All posts by ladyconsumer/Mona

Reviewer for 8 years on Epinions. Sad to see Epinions go, but happy to try something new.

Host by Robin Cook – spoiled by a too-obvious agenda

Host by Robin Cook

 

See it at Amazon 

(2/5)

Pros: very intriguing medical story

Cons: horrible characters, an obvious agenda

Decent premise, lots of action, would make a great movie.  But, Dear Lord, can Robin Cook stop with the social justice!

I enjoy medical thrillers.  And Robin Cook’s Host has a lot going for it.  A lot that give this book the suspense-filled intrigue that I expect from this genre.  But Cook had an obvious agenda, and he shoved it down our throats.

First the good stuff: When a healthy young man goes in for a routine operation and never wakes up, there’s reason to question what happened.  Even stranger is the pattern that is discovered.  Apparently Carl isn’t the only person to suffer this fate.  His girlfriend Lynn is on the case.  Digging around, with the help of her buddy, Michael, the duo will turn every rock to find what is happening.

And as the body count starts to rise, it’s clear that some very powerful people are trying very hard to keep some very bad secrets.

All of that is good stuff, and the reason I enjoy this type of story.

But Michael is black.  I know this because it’s mentioned approximately 100 times throughout the story.  Not only do they let us know the color of Michael’s skin, but they tell us – over and over again – how much this defines Michael’s life, and how he suffers injustice because of it.  Like when they pass a stranger on the street and Michael has to lament how they looked away when he passed.  Or how it’s clear that nobody trusts him.  And when he goes anywhere with his friend, a white woman, people “raise their eyebrows” and quickly look away.   Worse, Michael can speak two languages… the king’s English or black-talk (both are his phrases, not mine).  Apparently, depending on the situation at hand, he can choose which way he wants to come off.  But then he complains when people appear to judge him or have preconceived notions about who he is.

Look, I’m not saying there’s no racism in this world.  And I’m not saying that people never judge others.

I’m just saying that when I read a thriller, I prefer to stick to that which will thrill, intrigue, and interest me.  If the author must toss some societal stuff at me, keep it to a minimum.  I don’t need it repeated ad nauseum throughout the book.  And, frankly, I didn’t like Lynn much better.  Here’s a typical Lynn thought: “I know I shouldn’t open that door because there’s someone there trying to kill me – but I just HAVE to open that door”.  She’s like the dumb person in every horror movie – the person who runs upstairs instead of out the door.

So, read Host for the medical story – it’s actually quite good.  But you’ll be rolling your eyes at a lot of nonsense, too.

Also by Robin Cook

Mindbend

 

 

 

Distelfinks Paint By Number Kit from ArtYouCraft

Distelfinks Paint By Number Kit from ArtYouCraft

 

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(5/5)

Pros: Gorgeous, and unique kit

Cons: Not a single one!

Isn’t this picture adorable?  It’s a paint-by-number craft kit from http://www.artyoucraft.com.    This adorable pair of love birds is called “Distelfinks” and is available in 8 different color combinations.  It’s just one of many designs available on their website.  Take a look, there’s something there for everyone!

What makes these kits different from the normal paint-by-number kits?  Well, the main difference is that you’re painting on wood, not a canvas.  So when you’re done, you have a sturdy piece of art that can hang on a wall, or lie flat on a table.  Use the varnish included in the kit to make it shine!

The other difference is that some of the designs have spots where you don’t paint anything.  You allow the wood to show through in its natural beauty.  This particular picture doesn’t have any un-painted spots, but others do.  For instance the Wheel Of Hearts has unpainted wheels and spokes on the sides.

The kit includes everything you need.  In this case, there are 10 canisters of paint.  9 bright colors and black, for touch-up work.  The paints are high-quality acrylics.  Easy to use, and easy to wash.  You also get two paintbrushes, a paper template that tells you where each color goes, sandpaper, a hanger, and clear instructions.  In fact, the instructions are some of the best I’ve seen in kits of this type.  They fully explain how to paint the picture, care for the brushes and paints, varnish the completed project, and hang it.

