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.