Thursday, September 19, 2013

One by One by Chris Carter

In One by One, Detective Robert Hunter in LAPD's homicide special section is contacted by a killer, who has been murdering people and broadcasting their deaths live online. After awhile, the killer turns his murders into a reality show and asks the public for their input. Together with the FBI and others from the LAPD, Hunter has a lot of work if he wants to catch this cunning killer.

This is such an awesome book! I purposely picked it to read at this time because the other books I had been reading were good, but low-action and not that thrilling. They didn't get my heart pumping or have me on the edge of my seat. Well, that certainly changed with this one.

The story starts off with a bang and doesn't let up for one second all the way to the end. The author used short chapters and skipped around the various plot lines telling the story from the various characters points of view, all adding to the suspense. A few times I had to put the book down just so that I could catch my breath.

I loved that the story was presented from many different points of view. I particularly liked the ones from characters on the outer fringes of the story. They were such a surprise because these characters hadn't been mentioned up until that point and were never heard from again, but their points of view were right at home and didn't feel out of place in the story.

The story focuses mainly on Robert Hunter. His biography is amazing, sort of a combination of Superman and a master of all trades. His job is basically his life. I really liked him and can't wait to read more books featuring him. He might be a little too perfect, though, but I'll wait until I've read more books to decide that.

The story felt real and very current. It's probably only a matter of time before something like this happens. I sincerely hope that we as a society are above this, but I wouldn't bet the farm on it.

My favourite quote from the book mentions my hometown. I love it when it appears out of the blue like this.
The bitter wind that blew from the north made Los Angeles feel like Winnipeg in November. (page 383)
At least it wasn't "Winnipeg in January". ;)

Even though it's the 5th book in the Robert Hunter series, it didn't read like part of a series and can certainly be read as a standalone book. Carter is pretty graphic and gruesome in his descriptions, especially of what's happening to the people who are being killed. This book is definitely not for the faint of heart.

Highly recommended. I have The Death Sculptor on my to-be-read shelf. Because I loved this one so much, I've moved it closer to the top of the pile. Eventually, I hope to read the other books in the series.

For more information about this book, please visit Simon & Schuster's UK website.

For more information about the author and his other books, please visit Chris Carter's website. Chris's biography is a bit eclectic, which I love. He went from a member of Michigan's State District Attorney's Criminal Psychology team, to rock musician, to writer.

I'd like to thank those nice people at Simon & Schuster UK for this review copy.

One by One by Chris Carter, Simon & Schuster UK ©2013. ISBN 9780857203052(Hardcover), 500p.

The House Girl by Tara Conklin

The House Girl, tells the story of two women. Lina Sparrow, in the present, who is working on a reparations case for the descendants of slaves. Josephine, in the past, who is a house girl for Lu Anne Bell, the mistress on a tobacco plantation. Lu Anne is an artist, but there's some speculation and controversy, in the present, that Josephine might have been the real artist. Lina's job of finding a suitable plaintiff leads her to dig into Josephine's story and discover secrets of not only Josephine's life, but her own.

I loved this book. It was well written and extremely interesting. I enjoyed both parts of the story, but I think I enjoyed the one that takes place in the past a little more, mostly for reasons I explain below. The art and the whole the art world were particularly enthralling to me. I don't know a lot about art, but I found it captivating nevertheless.

To present this story, the author jumps back and forth between the past (1852) and the present day (2004). Secrets were uncovered and the details unfolded roughly at the same time in the story showing the symmetry between them. A perfect format for this type of story.

Both of the major women characters were strong, determined and very appealing. I especially loved Josephine's determination to get away.

I really enjoyed the letters Dot wrote to her sister. I've seen letters used many times in books and quite frankly I was a bit tired of it. I really wasn't looking forward to reading them. However, these were so well done, I felt like I was reading a piece of history. They had me totally hooked.

A couple of things about the story bothered me a little. First, when Lina was looking for a descendent of Josephine, she stumbled upon one a little too readily. Something like that could have and perhaps should have taken years. Second, the reparations case "wrapped up" a little too quickly. Perhaps this happens in real life, but it felt rushed to me. Because of these two things, I didn't love the present day story as much as I could have.

Highly recommended. I'd definitely read another book by this author.

