Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Through a Shot Glass Darkly

Through a Shot Glass Darkly
Siobhan Kelly
Cat's Paw Press
Long Branch, New Jersey
ISBN: 978-0-09887090-2-7
$ 15.00
300 pages

Everyone always thinks about following their dream but few people really do. We envy those people who have the courage to actually give up everything in their lives to jump on that one chance of a lifetime. That is exactly what Alex Fitzpatrick achieves when she leaves New Jersey to open an Irish pub in a small college town in Nebraska. What she doesn't plan on are those non-published set of rules in this town. Who would be threatened by a female running a bar in a small town?

When you inherit money, this gives you an opportunity. Alex invests in a bar in Sherman, Nebraska. Her plan is to develop a true Irish pub which is definitely different from a bar. For economics and convenience, she is living over the place as she learns the business and the community.

One of her first friends in Sherman is Barb who owns a successful bookstore, Book Ends, a few blocks away. Barb is bothered by something but tells Alex that she will discuss the matter when she has time in a few days. However that doesn't happen. Barb's body is found in her apartment above the bookstore after it burned. Was this an accident or intentional?

Alex's guilt over not knowing what was bothering Barb quickly converts into her own investigation, of course, alongside of the local law enforcement.

This is a fast-paced, well-developed mystery that captures both the advantages and the disadvantages of living in a small Nebraska town. The characters are realistic with a perfectly planned setting, truly making the reader feel as if they are in the town with the characters. The strengths are the sense of setting and the character development in this novel. Through a Shot Glass Darkly excels in these areas.

Who is the intended audience for Through a Shot Glass Darkly? For this particular novel, it is easier to state who should not read this book. Unquestionably, the author has not had many positive experiences with Lutherans who are from the Missouri Synod. Also, those who are not comfortable with same sex relationships would not enjoy this novel. Those who would most enjoy this book are open-minded readers who have had experiences in small towns.

Siobhan Kelly taught for thirteen years in Nebraska. She has returned to the Jersey area and is working on a sequel to Through a Shot Glass Darkly.

Through a Shot Glass Darkly is a cozy mystery that keeps you wondering about the possible killer to the very end.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Gone Girl

Gone Girl
Gillian Flynn
Crown Publisher
Random House, Inc.
New York
ISBN: 978-0-307-58836-4
$ 25
419 pages

Why is this book on the New York Times Best Sellers' List?

Gone Girl is about a woman who disappears and it appears that her husband murdered her.

In any relationship, especially marriage, there are times when both partners are not exactly pleased with their spouse. After living together for years, most married couples know how to irritate each other and also realize the expectations placed upon each of them.

Lately their life as the successful couple in New York City has greatly changed since they both have lost their jobs as journalists, but they do have Amy's trust fund so that they will be destitute. The plan is to move back to Nick's hometown in Missouri and to help with his parents with his mother fighting cancer and his father suffering from dementia. With the money, Nick and his twin sister open a bar in this small town. Life is certainly different from New York City.

Amy and Nick are nearing their fifth anniversary. Amy is accustomed to being the center of attention and being “amazing” in her relationships. Her parents even wrote a series of books featuring Amazing Amy as she is growing up in a household of overly doting parents of an only child. Amy is perfect in every way to those who do not know her extremely well. Every year Amy plans a treasure hunt for Nick as an anniversary surprise and unfortunately, he never succeeds in figuring out the clever clues that are just too cryptic for him. Of course, the clues are strictly based on Amy's memories, not those memories of the twosome together.

Amy disappears on the day of their fifth anniversary. Will the treasure hunt lead Nick to Amy? With Nick's past failure record of figuring out the clues, does he even have a chance? Where is Amy? Did someone kidnap her?

What I find most disturbing about this book is that someone could use it as a manual to get rid of their spouse! Would anyone actually think of that? The details of the disappearance are compelling even when you figure out the mystery. You can't stop reading because you want to know more and wonder how it will end.

Gillian Flynn is also the author of Dark Places and Sharp Objects. She is a former writer and critic for Entertainment Weekly.

