Monday, January 19, 2015

Forgiving Maximo Rothman

Forgiving Maximo Rothman
A. J. Sidransky
Berwick Court Publishing
Chicago, Illinois
ISBN:  978-0-9889540-0-7
$ 16.95
308 pages

"Life is too short to make enemies of those you love. Learn to forgive."

Max Redman is an elderly man who is discovered by his housekeeper when she arrived in the morning. He is still alive, just barely. The police notify Max's next of kin, his son. However, his son will not accept a ride in a car to the hospital where his father is dying. It is a holy day and you do not ride in a vehicle on a holy day.

Who is this man? Why does his son have two names, Steven Redmond and Shalom Rothman? Why would someone attack a gentle, friendly old man? These are the questions that detective Tolya Kurchenko is asking. He quickly discovers that to answer these questions, he must first discover who Max Redman really is.

Tolya Kurchenko is the detective responsible for this case. Tolya quickly finds the logical suspect only to find that he really does not believe this boy would harm Max. With his pregnant girlfriend, he searches the apartment and discovered Max's diaries. In reading the diaries, he realized he is finding Max.

In the year of 1939, many Jewish people were fleeing Europe. Between Russia and the rise of the Nazi movement, it was not difficult to predict that there would be future problems for these chosen ones. In looking into the past, many people wonder why more didn't leave? This was not the first time in history of persecution of the Jews through Europe and Russia. What prevented so many of these people from leaving?

Forgiving Maximo Rothman is the story of much of Max. Having been born in Hungary, he didn't have a simple normal life. As life became threatening in one country, the entire family would move to another and another. Finally an unusual opportunity became available to him and his wife. The Domican Republic is willing to resettle a small group of people of about seven hundred into the town of Sosua on the northern coach. While safe, this life was rural farming which must have seemed like a completely different world to people who were accustomed to living in Vienna or Berlin.

The character development is phenomenal is this novel. The irony of Max being Jewish while leaving his faith and the detective, Tolya desiring to be a part of the Jewish community but being denied due to his maternal heritage creates an unusual dynamic with the story.

Forgiving Maximo Rothman is a story of what it is to be a Jew during the first half of the twentieth-century. From actually inside the synogogue to the typical Jewish home, this novel allows the reader to see what is not seen, heard or experienced by the general public. Also relevant in this novel is the realization of the horrible deaths of so many of their loved ones.

What is outstanding in this novel is its depiction of life seventy years ago in Europe. While intermixing the present day investigation with the events of the past through the diary, A.J. Sidransky has written a masterful mystery into a logical and passionate tale of life and death.

The underlying theme is forceful with the personal prejudices of many in an insular society. For people who do not perfectly fit into the traditional mold, how do these people fulfill their dreams?

Forgiving Maximo Rothman is A.J. Sidransky's debut novel. This novel was selected as "Finalist in Outstanding Debut Fiction" by the National Jewish Book Awards.

Forgiving Maximo Rothman is a phenomenal tale of real people and acceptance of others. This is unquestionable a memorable and moving story by a very gifted author, A. J. Sidransky.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Pagan Lord

The Pagan Lord
Bernard Cornwell
Harper Collins Publishers
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-0-06-196970-6
$ 27.99
299 pages

England had numerous battles in their early years after the fall of the Roman Empire to determine the dream of ruling the entire island. Between the ever-invading Vikings and the constant fighting with the Saxons, sometimes it seems amazing that anyone lived to tell the history.

In Bernard Cornwell's novel The Pagan Lord, this is the tale of whether this island will be England or Daneland.

Edward is now king but the Danish Vikings still hold much of what we now know as northern England. Leading these Danes is Cnut Longsword who views victory as within their foreseeable future.

Untred was Alfred's legendary warrior. Alfred is dead with Edward his successor. Unfortunately, aging and old wounds are beginning to slow down Untred's body, but not his spirit. He still strongly follows the gods of the north and views this new Christianity as a threat, even to disowning his own son. Also the new king does not actually like or trust Untred.

Untred is to go to the north and to gain control of his family home, Bebbanburg. He is knows the area well and is baffled of how his small group can possibly capture this impregnable fortress.

