Tag Archive | reading

Book Review: The Broker

The Broker, by John Grisham

I haven’t read anything by John Grisham, but I have watched a few movies that are based on his books.  This was one of my dad’s audio books, so I popped it in for a quick read on my commute.

The Broker

Joel Backman was a high powered attorney in Washington, D.C., trying to broker a deal between the U.S. Government and three young middle eastern men who have hacked into a satellite system and want to sell the technology to the highest bidder.  In the process, things go wrong and Backman goes to prison.  Fast forward to the beginning of the novel, when he has received a Presidential pardon (that he didn’t ask for) and is set up with a new life in Italy.  Things seem to be looking up!

However, things are not as they seem, and as it turns out, there are multiple people trying to kill Backman.  The problem is, he doesn’t know who…  He does realize that he can’t trust the government operatives who are supposed to be helping him.  So he’s on his own… 

The Broker is a fast-paced thriller with plenty of intrigue and seeing who can outsmart whom. 

3 stars. 

Book Review: The Stranger Beside Me

The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy: The Shocking Inside Story, by Ann Rule

I wasn’t even born yet when Ted Bundy started killing women in Western Washington.  I still wasn’t born when he moved on to other states and continued to kill women.  I was only a toddler when he was finally caught for his murders in Florida.  Yet somehow the story of Ted Bundy was frequently told while I was growing up, a cautionary tale told among friends.  It didn’t help that I also grew up in a time when the Green River Killer was murdering south of Seattle, and that Ted Bundy was executed when I was in middle school.

The Stranger Beside Me: Ted Bundy: The Shocking Inside Story

Author Ann Rule knew Bundy, spending a few years in the 1970s working with him for, of all places, a Rape Crisis Hotline.  Once a week she worked a volunteer shift with him, answering calls and talking during the quiet hours.  She described him as kind, attentive, sweet, intelligent, and not someone she ever suspected of murdering multiple women in his spare time.  Except there was enough of a nagging doubt that she did turn his name into investigators when eyewitnesses described a young man named “Ted”, who drove a Volkswagen Beetle, talking to one of the murder victims.  She wasn’t the only one who had doubts.

Rule was writing crime stories for a local magazine, and trying to break into writing a book.  So she knew she had her subject when her friend Ted was arrested in Utah for kidnapping and murder, but he swore he was innocent.  She continued to correspond with Bundy while he was awaiting trial, always being honest and letting him know that she would use their correspondence in whatever she wrote.  Of course, he insisted that the book would be clearing his name.

The Stranger Beside me details almost 20 years of history between the author and the murderer, detailing his murders in six different states, his arrests, his escapes, his trials, and ultimately his execution in 1989.  She writes candidly about the conflict of coming to a gradual realization that the man she saw as kind and gentle, was really a sadistic, violent, psychopath.  The book goes into detail on the nature of his crimes, juxtaposed with his assertions of innocence, his frustrations with law enforcement and his public defenders, and a system he believed was unfairly portraying him as a monster.

Now, of course, it is clear that Bundy was a monster.  But as Rule shows, that wasn’t always so indisputable.  Bundy was probably one of the very worst, but unfortunately after reading, you can’t help but realize that there truly is evil walking among us.

4 stars. 

Book Review: C is for Corpse

C is for Corpse, by Sue Grafton

What if you knew that someone had unsuccessfully tried to kill you, but failed?

C is for Corpse (Kinsey Millhone Mystery)

In Sue Grafton’s third private detective story, Bobby Callahan hires private detective Kinsey Millhone to discover who tried to kill him by running his car off the road nine months previously.  Bobby was in physical therapy still trying to heal from his injuries from the crash that also killed his best friend.

Kinsey has to figure out if Bobby really was the victim of attempted murder, and not just some terrible accident.  Things aren’t very clear.  But soon enough the waters are muddied even further, when Bobby is in another car accident.  Was he the victim of another attempt, or is his battered body the cause of the tragedy? 

This novel had a lot of twists and turns, and in the end, Kinsey discovers the truth.  It’s an easy, quick read, but it did make me wonder at times if what she described was even possible.  Take it with a grain of salt…

3 stars. 

