Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Troubled Bones

Troubled Bones: A Medieval Noir
Jeri Westerson
Minotaur Books
October 11, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-312-62163-6
304 pages

In the year of 1385, Crispin Guest has a new assignment in Canterbury, England protecting the bones of Thomas a Beckett from being stolen and destroyed. Unfortunately, one of the first people he meets there is his old former friend, Geoffrey Chaucer. Obviously, the two forfeited their former friendship and now Crispin visibly shows animosity around Chaucer.

Almost immediately, a prioress is murdered in the exact spot where Beckett was assassinated nearly two-hundred years earlier. Added to that, Beckett’s bones are missing and another unrelated murder occurs. Were Beckett’s bones missing before Crispin came to Canterbury?

With Crispin is Jack Tucker, his young companion and apprentice, who falls in love immediately with a young nun, the one who witnessed the prioress’s murder. Meanwhile, Chaucer is imprisoned by the archbishop who plans to execute him if is Crispin does not discover the real murderer.

The story parallels much of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in this medieval setting. Jeri Westerson excels in placing the reader back into this time period with the problems of the times being the Franklin thought versus the Lancaster. Basically, this controversy was over the idea that the bones of a saint could possibly heal or work miracles. What would people then do if the bones were destroyed?
Also revealed was the reality of the author Chaucer, who really was a spy for Lancaster. The issue of loyalty and the results of supporting the wrong brother in the royal family also demonstrated the actuality of the time. Many of the characters were based on real events and people of the time period.

Troubled Bones is the fourth book in this series featuring Crispin Guest. Veil of Lies is the first novel in this series with Serpent in the Thorns and The Demon’s Parchment following. Without having read the first three novels, this enthralling mystery superbly can be read as a standalone. Obviously, the reader will have more insight to character development if they read the first three novels to truly understand Crispin and Jack.

While reading this short mystery, I was impressed by how well the author knew the time period and people’s thoughts and reactions. Troubled Bones succeeded in having me travel to another time and place through the masterful author, Jeri Westerson.

Monday, December 26, 2011

The House of Silk

The House of Silk
Anthony Horowitz
Mulholland Books
Little, Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group
November 2011
ISBN: 978-0-316-19699-4
304 pages
$ 27.99

The House of Silk was commissioned by the Arthur Conan Doyle estate to create a new Sherlock Holmes novel. Anthony Horowitz was selected to be the author of this new series after writing the preteen series Alex Rider, Power of Five, and The Diamond Brothers. He has also written the PBS’s Foyle’s War series, Collision, and Injustice along with numerous other television and film productions.

When an American woman marries an affluent art dealer, naturally, his family will be somewhat suspicious of her. They think that she might be after his money. When his mother is discovered dead due to a gas leak, there are questions about was it a suicide, an accident, or murder.

This particular art dealer, Edmund Carstairs initially contacts Sherlock Holmes regarding a man who seems to be watching their house wearing a flat cap. With his business recently, there had been a tremendous theft of many pieces of art while they were in transit. The believed thieves also wore these caps, and one of them was killed in the U.S. However, the twin brother of one of the thieves seems to have disappeared.

This story is logical with unpredictable connections weaving the story together. The characters closely follow the traditional Sherlock Holmes and Watson. Although not quite as brilliant as Doyle with the word choices or enticement, the story still is enthralling. The reader is constantly wondering about how this will all fit together or what will be the next twist in the story. The characters are believable and definitely reflect the worst of humanity.

One warning, even though this author is well-known to the preteen audience, this is definitely not a book for a preteen. There is definitely a subject matter that would not be appropriate for this age group.

The House of Silk is a quick and involved mystery. Anthony Horowitz is an outstanding preteen author who is now successfully entering the world of adult fiction.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Home Front

Home Front
Kristin Hannah
St. Martin’s Press
January 31, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-312-57720-9
400 pages
$ 27.99

Frequently, a book surprises you. This is the book home front.

When her parents died in a car accident, Jolene discovered a new family, the Army National Guard. This group molded her to develop into a confident adult. As she made friends she developed skills such as becoming a helicopter pilot. Eventually, this self-reliant woman met the love of her life, Michael, who was a lawyer and was enthralled with Jolene. The two became the parents of two daughters and established their home.

Anytime the traditional role of husband and wife are reversed, many people have difficulty with it.
This is the situation for Jolene and Michael. Michael works as a successful lawyer heading his family firm while Jolene works as a housewife and mother of two daughters. There’s nothing unusual there except that Jolene is also in the Army National Guard as a helicopter pilot. Now, she has orders to go to Iraq.

Obviously, this turns into chaos for her family. Michael expects the family to accommodate his work demands but is resentful of being placed in the situation of being a single parent for a year. He also is not accepting of Jolene’s Guard family and refuses to interact with them. Jolene realizes that she has two choices. She either goes to Iraq or to jail. That isn’t much of a choice. Before Jolene deploys, Michael’s last words to her hurtful is that he no longer loves her.

Isn’t that a great way to leave your family and to enter a war zone?

Although this novel is skirting the edge of a romance novel, it really belongs in women’s fiction. This novel encompasses more though. The dramas regarding the homecoming of any soldier returning after being involved in a war zone is a realistic and problematic situation that this country tends to not recognize. Whether it is labeled PTSD, post-traumatic stress syndrome, or battle fatigue, or shell shock, as our military suffers from these, we have a responsibility to them and to their families. This novel has one perspective of this.

Personally, I found the annoying twelve-year-old daughter to be very realistic. All the characters were superbly described and developed. My only concern was the tendency to almost being a romance novel.

I was surprised at the strength of the characters especially Michael and Betsy, the tween-aged daughter. Choosing the military life with the complexity with the realistic problems of the military returning home and their readjustment is the underlying theme. This problem could easily have been a novel that would have interested both male and female readers, rather than basically being a novel for women’s fiction.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

One of Our Thursdays is Missing

Jasper Forde
ISBN: 978-0-670-02252-6
384 pages

“The circumstances of your confusion will be your path to enlightenment.”

That is the advice for Thursday Next, the written one, to find the missing Thursday Next, the real one.
The written Thursday Next has to enter the real world to search for the real Thursday Next but not
before she finds a replacement for the readers of the Thursday Next books. Confused yet?

For those who have not read any of these books, please read the first one, The Eyre Affair, before
attempting to enter the Book World through any other book, even this one. Being that this is the sixth Thursday Next series, this continues the adventures with the mild-mannered written Thursday trying to think and act as the real Thursday. With the written Thursday being a much less adventurous personality than the real one, this places the written Thursday in some difficult situations.

What makes this novel interesting is the perspective from the written Thursday. This delves into the daily challenges of being read and the “tricks of the trade” from the Book World. The character of Sprocket is introduced as the extremely efficient and caring robotic butler. Also, the reader this time has a window into the everyday life of the real Thursday’s life without much of the adventure, but her role as a wife and mother.

Being reacquainted with the previous characters in the series was like meeting old friends. You still feel the affection or at least the empathy for the book characters, even those you might have viewed as evil or despicable.

Reading Jasper Fforde’s novels is always enjoyable as you never know what to expect. I thoroughly enjoy this unique world with wonderfully developed characters in this literary world.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

and she was

and she was
Alison Gaylin
Harper Collins Publisher
February 28, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-06-187820-6
384 pages
$ 7.99

Brenna Spector has an unusual ability that she views as a condition, almost a handicap. She truly remembers every incident that has ever happened in her life since the trauma of her sister, Clea, disappeared and becoming a missing person. From trivial incidents such as what she ate for breakfast to every word every person spoke, she remembers it all and attempts to be attentive to the present without having the past memories overwhelm her thoughts.

Hyperthymestic syndrome has only been recognized by the medical community since 2006. This is the condition where the person has perfect autobiographical memory and remembers everything detected by her senses for every moment of their past. This condition has recently been popularized by the current television program, Unforgettable featuring Poppy Montgomery. It makes a normal life near impossible with the past memories always interfering with the daily life.

In as she was, Brenna works as a private investigator that obviously has no need for taking any notes. She has always been curious about a disappearance over a decade ago of six-year-old Iris Neff, who possibly was last seen entering a blue car, just like Clea, Brenna’s sister, when she disappeared forever.

Now Brenna has been hired to investigate Carol Wentz who was one of the last people who saw Iris Neff alive and she is currently missing. However, when she begins to investigate, she is haunted with memories of her past . Logically, Carol’s husband is the obvious suspect but he seems to be keeping secrets of his own. She also develops a professional respect for Detective Morasco who is also working through his own personal guilt.

and she is an enthralling page turner. The pacing races through each page with believable, realistic characters. There is never a dull sentence. The story rapidly flows into an unpredictable but logical conclusion.

as she was featuring Brenna Spector in this first of Alison Gaylin’s new series. Recently, she has written Hide Your Eyes which was nominated for an Edgar. She has also written You Kill Me, Trashed, and Heartless.

Brenna Spector is a wonderful protagonist who attempts to balance her daily life of being a single parent while being a private investigator. Her daughter, Maya, is gifted at manipulating Brenna who also has to deal with moving on from her former husband. Fortunately, she employs Trent who has numerous personal identity issues but is brilliant with a computer.

