Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Give a Book!

"Do give books for Christmas.
They're never fattening,
seldom sinful,
and permanently personal."
Lenore Hershey

Is there any better gift to give then a book? I know when I receive one I am elated. That someone took the time to think of me, to choose a book that they thought I would enjoy curling up with~~I can't think of a more generous gift.

Here are some favorites I enjoyed this year, and hopefully one will make you go "aha! I know just who love this!"

Cleopatra: A Life
Stacy Schiff
Schiff introduces us to a Cleopatra who history has not been kind to. This Cleopatra is full of warmth and humanity; smart, witty, ambitious  and very proud and fond of her children. This is not the Cleopatra we are used to~~great descriptions of Egypt during 30 BC, which I found fasinating. This was fun, interesting and an enlightening book to read.

Keith Richard with James Fox
The simply amazing thing about this biography is that Richards remembers anything at all~~much less that he is still alive to tell it. What a wild ride this man and his friends had! For those of us who grew up with the Rolling Stones this is a great insight about them from Richards viewpoint; the ups, downs, good, bad and the ugly. Richards leaves nothing out, and he gives us a book that is very profane, full of dark humor~~and strangely, charming. He proves he's not the walking dead after all~~

Emma Donogue
You won't want to put this book down. A Mom and her five-year old son, Jack, live in a Room. The Room is a soundproof, converted shed behind a house owned by Old Nick, who had kidnapped and kept Jack's mother captive for years~~where Jack was born and is the only world Jack has ever known. Talk about the resilience of the human spirit, here Donogue shows amazing it can be.

Medium Raw
Anthony Bourdain
Nobody does food-porn better then Bourdain. Here he once again will have you laugh, blush and yet, still want to go out to a restaurant to eat.  Brash, profane, spicy~~who knew that there were secret gatherings of top chefs that can be compared to mafia summits? Bourdain gives us a view inside the food industry, restaurants and chefs like nobody else...and doesn't cut slack for anybody, no matter how famous a chef they are.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption
Laura Hillenbrand
Meet Louis Zamperini, juvinile delinquent, trouble maker, teenage punk; Zamperini took his anger and rage and devoted it to running, where he discovered he had a talent for it. He competed in the 1936 Berlin Olympics as a runner and  did very well in the four-minute mile. He joined the Air Force when the war came, survived his plane crashing into the Pacific Ocean, only to picked up by the Japanese where he became a prisoner in one of the most horrific POW camps  the Japanese ran during the war.  Hillenbrand gives a true testament to what the human spirit can endure, and to Zamperini, who survived to share his story. Powerful story of survival, keeping your dignity, and living beyond what you've lived through.

I Still Dream About You
Fannie Flagg
What can I say? Fannie Flagg has had a place in my heart since Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe.  This is a gem, full of Southern charm, wisdom, love and look at that! A murder thrown into it that threatens secrets that members of the town would rather let lie. Delightful little heart-tugger that will make you smile while you read it.

                              Moonlight Mile
Dennis Lehane
Since I first met Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro in A Drink Before the War, they became my favorite PI couple. I was sad to hear that this is the last time we would get to hang around with them~~but at least it's a good send off. There are six books in this series, I will say that you have to read Gone, Baby, Gone before you read Moonlight Mile. It gives you the background of why everyone is where they are in Moonlight Mile. Gritty, hard-boiled noir with interesting secondary characters~~great series, terrific book. 

I'd Know You Anywhere
Laura Lippman
Eliza Benedict was fifteen years old when Walter Bowman kidnapped her and held her captive for six weeks. He also kidnapped another girl, who he killed. Eliza is now 38, married with two children. Bowman, in jail for killing and raping his latest victim contacts her. Memories come flooding back as well as questions: What does he want? What does he want from her? Why is he so insistent she contact him? 
This is one of Lippman best psychological thrillers so far and will keep you on the edge of your seat

 A Journey: My Political Life
 Tony Blair
I liked this biography by Blair. He tells us about his rise to power as head of the New Labour party in a landslide victory. What interested me the most was his view, and opinion, on the Iraqi War, and I wasn't disappointed. Blair proves himself to be savvy, charming and has quite the sense of humor.


Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Rebecca Sklott
***Please read previous blog about this book. It was the best book I read this year.

                             It's a Book                                       
Lane Smith
Love this book and this is the book I am giving to those who will appreciate what it means. While this may look like a book for kids, it's definilty not for young kids, but a good gift for most ages. It's a delight to read: a digital techie donkey vs the literary gorilla. For me, a reminder that there is nothing like a book.

