Saturday, November 21, 2015

Rowena and the Dark Lord (Land's End Book 2) by Melodie Campbell

Published by Imajin Books

 This is the second in the Land's End series. In the first we learned that Rowena, or Row as she is usually referred to, discovered a portal in her classroom when two men in medieval clothing suddenly appeared through the wall of her classroom, witnessed by both Row and her grad student Kendra. So begins this extraordinary adventure of magic and time travel, because the next time, Rowena is whisked through the wall into a medieval world of lusty men. A witch's curse years before caused no baby girls to be born henceforth. Obviously, with no women in their country, this young, hearty female immediately gets the attention of every male in Land's End. But it turns out that Rowena's mother was originally from Land's End and is in fact, a princess, and she had escaped through a portal, married and gave birth to Rowena. A fact that Rowena never knew.

Now with child, and living in Scottsdale, Arizona with Kendra and two medieval knights she pulled through the time portal, all is not well in paradise. Her partner Thane from Land's End is getting restless. As new King of Sargon, he blames himself for abandoning his troops, he feels a sense of separation from himself, a man out of time. But Kendra has a  plan to interest Thane and Richard. A medieval festival has come to town. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? They can join the revelers wearing their own armor and the girls their dresses from Land's End, but can they pull it off? Their men don't even speak English, a fortune teller has given Rowena a special charm, one she has seen before in Land's End and there is magic in the air, sensed by Row. This second book is more magical and possibly even more unique than the first, and that is really saying something! Melodie writes full out imagination, action and humour. I love her method of story-telling.

A new portal opens as Rowena and Kendra are walking down the street. A confused Gareth steps out and takes Rowena back through this portal, leaving the rest behind. But what's this? Gareth is not in Land's End! Rowena is alone and the portal has closed. She has also torn another dress, a very common occurrence in the life of Row. Fortunately, when Thane, Richard and Kendra finally manage to appear, Row will soon meet Kendra's friend, the wizard Val, who is an expert tailor among other magical things and will hopefully be able to keep Rowena dressed!

There is much more magic in this second book as Rowena begins to learn what she is capable of. Her mother had been a witch and, so it appears, is Rowena, though as yet she has a lot to learn. Studying a book of spells, she inadvertently conjures up a complete Roman army in mid-battle. Not only that, but they are from another time again. There is so much new and different in this second book, a shorter read but full from cover to cover. A lot is explained, a lot is unexplained, and I look forward to the next installment! How will she return the Romans? How will she rescue Gareth from the in-between, or can she? How can she avoid the pull of Cedric's magic? Will her unborn baby be safe in this world? So many questions. Melodie Campbell will have her hands full in writing Book 3, but she is definitely up to the job. Such wonderful creativity, humour, and magic has gone into this series, and historically she has obviously done a great deal of research.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Last Goodbye by Alfred M. Albers

Published by Infinity Publishing

Mystery, history, deceit and magic; wonderful blend of suspense 
 Alfred M. Albers has a unique talent when he tells a story; he puts the reader into the book by detailing so clearly it is as though you are watching a movie...or actually going along with his characters. Where it may seem to some readers that the detail is, well, detailed, I think most will agree it puts a different perspective on everything from history to mystery. The author keeps us grounded in the story in a way I haven't often seen.

While we see nearly everything going on in the background it does connect us with the main story. Perhaps it is related to the attention to detail a magician must have, and the story after all is featuring John Michaels, world-renowned magician as the main character, and his wife, Stella. This is the fourth book in the John Michaels series. This particular magician works with the police in solving not just a probable crime committed on a fellow magician, but similarly in a series of murders that appear to be mob-related. In the first instance, was the death an accident or a murder? In the second instance, were any of the deaths related to the first?

With sleight of pen, the author misdirects the reader as easily as a magician misdirects an audience. Who is killing off local magicians and why? What has started this series of murders? How did it begin? Was it professional jealousy, gambling wars, infighting? There are mysteries and murders galore. Lies and deceit to go with them. The action builds throughout, with twists and turns that take the breath away and pull us along with them. History, mystery, misdirection, magic, lies and secrets, I was not happy to have to put the book down occasionally to attend to my household chores. I wanted to read from start to finish in one go. I love the John Michaels series.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Return of the Bones: Inspired by a True Story - Native American Historical by Belinda Vasquez Garcia

Reviewed from e-book

"In 1915, 2,067 skeletons were stolen from the ghost pueblo of Pecos and transported to Harvard University for medical research...." quote from Belinda Vasquez Garcia's preface About Return of the Bones.

I loved this story, part fiction, part fantasy, but based on truth. It's all about the bones of ancestors, the gradual loss of tribes and nations of North America's indigenous people and the repatriation of the bones. In this mystical and arduous journey an elderly shaman and his granddaughter, last of their once large tribe, are on a quest for the bones of their ancestors. Travelling physically in an old truck, and paranormally via a dreamcatcher, this story is spellbinding.

Belinda Vasquez Garcia has a way of bringing reality to the past and present through images received by the granddaughter, a modern girl who is on this journey of discovery and recovery. Past and present are interwoven in such a way that I truly felt this in my own soul, legend becomes reality as Hollow-Woman begins to open her soul to the past. I found the book memorable and heartwarming as the connection between grandfather and granddaughter, ancient and modern, past and present grew. The author has done a wonderful job of working with history and keeping the truth while writing with a passion for the magical and spiritual feel through the centuries of the indigenous people.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Dead Man Floating by Debra Purdy Kong

Published by Imajin Books
Reviewed from e-book
This novella is an interesting change from the usual heroes. An average working man and his on-site buddy work together to solve a murder. Evan Dunstan, a campus security guard is finishing an ordinary night shift when he unexpectedly comes across what he thinks is a bag of garbage floating down the river. So begins an intriguing mystery, first in series, that works up a frenzy of fear and regret in Evan's mind. If this is a murder scene will he be suspected? What will happen to him if it goes unreported? After all, it's the end of his shift and he should be leaving, the next guard arriving.

Evan is a new character, one that I think Debra Purdy Kong will have a lot of fun with in this series. I love the ability she has to select the most unusual heroes in her books and this one is no different. He wants to be a police detective, but at the moment this is just a dream. Now he is trying to make amends by solving the case of an unlikeable man in a bag. His overly anxious side-kick adds to both the humour and the fear of the situation. As a novella, this is a fairly quick read, but jam-packed with excitement, twists and turns, fun, desperation and so many thoughts running through Evan's head. I really enjoyed it and look forward to Evan's future escapades.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Incidental Spy - a Novella by Libby Fischer Hellman

 Reviewed from ebook

This novella starts at the beginning of the end, with nothing given away; then it quickly reverts to the beginning...a unique method that really pulls the reader into the book. The story takes place in a time I can remember and as such I can honestly say that Libby Fischer Hellman has absolutely captured the feelings and fears of that time of world war, as well as delving into the pressure cooker of the beginnings of the atomic bomb. Nuclear physics was at its highest priority, and Lena, a German Jew living in America, has already suffered the probable loss of her family to the concentration camps, and has just lost her husband, father of her young son. After this loss, and to support her son and herself, she finds herself back in the Physics Dept. of the university where she had worked prior to her son's birth, busily occupied with the humdrum portion, the paperwork. Now she works with famous scientists and government workers, albeit as a secretary. Everything in her life seems to have begun to return to some type of normal...or has it?