Teens through adults will enjoy this project.  Even some kids might enjoy it, but you’ll have to help them touch up any spots where they go outside the lines, and maybe help them with some of the smaller areas where it takes a bit of steady hand.

I like how mine came out, and I thoroughly enjoyed doing it.  The price for the kit is fair, given everything that comes with it, and the website’s customer service has been outstanding.  I highly recommend you take a look at http://www.artyoucraft.com if you enjoy paint-by-number kits.

Other paint by number kits:

Afternoon Nap by Dimensions
Bengal Tiger by Schipper
Japanese Garden by Bucilla
Siberian Tiger by Plaid
Taj Mahal by Schipper
Wheel Of Hearts

Visions In Death by J.D. Robb – not the best

Visions In Death by J.D. Robb

 

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See it at Amazon 

(2/5)

Pros: the series, in general, is pretty good

Cons: not much that’s new here

In general, I enjoy J.D. Robb’s In Death series.  But Visions In Death is not one of the better ones.

Like all of the books in the series, it’s the mid 2000’s and we follow NY Police Lieutenant Eve Dallas as she gets dragged into one case after another.  In this case, women are turning up dead, with their eyes removed.  The women all fall into a similar physical pattern, but are otherwise unrelated.  The killer is careful, never leaving a clue behind.

Eve and her partner Peabody do an admiral job trying to chase the bad guy down.  But they get help from an unlikely source – a seer.  A woman with a “gift” of visions.

Now I don’t want to get into a whole thing about whether people really have such power.  Perhaps they do.  I’m not here to argue.  But I don’t appreciate when detective novels rely on this type of assistance to solve their cases.  I prefer to watch the authorities use good old fashioned smarts and skills to solve the cases.

On top of everything else, we have a case of “been there, done that” with this book.  If you’ve read several others in the series you’ll recognize a lot of what happens in here.  Eve’s past causing her nightmares, Eve giving an exclusive interview to Nadine putting them in danger, someone close to Eve being attacked and Eve feeling responsible (even though she isn’t).  The list goes on and on.

It’s not all bad, though.  There is a nice twist at the end, something that is definitely “different” from the other books.  But it comes at lightning speed and is over in a blink.

Basically, the In Death series is terrific, but Visions In Death can be skipped.

Other books in the In Death series

Born In Death
Betrayal In Death
Celebrity In Death
Ceremony In Death
Concealed In Death
Devoted In Death
Divided In Death
Festive In Death
Glory In Death
Haunted In Death
Immortal In Death
Indulgence In Death
Innocent In Death
Interlude In Death
Judgment In Death
Midnight In Death
Missing In Death
Naked In Death
Obsession In Death
Origin In Death
Rapture In Death
Reunion In Death
Salvation In Death
Strangers In Death
Survivor In Death
Treachery In Death
Vengeance In Death

Wheel Of Hearts Paint By Number Kit from ArtYouCraft – fun and gorgeous!

Wheel Of Hearts Paint By Number Kit from ArtYouCraft

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(5/5)

Pros: Beautiful pattern, fun to do, detailed instructions

Cons: None!

Take a look at this very pretty, very “different” paint-by-number kit.  Isn’t it adorable?  It’s called “Wheel Of Hearts” and it’s available in six different color combinations.  All of them are gorgeous.  Or, maybe this design isn’t your thing.  That’s Ok – they have seven other styles, in a total of 40 color combinations.

What makes this kit so different from other paint-by-number kits?  Well, the biggest difference is that you’re painting on wood, not on a canvas.  So when you’re finished you have a beautiful, sturdy piece of artwork.  You can hang it on a wall, or display it flat on a table.  Varnished to a high shine, it’s quite stunning, no matter where you place it.

