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Sunday, January 30, 2011

SYNDROME - Free eBook

by Thomas Hoover - available as a free eBook

Now that I have my eReader, I've been searching through the many free eBooks on  (I'm sure that Amazon has them as well.)  Some are free previews of books by published authors like James Patterson, but many seem to be self-published novels specifically for eReaders and honestly, the majority don't look like they're worth the trouble.

Thomas Hoover has a few free eBooks listed for downloading and after reading some of the reviews left by other readers I decided to give SYNDROME a try.  I was pleasantly surprised by my choice!

Dr. Van de Vliet is pressured by Winston Bartlett, the owner of Dorian Institute in N.J., to take his experimental stem cell research a step further by trying to create the fountain of youth.  Unfortunately, the injections created a disastrous effect on Kristen Starr, W.B.'s young girlfriend.  Although she seemed instantly more youthful, her body and organs continued to digress until even her memory was reversed and she became childlike.  Before her reactions deteriorated to this point, W.B. had Van de Vliet inject him with the same anti-aging drug and now the race is on to find someone with his same rare blood type to try to create an antidote to stop the progress of the injections.

Alexa Hampton, a young designer with a severe heart problem, is the perfect choice, especially since her brother works for W.B. and has provided him with her entire medical history.  While trying to entice Alexa into the Institute for treatment (but actually to use her like a test-monkey), her old boyfriend, reporter Stone Aimes, has been working on a book to either celebrate or expose the studies going on at Dorian. 

While it's not a great book, SYNDROME is definitely readable and is a medical mystery similar to those written by Robin Cook.  In fact, it's actually better than the last Robin Cook novel that I read and reviewed here on my blog back in September, 2010.  It's obvious that Mr. Hoover's book didn't have the benefit of editorial services, evidenced by various misspellings and typos, once I got past the first half-dozen chapters, SYNDROME turned into a fairly compelling novel.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


I have another SURPRISE for all you avid readers!

February 7, 2011 is the one year anniversary of Monarch Book Reviews. Thanks to all of you, I've received more visitors to my blog than I ever expected.

To thank you for visiting my blog be sure to check back on February 7th for a chance to win a "just off the presses" copy of one of the advance reader books I reviewed this year.  I'll also be posting an interview with the author of that book on the same day. 

Don't forget to mark the date..........February 7, 2011!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


January has been so snowy and so's almost mind-numbing!  This is a picture I took from my front door a few minutes ago.  We've never had icicles like these before.  The longest measures about two and a half feet long!

I realized how lucky I am the other day when I woke up and saw that the outside temperature was 1 degree, but it was warm and toasty in my house. As much as we all complain about the cost of heating our homes, it's actually pretty amazing that our power companies can supply us all with the fuel we choose to use and deliver it right into our homes at the touch of a dial on our thermostats.  During the prolonged frigid weather we've experienced this month, all of us would reach deep into our pockets if necessary to keep our families comfortable.  Like you, I love complaining about rising utility bills, but this month I'd like to send a special thank you to the companies we deal with. 

Dear Jersey Central Power and Light, Public Service Electric and Gas, Osterman Propane and Connecticut Light and Power, thank you for providing the gas, electric and oil we needed during the coldest January in my memory.  I appreciate your constant service and that of your employees, many of whom often have to brave the elements to keep everything running.  If I was a drinker, I'd raise a toast to you.  As it is, although I know that I'll be complaining about your statements in April when this cold and snowy January is just a bad memory, it will be a pleasure to send you my payment this month.   Warm regards (emphasis on warm) from a customer.

I can joke about the cold and keeping warm but there are many families experiencing serious financial problems in this economy and basic necessities like keeping your family warm are beyond their budgets.

I hope you'll consider making a donation to N.J. Shares, Inc.  They're the only statewide, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization which provides grants to pay the energy and utility bills of households in need, through a statewide network of more than 262 community-based social service agencies.  You can view their website and even make a donation at

If you live outside of New Jersey, you can find a similar group by contacting your local social service agency or by searching on Google.

Stay warm and hope you're reading a good book tonight!


by Tami Hoag - available in bookstores and eBook

"My daddy hurt my mommy", a very young girl told the 911 operator.  When the police arrived at the home, they found artist Marissa Fordham brutally murdered and her daughter Haley lying on her mother's body, badly injured but still alive.  It looks like an open and shut case if they can locate Haley's father, but no one knows who Haley's father is and the police can't find a birth certificate.

