Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye

Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye
Author: Tania Del Rio
Illustrator: Will Staehle
Quirk Books
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
ISBN: 9-8-1-59474-803-5
$ 16.95
225 pages

Some people just seem to be doomed.
Warren is a typical twelve-year-old. 
Unfortunately, both his parents are dead.
Fortunately, his Uncle Rupert is his guardian.
Unfortunately, his Uncle Rupert is married to Aunt Annaconda.
Warren is responsible for his ancestor's hotel.   Warren the 1st planned the building with his son, Warren the 2nd, who built the hotel.
For years, Warren's ancestral line has managed and kept the multitude of secrets hidden within its walls, even the all-seeing eye.  Being that Warren is a descendant of this prestigious lineage, he works endless hours maintaining his legacy.
Unfortunately, Uncle Rupert is lazy, and Aunt Annaconda is a witch.
Fortunately, the hotel has not a customer for five years.
Unfortunately, or perhaps, fortunately, an automobile is approaching the rambling, broken-down hotel.
The visitor doesn't speak, just communicates with cards.
Can the new tenant speak?   Why here?  Why now?
Why is the hotel suddenly full of customers?
Warren is a laughable children's book recommended for third to sixth-grade students.  Part Cinderella, part Wizard of Oz, part Series of Unfortunate Events, part comic book, part chapter book. Warren is just a fun book to read with a happy ending for everyone older than eight.  It might be scary to younger ones.
With a little bit of magic, Warren is an enchanting novel with an ordinary protagonist.   He is not handsome, smart, or charismatic, just hard-working and completely average.
As an adult, I could not put down the book.   The story pulls you in and just doesn't release you until the last page.  Even then, I wanted more.  (There is a sequel.)
Tabia Del Rio writes for Archie  Comics, Dark Horse, and Marvel.  This Los Angeles resident has also written and drawn the 42-issue of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.
Illustrator Will Staehle has been an art director for Harper Collins Publishers creating book covers for many authors including Michael Chabon, Michael Crichton, and Christophe Buckley.  He now has his art studio in Seattle.
Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye is the perfect book for everyone with an intriguing storyline, illustrations that continue the visualization of the text, puzzles, riddles, mazes, the feeling of hope in good overcoming evil, all bundled up in a novel with a wicked sense of humor.

Alaskan Queen

Alaskan Queen
Richard A. Heininger
Amazon Digital Services
Digital format
$ 2.99
234 pages

Lieutenant Cody James is living his dream.  He is a U. S. Navy Officer who has the responsibility of following ships via GPS throughout the world.
Throughout the years of military schooling, his dream changed from being a pilot. His moral character drove him to continue to succeed, just in a different field.
Now Cody is on loan to the U. S. Coast Guard to assist in the development of a global fleet tracking navigational system.  The focus is the Caribbean Sea.   The system follows the usual paths of various legitimate shipping routes and is searching for anything the could be involved with smuggling or a terrorist attack.
One ship, Island Pearl, is drawing his attention by changing its regular route.  Why? Could they be smuggling?  The ship has always passed inspections. Obviously, tracking this boat is a priority.
Cody just hopes that this is not a time-consuming detail since he is soon to be married.   Starting out with your career taking precedence over your wife is probably not a good habit.
Fortunately, Cody's bride-to-be is Abbie who happens to be the daughter of Rear Admiral Stewart.   She obviously understands a military life.
Cody is thrilled that his family from childhood can attend this particular time in his life.   Being an orphan, his family consists of other children with similar backgrounds who bonded into a family throughout the years.
The newlyweds plan to spend a few days at a luxurious hotel, have a few excursions, and then a cruise on the Alaskan Queen.  Plans seldom work out perfectly, and it seems as if danger is constantly in the path of the newlyweds.  Are they destined for disaster?
Juan Ernesto Degato is also fulfilling his dream, being rich. Coincidentally, he shares a similar background with Cody, being orphaned.  However, his choices led him in the opposite direction.
He just needs to complete one job assigned to him by the embassy.  Completing this job will give him enough money for the rest of his life.  Unfortunately, failure is not an option.
Cody and Juan seem destined to be on a collision course.  For both, it is a life or death situation.
Alaskan Queen is the debut novel for Richard Heininger, a retired lawyer who resides in Council Bluffs, Iowa most of the year, and in Texas to avoid Iowa winters.  The basis for this novel is from an Alaskan cruise he took with his wife.  Fortunately, that ship was only attacked in his imagination.
Alaskan Queen is a fast-paced novels that all readers would enjoy.   The reader accompanies Cody through each challenge.
I personally would prefer to read this novel after a cruise, not before, and definitely not during.
You definitely need to read Alaskan Queen.  
I look forward to more thriller from new author, Richard Heininger.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Searching for Gatsby

