Cyndi J. (cyndij) - Reviews

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1222 (Hanne Wilhelmsen 1)
1222 (Hanne Wilhelmsen 1)
Author: Anne Holt
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 9/29/2013
Helpful Score: 1


PBS lists this book as Hanne Wilhelmsen 1, which it isn't; some references make it obvious there are previous books with this character. Not really a problem just a curiosity.
Hanne Wilhelmsen is a paralyzed lesbian ex-police officer who just wants to be left alone. A train wreck in the middle of a blizzard leaves her trapped in a hotel with a hundred or so others - and then there's a murder.
It's a nice "locked-room" mystery with plenty of suspects. Told in the first person, but you don't get told everything the narrator knows. A lot of small "had I but known" moments. I don't feel I got to know Hanne very well in this book - probably deliberate given the character, but it could be due to the translation, or maybe starting in the middle of a series isn't the best. But she's interesting to be sure.
Anyway good plot, interesting characters, worth reading even if not emotionally involving.


3rd Degree (Women's Murder Club, Bk 3)
3rd Degree (Women's Murder Club, Bk 3)
Author: James Patterson, Andrew Gross
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 1050
Review Date: 8/2/2008
Helpful Score: 1


I have to admit I have only read one other James Patterson book, it was one of the Alex Cross ones, although Patterson seems to dominate book racks everywhere, especially in airports and grocery stores. This is part of the very popular Women's Murder Club series. I found it on the freebie shelf at the campground and figured I'd give it a try. I did finish it, but it didn't do a lot for me either positive or negative. It moves along smartly, and there's some mildly interesting villains, but I didn't care much what happened to any of the characters - and there's one place where the reader really needed to be emotionally involved. I won't seek out any of the rest of these books when I have so many others I want on my reading list, but a lot of people really enjoy them - vive la difference! Patterson is so popular he won't miss me.


Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye (Psychic Eye, Bk 1)
Abby Cooper, Psychic Eye (Psychic Eye, Bk 1)
Author: Victoria Laurie
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 543
Review Date: 2/24/2011


I really enjoyed this first in a series. It's so lightweight it's almost frothy, it's cute, it's got all the right cliches in all the right places. Abby Cooper is a real psychic and makes her living at providing advice to clients based on her psychic abilities. One of Abby's clients is found murdered and her gift gets her into trouble with the police, since she's describing things she ought not to know about. Abby doesn't seem to be very good at predicting her own fortune, which made for some funny moments. You're not going to have any profound insights or get sucked into the drama in this book, but I liked it. I thought it was sweet escapist reading and just what I wanted at the time.


All the Little Liars (Aurora Teagarden, Bk 9)
All the Little Liars (Aurora Teagarden, Bk 9)
Author: Charlaine Harris
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 21
Review Date: 9/24/2017


The mood of this series has changed remarkably, from the light-hearted cozies at the beginning to the more serious, family-related issues of the day. School bullying, child abuse, extra-indulgent parenting and teen suicide make this one kind of bleak. I guessed the villain as soon as he/she/it was mentioned, but I'm sure this book wasn't intended as a classic whodunit. Still have the cozy mystery hallmarks of what Roe's wearing, what she's cooking, what her hair looks like. I could have done with fewer descriptions of Roe throwing up, actually. Still, it kept me reading straight through, and even if there is a happy ending for Roe there were left a lot of unhappy families in the town.


Among Others
Among Others
Author: Jo Walton
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 24
Review Date: 2/17/2016


I can't figure out what to say about this book. It's a nice character study of the teen-aged girl; there's a tiny bit of "magic" happening (enough to get it classified as fantasy). The big antagonist of the story is left to the last couple pages and then just evaporates (was that the point?) The main thrust of this story seems to be how great it is for nerdy youngsters to read and discuss science fiction and fantasy, which is why I'm guessing it won awards. Lovely writing, but the fantasy elements don't seem critical to the story (it reminds me of Pamela Dean's Tam Lin, which is a rapturous paean to college life with a folk tale tacked on to the last 20 pages).
So...meh. But if you'd like a list of excellent SF from the 70s and earlier, jot down all the titles in this book.


