Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Inner City Struggle of Both Landlords and Tenants

Milwaukee, like most large cities, has a surfeit of substandard housing rented to struggling families, and people with histories of drug addiction, and criminal behavior. These families and individuals can spend as much as 70 percent of their income just to keep a decaying roof over their heads. You also have the landlords. Their lot isn’t easy either. Properties have mortgages, taxes, and repairs. When tenants default, the landlord must cover the expenses and often evict the tenant.

The stories in this book are heart wrenching. Young mothers with small children who can’t find enough money to feed the children properly and pay the rent. These people are trapped in low paying jobs, or confined to public assistance. As the author points out, it’s not always easy to get and keep public assistance. There are also drug addicts and ex-convicts struggling to get clean and keep a place to live.

This is a very powerful book. I found myself rooting for the families trying to pay the rent, feed the children, and stay out of trouble. If you wonder what life is like in the inner city, this book may not be an eye opener, but it will make you think.

I highly recommend this book because of the insight into people trying to make a living and the problems of both landlords and tenants. Evicting people is hard, but the author depicts a culture in which it is inevitable that evictions will occur and where landlords will also suffer.

The author has a solution. I don’t know that it’s workable. I do know that what he portrays is a very complex societal problem. It’s a situation we should all be aware of because in the end it affects all of us.

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

Erica Sparks Uncovers a Secessionist Plot

Erica Sparks’ program, The Erica Sparks Effect, is still highly rated, but Erica needs more challenge. She convinces her network, GNN, to give her a new show, Spotlight. The show promises to be a success, but will her marriage to Greg survive? He no longer works for GNN. He’s doing work as a consultant, but is he happy? Erica could hire him as her producer, but could she work with him?

Leslie Burke White, an author specializing in political commentary, is tapped by Erica for a special on her program. Leslie is brilliant, beautiful, and well connected. Erica can’t help but be awed by her and desirous of joining her famous circle of friends.

Jenny, Erica’s, daughter, is growing up and still having trouble balancing her love for her mother and her mother’s fame.

The novel starts with a group of secessionists in West Texas in a shootout with local law enforcement. Erica realizes what a draw the secessionist movement would be for her new show. She determines to meet some of the groups and highlight what’s happening. These are very dangerous people and the action is non-stop.

If you like a fast paced plot with echos of the evening news, you’ll enjoy this book. Personally, I found the action, particularly Erica’s involvement in stopping the secessionists’ plot, a bit over the top. She is after all a news reporter, not special forces.

I was turned off by Erica’s treatment of Greg. She knows he’s not happy with his consulting role, but she’s determined to keep him outside her new show although she could use the help. I found that very selfish, self-centered, and shortsighted.

The book is well written and moves smoothly. As an adventure story it’s good. However, I found the actions of the characters, particularly Erica, not quite believable.

I received this book from BookLook Bloggers for this review.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

A Counterpoint to the Low Fat Diet

Diet fads come and go. We’ve had the low fat diet, the low carb diet, the South Beach Diet, the Atkins Diet and others. From current research it seems clear that any diet that insists on not eating one type of food is not going to work for all people. I enjoyed this book. It makes the point that diets need to be individualized and that eating fat is not the real problem.

The book contains a great deal of information on current research. Karvandi, a fitness coach, explains the current finding in language easy to understand by anyone interested in nutrition. He explains fat metabolism and goes into detail about how it keeps the body function in a healthy way.

If you read a lot of nutrition advice, the book doesn’t present anything new, but it is explained well. I recommend this book for beginners or people who are interested in nutrition and don’t have much time to study it.

In addition to the description of body function and recommendations for foods to eat and those to avoid, the author includes a number of recipes and a diet plan for those who want to try his method.

This book is short, easy to read and even if you don’t plan to take on all his recommendations, you’ll learn a lot about food and exercise.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Jack Stratton Solves Thefts in a Florida Retirement Community

Jack Stratton is visiting his parents in the Orange Blossom Cove Retirement Community in Florida to introduce Alice to them. Jack proposed marriage before they left, but with Alice things never go as planned.

