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Double XX, Marks the Spot

Double Cross by James Patterson, the latest in the Alex Cross series, is a gripping continuation. There are two psychopathic killers on the loose and they are in competition with one another. Alex has yet another love interest, Bree Stone, who just happens to be a detective with the Washington D.C. police department, but Cross is no longer with the FBI or the police department. In fact, he’s become the family man, with his own psychiatric practice and patients.

This is the book I’ve been waiting to read from Patterson. The last two Patterson books I’ve read have left me wanting better writing and more intricate plots. This has most of both. The writing is better, the characters are sympathetic and varied, and the plot is definitely much less contrived than the previous two.

***Spoiler Alert***
Alex Cross has his patients and comes home for dinner with the family on a daily basis, which is something that his kids are certainly not used to. It’s good to see him with the family and the newest love of his life, but you know something will happen to draw him back into the game. First there are a series of killings by a serial murderer interested in having an audience for his crimes, and those audiences get bigger and bigger. Then, Kyle Craig, Alex Cross’ archenemy The Mastermind, escapes from the inescapable prison in Colorado. What is Craig after and how did he escape. I almost wished there was more with this storyline, rather than the DCAK murders, but I’m sure that Craig will resurface in the next installment.

DCAK is a ego-maniac in search of his own infamy…he wants to be larger than life, bigger than Kyle Craig, himself. It’s this desire to be better and then thinking he is better that becomes DCAK’s downfall. I love the meeting of DCAK and Craig. That is the best interlude in the book. The showdown in the alley near the end is suspenseful and nerve-wracking. I couldn’t wait to see the outcome.

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Patterson does a better job in this book of maintaining my interest in this book. Overall, this series is the most well-crafted of the ones he has created and is probably why it remains so popular. The suspense in the latter half of the book is phenomenal, and I over-thought the book a bit when I was waiting for Bree Stone to turn on Cross and shoot him and reveal herself as part of the coup. It’s a great addition to the Cross series, and this time around the end gives you an even bigger lead in to the next book that is sure to come in the series.

Deposits Collected at the Blood Bank

The final book in the Tanya Huff series, Blood Bank, is not a novel but a collection of short stories with the Blood Book Series characters. I liked the short stories for the most part except “The Vengeful Spirit of Lake Nepeakea.” It took me the longest time to read because I was not engaged in the storyline as much as I was in the others. The breakdown of the stories between Vicky and Henry Fitzroy were not very even, with more of the stories about Vicky and Celluci after her change. I really enjoyed the stories with Henry in them the most.

Blood Bank, however, was an apt title for this collection given the vampire characters and the variety of “blood types” or stories in the book. I am glad to find that Vicky’s commitment and abandonment issues are addressed in the last short story, “So This Is Christmas,” although it was a bit cheesy following the traditional “Christmas Carol” (by Charles Dickens) outline with the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. I’m glad that the underlying character flaw is addresses, but I think that it could have been done differently.

Overall, the short stories are a great way to revisit the characters in a shorter amount of time, but the novels themselves are much better.

Pay Your Blood Debts

Blood Debt by Tanya Huff is the fifth book in the Blood Book series, and it is the most emotional yet for the reader, especially if you are invested in the Henry and Vicki portion of the triangle. How does one repay their lover or friend for changing their life so profoundly? That is the greater question that comes to mind after reading this book.

I’ve read on the Web that Vicki chooses one of these men, but thus far, I have not seen a conscious choice made on her part. In fact, this book to me shows the choice being made for her. She is forced to accept a decision made for her at the end of the last book and the beginning of this one.

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The bodies are piling up again with organs missing. The clinic and philanthropist involved with a surgeon are selling organs to the rich and powerful. The bodies become ghosts that haunt Fitzroy and he’s forced to call in Vicki from Toronto. She and Celluci, who reluctantly agrees to come along, jump into a van with a blacked out room in the back to drive across Canada to Vancouver.

The trip across the country is nearly as eventful as when they arrive in Vancouver and Vicki and Henry are forced to occupy the same city, let along small space. You may have guessed by now that this is the book where you find out Vicki is no longer mortal and she and Henry cannot live in the same city because they are territorial beings, except when engaged in mass killings of gang members and murderers.

My one qualm with this book is that it starts the year after the change occurs in Vicki, leaving the reader in the dark about the love and teaching that must go on between Henry and Vicki as he teaches her how to feed and control her dangerous urges. I do love how she no longer has to deal with the eye degeneration. That was something I expected when I presumed on my own that she would become immortal. I only wish that had been her choice and not that of the men in her life.

