Books Read 2018

December 2018
Long Road to Mercy by David Baldacci
  A friend loaned me this book.  She does this often.  I finished it this afternoon so it will be the last book of 2018.  I enjoyed it.  This is a new character from Baldacci.  Atlee Pine is an FBI agent working alone in Shattered Rock by the Grand Canyon.  She lost her twin, Mercy, when they were six.  She was stolen by a killer and never found.  Atlee is under pressure to solve a senseless crime at the bottom of the canyon.  A mule has been butchered and two initials carved into its hide.  Who would do this and why?   The mystery becomes much larger and involves a heinous plot by Atlee's own government but she and her intrepid secretary, Carol Blum, are up to the task, tough enough to stand up for right and solve the entire complicated plot.   

Four Stars
Low Pressure by Sandra Brown

  Low Pressure isn't a bad book but it was one I was happy to be done with.  It was a book I could have done without, in other words.  Low Pressure is not only the title of the book, but the title of the book written by the main female character in the book.  Bellamy has a history, and under a false name, she wrote Low Pressure about a taboo subject---her own family, and a traumatic Memorial Day Weekend, when she was 12.  Her sister would not grow a day older.  She was murdered that day at a picnic for her father's company.
  A man was arrested and convicted of the crime, but did he do it?  He died in jail, not long after his sentence.  Who is now stalking Bellamy and why?  And why does she reconnect with another character of that Memorial Day picnic, a man who had been dating her sister at the time and endured suspicion from the police and from the public, that he really did it.  So who did kill Susan?   Well, read it and find out, but clues early on, make you pretty sure you know already and the book grinds on and on, predictable and dull, if you ask me.

Two Stars

October 2018
The Pilot's Wife by Anita Shreve
  The Pilot's Wife is really not a pleasant book to read.   Kathryn has married Jack, a pilot, who is over a decade older.   Kathryn lost her own drunken parents to a wreck when she was a child, then was raised by her grandmother, Julia.  She knows little about Jack's past.  The narrative begins with a knock at the door in the middle of the night.  Jack's plane has gone down over the ocean near Ireland.    The blur that follows is punctuated by Kathryn's memories of their marriage.  As more comes out about the flight, that an explosion took it down and that perhaps Jack killed himself, Kathryn is consumed with memories, grief, and at the same time, trying to help her own daughter through this horror.  An airline man named Robert befriends her and tries to guide her through the process with the media and the investigation.  Ultimately, Kathryn discovers Jack has another family, in London, and that Robert is playing her, not to be supportive, but only for information.  Another betrayal.  

Two Stars
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
 I really enjoyed reading this book.  I didn't want it to end.   I always thought about how ordinary people in Germany survived the war.  Probably many of them were terribly conflicted but the poor were mostly just trying to survive and the war made that so much harder.   And for children, my gosh, how did they survive.  This book is written from death's perspective, death narrating as a human outside observer might do, one who can't interfere but can chronicle events observed and even become emotionally affected.   The story follows a little girl, as she struggles, from her brothers death on a train as her mother seeks to turn them over to another family, unable to care for the two herself.   She steals her first book where they bury him, where death, the narrator, encounters her as death carries off her brothers soul.  Her new family, who are poor, become hers.  She adores her accordion playing likable father, who is kind to everyone.  Her father made a promise to the family of a soldier who saved his life and left him an accordion in the first world war.   Now he keeps a promise when the mans son, a Jew no less, seeks refuge during the war.  Liesel finds refuge in the basement with the Jew, and is there finishing her story when the bombs and hit kill her entire family above her.  The story is mostly about children, how they play and fight and steal food and scuffle in the dirt like abandoned kittens will do, even when starving and without hope.  I loved it.

