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Cross My Heart by James Patterson (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audio, 9.5 hours
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Cross My Heart by James Patterson, narrated by Michael Boatman from Spin City and Tom Wopat from the The Dukes of Hazzard, is a slowly evolving novel that demonstrates not only how much family anchors Det. Alex Cross, but how it can become a weakness when the wrong people decide to target you.  With one kid away at school, another child just getting a handle on her high school work, and a seven year-old son just looking forward to growing up, Alex Cross has a lot to loose when killers come knocking.  As a series of murders push the murder rate up across the city and the police department continues to feel the pressure of a possible federal government takeover, Cross is under even more pressure than usual.  In the midst of all this, a woman is kidnapping babies.

Thierry Mulch has stalked Cross and his family, and despite all the signs, Cross is simply spread to thin to put the evidence together in a clear picture.  His wife, Bree, Nana Mama, and his children Ali, Jannie, and Damon always have filled in the gaps left by Cross’ busy schedule as a detective, and while there are family resentments about his absences, they are all well aware that his job is important.  Patterson slowly unravels how Cross finds himself on the razor’s edge of revenge at the beginning of the novel, and readers are anxious throughout as the stalker gets closer and closer.  Many villains have tried and failed to beat Alex Cross, but Mulch has been studying a long time to become the perfect criminal.

The narrator for Cross and Sampson continues his good performance, though his voice for Sampson still seemed a bit forced and jarring.  Tom Wopat speaks for Mulch and the other criminals in the novel, and he does an excellent job of maintaining a cunning and dispassionate character.  His villains are practical and diabolical.

This novel shows Alex Cross at rock bottom, particularly as it comes to a close.  Cross My Heart by James Patterson, narrated by Michael Boatman from Spin City and Tom Wopat from the The Dukes of Hazzard, is a cliffhanger that will have readers chomping at the bit to read the next, Hope to Die.

About the Author:

James Patterson is a prolific author of thrillers, mysteries, young adult novels and more. His first successful series featured psychologist Alex Cross.

Alex Cross, Run by James Patterson (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 7 hrs
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Alex Cross, Run by James Patterson, narrated by Michael Boatman from Spin City and China Beach and Steven Boyer from The Wolf of Wall Street, is another suspenseful romp through D.C. chasing bad guys and trying to balance the life of a high-profile homicide detective with family life.  A new marriage, 1 son in college, 1 daughter and young son at home, and 1 foster child keeps the Cross house on its toes, but when a journalist has it out for Det. Cross, things get Topsy-turvy.

Meanwhile, plastic surgeon Elijah Creem has gotten away with things that even Alex Cross doesn’t know about, even though Cross busts him at a party with illicit drugs and underage models.  While dead girls are piling up who are slim with blond hair — or at least that’s the hair color the medical examiner thinks it is since these women’s locks are shorn off and they are nearly scalped — other bodies are discovered along the river.  Cross finds himself in the middle of several cases that could be the work of one or more serial killers.  Michael Boatman does a great job as the voice of Alex Cross, but his rendition of his pal Sampson is a bit forced and comes off a bit comic.  Steven Boyer who does the narration for the killers is fantastically creepy and eerie, and in many ways is the star of this production.

Alex Cross, Run by James Patterson, narrated by Michael Boatman from Spin City and China Beach and Steven Boyer from The Wolf of Wall Street, is a back to basics cop novel with killers on the loose in the city, and less about the FBI, which is good to see once in a while.  Cross still has trouble balancing home life and work life, but it’s good to see that his priorities are straight when their foster child goes missing.  The audio productions are a great way to spend a couple afternoons or a few commutes into work.

About the Author:

James Patterson is a prolific author of thrillers, mysteries, young adult novels and more. His first successful series featured psychologist Alex Cross.

Kill Alex Cross by James Patterson (audio)

Source: Public library
Audiobook, 7 hrs
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Kill Alex Cross by James Patterson, narrated by Zach Grenier, David Lee on The Good Wife and Andre Braugher, Captain Ray Holt on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, has a number of plots going on at one time.  From the kidnapped children of President Coyle — a second high-profile kidnapping of children for Detective Alex Cross — to terrorists making their presence known in the nation’s capital.  Like police work in real life, not all of the cases are solved, and Alex is pushed past his ethical and moral limits as he struggles to find the kidnapped children.

The gem in this book was Zach Grenier’s narration as the kidnapper, who is diabolical and broken at the same time.  He’s shifty and he’s intelligent, and the voices he makes to differentiate between the kidnapper and the terrorists are fantastic.  Hiring actors to perform these books is a stroke of genius because it brings Patterson’s plots to life.  There are a ton of twists and turns, and while I may not approve of Cross’s methods in this one and believe they are out of step with the character he has become, the conclusion of these events was ok for me.

Kill Alex Cross by James Patterson is less about killing Cross than it is about the numerous threats facing our nation today.  Terrorists are often seen where there are none and there are threats that go unseen on a daily basis until it is too late.  Kidnappers are waiting in plain view in some places, while terrorists are blending in with the rest of society.  But then there are those who seem suspicious who are not threats at all.  Patterson’s novel does touch on the idea of perception and what threats we see and don’t see and why.