At this point, tension in the story takes a full swing into terror and brings the reader with it.Yet, though the tension builds, it all seems plausible. Once again, a time in my memory is revived when the world lived in fear, especially North America. What can one do in the situation Lena finds herself? The story is a classic good versus evil, but where and how will Lena be able to reconcile her thoughts, her shame and the trap she has set herself? This book pulsates with a life of its own, believable, memorable and deadly. The author has an amazing way with words and is exceptional at toying with our minds if we set to wondering "What would we do in Lena's situation?" I read this one straight through at one sitting, with the story still reverberating in my mind.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

A Human Element (The Element Trilogy Book 1) by Donna Galanti

Published by Imajin Books
Reviewed from Kindle version

I don't know how to describe this book. It was horror, love, loneliness, connectivity; it will toy with your emotions. It kept me in its grip from beginning to end. I wanted more; I felt this book; I wanted everything to be alright yet not; I wanted to know what would become of humanity and inhumanity. Lucky for me, this was book one of a trilogy. Strangely, for whatever odd reason, as I read the wind began to whip around our house, the trees bent half over, thunder rolled and lightning flashed. I am not blaming the book (nor the weather), but it almost made me wonder about these odd elements at this particular time. Of course it wasn't the book, it couldn't be, but what an additional background to what I was reading.

I was held in a death-grip wondering what would come next every step of the way. Just when the worst would be happening, good would appear from what would seem to be nowhere. I was in awe of how Donna Galanti could maneuver my mind in so many ways with her words. She has an amazing array of feelings that she works to a frenzy then calms. I have never read a book that was so alive, so twisted and yet so vulnerable. It is the ultimate in a personal war of good and evil. It is a possibility of whatever, whoever may reside on a dying planet. This is a book I will clearly not forget, because I will have to read the next and the next.

There is strength in all of us, we don't always use it, but it is there when we need it. Laura Armstrong has strength and compassion of a very special kind, in fact she is a very special girl. Horrific things have happened in her life, but she is a survivor. Ben Fieldstone has also lived through horrific events, but has come out in need of help, he doesn't feel strength or love. They are connected but neither knows how. Bereaved as children, they've never met. But they are connected, perhaps by the man in black who always seems to be there to calm a crisis. If you want to be thrilled, terrified, enthralled, I know you will enjoy this book.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Inside the O'Briens - a Novel by Lisa Genova

Published by Gallery Books

A story that will break your heart, yet steadfast in hope and acceptance.  A shocking read, though only because of the lack of awareness of the disease.
The O'Brien family in Boston, two years after the Boston Marathon bombing. Joe O'Brien knows what death looks like, he has seen it with friends and foe, he is one of the Boston Police, as his father and grandfather were before him. But now he is about to see what life looks like, in the most unexpected way from a personal perspective. The father of upcoming adult children, he of course speculates on the futures they will have.

Joe barely remembers his mother. She was ill when he was still a child, hearing rumors about her, "Drank herself to death" was most prevalent. But he wasn't sure. What he remembered most in his visits was that she was not much more than a skeleton, tied into a chair and force-fed. But lurking in that shell was a love for her boy, and a woman with a death sentence pre-ordained.

The O'Brien family in Boston, two years after the Boston Marathon bombing. Joe O'Brien knows what death looks like, he has seen it with friends and foe, he is one of the Boston Police, as his father and grandfather were before him. But now he is about to see what life looks like, in the most unexpected way from a personal perspective. The father of upcoming adult children, he of course speculates on the futures they will have.

Joe barely remembers his mother. She was ill when he was still a child, hearing rumors about her, "Drank herself to death" was most prevalent. But he wasn't sure. What he remembered most in his visits was that she was not much more than a skeleton, tied into a chair and force-fed. But lurking in that shell was a love for her boy, and a woman with a death sentence pre-ordained.

What is inside the O'Briens? Subtle at first, Joe doesn't even notice random quirks. Not until his body starts doing things that he doesn't intend to do, such as go left and promptly goes right. Not much favored upon by the hierarchy of the Police Dept. He can't keep still, his feet and eyes are constantly moving, but he is still unaware. Soon his limbs take on a life of their own, swinging out suddenly, occasionally accidentally hitting someone. When things like this happen fierce uncontrollable anger overtakes him; he is unable to relate to these events, especially the terrifying anger. Eventually Rosie, his wife, is finally able to get him to a neurologist somewhat for movement disorders. He fears a "brain" doctor. The diagnosis return is slow and his mind begins to drift to his mother dying in the hospital.

Genetic testing comes back with the ill-fated genetic mutation everyone was afraid to contemplate...Huntington's Disease (HD). This is a nightmare that will not go away. Ever. Do his adult children already have it coded into their genes? Remembering his mother, he now realizes that she lived and died with it. There is no treatment, no cure. It doesn't present itself until around the childbearing age of your children. Exactly according to the plan that Joe did not set for himself. His oldest son is married and desperately trying for a baby; They just announced that they were finally pregnant. His oldest daughter is a ballerina with a good company, the second daughter is in the early throes of love, and ready to embrace the world. His youngest son is showing signs already of juvenile HD which will put him dying much younger than usual. There is no long life with HD.

Yes, this book gives probably the best look at how one family handled the worst, and what worse was still to come. Lisa Genova certainly is aware and tells her story with great passion, research, vulnerability, yet hope for a future, distant or not. We never know what we are capable of in our lives. Will we become stronger, fight the big pharmaceuticals for not giving time and money toward research on these types of orphan, rare, or hidden diseases? Or will we just give up (as unfortunately many do when they learn their fate). This book talks of 4 generations of a perfectly healthy family until suddenly the hidden monster surfaced leaving at least 3 of Joe's adult children, and the possibility that 1 of his grandchildren will be tested positive when he is old enough to be tested. Novel or not, this is a comprehensive look at the real disease.

A personal postscript to Lisa Genova: One reason I'm personally impacted with this book...We had a friend once. People seeing her walk the streets of town all had the same idea: Drunk. She was a lovely lady and enjoyed what she could. Gone for several years now, we still think of her strong will to live to the best of her ability. Thank you so much Lisa, for this heartfelt book, but even more to show with strength of character we can choose to live with, as close to our own outcome as is medically possible. Your writing is consistently inspiring and bringing some much-needed awareness to a disease unknown to so many and so little understood.

Disclaimer: I am grateful to the publishers at Simon & Schuster for allowing me a copy of this very well-written book in exchange for an honest review; maybe it will help people to understand that there are diseases that actually have NO cure. With modern miracles happening so much faster than before, we might not even realize such a thing is a reality.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Dream a Little Scream - a Dream Club Mystery by Mary Kennedy

Published by Penguin Random House
Release date August 4, 2015

Talk about a nightmare...Who killed the cook?

How can something so good go so horribly wrong? Savannah, Georgia is hosting a famous chef/baker, author of very popular cookbooks. The Dream Club are all looking forward to meeting Sonia Scott...or are they? Ali and Taylor are not too sure about some of the new members. New members Etta Mae Beasley and Edward Giles have just joined the Dream Club and don't appear to be too impressed with Sonia, in fact, Etta Mae appears to have a bone to pick and doesn't mind telling everyone. Thanks to a friend, the members of the Dream Club are going to a live taping of Sonia's local interview.

Sonia makes a sudden decision to stay and do a book signing at the 'Oldies but Goodies' candy shop when a delay gives her some time to fill. The Dream Club of course are all in attendance and all is going exceptionally well as Sonia delights her audience with humorous patter. But suddenly she begins to gasp for air and collapses! Shock and confusion reigns as her assistant Olivia and Taylor rush around looking for the Epi-pen that Sonia always carries in case of just such an emergency, but they are unsuccessful, though Sonia never is without one in her purse and as back-up Olivia always carries a second one in her purse, neither are found. Olivia has frantically dumped both purses out and scrambled through everything but it is too late to save Sonia. Everyone is horrified.