Five Stars
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
  This book too was a fast read, interesting and brutal.  The tale begins as Jacob is about to take his final exams at veterinary school.   His parents have both died in a wreck.  His parents estate is owned by the bank and Jacob, left with nothing, starts walking.  He ends up on the tracks and decides to jump a train.  That train happens to belong to a travelling circus.  For the next 3 1/2 months Jacob works as the circus vet for the menagerie, falls in love with the wife of a ruthless animal keeper who beats the animals while Jacob does nothing to stop him.  Men are often red lighted, meaning they are tossed from the train when the circus owner wants to cut labor costs although he never pays the working crew, and sometimes not even the performers.  They acquire an elephant from a circus that went broke, and Rosie is beaten by the August, the ruthless keeper.  But at some point men thrown from the train catch up to it, and let the animals out.  Rosie the elephant makes a decision about that ruthless keeper and puts him down herself.  Seems like none of the humans have the balls to do what needs done.   Jacob marries the dead keepers widow, takes possession of Rosie, plus his new wife's performing horses, and finally takes his final exams to become a real vet.  The story is told charmingly, from the memories of Jacob as an old man alone in a nursing home, left with no freedom or dignity, waiting for his family to come take him to a circus that has set up down the block.  If you can stand the cruelty, to both animals and humans, detailed in this book, its ok to read. We all know this stuff goes on and went on then, in circuses and elsewhere.  

Three Stars
The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
I enjoyed this tale of the struggle to survive aboard a lifeboat, after a ship goes down at sea.  It is a rough tale, nothing for the faint of heart, as passengers gossip and turn on one another, rumors enlarge and conspiracies creep into their weary dehydrated starved minds.  Instead of working together, cliques form, alliances so to speak, much like on survivor, and people die, one by one.  Is this how it is to be, survival of the fittest, the most ruthless, the conniving?  It is in this story, just like on Survivor.  Three survivors of the lifeboat end up on trial, for the murder of another, and yet there is great ruthlessness exhibited by all, in passing up others in the water, even kicking the hands of those clinging to the sides of the boat.  I enjoyed this book, read it a matter of hours in fact.  

Four Stars
The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
  What can I say, the story sort of pulled me in, but the language and drawn out nature of the story did not.   The ending was not satisfying nor were any questions that arose within the plot ever answered.  The manner the story was first presented, as a reading among vacationing friends, was also strange and outside of its presentation in that manner, the narrative never went back to that point.  It wasn't scary, as I think it was supposed to be.  I just didn't think much of it.

Two Stars
September 2018
the Store by James Patterson
I'm not a Patterson book fan, not at all.   The undeveloped characters and wild plots that put sci fi into crime drama turn me off.  The Store could have been vastly shorter as repetition of same old storyline, that of The Big Bad Take Over Your Life destroy privacy store, was repeated ad naseum.  The punchline that is supposed to make it all ok, what you the reader has labored through prior, is so shallow and contrived that I just shook my head and I'm giving the book back to my friend who loves these things and lying to her and telling it was ok.  Don't bother with this book!

1 Star
July 2018
State of Fear by Michael Crichton

  This is probably one of the worst of Crichton's "preachy" books where plot is secondary and stupid and lost to the various issues that bug him.  In this book, radical environmentalists, who are not getting enough money for the "boring" issue of climate change, resort to creating dramatic killer climate events with technology, to drive up fear and donations.   Ridiculously--stopping these deadly plots falls to a philanthropist, his wimpy lawyer, his secretary, an MIT operation man and his friend, plus, in the end, an actor, who is killed off by cannibals, probably to emphasize a point Crichton wants to make that little villages in the jungle aren't natural and nice.   The slow and limited plot line exists only as a way for Crichton to rail about stupid people who don't know anything really about issues, in this case, mindless environmental followers, but also he gets digs in at many fake science reports.  Its tiring, if you are reading the book for entertainment and its old news, for anyone who does read up on these issues.

One Star and the rest of Crichton's books go in the recycle bin unread.  Tired of his preachy books without real plot.
The Wailing Wind by Tony Hillerman
  Bernie Manuelito is a young officer of the tribal police.  She's been sent to check out a pickup that looks abandoned from the air, up a wash.   Inside the pickup, Bernie finds a dead body.  A tobacco tin seems the perfect container for her to collect some seeds off the deceased's pants.  But this action brings scorn from her superiors and teh FBI for violating a crime scene.  Will the seeds lead to the crime scene and the killer and is this murder connected to one long ago and the disappearance of the confessed killer's wife? Sargent Jim Chee, who has a liking for Bernie, and a retired detective are on the case too.  This is a likable very readable book that includes customs and history of the Navajo Indian tribes.  

