Tuesday, April 26, 2016

That Darkness

Title: That Darkness
Author: Lisa Black
Published: April 26th 2016 by Kensington
Format: eBook, Hardcover, 336 pages
Genre: Suspense
Source: My thanks to Netgalley and Kensington Books for an opportunity to read an advanced copy of this book.
Series: Gardiner and Renner #1

The further that I got into this book, the more Dexter that it felt. When I reread the blurbs by other authors and saw Jeff Lindsay’s name, I realized that if he approved then I was in for quite a ride.

The first book in the Gardiner and Renner series, Lisa Black introduces the reader to Maggie Gardner a civilian criminalist for the Cleveland Police Department and Jack Renner a slightly psychopathic vigilante (think Charles Bronson in Death Wish) who believes that he is on the side of the angels. A man that believes that it is “remarkably easy to convince people you were what you were not, if you simply paid a little attention to details”.

Front and foremost with this book is the off humor. There are parts that you know that you should not be laughing at, but yet, a psychopathic vigilante can be downright funny.

There have been three homicide victims in a short period of time, making some wonder if this is “drop your dead bodies in Cleveland week”, and though they do not appear to be related, Maggie is seeing a pattern. There is something familiar and the trace evidence to putting them, or their killer, in the same vicinity.

Jack Renner cannot stand injustice. Criminals that are never found guilty of their offenses and just skate through life - those that “took it upon themselves to judge the value of another human being”. If the criminal justice system cannot contain this problem, then he will help them out a bit – “if one cannot defeat the enemy one can at least refuse him safe passage”. Jack’s job is to remove the dangerous from society and his ultimate goal is Maria Stein. This is a name that is touched on throughout the book with only little parts of the story being revealed at a time until the ultimate showdown.

As Jack and Maggie’s lives are on a collision course, they will each have decisions to make. This could go either way and the reader is on the edge of their seat wondering where this will end. In a “voice that walks a tightrope between integrity and insanity”, Jack Renner makes perfect sense. Does Jack stay and “become an unproven theory” or do they “decide to exist in an uneasy d├ętente of mutually assured destruction”?

There are parts of this book that would make for an excellent book group discussion. For example, the ultimate question of a burning building and you can only rescue one person. It is amazing when the reasoning of a psychopathic vigilante makes perfect sense.

This is the beginning of an awesome series and though Lisa Black is a new to me author, I cannot wait to pick up further Gardiner and Renner books.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Tumor: A Non-Legal Thriller

Title: The Tumor: A Non-Legal Thriller
Author: John Grisham
Published: January 19th 2016 by Focused Ultrasound Foundation
Format: Kindle Edition, 67 pages
Genre: Medical Information

Sometimes a cause needs a big name to lend a hand and that is exactly what you get with “The Tumor”. John Grisham begins by telling the reader of a presentation that he attended on focused ultrasound therapy - a groundbreaking procedure that could one day alleviate the need for conventional brain tumor surgery. The ability to destroy tumors with beams of focused energy that would allow the patient to walk out of the operating room and go home. This non-invasive, painless and relatively inexpensive solution could add years to a patient’s life.

Grisham turns the PowerPoint presentation into a short novella that explains the early stages of this still experimental therapy and how further testing is beginning to show promise in other tumors found within the mammary glands, prostate, liver, kidney, and bones.

Of course, there are barriers to this type of technology but with any procedure still within its infancy, dollars are needed to continue the research and this is where Grisham comes in. By showing the current procedures and limitations and then showing the “what could be” alternate scenario, John Grisham is lending his name to show his audience where the medical frontier is headed.

This might come across as heavy handed, but for me, I found it fascinating. They are upfront in saying that not all people will be cured from all cancer. That some cancers will become chronic conditions, but that adding healthy years with occasional tune-up, may be where cancer treatment is going. The presentation was intended to tug on your heartstrings, but sometimes that is what is needed to see what is around the bend.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Dead to the Last Drop

Title: Dead to the Last Drop
Author: Cleo Coyle
Published: December 1st 2015 by Berkley
Format: Hardcover, 432 pages
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Series: Coffeehouse Mystery #15

This is not a straightforward story. Like most cozies that have a definite beginning, middle, and end, Dead to the Last Drop jumps around quite a bit. Chapters alternate between earlier events so the reader can understand the set-up, to present day happenings and then consequences of those events.