There you go! My very strong, and varied, suggestions of great books to give to the readers in your life.
May your days be merry and bright, your Christmas and New Year's be full of joy and peace.

Happy Reading!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Whenever science makes a discovery,
the devil grabs it while the angels are debating the best way to use it.
Alan Valentine

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
by Rebecca Skloot

This is a fascinating account of how one woman became one of the most important people in the world and would never know it. Insight into science, medicine, racism, poverty, cancer and how things were in 1951 all come together is this eyeopener of a book.

Henrietta Lacks, unknowingly, was the mother of the HeLa cells. These were the only human cells to live and reproduce outside of the body. If you could pile all Henrietta's cells and weigh them, they would weigh over 50 million metric tons. Thanks to the HeLa cells, we came to have the polio vaccine, uncovered secrets about cancer, help for a cure for HIV and AIDS. They advanced sciece with invitro- fertilization, cloning, gene mapping and effects of the fall-out from the atomic bomb. HeLa cells went into space on one of the first space flights to see how human cells reacted in space. All these amazing miracles from one woman who died in 1951 of cervical cancer in John Hopkins Hospital.

One of the things that science and doctors were trying to do during this era was reproduce human cells to do research on, and until Henrietta, this had never happened. Healthy cells and cancerous cells were removed from Henrietta before her surgery, without her knowledge,  and sent out to see if they would live outside the body. Henrietta was not the first to have cells removed and sent out to see if they lived and reproduced outside the body, it was something done on other patients, but hers were different. Doctors were astounded to find that Henrietta cells not only lived, but reproduced at an amazing rate. You can imagine the excitement with this discovery.

Skloot does a wonderful job of putting a face on the woman behind the cells. The background on Henrietta Lacks isn't always happy; a poor, young black woman who worked on the family tobacco farm, raised in a house full of relatives after her mother died; she had five children of her own before she was 32. This didn't stop Henrietta from going out and dancing with her cousin Sophie at the local jazz place. Henrietta knew something was wrong with her, Henrietta went to John Hopkins Hospital several times before they discovered  her cervical cancer. The treatment for women with cervical cancer will make your mouth hang open, but again, it was 1951 and this was how it was treated. 

So begins the story of the wondrous and amazing things that the world has this woman to thank for.

While the HeLa cells became a multi-million dollar business, Henrietta's family was unaware of this. While the name of the originator of the HeLa cells was well known among the medical and scientific community~~doctors even went back to the family to take more blood tests to see if they had cells that reproduced also, telling the family they were testing to make sure they didn't have cancer like the one that killed their mother.

The HeLa cells became a multi-million dollar business for some, a medical marvel for doctors and a scientific bonanza for research, the Lacks family had no knowledge of any of this.

It took Skloot time and patience to earn the trust of the Lacks family. Other reporters had come around and it hadn't gone well. The family was wary of what Skloot would get out of writing a book about Henrietta, they had no idea what was accomplished from Henrietta cells. While some of the family wanted monetary reimbursement for the selling of her cells, they also wanted recognition for Henrietta from the medical and scientific fields.

I had to keep reminding myself that this happened in Baltimore, not the deep South. The Lacks family was alarmed to find that Henrietta's cells were still alive and reproducing. They envisioned that there were clones of Henrietta walking around England; that her cells were used to make half-human half-animal creatures; did it hurt when they injected viruses into her cells to infect them to see how they would react. Most of all, if Henrietta was so important to medicine and science, how come her children couldn't afford health insurance?

This is a non-fiction that reads like fiction~~I read it in three days because I couldn't put it down. I stayed up until 2 in the morning reading it. It was the most fascinating book I have read in a long time and the best book I read this year. This book is so rich in information about science, medicine, and how one person can unknowingly change the world. Skoolt takes no sides on who was right and who was wrong with what transpired. Was it ethically right what was done to Henrietta Lacks? Was it morally right what the family went though?

For me, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. Put it on your to read list, you will be so glad you did. 

Happy Reading!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Don't Fear the Reaper

All our times have come
Here but now they're gone
Seasons don't fear the reaper
Nor do the wind, the sun or the rain...
we can be like they are

Halloween~~the time of year where some people like to scare the wits out of themselves to ensure they are ready to celebrate with the true spirit of the night....and yes,  I am one of those people. There's nothing like locking the doors, windows, I don't close the blinds because if something is going to come get me~~I want to see it or them.

