating a charter fishing boat with his partner Buddy.

Enter the "poet", Robert Backus of "The Poet" fame. He was probably the most despicable of all serial killers thought possibly dead at the end of that book but apparently very much alive at the beginning of this one. And what would Backus be without Rachel Walling, the FBI agent who shot Backus and hopefully killed him in "The Poet". They say all roads lead to one and this story will have many of our favorites involved in catching the poet once again. This time the road involved is called Zyzzyx Road; an exit off a desert highway and also the buriel place of many more of Backus' victims. As the FBI tries to unravel the clues, Harry is one step ahead of them as he realizes that McCaleb's death is tied to this infamous serial killer.

The Narrows also gives us a look at Harry's softer side as he tries to establish some kind of a relationship with his young daughter Maddie who is living in Las Vegas with Harry's ex Eleanor. He sets up an efficiency apartment in Las Vegas just to be closer to her and, little does he know that this next case will bring him to Vegas for reasons other than seeing his little girl.

One of the most exciting things to happen in this book is a phone conversation Harry has with someone from the LAPD who tries to convince Harry to come back to the police force. Apparently there's a three year amnesty going on where they are looking to get back some of those experienced detectives who have left the force on their own. If Harry would consider coming back within this three year period, he would not have to take any of the police academy tests in order to do so. You know that every Bosch fan out there is looking to see Harry back at his old stomping grounds.....Parker Center. Next up for me is The Closers and I'm hoping it finds Harry sporting his badge once again.

The Help
The Help
by Kathryn Stockett
Edition: Hardcover

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WOW!!!, 23 Aug 2009
This review is from: The Help (Hardcover)
Last month I decided that I was sick of reading mediocre books and came to Amazon to see what I could come up with. What I was specifically looking for were five star books that had hundreds of positive reviews.....this way I would know it wasn't the author's friends boosting the average. I came up with two books that fit the bill...."Cutting For Stone" by Abraham Verghese and "The Help" by Kathryn Stockett. I read "Cutting for Stone" earlier in July and it lived up to every positive review on this site. I just finished reading "The Help" and I only have one word for it...WOW!!!!

I was on the edge of my seat reading this book as if it was something in the mystery/thriller genre. But the feeling inside of me was one of pure fear....fear that these women would get caught...fear that all of their plans would be futile and fear that a heroic act would not somehow be rewarded.

This is a story set in the early sixties in Mississippi when "colored" people were forced to use separate water fountains, ride in the back of buses, be persecuted or prosecuted if they were caught speaking to white people and made their livings working for these same white people who enacted all of these laws. Having lived in the north, I can't even imagine what this was like. I went to school in Brooklyn in the early 60's and sat in classrooms with these same people who were being persecuted in the south and ate lunch with them and played with them and never even thought anything otherwise about it. I'm not saying this to sound sanctimonious....I'm just telling it like it was. So to read this book was a real eye opener for me.

There's a real heroine in this book in the form of Skeeter Phelan. She has just graduated from college and is interested in a career in journalism. Many of her friends are already married and have "help" working for them. As Skeeter looks on and sees how they are treating their "help", she sets in motion something that could spell disaster not only for herself but for many of the maids working for these families. She decides to write a book about it and enlists the aid of some of the same maids working for her friends. Talk about an eye opener...this will be a book written from the maid's perspective....something never done before because no one has ever given them a voice. As much of a heroine as Skeeter is, the true heroines will be these "colored" maids who are risking everything, even their lives, to tell it like it is. You can just imagine what's going to happen if this book gets published.

I have to say that I was on the edge of my seat reading this novel as Skeeter was sneaking around in the stealth of the night trying to interview these different maids. It is so well written and is such an inside look at the way things really were. The author herself is from the south so what she is writing is obviously based on first hand knowledge. One of my favorite quotes in the book might even be something she heard while growing up -- "They say it's like true love, good help. You only get one in a lifetime."

When I think of maids, I think of people who might cook and clean and tidy up. In the south, however, these maids actually raised the children of the white people for whom they were working. These young children grew up loving these maids sometimes more than their own mothers. So the goodness pouring out of the hearts of those considered as "help" far exceeded anything I've ever imagined.

If you want to read one great book this year, pick up "The Help". There is no way you will be disappointed. In a few of the other reviews here, others have mentioned reading Mudbound after reading "The Help". I've already ordered it and look forward to continuing my education on this important time in many would like to forget but one that definitely needs to be acknowledged.

Vanished (Nick Heller 1)
Vanished (Nick Heller 1)
by Joseph Finder
Edition: Hardcover

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Finder's Talent Is No Vanishing Act, 23 Aug 2009
I don't think there's any mystery/thriller author out there whose new books I look forward to more than Joseph Finder's. His newest one, Vanished, was particularly the case because this is the beginning of a "series" for Finder. I don't know about you but, as a reader, I love getting involved in a series of books featuring one main character.

