Joe Pickett series by C.J. Box

Wyoming game warden Joe Pickett is a fascinating character and the central focus of the 12 book mystery series by C.J. Box, beginning with Open Season. A man who loves his job and family, Pickett fights everything from bureaucracy to environmental terrorists in the series,  all the while he remaining true to himself and his sense of justice. Pickett is a happily married man, in love with his wife and daughters, and works hard to protect his family and the land and animals that he loves and respects. These are stories of an honorable man trying to do the right thing in every circumstance, and not always getting it right–a very likeable, human and flawed character. Game Wardens are unique in that nearly every encounter in their capacity as law enforcement officers is one that involves another person that is armed, often in an isolated area, making it a dangerous profession, and Pickett finds himself in many dangerous situations throughout the series. This is a series that should be read in order–the character interactions continue through the series as Pickett’s family changes and grows and the local community changes as well. Box has won several awards for his mystery writing and lives in Wyoming, making the locations in this series realistic and believable. This is a series to read start to finish–check on Novelist to find the order of the titles. You will find Joe Pickett a memorable character and this an outstanding mystery series!

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Nick and Amy are the perfect New York couple who lose their jobs and are forced to return to Nick’s home town in Missouri to take care of his again parents. On their fifth anniversary, Amy disappears from their home, leaving behind signs of a struggle. Nick has no alibi and as time goes on and clues are uncovered, he becomes the prime suspect in the disappearance. Chapters alternate between Nick and Amy’s telling of their life together and of the scenario after her vanishing from their home. Flynn has created a chilling tale of marital discord with a complex plot and many twists and turns–the story will keep you guessing until the end. Gone Girl is a powerful story of psychological warfare with an amazing portrayal of flawed and fascinating characters–a dark, clever thriller that is impossible to predict and hard to put down–a perfect mystery!

The Last Boyfriend

Nora Roberts has another winning romance with the second title in her Inn Boonsboro  trilogy. (The first in the series is The Next Always.)   The Last Boyfriend continues the previous story, with  the Montgomery clan  renovating the old Inn.  The entire community has a stake in the outcome of the success of the Inn. Owen Montgomery is the organizer of the family–running the construction company and keeping the renovation on schedule and under budget. Avery is the owner of the local pizza shop and has been friends with the Montgomery family since childhood. Her first boyfriend was Owen, and they have remained friends ever since. Owen patronizes the restaurant often during the inn construction and finds himself more and more drawn to Avery. Avery is cautious and hesitant to build a romantic relationship with Owen, for fear or ruining their friendship. Past losses make Avery afraid to commit her whole heart, and when a person from her past reappears, she wonders if she can ever fully devote herself to Owen. Filled with likeable and engaging characters, humor and  love and with a friendly ghost added to the plot, The Last Boyfriend is a delightful addition to this series–Book three in the series (The Perfect Hope) will tell the story of Hope and Ryder and is due to be published in November 2012.

Impact by Douglas Preston

Abbey Straw is a Princeton drop-out and amateur astronomer who captures a photo of a meteor that crashes into an island off the coast of Maine. She and her friend Jackie decide to hunt for and sell the meteor. They locate the impact area, but the only evidence of the meteor strike is a deep, straight hole that goes far into the earth. People are dying from wearing jewelry made from “honey” stones, and Wyman Ford, ex-CIA agent, is asked to investigate the mine in Cambodia that is the source of the stones. Rather than a mine, he locates the exit hole from a meteor that has passed through the earth. Mark Corso is a scientist working on a Mars mapping project when he discovers evidence of gamma rays coming towards the earth from Mars. Their lives intersect as they race to discover the source of the meteor and evade a killer who is looking for a hard drive that contains classified information about the Mars project. Impact is a fast-paced thriller that will keep readers guessing until the end and offers an interesting and intriguing view of what first contact with civilizations from other worlds might be like. Preston has create a novel  with interesting characters and a plausible story line—a hard-to-put-down story!