In no particular order, here is a list of some my favorites scary/creepy books made into a movie or TV mini-series.

Come on baby...don't fear the reaper
We'll be able to fly...

Invasion of the Body Snatchers ( 1956) Based on the book by Jack Finney's, The Body Snatchers.
When some of Dr. Miles Bennell patients start telling him that their family members just aren't the same, he and his psychiatrist buddy blame it on epidemic paranoia. By the time Bennell realizes there is more going on then he thought~~like finding a decomposing body turning into dust with a giant pod next to it becoming the copy of the body~~there are only a handful of normal people left. The tension builds slowly, and the enemy isn't a alien you can see, they look just like your friends and loved one. The big problem is trying to stay awake because the Pod People take over the body while you are sleeping, even if you just doze off. When some of his friends are caught and made to sleep, they become Pod People, Bennell ends up running down a major highway trying to spread the word yelling...."They're here already! You're next! You're next!" while starring into the camera.... Does anybody listen? Will the Pod People take over? What are those trucks rolling down the highway filled with?
This is on the list of  the best science fiction movies ever. Kevin McCarthy and Dana Wynter starred in it~~It is a classic, and they did a great job with Finney's book. (The original!)

We can be like they are
Come on baby....don't fear the reaper
Baby take my hand...don't fear the reaper
We'll be able to fly....

Burnt Offerings (1976) based on the book Burnt Offerings by Robert Marasco
Does it get any better then leaving Queens NY and heading out to mansion-sit for the summer on Long Island? In the book the Rolf family, Marian, Ben, son David and aging Aunt Elizabeth do, but in the movie they go from a city in California to a mansion in the California countryside.  Besides taking care of the mansion, they are instructed to take care of the reclusive mother that lives upstairs. Just leave the food outside the door, don't try and interact with her. Strange things begin to happen, death, depression, accidents~~and every time there is an accident or someone dies or gets hurt, the house rejuvenates, flowers bloom, woodwork shines and the pool gets cleaner. When the family begins to realize somethings not right and try to get away, trees fall into the road, the car doesn't start or some other inconvenience occurs. Goose bumps as we come to the end of the book and the movie. Is that really the wind rattling the windows? Karen Black, Oliver Reed and Bette Davis starred in it.

Love of two is one
Here but now they're gone
Came the last night of sadness
And it clear she couldn't go on

The Haunting (1963) based on the novel The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson
(again, watch the original, not the 1999 version)
Dr. Markway wants to find scientific evidence of the paranormal, so he invites three people, Eleanor, Theodora and Luke, who have experienced the paranormal, to come to Hill House for a few weeks. Seems the caretakers won't stay near the house after dark, they lock the gate and go home and won't return until the morning. Plus, nobody else has a key to the gate.....any one's radar start to go off about now? The four strangers get to know each other, and Dr. Markway fills the other three in on the house history~~suicide, death, the usual strange goings on in a old house; doors that have heartbeats, walls that moan...and a portrait of the dead owner whose spirit comes to life. Nobody chooses to leave, because seeing/hearing is believing right? To this day, one of the best ghost stories ever written, and the movie shows that you don't need blood and gore to make the hair on the back of your neck stand up. Julie Harris, Claire Bloom, Richard Johnson and Russ Tamblyn starred in this one.

Then the door was open and the wind appeared
The candles blew then disappeared
The curtains flew then he appeared...saying don't be afraid
Come on baby...and she no fear

Jaws (1975) based on Jaws by Peter Benchley.
If there was a book that will make you think twice about swimming, this is the book. When the remains of a dead girl washes up on the beach, Sheriff Brody is told she died from a shark attack. Sheriff Brody wants to close the beaches because of the shark attack, but hey! It's summer and it is the time of year that Long Islanders make their money so Mayor Vaughn nixes that silly idea. The book grabbed me right away and they did a wonderful job with the movie. The timing of the release of the movie was great, the beginning of the summer, and close to where I live. The music in the movie built of the tension...dun dun dun dun...SHARK! We all searched the horizon for fins before we jumped in the ocean that summer...mostly we sat on the beach. Roy Scheider, Richard Dreyfuss, and  Robert Shaw starred in this.