When Jack, Alice, and Lady, their enormous dog, arrive in Florida the community is bedeviled by a series of thefts. Nothing of serious value has been taken, although the prologue hints at something darker. The residents are concerned and have formed a committee to catch the thief, known as the Orange Blossom Cove Bandit. Laura, Jack’s mother is so proud of him she told the committee that he will help solve the mystery. This generous offer leads to unforeseen complications.

Jack’s parents, Laura and Ted, are impressive characters. They love each other and are very proud of their son. They’re also involved with the community and enjoy their amusing neighbors. The retirement community is peopled by a series of zany seniors. They are stereotypical of what people think of as elders, but they’re fun and add a light touch to the novel.

The romance between Alice and Jack seems destined to go on forever as a never completed action. However, this book may surprise you. The atmosphere of love and caring surrounding Jack’s parents opens the door for a rather different ending.

I enjoyed the book. The pace is fast; the retirement community scenes, well done; and the plot is full of twists. If you like Jack Stratton mysteries, this is one of the best. If you’re new to the series, it’s not a bad place to start.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.  

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

A Great Fortune, A Lonely Woman, A Con-man, and a Jealous Daughter

Liliane Bettencourt, heir to the L’Oréal cosmetics fortune, is one of the world’s richest women. Married to Andre Bettencourt, a politican, Liliane became tired of her bourgeois life. She met and was attracted to Francois-Marie Banier. Banier was an artist and photographer and a member of artistic society that fascinated Liliane. Infatuated with him, she presented him with hundreds of millions of euros worth of real estate, paintings, and cash. Andre didn’t complain about the money. He said it was her’s to do as she wished.

Liliane’s daughter, Francoise, thought differently about Banier and the family fortune believing that he was taking advantage of her mother. She had not been particularly close to her mother, probably because Liliane was not a maternal person and was absent during the early years of Francoise’s life taking a tuberculosis cure, The rupture never healed. When Liliane started becoming confused. (She is presently suffering from Alzheimer’s.) Francoise filed a law suit against Banier.

The lawsuit devolved into a major scandal involving corporate secrets, WWII relations with the Nazis, Swiss Bank accounts, and political payoffs.

This is a fascinating book. The unusual characters, tangled emotions, and high level political maneuvering makes the book read more like fiction than history. The book is very well researched, going in depth on the background of the characters as well as the trial.

For me, the book started rather slowly with the history of the L’Oréal Company founded by her father Charles Schueller, a brilliant chemist and business man. This history is important to the rest of the story, so it’s necessary in order to understand the later trial, but it did make the early chapters slow when you’re interested in the scandalous trial.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Get Away from the Destructive Forces in Your Life

People become trapped in destructive forces in their lives. Some are pushed into pits, some fall into pits, others jump in. No matter how you get there when you’re in a pit you need help and encouragement to get out. Beth Moore provides that help in this book.

Moore shares her own story and those of others who found themselves in a pit and managed to get out with God’s help. God’s help is the key to this book. The book is filled with scripture focusing on God’s love and how He can pull you out of the pit and help you get on with a more rewarding life.

Perhaps one of the most useful parts of the book is recognizing when you’re in a pit and knowing when you’ve escaped it. I love Moore’s description of knowing that you are out of the pit because you have a new song in your heart.

The last chapter is equally valuable, knowing how to stay out of a pit in the future. I highly recommend this book. It’s a Christian book, but the theology is easy to understand focusing on the Psalm 40. I highly recommend this book if you’re struggling with your life. Moore’s book is like having a counselor who is also a good friend.

I received this book from Handlebar for this review.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

An Ex-Speical Forces Limo Driver Gets Wrapped into a Murder Plot

Michael Skelling, owner of a limo company, is waiting for his fare in an alley behind a hotel. He’s been driving Bismark Avila, a skateboard rapper, for the last twenty-eight hours and wonders when Avila will get tired and go home.

