Aug 28, 2011

Book Review: Spycatcher by Matthew Dunn - Sunday Salon

Spycatcher Spycatcher: A Novel a Novel by…
Welcome to the Sunday Salon.

"So how could I possibly know about you, when your existence is kept secret from most of MI6, let alone other agencies?

Will smiled and looked away for a moment. When he was no longer smiling, he returned his gaze to the man before him. He decided that, despite his injuries, he could kill this man and everyone outside this room in less than thirty seconds. (ch. 3)

Title: Spycatcher
Author: Matthew Dunn  
Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: William Morrow; (August 9, 2011)
Source: Publisher for review
Objective rating: 4.75/5

Comments: The usual superlatives go to a thriller that is uncommonly good: action packed, gut wrenching, suspenseful, and at the same time quite realistic. I was sympathetic to the main character, a British agent who works in secret and who is unknown, even to  British intelligence service MI6, of which he a part. The story of his background and how and why he became such a fighter for justice and as a result, such a trained killer, is second only to the plot of trying to find and destroy the mastermind of terrorism around the world, an Iranian known only by the name of Megiddo.

I was all the way to the near end of the book. The only fault I found is that the wrap up of the hunt for Megiddo and the final confrontation took too long to come. The suspense was dragged out too long at the very end, I felt, and I was impatient for the ending. I anticipated some of the surprises that were revealed at the end, but that in no way detracted from my enjoyment of the book.

Product Description
Matthew Dunn spent years as an MI6 field operative working on some of the West’s most clandestine missions. He recruited and ran agents, planned and participated in special operations, and operated deep undercover throughout the world. In Spycatcher he draws on this fascinating experience to breathe urgent, dynamic new life into the contemporary spy novel.

Featuring deft and daring superspy Will Cochrane, Dunn paints a nerve-jangling, bracingly authentic picture of today’s secret world. It is a place where trust is precious and betrayal is cheap—and where violent death is the reward for being outplayed by your enemy.

Will Cochrane, the CIA’s and MI6’s most prized asset and deadliest weapon, has known little outside this world since childhood. And he’s never been outplayed. So far…

Will’s controllers task him with finding and neutralizing one of today’s most wanted terrorist masterminds, a man believed to be an Iranian Revolutionary Guard general. Intending to use someone from the man’s past to flush him out of the shadows, Will believes he has the perfect plan, but he soon discovers, in a frantic chase from the capitals of Europe to New York City, that his adversary has more surprises in store and is much more treacherous than anyone he has ever faced—and survived—up to now.

About the author: Matthew Dunn was an MI6 field officer. He lives in England. Visit his page at Matther Dunn

Aug 26, 2011

First Daughter by Eric Van Lustbader - Opening Sentences

Opening sentences can help to indicate a book's tenor and tone and can help readers determine if it's a book they would like to read.

"Alli Carson sat in the back of the armor-plated limo, sandwiched between Sam and Nina, her Secret Service detail. She was just three days shy of her twentieth birthday, but with her father being inaugurated President of the United States today, she'd scarcely had time to think about what she might get in the way of presents, let alone contemplate what she was going to do to celebrate.
For the moment, it was all about her father."

Title: First Daughter by Eric Van Lustbader
Forge Books (2009), Edition: Reprint, Mass Market Paperback, 464 pages

Book description from Goodreads:

Jack McClure has had a troubled life. His dyslexia always made him feel like an outsider. He escaped from an abusive home as a teenager and lived by his wits on the streets of Washington D.C. It wasn’t until he realized that dyslexia gave him the ability to see the world in unique ways that he found success, using this newfound strength to become a top ATF agent. When a terrible accident takes the life of his only daughter, Emma, and his marriage falls apart, Jack blames himself, numbing the pain by submerging himself in work.

Then he receives a call from his old friend Edward Carson. Carson is just weeks from taking the reins as President of the United States when his daughter, Alli, is kidnapped. Because Emma McClure was once Alli’s best friend, Carson turns to Jack, the one man he can trust to go to any lengths to find his daughter and bring her home safely. The search for Alli leads Jack on a road toward reconciliation . . . and into the path of a dangerous and calculating man.... McClure uses his unique abilities to journey into the twisted mind of a stone cold genius who is constantly one step ahead of him. Jack will soon discover that this man has affected his life and his country in more ways than he could ever imagine.

Eric Van Lustbader is also author of several Jason Bourne novels. He lives in New York.