Arsenic with Austen (Crime with the Classics)
Arsenic with Austen (Crime with the Classics)
Author: Katherine Bolger Hyde
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 5
Review Date: 4/2/2017


Arsenic with Austen definitely falls into the romantic cozy mystery category. Emily Cavanaugh inherits a fortune from an aunt she hasn't seen in years. The small beach town she remembers fondly for its peace and quiet is still much the same thanks to her aunt, who owned most of the place. There are those who are looking forward to developing, though, and wasn't it odd that Aunt Beatrice died after eating dinner with two of the most zealous promoters? Add in Emily's old flame from her teenage years who is now the sheriff, and a semi-cousin who is also a legatee.
It's a very cozy book and while I tend to want a bit more conflict, I enjoyed it. Emily is a thoroughly nice person who wants only the best for all her new tenants and the town in general. There's no impediment to the reuniting of Emily and her old flame, the villains are mustache-twirling obvious types, and it ends pretty much the way you expect it too. Pretty much, because right at the end there is a sudden burst of Christian piety and forgiveness that really isn't shown before. I did think it odd - forgiveness is blessed I'm sure but offering to pay for a great lawyer for someone who killed two people and tried to kill you...well, that's special. What if they get off?
Anyway. Emily is appealing - the way she deciphers clues and motives based on comparing living people to Jane Austen's characters is cute. There are cats. If you like cozies, worth a look.


Ashes and Bones (Emma Fielding Bk. 6)
Ashes and Bones (Emma Fielding Bk. 6)
Author: Dana Cameron
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 22
Review Date: 8/2/2008


This is the sixth entry in this series about archaeologist Emma Fielding. I bet it's been three years since I read the last one, so I didn't remember many of the plots from before. Cameron gives enough back story so you don't feel too lost, but unfortunately not quite enough to really understand the motives of the bad guy in this story.
In this outing, Emma is very uneasy because of a series of increasingly malicious pranks. She's sure this is the work of a former colleague, presumed dead after some dramatic events in previous books, who is out to get her for exposing his criminal actions. Much is made of Emma's growing paranoia and her sense that others think she's simply being silly, but the pranks escalate quickly enough that this tension can't be maintained for long. Cameron spends quite a lot of time in this book having Emma describe her fighting classes (Krav Maga), which was a little dull to me.
I am not sure that if I'd started with this one I would search out the rest. There is very little archaeology going on, which is what attracted me to the series at first. Emma is upset that no one believes her theory of events, but after a wild car chase in which she barely escapes, she then objects to her husband putting up security cameras around their house. It didn't feel rational to me, and I didn't get the sense that Emma is supposed to be irrational even under all the stress. We do get some payoff at the end for all the time spent on the fighting lessons. And I wondered how it was that a tenured university professor could skip so many classes or figure in so many odd events without attracting attention from the university president (or dean, whatever you call âem).
Still it's very readable, nicely paced with a lot of tension and a clear denouement, just not one of her best. I liked how we never really see the bad guy until the very end. I don't see a seventh in the series listed anywhere, but if and when one is published, I'll read it. Someone who hasn't read Cameron before should start with Site Unseen, the first in the series.


