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Friday, February 26, 2010


by Douglas Preston - available in hardcover

I resisted buying this book because I'm not a big fan of science fiction, but my local bookseller at Mendham Books thought I'd enjoy it. I'm glad I took his advice.

IMPACT was really good! Part sci-fi and part mystery, former CIA Agent Wyman Ford is on the same search as amateur astronomer Abbey Straw; to find out where in Maine a meteor has landed and how it ties into radioactive gems being mined in Cambodia. Coming at the problem from different angles, it's when they join forces that things start to heat up. A race to the end, you won't be sorry you bought this book.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


By Chuck Hogan - just released in hardcover

In Chuck Hogan's newest, the main character, Neil Maven, has returned from his tour of service in Iraq with incredible skills but none that translate into a decent job stateside. Having no family and no connections, he works at menial jobs while trying to figure out his life. Circumstances bring him together with an old high school crush as well as a group of vets fighting another war; the war on drugs in Boston. I enjoyed reading their strategies and successes in ripping off high-level drug dealers. (Our legislators could take a page from Mr. Hogan's book.)

As in most thrillers, nothing postive is without a downside and that's true with Devils in Exile. To the author's credit, not everything turns up roses which makes this an even more believable story. Good book!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Five Minute Conversations - JURY DUTY

I received my notice for jury duty and reported as required in the Spring of 2009 at the Morris County Courthouse, Morristown, NJ. Never having served before, I was really surprised at what a debilitatingly boring day it actually is. You enter the jury assembly room and sit. And sit. For hours. Occasionally someone from the County will come into the room and update the group about ongoing case negotiations, but for the most part you just sit with approximately 100 strangers, from 8:30 am until 4:30 pm with an hour break for lunch. By 10:30 am, the group starts to chatter from sheer boredom. Most conversations deal with “where are you from”, “is it your first time”, or everyone’s version of “how much I hate being here”.

At about 11:00 am I decided to go outside for a break. They’ve set it up so you don’t have to go back through security; you just go outside through a door in the jury room and enter a little fenced-in COURTyard (no pun intended). Apparently in the days when the old jail was attached to the courthouse, if you went outside you were warned about catcalls and whistles from the prisoners, but now they simply ask that you not smoke too close to the building if you're a smoker. At that moment, I was the only person in the courtyard with the exception of a Morris County employee who was taking a cigarette break. We started chatting and she told me that the county employees were informed that they’d be taking a furlough day once a month, without pay, a sign of our current economy. She was especially worried because she’s 62 years old, has been divorced for 12 years and is self-supporting. She was less worried about the loss of pay for the furlough day than she was about the effect it would have on her pension and social security since both are affected by the wages earned. She was also concerned that she’d actually have three more years of employment, which she’s counting on to support herself and supplement her savings.

I returned to the jury room and she returned to work, leaving me to ponder another of the many effects of the current recession or depression. Even people who don’t outright lose their jobs have altered lifestyles. We’ve all heard of employers making across the board 20 percent pay cuts to keep staff. A friend’s daughter in Connecticut works for a newspaper and the employees are being asked to take non-paid vacation of at least a week in duration because ad revenue is diminishing. Other employers are cutting the number of days or the number of hours their employees work in a valiant effort to retain everyone. Makes you realize we all need to be kinder to everyone we meet on a daily basis because each of us is facing some change in our life, even if it’s just that the stores we regularly shop in are no longer in existence. While our situations may be difficult, someone else’s may be worse. So, be kind and smile at strangers and try not to be stressed by the little annoyances in life.

Five Minute Conversations - MICHAEL'S BAD DAY

Michael isn't a stranger, but a waiter in a restaurant I frequent in NJ. We started chatting a couple of years ago about how he and his partner were finishing their home and how wonderful it was turning out. One day in the summer of 2009 he was upset and told me why. I asked him if he would mind if I wrote it out and this is his story.


