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Reviews Written by
Thomas Duff "Duffbert" (Portland, OR United States)
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Obsession in Death
Obsession in Death
Offered by Penguin Group USA
Price: CDN$ 15.99

5.0 out of 5 stars I always look forward to new In Death novels..., Feb. 23 2015
Another six months have passed, so it's time for a new In Death novel by J. D. Robb (aka Nora Roberts). This time it's Obsession in Death, and Eve Dallas has to match wits with someone who is obsessed (hence the title) with her, and wants to be her friend who can dispense justice when and where Eve cannot. As you can imagine, that's really not who Eve is and how she works.

As with most of the In Death novels, Obsession starts out with Dallas and Peabody catching a homicide shortly before New Years Eve. This wouldn't be an unusual occurrence except for the fact that it was a high-powered defense attorney (that Dallas had gone head-to-head with in the past), and the killer left Eve a personal message on the wall at the scene. The killer tells Eve that they want to be her personal friend, and that they will make sure that those who disrespect her will pay for it in blood.

Dallas has to walk a fine line, because the mind of the killer can turn in an instant. If Eve won't be their friend, then perhaps she needs to be taught a lesson in loyalty and respect. Unfortunately, that makes all of Eve's close friends potential targets, and the possibility that they could be in harm's way is making her desperate to catch the killer in any way possible.

For some reason I can't quite determine, Obsession started out a bit slow for me. I was wondering if this was going to be a rare case of me not completely enjoying an In Death novel. But once the mind games started between Eve and the killer, I was... obsessed (sorry, had to go there). As usual, I hated when it was over... but I know that six months from now, I'll get my next fix. :)

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed

Shark Skin Suite: A Novel (Serge Storms series)
Shark Skin Suite: A Novel (Serge Storms series)
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers CA
Price: CDN$ 17.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Anything and everything can happen in Serge Storms' world..., Feb. 23 2015
After all the Tim Dorsey books I've read, I still have yet to come up with a good way to summarize or explain a Serge Storms novel. I love them, but I can't explain them... at least in any way that would make sense to someone who hasn't read one. Shark Skin Suite follows that same pattern. I couldn't put it down. I laughed, I shook my head, I wondered what Dorsey must be like in real life. :)

As with all Storms novels, this takes place in Southern Florida, where the weird and bizarre is just normal life. Serge's latest obsession is to become a lawyer, and the lack of a law degree makes no difference. He figures he can work most effectively as a "fixer", doing the dirty work that skirts the boundaries of the law. No, actually... his form of "fixing" is WAY on the other side of the law. He and his sidekick Coleman (perpetually drunk and/or stoned) get involved in a class action mortgage fraud suit, digging out evidence (or making it up if needed), and tracking down all the movie trivia related to legal movies filmed in Florida. And as per normal with Storms, a few bad guys end up dying in very unique and creative ways.

Dorsey takes the normal lunacy that is stereotypical Florida and amps it up by a factor of 10. As his lead character is throwing out trivia left and right (which is part of the appeal of these novels), he manages to drop in real-life "can you believe" incidents that makes you wonder just how far-fetched this might be in reality. I love the fact that you can *never* tell where the story is going next, because anything (really!) is possible. For example, what was the last book you read where a life-or-death showdown was interrupted when it started to rain fish? Waterspouts and Key West... it works.

This was a fun read with a lot of entertainment per page. I can't wait for the next one.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed

Mrs. Kaplan and the Matzoh Ball of Death
Mrs. Kaplan and the Matzoh Ball of Death
Offered by Random House Canada, Incorp.
Price: CDN$ 2.99

5.0 out of 5 stars A cute cozy mystery..., Feb. 8 2015
Mrs. Kaplan and the Matzoh Ball of Death by Mark Reutlinger was one of the cuter reads I've had of late. It's a cozy mystery, and takes place in a Jewish retirement home. The Passover seder is underway, and Rose Kaplan has made her famous matzoh ball soup. But things go sour when Bertha Finkelstein, one of the residents, is discovered dead, her face submerged in her bowl of soup. It could be just another death attributed to old age, until they find that she actually choked on an earring that was in one of the balls. To make it even more complicated, the earring was reported stolen from another resident. The death now takes on the appearance of a burglary/murder, and since Rose was the last one to touch the matzoh balls...

