Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Murder on the Mind by LL Bartlett

About the author:
LL Bartlett is a former copy editor, and lives in Rochester, New York. She honed her characterization and plotting skills as a frequent writer for romance magazines. Shealso writes the New York Times bestselling Booktown Mysteries under the name Lorna Barrett, and the Victoria Square mysteries under the name Lorraine Bartlett.

My thoughts on the book:
Hunting for free mystery and thriller books on Kindle, I came across the title Murder on the Mind by LL Bartlett. The book is her first published novel (published in 2005) and the first title in the Jeff Resnick series.

We are introduced to, and drawn into the mind of Jeff Resnick. The protagonist is a formerly unemployed, and a newly appointed insurance claims agent. He’s celebrating the occasion by playing pool with friends. During the game, he has a sudden vision, one that he cannot understand or explain. He decides to leave early so he’s not late for work. He’s thinking of the future, of asking a girl out, of the future. Bad luck strikes then and he’s mugged, beaten to within an inch of his life.

The book resumes showing us that Jeff is now under the care of his half-brother Dr. Richard Alpert and his live-in lover Brenda. He still gets the sudden visions that he can’t make sense out of, and his health has expectedly receded after the mugging. He also finds that his sixth sense has gone up, and can sense something awry, or feel something odd to enter a room. He finds Richard doesn’t believe in his visions much, but that Brenda does. Richard, from the brother’s and physician’s perspective, thinks that the visions are just hallucinations from his brother’s unfortunate condition, that his serious head injuries are the reason for it.

Meanwhile, Jeff connects the vision to the death of a prominent banker. He starts to feel a moral responsibility to solving the mysterious nature of the death, and with Richard’s reluctant help, begins to dig deeper. He crosses paths with the local police, who want him to stay out of their way, and the wife who still is deep in mourning. The light read thriller follows Jeff’s psychic visions that lead him to various turning points in the mystery, and Richard’s reluctant but timely help to his brother.

The story isn't boring in what differentiates it from other thrillers. The first person narration helps us get into the mind of the protagonist, and the twists and turns keep the story flowing. The family angle explored is also nicely done.

If I were to pinpoint negatives, I'd say the mugging was a tad unbelievable. The protagonist's psychic vision starts before the mugging, so it'd have been good if he continued to explore that way. Bringing in a rich step-brother who didn't get along with him felt odd. It lent pathos to the plot for sure. The psychic vision also helps zoom over parts that needed detection, or solving.

I quite liked the story overall. If I'd had the hardcopy, perhaps I'd have finished it in one or two sittings. Reading it on Kindle took a little longer. Other than few parts that might leave you disappointed, the story holds well.

Rating: 3.5/5

Reviewed by Leo

Book Details:
Title: Murder on the Mind
Author: LL Bartlett
Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Publisher: Polaris Press
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
Type: Kindle e-book
Price: Free

Shared with First Reads Challenge @ b00k r3vi3ws.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Queen of Dreams by Chitra Divakaruni

About the author:
Chitra Divakaruni is well known for her highly acclaimed novel, “The Mistress of Spices” and her award-winning collection of short-stories, “Arranged Marriage”. She was born in India, but now stays in California. She is a teacher of creative writing and a published poet as well.

Impressions off the back:
A family saga with a fantasy touch to it, and with the genre listed as literary fiction, the language would be eloquent. It feels strange to read the quote, “I dream the dreams of other people, so I can help them live their lives” on the back cover.

My thoughts on the book:
What if our dreams weren’t ours, but dreamt by someone else so we knew what we wanted. It feels strange, somewhat scary a thought to think. What I want is not known to me till someone else thinks it and puts it in my head. Then again, when you look at it from a bigger perspective, life is somewhat like that for a lot of us. Haven’t we at one time in our lives tried to live the dreams dreamt by our parents for us?

Divakaruni’s book, “Queen of Dreams”, is built around such a plot, where the protagonist’s mother dreams the dreams of other people. While the protagonist, Rakhi, sleeps alone in her room, and her father in his, her mother sits in another doing her ritual, dreaming, not letting anyone else come close to her. Rakhi’s father puts it as “the place that was at her center – that place was reserved for the dream gods or demons, whatever she called them.”

Rakhi, an artist and divorced mother living in the USA, juggles between her painting work, running a coffee shop with her friend Belle, and taking care of Jonaki her daughter. She struggles with her emotions, her idea of life as opposed to her mother’s… at one time, she even says that she still wonders what is opportune, her naivety or her mother’s cynicism. She wants her ex-husband out of Jonaki’s and her life, though Jonaki still adores her father.