A voice on the Santa Ana wind, like that of a Chechen torturer he shot in Yemen, warns Michael of danger. Knowing not to disregard the warning, he charges into the hotel just in time to save Avila from a bullet, but not before Avila’s body guard is killed. When Michael wakes up in the hospital, he finds he’s implicated in the murder. Avila refuses to alibi him unless he agrees to be his personal driver which puts Michael in a direct line to take a bullet for his employer.

The book is packed with action and snappy dialog. The ending is quite violent. Michael seems almost superhuman. The plot is filled with twists. It’s almost impossible to figure out what’s behind the murders until the very end.

For me, the best part of the novel was the quirky characters Michael employs in his limo service. Two are wounded veterans, one is his Afghan interpreter. The veterans are damaged, fighting their demons, but they are all supportive of each other and willing to sacrifice their lives, if necessary, to save each other.

I recommend this book if you enjoy fast paced action and interesting characters.

I received this book from Dutton for this review.  

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

An Ex-Con and a Pastor Find Love

Shay has just been released from prison for embezzling from the bank she worked for. The victim of an abusive father, a mother who died young, and a manipulative brother, Shay hasn’t had much of a chance. She pulled away from a relationship with Shooter, a drug dealer, but when her brother owed money to Shooter and others, she felt she needed to get the money for him and took it from the bank.

Feeling that she’s lost her chance at a good life, Shay is lonely and depressed when she gets off the bus from prison. It’s freezing and there’s a church in front of her. She enters to get warm, and it changes her life.

Drew Douglas, pastor of the church, feels that he is losing his faith after his wife’s death. He’s praying when Shay walks in. Meeting her, he wants to help and by helping gives them both a chance at a more fulfilling life.

This is a Christian romance. The emotion between Drew and Shay is powerful, but all at the level of propriety, no bedroom scenes. Shay has a hard time giving up her defensive attitude to accept help and friendship from others. I found this the most realistic part of the book.

As usual in a romance, the course of love doesn’t run smooth. In this case, it’s due to Shooter and Shay’s brother reappearing in her life, as well as her prison past coming back to haunt her. I enjoyed the book. Some of it seemed too good to be true. However, it was an enjoyable, quick read.

If you like Christian romance, Debbie Macomber is always a good choice.

I received this book from Penguin Random House / Ballantine Bantam Dell for this review.  

Monday, July 31, 2017

Maggie Hope in Occupied Paris During WWII

With the help of the Queen, Maggie Hope is back in occupied Paris. Her half-sister, Elise, escaped from the Gestapo. Maggie wants to find her and bring her back to England, but does Elise want to be rescued? Maggie is also hoping to contact SOE agent Erica Calvert. She has been captured and her research, vital to the Normandy invasion is missing.

SOE agents, Hugh and Sarah, Maggie’s friends, are also in Paris working undercover as entertainers and sending information vital to the invasion back to England. The whole enterprise is threatened by the existence of a double agent. Maggie must discover this agent before the invasion plans are leaked to the Germans.

Suspense is the keynote of this Maggie Hope novel. The streets of Paris are eerily silent except for the Nazi’s Mercedes creeping along. She is working undercover, but any false step could land her in the hands of the Gestapo. Maggie is an excellent character, some of her feats seem almost superhuman, but she’s also vulnerable and recognizes the danger to herself and her friends in occupied Paris.

The historical detail in these novels is well researched, but the author doesn’t let the history get in the way of a suspenseful story. The somber atmosphere makes the story particularly nail-biting. In fact, this story is almost too hard to read at points. I cared about the characters and hated it when they were captured and tortured by the Gestapo.

If you enjoy historical suspense with a great female character, this is a terrific book.

I received this book from Random House / Ballantine Bantam Dell for this review.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

One Hundred Years Apart Two Women Find Temptations in the Dakota

Sara Smythe, illegitimate daughter of an earl, finds in Theodore Camden’s offer to be managerette of the Dakota, the fabulous apartment he designed in New York City, the chance to make something of herself. The temptation to see more of Theo and experience gilded age society even at a distance is hard to resist.