The Dream Club holds an emergency meeting as everyone else leaves after the ambulance is gone. What could possibly have gone wrong? Every precaution was taken to avoid the sesame seeds that Olivia had warned Sonia was extremely allergic to. To follow that, with the shop already just managing financially, stories begin to fly that Sonia was poisoned at the Oldies but Goodies candy shop! Customers desert like rats from a sinking ship leaving Ali and Taylor struggling not just with trying to figure out how Sonia could have ingested anything that would cause her throat to swell so quickly and thoroughly, but how to regain customers who stop coming.

This is the second book of the Dream Club series by Mary Kennedy, well-researched and well-written fun. Another fascinating look at the odd mix of characters in both the club and in the lovely town of Savannah. Their dreams and interpretations are bizarre at times, dreams are hilarious at times and very often the clues suddenly take on a life of their own. A Dream Symbol Guide is included at the end of the book.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy

Published by Crown Publishers

John Brown's body may be a-mouldering but his soul most certainly keeps marching on.
This very interesting novel gives life to two women centuries apart. Our first heroine is Sarah Brown, daughter of Capt. John Brown of abolitionist fame, set in the days surrounding and following his death by hanging in 1859. Sarah's life becomes the main focus every second chapter. Eden Anderson is in some ways Sarah's counterpart in 2014, though she may not realize it. Although the book is written with both stories at once, chapter upon chapter, one chapter Sarah and the next Eden, the story bonds smoothly. The common factors between both women is that they are both barren, both wrestle with this in their everyday lives, both have a connection to the same house in New Charlestown, Virginia.

There is something very compelling about this book. This bit of history seems to have taken on a new relevance today. Despite the hardships, I loved the book. The alternate chapters do not confuse, but meld beautifully between the two women and two centuries. Sarah is an artist and uses her talent in the Underground Railway (UGRR) painting coded maps to guide their 'guests' to the safe-houses along the route. Eden's sorrow over her lost babies drives her, until she makes a discovery about their new home that gives her a welcome boost of energy. Her husband Jack has made arrangements for a young girl next door to assist Eden and between them they bond over many things.

This is such a wonderful novel. It is so smoothly written, so much truth is worked into the story, I am amazed by the entire concept. A story of love, compassion, determination and bonding. This bit of history seems to have taken on a new relevance today. I am so glad I read it, I know I will have to keep my eyes open for more from Sarah McCoy.
Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Fold - A Novel by Peter Clines

Published by Crown Publishing

Mind-blowing, creative and suspenseful.
From the beginning, when a woman's husband is due to return from his 'out-of-town' meeting and he returns but has no idea who she is or why she's there, this book is about to become far more than expected.

I loved this book by Peter Clines, an author I hadn't read before, and I will certainly be reading more from him. It grabbed my attention immediately and kept my mind occupied and in suspense to the end. This sci-fi novel is pretty mind-blowing, a different take on a fairly oft-written theme with a twist, in fact several twists, a thriller with a hidden agenda and a hero who is a high school English teacher. The title "The Fold" could easily represent a number of different storylines within the story. Strictly speaking it means what Mike, the school teacher, is told it means, but following the story it seems as though the entire story folds itself in several ways.

Mike Erikson, whose real name is Leland, is not your ordinary teacher. Mike often works in the summer as an observer or advisor for a secret agency of some uncertain type. This summer is no different as he is called in by his friend Reggie to look into a highly secret project. He is told just enough to pique his curiosity. With Mike's special skills, and exceptional IQ and eidetic memory, he is often called on in unusual and secret projects. One might think of him as having Sherlock Holmes' powers of observation...and obviously he is not going to forget anything he observes.

Throughout the story, there are constant shifts in how the information filters to him. There are so many odd things that are off-limit information to him, and at the same time some unexpected information comes his way. When the whole story turns topsy-turvy and what everyone believes is going on suddenly becomes totally wrong the story twist more. Imagery in the characters is exceptional. Truly a fascinating book written with wonderful imagination and story-telling mixed with bits of physics, historical scientific research, and Star Trek type humor.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Lemon Drops and Love (Cocktail Series Book 1) by Angela Stevens

Reviewed from e-book

Fast moving story by Angela Stevens of how one person can control another, to put fear in that other person, to make them obedient, to force them to do their bidding at risk of being beaten physically and mentally. This is where it all begins. This is frighteningly easy to achieve.

Turn now to an attempt to rescue, but it soon turns to stalking, still putting the fear into the victim, and a struggle between two men, or one might say between good and evil. Time constraints of shortening the time between Maya's two competitors, her abusive partner Carl and her rescuer long-time friend Jude, gives a feeling of everything with Jude is moving too fast, that healing hasn't had a chance, but his character somehow carries it off. He is quite literally the only person available to help her. With Carl's continuous stalking, rage, and determination to get what is "his" back, it is easier to understand the need to erase the fear Maya holds as carefully and quickly as Jude can.

This book took me by surprise. I felt like under the circumstances of life with Carl the abusive control freak, there is too much emphasis on sex with Jude. My own opinion. The fact that Jude and Maya have been holding off on each other for years, each unaware of how the other feels, also having supportive friends, the counselors, and the police, this would no doubt have some effect on how quickly they would come together as a couple. Otherwise I thought the book was very good and I couldn't stop reading until the end of the epilogue, which I think demonstrates that the book definitely grabbed my attention.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Stubby the War Dog - The True Story of World War I's Bravest Dog by Ann Bausum

Published by National Geographic Kids

I'm very impressed not only with this book but with its back-story as well, how the author came to believe the story of Stubby and to write it. The fascinating true story of a man and a stray dog who became a war hero in WWI. This book is well-written, historical, non-fiction and a good way for kids to learn about WWI in a unique way. Ann Bausum, on hearing the story at first didn't think it could be true, but soon learned there was incredible evidence to back up this great story.

A young man at the time, J. Robert Conroy discovered a stray dog had decided that they belonged together. The dog was a possible Boston terrier cross with a stub of a tail so he became known as Stubby. They became inseparable and when WWI loomed on the horizon Conroy enlisted but Stubby apparently considered himself enlisted too, even to the point of learning how to salute by standing on his hind legs and raising his paw to his face. On parade, he learned the "eyes right" command as well.

Once Conroy was shipped overseas, Stubby went, too. He was assigned to be the Yankee Division's mascot. There were actually several animal mascots and workers in the war, but Stubby became an active member. Ann Bausum delved into a lot of military and WWI history to write this wonderful book. It is written especially for kids and they will enjoy it, I'm sure. It is a story about a very special bond, the book is almost entirely the heroic deeds of this dog and not the bloody side of the war.

Stubby was able to warn the troops about chemicals coming, snipers sneaking up on them in their trenches, rescued injured soldiers, could tell the difference between the enemy and his own soon enough to warn them. He even captured an enemy soldier himself. He was injured in the line of duty, but fortunately survived at the hands of the medics. Stubby was a genuine decorated hero, met three presidents, and definitely has a place in history. I highly recommend this book, it is timely this close to 100 years ago, and is suitable for all ages.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Shadow Song by Lorina Stephens

Published by Five Rivers

Haunting and beautiful, I couldn't put this book down. Partly historical, partly supernatural yet grounded, and always in tune with nature. This is a child's journey to adulthood through very different lifestyles. Beginning in pre-Victorian England, only child to moderately wealthy parents, Danielle sees her world crumble as her uncle, the older son who had inherited from his parents, proceeds to bankrupt his younger brother, Danielle's father. As a result, it isn't long before the family is reduced to living on the streets. The deaths of her parents through starvation, disease and depression leave her an orphan and she is sent to live with her only living relative, the uncle who caused their demise.