Book Review: Mayflower

Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War, by Nathaniel Philbrick

It was my turn to choose a book for book club, and I really wanted us to read some non-fiction. So I brought four choices, and this was the one that won.

Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War

Mayflower is aptly named, being the story of the Pilgrims and their journey to America in 1620.  The book covers a time span of over fifty years, beginning with their persecution in England, because they chose to break away from the Church of England, believing that it had moved too far away from the tenets they held.  They sought to find a place where they no longer had to worship in private, and first moved to the Netherlands.  While they found religious freedom there, they found life was difficult because they didn’t have land, so they were forced into menial labor jobs. 

102 Pilgrims departed for American in September of 1620, and set anchor off of Cape Cod on November 21, 1620.  Due to their late start, they stayed on the ship for the winter, and didn’t begin to build their settlement until the spring.  Due to an outbreak of disease, and not having enough food, at the end of the winter, only 53 people remained…  They were assisted by the Native Americans almost from the beginning, along with some stores of corn that they found buried nearby and stole (they did eventually replace the stolen corn). 

The book details the establishment of alliances between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans, which held for about 50 years.  Unfortunately, eventually these relationships broke down, due to a lot of suffering, mistrust, and treachery.  The result was King Philip’s War, a war that I had heard about but didn’t know much about.  The book goes heavily in detail about the war, the alliances, and the cruelty effected upon both the Native Americans and the settlers. 

All in all, it was a very interesting book, but it was a more challenging read than Philbrick’s other books.  Perhaps it is because of the large number of characters described, with multiple Pilgrim leaders, as well as a great number of different tribes and sachems.  I was also expecting it to be more about the way that the Pilgrims lived and worshipped, and it ended up being much more about the war. 

A good overview, but you will probably need to read other books if you want a more detailed look into the Pilgrims’ lives.

And, by the way, the book club meets on January 14, so we will see how many of them read it!

3 stars.


Book Review: B is for Burglar

B is for Burglar, by Sue Grafton

The second book in the Kinsey Millhone private detective series tells about Millhone’s search for Elaine Boldt, a well-to-do woman living in California, with a second condo in Florida.  Kinsey is hired by Boldt’s sister, who hasn’t seen her for a while and needs her signature on a form regarding the settling of an estate.  What Kinsey believes will be an easy, quick buck, turns out to be nothing but.


In the end, Kinsey works through a number of twists and turns, including a mysterious woman living in Ms. Bolt’s Florida condo, a fire that killed her California neighbor, and a burglar who seems intent on preventing Kinsey from finding the truth. 

It was a quick read and very interesting, and Kinsey’s love interest in this book was much more subtle than the first in the series.  The audiobook reader, Judy Kaye, has a distinct voice and easy way of moving through the book, enhancing the read.

3 stars.

Book Review: A is for Alibi

A is for Alibi, by Sue Grafton

Sue Grafton has a whole series of Alphabet Murder books, starring the cool headed, semi-anti-social private detective Kinsey Millhone. I started at A and was soon swept up into the story of Nikki Fife, who spent 8 years in prison for the murder of her husband, Lawrence Fife. Nikki hires Millhone after she is paroled, telling her that she is innocent, and wants to find out who really murdered her husband.

1674604. sx318

Millhone isn’t quite sure what to think, but she sets off to discover the truth, digging up old leads, looking through the old case files, and falling into bed with the deceased husband’s former law partner. Because of course, every good private detective falls into bed with one of her witnesses.

There are a number of twists and turns, and in the end Millhone solves the crime and gets her man. It is an easy, light read, and the abridged version flies by on three CDs.

3 stars.

Book Review: The Last Juror

The Last Juror, by John Grisham

John Grisham has been writing for a while, and his history is pretty fascinating.  He started his career as a lawyer and practiced for about 10 years before his first book came out.  He gained popularity soon after and mostly quit practicing law.  He now has written 35 books, and almost a dozen have been made into movies.  This was the first of his books that I have read, but I have seen a few of his movies over the years and liked them.