When an outlet of a bigger coffee shop chain opens near their “chai house”, Rakhi and Belle struggle to think positively. In between, her mother dies in an accident, and she struggles again with her emotions. Her father attempts to help her with the coffee shop, and manages to find a way. With Sonny’s help also coming in, they get back some customers. But then, a bigger surprise comes, and followed by more shocks.

Overall impressions:
I’ve read Divakaruni just once before, with her book, “The Mistress of Spices”. Looking at the book from an overall perspective, the outcome of the plot seems similar. Yes, it has characteristics of a literary fiction… the eloquent language, the complex characters, the deeper meanings, the serious tone and a slow pace that makes it difficult to read. The dilemma of the main character is carried right through the novel and leaves a mark. On one hand, the protagonist doesn’t believe in her mother’s ability, on the other, she wants it very badly. She hates her ex-husband, but still finds herself a little attracted to him. It makes for an interesting, albeit slow reading. There are quite a few lines that linger after the read, but it is a poem that leaves us admiring.

Rating: 7/10

Book Details:
Title: Queen of Dreams
Author: Chitra Divakaruni
Genre: Literary Fiction
ISBN: 9-780349-119410
Publishers: Abacus
Price: INR 550

Reviewed by: Leo
Also for: Indian Quills challenge at Tales Pensieve, Alphabet Challenge at A Bookworm's Musing.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Along Came a spider by James Patterson

My love for Alex Cross started with this book and I knew I wanted to read about him more. Lot more. so very next weekend I went and bought 2 more of his novels.

Along came a Spider ( ACAS ) was in my opinion a much needed read. This is Cross#1 book and in many ways , it explains the man he is : how and why ; the work he can do and how much he is obsessed with finding the criminal not 'cause he wants answers but also because he connects to the victims in ways only he and his partner Sampson understand.

“Along Came a Spider” gives rise to the well-known series devoted to a famous psychologist Alex Cross. Here he investigates kidnapping of little children, which confront him first with Gary Soneji, a mathematics teacher and a psychopathic serial kidnapper and murderer. Cross is to solve an uneasy problem – how to outsmart an ingenious psychopath, who managed to deceive the FBI, the Secret Service, and the police. Soneji doesn’t hold children to ransom and the detective understands he prefers a terrible unpredictable game to any money.

When the book began , the kidnapping by Gary Soneji happened soon and I wondered why was I told of his identity so soon. Then a hell lot ( almost all ) of the security service agencies are involved , testing whom to trust and whose authorization works in the case. The children kidnapped belong to super rich and celebrity couples and so the media coverage of the case when Gary is captured and put to trial. Again I wondered , what now ? I was in middle of the book and there was a case starting on the criminal. But oh boy , James did have a lot to offer still. The interactions between Gary and Alex and the way Alex relentlessly pursues every single thread in the case  is what makes this book so gripping. Gary indeed plays his part as the ultimate showman perfectly. His mind works on a tight-rope that he alone can walk and Alex has a tough task on his hand managing to see his plan or to overthink him.

As I said in the last review , Alex is absolutely awesome. He is the kind of man one would want to know and live with. He is not a macho hero but more of a real and believable type. 

This is another MUST read !

Rating : 5/5

This book too was made into a movie featuring Morgan Freeman

Excerpt from the book : 

The three bodies were upstairs in the front bedroom, just off the top of the stairs. 

      There was the mother, Jean "Poo" Sanders, thirty-two. Even in death, her face was haunting. She had bigbrown eyes, high cheekbones, full lips that had already turned purplish. Her mouth was stretched open ina scream. 

      Poo's daughter, Suzette Sanders, fourteen years on this earth. She was just a young girl but had beenprettier than her mother. She wore a mauve ribbon in her braided hair and a tiny nose earring to proveshe was older than her years. Suzette was gagged with dark blue panty hose. 

      A baby son, Mustaf Sanders, three years old, was lying faceup, and his little cheeks seemed stained withtears. He was wearing a "pajama bag" like my own kids wear. Just as Nana Mama had said, it was abad part of what somebody had let become a bad city. In this big bad country of ours. The mother andthe daughter were bound to an imitation brass bedpost. Satin underwear, black and red mesh stockings, and flowery bed sheets ad been used to tie them up. 

you can read / download the book here

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