Michael couldn’t believe his eyes; everything was gone! He had just opened the front door to his house and his first thought was, “We’ve been robbed!”

When his eyes adjusted, he slowly began to realize that only certain things were gone. “Oh my God did he LEAVE ME?” he said aloud. “After 25 years together??” He, being Michael’s longtime friend and significant other, who will remain nameless since his behavior was too hurtful to even grace him with his proper name.

Michael walked around the house in shock and wonder. “That’s where the DVD player was”, he thought. “That empty space on the bookcase held all the photo albums.” Michael stepped further into the dining room and realized he was going to need a drink to contend with THIS! He knew they’d been having some minor problems, but like every couple, there were always small kinks to be worked through. But this was like getting smacked in the head with a brick! No indication, no notice, no….nothing.

“What am I going to do”, he wondered. “Our entire lives are intertwined. We own this house together.” They had just finished putting the finishing touches on the interior decorating, having invested all of their money the last few years doing landscaping, putting in a koi pond and making the outside beautiful. Just when they were reaching the point that everything would be done and they could relax and enjoy their home together, Nameless flew the coop. He’d heard about this happening to other people, but not to them; not to him. Michael always felt so secure in their relationship. In their circle of gay and straight friends, it was unusual to have such a long term commitment and Michael had always been so proud of their life together.

Walking into the kitchen to add ice to his drink, he saw it. Propped against the counter where the imported Italian restaurant quality Espresso machine used to be, there was a plain white envelope with his name on the front. “Oh, boy, I’m going to need two drinks”, Michael said aloud. Adding more ice to his glass, he walked through the kitchen to the deck carrying the envelope with him.

“Well, that’s not going to work”, Michael thought, “There’s no FUCKING CHAIR to sit on!” All of the deck furniture had disappeared!

Sitting down on the step, Michael opened the envelope and began to read the note. How could such a terrible message come in such a plain envelope? “Dear Michael”, it began. “I’m so sorry to do this but I met someone and I’ve fallen in love and I have to be with her. I’ll call you in a few days so we can discuss how to deal with selling the house and arranging to pick up the rest of my belongings. Nameless.”

Her? As in a female? HER?? “This must be a joke”, thought Michael. “This just can’t be happening.” But it was happening and Michael realized he was going to have a lot to face in the very near future, like selling the house, finding a new place he could afford on his own, getting his own life back. But for now, well, like Scarlett O’Hara, “I’m not going to think about that today, I’ll think about that tomorrow”, thought Michael as he headed back to the kitchen for that second drink.

Febrary 2010 postscript: I saw Michael the other day and he wanted me to know that Nameless was on his THIRD new girlfriend. Michael is happily engaged in a new relationship and living in his new condo.

Five Minute Conversations - GODIVA

Almost every day I find myself in short conversations or connections with absolute strangers. My family usually laughs at how I can find out so much about people in such a short period of time. We all have these connections and some impact us more than others. I started writing a few of mine down about a year ago so that I wouldn't forget how these people touched my life.

February 2009 - New York City

My husband went into the Godiva Store on Madison Avenue to pick a few choice morsels for our weekend in the City. There was a lovely young woman waiting on George when I walked into the store. He pointed out the pieces he had picked for me, none that I wanted as soon as I saw the dark chocolate Mandarin Orange Crescents! The saleslady very very patiently put back the ones George had chosen and added the crescents to the bag. Then I saw them....dark chocolate Grand Marnier truffles! Many Godiva stores don't carry them, perhaps because of the liquor content. I asked the young woman to add two to the bag. She apologized and said she couldn't because, and she pointed to the sign on the wall I hadn't noticed, truffles have to be sold in a ten count. I sure didn't want ten, just two! My husband rolled his eyes as I tried to wheedle a sample from our saleswoman. She started laughing and explained that she just couldn't, but that she had really enjoyed talking to us and that we were the first customers who had made her laugh since her brother passed away three weeks earlier. I wanted to give her a hug but the counter was too high, so I told her how sorry I was and asked what had happened. LaShaun explained that she's 28 years old and her brother, just 12 years older, had a massive heart attack. She talked about how close they had been and how very much she missed him. She started to tear up and thanked us for being so nice. As we left the store, my husband rolled his eyes at me and asked why I had to engage everyone, everywhere in conversations. Personally, I think it's my gift and I'm going to start writing down these "five minute conversations" just to remember how wonderful it is when you connect with other people. I found two Grand Marnier truffles in our little gold Godiva bag later that afternoon.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