Aug 25, 2011

Books of Love and Loss

I am now reading Elizabeth Berg's novel, The Year of Pleasures, about 55-year-old Betta Nolan, a widow who has moved from Boston to the Midwest after the death of her husband, bought an old Victorian house in a small town in Illinois, and started life over, with the memories of her husband still vivid.
The Year of Pleasures

"As for me, I liked things that couldn't be explained. I liked outrageous statements of faith; defiant acts of belief that flew in the face of science and practicality. Dia de los Muertos, for example; I loved the idea of bringing food and cigarettes to a grave site. The Japanese ritual of sending out offerings on burning paper boats....In a curious mix of sacredness and absurdity, these things suggested...that the dead do not entirely leave us. " (p. 66)
I have most of the book left to read and have not yet reached the reason for the title, A Year of Pleasures, but I'm looking forward to seeing how she moves on with life.

I've also just read The Summer We Came to Life by Deborah Cloyed, a new book about four women in their 30s, friends from childhood, who lose one of their group to cancer. Samantha, Isabel, Kendra and Mina have been taking vacations with Isabel's and Kendra's parents every year since childhood and have become a close knit group.Mina keeps three journals while she is ill, writing notes to her three friends to leave them after she is gone. The journals keep them going. Samantha in particular is anxious and vigilant, hoping to see signs that Mina is still with them even after her death.

The Summer We Came to Life

"UVA has a whole division devoted to scientific study of the paranormal - and after-death communication. It gives me goosebumps, it gives me hope." (p. 63)
Samantha has an experience in which she communicates or dreams she communicates with the dead Mina, who sends her back to reality and life to help her family and friends. I liked the book a lot but thought that it's more of a YA novel, and that the women would be better portrayed as in their early 20s.

In The Art of Saying Goodbye by Ellyn Bache, close friends of a dying woman cope in different ways with her illness that they know has no cure. The dying woman makes it easier for her friends with her cheerful demeanor. The author based her novel on a true story of a neighbor of hers.

The Art of Saying Goodbye

"Our friend handled her decline with a grace that amazed and humbled us, and forced us to appreciate the preciousness of our own healthy lives. In the stark glare of our shared mortality, we shed hurtful old habits and fears. We acknowledged what was really important to us." (from Ellyn Bache's note to readers)

The Long Goodbye

The Long Goodbye: A memoir by Meghan O'Rourke chronicles the days leading up to and the months after the death of  her mother after a long illness. The book discusses our society's general lack of mourning rituals that go beyond the period of death and burial. People go about their lives after the death of a loved one, but very often they may continue to mourn, very often alone and in silence. Heartbreaking and honest.
There are many other books about loss and coping with loss and death. Which ones have you read and which would you recommend?

Aug 24, 2011

Water's Edge by Robert Whitlow - Opening Sentences

Opening sentences can help to indicate a book's tenor and tone and can help readers determine if it's a book they would like to read.

Here are the opening sentences for
Water's Edge, a novel by Robert Whitlow, published by Thomas Nelson, July 19, 2011.

"Chiseled deep into the rock face of Stone Mountain, Georgia, is a football field-sized carving of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson. Young Atlanta lawyer Tom Crane was on the brink of a promotion as important to him as Lee's selection as commander of the Army of Northern Virginia - litigation partner at Barnes, McGraw, and Crowther.
The phone on Tom's desk buzzed. He picked it up. 'Arthur Pelham from Pelham Financial is on line 802,' the receptionist said. 'Do you want the call?'"

Product description: "Ambitious young attorney Tom Crane is about to become a partner in a high-profile Atlanta law firm. But first he must clear one final matter from his docket-the closing of his deceased father's law practice in his hometown of Bethel, Georgia. Killed in a mysterious boating accident, John Crane didn't appear to leave his son anything except the hassle of wrapping up loose ends.

But instead of celebrating his promotion, Tom finds himself packing up his office, having suddenly been "consolidated." To add insult to injury, that same night his girlfriend breaks up with him . . . by letter.

Returning to Bethel with no sense of his future and no faith to fall back on, Tom just wants to settle his father's final affairs and get back to Atlanta. But then he runs into an unexpected roadblock-two million dollars of unclaimed money stashed in a secret bank account. And evidence that his father's death may not have been accidental. Worse still, a trail of data suggests his father played a role in an international fraud operation.

Tom follows the money into a tangled web of lies, theft, and betrayal. Along the way, he meets a woman who is as beguiling as she is beautiful. And her interest in the outcome of the case is just as high as his. She challenges Tom's assumptions . . . and his faith. Now he has to decide who he can trust-and how far a father's love can reach."

For more on the author, check out Robert Whitlow.

Aug 23, 2011

Teaser: Graveminder: A Novel by Melissa Marr

Teaser Tuesdays asks you to choose sentences at random from your current read. Identify the author and title for readers.

