September 27, 2015

I'll Be Watching You by Samuel M. Key

Title:  I'll Be Watching You
Author:  Samuel M. Key
Pages:  296
Genre:  Psychological Suspense / Thriller
Publisher:  Jove, 1994

Synopsis:  HER SAVIOR
Rachel Sorensen feared she would never escape the abuse of her ex-husband.  Until a passing stranger came to her rescue.  A stranger who watched her from afar.

He was a photographer and collector of beautiful things.  And Rachel was the perfect subject.  He lived only to make her happy.  And elimate those who didn't.

Once he used his camera to trap Rachel's beauty forever.  Now he wanted something more.  She owed him her life.  And tonight he will collect his debt....

Review:  The people who write the synopsis on the back of the book --- do they even read the book first?  Yes, Harry is a photographer and, certainly, he is obsessed with Rachel.  And he did kill several people who dared to behave less than perfectly towards her.  But his motives are far more deeply insane than the synopsis portrays.

See, Harry is looking for the lost Goddess of Beauty, who is lost somewhere on Earth, trapped in a human woman's body.  And only Harry can set the Goddess free.  His camera and his stalking are only foreplay, to be very sure that the woman in question is beautiful enough to possibly be the Goddess in disguise.  His real mission is, once he's found a possible candidate, to stab her to see if she bleeds blood or light.  Light being, of course, the trapped Goddess.  Makes perfect sense to Harry.

There was no Otherworldly stuff going on in this story.  An insane psychopath, a haunted woman and a camera all add up to an incredible, realistic, believable suspense novel.  Great book.  I loved it and couldn't put it down.

Rating:  9.5 / 10

September 24, 2015

From a Whisper to a Scream by Samuel M. Key

Title:  From a Whisper to a Scream
Author:  Samuel M. Key
Pages:  261
Genre:  Horror
Publisher:  Berkley, 1992

In 1988, child murderer Teddy Bird was apprehended and killed by police.  He was buried in a pauper's grave and forgotten.

Years later, crime photographer Jim McGann captures the terrified gaze of a young girl at a crime scene.  Behind her, the obscene graffiti scrawl of a woman's name...Niki.  It is the only clue in a series of grisly murders.  One girl knows the killer's identity.  Once upon a time she played strange games with him.  He warned her not to tell.  It's only a matter of time before he punishes her...

Niki hasn't heard the last of Teddy Bird.


Review:  Wow, just wow.  What a change from the last book.  This one has plenty of Otherworld-ish things going on, but really, it's a horror novel.  A pedophile who refuses to stay dead, trying to find his daughter so he can continue to 'love' her for eternity.  Very unpleasant and horrific and just a plain good, can't-put-it-down story.  Talk about a complete difference....the last one was almost sugary sweet while this one is the exact opposite.

Mr. de Lint used the pseudonym Samuel M. Key to warn his readers when a story was going to be darker than his usual fare.  I believe it's safe to say this is dark and more than dark.  The characters were great, from the Voodoo priestess to the police officer who is also an American Indian.

There were so many quotes that haunt me as I write this, but none of them are something I care to repeat.  The monster, Teddy Bird, is so virulent in his hatred and so assured of his justifications that his thoughts and quotes are unforgettable.  But, they aren't something I'd share in polite company.

The next book in the series is another 'Key novel'.  I can't wait to start on it tomorrow.  I remember now why Charles de Lint is one of my very favorite authors.

Rating:  10 / 10

September 21, 2015

The Dreaming Place by Charles de Lint

Title:  The Dreaming Place
Author:  Charles de Lint
Pages:  134
Genre:  Teen Fantasy
Publisher:  Firebird, 1990

Synopsis:  A young woman locked in rage yet seeking magic, Ash is drawn into a wondrous Otherworld of totems and dryads, living tarots and mystic charms. At the same time, Ash's cousin Nina is stalked by an Otherworld demon-a manitou who can force her mind and soul into the bodies of beasts. Ash must find the strength to overcome her own anger, learn the full power of magic, and save Nina before she becomes the manitou's weapon, turning the faerie realm into an arctic wasteland. De Lint fans will relish this urban and otherworldly fantasy, partially set in the author's trademark Newford.

Review:  This book is a little odd.  It's mainly about two teenage girls, Ash and Nina, but it's written by a grown man.  It's a little unbelievable at times, not because of the Fantasy portions of it but because of the interactions of the teenage girls.  Maybe I'm wrong, but they just seem too much like what a man expects teenage girls to be like.  It's hard to explain, but that's how I felt.

By the author's reading recommendation, this is the first book in the Newford series, which I finally have a complete set of (less the short story collections and one children's book).  I can't abide short stories unless they are really great (think Stephen King) and I am not interested in a children's book, so this is the complete set for me.