Bailey Camden, fresh out of rehab, has tasted the riches of New York too exuberantly. Now the ex-party girl and interior designer is homeless, out of work, and out of resources. Bailey is not related to Theo. However, her grandfather was Theo’s ward. Bailey grew up with her “cousin” Melinda. Now Melinda is her only hope to get her life back together.

Melinda hires Bailey to oversee the renovation of the Camden apartment in the Dakota. Although Bailey doesn’t like Melinda’s ideas, which destroy much of the historical detail in the apartment, she has no choice but to help if she wants a roof over her head.

Bailey meets Renvo, the building manager, who shares her interest in preserving the historical detail of the old building. In the storeroom where he keeps all the moldings and furniture no one wants in their modern apartment, Bailey discovers Sara Smythe’s belongings and unravels the secrets of her family.

The gilded age in New York is beautifully depicted in the novel. The changes that take place over the hundred years make a vivid contrast between the modern Dakota and the original building. The descriptions are compelling,
so much so that the Dakota becomes a character in the novel.

This is another novel, of which there are a number lately, told from the point of view of two characters separated by many years. Usually, I find one or the other character more interesting, but in this case, I was captivated by both Sara and Bailey. They are strong, independent women who experience difficult trials and are not beaten by them.

If you enjoy a novel with a complex plot and rich historical detail, you’ll enjoy this book.

I received this book from Dutton for this review.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Dark Secrets, A Romantic Tangle, and Regrets Haunt a Small Village

Duneen is a quiet village, but beneath the surface resentment, fear, and sorrow flourish. Sergeant PJ Collins is the guard in the village. He’s overweight, clumsy, and afraid that he will never be a real policeman capable of solving big crimes. His chance comes with old bones are discovered in the field of one of the farms.

The villagers are sure the bones belong to Tommy Burke. He owned the farm and was engaged to be married to Brid. However, another women, Evelyn Ross, one of the tragic Ross sisters, was in love with him. Neither of the women have gotten over the fact that he just disappeared.

Detective Superintendent Linus Dunne from Cork is assigned to the case. PJ resents being given the lesser role. This is his community. He continues the investigation even though Dunne doesn’t think much will come of it. However, it’s PJ investigation that brings the case to a head exposing resentments and secrets going back twenty-five years.

The is not a fast paced thriller. The book starts slowly with history of the village and the families living there who will play a role in the drama. I found it interesting at first, but I thought it went on too long.

The mystery is not hard to unravel. However, the main point of the book is the development of the characters. PJ, Evelyn, and Brid all have to face their demons as the events from the past are revealed.

The description of the village draws you into the world of secrets and regrets. The close-minded, judgmental villagers are well portrayed. It’s the way the scene is woven into the action that makes this novel interesting.

If you enjoy a mystery with historical background and good character development, you may enjoy this book.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.

A Sojourn in Italy as a Spy for the Queen

Georgiana Rannoch is eager to marry Darcy, but being in line to the British throne, if only thirty-fifth, she must have permission to renounce her claim so the marriage can proceed. With Darcy off on another mission, Georgiana is not sure how to accomplish this. She also wants to help her friend, Belinda, who is in Italy expecting a baby.

Unexpectedly, the queen comes to her rescue. The Prince of Wales and Mrs. Simpson are attending a house party in Italy not far from where Belinda is staying. Worried that Mrs. Simpson may have obtained her divorce and push the Prince to marry her, the queen wants a spy at the party. Georgiana is a school friend of the hostess so being invited to the party is easy, and in return, the queen will push to get Georgiana permission to marry Darcy.

The house party starts well, but Georgiana’s mother arrives, the house is filled with Nazi sympathizers, and one of the guests is murdered. With so much happening, the party becomes dangerous for Georgiana who is only eager to help Belinda.

I enjoyed this book. Georgiana is a delightful character. She does make rather clumsy moves, but it all works in the end. I keep hoping she and Darcy will eventually get together. It seems quite cruel to have so many obstacles in their path to matrimony.

