Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Action Packed Special Forces Type Yarn

Mike Garin and his team have completed a successful mission in Pakistan to recover a nuclear device. This team is so special hardly anyone knows about it’s existence. Therefore, it’s surprising to have eight of the team members killed upon reentering the United States.

Garin, team leader, is the only one left alive. He goes underground and succeeds in wiping out the assassins, but now he’s the prime suspect in the murders. He’s been set up and now pursued by both the Iranians and the US government.

This book is primarily a chase scene with plenty of violence thrown in. The plot is standard for this type of thriller. Garin is trying to save the US from a complex plot that could destroy the country. The author does a good job of bringing in the current international situation, but it’s primarily background for the action.

If you like action heroes, Garin is almost too good. Some of the fight scenes are the stuff super heroes engage in. However, it you like a story with plenty of violence this is a good one. The scenes are well written and will keep you on the edge of your seat.

The other characters are pretty much stereotypes. Olivia is the beautiful, brilliant aide who figures things out faster than her boss and has a strong positive reaction to Garin. This is the first book in what will become a series, so if you like it, you’ll see these character in action again.

I received this book from Penguin for this review.   

Saturday, May 13, 2017

A Mother’s Nightmare

Joan and her four-year-old son, Lincoln, are at the end of a long, satisfying day at the zoo. It’s closing time. As they reluctantly head to the entrance, Joan hears pops. She ignores them at first then the grim truth hits her. Men with guns are in the park, and they’re hunting people as well as the animals.

The nightmare begins. They’re trapped in a maze. Joan desperately wants to protect Lincoln and get them both to safety, but the terror mounts.

The story takes place over a few hours, but it’s packed with suspense. In some respects it’s a typical chase scene, but the author does a good job of making the reader feel Joan’s terror. It will keep you on the edge of your seat.

In addition to Joan’s point of view. We get inside the head of one of the shooters. I thought this was a brilliant device. His strange thoughts and memories play out against Joan’s terror and her drive to protect Lincoln.

If you enjoy thrillers this is a good one, but it’s more than that. It explores the maternal protective instinct as well as the fight or flight response to being trapped. I recommend it as a fast moving plot that will make you think.

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

Friday, May 12, 2017

Getting Your Heart’s Desire Can Create Problems

Fifth grader, Lena Daniels, and her friends are super fans of singer, Mallory Winston. When Mallory sponsors a contest to find a girl to make a movie with her, Lena jumps at the chance and surprisingly wins. This is an opportunity of a lifetime, but what Lena wants is to meet Mallory. Now she’s committed to the movie, and her whole summer will be spent in California.

Lena has exceptionally committed parents, so the whole family, Lena’s three sisters and the dog, Austin, take off for California. Lena gets her wish to meet and work with Mallory, but making movie isn’t all fun. There are plenty of things that make her life difficult.

Middle grade girls will love this book. The characters are realistic, the plot is a dream for many tweens, and the book is filled with delightful black and white pictures to illustrate the text. The story is aimed at a Christian audience. Lena talks to God in her journal and asks for his help in the hard things in her life.

For me, one of the best parts of the book was seeing how committed Lena’s parents are. Busy parents often don’t have or take the time to help their children realize their dreams. However, in this book, the whole family gets behind Lena and helps her make a success of her experience.

I highly recommend this book for tween girls, but parents can enjoy it also.

I received this book from Handlebar Marketing for this review.  

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

The Dark Side of the American Revolution

War is hell, and the American Revolution was no exception. Although textbooks laud the orations about liberty and the equality of man, the revolution was as bloody as any other war. The fierce partisanship of Patriots and Loyalists created a volatile situation where each side committed violent acts against the other. Neighbors were caught on each side and ended fighting each other, as in the Civil War. The British were equally brutal in their treatment of the colonists.

This is an eye-opening book if you’re unfamiliar with the darker side of the Revolution. The author does an excellent job of choosing incidents to illustrate how each side mistreated the other. The book is largely stories featuring colonists, slaves, and the British. Each incident illustrates how the opposing sides injured individuals.

The book in addition to being scholarly is easy to read for a general audience. The use of stories involving individuals makes the book feel more personal. The narrative is easy to follow and the well drawn maps allow the reader to follow the action and pinpoint the activity to areas in the US today. I found that helpful.

I highly recommend this book. Even if you’re not a historian, it’s good to discover what the founding of the country was like. This book is a realistic corrective to the rosy picture of pure colonists and violent Brits.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.  

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Murdered Cleaning Ladies Haunt Ellie Haskell

Ellie Haskell is wrapped up in spring cleaning when her faithful cleaning lady, Roxie Malloy, leaves to go to London to care for her grandchild. Ellie is devastated, but the Chitterton Fells Charwomen’s Association (CFCWA) comes to the rescue. Mrs. Large arrives and promptly breaks a mirror precious to Jonah, the Haskell’s beloved gardener, but does a good job of cleaning.

Ellie next sees Mrs. Large at a neighbor’s house. She’s fallen from a step ladder and is quite dead. Her demise is followed by the death of other members of the CFCWA, but is it murder or a series of tragic accidents?

Although I have enjoyed Ellie Haskell mysteries, I found this one disappointing. The book starts slowly. The murder happens about a quarter of the way through, and the murderer is absurdly easy to guess. I couldn’t get interested in the adult characters, but Ellie’s twins were a delight. They saved the book for me.

If you’re an Ellie Haskell fan, you may enjoy this book, but I can’t recommend it as a standalone cozy mystery.

I received this book from Alibi for this review.  

Saturday, May 6, 2017

A Daring Rescue in Haiti

Lt. Robert McAllister, a US Marine, is serving as an aide to Colonel George Barbour in WWI. He admires his much decorated colonel, but wants to get into the action himself. He’s also in love with Carolyn, the colonel’s daughter. After a week together in Paris, McAllister sees some action, and a year later is sent to Haiti to put down a peasant uprising. Teddy Roosevelt uses his big stick philosophy to interfere in unstable countries in the Caribbean to protect the Panama Canal.

