Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Rounding Up This Summer's New Releases


Despite an overall reading slump (just plain reading fewer books each month) I managed to read most of the major new releases (on my watch list) this summer.

The Wrong Hostage from Elizabeth Lowell:

Orphaned at thirteen, Grace Silva clawed her way out of poverty and violence to become one of the most respected judges on the federal bench. Grace believes in the rule of law, lives it, breathes it. She has always been buttoned up and buttoned down.
Except once.


Joe Faroe has learned that laws are made by politicians and politicians are all too human. He believes in the innocents, the ones getting ground up by governments that are too polarized or too corrupt to protect their own citizens. He's been through the political meat grinder himself. It cost him his career, his freedom, and a woman who still haunts him. Since then, Faroe has worked outside the rules and politics of government. He is a kidnap specialist for St. Kilda Consulting, a Manhattan-based, global business that concentrates on the shadow world where governments can't go. He is good at his work, intelligent, confident, ruthless.

Until a friend dies trying to kill him.

Now Faroe is out of the business. Retired. He's through trying to save a world that doesn't want to be saved.

Then Grace comes to him, past and present collide, and Faroe finds himself sucked back into the shadows, tracking a violent killer who holds the life of Grace's son in his bloody hands.


Lowell was the first to remind me how nice it is to pick up a new title from an author you know and find that it exceeds your expectations. In The Wrong Hostage, Lowell gives us a hero and heroine with history and an attraction that remains as intense today as it was when they first knew one another. Neither character is completely likable, each suffering bad choices that continue to haunt. I remember this dark characterization from Lowell’s earlier work. I was drawn to it then and like it very much in TWH. It lends certain grittiness to the emotional and physical exchanges between these two and really, really heightens the tension between them.

I also recall, and continue to appreciate, Lowell’s education of the reader. In TWH, Lowell gives us a window to smuggling operations and money laundering between the US and Mexico. Lowell provides a highly detailed, thoroughly researched view of this world without burdening the reader. In fact, she uses the insight, the history to deepen characterization of her hero. Very nicely done. Excellent read.

Shiver from Lisa Jackson:

In each of her gripping bestsellers, Lisa Jackson has brought readers to the edge of their seats and proven herself a master of romantic suspense. Now the New York Times bestselling author of HOT BLOODED and COLD BLOODED delivers her most powerful novel yet, bringing back New Orleans detective Reuben Montoya as he matches wits with a twisted psychopath whose very presence makes his victims SHIVER...

Abby Chastain, is the beautiful and haunted daughter of Faith Chastain. Faith spent most of her adult life in Our Lady Of Virtues mental hospital and now, twenty years later, the daughter who looks so much like her, has her own demons to deal with. Some of those demons are connected directly to Our Lady Of Virtues and a darkly dangerous killer who has reappeared, ready to wreak his own special and deadly vengeance on Abby and those she loves. Abby already fears she may have inherited her mother's penchant for tragedy and though she begins to fall for Montoya, she knows that a cop is someone she needs to avoid. But fate and the killer have other plans . . . .

This was my first Lisa Jackson book. It was well written, relatively fast paced, with enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing. More to its credit however, was the characterization. I cared less about figuring out the serial killer’s identity, and more about how each character was going to overcome past and present losses and threats.

The romance was equally engaging despite its rigid adherence to romantic suspense formula—female victim and male detective instantly attracted to one another despite lurking dangers; she battles / balances her need for him as well as her independence; he seeks to clear and protect her and so on. The one thing Jackson does is to cleverly link hero and heroine, for unexpected reasons, in the killer’s crosshairs. A page-turner and another I’d call an excellent read.

Cover Of Night from Linda Howard:

In the charming rural town of Trail Stop, Idaho, accessible to the outside world by only a single road, young widow Cate Nightingale lives peacefully with her four-year-old twin boys, running a bed-and-breakfast. Though the overnight guests are few and far between–occasional hunters and lake fishermen–Cate always manages to make ends meet with the help of the local jack-of-all-trades, Calvin Harris, who can handle everything from carpentry to plumbing. But Calvin is not what he seems, and Cate’s luck is about to run out.

One morning, the B&B’s only guest inexplicably vanishes, leaving behind his personal effects. A few days later Cate is shocked when armed men storm the house, demanding the mystery man’s belongings. Fearing for her children’s lives, Cate agrees to cooperate–until Calvin saves the day, forcing the intruders to scatter into the surrounding woods. The nightmare, however, is just beginning. Cate, Calvin, and their entire community find themselves cut off and alone with no means to call for help as the threat gathers intensity and first blood is drawn.

With their fellow residents trapped and the entire town held hostage, Cate and Calvin have no choice but to take the fight to their enemies under the cover of night. While reticent Cal becomes a fearless protector, Cate makes the most daring move of her life . . . into the very heart of danger.

Howard confounds me every time out. Three years ago, I devoured nearly every contemporary she had written. I particularly loved the operative / mission stories. I’ve been looking for more of the same hard-edged stuff from her since. Instead, she gave us To Die For, a slapstick romance in a first person narrative. Which I loved. Then Killing Time, a modern day mystery with time travel thrown in. I enjoyed that one as well, although not as much as TDF. This year, she isolates characters and readers in rugged Pacific Northwest terrain, under siege and in the dark—literally and figuratively. It was like a really smartly written episode of Northern Exposure without all the quirkiness or the moose.