For more information about this book, please visit the HarperCollins website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at William Morrow for this review copy.

The House Girl by Tara Conklin, William Morrow (HarperCollins), ©2013. ISBN 9780062207395(Advance Reader's Edition), 368p.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Something about Sophie by Mary Kay McComas

In Something About Sophie, Sophie is summoned to the death bed of a man she doesn't know. However, she arrives too late and doesn't hear the secret he needed to tell her. With the help of Dr. Drew McCarren, she digs into her past and uncovers secrets that could destroy the whole town.

I mostly enjoyed this book, but something didn't click for me. I thought parts of it were really good, but other parts were just okay. The story was definitely suspenseful and that was good. The long buried secrets kept me turning the pages until the ever end. I really wanted to know what the fuss was about. I also liked the relationship between Sophie and Jesse and the budding romance between Sophie and Drew. However, the touching softer parts didn't seem to jive with the harsh murders and violence in the rest of the story. One of them was too extreme, but I'm not sure which.

One thing I really disliked was the author's use the dreaded "z" (instead of an "s") in some spellings when Sophie was talking to Mike, the teenage character. (Example: skillz, page 39) I understand that it's the "in" thing, but I don't understand using it in conversation. I could understand it if she was leaving him a note, but how would he know that she was using a "z" instead of an "s" when speaking?   I'm confuzed.

I really didn't like Sophie that much. She jumped to conclusions (wrong ones at that) so often it got annoying. While I liked the romance part of the story, I didn't get the love-at-first-sight thing. I just don't think it happens like that. Of the other characters, I really liked Drew, Jesse and Mike. I don't often like teenage characters, but Mike was cool. He was so wise beyond his years.

I don't often comment about the cover of books. However, I can't help wondering about this one. While the cover is likeable, I can't figure out what it has to do with the story. There was some descriptions and discussions about the rivers, but I don't remember them (or any body of water) being a key element.

I'd probably still recommend this one even though there were things about the story I didn't like. There's a quote from Nora Roberts on the front of this edition. Perhaps her fans would like this type of book.

This edition of the book contains a P.S. section at the back of the book. It contains "insights, interviews & more...". It's definitely worth the read.

For more information about this book, please visit the HarperCollins website.

For more information about the author and her other works, please visit Mary Kay McComas's website.

I'd like to thank those nice people at HarperCollins/William Morrow for this review copy.

Something About Sophie by Mary Kay McComas, HarperCollins, ©2013. ISBN 9780062084804(Trade paperback), 296p.

Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin

In Mistress of the Art of Death, a child has been murdered and others are missing. The Jews are being accused of this horrendous act. Simon of Naples, an investigator, and a young female doctor, Adelia Aguilar, are dispatched to investigate. Adelia's speciality is the study of corpses and she's hoping the bodies can lead to the identity of the killer. However, it's the late 10th century in England and females doctors are almost unheard of. Adelia must hide her profession lest she's accused of witchcraft.

I really enjoyed this one. The historical references were terrific. I haven't read too many (if any) books set in this time period, but the author's scene setting and use of language made me feel like I was actually there. I love both mysteries and historical fiction, but it's not often that a book features the best of both worlds. This one was exactly that. A real treat!

I didn't start out loving or even liking Adelia, but she definitely grew on me. At first, she seemed unapproachable, cold, and harsh. After awhile, though, I really started to like her. I don't know if she changed or I got used to her style. I also really liked Adelia's cook, Glytha, and her young grandson, Ulf, who helped out Adelia.

I did have a little trouble following what was going on at times, though, but I usually caught on within a couple of pages, so it wasn't too bad.

I generally keep track of the new words I encounter in books. However, I didn't bother doing that with this one. There were just too many and recording each of the new words would have seemed like work. I'm guessing that most of them were objects or expressions from the time period or region.

Ariana Franklin is the pen name of British writer Diana Norman. It funny that her website (see below) doesn't mention that. That same website also doesn't mention that she died in 2011. The last copyright was in 2010, so I guess it hasn't been updated since then.

Highly recommended. I'm going to keep an eye out for her other books. I'd love to read another one.

