Tuesday, April 25, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.

Juliet Solves Not One But Two Mysteries

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

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

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

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

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

I received this book from Alibi for this review.  

Friday, April 21, 2017

Gambelli Investigates the Murder of the Prosecutor’s Mistress

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

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

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

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

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

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Genetic Engineering and Human Trafficking Converge in this Thriller

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

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

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

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

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

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

I received this book from Penguin for this review.  

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

I received this book from Net Gallety
for this review.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A Firefighter Tamed by Love

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

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

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

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

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

I received this book from Loveswept for this review.

A Young Man Dies in an Immigration Retention Center

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

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

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

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

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

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.

Secret Codes Embedded in the Hebrew Old Testament

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 3, 2017

Can Life Be Better than Completely Fine?

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

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

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

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

I received this book from Penguin for this review.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Finding Your Way Home

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

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

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

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

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

I received this book from Net Galley for this review.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

What it Takes to Become a Sommelier

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

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

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

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

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

I received this book from Penguin Group for this review.   

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Escaping a Domineering Mother to Find Love

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

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

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

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

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

A Murderous Romp Through Scotland’s Whiskey Business

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

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

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

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

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

I received this book from Alibi for this review.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Relating Biblical Prophecy to Today’s Headlines

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

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

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

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

I received this book from Booklook Bloggers for this review.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Yummy Mystery at a Seaside Resort

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

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

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

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

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

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

I received this book from Alibi for this review.  

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Two Rescue Dogs Come to the Aid of Their Owners

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Talented Rook Helps Solve a Murder

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

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

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

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

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

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

I received this gook from Alibi for this review.  

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Coming of Age in South Korea in the 70’s

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

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

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

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

I received this book from Random House for this review.

Devastating Crime Against a Mentally Challenged Young Woman

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

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

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

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

I received this book from Kensington Books for this review.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Inside a Commune through a Child’s Eyes

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

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

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

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

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

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

I received this book from Penguin for this review.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Confronting the Illegal Ivory Trade

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

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

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

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

I received this book from Random House for this review.  

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Eat Right for Great Skin

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Riveting Story Exposes Abuses in the Fashion Industry

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

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

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

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

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

I received this book from Booklook Bloggers for this review.  

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

A Dog Witnesses the Last Days of the Messiah

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, February 2, 2017

A Family Struggles to Recover from Tragedy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

A Detective and a Forensic Investigator Held Together by a Secret

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Time Travel Gone Wrong

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

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

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

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

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

I received this book from Penguin for this review.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Bourbon and the Potter Field Christ

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

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

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

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

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

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

I received this book from Harper Collins for this review.

Monday, January 16, 2017

A Hard-Boiled Thriller Writer Finds God

Andrew Klavan is best know for his hard-boiled, gripping crime fiction and the movies made from it like True Crime and Don’t Say a Word. However, there is another aspect to Klavan. Born a Jew in the wealthy suburb of Great Neck, he was a constant seeker of truth.

As a child, he retreated into his stories to the exclusion of the real world, at least partly due to the fraught relationship with his father. Klavan first became interested in Christianity when he realized that the stories he loved including the crime fiction of Chandler had a basis in Christianity. It didn’t lead him to a conversion immediately, but the search for truth was there even in his most desperate, suicidal moments.

I enjoyed this book. Klavan is an excellent writer. He brings you into his world and takes you through all the difficult times and good times that led him to finally accept Christ and be baptized. If you’re a writer, or an aspiring writer, the description of his search to learn his craft is enlightening. He hated school and believed that experience was the road to becoming a writer. Eventually, he did go back to school and earn a degree at Berkley. It was there that he started reading great literature and his search for truth really began.

I recommend this book. Although his search led him from agnostic Judaism to Christianity, the story is really about the search for truth. It’s beautifully written, and the story of his life gives insight into not only becoming a Christian, but becoming a writer.

I received this book from BookLook Bloggers for this review.   

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Conan Doyle, Houdini, and the Unmasking of a Medium

In the 1920s following WWI and the influenza epidemic, many people were anxious to communicate with dead relatives. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, was one of these people. He lost his son in the war and was convinced that he could communicate with him through a medium.

