This Blog is a companion to my author's Blog and my writing practice Blog. As a writer I try to read regular to improve my own writing and learn. You can learn a great deal about me from what I read and what I think about what I read. If you wish to purchase one of this books please use the link provided. At that point if you are looking for the book in a different format or price point you can search it there. I will still get credit. Please don't use the links Facebook piggybacks onto my posts there. I receive no compensation from them. You can also click on the Pico's Book Shop ad to access Amazon and search for any book you like.

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Without Fail

By Lee Childs
5 Stars

I read my first Lee Child/Jack Reacher novel sometime last year. I got it out of the library. I did enjoy the read and in the name of making her pappy happy my daughter kept an eye out for similar books in the used book piles she visits now and then. She found a couple for me and this is the first one that gets my review.

This time around Jack Reacher is actually hired to troubleshoot vice-presidential security by M. E Froelich, who is a former flame of Reacher's dead brother. He has a female helper Neagley and they make a devastating team. Someone is out to assassinate the vice-president and Reacher has to find out who they are and stop them.

The story pulled me in from the very first line. Superbly executed. Child is a bestselling author for a reason. He is good at his craft. I did have to read the ending several times over because I do have a bone to pick there. Neagley is military trained like Reacher and all through the book her competence is highlighted. She ends up inexplicably defenseless in the climax of the story and plays damsel in distress. I see it and I don't see it. I like it and I don't like it. I was tempted to deduct half a star but after rereading it several times, I can't really justify it. Child gets a pass on that and my full recommendation of the book. 

*Amazon link will be added when I can sort out an affiliate agreement with them.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

The Dark Frigate

By Charles Boardman Hawes
5 Stars

This was a classic book that was recommended reading for my children's homeschooling literature course. My daughter hated the book. I don't believe the problem was the story line. This book was published nearly a hundred years ago and it was set even earlier. For young people, I would say the language and expressions are difficult because that is not how people talk today. She might enjoy the book more now as an adult although it really isn't her favoured genre. I liked the story a lot. Action, adventure and great characters. I liked Shakespeare as well.

The hero of the story is a dashing young sailor named Philip Marsham. He gets himself into a bit of hot water at the beginning of the story and has to flee London. He ends up finally shipping out of another port with a companion he met along the way on the Rose of Devon. That ship picks up survivors from a sinking ship off Newfoundland. They turned out to be pirates who took over the ship. Marsham was forced to join them or die.

I recommend the book but not for children. Sure some of them would like it but the majority will react like my daughter did. It is a good book. Sad that the author only lived long enough to write two books.

Monday, 23 February 2015

The Soul Catcher

By Alex Kava
4.5 Stars

I read this book in snippets of spare time between everything else I worked at this week. It's a best selling thriller and it lived up to its billing.

The good and the great was that it was well written and hard to put down. It didn't drag anywhere. I didn't spot any lapses in the narrative where something didn't seem to make sense. A good mix of predictable and unpredictable. The characters were all very real and human. Even the villians had understandable motives. Maggie O'Dell is the heroine and she works as an expert criminal profiler. Her partner R. J. Tully clearly is secondary which works fine for me. She gets to deal with the autopsy of an FBI agent who happened to be a friend and several young women apparently killed by a serial killer. The cases are all linked to Reverend Joseph Everett a charismatic religious leader/nut job.

There wasn't much that I disliked. The first, I'm not sure is the author's fault. The back of the novel cover finishes with "Maggie realizes the only way to find out is by using her own mother, a member of Everett's church, as a pawn in a deadly trap." That didn't happen in the copy I read. Her mother was definitely a pawn by not because of anything Maggie did or didn't do.

The climax was dramatic and surprising but I felt the heroine came off as a helpless spectator. I don't know why but I didn't come out of that completely satisfied as a reader. I found the villains to be a little over the top whacked out, but in all honesty that is more personal taste than anything else.  Don't let it put you off reading the book if this type of story is your cup of tea. Definitely an adult book though. I wouldn't recommend this for younger readers.

Saturday, 21 February 2015


By Dr. Robin Cook
5 Stars

This book was a New York Times bestseller so my expectation were very high. It did not disappoint. The story is about a Russian immigrant, Yuri Davydov, who once worked in the Soviet Union's biological warfare program. He's not a happy man because the American dream is just not happening for him. He along with some American neo-nazis plan a bio-terrorist attack in New York. The hero is Jack Stapleton, a basketball playing, cycling nut, medical examiner. That's my kind of hero.

There is a whole list of things I really appreciated about Dr. Cook's writing. First off the entire plot was believably written. His research was obvious and detailed. There was disturbing violence both on and off stage but all of it was important to the development of the story. No killing anyone to prop up a sagging chapter. Last to be mentioned, there was no graphic unnecessary sex scene. I'm not against sex but I truly think a really good writer doesn't need to throw that in if it isn't needed. I've read too many books where it wasn't needed and they threw it in anyway.