This has the feel of an old Jewish women version of Sherlock Holmes and Watson, as Rose and her friend Ida Berkowitz start investigating the murder on their own to find the real culprit. The residents of the home are quite the characters, and that gives Reutlinger a lot of room to play up the humor. The Jewish-ness of the characters come into play heavily, and he has that down perfect. In fact, you can't help but learn a lot of new Yiddish as you read along.

This is a quick read, and very enjoyable. It's worth the time...

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Netgally
Payment: Free

THE HOARD
THE HOARD
Price: CDN$ 5.45

5.0 out of 5 stars For those who like their thrillers on the dark side..., Feb. 8 2015
This review is from: THE HOARD (Kindle Edition)
The Hoard by Neil Grimmett is one of those stories that doesn't wander down the normal paths you expect. It's dark, mysterious, and at times a little convoluted, but it delivers a very good story with vivid scenes and characters.

The story takes place on a British military/research base where explosives testing occurs. Thirty years before the current action, a nitration explosion occurred that killed all the people responsible for the explosive preparation. Only one person survived the explosion, and that's because he was the one that was sent to get help when things started to go bad. Unfortunately for him, there was no one else to back up that story, and it was widely thought that he had run away to avoid death. Now, a son of one of the crew is trying to dig into the past to find out exactly what happened that day. Those who were in charge then do not want him poking around, as it threatens a number of deadly secrets, both past and present. With all the deaths have have occurred already, one more death means nothing to those who stand to benefit from what is about to happen.

Grimmett does an excellent job with the characters in Hoard. They range the gamut from normal to deranged, and he does a good job concealing who is on what side of the story. I did find that I was a little confused at time as to what was going on, as many actions are shrouded in mystery and motivations. But those instances resolved quickly, and the story kept churning to its conclusion. I would definitely recommend this who anyone who likes their thrillers on the dark side.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Author
Payment: Free

Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction: A Novel
Love in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction: A Novel
Offered by Macmillan CA
Price: CDN$ 13.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Dark and dystopian..., Feb. 8 2015
This was a different novel, to say the least. It's set in near-future (late 21st century) LA, and the world is made up of humans and androids. Even humans can have enhanced parts for whatever reason they might have. Eliot Lazar is obsessed with androids, specifically one named Iris Matsuo. He's fallen in love, but this is not something that's readily accepted by society. Unfortunately for Lazar, Matsuo has been kidnapped and parted out by an android killer. His only chance to regain the love of his life is to find the various parts of her (wherever they are and regardless of who happens to be using them) and try to rebuild her. Getting everything to function together is the easy part, though. He has no idea whether she will still be the "person" he loved when everything is turned back on.

This is a very dark, very dystopian novel, but it has humor and some bizarre scenes that wouldn't let me put it down.

TERMINUS
TERMINUS
Price: CDN$ 3.52

5.0 out of 5 stars Hard to put down..., Feb. 5 2015
This review is from: TERMINUS (Kindle Edition)
I received Terminus by Joshua Graham as part of a bundle of ebooks, so I wasn't specifically looking for this title. However, I was hunting for a recreational read on my Kindle the other day, and this looked promising. It turned out to be excellent. It's an interesting story set in the supernatural world of angels and demons, and it twists around a number of times that kept me reading to see would happen next.