Arriving in Upper Canada, she is amazed at so much living nature...tall forests everywhere, the world feels alive. But she fears her uncle, and apparently rightly so, as kind people are worried for her welfare and do their best to protect her on the long journey she must take before reaching her uncle's hovel. Based upon a true tragedy that occurred in the village of Hornings Mills, Ontario, Canada, what follows is a terrifying escape and run for her life. Her uncle is so ruthless he will hunt her down forever.

Meeting Shadow Song, an Ojibwa shaman, the story becomes beautiful amidst the horror she will soon face. She has a self-appointed protector in Shadow Song, and he is always watching out for her. I loved this wonderful lyrical story. It will linger with me for a long time. Lorina Stephens is a mesmerizing writer, combining historical settings with mystical story-telling. No matter the horrors that may appear in the story, there is beauty as well. This is a coming-of-age story and an adventure story unveiling itself exquisitely. I am now definitely a fan of Lorina Stephens.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

GM's Legendary Show and Concept Cars MOTORAMA by David W. Temple

Published by CarTech

What a great decade the 1950s was for fabulous and fantastic automobiles! Not just the decade itself, but for the many futuristic cars, '...legendary show and concept cars'. Every year we would look forward to seeing what the new ideas would be, what we might expect in the future. Little did we know then that the future would bring little boxy cars that you might have to plug into your electricity! I have so many memories of those wonderful dream cars of the future. Who would have guessed a Cadillac would someday be almost half the size and even come in something like a station wagon, called an SUV.

Personally, I was thrilled to receive this wonderful book of memories to review. The real creativity came with the entry of Harley J. Earl into the fold. Of course it took a somewhat creative mind to realize the perfect person to hire as Styling Engineer. The GM President in 1927 who takes that honor was Alfred P. Sloan. His forward thinking was a masterful piece of history. Early models were created first in clay. It was a good choice of medium at a time when photos were only in black and white, and just did not have what it takes to present a concept idea. In the 1930's another excellent addition was made to their concept group, William L. Mitchell. These great innovative artists gave us beauty in transportation.

Perhaps it took the 1933 'Century of Progress' Worlds Fair to get the show on the road as they say, where a Cadillac V-16 was shown, 'the Aerodynamic Coupe'. In 1937 the first acknowledged concept car, the Buick Y-Job was shown. Through the years many of the concept cars had names like Project X, Project XP-8, XP-300, a GM LeSabre featured two containers, one for gas and one for alcohol. Body designs were incredible and indelible to memory. Longer hoods, bigger fins, no fins, longer trunks, it seemed that nothing was impossible. Fantastic new radiator grills, wraparound windows, even the 12 Futurliner buses.

It wasn't until WWII interrupted that concepts changed. Everything was harder to get in the way of materials. Show cars were more like sales floor models, but as the '50s rolled on, the cars began to stretch longer and fancier again. Along came the Corvette, hardtops, fins, Pontiac Parisienne, Oldsmobile Starfire, 1953 Buick Wildcat and more. Each year a new GM Motorama in all it's awe and glory. This book takes us all the way up to the 1959 Cadillac Cyclone, and more.

This is a wonderful collection of photos, loads of information through many generations of GM. This table-top book by David Temple is an absolute classic of a bunch of classics. I highly recommend this book to all show car and concept car aficionados, car show buffs, and anyone who just likes to stroll down memory lane sometimes. (Personally, I got lost when they stopped using specific hood ornaments. I used to love trying to guess what car was driving toward us by the hood ornaments.) For once I'm glad to be as old as I am...I remember them well.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Dead Medium by Peter John

Published by Createspace

Most definitely not your average ghost story

What do a group of elderly women, a multitude of ghosts from different generations, a dead cat, and a college student have in common? Don't let a cantankerous old woman fool you. Peter John has come up with a genuinely different story and really hit it on target. We all know about mediums contacting the dead, but what if it's the other way around? This book has humor, relationships and a bit of terror thrown in the mix. What is it that haunts the dead? Where do they go from there? The characters have it covered one way or another, including Mr. Kibbles, May's dead cat, bringing a fascinating twist to the end. I scarcely put the book down once begun.

Still Alice by Lisa Genova

Published by Simon & Schuster

Comprehensive story of living with early onset Alzheimer's
I thought this book dealt with early onset Alzheimer's very well. It also demonstrated that it is a disease that has nothing to do with intelligence, using the brain, memory prior to onset. Some of the most brilliant and active people in the world can suddenly start to 'forget' things or become unsure. Unfortunately, early onset appears to move along more rapidly than people who show signs of it later in life.

Alzheimer's patients are adept at hiding their symptoms, and the book shows how they work around their 'forgetfulness'. Alice is a brilliant middle-aged professor. She begins to notice that she feels unsure of herself at times, notices things missing from where she would normally keep them, and just generally feel overwhelmed. As time goes on she finds ways to cope with what she is forgetting by making notes, writing on her arms, trying to ignore the inevitable. Even at that it takes a long time before the family finally gives in to the reality of her situation. When she is unable to remember a speech, or is overcome with confusion or lost, she must accept her reality.

I found the book to be a valuable insight into how Alzheimer's might work, although it isn't always consistent in its timing, symptoms and outward appearance. The fact that early memory is often intact makes it difficult to notice or reconcile. Lisa Genova has presented a book both helpful and personal. I would recommend it to anyone who is trying to understand another person's confusion, memory hiccups, sometimes irrational behaviour, especially if the patient is still quite young. Well written.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Marketplace of the Marvelous - The Strange Origins of Modern Medicine

Author Erika Janik
Published by Beacon Press

Bleeding, blistering, leeches, patent medicine, herbalism, mesmerism. We've all heard of these or most of these as the beginnings of modern medicine. Much of today's health regimens have their roots in hydropathy and homeopathy; cleanliness, nutrition and exercise for example. Where hydropathy preached drinking water measured in pints many times in a day, the general recommendation is 8 ounces several times a day. Taking the water "cure" by literally gallons of water, bathing in very cold water, and being wrapped in cloth soaked in extremely cold water (in winter sometimes crystalized with frost and ice) sometime after the American Civil War segued into warmer water, bathing pools, eventually saunas, hot tubs and exercise of a more practical bent along with nutritious foods, especially at a time when food was home-grown.

Some things seem to go on forever, though. Some herbal medicines for women that came out of the early nineteenth century I most definitely recall being forced to take in the 1950s, in particular Lydia Pinkham's herbal concoction for women's health, which goes back as far as the 1870s, simply because my mother had taken it, my grandmother had taken it, and presumably my great-grandmother. It was the most horrible medicine I ever tasted which brought the comment when I complained "It has to taste bad to be good for you!" I'm sure many readers have heard that comment one time or another. This remarkable woman, through refinement, produced a medicine that actually worked and works still well over a century later. Lydia Pinkham managed to break a hold by men in medicine.

Even today there are many different ways to try to get well. Everything from spiritual, hypnosis, every "new" cure. One might say everything old is new again when it comes to desperate people seeking help. Even leeches are sometimes put to use today. I found the journey to be interesting and educational. Did everything work? Often more than one might think, but then there is always the placebo effect, people will believe they have been cured whether they have or weren't actually suffering a disease as such or not. Mind over matter even then. Or perhaps because they want to believe they are cured.

