Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Real Artists May Not Starve, but They May Not Get Rich

Allowing yourself the freedom to be a creative artist is something everyone should feel free to enjoy. This book offers strategies for how to get there. I completely agree with the ideas of learning your craft, being prudent and disciplined, working with others, stealing from the masters, and using old ideas in creative ways. However, I think the book is a little too much like a call to salvation. Some people will try all the suggestions and will still come up short, Unless they keep their day job, they may well starve.

There are more avenues than ever to get your creative product before the public: write a blog, publish your novel with Amazon, or Scribid, join a critique group, convince people in your area to give a book signing, talk a local gallery into hanging you paintings. The list goes on. However, a word of caution. No matter how hard you work, you may not become the next Michelangelo, or John Grisham. Some ideas catch hold and propel the artist to fame and fortune, others give satisfaction to the artist, but don’t pay the bills.

This is a book worth reading. The advice is good. If you want to be an artist, read the book and take the lessons to heart. However, a word of caution: make your goal to satisfy yourself. Creativity is about more than making money. Get your work before the public, enjoy the journey, but don’t expect to amass millions, it happens to a very few.

I received this book from Booklook Blogger for this review.  

Monday, June 19, 2017

A Case Study of Hilary Clinton’s Losing Campaign

Elections have many reason why they’re lost or won. This account of Hilary Clinton’s 2016 campaign gives insight into some of these reasons. The book is not a hatchet job, nor is it an apology. In so far as books of this type go, I thought the authors tried to give a relatively balanced picture of what the campaign did right and wrong.

In the introduction to the book, the authors make the critical point that will be the theme of the book. Hilary Clinton either didn’t have or couldn’t articulate a clear reason for why she wanted to be president. This led to making policy statements without getting to what the people wanted to hear, namely, what are you going to do to make my life and the country better, and why do you want to do it.

Another serious flaw was the reliance on analytics to the exclusion of the more artful political strategy of sensing the electorate. This reliance led to running a tight campaign based on monetary considerations more than listening to the seasoned political veterans on the staff, including Bill Clinton, who pointed out the short comings on the ground.

The book tells a story that is easy to read, although it does become somewhat repetitious mainly because the same flaws occur over and over during the campaign. Some of the poignant moments occur in the last chapters. Hilary and her staff go into election eve believing they will win in spite of signs that the campaign is in trouble. Her response and those around her tell the sad end of the story.

Whether you’re a Hilary fan or not, if you enjoy politics, I encourage you to read this book. You can find a great deal of valuable information about how to run a political campaign and the mistakes to avoid.

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

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Dark Twin on a Rampage

Alvie is downing in her life. She’s drinking too much, eating crazily, and hating her job as a classified advertising representative. Her identical twin sister, Beth, is everything she’s not. She’s the good twin, her mother’s favorite, married to a rich, hot, Italian with a villa in Taormina. She also has an adorable baby son.

Alvie’s life has just about reached bottom when her sister starts calling begging her to visit. Alvie can’t stand the thought until she loses her job and is thrown out of her apartment. Suddenly a stay in an Italian villa sounds pretty good even it she has to see her perfect sister.

Things get more complicated when Beth asks Alvie to pretend to be her for a few hours so she can meet someone. It sounds simple enough, even a chance to take over her sister’s life, but when Beth turns up dead the game becomes significantly more challenging and deadly.

Alvie is a great narrator. She’s crazy and foul-mouthed, but also amusing. She’s such a strong character that the other characters in the book seem pale in comparison If you enjoy eccentric characters, you’ll like this book. However, there’s explicit sex, violence, and cursing. If those things turn you off, this isn’t your book. Mad is the first book in a trilogy. It will be interesting to see what Alvie gets up to next.

I received this book from Dutton for this review.  

An Average Guy Caught in a Political Scandal

Mike Tanner rushes to catch his flight from Los Angeles to Boston. Caught in a security check, he’s afraid of missing his flight and grabs his laptop when released by security. Mike is having a tough time. His business, selling gourmet coffee to restaurants and coffee shops, is on the brink of bankruptcy. His wife has left him and may want a divorce. If that isn’t bad enough, when he get home he can’t open his laptop. Then he sees a pink Post-It note with a password. This is definitely not his computer.

Senator Susan Robbins also discovers that she can’t open her laptop. There’s no Post-It note. This is not her computer and to make matters worse it’s loaded with top secret documents. If the person who has her laptop opens it, and spreads the information around, it could end her career.