The other thing that makes it different is that there are some spots purposely left unpainted.  In this case, it’s the four wheels and their spokes, on the sides.  Those are left unpainted, allowing the wood to show through.  It makes for a very attractive, and unique look.

Where does one find this kit?  On http://www.artyoucraft.com .  Take a look, you’re sure to find something that strikes your fancy.

What comes in the kit?  In this case, seven numbered paint canisters, plus an extra canister of black paint, used for touch-up work.  The 8.5″ by 11″ wood canvas with its black lines and circles, defining the pattern.  Two paint brushes, a paper template with the numbers filled in to show you which color goes where, a small piece of sandpaper to smooth the edges, a small color graphic showing the completed project, a small canister of varnish and a brush to apply it, a hanger, and an instruction sheet.

As far as the instructions go, these are the most complete and detailed instructions I’ve ever seen in a paint-by-number kit.  They explain everything you need to know.  How to maintain the consistency of the paint, how to care for the brushes, and how to apply the varnish.  I’ve done a lot of paint-by-number kits and have learned a bunch of tricks along the way.  But these instructions even taught me a thing or two.

In the end, if you use a steady hand and take your time, you can end up with a gorgeous finished product.  Teens through adults will enjoy doing these projects.  The spaces where the paint goes are pretty big, it’s not like there are thousands of tiny little spots to fill in.  Even some kids might enjoy doing a project like this.  You might just want to help them with the “touchup” portion of the project, where you correct any spots where they painted outside the lines.

I am thrilled with how this project came out, and I really enjoyed doing it.  I think the price for the kit is fair, given everything that comes with it.  And the website’s customer service has been impeccable.  I had some questions, and they were answered very quickly.

 

How did mine come out?

wheel-of-hearts

Other paint by number kits:

Afternoon Nap by Dimensions
Distelfinks
Bengal Tiger by Schipper
Japanese Garden by Bucilla
Siberian Tiger by Plaid
Taj Mahal by Schipper

Gone, But Not Forgotten by Phillip Margolin – very good thriller

Gone, But Not Forgotten by Phillip Margolin

 

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See it at Amazon 

(4.5/5)

Pros: a good, complex story with multiple layers

Cons: truly horrid depictions of violence

A pretty decent thriller… Definitely a bit different from the usual.

I’m talking about Phillip Margolin’s Gone But Not Forgotten.

Ten years ago, a serial killer haunted a New York town.  A task force was created.  The killer was caught, and subsequently killed.  The case was closed.

Now, a series of eerily similar killings is taking place in Oregon.  The killings are practically identical to the original killings, even though there were details that had been kept from the public.

Copy cat?  Or did the police get the wrong guy, the first time around?  And why did the killings start up again after 10 years absent?

Margolin gives us a mystery.  A story with multiple layers that goes all the way up to the President of the United States.  Along the way, we’re given several clues as to what’s really going on, but the “big reveal” still managed to provide some surprises.

Characters are well-developed and many are likeable.  The protagonists are smart.  No one makes stupid decisions (a problem that has plagued some other Margolin books).

The only negative about Gone, But Not Forgotten would be the level of violence depicted.  It is severe and makes for some difficult reading at times.  Of course, in thrillers like this, you expect there to be some violence but this book goes beyond the norm.

But if you can stomach the violence, Gone, But Not Forgotten is a tight thriller with a very good background story.  Recommended.

Also by Phillip Margolin

Lost Lake

Judge & Jury by James Patterson – Don’t read while on jury duty!

Judge & Jury by James Patterson

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See it at Amazon 

(3.5/5)

Pros: thrilling and exciting

Cons: premise quite unrealistic

Judge & Jury by James Patterson and Andrew Gross is the stuff that makes for nightmares in our legal system.  A high-powered mob boss is coming up for trial.  His crimes are numerous and horrific, and there’s a mountain of evidence against him.  Conviction should be a slam dunk.  Just pick 12 jurors and you’re all set.