So, through the centuries, medicine has played a major role in spite of itself. So many trials, so many ideas: some rash, some sensible, some moving forward and some backward. Among the later trials leaned more toward physical intervention, namely chiropractic and/or osteopathy. Almost all these ideas for healing have something beneficial, but often outweighed by obstacles. Still, it is interesting to follow the many ideas and reasons for many treatments. Some still exist in one form or another, others have slipped away back into the murky beginnings. I found this book to be very comprehensive and fascinating. Erika Janik should be commended for the extensive research, and for writing such a tome while still providing an ease of reading on such a strong topic. I learned a lot about historic medicine and treatment, what worked and what didn't, and how in the end modern medicine came to be. Were the early "doctors" charlatans and quacks? Maybe not so much. Kooky? Definitely, but the end result was sometimes right for the wrong reasons.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Hollow City - the Second Novel of Miss Pergerine's Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Published by Quirk Books

The sequel to Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, this again is a novel that combines a fantasy that works quite well into how children may have perceived the second World War, the lives of what were once referred to as 'freaks' in a carnival, the lives of children who have become orphaned through whatever means, and more. Ransom Riggs has taken a group of antique photos he has found throughout several years and extracted a story from the mix. Some are perfectly normal photos of the past century, some are obviously from various carnivals, all have become a story. Not the story of the photos, but a strange and compelling story gleaned via Ransom's own imagination of what they imply, and in some cases I suspect stories related through research.

The author has created a hidden world in his books. Are the photos creating the story? Or is the story the basis of the search for the photos? I think in this second book it is quite obvious that the photos inspire the story, perhaps more so than the first book. Regardless, it is out of the collection and the search that the story has been born. The photos are real. In fact, one I recognize because I once collected old postcards and in the process happened to see it. Personally, I think this is a wonderful method of creation. The imagination flows from each photo into a complete, at times war-torn, world. A complete life story has come from each personal photo, though some are pretty far-fetched, it is a fantasy after all. The monsters the 'peculiar' children are so terrified of appear to almost be an allegory of the monsters of war. Considering most of the story in their hidden time loop is in 1940, this makes sense. But it is also a love story, a group of individual children that are different becoming strong in their individualities, especially in their search for help for their injured guardian, Miss Peregrine. Regardless, this unique method has produced interesting concepts in both books and may just change the way 'different' people are viewed. Surprising twist at the end. Middle grade and up.
My review of "Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children can be found here.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Messengers by Edward Hogan

Published by Candlewick Press
Review based on Advance Reading Copy (ARC)

A dark and lonely book, intense and moody. Not quite what one would expect, this book does capture the attention once the real action begins. A bit of a slow start, with Frances mourning her absent brother, a boxer who is on the run. She is sent to live with her Aunt, Uncle and cousin until things settle down. The main characters are teens, young and old teens. The characters are fairly well developed considering their ages. Written for young adults, I don't think I would recommend it for younger age groups. It is a fascinating psychological study in which the two main characters unwillingly hold life and death in their hands, but a philosophical one as well.  A unique plot and concept by Edward Hogan to keep us questioning.

Fifteen-year-old Frances doesn't know or understand her "gift" but wishes she didn't have it once she learns what it is. When she meets Peter, who has lived with this for several years, he mentors her. It's rather fascinating when we get into the idea that these two have a talent in art, but their art is only visible to others it is somewhat like cubic or similar to Picasso's most abstract work. But it is why and how they do this that is the story and the nightmare. 

What would you do if you found you were a messenger of death, would you try to avoid it, change it? What if you found out if you didn't deliver the message to avoid that person dying, someone in your own family would die in their place? And what would you do if you thought you had found a way out of this horrible dilemma? This is truly a psychological thriller. Where and how will it all end? Who will be next? This book stays with you long after reading it. Will Frances' discovery make a difference to the message? Or will she remain a messenger as long as she lives.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Island of Bones (Louis Kincaid) by P.J. Parrish

A plot as twisted and hidden as the tangled mangroves, suspenseful, dark, yet curiously entertaining.

This is my first visit to the world of Louis Kincaid, and what an adventure it was! With a sort of laid back beginning through to the final whirlwind, it truly kept my attention. A hurricane sweeps the Florida island where he lives and washes up what he originally believes to be a murdered baby's skull. It takes a new father only a quick glance to inform him that it is a newborn's skull and no murder. It also appears to be about 500 years old. Is this a portent of things to come? Will this innocent child connect the dots? For some reason, Kincaid has become very attached to this baby's skull and can't escape the thoughts about what could have caused it's death.

Once we really get into the book, we get into the world of missing girls, a strange privately owned island, a possible serial killer...but I'm getting ahead of myself. For the missing persons case, an unlikely relationship builds up between the new head detective and our private investigator, Louis Kincaid. Kincaid has been approached by a woman who wants him to follow her father, Frank Woods. She suspects him of killing the girl who has gone missing. With not much to go on, why would she hire a private detective for this vague premise? While watching her father, he finds him to be a very mild-mannered librarian. Following him seems a waste of time, he rarely changes his routine. But there are many questions.

The book suddenly takes off, having grabbed my attention thoroughly while following the whys and wherefores up until now. A connection is made to another island, the action and suspense begin to take on much more momentum, adrenaline flows and so does mine as I read. An ancient Roman/Spanish family tree, Asturian descendents who often speak in Latin, owners and protectors of the island Away So Far, a misnomer based on the Spanish for Island of Bones, Isla de huesos. P.J. Parrish has done very deep research to back up this story line. The background is as much a character as any of the people. History, mystery, murder, and genetics all rolled into one strong story. Great characterizations, great twisting plot as twisted and hidden as the tangled mangroves, suspenseful, dark, yet curiously entertaining.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

A Root Awakening - a Flower Shop Mystery series by Kate Collins

Published by Obsidian

Bouquets can sometimes open doors

What do a man on a ladder, a child who looks at Abby strangely, a woman with a mop, and a possible murder have to do with a search by Abby and Marco for a house of their own? Throw in help from Abby's very pregnant cousin Jillian who has renewed her real estate license to find the perfect house, her seemingly everlasting false labor pains, and Abby prowling after possible criminals and what do you have? A book that is a quick, easy read that will have you scratching your head, as one possible crime becomes entangled with another possible crime to keep you on your toes. What or who caused Sergio's fall? If it was deliberate, which of his co-workers may have seen something or even might have pushed the ladder away from the roof?

Marco and Abby, now married and living in Marco's loft, are finding their quarters cramped and really want to move into their own place. Business is brisk at Bloomers, the flower shop Abby owns and operates, and Marco is kept very busy with his two businesses, his bar "Down the Hatch" and his private investigator business. Abby is almost always his assistant on top of her own job managing her store.

This series is fun and captivating. The kooky items that Abby's mother brings in to sell in the shop gives Abby grief, but they are so creatively awkward they are entertaining in their own right. The camaraderie between Abby and her assistants is comforting, and fortunately allows her time to work on what she calls her "hobby", sleuthing, her three-legged rescue dog Seedy often accompanying her.

Rosa, Sergio's wife, is absolutely sure that someone pushed her husband off the roof and has hired Marco to find the culprit. In the meantime, she begins working part-time in Bloomers when she isn't by Sergio's side waiting and hoping for him to regain consciousness. There is so much going on in this book, with some very strange twists, but the story line remains intact and quickly moves in action and excitement. Another strong plot in the Flower Shop Mysteries from Kate Collins.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Alice I Have Been by Melanie Benjamin

Published by Bantam

 An enticing novel of beauty, fantasy and life in the Victorian era
A quite amazing semi-biographical tale of the real Alice in Wonderland, Alice Pleasance Liddell. This is a novel, therefore fiction, but I doubt there was much fiction involved. This book read as nearly to a biography as a book ever has. In fact, it had me eager to look up Alice Liddell as a curiosity. What an amazing story the author has wrought. It was so easy to fall into the rabbit hole with Alice. As she herself states on first hearing Mr. Charles Dodgson tell it, as he has told her and her sisters tales before, this is her story. I loved the way the characters in what came to be such a famous childrens book fell into place, each fitting a character from life so smoothly. This book has everything a person could want in the genre of Victorian history, a remarkable and famous children's story, romance, deceit, and above all giving life to Alice in Wonderland. This book flows beautifully with the showing the world from the eyes of a child, a young lady in love, and finally an elderly woman who finally comes to terms with her life.