And she ran to him....then they started to fly
They looked backward and said goodby...
she had become like they are

Salem's Lot (1979) based on Salem's Lot by Stephen King
Okay, while reading this book, years ago~~I didn't sleep much for the next few weeks. When Tobe Hooper was doing the mini-series for TV, yes I had to watch it. Hooper and King~~talk about great minds... I did have the doors locked, windows bared, wore my three cross necklaces (all at once) just happened to have a nice piece of wood handy....and any kids flying around after dark were not allowed in, even if I knew them. For me, this is one of the scariest, creepiest books I have read, and the series did the book justice. Once again we have a creepy house with a bad history. Ben Mears is a writer who returns to his home town, Salem's Lot, after 25 years to write a book about the creepy Marsten House. Mears also was hoping to rent it~~someone beat him to it.  Shortly after this, a young boy is killed and strange things begin to happen. Seems the boy isn't dead, he has been turned into a vampire and beginning with his brother, starts to turn others into the undead. This is one of  Stephen King's early books and still one of his most popular. Just thinking about it, I will make sure I am home before dark~~and lock, bar the doors and windows. David Soul, Bonnie Bedelia star in this with the wonderfully sinister James Mason as the ancient vampire's familiar.

She had taken his hand....she had become like they are
Come on baby....don't fear the reaper.
(Thanks to Blue Oyster Cult)

I know there are many more to choose from, I had to narrow the list down, but these are a couple that I have fond (?) memories of, and I wanted to choose those that I thought were great scary books that had been done justice by the movie or mini-series.

Lock the doors~~turn the lights on~~check one of these out, movie or the book.

Happy Reading! ~~and watching...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Bel Canto by Anne Patchett

"Music conveys moods and images.
Even in opera, where plots deal with the
structure of destiny, it's music, not words,
that provides power."
Marcel Marceau

Sometimes when you choose a book for a book discussion, you never know how it will go over. I have chosen books and thought I would have a nice size group, and hardly anyone showed up; I have chosen books that I think won't fly~~and it's a hit!

When I chose Bel Canto, I was curious: how was a book about hostages, terrorists, South America and opera go over. The night of the book discussion was a nasty, rainy, chilly night...if I hadn't had to go out I would have stayed home curled up with a good book. Imagine my surprise when fifteen hardy readers showed up!

Great questions; would terrorists really hold hostages for over four months? If you don't speak the same language, can you fall in love with each other? How come the government didn't do something sooner? Would hostages and terrorists form bonds with each other like is described in the book? Would someone really refuse to leave when offered the chance? Does music really sooth the savage beast (terrorists)?

In Bel Canto, we have people from all over the world attending a birthday party for a high powered Japanese CEO. The only way they were able to get him to attend was they had his favorite opera singer, Roxanne Coss, performing. When the terrorists appear and  make it known that they are there to kidnap the president of the country...they are shocked to find out that he decided to stay home and watch his favorite soap opera instead of coming to the party....which gave us all a chuckle. The terrorists, having over two hundred hostages, decided to let the women, children and sick hostages go, but not before one of the hostages had died. That left forty-nine male hostages, and one female, Roxanne Coss.

We felt that because of the death of the one hostage, the others formed a silent bond among themselves  not to attempt to escape. They didn't want any of the others death on their conscience. The bonds formed between some of the hostages and the terrorists seemed to come about because of the age of the terrorists. Except for the three generals, the dozen or so terrorists were all young. They could have been someones son, daughter, grandchild..not these gun slinging "babies."

When Roxanne Coss found one of her fellow hostages played the piano, she began to practice everyday. We talked about the description of when she sang, time seemed to stand still, even the birds stopped singing to listen to her. Even the terrorists sat and listened captured in the rapture of her singing.

We talked about who was the core character? Roxanne, as the only woman? Was it Gen, the translator who could speak almost all the languages of the hostages? Was it Mr. Hosokawa, whose birthday party it was when all this happened? One group member thought it was Roxanne Coss, which led to  quite a lively discussion. Not everyone agreed, one of my group said quite pointedly, "Well, Ma'am, I disagree with you!"  He felt it was Gen because he could communicate with everyone...some of the group nodded in agreement. Then some of the group pointed out that when Roxanne sang, everything stopped. Everyone walked into the room when she sang, hostages and terrorists alike, outside, the police stopped yelling through the bullhorns and, as Patchett describes, the birds stopped singing, even the wind seemed to stop. While Gen could communicate with everyone, Roxanne communicated to everyone through opera.  (That's why I picked the quote at the fits perfectly with this book.)

We all agreed that the book stayed on a level tone until the last three pages. The ending was not what some of us expected. Some felt we would have liked more of an ending, more closure.