I have some favorite series that I follow and it seems that the most important thing for the author to do is to develop a character that the reader not only understands but is rooting for every step of the way. Finder scores high points with his introduction of Nick Heller an ex-Special Forces veteran now working for an upscale corporate investigative firm. I will admit here that I often wished that if Finder ever started a series, he would do it based on the main character from Power Play, Jack Landry........he was my favorite Finder character ever.

I'm one of the lucky fans who gets copies of Finder's books prior to their publication as I'm such a longtime fan. I've read everything he's written. But he also knows that this will not sway my reviews in any way.....I tell it like it is.

With that being said, I loved the beginning of this book with Heller being sent on a mission by his employer, Stoddard Associates, to find a cargo plane holding billions of dollars that has gone missing. Within minutes of his arrival at the airport, Heller has it figured out. But at the same time this is going on, a much more important mystery is unfolding. Heller receives a phone call from his nephew telling him that his Dad, Heller's brother, is missing and his mother, Heller's sister-in-law is in the hospital in a coma. Heller drops everything to come to his brother's aid....even though they have been estranged for years.

What follows is the type of story Finder has mastered. On the surface, it appears that his brother has been kidnapped but Heller seems to know better. Working closely with his sister-in-law and nephew, Heller dechiphers every single clue until he's able to unravel the mystery. Throughout his entire discovery mission, he doesn't know who to believe. It becomes more entangled when Nick realizes that his brother discovered some discrepancies in his job involving mergers and acquisitions.I have to say I was a bit lost in this unraveling and the ending was a bit convoluted for me. Whenever I have to go back and reread the end of a story because I didn't understand it, I then know it's a little contrived for me.

I'm excited just knowing that Finder is probably penning his next Nick Heller story. I'm looking forward to some further development of this character and continuing with my corporate education by Professor Joseph Finder. I think the author has a hit on his hands with this series and I look forward to Nick Heller becoming as popular a fictional character as Connelly's Harry Bosch or Childs' Jack Reacher.

by Colm Toibin
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not The Brooklyn Of My Youth!!, 27 July 2009
This review is from: Brooklyn (Hardcover)
I don't even know where to begin with this review as my thoughts are all over the place so it's best I start at the beginning. First off, I don't think it's a great idea for an author to give a name to a character that a good percentage of his readers won't know how to pronounce. In the novel Brooklyn, we are introduced to an Irish lass named Eilis. I've never even seen this name before and, when I first looked at it, I thought it said Elias. Consequently, every time I saw the name thereafter, I always pronounced it as Elias and clearly this main character was not an Elias. I know this is a minor point but it's one that bothered me.

I grew up in Brooklyn and, when I was living there, I couldn't wait to leave and, now that I'm gone, I'm always in search of any book that will bring me back. I guess that's what nostalgia is all about. Years ago, I came upon another book with Brooklyn in its title, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry by Jennie Fields, and it's one of my favorites because it really brought me back there. Fields also grew up in Brooklyn so everything she wrote about was very authentic. I corresponded with Fields after that and it was she who recommended this book to me.

This story starts out in Ireland post WWII and it's where we first meet Elias....oh, excuse me, I mean Eilis. She's just out of school and looking for a job but, in her town of Enniscorthy, jobs are hard to find. She lives with her mother and older sister Rose and it's Rose's job that basically supports the entire family. Through a priest, who's visiting Ireland from Brooklyn, Rose arranges for him to sponsor her sister Eilis' emigration to the states where jobs are plentiful and a future is possible. Eilis is heartbroken to leave but goes along with the plan. Once she arrives in Brooklyn and begins her job, she's not sure if she did the right thing. But she perseveres and makes a life for herself working, going to school and eventually finding a boyfriend.

I really enjoyed the story Toibin was telling. Even though his main character is very passive, it works within the story. I loved all the supporting cast and felt they were all believable. But then the main problem came into play for me. It all started when Eilis is at Nathan's with her boyfriend and his brother and the author talks about them putting ketchup and mustand on their hotdogs. At this point, not being familiar with this author, I had to look at the back jacket to see where he was from and I could see he never lived in Brooklyn. I'd like to report here and now that no one, and I mean NO ONE, put ketchup on a hotdog at Nathan's in Brooklyn in the 1950's. The only reason Nathan's even had ketchup on its premises is for the french fries. Then one night, in the midst of a calamity, Eilis decides to take the train to her boyfriend's house in Bensonhurst. The author says that the trip should take a little more than an hour. A little more than an hour??? There's nowhere in Brooklyn that's going to take you more than an hour to get to via train from another location in Brooklyn. You could go all the way out to Suffolk County on Long Island in less time. I know these are things only someone from Brooklyn would probably pick up on but my feeling is if you're going to write a book that takes place in Brooklyn and then make the title of the book "Brooklyn", then you better have your facts straight before you put it out there for your readers. Or better yet, have someone edit it who actually lived there during that time.