The plot is clever and full of twists. It is fairly easy to guess the culprit, but it’s not obvious until near the end. The setting in an Italian villa on a beautiful lake is well done. It’s a place I’d love to visit, and the period details are correct.

I highly recommend this book if you enjoy historical suspense.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Food as Comfort, Social Status, or a Weapon

Laura Shapiro looks at six women and how what they ate, or didn’t eat, shaped their lives and the lives of those around them. She begins with Dorothy Wordsworth. While she was the caretaker and companion of her brother, her meals were nutritious. When she slid in to dementia after having been displaced by his wife as the main female in Wordsworth's life, she ate constantly.

Rosa Lewis rose from being a servant to becoming the foremost chef of her age. Her ticket to high society was food. Eva Braun, was more into champagne than nutritious food. Although Hitler was a vegetarian, he binged on champagne and sugar.

Eleanor Roosevelt used food as a weapon. Angered by her husband’s affair with Lucy Mercer, she served some of the worst meals ever encountered in the White House. Barbara Pym’s novels are filled with the type of food nice English ladies served to their clerics. People may think the food was bland, but Pym presents it as a good background to the society of the day.

Helen Gurley brown appreciated food, only as it related to the man in her life. I suspect that could be said for the other women, but Brown indulged her man while being practically anorexic herself.

This is a fascinating book. I hadn’t realized how much we can learn about people, not only women, from how they approach food. The book doesn’t psychoanalyze these women, but some themes are evident such as Eleanor Roosevelt using food as pay back. I highly recommend this book if you’re interested in how women express themselves through food.

I received this book from Viking Penguin for this review.  

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Fighting in Burma During WWII

Captain Con Reynolds leads a small group of special operations forces in Burma. They’re behind enemy lines, cut off from the main troops. They’re joined by Kachin troops, native to Burma, and are in contact with the British.

This war story is based on the experience of the author during WWII. The action is filled with details that only someone who experienced the war on the ground would notice and include in the narrative. If you enjoy war stories, this is an excellent one.

The book, however, is more than an action adventure. The characters are in many ways the focus of the story. Con Reynolds, the main character, grows in experience and understanding as he leads his men in a difficult situation. He also searches for love with Carla. However, the romance is perhaps the weakest part of the story.

The character I liked best was Nautauung, an old Kachin fighter. He provides the seasoning of experience for the young fighters.

Since the book was originally published in 1957, the writing is looser than we expect to see in books today. The author has a penchant for adverbs that can become wearing. However, it doesn’t detract in a major way from the action or the character development.

I highly recommend this book if you want to learn more about the war in Burma, or just like war stories.

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

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Hacker and the FBI Agent

Hannah Whelan wants justice. A tragedy deprived her of her father and her sister is now incapacitated. She’s a tech genius and the way she decides to get revenge is by hacking into the companies she thinks are responsible for the hurt in her life. Her hacking moniker is Freedom Overdrive.

Mason Kohler is an FBI agent. He’s experienced and has a reputation for solving cases. After his brother’s death, he needs a fresh start. Unfortunately, he gets stuck with an assignment to bring down the hacker, Freedom Overdrive.

Hannah makes it her business to meet Mason. It’s absurdly easy. She bumps into him in the coffee shop line. Soon they’re involved. She’s using him, but she’s also falling for him.

The plot is innovative, the hacker and the FBI agent in a romance. However, with these characters, it just didn’t work for me. Hannah is a smart hacker, and she’s using Mason to get information. He’s supposed to be a super agent, but he doesn’t see what she’s doing, and it’s so obvious it’s embarrassing.

I didn’t think the characters were realistic. Hannah comes across as very hard boiled. She thinks she has a mission and that excuses what she does. On the other hand, Mason seems overly feminine. He cries and blushes. I think it’s nice to have a sensitive hero, but Mason overdoes it.

This isn’t the best romance I’ve read, nor is it the worst. If you are intrigued by the hacker aspect, you may enjoy the book, but beware of the cliff-hanger ending. Unless you love the characters and are panting to learn more, the loose ends can be very off-putting.