Gone Girl is an unusual mystery explaining the events from the perspective of Nick and then Amy alternating. This aspect of duo viewpoints permits a truer understanding of each character since you see them through their own and each other's eyes.

Gone Girl is disturbing, but realistic. This book will definitely affect how I look at husband's accused of killing their wives from now on.

(Maybe I should start writing a diary - - This is only relevant to those who have read Gone Girl.)

Why is this book on the NY Times Best Sellers' List? Could this be a way that people are trying to get rid of their spouses?

The Cat Did Not Die

The Cat Did Not Die
Inger Frimansson
Translated by Laura A. Wideburg
A Caravel Mystery
Pleasure Boat Studio
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-1-929355-89-1
February 1, 2013
302 pages
Creepily haunting is how I would best describe the novel, The Cat Did Not Die.
In the hinderlands of Sweden are farms, some of which are deserted and used as summer homes, some as rentals to the farmhands, and some which are part of a small working farm. Life sometimes has different rules in these isolated lands.
Kaarina is accustomed to this life style, but that doesn't mean that she always agrees with it. When her cat has kittens, it is a problem. There is no way that the farm can support a growing cat family. So Holger who is in charge of the farm expects his farm hand to solve the problem with a shot gun. The kittens are in a box just as the gun fires, one kitten miraculously attaches itself to the leg of the farm hand. It must be fate.
This particular farmhand doesn't talk much and has little interactions with anyone, except Holger and Kaarina. However, that doesn't stop his curiousity. When a couple is visiting nearby at their ancestral family home for the summer, he does go into their house and steals two of their pillows while they are out. Why?
While being burgled, the couple who are in a nearby town hear about two escaped prisoners who are considered armed and dangerous. So naturally after realizing that their home had been invaded, the logical conclusion is that there is a possibility that the prisoners had been there. Why steal two pillows?
After this unusual violation, Beth is uncomfortable. Both Ulf and Beth are having difficulty with their relationship involving personal guilt and baggage from many years. Ulf is carrying the burden of leaving his first wife and son and Beth with the birth of twin girls seven years ago who died. Ulf also will not tell Beth that he still loves her which is becoming a major concern.
The farmhand whose curiousity made him steal the pillows keeps watching the two and finally is discovered. Beth who is certain that he is one of the escaped prisoners, goes after him with an ax that was nearby, killing him. Now what do you do?
And yes, the cat observed everything.
The Cat Did Not Die is an uncomfortable tale of guilt and people's relationships that is entirely realistic. Inger Frimansson's writing pulls you into the story so that you are with Beth through every difficult decision allowing you to understand this character completely. The combination of style with the writer and the translator Laura Wideburg created a novel that is completely spellbinding, even when you dislike one of the characters. What is shocking is how the relationships evolve through the guilt of one character and this effect on all their interactions.
Unnerving, well-written, and haunting all describe THE CAT THAT DID NOT DIE with a conclusion that leaves you reflecting on this story.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Secret Storms