Thankfully, not all of them are rated for teen readers.  I've already started the next book in the series and it's proving to be much, much, much better.  But, this book is short enough to read in one sitting and it does set some background for the Otherworld, so I'm glad I read it.

Rating:  3.5 / 10

September 19, 2015

The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town by John Grisham

Title:  The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town
Author:  John Grisham
Pages:  360
Genre:  Non-Fiction
Publisher:  Doubleday, 2006

Synopsis:  John Grisham's first work of nonfiction, an exploration of small town justice gone terribly awry, is his most extraordinary legal thriller yet. — In the major league draft of 1971, the first player chosen from the State of Oklahoma was Ron Williamson. When he signed with the Oakland A's, he said goodbye to his hometown of Ada and left to pursue his dreams of big league glory.

Six years later he was back, his dreams broken by a bad arm and bad habits--drinking, drugs, and women. He began to show signs of mental illness. Unable to keep a job, he moved in with his mother and slept twenty hours a day on her sofa.

In 1982, a 21-year-old cocktail waitress in Ada named Debra Sue Carter was raped and murdered, and for five years the police could not solve the crime. For reasons that were never clear, they suspected Ron Williamson and his friend Dennis Fritz. The two were finally arrested in 1987 and charged with capital murder.

With no physical evidence, the prosecution's case was built on junk science and the testimony of jailhouse snitches and convicts. Dennis Fritz was found guilty and given a life sentence. Ron Williamson was sent to death row.

If you believe that in America you are innocent until proven guilty, this book will shock you. If you believe in the death penalty, this book will disturb you. If you believe the criminal justice system is fair, this book will infuriate you.

Review:  I was naive.  I thought our justice system was the best one in the world, in the history of the world.  I now realize that it is only as good as the people involved in it.  Everyone, from the judge to the prosecutor, to the 'expert witnesses' were corrupt and wrong and ruined four lives.

I was shocked, disturbed and infuriated, just as the synopsis promised.  I was also saddened.  And uplifted and hopeful because somebody out there eventually brought the facts to light and saved the life of Ron Williamson and freed Dennis Fritz.  It's unfortunate, but the other two men who were convicted by the same dishonest system for a different crime, Tommy Ward and Karl Fontenot, are in prison for life.

Ron's life was saved too late.  He was so mentally unbalanced and the 14 years he spent in correctional facilities just exacerbated his problems.  What a sad, sad group of people who cared nothing for justice and sent innocent people to jail and one to death row.  The only bright spot, if you can call it that, is 20+ years later, the actual killer of Debra Carter is behind bars for life.

I couldn't put this book down.  I easily finished it in less than 24 hours.  It is horrifying and sad and eye-opening....and true.

Rating:  10 / 10

September 18, 2015

The Ruins of Isis by Marion Zimmer Bradley

Title:  The Ruins of Isis
Author:  Marion Zimmer Bradley
Pages:  298
Genre:  Science Fiction
Publisher:  Pocket Books, 1978

Synopsis:  Of all the worlds of the Galaxy, only the matriarchy of Isis/Cinderella has returned to an ancient social order.  It is on Isis that women rule, their control total and unbending, on Isis men are regarded as dangerous animals or, at best, as sexual playthings, and on Isis exists the great enigma of the known universe, the Builder Ruins - last remnant of an unknown, ancient culture, within those strange Ruins, something survives - something which speaks...

Review:  This was a whole new genre for me:  Science Fiction Fluff.  The story line wouldn't seem to lend itself to romance and love, since Isis is a society where men are considered less than human, but somehow, in the end, the moral of the story was to love one another.  Not a bad idea, really.

The main characters, Cendri and Dal, were sent from the advanced planet University to study the ruins on Isis which were supposedly created by The Builders, the legendary race that seeded the universe.  They were both flawed in their own ways, but they meant well and really both did try to help the people of Isis.

The really interesting (and unexplained) characters were The Intelligences that now resided in the ruins.  Disembodied pure energy and emotion, they were godlike in their knowledge.  The book ends with Cendri sending a report back to University saying that it will be years and years before the ruins and The Intelligences would even begin to be understood.

But, the book gave so many other stories of the women and men of Isis that I am not unhappy with the lack of closure.  Plus, already many advances had been made in equality on Isis.  Some of the dialogue and interactions are a bit dated.  You can definitely tell this book was written a while ago.  It didn't take away from the story, just sometimes raised my hackles a little.

