Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Frozen Heat by Richard Castle

By Richard Castle
Copyright ABC Studios
Published by Hyperion

Genre: Crime Drama

In book four of the series, we’re getting in deep. The body of an unidentified woman has been found stuffed inside a suitcase, and left in a freezer truck. An unusual case, but a clue ties the murder to the shocking, unsolved murder of Heat’s mother, ten years ago. The cold case is reopened, and Heat’s crew works the murders together. Solving one has a chance of solving them both.

Someone seems to think that Heat knows too much, and targets her for the kill. Nikki must delve into her painful past for answers, while fighting to stay alive. How many of her friends will die before she finds the killer? Or will he find her first?

This book reveals a lot of what makes Heat who she is. Her character is fully fleshed out, and we want to solve her mother’s murder as much as she does. We want to bring some closure to this strong, tortured woman. We care.

Nikki Heat leads a wild, exciting, passionate life. We are lucky that we get to come along for the ride.

Book received from the publisher for my unbiased review.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

HEAT RISES by Richard Castle

By Richard Castle
Copyright ABC Studios
Published by Hyperion

Genre: Crime Drama

The third book in the Nikki Heat series. A priest is found tortured and murdered…in a bondage club. What was he doing there, and who was he with? Most of all, why?

This is a puzzling case, but Nikki is distracted. Rook has been away on assignment, unable to contact her. Or is he unwilling? The tabloids show him at a hotel with a stunning woman. And still, Heat’s phone doesn’t ring.

Captain Montrose, Nikki’s boss and mentor, is behaving strangely. He appears to have secret knowledge about the priest’s case, but he isn’t sharing. Then he gives Nikki orders that steer her away from answers in the case. What is he hiding?

More bodies pile up, and someone is following Heat. Is it connected to the case, or is something else going on?

By this point in the series, the characters are well-developed enough that we can easily separate them from the TV series characters. There are still many parallels between the two. Heat and Beckett may be sisters in blue, but they are very different people. Since Heat’s cases don’t have to be solved in 45 minutes, they twist and turn and run off in false directions much more than Beckett’s do. Which makes them even more satisfying to solve.

Book borrowed from the Indiana Free Library, Indiana PA.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

NAKED HEAT by Richard Castle

By Richard Castle
Copyright ABC Studios
Published by Hyperion

Genre: Crime Drama

Nikki Heat and Jameson Rook broke up. The murder of a muck-racking gossip columnist brings them back together…on the job.

The back-stabbing gossip columnist was stabbed in the back. Fitting, but Nikki has to find out who did it. Before she can, someone steals the body. Against her will, Nikki admits she needs Rook’s connections to figure this one out. And Rook has some interesting connections in the underworld.

Bodies pile up. A star athlete with a grudge and a stalker, an estranged daughter for the columnist, and a cowboy who likes to carve people up. When the cowboy traps Rook and Heat in Rook’s apartment and tries to practice his skills on them, it become very personal.

Then a young pop singer is pulled into the mix. What happens to her is hard for Nikki to handle, but the case moves on.

An old boyfriend of Nikki’s comes back into the picture. Does Petar have something to do with the murders? Or is he the solution to Nikki’s attraction to Rook?

Another twisting, turning murder investigation. Nothing is ever simple in Heat’s life. If it was, why would we keep reading? But you will keep reading, because you have to know how it turns out.

Book purchased from Book of the Month Club. Review by Audrey Shaffer.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

HEAT WAVE by Richard Castle

Nikki Heat series by Richard Castle

I had some trouble getting into this series. My mistake was starting with the second book instead of the first. Without knowing the characters, I kept confusing them, in my head, with the Castle characters. There are a LOT of similarities, but the differences were jarring. I decided this series wasn’t for me.

Then the publisher offered me the fourth book. I decided to go back to the beginning and read it right. So I picked up the first and third book from the library, and read through. Just like most series, they’re much better when you read them in order!


By Richard Castle
Copyright ABC Studios
Published by Hyperion

Genre: Crime Drama

If you’re a Castle (the TV series) fan, keep in the front of your mind that this is the book that Richard Castle wrote, based on Beckett and her coworkers. Until you get into it, keep reminding yourself that this is NOT Castle and Beckett. Also, the TV show is from Castle’s point of view, and the books are from Nikki’s.

Nikki Heat is a NYPD homicide detective. Against her will, she is assigned a ride-along; superstar magazine journalist Jameson Rook. Rook is doing an article on NYPD detectives, and the best way to find out what they do is to be there with them. No matter how much he annoys Heat…or attracts her. Because she’s struggling with both emotions.

A wealthy man falls from a 6th story balcony. His trophy wife insists that he didn’t jump. Looking at the scene in his apartment, Nikki and her crew agree. While they’re still investigating the scene, the wife is attacked. Nikki catches the attacker, and he admits he’s been having an affair with the trophy wife, who stood him up that very day…the same time her husband was killed.