Many times an author tries to make a location a character within the book. I love when they do this but there is no way Toibin tried to do this. He couldn't because he simply doesn't know the place. I never felt for one minute that I was in Brooklyn. Other than the trips to Coney Island and Ebbets Field, it could have been Anywhere, USA. While Eilis was working on Fulton Street in a department store, I would have loved to have had her make a visit to A&S or Mays department store. I would have loved for her to sit at a lunch counter drinking an egg cream. I would have loved for her to be walking in the street while watching some kids play stickball. I would have loved to see her witness a dog at a Johnny pump. This is the real Brooklyn but it's not the Brooklyn that came across on these pages.

At one point, Eilis makes a trip back to Ireland and it's here that the author, who is from Dublin, is clearly more comfortable. Even with everything I've already said, I was still enjoying this story and actually stayed up late one night to finish it. At this point, it was a 4 star book for me. Not great but certainly a good read. That is, until the ending where I feel the author must have gotten a call from his publisher telling him he had to wrap it up. Because that's what he did and before I knew it, the book was over. To say I didn't like the ending would be an understatement.....I hated it.

So nostalgia aside, because I never felt any, this Brooklyn was definitely not the Brooklyn of the 50's where I grew up. I agree with other reviewers that Toibin can write but it's a shame that my first introduction to his work was not a 5 star one.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 24, 2011 10:37 PM BST

The Scarecrow
The Scarecrow
by Michael Connelly
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 16.58

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You're Not In The Emerald City Any Longer SCARECROW!!, 16 July 2009
This review is from: The Scarecrow (Hardcover)
I added this up last night and discovered that I have read more books by Michael Connelly (16) than any other author I've read. So I guess one could say I'm a huge fan. The amazing thing is that they were all five star books (except for Chasing The Dime, of course). I find this almost hard to believe but it's true. And I'm actually one of the readers who started reading Connelly before his real fame came into being with the publication of The Poet.

I guess it's only fair then that his latest offering features journalist Jack McEvoy....the same Jack McEvoy who appeared in The Poet. Connelly's true fans have been awaiting a reappearance by one of their favorite characters for years now and in The Scarecrow, Jack's return does not disappoint for one minute. I loved this book from the beginning to the end.

Having started his career as a journalist, I'm sure this book is close to Connelly's heart as he watches the slow demise of the newspaper industry. The fact that technology is killing newspapers becomes only too clear as the book starts off with Jack getting a pink slip. But "our" Jack is intent on going out with a bang and makes it his business to come up with one last story that will be Pulitzer prizeworthy. He will set out to prove that a sixteen year old gang member is not guilty of the murder for which he is being accused. The good news to Jack's fans is that he will need to ask FBI agent Rachel Walling for her help as he starts to get too close to the answer to the mystery and much too close to The Scarecrow. Their "coupling" in this book is well worth the wait as they make such a great team.

We learn at the beginning of the book who the real villain is and I enjoy when an author does this because I then get to follow the thoughts of the "bad guy" right up front. As Jack is closing in on The Scarecrow, we get to view this villain as he becomes a bird being scared by a scarecrow as opposed to the opposite way around. I enjoyed all of the Wizard of Oz references in the book as well. At one point, music is playing in the background and it's Eric Clapton in concert singing "Somewhere Over The Rainbow." In addition, the city editor of the LA Times where Jack works is "Dorothy" Fowler and guess where's she originally guessed right...Kansas. I also love when an author references one of his other books within the book I'm reading. In this case, Jack mentions reading a series of stories about a lawyer who did his business out of a Lincoln. Nice shoutout to Mickey Haller of The Lincoln Lawyer fame.

Unlike other authors who don't have Connelly's talent, he doesn't have to make his stories so convoluted that you can't even understand them. He also doesn't resort to having the villain be one of the investigators as so many other authors "cop out" and do. He writes a clear-cut story from start to finish and it's always one you can't put down. I always comment that I read very few books in a given year that would get a "10" rating from me. In the mystery/thriller category, this is one for 2009, a "Big 10". The only other two books in this genre that I've read this year and have also received a "10" rating from me were The Lincoln Lawyer and The Brass Verdict. Surprise, surprise, they were also written by Connelly. This is obviously one satisfied fan.

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