Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mystery and Romance in the Santa Fe Art World

Alix London, estranged daughter of an art forger, gets an art consultant job that projects her into the Santa Fe art world where she finds romance, a chance to exercise her connoisseur’s eye, and murder. Chris LeMay has a contract to purchase a Georgia O'Keefe if it's genuine. When Alix sees the painting she immediately knows it's a fake, her connoisseur's eye, but proving is is another problem. The FBI is also investigating forged paintings emanating form the Santa Fe art community. Agent, Ted Ellesworth, poses as a collector to try to uncover who is responsible for the forgeries. When he sees the painting, he's convinced it's real and suspects Alix of ulterior motives in identifying it as a fake. When the gallery owner, a friend of Chris, is found dead, the trip turns deadly for Alix and Chris.

I enjoyed many things about this book. The characters, particularly Alix and Chris, are appealing. The Santa Fe art scene with gallery owners, artists and collectors is fascinating. The con-game of selling fake artworks to the unwary is well done. However, there were things I didn't like about the book. The meshing of the romance between Alix and Ted with the mystery seemed strained. He kept trying too hard to consider her guilty when all the facts pointed in another direction. I also found the mystery too easy to solve. The murderer is identifiable very early in the book.

This book is a fun read. However, the romance and mystery don't mesh well. If you're a fan of either, you may be disappointed. It feels as if the two authors each wrote their own specialty. I was very disappointed that the mystery was so easy to solve. If you are a mystery reader who likes to try to beat the detective to the solution of the crime, this book is not challenge.

I reviewed this book as part of the Amazon Vine Program.

A Dangerous Talent by Charlotte and Aaron Elkins

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Amusing Romp in the Arizona Territory

Kate Tenney comes to Cactus Patch in 1895 hoping to become the heiress of the Last Chance Ranch. She wrote dime novels in Boston, but when the last one was banned, she had to find another way to survive. Naively, she thought becoming an heiress would involve learning the business of ranching, but she envisioned learning in an office. Miss Walker, owner of the ranch, has other ideas. Learning the business means learning to ride, mend fence, clear stalls and deliver calves. Surprisingly Kate comes to love it.

Luke Adams, the town blacksmith, encounters Kate on her first day in Cactus Patch. She's been captured by Cactus Joe, the local outlaw. Having walked to town from the train station, she's dehydrated and suffering from heat stroke. Cactus Joe drops her when she collapses and Luke carries her to his blacksmith shop where he cures the heat stroke by dumping a bucket of water on her. This is the start of a mutual attraction. Luke is ready for love, but Kate keeps backing away. If she's going to become the heiress, she can't marry. Besides she doesn't trust men.

I enjoyed the book. It's an amusing comedy. Kate encounters all the pitfalls of ranch life: falling off her horse, being chased by a wild hog, landing on a cactus and other trials, including braving a sandstorm after being captured by Cactus Joe. The opening is great fun, but I found all the accidents wearing as the book continued. I also felt the author was trying too hard to keep the lovers apart. On every other page, we have Kate's thoughts on why she can't marry.

I recommend the book if you enjoy light romance. It's a fast read with many amusing characters.

I reviewed this book as part of the Thomas Nelson Booksneeze Program.  

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Black Cow by Magdalena Ball

The Archers are ensnared in the golden chains of their affluent life style: designer clothes, an expensive home, luxury cars, private schools for the children, and it's killing them.

Black Cow is a beautiful story of changing gears in midlife. On the surface, James and Freya have everything. But their world has turned upside down. The recession has hit both their industries, James , the CEO, has to lay people off. Freda can't sell expensive houses. Finally, health concerns, their failing marriage and out of control children force then to reevaluate what constitutes happiness.

Ball presents a sensitive picture of a family struggling to stay together and find fulfillment. The characters are well drawn and believable, the kind of people you know. They could be your family. This beautifully crafted story explores the question of whether changing your life can bring the happiness you seek. You can change where you are, but you can't change who you are, or can you? Can you get back to being the person you once were?

I highly recommend this book. It presents a modern dilemma in very readable terms that will allow you to look at how one family solves their problem. It could change your life.  

Monday, February 13, 2012

How We're Losing Our Freedom

Do we receive our rights from God or the government? The founders of the United States believed that we receive inalienable rights from God and created a government they thought would protect those rights. Over the course of the last two-hundred plus years, this concept has been eroded by judicial decisions and laws. Judge Napolitano presents a very disturbing picture of how far our republic has come from that envisioned by our forefathers.

I highly recommend this book. Every citizen of the United States should read the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Then they should read this book and realize how far our elected leaders have strayed from the principles laid out in these documents. The case that Judge Napolitano makes with well documented court decisions is frightening to say the least. Our country is gradually sliding into a state where the government controls our rights and gives them to us at their pleasure, not because they were guaranteed by God.

Our forefathers fought and died for this republic. They were great men, men of vision and honesty. They gave us a government that would protect our liberties if elected honorable men who cared more for liberty than self-aggrandizement. I hope this book will wake up our sleeping population before it's too late.

I reviewed this book as part of the Thomas Nelson Booksneeze Program.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Government for Men Not Angels

In The Founder's Key, Dr. Arnn discusses the interrelatedness of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. A great many people know the first words of the Declaration, but fail to read the middle paragraphs. This is where Jefferson and the other formulators of the Declaration set forth the reasons for the break with Great Britain. In these paragraphs they set out the concepts of separation of powers, representation and the limited scope of government that formed the basis of the Constitution. The men who authored the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were under no illusions that men are not angels. Men have passions and desires that keep them from always espousing the noblest course. Therefore, the government to be fair to everyone must have a set of restraints that keep the branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial from individually usurping the power that is allocated to all three.