Bernard Cornwell creates a novel of Old England that is easy to understand and visualize. With names and places that are strange and foreign to us today, amazingly the story is easy to follow and comprehend. He does include a rough translation of the places as well as a map to assist the reader.

What is fascinating were the ever-changing loyalties due to heritage or religion, Saxon vs. Viking, and Christianity intermixed with the Norse gods. While the Saxons worshipped the nailed one, Christianity was also moving into the Danes frequently splitting loyalties of heritage.

In the introductory pages of this novel is a family tree of  the royal family of Essex. With many of the names being unfamiliar to those who did not grow up in England, this page is extremely helpful with the names and their relationships.

Bernard Cornwell currently resides in the U.S. at either Cape Cod or in Charleston, South Carolina. He is the best selling author of numerous historical series including the Sharpe series, The Saxon Tales of which this book is included, The Grail Quest series, The Nathaniel Starbuck Chronicles, The Warlord Chronicles, The Sailing Thrillers, and many other novels.

This series featuring Untred is outstanding. The character as a not always likeable but real person comes to life through Cornwell's writing. The reader can understand his prejudices while still viewing him as a crafty, skilled, and ruthless warrior. This manner of reliving history through Untred is phenomenal.

Did you ever wish for the good old days? Then, definitely read Bernard Cornwell's books.

If You Were Me and Lived in ...Greece, Peru, Hungary and Scotland

If You Were Me and Lived in Greece
ISBN: 9781497526181
If You Were Me and Lived in Peru
ISBN: 9781499640694
If You Were Me and Lived in Hungary
ISBN: 9781500483722
If You  Were Me and Lived in Scotland
ISBN: 9781500531331
A Child's Introduction to Culture Around the World
Carole P. Roman
Create Space Independent Publishing Forum
North Charleston, South Carolina
30 pages

Today's media frequently reports about the ignorance of America's children, especially in terms of geography. Carole P. Roman recognized this problem. As a former teacher with years of experience, she saw a solution. She has created a series of books with matching text and illustrations to assist everyone to become more aware of the world, literally giving her readers a global education. She has developed short picture books each focusing on a single country. Each book briefly highlights the geography, culture, food and language in an engaging format for the very young and for readers of all ages. Obviously through her books she is not complaining but taking a step towards solving the problem by both educating and entertaining simultaneously.

Each book begins with the country outlined and then continues to show the placement of the country with the rest of the world. A quick overview of common children's name for each is highlighted as well as the usual terms for mother and father. Another page in each book focuses on the money and common things purchased. There are even pages discussing the food along with descriptions and pronunciations encompassing the local cultures of foods native to the area as well as drinks while showing what a meal looks like and how they actually eat.

Depending on the particular country, some of these books discuss particular cities which are well known such as Athens in Greece being the birthplace of democracy.

The target audience for these books are young children from the age of four to eight. In each the games the children play and the schools are presented in a way that places the reader inside the book with the pictured characters.

What is outstanding in these short informative books is how well the pictures perfectly match the text and give a clear visual picture of the family relationships. While showing some of the common culture in each country through the architecture, the local markets, the tourist sites as well as the value in the uniqueness of each.

Every book also discusses the important celebrations in each country.

The text is simplistic with the illustration beautifully showing the clothing and the activity of each country.

Carole P. Roman's books are wonderful educational tools that make learning about other places in the world exciting and fun for everyone.

The Good Doctor

It takes a special talent to take a series of short stories and to modify by inserting a little humor as each story evolves into a short play. This is the task Neil Simon achieved when he adapted many stories of Russian author Anton Chekov in a series of twelve short plays. One of these stories is "The Good Doctor" even though this is the name for this show. All of these marvelous tales tell of real people by showing the truth in our imperfects as humans that truly transcend time and cultures.

Presenting these skits are five very talented actors who play a variety of characters. Matthew Uehling portrays the author and narrator. Dan Whitehouse is the husband and a scheming viictim who is drowned. Tim Daugherty is the older, experienced and often injured gentleman in these skits while in also beautifully sings. As the wife or girl is the delightful Brooke Fencl showing the extremes of being inexperienced and experienced to the level of instruction. Filling out this cast is the phenomenal character actress, Denise Putman.