And therein lies the problem.  12 jurors stand in the way of the mob boss’s freedom.  And if you think he’s going to let that just happen without fighting back, you haven’t read a book or seen a movie that deals with juries and the potential for manipulation.

So we have single Mom Andie who finds herself on the jury.  Sweet Andie and her adorable kid.  What happens to them?  Well, I’m not going to spoil the book for you, but it is the stuff of horror movies.  Let’s just say you shouldn’t read this book while you’re in a jury pool

Like all Patterson books, chapters are short, and the action moves swiftly.  I would even say that the book was hard to put down, as I flipped pages quickly to find out what would happen next.

But upon completion, I’m left with an unsatisfied feeling.  Why?  Because I just don’t buy the whole thing.  I accept that someone can bypass all security measures and get information on the jurors.  I even accept that someone in jail can have far-reaching buddies who act on their behalf.

But the acts that were taken in Judge & Jury just don’t make sense.  I can’t think of a hundred ways to manipulate a jury decision.  Heck, just watch one of the many movies about the subject and you’ll see a bunch of ways.  But what took place in this book wouldn’t really sway a jury.  It’ll cause a mistrial.  It’ll delay things for quite a while.  But I wouldn’t call it a brilliant way to manipulate.  Granted, we have horrible actions, pure evil, all the stuff that makes for a good thriller.  But as for realistic jury manipulation – No.

So, enjoy Judge & Jury for what it is – a fun thriller that had me flying through the pages. But don’t look for realism here or greatnesss – neither is present.

Also by James Patterson:
Four Blind Mice
Invisible
Kill Me If You Can
Mistress

Immortal in Death by J.D. Robb – 3rd One’s Pretty Good

Immortal in Death by J.D. Robb

 

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See it at Amazon 

(3.5/5)

Pros: nice background on Eve’s childhood, interesting investigation

Cons: other characters not too deep at this point in the series

Immortal In Death is the 3rd book in J.D. Robb’s In Death series. Like all of the books, it follows the life the Eve Dallas, in the Homicide division of the New York Police Department. Taking place in the mid-2000’s, the series brings a bit of a futuristic spin to homicide cases that Eve and her trusty coworkers fall into in each book.

In this case, the dead body belongs to a super model. Gorgeous, popular, she was seen fighting with another woman over a man. And that other woman just happens to be Eve’s bff Mavis. So when Pandora is found dead, naturally Mavis is the primary suspect. And as Eve follows the clues, more and more of which point in Mavis’s direction, Eve’s caught in a terrible position. Believing her friend to be innocent and proving it are two different things.

It’s only the third book in the series (of which there are currently close to 40) so it’s fair to say that there’s not the depth and breadth of the characters that appear in later novels. However, Roarke and Eve’s wedding takes place in this book, so it’s good to see how that all went, since Roarke and Eve are married throughout the rest of the books. Also, in this book, Eve first starts working with Peabody who ends up being her constant partner and companion. Mavis, Feeny, Dr. Mira and even Nadine appear. Although they are mere cutouts of characters compared to how well-defined they will end up being over the next 2 decades and 40 novels.

As far as the main murder investigation goes, this one is pretty interesting. It examines just how far a model will go in her quest for beauty and agelessness. In this case, Pandora went about as far as you can imagine it’s possible to go to secure her looks, her livelihood, and her vitality.

By the time all is said and done, there’s a pile of bodies and quite a complex story for Eve to work out, all while leading up to her and Roarke’s wedding.

And, Eve has started to remember her troubled childhood, a theme throughout the entire series.

Overall, Immortal In Death is an interesting addition to the series, although it’s not the strongest in the set. I’m reading the books in random order, but you should try to read them in order, if you can. While Robb does a good job of making them enjoyable in a stand-alone manner, of course, the arcs flow better in order.