Blue Asylum

 Filled with lyrical descriptions and fascinating characters, Kate Hepinstall’s Blue Asylum tells the story of Iris Dunleavy, a plantation owner’s wife who is convicted of being a “lunatic” and is sent to an asylum in Florida during the Civil War. There she encounters a group of vivid characters, including both residents and staff of the asylum. Iris meets Ambrose Weller, a Confederate soldier haunted by his experiences in the war. As her story unfolds, Iris reveals the circumstances under which she was convicted. As she fights to retain her independence, her strength and spirit confuses the asylum doctor and their disagreements reflect the conflicts in the war surrounding the idyllic asylum. As she begins to love Ambrose and hopes for a life outside the asylum, Iris wonders if they can ever be free of their pasts. This is a story about ordinary people caught up in the terrible effects of the Civil War. The poetical style, an unusual setting, and rich details combine to make Blue Asylum an exceptional novel.

The Innocent by David Baldacci

  In The Innocent, David Baldacci’s latest suspense thriller, a government assassin is teamed with a teenaged girl and an FBI agent to determine the connections between several murders and to keep themselves alive in the process. Will Robie is the agent who assassinates enemies for the government–he is a loner and is careful and plans for any and every possibility that something could go wrong, trusting no one but himself. But an assignment goes wrong when he is told to kill a woman and her children–his refusal makes him a target and he is on the run, the hunter becoming the hunted. While fleeing from the scene, he crosses paths with Julie Getty, a 14 year old runaway who witnessed the murder of her parents. He saves her life and the two team up to try to discover the reason for the murders. They encounter Agent Vance when she is involved in investigating the murders and she eventually believes in Will and Julie and wants to help them solve the cases, but circumstances create more questions than answers. More killings, a plot with twists and turns and more turns, strong  and complex characters, and wonderful descriptions of characters and settings combine to make this a story that is hard to put down. If you enjoy the Jack Reacher series by Lee Child or the Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum, The Innocent is a book you will enjoy!

 

Somebody to Love by Kristan Higgins

Kristan Higgins has added another delightful romance to her collection of novels such as Catch of the Day and The Next Best Thing.  Her latest, Somebody to Love, tells the story of Parker Welles–a single mother and children’s author whose father, a financial advisor, has provided a life of wealth and luxury. When he is involved in an insider trading deal, he goes to jail, after having bankrupted the family. Parker and her son Nicky are forced to move to a small town in Maine, where a distant relative has left her a dilapidated cottage. James Cahill, her father’s personal attorney, comes to Maine to help fix up the cottage, despite Parker’s hostility towards him. Can they each overcome past disappointments to fine love?   This is a heartwarming story filled with quirky (and some familiar) local characters, witty dialog, humor and likeable characters. Another winner for author Kristan Higgins!

The Good Father by Diane Chamberlain

The Good Father is a touching story about what it means to be a parent, told from the perspectives of three characters. Travis is a young single father who fought for custody of his child, even though he was a teen parent. His love for his daughter is unconditional and overwhelming. After a family tragedy,in desperation, he is forced to make some difficult choices in order to provide for Bella, and the repercussions of those decisions may be devastating for him and his daughter. Robin has put the daughter she gave away out of her mind–she was deathly ill at the time of the birth and agreed to give up custody. Erin is a mother lost in grief after the death of her  three year old daughter. Their lives intersect when Travis and Bella meet Erin at a local coffee shop and though she is struggling with her grief, Erin recognizes that Travis and Bella are in need of help and she extends her kindness to them. Alternating chapters tell the story from each characters point of view, offering gradual insights into their intertwined relationships. This is a touching and powerful story about compassion, grief, choices, and unconditional love, with suspense and plot twists added. If you are a fan of Jodi Picoult or Kristen Hannah, you will enjoy this complex and heartfelt novel.

