Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Randolph Women and Their Men

Author: Ruth Doumlele
Copyright 2010
Book Publishers Network
Paperback $ 19.95
ISBN 978-1035359-25-8
292 pages

Some names of particular families are well-respected from the viewpoint of the general public. Randolph in Virginia is such a name and instantaneously brings in the vision of wealth, prosperity, respectfulness, and properness. However, all the glistens is not gold.

The Randolph family perhaps is best known for their relationship with Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson’s daughter, Martha, married Thomas Mann Randolph, Jr. who later became the Governor of Virginia.

THE RANDOLPH WOMEN & THEIR MEN really centers on Ann Cary Randolph, nicknamed Nancy who supposedly was impregnated by her brother-in-law while living in her sister’s house. When she “miscarried”, there was considerable investigation as to whether or not the baby was murdered. Nancy denied that the baby belonged to her sister’s husband. Everybody just assumed this. Adding more intrigue and resentment is the fact that Nancy remained under this same roof for years.

Being that travel was an immense burden during the Revolutionary times, the only exposure to people was frequently only to those within a family. The number of marital relationships within cousins is startling, as well as the frequent births and deaths due to lack of medical knowledge at that time. Also, the gossiping rivaled any reality show of our modern age. The women tended to actually feed upon any tidbit or assumption that could be twisted into a rumor.

Hidden in the soap opera of the family feuds, infidelities, disloyalties, and affairs is the behind the scenes history of our country that is not well known to the general public. Also, the viewpoint of Thomas Jefferson from an observer was invigorating. His relationships, attitudes, and decisions regarding Madison, Monroe, Washington, Lafayette, and John Adams were insightful.

The constant instability of the slavery situations was an issue discussed in THE RANDOLPH WOMEN & THEIR MEN which allowed you to better understand the time period as well as the people and their economic dependency of this system.

At times, the many similar names became confusing. The history of lesser known events or how they related to a major happening though was enlightening. I found the gossip from two-hundred years ago to be petty and tiresome yet, the book was thoughtful and realistic. The characterizations were well-researched and developed. Yes, the author certainly had opinions and viewpoints regarding certain people and their reputations.

All in all, I enjoyed the book. I look forward to reading anything written by Ruth Doumlele in the future.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


By Dr. Laurence B. Brown
BookSurge Publishing
2007, 2008, 2010
ISBN-10: 1419673238
ISBN-13: 978-11419673237
332 pages

Is there a tidbit of knowledge somewhere that could challenge thebeliefs of most Christians? What
could threaten the Western Christianity beliefs, the Roman Catholic Church, as well as the Jewish

THE EIGHTH SCROLL is an action-adventure journey centering about the life of the fictional archeologist,
Dr. Michael Hansen. Having parents that were well-known in the academic world of archeology and
anthropology, Michael’s childhood and education was spent with his parents on their explorations
throughout the world. By intermixing fact with the fictional lives, this novel tells a story while also
questioning our beliefs with this character’s pursuit of the truth.

THE EIGHTH SCROLL reveals the circumstances beyond the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls written in
a simplistic conversational adventure. There is much history about the circumstances of the discovery
as well as the new discoveries and reaffirmations after the scrolls were read and studied.

What makes an excellent book? In my opinion, it is one that has you still thinking and questioning the
events long after you have read the last page. Even with the conclusion of the story, you still have
are left with thoughts of unsettled beliefs.

The characters are believable, likable, and well-developed. The action is fast-paced. The story line is
logical and realistic. What makes this novel outstanding, is the intermixing of factual events and findings
with a completely fictional story, similar to THE DAVINCI CODE.

Dr. Laurence Brown has graduated from Cornell University, Brown University Medical School, and
George Washington University Hospital to become an ophthalmic surgeon. He currently lives in Saudi
Arabia, but has spent extensive time also in America, England, and Jordan. He has also written two
books about comparative religion, THE FIRST AND FINAL COMMANDMENT and GOD’ED which further
document his personal religious beliefs.

One of my burning issues questions about THE EIGHTH SCROLL regarded the use of Book Surge, a self-
publishing agency. Why wasn’t this novel with an established publishing firm? Were the issues
questioned in this book too upsetting to general publishers?