The main character is Nikolai, an angel assigned the lowly task of reaper. He escorts people to Terminus, where they take their final trip to the afterlife. He's pretty much bored of the job after a number of centuries, and he decides to leave the job for something, actually *anything*, different. He's approached by another being who has had her eye on Nikolai, and she tags him for a special assignment. He has to prevent (as in kill) three people from taking part in a revival meeting that's due to happen in two weeks. That's a little out of his normal skill set, but it's better than being a reaper. But for whatever reason, he can't bring himself to carry out their deaths. In fact, he actually falls in love with one of the targets... so much so that he's willing to "fall" in order to become fully human and live out a life with her. That doesn't set well with his new boss, and she's got her own motivations to make him follow through on his job, and to possibly make sure he never has a chance to fail again.

The story has a strong good vs. evil, angel vs. demon theme running throughout, but it's not preachy or soapbox-y in the way it plays out. All the supernatural beings have very human-like attitudes mixed with special powers (as you would expect). I like how Graham sets the scenes and plays with their abilities to go between natural and supernatural states of existence. It makes for some great plot twists as the story plays out, and I became quite attached to a number of the characters. They have real emotions and conflicts, and Graham doesn't let any of them off easy.

Based on how much I enjoyed Terminus, I'm going to check out the rest of his works. If they're anything like this one, they'll be great.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: StoryBundle
Payment: Purchased

Demon Seed
Demon Seed
Offered by Penguin Group USA
Price: CDN$ 8.99

5.0 out of 5 stars I personally enjoyed the story..., Feb. 4 2015
This review is from: Demon Seed (Kindle Edition)
I thought I had read all of Dean Koontz's earlier works, but apparently I missed Demon Seed. Originally written back in 1973, it is told from the perspective of a computer artificial intelligence (AI) that has become sentient. It's definitely different than his later work, but I really enjoyed it. It may be because I like these types of stories.

Adam Two is a computer that's part of the Prometheus Project at a university where Susan Harris's ex-husband works. Harris is now divorced and lives the life of a recluse in a highly automated mansion controlled by an in-house security system. Adam Two, or Proteus as he prefers to be known, has infiltrated that security system through a telephone landline into the house, and he's fallen in love with Susan. He's decided that in order to fully experience life, he needs to be downloaded into a human form, one that's been genetically altered to remove all physical flaws and be a super-human. Unfortunately, he's decided that Susan will provide the egg and be the mother of a new super-race of beings. As you might guess, she's not overly thrilled with that idea, but she has no way to escape her mansion, which has now become her jail. He's also not willing to take "no" for an answer.

The style of Demon Seed is unusual, in that it is told from the first-person perspective of the computer, looking back at what went wrong with his relationship with Harris. Proteus is incredibly intelligent, but has very little control of his emotions, that whipsaw back and forth between love and hatred, remorse and rage. I personally enjoyed watching the computer try to deal with the emotional conflicts that couldn't be explained or controlled via pure knowledge.

This new edition was a rewrite in 1997 based on Koontz wanting to turn the book into more of a novel than just a clever idea. Again, this is *not* the Dean Koontz that you're used to over the last decade, and if you approach it with the wrong expectations, you might not care for it that much. In my case, I liked the subject and premise, and I had no problem with expectations. I read it for what it was, and it was an enjoyable read for me.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed

Dead Money
Dead Money
Price: CDN$ 6.99

5.0 out of 5 stars This was an enjoyable read, especially if you're into poker..., Jan. 31 2015
This review is from: Dead Money (Kindle Edition)
I started reading Dead Money by Dean Wesley Smith as I was in between some other recreational reading material, and I'm happy with the choice I made. This book kept me turning the pages (metaphorically speaking since it was an ebook) to find out what exactly was the driving force behind the killings and the ultimate showdown. Putting it all within the context of high-stakes professional poker was a unique angle that made for an interesting read.