Imperfect: an Improbable Life by Jim Abbott

  In this extraordinary memoir, Jim Abbott tells the story of his life as a child and of the years before and after becoming a major league pitcher. Not just a biography nor just a baseball story, Imperfect: an Improbable Life is the story of a  man’s perseverance and dedication to overcome his physical disability and to gain acceptance for his achievements as a player and a person, not only as a disabled person. Abbott was born without a right hand and was raised by two young parents who provided unconditional love and  who taught Jim to regard his disability as an opportunity and a challenge. As a child, Abbott hides his right arm in a pocket, enduring the teasing of other children for being different. He plays baseball and football with neighborhood children and gains acceptance for his abilities on the playing field. Hours of throwing a ball against a wall improve his pitching and his technique to throw then place the ball glove on his left hand for fielding. Abbott eventually plays high school baseball and football, wins an Olympic Gold Medal for baseball, was an All-American player the University of  Michigan and is drafted by the California A’s baseball team. The book follows the ups and downs of his baseball career, and chapters about his life alternate with chapters describing each inning of the no-hitter that he pitched while playing for the New York Yankees. Inspiring is Abbott’s humility, and his belief that his example of achievement despite obstacles will inspire children with disabilities to reach for their own dreams. The most touching moments in his story are those before and after each game, when Abbott spent  countless hours signing autographs, talking with families of children with disabilities, and answering hundreds of letters from disabled children.

Told with honesty and humor, this is a memoir not only about a career in baseball but of a life that inspires us all to overcome the burdens and challenges of living.

Traveling the Silk Road

 Traveling the Silk Road :Ancient Pathway to the Modern World conjures images of romance and mystery, but in fact the Silk Road was a vast network of trade routes stretching over 5,000 miles from China through Central Asia and the Arabian Penninsula and into Europe. This was the first “information highway”–goods were exchanged along with news, ideas, foods, religions and cultures. Buddhism, Islam and Christianity all found their way to new cultures along the Silk Road, from 600CE to the 14th century. The use of the  first paper and paper money spread east from China as glass and glassware  were traded from Istanbul towards the east. Goods such as silk, spices, wine, tea, cotton and metal items all spread from Asia to the rest of the world along the Silk Road. From Xi’an, China to Istanbul (Constantinople) and beyond, cultures were influenced by the trade items passing through. Xi’an was a thriving city with many religions and languages, Istanbul was at the crossroads of two continents –  a thriving trade port and Baghdad was a scholarly city with a university and 36 public libraries in the 12oo’s–a center of learning, writing and art. Recent archaeological finds have shown the extent of trade along the various routes, and this book is beautifully illustrated with photos of artifacts as well as of art work and maps of the routes. The book follows the route of the Silk Road in stages and includes fascinating photographs, of places such as the karez (wells) in the Turfan area of China that were built in the sixth century and are still in use today. This beautiful publication by the American Museum of Natural History offers a glimpse back to a time when ideas and cultures were being shared and explored.  Check out this book and visit some of the  the exotic stops along the Silk Road.

Think of a Number by John Verdon

>Dave Gurney, retired NYPD Homicide Detective, is lured from retirement by an old college acquaintance, Mark Mellery. Mellery has received threatening notes in the mail, the most recent of which asked him to Think of a Number. When a letter with his number appears, Mellery is convinced that the threats  are authored by someone who can read his mind. Gurney is a master at unraveling puzzles and becomes deeply involved in the case, much to the dismay of his wife– they are supposed to be enjoying retirement. Mellery is found murdered and the criminal leaves behind very specific clues–but are they leading police on a false trail and taunting them for their ineptness? Gurney realizes that the murder is part of a series committed by a serial killer and the hunt is on. Verdon has created interesting characters with depth and complexity. The suspense unfolds as Gurney  follows the clues of the crimes with a  thoughtful and methodical process that leads to a final confrontation with the killer. This is a thriller that will keep you guessing until the end. The next title in the Dave Gurney series is
Shut Your Eyes Tight.