The Assassin
The Assassin
Author: Evelyn Anthony
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 9/5/2017


The Russians have decided to interfere in the US Presidential election, by getting elected an ultra-right wing, racist Republican with ties to the KKK. This will ensure maximum chaos in the US, with riots tearing the country apart. Oh yeah, this was written in 1970. A lonely, naive rich girl agrees to accompany a man from Beirut to the US, even though she knows he's traveling on a false passport, because a friend of her billionaire uncle says the uncle needs the guy. But she can't tell anyone she's doing it especially not the uncle. Then young Liz falls in love with the assassin after he assaults, oops, I mean grabs and kisses her against her will. Will the assassin succeed? If you can find a copy, you'll know. I'm being snarky but as you get into it, it is very suspenseful with the KGB, the CIA, and Liz all rushing together. Evelyn Anthony wrote a lot of good spy thrillers and this book is definitely set in a particular time - there's many scenes where 2017 sensibilities are saying, oh no you don't. And then there's parts where you just sigh and think nothing ever changes.


Bad Country: A Novel
Bad Country: A Novel
Author: C. B. McKenzie
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 2/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 7/16/2017


This book is a winner of the Tony Hillerman prize, the Spur Award for Best Western Contemporary Novel, a finalist for the Edgar Award Best First Novel, and a finalist for Shamus Award Best First Novel. I really enjoy books set in the American West, but... It's a hard-boiled noir mystery featuring an ex-rodeo cowboy turned private detective. Noir isn't my favorite, but I would have read it even so, if not that the author doesn't use quotation marks for dialogue. I tried, but after 25 pages that was still driving me nuts. So I quit. Just in 25 pages I can see why this book received so much praise, but I couldn't get past the style. It isn't really fair to give it a low rating since I think it's going to be a very "love it or hate it" kind of book...but I just couldn't force myself on.


Bad Move (Zack Walker, Bk 1)
Bad Move (Zack Walker, Bk 1)
Author: Linwood Barclay
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 70
Review Date: 2/25/2011


Zack Walker is paranoid about his familys safety. He moves from a nice place in the city to a shoddy tract house in the suburbs to avoid crime. He nags incessantly about his kids leaving their backpacks on the stairs - someone could fall and break their neck. He's not above trying to teach people lessons, like moving his wife's car so she'll think its stolen after she left the keys hanging in the front door. And he knows he's a jerk, but he can't stop himself. Unfortunately, one of these little tricks leads to a problem that spirals way out of control, landing him with a dead body, counterfeit cash, and some really incriminating film. This is a really funny book. Zack's paranoia coupled with his obliviousness in other areas is great, I could identify with the whole developer plot, and while it was almost slapstick it was also almost believable. The only problem for me came in the very last pages when Zach does something totally avoidable. Nonetheless, a really good book.


Beauty
Beauty
Author: Robin McKinley
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.5/5 Stars.
 21
Review Date: 9/26/2017


Sweet re-telling of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale.


The Bird Shaman: Volume III of the Holy Ground Trilogy
The Bird Shaman: Volume III of the Holy Ground Trilogy
Author: Judith Moffett
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 2.5/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 9/26/2013


I have mixed feelings about this book and the previous volume (Time, Like an Ever-Rolling Stream). The first book, The Ragged World, set up an intriguing scenario I wanted to see play out, but it didn't. Ms.Moffett's writing is fabulous. Lyrical, emotional, absorbing...great skill. Good dialogue and real characters too. As explorations of grief and self-discovery, the books were great. As science fiction, not so much. SF should ask the question "What if?" and then answer it. What if aliens showed up and told the humans to fix the world? Moffett told us a lot about Liam's grief for Jeff, and Pam's body image problems and unhappy childhood, a bit about homesteading and child abuse and Mormons and rock art, but really very little about what's happening in the post-Hefn world or how most humans were coping. We're told that Hefn rule isn't going well, but few details. Plot holes and inconsistencies and all the little rabbit trails made me keep leafing back to see if I'd missed something. I did like the revelation close to the end, it was the most SF-nal element of the last two books.
I'll end with a big caveat though. I freely admit I'm not the most sensitive reader when it comes to symbolisms, allegories, parables and so forth. So if we were supposed to substitute the alien invasion for some other underlying message, I didn't get it, and no doubt all my questions were the wrong ones.


