Saturday, November 29, 2008

Lisa Jackson - Left To Die

Nothing's more terrifying...
One by one, the victims are carefully captured, toyed with, then subjected to a slow and agonizing death. Piece by piece, his exquisite plan takes shape.
The police can't yet see the beauty in his work -- but soon very soon, they will...

Than being left alone...
In the lonely woods around Grizzly Falls, Montana, four bodies have been discovered. Detectives Selena Alvarez and Regan Pescoli have been hoping for career-making case, but this nightmare. Even with the FBI involved, Selena and Regan have nothing to go on but a killer's cryptic notes, and the unsettling knowledge that there is much more worse to come...

To die...
When Jilian Rivers opens her eyes, she's trapped in a mangled car. Then a stranger, claiming to be a trail guide named Zane MacGregor, pries her free. Though she's grateful, something about him sets Jilian on edge. And if she knew what lay out there in the woods of Montana, she'd be truly terrified. Because someone is waiting...watching...poised to strike and make Jilian the next victim...


Jilian Rivers receives alarming messages via phone and email, that her long believed dead husband, Aaron, is still alive, living a good live with half a million dollars he stole over 10 years ago.
Alarmed she's beginning the journey to the town the letter was sent from when her front tire is shot in the middle of nowhere with a snow storm coming up. Injured she lies in her car when a stranger frees her.

Lately there have been women found dead in the woods around Grizzly Falls. The killer's MO is always the same: the front tire is shot and the car crashed. The women found dead have all been tended to. Their wounds were stitched or taped and they all seemed to be of a good health when they were tied to a tree in the woods. Slowly freezing to death.
Detectives Selena Alvarez and Regan Pescoli have squat to go on. No evidence left with the women, no evidence left with the sooner or later discovered cars. The only message left by the killer is a letter with the initials of the victims written on it and a star carved above the head of the women.

Jilian read about the dead women and now finds herself in a frightening situation: She wakes up in a cozy cabin, her wounds tended to and at the mercy of a men, she doesn't know anything about.
There is something about this man and she doesn't know if she can trust or believe him at all. In the end she doesn't have much choice but waits for the moment in which she can break free.


At times I thought this is one of Lisa Jackson's best books until I read the last few pages and discovered the book has an open end. The author announces the sequel will be published in August 2009 with the title Chosen To Die. My thoughts were she's got to be kidding leaving us readers here without any closure.
Without spoiling the book too much, it will be about one of the two detectives who the author thinks is an interesting person.
Unfortunately I don't feel the same way and couldn't find anything special about that. Nor do I want to read the same story all over again.
However, the rest of the roughly about 480 pages deserves a recommendation.

Visit Lisa Jackson.

Mass Market Paperback: 484 pages
Publisher: Zebra (August 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1420102761
ISBN-13: 978-1420102765

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Jay Anson - The Amityville Horror: A True Story

28 days of terror in a house possessed by evil spirits
In December 1975, the Lutz family moved into their dream home, the same home where Ronald DeFeo had murdered his parent, brothers and sisters just one year earlier.
The psychic phenomena that followed created the most terrifying experience the Lutz family had ever encountered, forcing them to flee the house in 28 days, convinced that it was possessed by evil spirits.
Their fantastic story, never before disclosed in full detail, makes for an unforgettable book with all the shocks and gripping suspense of The Exorcist, The Omen or Rosemary's Baby, but with one vital difference ... the story is true.


On the evening of 13th of November 1974 Ronald DeFeo Jr. killed his parents and 4 siblings in their home in Amityville, Long Island, NY, claiming later, during trial, that voices in his head urged him to kill the family.
Little more then a year later Kathleen and George Lutz bought the house and moved in with their three children.
From day one strange things seem to occur: it always seems to be chilly in the house. The characters of the occupants seem to change, especially in George and the boys nature, who begin to fight each other. The little girl has an imaginary friend who's a pig named Jodie, disgusting smells, a crucifix hanging upside down, doors, windows and drawers opening and closing by themselves and apparitions. A hidden room which walls are painted red is found in the basement and the Lutzes claimed it smelled like blood.

There also is a connection to Father Frank Mancuso who blessed the house and instantly has bad feelings about the house. He later in the story seems to fall ill as soon as he tries to help the family.

After 28 days and the final "horrific" night the Lutzes abandon their home to flea to Kathy's mother and never returned to their estate.