SECRETS TO THE GRAVE is a sequel to DEEPER THAN THE DEAD by the same author.  Child Advocate Ann Leone, who was the victim of a killer in Hoag's previous book, and her husband, former FBI Agent Vince Leone, take custody of Haley while the police search for the child's relatives. 

Unfortunately for lead Det. Tony Mendez, Marissa was a single mother and Haley called every man in her mother's life daddy which creates an ever increasing suspect list. The investigation reaches a roadblock when no one can find anything about Marissa before her move to this small California town; it's as if she never existed.  The hope is that Marissa's best friend can provide some background, but she quickly goes missing.

I figured out fairly early on who "daddy" was but Ms. Hoag throws so many protagonists into the mix (including a very troubled adolescent who was a student of Mrs. Leone's when she was a teacher) that it's almost exhausting to read SECRETS TO THE GRAVE all the way through.  If you're already a fan of Ms. Hoag's books, you'll probably enjoy this one.  If, like me, you haven't read anything by her before, this isn't the book to start with.  I felt like I had arrived at the dance just as the band was packing up to leave.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


by Lisa Genova - available in bookstores and eBook

LEFT NEGLECTED, Ms. Genova's new novel, had such an impact on me that I went back to read STILL ALICE, her first novel.

Alice Howland is a professor at Harvard with a hectic, vibrant life when she begins to experience memory problems.  When she becomes disoriented in her own town, she consults her doctor, fearing a brain tumor.  To her shock, she is diagnosed with early Alzheimer's. 

Written from the patient's point of view, STILL ALICE is a look into the frightening changes Alice experiences and how the disease begins to define her life as well as the lives of her husband and children.  It's a strong reminder that beneath the increasing memory loss episodes, she is still Alice, a wife, a mother and a warm, intelligent woman.

If you're looking for something to read that's outside of your usual comfort zone, I highly recommend Ms. Genova's books.  While Ms. Genova's writing is not as finely tuned in this, her first novel, like LEFT NEGLECTED, it is an amazing story.

NOTE:  Visit my December 5, 2010 blog entry to see my review of LEFT NEGLECTED.

Monday, January 24, 2011


by John Grisham -available in bookstores or eBook

Almost everyone on Death Row proclaims their innocence and Donte Drumm is no exception.  Drumm is a young black man who is only days away from being executed for the rape and murder of a young white woman nine years earlier in Sloan, Texas.  Convinced of his innocence, Drumm's legal team is working around the clock appealing his case.

Rev. Keith Schroeder receives a visit from recent parolee Travis Boyette who is living in a halfway house near his church.  Seriously ill, Mr. Boyette confesses to the heinous crime in Texas and he has the physical evidence to prove it.  Convinced that Drumm is innocent, Schroeder tracks down Boyette and drives him to Texas to meet with Drumm's legal team. 

I've been a longtime fan of Grisham's novels, despite the fact that he seemed to be coasting in recent years.  THE CONFESSION is not only a well written story, it's also a serious look at the criminal justice system and a social commentary about the death penalty.  Grisham will have you on the edge of your seat until the very last page.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


George and I celebrated our thirtieth wedding anniversary on Monday, January 10th.  Rather than take a trip for this milestone, I convinced my husband to spend a long week at our small farm in Connecticut...what was I thinking?!?  It was certainly an anniversary we won't forget!  Who knew it would be the snowiest and coldest January in years? 

George had to return to NJ the day after our anniversary so he decided to start my ten year old Beetle in the afternoon.  It was totally dead and it wouldn't start with a jump so we called Exxon Travel Club.  After about an hour's wait a tow truck showed up at the farm and managed to get my VW running.  The gentleman advised us to let it run for about a half hour and then to drive it to give it an extra boost. 

Monday is a bad night for a celebration; most of our favorite restaurants are closed on Mondays.  After letting the Beetle charge, off we went to Peking Tokyo in Mystic for a semi-romantic dinner.  At this point it was about ten degrees outside with piles of frozen snow everywhere.  George pulled into a parking space at the strip mall where the restaurant is located and turned off the car.  I got the bright idea to restart the VW to make sure it would start again.  And of course it wouldn't start.  Since we were on a very small incline, I suggested we let it roll and try to "jump" it with the clutch, which actually does work, but not this time.  So we continued rolling and wound up in two spaces by Starbucks with a dead battery. 

