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Veronica (England)

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Shutter Island
Shutter Island
by Dennis Lehane
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
103 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Fiendish, Absolutely Fiendish, July 6 2004
Shutter Island is a terrifying novel that chilled me to the bone. It played the hugest trick on me of any book that I have ever read. During the last couple of chapters I had this feeling of absolute disbelief - could this really be happening? Surely the book couldn't end this way. Please don't let it end this way! But it did. Bloody hell, I thought the ending to Hannibal by Thomas Harris was nasty. In this book, the ending is fiendish.
The characters were all described very well and with lots of imagination. Teddy Daniels is a US Marshal and the year is 1954. He is investigating Shutter Island with his new partner US Marshal Chuck Aule. You feel great sympathy for Teddy as his past is revealed - the death of his lovely wife Dolores and his violent clashes in the war. All this is written about in the most beautiful language. The scenes where Teddy goes back over his overpowering love for Dolores are particularly poignant.
Dennis Lehane draws you in to the plot by creating vivid characters, scenery, intrigue, mystery and clues at every turn. And then he calmly proceeds to turn everything inside out in the most shocking way possible. The plot was terrifyingly plausible and the last couple of chapters so hideous that they defy words.
Overall this is a great novel. Great in its ability to deceive and shock. Can I honestly say that I enjoyed reading it? Well, with tears falling down my cheeks as I got through the final chapters, I came to the conclusion that no, it had not been an enjoyable reading experience! Somehow I suspect Lehane never intended it to be. But he did a fantastic job of scaring the life out of me.
JoAnne

Something Might Happen
Something Might Happen
by Julie Myerson
Edition: Hardcover
17 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Thought-Provoking Novel, July 6 2004
This review is from: Something Might Happen (Hardcover)
Something Might Happen is a tense and absorbing novel. It looks at what happens to the family and friends of a woman called Lennie after she is brutally murdered in a close-knit village in England. The story is told through the eyes of Tess, Lennie's best friend. As the book progresses we uncover a lot about Lennie and her husband Alex, as well as Tess and her husband Mick. Other characters also have a large part to play, notably Tess's four children, the police officers investigating the murder, the family liaison officer and Lennie's father, Bob.
At first I was startled with the way that the novel is written in the present tense, which is different from anything that I've read before. It was very effective in making the action seem real and up close and I got used to it quickly. The characters were complex and interesting although they often did things that were not good for themselves - but I guess that's grief for you.
The dialogue was faultless and really captured the way that each person was responding to the murder. The descriptions were also great - the ones for Tess's baby Liv really made her come to life in my mind. The tension grew and grew, but I was still not prepared for the ending, which was a real shock.
Overall Something Might Happen is a thought-provoking book. It makes you think about the fact that something can easily happen at any moment to fracture our world. It's not a whodunit as such but I think most fans of crime novels would like it - it falls into the psychological category. I'm certain that I shall remember the characters and plot for a long time to come.
JoAnne

Drink Before The War
Drink Before The War
by Dennis Lehane
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
86 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Witty and Gritty, July 4 2004
A Drink Before The War is an exciting and thrilling novel which fuses so many different elements; crime, violence, romance and humour. I read the book really quickly because it was so compelling and found myself laughing out loud at the one-liners.
The main character Patrick Kenzie tells the story in first person narrative. He gets more and more interesting and complex as the book progresses, and the insights into his childhood were fantastic. This book is the start of the Kenzie/Gennaro series, and it really is very promising. I've already read the last in the series - Prayers for Rain, and I can't wait to read the others to see what happens to them in between.
I thought Angie Gennaro, Patrick's PI partner and unrequited (?) love, was fantastic. Other reviews have commented that the sparks between them didn't fly, but I feel the exact opposite. I thought the romance between them was realistic and great. The part near the end where they kiss after the bomb scare was really touching. There was one point where Patrick says 'At that moment, I think I knew what love was', when Angie smiled at him. Perfect :-)
Overall this is a fantastic book which is witty and gritty. From a personal perspective, I was a little disturbed by just how violent it was sometimes. One particular scene where Patrick and Angie listen to someone being tortured on a cassette recording was particularly horrific. On reflection I think the book needed some of this violence to justify the lengths that Patrick and Angie go to later on, and to show the reader how bad the situation in the neighbourhood really was. In other words, the violence was not gratuitous, but I didn't like it either. I would recommend this to those who want to read down-to-earth crime and have a good laugh at the same time.
JoAnne