Other books in the In Death series

Born In Death
Betrayal In Death
Celebrity In Death
Ceremony In Death
Concealed In Death
Devoted In Death
Divided In Death
Festive In Death
Glory In Death
Haunted In Death
Indulgence In Death
Innocent In Death
Interlude In Death
Judgment In Death
Midnight In Death
Missing In Death
Naked In Death
Obsession In Death
Origin In Death
Rapture In Death
Reunion In Death
Salvation In Death
Strangers In Death
Survivor In Death
Treachery In Death
Vengeance In Death
Visions In Death

The Edge of Sleep by David Wiltse – horrid protagonists

The Edge of Sleep by David Wiltse

 

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See it at Amazon 

(3.5/5)

Pros: intriguing bad guys

Cons: horrid protagonists, slipshod investigative work
A very decent serial killer novel. But one main flaw.

That’s my quickie review of David Wiltse’s The Edge of Sleep.

This book examines a horrible case of serial abuse and murder of young boys. Several young boys have disappeared over the years. They’re gone for a couple months and then, suddenly, their badly beaten bodies turn up in plain view, dead from strangulation.

Becker is an ex-FBI agent, fighting his own demons during his semi-retirement. Karen is his ex-lover, and a current agent. She appeals to Becker for help on this case. Too many boys have met terrible fates and the FBI has scarcely a clue. Karen knows it will hurt Becker to become involved in another terrible case, but she asks, anyway.

Becker and Karen work together to solve the mystery. And, along the way, they renew their old relationship. Meanwhile, Becker grows close to Karen’s young son.

We, the readers, know exactly who’s taking the boys. Half the book is written from the killer’s point of view, so we get to understand what’s driving him. It’s maddening that we are so far ahead of the authorities in the investigation. Especially when they make glaringly wrong assumptions about the case. This was annoying, but not the worst problem in this book.

The worst problem is that Becker isn’t too likeable. But as bad as he is, Karen is ten times worse. She is one of the most unlikeable main characters I’ve ever read. It’s rare that I root for the bad guys to win but in this case, Karen was such a pain in the butt that I found myself hoping for a less than favorable outcome for her.

Not for the boys, of course. I could never root for pain and suffering for the young victims. But as for Karen… she deserves what she gets, frankly. And, put her with Becker, himself unlikeable, and you have a really horrid pair of protagonists.

On the other hand, the bad guys – while they commit horrendous acts – are at least well-developed and, to some extent, likeable. I know that sounds weird – but their evil is, in large part, not their fault. Whereas Karen, she’s just a witch, so I can’t give her a pass.

Still, I enjoyed The Edge of Sleep. Give it a try.

Devoted In Death by J.D. Robb – good old-fashioned investigation

Devoted In Death by J.D. Robb

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See it at Amazon 

(4.5/5)

Pros: solved with good old-fashioned investigative work

Cons: Eve is a bit annoying

Devoted In Death is a 2015 addition to J.D. Robb’s In Death series. Like all books in the series, we’re in the future (mid-2000’s) and watching N.Y. Homicide Lieutenant Eve Dallas as she works with her team to solve murders.

In this book, we meet a couple of killers. Unlike most books in the series, we know exactly who the perps are, we’re introduced to them from the get-to. We know exactly what drove them to the path they’re on, what they’re doing and where they’re doing it. No mystery for us to solve – we just get to watch Eve follow the clues to catch up to us.

Letting us in on the mystery from the very beginning is a different technique. I would say that it worked, it was a refreshing change of pace. However, it comes with one drawback. We are completely privy to the thoughts and actions of the killers. And, in this case, their thoughts and actions are extremely evil. We’re talking a level of violence and depravity and disregard for human life that goes beyond the pale. It takes a lot, sometimes, to read of evil to this degree, and some readers will be put off, for sure.

That aside, if you can stand the violence, Devoted In Death is a very good book. We get very good investigative work. It was refreshing that Eve is helped by a small-town sheriff. And that the sheriff is not a caricature of “small-town folk” but an intelligent man whose help on the case proves invaluable.