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The questions this book raised for me were how does one repay their friend or lover for changing his/her life so profoundly and irrevocably? I’m not simply wondering this from a vampire/child point of view, so much as a friend impacting another friend. Vicki’s profound effect on Fitzroy’s traditions and notions about how his kind reacts and interacts with the world around him, allow him to hopefully evolve beyond his own imaginings and consider alternative ways of being. It’s not that Fitzroy is out of control and killing anything that walks, but he does hold specific notions about how his kind operates in the world and with one another. He never once questioned whether those notions or teachings were accurate or impossible to circumvent until he requests Vicki’s assistance with the ghosts.

The dynamic between these characters goes beyond the sexual tension and jealousy of a love triangle and illuminates how human interaction–or inhuman in this case–can improve an individual’s outlook on life and their ability to improve their own interactions with others, as well as how they can impact traditions and humanity as a whole.

It’s now onto the next read Blood Bank.

Blood Ties That Unwind a Confused Love


Tanya Huff‘s Blood Pact is the best of the books thus far. I read through this book quickly, and though I knew the inevitability of the series, I was unprepared for the final outcome. Throughout the series, there have been werewolves, mummies, vampires, and now Frankenstein monsters. When you deal in the unknown, mad scientists are bound to come out of the woodwork. I guess I never expected the mad scientist to be so young. Though Catherine is a genius, she is utterly naive about her work and why the administrator, Dr. Burke is interested in her work. While many of us like to think we are smart and on the verge of discovery or just great work, we often fail to recognize our own motivations or those of our colleagues and bosses. Even now, this may be the case.

****Spoiler Alert*****

Vickie Nelson’s mother is in trouble, worse than a life or death situation can be. Marjory, who has driven her daughter crazy with her questions and advice, becomes a scientific experiment of a young graduate student at the Life Sciences unit. The conspiracy to create Frankenstein-like creatures goes beyond the graduate student’s ideas and genius to reach up into the upper ranks of the University’s bureaucracy.

Vicki finds her mother’s body has been stolen and she buries the pain of loss to search for her mother’s “kidnappers.” The struggle to keep the loss inside and remain removed from the situation enough to find her mother’s body and the criminals who took her is apparent in all of her actions and interactions with Henry and Celluci.

The love triangle also rears its ugly head in this book, though both men agree to be civil to one another and put Vicki first. It’s admirable, but in the end, one of them has to choose to let her go and leave her forever.

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Now, in this series, there is one particular tidbit of the Vampire reality that I do not find very conducive to love stories per se, but I can see why it was written into the story because the love triangle would never have ended. For all of Vicki’s strength, she has this uncanny ability at being unable to commit. She cannot commit in her personal life and she is inevitably forced to commit because of circumstances within and yet beyond her control.

There is a great deal of inner turmoil in this book. Vicki, Celluci, Henry, and even Dr. Burke. It also highlights some of the most interesting problems in graduate schools among naive yet intelligent students and faculty. I cannot wait to see what happens in the fifth book, Blood Debt.

Draw Blood Lines Through It

Blood Lines by Tanya Huff, the third book in the Blood Books Series, has one of the most disturbing scenes in it. I read the first two books without cringing, but there is one section in this book that had me cringing even after the section was gone.

Vicki Nelson, Henry Fitzroy, and Mike Celluci return in this book to fight an ancient Egyptian mummy. Yes, not only are werewolves and demons in the same book as a vampire, but now a walking mummy. This mummy isn’t just wandering around in ancient rags terrorizing the city, he has a purpose, and that purpose is to feed on souls and resurrect a god.

***Spoiler Alert***

Henry’s ka, or soul, attracts the mummy because it burns brightly, and Henry is almost tempted to take the mummy up on his offer of companionship, until he finally realizes that he is not the one in need of companionship. This book also sheds further light on the triangle created by Vicki, Henry, and Celluci. Vicki is very torn between the two, and the men are very aware of how each feels for her, which raises the tensions between them even further–especially when they work together to corral the mummy.

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I will not go into detail about the disturbing section of the book, but I will say Vicki is a much stronger woman or better at hiding her pain than I would ever be. After her ordeal, she does not curl into a ball or dissolve into a puddle when it ends. If anything, she fortifies an even stiffer protective wall around herself, which I’m sure plays into her overall character development throughout the series.

I can’t wait to start the fourth book in the series, Blood Pact.

Where There Are Vampires, There Are Werewolves, Naturally


Follow a vampire long enough and you are bound to enter the world of werewolves. While many books pit these creatures against one another, there have been a few cases in which authors and movie script writers bring these factions together for the greater good of “humanity.” Blood Trail by Tanya Huff is no different in this respect, but the werewolves in this book and Henry Fitzroy do not merely set aside their differences for a specific event, but are friends and have been friends longer than Vicki Nelson has been in the picture.