Four Stars
The Hit by David Baldacci

  Another book loaned to me by a friend who loves Baldacci's books.   In this book, Jessica Reel is apparently going rogue as an agent.  She's knocking out high level security folks for no apparent reason and doing it with deadly skill.  Now she's the target of the agency, who ask a former classmate of hers to go after her.  But he's not so convinced she's wrong in what she's doing, especially after she saves his life.  So what's going on and will the pair, who finally team up, survive and knock out the bad guys hiding in plain sight, in high level jobs, before they execute their deadly plots?

Three Stars  
The Midnight Line by Lee Child

  This is yet another Jack Reacher story, clever, blunt and satisfying, but in the same manner as the Billy Straight story.   It's too clever and blunt and easy to see how it will turn out.  Reacher is not flawed enough, but oh well.   These are not my favorite things to read but a friend loaned it to me so I dutifully read it.  A quick read as you put no thought into these books.  They try to play up stereotypes and hit buttons that keep you reading, maybe out of duty, not as much out of interest.  Patriotism.  Cowboy ethics (although the cowboys in this book are opiate addicts like the veteran, but polite).  The addicted veteran has a twin sister looking for her.  She's off grid.  A favorite term in this type of book.  along with "off radar".  Reacher is looking for her because he found a West Point graduation ring that is obviously female size.  She must be in trouble so he must find her somehow.  He starts beating people up for answers. The cops look the other way because they haven't been able to bust the opiate ring.  Reacher joins up with the twin and the private detective she hired eventually and all three search, and find, her twin, who served five tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and sustained a disfiguring injury.  She used to envy the leg and arm injury guys, she confesses, they get all the hype and the new shiny million dollar prosthetics.  But those with disfiguring injuries get nothing but pain and hidden away.  She becomes a opiate addict.  So does her boyfriend, who sustained a groin injury in combat.  But he overdoses and dies and she hides out in an abandoned house with the cowboys and the crew of three eventually find them.  The drug ring is broken up and the damaged twin goes home with her sister, to recover best she can.  End of story.  Thank goodness.

Two Stars

Billy Straight by Jonathan Kellerman

  This Kellerman book features two new characters.  I've only read Kellerman books featuring characters Michael Sturgis, a fat gay detective and his free lance psychologist friend Alex Delaware.  The main character in this book is Detective Petra Connor, along with her by the book honest Mormon partner Stu.  He's not his usual self, as the story unfolds, in two narratives.  One is about a murder, that of the ex wife of an actor, Cart Ramsey, who plays a TV detective.   His business manager is an ass kisser, a pleaser, tags along like an abused dog, does whatever Cart tells him to do, cleans up all his messes too.  Everyone is sure Cart killed his ex, especially the victim's father, who wants to kill him himself.  But they have to have evidence, and very soon, the evidence points them elsewhere.  Is there a witness to the crime, someone homeless maybe?  Evidence says yes.  But who.  The second narrative, in first person, is that of the witness, who is just a child.  Billy Straight.  And his struggle to survive in Griffith Park alone, when everywhere he goes he runs into predators, who want to eat him alive, in various ways.  Will Billy survive or tell the police what he saw that night?  Will be Petra be able to save him and solve the case?  Well, you can probably guess the heart warming outcome.  I knew it would all turn out when I picked it.  An author who writes a book about a child in desperate circumstance wants you to keep reading for that happy ending.

Four Stars
Disclosure by Michael Crichton
  I became disillusioned with Michael Crichton books after his switch from science fiction to "issue" books in which a plot seems secondary to Crichton's problem with some component of society.  Such as foreign purchases of American land and business or the airline production industries' failures. 
"Disclosure" tackles the culture of ruthless get ahead big fish eats little and Darwinian survival that goes on in high tech companies, both company to company and individual to individual within the company.  Digicom is about to be acquired by another company and Digicom needs the cash influx.  A new VP is to be named.  Tom Sanders thinks it will be him.  Tom is a married man with kids and has worked hard to rise to the top of the Advanced Technical Division.   The ADT is going to spin off in a year, become its own company and go public.  This, with stock options, will make them wealthy.   But other factors are at work in Digicom.  Meredith Johnson is named the new VP, not Tom.  Meredith and Tom have a history.  They lived together for a short time years before.   Now Tom is invited to meet with his new boss at a 6:00 p.m. meeting.  Alone.   It is quickly apparent the meeting is not to be about how they will work together or the problems in the new Twinkle drive being manufactured in Malaysia.  Meredith has wine and even condoms.  Her assistant locks the door as she leaves, from the inside.  This was all planned and soon Tom finds himself the target of aggressive advances he does not want.  He leaves and both file harassment claims with the company attorney.  But Meredith is seen as the victim because aren't men always the ones?  Tom hires an attorney.  And in the days that follow, uncovers a harsh series of events that long preceded the 6:00 p.m. meeting in which it is clear Tom's demise has been set up for months and the meeting was merely the capper to give reason for firing.  Will Tom survive?