by Nicci French - in bookstores May 2010

Another good book from this husband/wife writing team. Written in two concurrent story lines, before and after the murder, they'll keep you guessing until the end. I like Nicci French books. The Other Side of the Door is fun, easy reading; British chick lit with murder thrown into the mix.

You'll want to take this one to the beach for sure!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


by James Patrick Hunt - in bookstores June 2010

Police Lt. George Hastings is a likeable character with an edge. His disdain for the motives of police hierarchy in St. Louis only adds to this book's appeal. Perhaps in part because my husband and both sons went to college in St. Louis and references to Wydown Boulevard and Clayton were familiar, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Hastings is in pursuit of a jailed longtime CIA operative who recently escaped and poses a threat to a Missouri state politician but he's skeptical about the reasons for the threat.

Fun and fast paced, this book will be a great beach read this coming summer.


by Michael Harvey - in bookstores April 2010

Set in Chicago, this one's got everything thrown into the mix -- a sniper, murder, biological terror threats, homeland security, bad cops, crooked FBI agents, greedy Catholics, and to top it all off, a relationship quickly souring for former police officer turned PI, Michael Kelly.

Entertaining and fast paced.


by Adrian McKinty

This novel deals with a young female police officer from Cuba who is trying to avenge her father's murder in the US. She takes a week's vacation from her day job, flies to Mexico and crosses the border as an illegal, wending her way to the wealthy enclave in Wyoming where her father's murder occurred. Almost immediately she becomes a day worker for the very same people she suspects of the crime. Believable? Nah.

More entertaining than reading the back of the cereal box in the morning but I regretted buying this hardcover book at about page 50.


If you're looking to buy used books, check out marykay20 on ebay. I recently purchased a book from her and it was very inexpensive, just as described and shipped quickly. She has over 5,000 books listed in almost every genre.

Friday, February 12, 2010


In case you're wondering how I go through books so quickly, thought I'd jot a few thoughts since after all this is a blog. I guess I don't have to just write book reviews.

When I was about 9 or 10 years old, I discovered Miriam Clark Potters' GOOFY MRS. GOOSE IN ANIMALTOWN series and I was hooked! I've been a serious reader ever since. Many thanks to the Newark Public Library, especially the Bergen Street Branch.

In my late teens I moved out on my own and started reading classics by Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Franz Kafka, Leo Tolstoy, J.D.Salinger, Tolkien, Ayn Rand and many others. Somewhere between Margaret Mead, Nostradamus, William Goldman, Woodstock (the festival) and The Zipless Fuck, I met and married my first husband.

I'm embarassed to admit that as a new young mother after the birth of my first son, I succumbed to those awful bodice ripping Harlequin Romances. I was really busy with work and motherhood and they were just so easy and didn't require much concentration. Phew, glad that phase didn't last long!

And then along came Stephen King and Dean Koontz.....just wonderful! In fact, after reading THE SHINING I wrote my first (and only) fan letter to an author, asking Stephen King why he couldn't write faster. C'mon, c'mon Stephen, we're waiting! Not surprised I never got a response.

How interesting in retrospect that around the time of my divorce from my first husband, I turned to Truman Capote, which led to other nonfiction murder books. What was I thinking?

I was well on my way to reading mysteries, thrillers, spy novels and chick lit when I met and married my second husband and had my second son. Memoirs got jumbled into the mix along the way.