Taken that this book, the story as perceived by Alice, took place in the Victorian era, we must take some of it as plausible, particularly the apparent demise of the relationship, because this has never been resolved in fact, only that something did happen. Something of great import in the days of Queen Victoria's reign. Alice seems not to remember what happened that long ago day, even into her eighties. It may seem odd in this day and age that after asking Charles Dodgson, who later as we know took the nom de plume of Lewis Carroll, to write down the story he had just told the three sisters, and claiming it was about her, she didn't read it for many decades, not even to her own children.

The book is so thorough, so much a sincere biography and so much a work of fiction but most certainly based on biographical material. Melanie Benjamin has done considerable research on the subject and has turned it into a work worthy of it's subject. It takes us into the life of Alice and the life of Alice in Wonderland equally. They are one and yet they are not. A very convincing historic novel.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Sting of the Drone by Richard A. Clarke

Published by Thomas Dunne Books (2014)

Fast paced, all-too-real fight against terrorism. Very relevant.
This book threw me into the thick of the drama at the very beginning. A high velocity thriller with all the technology anyone could hope for, especially if they don't like someone! This is the world of Drones. I had no idea there were so many sizes, types, outfitted, unarmed drones nor how connected they were to space. If we thought our skies were getting crowded, just imagine this mostly-invisible and sometimes disguised fleet flying around from almost all countries, zipping around all our regular aircraft. Talk about an eye-opener!

These usually silent assassins are directed by an elite group of select pilots who actually "fly" the drones from thousands of miles away. This is their story. The action is not completely non-stop, often it is a wait, assess, check and double-check for innocent non-targets--possibility of "collateral damage" in range--to determine whether action will be taken. What I like, action aside, is the stories presented throughout the book, the personal backgrounds, the lives they lead outside of work. The personalities and back-stories possibly based on real people and events although the book is fictional.

But wait! The book takes a turn-around and it becomes even closer to non-fiction as the terrorists learn from their losses and change their tactics. Now we see the world tipping on it's axis as collateral damage piles up, many victims children. This book is adrenaline full-steam and keeps on escalating. Richard A. Clarke knows what he's writing about. A well-written book of our times. Adventure, terror, a high-tech thriller at it's best.

Colt O'Brien Has a Family by George Matthew Cole

Final book in series

This is the 3rd and final book of the Young Colt O'Brien series. Colt has run into a few problems in the first two books: He has taken on more than he can chew occasionally because of his overconfidence in own brilliance and his abilities of computer repair and recovery. He is an IT whiz but hasn't always paid attention to rules. He also discovered some psychic abilities that he must learn to control. If that weren't enough, in Book 2 he and his girl-friend Amy got married, and now at the beginning of this final book of the series the story begins with Amy in labor about to have their first child. Colt is now twenty years old and meets with even more challenges in his life and career. Having a wife and son to support changes his life in ways he could never have imagined.

This series could be looked at as a learning tool, or a study in how difficult and full of pitfalls that life can be as a young adult. Psychic interference aside, what Colt, Bobby and Amy go through as they progress through various challenges and pitfalls is common to many young people. I think the series can demonstrate how young people no matter how hard they may try, may not be able to avoid what life is going to throw at them. It also shows how more experienced and older mentors can be a tremendous boon toward keeping grounded. Without the assistance of Colt's mentors, he would definitely be in trouble with life. Especially with his psychic awareness, much as it has been helpful as a warning of something to come.

Once again, with Colt's abilities in the IT field, he and his IT friend get into deep trouble when they are manipulated in the world of corporate espionage. However, with the mentoring Colt has had, both in learning about job interviews and work politics, and the lessons to help ground his psychic abilities and dealing with loss, he has become an adult. It was quite a struggle, but very consistent with how much young people go through in order to get to that place. George Matthew Cole has neatly tied up the series in a completely satisfying manner, true to the series throughout. If you haven't read the first two Colt O'Brien series I recommend you do, as this book is clearly an extension to the others, and brings everything into focus. That said, the book can stand alone in the midst of trial, tribulation and growing pains.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Tempest in a Teapot by Amanda Cooper

Published by Berkley Prime Crime

This book was a pleasant surprise to me. First in a new series. The characters are well-thought out and complex; as the story goes along I learned more about them. I particularly found the thought processes of Thelma Earnshaw to be spot on for her age and demeanor. As a senior I recognized a kinship with her mind jumping from place to place then wondering what she had been planning to think about before she interrupted her own thoughts. Not an easy thing to put into writing, but precisely the way this very unhappy and miserable person might think. Great descriptive writing.

Two elderly women, one with a deliberately long memory of losing who she alone considers the love of her life to the other, who married him and in her own words "saw him first." Everything is one-sided competition right down to both women operating tea rooms, with one-sided being the key, because Thelma firmly believes she has been a victim in all things, especially since Rose Freemont, so-called man stealer, whose shop is right across from Thelma's, runs a much more successful tea room than Thelma.

Sophie Rose Freemont Taylor, Rose's granddaughter, has just returned to the town she considers to be her home, back to Rose. She is licking her wounds at the loss of her own enterprise, chef and owner of her New York restaurant. As she is updated on her friends by Rose, she is surprised to learn her best friend, Cissy, Thelma's granddaughter, is about to marry another of their group of friends, Frankie, now known as Francis, a rich high-class architect. For some reason, Thelma is dead set against the marriage, which seems strange on several levels. What could be the cause of Thelma's spite and vinegar? There is a cause that we haven't uncovered yet.

The story builds nicely, as an engagement tea for Cissy is held at Thelma's tea shop, La Belle Epoque, when suddenly a medical emergency happens as one of the guests collapses. Accusations are wildly flung, and Sophie is bent on trying to solve whether a death is actually a murder or whether it was an accident, as she deftly seeks out enough information to have some idea as to what actually went down. Now the trick is to learn the real story. How best to go about it? How about gathering all the people that supposedly were friends of Francis' mother by throwing a fund-raising memorial tea?

I really enjoyed this cozy mystery. I thought I had it figured out early on, only to learn that what I thought I knew didn't even briefly come into play. So many people appear to have their own interests at heart that to make any sense of what has become a murder and why it happened, that Sophie believes if she can just get everyone in one place together, she can tease some information out that no one is prepared to talk about. Does it really boil down to money? Well, that's always a good place to start, as they say, Follow the money. Since the police chief is actually a relative to some of the people involved, it is only fitting that he should be at the memorial tea. With strategic placement of the people who are attending, will Sophie be able to get what she wants? Is conversation all it really takes to get someone to spill the beans?

I found the character of Sophie to be less invasive in trying to extract information than other amateur sleuths I've read, which I appreciated. A very interesting plot which thickens remarkably throughout the book. The first I've read by Amanda Cooper and certainly looking forward to reading more.

The Case of the Cursed Dodo - a Jungle Noir

The Endangered Files No. 1, Featuring Jake G. Panda
 The Case of the Cursed Dodo - a Jungle Noir

Well, this is a completely unusual book. First, it is written as though it is being filmed which can sometimes be a little distracting but interesting. Second, it is reminiscent of the old black & white private eye movies of the 1940s. This is a presentation featuring Jake G. Panda. It is his story (and debut), his first completed Endangered File. File closed.