Single-Handed 2

>Set in the stark and breathtakingly beautiful Connemara area of Ireland, this DVD set continues the story of Jack Driscoll, Sergeant in the local Garda. As one of two policemen in the remote and rural area, Jack is enmeshed in the events of the local community and his work and private lives are intertwined. He is following in his fathers footsteps as the local garda, but is constantly trying to distance himself from the corruption and influence that his father wielded in the community. Jack has grown up in this community and knows the local residents and their families well, making it more difficult for him to investigate crimes.  Intelligently written and with compelling stories and complex characters, this police drama differs from many others as it lacks car chases and shootings, instead emphasizing relationships and the dark undercurrents in the community. This set contains 3 2-part stories, all with plot twists and turns, and with excellent acting by the cast. Single-Handed 2 is an engrossing drama about a man trying to maintain his honor when surrounded by corruption–an excellent drama from Irish television. MPL also has the first episodes of Single-Handed available.

The Dog Who Danced by Susan Wilson

>Justine is a 43 year old mother who drifts from job to job and place to place, estranged from both her father and her teen-aged son. The only constant in her life is her dog Mack, a dog who  Justine has taught to dance. Alice and Ed Parmalee are a couple caught up in grief and unable to accept the death of their daughter several years earlier. Their lives intersect when a trucker driving Justine from Seattle to the east coast to see her dying father, leaves Justine at a rest stop and unknowingly continues with Mack in the truck. When he discovers the dog, he releases it along a busy highway. Mack finds his way to Alice and Ed, while Justine begins a frantic search for her dog. Needing to be at her father’s side, Justine leaves the search for Mack to others. Mack, called Buddy by Alice and Ed, begins to bring them happiness and interest in life and each other again.
Much of the story is told through the eyes of Mack, who describes his perceptions of human behavior and feelings.
The Dog who Danced is a touching story about recovering from loss, building relationships, forgiveness and the loyalty and unconditional love that pets bring to our lives.

A Walk Across the Sun by Corban Addison

>17 year old Ahalya and her 15 year old sister Sita are made homeless orphans when a tsunami sweeps through their town in coastal India, killing everyone they know. As they try to make their way to a convent school in another town, they are abducted and sold to a brothel owner in Mumbai, leaving the girls caught up in the brutal world of sex trafficking.
After losing a high-profile case, Washington, D.C. attorney Thomas Clarke has fallen out of grace at his law firm and elects to take a sabbatical at a non-profit agency in India, with the hopes of re-connecting with his Indian-born wife as well as escaping his job. Clarke is faced with the horrors of human trafficking at his NGO, and with the corrupt systems that allow it to flourish. Becoming involved with the cases of Ahalya and Sita, he attempts to locate the girls and free them from their enslavement.

This is a compelling thriller whose plot has many twists and turns with well-defined, strong characters. Addison has offered eye-opening insights into the horrific world of the international sex slavery trade, but he also offers hope and redemption through the portrayals of the characters who work tirelessly in dangerous situations to free enslaved women, often under dangerous circumstances, and offer them a better life.  A Walk Across the Sun is a riveting, thought-provoking novel that depicts both the worst that can be found in humanity as well as the resilience and hope that can be found in the human spirit despite the most awful circumstances. This is a story that will remain with you long after reading the last page.

Home Front by Kristen Hannah

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In this timely and touching novel, Kristen Hannah tells the story of families and soldiers and how each are affected by deployments to war zones overseas.
18 year old Jolene joins the Army and finds a family and life-long friendships among it’s ranks after her alcoholic parents are killed in a car accident . She becomes a Blackhawk pilot and after marrying and having children, joins the National Guard. Her marriage to Michael, a defense attorney and workaholic, is a distant one and when Jolene receives orders to deploy to Iraq, neither can discuss their fears about the war. Jolene leaves for Iraq with her best friend and co-pilot Tami, leaving behind husbands and children who are filled with anger and anxiety. Michael is left to build relationships with his children and manage their home, as well as continuing his law practice. A murder case forces him to re-evaluate his opinions about war and the military, and tragedy forces him to adapt to changes in his marriage and his family.
Home Front conveys the hardships and tragedies of going to war and the affects of war on both soldiers and families. Hannah’s extensive research into PTSD and it’s traumatic effects on soldiers and their families is described through the experiences of several characters. This is an intense and emotional story, with well developed characters, offering insights into the experiences our military families endure when a family member is deployed.