The Last Juror

The Last Juror is about the trial of Danny Padgitt, a young man from a large corrupt family, for the rape and murder of a young widow, Rhoda Kassellaw.  The widow had two young children, who at least partially witnessed her rape and murder.  The Padgitt family has a long history of buying off the local lawmen and judges, but no one knows if they will be able to continue that streak after such a horrific, brutal crime. 

Willie Traynor is the editor of the local paper, a 23 year old college dropout who is looking for his way in the world.  Traynor covers the trial, and over time, earns the trust and respect of the local community that he is now a part of. 

The book is set in the 1970s and 1980s, and explores small town American, racism and political corruption.  Grisham’s storytelling style weaves these central themes into the story effortlessly, as he explores Willie Traynor’s budding friendship with Miss Callie Ruffin, the last juror selected for the Padgitt trial and the first black person to serve on a jury in Ford County.  Traynor has to slowly work his way into the community, which has a distrust for outsiders, but over the years, they begin to see him as their own.

There is plenty to digest in this courtroom drama/thriller, and his descriptions make you want to take a drive on the back roads of the deep south.

This book was another of the CD audiobooks that I have been working my way through, and it is narrated by Michael Beck, whose style I really enjoyed.

4 stars. 

Book Review: The Templar Legacy

The Templar Legacy, by Steve Berry

I have several of the Steve Berry thrillers among the audiobooks that I’m working my way through, so I pulled another of them off the shelf for some entertainment on my commute.

The Templar Legacy (Cotton Malone #1)

Cotton Malone is a retired government operative, who gets tangled up in the quest his former boss is on; this time it has nothing to do with national security.  His former boss, Stephanie Nelle, is trying to discover what her late husband was looking for, that led to a journal of mysterious clues.

Malone learns that the mystery has to do with the riches that were supposedly stockpiled by The Knights Templar hundreds of years ago, and have now been lost.  Stephanie’s husband has been searching for the treasure, and plenty of people think he was onto something, and they want a piece of it. 

This thriller has the usual intrigue, mystery, and plenty of exploration of the myth of the Knights Templar and their continued existence following their arrest and destruction in 1307 AD.  Berry paces his novels well, and keeps his reader interested from beginning to end.

3 stars.

Book Review: The Wednesday Sisters

The Wednesday Sisters, by Meg Waite Clayton

What a heartfelt novel about friendship.  The Wednesday Sisters is the story of five women who meet on a Wednesday morning with their children.  They meet by chance, and forge a friendship that lasts through the years.

The Wednesday Sisters

The beginning of the book is set in the late 1960s, when women’s identities were still largely defined by their husbands.  Throughout the novel, they grow by supporting each other’s interests, goals and life plans.  But their approach is unconventional.  They support each other through writing.  Each of the Wednesday sisters commits to writing each week, and offering up their writing for critique.  And in doing so, they reveal their inner secrets, their wildest dreams and their darkest fears. 

They sometimes bumble through, especially when they deal with the thornier issues of life, including education, interracial marriage, infidelity, and infertility.  But in the end, they still have each other.

This was a book club pick, and I loved it.  I stayed up late multiple nights when I had to work the next morning, not wanting to put it down.

5 stars.   

Book Review: The 9th Judgment

The 9th Judgment, by James Patterson

This was another of the CD audiobooks I’m working my way through.  James Patterson is a prolific series writer, but this is the first book I’ve read by him.

The 9th Judgment (Women's Murder Club, #9)

In one night, detective Lindsay Boxer gets two major cases thrown her way, a jewel theft turned murder of a high-profile celebrity wife, and the execution style killing of a woman and her infant child.  As heinous as the murder of a baby is, the celebrity killing becomes the priority, until they realize they have a serial killer on the loose. 

Boxer is trying her best to investigate and find the killers, in a race against time before more murders occur.  The book is fast paced with lots of twists and turns, but it is a novel of cliches.  Boxer is blonde and gorgeous, and at times not all that intelligent.  She is repeatedly outsmarted by the killers, but I guess you can’t have a case that gets solved in the first 24 hours! 

2 stars.