Because Howard writes so well, I was expertly drawn in. And held there until the last page. I’ve heard from a few people on this one and all agree. It is a page-turner. You can’t put it down. Characterization is also strong, expected from Howard. I particularly liked her heroine, a widowed mother to 4-year old twin boys. Howard paints a very realistic picture here. A woman who has suffered great loss, but still rejoices in every one of those parent / toddler moments. It is how one power can overshadow—or overcome another. The hero to this woman is interesting. Howard unveils him to the heroine and readers simultaneously—with spark and humor.

So not dark and edgy, but enjoyable. Anyone have any links to good info on Howard? And what she is working on presently? I saw another title due to be released in November. I’m unable to determine whether it is a new title or release of an older title.

Angels Fall from Nora Roberts:
Excellent. Already blogged this one up.

Reece Gilmore has come a long way to see the stunning view below her. As the sole survivor of a brutal crime back East, she has been on the run, desperately fighting the nightmares and panic attacks that haunt her. Reece settles in Angel's Fist, Wyoming-temporarily, at least-and takes a job at a local diner. And now she's hiked this mountain all by herself.

It was glorious, she thought, as she peered through her binoculars at the Snake River churning below. Then Reece saw the man and woman on the opposite bank. Arguing. Fighting. And suddenly, the man was on top of the woman, his hands around her throat . . . Enjoying a moment of solitude a bit farther down the trail is a gruff loner named Brody.

But by the time Reece reaches him and brings him to the scene, the pair has vanished. When authorities comb the area where she saw the attack, they find nothing. No signs of struggle. No freshly turned earth. Not even a tire track. And no one in Angel's Fist seems to believe her. After all, she's a newcomer in town, with a reputation for being jumpy and jittery-maybe even a little fragile.

Maybe it's time to run again, to move on . . .

Reece Gilmore knows there's a killer in Angel's Fist, even if Brody, despite his seeming impatience and desire to keep her at arm's length, is the only one willing to believe her. When a series of menacing events makes it clear that someone wants her out of the way, Reece must put her trust in Brody-and herself-to find out if there is a killer in Angel's Fist before it's too late.

Vanished from Karen Robards:

Ten years ago, Sarah Mason's six-year-old daughter vanished during an outing at a local park in Beaufort, South Carolina. Despite a furious search, little Lexie was never found, and Sarah was left to pick up the pieces of her shattered life and go on as best she could.

Then, on one hot July night, she returns home from work to hear the phone ringing. When she picks it up, a child's terrified voice whispers, "Mommy, help, come and get me . . ." The call is cut off, but not before Sarah's heart goes into overdrive: the voice belongs to Lexie. Six-year-old Lexie. Though ten years have passed, she sounds exactly the same.

Frantic, Sarah turns to the police, the FBI, family, and friends, none of whom can help. Out of desperation, she approaches Jake Hogan, once a detective assigned to Lexie's case. Jake is now a P.I., and though he is skeptical, the attraction he feels for Sarah pushes him to help her. Ben is convinced someone is deliberately tormenting the grief-stricken mother, and the continued tension of sketchy and unpredictable clues forces them to rely only on each other. Together they're caught in a nightmare search for Lexie, who might just still be alive-if only Jake and Sarah can hang on.

Bleh. This one had promise, but ended so flat I had to struggle to remember whether I liked anything about it. It started with gripping suspense. The first two or three chapters hooked me completely. But from there, it felt like poorly written episodic television. A story I’ve read before. Same cast of characters. Same emotional issues. Same attempt at humorous sidebars. Cookie-cutter villains and an outcome I’ve read in the headlines. An outcome that was dispensed with in a handful of pages—giving the book an abrupt, not-to-believable ending. Nothing original here.

I also finished Into The Storm by Suzanne Brockmann (will warrant its own gushing post) and just started Evanovich’s Twelve Sharp. Sandra Brown’s Ricochet is on hold for me at the library as well. I think these are the last of the “big name” reads until fall.

Of course there are a host of other authors (e.g. Marjorie M. Liu, Lisa Kleypas, Julia Quinn, etc.) with new releases this summer. I’m still getting to those.

4 comments:

  1. I'm a Howard fan from way back. However, I've been continually let down by her latest endeavors. I wasn't too impressed with "Cover of night", but for me, a bad Howard is better than most "good" anyone else now-a-days.

    Anyway her next to be released seems to be "Drop Dead Gorgeous" which *I beleive* is a new one and a sequal to "To Die For".

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  2. OH and I used to gobble up Lowell too, as soon as the came out.

    Although she hasn't disappointed me as much as Howard of late, I don't autobuy her like I used too.

    However, I DO want to read this one!

    (BTW, Sandra Brown and Iris Johansen (there's nothing like IJ's old historicals!) fall in the same category for me as well ...)

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  3. Gasp - you already read Into the Storm!!! So jealous!!

    Disappointed to hear about the Robards. I usually like her.

    Lisa Jackson and Eliz. Lowell have long been on my TBR pile. Glad to hear that these are worth it.

    Now I need to get to work on the gazillions I read on my vacation!

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  4. Hi Zeek! That is very good news about Drop Dead Gorgeous. I enjoyed To Die For and any sequel is sure to be a good read. With tons of humor.

    Hey Lori - Into The Storm is excellent. Blog and reviewer buzz thus far is off the mark, IMO. It was a great read, no question.

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Have you read it? What do you think?

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