Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Twisted Lives Intersect in a Small Florida Town

Maggie's life is falling apart. She lives with Cole and their son, Hunter, in Crooked River, Florida, but Cole is becoming increasingly violent. He works for Teddy Mink, the local drug lord, as a mule and is more and more caught up in the brutal side of the business.

Dieter comes to town. He's drifting. Taking a room at the rundown hotel, he wanders around the town making friends, but not giving away his secrets.

Maggie, Cole, and Dieter intersect in a drama that changes their lives.

If you enjoy character driven books with a southern background, you may like this book. Once you get into the novel the complex plot unfolds, but it's not an easy book to get into. Dieter is a very withdrawn character. We know he has secrets, but following him around for pages can become tedious.

Maggie's scenes are more action oriented, but aside from the opening, it takes awhile to get to them. Cole, likewise, has scenes that push the action. Eventually, we do find out what is troubling Dieter, but it takes time.

Personally, I like to connect with the characters up front, particularly in a character driven novel. Because of Dieter's withdrawn personality, I found this difficult to do and when the plot takes time to develop, it's hard to stay with the book.

The writing is good and the descriptions of the small town are well done. However, I can't recommend this book unless you want a very leisurely start to a somewhat predictable plot.

I received this book from PR by the Book for this review.  

Monday, September 26, 2016

A Legendary Chinese Heroine

Sai Jinhua's father was beheaded by order if the Emperor for telling him the truth. With the death of her beloved father, Sai Jinhua became an outcast. She was the daughter of her father's concubine and was bitterly resented by his first wife. With his death, Timu, his first wife, wants to be rid of the burden of the child. When the opportunity presents, she sells the girl to a brothel keeper.

The first third of the book is devoted to Sai Jinhua's childhood and is relatively horrific.The training to become a prostitute is presented in detail, and the foot binding is given in excruciating detail. She was rescued from this existence and married to Hong Jun, a high ranking official of the Qing Dynasty. She traveled with him and met many famous Europeans. After his death she returned to China and was caught up in the Boxer Rebellion.

The book is a fascinating look at China during the last days of the Qing Dynasty. I particularly enjoyed the first third about her childhood. When she marries and moves to Europe, the book becomes more fanciful. The author admits it is unlikely Sai Jinhua had all the encounters described in the novel. I would have liked a more extensive treatment of the Boxer Rebellion, but it was interesting to see the interaction between the Chinese and the Europeans, particularly her friend, Edmund Backhouse.

Although the author has taken liberties with the history of Sai Jinhua's life, the novel gives a good view of China and to some extent Europe during that time period. I did find that the novel dragged in the middle sections, but it's worth reading for the historical interest.

I received this book from Penguin Random House for this review.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Myron and Win Solve a Decade Old Kidnapping

Myron is happy. He's back with Terese, the love of his life, and they're getting married. The moment is shattered when Win, his best friend, calls needing help. Ten years ago Win's nephew, Rhys, and Patrick, Rhy's seven-year-old friend, were kidnapped. Now Win has located one of the boys, but waiting to grab both he let the boy get away. Because he was injudicious in the way he dealt with the thugs who were advancing on the boy, he needs Myron's help to continue the search.

This is a fast paced thriller with lots of twists and plenty of violence. The plot is hard to figure out until the end. Ten-years-ago something went terribly wrong when the boys were playing together. They disappeared, presumed kidnapped, but where were they taken? The parents heard nothing until Win received an email which set him off on the trial of the boys.

Win and Myron have a special relationship dating back to college days. Their personalities are quite dissimilar, but that makes them engaging. Their repartee keeps the dialog spirited and makes the book hard to put down. I particularly enjoyed the contrast between the chapters where Win is the main character and those where Myron leads. It highlights their differences, but shows the strength of their friendship.

The secondary characters like Big Cyndi and Zorra, the crossdressing Israeli agent, are colorful and add a delightful dimension to the novel.

Although this is not the first book in the series, I found it easy to read as a standalone. There are references to the past, but the author doesn't dwell on the previous cases so the action keeps moving.

I highly recommend this book if you enjoy a good thriller. You may even be inspired to look at the rest of the series.

I received this book from Penguin Random House for this review.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Moving Beyond the Personal Search for Glory

David Boudia is a world class diver and Olympian. Growing up he was a talented athlete, but diving was where he excelled. However, David saw his exceptional talent as a road to wealth and fame rather than a god-given talent that could be used to bring glory to God.