Conan Doyle became friends with Houdini. Both were interested in Spiritualism, but Houdini, the great illusionist, was skeptical of the claims of most mediums. After Conan Doyle’s visit to the US where he lectured on Spiritualism, the Scientific American became interested. They proposed a contest to find whether mediums could do what they advertised.

Conan Doyle and Houdini were judges. Conan Doyle was a believer, but Houdini was skeptical. The only medium who seemed to be genuine was Mina Crandon, known as Margery. Conan Doyle believed in her completely, but Houdini was not convinced. It became a contest between the medium and the illusionist.

If you’re interested in Spiritualism in the 1920s, this is a great book. The author gives an in-depth picture of what people believed and why the belief was so prevalent. I enjoyed the historical picture, but found the book very slow starting. We got a long biography of Houdini and likewise a picture of Conan Doyle after the war.

For me the action starts after the midpoint of the book when the contest takes place. The early history is useful because it gives context for why Houdini and Conan Doyle believed what they did. However, you have to stick to some rather boring chapters to get to the contest and discover the outcome.

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

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Good Advice for Finishing Your Writing Project

29995904There are as many reasons as writers for why a project that starts with enthusiasm dwindles to a pile of paper shoved into the back of a desk drawer, or some other hiding place. The authors have grouped the excuses we use to ourselves into six categories: shame, doubt, arrogance, yearning, fear, and judgement. The authors have been afflicted with these emotional pitfalls and write knowledgeably about what they are and how to over come them.

The core suggestion in this book is having a writing buddy. This is not someone who critiques your work, but rather someone to whom you tell your goals for accomplishing the writing tasks you’ve set for yourself. Having another non-judgmental person with whom you share your accomplishments helps you to keep on track.

Using a writing buddy instead of a critique group has several advantages. Critique groups often have judgmental members who reinforce your negative thoughts, like you have no talent and will never be a published writer. Since there is no competition between you and the writing buddy, at least there shouldn’t be, you can be free to share your aspirations and keep slogging away at your project.

This program has helped numerous people complete writing projects. If you’re having trouble getting back to the novel, play, dissertation, or other project, it’s worthwhile to think of giving this a try.

I received this book from Penguin Group for this review.  

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Taskforce Uncovers a Multi-point Terrorist Attack Designed to Cripple America

The Panama Papers have several people very concerned. Dexter Worthington used one of the accounts fifteen years ago to bribe a Saudi business man. Now a successful defense contractor, he fears exposure. The Taskforce is also concerned. They too have accounts that might show up in the Panama Papers.

Pike Logan and Jennifer Cahill are assigned to interdict the leak and control the damage. Since the assignment sends them to the Bahamas, this seems like a plum assignment and maybe time for a vacation in the sun. Once in the Bahamas, Pike and Jennifer find things that seem more complicated than a simple case of leaked information.

In fact, the Saudis have been using some of the accounts to fund terrorism around the world and the next attack is soon to take place. Called Ring of Fire, the attack is designed to disrupt shipping in the biggest ports in the US. Acting with little information, Pike and Jennifer start pulling the threads they have in an effort to avert disaster.

The is a typical Pike Logan fast paced thriller. The plot is complicated since several groups of terrorist are involved and acting independently. If you like action, this is a great read.

The characters are typical action heroes. Pike reminds me more of a superhero than a Taskforce investigator. Jennifer is a great character. She doesn’t take crap from Pike and holds her own in the action arena.

I particularly like the realistic background information: Saudis funding terror, the use of drones as killing machines, and Mossack Fonseca, the law firm that created the Panama Papers. If you like fast paced action, you’ll enjoy this book.

I received this book from Dutton for this review.  

Ghosts, Murder, and a Dive Gone Wrong

Mer Cavallo, marine biologist, takes a job as a divemaster while waiting for her dream job in the Antarctic. When she rescues a diver in distress who insists that he’s seem a ghost on the site of the sunken USS Spiegel Grove, the rescue sparks interest in looking for ghosts at the site.

A team specializing in tracking ghosts on ship wrecks charters the Lunasea, the boat Mer works on. They want to search for ghosts and do it at night. The tension among the team members is palpable since it includes both the ex-wife and the fiancée of the team leader, Ishmael.