True or not, their have been a lot of voices stating their opinion of the story being a hoax but also a lot of voices, "acclaimed" mediums like f. e. the Warrens to be true.
The authors claimed everything has been told like George Lutz told him but but in interviews many years later he admitted that certain events portrayed in the books aren't factual.
In 2005 his than stepson, Christopher Quaratino, gave an interesting interview to the Seattle Times talking abut what really happened when he was 7 year old boy. He's pointing his finger to George Lutz being interested in the occult and having brought what happened to himself and the family. He also claims, a lot of what Lutz claimed isn't true. He's not denying paranormal occurrences but clearly sees his former stepfather as the instigator.

It is said that the family really left the house head over heels but what they left was little more then cheap stuff which lets room for the educated guess that there was a shortage of money. The Lutzes paid half of the house and myself as the mystery reader already sees a good solution to moneytrouble: Buy a house where someone has been killed in and make the best out of whatever you can do with it.
The family that bought the house later lived there for many years without supernatural occurrences and debunked a few of George Lutz's claims.


The first few chapters I was about to give up on the book but then found myself eager to read on and compare the book to the different movies. True or not, I found the book very entertaining and also the included research I did about the house and ultimately about the DeFeo case.


Mass Market Paperback: 269 pages
Publisher: Bantam Books (January 1, 1979)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0553131605
ISBN-13: 978-0553131604

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Anita Shreve - Testimony

At Avery Academy, a prestigious New England boarding school, the headmaster finds himself in possession of a videotape - a disaster in a small package. More shocking than sexual acts recorded on the tape are the ages of the students. One girl is just fourteen.
A Pandora's box, the tape unleashes a storm of shame and recrimination throughout the small community. The men, women, and teenagers involved speak out to relate the events of that night and their aftermath.
Mike Bordwin, the headmaster, struggles to contain the scandal before it destroys the school.
Silas Quinney, a well-liked local boy, grapples with the tremendous consequences of his mistakes.
Anna, his mother, confronts her own forbidden temptations. And Sienna, an enigmatic and troubled young woman, tries to put her past behind her.

For all the tape reveals. it provokes more questions than it answers.
How did this happen ? Who is to blame ? And will the mistakes of one foolish moment ruin the futures of everyone involved ?
As the chorus of voices rises to a crescendo, it reveals the surprising truth of what occurred that night, and how the lives touched by theses events will be forever transformed.


I finished Testimony with a huge sigh and the question what would I have thought and how would I have handled a situation like this.

Avery Academy is a private boarding school in New England. It is lead by headmaster Mike Bordwin who receives a homemade sex tape featuring four of Avery's students. 3 young boys age 17-19 and a young girl age 14, almost 15.
Bordwin has to decide what to do next. Deliver the tape to the police or handle the situation contained inside Avery's walls. He decides to go with the later but as word gets around, is forced to work together with the police who soon arrests two of the boys and the third boy missing.

As the story slowly unfolds we learn about all parties concerned: Children, mothers and fathers, uncles, friends, reporters, people employed at Avery Academy and at last the little community.
Each has to tell a part of this story, how it happened, how the aftermath was handled, partly who was to blame for the whole situation and who the boys and the girl were.

As the story is told the reader gets a good picture of the students involved and the life they are forced to live after they were expelled from school, chances of going to University lost because they had one drunken night and did something very stupid, were probably seduced by "the hot chick".
However, the book is more saddening from the boys perspective. During my reading I felt sorry for them, less for the girl who according to her description by roommates and her own telling of the story seems to be every flaky and dubious.
In the end it is the law that decides who is to blame and bares the boys way.

And it is the reader that has to decide on which side to stand on. Are you forgivable towards the boys and the girl ? Do they need to be punished for life for something they did for a moment and for something they all wanted at this time and no one was harmed ? Is morality more important than their future ?

Of course things like this don't happen in real life, don't they ? Aren't teenagers and young adults wasting their time drinking alcohol, doing stupid things ?
Well I did, my friends did, not in this way but certainly the one or the other way and not always inside the law.

Very thought provoking and a must read for people who like to confront themselves, their own morality and sense of justice.


Hardcover: 320 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (October 21, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0316059862
ISBN-13: 978-0316059862

Sunday, November 16, 2008

James Patterson - Double Cross

A psychotic killer who craves an audience

Just when Alex Cross's life is calming down, he is drawn back into the game to confront a criminal mastermind like no other. The elaborate murders that have stunned Washington, DC, are the wildest that Alex Cross and his new girlfriend, Detective Brianna Stone, have ever seen. This maniac adores an audience, and stages his killings as spectacles in public settings. Alex is pursuing a genius of terror who has the whole city on edge as it waits for his next move. And the killer loves the attention, no doubt--he even sets up his own Web site and live video feed to trumpet his madness.