I look forward to the sequel to and she was.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Queen Elizabeth in the Garden

Trea Martyn
Blue Bridge
United Tribes Media
January 30, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-933-34636-6
$ 22.95
336 pages

There have been numerous novels about the Queen Elizabeth I but none have ever considered the
the style of gardens that hold her name and how those gardens affected her decisions in ruling her

Most of this book revolves around the creation of these magnificent gardens by two of her advisors,
Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicaster and William Cecil, Lord Burghley, her chief minister. These two
constantly competed to be Elizabeth’s favorite and sought her attention by the constant
expansion and creation of artistic masterpieces in their gardens to the point of almost bankrupting

Kenilworth Castle in Warwickshire was Robert Dudley’s home and Cecil lived at Theobalds Palace in
Hertfordshire. Influenced greatly by artists in Italy and France, these two elaborate places rose to a
decorating Renaissance height that has seldom been achieved in history.

It is amazing to think about those magnificent gardens with the mazes, labyrinths, decorative hedges,
herbs, and the rivalries of Elizabeth’s many advisors to each vie for her favored attention.

For us to go back in time and think about the numerous influential people who owned, tended, or were
guests in these magnificent creations, this book allows the reader to see through the eyes of a visitor
who might have personally known Shakespeare or to witness even the discussion of executing Mary,
Queen of Scots.

QUEEN ELIZABETH IN THE GARDEN is Trea Martyn’s believable account of what likely happened in the 1500s. Martyn excells at understanding how the development and continual expansion as well as perfecting of these gardens influenced history. Dudley was considered to be a possible suitor for Elizabeth, but frequently she enjoyed both men’s efforts to please her at extravagant costs.

This perspective of historical fiction was fascinating and frequently shocking at the lengths and expense both men would go to for Elizabeth’s pleasure. The events seemed believable and were well-researched.

I was amazed at how enthralling the novel seemed as the characters, real historical people, became real in the writing. I look forward to Trea Martyn’s next novel project.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Just Deserts

JUST DESERTS (Hetta Coffey Mystery Series)
Jinx Schwartz
Treble Heart Books
August 18, 2011
ISBN: 978-1936127771
325 pages
$ 12.95
Kindle Edition
349 KB
ASIN: B005SZ171I
$ 0.99

Living on a boat can be full of adventure. For Hetta Coffey in JUST DESERTS, her boat life is sidelined when blisters are discovered on the bottom of her small yacht. She thoroughly enjoys living this way but unfortunately, she has to occasionally work in order to pay the bills and especially when her boat requires expensive and possibly extensive repairs.

Fortunately being a well-qualified civil engineer, Hetta only has to make one phone call to be assigned a job that pays well close to where she is currently located. She is assigned a job in Mexico for a mining company that currently is experiencing labor/union issues and is in desperate need of being updated, especially in the area of safety standards.

Hetta discovered that being located in northern Mexico is problematic and decides to search for a home on the other side of the border in Arizona. She temporarily rents a luxury house and enjoys her time alone in this home until she is visited by a local coyote and numerous friends. Between being a host for her friends, and the local problems of smuggling people, drugs, materials for a dirty bomb, and terrorists, life is far from boring.

JUST DESERTS is the fourth novel in this Hetta Coffey series by author, Jinx Schwarz. She also wrote an outstanding young adult novel, LAND OF MOUNTAINS, which was based on her own life growing up in Haiti.

JUST DESERTS is a little slow at the beginning. Hetta experienced too many problems to be the spunky character with a sense of humor. It is difficult in any series to continually develop the characters without reviewing too much for loyal readers. This particular novel did have Hetta asking many questions about the mining company and the area with no easy answer. The coyote character was reassuring and added humanity regarding this part of the country.

For anyone who has not read any of Jinx Schwartz novels, you are missing a masterful storyteller who tells a memorable and enjoyable tale.

Brain Stem

Robert W. Walker
Kindle Edition
Amazon Digital Services
April 15, 2010
$ 0.99
410 KB

If a healthy baby was subjected to brain surgery at birth, could that affect the child for life? What if part of their brain was exchanged with Einstein’s brain? Would the child be a genius? How could you insure that this child would have values and ethics to balance their intelligence?

Dennis Spears, nicknamed Ice, is a police detective who focuses on doing the right thing, even if it
contradicts orders from his superiors. The apparent suicide of a medical student who was serving her
residency at a mental hospital though just doesn’t feel right to him. Joanna Peters seemed to be the
perfect woman so why would she commit suicide? While he is examining the body, she seems to be
alive, but for only a second. Why? Dennis is certain that he did not imagine this. Unfortunately, the
rest of the police force thinks that he needs a break from his stressful life.

Dennis is plagued with nightmares as he begins to investigate into Joanna’s death. Coincidentally, the
setting for his dreams seems to be the mental hospital where Joanna worked. He has not visited or seen
these buildings before, so is this a premonition? Why would he dream of a place he had never visited?

BRAIN STEM is only available as a Kindle book through Amazon. The author has recently only had his novels as Amazon Kindle exclusives. He recently published his 50th novel.

BRAIN STEM is a medical thriller. It’s fast-paced and definitely a quick read at an economically low-price. The characters are believable even if some aspects are a little far-fetched. The story is fairly simplistic with completing a single plot line. There were some setting changes in the story that were abrupt. They needed either an introductory lead or markings to let the reader be aware of the change.

Overall, BRAIN STEM is an easy, quick, thriller featuring the very enjoyable character of Dennis Spears. I look forward to reading more books with this character.

The Prague Cemetery

The Prague Cemetery
Author: Umberto Eco, Translator: Richard Dixon
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Trade
November 8, 2011
ISBN: 978-0547577531
$ 27.00
464 pages

Have you ever read a book the reminded you of a bunch of old men kibitzing about the world? That
is my reaction to THE PRAGUE CEMETERY.

Throughout history there have been numerous conspiracies. THE PRAGUE CEMETARY is about the
multiple conspiracies against the Jews, Italians, French, Catholics, and the Freemasons with everyone
constantly spying and working one group against the other. During the late nineteenth century in this
Piedmont area overlapping parts of France and Italy, it appears that no one is loyal to anyone and
everyone wants to end on the side of the victor. No one knows who that will be. So many change
identities as frequently as their clothes and spend their time developing plots complete with forgeries
and murder.

For the main character, Captain Simonini who is also Abbe Dalla Piccola, his main focus is on the
unification of Italy. However, this character of Simonini/Piccola is flawed in that he has a split
personality and neither of the individuals is aware of the other so they are suspicious of the other’s true

Early on, Captain Simonini meets with a psychologist in France named Froide. He has interesting
perspectives about his childhood and his dreams. (Sound out the psychologist’s name.)

Between the split personality and the bigotry, the main character whether Simonini or Piccola is not
likeable. As a reader, you feel no connections with this unethical rambling individual. His encounter
with others are usually the same types of people. This aspect quickly becomes drudgery through the

When you read a novel that is translated into English, I always wonder at the balance between the
author and the translator. Can a translator turn a mediocre story into literature or can they take a gem
and turn it into a drab story? Both obviously are possible. That could be the problem with this book.

When you anticipate a book to be outstanding before you read it, are you setting yourself up for
disappointment? When you read a novel and are absolutely spellbound by the rhythm and the
author’s magical approach in utilizing the language and imagery that is an author that is masterful in
telling a tale. That was how I felt years ago when I first read Eco’s THE NAME OF THE ROSE. His other
books have been enjoyable, just not quite at the level though of the first. Unfortunately, THE PRAGUE
CEMETERY is one that I would not recommend for most people. For those who thrive on historical
intrigue, this book is for you.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Christmas Cantata

Mark Schweizer
St. James Music Press
November 10, 2011
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-0984484652
$ 9.85
96 pages

When someone finds an old score of music written in an open score, most musicians would avoid it and
not play through it. Open scores are very demanding and most organists shy away from playing
through this music. Fortunately for St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, their organist and head law
enforcement official is the type of person that plays through this music and chooses it for his church
choir for their Christmas Eve service which is three weeks away. However, Hayden Konig is open-
minded enough to notice the unique beauty in this particular Christmas cantata, written by an unknown

In St. Germaine, North Carolina, as Christmas is quickly approaching, it seems like the spirit of Christmas
missing since everyone is just plain crabby. Hayden does notice the mood quickly changing as the choir
learns and discovers the beauty of the message and the music within this cantata. He also begins to
investigate the history of this piece and why it was not premiered during the Christmas of 1942. Who
was this talented, although unknown, composer? Who in the congregation remembers what

With this crimeless mystery, the intertwining of the present day investigation with the events of the
same parish community of St. Barnabas during 1942 makes this a short intriguing novel. Although a
predictable ending, the story was reassuring of the purpose of our celebrations of Christmas.

With this being the tenth book in this series, there is much time spent on the many characters from the
previous novels. This can work as a standalone, but the reader is greatly missing out on some
delightful characters without having read this series.

Although short, this newest Mark Schweizer novel will not disappoint any reader of this musical series.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Mercury's Rise

Ann Parker
Poisoned Pen Press
November 1, 2011
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-1590589632
$ 14.95
250 pages

Just when you feel that your life is coming together and settling down, who shows up? Of course, your deserting husband appears back in town wanting to get back together.

After hearing his story about what happened, Iris Stannert is extremely hesitant to go back to Mark Stannert. She already has a new man in her life and has succeeded in being part-owner of the Silver Queen Saloon in Leadville, Colorado. For a woman in the summer of 1880 to achieve in this western town, this is rather amazing. However, it is not without a cost. For Iris, the cost was sending her five-month old son to live back East with her sister, Harmony.

Her immediate plan is to visit Manitou, Colorado where her sister will meet her with her son who she has not seen in over a year. Traveling by stage, Iris shares the carriage with the Pace family, a father, mother, nanny, and the three children. When Mr. Pace guzzles down his wife’s medicine, Iris is victimized by being vomited on as the man dies in front of her due to what appears to be a heart attack.