I also liked that “the team” solved this difficult case using old-fashioned common sense, logic, and pavement-pounding. Despite the fact that it’s 2061, and there are new-fangled devices, nothing “magic” was used to solve this case. Eve worked it the same as she would in today’s world.

My only complaint is a minor one. Robb likes to infuse Eve with several flaws, and she plays them for comedic relief. In this book, Eve is constantly getting tripped up by time zones, and trying to figure out what time it is in another location, and getting upset when the answers aren’t “logical” to her way of thinking. Things like this are cute, but not when they’re overused. Sadly, by the fourth or fifth time, it was just tiresome. Still, this is a minor complaint.

In general, I enjoy the In Death series, and Devoted In Death is one of the better ones.

Other books in the In Death series

Betrayal In Death
Celebrity In Death
Ceremony In Death
Concealed In Death
Divided In Death
Festive In Death
Glory In Death
Haunted In Death
Immortal In Death
Indulgence In Death
Innocent In Death
Interlude In Death
Judgment In Death
Midnight In Death
Missing In Death
Naked In Death
Obsession In Death
Origin In Death
Rapture In Death
Reunion In Death
Salvation In Death
Strangers In Death
Survivor In Death
Treachery In Death
Vengeance In Death
Visions In Death

Cry Wolf by Tami Hoag: some good, some bad

Cry Wolf by Tami Hoag

 

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See it at Amazon 

(3.5/5)

Pros: intriguing mystery held my interest

Cons: annoying characters who spoke a lot of French

Some very good stuff.  And some very annoying stuff.  That’s my quickie review of Tami Hoag’s Cry Wolf. 

 

 

Our heroine, Laurel, comes back home – to the French villages of Louisiana, after facing a humiliating failure in her professional career.   She just wants to reconnect with her family, and enjoy some relaxing time to herself.

 

But she does not get much of a chance to rest.  Young girls are turning up dead along the Bayou.  At the same time, Laurel finds herself involved with the local ‘bad boy’ – thinking she sees the good man underneath all the bluster.

 

But when you get involved with someone you barely know, bad things can happen.  Is it possible that Laurel’s new love is somehow involved with the girls’ murders?  Or is someone else setting up an elaborate ruse, one designed to bring harm not only to Laurel but to the rest of her family as well?

 

That’s the premise of Cry Wolf and I’ll admit, I was pretty well hooked.  I turned those pages mighty fast to find out what was really going on.  I liked Hoag’s style of bringing lots of possible suspects into the mix.  Each time I was pretty sure I had it figured out, she would add a new twist and send me soaring in another direction.

 

Overall, a fascinating “whodunit” that definitely held my interest.

 

However, the book is far from perfect.  It suffers from a couple of flaws.  The biggest is that the characters were very hard to care about, and very hard to take seriously.  Each is a one-dimensional caricature.  The good girl.  The bad girl.  The good guy.  The bad guy.  The close-minded one.  The evil one.  You see the point – each character had no more depth than my fingernail.

 

And then there was the French.  I’m Ok if an otherwise-English book adds a few foreign phrases here and there.  Especially if you can gather most of the meaning from the context.  But this book incorporates French into nearly every conversation.  And even though I could make out most of it, I found it distracting and, frankly, annoying.  Worst of all – it turns out there’s a glossary at the back of the book to help you out.  When did I discover this fact?  After I read the last page of the story, of course.  Had I known all along that the glossary was hiding back there I might have used it.  But I’m not in the habit of checking out the back pages of a book to see if there’s anything of interest!

 

So – pick up Cry Wolf if you like a good “whodunit” and don’t mind thin characters.  And, if you don’t speak French, at least you’ll have my tip – turn to the back of the book!

 

Also by Tami Hoag

Deeper Than The Dead
Secrets To The Grave
The 9th Girl