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Rather than Vicki seeking the help of her new vamp friend, it is he who turns to her for help. He ropes her into more supernatural events, but this time with werewolves. The wer family live in the country on a farm, which is a far cry from Vicki’s city existence and very dim in terms of lighting. Henry needs her to investigate during the day, while he sleeps in a storage closet at the home, and he can hunt for the mysterious hunter killing his friends by moonlight.

This book develops these characters and their relationships even further, and it is apparent that Vicki struggles internally not only with the supernatural world she has stumbled upon, but also with her feelings for Henry and Celluci. Most of the book is spent on the farm and Celluci is no where to be found, but it is when she needs him most that he appears in his armor to save her and her friends in spite of his suspicions about Henry. The only spoiler I will put in here that you may not want to know is that Celluci believes Henry is involved in Organized Crime. This cracked me up to no end. I could not stop laughing every time he mentioned it to Vicki or to himself. How this man is a detective and cannot figure out this man is a vampire I have no idea. It’s fun to watch his deduction skills in action though.

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Again, the dialogue and interactions between these characters kept me reading. Blood Trail leads you and Vicki into the woods and does not lose its grip on you until the very end. I couldn’t stop reading last night because I knew I was near the end of the novel. I cannot wait to start Blood Lines today.

As for Blood Ties on Lifetime, I recommend readers check out the show because the actors do such a great job portraying the essence of these characters as they are written. It appears the show is struggling ratings wise, which would disappointment me if it was cancelled. I just love the show and generally these shows become cult classics, but I think the stories and the characterizations are enough to hold onto the attention of mainstream audiences if they know what channel to watch.

Sensual and Sarcastic Vamps


Photo Copyright of the Blood Ties television show.

Tanya Huff is a whiz with characterization. I thought I loved watching Vicky Nelson and Henry Fitzroy on the television screen, but I enjoy reading about them even more. Book 1, Blood Price, does not disappoint. There is certainly enough blood to go around. Poor Vicky; she gets so beat up in this first book. It makes you wonder how she copes with the supernatural in later books, but I guess she toughens up after this first experience with the demons.

***Spoiler Alert***

Vicky is full of sarcasm and equally arrogant about her abilities despite her loss of peripheral vision, and her ex-partner, ex-lover, Mike Celluci is pigheaded and arrogant as well. Coupled with the ageless Henry Fitzroy how could the supernatural possibly win out. Have I mentioned that Fitzroy, who prefers to be called Henry, happens to be a Vampire? Much of the book focuses on Vicky’s story and how she stumbles upon a murder on the subway, and how because she quit the police force she feels abandoned and useless. She left the force of her own accord and continues to fight the feeling of uselessness throughout the book until she comes to a realization at the end that she is not useless and that she has a great many skills to use in solving even supernatural crimes.

Mike takes turns as the bad guy reminding her that she left the job she loved and reminding her that she is still needed by him, at least. While Henry spends a great deal of time trying to place her; where has he seen her before; why has she entered his solitary life; and how should he deal with this newly budding relationship. Henry is drawn to her, not only as prey but also as a companion in the modern world.

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I won’t spoil the whole story for you, but I will tell you that the book is fast paced. The dialogue and interactions between Vicky and Henry are hilarious and had me laughing for much of the book’s latter half. I was equally amused by the conversations with Celluci and Vicky. Even the supporting characters, like Coreen and Norman, are quirky but not beyond total belief in this horror/fantasy novel.

I recommend this book for anyone interested in vampires or great characters.

The Quickie

How shabby can a plot or characters get? I remember a book I read long ago by Zane in which the character was not well created and everything under the sun happened to her by the end of the book. The Quickie by James Patterson is much like the title suggests, a quickly written novel to fill the space between two better written novels. I already reviewed Step on a Crack and You’ve Been Warned.

Unlike those two books, which has suspense and plot twists, The Quickie was a roller coaster ride you wanted to get off quickly. When I reached about halfway through the novel and it ended in a shootout with the bad guy, I thought thank goodness that is over. But it wasn’t over. I handled the transition to the subplot behind Detective Scott Thayer’s odd behavior and ultimately his death relatively well, but I could not absorb the other twists thrown my way.

***Spoiler Alert***

Lead character Detective Lauren Stillwell of the NYPD is not a good detective at all. She had no idea Scott Thayer was playing on her vulnerabilities and insecurities, and she is a “tough as nails” cop. She was equally blind where her husband was concerned, and still wanted to save his sorry butt even after learning he has another “wife and child” with twins on the way, not to mention he committed robbery, shipped off millions to be laundered in a foreign nation, oh and killed her lover boy Scott Thayer. Nevermind, Paul’s sordid past.