I thought this was an interesting take on writing a private eye book. We are entering the world of endangered wildlife in a very unique way. Although this book is written with middle school readers in mind, I think it works better for those of us who actually saw the old movie genre. That said, it really could be enjoyed at any age. The concept is brilliant with hints of what animals on the endangered list are endangered from. The film noir theme also works well. Jake G. Panda brings a bit of Humphrey Bogart's Sam Spade personality to the book giving it that deadpan feel while at the same time presenting a fascinating look at wildlife. The Dodo story was a great place to begin. Who doesn't know of the long-gone Dodo bird?

It is from this perspective that the story fledges into a full-blown mystery, complete with clues, sidekicks, an Underground, good guys and bad guys with hidden agendas, and it all begins with a mysterious suitcase in the middle of a desert. Wonderful. My advice is to let the story take you along for the ride to enjoy it at it's best. There are lots of animals on the endangered list from which the author will be able to choose his cases. With Jake G. Panda on the scent, let's hope some of those animals get a reprieve. Great fun, a fast read, a good though fanciful plot that points out the very real facts that are endangering these animals, such as the harvesting of elephant ivory. I loved this entertaining and somewhat educational book for any age group.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Muffin but Murder by Victoria Hamilton

Published by Berkley Prime Crime

Who killed the corpse in the castle coffin?
This, the second book of the Merry Muffin Mystery series, begins with a brief introduction to the series by covering what has happened previously very quickly and succinctly, not distracting from the current book but bringing it into the present. Merry Wynter is currently making her home in Wynter Castle, which she has inherited, and sharing it with her friends, Pish, who is helping her with her finances and with promoting the castle she feels she needs to sell, and Shilo, her gypsy-model friend.

The story opens with Merry going to the next town, a town that is on the verge of collapse, to find a party shop to buy supplies for the upcoming party Pish is helping her arrange. Since it happens to be around Halloween, she has decided on a non-ghoulish Halloween theme. She is completely dismayed by the dismal town and the party shop, but does buy some supplies, even after she is told the warehouse is haunted. Is it?

To confuse matters more, a "cousin" has appeared at the castle and cousin Cranston is determined that he should have his share of the inheritance. Merry is working on the possibility of fraud with the help of Pish, plotting a way to get a DNA sample, while planning the Halloween party. Here we find characters of all kinds, including the 'security' hired to make sure only invited guests get in and other locals to serve the guests. Many of the invited guests are wealthy and in a position to buy the castle if they want it. These New York elite make up the majority of the guests

It isn't long before Merry notices that there are too many guests and on checking finds that several people have been admitted under the same names. While trying to make sense of the football team, who have been included (are they really a football team or is that their costumes?) and others who are acting suspicious, the party begins to unravel. Part of the decor includes a coffin complete with a mannequin, but surprise! There is a body in there, and it belongs to one of the uninvited guests. Who is he, and why is he at the party? No one seems to know who he is, or they aren't telling. When a good friend is arrested for the murder, Merry goes into full investigative mode. With more and happier surprises in store before the mystery is solved, Merry is unsure about selling the castle. She feels she is a part of the community and has made many friends in Autumn Vale.  Not everyone is prepared for Merry to sell, it remains to be seen what the outcome will be. Victoria Hamilton writes a great cozy murder mystery and I'm sure there will be more adventures in store.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen

Published by Bantam Books (Random House)

A "sweet sense" calling someone home
Another magical story from Sarah Addison Allen. How does she do it? How is she able to take the reader on such wondrous journeys, with ordinary characters, often flawed or dissociated from life for whatever reason and turn them around, taking us with them. I am amazed at the depth of the author's character building. Her books always enchant me and take me to a better place, they are so alluring they definitely keep me reading.

In "The Girl Who Chased the Moon", we have broken lives, secrets kept and secrets ready to destroy. Emily Benedict has just lost her mother and has made the decision to go back to Mullaby, where her mother was born, and where the grandfather she never knew she had lives. She is shocked at the number of secrets her mother kept from her about her life. She isn't welcomed by the townspeople, in fact, she feels that they would like to run her out of town because of something her mother did. What could she possibly have done to create such animosity? Emily only knew her mother as a caring and devoted parent, one who was charitable to everyone. Why didn't her mother ever tell her anything about her life? She is even shocked to learn she has a living grandfather, even more that Grandpa Vance is a giant. As they begin to get to know each other, maybe the biggest mystery is within the house itself. Very strange goings on. Keep an eye on that wallpaper and don't go in the woods!

She becomes acquainted with Julia Winterson next door who was in the same class as Emily's mother, and another lost soul. A healing process gradually brings a close relationship to both. I was fascinated with the idea of a "sweet sense" calling those who have it whenever Julia bakes. This story just simply flows through the connections of a life Emily never knew about. The writing is so smooth and captivating. I couldn't put it down once I started. What are the mysterious lights of Mullaby? What secrets are being held by her new friends? What deed could her mother have done to still cause such condemnation? Why does Win Coffey keep showing up? This is a story of healing, second chances, and secrets that need to be unveiled, causing the reader to feel they want and need to know all those answers too. I loved this book, a hauntingly beautiful story. Recipes included.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Double You by Shane Peacock

Published by Orca Books

Young adult spy drama, Adam and Angel make a good team
Seven books by seven authors. Apparently, this one by Shane Peacock is the 7th book and the only one I have read. That said, it does well as a stand-alone and that is how I will review it. Seven cousins, minus two who are too far away, have gathered in the family McLean cottage in Ontario one wintry day in late December when something completely unexpected comes to light. Their Grandfather was no longer living. In the process of preparing the fireplace with logs set nearby to heat the cabin, the final log appeared to be stuck to the floor and with a sudden heave, up came the floorboard exposing a secret hidey-hole. What is this all about? Obviously, their grandfather had something to hide. This book  mostly follows grandson Adam and the rest of the story features mostly grandfather and grandson...or is it?

Wait, secret compartment? backpack? gun? 007? money? Who and what was their grandfather? Following clues included within, Adam takes on the task of trying to fit the pieces together. After all, he is the Bond fan, the one who read all the super spy books. Who better to check out where the clues will lead? Too bad his alter ego, Bad Adam, tags along. He has fought with Bad Adam for years and now seems to be mostly in control of him. Strange things happen in this book. Armed with his grandfather's gun, a Walther PPK like James Bond uses, his share of the money found (as well as many passports with different names) Adam goes in search of his grandfather David McLean's history, his first stop Bermuda where things get off to a bad and crazy start.

Sometimes I felt like I was reading a James Bond story and others that I was in a very confusing nightmare as Adam's grandfather who was dead turns out to be alive and ready to kill his grandson. Bring on a bizarre rescue by Angel Dahl, an orphan who was raised here. This story gets pretty weird at times, but humorous in its weirdness. A spy or not a spy? A double agent or not a double agent? That appears to be the question. But if the man Adam believes to be his grandfather isn't, is he Angel Dahl's adoptive father? There are complications to every step or flight they take, but the very end will surprise you. As a young adult book, young people will certainly enjoy it. The protaganist is 17 and with Angel, who is 18, they make a good team.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Not the Killing Type - a Booktown Mystery by Lorna Barrett

Published by Berkley Prime Crime

Life is a tangled web in Booktown
Seventh in the Booktown Mystery series, several changes are in the works. There are surprises in store as the Chamber of Commerce prepares for elections, Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Christmas holiday events, keeping the shopkeepers hopping preparing for the hoped-for onslaught of holiday shoppers. The Chamber elections have never taken long because no one has ever run against the incumbent Bob, but he is in for a surprise when Angelica decides to run. Another surprise entry happens at the meeting as a newcomer throws his hat in the ring. With only three people running for Chamber president, it would be easy to think this would not take long, but once again a body has been found by Tricia, and it's the body of Stan Berry, not the most popular man in town, but one of the candidates.