I look forward to more adventures from Dr. Brown.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Author: Tess Gerritsen
Copyright 2010
Ballantine Books
Hardback $ 26.00
ISBN 978-0-345-51548-3
336 pages

Most adults live fairly predictable lives. As a medical examiner, Maura Isles, is cautious. She is not a risk-taker. So while at a pathologists’ convention in Wyoming, she is offered the opportunity for an adventure from a former college classmate and fellow pathologist. Since her love life is not doubtful now, maybe this chance will change her life into something more meaningful. She agrees to a ski trip for the weekend.

When GPS gives directions, we tend to believe it is correct. As snow is falling and getting increasingly deeper, you definitely are hoping it is correct. However, when you are stuck in the snow, then you could care less about the GPS and just look for some place safe and out of the weather.

Maura, the other pathologist and his thirteen-year-old daughter, and another couple decide to leave the vehicle and hike to safety, trudging through the snow. They are relieved to come upon a small village of twelve identical houses. They enter one whose door was unlocked and are surprised to find the house is not equipped with the usual comforts of everyday life, such as electricity and central heat. Also, puzzling is the dinner that was left on the table, not eaten.

Meanwhile, the local police find Maura’s burned body with those also on this ski trip. They inform Maura’s employer in Boston and her best friend, Jane Rizzoli with her husband, Gabriel Dean, who works with the FBI as well as her left-behind love, Father Daniel Brophy of her death. Something doesn’t seem right by this and the threesome decides to go to Wyoming for answers.

Being the eighth book in a series is always difficult for an author and a reader. The reader doesn’t always understand the characters and the relationships if they have not read the previous books. That does not hold true in ICE COLD. This novel works as either a part of a series or as a stand-alone novel. Ms. Gerritsen is masterful with this combined task.

Obviously, by the timing, the release of this novel is to also promote the new series of Rizzoli and Isles on TNT. Tess Gerritsen is a graduate of Stanford University with her degree in anthropology. She also has a medical degree and has worked as a physician in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Tess bases her stories on her experiences such as her first novel, Harvest which is about orphaned children being killed for their organs. The idea for her first novel came from her visit in Russia. Her first Rizzoli and Isles thriller was The Surgeon. She has also written a historical thriller, The Bone Garden. Now, Gerritsen lives in Camden, Maine and is married while being the mother of two sons.

ICE COLD is fast-paced and haunting. The characters are believable and extremely realistic.

This is the perfect novel to read while in the sweltering summer temperatures. Reading ICE COLD will definitely chill you to the bones.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Author: Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan
Copyright July 2010
Harper Collins Publishing
Paperback $ 9.99
ISBN 978-0-06-155824-5
608 pages

“Dusk was still many hours away, and he was impatient. Now that everything was in motion – the strain spreading throughout New York City with the sure exponential force of compound interest, doubling and doubling itself again every night – he hummed with the glee of a greedy banker. No financial success, of which there had been plenty, ever enlivened him as much as did this vast endeavor.”

Between Stephanie Meyer and Charlaine Harris most readers feel that they already are experts on vampires. Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan together have created a new aspect to the present day vampire trend. THE STRAIN treats the infection from the bites as a virus and involving the CDC with Dr. Ephraim Goodweather attempting to save the world from this infection. The vampire restrictions are a little different especially with the manner of biting the victims and the reflections of mirrors are actually more sensible. Overall, the vampire lifestyles are extremely detailed and explained well in this novel.

Dr. Goodweather is assisted by Nora Martinez as the two begin their quest to saving our country from the infection of evolving into vampires. They are called to the airport when a plane has landed but appears to be shut off, just sitting on the runway. When investigated, all the shades in the airplane are closed and there is no sign of life. Finally, as the doctors are investigating inside the plane, they discover that everyone has died, except four people. There is no logical reason though as to why these people died.

At the morgue, the autopsies have shown no logical reason as to why these people died. Also, the bodies have not begun to decompose at all. There is no evidence of rigor mortis. The next morning, the bodies of the dead are all missing. Again, there is no logical explanation.

Dealing with all this is demanding on Dr. Goodweather’s personal life. The demands of his career with the CDC have caused his marriage to fail and to now be fighting for the custody of his son.

Abraham Setrakian is an elderly, pawnbroker in Spanish Harlem who is a Holocaust survivor and a former professor. Abraham’s knowledge and research, as well as his supply of ancient and unusual weapons greatly boost the effectiveness with killing these vampires. Added to that is an exterminator, Vasily Fet, who views himself as the Savior of pest control. These two characters are definitely an asset in this story with their humanness and flaws.

