Monday, January 31, 2011

The Girl in the Green Raincoat

The Girl in the Green Raincoat: A Tess Monagham Novel
Laura Lippman
William Morrow
Harper Collins
ISBN: 978-0-06-193836-8
176 pages

Many pregnant mothers-to-be find the last months tiresome, especially is they have preeclampsia.
Tess Monagham, being an older mother and now confined is definitely bored. She is accustomed
to an exciting life with running a private investigating agency.

While daily gazing at the neighboring park, she notices a woman in a green raincoat frequently walking
her dog. One day she notices that the dog is running lose and the woman is nowhere to be seen. Tess
begins her own investigation as to her supposed disappearance. Who is the woman? Why is the dog
running free?

Tess is fortunate to have employees who are extremely efficient and enjoy the investigation as much as
their boss. They are constantly keeping her informed about the developments while also constantly
checking on her needs. When Tess decides to temporarily keep the dog at her house, she discovers
that adapting a new dog to her household is not the easiest task, especially without being able to move
around much.

Originally this story was serialized in the New York Times Magazine and has finally been combined into
this novella. With similarities to Hitchcock’s Rear Window the character Tess takes the part of the
crippled Jimmy Stewart in this haunting tale.

The story was engaging though not as strong as her full length novels. For the loyal Lippman readers,
the reoccurring characters of Mrs. Blossom, Tess’s assistant, Dorie Starnes, her researcher, Whitney
Talbot, her long-timed best friend, and Crow, her artistic lover, are all true to character. If you have not
read previous Lippman novels, it would be difficult because the story depends on understanding the
character development in the previous novels. There is a short reacquaintance with the characters, but
with the shortness of the story, there is not much time allowed for the characterizations. The shortness
of this novella made it less intense and much lighter reading than usual. I enjoyed the book, knew the
characters well, and thoroughly enjoyed the ending twist.

Laura Lippman has worked as a school librarian and a reporter who was born in Atlanta and raised in Baltimore.

For those cold snowy days, curl up with The Girl in the Green Raincoat and prepare to be both warmed
with the characters but chilled by the action.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Bells

Richard Harvell
Crown Publishers
Random House
September 14, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-307-59052-7
384 pages

Eunuchs have always had an unusual place in world history whether protecting the women, religious
devotion, gender identities, or in music, the male sopranos supposedly were able to create a marvelous
unique vocal tone. By not allowing their voice to mature, their sound can permanently be preserved if
the boy is not allowed to mature. The Bells in the story of an orphaned child who had unusual musical
talent and was castrated to preserve his voice as a child.

Moses Froben remembers his childhood living in the belfry in a church with his deaf mother who was
the bell ringer in a small Swiss village during the 1700s. For some bizarre reason, the tolls of the bells
did not damage the child’s hearing, but seemed to intensify his love of music and tones. Having
become a musico, Moses learns about parental love and married love through unexpected events and

Although fictional, the characters of the monks Nicolai and Remus are flawed but loving and always
wanting the best for Moses. Amalia Duft, the love of his life although much too wealthy for her family
to ever expect any relationship with Moses. The self-centered choir director who is jealous of Moses’
talent, the overprotective aunt clinging to Amalia so that she does not marry for love but for money and
power, the Abbotts who are not certain how to balance a gifted musician with the daily needs are all
challenges in the story.

The love of the music is what is most special about The Bells. To hear the choice of words from a true
musician helps all of us to better understand the world and the world of music. This is the connection
from one person’s heart to the listener’s souls. This explains to everyone the power and the addictive
love for all music. Used in this story to assist the understanding is the analogy of the opera Orpheus
and Eurydice which is also a parallel story line.

The Bells is Richard Harvell’s debut novel. The characters are delightful and realistic. The story is
enthralling, even though somewhat predictable. The events are realistic and nothing seems to ever
occur without some problem or situation for the characters to solve. Mr. Harvell was born in New
Hampshire, educated at Darmouth College, and now lives in Switzerland with his family.

If you have ever wondered about those who love music, read The Bells to discover the world of the heart and soul of music.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ghost Country

Patrick Lee
ISBN: 978-0-06-158444-2
374 pages
$ 7.99

Alternative universe – time travel – these have been science fiction dreams for years. What if you discovered or had access to a device that could bridge two time periods, years apart, in the same place? What if you could actually travel into the future and back? Could you see the financial gains if you could easily commute between the two?