I guess you could say I've lived my life with books; from preadolescence to postmenopause, through all of life's joys and dramas, I've carried a book with me, tucked into a lunchbag, bookbag, purse or suitcase.


I read a couple of "throw away" books this week. They were so uninspiring and trite, I think I'm literally going to throw them away. No reviews for these terrible puppies. Funny, because one of them was a Winner of the Malice Domestic Best Traditional Mystery Novel Competition , so I had at least a minimal expectation of a good read.

Monday, February 8, 2010


by Linwood Barclay -- Coming in March 2010

I eagerly awaited this new book from Canadian author, Linwood Barclay, and I was not disappointed. No one and nothing is as it seems in his newest mystery. What begins as a child abduction turns into something else entirely in this thoroughly entertaining thriller filled with twists and turns. I really enjoy the way he brings his characters to life.

This was a 'stop everything you're doing book' - great for a snowy weekend!

Sunday, February 7, 2010


by Charles Fishman

Ever wonder how Walmart can beat their competitors' prices year after year? These chilling tales of just how Walmart squeezes those bargain prices out of manufacturers and vendors are scarier than most thrillers. I read this book about 4 years ago and have totally sworn off of shopping at Walmart. Some bargains just aren't worth the damage they do. Definitely worth reading.

Another book that deals in part with Walmart and the company's effect on local economies is NICKEL AND DIMED: On not getting by in America by Barbara Ehrenreich.


by Linda Castillo
- in bookstores June 2010

I read and enjoyed Castillo's first book, Sworn to Silence. This one is also set in Amish country with Police Chief Kate Burkholder.
While I'm a serious fan of murder mysteries and have been reading them for years, I was shocked that the incredibly gory descriptions of the murders of seven people in this book were written by a woman. It was hard to shake off the doom and gloom of the grisly details in the first 50 pages to really appreciate the rest of the book. Sworn to Silence wasn't quite this brutal.
If you don't want nightmares, I'd suggest that you give this book a pass.


by Dana Haynes - coming in Summer 2010

This book was terrific and definitely lived up to the hype of the other mystery writers' reviews. Takes the reader to a totally different vantage point than other aircraft disaster novels. This doesn't deal with the victims or survivors but rather with the experts connected to NTSB who recreate the disaster to find the cause of the crash. I read this book in one day because it's very well written, has good character development and is impossible to put down. Loved it, loved it and I'm looking forward to more books from Haynes.


by Blake Crouch
- Spring 2010

Don't waste your money on this book.

The plot is so farfetched that you have to wonder how this guy is even getting his first book published. The kidnapped women wind up in an "anything goes - even killing" sex lodge for the uber rich in Alaska and one industrious lawyer hubby and his teenage daughter who suffers from cystic fibrosis save the day?? Don't think so! I'm surprised the author missed his chance to throw in Sara Palin on a dogsled with a rifle. What I'd do with the full priced hardcover is return it for a refund or store credit.

THE WINGS OF THE SPHINX (Inspector Montalbano Series #11)

by Andrea Camilleri; translated from Italian by Stephen Sartarelli

I love all of Camilleri's books and this is the newest release. The author is a former communist who lives in Sicily and didn't start writing until he was 53 years old. His protagonist, Inspector Montalbano is eccentric and rude and always angry which only adds to the story line. Camillieri's depictions of Sicily and the political climate are eye opening.

BRINGING HOME THE BIRKIN: My Life in Hot Pursuit of the World's Most Coveted Handbag

Author: Michael Tonello

Fun and flirty......a wonderful romp through Europe with Michael Tonello, an ingenious entrepreneur who made a very substantial living reselling Hermes merchandise. A must for every eBay seller!
After reading it, I really wanted to invite Michael over for coffee and a chat.


Welcome to Monarch Book Reviews

Literary reviews for the discerning reader

Focusing on murder and mayhem, chick lit, and memoirs.