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Category Archives: RJ’s Top Picks

The Doll Maker by Richard Montanari (audio)

The Doll Maker by Richard Montanari (audio)

The Doll Maker by Richard Montanari   Audio Book Review

Richard Montanari’s Website

doll maker

Wow, I’m sorry to say this is the first book I’ve read by Richard Montanari, but it certainly won’t be the last, I have already reserved Rosary Girls at my local library. Honestly, I really missed the boat with this author – but now that I have secured a quiet listening corner, I’m in for the long ride.

Although this is the eighth book in the series, it works as a standalone. There’s enough information about the characters to carry the reader through. And these are well drawn, three dimensional, and easily relateable. Philadelphia Homicide Detectives Jessica Balzano and Kevin Byrne are interesting, work well as a team, and have a palpable respect for one another. Byrne is more experienced, kind hearted and determined. While Balzano is opinionated and shrewd, with an equally warm heart.  I particularly liked the absence of romantic entanglement.

Richard Montanari weaves multiple angles together into a disturbing tapestry of missing children, murdered children extravagantly posed on painted surfaces, and a convicted child killer weeks away from her final walk. Are they connected? Time is running out for Balzano and Byrne to find out. Throughout the reader discovers information only moments before the detectives. Montanari gives the reader credit and doesn’t spell everything out letter for letter. The Doll Maker is more about motives and concepts, than actual brutality and violence. The latter being the tools used to create his ‘art.’ The creepy tea dance invitations he leaves at each scene add yet another layer to an already colorful piece.

This is disturbing on so many levels – there were entire chapters that gave me goose-bumps (and I don’t frighten easy). Montanari has a gift – the ability to write realistically, believable stories that are the stuff nightmares are made of, but sadly could be the lead story on the news tonight. The Doll Maker is an outstanding book. Period. No matter what opinion you read, good or bad..if you enjoy suspense/thrillers – read this one for yourself.

*DO NOT form your opinion based on the prologue. Yes it is graphic, gruesome and extremely disturbing, but this does not fairly represent the rest of the story.

Happy Reading!

RJ

Goodreads

Hachette Audio

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Carry More by CM4

Samsung Galaxy 5

Simplify with style

Blue Q Card Case for Samsung Galaxy S5  There are several cases available, for both IPhone and Samsung Galaxy Phones, this review is for the QCard Case that fits the Samsung Galaxy S5 *(black onyx).

I had purchased two cases in the past 8 months advertising basically the same features, both of which failed miserably to live up to even the most minimal expectations. So to say that I was a bit jaded and very skeptical about the QCard Case being any different, is putting it mildly. Boy did I get shocked! The QCard Case does everything advertised and does it well. The case fits perfectly (Samsung Galaxy S5), accommodates the on/off and volume buttons, the cut outs on the front for the camera look exactly like the photo to the left. The material is thick and strong, with even stitching which makes it very appealing to the eye. The cash/card cut out will hold 3 cards, I tested it several times. But on a daily basis, for the past three weeks I’ve carried my driver’s license, a credit card and a 20$ bill – it is a snug, secure fit, but not so tight to cause inconvenience. This was the main reason why I wanted a case like this – for the convenience of being able to carry what I need in one hand. The built in audio amplifier is like the cherry on top of a delicious fudge sundae, it isn’t necessary, but sure is nice! I would never have imagined that this feature would work so well, but here again this product surprised me. Music, movies, calls and even my granddaughter’s games sound so much better and nearly twice as loud now that I have this case on my phone.

I am handicapped, walk with cane, so I need everything to fit in one hand, safely, securely and attractively. The Qcard Case does that. I have yet to loose my cash or one of my cards and after multiple drops, my phone is intact. What more could I ask for? If you’re in the market for an All In One Phone Case – look no further!

Q Card Case for Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 edge

 

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Blue Labyrinth by Preston & Child

Blue Labyrinth by Preston & Child
  • ISBN-13: 9781478904250
  • ISBN-10: 1478904259
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

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Narrated by Rene Auberjonois

visit:  Preston & Child online

Best Books of the Month
Named an Amazon Book of the Month

I’ll not waste time repeating the dust jacket or give away spoilers, this is simply my thoughts about Blue Labyrinth.

