Saturday, January 29, 2011

Drive Time by Hank Phillippi Ryan

Published by Mira Books

This is Book 4 of the Charlotte McNalley Novel series, and as such, the main characters come to us fully formed with personalities intact. Unfortunately for me, this is the first I've read. Author Hank Phillippi Ryan knows what she's about in the world of investigative reporting and television, and in the fictional world of Charlotte, better known as Charley McNalley, her experience comes through. The book, though a novel, rings true and the plot(s) are tight. An accident is witnessed by Charley and her crew which leads to the perfect story for them to blow the lid off a story just in time for ratings week, a deadly race to the deadline. But another story, full of secrets, and considered worthy of ratings week will almost spell the death of our intrepid heroine.

I really liked the plot line of the major investigation, it was well-thought out, driven hard, extremely plausible, and action packed. On the brink of her wedding, Charley and Josh are certainly not inseparable. She has suspects to keep tabs on, does surveillance with her crew at night, spending more and more time away from home. On top of that, she receives an opportunity of a lifetime, which will take her away even further. Will she make the right decisions in time to save her upcoming marriage and new family? Will Josh make the right decisions? Will their secrets tear them apart?

For those who have been following the series, there will be surprises in store. Characters will be leaving the series and new characters will arrive. Who will remain? Who will take up the offers of change and to further their careers? I love a book that keeps you wanting more. This is a series I want to explore from the beginning. Very well written, strong characterizations.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Houses, a Novel by Cynthia Rogers Parks

Reviewed for Review the Book
Publisher Leigh Walker Books

This simply titled book was a pleasant surprise to me. It is written as a memoir and I had to keep reminding myself that this is a novel, not Cynthia Rogers Park's memoir, although I'm sure there is a great deal of herself in the book. "Houses" is the memoir of Lacey Winter. It is also a snapshot of historic moments of the U.S. through the 1950s, 60's, 70's and on toward the millennium; the growth of changes after WWII, through the Viet Nam era, the deaths of President John F. Kennedy, Ted Kennedy, and Martin Luther King Jr. A time she measures by the houses she lived in.

Everyone has a method of recording the events in their lives. To me, it is generally the ages of my children, but after reading this memorable book, I find I identify with Lacey's memories of time, attached to which house she was living in. It seemed only right that she would eventually work in real estate. Lacey's story begins as a child living with her Grandmother and her younger sister with very rare visits from her father. Her mother died in an accident and he is "looking for a new mother". From this point on, Lacey seems to spend her life moving from house to house, sometimes it's a good thing, sometimes bad. Sometimes the houses are "happy" and sometimes they are not. All houses take on a personality that she tries to imprint herself on, but many times the houses imprint her. Sometimes she is upgrading, sometimes downgrading, according to her life and the turns of national economy.

In the real time period of this book, life sped up so fast, it was hard to know what would be thrown at you next. Segregation was still in effect, women were on the edge of being recognized, but these and wars, and yes, even the hippie movement all meant huge changes in the country. And for every change, another house, another hopeful start. I feel that the author has done a very good, tightly written novel of so many opposing factors, keeping the theme of houses commensurate with life. For many of us our home or lack of home, even shared home was our life. This would be a good book club read deserving discussion, as well as for individual readers who grew up in this era. I found the book to have a very intriguing style and a believable storyline. I liked the book very much. It covers a lot of ground and demonstrates a definite slice of life in the last half of the twentieth century, making it real.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Pirate Vortex: Elizabeth Latimer Pirate Hunter by Deborah Cannon

What a great YA novel! When I was in my teens many years ago, this is exactly the kind of book I'd have been drawn to. As a teenager? Not necessarily, I loved it as a long-in-the-tooth adult. I'm sure my grandchildren will love it, too.

Pirates, adventure, time travel, teen protagonists, what's not to love! Deborah Cannon, you have a wonderful knack of creating a great story with fact amongst your fiction. This book was completely up to date in the present time, and very well researched in the 18th century when pirates ruled the ocean highways and byways.

Elizabeth Latimer, Liz to friends, Lizabeth to younger sister Lulu (Lu), and Pirate Hunter on-line is the main protagonist. Their mother has disappeared while doing ocean archaeology in the Caribbean. Not just ocean archaeology, but searching for clues for her lost husband, following a pirate by the name of Jack Rackham, or Calico Jack. She feels her answers are related to him. She is searching in the 18th century. How did she get there you might well ask. Well, the reason is in the title. There is an anomaly which is much like a vortex/waterspout/whirlpool, and it is sitting right near mother Tess's salvage barge in Nassau. Between Tess and her sister Stephanie (Stevie), they have determined that this vortex shows up every so often, and not always in the same place, but is much like a wormhole.

When Tess disappears, it is suspected that she was caught in the vortex, and taken someplace else. It takes awhile, but it becomes certain that she is in Nassau in the 18th century. When the police are about to give up their search, Liz becomes adamant that she will go find her. She is a top fencer, and is joined by Wang, who was a student of Tess, Lu, who sneaks in along with C.J., their parrot, named for Calico Jack. CJ proves very helpful on the trip as at times he is able to communicate with Liz telepathically, and give her information and warnings. They are also joined by the mysterious Daniel. Nobody knows anything about him, where he is from or maybe what time he is from, but he is an expert swordsman and fencer too.

Liz goes into the vortex, wearing Lu's pocket PC in case connections can be made because Lu is a superb computer genius, and can find information they need very quickly. Fortunately the pocket PC works because Liz is in for a lot of dangerous and terrible conflicts in this century. A lot of realism worked into the plot, chases and risks. When Liz does find Tess, she learns that her mother does not intend to return through this vortex because she is certain she can find their father in this time. She forces Liz and her group to return through the vortex while there is still time, it will be closing within hours. What Liz has learned is that if something isn't restored from/to the 18th century, Tess, Liz, Lulu, and Stevie will cease to exist.

