The Relaxation Station
The Easy Radio Book Club

"Full Force and Effect" by Mark Greaney continues the Tom Clancy, Jack Ryan series. Big, thick, complicated, intense, and addicting! A strong entry in the series and we look forward to the continuing adventures of President Jack Ryan, and his son Jack Jr.
"The Long Way Home" by Louise Penny is wonderful. Period. For those of us who hadn't enjoyed previous Penny books, this is a great introduction and made me an instant fan. Lyrically written, beautifully composed, lusciously rendered, this is a work of art in mystery. (sr)

David Liss has written numerous historical fiction novels, and they are all wonderful experiences, mostly set in the 17th Century. "The Day of Atonement" is the story of a young boy driven from Lisbon, one day to return seeking vengeance on the Priest responsible for the death of his parents during the Inquisition. His agenda changes, often due to his terrible judge of character, other times due to changing perspective. There are vivid fights, descriptive atmospheres, and at times ugly, but truthful historical narratives. Simply fascinating and captivating. (SR - 11/14)

This is the 19th Jack Reacher novel by Lee Child. And it's the same as the others. Meaning it's a great story with a character we know well, roaming around the country, finding and solving problems. Jack Reacher is consistent, and there are no ridiculous changes in personality or life experiences. He is what we expect, and that makes the series completely, totally engaging. (SR - 10/14)
"Blue Labyrinth" was my introduction to Special Agent Pendergast, although this is #14 in the series. So I'm wondering what took me so long? This is a terrific mystery thriller drenched in historical, scientific, and procedural detail. Agent Pendergast finds his estranged son dead on his doorstep. From New York City, to the desert of Nevada to Switzerland and South America, this mesmerizing novel is well written, well paced, and will certainly begin my adventure through the previous 13. (SR - 10/14)

"Manson - The Life and Times of Charles Manson" by Jeff Guinn is a riveting, thorough look at one of the most frightening criminal minds of the modern era. "Charlie" Manson was not just a child of the 60's, but a child of the 30', 40's, 50's, and 60's. Guinn writes that Manson was the wrong person at the right time. This authoritative book does not focus on the horrific murders, but on the cult of Manson and his transformation from West Virginia small time hood, to leader of the terrible  killing spree August 1970. Hard to put down, dark at times, but ultimately an absolutely fascinating focus on the time, and the life of Charlie Manson. (sr Aug 2014)

"Big Little Lies" by Liane Moriarty will be hard to beat as one of the best books of 2014. This is a witty, complicated, emotional story of mothers and their children at a Kindergarten School in Australia. There are petty school politics, horrible accusations, hidden family secrets, and a death at the school trivia night. Liane Moriarty has a gifted touch with words and plot. The mystery keeps the book moving forward, and but the characters keep the reader connected. Quite simply, this is a marvelous book experience. (SR 8/14)

"The Vacationers" by Emma Straub is really a perfect beach read. It's the story of a dysfunctional family taking a two week vacation on the island of Mallorca. It could be dark and tragic, but this book is so well written with a great sense of wit, these people end up being likeable. Grab the beach towel and chairs and bring this one along to the beach! (sr-7/14)

"The Book of Life" is the final chapter of the All Souls Trilogy, that began with "A Discovery of Witches". Interview with Deborah Harkness on July 15th. She's a delightful person, and an exceptional author. This series has been a treasure from start to finish, and I'm sorry there will be no more. Of course we can always go back and start all over again.
So how did we miss this guy? Brad Taylor's Pike Logan series continues with "Days of Rage". Pike Logan is a member of a semi-legitimate government agency tasked with preventing terrorism attacks. In "Days of Rage" the team is in Bulgaria, Berlin, and South America attempting to prevent a disaster, and fighting to avenge the murder of a team member. It is paced quickly, with depth of description of guns, electronic equipment, spy strategy, and the bureaucracy of both USA government agencies and those of foreign governments. Well written, well paced, well worth every page. Only negative is our delay in getting to the series! Interview with Brad Taylor in July 2014. (sr 7/14) 
Jojo Moyes new novel, One Plus One is the story of an odd, troubled little family and a rich, troubled man who end up on the road together heading toward a math competition. Sounds a little odd itself, but believe me, the journey of the novel and the journey of reading this book is enormously engaging and worthwhile. Set in England, the characters are full of depth, emotion, and complexity, and the story rings clear and true without a false step through the book. This is a thoroughly complete novel. It is funny, emotional, troubling, and ultimately satisfying. Interview with Jojo Moyes on July 7th. (sr 7/14)

"The Devil's Workshop" by Alex Grecian is set in the late 1800's London. Jack The Ripper is loose after having been chained in an unknown underground prison. A prison escape sets violent, disturbed men upon the city of London, with Scotland Yard's Murder Squad in pursuit. This is a dark, disturbing story, violent at times and horrific in places. Yet it is grounded and focused, and that alone  makes for a scary, intense book. Add fascinating and likeable characters from the Murder Squad, and a sometimes sympathetic criminal or two, and The Devil's Workshop becomes a first rate thriller. (May 2014)