This makes an unusual relationship for Iris when Mrs. Pace asks for Inez to check into why her husband died. It just doesn’t make sense. He seemed perfectly healthy. Inez begins to suspects that these mineral springs and special tonics might not be healthy and realizes that she needs someone else to help her investigate, her husband.

Intertwining the death with the investigation of the health spas, as well as her personal issues with her son, sister, husband, and aunt make this an enthralling novel based on real historical events.

This story is a gripping mystery in this series by Ann Parker. Mercury’s Rise is the fourth this Silver Rush series featuring Iris Stannert following Silver Lies, Iron Ties, and Leaden Skies. Mercury’s Rise also works as a standalone novel with sufficient background knowledge of the previous novels without boring those who already know these characters.

Mercury’s Rise is a great historical fiction novel mixing real historical events and challenges with a personal attachment to the wonderful character, Iris Stannert.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Return of Iowa's Bald Eagles

The Return of Iowa’s Bald Eagles
Ty Smedes – Author and Photographer
The Iowan Books Publishing
Soft cover
September 2011
ISBN: 978-1-93486-20-2
248 pages
$ 24.95

What is the first thing that you think of when you hear the words “ bald eagle”? Do you think of its majesty, power, or grace? Do you think of the creature as a predator? Do you feel grateful that Ben Franklin did not win with his suggestion of a turkey instead of the bald eagle?

How do you capture these creatures return? If you’re Ty Smedes, it is magnificently.

The Return of Iowa’s Bald Eagles is about these creatures who have been missing from our state of Iowa and much of the rest of this country for so long. First their population decreased due to hunting and then to the usage of DDT, from the years of 1905 to 1977, not one bald eagle nested in the entire state of Iowa. Since they are now settling and making their homes in our state again, we need to know who they are and how we need to be good neighbors to keep their population growing.

By combining truly outstanding photography with informative and well-researched text makes this book perfect for everyone. The combining of factual information about their locations, growth from infancy to adulthood, as well as their hunting abilities, is superbly documented.

This unique book shows the story of these magnificent creatures coming back to Iowa. The photography rivals anything ever in a National Geographic magazine. It truly balances text with photos that are reflective of the everyday life of a bald eagle with clarity and simplicity.

Once in a while you come upon something that is so outstanding that you are not certain how to review it. That’s my problem with The Return of Iowa’s Bald Eagles. It is unusual to read such a well-balanced book with the pictures complimenting the text and frequently explaining to the reader a lesson about these bald eagles completely through the pictures. The amount of time that Ty Smedes had to take these pictures of the lives of these bald eagles had to be immense.

This book is for everyone and especially for those of us who really appreciate all the magnificence of Iowa.

A concern about this book is that it centers on Iowa only. The pictures, the narrative, this book is for everyone, not just for those in Iowa. This is definitely one book that needs to be available to everyone.

To purchase this book, buy it from this website

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Three-Day Town

Three-Day Town
Margaret Maron
Grand Central Publishing
Hatchette Book Group
November 2011
ISBN: 978-0-446-55578-4
288 pages
$ 25.99

If you are a working judge and your husband is a sheriff deputy, finding time for a honeymoon can be difficult. They have not succeeded in finding time for a honeymoon in their first year of marriage.

For Judge Deborah Knott and Sheriff’s Deputy Dwight Bryant the opportunity came when Dwight’s sister-in-law offered to let them stay for a week in her New York City apartment in the Upper West Side. Who could turn that down?

Deborah’s grandmother has asked that she deliver a package to a distant cousin while in New York. She immediately called her cousin, Sigrid, who was puzzled by the idea of the package and asked Deborah to open it. How do you delicately and accurately describe a piece of sculpture that is extremely obscene and politically incorrect? Not in any hurry, the two agree to meet at the next-door apartment where there is a party that night.

When the elusive cousin, Sigrid Harold, who is also a NYPD lieutenant, attempts to pick up the package, it is missing. Unfortunately, the building superintendent is also sprawled out dead in the doorway.

Three-Day Town is a realistic novel with the crime being solved as you read each page. The characters are very believable.
If you are daily involved with law enforcement and are away from where you work but are in the middle of a crime, wouldn’t it make sense to just team up with the local authorities if they allow it?
Three-Day Town is superb with establishing the setting. Ms. Maron takes into account the lifestyle with the groceries, transportation, life in an apartment, snow, garbage, doormen, etc… that are so much of the everyday life in present day New York City. These details are what everyone loves when they read a Deborah Knott novel.
Margaret Maron is a native of North Carolina and has also lived in Brooklyn. Being that this is the seventeenth book in this series, it amazes me that each novel can be read as a standalone but has enough character development to keep the story interesting and the series invigorating. I am also wondering if Ms. Maron is going to spin-off the Deborah Knott series and begins the Sigrid series. So many questions that were not answered would be perfect for future novels.
Three-Day Town is a perfect quick read during a snowstorm provided that you have no erotic art sculpture.

Gracie Gannon: Middle School Zero

Gracie Gannon: Middle School Zero
Mary Elizabeth Anderson
Rayve Productions Inc.
ISBN: 978-1-877810-73-2
119 pages

“Hey, check out Gracie’s scraggly hair! Looks like she had her little brother cut it.”

What do you do when your friends don’t want to be around you anymore? How do you make yourself fit in with the group? What do you do when people are just mean? How do you handle bullying?

Gracie Gannon has those challenges as she enters middle school. She lives in the wrong part of town now that her dad has been laid off. She doesn’t feel that she can invite friends over to her house since it is small and run-down. Her former friends are making fun of her haircut and her life. She’s extremely shy. Added to that, her parents can’t afford to buy her contact lenses and she dresses like a boy. Her wardrobe is not fashionable at all. One more thing, she hates math.

Life changes for Gracie though when a new student who is deaf is ignored by the other students. Gracie decides to do the right thing and to make friends with her. Through this friendship and the support of her parents and church group, Gracie begins to change her life.

This story shows that things aren’t always as they seem. With issues such as divorce, unemployment, alcoholism, and cancer, the realism and discovering a strategy to effectively deal with real challenges of everyday life, Gracie learns how to journey from conflict to confidence.

For some people, the usage of a church youth group might be uncomfortable but it works perfectly in this concise story. The religious influence actually works well with the story and is viewed as a support for all people.

Mary Elizabeth Anderson has worked extensively as an elementary school teacher. She has written the novels: Taking Cerebral Palsy to School, Ever Wonder What to Do: A Book of Manner, It’s Me Again, God, and Why Did They Build a Fence?. She is also the author of Link Across America: A Story of the Historic Lincoln Highway.

Gracie Gannon: Middle School Zero is for any and every kid, girl or boy, who needs to see how they can become content with their life when there are conflicts.

A Killing Season

A Killing Season
Priscilla Royal
Poisoned Pen Press
October 2011
ISBN: 978-1590589496
250 pages

“ To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die;…A time to kill, and a time to heal…”
Before leaving for the crusades, Baron Herbert had been blessed with five sons and a loving wife all comfortably abiding in his castle in England during this medieval time period.
When he returns, Baron Herbert is injured mentally, physically, and emotionally. He immediately sends for his former Crusading comrade, Sir Hugh for help. Hugh asks his sister, Prioress Eleanor of Tyndal Priory to come. She also sees the value of transporting others with her who have special skills that could assist such as Master Gamel, a physician, Sister Anne, a healer, and Brother Thomas.
The group travels slowly through the cold, wet weather and arrives at the castle just in time to view someone jumping from a window to their death. They quickly discover that was the third son of the Baron to die since he left for the Crusades. Needless to say, life is not cheery in this dismal castle. Added to this, the Baron refuses any physical contact with his family or even his wife and no explanation is given.
Is the castle cursed? Is someone killing his heirs? Did two of the sons choose to die?
Sometimes there is a delicate balance between realism and what readers enjoy. It is difficult to calculate since each reader has their own personal criteria. In a story like this one where the content is depressing but necessary, the reading even though enthralling, can seem like it drags when it really doesn’t. With so much death in the story, it feels like there is no season for the healing.
There is richness in A Killing Season with the language and the authentic voice of the time period. Priscilla Royal masterfully intertwines these within a very realistic story in creating this Gothic mystery. Even though this is the eighth book in this series featuring Prioress Eleanor of Tyndal Priory, the story and characters are easily understood without having read the previous novels. All of Priscilla Royal’s novels are superb examples of life during the medieval time period and I highly recommend all her novels.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Pirate King

THE PIRATE KING: A Novel of Suspense Featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes
(Russell & Holmes, Book 11)
Laurie R. King
September 2011
ISBN: 978-0-55-380798-1
320 pages

Being Sherlock Holmes’ wife can be challenging. What with Sherlock’s eccentricities and brilliance, Mary Russell constantly needs to balance her own interests with his. She finds that this places her in the position of having to be involved in investigations even without her husband’s assistance.

Mary’s newest investigation is to join Fflytte Films, a silent film producing company. There are suspicions about this film crew smuggling of drugs and guns. Working as a director’s assistant should make it easy for her to combine with her massive daily duties. Since the former director’s assistant has disappeared, this is also a concern. Her job is to be a part of this group as they film in Lisbon and Morocco. What she did not plan on though was the demands of being a director’s assistant and quickly finds that she has no time for investigating. She writes to her husband back in England when she finds the opportunity or time. One of the first things that she tells him is the demands of being a mother to the crew and no time to investigate.

