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review 2017-07-19 23:01
Recommended to those who enjoy action novels, spy novels, thrillers, and definitely to Baldacci fans.
Zero Day - David Baldacci

Thanks to NetGalley and to the publisher, MacMillan, for offering me an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.

David Baldacci is one of these authors whose names a reader (and even a non-reader) cannot escape. His books are widely distributed and he always seems to have a volume or two in the bestsellers list (no, not the Amazon one on a little-known genre, but the real thing). Despite all that (or perhaps because of it, as sometimes some names seem so familiar that I feel as if I had already read/watched or whatever it is they do, them before) I had never read any of his books. I saw that coinciding with a book launch, NetGalley was offering a copy of the first book in the John Puller series, and I decided perhaps it was time I read him. (I don’t have any specific opinions on best sellers as such and I don’t necessarily avoid them as a matter of principle but I do prefer to discover them early on, so I can make my own mind up).

The story, narrated in the third person, mostly follows John Puller, a military investigator that is all you probably would wish for in such a character. He has complex family relations (including a genius brother imprisoned for life for treason), he has seen his share of combat and has the medals and the scars to prove them, he is as skilled at fighting as he is at investigating, and although usually he works as part of a team, he can be a one-man-band when required (as is the case here).  There are some moments (like the first chapter) when we follow other characters, but this is for a very good reason, and we, by and far, experience the events from Puller’s perspective. Of course, that does not mean we know everything he knows, because the book hides information at times and that means there are some surprises (the number of surprises might depend on how close your attention and on how many books of the genre you have read).  The story is a combination of a spy story with highly skilled military investigator/hero in charge, and a more standard police procedural, with big secrets, conspiracies, and environmental issues thrown in for good measure. There are hints of a possible romance, but nobody is up to the task, and the time frame is very tight for such developments.

The investigation is very detailed, and we get to know quite a few of the characters in the small West Virginian town of Drake, a coal mining place that has become almost a ghost town due to the environmental and economic consequences of the exploitation and depletion of its resources by the sole industry in the area. Baldacci shares as much loving detail on the way the coal industry works (or at least some far-from-exemplary companies), as he does on everything else: the way the military works, the different roles of the investigating and security agencies and how they interact, the equipment used, the weaponry… This might be too much for some readers, but I am sure it will make others very happy. I did enjoy more the discussions of the environmental issues and the socio-economic effects of the coal-extracting industry than the details about the equipment, but there is plenty of action and intrigue to keep readers of mystery, and also spy novels, entertained.

My favourite character is Sam Cole, the female police officer in charge of the investigation. She has problems of her own and also a difficult relationship with her family, and seems the perfect match for Puller. I would probably have preferred the novel to be about her, but that is not the genre or the focus of it. In many ways, her character is the one that makes us see Puller as something more than a perfect fighting and investigating machine, all professional, and efficient. Yes, he has a cat, some sort of relationships with his father, and an interesting dynamic with his brother, but she is the only person who is not a relative he seems to relate to at a level beyond the casual, and it is not only because it is helpful to his mission.  

I agree with comments that the novel is formulaic in many ways (Puller survives several attempts on his life, has to subvert orders and get inventive to save the day and manages to pull an incredible feat at the end), although as I haven’t read other Baldacci’s books, I cannot comment on how much better or worse Puller is compared to some of his other heroes (Reacher is mentioned often in the reviews, sometimes agreeing he’s as good, others denying it). I imagine once you have such a following as an author, you know what your public wants and expects, so it is perhaps disingenuous to accuse him of writing to a formula. It is not a genre I read often, and I prefer something more distinctive, less heroic, and with a bit of humour.

The book is well paced, the writing supports the story rather than calling attention to itself (as I said, some readers might find there is too much detail, but I doubt his fans will, and after reading the acknowledgements, it is clear that he is well-informed and has had access to first-hand information not many would have), and if you like lone heroes with a conscience, John Puller makes a pretty decent one. Recommended to those who enjoy action novels, spy novels, thrillers, and definitely to Baldacci fans. I am not sure I’d say I’ve become one of them, but I might try another one of his stories at some point.

 

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review 2017-07-10 10:51
White Nights
White Nights - Ann Cleeves

New to my bucket list - go to Shetland

 

In a small community, a strange newcomer shows up at an art exhibit opening. While admiring the art he suddenly becomes very emotional and makes a big scene. He claims he doesn't remember who he is or where he is from. Later, he is found hanging from the rafters of an old fishing hut. It looked like a suicide but the death was determined to be murder. Everyone becomes suspect and Jimmy Perez begins questioning everyone. He himself feels guilty because he talked to the man when he became emotional at the gallery and tried to help him. He didn't go after the man when he took off though and he felt responsible for his death. With the help of Taylor from Inverness, Jimmy is determined to figure out what happened to this man no one knows. 