"The Skin Collector" by Jeffrey Deaver is a Lincoln Rhyme mystery thriller. I like Jeffrey Deaver's writing, and I like Lincoln Rhyme. There is a great deal of technical analysis in this 11th story of the quadriplegic police consultant, which drives the story forward with intensity and anticipation. A murderer kills his victims by poison tattoo ink. There are numerous subplots but everything in Deaver's books exist for a reason. And I am so happy to say there are no "
oh come on!!" moments. By that, I refer to those plot twists and devices that leave the reader thinking "oh come on!!" because all logic leaves the page. (May 2014)

"Natchez Burning" by Greg Iles. Wow. Big, thick, complicated, and full of passion. From the early 1960's through post Katrina in Natchez, Mississippi this is the story of secrets, racism, family, murder, and determined investigation. A truly outstanding book.

"Glorious" by Jeff Guinn, is the name of a silver mining town in Arizona. This isn't a cowboy western with a gunfight at sundown on main street. Cash McLendon is on the run from some trouble in St. Louis, has never ridden a horse, has never fired a gun, and doesn't know a thing about the west. However there a bad guys (without the black hats) and red eye whiskey, beans, and dusty street. The folks of Glorious are hanging on to their tough lives by a thread, but are determined to hang on despite the intentions of a ranch owner planning on taking over every bit of the town. The first of three in a series, this is a fantastic western for those of us who aren't particularly fond of westerns! (sr - May 2014)

Meg Wolitzer received almost universal critical acclaim in 2013 for The Interestings, and now that the book is being released as a trade paperback, no doubt the applause will be renewed. This is a simple story; six teenagers meet at summer camp and we watch them grow up. That's about it. However, the characters in The Interestings are so vivid, so perfectly pitched, it's not hard to be drawn into their sometimes funny, sometimes tragic lives. There really isn't a mystery involved, but as readers we are drawn into the changing times, changing lives, and ever present friendships. A truly outstanding reading experience. (sr 3/14)

Game Warden Joe Pickett is back, getting into business he has been warned to avoid. A seemingly all benevolent member of a small community may be involved in things less than benevolent. Joe Pickett has been asked by the Governor to poke around and see what he can learn. Joe Pickett is a man who sticks by his principles, and doesn't much like being pushed around. It's cold in the mountains of Wyoming, and there's more than a little bit of trouble waiting for Joe. Always a good solid read. (sr 3/14)

"The Hour of Peril" by Daniel Stashower is the story of the secret plot to murder Lincoln on his trip to Washington before being sworn in as President. It is the story of Allen Pinkerton, Lincoln, his closest advisors, and the unsavory characters in Baltimore who aim to destroy the nation by the assassination of Lincoln. The Hour of Peril reads like a modern day mystery thriller, but is in fact the true story not often heard or recounted of Lincoln's train trip through the United States on his way to Washington, DC. Though we know how this initial chapter of Lincoln's life ends, we're drawn to the time, place, and history of a country soon to be divided. Amazingly rendered. (sr 1/14)

Lisa Gardner has become one of my favorite mystery writers. She doesn't spend time on kicks to the stomach or chops to the head. Instead, she creates meticulously researched mysteries that have an intense, forward thrusting energy. Gripping is always a good word for her work, and "Fear Nothing" is the best of her efforts. Sisters, one in prison since she was 14 for murder, the other a respected therapist who suffers from a rare condition where she is unable to feel physical pain, are both daughters of a notorious mass murderer. D.D. Warren, Boston PD is on the scene of a horrific murder when she suffers a painful injury. And all of this ties back to a 30 year old murder. Wow.

Favorites from 2013...

Liane Moriarty has written a stunningly powerful book about secrets and their unintended impact. Set in Sydney and Melbourne, busy, focused, and organized housewife Cecelia finds a letter from her husband to be opened in the event of his death. Unfortunately, he hasn't died and the letter contains a secret that disrupts numerous families in ways unimagined. While the heart of the story is dark, the book retains a sense of lightness and hope, not without a bit of redemption. Exceptional writing and characters make this a highly recommend read. (sr 12/13)

"Stella Bain" is the name of a woman suffering from Amnesia (shell shock) during World War One, searching for a memory of more than the past four months. At times this is a novel both dark and gritty, full of the horrors and unimaginable sufferings of a terrible time in history. Yet Anita Shreve has crafted a story with hope and love. She is a fine writer, fully immersed in the time and war torn atmosphere of France, England, and America. Eventually Stella does find her true identity, a person with a troubled past. Thoroughly engaging and evocative, "Stella Bain" is a gem.

"Critical Mass" by Sara Paretskyis the latest in the V.I. Warshawski series, and it just keeps getting better and better. This time, V.I. is caught up in a missing persons case involving the grandson of a WWII Survivor with a possible connection to a Noble Prize winning scientist. Switching between 1930's Germany and present day, this complicated and propelling mystery is engaging, enlightening, and well written.