The Bishop's Tale (Sister Frevisse Medieval, Bk 4)
The Bishop's Tale (Sister Frevisse Medieval, Bk 4)
Author: Margaret Frazer
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 2
Review Date: 12/26/2008


Frazers Dame Frevisse is my second favorite medieval series, just behind Brother Cadfael. There's something so calm and capable about the sister whatever happens, she doesn't panic or do anything stupid. She's analytical and knows how to keep her mouth shut. In this outing, she goes to the funeral of her beloved uncle Thomas Chaucer. During the funeral feast, one of the unpleasant nobles there picks a fight and calls out to God to strike him dead if he's wrong; of course, a few minutes later he's having some kind of attack, and dies. The bishop, a relative of Frevisse, doesn't fall for it and asks her to keep an eye out. The method of killing is immediately obvious to the reader (or it ought to be, anyway), the killer a bit less obvious, and the fun comes from watching Frevisse figure it out. You don't need to have read any of the previous books in the series to enjoy this one.


The Bitter Kingdom (Fire and Thorns, Bk 3)
The Bitter Kingdom (Fire and Thorns, Bk 3)
Author: Rae Carson
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.3/5 Stars.
 8
Review Date: 11/5/2017


Nice ending to this series. Elisa does grow and change, and is more willing to act like a leader. The godstone continues to be enigmatic: we don't learn where they come from, or why; and its existence for Elisa is not exactly pertinent to her battles. I would have liked to have seen a bit more exploration on that subject - I found a few too many scenes in this third book rather derivative (the Mines of Moria, anyone?). But all in all, a satisfying series.


Blood Hollow (Cork O'Connor, Bk 4)
Blood Hollow (Cork O'Connor, Bk 4)
Author: William Kent Krueger
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 15
Review Date: 10/24/2017


BLOOD HOLLOW, by William Kent Krueger, is the fourth in the series featuring ex-sheriff "Cork" O'Connor. I found this book...odd. Krueger's characters are good, the sense of place is excellent; I had less success pinning it down to a certain time frame...there are references to cell phones, but there are good chunks of the plot that involve land lines. There's a strong religious element; Krueger has given Cork a problem with religion that we've seen in prior books but here religion is central to more than one character. I did pick up the villain (maybe I should say the ultimate villain) right away but I think that's just from reading a lot of mysteries. The plot seems unnecessarily convoluted to me - too many twists. I can't say more than that without including spoilers but for a small town where everyone knows everyone's business there are a lot of oblivious people. And the Aurora PD is sure having some problems hiring good personnel. Which leads into my next nitpick: in the last two books, O'Connor was seriously considering going back as sheriff and his wife was pretty angry, like divorce angry. As this book begins we learn he turned down the job, he thinks many times how happy he is not to wear the badge, but once again his name comes up, he's thinking about it, and Jo says "Sure whatever you want, honey". Krueger didn't convince me that reaction was real, or that Cork would continue flirting with it.

If you were a new reader to this series, you'd be fine without reading the previous ones, and you wouldn't notice half of the nitpicks I just mentioned. I had a bunch of them, but they are mostly nitpicks, I still thought the overall story was interesting and the pacing is good. I'll see what the next one is like.


The Boat of a Million Years
The Boat of a Million Years
Author: Poul Anderson
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.1/5 Stars.
 7
Review Date: 1/24/2016


A fat book but mostly a series of short stories or episodes about a various group of immortals trying to understand why they've been blessed/cursed, and trying to stay alive through the ages. They do all get together at the end, and are the catalyst that turns humans into something quite different; but most of this book is comprised of their individual tales.