I love when a book surprises me, and when it brings so much out in people. A good book,  a great group and a good discussion~~one of our best as a matter of fact.

***Bel Canto is loosely based on a event that happened in the late sixties in Lima, Peru where terrorists took over a house and kept hostages for over four months. (There was no opera singer.)

Happy Reading!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mystery/Thriller Summer Book Discussions

At least half mystery novels violate the law
that the solution, once revealed, must seem to be inevitable.
Raymond Chandler

The thriller is the most popular literary genre
of the 20th century.
Ken Follett

This summer we did some book discussions. I have been asked over the years to do summer book discussions, and this year I finally said okay, let's give it a go. We met every other Tuesday at 4pm, a group ranging from two to fifteen folks got together to discuss two of my favorite genres....mysteries and/or thrillers.  I thought it would be fun to read an author's first book, or the first book in a series of books. (And of course, some books that I had already read.)

We kicked it off the end of June with Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon. This is the first book of a fabulous series set in Venice. Inspector Guido Brunetti, the vice-commissario of police, has to solve the case of who killed the Maestro? Seems there are several suspects. In the end, it will come down to what is the right thing to do? We loved the setting of Venice,  the interaction between Brunetti with his family and his fellow police people. Leon gives you feeling you are there with the characters, and there in Venice. Leon's description of Venice made us all want to go. (We also loved the food described in the book.)  We could sense that Brunetti was going to be an even more interesting character as the series progresses. The best part of this discussion for me? That the folks there said they enjoyed this series so much they were going to continue on with it.

Next up was The Unlikely Spy by Daniel Silva. (I know, your surprised I have a Silva book included) This was Mr. Silva's first book and the one that got me hooked on his books. Set in England during WWII, the book is fiction, but it is based on real events. How does British Intelligence (MI5) confuse Nazi Germany about their D-Day plans when it seems they know about them? They also thought they had captured all the German Abwehr agents in England, but there seems to be some sleeper agents ready to be activated in England. One of those agents is determined to get the information to Germany no matter the body count.
We talked about Churchill and how he used people to achieve the safety of England: his friendship with history professor Alfred Vicary to convince him to work for MI5,  match his wits with the Nazis and hopefully keep MI5 one step ahead of them: U.S. Navel Officer Peter Jordan, because of his poor judge of character, ends up being blackmailed and used to spy. We enjoyed the twists and turns in the book. It was a page turner...many said they finished it in two days because they had to know how it ended. Big question for the group? Just WHO was the Unlikely Spy? We all had different answers and every time a different character was mentioned by someone, we would all think about it and realize.....
One of our members, who rarely reads this genre, liked it and had her other book club read this book too~~she told me they raved about it.
For those who were new to Mr. Silva, he now has several new fans.

Dennis LeHane has one of my favorite duos in a mystery series, Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro. Set in Dorchester, Mass, we get to meet these two private detectives in A Drink Before the War~~the kickoff to this terrific series. Great discussion on how an investigation into a missing cleaning woman led to involvement with prostitution, blackmail, gang-warfare, corruption and murder. We chatted about Kenzie and Gennaro, their cast of friends, how some of the things the two uncovered affected some of us and LeHane's writing style. For me, Le Hane reminds me of the noir style of writing:  hard-boiled, cynical, snarky characters surrounded by smokey shades of grey. (Think Raymond Chandler) One great comment by one of our group was "This doesn't happen in real life!"  This led to another great discussion on what is real life and what isn't.
If you watched the move, Gone, Baby, Gone, you have met Kenzie and Gennaro. This movie was based on book four of the series.

Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. As you can guess, this one was the hit of the summer book discussions. Over fifteen people showed up. The discussion was about how popular the trilogy has become. Set in Sweden, we meet Mikael Blomkvist. He has just finished being the defendent in a high profile trail...where he was found guilty. When he is offered the job of finding Harriert Vanger, who disappeared forty years ago, well, he has nothing else to do...We agreed that while the names took some getting used to, the style of Larsson writing was intelligent and some said it was the best book they had read in the last five years. The character who was the groups favorite was without a doubt was Lisbeth Salander, who Blomkvist hires to help him on the case. Salander is brilliant, a computer genius,  antisocial and has a lot of emotional baggage. We loved her. Mikael Blomkvist was a good secondary--not that that was Larsson's intent. Blomkvist, never realizing what Salander felt for him, made some of us want to shake him and say "wake up!" The book has many twists and underlining plots, family secrets and discovering what did happen to Harriet Vanger~~all made for a great discussion. I had warned some readers that they needed to get past the first 100 pages before the book took off. I assured them that the payoff would make it all worth while.  I promised we would do book two in the late fall and book three in the late winter...if I can get the copies.