In love with McAllister, Carolyn follows him to Haiti, but instead of a romantic adventure with her lieutenant, she’s captured by the gorillas. McAllister rushes to save her, but the adventure turns out to be more difficult than he imagined.

I enjoyed the historical detail in this book, but it’s not one of Becker’s best. I liked A Covenant with Death much better.

This short book is long on historical detail and relatively short on character development. If you’re interested in this period, the book is worth reading, but if you’re looking for a love story, you may be disappointed.

I received this book from Open Road Media for this review.  

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Illusions, Mystery, and Romance

Houdini spent much of his later career debunking illusionists and spiritualists. He was particularly hard on mediums who he felt used illusions to convince people they could talk to the dead. Horace Stapleton was one of the spiritualists ruined by Houdini. Now he’s trying to restart his career by bringing a man back from the dead.

Wren Lockhart, Houdini’s apprentice, is there on the frigid New Year’s Eve when Stapleton tries to bring back a man dead twenty years. When the man rises from the grave and then drops dead, things go horribly wrong and Stapleton is charged with murder. Not only is Wren in the audience, but so is the FBI. Agent Elliot Matthews notices Wren and recruits her to help solve the mystery.

The book is set in the years after WWI when there was an intense interest in spiritualism. Conan Doyle, who was a friend of Houdini’s, believed that a medium had helped him talk to his dead son. This book explores spiritualism and the illusions that Houdini successfully debunked. I enjoyed this background.

The story is beautifully written and gives a good picture of vaudeville and the illusionists. I was hoping for a stronger plot focused on the mysterious death of Stapleton’s accomplice. However, the story is primarily about Wren and Matthews getting to know and trust each other as they seek to solve the mystery. If you enjoy character driven novels, this is well done.

I received this book from Book Look Bloggers for this review.  

Friday, April 28, 2017

In Williamsburg, A Family Travels Back to 1775

The Sinclair family is on a vacation in Williamsburg, Virginia. They’re eager to explore the colonial town. The family begins their stay with a tour and meet reenacters at each location. The reenacters explain their roles and give a bit of history.

Suddenly the family finds themselves transported back in time to 1775. Each member of the family goes his or her own way meeting freed slaves, Indians, military leaders, and healers. In each case, the family member becomes an integral part of the action, actually influencing history. The people they meet are wise bringing an understanding of daily lives in the revolutionary period. The children learn about what was actually happening as the country prepared for war. The parents bring their skills to bear to heal themselves and help others.

The book is well researched and gives an in-depth picture of Williamsburg in colonial times. I enjoyed learning about each individual. I’ve read a lot of history, so this wasn’t new, but if you’d rather read a story than a history book, you’ll enjoy learning this way.

I was disappointed in the depth of the characters and particularly the dialog. A great many of the interchanges, particularly in the beginning of the book, were data dumps. I understand that the author was trying to teach as well as tell a story, but it did not enhance the atmosphere. The time travel seemed almost too facile. It’s a good device, but very much on the surface with no explanation of how it happened.

If you’re interested in the revolutionary period, I recommend this book. You’ll learn a lot of history. The documents from George Washington at the end are well worth reading.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.  

A Good Mystery, But Gory

Charlie (Bird) Parker and his wife Susan are having a difficult time. He loves his daughter Jennifer, but his arguments with Susan are driving him away. One night after an argument he slams out of the house to go drink at the local bar. When he comes home the worst possible sight meets his eyes. His wife and daughter are dead, and they’ve been brutally mutilated.

Charlie has no alibi and falls under suspicion. In the aftermath of the trauma he leaves the NYPD and without a license investigates crimes, hoping to get The Traveler, the man who murdered his family. His hunt takes him from New York to Virginia and Louisiana. In each place he’s met with violence and gruesome crimes.

The mystery is complex and peopled with unusual characters. That part made me want to read the book. However, to get the mystery you have to wade through gore. It was rather overdone for my taste. It took a long time to finish the book. I had to put it down and read other books to get away from the killing.

If you enjoy a good mystery, well written with quirky characters, you may enjoy this book. However, it is very bloody.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Near Death Experiences, Trance Mediums, Out of Body Experiences, and More

Surviving Death is a well research book covering the gamut of paranormal and afterlife experiences. The opening chapters deal with children who remember past lives. Much of this study has been done on children in Asia where belief in past lives is a part of the culture. However, the two cases cited by Kean take place in the United States. The cases of boys are well documented and unusually complete. One boy remembers his time as a WWII pilot killed near Okinowa, The other boy remembers his life in Hollywood.

The chapters on near death experiences, out of body experiences, and end of life experiences present a great deal of information, but if you’ve read extensively in the area, they don’t provide much additional information. However, the chapter by Pim van Lommel, MD which discusses non-local consciousness is well worth reading.

Perhaps the most difficult chapters to believe are those on trance mediums. The idea of whole body manifestations is difficult to comprehend, but the author includes her personal experiences as well as pictures of hands that materialized during séances in Warsaw, Poland in the 1920. The hands dipped themselves in wax and left glove like
impressions which were later filled with plaster of paris. The pictures are truly amazing.

The book contains not only chapters by the author, but chapters by other researchers as well as people who have experienced some of the phenomena. If you’re interested in survival after death, this book is a must read.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Family Haunted by Secrets and the Plans for a Remarkable Machine

As a child, Miles witnesses the murder of his mother by a man in a chicken suit. Years later with a family of his own, he’s still haunted by the murder, but he has a way to find out who the killer was. His father left him the plans for a machine that can talk to the dead. The plans were stolen from Thomas Edison’s laboratory and kept secret for many years. Miles builds the machine and hopes to talk to his mother but a storm rises

Miles tells his wife, Lily, and his daughter, Eva, to get to high ground before the flood. He instructs his son to destroy the machine. When Eva wakes up, she has a gash on the back of her head and no memory of the flood. Her mother tells her that her father and brother are dead and that they must go into hiding to escape the killer.