Against her wishes, Mer is the divemaster on the night cruise. When they reach the site, Mer, Ishmael, and Amber, his fiancée, go down, but only Amber and Mer come back. Now the police are involved and Detective Talbot seems to think Ishmael has been murdered, and Mer is responsible.

I like the characters in this book. Mer is the complete scientist trying to understand what happened in a logical way, looking for facts. My favorite character was Leroy, captain of the Lunasea. His sage advice is given with just the right amount of salty dialog.

The setting in the Florida Keys is realistic. This is a great book to read when you’re freezing in the winter snow of the North. Although I know nothing about diving, the scenes seem technically accurate. The danger underwater keeps you on the edge of your seat.

If you enjoy mysteries with good characters, interesting plot, and ghosts. You’ll enjoy this book.

I received this book from Alibi for this review.

An Abortion Survivor Tells Her Story

Melissa Ohden was a teenager when she discovered that she was the survivor of a botched abortion. She was one of the lucky ones. Adopted by a caring family, she lived a normal life and grew to her teenage years feeling loved. Even with her family’s support it was wrenching to find out that her birth mother tried to kill her.

After going through a difficult adjustment, Melissa decided to try to find her birth parents. She wanted to know more about where she came from. Her quest could have turned into a nasty scene of recrimination when she met her birth mother’s family, but Melissa had grown beyond that. She was lucky to be alive, had a good childhood, and now a loving husband. Although it wasn’t easy, she wanted was to learn about her birth mother and forgive her.

This is not an easy story to read because it is emotionally gripping. She’s honest about the trauma of learning about the abortion and the self-destructive behavior she engaged in trying to come to terms with what she learned. The abortion haunted her making her feel like a mistake.

Abortion is a major life decision that affects families, the birth mother, and in this case the child who survived. I highly recommend this book. If you are concerned about abortion, or know someone who is thinking of having one, it’s something to consider. Early abortions don’t carry the same of risk of having a child who survives, but they can still be traumatic for the mother. Melissa Ohden has done a good job telling her story. I hope it helps others dealing with the decision about abortion.

I received this book from Handlebar for this review.  

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Detective D.D. Warren Teams with Quince and Connor to Solve a Cold Case

Detective D.D. Warren is working a cold case. Ten years ago, Jaylin Banks was strangled in a stairwell of the campus library. She wasn’t sexually assaulted and the three men who were in the library at the time, her boyfriend and two security guards, have alibis. D.D. enlists the help of profiler Pierre Quincy and his wife, Rainie Connor, a former police officer, to help question the suspects.

The suspects are interviewed, but no new information is elicited until D.D. begins to wonder if there was a 4th man. This line of thinking leads to some new evidence and the case takes shape. 

Although a short story, about 40 pager, this is a full D.D. Warren detective story. The questioning of suspects by Pierre and Raine is well done. It keeps you guessing about who is telling the truth and whether they will be able to identify the killer.

I love Lisa Gardner’s mysteries. The characters are well drawn and even in a story as short as this one, there are twists that keep you guessing. If you’re a Lisa Gardner fan, don’t miss this one. If you’re new to her novels, this is a good place to start.

I received this book from Dutton for this review.  

Monday, January 2, 2017

An Attractive Bible for Girls (or Anyone)

The first thing I noticed about this Bible is the attractive cover. It does look like a journal. The background color is turquoise with a snowflake type design in gold, white and bright pink. The turquoise ribbon marker carries through the theme. The Bible is held closed with a bright pink elastic strap.

The pages are bright white with inch-and-a-half lined margins for journaling, or just jotting notes. The pages, like most Bibles are very thin and the print is small, but quite readable. The attractiveness of the Bible entices you to read and think about what you’re reading.

There is a table of contents listing the books of the Bible and a second one listing them in alphabetic order. The only additional material is a table of Weights and Measures at the end and a preface at the beginning. The preface is fairly standard for an NIV Bibles
discussing the translation philosophy.

Although this Bible is marketed with an eye toward teen-age girls, it is appropriate for any age. There are other NIV Bibles for journaling, Crossway has one, but the cover art makes this one special.

I highly recommend this Bible if you’re looking for a gift for a young girl, but it would make a wonderful gift for anyone.

I received this book from Handlebar for this review.