The excitement, feeling of adventure, pirating, time travel, remains through the book keeping the reader happy and wanting more. All agree it is imperative that they should be returned home quickly and may even be helpful in Tess's search. Where she will eventually surface is anyone's guess, all they know is that the vortex moves around and will one day return. I definitely feel the need to know more, just as Liz does. This book wraps you up in chapters and doesn't want to let you go. Fun and fascinating, illuminating, and just which man holds her heart? Wang or Daniel? Or will there be another tossed into the mix. Loved this book!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Crafty Killing: a Victoria Square Mystery by Lorraine Bartlett

Published by Berkley Prime Crime
Review based on Advanced Reading Copy

Lorraine Bartlett also writes as Lorna Barrett, accomplished creator of the very popular Booktown series. As Lorraine Bartlett she now has another great cozy series on its way with the new Victorian Square series. “A Crafty Killing” is the 1st in series. There are lots of quirky characters, many equally dedicated characters, and dead bodies are dropping fast. How could so much death suddenly become the main feature of the lowly Artisans Alley?

Katie Bonner is the heroine in this new series, thrust suddenly into the fray when she finds herself both the executor and the largest shareholder in the Alley. Her husband who had taken all their savings and bought a partnership in the Alley had left Katie high and dry in their plans to buy a large home at the edge of Victoria Square and run it as a Bed and Breakfast. Every cent was gone, and Katie had not yet forgiven him as he moved out of the apartment and into Artisans Alley, and subsequently was killed in a car accident, leaving her his share in the partnership

She is not impressed with the police involved in solving the murder. Several possibilities for the murderer, but how to sort them out? There are well-fleshed characters and many of them in this first book. Also a few possibilities for romance, but who to trust, that is the biggest question. Too many people are asking questions, not least of which is Gerald, Ezra's nephew and co-heir with Katie. But even he is lied to.

As always, Lorraine has dished up a great read and very busy plot, busy in that there are many switches in trust, more murders, lots of action aimed toward Katie, and many different personalities, not all of whom are pleased with Katie's ideas. Wonderfully descriptive, I can picture Victoria Square easily and with the Square on the verge of new awakening, a lot is on the line. There is much more than meets the eye (or ear) as rumors are flying, not to mention all the lies and deflections. What is it with that police officer? Katie would really like to know, but soon she is in jeopardy as more complications arise, and Katie herself has become a suspect and possibly the next victim.

I loved this book, a great start for the new year. Lots of guessing as we read along as to who is going to still be around in the next book; just how many murders are there? Are they all murders? Who makes the best villain? When we find out, it is a shock and complete surprise, at least to this reader. Of all the suitors or men appearing to be suitors, will any of them be around in the next book? What games are they all playing? Are any of them really who they seem? Well, we'll have to wait for the next book for some of these answers, but altogether a very exciting and enthusiastic start to this new series. I look forward to seeing these characters grow and new characters arrive. Contains recipes. I forecast another winner for Lorraine and her alter ego Lorna.

My earlier reviews for the first three Booktown series as Lorna Barrett:
Book 1: Murder is Binding
Book 2: Bookmarked for Death
Book 4. Chapter and Hearse
(I really must get and read Book 3!)

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Facts of Fishing: 135 Secrets Fish Don't Want You to Know by Dave Mercer with Terry Battisti

Reviewed for Harper Collins

This book is absolutely full of very helpful tips told with humour and common sense. I particularly was pleased to see the very first item mentioned was to always where a lifejacket. That put me in the mood right there, because fishermen, especially when those jackets were bulkier, do not always want to wear them.

Great descriptions with illustrations of the various knots with their names, reels and their purposes, line comparisons and when to use them, and much more. I began fishing when we were still using what I think was called cod line, cloth, pre-nylon. Some of the cloth line was lighter, which I usually used, winging it around and around above my head then letting go. We've come a very long way from that to high-tech line. I probably wouldn't have lost both handline and fish in Horseshoe Bay in the 1940s if we had what is available now. Pulled it right out of my hand. But enough about me (all fishermen have a story and it takes nothing for them to tell it, please excuse the interruption in my review).

Dave Mercer is well-known for his TV series and seminars. The book is very easy to read and to understand. It is also sized to pack in with your tackle or carry around with you when out shopping for your new equipment. There are tips for getting out of snags, undoing tangles, winterizing your seasonal equipment, and what not to do when lubricating your reel. I was particularly interested in Tip 39, Back Off Your Drags. This tip explains how your drag can seize up, why it can happen, and how to avoid it. I personally, besides what I mentioned before, have done mostly trolling and jigging, living on the ocean, but now living in lake country I've been interested in trying other methods, so the book has been particularly helpful to me.

Tip 125, Keep It Right, has information on keeping your line healthy. Heat and sunlight can weaken it. Aside from covering a lot of information, the author provides a few personal fish tales, plenty of great photos and there is a glossary in the back. One thing I wish had been covered was information on keeping and landing fish on barbless hooks. Barbed hooks are illegal here. That aside, I really enjoyed the book, learned a great deal, had a few laughs, said to myself "so that's why that happened", and can hardly wait to go fishing again now that I have some fresh insight! Great book, Dave, hope you do another, perhaps including barbless fishing and ice-fishing.

Cozy Fly Fishing Mystery series

Got a fisherman in your family? Like cozy mystery series? Here's a series that is different, Victoria Houston's Fly Fishing mysteries.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


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