This begins the story of Eva and her search for the truth about her family. The novel is partly mystery, partly paranormal happenings, and partly a thriller. Eva, a feisty teen, is the heroine of the story. After her mother is killed. Eva goes into hiding in a strange area called Burntown. There she meets oddball characters like the Fire Eaters, a group of women with mystical talents, Pru, a cafeteria lady with hidden dreams, Theo, a brilliant girl who owes money to a dangerous man, and others.

The story starts slowly. There are so many threads that need to woven together at the conclusion that it takes awhile to get all the characters and their stories on stage. I enjoyed the diverse characters, but I thought there were too many. The problem became obvious when the author tells the story from many different viewpoints.

The novel speeds up about halfway through and ends by bringing all the threads together for a surprising conclusion. If you enjoy mystery and suspense with a touch of the paranormal and a plethora of unusual characters, you may enjoy this book.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.

Juliet Solves Not One But Two Mysteries

Newly minted PI Juliet Langley has her plate full. She’s still managing the coffee house for her best friend, Pete Bennett. Now she is handling two jobs. Pete thinks it’s a lot, but he knows he can’t stop her becoming to be a PI. What he wants is for her to reconsider going back into the music business.

Almost immediately Juliet solves a case and then lands two more. Shane, one of Pete’s employees is devastated by the death of his girlfriend, a party planner. She was found dead at her desk from an overdose, and he wants Juliet to prove she was murdered. Juliet also works with Maya on a case to find out what’s happening in Gentry’s warehouse business. He thinks his partner is up to something shady.

The cases lead Juliet into the weird world of party planning where drugs, booze and sex top the list of entertainment. In the warehouse case, she goes on stakeout and meets up with her former lover, Ryder. They’re both suspicious about what’s happening at the warehouse.

The mysteries are fast paced and have enough twists to keep them interesting. Pete and Juliet are appealing when they team up to go undercover, as they do in the party planner case. Juliet shows her mettle and propensity for getting into tight spots in the warehouse case. These mysteries give you what you expect from this series.

The romance is disappointing. I feel the relationships are becoming strained. Pete and Juliet can’t get together and the reasons are becoming thin. The cops Juliet dates are another disappointment. She’s broken up with Ryder, who seemed to be a good match. John, the cop she’s now dating, seems too much of a nice guy to keep her interested for long. I enjoy the series, but the romantic tangles are getting old.

I received this book from Alibi for this review.  

Friday, April 21, 2017

Gambelli Investigates the Murder of the Prosecutor’s Mistress

Chief Inspector Gambelli is no particular friend of the senior prosecutor in the Ministry of Justice, Jean Michael Bertrand, but when Bertrand is accused of the murder of his mistress, he wants the best help to prove his innocence. Gambelli is not pleased at being dragged from the streets of Paris to the heat of a coastal island, but he agrees to help Bertrand even though the island is outside his jurisdiction.

The local officials have decided that Bertrand must have murdered the woman, but when Gambelli examines the body and starts to ask questions, they are forced to rethink their findings. Bertrand is released and Gambelli returns to Paris, but the case is far from over.

Gambelli is a typical detective. He is taciturn, has little brief for incompetent superiors, and is respected by his men. A hard character, he smokes and drinks too much, but his ability to follow the clues and get a resolution of the crime is exceptional.

I like books where the plot is intricate, and the investigator follows the clues to reach a conclusion. This book didn’t disappoint. Each time you think the case is resolved, a twist appears which sends the investigation in a new direction.

The background, both on the island and in Paris, supports the atmosphere of the case. The other characters, particularly Gambelli’s wife and his dog, enhance the story without taking it over. If you like detective novels, this is a good one.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Genetic Engineering and Human Trafficking Converge in this Thriller

In 2045, it’s possible to do discrete gene edits to change characteristic you don’t like. Gene manipulation is possible for not only embryos, but also adults. Kenneth Durand works for an Interpol unit concerned about the abuses of gene manipulation particularly when experimentation is being done of human trafficking victims.

Ken has discovered that an international crime figure, Marcus Demang Wyckers, leader of th Huli Jing, is behind much of the illegal vanity editing. Durand is on his trail when he is stabbed with a hypodermic needle on a crowded platform and awakes to find that he has been transformed into Wyckers.

The rest of the novel is Durand’s determination to bring Wyckers to justice, but is hampered by being a copy of the man himself.

For me, the book has both positives and negatives. I enjoyed the scientific descriptions of gene editing. The science is well researched and very interesting. The plot is quite thrilling, but unless you enjoy chase scenes, it is rather mundane.

The characters are disappointing. As in most novels that are primarily chase scenes, the characters are secondary to the plot. In this case, while Ken is an attractive character, there is little character growth and, the other characters are stereotypes.

If you enjoy science fiction with well researched science, you’ll enjoy this book, but if you’re put off by chase scene novels, give this a miss.

I received this book from Penguin for this review.  

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Can a Low-Fat, High-Carb Diet Lead to Alzheimer's?

The thesis of this book is that a high-carb, low-fat diet can lead to the development of Alzheimer's. For years the scientific and medical community has been recommending a high carb diet, but perhaps this is missing the point that the body, and particularly the brain, needs fat. The medical profession has been so obsessed with cholesterol that statins are routinely prescribed. These drugs are designed to reduce cholesterol, but what if cholesterol isn’t the culprit?

The author presents a succinct summary of the scientific data on nutrition and the relationship with brain function. I recommend reading this if you’re concerned about your probability of developing Alzheimer's or that of a loved one. The section is written in easy to understand language. You don’t have to be a scientist to understand it.