Paige Campbell and her colleagues had just met with the President of the United States to discuss a recent discovery when her motorcade was attacked. Being discovered in the wreckage by the attackers, she is pulled out and captured but fortunately maneuvers her cell phone to make one last phone call with instructions to a another colleague to from Tangent, a secret governmental facility for these other world interactions.

Bethany, the colleague, enlists Travis Chase who previously was also employed with the group but left after some problem. She also lets him know about a particular metal cylinder that was shown to the President that seems to be a portal in time. The two join in a quest to save Paige and the cylinder.

Ghost Country is a non-stop action and adventure novel. Yes, the characters do occasionally rest but your mind doesn’t as it races through the pages. The plot is well-developed. The characters are realistic in that they have a personality and a value system, even flawed.

Ghost Country is the sequel to Patrick Lee’s first novel, The Breach. This novel works as a standalone, but would be better with having a stronger understanding of the issues in The Breach as well as the relationship between Paige and Travis.

Overall, the book is enjoyable and definitely encourages me to read the first book, The Breach. Some of the plot lines in the last third were almost choppy and not developed as well as the beginning however, I wondered if that would have been alleviated if I had read the previous book. I was disturbed by the author’s interpretation of the chain of command with the leadership in the executive branch. His fictional succession would not be allowed in our country.

Patrick Lee is a native of Michigan. He has sold screenplays to movie studios, but they were never produced. Since then, he has begun to become a successful novelist with Ghost Country being his second book published.

Overall, Ghost Country is a great fictional escapist read for anyone who enjoys fast-paced science fiction, or at least what we hope if science fiction.


Monday, January 10, 2011

How Music Works

HOW MUSIC WORKS: The Science and Psychology of Beautiful Sounds, from Beethoven to the Beatles and Beyond
By John Powell
Little, Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group
October 27, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-316-09830-4
288 pages

Not everyone in the world has been trained to be a musician. Most people realize that musicians hear and respond to life differently. Their connection with the music makes them see the world through eyes that hear and feel from the soul. How can other people gain that connection?

How Music Works explains to the average person what techniques musicians use. It teaches us what to listen for in others to make music a special experience and a form of communication.

To begin, Powell explains music in scientific terms from the mathematics, physics, engineering, and history and the affect on musical compositions. Terms such as rhythm, timbre, pitch, frequency, harmony, and decibel are thoroughly discussed in humorous everyday terms. He also spends considerable time on the actual instruments themselves and the how and why they are individually and collaboratively used.

By the use of analogies, John Powell explains the affect music has on everyone and how it can personally modify a person’s mood or behavior. How Music Works actually explains the connections in creating music. Simply put, this explains the difference between noise and music.

One chapter is also devoted to the differences in music depending on where the music is actually performed. It shows the differences between a concert hall and an outdoors field.

Accompanying the book is a CD which demonstrates what is discussed in the book. How can you explain music without hearing music? The CD solves this.

By the use of his wonderful explanations, illustrations, pictures, knowledge, and humor, John Powell expertly explains music.

John Powell is both a physicist and a musician. He has taught classes in musical acoustics at Sheffield University and physics at the Universities of Nottingham and Lulea (Sweden). He currently resides in England.

This book is for those who want to enjoy music as well as for those who already have a music connection.

Being Polite to Hitler

By Robb Forman Dew
Little, Brown and Company
Hachette Book Group
January 6, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-316-88950-6
304 pages

How many people just do not want to show up for work anymore? That’s how Agnes Scofield feels about being a teacher for third-grade students. At the age of fifty-four, she just doesn’t enjoy what she is doing and realizes that she never did. Since she was widowed, she was fortunate to have some friends which assisted her entering the teaching field. She became a teacher because she needed the money to support her four children, not because she wanted to be a teacher.

Agnes finds that her life in 1953 in Washburn, Ohio, is to be the focal point of a filmmaker who is documenting a story about life in middle America.

After she bumped heads with a third-grade student, Agnes has a throbbing headache which causes her to faint later. When she awakens in the hospital, Agnes discovers that there is a rivalry over her. Sam, a much younger man, has made it clear that he wants to marry her after believing that there is a romantic involvement with the filmmaker. Could these possibilities lead to better changes in her life?

The story transcends from 1953 to 1973 with Agnes being the focus of the story. Much attention is given to problems of the time such as the possibly contracting polio, the baseball world series, the Cold War issues, and the space race.

As Agnes interacts with her four grown children and their families, she just feels detached from them and does not really enjoy them either. She is noticing that she has changed over time and that she is still evolving.