Much of the story deals with the lives (or deaths) of the four survivors from the plane. When the story follows the experiences of these four, especially the father who was forced to kill his dogs, these glimpses into their everyday lives were added strengths to the reoccurrences of violence and death.

Guillermo Del Toro was born and raised in Mexico and studied filmmaking. He is known for his work on the film, Pan’s Labyrinth and Hellboy.

Chuck Hogan is a recognized and known author for books such as PRINCE OF THIEVES, DEVILS IN EXILE, THE KILLING MOON, and THE TOWN which won the Hammett Prize for outstanding crime writing. He lives near Boston.

THE STRAIN is the first book The Strain Trilogy written by Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan. Although there is much violence and repetition of vampire attacks, the strength is the relationships between the characters. What I found amazing in THE STRAIN was how little action was occurring as the pages whirled by as I was reading. The descriptions were vivid. The characterization is the area that is outstanding in this novel.

I definitely look forward to the next installment in this trilogy.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Author: Laura Lippman
Copyright August 17, 2010
William Morrow
Harper Collins Publishing
Paperback $ 25.99
ISBN 978-0-06-170655-4
384 pages

When a child has been kidnapped, usually they are killed. Occasionally, one of the kidnapped children manages to live through the harrowing experience. Logically, this victim cannot easily return to their former life. They also are always questioned by the community. Why are they alive? What did they have to do to live? What type of deal did they make with the monster? These lingering questions about why this child survived when others did not continue in the minds of the survivors and the victim’s families.

After spending many years in England, Eliza Benedict moves with her husband and children back to the general area where she lived both before and after she was kidnapped. She left her former life as Elizabeth Lerner behind when her parents moved to a nearby community after her return and the trial. Since that time, she took the name Eliza and was happily hidden by taking her husband’s name and being a full-time mother and housewife. Naturally, it is easier then to live in England, but now her husband’s job has returned them to the states.

Everything seems fairly normal until she is contacted by Walter Bowman, her former kidnapper, who is currently on death row. He wants to talk to her before he dies by lethal injection. He discovered her picture in a publication with her husband. Even though he had been on death row longer than his cell mates, when he saw the picture he immediately recognized Eliza. His comment about the picture, “I’d know you anywhere.”

I’D KNOW YOU ANYWHERE is Lippman at her best. The tale is haunting with the reader actually in the shoes of Eliza and viewing everything through her eyes. The voice is sincere and the intertwining of the past events with the present was beautifully written. Each page reveals a little more of each character. The pacing is fast and intense.

Laura Lippman has won the Edgar, Quill, Anthony, Nero Wolfe, Agatha, Gumshoe, Shamus, Barry, and the Macavity for her previous novels. This Baltimore native has also worked as a journalist in her home town.

I am always amazed at how each of Lippman’s novels seem better than the previous ones. This is definitely an author that everyone should read as an outstanding mystery writer and to also discover more about humankind. I always look forward to anything written by Laura Lippman.

Monday, July 5, 2010


Author: Ishmael Beah
Copyright 2007
Sarah Crichton Books
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Hardback $ 22.00
ISBN 978-0-374-10523-5
242 pages

Children who grow up using guns, obviously are not typical in our global society today. Responsible adults everywhere try to prevent children having access to guns. How does this affect a teenager when they discover themselves in the middle of a civil war in their native country?

This is Ishmael Beah’s story of his life in Sierra Leone which begins when he joins his friends in a nearby village for a talent show where they are dancing to hip-hop. While there, their home village was attacked by a rebel army leaving few people alive.

Stranded, confused, and now homeless, the boys search for surviving members of their families while trying to keep themselves alive. Naturally, the rebels discover the boys and they are persuaded to either join the group or be killed. This begins their lives as soldiers who tend to have sociopathic leaders and are constantly controlled by fear and drug usage.

Ishmael finally finds himself with UNICEF and gradually being rehabilitated back into acceptable society.

The strength of this account is the personal voice of the author and the atrocities he witnessed. The weakness is definitely the verification and the accuracy of the events. Perhaps it was because the country was not strongly connected with technology that some of the events are confusing and seemed out of sequence.

Also, I am concerned about anyone who has killed others with no remorse and justifies the deaths because of their age, being on drugs, or the conditions of the times. I found myself interested in the story, but not trusting the author.