The story is to make a silent movie made about making Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Pirate of Penzance”. The complications come when the director, Fflytte, plans to have triplets play each of the daughters and when he manages to hire real pirates for the pirate parts. Imagine working with thirteen blond teenaged-girls and meeting their various needs in an attempt to live in temporary harmony along with real pirates playing both pirates and constables.

Although somewhat predictable, this is a fun light-hearted adventure with numerous references to “The Pirates of Penzance” in which ironically, the pirates are really Englishmen who fall for the daughters. So, this has real pirates pretending to be pirates and constables who are also showing interest in the blond beauties.

With no one being who they really are, the story has numerous twists and turns. When Holmes joins those on the ship, the story changes slightly with more planning involved since naturally, Holmes has taken the part of the Major-General. I still wonder how Holmes managed to get on the ship with the communication and transportation at the time of silent movies being not the most efficient.

If you are expecting Laurie King’s The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. You will find this a disappointment. If you are looking for a fun, light, mystery, you will thoroughly enjoy The

The Redbreast

Jo Nesbo
Translator: Don Bartlett
Harper Paperbacks
September 2011
ISBN: 978-0-06-206842-2
544 pages

How long does it take for someone to finally succeed with revenge?

Harry Hole is a former alcoholic Norwegian detective that believes in doing the right thing, even if it is not politically correct. Harry is searching for a neo-Nazi, Sverre Olsen while also stopping an assassination of a world leader. Having to make a split-second decision, Harry shoots a Secret Service agent, possibly paralyzing the man permanently. True, the Secret Service agent should not have been where he was, but should he have been shot? Harry did not see that he had any choice.

In World War II, Norwegians were in a touchy situation with wondering whether to side with the Germans or the Russians. Many realized that they needed to be on the side of the victors, but it was difficult to tell which side would win.

The Redbreast was voted the best Norwegian crime novel ever written by members of Norwegian book clubs. The Redbreast is a novel that was confusing for me for the first hundred pages. When a novel is translated from its original language, I always wonder if what I am reading is the skill of the writer or the translator. It moved from the Norwegians fighting in World War II, to Harry Hole searching for Sverre Olsen in present time, to Harry at the police station, to Harry investigating with his female partner, and seemed to make few connections. After that, the novel was completely mesmerizing.

The story lines combine in a present day terrorism situation based on events resulting from World War II. The history of Norway’s involvement with World War II is fascinating and informative from a perspective that has not formerly been addressed. The duality of Norway’s geography placed them in a treacherous situation constantly between two powerful adversaries or allies, Germany or Russia. The characterization is a little weak but this is the third book in a series. Possibly this development is in the first two novels.

Jo Nesbo’s books have already been translated into forty languages. Currently The Redbreast is the third book in a series of nine featuring Harry Hole. The first two are not available in this country yet but most of the other ones are published in English.

The Redbreast is definitely one of the most intense and enthralling novels I have read this year. I plan on reading many more novels by this gifted author, Jo Nesbo.

Timmy's Bedtime

Written and Illustrated by Tim and Toni Williams
Strategic Book Group
ISBN: 978-1-61204-171-1
28 pages

How many of us were scared of the dark when we were little? What lurked in the dark corners of our bedrooms? Did you feel safer sleeping when your closet door was closed? What unseen danger hid under our beds as we slept?

In Timmy’s Bedtime, Timmy has this same fear. He would rather stall than to go to bed and face the danger of the monster under his bed. While continuing his nightly denial of going to bed, his father addresses the issue of a monster and how to effectively overcome this impending danger.

This story is aimed as a read aloud for children between the ages of three and eight. The language of the story requires an adult to read it. This is not to be considered for beginner readers. Also included in the book are two pages where the child can color the bear. Future owners of this book can also order an accompanying teddy bear with a sash entitled “Monster” across him. This bear of indeterminate size can be purchased through the author’s website and costs $27.

By using a clever poem within the story and a bear, this story succeeds in comforting Timmy and allowing his to safely sleep at night. This is definitely a book which should be considered for a time to cuddle with a parent to read aloud.

The married team of Tim and Toni Williams jointly have written and illustrated this delightful story. Toni is the illustrator while Tim provides the light-hearted humor and poem within the story. They currently live in South Carolina.

This story was originally thought-up by Tim Williams to reassure his daughter about the monsters under her bed. Seeing the success in this approach, over the years their friends tried the same method which also was worked well for them. This started their stories of Monster Bears.

Timmy’s Bedtime is wonderful for the reassurance of any child who is even slightly scared of the dark. With delightful water-colored illustrations, this tale is perfect to read to any child who fears those monsters under their bed.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Baker's Wife

The Baker’s Wife
Erin Healy
Thomas Nelson
October 4, 2011
ISBN: 978-1595547521
352 pages

The Baker’s Wife is the perfect novel to demonstrate the some occupations require more than others. Some people are burdened with their personal lives reflecting on their job performance. This is especially true for ministers.

Geoff and Audrey were forced to leave the church after their son, Ed was accused of making a member pregnant. Added to that, supposedly, Geoff, the minister, paid for the girlfriend, Mirilee, to have an abortion.

As a hobby, this ministerial couple baked and made bread for themselves and those in need. This was comfort to the couple and they decided to turn this hobby into a business in this same town. Adding to the kicked out of the church disgrace, Ed, their son, lost his college scholarship.

As Audrey was driving to work one foggy morning, she could barely see the road, but wasn’t as cautious as she should have been. She was shocked when she hit a motorcycle that she had not seen in the fog and was covered with the blood of the rider. Strangely, though no one can find a body.

Diane Hall is returning to her home town after spending a quarter of a century in prison, right before the accident, she found a cell phone on the road. She picks it up and keeps it even though she is uncertain about how to use it. Diane murdered her twin sister and has not been in contact with her family since then.

Strangely enough, Miralee, the girl who had the abortion now discovers that her family is now involved in the accident. It turns out that the person missing and supposedly on the bike was Julie who is now missing and the head detective, Jack, is her father. Was this accident on purpose?

The Baker’s Wife is spellbinding. Once you begin this enthralling novel, you cannot put it down. The writing is excellent with outstanding character development. This unpredictable tale in haunting but also carries a life lesson about what to do when you are in a troubled situation and about not letting go of anger.

The Baker’s Wife is one of those adventure novels that is in multiple categories. It is definitely a thriller but also in the Christian category. The story is so well-told that the strength is the pull of the plot which never loses intensity. If The Baker’s Wife is an example of Erin Healy’s writing, I definitely want to read more by this phenomenal storyteller.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Dear Priscilla

Dear Priscilla
Mark Schweizer
Fainting Goat Press
Tryon, North Carolina
ISBN: 978-0-9844846-1-4
320 pages
$ 23.95

Dear Priscilla is a perfect example of proving that life in Chicago in 1943 had to be difficult. For Merl Cahill, former Chicago Bear who retired from football due to being injured, his life now is quite different since working as a detective on the police force. This is one of those times in history where many of the laws and punishments were not always through the justice system but by those who took it upon themselves to be judge and jury.

Merl has a reputation for his short temper to go with his large size of six foot seven and weighing easily at two hundred eighty pounds. With some obvious facial scars, he also isn’t the prettiest.

Merl’s partner, Fish Biederman finds that being a detective is his third source of income. His most lucrative income is from his bookie business and then singing as either a canter for the Jewish synagogue or for funerals. Fish tends to keep his priorities straight while always keeping his police business in third place.
The two are racing to stop a serial killer who tends to favor killing women of medium height and weight with brown hair. All the women were separated from their heads and then split into seven parts and stuffed in an anonymous army duffel back.
Added to this is an addition to the detective squad, Gloria, who is a wealthy, attractive, and inexperienced with this all male group which tends to make their own laws as they go.
Quickly in this investigation, it is discovered that the killer has some connection with the local newspaper and the “Dear Priscilla” advice column. Through Merl’s sticking his nose in where it doesn’t belong, he ends up writing this advice column and greatly expanding the readership subscriptions by his no-nonsense advice as well as his own income.
This is a down-to-earth old-styled detective novel loaded with realism and humor that equalizes the horrors that the characters experience. Although this is much darker than Mark Schweizer’s liturgical St. Germaine mysteries featuring Hayden Konig, these are definitely written from a masterful storyteller with a unique gift to write in a truly “gritty” style.
For those who just want an enjoyable well-written mystery that keeps you wondering until the last page, read Dear Priscilla.

The Tides of Avarice

The Tides of Avarice
John Dahlgren
Editions Didier Millet Pte Ltd.
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-981-4260-53-4
464 pages
$ 14.95

The Tides of Avarice is about Sylvester who lives in Foxgrove which is quiet and safe community. This town is a little unusual in that it is inhabited by common everyday lemmings instead of humans. Yes, they are the creatures known to occasionally go over a cliff in a mass suicide.

Sylvester Lemmington enjoys his daily challenge of being a librarian who translates historical documents and dreams of a future life with his childhood friend, Viola. Two events though are quickly going to change Sylvester’s life. First is when he discovers an injured, dying ferret that is in possession of part of a pirate map. The other is that Sylvester has been selected to be part of the next Great Exodus, where the lemmings go in mass over the cliff into the sea. Sylvester has his doubts about this tradition since no one has ever returned from this and also feels a personal loss since his father disappeared from a previous Great Exodus years ago.