Cut and dried, right? Murders are never that simple in Nikki Heat’s life. Add in a failing business, another lover for the wife, a bookie with a violent sidekick, art theft and forgery. The dead bodies, suspects, and additional crimes keep piling up.

Along with all of this, Nikki is struggling with the memory of her mother’s murder 10 years ago, and her growing attraction to the annoying Rook.

Yes, Nikki gives in to Rook in the first book, unlike Beckett. But then this was written by Castle, so it’s his fantasies that take precedence.

Once I got past the Heat/Beckett Rook/Castle comparison, I enjoyed the book. Not the best crime drama I’ve ever read, but still a good one.

Book borrowed from the Indiana Free Library, Indiana PA.

Reviews on the rest of the series coming soon.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

"Badass" review by Richard C Shaffer

I remember the first time I read an article by Ben Thompson, author of Badass: A Relentless Onslaught of the Toughest Warlords, Vikings, Samurai, Pirates, Gunfighters, and Military Commanders to Ever Live.

I was on a website called Bullshido, all about martial arts and specifically targeting the difference between good martial arts schools/styles and bad ones. Within their forum there was a section written by a man known as Phrost. It was called Badass of the Month, and it was the October 2009 article on Captain Mad Jack Churchill.

Now I don’t actually know if Phrost and Ben Thompson are the same person, but when I found Mr. Thompson’s book in early 2010, I saw several similarities. Mr. Thompson runs the website Badass of the Week.com. If they are not the same, they have similar influences.

Unlike his website, (which has Darth Vader, the Hanta Virus, Ivan Drago, The Movie Starship Troopers, and the B-2 Bomber on it) Badass: The Book, has 350 pages of, as Mr. Thompson calls it, Badassitude. Real, historically accurate, badassitude.

The book is a series of short biographies about 40 people who exemplify Mr. Thompson’s definition of Badassitude. That definition is summarized in his introductory chapter by the following line: “These men and women were all aspiring to different things, but every character highlighted in these pages went balls-out after what they wanted, never backed down, and didn’t stop until they’d achieved their goals, however honorable to nefarious they may have been. In the end, that kind of determination, drive, and will is what really forges true badasses.”

Although written in a profane and misogynistic style, Mr. Thompson uses the politically incorrect motifs of his writing to enhance the humor and shock value of the historical incredibility of these people.

When Chapter One is a Pharaoh of Egypt and Chapter Forty is an Israeli Commando Leader, you know that everything in-between has to be profound, profane, and unbiased. And Mr. Thompson succeeds at this.

Mr. Thompson, a Florida State Cum Laude in History and Political Science, backs his facts with a comprehensive bibliography, in case anyone wants to denounce his mastery of entertaining trivia.

As for the articles themselves, they are very entertaining, although at times it becomes a little hard to distinguish fact from hyperbole. These cases are especially brought to light in chapters where what sounds outlandish for a modern-day person is the truth of the exploits of a man of antiquity; but Mr. Thompson can hardly be blamed for that.

The book doesn’t always differentiate between cold-hard fact and ancient myth, but when dealing with someone like Wolf the Quarrelsome who was only mentioned by name in historical texts twice, it does make sense and aids the entertaining story Mr. Thompson creates.

I would have liked to see a few other people brought into the feature, such as Guan Yu or Lu Bu, maybe Sgt. York, and perhaps even Hua Mulan or a few of the members of the 108 Outlaws of Chinese classic Water Margin. A few samurai besides Tomoe and Musashi would have been nice, too, like Torii Motoada or Yamanaka Shikanosuke Yukimori. But I suppose there’s always room in the sequel.

And like I said before, a feminist would burn her bra at some of the more misogynistic lines in the book. However that would be her loss for not reading the actual articles, especially the ones for Tomoe Gozen and Irina Sebrova, women who show up some of the men on the list. Mr. Thompson doesn’t shy away from that fact.

One strange chapter was that of Nikola Tesla, which made me fear the book was about to droop to the mundane, but Mr. Thompson is able to bring out the light of Tesla and put him on-par with the likes of Genghis Khan and Drac—err, Vlad the Impaler. Nothing quite like a man who can make you really believe the original Dracula is more fearsome than the literary one.

All in all, it is a very entertaining and imaginative account of historical awesomeness, all written in an insanely amusing and informative style.

If you have a weak heart or aren’t willing to look between the lines of his political incorrectness, Mr. Thompson’s writing style will definitely put you off. But it would be your own fault for not realizing just how funny and brilliant he is!

I fell into an advanced reading copy, which I got for free, from a friend in the newspaper industry who thought I would enjoy the book. And the best way I can describe this book is to say that I still bought a final copy of it. The review copy I had was missing a few of the 80+ quality illustrations that would eventually make it into the final product and a few of the articles ran off the page.

The illustrations, by the way, are done very nicely as a precursor to each chapter to give a visual feel of the character in question. As well there are several little illustrations at the bottom of the pages which are pretty fancy. They come from the minds, and the hands, of Steve Belledin, Miguel Coimbra, Thomas Denmark, and Matt Haley.