Three Stars

The Last Mile by David Baldacci
  My friend loans me these Baldacci books after she reads them.  She wants them back.  They go fast.   They're like a fast paced episode of a crime show.  This one is no different and features character Amos Decker, a former football player who got whacked in the head during the first play of his first NFL game, causing him unusual brain syndromes, one of which is a perfect memory.  Also, he's huge, and, grossly overweight.  Usually Baldacci's male characters are uber everything and can do no wrong--fight better than anyone, aim better than the worlds greatest snipers, drive better, run better, like robots.  Amos Decker's mind can do everything better than everyone else's.  He's with the FBI now, solving cold cases and he and the team take up the case of Melvin Mars, who is about to be released from a Texas jail after being 20 years on death row and nearly executed.  Someone else on death row in Alabama confesses to the crime Mars was accused of and knows details only the murderer would know.  But did he really do it?  Or is yet someone else involved?  Fast read.  Fun.  Satisfying.

Three Stars
June 2018
Silent Partner by Jonathan Kellerman
  Silent Partner finds Alex Delaware at a party, where he runs into an old flame from college years, who wants to talk.  But should he get involved?  She was big time trouble when he knew her before.   He doesn't get the chance to deliberate long.  She's found dead, suicide its ruled.   This book is really really boring.  This book could kill you boring.   I wanted to throw it on fire somewhere.   I'm recycling it as nobody should bother reading it, so its not going to a thrift store for another round.  Sorry for the bad review Kellerman but this one seems like you wrote it because you had to or something and didn't care if it was a piece of trash.  

Zero Stars
Motive by Jonathan Kellerman
  This is twisting turning murder mystery that finds detective Milo Sturgis upset by his inability to solve one murder, that of a quiet shy woman found really dead, I mean severely messed up murder, in her own home with a staged dinner for two on the table.  The misfit chef boyfriend seems the likely suspect.  But his alibi is ironclad.   As similar murders mount, misdirection becomes the major plot line.  Sturgis and his psychologist friend Alex Deleware soon are investigating the ex husband of the latest victim, then various attorneys who work in the same building where one victim was killed.  In a murder case, this might be normal to focus on the wrong people at first, but it seems forced in this book, to draw out the length of the book. And to add details about unrelated lives and sordid humanity.  When the real killer is identified, I was happy because the book was done with and I wanted it over.

Two Stars
The Murder Book by Jonathan Kellerman
  Love the Milo Sturgis/Alex Delaware character series by Kellerman.  They make an odd but interesting pair.  Delaware is the psychologist friend of awkwardly large not good looking gay detective Sturgis, who is extremely good at his job.  In this story, Delaware is going through relationship difficulties but suddenly gets a strange arrival--a Murder book, delivered mysteriously.  He calls his friend Milo over, and Milo is immediately affected by the photos of death scenes in the book, especially one in particular, labeled Never Solved.  The pair immediately begins to investigate why the book was sent, who sent it, and they delve into the decades old murder of a young girl, last seen at a party put on by rich kids.  The rich kids are now powerful wealthy men.  Where will this end up?    
Four Stars
May 2018
The Fallen by David Baldacci
  The Fallen features Baldacci characters Amos Decker, who has an unbelievable memory, following a head injury, and his journalist friend Alex Jamison.  Decker and Jamison are visiting her sister, whose daughter is having a birthday.  That's when things go a little nuts.  Seems the entire town of Baronville is getting murdered, or, doing the murdering.  There is a lot of hatred directed toward the one remaining Baron, who lives in a falling apart mansion on the hill.  His ancestors exploited the town, working its people to death in factories and mines, but at least they had work.  When the rich Barons went bankrupt, mainly out of greed and mismanagement, so did the town.  The anger falls on the last Baron who is a likable guy and has no money.  Amos Decker must rely on that memory of his and his best friend Alex Jamison, to get to the bottom of all these murders.  Not much of a vacation for the pair.  Plot is erratic with too many characters to keep track of half the time.