Of course we didn't have our membership number for Exxon Travel Club, but we did have a phone number. Since the car was still warm we sat there while making the call. Nothing is ever as easy as you hope though. Since it was after hours, we were connected to a nice gentleman in India. No matter what information we gave him, he couldn't seem to find our membership.  After about forty minutes of trying I said to him, "It's dark, it's freezing, our car won't start and you can't find our NUMBER??!!  You're probably somewhere nice and warm and the sun is probably shining and I'm going to hang up now before I freeze to death or lose my temper." 

So we gave up and went into Starbucks to borrow their phone book.  The young lady behind the counter was so nice, offering us free cups of coffee.  Sadly, I had to decline since I'm not a fan of their burnt roast flavor.  At this point, George's cell phone died and we gave up and walked over to Peking Tokyo for dinner; which incidentally was very good. 

After dinner, I sat with my book while George used their phone to call a taxi for us to get back to the farm.  After he went outside to put a note on our disabled car, the bartender came over to offer his assistance in trying to jump start our car.  But by that time, the taxi was right outside and we went back to the farm.  Like Scarlett O'Hara, we weren't going to deal with it then, we'd face the problem the next day.

Snuggled up in our warm little farmhouse with our full bellies and watching junk TV, we were just grateful to be inside and out of the cold.  "Happy Anniversary," my husband said to me.  "Next year I'm spending our anniversary some place that's warm, hope you'll come with me."

Pear photo taken by Lynn Kimmerle

Friday, January 21, 2011

HYPOTHERMIA An Icelandic Thriller

by Arnaldur Indridason - available in hardcover

Inspector Erlunder is a sad and solitary man.  He's haunted by the ghosts of unsolved crimes as well as the long ago disappearance of his brother and his failed marriage.  He's hounded by his troubled daughter and son to try to rekindle a relationship with his ex-wife, something neither of them wants.

Amidst all of his personal angst, he's currently investigating the suspected suicide of a young woman while still puzzling over two young people who went missing over 30 years ago.  Slowly and methodically, Erlunder unfolds a sinister plot surrounding the young woman's death, as well as fitting together the pieces of the puzzle of the thirty year disappearance.

HYPOTHERMIA is a quiet mystery.  Without pages filled with blood and gore, the focus is on Indridason's characters and Indridason intricately weaves Erlunder's own story into the cases he's trying to solve in this chilly Icelandic suspense novel.

Sunday, January 16, 2011


by Dean Koontz - available in bookstores and eBook

WHAT THE NIGHT KNOWS is the second book I read on my new ereader.  As I mentioned on January 2nd, Koontz always inserts words I've never seen before and this was no exception.  My ereader made it easy to just click on the word and get the definition.

Detective John Calvino is convinced the ghost of serial killer Alton Turner Blackwood has returned and is recreating his previous horrendous murder spree.  Calvino's especially worried because he was the sole survivor when his family died by Blackwood's hand  when he was a young boy.  Because of his personal connection to Blackwood, he's certain that his wife and children are being targeted. 

This latest from Koontz is a good police procedural/ghost story, but as usual, he inserted the ever faithful golden retriever, but this time in spirit form.

WHAT THE NIGHT KNOWS was fun to read, but definitely not Koontz's best.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011


by Daniel Palmer - available in bookstores and eBook

Charlie Giles and his partner created software for an automobile entertainment system.  Following his partner's suicide, Charlie's company was purchased by SoluCent and he continues to work on his software in his new capacity with them.  SoluCent is on the cusp of selling InVision to GM which will make Charlie wealthy beyond his dreams.

Approached by Anne Pedersen, a SoluCent employee, he learns that his boss is going to veto the GM sale.  When he confronts Jerry Schmidt in a high level meeting, everything begins to go awry.  He's suddenly out of a job, his mother has suffered a stroke and he's forced to move in with his schizophrenic brother.  When  Charlie begins to evidence symptoms of the same disease, is he just paranoid or is someone really out to get him?

DELIRIOUS is muddled, drawn out and has a seriously disappointing ending despite Mr. Palmer's intriguing storyline in this debut novel.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


by Lucy Kellaway - to be released in February 2011

IN OFFICE HOURS is the story of two women who work in the largest oil company in England.  Stella is senior management and Bella is a personal assistant and both are engaged in affairs with co-workers.

Married Stella begins an affair with Rhys, a management trainee seventeen years her junior, while Bella's affair is with her much older married boss, James, a top executive.  The fallout for each of the women is vastly different because of their career standing, as well as the older woman versus the older man scenario in each of the affairs.  The author infuses social commentary in the corporate treatment of the female executive and the male executive in this narrative giving IN OFFICE HOURS a little more substance than the usual chick lit.