Rating:  7 / 10

September 12, 2015

Eight Days to Live by Iris Johansen

Title:  Eight Days to Live
Author:  Iris Johansen
Pages:  295
Genre:  Thriller
Publisher:  St. Martin's Press, 2010

Synopsis:  Eve Duncan and her adopted daughter, Jane MacGuire, are pitted against the members of a secretive cult who have targeted Jane and have decided that she will be their ultimate sacrifice. In eight days they will come for her. In eight days, what Jane fears the most will become a reality. In eight days, she will die. It all begins with a painting that Jane, an artist, displays in her Parisian gallery. The painting is called "Guilt" and Jane has no idea how or why she painted the portrait of the chilling face. But the members of a cult that dates back to the time of Christ believe that Jane's blasphemy means she must die. But first, she will lead them to an ancient treasure whose value is beyond price. This elusive treasure, and Jane's death, are all that they need for their power to come to ultimate fruition. With Eve's help, can Jane escape before the clock stops ticking?

Review:  In this, the tenth book of the Eve Duncan series, it becomes more obvious that Jane MacGuire is going to be the main character in at least some of the future books in this series.  I'm not surprised.  It's been coming for a book or two because, really, how many adventures can Eve have before it becomes unbelievable?

Eve and her husband, Joe, are still in the book.  But I believe that Jane and Caleb, her soon-to-be-lover, will be more important as the series continues.  I'm fine with that because they are both very interesting characters and very different from Eve and Joe.

The storyline was really original.  A cult that worships Judas Iscariot with human sacrifice is after Jane for painting a picture of a man she sees in her dreams.  The man in her painting, it would seem, is none other than Judas.  Judas is their deity because, without his treachery against Jesus, God's will for his son to be killed for humankind's salvation would never have taken place.  Judas' betrayal was actually God's will.  Certainly, the cult members were, in some instances, sadistic and insane and in every instance evil, but their belief that Judas was misunderstood was thought-provoking and made a sort of sense.  I will probably do some research soon to see if any scholars have thoughts on this side of the Judas issue.

This was a quick read, as all these books are.  I really like this author and look forward to the next installment.

Rating:  7.5 / 10

September 6, 2015

Tymora's Luck by Kate Novak & Jeff Grubb

Title:  Tymora's Luck
Author:  Kate Novak and Jeff Grubb
Pages:  315
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  TSR, 1997

Synopsis:  Before the Dawn Cataclysm, Moander the Darkbringer corrupted Tyche, Goddess of Luck. In a desperate attempt to preserve Tyche's goodness, the gods clove her in twain, creating two daughter goddesses: Tymora, Lady Luck; and Beshaba, Lady Doom. In the eons since then, the two sisters have existed in total enmity. — Now a great power has hatched a mad scheme to re-create the goddess Tyche by reuniting Tymora and Beshaba, regardless of the potentially calamitous consequences.

In a decision fraught with godly intrigue, Joel, the Rebel Bard, priest of Finder, is chosen to uncover whoever is behind the abduction of the sister goddesses. Aided by his old allies, Holly Harrowslough and Jas, and his new friend, the kender Emilo Haversack, Joel must find a way to prevent the merger of Tymora and Beshaba before disaster overtakes the luckless Realms.

The Forgotten Realms meet Dragonlance meet Planescape in a heart-stopping adventure that spans three worlds.

Review:  Well, Emilio the Kender is back in this book, along with the characters from the first novel of this trilogy.  Some new additions were made.  This set of books were all fast reads, all had plenty of adventure and were generally just a lot of fun to read.  I needed some easy-to-read Fantasy and this was just the ticket.

At the end of the story, there was a hint that perhaps more stories about Emilio were to be written.  Unfortunately, it seems that hasn't taken place.  I'm disappointed.  I have found these two authors to be quite good and if I ever see any more of their work at a yard sale again, I wouldn't hesitate to pick them up and give them a try.

Rating:  8 / 10

September 2, 2015

Fistandantilus Reborn by Douglas Niles

Title:  Fistandantilus Reborn
Author:  Douglas Niles
Pages:  315
Genre:  Fantasy
Publisher:  TSR, 1994

Synopsis:  Emilo Haversack is unusually worried for a kender -- though he can't for the life of him remember what his problem is. Still, he's been wandering across Ansalon for quite some time, trying to remember what's wrong. All he can recall is the name of a very evil, very dead wizard . . . Fistandantilus. — Joined by a young kendermaid, a human lad, and a devout, if somewhat naive priest, Emilo is drawn into a mysterious quest. As he draws closer to the secret of his past, he and his friends find themselves caught in an increasingly sinister web of intrigue.

And as the conclusion of the adventure approaches, the companions learn that their pourpose is one that could catapult them from Krynn -- and forever change the destiny of the world they leave behind.

Review:  This book was great fun.  The kender, Emilo, is a great character.  In fact, all of the characters are good.  The story is exciting, full of dragons and evil wizards.  None of the characters from the first book were in this one, which seemed odd.

However, I'm already reading the third book and realize that Emilo winds up meeting up with Joel, Jas and Holly from the first novel.  I'm pleased because Emilo is even more amusing than Finder and that is saying something.

I've never read a book by this author before but I wasn't disappointed.  This book was surprisingly engaging and I finished it quickly.

Rating:  8 / 10

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