Secret Storms
Julie Mannix van Zerneck & Kathy Hatfield
Blue Blazer Productions
Toluca Lake, California
April 2013
ISBN: 97-0-9857358-0-7
Trade Paperback
$ 14.95
338 pages
Once in a while you find a book that has a voice that is so authentic it actually pulls you into the story. That is Secret Storms which is the story of a mother who was forced to give up her child and the child growing up without knowing she was adopted and finally finding the truth and her mother.
Julie Mannix grew up in an unusual family being that her father was an author and traveled the world. At their home in the Philadephia area would be numerous exotic animals. To accomplish this task throughout the world required much of her life being spent in boarding schools. In many parts of the world, children were not always safe in the adventurous life of exploring parents.
Julie's dream was to become an actress in New York. What her parents did not plan on was Julie becoming pregnant while in New York. While visiting her home, she saw a doctor who informed Julie's mother, not Julie, of the pregnancy. The father of the child was already married. Her mother, like many mothers in 1963, looked for a solution. When Julie took three sleeping pills her mother then had her answer. This could obviously be a suicide attempt.
Julie was committed to a private psychiatric facility for an abortion but she refused to sign the papers. Her punishment for the refusal was to move her as a pregnant mother to the state hospital for the mentally ill to wait for the birth of the child. There she took a vow of silence. When the baby arrived, the baby girl that Julie so wanted was quickly wisked away to be adopted. She had no choice in this matter. Only then was she accepted back at her home.
With her mother's help, Julie was able to return to New York to follow her dream and naturally to the man she loved. Now that he was divorced, they could marry, but Julie would always have a missing part of her with the baby that she gave up for adoption, Aimee.
Kathryn did not know that she was adopted. She grew up in a loving family until tragedy struck and her mother died. As her father and brothers attempted to continue to have a normal life, they closely bonded through economic hardships and a difficult remarriage.
During this time, Kathy discovered the truth, but life was unstable so she placed her clue to her real identity in a safe place and forgot about it. Years later by chance, she discovered the paper and quickly used the internet to uncover the clues to her true identity.
Secret Storms is the story of these two women as they worked through their personal guilt and discovery of their relationship with each other and their families. This story is a heart wrenching tale that literally places you in each of these women's shoes understanding the circumstances through their eyes. This personal journey of discovery for both women shows us the true gifts of love that encircle each of us.
Secret Storms is a marvelous journey for everyone to read.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Brooklyn Bones

Brooklyn Bones
An Erica Donato Mystery
Triss Stein
Poisoned Pen Press
Scottsdale, AZ
ISBN: 9781464201226
Trade Paperback
$ 14.95
261 pages
For single parent and widow, Erica Donato, life is difficult to keeping up with a teenaged daughter and her work and research for her doctoral degree. Up until now, Chris, the daughter has not been overly overly challenging but frequently is expensive. Erica has greatly grown professionally from being a high school social studies teacher to being an intern at the local museum.
Conveniently, their home is in Brooklyn, close to the museum. Currently the old house is being remodeled by her close friend, Joe. Joe is like a big brother to Erica and usually helps her in many ways. Being that Erica can't afford summer camp for Chris, Joe hires Chris as a part time helper with the job.
With the dusty, dirty job of breaking through walls around the fireplace, Chris discovers a human skeleton of a long-dead teenaged girl. Naturally she is curious about who the girl really was but as usual, the police are not going to share information. Chris decides to investigate who used to own their home.
But someone does not want them to discover any information about the corpse. Quickly, it is obvious that there is a mystery here that someone does not want it to be solved.
As Erica discovers her daughter's investigation, fortunately, their family friend, Rick, comes to the rescue and pays for Chris to go to the summer camp. Chris is delighted but makes Erica promise to continue to investigate.
Sure, Erica now only has to continue the museum's research project about the Brooklyn neighborhoods, an extra project regarding the history of the area promises some much-needed extra cash and possibly a new relationship for her love life, and now added to that the death of a teenaged girl back in the time of hippies. When she just feels that things are getting under control, Rick, the family friend, has been shot.
Why? Rick was a police officer so could this be a killing of revenge?
Of course, added to her overflowing plate, she also feels obligated to investigate about Rick's death.
Brooklyn Bones is a fast-paced engrossing mystery that is realistic with well-developed characters. The actions are believable and written in an organized and logical sequence leading up to the climatic discovery of how all these people and actions were related.
Triss Stein comes from a small-town and has lived all of her adult life in New York City. Previously she has written Murder at the Class Reunion and Digging Up Death. Brooklyn Bones is the first book in this new series featuring Erica Donato.
Brooklyn Bones is a tightly interwoven plot in a riveting mystery.