In addition to the scientific information, the book provides strategies for developing a high-fat diet, including foods to include, foods to avoid, and even how to deal with restaurant meals. It also includes cooking recommendations.

I highly recommend this book. The research is comprehensive. The suggestions for diet are reasonable, and the ideas provide a counterbalance to the fear of cholesterol and fat.

I received this book from Net Gallety
for this review.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A Firefighter Tamed by Love

The only thing Finn likes more than being a firefighter is being single and having his pick of the available women. Rory is a fledgling attorney trying to establish her independence and make a name for herself in her mother’s law firm. At the opposite extreme from Finn, Rory hasn’t had time for romance, and she’s very naïve.

Finn’s parents would like him to settle down, but it’s the furthest thing from his mind until he sees Rory. She is one of the attorneys representing the fire company, and Finn can’t take his eyes off her. The only problem is that she’s the captain’s daughter, and he has made it his mission to keep Rory away from an entanglement with a firefighter.

Finn is sure the captain doesn’t like him, and when the captain gives him responsibility for Flash the firehouse dog, Finn is convinced of it. The beauty of it is that Flash, who has more energy than he knows what to do with, attracts Rory’s attention and leads to a meeting and cooperation between Finn and Rory to tame Flash.

This second book in the Boston Love Series can be read as a standalone novel although some characters appear in both books. I enjoyed the characters. Finn is a sexy guy, and it’s fun to see him trying to cope with the idea that he might want to settle-down with one woman. Rory has little experience dating, but when she sees Finn she knows what she wants, and her thoughts are not remotely innocent. However, my favorite character is Flash. How can you not fall for a lovable dog who does everything wrong?

If you enjoy a tender romance that will make you laugh and cry, you’ll like this book. The characters do a lot of growing over the course of the novel which makes you keep reading to see if they can overcome their personal limitations and find happiness in love.

I received this book from Loveswept for this review.

A Young Man Dies in an Immigration Retention Center

Hayden McCarthy is a young attorney on her way to making partner. When she’s assigned a wrongful death case against the US government, she wonders whether this will assure her route to partnership or be a roadblock.

The case involves a young man killed in a detention center in Texas. His mother and younger brother crossed into the US legally. Hayden wonders why the older brother was forced to take the illegal immigration route. The mother brings the case wanting to know what happened to her son.

 The case exposes divisions within the law firm that frighten Hayden as it becomes apparent that someone wants this case to disappear. Hayden’s life is complicated when she meets her cousin’s roommate. Andrew is attractive, and they’re drawn to each other, but Andrew’s father is a famous congressman, and Hayden doesn’t feel she fits in.

This is a romantic suspense novel, but unlike so many this one spends most of the time unraveling the mystery instead of examining the love life of the main characters. There are no steamy bedroom scenes and the whole novel has a thread of faith running through the characters thoughts and actions.

I recommend this novel if you enjoy a well-written mystery with plenty of suspense. It’s not particularly hard to guess what the underlying problems are, but the pace is fast, the characters interesting, and there are enough twists to keep the story interesting.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.

Secret Codes Embedded in the Hebrew Old Testament

A persistent tradition says that coded messages are embedded in the Hebrew of the Old Testament. Timothy Smith was led to explore this tradition by a confluence of dreams and experiences in his life. What he found shocked him and led to a years long search to understand why he had found the codes and what it meant.

The book reads like an adventure story from Timothy’s dreams to his year in the Canadian wilderness, and finally, to finding his name and his wife’s in a section of Genesis that had special relevance to his family. The stories are intriguing and the messages he finds in the Old Testament after rearranging the columns in a particular are even more so.

I enjoyed the book. It was easy to follow Timothy’s adventures. His reactions to his findings are presented in more detail than how he found the codes. He does describe in several areas how he discovered the coded messages, but the description is not very technical; I suspect by design. It left me with an unsatisfied feeling of not knowing precisely how he came to find the messages, except for the first one that was his name. Although probably not appropriate for a general audience, I would be interested in reading a more technical description of how he discovered the codes.

I recommend this book if you enjoy puzzles and adventure stories. It is particularly intriguing that it appears ancient tradition has some basis in reality and that coded messages are contained in the Old Testament.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.   

Monday, April 3, 2017

Can Life Be Better than Completely Fine?

Eleanor Oliphant has a life, and she thinks it’s fine. She works five days a week as a finance clerk, and spends her weekends with pizza and vodka and calls from Mummy. Then her computer breaks down, and she meets Raymond, the unkempt IT guy at her office.

Eleanor has few social skills, she says exactly what she thinks which is often off-putting. Raymond sees through this and a friendship begins. When Raymond and Eleanor help Sammy, an elderly man who has collapsed on the sidewalk, the trio begins a friendship in which they all help each other. Raymond, knowing that something troubles Eleanor encourages her to get counseling. This changes Eleanor’s life as she reconnects with her childhood.

This book is filled with unusual characters that worm their way into your heart as they struggle with their lives and help each other. Eleanor’s character may be hard to follow at times if you have experienced depression. The author has done an excellent job of making her problems real. As she connects with her childhood, she finds that perhaps her existence wasn’t so completely fine after-all.

I highly recommend this book if you like characters who struggle with an overcome severe problems. I think you’re remember Eleanor, Raymond and Sammy for a long time.

I received this book from Penguin for this review.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Finding Your Way Home

Melanie, a novelist, is suffering from writer’s block. She has a novel to finish. The deadline is approaching, and she can’t seem to make the story work. The economy is bad and Craig, her husband and a well-respected builder, is having trouble making ends met when no one is buying houses.