The suspense/thriller genre is crowded with interesting, exciting protagonists, but Agent Aloysius Pendergast, is in a class of his own. A Chongg Ran practitioner, with an extensive knowledge of food and wine, and unparalleled verbal skills. His appreciation of finer things always on display – designer suits, handmade shoes, a grand mansion on Riverside Drive, a lovely apartment in the Dakota, and his chauffeur driven 59 Rolls Royce.

Blue Labyrinth is the 14th novel in this series and while all of them have been “good”, some definitely shine brighter than others, as I’m sure is true of any long running series. The story weaves together the murder of Pendergast’s son, (Alban), and that of a Museum of Natural History technician. It was great to see P&C return to the roots of the series. But I still expected Agent Pendergast to be the star of Blue Labyrinth. He is not. Fighting for his life on the sideline, the spot light shifts to long time friend, Detective Vincent D’Agosta (NYPD), Dr. Margo Green (Curator, MSH) and Constance Greene (Pendergast’s ward). These three beloved characters take center stage as they try to assemble a puzzle with seeming unrelated pieces in time to save Pendergast. It was an entertaining read that revealed more about the characters than it did about the villains.

Blue Labyrinth is a solid read, with vivid depictions, three dimensional characters and plenty of the eccentricities I’ve come to expect from Preston and Child. Rene Aberjonois has one the most distinctive voices in narration. His ability to breathe life into fictional characters takes the listener inside the book from cover to cover. He uses tone, tempo, accents and pitch to make each character an individual and every setting a beautifully drawn scene. Blue Labyrinth is a good book and even better audio experience. There are flaws, but none so flagrant as to turn me away from the series. At times it felt like the authors were preparing for the demise of Aloysius Pendergast and maybe that was their intention. I’m just glad it didn’t happen in Blue Labyrinth, so there’ll be a #15.

Happy Reading,

RJ



Also available in hardcover

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
  • ISBN-10: 1455525898
  • ISBN-13: 978-1455525898
 

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A.D.30 by Ted Dekker

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Often referred to as the Christian Thriller author, Dekker seems to have embraced the title and run with it – right onto the best seller shelf with A.D. 30. Both thriller and biblical fiction, this incredible piece of work will have you on the edge of your seat from Maviah’s exile, through her perilous journey across the Nafud dessert, right to the court of King Herod. Dekker’s depiction of the dessert is so vivid you can almost feel the heat rising from the sand as the camels lumber across the dangerous terrain. During Maviah’s conversations with Yeshua Dekker’s talents truly shine, as he weaves the gospel of Jesus seamlessly into the fictional world of A.D. 30.

Dekker’s characters are strong, believable, and easy to care about. A.D. 30 is Biblical Fiction at its finest. Ellen Archer’s narration brings the words to life. She utilizes pitch and inflections to differentiate the various characters and their ways. The audio book is an incredible listening experience, not to be missed.

Happy Reading!

RJ 🙂

also available in Hardcover

  • ISBN-13: 9781599954189
  • ISBN-10: 1599954184
  • Publisher: Center Street
  • Publish Date: October 2014
  • Page Count: 432

 

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The Competition by Marcia Clark

 

Author: Marcia Clark
Narrator: January LaVoy

ISBN-13: 9781478927228
ISBN-10: 1478927224
Publisher: Mulholland Books

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Make A Place for Marcia Clark on the Best Seller shelf…

Open to a San Fernando Valley, California high school where there’s been yet another school shooting. Special Prosecutor Rachel Knight and LAPD Detective Bailey Keller enter a horrific crime scene, knowing one thing … the heartbroken parents expect answers…and they deserved answers. But with each student interview the picture grows blurrier not clearer. The clues simply didn’t add up to the scene set before them. Survivors describe a Columbine copycat crime… two masked killers interrupted the pep rally and began shooting. Pandemonium erupted, terrified kids scattered, literally running for their lives, as the killers made their way out of the gymnasium, into the hallways, methodically murdering their fellow classmates. The gunfire ended in the library, with two final blasts, as the merciless killers apparently died from self inflicted gunshot wounds. However, when two masks, believed to be those worn by the shooters are discovered in the dumpster this case deviates from its predecessor.