I received this book from Loveswept for this review.

Save Your Project from a Poorly Conceived Plan

Red teaming isn’t perfect, but used well it can save your project. The military, as Hoffman points out in the introduction, has a long history of using red teams. Recently their training program has been formalized. Hoffman was lucky to be allowed to attend a session to use the experience to bring red teaming to industry.

In addition to recounting the history of red teaming, Hoffman shares his experience in the military training course. This part of the book is filled with interesting anecdotes showing how red teaming, primarily in the military, has been used to save a planned troop exercise, or actual war situation.

In the second part of the book, Hoffman describes the tools used by the red team to facilitate critical thinking, come up with creative solutions, and stress the assumptions of the project to assure that all bases have been covered. He also describes the type of individuals best suited to read teaming. These need to be sharp people, good at critical thinking who are not easily cowed by upper management.

I loved the book. Having been involved in extensive projects in industry, I can see how valuable this type of exercise can be in relooking a proposed plan or project. Too often, the planners get so involved in how to make the plan work that they narrow their focus and miss the ways the plan or project can fail.

I highly recommend this book, if you’re responsible for developing a plan in a large corporation, or if you own a business and want to assure the success of your plans for the future. It’s important to realize that some of the techniques don’t require large expenditures to be successful. Anyone can do it and with practice can become good at it.

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

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A Lush Tale of the Occult, Art, and Love

Delphine Duplessi has a rare talent. Dating from the time as a child when she lost her sight, she is able to create shadow portraits. Drawing blindfolded, Delphine creates not the person’s face, but the secrets hiding behind the mask. In the world of Paris and New York after WWI, she becomes a celebrity. People are looking to the future, wanting amusement to forget the horrors of war.

After a devastating experience in New York where tragically a man dies, she returns to her native Cannes. Unable to paint she tries to recover from the horror of her New York experience and come to terms with the reason she left Paris five years ago.

Delphine has an unusual heritage. She is descended from LaLune, the artist who sold her soul to reclaim her dead lover. Now her female descendants are cursed being able to love only one man. Delphine finds that man in Mathieu, a bookbinder she falls in love with in Paris. Trying to help Mathieu escape his demons, she draws him, but sees herself as the instrument of his destruction, so she flees.

Now that she’s back in France, her twin, Sebastian, wants her to return to painting the lucrative portraits that make his gallery special. Delphine tries to avoid returning to the shadow portraits, but finally agrees to paint a chateau where an occult classic, the Book of Abraham, is supposedly hidden.

The descriptions in this book, from the glorious drawing rooms of Paris and New York, to the lovely countryside of southern France, are full of colors and beautiful shapes. It’s almost like reading a painting.

If you are interested in the occult, the author uses the background of the Cathars, and Delphine’s own family history to weave a spell around the story. The plot is complex full of twists and unusual, sometimes famous, characters. The time after WWI was when Picasso, the Fitzgeralds, and other celebrities were spending the summer in the south of France.

I enjoyed the characters. Mathieu is particularly delightful. Delphine is a well drawn character, but by the end of the book I was tired of hearing how she was protecting everyone, not realizing her own part in the reality of her interactions. Sebastian is a hard character to judge. I didn’t realize until the very end why I felt ambivalent about him.

I highly recommend this book if you love romance and beautiful descriptions.

I received this book from Atria for this review.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A Tough Female PI with a Past

Sunday Night, ex -military and ex-police, has become a recluse living alone on an island off the coast of South Carolina. Injured in an incident that left her blind in one eye, she opted to leave the police force rather than ride a desk. Although she doesn’t want to get involved in investigations again, Beau, her foster father, brings her a case she can’t easily resist.

Opaline Drucker, a wealthy Charleston lady wants to hire her to find her granddaughter, Stella. Stella’s mother and brother were killed when a bomb blew up a Jewish school they were touring. Stella has been missing for over a year. The police have given up hope she’s alive, but Opaline thinks differently and is willing to pay very well to find her granddaughter.