Searching for Gatsby
A Ronnie Lake Murder Mystery
Niki Danforth
Pancora Press
Amazon Digital Services
ISBN: 978-1946403001
$ 13.99
320 pages

Ronnie Lake is a fifty-six-year-old woman beginning her new business as a private investigator.   While at a party sponsored by some wealthy friends, she listens to her friend, Marilyn's suspicions about whether her husband Win, is having an affair.  She is a little hesitant accepting the position being that she is friends with both Win and Marilyn.
Marilyn is suspicious of a gorgeous woman, Katya Alessandro who just left the party.
Frank, Ronnie's brother and Juliana seem like they are still honeymooners.   Frank's first wife, Joanie died, and his new wife appears to fulfill all her brother's dreams and wishes.
Ronnie still has the grief of having a son die in Afghanistan.  Fortunately, she adopted her son's K-9 partner from the military.  Warrior is very protective of her and is a great partner in sharing their sorrow. 
Jamie Gordon has a charismatic quality attracting Ronnie as he joins the party.  His handsomeness certainly draws everyone's attention.
Suddenly a commotion is outside with the sound of breaking branches as an older man dressed in black falls through the dogwood tree.  While hanging in the tree, while moaning, Frank calls 9-1-1 just as the branches again break dropping him to the ground,   The man looks at Jamie and whispers, "The book."
"I always said...if it was the last thing...I ever did..."   These are the man's last words.   Why?   What did the burglar steal upstairs while the people were enjoying the elaborate party downstairs?
While waiting for the police, Win notices a bulge in the man's pocket.  Would you look?  It's evident that the man was stealing something from upstairs.  
Ronnie ends up investigating much more than Win's loyalty to his wife in Searching for Gatsby.
Niki Danforth, the author, resides in New Jersey with her dogs and husband.   Notice, the dogs are listed first.   She believes her desire for excitement is from being the daughter of a covert intelligence officer of the Cold War.  She previously has worked as a television director.
Searching for Gatsby is a fast-paced, tightly woven, cozy mystery.  The characters are believable and intriguing.   With a little touch of romance, a smattering of thrills, and mystery with as many tentacles as an octopus Searching for Gatsby is a fun, fast novel for mystery fans.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

If You Were Me and Lived in...Middle Ages, Viking Europe

Author: Carole P. Roman
Illustrator: Mateya Arkova
Create Space Independent Publishing Platform
North Charleston, South Caroling
If You Were Me and Lived in...Middle Ages
ISBN: 978-1533673244
$ 19.99
98 pages
If You Were Me and Lived in...Viking Europe
ISBN: 978-1532875304
$ 16.99
76 pages