From this point forward hang on to your nightcap, its’ gonna be a long night. Wow, what an incredible reading experience…Clark covered very sensitive and controversial subject matter respectfully, without ever holding back the hard truths that those investigating these crimes must deal with. It’s a chance to look behind the curtain and see the inner workings of these difficult cases.  Especially thought provoking was the dialogue with the forensic experts regarding the personality of a psychopathic killer. There are so many layers within The Competition  it could’ve easily gone awry. However, Clark weaves the various elements together and Clark has woven them together brilliantly. The plot driven style can be tedious and boring, which Clark danced on the edge of in her previous books. However, not this time..the extensive interviews are interesting and insightful, serving not only to move the story forward but to develop the characters as well. Bottom line, this is a good book!

Happy Reading!

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Excellent Xpresso

 

Bodum Chambord Aluminum Stovetop Espresso Maker

Budget Price without that dreaded budget taste! The Bodum Stovetop Espresso Maker is a quality product, that does not disappoint…from the reasonable initial investment to the incredible flavor, this is a win, win, for coffee lovers! (Ooops! espresso lovers!)

The petite, retro design, combined with the heavy walled aluminum construction delivers a product that is appealing to the eye, fits even the smallest kitchen, and brews a delicious cup of java. The thick, silicone handle remains cool to the touch, as long as it’s not placed directly over the heat source. . 

Others have commented on the importance of rinsing the pot and brewing several “dummy pots,” before tasting…Absolutely! The oils and metals in the pot need to be “cured,” much like Grandma’s favorite iron skillet, minus the grease of course! To avoid spewing, make sure you have a tight seal between the pieces. After the pot cools, disassemble, rinse with hot water and allow to air dry on a towel. (Tips: Do not leave water in the pot, doing so results in something resembling a science project. Also, if small grinds are stuck in the filter, having a needle close by comes in handy.)

In a nutshell, this is an affordable maker, that brews a wonderful, full-bodied, very tasty cup of espresso. It’s attractive, easy to use, and a breeze to clean. From the moment the unit arrived it’s been used by our family almost daily…usually multiple times throughout the day. We have never experienced a problem that wasn’t self-created. For example: the time someone (ummm…ME, but we’ll keep that a secret), failed to secure the parts tightly, resulting in a lava-like flow all over the stove. I am happy to say it still looks brand new, inside and out, and works like a charm…brewing fabulous espresso in just a few minutes.

A family owned company, established in 1944, the environment friendly spirit has always been their driving force. – This product is inline with BODUM®’s founding principles, where form follows functionality and “Good design doesn’t have to be expensive.”
                                – Peter Bodum (founder)

P.S.
I’m a latte’ lover and I enjoy trying various flavored coffees…my favorite is pumpkin spice. I purchased a frother from Amazon, that produces a thick, creamy, oh so fluffy, milk froth topping, that has to be seen to be believed.

Froth Au Lait Gourmet Hot and Cold Frother
This new version has a HOT/COLD button, allowing you to make those popular iced drinks for a fraction of the cost, without sacrificing flavor!

 

Also available in Black Finish

10617-01

Amazon ID#  B003NG77WM

 
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Posted by on August 16, 2012 in Amazon, Amazon.UK, Reviews, RJ's Top Picks

 

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Breathing Water by Timothy Hallinan

Breathing Water by Tim Hallinan

Breathing Water
A Bangkok Thriller

Timothy Hallinan

ISBN 10: 0061672238
ISBN 13: 978-0061672231
Hardcover, 352pages

www.timothyhallinan.com

William Morrow
an Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers

A Nail Through the Heart (book 1) {review}
The Fourth Watcher (book 2) {review}

Breathing Water is the third novel in the Bangkok Thriller series from best selling author Timothy Hallinan, and the story keeps getting better and better…for the reader…which translates to fictional chaos and danger for our favorite travel writer, Poke Rafferty, his beautiful wife Rose and their adopted daughter, Miaow. As with the two previous installments, Breathing Water stands alone, independently strong, full of colorful characters and real world dilemmas delivered with a degree of realism that reaches off the pages into the heart of the reader. However, as a series, each book builds upon the last, taking you deeper into the lives, psyche and history of the characters, for this reason I highly recommend reading all three.