About the Author:

James Patterson is a prolific author of thrillers, mysteries, young adult novels and more. His first successful series featured psychologist Alex Cross.

Cross Fire by James Patterson (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 6.5 hours
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Cross Fire by James Patterson pits Alex Cross against his arch-nemesis, Kyle Craig, and other elements from his past.  While his private psychiatric practice has become more of a part-time gig with underprivileged kids, Cross still uses his skills to profile criminals loose on the city to capture them before they do further damage.  Ripped from the headlines, including the D.C. sniper case (which was a little too close for comfort for me), Patterson has done his homework on the police in the nation’s capitol and has a firm grasp of the ins-and-outs of the FBI.  I was pleased to see Kyle return because he is the kind of enemy that challenges the main character’s morality and wits, while remaining cunning enough to even gain the respect of readers.

These audio productions are more about the twists and turns of Cross and the puzzles he must unwind, rather than like in the Women’s Murder Club series where it is heavy on sound effects and music.  Those audio productions read like high-flying summer blockbusters, while these creep up on you like dark suspense dramas.  This one has two narrators, one for Alex Cross’ chapters and one for those with Kyle Craig, and both are excellent — though for some reason I kept picturing Cross as Tyler Perry because the narrator’s voice is close to his.  Previously, I had pictured Cross as Morgan Freeman, which is probably because those are the movies I saw first before reading the books.

I digress.  Cross Fire by James Patterson places the main protagonist in the middle of Craig’s sights, and his family is right there with him.  The terror permeating the city as the snipers travel around the city adds another layer of suspense, which is handled well in this production.  Patterson is good at creating suspenseful dramas, and this one is no slouch in that department.

About the Author:

James Patterson is a prolific author of thrillers, mysteries, young adult novels and more. His first successful series featured psychologist Alex Cross.

Unlucky 13 by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook,  7.5 hours
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Unlucky 13 by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro has the women of the murder club scrambling away from terrorists and searching high and low for a killer bent on revenge.  San Francisco Detective Lindsay Boxer is enjoying her motherhood, even as her job continues to be demanding and murderers and terrorists remain on the loose in the city.  The FBI becomes involved in a belly bomb case that threatens the city, but Boxer is like a dog with a bone — she won’t let go and insists on investigating despite the restrictions.  Even this routine investigation is turned upside down as Mackie Morales reappears in an FBI photograph — she’s the one that got away and she’s been on the run since Boxer and the police killed her lover.

This is another spectacular audio production by Hachette with music and audio gunfire.  I enjoy listening to this adrenaline pumping series on audio more than reading them.  I tend to enjoy them for their pure entertainment, but this one had an oddball case that ensnares Yuki Castellano and her new husband while they are on their honeymoon.  The plot did not seem to be as well thought out, and it seemed like the resolution was a bit too out of character with the stories in this series.  Other than that, Unlucky 13 by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro is a fun listen when your doing the chores.

About the Author:

James Patterson is a prolific author of thrillers, mysteries, young adult novels and more. His first successful series featured psychologist Alex Cross.

About the Co-Author:

Maxine Paetro collaborates with best–selling author James Patterson, co–writing The 4th Of July, The 5th Horseman, The 6th Target, The 7th Heaven, The 8th Confession, The 9th Judgment, 10th Anniversary and The 11th Hour, just released in May 2012. All are New York Times #1 best–sellers in the Women’s Murder Club Series.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 12.5 hours
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The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, narrated by Cassandra Campbell and Bahni Turpin, was our February book club selection.  Henrietta Lacks was a black woman who felt something was wrong, some lump was growing insider her, and that lump she had was eventually diagnosed as a kind of cervical cancer.  Her treatment commenced, but she bore it all on her own, telling very few in her family about it.  She also continued to bear children throughout the process.  Lacks has since become immortal in that her cancerous cells were collected and cultivated by scientists and renamed HeLa.  Those cells were used in the fight against polio and a number of other diseases.  While she was unable to see the fruits of her cells’ labors, she is in a way immortal.

Rebecca Skloot injects herself into this narrative, which becomes part memoir as she recounts her interactions with Lacks’ children, especially Deborah.  Skloot discovered that this family had been bombarded by requests for information long before she decided to write a book about Lacks and her cells, which had made them less than willing to speak to her.  Despite the many set backs and the paranoia that often ruled Deborah’s reactions to her questions, Skloot made headway and even took family members on road trips in ways that brought the true past of their mother back to the family.  In many ways, this is not just a story about Henrietta Lacks, how her cells helped science and cured disease, or about medical ethics, but it also is a story about a family regaining its connections and its past.