The Tides of Avarice is a delightful journey following Sylvester as he leaves the safety of his home into the adventurous life with pirates and searching for a treasure. Besides finding the treasure is also the question of what is the treasure. This is an in-depth adventure with extremely well-developed three dimensional characters. The writing is enthralling and a constant page-turner. John Dahlgren is a masterful storyteller.

There are some aspects of other well-known tales in this in that I could easily find resemblances to Treasure Island, The Pirates of the Caribbean, Watership Down, and The Wizard of Oz all within this one novel.

The dialogues perfectly reflect the characters which are realistic, human-like, and definitely integral as delightful characters that are interesting with a true mixture of personalities, complete with flaws but also charm.

For Sylvester who only read about adventure, being a part in a real-life daily dangerous situation can be a challenge and the reader is privileged to join him during every crisis.

John Dahlgren was born in Sweden and currently lives in Switzerland working as a psychologist and a marketing director for a pharmaceutical company.

The Tides of Avarice is a wonderful adventurous fantasy in the world of Sagaria. Being the first of a trilogy this is a wonderful journey that is aimed at a young adult audience, though anyone older would enjoy this tale of life and death by the truly gifted author, John Dahlgren.

1. What influenced you to write The Tides of Avarice?
2. Which books have influenced you the most?
3. Your character of Sylvester finds himself questioning his religious
beliefs. Does this reflect your personal doubts?
4. Your characters are extremely well-developed. How long have you been
pondering about writing this tale?
5. When did you decide to begin to write this trilogy?
6. Why did you choose lemmings as your main characters?
7. The Tides of Avarice has many strong female characters who are without
husbands but definitely non-compromising with the male gender. Who have
been the strong women in your life and how have they influenced you?
8. With The Tides of Avarice being a pirate adventure, what other adventures
are planned for the future novels of this trilogy?
9. Which character do you view yourself most like? Are there real people
that you based your characters’ personalities on?
10. With being employed and being a father, how do you find the time to write
such an expansive fantasy adventure?

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Accident

The Accident: A Thriller
Linwood Barclay
August 2011
ISBN: 978-0553807189
400 pages

Sometimes one event in your life can seem like a domino with it causing more problems than you could
ever imagine. This one event is the domino that causes everything else to collapse.

Glen Garber owns his own company which builds houses. Unfortunately with the recent economic
problems and the downward spiral in the housing market, it is causing some money problems at home.
His wife, Sheila, is taking a business class at the local college so that she can assist with the bookkeeping
for Glen’s business and might be able to get another job on the side to help with the family finances.

However, their lives change dramatically when Sheila is killed in a car accident. Apparently, she was
drunk and attempted to drive. Her car was involved in a head-on collision facing the wrong way on an
interstate on-ramp killing Sheila and two people in the other car.

Glen is home with his daughter, Kelly, when the accident happens. His wife is suppose to be at class but
apparently she skipped class tonight. As Glen looks for her vehicle, he sees the police and immediately
sees the situation. The police let him know that the accident was his wife’s fault and they already know
that she was intoxicated.

What bothers Glen the most is that this accident was not like something that Sheila would have ever
done. She didn’t drink and drive. Added to that, now Glen is being sued for not insisting that his wife
get help for her alcohol problem. How could he insist that she didn’t get help when she didn’t have a

Glen has to deal with the grief while still maintaining his business. Unfortunately, not all is at it seems
and his life continues in this downward spiral. Where will the bottom be?

The Accident is a riveting page-turner. The characters are realistic and unfortunately, the story has an
authentic feel throughout the entire story. Things are seldom as they seem.

The character of Glen was extremely well-developed and realistic. He just wants to do what is
best for his daughter and business. Literally, he is in the survival mode but manages to get through
many uncomfortable and crisis situations while still grieving and protecting his daughter.

Linwood Barclay has written numerous comic thrillers and many darker standalone adventure novels.
This former journalist now writes novels full-time.

If The Accident is typical of Linwood Barclay’s novels, I definitely plan to read anything written by this
master of suspense.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Becoming Marie Antoinette

Becoming Marie Antoinette
Juliet Grey
Ballantine Books
August 2011
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-0345523860
480 pages
Historical Fiction

Most of us have a general knowledge of Marie Antoinette and focus on her being the beheaded queen.
Who was she? How did she become the infamous queen?

Growing up as the fifteenth child and youngest daughter of Empress Maria Theresa and the Holy Roman
Emperor Francis I of Austria, who reigned over the Habsburg dynasty, had to have been unusual. Marie
Antoinette learned quickly by charming those around her rather than being well-educated. In music,
she excelled after having Gluck as her musical tutor.

Once her father died from a stroke, the Empress sought a French alliance and marrying one of her
children to the Dauphin of France strengthened the relationship between these two countries.
Unfortunately, the French advisors found many faults with Marie Antoinette that needed to be
immediately altered such as being tutored with the French language, politics, having her teeth
straightened, and having a personal hair dresser. For a twelve-year-old child, she became very insecure
with her own capabilities with all the constant criticism and advice.

Having a young teenager understand the intricacies of the French royalty society and understanding
who the power players were and how to play them did not always work for the young Dauphine. Added
to that was a husband who did not want sexual relations with her while both France and Austria were
anxiously looking for her to become pregnant.

Becoming Marie Antoinette is the first of a proposed trilogy about the French queen from a well-
researched novelist, Juliet Grey, the pseudonym for Leslie Carroll. This native New Yorker has worked
extensively as a writer adapting many classics for stage productions, general fiction, and historical
fiction. She has also used the pen name of Amanda Elyot. She lives with her husband in Manhattan and

The strength of this novel is the strong personal voice of the main character, Marie Antoinette and
seeing her life through her eyes. For the reader, you feel that you are actually on a journey with this

I look forward to the next book in this trilogy, Days of Splendor, Days of Sorrow (Marie Antoinette, #2).
This should be available in 2012.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Lantern

The Lantern
Deborah Lawrenson
Harper Collins
August 2011
ISBN: 978-0-06-204969-8
387 pages
$ 25.99

“A secret can tear the soul. Unspoken, it seeps into the subconscious, it penetrates the body, the character of a person, until at last it takes over all reason and reasoning – until nothing is left but the secret that cannot be told and that must be kept tight inside at all costs. This is devastation, the inner waste.”
How many of us are really what others see? Do we have secrets that change and daily influence us? Or ones that would greatly change someone’s opinion of our personal character? Should you accept the blame for the problems within your family? If not you, who will take the responsibility for your family?
The Lantern is written in a similar style as Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier with the past haunting and influencing people’s lives with a mixture of love and death in Provence, France. This is the intertwining of two tales both at the rural Les GenEvriers surrounded by the lavender fields.
One story revolves around Eve who has quickly become involved with Dom. He obviously has many secrets, especially about his former wife, Rachel. Unfortunately, Dom refuses to talk or to answer questions about her which naturally makes Eve more curious and almost obsessed about the past.
The other story is about the former owners of Les GenEvriers, the Lincel family. This particular family became famous because of one blind daughter who became successful in the perfume business. The one boy in the family, Pierre, was abusive and psychotic. Unfortunately, it appears the even though Les GenEvriers was sold to Dom, the former residents have not left completely.
While somewhat haunting and at times chilling, this seemed to be an imitation of Rebecca rather than a similar story. The story was predictable and leaned strongly to being a romance novel rather than a haunting tale. This was more like family secrets and gossip.
On the positive side, this tale tended more towards a realistic story with real problems and real people. Though not fast-paced, this aspect kept the intensity of the story-line moving and developing.
The Lantern is a different story with a non-linear plot line that still weaves an intriguing tale.

Galaxy Games: The Challenger

Galaxy Games: The Challengers
Greg R. Fishbone
Illustrations by Ethan Beavers
To Books
Lee & Low Books
September 2011
ISBN: 978-1-600-60-660-1
352 pages
$ 15.95
Ages 8 and up

Ty Sato is looking forward to his eleventh birthday party until he finds out that his older sister, Amanda, planned it for his busy parents. She even arranged for there to be a clown at this event. Now, Ty has to figure out a way to have the party but not to be the nerdy kid and the joke of a typical vengeful teenaged sister.

His cousins in Japan have sent him an unusual present. They had a star named after Ty.

Quickly though, this star that astronomers are following, is not a normal star and is moving way too fast and closer to our planet. From being a star, to an asteroid, to a meteor, to now looking like a spaceship, this Ty Sato is closely approaching our planet. With many people believing that the end of the world is near, the planet slowly anticipates their last days due to the arrival of Ty Sato. How would you like to share a name with the possible destruction of the planet?

On board this spaceship is M’Frozza from the planet, Mrendaria, who is an octopus-like creature on a secret mission. She desperately needs to save her own world from disaster in the universe, being a part of the galactic Galaxy Games. Ty Sato is given the chance to save both his world and hers, but will he make the correct choices? Does he have what it takes to be the hero of our planet?

This is a delightful, fast-paced comic type of art book with a teenaged sense of humor such as communications being relayed through the toilets on the Mrendaria ship. This collaborative book is fun, funny, and at the same time realistic. The story line is easy and enjoyable to follow. The characters are well-developed, even for a three-eyed, multiple nostrils, octopus-like creature.

Galaxy Games: The Challengers is fun to read. Combining science fiction, fantasy, with humor and realism makes this intriguing for all ages. The mix of the story with the graphics is a perfect blend for Galaxy Games.