Retribution
Retribution
by Jilliane Hoffman
Edition: Hardcover
104 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Unfortunately, I've read it all before, July 4 2004
This review is from: Retribution (Hardcover)
I have a confession to make; I really did not like this book. I couldn't finish reading past about a quarter of the way through - but because I ALWAYS read to the end I forced myself to skim read the rest. I can't understand such great accolades for stereotypical characters and a plot that, beyond the chilling rape scene at the beginning, failed to impress me.
I didn't like the style of writing from the beginning. Chloe Larson came across as irritating as hell in the first couple of chapters. I wanted to shout "Okay, I understand that she has perfect blond hair, a perfect size 4 body, a perfect life - enough already!' The plot was spoilt by over-the-top physical descriptions that sounded as though they came from notes on a Hollywood movie. Seriously though, the fact that the heroine had blond hair was mentioned far too many times in the first twenty pages, why didn't the editors notice this?
The book seemed to plod by, with paragraphs that went on forever and led nowhere. So much of it was predictable: Young blond woman is brutally attacked, she changes her looks and comes out the other side 'tough' but vulnerable, falls for brooding, dark-haired Italian Detective...and so on. I don't mean to sound patronising, it's just that I read a huge number of books and I've read this type of thing so many times before. What's more, I've seen the movie so many times before.
Overall I could not recommend this book because it was so hackneyed and stereotypical. The scariest and best-written scene was near the beginning and it all went downhill from there.
JoAnne

Monkeewrench
Monkeewrench
by P. J. Tracy
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.49
80 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Want to Play?, July 1 2004
Monkeewrench (published under the name Want To Play? in the UK) is an original, fun and explosive crime novel from a promising new author. The plot was exciting and sprung more than a few surprises on me, the characters were refreshingly unique and very well described. The ending was high in tension and very satisfying.
The plot focus is split between three main character groups; firstly Sheriff Michael Halloran with his partners Bonar Carlson and Sharon Mueller, secondly Detectives Leo Magozzi and Gino Roselph, and thirdly the Monkeewrench 'crew' - Grace, Annie, Roadrunner, Harley, Mitch and Diane - owners of a computer company who have mysterious pasts. The contrast between all these different characters and their situations made for a fast paced and varied novel.
What impressed me most was probably the writing style which was hilarious in many places, despite the serious subject matter, and touching in others. Characters such as Jackson, the small boy that Grace befriends, and the behind-the-scenes spouses of the police detectives were also very enjoyable to read about. The dialogue was fabulous because it was so realistic and inventive.
Things that I didn't like? Well, there are always a few! There were a fair number of coincidences in the book and some situations seemed too convenient. Sometimes I thought the novel became a little bit silly with certain exchanges between characters and some of the characters seemed more like caricatures because there were so over the top, particularly Annie, Harley and Gloria. Finally, the religion aspect got a little tiresome, it seemed all believers were viewed as 'fanatics', the type of people who condemn others to the fires of hell whilst being shockingly self-righteous. I suppose the kind thing that the priest did at the end of the novel for Magozzi seemed to address this imbalance to some extent.
Overall I recommend Monkeewrench (or Want to Play? as I know it) to all thriller and crime readers. It's a refreshing and interesting book with a range of likeable and deep characters. And it's funny - what more can you ask for?
JoAnne

All the Queen's Men
All the Queen's Men
by Linda Howard
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 10.79
75 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars Emotional and Thrilling Novel, June 30 2004
All The Queen's Men is an emotional novel which packs the same punch as another Linda Howard book I read recently, Cry No More. What these novels both have in common is HEARTACHE - the characters have tragic pasts, baggage from previous relationships and at the same time are dealing with serious and dangerous situations. All in all, this leads to a read which can seem bittersweet at times and is definitely not as carefree as other Howard romances such as Dream Man or Heart of Fire.
Niema and John are likeable, well-rounded characters. Niema is still grieving for her loving, tough late husband when John comes back into her life. She is a charming mix of toughness and vulnerability, and I really liked her. John is the typical 'hard man' who is smarting from how his first marriage ended and, to some extent, is unable to express his true feelings because of his dangerous job. The relationship between the two definitely seems meant to be and most of their interactions are a mix of passion, tenderness and love.
As other reviewers have mentioned the ending is quite abrupt, but it made me cry anyway because I was so happy for them both. Overall I was unable to leave this novel for a moment while I was reading it, but I don't reread it often simply because it makes me feel sad - despite the happy ending. I can't help but think that their lives will be hard because John will always have to look over his shoulder and be ready for an old enemy to attack him and Niema again.
JoAnne