The audio production was well done, especially differentiating between Deborah’s thoughts and that of the author, making them easily discernible.  This audiobook also included an interview with the author about her research and her interactions with the Lacks family, as well as her writing process, which was fascinating.  And although the story shifts from the past to the current research, the book’s narrative flows well and is immediately engaging for those with an interest in science, medical research, and the history of HeLa.  But even then, this is a human interest story about how a family struggles to learn about their mother and her cells and what happened in the past.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot, narrated by Cassandra Campbell and Bahni Turpin, packs a punch — hitting the heart of medical research and the debate about who cells belong to, what rights patients have to their own cells, whether there should be more restrictions on their use, and whether compensation should be offered to those who donate their cells.

About the Author:

Rebecca Skloot is the author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. Her award winning science writing has appeared in The New York Times Magazine; O, The Oprah Magazine; Discover; and many other publications. She specializes in narrative science writing and has explored a wide range of topics, including goldfish surgery, tissue ownership rights, race and medicine, food politics, and packs of wild dogs in Manhattan. She has worked as a correspondent for WNYC’s Radiolab and PBS’s Nova ScienceNOW.

Book Club had to be postponed due to a snowstorm, but I cannot wait for the discussion in March!

The Trigger by Tim Butcher (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 10 hrs.
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The Trigger: Hunting the Assassin Who Brought the World to War by Tim Butcher, narrated by Gerard Doyle, is a mixture of travelogue and a sort-of-biography of Gavrillo Princip, the man who killed Archduke Franz Ferdinand and set the wheels in motion for World War I.  Princip has been considered a radical in many texts, but Butcher seeks to remedy that image and bring to life a more rounded view of the assassin, who eagerly sought the unification of the Slav people in a single nation of their own.

Butcher travels as Princip had traveled from his days growing up and in school and until he joins a group aimed at creating a unified nation free from foreign rule.  Moving from the feudal frontier village of his birth through the mountains in the northern Balkans to Belgrade and Sarajevo where Ferdinand was murdered.  While the story of Princip is engaging, the constant reflections on Butcher’s life as a war reporter in the 1990s during a more modern war in Bosnia draws parallels while pulling readers out of the story about the assassin.  Butcher meets some well-meaning people on his journey and some have no information about Princip, while others have pre-formed perceptions of the teen.

Doyle does an excellent job narrating and maintains the readers attention with his inflections and enthusiasm for the subject.  Butcher’s reminiscences about growing up in Britain after WWI and reporting on modern war are distracting.  The most interesting parts of the story are obscured by the travelogue for the most part and could have been reduced significantly to ensure the history shines through.  Readers interested in the history of the region and why Princip assassinated Ferdinand would be better served by another account of the man’s actions.  The Trigger: Hunting the Assassin Who Brought the World to War by Tim Butcher, narrated by Gerard Doyle, takes too much time outlining the travels of Butcher and his past, focusing merely one-third on Princip, how he was shaped, and why he assassinated the archduke.

About the Author:

Tim Butcher is a best-selling British author, journalist and broadcaster. Born in 1967, he was on the staff of The Daily Telegraph from 1990 to 2009, covering all major conflicts across the Balkans the Middle East and Africa. Recognised in 2010 with an honorary doctorate for services to journalism and writing, he is based with his family in the South African city of Cape Town.

So Cold the River by Michael Koryta, Narrated by Robert Petkoff

Source: Complimentary BEA download
Audio, nearly 14 hours
On Amazon and on Kobo

So Cold the River by Michael Koryta, narrated by Robert Petkoff, is mysterious and dark, but at times, it is humorous.  Eric Shaw has lost his movie making career as a photographer/videographer in Los Angeles, forcing him to breathe life into those that have been lost or into inanimate objects for funerals, along with videos of weddings and more.  After crafting a video for a funeral or a woman with a secret that only one other person knows, Eric is sent on a job that makes him question reality.

Alyssa Bradford hires Eric to make a video of her father-in-law’s life, sending him to a once thriving vacation city that has only begun to rebound after the Great Depression when her father-in-law left to make his fortune elsewhere.  West Baden, Ind., is in the middle of nowhere, but it is the home of Pluto water, which was considered a miracle water from a mineral springCampbell Bradford, a 95 year-old billionaire, is a complete mystery … a mystery that Shaw is sent to unravel, but what he finds is not only a town being reborn but also a cast of townsfolk who are wound up tight or too relaxed.  Koryta’s dialogue could use a bit of sprucing up, as some of it is very repetitive with the use of “hell” and the like, but the descriptions of the characters, their interactions, and the mysterious experiences Shaw has are engaging.  The novel takes a great many twists and turns, but there are times when the changes are predictable.  

Robert Petkoff is a fantastic narrator, making sure that the voices and characters are easily discerned and the dialogue easy to follow.  His inflections are Midwestern, and he effectively effuses the emotions of these characters.  So Cold the River by Michael Koryta strikes a balance between suspense/thriller and the paranormal, as Eric Shaw finds himself pulled into the mysteries of Pluto water and a town that fell into financial ruin after the Great Depression.  It’s a satisfying novel to spend the summer with, full of adventure and intrigue.

About the Author:

Michael Koryta is an American author of contemporary crime and supernatural fiction. His novels have appeared on the The New York Times Best Seller list.  Visit his Website.

 

 

46th book for 2014 New Author Challenge.