The scene opens on a late night poker game, orchestrated by Poke’s friends at the police department. Unbeknownst to some of the players the game was set up as a training exercise. When Khun Pan joins the table, he is not amused and a misunderstanding puts Arthit’s career on the chopping block. To save his best friend, Poke makes a bet with Khun Pan and wins! The prize? Pan’s biography, sought after by Thai journalists and writers for years, Pan had never before agreed to allow, much less participate in such a project. Making this a once in a lifetime opportunity. A flamboyant and controversial figure, Khun Pan is loved and admired by those who view him as a champion of the poor and absolutely despised by the affluent, many of whom are threatened by his political ambitions. Of course nothing is ever easy for Poke and word travels fast about the impending biography – While one side is paying for the book to be written, Poke is contacted by the opposing side and informed the cost of writing this book will be the lives of his beloved Rose and their daughter Miaow. Thus pitting the Rafferty family against some of Bangkok’s most powerful and influential people. And these ruthless people will do whatever it takes to maintain their status and keep their secrets hidden…whatever it takes!

In the background of this high stakes face-off is yet another link in the organized crime chain, stolen babies, modern-day-slavery and sex tourism. It is within this web we meet a young farm girl named Da and are reunited with Miaow’s long lost friend, Boo.  Captured and forced to beg on the streets of Bangkok, Da is dumbstruck when she’s given a baby to care for. Bewilderment gives way to fear when she discovers the baby, she named Peek, will only be with her temporarily, used on the streets as a prop until it is sold to a wealthy family. Boo, a tough, young lad we met in A Nail Through The Heart (first novel) as “Superman,” now, a few years older and much the wiser, is the leader and protector of a group of street kids and holds the key to Da’s escape.

Hallinan merges the two storylines effortlessly, as he reunites Boo with the Rafferty family.
Together with Arthit and his friend Kosit, they formulate a complex, multilayered plan that has no room for error, each step must be executed with military like precision in order to be successful…all of their lives depend on it.

Breathing Water is an exceptional novel – showcasing Hallinan’s appreciation and understanding of Thai culture which is masterfully translated through the narrative, allowing readers a front row seat on a 300 page journey through Bangkok. (For many, like me, this is as close to Bangkok as we will ever get.) His portrayal of Bangkok brings the city right into your living room, which is no simple task as this is a city of fluid contradictions, where you can visit a message parlor type of establishment and pray on your way out at one of the many beautiful statues. For years Thailand has been teetering on the brink of civil war or total collapse, awash in every conceivable type of corruption, as organized crime bosses maneuver, manipulate and control all aspects of Thai life, from the street vendor to the political arena, but because of its dependence on tourism and this underworld control we are not likely to see such reports on CNN. Hallinan delivers the story with an unbridled passion that is intoxicating, addictive and incredibly entertaining. If you are looking for a genuinely good book, written with heart and doesn’t assume the reader lacks intelligence, look no further…Breathing Water is a rock solid selection you will not regret! (And pick up the first two installments while you’re at it! You won’t get much sleep for the next several days, but it is so worth it!)

I could say the third time is the charm – but that would insinuate that the two previous books were in some way lacking – and lacking is something you will not find in a Hallinan novel. The characters are drawn with such meticulous detail that it is impossible to distinguish fiction from fact, the emotional attachment the reader forms with the characters and your involvement with the story itself becomes a part of your life, a relationship that is missed with the closing of the cover. But is quickly rekindled with each new release…So, until the fourth installment…I wait and wonder what’s next for the Rafferty’s…

9780061257223PB Nail A Nail Through The Heart
(book 1 – Bangkok Thriller series)
Read our review of “Nail”

9780061257261fourthwatcher pb The Fourth Watcher

(book 2 – Bangkok Thriller series)
Read our review of “Watcher”

9780061672231breathingwater Breathing Water
(book 3 – Bangkok Thriller series)

William Morrow an Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers

Morrow_Avon Logo-thumb-300x120-1863

Book 4 coming Summer 2010

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