I was gratified to find an atrocious spelling error that the proofreaders missed. Sorry if you read the book you'll have to find it yourself. There was a point in the story where Yuri yanks the telephone wire out of the wall to prevent his wife from potentially making a call for help.  Later he is making calls from home without there ever being a mention of two phones or anyone repairing the line. Maybe there is a sentence in there that didn't register that explained that.

The only thing I didn't like was that near the beginning the description was at times a little more than necessary. Maybe I'm an impatient reader because I did at times have to stop myself from skipping on ahead.  That was not an issue once the story gathered momentum Otherwise this book is topnotch. I would not dock any points and give it full marks. If you're thinking about reading it, it is worth the time. It is believable to the point of being disturbing, but that is the point of it.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Homeless Bird

By Gloria Whelan
5 Stars
Historical Fiction
Teen to Adult

I'm not sure historical fiction is really the proper classification for this because the culture that is depicted in this story still exists and the problems are still real as well. This book comes from my children's homeschooling curriculum and is one of my favourites.

The heroine of the story is Koly who turns thirteen at the beginning of the story. She lives in India and with the economics and culture of the day. It's time for her to be found a husband. The parents arrange a match with another family but there are ulterior motives on the other side of the exchange. Koly is married and not long after widowed. She is positive and does her best to make the most of her situation. Things reach their darkest when she is abandoned in a temple city, left to pray at the temples and live on charity.

Koly has skills though and great resilience. As is my habit I won't give away the entire story. She overcomes all the adversity and the book is brought to a very happy conclusion. Highly recommended. You'll enjoy the book.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015


By Tamara Hart Heiner
3.5 Stars
Young Adult

I've had this book in my Kindle library for quite some time. Just didn't get to it because when I'm on my computer I'm usually doing things other than using it as an e-reader. Recently I added a tablet to my list of possessions and I can now read ebooks during those bits of time that in the past I used to read hard copy books. This book has the distinction of being the first I've read on my tablet.

I “met” the author on She was running the novel review group I participated in there. She did provide valuable input that I took into consideration when editing my own first novel. This book was up for review there and I did give my two cents on the beginning of it. I don't recall how many chapter reviews I did and I honestly can' tell if anything I said was incorporated into the final product.

Somehow or other I was made aware that it was being offered for free on Amazon for a short promotional period of time. That's when I downloaded my copy. It has been quite awhile.

This book is clearly aimed at the female young adult audience. That might make my review a little harsher than it should be but as an older male these are my impressions and thought.

Our heroine is Jayne Lockwood. She is in highschool and has a special gift or curse depending on how you look at it. When someone is going to experience an untimely death, she is able to “see” that happen. For her this causes a great deal frustration and confusion. She tries to prevent these deaths to no avail and does not understand it all. Without giving away the storyline, I will just say the book is about her figuring it all out.

What I like about the story is that it does portray the story from the perspective of the heroine in a way that makes sense according to her age. I think it realistically shows highschool life, part-time work life and interaction between young friends. There is a lot of dialogue in the book and I would identify that as one of the author's strengths. Overall I think the book is well written.

What I didn't like. I found by mid book the teenage angst thing started to weary me. I found that her female friends did not have distinctive enough personalities. For me they started to blend together. If the tags and situations were removed I would have had trouble at times telling Dana, Meredith, Beth and Gabby apart. The male friends were much easier to distinguish. Finally I'm not sure that she fully capitalized on the scenario. The book reads a bit like a romance instead of a suspense thriller.

I don't think the target audience for this book would be particularly bothered by the things I didn't like and since I still liked the book in the end I recommend it.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Escape From Warsaw

By Ian Serraillier
5 Stars
Historical Fiction
Teen to Adult

This is another book from my children's Sonlight homeschooling curriculum. I only have a few more of them to complete. Actually I finished reading them I just have to compose my reviews.

This is a fictional account of a Polish family, the Balickis based on actual accounts from people who survived this period of time. It is a story of a family separated and finally reunited. The family starts out in Warsaw which is overrun by Nazi Germany. They were liberated by the Russians. By that time the family was spread across Germany, Switzerland and Poland not knowing whether they were all yet alive.

I have one objection and I don't think it was the author's fault or choice. The book was originally called The Silver Sword referring to a small piece of jewellery that appears throughout the story and has great symbolic significance. I think the original title was better than the one later foisted on the book. The didn't really escape Warsaw as much as left.

That aside the book is very good and there are important lessons throughout the book. I enjoyed the story a great deal and recommend it.