The setup in this novel is good. You can almost imagine the headlines in the newspaper: secret documents, misuse of classified information, the Russians. This story has everything. After the opening scenes where we meet Mike, Senator Robbins, and Will, her right-hand man, the book devolves into a chase scene. Mike is the prey and several forces are in pursuit of the laptop.

The characters are good, but not great. Mike is an average guy. He just wants to run his business and get his wife back. Will loves the admiration he gets from his work for the senator, but his decision making ability isn’t up to the challenge of retrieving the laptop without serious complications.

I enjoyed the book. It’s a thriller that addresses some of the issues we all see in the news such as the electronic surveillance of private citizens. It you want a fast paced read that echoes the current political situation, you’ll enjoy this book.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.

Friday, June 9, 2017

The Bible Comes Alive for Young Readers

Aimed at ages 8 to 12, the NIV Kids’ Visual study Bible illustrates the chapters of the Bible with full color pictures, maps and extra content that provides context for the story. Each chapter starts with a description of what’s contained in the text such as who wrote the book, why, where did it happen and other questions that give an overview of the contents of the chapter. The sidebars give an abbreviated version of what’s happening in the verses.

All the additional information in the Bible, including new archaeological and scientific research that is helping to flesh out our understanding of what life was like at the time of Jesus, is included in easy to understand text. While I think the book is an excellent resource for middle grade children, anyone could enjoy this Bible. I was very impressed with the level of detail presented in an easy to read and understand format.

My only criticism, and it’s true of all reasonably sized Bibles, is that the text is very small. Young children may have difficulty with the size of the print. However, considering the volume of material contained in the Bible, the publisher probably had no choice.

I highly recommend this Bible as a gift of your children or grandchildren. You may be so impressed with the information that you
want a copy for yourself.

I received this Bible from Handlebar Marketing for this review.   

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Perfect Book for Young Entrepreneurs

Kids, summer, and lemonade stands go together. Sometimes just lemonade is offered, but for a really exceptional stand, baked goods are a great idea. To give kids a head start in planning their stand, this book gives step by step directions for setting up the stand and kid-friendly recipes for baked goods, ice tea, and unusual lemonades.

The book is full of colorful photos of kids setting up their stand and best of all of the luscious goodies made from the simple recipes. I tried several recipes. I like simple ones as much as the kids do. I can recommend the blueberry muffins, cheese crunchies, and the cranberry lemonade is outstanding.

The book also gives directions for crafts to enhance the food, like making fancy straws for the lemonade and ice tea. It’s a great project for kids even if they don’t follow through with a lemonade stand.

I highly recommend this book. It’s a good way for parents and children to have a project together. The kids can learn to cook simple treats and best of all, you have delicious goodies not only to sell but for the whole family.

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

A Child Pornography Trial and a Family Tragedy

An Amherst professor, Sidney Cranmer, is caught in an FBI sting. Cranmer receives a DVD containing child pornography which he says he never ordered, but the FBI believes differently. Cranmer’s specialty is Lewis Carrol who some believe was a pedophile because of the pictures he took of young girls, naked or partially clothed. This specialty leads the FBI to believe that Cranmer also enjoys child pornography.

Judge David Norcross is assigned the case. He hasn’t rescued himself and now he’s caught in a dilemma. His girlfriend, Claire Lindermann, is a professor at Amherst and a friend of Cranmer. She believes he’s not guilty which puts a strain on her relationship with David. To make Norcross’ life more difficult, his brother is injured in a plane crash that kills his wife leaving David with two young nieces who he feels unprepared to care for. Having children is a contentious issue in his relationship with Claire.He doesn’t feel able to care for children, and she wants to be a mother.

This is an excellent legal thriller. The plot has a number or twists. It’s very difficult to figure out what’s happening until near the end of the book. Probably the best part is the realism of the courtroom scenes. The author, Michael Ponsor, spent thirty years as a US district judge. He uses this background to give an authentic tone to the novel.

The characters of David and Claire are realistic. People with careers trying to decide whether to make a family late in life have particular difficulty deciding whether their careers are compatible with being parents. I thought the author handled this difficult topic with great sensitivity. I highly recommend this book if you enjoy legal thrillers with well developed characters and authentic background.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.   

Monday, June 5, 2017

A Poetic Account of Travel in Western Wilderness Areas

Roger Thompson loves the wilderness areas of the West: Yosemite, Big Sur, areas of Montana, etc. He has traveled extensively in these places both alone and with his family. When you read his descriptions of the night sky, the towering trees, and the sunset in the mountains, you feel a part of nature. You can see what he’s describing.

