Sunday, October 31, 2010

Snow Day

Billy Coffey
Hatchette Book Group
October 2010
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-446-56826-5
208 pages

Sometimes everyone needs a day of unplanned life, a day of reflection, a snow day.

Early in the morning, Peter Boyd listens to his radio station that is encouraging everyone in this small Virginia town to take a snow day. This is the type of snow that is growing in inches every hour. He decides to call in to work to actually take a snow day being that his wife and kids are home for the day. Even though he is aware that his position at his factory is about to be cut, Peter realizes that he needs o get away, just for a break from the daily grind.

His wife’s first priority is to send him to the store. They desperately need milk, bread, and there are about twenty more items on the list. There go his plans to hibernate and take it easy. However the lessons he learns and the people that Peter interacts with make this a memorable and worthwhile day with reflections all of us need to be reminded exist. We all need to look for these gifts throughout every day.

SNOW DAY is Billy Coffey’s debut novel written in the first person listening and learning from the normal daily events that many of us choose not to see or are just too busy to look, listen, respond, and act. From needing help in a supermarket, to finding the real Santa Claus, to a reunion with the class loser, to finding a caring UPS worker, and to observing the teen-aged speed demon driving a sports car on ice are all lessons that many people miss in their everyday life. Peter discovers these and more.
Sometimes everyone needs a day of unplanned life, a day of reflection, a snow day.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Murder to Mil-Spec

A Crime Fiction Anthology to Benefit Homes for our Troops
Wolfmont Press
October 2010
ISBN: 978-1-60364-028-2
234 pages

There are numerous causes that many people find worthy today. However, some causes are unquestionably just the right thing to support. Homes for our Troops is definitely one of those that need present home cannot accommodate their needs, this agency allows them to have a new home that is specially adapted for their needs and at no cost to the veteran.

Wolfmont Press yearly donates an anthology to benefit a charity and this year they have chosen Homes for our Troops. The authors donate their stories and also promote the book while accepting no funds for compensation. Wolfmont also donates all their profits from the book to this charity.

MURDER TO MIL-SPEC is a collection of twelve short stories by Terrie Farley Moran, Dorothy B. Francis, Big Jim, Williams, Elizabeth Zelvin, Lina Zeldovich, Charles Schaeffer, Howard B. Carron, Brendan Dubois, Janis Patterson, Barb Goffman, S.M. Harding, and Diana Catt. These are all authors who are not well-known and are fairly new to publishing.

Each story is based on a military crime featuring various conflicts around the world from World War II to the present.

Most of the stories are simple with believable characters and events based on real events with conflicts. Each story is engaging and my personal criticism is that the stories are not longer and that they end. The variety of the settings as well as the conflicts within each story is superb illustrations into a realistic military life. These stories are gems.

“Salome’s Gift” by Diana Catt is outstanding. Salome is a fourteen-year-old girl whose brother is fighting for our country in Iraq. He sends her a birthday gift with a puzzle. When her brother is reported as being missing, her grief and reactions make the story feel all too real. The conclusion was perfect.

Read MURDER TO MIL-SPEC. It is definitely worth the money which goes to a worthy cause and you will also have a wonderful collection of stories.

Don't Look Now: Emmy Budd Volume 2

Jean Blasiar
Charles River Press
July 2010
ISBN: 978-1-936185-14-6
128 pages

“That man in the phone booth. He’s looking right at me again. Look someplace else.”

Emmy Budd is speaking these words to T.J. Blake as the two are planning on seeing a movie. In the small town of Jerseyville, Ohio in the 1950s where everyone knows everyone else, this stranger’s actions scare Emmy Budd.

What would a twelve-year-old do when there’s a strange man watching and following her? Emmy Budd is somewhat relieved when her best friend, T. J. Blake shows up and joins her. However, the twosome is not pleased when they are being followed and someone seems to be trying to run them down while they are riding their bikes.

When T.J. and Emmy go to the local pharmacy, they are surprised to find a new manager in the store.
They both find this strange as Mister Foster with his sister, have always owned this pharmacy. So why have both of the owners all of a sudden left town? How is this strange man that has been following related to the Fosters and why is he so interested in two twelve-year-olds?

DON’T LOOK NOW is the second book by Jean Blasiar featuring Emmy Budd. The first book, EMMY BUDD AND THE HIJACKED TRAIN is also written in much of the tradition on Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, Emmy Budd and her best friend, T. J. Blake investigate and assist the local police in solving crime.