Craig does have one construction project, but it adds to the stress in their marriage. He’s building a house for Serena, a beautiful woman. He’s not interested, but Melanie can’t help fantasizing about it. The fantasizing is part of the problem in their marriage. It makes her a good novelist, but when she lives more in the world of her story than with Craig, he feels abandoned. When a friend offers Melanie a cottage to get away and finish her novel, the problems escalate.

There is an interesting sub-plot involving Melanie and Craig’s neighbors, Jill and Marcus. Jill’s behavior is becoming increasingly erratic with nightmares and OCD. It’s a beautiful story of how Marcus stands by her to get her issues resolved.

The story is told from the first person perspective of each character. The presentation gives a picture of each character’s struggles with his or her own issues and how they view the other person. It makes for a very rich story.

In the end, home is where your heart is and both couples in the book struggle with what that means for them. I enjoyed the book and highly recommend it for the insights into troubled marriages and how having faith helps in difficult times.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

What it Takes to Become a Sommelier

Wine can be a delightful way to relax after a hard day, accompany a meal, or share with friends, but some people take the pleasure to exquisite extremes. After reading the Winemaker Detective Series, I was fascinated by some people’s ability to sip wine and be able to give a complete history of the grape, the area where the wine was produced, the vineyard, the flavors, tannins, and the wine’s legs.

The author listened to sommeliers describe the wines available at good restaurants and wondered if these people had been gifted genetically with extra powers of taste and smell. Taking a year and a half, she absorbed herself in the wine culture learning what it takes to become a sommelier. After reading the book, I know it has to be an obsession. People spend all their time tasting wine, learning about vineyards, and memorizing vintages.

The book is filled with amusing incidents and self-deprecating humor. It is also filled with information on the sommelier exam and how to prepare for it, scientific information on smell and taste, and the etiquette of blind tastings. Her travels range from the wine culture of New York city to vineyards in California.

The book is also filled with delightful characters like Henry, who became her mentor. He is obviously very bright and totally devoted to the study of wine to the exclusion of almost anything else in his life.

If you’re fascinated by the wine culture where people actually drink $200 bottles of wine and compare the taste, I recommend this book. It’s
easy to read and gives a full course in the intricacies of wine.

I received this book from Penguin Group for this review.   

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Escaping a Domineering Mother to Find Love

At twenty-five, Beth is on her own. She moved from Chicago to Portland to escape the smothering presence of her mother. Finally, she’s able to make her own life, have friends of her choosing, and enjoy her job as a music teacher.

One of Beth’s teacher friends invites her to dinner with her family and a family friend, Sam. Sam is a mechanic, a tough guy that her mother would not have approved of. Sam isn’t too excited about Beth either, a well-brought-up girl who likes classical music. A serious car accident changes everything. Sam and Beth talk while she recovers and find common ground.

This is a warm romance. The characters are people you can empathize with. Beth and Sam don’t seem suited on the surface, but each brings something to the relationship the other needs. Beth’s other friends, and particularly Nicole’s son Owen, add a very human element to the story. They’re the kind of people you’d like to know.

If you enjoy romance with an outcome that makes you feel good, no outrageous sex, or kinky living arrangements, this is a good book. The outcome is predictable, but the fun is in getting to know the characters and see how they arrive at a good resolution.

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

A Murderous Romp Through Scotland’s Whiskey Business

Abi Logan, an award-winning photo journalist, is devastated when the uncle, who raised her after her parent’s death, dies from cancer. She was on a photo shoot when he died, and she blames herself for not spending more time with him. Her guilt is compounded when she discovers that he’s left her a distillery in Scotland making a sought-after single malt whiskey.

Abi with her friend Patrick, and delightful dog, Liam, journey to Scotland to check out the distillery. Her guilt increases when she finds that the distillery was named for her and the adjacent house is named the Haven, the name of her beloved childhood home. Besides trying to learn about whiskey to decide among the numerous offers she has for the business, things become more complicated when she faces death threats, break-ins, and arson.

I enjoyed this cozy mystery. It was fascinating to learn about Scotland’s whiskey business, I had no idea it was so complex. The setting in the highlands adds charm to the story. Romance is in the air, but it doesn’t overwhelm the plot just adds a nice touch of human interaction. The plot has plenty of twists. I think you'll be surprised by the ending. 

The characters are excellent. Liam is a particular favorite. I also enjoyed the various types of men, women are not welcome in the whiskey business, running the small distilleries in the highlands.

This is the first book in the new series. I recommend it and will be looking forward to the future adventures of Abby and Liam.

I received this book from Alibi for this review.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Relating Biblical Prophecy to Today’s Headlines

Reading the news about conflicts in the world today, it’s tempting to wonder what the Bible has to say about the current state of tension. Dyer abd Tobey explore what scripture has to tell us about the conflicts: Israel’s place in the center of Middle East tensions; Iran’s role in trying to reclaim the power from the past when Persia was a major nation; the rise of Isis; and Russia’s role in trying to regain the power of the cold war era.

The book is quite short, only 106 pages, but packed with information. The focus is on end-times prophecy. Are we nearing the time when the Messiah will return? Their reading of current events in relation to what the Bible, particularly the Old Testament, says suggests that forces are coalescing to bring about the conditions for a major change in the world.

The book relies heavily on the prophecies found in Ezekiel and Daniel. I was familiar with the book of Daniel, but I found their analysis revealing. It caused me to go back and read the book because I felt I had missed so many underlying parallels to today.

This is a good book if you’re interested in end-times prophecy. The book is short, but it gives a good background and may encourage you to explore the area further.

I received this book from Booklook Bloggers for this review.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Yummy Mystery at a Seaside Resort

In the second book in the Pancake House Mysteries, Marley McKinney is settled in Wildwood. The pancake house is flourishing, she’s dating Brett, her teenage crush, and she’s made friends. The cloud on the horizon is Ida Winkler. She blames Marley for landing her nephew in jail and is doing what she can to make Marley’s life difficult.

