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.