Friday, December 28, 2012

One Hot Murder - a Victoria Square Mystery by Lorraine Bartlett

A Berkley Prime Crime publication
Review based on Advance Reading Copy (ARC)

 Third in the Victoria Square Mystery Series, this book does not disappoint, in fact if anything, it surpasses with a mysterious fire and death in Artisans Alley. As Katie's mind races between one suspect and another, one victim and another, the reader is hard put to try and outguess the protagonist. With her keen sense of intuition, she needs to talk her ideas out with someone. What a time for Detective Davenport to retire! So many loose threads, but who is holding the winning one, the one with the right answers? Why did two men disappear at the same time, with one body left behind at Artisans Alley? Katie has two many suspects and too many victims. But Detective Davenport does not go lightly into the sunset but is actively hoping to solve this last case before his official retirement date and time. Who died in the Wood U fire?

Another thorn in Katie's side, she has once again seen her dreams of owning the Webster Mansion to a new buyer. Turning to Seth, her lawyer friend, she finds no answers but more questions, but on meeting the new owners, she finds that they have a lot of ideas similar to her own, and even better, she really likes them. But can she part with all her stored treasures she bought in anticipation of turning the house into the English Ivy Inn?

In this sizzling early summer heat, tempers flare, strange things are happening at the Alley, and the air conditioner is ill-equipped for both the extreme temperatures and the size of the building. Going home at the end of the day to her room over the pizza parlor is no better. Emotions run high, and dealing with Ida's frustrating personality has driven her to remove her from the Alley. A decision that will come back to haunt her.

Once more Lorraine Bartlett has given us a very hot mystery to keep us guessing. A large part of the charm of the Victoria Square Mystery Series is the camaraderie shared by so many mainstays in the series, and that charm continues. Well-written as always, introducing new characters and perhaps a new direction, this book will certainly keep our brain cells cooking! With Katie's mind going in so many directions, there are twists and turns galore. Recipes included.

White Heaven Women by Jessie B. Tyson

Published by Imajin Books
Review based on ebook

An intriguing find, this book is definitely using a ghost writer as you will soon see. What does a 101-year old woman, a blue light, Sally Witherspane's nightmares and a psychic have in common? Much more than one might think. Sally has long planned to write a novel, and now is her chance. Sitting at her computer, she finds herself typing the night away but can't remember doing so. Working at a columnist for the White Heaven Weekly, writing should be easy ... but not that easy!

Sally is terrorized by her nightmares of hideous red-eyed monsters and screaming women in old-fashioned clothing. What can it all mean? The sounds and smells are so real, and she is always in the dream. To put even more fear in her mind, a terrific storm rages outside sending lightning crashing into trees and to the ground leaving trails of smoke. Sally is terrified of storms and this one is a whopper.

As part of her job, she has been asked to cover a past-life meeting. The psychic she has met urges her to go to the meeting, too, and to pay special attention to a woman called Lillian Canterbury, who may be able to help her understand her dreams.

What follows is as fascinating story as ever I've heard. A story which begins in 1899 in another raging storm. This is the story of 101-year old Mrs. Beth Madeleine. How, you might wonder, does this woman's story relate to Sally in the year 2000? I think you will enjoy reading this book to find out. Fascinating, paranormal, and historical, this will become Sally's story, and the debut novel written by Jessie B. Tyson. Gripping, sad, delightful, suspenseful, paranormal and an eye-opener to life in the nobility of a different generation, it is bound to captivate. I enjoyed it completely.

Friday, December 21, 2012

A Cipher in the Sand by Sandra Bolton

An interesting and tense foray into a beautiful yet dangerous land in 1985. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. A middle aged woman, divorced, her children grown and gone, feels the need for change and purpose in her life. She joins the Peace Corp, much against the wishes of her children. She is assigned as a teacher and to improve education in a somewhat remote area of Honduras. Her first taste of excitement as the man she has been talking with in the airport, suddenly makes a run for it when the airport security come after him. Her next shock at the end of the flight when she learns they will be landing in the dark, the airport lit by headlights of cars lined up along the runway and men with flashlights guiding the plane to the terminal; the plane swoops down over the mountains onto a very short runway.

Once in Honduras, she quickly learns that she has no idea what she is in for. She finds the land and the people in the villages beautiful and relaxing, but darkness is on the horizon for her. After training, her assignment takes her to the coast and a small village. Fortunately, many people in this particular village speak English, but she has also learned Spanish so she is able to converse quite well with the villagers. To her consternation, a misfit in the newly trained Peace Corp recruits, a young girl, suddenly becomes her room-mate to work in the clinic as a nurse. These totally different personalities must find some common ground.

It does not take long for them to become targets of the Honduran military when they try to help the local villagers. In no time at all, they will be running for their lives. This book is well-written, in-depth both in character and plot. Tension runs high, murder, mystery, yet sweet and caring, this is a powerful thriller with a heart. Fast-paced, terror-ridden, a veritable clash of countries, military, populace, hope and fear all at the same time. I thought this was an excellent read, packed with intrigue. Definitely a very good first novel. I congratulate Sandra Bolton on writing a novel that compels the reader to keep reading this new and exciting book.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Fatal Error: Book Two of the Backtracker Series by Eileen Shuh

 Published by Imajin Books

This is the second book in the Backtracker series, and begins after we left Katrina/Sarina in book one, "The Traz."  Katrina Buckhold is only thirteen years old, Mensa certified, and still using her pseudo-name, Sarina. She is being prepped as the only eye-witness for the trial of the three bikers from The Traz who tortured and killed her friend prior to the police take-down of the gang. It will be a long and heart-wrenching trial.