Although the book has wonderfully descriptive prose, it’s not the only attraction. Thompson talks about things important to him: the death of his grandfather, becoming a father, and his fierce desire to explore himself and grow. Nature and travel provide the background for a very personal narrative filled with the love of adventure.

Thompson speaks of his losses and desires from the perspective of a man, but I found his descriptions of finding himself through the inspiring natural wonders very easy to connect to. His love of the beautiful places of our country came through clearly. The writing pulls you into his world, but also challenges you the think about your own experiences.

I highly recommend this book if you love the outdoors whether camping, hiking, or just sitting in an inspirational spot. It’s a good book to take on a camping trip. The stories would be excellent for reading around the campfire.

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

A Narrative Account of Jesus’ Ministry Incorporating New Research

The Dawn of Christianity presents the story of the ministry of Jesus and the founding of the early church. The first chapters are devoted to the story of Jesus and his followers. After the death of Christ, the author focuses on the early church through the travels of the apostles and Paul.

The book reads like a good story. The author stays close to the Bible narrative, but includes recent finding from archaeology and science, particularly when the gospels were written. I found the discussions of the political situation most interesting. It’s amazing how much Jesus accomplished in such a short time, but the discussion of the politics shows that Israel was ripe for the ideas Jesus preached.

It was also very interesting to learn about the archaeological discoveries in the area that show what the temple was like. They also verify places mentioned in the Bible that many people believed were fabrications, or at least not as developed as they appear to be now that the ruins have been studied.

I found the early chapters the most interesting, particularly those about the last days of Jesus life. The author tells the story in a way that makes you see the events. He also reconciles the accounts from the gospels showing that they are more accurate than previously thought by some scholars. The later chapters about the early church are also informative, but mostly follow the Acts of the Apostles with some added political and historical perspective.

I highly recommend this book if you want a readable account of the New Testament incorporating the latest findings from science and archa

I received this book from BookLook Bloggers for this review.    

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Greedy Heirs, an Abandoned Mansion, and Murder

Charlie Carpenter, owner of the Old Hat Vintage Fashions, is excited to get a call from Calvin Prescott. Her friend is an auctioneer and has been given the job of disposing of the contents of Mulbridge House before it’s torn down to make way for a subdivision. When she sees the vintage couture gowns, Charlie is thrilled, but she feels a pang at seeing the glorious mansion torn down.

Charlie isn’t the only one upset at seeing the mansion torn down. The preservation society wants to keep the house as a historic site. The neighbors want to preserve their privacy and don’t want a new subdivision in their area. The heirs, however, want a quick sale to capitalize on the valuable land where the house it situated.

When Charlie and her friend, Dimitri, go to collect the fashions, they find Calvin dead on the floor of his warehouse. There is a long list of suspects and Charlie wants to find out who murdered her old friend, but Detective Marcus Trenault, with whom Charlie is in a relationship, warns her to stay out of the investigation because of the danger.

This is the second book featuring Charlie and the Old Hat. The plot is full of twists. It’s not easy to guess the murderer until close to the end. Charlie is a vivacious heroine, but I felt that her bad decisions putting her in danger were a little hard to believe. Dimitri is my favorite character. His bravery almost puts Marc to shame.

Mulbridge House is a great setting, but I found it hard to believe that a house could deteriorate that much in the lifetime of one old lady. Still, it’s a fun cozy mystery.

I received this book from Alibi for this review.  

Friday, June 2, 2017

Parents’ Shortcomings Affect Their Children

Twelve-year-old Cooper is a lonely little boy. His father suffers from PTSD. His mother is somewhat remote, but she is the one person he can communicate with. Cooper thinks he lives in an average family until his mother leaves telling him and his father that she is off on an adventure.

At first Cooper waits for her to come home. He doesn’t understand why she left, and soon he begins to act out. His father is also clueless about his mother’s motivations so they set out to look for her, but how do you find someone who doesn’t want to be found?

This is a deep, character-driven novel that explores the relationship between a child’s view of the world and his parents lives. Children are dependent on their parents. They have no background to judge and forgive their parents’ shortcomings. Good parents are those who have enough maturity to give emotional support, but what happens when the parent is emotionally fragile?

If you enjoy novels that explore the emotional life of parents and children, you will like this book. The prose is clean, the setting interesting, and the characters well-drawn. It’s a book that will pull you in to Cooper’s world.

I received this book from Turner Publishing for this review.

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.