Scott Turow is probably one of my favorite legal thriller writers. Years ago, I read Presumed Innocent and enjoyed it...full of political corruption, betrayal, courtroom drama and of course, murder, what was there not to like? I thought since Turow had come out with a sequel to it, Innocent, (twenty years later) if would be fun to reread it and then catch up with the characters in the sequel. The group were surprised with how they got hooked right away. We talked about the insight he gave into the justice system and how using the present tenth made us feel we were right there watching what was going on. One group member said they felt like yelling "look out!" during one section of the book. The best part? We all agreed that we were shocked and surprised by the ending. (Well, not me because I had read it before.)  Seemed nobody expected the ending to be what it was at all while reading the book, and when they found out  who the murderer was, they were shocked. 
I will say that the movie based on the book, starring Harrison Ford, is terrific too.

We finished up the summer book discussion with Nemesis by Jo Nesbo. This was another great series many in the group became hooked on. Who robbed a bank, shot the cashierand just disappeared into thin air? Outside of trying to remember the characters and keeping the names straight, it was a great read. Norwegian Detective Harry Hole takes us on a whirlwind of a  ride from Norway to Brazil, as he tries to find the killer....and prove himself innocent in the mysterious death of someone he knew. There were multi-layered plots that did end up connecting toward the end. The big part of the discussion was the comparison between this book and the Larsson book. Several felt this book was better then Larssons and look forward to continuing to solve murders with Harry Hole.
Unfortunately this was book three in the series. The first two books were being translated into English and there weren't sufficient copies for me to get for the group. Nobody thought they had missed anything from not having read the first two.
**When Nesbo isn't busy writing books, he plays in the Norweigian rock band, Di Derre.

One question about the two European authors, Larsson and Nesbo, was the concern that anything was lost in translating the books from Swedish and Norwegian to English? From everything I read about both of them, the answer seems to be no. The translators seem to have done a superb job of translating both books.

We had some great discussions with these books. In fact, we had such a great time, many in the group requested we continue the mystery/thriller book discussions...and we will.
If you are looking for a new series, check some of these out. Want to read a popular author's first book, here you go with some good ones. Any one of them I would highly recommend. 

Up next will be The Poet by Michael Connelly on October 19th at 4pm.This was Connelly's first book and it was one that you couldn't put down....

Monday, August 30, 2010

Rembrandt Affair by Daniel Silva

Nobody does it quite the way you do,
Why'd you have to be so good?
Carly Simon

When I want a good spy thriller, I can always count on Daniel Silva to deliver. For those of you who read my blog, come to the book discussions, stop by my desk to chat about books~~looking for a thriller? Do I have an author for you, the best...Daniel Silva.

Gabriel Allon and his lovely wife, Chiara, are retired from being Israeli spies, and living on the coast in Cornwall, England. Peace and retirement go out the window when old friend and art dealer Julian Isherwood shows up and needs Allon's help. Someone has stolen his Rembrandt, worth $45 million dollars, and killed the art restorer Isherwood had hired. While initially Allon resists Isherwoods pleas to help him find it, he figures how bad could it be....find a painting. Allon wouldn't being working for the Mossard, shouldn't take long to find the painting and return it. When Allon's lovely wife, Chiara, tells him he needs to do this, after all, Allon is an art lover and he has to be curious to see the Rembrandt. How long can it take? How hard would it be?

What should have been relatively easy ends up taking Allon to Amsterdam, Buenos Aires and Lake Geneva. It becomes a mad dash to stay ahead of the person(s) who also want the Rembrandt, and will do anything to make sure Allon never sees it. When Allon realizes he needs help, that there might be more to this Rembrandt then meets the eye~~he calls in his friends from Mossard. He also gets help from his  friends in the CIA and MI5. Looking for a lost Rembrandt has uncovered secrets that were long hidden, and now opened up unhealed wounds. As Allon discovers, this Rembrandt has a long and bloody history, and those who are in possession of it usually have bad luck.

I always like the way Silva immerses humanity into his thrillers. While Allon can kill someone without blinking an eye, we are reminded that he is not a just a cold bloodied killer. He feels deeply for those that work for him, and with him. He carries with him  ghosts of some of those he has killed, and when something happens to someone he cares about, he never forgets. Allon will also set out to right wrongs he comes across, no matter how old they may be.