 

I loved this book and the chance to learn more about Shetland. I was just as fascinated in learning about the place as I was in the mystery. I googled many details about the place and looked up a lot of terms I didn't know. I even looked up a recipe for oat cakes and can't wait to make some. I was also intrigued to learn about the "midnight sun" or "white nights" which we also have where I live in Alaska. I looked at my son's globe and noticed that Alaska lines up with Shetland between the same two latitude lines close to the north pole so in some ways where I live is similar.

 

The story was very complicated and I was never sure who was to blame. Ann Cleeves is a master at weaving stories that are so unpredictable. The characters are well built and I felt like I knew them and could visualize their homes and their way of life. Just like with the first book there was a character that seemed the more obvious choice for the killer and I knew it wouldn't be that person BUT Ann would always leave me second guessing myself. As the story progressed I ended up thinking everyone in the book could be guilty at some point. Ann Cleeves has now become a favorite author for me and I've already ordered the next book in the series.

 

 

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review 2017-07-03 05:42
Raven Black
Raven Black - Ann Cleeves

A young girl is found dead in a field and the police begin questioning everyone in an effort to find out who did it and why.  The community was sure it was an old man who lived alone and was a bit "daft".  He was questioned after another girl went missing 8 years earlier but that girl's body was never found.  This time Detective Jimmy Perez wants to make sure the right person is caught and not rush to judgment to get a fast resolution.  

 

I had never heard of this author until I won a book giveaway for the 7th book in this series. I wanted to start at the beginning and I was very intrigued by the different setting. I learned some things about Shetland as I read to help me visualize the setting and have a better understanding of the people, language, and culture. I located it in an atlas and looked up several terms that I was unfamiliar with too, like dram and churlish. I really enjoyed the book and the writing. I never was sure who murdered the girls and was surprised by the ending.

 

Shetland sounds like a cold place with a lot of wind and few trees. I live in Alaska so I know about cold but we don't get much wind here.  Wind changes everything.  I think living near the water with all the wind would be torture for me.  I'm in pain today since it is raining and I'm sure in Shetland I would feel like that every day.  

 

I will definitely be reading the rest of the series and would recommend it to anyone who has the patience to get used to the different lingo (unless you are from there).  I love learning about different places so this was right up my alley.  I think Ann Cleeves is one of the best writers I've ever read.  The writing was so crafted and nothing was predictable.  

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review 2017-06-09 21:54
The Inn at Ocean's Edge
The Inn at Ocean's Edge (A Sunset Cove Novel) - Colleen Coble

I loved this story and all of its twists and turns. I am definitely going to read more books by this author. I've never read such an intriguing story!

 

I usually don't like romance but this book was more about the mystery and the romancy portions weren't too sappy.  

 

Claire is a young business woman and she is meeting her father to help with a business merger. He wasn't expecting her though so he was very surprised to see her there at the Inn. Claire was sure she had never been there before but it somehow seemed familiar to her. When she looked out at the forest she found herself gripped by fear and panic. Later, she met some people that knew her by name. They said they remembered when she disappeared as a little girl and that she was missing for a full year and then reappeared. Claire wants to know more about what happened to her and where she was for that year. Her family tries to dissuade her from trying to learn more and won't answer her questions. She won't stop though because she has dark memories that haunt her. She needs to know the truth.

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text 2017-06-07 20:13
The Case For Christ
The Case for Christ - Lee Strobel

It took me a long time to read this book since my heath issues often make it hard for me to focus.  This book was especially difficult to stay focused on for the first half or so.  I wasn't able to really look up all of the references or see what else I could find.  I am going to hold onto the book for a while and hopefully be able to do that.  

 

This book was interesting and there were some things I found surprising but I read this book thinking specifically about the people that I know that are set in their belief that God is not real and Jesus was just a man. I already believe in God so I was hoping for something that would be very convincing for someone who doesn't believe, at all. I felt that the fact that many of the experts got their education from faith-based schools would cause those people that don't believe to feel those experts were biased. Also, since this was approached as a "case" being investigated and presented to a jury I was waiting for the cross witness or the other attorney (disbeliever) to ask their questions of the expert witnesses. The author does ask the experts what they think about some things critics have said or written in their books etc., but these things seemed pretty mellow most of the time or completely out there. I know there are some scholars on both sides that have had some intense debates that would be more interesting to witness for me. A lot of the time the experts were giving their opinions and the author seemed to accept them too easily when I know other people would still have doubts and questions. Of course, this book is about the author's personal experience and how he went about this process for himself and each person is encouraged to do their own investigation.

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