The Hidden Village

The Hidden Village
The World Next Door, Book 1
Greg Krehbiel
Crowhill Publishing
Laurel, Maryland
October 2012
$ 2.99
130 pages
The scariest stories are those that are realistic. If there is enough truth that you feel that the story could happen to, those stories are the ones that you remember and stay with you. That is the case of this short novel, The Hidden Village.
Geoffrey Franklin is a widower who lives a rather ordinary life. He goes to work and weekly communicates with his only son, Josh. Since Josh is an adult, Geoffrey realizes the need for his son's independence. When his son though does not answer his calls after a few weeks, he becomes concerned.
He calls his son's place of employment only to discover that his son quit his job a few weeks ago and no longer is living at his apartment. Geoffrey starts contacting Josh's friends only to discover that the car was supposedly sold to a friend and Josh seems to have disappeared.
Geof chooses to take a few days off work to search for his son. However, people don't seem to like the questions that he is asking. The more he asks, the more trouble he finds for himself.
After seeing a glimpse of someone who he believes is Josh, Geoffrey discovers a cult-like world with different rules and values.
The Hidden Village is an enthralling tale in the Washington D.C. area that revolves around a cult-like group nicknamed Elves. The Hidden Village is a believable thriller involving cults with unlimited resources. The story is well-written with well-developed characters. The most difficult part of this story is that the story ended, even temporarily.
The Hidden Village is a truly captivating taking the reader into another world.
Greg Krehbiel is a professional publisher of Crowhill and is the father of five children. The Underground Escape is the second book in this engrossing series.

Pyramid of Skulls

Pyramid of Skulls: A Novel of Timur, Warrior and Emperor
Martin Fruchtman
Martin Fruchtman-publisher
Las Vegas, Nevada
ISBN: 978-90-859886-0-1
$ 9.99
528 pages
You've probably heard of many of the great conquerors of the world such as Julius Caesar, Attila, Alexander, William the Conqueror, and Genghis Khan, but have you heard of the Turkic warrior, Timur-i-Lang known as Tamerlane in the West?
Timur ruled in the early 1400s from the Black Sea to the Aral Sea into the Persian Gulf and as far southwest as Delhi including much of modern day Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and into India with his main city of Samarkand being in what is now located in what we know as Uzbekistan.
As the victor, Timor and his armies did not take prisoners, but raped, pillaged, and beheaded their enemies creating pyramids with the skulls of the men, women, and children.
Pyramids of Skulls is the story of this legendary fighter, Timur who idolized his ancestor Ghengis Khan and dreamed of restoring this dynasty. This historical perspective is from his Jewish minister and doctor, David Ha-Tzadik who really did exist.
The author, Martin Fruchtman fictionalized gaps surrounding the known facts about this leader who is believed to be the catalyst for the entire Renaissance period throughout Europe. The novel is gory and brutal, speaking of numerous beheadings and rapes that are very descriptive.
Much of the first half of the book deals only with the fighting which involves rape, pillaging, and beheadings. The second half is more of a story focusing on David Ha-Tzad. This half also focuses on the divisions within the Muslim faith that has caused numerous rivalries and prejudices towards others as well as those towards Jews and Christians.
Pyramid of Skulls speaks of Timur during the time of most of his battles and basically through his Jewish doctor and Grand Visier, David Ha-Tzadik using historical fiction to fill in the undocumented gaps in his legacy.
Pyramids of Skulls is basically about Timur's battle years and definitely about his doctor and advisor, David Ha-Tzadik. The book was more about David than Timor as it spoke more about his background and created him as a realistic person. There were numerous questions that were not answered about Timor, such as his birth, younger years, how he rose to power, a description more of his influence with the Renaissance, and how he died that were not in this text.
The author, Martin Fruchtman is the former President of the International College of Technology and Business and dean of the DVS College-Renji Hospital and University Consortium in Shanghai, China.
Pyramid of Skulls is informative with a realistic story of David Ha-Tzadik and how he became an influential person on this eratic and tempermental ruler, Timor. Little is written of this time and Martin Fruchtman has definitely begun filling in the history of Timor.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Omaha Performing Arts preview night