Trail of Blood

Trail of Blood
By Lisa Black
Harper Collins
August 2011
ISBN: 978-0-06-198936-0
406 pages
$ 7.99

Most investigators would not be interested in a murdered body that was killed seventy-five years ago. However, Theresa MacLean, a forensic scientist, is more than intrigued by this discovery especially when she identifies the body of a long-dead policeman.

An older building is being destroyed and as the construction crew is preparing for the complete annihilation of it, they discover a secret room with the remains of this man on a table where it seems that his blood was drained. Who had access to this room? Why would someone have this type of table in a business? Where did the drain lead to? Who knew about this?

This policeman, James Miller, seemed to be one of the few uncorrupted officers at the time. However, he was listed as a deserter of the force when in actuality he was murdered.

Trail of Blood goes back to the mid-1930s, with Eliot Ness being assigned as the leader of the corrupt police force of Cleveland, Ohio and accepting the challenge to clean-up the force. Unfortunately, there seems to be a copycat killer from the 1930s known as the Torso Killer who is leaving new evidence to this old crime.

The strength of this mystery was the realism. Some evidence did not lead to the conclusion, whereas, others did. The reader had to sort out the information as the evidence and interviews were revealed. With various point-of-views, this approach included the reader as actually part of the investigation.

The weakness of this mystery was the lack of attachment for the characters. They all seemed depressed and involved with their own personal misery. This slowed down the pacing considerably while developing a believable storyline.

Lisa Black actually works as a forensic scientist and obviously utilizes this experience in her books. She currently resides in Florida.

The storyline development with the various point-of-views made this an interesting novel by an unusual writer with true forensic experience. I plan to read more by this author to see how she approaches her other novels.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Time for Peace

A Time for Peace
Barbara Cameron
Abingdon Press
ISBN: 978-1426707643
352 pages

A Time for Peace is about choosing to live and become one of the Amish.

Jenny and Matthew live as an Amish couple in Lancaster, Pennsylvania with their three children. Outwardly they look typically Amish. Inwardly though, Matthew is truly Amish and was a widower. He married Jenny who chose to become Amish and become the mother of this family.

This is the third book in this series by Barbara Cameron entitled the Quilts of Lancaster County. The first book in this series was A Time to Love and the second was A Time to Heal. Even without reading the first two, this is easy to understand the characters and their pasts.

A Time for Peace is a typical love story with a predictable ending based on the Amish lives of two families. For characters that were not raised as Amish, I was amazed on how easily the former military soldiers adjusted to this lifestyle. Also, I was questioning the lifestyle in that an Amish mother of three would have free time to write her novel during the day. Basically, much of the story seemed contrived to the point of being unrealistic. With three step-children, adjusting to a completely different way of life, there would be many more daily problems.

I also questioned the use of a cell phone with the Amish. Apparently this is realistic. For any Amish farmer, I can understand why they would take a cell phone out into the field; however, there will need to be some energy source to keep it charged.

Barbara Cameron has written numerous novels and won the first Romance Writers of America Golden Heart Award. She lives in Florida. Her inspiration for this set of novels was her visiting the Amish community in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

This story is for those who enjoy predictable romance novels.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Shattering

The Shattering
By Karen Healey
Little, Brown and Company
September 2011
ISBN: 978-0-316-12572-7
320 pages
$ 17.99
Young Adult

The seasons in New Zealand are the opposite of those in America. During the Christmas season, they traditionally celebrate under the hot summer sun and look forward to the New Year’s Eve celebration in the scenic tourist town of Summerton.

A death in any family can cause an immense amount of hurt. For Keri and her family, they are devastated since the death of her older brother, Jack. He committed suicide and did not even leave a note. Besides the grief, dealing with the questions is difficult for everyone. Her parents decided to even cancel Christmas this year. Even though Keri is seventeen-years-old, she understands that the funeral was costly but she still feels disappointed.

Keri is surprised when she is approached by two other teens that also had older brothers who committed suicide. Strangely, this does seem to be unusually coincidental, and leads the three to believe that perhaps the suicides were really murders. With Keri is Janna who is a beautiful musician and Sione who is a visiting tourist with a brilliant mathematical mind as together they investigate the deaths while also attempting to prevent any further suicides.

The subject of teen suicide does not engage most readers. However, Karen Healey worked wonders writing this intense novel. The story was constantly moving along with the characters as both simultaneously were developing. Most outstanding in this novel was the realistic characterization along with a well-planned and organized story.

Karen Healey has also written Guardian of the Dead which was a finalist for the William C. Morris Award. She lives in Australia but was born in New Zealand.

When the threesome discovers that witchcraft has influenced both the community and them, the danger for everyone is greatly intensified. Will they live through the New Years’ Eve? Will anyone else die? How can more deaths be prevented?

Sunday, August 14, 2011


Rogue (Ike Schwartz Mystery)
Frederick Ramsey
Poisoned Pen Press
July 2011
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-1590589045
$ 14. 95
250 pages
Fiction – Mystery

For anyone who works in law enforcement, fortunately they seldom have to investigate any accident or
crime scene involving their loved ones. What is the right thing for them to do? Should they continue
to do their daily work or should they take a leave of absence for their personal lives and investigate
what really happened?

Sheriff Ike Schwartz is in this quandary. Her fiancée, Ruth Harris, was driving his vehicle when she was
involved in an automobile accident. Being that he is from the small town of Picketsville, the local big
city police believe that this was the result of a normal accident, even though it was a hit-and-run. They
seem to have decided not to spend any more time or effort on this investigation.

Frustrated, Ike decides to investigate on his own and attempts to take a leave of absence. With an
impending election fast-approaching, the mayor does not want to grant this. With Ruth in a coma, Ike
feels compelled to investigate on his own. Was Ruth the target or is someone trying to get even with

Fortunately for Ike, Charlie Garland, a former CIA employee, offers to help and investigate the crash.

Rogue shows the difference between following the law and justice, going rogue with Ike. This novel
shows the realism since the characters don’t always make the best decisions but they daily
do what they believe needs to be done. The voice of Ike shows intelligence, humor, curiosity, and a
drive to do the right thing.

Frederick Ramsey is a native of Baltimore, Maryland. He studied medicine, astronomy, and religion.
He presently is retired and lives in Arizona.

This story is well-organized and continues in the development of the characters without having to read the previous novels. The pacing perfectly matches the action within the story. Though a little depressing and very realistic, this is a mystery plotted out by the masterful author, Frederick Ramsey.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Inverted Forest

The Inverted Forest
John Dalton
Simon & Schuster
July 2011
325 pages
$ 26.00

Sometimes you read a book that is so well written that it haunts you, but the story itself is also so disturbing and unsettling to you that you are not certain if you should recommend it or not. That is my predicament with The Inverted Forest.

The Inverted Forest revolves around a summer camp in rural Missouri. The owners of the camp are a set of bachelors who are also twins. One of the brothers recently suffered a stroke, so the surviving brother is in charge of the camp. Schuller Kindermann would prefer to work on his kirigami in the solitude of his cabin than deal with the day-to-day management issues. For that he depends on a long-time worker who lives there year round caring for the camp.

A group of teenagers has been hired to be counselors for this particular summer. They spend time together readying the camp. Unfortunately, these counselors have a late-night pool party, minus the swimsuits. This causes them to be fired. Schuller Kindermann goes to the nearby community to search for replacements. Unfortunately there is not time for training or background checks. He just takes what he can get for counselors.

Most of the counselors are in the early college stage between the ages of eighteen and twenty. There is one of the counselors that is a little unusual in that his facial features are slightly deformed and he seems backward. That is Wyatt Huddy.

Added to this, the first group for the twelve day camp experience is from the state institution for the mentally disabled. These young inexperienced counselors have had no training in working with individuals with special needs. They were planning to work with children, not adults.

This story adds layer upon layer, mixing good with bad actions. There is intensity within the story that draws you into reading page after page. Whether it is the choices of the characters that appall you or the understanding of their actions, this enthralling novel is definitely an experience that I would prefer to read rather than experience. The intrigue is the humanness and their errors that draws you into this story like a magnet.

John Dalton has also written Heaven Lake which was the winner of the Barnes & Noble 2004 Discover Award and the Sue Kaufman Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, He resides in St. Louis.

The Inverted Forest is definitely one of the best written novels of this year. I found myself questioning the characters about their actions. These flawed characters definitely made an intriguing novel.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Flowers for her Grave

Flowers For Her Grave: A Grim Reaper Mystery
Judy Clemons
Poisoned Pen Press
August 2, 2011
250 pages

What if your son and husband recently died? Added to that, now you are wanted by the police. Are you willing to face life or would you prefer to run away and start over?

Casey Maldonado decides to leave her life in Ohio and to start life again in Raceda, Florida as a fitness trainer. She has an unusual companion though, the grim reaper. Yes, Death, L’Ankou, is staying with her. Those who fear death cannot see him, but those who do not fear him, do see these apparition.

Casey decides to change her name to Daisy Gray. To begin her new life, Daisy teaches fitness classes for a trial week at no cost to them. She is hoping that this will allow her to rebuild her life with new friends and to build confidence in herself again.

Naturally, Casey/Daisy has an attraction for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Late at night, Daisy finds one of residents in the locker room, bleeding. Even though she does the right thing and immediately gets help, the resident still dies. The police were able to discover that Daisy was not involved and could not have caused the death since the security video tapes backed her story. Unfortunately, not all the residents feel the same way.

Daisy decides to ask some questions. Being naturally curious and wondering who she can trust allows her to also investigate. Is the murderer a resident or could it be one of the staff? Could the murderer be one of the former fitness instructors? Could it be a jealous woman? Could this be part of a larger blackmail scheme? Who are these people?