Three Stars
The Scarecrow by Michael Connelly

  This book features character Jack McEvoy, who is a reporter.  It switches from first person narration, by McEvoy, to third person accounts when you are "watching" the killers' actions and "hearing" his thoughts.  The book is a bit jumbled and unlike Detective Harry Bosch's precise investigations, this one jumps around without direction and without the detail provided in Bosch character books.  I just wanted it to be done with.  McEvoy is on his last two weeks on the job at the LA Times, due to force reduction of older employees.  In fact, he's got the embarrassing task of training his replacement for the cop beat.  Angela is young and knows how to cut throats in taking over a story.  But she doesn't last long.  McEvoy is working an angle on a young black male pegged for a murder he claims he didn't do.  The black 16 year old is no angel, a rough character, and in a gang.  His alleged victim was found stuffed in the trunk of a car the the black youth left at the beach.  He doesn't deny he stole the car but claims to not have known about a dead body in the trunk.  Meanwhile, Angela finds an intriguing website:, but there's no content in it and another victim killed in the same fashion, whose husband was convicted of the murder.   And who's next on the killer's list?  Well, maybe its sweet career oriented Angela.  Or Jack himself.  And is there just one killer?  And will his former love Rachal, the FBI agent become involved?  Well read it if you have the patience for the convulsions of the book.   I barely did.

Two Stars
April 2018
Trunk Music by Michael Connelly
  Harry Bosch is at it again in this murder mystery, banging heads with bad guys and cops alike, as he navigates the intensely political LAPD along with lazy cops who want hard working case solving cops gone.   A man is found dead in the trunk of his car in an overlook and he's found by a cop with whom Harry has a history.  There's no love lost between the two.   The dead is rich and his wife is lonely and admits she and her husband had nothing anymore together, but they still were together.   The dead guy had been off to Vegas and soon they learn he was washing money for the mob there.  Off to Vegas goes Harry and soon involves his ex girlfriend, whom he still loves, but who picked up a criminal record after working for the FBI.  Its against rules for a cop to be with a felon.  Harry is in a dilemma but he doesn't see it that way.  The Vegas cops are not only not good at their jobs but not nice to LA cops trying to solve a murder with mob connections.  And their main suspect?  Ha!   What a surprise.  He's been in deep cover two years and now he gets busted for murder?  Yeah, he didn't do it, and this sends Harry back to the murder book, and a new look at the cop who found the body and his relation to Mrs. Dead guy.  Yup, the wife.  

Four Stars
Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly
  Another interesting tale spun, this one centering around Detective Harry Bosch's half brother, criminal defense attorney Mickey Haller.  And boy does he get into deep water in this one.   He's got to defend a character who is not likeable.  He's an online pimp and swears he didn't kill one of his "employee's", but he does admit to choking her the night she died.   And Haller suddenly realizes he knows the victim, by another name, in another time.  He loved her and tried to save her from the life.   And how is her murder related to her help putting away a dangerous cartel gangster and did she plant the gun in his room that got him life?  And if so, why would she do that?   Haller's client will be judged by the Gods of Guilt, the jury.   He wrestles with his own guilt, over his daughter, the dead woman, and his defense of scumbags.   Nice read.

Four Stars
City of Bones by Michael Connelly
This was a repeat read, since it was in my car when I was out trapping, so I read it again.  I do love the Detective Bosch series of characters so this was like watching a movie I might like again.