I love the story Silva takes us on. We go behind the scenes of the art world that we wouldn't know about; we're reminded about world politics, which here is to keep a close eye on Iran and those that profess to disagree with what Iran is doing; the Holocaust, while several years ago, still carries scars; and remember, not everyone is really what they appear to be.

I have followed Gabriel Allon since Silva introduced him in The Kill Artist. The growth Allon has gone through, both personally and professionally, are not something I see many authors do. Kudos to Mr. Silva.

I know that when I read one of Silva's books I am in for a treat.  I am never disappointed.  Better yet, those patrons I have recommended him to (and continue to recommend him too) are never disappointed. Thank you Mr. Silva for writing books I am happy to give to people and have them come back and tell me, "What a great book! Thanks!"

Have I mentioned I am big Daniel Silva fan?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Lion by Nelson DeMille

"We're all pilgrims on the same journey-
but some pilgrims have better road maps."
Nelson DeMille

We first met John Corey in Plum Island, where he was a  New York City policeman recovering from multiple gun shot wounds out on the East End of Long Island. (My stomping grounds.) Seems Corey is a character that readers want to visit more often.

The Lion is the fifth in the DeMille's Corey series. Corey is part of  the FBI's Anti-Terrorism Task Force (ATTF), and his wife, Kate Mayfield, is an FBI agent. While you really don't have to read this series in order, I strongly suggest you read The Lion's Game before you read this one. It will set everything up and help with understanding what happens in The Lion.

As promised at the end of The Lion's Game, Libyan terrorist Asad Khalil, aka the Lion, comes back to deal with unfinished business. While killing Corey and Mayfield. is tops on his list, he has other business that he needs to take care of first, like finish killing those on his jihad agenda that Corey and Mayfield prevented him from completing before. Khalil is well known for his inventive ways of killing people and always seems to be one step ahead of them. Then he makes a big mistake. Unfortunately for Khalil, he  goes after Mayfield first, thinking that killing her in front of Corey will make it easier for Khalil to go after Corey. It's just not nice to mess with Corey's wife~~~

The Lion starts with a bang, levels off, then picks back up again as the action becomes fast and furious as we come to the end of the book. Some of what happens here might give you a chill down your spine if you live in NYC, it will make you wonder if this is fiction based on fact.

Can Corey bring Khalil into the net set for him? Who's financing Khalil? What is it Khalil has been hired to do and will he succeed? Yes, DeMille has another thriller that will keep you turning the pages.

I like DeMille's characters in this series. Sadly, some that have gotten killed off, as per the required story line, I find I miss them when their names pop up. While I usally enjoy Corey's sarcasm, it can make me smile and it does help ease some of the tension building in the book, sometimes it's also over the top in places, which I find annoying. Snarky has it's place, but in my opinion, don't overdo it.

I always enjoy a visit with John Corey, so I enjoyed this one too. I do feel better knowing that there are people like Corey protecting our country.

I think my favorite book in the Corey series is Night Fall. This one is about that horrible night on July 17, 1996 when flight TWA 800 crashed(?) off Long Island. I can still remember seeing that fireball over the ocean. In Night Fall, DeMille shares the opinion of many, was it or wasn't it a terrorist attack? I thought this book wrapped up to soon.

Some of my other favorite books by DeMille:

Word of Honor--Ben Tyson was a lieutenant in Vietnam. What happens when a secret comes back to haunt him and possibly destroy the life he has made for himself since the war?

Charm School-What really happened to all those U.S. pilots that disappeared during the Korean and Vietnam War. Had me on the edge of my seat...

Cathedral-An IRA mastermind takes over St. Patrick's Cathedral, which makes the NYPD not to happy.

Talbot Odyssey-Russian mole has been inside the CIA for forty years (yes--40 years) Now it's time for him/her to complete her assignment!

These are some of his oldies, but they still are a great read and I highly recommend any of them.

I must confess, I did not care for the Gold Coast nor the sequel, Gate House. They were just not my cup of tea.  Not a likable main character for me.

Hopefully you find one of these to like!

Happy Reading!

Thursday, July 8, 2010


‘Cause it’s summer

Summer time is here
Yes, it’s summer
My time of year
Summer by War

Ah, summertime. The pace of life slows down, lazing around feels good, hanging outside at the end of the day feels delightful…and reading is the best way to end the day. Ah, summer! Okay maybe all this doesn’t really happen, but I do hope you find time to end your day reading a book!!