In his first Olympics in 2008, he was sure he was the best and would bring glory to a flagging US Diving Team. The result was the opposite. He won no medals and felt practically suicidal. However, he pulled himself together, continued diving, and at the end of high school accepted a place at Purdue University.

Struggling with his use of marijuana and alcohol, he finally went to his coach, Adam Soldati, for guidance and was helped to find Jesus. It was a turning point in his life and led to a much different Olympic experience in 2012.

The book is told with candor and shows David's deep commitment to Christian values. It also contains a very interesting description of competitive diving. Even if you don't find his embrace of a Christian lifestyle interesting, the book is well worth reading for the descriptions of the Olympics and diving. It also shows the pitfalls of doing something for the personal glory it will bring you.

I received this book from BookLookBloggers for this review.   

An Eighth Grade Tragedy

Cally is having a difficult year. Her mother's illness has disrupted the family. When Tristan, a social outcast, sends her a long serious note, she asks her friends for advice, which is no substitute for adult guidance. Their advice leads to tragedy.

The book follows the lives of the students involved in the incident through their high school careers focusing on Junior and Senior years when the tragedy begins to take it's toll on their lives. A young teacher, Molly Nicoll is caught up in the lives of the students. As a young teacher, she has trouble finding her place between the experienced faculty and the students and tries hard to befriend the students wanting them to like her.

The teenagers are well portrayed. The author manages to bring out the pitfalls of adolescence when teens have too much money and time and little guidance from their busy parents. I found the portraits of the older teachers and school administrators stereotypical. Some teachers are burnt out, but others have enthusiasm and are able to communicate a love of learning to their students. The parents in the book were uniformly unavailable either through illness, work, or pleasure. Being consumed with their own lives left little time for their children's needs.

The book is appropriate for older teens, although I'm sure younger teens will also be fascinated by the view of high school. Teachers could profit from reading the book. It tells the story of children at risk very well. However, the group I think would benefit most from reading this book is the parents of teens. Parenting is not an easy job and when you slough it off through preoccupations with your own life you are risking tragedy for the whole family.

I received this book from Penguin Random House for this review.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A Realistic Tale of Knights, Queens, Wizards, and Norse Invaders

Ten years after Arthur's death, Sir Percival, the last surviving knight of the Round Table, returns from his quest for the grail. He is accompanied by Capussa, who he befriended when they were captive gladiators. As they travel through Albion, Percival is saddened by the devastation. The Norse raiders have plundered and killed leaving the people without resources, terrified, and hungry.

Queen Guinevere escaped to a remote castle. She is served by a remnant of her former staff, badgered by the Bishop, and wishing she could do something to ease the plight of her people. Although he is hoping for peace, Percival decides to take on one more quest to find Guinevere and free Albion. To do this he will have to fight, not only the Norse invaders, but the evil Morgana.

This is a beautifully told story of Percival's return to Britain. The characters are true to the original legend, but fleshed out into believable people. The setting is not the magical kingdom so often used as a background for the Arthur legends, but instead, a historically accurate depiction of Britain under the thrall of the Norse invaders.

I enjoyed this book recommend it to anyone who loves the Arthur legends.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.  

Truth or a Reasonable Doubt

When Jackie Whitney, an auto-parts heiress, is found dead in the closet of her Chicago apartment, the police think they've got the killer. Kate, a girl from Appalachia, was Jackie's assistant, and the police are convinced she was stealing money from Jackie.

Jules Landeau is contacted by Debbie, Kate's pubic defender. Debbie isn't sure it's a good idea to hire Landeau, but Kate is able to pay, and Debbie is okay with the situation as long as he keeps his activities to finding a reasonable doubt. The isn't something Landeau is comfortable with. He wants the truth: who is guilty?

This is a typical old time detective novel. Landeau works alone looking for clues and following up leads. I enjoy this type of detective story. It lets you play along and try to solve the crime. The only problem I have with this novel is that it was quite easy to figure out who was involved in the murder. It took longer for the motive to come out.

Landeau is a likable character. It's hard not to empathize with his need to find the truth. The breaks in the action where he pursues Tamar, the baker with whom he wants more of a relationship, don't detract from the action and provide a chance for Landeau to recap the latest developments.

If you enjoy a good detective story, I recommend this one.

I received this book from Alibi for this review.