This book came to me through my bookclub. The Bookcrossing sticker on the front immediately caught my attention because I was a member of the Bookcrossing community for a long time. However, I haven't been active in many years. If you are interested, the Bookcrossing entries for this book can be found here. And, by the way, here's my bookshelf on the Bookcrossing website.

For more information about this book and the author, please visit the Ariana Franklin's website.

Mistress of the Art of Death by Ariana Franklin, Transworld Publishers (Random House), ©2007. ISBN 9780553818000(Trade paperback), 503p.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Clutches and Curses by Dorothy Howell

Clutches and Curses is the fourth book in the Haley Randolph mystery series. When an altercation with a customer leaves fashionista Haley Randolph with a curse instead of her dream purse, she's is transferred to the new Holt store in Las Vegas. Shortly after arriving, she finds the body of an old classmate and nemesis, Courtney Collins. Because of their rocky past and the fact that she's the one who found the body, Haley becomes the prime suspect in Courtney's death. With this curse hanging over her head, she's going to need some luck and hard work to get to the bottom of the mystery and clear her name.

I really enjoyed this cozy mystery. I'm not a fashionista, so I don't get the finding-the-perfect-handbag thing, but I liked the story and the characters nevertheless. It was a whole lot of fun to read and definitely wasn't boring. I even learned a thing or two. I might just have a inner-fashionista-diva after all.

Haley was a bit wishy-washy for me. She reminded me of Becky Bloomwood in Sophie Kinsella's Shopaholic series. However, for some reason I didn't find Haley nearly as endearing. Having said that, I really liked her detective skills, her ambition, and her desire to do things on her own rather than accept the various extremely tempting offers from her sort-of-boyfriend, Ty. I probably would have dropped everything and went wherever he wanted to take me. If only he were real!

Highly recommended for cozy lovers. I'd definitely read another book by this author. I have the next one, Tote Bags and Toe Tags on my to-be-read shelf. I hope to get to it sooner rather than later.

For more information about this book or to browse inside, please visit the Kensington Books website.

For more information about the author and her other books, please visit Dorothy Howell's website.

Thanks to those nice people from Kensington Books for this review copy.

Clutches and Curses by Dorothy Howell, Kensington Books, ©2011. ISBN 9780758253316(Mass Market), 343p.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Needlework Tuesday - This and That

Here's a brief update on some of the craft projects I've been working on.

I wanted something mindless to do while watching TV. I found a very simple wrap pattern in the Knitting Cards I pictured last week and picked up some cheap yarn (factory ends) from the thrift store. It's worsted weight yarn of unknown content, but it's done on large needles, so it's knitting up quite quickly. I did this in about 30 minutes yesterday. For some reason it's knitting up skewed to the right.   Could it be the pattern (R1: K2, *yo, K2tog, K1, repeat from * to last st, K1, R2: K2, purl to last 2 sts, K2) or maybe the yarn?  I can stretch it out so that it's straight, but it always bounces back.   I've done a little more since I took the photo and it's now undeniably skewed to the right.  The left hand side, which appears to be almost straight in the photo, now also slants to the right.  Hmmmm...  Any ideas fellow knitters?

The other thing I'm working on is my temperature scarf. I didn't expect to give an update so soon, however, lately we've had too many really warm days in a row and I wanted to show how that looks on this scarf.  The RED rows are for temperatures about +30C.  The scarf doesn't show the feels-like temperature or the humidex. Some of those hot days felt like +40C.  Also, some of those orange rows are 28C or 29C, which I consider too hot especially if the humidity is high.  Hot, hot, hot.   Thankfully, it's cooled down a bit now. 

Lastly, I started my Zentangle year-long(?) project on September 1, 2013. Basically, I'm doing one-a-day (one Zentangle pattern per tile) and then at the end of the week, I'm going to incorporate them all onto one tile (maybe) with a string.  That part hasn't quite been decided yet. I also don't know how I'm going to keep track of the ones I've done. However, since I was already doing drawings based on zentangles on a mostly daily basis, I figured I might as well start the project already. Here are the two I've done so far:

Both are have the zentangle name (Crusade and Spyz, respectively) and date at the back.  I have about 30 drawings that I did previously to these, but I'm going to call that "practice".  I'm probably going to do a few of those (some favourites) again as part of the project.

That's it for this week.
Needlework Tuesday is hosted by Heather over at Books and Quilts.