And Then You Die
And Then You Die
by Iris Johansen
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 9.49
109 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not a great romance, not a great thriller..., June 30 2004
And Then You Die is marketed as a novel of suspense, involving romance and action. On both these counts I feel the book fails to deliver. The characters, whilst interesting, are never fleshed out enough to make them truly likeable. The plot has several twists but it seemed almost mechanical to me.
The lead characters Bess and Kaldak are in many places scarcely likeable. Bess is grieving after the death of her sister but she is frequently illogical and abrasive. She basically decided that she didn't like how the CIA were protecting her and that she 'knew best'. Doubtlessly we were supposed to think that she was feisty and determined, but she came across as difficult and tiresome. The result of her interferance was that she constantly put Kaldak and other agents in danger for her own motives. Bess became insufferably bossy, telling everyone else how to do their jobs although she had no military / law enforcement background. Her constant protestations of 'I'm not hungry' and 'I don't want to eat/sleep etc' had me wanting to toss the book aside to grab the biscuit tin.
Kaldak was violent towards Bess at their first couple of meetings, hitting her in the face and knocking her unconscious on several occasions, which I found disturbing. Throughout the whole novel there was barely a proper physical description of Kaldak beyond the word 'intimidating'. Kaldak, in fact, describes himself as ugly - I would have preferred it if he was described in more detail so I could have seen him clearly in my mind.
A plus point was the dialogue which was fast and furious and very realistic, but the lack of description around the dialogue meant that we never find out much depth or background to the story and characters - it all seemed very one-dimensional, like a Hollywood blockbuster that has a time limit of an hour and a half.
Overall I don't think that And Then You Die is a great action novel, and the romance certainly falls short of what I was looking for. At one point Kaldak tells Bess that "If I'd needed to do it, I would have killed you, your sister, and your guide." To me, these were not the words of the protective, alpha male type that I like to read about, they had crossed the borderline into something less noble and vaguely alarming. Kaldak had certainly been damaged by his tragic past, more damaged than I felt comfortable with. Unfortunately the best part in the whole book was probably the last couple of pages, which seemed heartfelt and were a nice conclusion to it all.
JoAnne

Dying to Please
Dying to Please
by Linda Howard
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: CDN$ 10.79
99 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

3.0 out of 5 stars Fun, but not a classic, June 25 2004
I picked up this book a few days after finishing Cry No More, a Linda Howard novel that is very emotionally draining. I wanted to reread Dying to Please because I remembered that it was equally passionate but much more light-hearted. Although the issues it deals with are serious it is definitely not as harrowing as the aforementioned Cry No More. For me, this is a good thing, I like romance best when it is relatively angst-free and the characters aren't tortured beings searching for salvation. However Dying to Please is not Linda Howard's best.
The characters in this book, Sarah Stevens and Thompson Cahill, are likeable and fun but not classics. Cahill is sexy, ripped and outrageous, but for me he lacks the x-factor that made Dane Hollister (Dream Man) and Ben Lewis (Heart of Fire) stand out. His messy divorce and cheating ex-wife have damaged him and made him question his trust in women (a little too much sometimes, if you ask me) and this makes him wary of a relationship with Sarah at first. Suddenly though he changes his mind and the relationship rushes into full swing - it all happens very fast after a fairly small amount of interaction in the first quarter of the book. Sarah is clever and driven and keeps Cahill on his toes and finds herself slightly bemused by how fast their relationship moves, rather as I was.
Overall this was a good book, the chemistry between the couple was white hot. I thought that for a first love scene that the wrestling / handcuffs / drainpipe thing (not as weird as it sounds when you read the book!) was probably a bit too kinky, but it was also passionate and sexy. Linda Howard even managed to pull off a 'betrayal' without making me want to poke things in my eyes (I've read far too many romances where the betrayals committed by the hero against the heroine are unforgivable and incredibly cruel. At least this one is explainable due to Cahill's flighty ex-wife, and he pays emotionally for what he does).
If you're reading this from a crime-reader perspective then you'll probably be disappointed as the murders and sleuthing are secondary to the romance by a long way and the reason behind the murders is fairly outlandish. I would recommend this to Linda Howard fans, but to those new to her I would recommend starting elsewhere as this one isn't her best, try Dream Man / Heart of Fire first.
JoAnne