Marley has had it with Ida’s crank calls, words painted on the pancake house, and scenes in the restaurant. She decides to talk to the woman, but when she arrives at Ida’s house she finds her body. This makes Marley a suspect. Personally, I found the idea of Marley as a suspect rather thin, but it does give her a reason to solve the crime.

Wildwood is a great location. I love the descriptions of the seaside, Marley’s house, and the quaint town. The crepes served at the pancake house make your mouth water.

The characters are good. Marley is a strong woman who confronts trouble and wins. I love Ivan the grumpy chef and Brett is almost too good to be true. Flapjack, Marley’s cat, adds a warm touch.

The plot had several twists which ended with a different view of Ida’s murder than the one the story began with. The pace was a little slow. Marley spends a lot of time swimming either alone or with Brett. It adds some romance, but doesn’t do much to further the plot.

If you enjoy cozy mysteries, this is a good one.

I received this book from Alibi for this review.  

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Two Rescue Dogs Come to the Aid of Their Owners

Cody hates the Berkshire Inn her mother bought. She hates her new school. She’s angry, has no friends, and only relates to the artists in the local art colony. Skye, Cody’s mother, is at her wits end. After Cody’s father’s murder, she turned into a troubled child rather than the happy loving person she had been.

The dilapidated inn is trying Skye’s resources. She has a policy of no pets, but one rainy night, Adam Marsh, a grieving widower, and his rescue dog, Chance, arrive. Reluctantly, she agrees to let them stay; after all the extra money will be welcome. One night turns into several more visits.

Although standoffish at first, Cody gradually warms up to Chance. When she and Chance help rescue another pit bull, she begins to relate to the dogs, but she still has a secret that drives her away from her mother. Perhaps the dogs can help her they way they helped Adam get over his grief.

The best character in this book is Chance. He opens the story with his discussion of how he studies human emotions. Throughout the book, Chance gives his take on what’s happening. It’s interesting to see how animals view their human friends.

The plot raises issues of bullying, love, fear, grief and loss. The issues are well addressed by the characters and commented on by Chance. However, I found the technique of shifting back and forth between Skye and Cody difficult to get used to. Cody’s action is told in the third person, for Skye the author uses first person. While that technique does separate the point of view of each character, it seems strained.

If you enjoy stories where animals have a major role, this is a good one.

I received this book from St. Martin’s Press for this review.

A Talented Rook Helps Solve a Murder

Julia Lancaster, manager of a tourist center in a charming English village, feels life is finally working out. She loves her job, and she’s looking forward to a weekend away with her boy friend, Michael, who has her old job as assistant to her ornithologist father, Rupert Lancaster.

The lovers make their getaway, turn off their phones, and have a blissful weekend. However, when they return the village is in an uproar. Julia’s ex-husband is found murdered on the estate, which is the main tourist attraction in the village. Michael was seen near the place where the body was discovered before they left for the weekend. Now the press is hounding Julia and Michael, sure that Michael is
the murderer.

To protect Julia, Michael disappears, but that leaves her on her own to deal with the reporters. It also makes her feel that she has been abandoned and her love affair is over.

The best part of this book is the description of the village and the people who live there. My favorites were Tennyson, a budding ornithologist, and her rook, Alfie. Alfie’s clever antics keep the story moving and assist in uncovering the murderer.

I was disappointed in Julia’s character. She spends most of the book feeling abandoned although there is not a good reason. It seemed she could have tried a little harder to trust Michael.

The mystery is fair. Picking out the murderer was relatively easy. However, I enjoyed the sleuthing and getting to know more about the backstory of the characters, including Julia’s father. If you enjoy cozy mysteries with an English background, you’ll like this one.

I received this gook from Alibi for this review.  

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Coming of Age in South Korea in the 70’s

Getting ahead in the South Korea of 1978 depends above all on family connections and education. We see this clearly in the opening section. Sunam wants to please his family and get a comfortable life. Education is the answer and the most prestigious group to help him succeed is The Circle. He may not like what he has to do, but he listens to his mentor, Juno, because he wants the life style.

The main characters in this novel, Jisum and Namin, personify this conflict but in radically different ways. Jasum is the daughter of a wealthy business man. She has all the opportunities for success in a prestigious university, but money means little, and she becomes an activist. Namin is the opposite. Her family is poor. She and Jisum became friends when she won a place in Jisum’s private school. Now Namin and Jasum are both at university, but Namin is only interested in studying, hoping to better the life of her family. Both young women become involved with Sunam and The Circle for an intriguing plot.

The setting is unusual. I enjoyed learning about South Korea and the tensions that drove the young people in the 70’s. The characters are well done. The women, Jisum and Namin, are better developed than the male characters. However, the story is mostly about them, so the lack of definition in Sunam’s character is understandable.

The plot and the tension between the characters is well done and keeps you reading. Although the writing is good, it isn’t literary fiction quality. However, since this is the author’s first novel, it may improve. I enjoyed the book and recommend it to anyone who wants a different type of historical fiction.

I received this book from Random House for this review.

Devastating Crime Against a Mentally Challenged Young Woman

Cherry Walker was a lovely human being. Although mentally challenged, she was kind and loving and trying hard to make a life on her own. Kim Cargil, an abusive mother, left her young son, Timmy, with Cherry for days on end, often not calling in to tell her when to expect her. Cherry didn’t mind. She loved the boy, but then the courts became involved. Kim was about to lost custody of her son. Cherry was supported to testify. She was terrified and with good reason. Kim had no intention of allowing her to testify.

In this true crime novel, we meet a frightening killer. Kim abused her husbands, her children, and was ultimately convicted of killing Cherry. She is presently on death row in Texas.

If you enjoy this genre, this is a good book. The story is told in reporting style. The facts are prominent, but beneath we get a sense of the characters. If you want a more character driven novel, you may not enjoy the facts only style, but in a way it makes the horror that more apparent.

