Saturday, December 19, 2015

A Clever Setting for an Unusual Mystery

Detective D.D. Warren isn't sure she made a good decision when she agreed to give a lecture at the Police Academy Writer's Conference. Her husband, blood splatter expert Alex Wilson, assures her that it'll be fun and easy. D.D. isn't so sure. How can she keep a group of mystery writers listening while describing how the police work a case.

Being D.D. she comes up with a good idea. She'll tell the class about one of her cases and challenge them to figure out the three truths and a lie embedded in the presentation.

The case features a severed leg, glitter, and a shoddy motel room. This unusual case is the perfect vehicle to illustrate police procedure and still keep the audience guessing. Following the course of the police investigation it's very difficult to guess the ending until, as in real police work, all the clues are in.

This novella is a quick read. D.D. is a character you can empathize with, particularly her fear that she won't be able to keep her audience listening for the full fifty minutes. Because the story is short, it's a good way to meet D.D. and get interested in reading her longer novels. The author includes the first chapters of her new book scheduled to come out on February 9th. I know I'll be looking for it.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.  

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

A Negative Self Image Can Rule Your Life

Lizzie is a fat girl. She thinks she's unattractive although friends tell her she's beautiful. Lizzie, who also goes by the names Elizabeth and Beth as she grows up, tries and does change her weight, but through it all she believes she's a fat girl no matter what the scales and the mirror say.

This collection of related short stories traces Lizzie from a teenager to adulthood. As a teenager, she's needy, trying to win approval by being everyone's friend and confident. Even into adulthood she remains insecure because she can't escape her fat girl image.

The book paints a poignant portrait of someone with severe self-image problems. However, I found it difficult to like Lizzie or to get into the story. Perhaps this was due to the short story format. I found the first chapter where Lizzie, the teenager, follows her sexually-active friend's lead, interesting. The second chapter turned me off. It is told from the point of view of a drunken would-be song writer who is looking for someone to confide in late at night. He chooses Lizzie. The other stories continued in this pattern. I enjoyed some, but couldn't get into the others.

I can't recommend this book as an enjoyable read. However, if you suffer from self-image problems, or know someone who does, it may be worth a look.

I received this book from Penguin for this review.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Traditional Southern Recipes with Modern Flavor

I grew up in the North and only got exposed to real Southern cooking a few years ago when we moved South. I loved the flavors, but many dishes seemed too calorie laden for everyday fare. I was pleased to discover Whitney Miller's latest cookbook. It contains typical Southern recipes, but with additions that make them more palatable to people watching their calories.

I particularly enjoyed making the Olive Oil Biscuits. They're delicious, and they use olive oil which is more heart healthy than lard or even butter. Other recipes I enjoyed are the tomato gravy. I love tomatoes and this coupled with biscuits makes an easy lunch or light supper.

The recipes are easy to make and best of all the author uses a relatively small, typical list of ingredients. There are are a few recipes that require new spices, but when interesting, I'm eager to give them a try. The recipes requiring additional spices come from Whitney adding touches to traditional recipes from her trips to other countries and sampling their cuisine. I think she's done a great job blending new flavors with traditional recipes.

The cookbook contains all the sections you'd expect from breakfast to dinner with desserts and recipes for condiments, like catsup and roasted barbecue sauce. The pictures in the book, particularly those of her family,are fun. However, I like the pictures of the finished dishes and the steps used in preparing some some of the food.

This is a great cookbook for everyday use. Several of the recipes have become favorites, and I'm sure more will when I have time to try them.

I reviewed this book for BookLook Bloggers.  

A WWII Spy Novel with a Mystery

In the days leading up to WWII, David Ashby, a WWI hero ,fears that the daughter he left behind in Germany is being indoctrinated in Nazism. He kidnaps the child and brings her to England. He recruits Hilary Bowker-Brown, an aspiring novelist who has bought property on the Cornish coast, to keep the child safe.

His estranged wife, Christina, daughter of a high ranking German general, wants her daughter back and is willing to involve the Abwehr to accomplish it. However, Burghardt, head of the Abwehr in Bremen turns the tables and sends her to England to reclaim the child with the help of a sleeper, an agent who was introduced many years ago to England and is now being awakened to assist Christina. But who is the sleeper?

The plot centers on the kidnapping and the efforts of both sides to claim the child. While it makes an interesting start for the action, I found it a little hard to believe that so many resources would be used to reclaim a child, no matter now high ranking her grandfather.

The characters are realistic. Ashby and Hilary are complex characters. Janes does a good job of using their fears and desires to drive the plot. As usual with a Janes novel, the detail is excellent. If you enjoy realistic WWII novels you won't be disappointed in the setting.

For all the good qualities of the novel there are problems besides the unrealistic premise. The novel starts slowly. The action doesn't pick up until fairly near the end. However, the final scenes are fast paced. There is also a great deal of concern about sexual behavior that doesn't seem relevant to the major thread of the novel.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Psychological Suspense with a Paranormal Flavor

Twenty-two-year-old Bibi Blair has published her first novel. She's engaged to a Navy Seal and has parents she likes. There are troubling scenes from her childhood, but basically, life seems perfect until sitting at her computer she experiences what appears to be a stroke. Her mother drives her to the emergency room where, after a battery of tests, she's diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer. The doctor tells her she has a year or less to live, but Bibi's a fighter. She tells him, we'll see about that.

From that beginning, the novel moves into psychological suspense. At times what happens seems weird, but the author deftly moves the action along so that you can see why things occurred. The plot is filled with action, but after the middle when Bibi researches what's happening, it drags in places. There are plenty of twists to keep you guessing, however, the twist at the end is something of an anti-climax.

Bibi is a great character. She has grit and determination. You can't help but like her and hope that she succeeds in riding herself of brain cancer. Her parents, and her fiance also seem real and are likable. Some of the characters she meets when researching what is happening become more like fantasy characters, but if you've been drawn into the action they seem reasonable.

If you enjoy psychological suspense with paranormal elements, you may enjoy this book. If you get into the plot, it works, but some of the action in the middle is slow. I enjoyed the book, but it's not one that will scare you.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Problem is Forgiveness

When five bodies are found in a sweat lodge, Mort Grant doesn't expect to be involved. The sweat lodge is in Enumclaw, outside of his territory, but when one of the murder victims turns out to be the brother of Larry's dead wife, Mort takes a role in the case.

Mort and Larry have been friends for years. A strong bond formed between them, each understanding how devastating it is to lose a beloved spouse. Now Larry has lost the connection to his dead wife. Forgiveness is a issue for Larry. His wife's killer confessed, but forgiveness is much harder.

Mort's daughter, Allie is back. She wants to be part of the family. Since she runs an international crime cartel, Mort and his son don't want her near the twins. Although Mort still loves his daughter, he can't forgive her for what's she's become.

Lydia plays a supporting role in this novel. Mort asks for her help in locating Allie. She has to agree, although it raises the possibility of returning to her role as the fixer.

This book focuses on Mort and his family. He's involved in a typical police case where they search for clues and witnesses to solve the murders. The case is interesting, but doesn't have the fast action of the other novels in the series.

I enjoyed the book because of the psychological exploration of the problem of forgiveness. What can searching for forgiveness or failing to give it do to a person? The novel illustrates this problem well.

I received this book from Alibi for this review.