Death is full of constant advice, humor, with a bad-taste in wardrobe selections. While Daisy purposefully over schedules her fitness classes, L’Ankou makes sarcastic remarks, gives advice freely, while still maintaining his deadly duties.

Flowers for her Grave is the third book in the Grim Reaper series. The other two are The Grim Reaper’s Dance and Embrace the Grim Reaper. At first, the relationship between the two seemed a little strange since I have not read the previous two books in the series, but there is enough in this story about the past for the story to make sense with the character of Casey/Daisy. This works as both a standalone novel and as part of a series.

Flowers for her Grave is a fast-paced mystery with many twists and turns that keep your interest. It also gives advice for how to gain another identity. For which ever reason you choose, read this page turner.

Loose Gravel

Loose Gravel
David P. Holmes
North Star Press
June 2011
239 pages

“Beauty and a remorseless soul – a deadly combination. Dangerous – like loose gravel.”

If you have ever driven a car fast on loose gravel, you are aware at how dangerous it can be and how easy it is to lose control, just like fast living.

Detective Harold Bruntz has been a part of the Minneapolis Police for thirty years. He is not handsome. In fact, he’s a mess. He wears clothes that look slept in, hasn’t bathed recently, is overweight, drinks, sleeps around, and has problems getting along with partners. He also has his own version of right and wrong and will do whatever it takes to close a case, even if it is illegal or unethical.

Now his superiors are giving him one last chance. His new partner, Yo-Yo, is a svelte, black woman who can no longer work under cover as a prostitute. Either these damaged individuals have to get along, or they are both out of a job.

Someone shot Gordon Mark and Amanda Freeman while they were in compromising positions. Gordon died immediately while Amanda lived even though she was shot in the stomach. Amanda was also married to Darrel Freeman at the time. Who would be the logical shooter?

Now, Isabel le Freeman and Darrel Freeman are shot and killed, daughter and step-father. It turns out that Isabelle was also pregnant by Darrel. Who would gain by these people being dead? Why was Amanda not killed? What does she know? How does this family interact?

Loose Gravel is a fun-twisted detective story, complete with rough language and situations. At times it is humorous, but very intent on solving the mystery of the shootings. The relationship between the characters is realistic. The story is well-written and fast-page-turning adventure. This is hard-core detective writing at its best. There is a Dirty Harry-like feeling to it with the hard living and an alternative sense of justice.

My one criticism of this novel was the need for further editing in the last third of the book. Many of the spelling and capitalization errors were distracting from the story.

David P. Holmes resides in a log cabin in Minnesota. Previously he has written Secrets, Salt of the Earth, and Emily’s Run. His son created the cover of this novel.

Personally, I would love to read more by this author. His down-to-earth style characters are who we all would like to help us if we ever needed them.


Scott O’Connor
Tyrus Books
Hardcover 978-1-935562-38-2 $24.95
Paperback 978-1-935562-50-4 $15.95
384 pages

Death…grief….cleaning up the mess!

Most sixth-grade boys know about bullying. It is hard being bullied and socially being at the bottom of the totem pole with your classmates, Also having had your mother die a year ago does not help.

During the fall of 1999 many people were anticipating end of the world with Y2K, Whitley Earl Darcy is one of them. He has few friends, one being Matthew, a small black boy and the other being Michelle Moustache, a name the students made up, a large female classmate with a dark mustache.

Whitley, known in his family as The Kid, has difficulty with accepting his mother’s death. Being he did not actually see her dead body, he believes that she ran away and will return to him eventually. He decides to make a covenant with God. If he does not speak at all, God will allow his mother to return.
So now, Whitley is a sixth-grade boy who still is a social outcast with body odor, bad breath, bullies, and no athletic ability who has taken a vow of silence.

His father, David, has a job of cleaning up crime scene messes, usually deaths. Yes, somebody needs to do this, but it is difficult to balance the daily needs for a single parent father and the detachment needed to clean up gruesome and messy deaths.

The characterization is outstanding. These characters are real and flawed which keeps you reading and wondering about how they are ever going to change or manage to survive their daily struggles. This is not an action adventure but people dealing with real problems in the real world.

Untouchable is a fast and engrossing story of grief and the slow road to recovery. At times the story is comical such as when The Kid gets a cell phone to be in contact with his dad. Remember, The Kid refuses to speak. How do they communicate then? No, they do not text.

Scott O’Connor previously wrote a novella in 2004, Among Wolves, which also deals with a troubled boy. Only this one believes that his real parents have been replaced by imposters. He lives in Los Angeles.

Scott O’Connor writes about dealing with real problems and not finding easy solutions. I look forward to more of his books in the future.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Boy in the Suitcase

The Boy in the Suit Case
Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis
Translated from Danish by Lene Kaaberbol
Soho Press
Random House
November 2011
Trade paperback
ISBN: 978-1-56947-0
320 pages

Doing the right thing is not always easy. For Nina Borg, her daily struggles with balancing her family and work are not always smooth or easy. Working as a Red Cross nurse often conflicts with being available for her family and a husband who does not understand when the family takes second place in her priority list.

Nina receives an unusual request from a friend asking her to pick up a suitcase in a locker at a public train station. The suitcase is heavy and she does wonder what is inside. After struggling to get it into her vehicle, for some strange reason Nina feels the need to return to the locker. There she sees a large man opening the locker and hitting it when he realizes that it is empty. Unfortunately, he also sees her.

After frantically running to car and racing away, she finally finds a place where she can open the suitcase. Inside is a small child, naked. She is surprised to find him breathing. What do you do? She is fearful that the police will place the child in a refugee or foster care situation. Is this better for the child? Who is chasing her? What do they want with the boy?

The Boy in the Suit Case is a page-turning intense action-adventure story. The characters are realistically flawed and their personal problems obviously continue after the story ends. The plot is well-developed and organized. The system of governmental influences on a child really exist and Nina’s choices and situations are easy to understand.

The Boy in the Suit Case is part of a bestselling crime series from Denmark by Agnete Friis and Lene Kaaberbol and translated into English for the first time. It has also earned the 2008 Harald Mogensen award for the best crime novel and was short listed for the Scandinavian Glass Key Award for crime fiction when against The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

The Boy in the Suit Case has now been translated into ten languages with more the two million copies of the book available. With many Scandinavian novels being translated into English, I hope to read more by either of these two gifted authors.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Releasing Gillian's Wolves

Releasing Gillian’s Wolves
Tara Woolpy
Bats in the Boathouse Press
August 1, 2011
Trade paperback
ISBN: 978-0-9832033-0-8
280 pages

How many people give up their dreams in order to support a spouse or raise children? For women, it is often expected.

Gillian gave up her dreams of being an artist when she married Jack Sach. Being that Jack wanted to enter the field of politics, Gillian was the devoted wife in helping with the campaigns and providing food for many of the meetings throughout the past thirty years. She has also had the problem of letting go of her anger towards Jack with his constant affairs.

The latest conquest is a young intern, naturally, who also showed interest in their son. After witnessing the breaking of her son’s heart because of her husband’s indiscretion, Gillian wants time to decide what to do. Fortunately, she inherited money so that makes life easier for her.

Gillian has a long-time gay friend, Edward, who has always been there when she needed a shoulder. Now Edward’s life is changing and Gillian is taking charge of her life, her way.

Releasing Gillian’s Wolves is Tara Woolpy’s debut novel. She has published poems and short stories in a multitude of publications. Currently she is a professor of aquatic sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. She has also published under the last names of Reed, Danaan, and Reed-Andersen.

This story is definitely geared towards a female audience. It also leans to the romantic genre. Parts of the story are autobiographical in that Tara Woolpy’s mother was involved with politics in Idaho.
For a first novel, the story was very well-written, well-organized, and logical. The characters were believable and definitely human. The inner voice had a strong feeling of authenticity.
All of us have wolves inside, hidden talents that need to be released or at least tested. For those who have ever wondered, “What if I had…” you need to read this. I look forward to future novels by this author.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Just a Bunch of Crazy Ideas

Just a Bunch of Crazy Ideas
Pardu S. Ponnapallli
Hardback ISBN: 978-1-4568-8239-6 $24.99
Softcover ISBN: 978-1-4568-8238-9 $15.99
Ebook 978-1-4568-8240-2 $7.69
78 pages

Crazy ideas??? If you were living in the 1940s most people would have considered the idea of men walking on the moon as a crazy idea. At that time, the thinking was crazy, thinking outside the box.
So, what’s to say that thinking crazy isn’t the way to solve our present day solutions?

Pardu S. Ponnapalli earned a doctorate degree in physics. Upon graduating, he could not find a job which matched his education so he became an IT specialist. From his life experiences, he has some thoughts written as short essays about a variety of subjects, some more reasonable than others, and some being a possibility.

The importance of this book is to get people to think about the present day problems and to find realistic solutions. He mentions his proposals, but more importantly wants others to start pondering on solving the problems. After all, the first step to solving a problem is recognizing that there is a problem.

Some of his ideas are extremely practical such as the luggage problem on airplanes and the energy conservation. Some need more research with what has already been considered such as the gas tank placements and the chess differentiation of games. Some could cause more problems, such as the flexible seating in vehicles would bring another complete dimension to the insurance industry.

Explaining the difference between the National Debt and the deficit was well-done and clear. I am concerned about the simplistic view though of solving this problem. There are many more components of this problem, but he does have insight about where to begin the solution.