Two Nights is a major departure from Reichs’s previous books featuring Temperance Brennan. This book is much more a gritty PI novel. There’s plenty of violence. The plot is clever and moves quickly. However, I did feel that Reichs wasn’t playing fair to keep Sunday’s background hidden until the very end. For me, knowing the background would have made the story more believable.

I had trouble warming up to Sunday. She’s hard-bitten and standoffish using quips to distance herself from people in conversation. It was amusing in the early chapters, but became wearing. He brother, Gus, is also featured in the story. He is a much easier character to get in touch with.

If you like PI novels with a tough heroine, this is a good book. I think if I hadn’t had the experience of loving Reichs’ previous novels, I would have felt more comfortable with this one. It’s a good read. I recommend it for a summer weekend.

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

Saturday, July 8, 2017

A Parrot Brings a Family Together

Thirty years ago, Millie walked out on her sons, Grinder and Lucas. Now she’s dead and her friend Janice wants them to come and deal with her effects. The brothers aren’t quite sure what effects they’ll have to deal with, but they are truly surprised to realize that one of them is an African Gray parrot named Paul.

Paul is in the throes of grief having lost his beloved Millie. They’re not quite sure how to deal with Paul, but as they listen to his sayings, they begin to heal from the past. Their lives change and they find they can experience forgiveness and redemption.

The book touches on a difficult situation, a mother who abandons her children. While not hilariously funny, the author is able to use humor to tell the story without having it become tragic or maudlin. Grinder and Lucas are good characters. Their give and take is realistic for two brothers that work together and have experienced the vicissitudes of growing up in a ruptured family. The parrot, Paul, is the best character. You can’t help but love him.

This is a worthwhile book to read. It’s a very human story of brothers coping with and forgiving an absent mother.

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

Friday, July 7, 2017

Useful Information for Planning or Managing Your Career

Whether you’re a new graduate, or someone who’s looking to advance your career, this book is packed with valuable information. The book covers what you want in a job (Part One), how to find a new job (Part Two), and skills for succeeding in your new job (Part Three).

None of the information is unique to this book, but the approach to job hunting and more important succeeding in your new job is well thought out. Many people have a vague, or not so vague, idea of what they’d like to do. Less frequently, job hunters have thought out what they value in a workplace environment. This book provides checklists and questionnaires to help you identify your values. If you want flexible hours, as opposed to being constantly on call, the requirements of your position will be a major factor in how happy and successful you are in your new job.

Although sections one and two are valuable and filled with tips for interviews and how to network, I found section three the most interesting. Too many people don’t think about how to succeed after they land the dream job. People skills are a major factor in success. Some people may be born with them, but anyone can learn them. If you’re already in a job and perhaps unsatisfied, I recommend reading section three and trying to hone your skills before looking to move on.

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

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Lives of Two Young Women Writers Intertwine at a Writing Desk

Tenley Roth, daughter and great-great-granddaughter of acclaimed novelists, has received a national award for her first novel. She’s under contract for her second novel, but a severe case of writer’s block has her incapacitated. When her estranged mother, Blanch, begs her to come to Florida to help with her chemo treatments, Tenley agrees. Her fiance doesn’t want her to go and races off to Paris to attend a screenwriter’s symposium. In Florida, she meets Jonas, a furniture designer with a large raucous family. An only child growing up without a mother, she is drawn to Jonas and his family, but she’s still engaged, sort of.

In the early 1900’s another fledgling writer is having difficulty. Birdie Shehorn is the daughter of a Gilded Age millionaire. She’s expected to marry well and carry on the family’s social position that her mother has fought for. Birdie cares nothing for society, doesn’t want to marry the man chosen for her, and is in love with an impoverished English earl.

The two women a century apart write at the same desk. It becomes a symbol for both of them of the ability to create. The writing desk has moved from New York, to Florida, but still it inspires these women.

The Christian fiction in this book is very apparent. Both young women pray for what they desire and feel an inner voice telling them to not be afraid. The story is told in alternating chapters about Tenley and Birdie. While both stories are interesting, I found Birdie’s story more compelling. She is a strong woman caught in the trap of her family’s ambitions and in the early 1900s it was almost impossible to escape.