The Memory Game
The Memory Game
by Nicci French
Edition: Paperback
3 used & new from CDN$ 13.62

3.0 out of 5 stars Compelling, but characters are tiresome, June 25 2004
This review is from: The Memory Game (Paperback)
The Memory Game is a startling and well written novel. The characters are described with great clarity and the plot is clever with several deft twists. The quality of writing is impeccable, and everything is explained in a lyrical style. Why, then, only Three Stars?
The characters may be original and three-dimensional but most are unlikeable. The very British word 'pompous' describes them all perfectly. I almost stopped reading halfway through because the characters were all so self-absorbed and stereotypically 'upper class' in an irritatingly bohemian way. The past and present actions of all the characters were made up of a mass of illicit affairs, broken marriages, secrets, lies and arguments. The one act that really underlined to me why I disliked them all so much was when Jane's brother decided to make a documentary about them all and despite initial protests they all took part in it - it was such a cold blooded thing to do and seemed so pretentious. The complex web of infidelities also wore thin, it got to a stage where there were so many affairs between different members of the same family that it was difficult to recall them all.
To some extent, I came to sympathize with the narrator, Jane, although I thought she was insufferable a lot of the time. The book was written in a first person narrative but I could not relate to nearly all of her life experiences. Even her love interest, Casper, managed to irritate me. Why the hell would any sane person want to name their daughter Fanny, which refers to a woman's genitals in Britain?
Overall The Memory Game is a competent thriller with a shocking, albeit thoroughly depressing, ending. The one thing that really shone out at me was Nicci French's writing style which was faultless. Often a new paragraph would start with a surprising opening line that would draw me in and keep me hooked.
JoAnne

Cry No More
Cry No More
by Linda Howard
Edition: Hardcover
54 used & new from CDN$ 0.27

4.0 out of 5 stars Emotionally Draining Novel with Great Characters, June 11 2004
This review is from: Cry No More (Hardcover)
Cry No More is an emotionally draining book with a dark side. However, it is also an exciting romance that is heart meltingly tender and passionate. The overall style of the book reminded me a lot of All the Queen's Men, an earlier Linda Howard novel, in which the characters (and indeed the reader!) were equally tormented. In Cry No More we have Milla Edge, a woman whose baby was brutally snatched from her 10 years before, and James Diaz, an assassin who prefers an isolated - but often lonely - existence.
Milla and Diaz were fantastic characters, multi-layered and believable in every way. Their interactions clearly showed how the love and companionship developed between them. By the end of the book it was clear that they were perfect for each other - no one else would have been quite right for either of them. The plot was good and the dialogue was realistic and fresh. I thought the 'betrayal' Diaz carried out against Milla was quite out of character for him as he was so conscious of letting her be independent and respectful of her as a person. However, in the end it seemed to strengthen their relationship and Diaz realised just how brave and kind Milla was, which I think he needed to know to completely fall in love with her.
I do have a few problems with the book that make it a four star rather than a five star review. Firstly, although Diaz was a tough, bad man (always good fodder for a romance novel) he was sometimes too brutal. Never with Milla, but in his dealings with 'bad guys' and murderers. I understand that Linda Howard had to show how committed he was to his cause, and arguably a lot of the violence was justified, but I hated a scene where he works on a villain with a knife. I just found everything about it squeamish and horrible. I want to read about a 'bad' man, but not to that extent. Secondly, sometimes the book detoured away from the romance a little too much. I must admit that I read romantic suspense novels purely for the romance, as I prefer to find thrills and chills and who dunnit's within the covers of a crime novel, so I would have liked Milla and Diaz to be together a little bit more.
Overall Cry No More was a satisfying romance novel and I cried buckets of tears during the final couple of chapters. The ending packs a solid emotional punch that leaves you reeling. The only drawback of such an emotional novel (like with All the Queen's Men) is that they are sometimes painful to read. When I think about rereading them I get a tense feeling in my stomach that normally means I end up reading Dream Man or Heart of Fire instead because as well as being great novels with fabulous characters they are more light-hearted and don't leave you in floods of tears.
JoAnne

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