Jean Blasiar has written seven young adult novels, including the Emmy Budd series. She has also written eight full-length productions in the Los Angeles area. She lives in Southern California where she is writing more Emmy Budd novels.

DON’T LOOK NOW is a well-written simple mystery novel with realistic characters who smartly investigate crimes. The story is aimed at the tween audience with no inappropriate words or insinuations. I look forward to new additions in this series.

Music of the Spheres

By Michael Burke
A Caravel Mystery
Pleasure Book Studio: A Literary Press
December 1, 2010
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-1-929355-70-9
180 pages

What is “The Music of the Spheres”?

“You can’t hear it. It’s not audible; it’s just there. It’s based on the rhythms of the universe. Pythagoras came up with it.”

When Hank Menotti decides to return to his home from spending twelve years in prison, the local bartender is concerned about conflicts. LeRoy calls his longtime friend, Blue Heron, to look in on Billy Windsore, son of the murdered man. Since Hank pleaded to the lesser charge of manslaughter, there have always been questions about who really killed George Windsor.
Blue decides to drive over to Bill’s house and nicks a car’s bumper while avoiding a collision with another vehicle. Instinctively, he feels a need to continue to Bill’s house immediately. When he knocks on the door, there is no answer. He then starts walking around the house and looks in through a window to see Bill’s body laying face down. Blue tries the back door and finds it unlocked. He rushes in and rolls Bill over. Bill is barely alive and whispers, “Blue, red, green, red, yellow, green,” and dies.
Logically, Hank would be the obvious suspect, but Blue begins to work with the police to investigate both the original murder as well as Bill’s. Someone with money makes it obvious that Blue is stepping on their toes. Also, what did Bill’s last words have to do with anything, except maybe a traffic light?
Michael Burke graduated from Harvard and has spent time in the army as well as working with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. He also worked for New York City with urban planning and taught at Columbia University. For the past thirty years, he has developed a career in painting and sculpture.
MUSIC OF THE SPHERES is a short, high-action, adventure in the old detective style of many years ago. The style refers to when men fought, drank, smoked, spent much time in bars, and did manly things while all women were extremely curvaceous and enjoyed being ogled. This is a tightly strung together novel that keeps you wondering even after you finish the last page.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fever of the Bone

By Val McDermid
First published in Great Britain 2009
Harper Collins
ISBN: 978-0-06-198648-2
512 pages

Very few people welcome change and Detective Chief Inspector Carol Jordan now finds that she has a new boss, James Blake as her chief constable. One of his actions is to let her know that there will be changes, especially with her team and the use of Dr. Tony Hill, the experienced psychologist who contractually develops profiles of offenders. He also is questioning if this experienced successful team would be more cost effective if they were split up. Carol feels the need to prove their worth, including Tony.

In nearby Worcester, a fourteen-year-old girl, Jennifer Maidmont, was brutally murdered. Tony Hill is called in to assist since the local authorities seem to have no leads. Jennifer was a nice, sweet girl who hadn’t been in trouble before or caused anyone any concern. She was an only child. Why was she murdered? The only lead the police have is that she spent time on the internet on RigMarole, a social networking site. Apparently Jennifer was going to meet someone who knew her secrets. What secrets? Jennifer’s family and best friend had no idea what secrets were not being shared.

In Carol Jordan’s local community, fourteen-year-old boys seem to be following this same pattern. All the victims seem to also be involved with RigMarole and only children. They also were all murdered in exactly the same manner. How do you stop a serial killer when you are not certain why these children are being targeted? Is there a connection between the boys and the one girl victim?

FEVER OF THE BONE is the sixth novel by Val McDermid featuring Dr. Tony Hill. This story is masterfully woven. Each piece interlocks and connects to the others but only when the reader begins to view the entire picture. Added to the deaths is a cold case involving the disappearance of a mother and her daughter as well as the natural death of Tony’s estranged father. Added to this are the awkward sexual situations regarding lesbian relationships. The characters are all realistically flawed but driven to do the right thing and completely committed to their investigations. The story flows at an increasing pace, much as a real investigation would develop. This is definitely one novel that you might want to read in one sitting. The story is haunting and driven in such a way that you cannot leave the story.

The strength of FEVER OF THE BONE is definitely the overlapping and the interweaving of the crimes. This technique causes the story to have intensity and an internal drive. FEVER OF THE BONE is fast-paced, intelligent, insightful, and definitely a must-read for any mystery lover.

