Wednesday, September 19, 2012

East of Denver by Gregory Hill

Published by Dutton, member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

Many people will find this book relate to them in some way. Who hasn't lived with or known someone with dementia or alzheimer's and seen all sides of this insidious illness? The protagonist and sometimes narrator, Stacey "Shakespeare" Williams a.k.a. "Shakes," is on his way back from Denver to the old family farm and his father. A quirky cast of old high school friends come back into Shakes' life when he arrives too, both helping and hindering.

His father is living by himself and as Shakes will find out, no one is checking on him. Though he is remarkably able to fix almost anything and is very precise in engineering, he is likely to ask in the midst of putting together amazing pieces of equipment he invented in the past, "Why are we doing this?" Of course, recent memory is what goes first, the past is the present.

The book takes us through the humour and pathos of alzheimer’s...the brilliant flashes of recognition, the sad demise of the person you once knew. But as Gregory Hill demonstrates in this exceptional book, though occasionally crude yet more realistic because of it, he shows that there is still a person there, and we can still learn from him. Although the book is fiction, I feel that the adventure was real. Well, maybe not the airplane but it sure was fun. I identified with this book in so many ways, as I'm sure other readers will, too. Shakes has anosmia and describes it well. This hit a chord as I'm an anosmiac, too (read the book).

The ending is reminiscent of old slapstick movies like the Keystone Kops, or the Pink Panther, but satisfying in a way. Hilarious and gut-wrenching, very well-written story. Gregory Hill has taken to heart the old adage of "keep them guessing."

Monday, September 17, 2012

Contingency Plan by Lou Allin

Published by Raven Books, an imprint of Orca Book Publishers
Review based on Advance Reading Copy

Manipulation. No matter what type, it is all too prevalent. Lou Allin, in this fiction mystery, has described it well. This is a "Rapid Read" book, an entire novel condensed into a book you can read in a day. I've now read several and enjoy them when I have less time to read.

I thought the book had a bit of a slow but mesmerizing start which through its gradual build-up emphasized the terror to come. A chance meeting of a wonderfully considerate man after losing the love of her life, Sandra Sinclair finally agrees to going out with him. She wonders if young widows should allow themselves to love again, especially when a child is involved. This man is so incredibly courteous and interacts with her daughter well, too, including her sometimes when they go out, but is he what he seems? This book although fiction, gives a lot of pointers to watch for.

The tense build up to horror brings unsettling images to Sandra. Once she realizes what she has become, she fears for her daughter. A flight into terror follows to a sensational ending. I really got into the book as the tension built. Always have a contingency plan, it might save a life or two. A solid thriller well executed.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Alexis Tappendorf and the Search for Beale's Treasure by Becca C. Smith

Published by Red Frog Publishing

Well! Becca C. Smith certainly knows how to capture her reading audience. What a great ride! This Young Adult book is a real treat. Starting with Alexis' stormy feelings against her parents for going off to do "research" of an unknown nature and in an unknown location (to Alexis), she is determined to play the "abandoned" role to the hilt, especially spending the summer with Great Aunt Mae, who she has never met and lives on the opposite coast. As they drive from California to Virginia, she has plenty of time to stew about leaving her friends behind and having a horrible summer.

Once Alexis meets her Great Aunt Mae, as well as Olivia, a girl her own age, things look more promising. Little does she know the exciting adventure ahead of her. When Aunt Mae invites Olivia's family to come and live with her because of her father's serious heart condition, things really begin to look up. Already Alexis thinks of Olivia as a sister. Hearing the story of a hidden treasure, a pirate treasure at that, and a cipher keeping the secret unsolved,  the girls immediately start working on breaking the cipher to break the code and find the treasure.

In every town or mystery, there are always some bad apples, and in this town the baddest apple is the Mayor, supplemented in his quest for the treasure by his brother the Sheriff and using his son to spy on the girls. The kind of villain you love to hate. He is sure they have learned something he needs to know.

Alexis, working hard at the code, begins to think like her hero, Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot, who looks at things from a different angle, or as Alexis says, "...outside of the box." Between the girls and borrowing Poirot's methods, their perception changes and clues begin to fall in place.

Very well-written, this book would be great for any age, particularly over 10 I would think. Had I read this as a child I can easily see myself wanting to find a treasure! This is a book I would definitely enjoy as a young person, as much as I enjoyed reading it as a grandmother, especially when Aunt Mae turns out to be so much fun and completely undauntable. Great action, great mystery, and enough danger and adventure to satisfy any age. I highly recommend this YA book, and it looks like a series is planned. What fun!