Even with the ARC limitations, I still downright loved the book enough to go out and pay $17 for a final copy of my own. Of course, its for sale on Amazon for $12 now, but I still wouldn’t have wanted to wait this long to get my hands on it.

Paying $17, when you can just wait a year to get it for $12, or simply live with the sub-par free version you got? I’m sure Mr. Thompson would agree that wouldn’t be very badass of me.

~Richard C Shaffer

Monday, August 16, 2010


By Corinne Demas
Copyright 2010
Published by Hyperion (HarperCollins)

Genre: Mainstream fiction

Nancy is invited to join a writing group made up of established authors. She doesn’t think her novel-in-progress is good enough for this group, but she accepts. How could she refuse such exulted company?

Over a year, the group becomes more than just a bunch of writers. Some become friends, and everyone gets caught up in each other’s personal lives. Sharing one’s writing is such a personal thing that it’s hard to stay aloof.

When one of the group comes out with a new book, they all head to New York for the debut. A writer’s greatest fear is realized, and all hell breaks loose.

This book was sent to me by the publisher months ago. It wasn’t my usual fiction fare, so it sat on the shelf until last week. I finally took it down because I was in a mellow mood. I wasn’t mellow when I finished.

The characters are real people, like people we all know. They love, lose, and live on. I wanted Nancy to find a publisher, for Virginia’s ex-husband to stop hurting their children’s feelings, for Chris to attain a closer relationship with his sons, and for Paul to find happiness and friends. Demas made me CARE about her characters.

There was an undercurrent of urgency through the whole book. It didn’t grab me, but I found myself thinking about it at odd times, wondering what was up next for my new friends. Tonight, I sat down to finish it.

The last quarter of the book held me enthralled. All the hidden secrets started coming to light and havoc reigned. The closer I came to the end, the more breathless I felt. Something terrible was going to happen, I just knew it. And then it did.

Even after disaster struck, Demas held back one vital fact. I was reading as fast as I could, with a small voice in my head crying “No, she couldn’t!” One the very last page, she revealed the terrible truth. I knew it, but didn’t want to face it.

I closed this book near tears. I could feel the anguish of the other characters, although Demas didn’t write it down. Ripples of this event would change many lives, for many years. The characters were so real to me that I could see and hear them when they found out.

I usually read for pure entertainment. This book made me feel. It will stay with me for a long time. You should read it.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Review - Shadow of Betrayal by Brett Battles

Shadow of Betrayal
Written by: Brett Battles
Fiction / International thriller
Rated: Excellent (*****)
Review by: Lisa Haselton

Jonathan Quinn is back on the scene. This time he’s doing three contracts with no questions asked for one of his past clients. The premise sets the tone, doesn’t it? If someone can get a no-questions-asked promise from you, you know the tasks won’t be easy. And they certainly aren’t for Quinn.

Quinn is back to work in Shadow of Betrayal. His apprentice, Nate is ready and willing to do whatever needs done, but Quinn harbors guilt and struggles with having Nate on the job. When Orlando is able to join the duo, Quinn wants some time off to enjoy time with his woman, but that would be too easy. Quinn is a professional “cleaner,” and he has a contract to fulfill. The job comes first.

It pays to have connections and technology to sift through data and find answers, but sometimes being able to do a good job comes down to old-fashioned investigation, observation, and following your gut. Jonathan Quinn is intelligent, crafty, and conscientious about everything he does.

Author Brett Battles pays attention to the details and writes stories that keep his audience engaged. His ability to make the reader care about the readers is remarkable. It’s as though the reader is on the characters’ shoulders every minute of every scene. The fast pace of the circumstances makes for a lot happening in a short time, but Battles keeps the reader focused every step of the way. Battles has crafted a team of characters each with their own lives, yet when they are focused on their work, they are a cohesive team. The writing is detailed without wasting a word.

This is Battles' third Jonathan Quinn novel. The first novel, The Cleaner, was nominated for a Shamus Award for Best First Novel in 2008. The second in the series, The Deceived, won the Barry Award for Best Thriller 2008. The paperback of Shadow of Betrayal released May 25. The next in the series will give the reader a glimpse into Quinn before he became “the cleaner.” Stay tuned!

Brett Battles writes full time from caf├ęs across the globe, but mostly near his home in California. He’s currently putting the finishing touches a middle grade book. He has a standalone novel, unrelated to the Quinn series, No Return, due out in April 2011.

If you love thrillers, have a penchant for James Bond’s international travels, or enjoy a story that gets the adrenaline pumping, Shadow of Betrayal is a must read. It is non-stop action on every page. Once you start reading, don’t plan to stop until the last page.

Title: Shadow of Betrayal
Author: Brett Battles
Publisher: Bantam Dell
ISBN: 978-0-440-24372-4
Pages: 498
Price: $7.99