This is a very readable book, one that everyone interested in the issues of government should read. Dr. Arnn does an excellent job of presenting material from source documents: the Declaration, Constitution, and Federalist Papers. He also includes these source documents in the book. You don't have to take his word for what is being said. You can read it for yourself.

He makes a particularly good case for the problems with the encroaching bureaucracy we find ourselves enmeshed in today. The bureaucracy has no system of checks and balances. They make the rules, administer them and judge them. This is a prescription for abuse of power, particularly since the people who work in the bureaucracy are not angels. They are people with their own set of premises and desires that have not received the consent of governed.

I highly recommend this book. Whether you agree with his premises or not, you will at least have an understanding of what they source documents say and not be led astray by spurious reasoning. Knowing what is contained in the material will set you free to form your own opinions.

I reviewed this book as part of the Thomas Nelson Booksneeze Program.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Inseparaable: Not a Fun Read

Christine has survived a divorce. Her job is going well, but a birthday is approaching. Wanting to do something special, her friends and family decide to track down her close friends from the past. The ladies come to the birthday party, and we hear their life stories. Christine is now close with her old friends again.

I didn't enjoy this book. The characters are not highly developed. We hear their stories, but we don't really care about them. The plot is about friendship and is very slow moving. I just couldn't get interested. Perhaps part of the problem is that the book is a translation. It may be far more interesting in German.

The German setting is interesting. It's fun to see how similar and also different experiences in other countries are. I enjoyed that part of the novel. I can't really recommend this book unless you're interested in the stability of friendships over time.

I reviewed this book as part of the Amazon Vine Program.   

Monday, February 6, 2012

Could Use Some Editing

Chelsea inherits her grandmother’s beach house and the secret hidden there. She visits the cottage after the funeral with intention of staying only a short time, but Evergreen Lake is beautiful, the cottage is in good repair, and the next cottage is the home of a handsome young doctor. The secret is hidden in her grandmother's journals. As Chelsea reads she finds herself caught up in her grandmother's life at the cottage during World War II.

This isn't a bad book, but it's very ordinary. The outcome is predictable from the instant Chelsea opens the journals. The story doesn't really start until about chapter five. The early chapters are all taken up with back story and description of the characters. They could easily have been stripped off. The information would have been more interesting interspersed through the book.

The characters are stereotypes. The love affair is nice, but not electrifying. There are no surprises, no twists. I find it hard to recommend this book unless you're interested in a quiet romance.

I reviewed this book as part of the Amazon Vine Program. 

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Murder at a House Party: So Pretty It Hurts

Bailey Wiggins, girl crime reporter, is having romantic problems. Beau is away and rather than sit around waiting for him, she agrees to accompany a girl friend to a house party. The occasion is the preview of super model, Devon Barr's, first album. The other guests include Devon's manager, her booker, a rock star, a writer, her personal attendant and another model. Before the end of the weekend, Devon is found dead from a supposed heart attack.

Bailey immediately thinks something is wrong. She suspects that Devon was anorexic and someone was trying to hide the fact. When a bottle of ipecac disappears from Devon's bathroom, Bailey begins to think foul play. Did someone encourage Devon's anorexia to the point of killing her? The plot of the mystery follows Bailey's attempts to track down which guest had a motive for murder.

The book drags a bit. Bailey keeps asking essentially the same questions about Devon's anorexia over and over as she interviews the house guests. I found it hard to believe they would continue to answer. They suspect that she's on the trail of a story, but keep believing her when she says she's just looking for the truth. I also found the ending contrived. For me, it just didn't seem to fit the characters and wasn't enough for all the murder and mayhem.

I wasn't thrilled with the book. It's an easy read, but it didn't really hold my attention. I would have liked to see more action and less repetitive questioning.

I reviewed this book as part of the Amazon Vine Program.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Family Nightmare: Defending Jacob

First District Attorney, Andy Barber's, fourteen-year-old son, Jacob is accused of murdering a classmate. Whether he's guilty or not, the arrest throws a once happy family into chaos. The big question for the parents is: Did he do it? Andy is convinced, almost unbelievably at times, that his son is innocent. Laurie, the mother, isn't so sure. She remembers problems from Jacob's early childhood that Andy refuses to believe signify anything. When Andy is finally forced to confess that his father, Bloody Billy, is in prison for murder, Laurie's world collapses.

The opening of this book was completely enthralling. We are in Andy's head and against all logic he simply won't confront the idea that Jacob could be guilty. However, the book is very long and after awhile this complete lack of questioning begins to wear. It feels unreal.

The legal background is interesting and generally well done. However, I found the transcript portions of the grand jury testimony unrealistic. Andy, the witness, seems to be playing the role of the judge when he calls the Assistant District Attorney by his first name and asks him to restate questions. I found it hard to believe that the judge in a real grand jury investigation would have allowed the obvious animosity to go on.

I liked the book and enjoyed reading it. The opening portray of Andy draws you in. However, as the book drags on the author seems to have trouble sustaining the head in the sand portrayal of Andy. I think perhaps because the book is so long, the twist at the end didn't feel real. It seemed like a literary artifice. However, the book is well worth reading if you like unusual character portrayals and court room drama.

I reviewed this book as part of the Amazon Vine Program.