Robb Forman Dew is a National Book Award for her novel, Dale Loves Sophie to Death. She has also written The Time of Her Life and Fortunate Lives. Being Polite to Hitler is the third book in a trilogy following The Evidence Against Her and The Truth of the Matter. Even without reading the first two books, this book can be a standalone. However, for a better understanding of the characters, it would be best if you read the first two. She is a resident of Massachusetts.

Being Polite to Hitler is about conversations and how people change by their choices. The beginning is a little difficult to connect with if you haven’t read the previous novels due to the many characters. Once you understand the characters, the novel begins to become engrossing with Agnes and her daily life.

How often do any of us pretend to be polite to someone who really does not deserve the courtesy? How many of us would be polite to Hitler? How do our choices affect our happiness? These are all considered in Being Polite to Hitler.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Illuminated Vineyard

The Illuminated Vineyard
Jean Moynahan
Five Star Publishing
Gale, Cengage Learning
February 9, 2011
Hard Cover
ISBN-13: 978-1-59414-934-4
304 pages

Life isn’t always fair. Rachel Jarvis had worked as a high school English teacher and decided to retire.
With both herself and her husband retiring, now is the time for them to relax and enjoy life.
Unfortunately, her husband passed away leaving her the complete responsibility of taking care of the
house and the garden.

Rachel doesn’t have the best relationship with her nearby neighbor. When a young man is walking
around his property, she does wonder what he is doing there. Her neighbor is not a friendly person and
does not welcome new people. Later, she befriends this young man and offers him a job to help
around the outside of her property and a place to stay. Why? This is not like her at all.

Strangely coincidental, since the arrival of this handyman and his girlfriend, the town has experienced
criminal activity such as arson, murder, and an attempted poisoning. Is there a connection or just bad

The Illuminated Vineyard is unpredictable but still logical. As you read the book, more is
Illuminated than just the vineyard, much more.

Although unusual in its approach, this novel is both intriguing and engrossing. The characters are
believable and realistic. The characters, although often troubled, make logical choices.

Jean Moynahan is an Oregon native who was raised in Arizona and now has returned to her home state.
She has written two romance novels, Captain of Hearts and Painted Hearts. The Illuminated Vineyard is
her first mystery.

The Illuminated Vineyard is an excellent mystery that definitely has a unique writing style. Ms.
Moynahan truly captures the thoughts and misgivings of her main character, Rachel. I look forward to
more mysteries by this gifted author.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Angel Harp

Michael Phillips
Faith Words
Hatchette Book Group
January 26, 2011
Trade Paperback ISBN: 978-0-446-56771-8 $16.99
Hardback ISBN: 978-0-446-56770-1 $26.99
464 pages
Fiction - Christian

Sometimes it just seems that when you are reading a particular book, it seems that the book was written
for you alone. It meets your needs and matches where you are in your journey through life. This sense
is similar to when you go to church and the sermon seems to be a personal message just to you
when in actuality it is not. ANGEL HARP was the experience for me.

Angel Dawn Marie has been attempting to put her life back together after her husband died suddenly.
She was thirty-four when he died and had not had any children. She felt alone in the world while
working as a teacher’s aide. How do you put meaning back into your life?

Angel decided to finally take a trip to Scotland that both her husband and her has planned and dreamed
about. She realizes that she needs to take some risks and plans to take a break from her everyday life.
Finally, she made up her mind and planned to travel alone to explore the real Scotland, that is staying
away from the cities and exploring the towns learning about the people and the experiences of this land.

Since she wanted a fresh start, Angel decided to use her middle name instead of her first name. Now she would be known as Marie Buchan, her maiden name. Also though, she decides to take one of her harps with her in this adventure. A musician is needs to stay in touch with their instrument.

What she didn’t plan for was to fall in love with the country and the people. She also learned about her relationship with God through the assistance of the local curate and her own harp music. This is Marie’s journey to becoming a part of a community again and learning to need and be needed by others.

ANGEL HARP is completely engrossing. It allows non-musicians to begin to understand the relationship that musicians have with their music and their instrument as well as God. This book is not a romance novel even though there is romance in the novel. It is more about a journey of self-discovery that as a reader you get to experience with Marie.

Michael Phillips has written many books for Christian readers in historical fiction series in both Scotland and the U. S. during the Civil War period. Besides being an author, he has worked as an editor, a publisher and bookstore operator while still being a husband and the father of three sons while living in California.

ANGEL HARP is a delightful journey. Read it.