4 Stars
March 2018
The Burning Room by Michael Connelly
  This Bosch character book should be read before The Crossing, when Bosch begins working for his half brother after being canned from the LAPD Delayed Retirement contract.  He had just solved the Burning Room case when he was fired for picking the lock on his Captains' office door, to get some files for the case he and his partner, Lucia Soto, needed to see fast.  They solved two big cases, that of a Mariachi band member, shot years before, who had just died, as a result of the bullet.  Bosch and Soto work cold cases and while the shooting was cold, having happened two decades back, the mariachi's death was recent.  The case leads them down the path towards a politician and his biggest financial supporter.  And while working that case, Bosch finds that his partner, Lucy Soto, is working another case, although its not assigned to her.   When he confronts her over copying case files that are not hers, she tells him why the case haunts her.  She was there, as a child.  She survived a fire that killed 9 others, mostly children, when an apartment complex was set ablaze.  Bosch and Soto solve both cases.  Success is never taken lightly by the LAPD, nor anywhere else for that matter.  Good people good at what they do are almost always singled out for resentment and underhanded acts committed by the ineffective and inefficient.  Bosch gets fired.

Four Stars
February 2018
The Crossing by Michael Connelly
  The Crossing is another Detective Bosch character novel with a bit of the Lincoln Lawyer, his half brother, thrown in.  Bosch has been fired from the LAPD, during the time he was under his delayed retirement contract.  And for bogus reasons, as usual with the LAPD.  He's bored but his half brother, a criminal defense lawyer, needs an investigator.  His is out on medical leave after he got rammed riding his motorcycle.  Bosch doesn't want to cross over the line, to the other side, so to speak, as his former cop coworkers don't like it when a former detective turns to working for the defense of criminals.   But after reading the case, Bosch is convinced the man pegged for a murder is innocent, getting railroaded.  When Bosch sees someone innocent in jail, he thinks about the guilty party out there needing caught.  So he takes the case, and ends up ridding the LAPD of some really bad cops in the process.

Three Stars
End Game by David Baldacci
  A friend lent me this book, by a favorite author.  As I mentioned when I read other of his books, he likes his characters super human, men and women who can do it all and perfectly.  This book features two of his most lethal characters--Will Robie and Jessica Reel.  They've split up, at the beginning of the tale.  Will is off taking out a house full of terrorists in London while Jessica is off killing dozens in an Afghanistan blindside double cross.  However, they are thrown back together when their boss, Blue Man, on vacation in his Colorado home town, goes missing.  They do their thing, meet some high end freakazoids, several types, and eventually find Blue Man and get out alive.

Three Stars
January 2018
The Late Show by Michael Connelly

  This book by Connelly features a new character.  I wasn't impressed with the book.  It was a slow slog, one I just wanted done with mostly.   Detective Renee Ballard has been shifted to the Late Show, the night shift, after she filed a sexual harassment complaint against a lieutenant.  Her partner is just killing time til retirement although he seems to have her back.  He's not that interested in solving crimes.  Ballard is gung ho though, takes her job seriously, loves it.  Which means trouble for anyone in any job, most likely.   And in the three plot lines of open crimes she is investigating, either directly or quietly, without department approval, she solves every one of them.  And is brutally abducted by one perp, but gets free and saves a life, when she does, which makes the men of the department look a little pale by comparison.  In that regard, the book is pretty satisfying.  Very slow to get interesting however.  The grandma character is poorly developed and shallow.  This character series needs some work by Connelly before he spits out another.

Three Stars
Radiance by Carter Scholz
  This book is horrible.  I'd give it negative stars if I could.  I never finished it, would have wasted more of my time.  By a quarter way through, still without a plot, and with vague confusing interrupted unpunctuated conversation, often ending in partial words,  I was done. A reader can't even tell, in these frequent lengthy "conversations", who is "talking".  Besides the poor writing, there are misspelled words and grammatical errors.  This book is good only for fire starting.  

0 Stars (trash)
Two Kinds of Truth by Michael Connelly

  This is another Harry Bosch story.  A friend gave it to me for Christmas and it's already history.  This one wasn't quite as good as some of his Bosch books I felt, lacked the detail of a single crime investigation, covered too much territory and seemed dedicated to showing off what a good man detective Bosch is rather than his detective skills.  So this was not really that enjoyable a read for me.

Three Stars

1 comment:

  1. Flicka said: I know I'm coming in late and you may never see this, but bookclub and I loved both "The Pilot's Wife" and "Water For Elephants"


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