How is it that Patterson can write this many novels in one year without making mistakes? At one point she is driving around in her mini cooper when she has to head home to tend to “brownies” when she leaves to return to the scene she has a completely different car–did she misplace the mini, was it beamed away while she was looking for her husband or hiding the evidence that he killed Scott, or was it the editors and Patterson forgetting to keep the story consistent? Miraculously, and this is the part that really got me thinking about Patterson’s production levels this year, Lauren gets pregnant and it is determined she’s been pregnant a lot longer than she initially thinks, especially given she just slept with Thayer 6 days before the news. However, many places in the book, the character refers to her and her husband’s stagnant love life at home…which leads the reader to believe they are not sleeping together. So, I ask you how did she get pregnant? Immaculate conception or his sperm jumped through the air when they passed one another in the mornings. I have no idea.

There are so many plot twists and subplots in this book, it was driving me insane. The narration was all over the place and not tied together tightly enough for me to believe in it. The main character is a detective; Patterson writes about them all the time, but this one has to be the dumbest detective I have run across.

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I suggest you skip this one and read one of the other two I have mentioned. They are much better books.

Someone asked me if I think it is James Patterson’s use of co-authors that has hindered the plots and entertainment of some of his latest books, but I can tell you that is not the case. Step on a Crack had the same co-author, Michael Ledwidge, as the Quickie and it was a better book. I think it has more to do with Patterson’s schedule; he is cranking out too many books per year these days. I say slow down man, we can wait for a better book.

Warning…for Readers

I finished James Patterson’s You’ve Been Warned in record time while on a mini-vacation with the parents in town. So what did I think of the latest creation from Patterson? It was an odd read. I was confused much of the time while reading it. It’s suspenseful, but annoying at the same time because you are confused much of the time you are reading it, particularly when you are wondering what the main point of the story is and who is chasing the main character, Kristin Burns. This is not an Alex Cross or Women’s Murder Club or Michael Bennett novel of cops and robbers, though the mentality of those cops is carried slightly over into the Burns character who hopes to unravel the mystery. The best part for me with the character of Burns is her love of photography, which I can totally relate to. She just clicks away on her camera, much like I do sometimes…the urge is there to just keep shooting, probably why film got to be too expensive for me and I switched over to digital–though there are some things I prefer about film photography.

She seeks the identity of the man who continues to warn her throughout the novel and continues to avoid the cop following her, but does she do it successfully? You’ll have to read the book to find out. I will tell you this about the new book. It was a great twist at the end; one I had an inkling about; but it was still a great end. You’ll also have to read to figure out if this novel is one of the better experiments run by Patterson over the years.

He’s tried romantic novels with Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas and Sam’s Letters to Jennifer–one faring much better than the other. I really loved Suzanne’s Diary, but really hated Sam’s Letters. Then he attempted a historical novel, The Jester, which I really enjoyed as well. I think some of his bread and butter series, like Alex Cross and Women’s Murder Club, have fallen a little flat as of late, but the recent You’ve been Warned novel indicates there is a muse at work behind Patterson’s writing still, he just needs to pay closer attention when writing the series his readers’ love.

Don’t Break Momma’s Back

Step on a Crack by James Patterson was a quick read and the lead character Michael Bennett is a breath of fresh air–a NYPD detective who actually isn’t the job. Alex Cross is the reason I began reading James Patterson books in the first place, and the Women’s Murder Club series kept me interested in his books with their camaraderie. Those characters forsake their families, lovers, and friends for the sake of catching the bad guy and making the big arrest, but Mike Bennett is different. His wife is his center and the kids are hers, but the job still takes precedence most of the time. When it counts and when he is needed at home, he’s there for the kids. Don’t get me wrong, you know the main point of the books is the suspense and the unraveling of the crime at hand, but the emotions of the characters need to develop beyond surface dedication to the family and the job.

Mike Bennett is a well developed character who made me hope along with him that his wife would not die, and strive to solve the successful kidnapping, though he was distracted. He held fast against the anguish in his heart to pump up the spirits of his brood and still remain dedicated to tracking down the hijackers. There were several points near the end of the book where my emotions nearly burst forth through my eyes as the unthinkable happened.

***spoiler ALERT**

He held his dying wife in his arms at the end of her life just after failing to take down the hijackers and discover their true identities. Her life slipped away quietly in the hospital room.

This was the one and only time I have seen Patterson take a leap and kill off a character he incited readers to believe would make it in the spirit of Christmas and rebirth. Unfortunately, those hopes were dashed, but I think the loss may strengthen the drive of Mike Bennett should Patterson choose to create yet another detective series.

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While of late I have had a hard time keeping interested in James Patterson books because he puts so many of them out per year, with dare I say not so captivating prose in many cases, Step on a Crack held my attention and made me wonder what will happen next for the main character and his Irish brood.