I enjoyed the book and recommend it if you enjoy true crime, or a detective novel that emphasizes facts above delving into the characters’ minds.

I received this book from Kensington Books for this review.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Inside a Commune through a Child’s Eyes

Green has always lived at Foxlowe. The crumbling old house is a little scary, but the fields are beautiful. Nine adults and three children live at Foxlowe. The founders, Richard, whose house it is, Freya, the leader, and Libby, are the main adults. Freya is the most powerful, meting out punishment and keeping the Family together.

Inside the Family, she tells them, life is safe. Outside is the Bad. People outside are corrupted by money and power, not in the family. Green and the other children know no other world. Theirs is a world steeped in Family and the trappings of pagan religion.

But the Family crumbles. In the second part of the novel, Green is out in the world struggling to understand how very different it is. Since she can barely read or write, it’s a significant shock to be outside. At the very end, we find out what happened to drive the Family apart. It’s a horrifying story.

The book is filled with strange settings, child abuse, and pagan religion. For the first part of the book the child’s view and the eerie setting suck you in, but when Green joins the world outside Foxlowe, the story loses some of it’s charm.

I found the book difficult to read. Because the first half of the novel is told through the eyes of a young child, it is told in simple sentences and some of the words don’t make a great deal of sense until you become familiar with the jargon of the commune. For me, the intimations of child abuse were difficult to read. These children were completely under the adult’s influence with no outside interference. Punishment was easy and there as no accounting.

The underlying story of how the mind of a child is affected by it’s up-bringing is interesting. There is a great deal to discuss within the confines of the novel. I think it would make an excellent choice for a reading group.

I received this book from Penguin for this review.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Confronting the Illegal Ivory Trade

Poaching elephants for their ivory is illegal in Asian countries, but with the upsurge in wealth in China the trade is flourishing. Catherine Sohon, in this second book in the series, is in China to try to capture Nigel Lofty, a major figure in the trade. Her first encounter with Nigel leaves her in the hospital, but when she teams up with her college roommate, Ling Ru, the pair uncover a smuggling ring dealing in not only Ivory, but exotic animals.

The best part of this book is the information about the illegal ivory trade and the trade in exotic animals. I also loved the descriptions of elephants in the wild. However, the writing in other parts of the book didn’t come up to the level of the descriptions. My major criticism was the use of dialog to lecture about the ivory trade. At one point, Ling Ru and Catherine are trying to sort out a shipment of exotic animals. There is ivory in the hold and a tiger on the loose, but Catherine still finds time for a lecture. That sort of data dump cuts into the action.

The book was fast paced, aside from the lectures, but some of the action seemed unrealistic. The story was based in modern China and Hong Kong, but some of the action scenes seemed pure fantasy.

I recommend the book if you love animals, particularly elephants. The mystery is interesting, but the animals are the major focus.

I received this book from Random House for this review.  

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Eat Right for Great Skin

Organized by the season from spring to winter, Wendy Rowe, internationally known make-up expert, gives tips on how to eat right to have healthy, glowing skin. Each season features foods appropriate to the season, a discussion of why they help to improve your health and skin, and recipes for how to use them. If you’re familiar with healthy eating, you'll recognize the foods. I particularly love avocados. I tried her recipe for guacamole, and it’s great.

The book opens with Wendy’s tips for staying healthy: avoiding stress, maintaining a good digestion, quitting sugar, and eating a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, among other suggestions. All of these ideas can be found in other books about health and wellness, but Wendy’s succinct presentation is helpful for recalling the importance of these ideas.

At the end of the book Wendy discusses common skin ailments like psoriasis, eczema, oily skin and more. In addition to discussing what the conditions are and what causes them, she discusses foods that can help to control the problems. She also gives recipes for making your own scrubs and cleansers. The final part of the book discusses her skin care routine and gives a section on plants, like ginger, aloe vera, and cinnamon, that can be used to treat ailments,.

I found this a very helpful book. The recipes I’ve tried are delicious,and the information about skin care is valuable. The pictures are beautiful showing young women with perfect skin. I do wish some older women had been featured to show what the routine can do for women older than twenty-somethings.

I recommend the book if you’re looking for healthy recipes and a good way to take care of your skin.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.  

Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Riveting Story Exposes Abuses in the Fashion Industry

Over two-hundred people are killed in a terrible fire in a clothing factor in Bangladesh. Cameron Alexander, General Council of the Presto Corporation, is upset by the horror of the fire, but when he sees a young girl lying on the ground with a pair of pants covering her face, pants that were destined for Presto stores, he knows there’s trouble ahead.

The pants were being manufactured in a factory that Presto’s supply chain was not supposed to use. At first Cameron thinks his company is in the clear, but as he begins to explore the company’s supply chains, he realizes that something is dreadfully wrong. Something he must acts on to preserve the corporation.

This book is a novel, but it also exposes the abuses in clothing factories in Bangladesh, Malaysia, and Jordan. The story is interesting. Cameron is a driven character who tries to act for the best, but finds that he must cross lines that could lead to serious consequences for himself and for Presto.

The exposure of working conditions in third world countries is very well done. The novel keeps you reading, but the investigation of the clothing industry is the most interesting part of the book. It is almost as if the novel was written for the purpose of exposing the dreadful working conditions.

I enjoyed the book and recommend it if you enjoy a good story with believable characters. The descriptions of the terrible conditions in the factories that produce our clothing are sobering. It’s good to know what is happening to the people who produce our luxuries.

I received this book from Booklook Bloggers for this review.  

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A Dog Witnesses the Last Days of the Messiah

Barley lived with a woodcarver and his wife. He dearly loved the old couple who had rescued him as a pup, but he could also remember a young boy who played with him before he was rescued. When Duv and Adah, his owners, are murdered, Barley finds himself on the streets again. Ultimately he arrives in Jerusalem during the last days of Jesus.