"If anything happens to me, you mind her grave and mine the first three months. Just like when you go with me, you take care of the graves." Maylene looked fierce. Her grip on Rebekkah's hand tightened. "Promise me." (ch. 2. from an advanced reader's edition; final copy may differ.)

Title: Graveminder: A Novel by Melissa Marr
Publisher: William Morrow, May 17, 2011. Hardcover, 336 pages

Product description:
The New York Times bestselling author of the Wicked Lovely series delivers her first novel for adults, a story about the living, the dead, and a curse that binds them.

Rebekkah Barrow never forgot the tender attention her grandmother, Maylene, bestowed upon the dead of Claysville, the town where Bek spent her adolescence. There wasn't a funeral that Maylene didn't attend, and at each Rebekkah watched as Maylene performed the same unusual ritual: three sips from a small silver flask followed by the words "Sleep well, and stay where I put you."

Now Maylene is dead and Bek must go back to the place--and the man--she left a decade ago. But what she soon discovers is that Maylene was murdered and that there was good reason for her odd traditions. It turns out that in placid Claysville, the worlds of the living and the dead are dangerously connected. Beneath the town lies a shadowy, lawless land ruled by the enigmatic Charles, aka Mr. D--a place from which the dead will return if their graves are not properly minded. Only the Graveminder, a Barrow woman, and the current Undertaker, Byron, can set things to right once the dead begin to walk. (Amazon)

Author: Melissa Marr lives in Washington, D.C. area with her husband and children. This is her first adult novel. Her website is

Aug 21, 2011

Book Review: A Bitter Truth by Charles Todd

I smiled.  "You would have done the same for me, I think, if you had found me on your doorstep with nowhere to go."
She nearly laughed at that. "My doorstep?" she began, then broke off, shaking her head. "I live in the country," she added after a moment. "We seldom find strangers at our door." (ch. 1)

Title: A Bitter Truth: A Bess Crawford Mystery by Charles Todd
Publisher: William Morrow, August 30, 2011. Hardcover: 352 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Objective rating: 4.5/5

About: The time is 1917 and there is a war on. British nurse Bess Crawford has just returned home to England on Christmas leave from nursing wounded soldiers in France. When she arrives at her boarding house, she finds a well dressed but distraught woman huddling in the rain on the front steps and she invites her in, thus unwittingly beginning her involvement with the troubled Ellis family and their history of death and tragedy. Bess is caught up trying to help the distraught woman, Lydia, cope with the rest of her family and especially with her husband Roger. She travels with Lydia to the Ellis family home and has to play amateur sleuth after several murders occur on or near the Ellis family property.

Comments: A gripping historical mystery that is atmospheric and tense. The descriptions of the stark and dreary Shropshire countryside in the middle of winter sets the scene for the story of a family's disfunction and tragedy. The novel also does a good job of capturing the seriousness of a country in the midst of a terrible war, WWI. I was caught up in the plot and feeling the same dread and anxiety as the main characters. The protagonist, Bess, is portrayed as a feminine but strong individual, especially for a woman in her day, and she also makes a convincing amateur sleuth. I enjoy mysteries in general as well as historical mysteries and found this a very interesting read.

Sunday Salon: New Books to Read

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I am going to miss the balmy days of summer that we have been having after that very hot spell a few weeks ago. It's cooler and sunny, with an occasional rain storm that doesn't last long and is great for the garden. We've also been swimming daily at a big outdoor pool, and it helps especially when our bath and shower are out of bounds till the new bath surround sets.

I've received some great books from Berkley Publishing:
The Tale of Castle Cottage by Susan Wittig Albert
Button Holed: A Button Box Mystery by Kylie Logan
The Perfect Suspect: A Catherine McLeod Mystery by Margaret Coel
The Gilded Shroud by Elizabeth Bailey
Naughty in Nice: A Royal Spynes Mystery by Rhys Bowen

from William Morrow/HarperCollins:
Sanctus (ARC) by Simon Toyne
The Most Dangerous Thing by Laura Lippman
A Bitter Thing by Charles Todd

and from other publishers:
A Rather Remarkable Homecoming: A Novel by C.A. Belmond (New American Library)
Lot's Return to Sodom: A Liv Bergen Mystery by Sandra Brannan (Greenleaf Book Group Press)
The Summer We Came To Life (ARC) by Deborah Cloyed (Mira)

That's a good batch of end-of-summer reads! I'm thrilled! I've just finished A Bitter Thing by Charles Todd and plan to post a review tomorrow. Which book will be next? Check back and see.

What books have you been reading?

Sunday Salon: Always Currently Reading

  Currently reading:  Missing and Endangered   by J.A. Jance, February 16, 2021, William Morrow Genre: thriller, suspense Source: library Ab...