Tricia's life is getting very problematic, aside from or maybe because of the obvious effect of discovering yet another body and the embarrassing fact of where she found it, but also with the number of other events calling for her attention. Her relationship with Chief Baker would seem to be on the skids if it weren't going downhill so slowly. She is thinking of calling it off altogether. At the same time, her ex-husband Christopher is in town and seems determined to reconcile. Will Chief Baker wake up to the fact he is losing her? Will Christopher's tactics, telling the villagers that he and Tricia were thinking of reconciling actually work? And what about the new man in town? Is he a suspect or can she trust him?

Life is as much of a tangled web as ever for Tricia and is taking a toll on her. A meltdown is in the offing, but with Angelica running for Chamber president, Ginny getting married with Tricia as one of her bridesmaids, a murder to solve, and her assistant Pixie determined to dress the store up for the holidays, can the meltdown be avoided? Another wonderfully full throttle Booktown mystery with never a dull moment and an ending that took me completely by surprise, Lorna Barrett's cozy series never disappoints. Delicious recipes included.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Four Very Short Kindle Reviews posted on Amazon Jan. 11, 2015

Doctor How and the Illegal Aliens: Doctor How, book one - Who is Doctor How? by Mark Speed

How this long-time Doctor Who fan found Doctor How was tongue-in-cheek and quirky in a good way. 
  I wasn't too sure how this time-lord, or as others in the book say, Time Keeper, Doctor How would go over, as a very long-time fan of Who myself, but then along came his relatives. With a new companion in tow, we see bits of all the generations of Dr. Who coming out in Dr. How's personality. Hilarious. Even being earthbound (as was Doctor Who for a season) he manages to be as quirky as ever. His cousin Doctor Where has all but given up and is quite happy to remain as he is. But once he gets on the band-wagon he's a real hoot.

The aliens are insect-like yet unlike insects as we've ever seen them, and they have a hunger and lust for diesel fuel, which unfortunately not only blows them up but puts everyone and everything at risk. A nonsensical parody of the venerable (and also quirky) Doctor Who, one person is heard to say "very X-files!" I'm waiting to meet When in the next book, he just came in the door in this one.

Pushing Up Daisies (The Dirty Business Mystery Series Book 1) by Rosemary Harris

Interesting, entertaining quick read, 1st in series.
 An interesting plot that tended to wander occasionally, but offered entertainment nevertheless. This is the first in a new series and I am sure to read others as they appear. I enjoyed the light read, fast and quirky. Gave 4 stars.

The Phony Farkleberry: Twisted Oak Amateur Detectives #1 by Michael Scott Miller

Loved this ScoobyDoo-ish/Nancy Drew-Hardy Boys sleuthing romp.
 Reminiscent of such teen/pre-teen amateur sleuths as Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, The Three Detectives to name a few, this book was great fun to read and even this grandmother will be watching for more. I really enjoyed it, a step back in time to my childhood. Stolen paintings from a museum are always a great starting point for these hearty (and talented) young sleuths. Good solid story as well. Gave 5 stars

Underwood, Scotch, and Wry by Brian D. Meeks
 Loved this book of academia with it's fast-tracking/back-tracking politics. 
 As wry as any I've read, I loved this book. Yes, there was some discomfort here and there if you took the book literally as how higher education facilities are run, but having worked in one, not as an academic but very closely with many, I found this book quite entertaining. I worked for 15 years in academia and I still don't understand why some very good academics are passed over for tenure. This book reminded me of the fun we had at, I must say, some academics' quirks, but I totally loved the tongue-in-cheek, the refusal to live in the computerized world of today. The days of LAN, Gopher and Basic are long gone. The assignments Professor Byrne administers are hilarious. A harried man who didn't seem to make it to the 21st century with the rest of the world. Gave 5 stars.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

The Storm Glass by Fred Limberg

 Reviewed from the e-book

I really felt I was floundering through a large part of the beginning of this book. Who is Jim Wilson? He's not your average sailor and seems to be surrounded by secrets. Not a member of an organized group, Jim Wilson might be considered a free-lancer. With the amount of watching over his shoulder he does (a bit of paranoia there?) I don't think he'll be freelancing for long. Is he FBI? CIA? This singular person either has the right connections already or knows how to get them quickly and freely.

Where the reader normally expects to get the beginning of plot and characterizations down, this story tends to muddy the waters completely and if they weren't sailing down the Mississippi on vacation, I would expect potholes to suddenly appear in the river, but waiting in lineups while the locks move the tow barges through is just as dangerous. Why does Jim keep looking over his shoulder? Even his wife Iris notices, but doesn't notice there is someone there more often than not. Who are the two people who join up with them on the way down the river, another couple just on a boating vacation? Or is this a planned connection to join Jim and Iris?

Fortunately I continued reading and the book began to swing around and redeem itself as a real thriller with what appears to be spy technology, hidden resources for high class espionage, murder and mayhem. Fred Limberg makes you sit up and notice! When a bank manager decides to rob his own bank, Jim Wilson's special abilities come into play but not everything goes the right way in life and death. A worthy thriller with a little bit extra once you can wrap your head around what is really happening on the old muddy Mississippi.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Ghost Wanted by Carolyn Hart

 Published by Berkley Prime Crime

What an interesting concept.  A ghostly mystery from a ghost's point of view. I love this book! Writing the book in the voice of Bailey Ruth, ghost,  is brilliant. A cozy to love. Carolyn Hart has a wonderful way with words, heavenly in fact. The storyline made me feel she was talking directly to me. From the stuffy but with a soft spot Wiggins to the forever young couple Bailey Ruth and Bobby Mac and on to the refined Lorraine, lady of the past, these ghostly individuals come to "life" as characters. Wiggins is the supervisor for Heaven's Department of Good Intentions.

Wiggins has sent lively and incorrigible Bailey Ruth to help Lorraine into the light. But Lorraine doesn't want to go into the light, she is happy with her non-life on earth. There are rules to follow and Bailey Ruth is not one to follow them to the letter, constantly causing Wiggins grief and trips on the ghostly train to correct her errors. Her intentions are always good, but she still has her irrepressible youth and spirit (no pun intended.)

This book is funny, lively, unique and I would recommend it to anyone who likes a little fun in their reading. Definitely recommend to readers of cozy mysteries, this one is a bit of a departure to similar cozies and light mysteries. Easy reading, enchanting, and will pull the reader in right from the start. This is the fifth in the Bailey Ruth Ghost Novel series. Did I say I loved this book? You bet!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Circle of Nine: Beltany by Valerie Biel

Published by Travels and Travails publishing

I enjoyed reading this book. I'm sure it will appeal to young adults, teens, tweens and adults alike. Certainly worthy of the Gotham Writers Award. The angst of young people, the temptations, disappointments and fears are clearly defined throughout the book, witchcraft or not. I was completely engrossed by the book which contained the history of Brigit Quinn's family and of white magic. No vampires nor werewolves to distract me from the enjoyment of the families, Brigit's special gift and what the characters are able to do.

Brigit is fifteen years old, and until now had lived a normal life with her mother. She has friends who are normal friends and a boy friend. This is the story of her life, but also the history of her family. A trip to Ireland for Brigit's first Beltany ceremony (Beltane is May Day) swings the story around. I loved the book, it gave me suspense, history, the struggle of good and evil, all the while building in a natural flow to the climax which was unexpected. This book took me longer to read than it would have if my own life hadn't been interrupted several times while reading it which annoyed me to no end. I was so involved in the story that interruptions were a complete bother. No matter, it was easily picked up when I was able but I intend to read it again from start to finish as it should be. I also look forward to reading more from Valerie Biel. Great storyline. 5 star reading