Category Archives: Novels

Vegas Moon by John Locke – A Book Review

I purchased the Kindle edition of John Locke’s Donovan Creed novel, Vegas Moon for $0.99, motivated mostly by the price and the author’s tagline of “Every 7 seconds, 24 hours a day, a John Locke novel is downloaded somewhere in the world.” I simply couldn’t resist.

The novel begins with sleazy Las Vegas high roller Lucky Peters undergoing an anesthetic-free colonoscopy by a Jamaican proctologist.

Um, yeah.

After the procedure, Lucky retrieves disturbing cell phone messages from his mistress regarding hit man Connor Payne. Mr. Payne is paying her a visit and she is terrified. You see, she has in her possession a device that can activate a chip implanted in Payne’s brain. When activated, this chip will turn his brain into mush.

Again, um, yeah.

After the mistress meets her end at the hands of Payne (the code she types to activate the chip backfires), Lucky enlists the help of another hit man, G-Man Donavan Creed, to protect his wife. There were several brain-mushing devices made and Lucky’s wife has one of them. There is one problem – Connor Payne and Donovan Creed are the same person. Of course, Lucky doesn’t know this, much to Creed’s advantage as he is in search of the remaining devices. While in bodyguard mode, Creed is introduced to a dizzying array of characters: Lucky’s sexy young trophy wife, Gwen, her pet rooster, and Lucky’s depraved Vegas associates.

Oh, and Creed, in the midst of his bodyguard duties, also takes the time to assassinate a terrorist in a busy airport.

Sigh.

OK, the good. This is an easy, breezy (about 186 pages in the paperback edition) read that is good for a few laughs. There are some solid one-liners and it is a perfect time-waster. Now, the bad. The plot is so improbable and over-the-top that it should be categorized as a fantasy along the lines of the popular vampire and werewolf tomes currently saturating the market.

Reviewing this book leaves me perplexed. The story is trashy and unrealistic, but it does grab you. The characters are miscreants, the protagonist is a complex anti-hero, but boy are they funny! The truth is, I liked this novel. Mr. Locke is a good writer, but this plot is groan-worthy. I recommend Vegas Moon only to those who truly enjoy this type of “literature”. Two out of five stars.

Satan’s Sisters by Star Jones – A Book Review

I can admit to being skeptical. Star Jones may be a gifted legal analyst but fiction writer? I had even gone on record to family and friends insisting that I had no intention of reading, let alone purchasing, Ms. Jones’s foray into storytelling. But the more I heard about the book (mostly via Twitter), I decided to go against my better judgment and download the tome to my Kindle. Besides, the title – Satan’s Sisters – intrigued me.

Good thing I am a person who can also admit to being wrong.

I actually enjoyed this debut novel. Satan’s Sisters follows the lives and misadventures of the ladies of The Lunch Club, a television talk show hosted by five women from varying racial and age groups who offer opinions and insight into current events and social mores. Maxine Robinson, a no-nonsense, arch-competitive, trailblazing journalist who rules the show with intimidation, founded The Lunch Club. Seated beside her are respected journalist Whitney Harrington, young, hip supermodel Shelly Carter, lawyer Dara Cruz and comedian Molly Stein. Behind the public faces of these dynamic women are private secrets (drug addiction, and extramarital affairs) and heartaches (loneliness and grief over a child’s suicide) that threaten to crumble their carefully crafted images. And the one instigating the crumbling is former co-host Missy Adams, who has written a blistering tell-all that sends Maxine and others into a maddening dash to discover just what – and whose – secrets are being spilled.

While Satan’s Sisters may not be a literary masterpiece, Ms. Jones is a good storyteller. She obviously took heed to the oft-offered advise to write what you know as it is evident this novel is culled from her experience as a co-host of The View. While reading, I found myself trying to figure which real-life person each character was based upon (Maxine – Barbara Walters?? Whitney – Meredith Viera??). I was surprised, however, to find the novel is quite a sexy read. Not overly explicit but definitely spicy. If you are sensitive to such writing, you may find yourself skipping over a few passages. The only criticism I have is the plot is a little over the top and the ending is too tidy for some characters and non-existent for others. There is also a subplot involving an illicit affair between producers that, although enjoyable to read, doesn’t add to the novel.

