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The Chili Queen by Sandra Dallas

23rd September 2009

This was a fun mystery to read.  It took me a few chapters to get into the book, but I’m glad I stuck with it.  Addie French is a madame who takes in friendless Emma Roby.  Addie then partners with Ned and Welcome to help Emma to steal back Emma’s inheritance from her controlling brother.  But what seems like a simple scam gets more complex with each turn of the page.

Dallas divided her story into 4 sections, with each part being told from a different character’s perspective.  As each character’s role is revealed, you can feel yourself drawing closer to the truth and a completely satisfying end.

As an aside, although there isn’t a lot of violence in most of Dallas’ books, there are always one or two scenes that are quite horrifying, usually involving mothers and children.  I’ve read so many of her books, that I’ve come to expect such a scene and try to quickly skim it when I get there.  The fact that this distinctive scene appears in one form or another in all of her books makes me wonder what tragedy has touched her life.

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New Mercies by Sandra Dallas

17th August 2009

Dallas veers from her typical story setting (Midwest plains) and sets this book in Mississippi.  Nora travels from Colorado to Mississippi to claim an inheritance from an aunt she never knew.  As she settles her aunt’s estate, Nora uncovers some secrets in her family tree, and finds peace in her own life as well.

If I didn’t know how outstanding Dallas’ books could be, I would’ve said this one was pretty good.  But I know her books can be so much better.  The two things I enjoy the most about Dallas’ books are the strong friendships that her female characters develop, and the unique and powerful conversations they enjoy together.  New Mercies didn’t have those strong friendships, and the character development felt kind of flat.  I had to struggle to finish this one.

Sandra Dallas is my new favorite author.  I have loved every book of hers that I’ve read (3 to be exact).  She combines so much of what I love in a book to create the perfect novel: historical, romantic, slightly suspenseful, a bit of action, and lots of drama.  Once I start reading one of Dallas’ books, I just can’t put it down.

The Diary of Mattie Spenser tells the story of Mattie and her husband Luke as they travel from Iowa to build a home on the Colorado plains.  Although the physical hardships are difficult, Mattie struggles more to come to grips with the many tragedies she encounters on the frontier, and with her growing suspicions that her husband doesn’t love her.  Watching Mattie grow from a proper, timid young girl to a strong, capable woman was an absolute pleasure, and I loved the way Dallas chose to end Mattie’s story.

Invasive Procedures Die-hard Orson Scott Card sci-fi fans will be disappointed with Invasive Procedures.  The character development is underwhelming, and the plot seems rather flat.  However, if you are looking for a medical sci-fi thriller along the lines of Robin Cook, then Invasive Procedures is your book.  In fact, I enjoyed it much more than most of Cook’s more recent books, which have become quite formulaic.  Card and Johnston have teamed up to write a fast-paced look at gene therapy gone wrong.  It’s not a book that will stay with you, but it is an entertaining read.

David Baldacci Books

16th June 2008

I first discovered Baldacci when I read his novel Wish You Well. Since then, I have read several of his popular thrillers. I don’t feel the need to blog individually about each book, as they are very similar in style and substance. However, if you are looking for an easy, entertaining, suspenseful mystery, Baldacci has many to choose from. I particularly enjoy his books because they are mostly set in the DC/Virginia area, which is familiar to me. Baldacci lives in Virginia, and writes very knowledgeably about the area.

Books of his that I’ve read:

Saving FaithSaving Faith: Lee Adams, PI and Faith Lockhart, lobbyist are on the run from powerful Washington leaders.

Split Second: Former Secret Service agent Sean King, and disgraced agent MichelleSplit Second Maxwell realize that there’s a connection between the crimes both have witnessed. They join forces to clear their names.

Hour GameHour Game: King and Maxwell have now formed a PI firm. They must investigate a series of murders in their own hometown. This one was my favorite by far–much more suspenseful, easy to read, yet not as predictable as previous books.

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