The story is told through Barley’s eyes. He’s a wonderful character, loving, wanting to have a family and help his people. The first chapters are slow. We meet Adah and Duv. Barley dreams of his young boy and the tenor of the book is comfortable. However, when Barley gets to Jerusalem, the tenor changes. Some of the scenes he witnesses are quite violent.

The setting is well done and believable as are the characters Barley interacts with. Although the pace is slow in the first half of the book, it picks up at the end as Barley witnesses the violent end of the Messiah.

I enjoyed the book and recommend it. Although it’s an adult book, the writing is clear and simple as befits the story told by the dog. Unless there is an objection to the violent scenes, this book could also be enjoyed by young adult readers.

I received this book from the Lifuse Publicity Group for this review.

Thursday, February 2, 2017

A Family Struggles to Recover from Tragedy

Nine-year-old Abby thinks her father, a preacher, has all the answers until tragedy strikes. The family is on vacation enjoying the beach. Josh, her four-year-old brother, is tired. Matt, her older brother, volunteers to carry him, but John decides to carry Josh himself. As they walk along the road to their cottage, a car burst on them striking John in the legs. Josh goes flying, hits his head on the pavement, and is killed. The family is stunned. They can’t believe what happened.

When they return home, the tragedy remains with them. John retreats from the family and God. With John unavailable, Matt begins a destructive course of action that leads to more tragedy. Abby watches her family dissolve around her, not knowing what to do. Her mother, Renee, knows they need to move on from this tragedy, but she, too, is stuck.

This is a beautiful, sad, emotional story told from the viewpoint of nine-year-old Abby. She is a thoroughly believable character. She watches what goes on around her, not really knowing how to interpret it. It’s a reminder that when tragedy strikes, parents need to be mindful of how their behavior is affecting the children.

The story is one of faith. John, the father, travels a long road to come back to his family and regain his faith. It makes you want to cry, but it is also a heart warming story of how the family sticks together in this dark period.

I highly recommend this book. It’s well written. The setting draws you in and serves as a good background for the characters. However, the best part of the book is the light shown on a family in tragedy and recovery.

I received this book from Shiloh Run Press for this review.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

A Detective and a Forensic Investigator Held Together by a Secret

A copy editor is found hanging above the assembly line in the processing room of the Cleveland Herald, the cities largest newspaper. The death was meant to look like a suicide, but Maggie Gardener, forensic investigator, has her doubts, so does Jack Renner, the detective assigned to the case. Maggie is nervous about working with Jack again. They share a secret, and she’s not sure she trusts him. Jack operates as a vigilante bringing criminals who avoid the system to justice. Maggie wants him to stop, but how can she make sure that happens?

Maggie and Jack are good characters. The tension between them is palpable. Sometimes Maggie seems over the top in trying to figure out whether Jack is keeping to his promise to avoid his vigilante activities, but that's not unreasonable. Jack is tough. He likes Maggie and wants to protect her, but he doesn’t like being constrained.

The setting in a major newspaper is realistic. I enjoyed envisioning how newspapers operate almost as much as I enjoyed the mystery. The plot is good and well fleshed out. There are twists to keep you trying to figure out what is happening, and the resolution is realistic.

I recommend this mystery if you like fast paced action, an interesting setting,
and realistic characters.

I received this book from Kensington Publishing Corp. for this review.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Time Travel Gone Wrong

Tom Barren lives in the kind of world science fiction authors have been writing about for years: flying cars, a focus on entertainment, food that doesn’t go bad. It seems like paradise. The problem is he’s a screw-up. His father is a genius, but Tom can’t seem to find himself which leads to a difficult relationship with his brilliant father.

When Tom’s mother dies, his father tries to give him another chance. The great next frontier is time travel, and Tom’s father thinks he can master it. He has trained chrononauts ready to go. Tom’s father adds him to the team as the understudy of the most promising chrononaut. This would be fine. Tom would never get a chance to time travel, but the best chrononaut becomes unable to take the mission. Tom decides to go and ends up in a very wrong place, 2016 in our world. Needless to say there are no flying cars and other amenities. Now Tom has to decide whether he wants to go back or stay in this strange land.

This is a clever story, and Tom is an interesting character. He engages in lots of soul searching about why he has so much trouble. One reason is that he’s not a genius like his father. It’s easy to empathize with Tom. He’s a believable character.

The book is slow starting. Tom spends pages telling us that he made a terrible mistake, taking us into his world, and providing his family background. I found this section much too long, but when he actually gets to time travel and ends in the wrong place, the action picks up.

If you like science fiction and are interested in time travel, this is an amusing book.

I received this book from Penguin for this review.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Bourbon and the Potter Field Christ

Willie McFee grows up in Twisted Tree, Kentucky. His family is relatively well off, although the town is suffering the effects of having the bourbon distillery, owned by the McFee family, shut down by Prohibition.

Although Prohibition is over, Barley, Willie’s father shows no interest in reopening the distillery. Willie encourages him dreaming of becoming the distiller as his grandfather planned. Then a drifter comes to town. He dies and is buried in the Potter’s Field on the McFee property, but that’s not the end of the story.

Gossip circulates giving the man credit for performing miracles. Soon people arrive to pray at the site. Rumors that he is the Second Coming of Christ spread changing the town and the McFees.

This historical novel is true to the time presenting the problems and dislocation caused by Prohibition and the Depression. It’s also historically accurate that during the period itinerant preachers and drifters wandered from place to place giving voice to the word
of God and sometimes miracles happened.

The characters in the book are well developed. Willie struggles with his ambition and his father’s retreat from the world. The townspeople are representative of people caught in a difficult situation they cannot control.

The story is full of twists. The several plots coming together from World War I and the Depression to the problems of Prohibition. If you enjoy a well written historical novel, you’ll enjoy this book.

I received this book from Harper Collins for this review.