In closing, Satan’s Sisters is a delightfully dishy novel that would be perfect take-along for the upcoming beach and vacation season. On a five star rating system, I give it 3 ½ stars.

The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch

Note: Click here for a review of Oliver Pӧtzsch’s sequel, The Dark Monk: A Hangman’s Daughter Tale.

This review of The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch with translation by Lee Chadeayne (Kindle eBook Dec 2010) is divided into two parts – the good and the bad.

First the good, Pötzsch did his homework. His attention to detail regarding 17th century German life transports the reader to that time with all its grittiness, smells, and rationales. Pötzsch tells the story of Jacob Kuisl of the real-life executioner Kuisls, a lineage of which Pötzsch is a direct descendent. Jacob, following in the footsteps of his fathers, is the executioner of Schongau, a small rural town in Bavaria. As Executioner, it is his duty to torture suspects until they confess their crimes and exact punishment up to and including death. This duty makes him such a feared man that the other townspeople say a prayer whenever they come in contact with him on the street. In private, however, these same townspeople visit his home in search of elixirs and balms to cure everything from rashes to sexual dysfunction. In addition to being Executioner, Jacob, a progressive thinker, is also an amateur chemist and developer of medicines.

Jacob’s life changes when Martha Stechlin – a midwife who delivered many of the town’s children including his own, is accused of being a witch and charged with the brutal murder of young boy. Jacob is certain of the midwife’s innocence and vows to exonerate her of the charges. Standing in his way is the town’s fever-pitch fear after two other children are found murdered and one goes missing. Add to that numerous sightings of an imposing figure the townspeople believe to be the Devil himself and you have a town gripped in paranoia. The court clerk, Johann Lechner, and the men of the town council play upon the townspeople’s fears by insisting the only way to rid the town of this misery is to burn the witch at the stake. Jacob enlists the help of Simon Fronweiser, the equally progressive thinking town physician’s son and his own daughter Magdalena to investigate the evidence and unravel the mystery to ensure justice prevails. In the end, however, it is Jacob who must fight the Devil to save not only the midwife but also himself.

Now, the bad, this novel is categorized as a mystery, but there really isn’t any mystery to it. I was able to identify the true villain within the first chapters. I kept waiting for the twist in the plot that would cast some doubt but it never came. The pace is slow at times, the ending is a little too tidy and there is the puzzle of the title as Magdalena, the daughter in The Hangman’s Daughter, is not a prominent character in the novel. She is Fronweiser’s love interest, but does not make much of a presence until the last few chapters. Until then, she breezes in and out like fly on a hot summer’s day. After reading the postscript, however, one gets the impression it was not Pötszch’s intention to write a great mystery but rather to provide an account of his family’s lineage albeit fictional.

Those who appreciate a good storyline will be satisfied with Pötzsch’s character interactions and the “howdunit” rather than the whodunit. This is a very entertaining historical novel. While I can’t highly recommend this novel because it doesn’t live up to its mystery label, I do recommend it because it is a good story with incredible social detail. Unfortunately, the storyline and social detail suffer due to the lack in plot development. I give The Hangman’s Daughter four stars out of a five star rating system.

I Still Dream About You by Fannie Flagg – A Review

Fannie Flagg, the author of one of my all-time favorite novels, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, delivers again with I Still Dream About You (Random House, November 2010).

The novel centers on Maggie Fortenberry, a former Miss Alabama and current agent at Red Mountain Realty.  Maggie, now 60, is still quite the beauty with impeccable manners and Southern charm oozing from every pore.  Yet, underneath, years of disappointment, guilt and self-doubt have simmered to the point that Maggie can only think of one resolution.  She devises a plan to finally rid herself of her demons but the dynamic cast of characters that surround her – ambitious Brenda Peoples, her dear friend and fellow agent at Red Mountain Realty who also hides beneath a façade; Ethel Clipp, the elderly office manager at Red Mountain Realty who longs for a return to the days of genteel manners and ruthless competitor Babs Bingington, owner of a rival real estate agency – create enough detours until Maggie realizes on her own and through memories of Hazel Whisenknott, the motherly founder of Red Mountain Realty, that life, although sometimes difficult, is wondrous.