The Bookwoman's Last Fling (Cliff Janeway, Bk 5)
The Bookwoman's Last Fling (Cliff Janeway, Bk 5)
Author: John Dunning
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 71
Review Date: 8/2/2008


I've enjoyed the last four Cliff Janeway books by Dunning, but perhaps I just wasn't in the right mood when I read this one. Janeway is hired by the estate of a very rich man to investigate missing books from the library of the man's wife, also deceased. While he's deciding whether he wants to work for these very unpleasant people, he meets the one good offspring and gets drawn into whether or not the woman was actually murdered. The locales were interesting: he spends quite a lot of time at a ranch and also working at a racetrack, but wow this book is slow. Talk talk talk, all the same questions, every answer has to be dragged out of the character over ten or more pages while they dither and ditz and evade. It seemed like it went on interminably. Finally when he gets close to solving the mystery, we head off into left field for the answer. The book has some good moments, and what looks like an interesting bit of character development for Janeway, but I would have appreciated about 100 fewer pages.


Borderline (Anna Pigeon, Bk 15)
Borderline (Anna Pigeon, Bk 15)
Author: Nevada Barr
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 71
Review Date: 11/30/2017


Lots of vivid action, I liked all the good-guy characters, but I didn't believe fully in the story and I had some doubts Anna would come through that without even more mental strain. The attachment to the baby ended rather oddly, I thought. And IMHO Anna's husband Paul needed a bigger role. I don't think a new reader would have a problem starting with this book, although there was obviously a lot of backstory missing. My gripes notwithstanding, it's still a fast-paced story with a good sense of place.


A Botanist at Bay (Celia Grant, Bk 2)
A Botanist at Bay (Celia Grant, Bk 2)
Author: John Sherwood
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 6
Review Date: 12/26/2008
Helpful Score: 2


In the mid-1980s/1990s John Sherwood wrote ten or so mysteries featuring Celia Grant, a garden nursery owner in England. I've read a few of them; it doesn't seem to matter if you read them in order - I haven't, anyway. In this adventure, Celia heads for New Zealand to await the birth of a grandchild. One of her friends entreats her to find out what's become of a not very well liked relative a blowhard gentleman who has some mysterious agenda involving New Zealand endangered wildflowers. Celia reluctantly agrees to look for him and is soon embroiled in a pitched battle between the "tree-huggers" and rapacious developers. When a woman is murdered, and it looks like Celia had motive and opportunity, she has to really dig in and find the root of the matter. Her knowledge of botany and nursery practices enables her to figure out the motive and the real killer.
This is a pleasant mystery, definitely in the cozy class, but not world shaking either in plot, characters, or memorable prose. Celia is smart and interesting, but I can't remember much about any of the supporting cast. As a gardener, I enjoy the various snippets of plant information and they're not so overwhelming as to take over the story. Anyone who likes cozy mysteries can be assured of a pleasant few hours.


Boundary Waters (Cork O'Connor, Bk 2)
Boundary Waters (Cork O'Connor, Bk 2)
Author: William Kent Krueger
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 21
Review Date: 11/11/2017


Second in the series featuring Cork O'Connor. This time Cork is asked by an old acquaintance to help find his daughter, supposedly missing somewhere in over a million acres of wilderness. Cork is reluctant as he doesn't think he can be much help, but decides if that were his daughter he would want someone to try. The situation turns very strange very quickly as two other parties appear, both claiming to be the biological father of the missing woman; and then the FBI turns up threatening all and sundry if they don't cooperate. There are multiple POVs in this story: Cork, his estranged wife Jo, and Shiloh, the missing woman. Each POV was given enough pages so I didn't feel like I was bouncing from one to the next, although Krueger ended a number of chapters with big cliffhangers. I also thought he did a good job disguising the real villain; although I knew someone in the search party was a bad guy, I didn't know who it was until the author revealed it (not my first time reading this book, but it was long enough ago I didn't remember any of it). Excellent sense of place with the foreboding woods, the lakes and river rapids, and the stories told by the young Anishinaabe boy add a lot of atmosphere. Like the first book it reads very quickly. There's enough backstory so that if you hadn't read the first it's easy to pick up the characters. Large body count and some gory bits but bottom line, it was very suspenseful. Good book.


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