Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Book Review: The Saddlemaker's Wife by Earlene Fowler

Title: The Saddlemaker's Wife
Series: Standalone
Author: Earlene Fowler
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Published: 05/01/2007
Publisher: Berkley
Genre(s): Contemporary Mystery


Ruby McGavin has inherited part of a cattle ranch from her late husband, only to discover that his family is very much alive, in contrast to what he told her. Even as she is drawn to handsome saddlemaker Lucas McGavin, she learns more about her late husband's family-and wonders if she ever really knew him.

Piecing together the truth, Ruby uncovers a legacy of pain and denial that has pursued the McGavin family for too long.


Although I am glad that I have finally sought this book out and read it, I found myself comparing the characters to those of Ms. Fowler's Benni Harper Mysteries (of which I've read all), and found them lacking. Give me those colorful and familiar characters every time. As in all of her other books, The Saddlemaker's Wife, features California history—particularly that related to Western influences, ranching, horses, and the cowboy culture. Although you're not exactly left hanging at the end of the story, I would have preferred the story wrap-up more solidly, and possibly feature an epilogue.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Book Review: Thunderstruck by Erik Larson

Title: Thunderstruck
Series: Standalone
Author: Erik Larson
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Published: 10/24/2006
Publisher: Crown
Genre(s): Biography, History


"A true story of love, murder, and the end of the world’s “great hush.”

In Thunderstruck, Erik Larson tells the interwoven stories of two men—Hawley Crippen, a very unlikely murderer, and Guglielmo Marconi, the obsessive creator of a seemingly supernatural means of communication—whose lives intersect during one of the greatest criminal chases of all time.

Set in Edwardian London and on the stormy coasts of Cornwall, Cape Cod, and Nova Scotia, Thunderstruck evokes the dynamism of those years when great shipping companies competed to build the biggest, fastest ocean liners, scientific advances dazzled the public with visions of a world transformed, and the rich outdid one another with ostentatious displays of wealth. Against this background, Marconi races against incredible odds and relentless skepticism to perfect his invention: the wireless, a prime catalyst for the emergence of the world we know today. Meanwhile, Crippen, “the kindest of men,” nearly commits the perfect crime.

With his superb narrative skills, Erik Larson guides these parallel narratives toward a relentlessly suspenseful meeting on the waters of the North Atlantic. Along the way, he tells of a sad and tragic love affair that was described on the front pages of newspapers around the world, a chief inspector who found himself strangely sympathetic to the killer and his lover, and a driven and compelling inventor who transformed the way we communicate. Thunderstruck presents a vibrant portrait of an era of séances, science, and fog, inhabited by inventors, magicians, and Scotland Yard detectives, all presided over by the amiable and fun-loving Edward VII as the world slid inevitably toward the first great war of the twentieth century. Gripping from the first page, and rich with fascinating detail about the time, the people, and the new inventions that connect and divide us, Thunderstruck is splendid narrative history from a master of the form."


The title and cover of this book grabbed my attention at the library. The author could probably make just about any topic engrossing. The research is only as good as the storytelling, and this book is a a story capably told. Marconi and Crippen were as unlike as two men could be, but the author portrays their lives in such a way that I felt empathetic to both. I am quite eager to read The Devil in the White City and Isaac's Storm in short order.

(Note: I read the hardcover edition which accounts for the difference in the publishing date above from the Kindle edition's.)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Book Review: The River Knows by Amanda Quick

Title: The River Knows
Series: Standalone
Author: Amanda Quick
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Published: 04/27/2007
Publisher: Jove
Genre(s): Historical Romance


The first kiss occurred in a dimly lit hallway on the upper floor of Elwin Hastings's grand house. Louisa never saw it coming.... Of course, Anthony Stalbridge couldn't possibly have had romantic intentions. The kiss was an act of desperation meant to distract the armed guard from catching the pair in a place they did not belong. After all, Louisa Bryce, in her dull maroon gown and gold-rimmed spectacles, was no man's idea of an alluring female. The only thing the two interlopers have in common is a passionate interest in the private affairs of Mr. Hastings-a prominent member of Society whom they both suspect of hiding terrible secrets. Now, brought together by their ruse, Anthony and Louisa are united in their efforts to find the truth. Each has a reason for the quest. Anthony's fianc?e was said to have thrown herself into the Thames-but Anthony has his own suspicions. Louisa-whose own identity is shrouded in layers of mystery-is convinced that Hastings has a connection to a notorious brothel. When Anthony successfully cracks Hastings's hidden safe-and discovers incriminating evidence-it appears that both their instincts were correct. Yet Hastings is hiding far more than jewels and ledger books. Bringing him to justice will be more perilous than they anticipate-and their partnership will be more heated than either one expects. For it is not only Anthony's curiosity that Louisa arouses, and the two share something else: a thrilling attraction to danger. . . . From the triple-threat author who also hits bestseller lists under the names Jayne Ann Krentz and Jayne Castle, this is a delightful new romp filled with suspense and wit-and the steamy Victorian passion her devoted readers love.


This is the 24th book by Amanda Quick (Jayne Ann Krentz) and subsequently the 24th that I've read. If you like one of her books, you will probably like them all. They all (if memory serves) have a darkly handsome and worldly hero and a slightly irreverent heroine, who are nearly always bespectacled. The chemistry between the two leads is always politely passionate. They get into just enough peril to make for a slightly mysterious plot, and they consistently have surprising (to the heroine) sexual chemistry. The dialogue is ceaselessly clever, catchy, and, yes, polite. In this story Anthony Stalbridge and Louisa Bryce get into just the right amount of danger to make for that fairy tale Quick conclusion.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Book Review: The Alibi Man by Tami Hoag

Title: The Alibi Man
Series: Elena Estes #2
Author: Tami Hoag
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Published: 03/27/2007
Publisher: Bantam
Genre(s): Contemporary Mystery, Crime Thriller


"She was a vision. She was a siren. She was a nightmare. She was dead. Now he needed her to disappear. And he knew just how to make it happen. The Palm Beach elite go to great lengths to protect their own—and their own no longer includes Elena Estes. Once upon a time a child of wealth and privilege, Elena turned her back on that life. Betrayed and disillusioned by those closest to her, she chose the life of an undercover cop, the hunt for justice her own personal passion. Then a tragic, haunting mistake ended her career. Now Elena exists on the fringes of her old life, training horses for a living. But a shocking event is about to draw her back into the painful vortex she’s fought so hard to leave behind.

First, she finds the body—a young woman used, murdered, and dumped in a canal. Not just a victim, but a friend. As Elena delves into her dead friend’s secret life, she discovers ties not only to the Russian mob but also to a group of powerful and wealthy Palm Beach bad boys known for giving each other alibis to cover a a multitude of sins. A group that includes a man Elena once knew very well—her former fiancé, Bennett Walker, a man she knows has already escaped justice at least once in his life.

Finding her friend’s killer will put Elena at odds with her old life, with her new lover, and with herself. But she is determined to reveal the truth—a truth that will shock Palm Beach society to its core, and could very well get her killed."


Wow! This is the follow up to Dark Horse, which I was also "wowed by." I've read all of Tami Hoag's mainstream releases and feel that she's hit her mark with her character Elena Estes. Elena is edgy, sarcastic and fearless but has a tender side for those she feels warrants it. I found that even the smallest details of a premises search kept me glued to the page. The dialogue was captivating, and the description of the worlds of Polo and Dressage were written by someone in-the-know. This book kept me focused and eager to keep the pages turning like no other in months, if not years. Again, wow!