There is something very familiar about the new performer currently playing on the second floor Jazz Space of Clare’s new Village Blend DC., when she finally puts it all together a few more pieces of the puzzle fall into place. Clare now finds herself embroiled in a bit of Washington history and shenanigans. Not only is a man barging his way into her commercial kitchen, but he collapses on her floor and as she is trying to not get involved, since she has her own problems with a wayward chef, the president’s daughter goes missing at the same time as does one of her musicians. Add in Mike’s new boss getting too friendly and a Georgetown mansion with a bit of history of its own plus an upcoming culinary salute of coffee in America and you have quite a frantic book in the Coffee House Mystery series.

With the writing team of Cleo Coyle, not only does the reader delve into a mystery but also there is a bit of history involved. This time around, the reader received an in depth lesson in Jazz and a wee dusting of the Underground Railroad.

As I said, this book does jump around quite a bit and there was a time or two that I had to stop and remember which part of the story I was in. The Coffeehouse Mysteries are not your typical cozy, at times, they take a bit of concentration and puzzling, but in the end, through humor and a large pot of coffee, the reader reaches a satisfying end.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Year of Yes

Title: Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person
Author and Narrator: Shonda Rhimes
Published: November 10th 2015 by Simon & Schuster / Simon & Schuster Audio
Format: Hardcover, 311 pages / Audio
Genre: Memoir

By the time that I finished this book, I was not sure whom Shonda Rhimes wrote this book for. Was it her 20’ish year old self just graduating from college with the whole wide world opening up for her or her 40’ish year old self looking back and realizing that the track she was laying was ideal for her or to her audience that could look over a life and say – wow.

Shonda Rhimes is a force to be reckoned with. It might have taken her sister’s off handed comment of “you never say yes to anything” to motivate her, but motivate her into a year of saying yes and confronting her fears is what resulted.

Granted, an average person is not going to have the same opportunities to say yes to that was asked of Shonda, but we each have those things that scare us and we make excuses for. We each have to find our inner strength, and in so doing, a completely new world could open. Saying yes is difficult for an introvert, but saying yes is what we need to do. With humor and insight, Shonda Rhimes was able to take the reader through that door and show us what is possible with just enough courage and good friends to cheer us along.

To be honest, I started this as a written book and just could not make it through. Knowing that is might have been the voice in my head not getting the tone or timbre right, I switched over to the audio and enjoyed it so much more. The inflections and humor were much more resounding. The fear and the laughter were more vibrant. I was able to get a much better feel for the stories that were being told. Granted, there were a couple of times that I thought the same narrative was being told over and over and on a couple accounts, I thought the self-praise and initialisms were overdone, but other than that, I really enjoyed this memoir and the life story that is being voiced.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Ten Beach Road

Title: Ten Beach Road
Author: Wendy Wax
Published: May 3rd 2011 by Berkley
Format: Paperback, Pgs 432
Genre: Women's Fiction
Series: Ten Beach Road #1

Four women, who are each coming to terms with rejection, set out on a path that they had never expected. Having been left financially destitute after falling victims to a Ponzi scheme, Madeline, Avery and Nikki find themselves awarded a beachfront home. It is now up to them to decide on both their futures and that of the home.

With very few resources, they set out to do the work needed to both make the home sellable and to rebuild their lives. If they can make this work, it will be the answer that they are looking for. Unfortunately, one of the women is keeping a very damning secret and when family members make their lives even more challenging, each is questioning the full worth of what they are undertaking.

With bright spots to counteract the complications, together the woman forge through only to be devastated yet again. How will they make it? In the end, a single phone call puts the women on a path that they could never have seen coming and together they will create their own future and independence.

Though there are men that are part of the equation, I loved the fact that Wendy Wax did not resort to the typical man swoops in to save the day scenario that too many authors rely on. Yes, there are budding romances and yes, you can see where they might go, but they are not front and center. The author is allowing the reader to build up as much or as little as they would like.

As part of a series, I look forward to seeing where the author will take each woman and to see how their families will either work with them or against them. All I know is that these ladies are not finished with what they have started and seeing where they go will be an adventure for all.