British authors have us beat hands down in the chick lit genre and IN OFFICE HOURS is the perfect example.  Its funny, sad, upbeat and quirky while taking a look at the larger issue of human behavior in the corporate setting. 

Friday, January 7, 2011

GRAVITY - First book I read on my new eReader

by Tess Gerritsen - available in bookstores

GRAVITY is the first book I downloaded to my new ereader.  First, because I like Gerritsen's books and second, because I find it really easy to become engrossed in her tales.  I thought this would be a good test for me to see if I could adjust to this format for reading.

Well, I'm happy to say that I adjusted very quickly as I became engrossed in Gerritsen's story and soon forgot that I was holding a small electronic device rather than a printed book, at least until the battery needed recharging.

There's one thing I have to add before actually reviewing GRAVITY.  I read everywhere, no matter what I'm doing, even if I'm cooking.  The serious advantage of my new Pandigital is that I don't have to feel terrible if a spot of maple syrup or tomato sauce finds its way to the page, unlike printed books.  I can now prop my ereader up right next to the stove while I wait for the spaghetti water to boil, just not too close.  Now on to GRAVITY....

Dr. Emma Watson is an astronaut as well as a medical doctor.  She's scheduled to go up with the next team for a lengthy stay on the space station, acting as a researcher as well as the team's physician.  But there has been a cross-contamination on the space station and the crew has been exposed. 

Emma quickly finds herself on the next shuttle and faces the fight of her life to not only save the crew, but to 
also keep herself from being exposed to this deadly contagion. NASA faces the additional problem of choosing between astronaut safety and not allowing this deadly new mutation to infect the earth.

When Emma is exposed and becomes sick, her husband, Jack McCallum, who is also part of the space program, works hard to find a way to save her and bring her home.
Ms. Gerritsen's books are fun and quick to read and GRAVITY doesn't fail.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


Happy New Year!

2010 ended just as I had expected; most of December was too hectic to blog.  Visiting family and friends in Connecticut, Delaware and Maryland as well as Christmas shopping and decorating took up all of our time.  Enjoying New Year's Eve and New Year's Day with family and friends was wonderful! 
Now I'd like to tell you about a gift I received for Christmas, and I hope your Christmas was wonderful!

I fought it forever but finally let my husband buy me an ereader.  I didn't want a Kindle or a Nook so George bought me a Pandigital Novel.  I love REAL books.  I love everything about them; the feel, the smell, the crisp coolness of the paper.  I didn't want an ereader and I definitely didn't want to LIKE having an ereader,  but I'm sorry to say, I got one and I LOVE it!  It's so cool! 

Of course the ereader doesn't work for advance reader copies of books that are in the publishers' pipelines, but for new releases that are not special enough to save for your private collection, my Pandigital is perfect.  For example, I'm currently reading the new Dean Koontz book, WHAT THE NIGHT KNOWS.  When he's not being overly enthusiastic about golden retrievers, I enjoy his stories.  But Koontz always has a quirky way of inserting words into his books that I've never seen before (and will probably never see again) and it drives me crazy!  Now I don't have to run for the dictionary or write the word down on a scrap of paper to look up later.  I just have to touch it and VOILA,  up pops the definition.  Twenty pages into his latest book, there it was!  SKIRLING.  Hmmm, what is a skirling?  Spellcheck doesn't even recognize this one!  I now know it's the sound a bagpipe makes.  I'm not Scottish and don't play or enjoy bagpipe music, but I won't forget the word for that mournful sound thanks to Mr. Koontz! 

And thank you, Mr. Koontz, for introducing me to BATHYSCAPHES.  Looking at that word I deduced it had something to do with baths or water but I now have added yet another word to my vocabulary.  In case you're wondering, bathyscaphes is a navigable, submersible vessel used to explore the depths of the ocean, usually having a spherical observation chamber under the hull.  I'll be sure to use that word the next time I'm having lunch with my friends and discussing our deep sea adventures!

All in all, I have to admit my ereader is nice.  I definitely won't be giving up real, printed books anytime soon, but it's great to be able to read in bed with the night mode without having to use a cumbersome book light.

My wish for each of you this year is that you'll be enjoying tons of wonderful books, the paper variety or an ebook.   Happy New Year and happy reading!