Teri Davis October 17, 2010

Late for School

By Steve Martin
September 2010
Grand Central Publishing
Hachette Book Group
ISBN-13: 978-0-446-55702-3
32 pages

“If I’m late there’s misery
I won’t be up on history
I’ll be in the English grammar slammer
And I’ll get a C!”

Who hasn’t at some time in their life been worried about being late for school? Steve
Martin looks back Into his childhood with the help of illustrator C. F. Payne and reflects on
his personal daily struggle of being on time and the responsibility of learning in school.

The poetry is a little unconventional in that it has forced rhymes through use of a
backwoods type of country slang. The music on the CD is perfect for the mood with the
rhythm and rhyme of the poetry.

The illustrations are phenomenal. Besides bearing a strong resemblance to the real Steve
Martin at an early age, these are well-drawn portraits of definite moments in the author’s

Steve Martin is best known as a comedian but he has also written books and screenplays as well as being an actor and screenwriter. He’s won Emmys and Grammys. He continues to write s and frequently his work appears in THE NEW YORKER and THE NEW YORK TIMES.
C. F. Payne is an illustrator who has worked collaboratively with numerous children’s authors and most notably, John Lithgow on The Remarkable Farkle McBride and Micawber. His artwork has been in almost every notable magazine published and most memorable has been his recent drawing of President Obama on the cover of Time Magazine.
With this book is a CD of Martin singing the poetry with accompaniment on the banjo. The second selection on the CD is strictly the banjo music.

LATE TO SCHOOL is fun to read, listen to, and definitely has outstanding artwork. Even though its targeted audience is for children from four to eight years of age, everyone will truly enjoy this glimpse of a memoir into the life of Steve Martin.

Teri Davis October 17, 2010

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Permanent Damage

By Dean Barrett
Village East Books Florida
ISBN: 978-0-9788888-2-4
392 pages

Scott Sterling is a washed-up detective barely surviving. He manages to live by living cheaply in Thailand above a bar and giving scuba lessons to tourists. He doesn’t think much about returning to the states in that he enjoys this lifestyle. He was introduced to this area as an ex-CIA operative in Vietnam. He has found that his former skills and training are perfect for being a private detective in Bangkok, Thailand.

Kylie Winters wants to hire Scott to investigate her father’s death many years ago. Supposedly, her father’s death was considered to be a suicide, but with the disappearance of bearer bonds worth millions and his gorgeous lover, Kylie wants answers to many questions. She is convinced that Jiab, the lover, killed her father for the bonds. . She wants this woman found and will pay by the day. Since Scott is in need of money, he agrees to take this investigation.

The adventure has intrigue, twists, and turns. The characters are believable and the investigation is written is such a manner that is realistic. This is a fast-paced, high-adventure novel. The references to the former events in Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand are accurate and pull the reader into the history of this region.

Most people understand that chic books are for females favoring those in their late teens and early twenties. Like this specific genre, PERMANENT DAMAGE is for Vietnam vets who even today daydream about the beauty of Thailand’s women. In blunt terms, this is a guy novel for Vietnam veterans. Yes, it can be read by those outside of this specific description, but it is obvious that there is a targeted readership.

Even though I am not in his intended readership audience, I enjoyed this novel with the constant intrigue and twists throughout the investigation. The motion of this is almost a narrative from Scott Sterling in remembering the involvement of the C.I.A. many years ago. This picture into the past was hypnotic with real events at the end of the war.

I was bothered by the lack of editing in the first half of this novel. With the usage of numerous acronyms, multiple errors in capitalization were distracting from the story. The second half of the novel had no obvious errors which made the reading more enjoyable and faster.

Dean Barrett has written numerous novels based in Thailand such as KINGDOM OF MAKE-BELIEVE, MEMOIRS OF A BANGKOK WARRIOR, SKYTRAIN IN MURDER, and IDENTITY THEFT. Those which are set in China are HANGMAN’S POINT, MISTRESS OF THE EAST, and DRAGON SLAYER. He has also written a musical set in Hong Kong, FRAGMENT HARBOUR and the additional novels of MURDER IN CHINA RED and DON QUIXOTE IN CHINA: THE SEARCH FOR PEACH BLOSSOM SPRING. He bases these books on his life as a Chinese linguist and has lived and traveled in Asia for thirty years.

PERMANENT DAMAGE leaves a permanent impression of the ending of the Vietnam War as well as what happened to those who stayed behind. This is definitely well-worth reading for everyone.

Teri Davis October 10, 2010