Once again, Eileen Shuh is writing a lesson and an intense drama in one. Her characters are well-formed on both sides of the law. This is an important book that I think parents and teens should read. I suggest you to read "The Traz" as well, whether before or after doesn't matter, this book is the outcome of the events in the first book.

As one might expect in a court case involving both gang members and undercover police living in the dark world of the gangs, there are very graphic descriptions of the biker crimes; there is coarse language. Katrina must face what she has blocked in her mind, and testify in court.

Emotions run high in this book. Is Katrina really the innocent babe caught up in life with the  criminal element? Or is her past on the streets going to trip up her testimony and let the bikers go free? Can she learn from these experiences? This book has so much to say, we all should listen. Rebellion, terror, drugs, murder, loss, lies and broken promises, all are there. I commend Eileen Shuh in writing on such difficult subjects in such a true and meaningful way.

Colt O'Brien Grows Up by George Matthew Cole

I am quite enjoying the Colt O'Brien series. He is now in college on a scholarship. He must work with the computer support group fixing computers as a part of his scholarship, which to him is an ideal chance to learn more technology. He is in a relationship with Amy, and his best friend Bobby is his room-mate. What could possibly go wrong? He will find out soon.

Colt discovers that his boss in the computer group is out to get him on the sole basis of the fact that he doesn't do Unix. Gerry is so pro-Unix that he is going to be on his back and overloading Colt by making him the sole responder to Microsoft issues for the college. This leaves him with precious little time for studies and Amy. Then he realizes that Bobby has dropped so far into the party mode that he is becoming an alcoholic. In other words, everything seems to be going wrong.

With good and knowledgeable friends to turn to, especially in his psychic visions and working under serious stress, the rapidly moving events are offset in some areas. In others, Colt is at his wit's end trying to cope. This series, with it's fascinating blend of technology, psychic awareness and mystery is a winner. Colt O'Brien sees the light in many ways and he certainly does grow up fast. This book is no exception, George Matthew Cole has done it again with tension and drama. This well-written, informative Young Adult book touches on many issues college freshmen could come across.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Promised Lands: Growing Up Absurd in the 50's and 60's by Douglas Williams

Douglas Williams begins his memoir somewhere in the middle, describing life as a hippie at a time when so many young people slung on their backpacks and took off for the quest to live life wild and free, travelling through Europe mostly, some dipping into Africa and Asia as well. He has described the scene of the counter-culture life of the '60s well, both good and bad. It may be symbolic that he next reverts to his childhood memories in the second part of the book.

Living rural near a small town in post-war Canada, his parents immigrants, life was loosely structured but strongly disciplined. The author bares his heart and soul in this memoir. We see a slice of life in what could be referred to as a border town on Lake Erie through the eyes of a child, then through his teen-age years. His honesty is "no holds barred" about himself and the lack of adjustment to the times in a small town.

His father's death when Doug was 7 profoundly affected him in numerous ways. The most consistent theme in his life appears to be his creativity, whether it be in ill-chosen exploits with school friends, or the creativity that comes through during the 1960s, it remains central to his character. By the time the '60s are in full swing, he lacks a close family relationship and is ready for his journey abroad.

As he tours several countries, intimate encounters, and whatever drugs come along, his descriptive writing gives the reader one man's record of a unique and surprising decade. He makes fairly lasting friendships regardless of the nature of his meanderings through time and place. This decade is forever etched in the minds of anyone who lived through it, whether in the counter-culture or away from it, it was a stupifying time filled with change. A time of living music speaking to a new generation.

This book reflects the changes in the traditional mores, beliefs, politics, drugs and sex, a book for those who will remember the distrust, unrest, the revolt on rigid morals, religion, war and corporate greed driving political agendas, and as such is definitely an adult book. The book is true to itself -- Doug Williams kept a journal which is probably why he was able to write so comprehensively on his subject. We learn that among the spaced out, starving, and sharing, there is also humour. Travelling with friends in a malodorous, airless, traditional old VW van is often hilarious. In keeping with his creative side, he touches on his occasional forays into the film industry while in Europe,  a stint at a film school in London, England, discussing with the reader his thoughts on movie-makers and their impact on him. Among those movie contacts he mentions are Truffault, Kubrick, and Hitchcock, as a few.

For readers who were not around during what really begins in the 1950s through into the '70s, this book is an eye-opening trip, both in hippiedom and in the aftermath of WWII, segueing into the fear and adulterated suspicion of the Cold War and on through the biased Viet Nam war. This book deals primarily with those fast-changing decades.What he writes in this memoir is baldly honest. What you read is what he is.

As a descriptive and thought-provoking author, I suspect we haven't heard the last of Douglas Williams. But whether his next book will be about the industry of film making, the National Film Board, TV directing, producing and writing, or more travels, we will have to wait and see. Regardless, I'm sure it will be interesting.