To call Ms. Flagg a gifted storyteller feels like a gross understatement.  Her grasp of the tone and climate of both the Old and New South is masterful.  Her characters are multidimensional and believable rather than dim-witted caricatures.  Admittedly, this novel did not move me as much as Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café.  That novel was so touching it brought me to tears (it may have something to do with my own Southern roots).  No, I didn’t reach for a tissue while reading I Still Dream About You, but I did find myself chuckling and pulled into the intrigue of a murder mystery that unfolds in the background.  At a little over 300 pages, this is a light-hearted read that will leave you feeling warm and renewed in your own belief that life is well worth living.

Have You Ever Just…

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on my blog.   Life came at me like a 100 mph fastball and, to paraphrase the late Ronald Reagan, honey, I forgot to duck. Only those over the age of thirty will understand that reference, but what the hay.  No one under thirty or over thirty reads my stuff anyway.  Oh, but I’m not throwing a pity party.  This depressing fact has a silver lining –  I am free to write about subjects in any manner I want without the fear of alienating my “readers”.

A while back I posted about The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.  It was so freaking excellent, I read the rest of the trilogy – The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.  Only Hornest’s Nest disappointed and that was because I knew it was the end of the series.  I really, really hate it that Steig Larsson passed away.  He was a truly talented writer who had me Googling all things Sweden so I could understand the references in his novels.  I never before cared about Sweden. I had nothing against the country and its citizens, but, admittedly, its history and culture were not prominent in my thoughts. That is,  until I read the The Girl trilogy.  Now, I dream of visiting the country.  That’s the power of a good book.

Unfortunately, this trilogy will be getting the Hollywood treatment.  Praying Hollyweird will not screw it up and turn it into a lighthearted romantic comedy because “test audiences” responded negatively to the dark undercurrents of the original.  You know they’ll do it.  Hollyweird is a business.  Business is money.  Studios care about money.  They sometimes care about money so much they’ll replace quality with crap if they feel it will make a profit.  Note to Big Name Studio:  Please stay true to the trilogy.

Speaking of Hollyweird, LiLo (that’s Lindsay Lohan to you) did a brief stint in jail and rehab.  For her inconvenience, she has been rewarded with magazine cover shoots and six figures for interviews.  Never one to miss an opportunity no matter how pathetically attention-grabbing, Paris Hilton has been arrested for cocaine possession.  Wonder how much she’ll be offered when all is said is done.

Combat missions in Iraq have been suspended.  OK, that’s good, but 100K troops are still there assisting the government with taking the reigns.  This mission will be done when ALL American troops are home.  Period.  As long as there are troops there, there is the possibility of combat.  I don’t think the extremists care if the troops are just there in a supervisory role.  Keep praying for them and for those stationed in Afghanistan.

I’ve come to the end of the post.  I’ll try to post more if for no other reason than to blow off steam.  Have you ever just felt rhymes with witchy?  Well, that’s me tonight.  Enjoy your Labor Day weekend.  Have responsible fun.

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

OK, I admit it. I am coming on-board late to the first novel in the popular Stieg Larsson trilogy. But better late than never. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is one of the best thrillers I’ve read.

The novel, set in Sweden, centers around investigative reporter Mikael Blomkvist who is recently convicted of libel against corrupt financial magnate Hans-Erik Wennerstrom. While waiting to serve a three month prison sentence, he receives an offer from Henrik Vanger, the head of one of Sweden’s wealthiest families: investigate the disappearance of his niece under the guise of writing a Vanger biography in return for information on Wennerstrom and his double dealings. Unable to refuse the chance to redeem himself, Blomkvist accepts the offer and, with the help of tattooed computer genius Lisbeth Salander, uncovers dark and twisted truths that certain members of the Vanger clan would kill to keep from being revealed.

Mr. Larsson, who sadly passed away after delivering the manuscripts for The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and the two additional novels in the series – The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, was a gifted writer and storyteller – a combination that is sorely missed in modern literature. I am currently reading The Girl Who Played with Fire and will post a review once I am finished.

Haven’t read the book yet? See below to get your copy.