And a mastermind who works alone

And in Colorado, another criminal mastermind is planning a triumphant return. From his super-maximum-security prison cell, Kyle Craig has plotted for years to have one chance at an impossible escape. If he has to join forces with DC's Audience Killer to get back at the man who put him in that cell--Alex Cross-- all the better.

Both are after the same detective--Alex Cross


I guess my big advantage with this book is that I have listened to all the audio books and never really picked up a book from the Alex Cross series. So while reading I always had the narrators gorgeous, character giving voice in my head while reading. I always thought it is this voice that gave Alex Cross the live in the audio books and and now that I read my first Hardback in this series I know I've always been right.
For me personally James Patterson's writing style isn't the best one, dull and repetitive at times. The characters aren't growing at all so I'll most certainly will stick to listening to the audio books instead of buying a real book.

However, the story itself is quite nice at the last third which I finished in one day while the first two thirds bored me big time.

For me it was an experiment that failed. :-)

Visit James Patterson.

Hardcover: 400 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (November 13, 2007)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0316015059
ISBN-13: 978-0316015059

Monday, November 10, 2008

Peter Benchley - Jaws

It's out there in the water ... waiting. Nature's most relentless predator. It fears nothing. It attacks anything. It devours everything.
The seaside community is at it's mercy. A small-town police chief, a marine biologist, and a modern-day Ahab must try to stop it.

But they are only three men ... alone against the Great White Death.


Who hasn't seen the movie at least once ? That the book is very different from the movie splatter does indeed surprise as it takes a few completely different turns than the movie does.
The story itself is pretty much the same:

Amity is a vacation community on Long Island that lives on the earnings taken in during the summer vacation season and it's tourism.
At the early summer days a girl is killed by a shark. The chief of police, Martin Brody, wants to close the beach but is pressured by higher locals and the selectmen to not do it. When more people die in a short amount of time he's still pressured to keep the beach open and after a short time of having them closed to open them again.
Ichthyologist Matt Hooper arrives in town to help with the search of the killer fish and for many days Chief Brody, Hooper and the venturous fisher Quint try to find the fish but it seems that the fish is the one that comes to them, taking first Hooper and then Quint. Brody faces the fish on the sinking boat and comes away ... . alive.

So much for the plot. But there is much more to mention which wasn't included in the movie. For example Ellen Brody's unhappiness with her social status and her short escape into an affair with Matt Hooper. The islands political structure and not to forget the fish hunt which is so different from the movie. I've been waiting for the famous sentence said by Brody "We need a bigger boat" but it never came. Instead Hooper didn't survive and got killed when he went down in the shark cage.
The ending of the book is completely different from the movie as well and I don't know which one I like more. Probably the movie ending because it has more of an impact but the book ending certainly explains more of the course the Brody family seems to have to go through in the future.

Overall, after today's standard the book probably wouldn't be such a success than it was in 1974. The characters are very unsympathetic with Brody being the most real.

Visit Peter Benchley.

Mass Market Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Fawcett (July 30, 1991)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0449219631
ISBN-13: 978-0449219638
Product Dimensions: 6.9 x 4.2 x 0.8 inches

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Chelsea Cain - Sweetheart (Archie Sheridan Series, Book 2)

When the body of a young woman is discovered in Portland's Forest Park, Archie Sheridan is reminded of the last time the police found a body there, more than a decade ago: It turned out to be the Beauty Killer's first victim, and Archie's first case.
This body can't be one of Gretchen's - she is in prison - but when, with the help of reporter Susan Ward, he uncovers the dead woman's identity, it becomes another big case. Trouble is, Archie can't focus on the new investigation because the Beauty Killer case has exploded: Gretchen Lowell has escaped from prison.

Archie hasn't seen her in two months; he's moved back in with his family and sworn off visiting her. Though it should feel like progress, he actually feels worse. The news of her escape spreads like wildfire, but secretly, he's relieved. He knows he's the only one who can catch her, and in fact, he has a plan to get out from under her thumb once and for all.


Archie Sheridan hasn't seen Gretchen Lowell in two months and suffers terribly under the abstinence he's put on himself for his family's and own sake. He's seriously dependent on pain medication much more mental than physical. He is about to die if he doesn't quit taking pills but Archie doesn't really care about his spirit anymore. He's dead since Gretchen Lowell tortured him, leaving his body mutilated and in constant pain. From the outside it looks like he is much better since he moved back to his house to be with his ex-wife Debbie and his two children.