Imagine living in England during the year 1072.   To help you, former social studies teacher, Carole Roman along with illustrator, Mateya Arkova, have created the perfect tool for transporting each of us into that time and place through the pages of this exquisite book.
The paperback explains how life changed from when the Romans controlled the country and their contributions to the change of the Renaissance period beginning around 1400 A.D. 
By taking a reading journey into each fiefdom, you learn about the world of knights who sold their services and life as a servant or vassal.
This book is through the eyes of a daughter whose father was a knight in William of Normandy's army and rewarded with land for being victorious with the invasion of England.   Describing life inside the keep is picturesque.
Also, well-represented is the perspective from being a peasant.   I find the section regarding the medical field fascinating, but obviously not the healthiest.
In the back of the book are listing about famous people of the period as well as a glossary with definitions and pronunciations of common words of the time.
For the book, If You Were Me and Lived in...Viking Europe, the time period is around 870 A.D. and set in Norway, along the coast. 
I was surprised to learn the difference between Scandinavians and Norsemen.  The difference is that they are from the same area, but the Norsemen was used for the people who moved to the foreign lands explored.
Also explained are the patterns for family last names describing the use of ...son and ...dottir. 
The class system for the Vikings is defined and easily pictured due to the illustrations which perfectly match the text.
The descriptions and pictures of the houses are fascinating transporting you to another time and place.
The section about your grandmother is both educational and entertaining.  "She had a loud voice, and when she was irritated about something or felt that the community was insulted, she would nag and harangue the men into action.  She worried about the town's honor and was known to use her magic to keep them safe."
Listed at the end is a guide including pronunciation and short description of some of the better known Norse Gods.  Also included is a list of some of the great Vikings throughout the period of exploration. As usual, the book is completed with a glossary of common words for the book, including a pronunciation guide.
Both of these books transport the reader into other times and places with the texts in each book perfectly matching the illustrations.
These books are intended for elementary children but readers of all ages can both learn and enjoy the time traveling journeys of a past time.

Playing with Fire

Playing With Fire
A Daniel Jacobus Mystery
Gerald Elias
Severn House
Sutton, Surrey, England
ISBN: 978-0-7278-8614-9
$ 28.99
218 pages

Why did you purchase a musical instrument?  Did you dream of playing music?   Could you imagine yourself in Carnegie Hall playing to standing room only audience embracing the melodies and enriching every listener to a once-in-a-lifetime experience?
Surprisingly, not everyone views the purchase of a musical instrument this way.
Daniel Jacobus is a crotchety blind violinist.  Years ago, he lost his vision just as the opportunity for greatness opened for him.   Perhaps there is a reason for his being upset with life.
Christmas Eve is a special time at Daniel's home with his good friends, Yumi, a concertmaster and masterful violinist,  Nathaniel, a longtime friend who works as a musical instrument and art fraud and theft agent, along with Trotsky, his temperamentally huge bulldog.
Amadeo Borlotti calls Jacobus asking if he can come over to talk with him.   Amadeo repairs violins for school children.  Why would his voice sound as if visiting with Jacobus is important?  Why would he need to consult with Daniel?
The next day, Daniel is feeling guilty when he learns that Borlotti's house has burnt down and Borlotti is missing.
Why?   What has happened?  Could Jacobus have prevented the loss of his home?  Where is Borlotti?
Jacobus, Yumi, and Nathaniel begin to investigate while being thrown into a world they never knew existed.
Playing with Fire is the fifth Daniel Jacobus' mystery following Devil's Trill, Danse Macabre, Death and the Maiden, and Death and Transfiguration.   Unlike the other four novels which all encircle one musical selection, Playing with Fire does not connect to any one piece of music.   This book educates the reader about the world of rare violins made by outstanding and legendary master such as Stradivarius while loosely based on the real-life crimes of Dietmar Machold.
Gerald Elias is the Musical Director of the Vivaldi Candlelight concert series, first violinist of the Abramyan String Quartet,  Associate Concertmaster of the Utah Symphony since 1988, and an Adjunct Professor of Music at the University of Utah. 
He previously played the violin for the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Playing with Fire is a fast-paced novel continuing the story of Jacobus.  The book can be a standalone without reading the previous books in the series.   However, firmly believe that everyone would enjoy the book more if they have read the first novel, The Devil's Trill to better understand the character relationships.
Playing with Fire is a thrilling journey into the world of exquisitely valuable violins interwoven into a enthralling mystery.