Overall, the book is thought-provoking. I finished the book though with more questions than answers.

Saturday, July 3, 2010


Author: Jeanne R. Kraus
Illustrator: Diana R. Arneson
Copyright 2010
Paperback $ 19.95
ISBN 978-1-45-020085-1
256 pages

If you are over fifty, female, have difficulty losing weight, and do not like the entire aging procedure, then this book is for you. Other preferable criteria would be for those of us in the education field, especially elementary education, we can truly relate to the experiences in WRINKLES, WAISLINES, AND WET PANTS. For the rest of the world, they would fail to connect with the daily challenges for those of us in this grouping.

How many of us have been frustrated with our current look and always wonder about having a make-over? That’s what Jeanne Kraus experienced. However, her make-over did not have the results that she expected. (You need to read the book to discover what really happened)

Another issue is attending important social events, especially weddings, and having to deal with either getting sick or the emergency bathroom visits. I’ll let you read the book to discover how unsuccessfully some of us handle those incidents.

WRINKLES, WAISTLINES AND WET PANTS is one person’s aging experiences through humorous eyes. It’s light and enjoyable reading that is all-too-truthful about the daily challenges many people experience.

Jeanne R. Kraus lives in Tamarac, Florida and works as a reading specialist in an elementary school. Her sister, Diana R, Arneson illustrated the book. Other books Ms. Kraus has written are CORY STORIES: A KID’S BOOK ABOUT LIVING WITH ADHD which is about her son and ANNIE’S PLAN: TAKING CHARGE OF SCHOOLWORK AND HOMEWORK.

Friday, July 2, 2010


Author: M. L. Malcolm
Copyright June 8, 2010
Paperback $ 13.99
ISBN 978-0-06-196218-9
336 pages

There is something special about a book that makes you love each character, flaws and gifts. That is HEART OF LIES.

Leo Hoffman was born in Hungary with a natural ability to easily learn languages. This unusual ability allows him into circles of influential people whom he would not otherwise interact. Due to his being part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and his country allying themselves with Germany during World War I, Leo discovers that his good-looks and his ease with languages opens opportunities to become almost another person. This person is someone educated, handsome, influential, and wealthy. Through his association with some unscrupulous characters, he finds himself being involved with stealing diamonds and murder.

Just at this time, he falls in love with Martha while instantaneously spotting her in Paris. Both are truly victims of love at first site. Promising to meet her but having to flee for his life, he rebuilds his life in Shanghai and eventually sends for Martha to become his wife. Even there, he uses the stolen diamonds to reestablish himself as a rich and powerful player in the business world.

Leo’s story revolves around events in America, Asia, and Europe from the 1920s into the next World War. He always is involved with the shadier side of business while appearing to be legal, while actually having international illegal business interactions.

Besides the characters, the strength is the accurate historical references to numerous events that are not well-known in this country such as the Hungarian counterfeiting scandal of 1925, the rubber market fiasco in 1925, the stock market crash of 1929 and the effects around the world, events involving Chiang Kai-shek in China, Shanghai’s bombing in 1937, forging passports, the Japanese invading Shanghai, Hitler’s influence in Germany and the world in the 1930s, the Irish immigration into America, and the expulsion of the Jews through Europe.

The lies involve Leo with his family who has no idea of these problematic situations in his businesses. Leo’s wife, Martha who is Jewish, has difficulties with her family and has no clue of Leo’s promiscuous or risky behavior. Maddy is the daughter of Leo and Martha who has musical gifts that unfortunately are overlooked in the strict Catholic educational system. Amelia, who is Leo’s mistress, has her own values and priorities.

M. L. Malcolm is a graduate of Harvard Law School. Now, as a recovering attorney, she has lived in Florida, Boston, Washington, D.C., France, New York, Atlanta, and Los Angeles. She has already won recognition in the Lorian Hemingway International Short Story Competition and the silver medal from ForeWord magazine for the Historical Fiction Book of the Year.

HEART OF LIES is the third printing of this exquisite account based on the author’s husband’s family with an added poetic license. Originally this was published in 2005 by Longstreet Press and again in 2008 as SILENT LIES by A Good Read Publishing.

My regret with HEART OF LIES is that there will be a sequel. The story concludes, but not completely. I definitely plan to read that sequel and anything else written by M. L. Malcolm.