When a dead body is found in a wilderness park he contacts Susan Ward, working for The Herald to take over the coverage.
The investigation becomes hot when Susan is able to identify the unknown women they just found because she was the main witness in a case than Susan was about to reveal in her paper. Molly Palmer was raped by Senator Castle when she was 14 years old and working for him as a babysitter. Just as the story is going to be in print the Senator and Susan's involved co-worker Quentin Parker die in a car accident and Molly is killed.
On top of that Gretchen Lowell has been assaulted by a guard and requires Archie's presence in prison. Archie's instantly drawn back to her watched by his partner Henry who orders a lockdown on Gretchen and a transfer to another state. |During this transfer Gretchen escapes.

Archie is relieved for Gretchen and worried about his family. Susan received a gift of chocolate hearts supposedly send to her by Archie but he never sent it. The Sheridan family and Susan and her mom are hidden in a club to keep them save and Archie knows there is only one way for him to save his families future: To get her and die with her.
He recklessly fleas their shelter just to be picked up by Gretchen who once again instantly drugs him.


This is an amazing, gripping continuation of Chelsea Cain's first thriller Heartsick. I didn't expect the second book to be so completely topping the first one so it was a huge surprise how much the authors writing style has improved.
The characters from the first novel return, some developed more, some less. Henry, Archie's partner is still the cool headed, loyal partner watching out for Archie. Susan is shortly before publishing her breakthrough as crime reporter and still dreams about writing crime books.
We learn about Archie's relationship with his ex-wife and his struggle when his children begin to talk about Gretchen Lowell.

It left me wanting more and worrying about what worse can happen to this haunted man.

I recommend to read the prequel first just for the understanding how deep Gretchen and Archie's relationship to each other is.

Visit Chelsea Cain.

Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: St. Martin's Minotaur; 1st edition (September 2, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 031236847X
ISBN-13: 978-0312368470

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

J. K. Rowling - Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone (Year 1)

Harry Potter has never played a sport while flying on a broomstick. He's never worn a cloak of invisibility, befriended a giant, or helped hatch a dragon. All Harry knows is a miserable life with the Dursleys', his horrible aunt and uncle, and their abominable son, Dudley. Harry's room is a tiny closet at the foot of the stairs, and he hasn't had a birthday party in eleven years.

But all that's about to change when a mysterious letter arrives by owl messenger: a letter with an invitation to a wonderful place he never dreamed existed. There he finds not only friends, aerial sports, and magic around every corner, but a great destiny that's been waiting for him ... if Harry can survive the encounter.


Young Harry Potter lives in the house of his aunt and uncle Vernon and Petunia Dursley, enduring the attacks of his cousin Dudley for the last 11 years. His bed is cupboard and love & friendship are foreign words for him. The Dudleys' let him feel he is the outsider, the burden they never wanted, and he's now coming to an age to recognize how off things are in his life.
Little does he know the reasoning for his uncle and aunt to not let him read the letters that begun to arrive lately, but the Dudleys' certainly know, they don't want to have to do anything with what the letters implicate. They know how off Harry's parents were. Especially Petunia's sister Lily.

On his eleventh birthday Harry's life changes when he is taken away by a huge, giantlike man called Hagrid, who introduces Harry to his real being as a wizard. He learns that his parents were a witch and a wizard and died while fighting the dark Voldemort who ultimately killed his parents but wasn't able to kill Harry.

Harry becomes a student in wizardry at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and for the first time learns what friendship is all about. Fascinated by the magic surrounding him he learns the ups and downs of being a wizard. He finds friends like Ron Weasley and Hermione Grander and he also makes enemies. He is a natural talent in riding the broom and becomes the Seeker for the Gryffindor team and prevails as an excellent attribute to the team, leading his house team to the first win in years.

But all the happiness has it's shadowy side. There is Darco Malfoy, the mean little boy taunting not only Harry but also other students and Professor Snape headmaster of the Slytherin house, who's dark appearance not only frightens the students but who seems to deeply hate Harry for unknown reasons.

During the term the three children discover a secret trap door on the third floor of Hogwarts castle. Behind it lingers a huge three headed dog guarding a trap door. Professor Snape soon becomes a suspect of interest when Harry discovers that he has a huge bite mark on his leg and seemed to be the reason why Harry had dangerous diffuculties during one Quidditch cursed by Snape.

Rumors are that the dangerous Voldemort is returning, trying to get to whatever is hidden under the trap door, the assumed safest place on earth to hide something.
Ultimately Harry has to face what's hidden under the door and who's trying to steal something of major important for everybody's well being.


Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone (originally in the U.K. edition named Harry Potter And The Philosopher's Stone) has been published a little more than 10 years ago, the movie shown on TV a million times and here I am having just finished the first volume for whatever reason.

I understand the series was developed for children but later matured to fit not only a child's taste but also the grown-ups taste.
I went into the book without knowing what to expect and it left me wondering what all the fuss was about.
Initially I thought there is nothing special about it but I find myself thinking I'll pick up the second volume quite soon. The reason for that is, I know what is going to come due to watching the following movies plus I actually began liking the characters in general. The writing itself is flat but flawless, fitted for children without implicating any kind of horrific pictures in a child's head.

I liked it !

Visit J. K. Rowling.

Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Paperbacks (September 8, 1999)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 059035342X
ISBN-13: 978-0590353427

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Alex Kava - Exposed (Maggie O'Dell series, Book 6)

Agent Maggie O'Dell and Assistant Director Cunningham believe they're responding to a threat made at Qunatico. Instead they walk into a trap. Before they realize it, they've both been exposed to a killer who can strike at anyone, at any time, and no one can predict who might be next... until it is too late.

The killer's tactics suggest he's an aficionado of criminal minds. He uses bits and pieces from those he admires: a phrase from the Beltway Snipers, a clue from the Unabomber, a delivery method similar to the Anthrax Killer.
His weapon is a deadly virus, virtually invisible and totally uninspected. His victims appear to be random, but in fact, they are chosen with a revengeful precision. The vaccine is limited and untested.

Maggie knows dangerous minds - from hauntingly perverse child predators to cunningly twisted serial killers. Now she faces a new opponent from inside an isolation ward at a biosafety containment hospital. Maggie must help Agent R. J. Tully find clues to catch the killer - while waiting to see if the deadly strain is already multiplying in her body. With every new exposure there's the potential for an epidemic. And Maggie knows she and Cunningham may not live long enough to discover who is the deadliest, most intelligent killer they've ever profiled.


When a doughnut box on Assistant Director Cunningham's desk is found nobody thinks it might have been left by an intruder at Quantico headquarters. Instead they find find a note hidden under the doughnuts: The note announces a crash at a certain time and a certain point.
Rushing for help they trap into an almost invisible trap. The house they enter is occupied by a mother and her little daughter. The child looks neglected, the mother lies blood gurgling in her blood drenched bed. Both agents instantly know there is no bomb going to explode but that the mother and the child have been exposed to a biological, possibly highly infectious agent. When the little girl vomits she splatters all over Cunningham and partly over Maggie.
The agents destiny seems to be defined when the Army arrives and takes them to the nearest USAMRID center and their containment hospital.
If it weren't for Maggie all the evidence would have been lost in the house. In a snap decision she bags a manila envelope from the mothers desk and hides it under her waistband.

With her and Cunningham locked away Tully stays outside worrying about his co-workers her considers his friends. With little evidence and not much to find on the doughnut note he pretty much doesn't know where to begin his investigations while Maggie after begging receives a laptop to at least do a little research about the return address on her envelope.
During this she receives the threatening diagnosis that she and Cunningham have been
exposed to Ebola Zaire, the worst and deadliest strain of all known Ebola viruses and that Cunningham seems to be infected while Maggie's blood stays clean.


I know a lot about viruses and have read a lot of reference about this topic so I might judge that Mrs. Kava did a fine research job and explained the facts about Ebola very nice and understandable for people who have never gone into this topic.
However, the plot seems to have suffered from it or shortened by the publisher.
The actual investigation to find the killer fells short and in the end leaves a few questions and loose ends.

The writing style very much reminded me of Whitewash but this time it didn't hurt the book as much.

There are a lot of possible infected people mentioned, but Mrs. Kava didn't close the loop on those. Also there was a quarantined hospital that receives a not much tested unproved vaccine. I figure she didn't close the loop on the later because the vaccine is real and it hasn't been tested on a lot of humans yet.

To come to a conclusion:
Yes, I liked it but I believe people that aren't too interested to read about pandemics, filoviruses and containment procedures might not be as interested as I am. Overall for me it was fluent up until the end which I probably didn't get right in the first place because I was distracted about all the loose ends and disappointed that the end was such uneventful.
Overall the book is very different from the other Maggie O'Dell novels.

Visit Alex Kava.

Hardcover: 432 pages
Publisher: Mira (October 1, 2008)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0778325571
ISBN-13: 978-0778325574