I'm completely in love with Joey. He's tall, dark, and handsome and he literally eats out of my hand. What more can a girl ask for? I have seen Joey on television but was amazed when I saw him last Thursday night. Oh did I mention that he is both a puppet and a horse?
Last Thursday night I was privileged to see the upcoming shows for next year's Omaha Performing Arts and yes, I met Joey from the Tony Award winning play, Warhorse. (Yes, even my husband was amazed by this creature.) Just to be clear, Joey is a puppet commandeered by three men who turn this creation into a real horse by movements and sounds. To watch this horse puppet makes you believe that Joey is real. He acts like a real horse complete with shakes, snickers, ears turning, and tail switching without the smells. And yes, he will even nuzzle with you.
For the 2013-2014 season, the season tickets are available for purchase this week.
The Broadway season features: The Book of Mormon, Elf the Musical, Million Dollar Quartet which includes Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis, Sister Act, and War Horse. Wicked is also returning to the Orpheum in May 2014 as an additional show.
For The Showcase programs: Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers featuring Edie Brickell will begin in July, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy in October, and Elvis Lives in January.
For the Jazz season, The Musical Majesty of New Orleans in November, The Legendary Count Basie Orchestra in February, and Wayne Shorter concludes this program in April of 2014.
With the Dance series, the Martha Graham Dance Company will be performing to Copeland's Appalachian Spring in January of 2014, followed by The Ronald K. Brown/Evidence Dance Company in March, and concluding Swan Lake featuring the Moscow Festival Ballet in April.
The Family series wil begin with Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom starring Peter Gros, Psy: Mind-Blowing Circus in January, and Tao: The Art of Drum in March.
Also Omaha Performing Arts is beginning a children's program with Sid The Science Kid Live in January and Erth: Dinosaur Petting Zoo in March.
Another new program will be their National Geographic Live! Speaker Series with photographer Paul Nicklen in Polar Obsession, severe storms researcher Tim Samaras in Chasing Tornados, and NASA enginer Koboie Boykins with Exploring the Red Planet.
In the 1200 Club will be Dr. Lonnine Smith Trio, Sean Jones Quartet, Chistopher O'Riley, Delfeayo Marsalie, and Zoe Keating.
The planned extras feature Larry the Cable Guy, World Blues: Taj Mahal and Vusi Mehlasela, Cameron Carpenter who will perform on the Orpheum's 240 rank theater pipe organ, Empire Brass featuring Elisabeth van Trapp, and the Soweto Gospel Choir.
This is truly a season where there is something for everyone. Fortunately these are spread throughout the year, but this proves to be an outstanding year at the Holland Center and the Orpheum Theater.

Monday, March 4, 2013

All Night Strut

What can get your hands to clapping, your feet to tapping, and so invigorating that you just feel like standing up and dancing? "All Night Strut! A Jumpin' Jivin' Jam" at the Omaha Playhouse with songs from the 1930s and 40s with tributes to the Crooners, Swingers, Hep-Cats, and Jitterbugs. This energetic show can't help but put a smile on everyone's face.
With songs like "In the Mood", "Chattanooga Choo Choo", "The White Cliffs of Dover", "Dream", "It Don't Mean a Thing", and my personal favorite "Operator" belted out by Erika Hall were some of the many songs in this musical. As the narrator. Coda, a silent clown reminds me of a Red Skelton routine complete with magic, laughter, and adding audience participation. Anthony Clark-Kaczmarek is wonderful in this charismatic part of unifying the acts and connecting with the audience. There were some somber moments reflecting on World War II but also many uplifting songs throughout the entire show.
The Singers included Council Bluffs' Joseph Dignoti as the bass, Erika Hall as the alto, Camille Metoyer Moten who sang at First Night as the soprano, and crooner, Aaron Ellis as the marvelous lead tenor. In addition The Ensemble consisted of numerous singers and dancers that just kept the show jumping. The first part of the show was enjoyable and after having some microphone challenges after the intermission, the cast relaxed and excelled in creating an enjoyable program for all ages.
Performances will continue on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7:30 pm. and Sundays at 2 pm. Tickets are $ 40 for adults and $ 24 for students. Receive half-off your ticket when purchased the day of the show if bought directly at the box office using cash or check.
See "All Night Strut" for a great blast from the past. I'm still humming the old tune “A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square”.