Some highly recommended books for your summer reading follow:
One of the best non-fiction books I read this winter was Horse Soldiers by Doug Stanton. This is a terrific account of a U.S. Special Forces Unit fighting alongside Afghans in the mountains against the Taliban. The contingent of US soldiers sent over had their first surprise when they discovered they had to ride horses, and almost none of them had been on ever been on a horse. It seemed these horses were descendents of the horses Genghis Khan Army had ridden out of Uzbekistan. A great written account of the triumphs, misery, courage and horror of war with, surprisingly, some humor. (You will forget you're reading non-fiction.)

One of my favorite legal thriller writers is Scott Turow. His latest book is Innocent which is a (20 year) sequel to Presumed Innocent, one of my all time favorite legal books. (Which was made into a pretty good movie.) Rusty Sabich and Tommy Molto are once again pitted against each other to determine did Sabich kill his wife…or didn’t he? Turow makes you pay attention and think while you read his books; his characters drive the storyline very nicely and I haven’t found anyone who does a courtroom scene better….and yes, that includes John Grisham.

We said a sad goodbye to Robert B. Parker this year and his wonderful characters: Spenser, Jesse Stone and Sunny Randall. As much as I liked his mysteries, I loved his westerns; Brimstone; Resolution; Appaloosa... and a personal favorite, Gunman’s Rhapsody. As luck would have it, one of Parker’s last novels is a western, Blue-Eyed Devil: the Virgil Cole/Everett Hitch. This is one I am looking forward to.

If you enjoy good westerns, here are some of the best written.

*If you haven’t read All Our Yesterdays or Double Play by Parker…give yourself a treat.

Ah, Daniel Silva! If you haven't read Daniel Silver you are missing out on one of the best spy/espionage series being written! Silva kicked this series off with The Kill Artist and introduced one of the best espionage spies to date, Gabriel Allon. The Rembrandt Affair, number 10 in this great series, comes out in July. This one is on the top of my summer reading list. I can’t wait to read it and find out what Gabriel Allon is doing…. since he was supposed to have retired….

Nelson DeMille new one is The Lion, and he brings John Corey back to tangle with old nemesis Asad Khalil, aka the Lion. Hard to believe we first met Corey in Plum Island in 2002. It’s been a wild ride with every one of his adventures since. While DeMille’s Corey series is always a thrilling ride, if you haven't read some of his early stuff, Charm School; Word of Honor; Cathedral to name a few, give them a try. Sometimes you can be surprised to see how writing styles of an author have changed.

I know Dennis Lehane is better known for his books (made into movies) Shutter Island and Mystic River; I would be remiss if I did not point out he has a great series featuring private dectectives Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro that is set in Boston. (The movie Gone, Baby, Gone is from this series.) Sadly, Lehane will bring this series to a close in November with the last installment, Moonlight Mile, which is a sequel to Gone, Baby, Gone. This series kicked off with A Drink Before the War, a debut that hooked me, especially because of the way Lehane writes. If you want to get hooked on a great series, you can get started on this one and be caught up by the time Moonlight Mile comes out. I am so glad to have Kenzie and Gennaro back, even if it is the last time.

Little romance for the summer?

Karen Marie Moning has a great Highlander series that has it all, love, romance, time-travel, Scotland and sex (yes, I said sex)

Starting with Beyond the Highland Mist you are off with Adrienne, a 20th century gal, who gets swept off her feet and back to 16th century Scotland by the laird known as Hawk. Nothing better than traveling back and forth through time while being in Scotland. There are seven books in this series so if you like the first, your summer reading should all set.

I love a good historical romance and when I read (many many years ago) The Wolf and the Dove by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss, I was thrilled. Woodiwiss is considered the founding mother of historical romance and after reading this I know why. Pick up this golden oldie.....Normans, Saxons, …enemies, passion, and betrayal….it is England after all.

Sarah Addison Allen enchanted me with Garden Spells, her first book. Touch of whimsy, magic, family ties and love…she did another wonderful job with the Sugar Queen. Her latest, The Girl Who Chased the Moon is just as charming as her other two.  Any or all of these will leave you with a little smile on your face, happy you met these quirky characters of small Southern towns, and so glad you could pay a visit.

Hopefully, one of these strikes your reading fancy and you enjoy your summer!

Happy Summer! Happy Reading!