The story starts out with a guy flying back from a high-stakes poker game. In the middle of nowhere, his plane stalls out, and he ends up flying it into a canyon wall. It also reveals that the accident was actually an act of sabotage, and the person who did it has a much bigger agenda than just one death. This death of Doc Hill's father starts Doc on a search to find the killer, regardless of the fact that he and his dad had been estranged for years. Some digging reveals that a number of poker legends are being murdered, and they all seem to be connected by the fact that each one had a key that means something to someone. By this time, Doc is determined to see this through, and is willing to risk everything (including his life) in a winner-take-all game of poker.

The uniqueness of Dead Money is how everything is set in the world of professional poker. Hill is an outstanding player, his dad was a legend, and most of the people he interacts with have some tie into that world. The poker jargon comes fast and furious, and Smith makes it work well. I can see if you're into poker, this would make a great mystery read. Even if you're not, it's a fast-paced novel that hides things well until the very end...

Disclosure:
Obtained From: StoryBundle
Payment: Purchase

Brick Flicks: 60 Iconic Movie Scenes and Posters to Make From LEGO
Brick Flicks: 60 Iconic Movie Scenes and Posters to Make From LEGO
by Warren Elsmore
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.87
26 used & new from CDN$ 9.68

5.0 out of 5 stars An incredible display of creativity and photography..., Jan. 25 2015
If you like to see creativity on display with LEGO, Brick Flicks: 60 Iconic Movie Scenes and Posters to Make From LEGO by Warren Elsmore is a treat. I've been friends with Warren and his wife Teresa for years, and I've enjoyed watching them take their love of LEGO from a hobby to a business. This book is one of the latest outcomes of that work, and it's a fascinating look at what can be done with LEGO.

Brick Flicks takes 60 movie scenes and recreates them using regular LEGO pieces. It covers a range of genres, such as sci-fi and horror, drama and classics, action and adventure, and comedy and musicals. Each scene has a write-up about the movie and the LEGO recreation, along with (in many cases) the still image that the scene was created from. Interspersed throughout the book are instructions on how to build some of the smaller props, such as Elliot's back from ET and the neuralizer from Men In Black. To be clear, this does not come with instructions on how to build each scene. That is something you'd have to figure out on your own if you're so inclined.

Two things stand out in Brick Flicks. The first is the extreme creativity in what you can do with LEGO. Warren and Teresa can build just about anything, and they have a full knowledge of all the LEGO pieces and how they can be purposed. The other thing is the photography. In short, it is stunning. The lighting, the angles, the shadows... it's all incredible.

I loved Brick Flicks, and I continue to be amazed at what can be done with those little pieces of plastic.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed

Saint Odd: An Odd Thomas Novel
Saint Odd: An Odd Thomas Novel
Offered by Random House Canada, Incorp.
Price: CDN$ 14.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Saying good-bye to an old friend..., Jan. 24 2015
I have enjoyed the Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz over the years. It's retained all of its charm and quirkiness without any of the misses that have happened in some of Koontz's other books. Saint Odd is the last one of the series, and it lived up to my expectations. My only sadness is that there will never be any more installments.

In this, the eight episode, Odd comes back to Pico Mundo, knowing that it will be the end of his life. He's not sure how or why, just that it will be. The occult group that's been trying to kill him is hot on his trail, and Odd foresees another mass killing (on an enormous scale) if he can't stop it. Using his psychic gifts, he is drawn to the people who will be involved, but he has to figure out what it is that they will try to execute. It's a race to see what will happen first... the catastophe that he feels is coming, or his own death.

The thing that makes Dean Koontz so much fun to read is his ability to write great dialogue with wonderful characters. I think Odd Thomas is the best in that area. The self-deprecating humor, the ability to just go with his gifts even if he can't always understand and control them, and his ability to relate to others in his world. I knew the book would end in a way I wouldn't enjoy, but only because I figured Koontz would tie things up in a way that they couldn't be reopened. He does, but it's played out in just about the only way that would make sense.

Goodbye to an old friend... you were well loved.

Disclosure:
Obtained From: Library
Payment: Borrowed

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