Other thoughts discussed are the idea of a space elevator, promoting ice hockey, alternatives for controlling the cat litter box smell, laptops and their constant need for replacement or repairs, space exploration, the stock market, the world of IT workers, hiking injuries, and improvement for dishwashers.

The essays were well-written and mostly thought through. Based on his personal experience, they were enlightening and at times, laughable. More importantly, they make the reader take the time to think about our future, ponder on the problems, and look for the solutions we need.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Lily Hates Goodbyes

Lily Hates Goodbyes
Jerilyn Marler Illustrator: Nathan Stoltenberg
March 2011
ISBN: 978-1460960707
$ 6.95
32 pages

What can any of us do to help a military family who has to deal with being sent overseas?

Jerilyn Marler wondered about that exact thing when her granddaughter was having difficulty with her
father’s deployment with the Navy. From four-year-old Lily’s perspective, her life was ending.

This book allows a young child to talk about their temporary loss and feelings through Lily in the book.
Dealing with a deployment is difficult for any family, Lily Hates Goodbyes even guides the family
through this time and how to effectively deal with it.

Particularly for military families, this little book is excellent. Guiding through with some survival skills
such as looking at the moon and talking to it as if it were her father, talking to her mom, hitting a pillow
allows strategies for trying times. Also, the memory box for her father is a wonderful way for sharing
for any parent that has to be gone for any time.

Also available is a coloring book that accompanies Lily Hates Goodbyes. The illustrations are
wonderful. The story is well-told and perfect for any four-year-old to understand. The suggestions in
the story and the back of the book are well-thought out for any family loss, particularly deployments.

Jerilyn Marler resides in Oregon and has been a writer in the technical world for years. Nathan
Stoltenberg also lives in the Northwest and is an up and coming artist in numerous fields.

Lily Hates Goodbyes is the perfect gift for every military family.


Ted Bell
Harper Collins Publishers
July 2011
ISBN: 978-0-06-185931-1
$ 9.99
681 pages
Fiction – Action- Adventure

Thank goodness that somewhere in the world there is one extremely gifted person who can be trusted
to do the right thing, even if it involves risking their own life. They truly feel that this is their sense of
duty and service to others. These people are rare but those few who feel this commitment are highly
valued by their peers, their superiors, and those everyday folks who need a champion. Fortunately for
us, Alex Hawke is that person in this fictional novel.

Mr. Smith has a long history of terrorism and now seems to be instrumental in the unification of two
known terrorist groups, the IRA and the Sword of Allah who interacts with the Taliban and al-Qaeda.
This Mr. Smith seems to be British but was somehow involved with the death of Lord Mountbatten in
1979 as well as Diana’s accident. Now, his target is the royal family beginning with the princes.

Being that Warlord is the sixth in the Alex Bell series, there are continuations regarding the
progression in their personal lives. Warlord begins with the James Bond-like character in his Caribbean
retreat reflecting on his personal loses from the previous novel, Tsar. Wallowing in his grief, Alex
receives a call from Prince Charles who asks for his help in protecting his family who has been
threatened. Alex instantaneously changes his attitude in response to his long-time friend that
reignites his sense of duty.

Added to that is a missing nuclear weapon which leads Alex and his associates to the Afghanistan desert
and into the mountains along with Mr. Smith.

Warlord is action/adventure with a James Bond attitude. Alex Bell seems to be a more focused Bond-
like character who only needs to focus on one woman. There is humor and a sense of being realistic in
that the characters do need to sleep and eat. Even without having read the previous novels, this one
is easy to understand and the characterization does not suffer.

I enjoyed reading this fast-paced novel. My criticism regards the Epilogue which obviously is leading
into the next novel. With most of the writing being tight and conclusive, this was wandering and
unevenly paced. It really didn’t blend well with theprevious story.

Ted Bell is a former chairman of the board of an advertising agency. He lives in Florida and Colorado
writing his adventurous novels featuring Alex Hawke.

I look forward to the next in this series.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The Durham Deception

The Durham Deception: A Cathedral Mystery
Philip Gooden
Severn House
ISBN: 978-0-399-15722-6
248 pages
Fiction, Newlyweds, Lawyers, Mediums, Magicians, Murder Investigations, 19th Century

Sometimes the only way to stop a family member from doing something possibly stupid is by an intervention from a family member, even in nineteenth century England. That is the situation for newlywed Helen Ansell and her husband, Tom.

Helen’s aunt, Julia, lives in Durham, away from the rest of the family in London. Julia, although never married, managed to make many fortunate investments in her younger days, and now money is not a concern. Julia is fascinated by an older gentleman who is a medium for those dearly departed from their loved ones. Can Helen stop her spinster aunt from marrying this fraud?

Conveniently, Tom has also been sent to Durham on an assignment as a young lawyer. He is to meet with the stage magician, Major Sebastian Marmont who wants an affidavit verifying his ownership of an unusual and valuable weapon, the Lucknow Dagger. Both Helen and Tom are pleased when their purposes coincide.

This was a logical and intricate mystery that was not predictable but was easy to follow. Especially outstanding were the references to life in the 1800s such as working with the gaslights. This allowed a true picture into the daily life of this time period.

The story is a well-written page turner. The characters are believable and the references within the setting were true to the time period. The mystery is fast –paced while still being plausible. Added to that are the intricate details important which support the setting.

Being The Durham Deception is the second book of Philip Gooden’s Cathedral series, many readers might be hesitant because many important elements in character development and relationships are only in a first novels. This particular novel is easy to understand without having read the first one.

Philip Gooden has written two separate mystery series. So far, he has six novels in the Shakespearean Murder Mystery series, and two in this Cathedral series. Originally The Durham Deception was published in England in 2008 as The Durham Disappearance. He has also written The Mammoth Book of Literary Anecdotes, The Open Door: and other Ghost Stories, Faux Pas, Who’s Whose?, Name Dropping: A No-Nonsense Guide to the Use of Names in Everyday Language, and The Story of English: How the English Language Conquered the World.

The Durham Deception is a delightful quick mystery. Personally, I plan to read other novels by this British novelist.

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Paris Wife

The Paris Wife
Paula McLain
Ballantine Books
ISBN: 978-03421309
336 pages

“Every man's life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another. “ Ernest Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway is remembered as a phenomenal author but also as a person who lived and died by his own set of rules. With four wives, bull fights, friendships or enemies with other authors, and suicide, all of these set his life apart from anything but normal. In The Paris Wife, Paula McLain magnifies one section of Ernest Hemingway’s life, the time with his first wife, Elizabeth “Hadley” Richardson.

This story revolves around when Hadley and Ernest first meet through when they divorce. Hadley was twenty-nine years old when she met the twenty-one year old Hemingway. There was an instantaneous attraction. They quickly married and moved to Europe, centering mostly in Paris. At this time, numerous legendary authors formed a close-knit community here and spent much time together with the couple such as Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, John Dos Passos, and F. Scott Fitzgerald as well as Pablo Picasso, Joan Miró, and Juan Gris. Most of this time, Ernest worked as a journalist while being a financially struggling writer on the side. Their experiences and the visits to Spain for the bull fighting and the runs became much of the content of the memorable novels.

Pauline Pfeiffer, eventually the second wife, becomes an interesting character as she befriends both Ernest and Hadley and is a close and valued friend to both. This awkward friendship eventually caused the dissolution of the marriage.

The Paris Wife tells the story from Hadley’s perspective. Yes, I would consider this to be an advanced chic lit book. Men, you won’t enjoy it unless you enjoy reading romances. The idea to write this book came from when the author read Hemingway’s memoir, A Moveable Feast. One of the last lines about Hadley stated, “I wished I had died before I ever loved anyone but her.” That is the basis for this story.

I enjoyed this novel. However, it came already installed on my Kindle. It flowed easily. It is not a guy novel at all. The Paris Wife is for those who enjoy an involved and realistic love story.

Withering Tights

Louise Rennison
Harper Teen
Harper Collins Publishers
ISBN: 978-0-06-179931-0
288 pages
Fiction, Interpersonal relations, Camps, Performing arts, Self-confidence, Yorkshire, England

Many fourteen-year-old girls desperately are trying to fit in and to become popular. It is difficult when you grow unevenly and feel like you are all legs even if you’re living in Britain.

Tallulah Casey is thrilled to be able to fulfill her dreams since she has been accepted to spend the summer at a Performing Arts College. Being that her application was accepted late, there wasn’t room for Tallulah in the dormitory. The school does arrange for her to stay at a nearby home with an eccentric local family.

The theme for the summer program is Wuthering Heights in this moorland of the Yorkshire Dales. Where sheep abound in the town and squirrel slippers keep you warm on chilly mornings, Tallulah begins to awkwardly grow into her height, starting to understanding embarrassing families, kissing boys, making friends, and discovering if she has any talent for this performing arts school.

Making new friends seems fairly easy. The school itself is a challenge since none of her teachers seem to think she has any talent, just clumsiness. Also interesting is that there is an all boys school also in the town. So knowing that boys are around, maybe Tallulah will be kissed for the first time. More importantly, maybe she will finally begin to fill out and need a bra.

Withering Tights is the first book in a new series by Louise Nicolson who is known for her Georgia Nicolson stories. This is a fun-lighthearted book for those girls who are not in high school and enjoy the companionship of a fourteen-year-old girl point-of-view, complete with her mistakes and ungraceful life. Also, most importantly, is the learning from Tallulah about learning to laugh with others, even about yourself. The reading audience is for girls who are in their early teens.

Withering Tights is a funny and realistic journey into the life of a typical British fourteen year-old girl.