I recommend this book if you enjoy historical romance and Christian fiction.

I received this book from Booklook Bloggers for this review.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Murder and Corruption in Hawaii

Pono Hawkins, ex Special Forces, loves surfing. While resting on the beach, he sees the body of Sylvia Gordon, a beautiful reporter, floating on the waves. He pulls her in and immediately feels a strong attachment to the dead woman. Although, he prefers to distance himself from the police, he has a strong need to find the woman’s killer.

The police first call Sylvia’s death murder, but almost immediately change it to accident. Pono isn’t buying it. He knows she was murdered. The search for her killer involves him in government corruption and dishonest industry. Soon Pono finds himself the hunted rather than the hunter.

The best part of the book is the beautiful description of Hawaii. You can tell the author loves the island. The plot is intricate. Unfortunately, the mystery drags due to the insertion of the author’s political commentary on the corruption in Hawaii, and government in general.

Pono is almost a superhero with his feats of endurance, strength. I found it hard to get interested in him. The characters I enjoyed most were Mojo his surfing dog, and Puma
, his cat. The other characters were pretty much stock police officers and tough ladies.

If you love Hawaii, you may enjoy this book. However, be prepared for the action to be derailed by lots of political commentary.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.   

Thursday, June 29, 2017

A High Stakes Political Thriller

When Max Burns leaves his university teaching position to take a job with his future father-in-law, he thinks his future is secure. Suddenly, he’s offered the chance of a life time, designing the expansion of the Panama Canal. Max can’t pass up the opportunity. He leaves England, his new job, and his finacé to go to Panama.

Multiple countries are bidding on the project, UK, US, Germany, and Japan. The teams are surprised that China isn’t bidding. China’s absence leads to speculation that they are planning to disrupt the project. Max puts together a brilliant design working with his old school friend, Godfredo, and his father’s construction company. When the bids are submitted, Max is stunned to learn that they’re the low bidder. He doesn’t believe they can do the project for that amount. What if they win?

Max is a brilliant scientist and a good person. You can’t help, but like him and hope he succeeds against the odds. Godfredo is a likable con artist. He’s completely under his father’s thumb, but he has good instincts and in a crunch doesn’t want to let Max down. Max has a girl friend, Karis Deen, an American working for the Smithsonian in Panama. She is a tough lady, but not as fleshed out as Max and Godfredo.

The book is unique in the thriller genre. There is a murder, but there’s very little violence and the sex takes place off stage. I enjoyed that, but if you’re looking for sex and violence, you’ll be disappointed. The book has a slow start. The author goes deep into backstory for Max and Godfredo, and the political situation. The action doesn’t start until very late in the book. If you don’t mind wading through Max’s early life and the political background, it’s a good read.

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

A Dark Police Procedural

In the 1990s, the Prophet, a vicious serial killer, terrorized San Francisco and gave Caitlin Hendrix nightmares. Her father, the lead investigator, was nearly driven mad and his career destroyed by the taunting cryptic messages and lack of success in the catching the killer.

Now Caitlin is a Narcotics detective. She’s a relatively inexperienced detective, having only been at the job for six months, but when a new series of killings reminiscent of the Prophet’s begin, she’s tapped to work the case. Her father warns her against becoming involved, but Caitlin feels drawn to catch the brutal murderer.

Caitlin fears what working the case will do to her. She watched her father’s disintegration, but she equally feels drawn to stop the killing. Luckily she is supported by her boyfriend, Sean. He helps her keep a grip on reality.

The story is based on the Zodiac killing that terrorized San Francisco and the details are realistic. Caitlin is a smart lady who tamps down her fears to catch a killer. Sean is a good male character. He supports Caitlin without trying to keep her from doing what she feels she must do.

I recommend this book if you enjoy gritty, often gruesome, police procedurals. The pace is fast, the mystery is complex, and the writing is good.

I received this book from Dutton for this review.

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.