The skits vary in tone but each one has a humorous tone brightening each realistic problem. "The Sneeze" is a comical, but all to realistic scene. One of the characters accidentally sneezes on the back of the neck of his boss. After spraying all over the back of the neck, what would any of us do next?

"The Governess" is an all-too-true skit about an employer who takes advantage of an employee. "The Arrangement" regards a rite of manhood definitely geared for an adult audience. "Too Late for Happiness" is a tender skit with an all too true situation.

For me, my favorite vignette was "The Seduction". Can a man seduce another man's wife without actually making little to no direct contact with her? Can a man use a husband as the weapon to seduce his wife? This is definitely intriguing.

The sets, costumes, hair, make-up, props, lighting, sound, and direction were perfectly seamless. Gary Planck as director, Dave Podendorf commanding the sound, Beth Rutz as the stage manager and many others created the perfect production for these wonderful performers.

"The Good Doctor" continues through this Sunday, January 25th with a 2 p.m. show and the Friday and Saturday shows curtain times at 7:30 p.m. at The Chanticleer Community Theater at 830 Franklin Ave. in Council Bluffs. The price of tickets are $ 20 for adults, $ 16 for seniors and $ 10 for students. For more information and reservation tickets contact the box office at (712) 323-9955.

This is one of those shows that make a wonderful evening for a special night out.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Death in the Time of Ice

Death in the Time of Ice
A People of the Wind Mystery Book 1
Kaye George
Untreed Read Publishing
Paperback $ 13.99
ISBN  978-1611873832
Kindle $ 4.99
221 pages

"There has always been the wind. Since our planet began to turn, there has always been the wind. This ball of dirt and fire and water started to spin. The air stirred. And Earth's time began. But the beginnings of the wind are lost in the mists of time. The wind blew...Before Man.

More than thirty-thousand years ago, North America was nearing the time of the Ice Age forcing tribes of people to move tino areas where there was abundant food needed for their survival. Although we don't know everything about life thirty-thousand years ago, it is believed that the Neanderthals possibly lived at the same time of the Cro-Magnons and other early forms of mankind. Some of these likely made it to the continent of North America.

Death in the Time of Ice is a fictional story based on actual research from roughly thirty-thousand years ago when varying forms of humanoids co-existed in possibly North America. What was their day like? How did they survive? How did they communicate? What did they value?

Enga Dancing Flower and her twin sister, Ung Strong Arm were aware that for their tribe, change was going to happen very soon. Hama, the Most High Female was talking of the approaching cold winter months and the migrating herds that have moved out of their area. The tribe did not have enough food to survive and would either have to move to the food supply or starve to death as had other nearby tribes.

Being this was a Neanderthal tribe, it is believed by some that these people might not have spoken but communicated by a form of telepathy with visual images. Both Enga Dancing Flower and Ung Strong Arm had been adopted by the tribe years ago as the Neanderthals were believed to be accepting of others and were capable of this non-verbal communication.

When Hama is murdered, the tribe wants to go various directions. Besides the obvious of selecting a new leader, the impending change caused multiple doubts and problems. Some are focused on the immediate need of food, others on moving, some on a new leader, and a few on discovering Hama's killer.

Death in the Time of Ice is an adventure into the Neanderthal world of more than thirty thousand years ago. At the beginning of each chapter is a non-fiction belief about this time period with many of these "facts" woven into the story.

In 2010, Kaye George was nominated for the Agatha Best Short Story Award with her short story collection entitled A Patchwork of Stories.

In much the same style as Jean M. Auel and Michael and Kathleen O'Neal Gear, Kaye George has written a shorter but significant fictional account of this Neanderthal mystery.

Death in the Time of Ice is a thrilling adventure into the far past.


Robert Crais
Penguin Group
Berkley Publishing Group
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-0-425-27827-7
Mass Market Paperback
$ 9.99
386 pages

Dog people are a breed unto themselves. Yes, it is a pun but it is true. They understand how a dog can be trusted to be a person's best friend, whether they are a man or a woman. Dogs will listen and never tell your secrets. As for loyalty, once a dog bonds with you, you have a friend for life. These creatures whose name spelled backwards is God don't judge you, don't criticize you, but love you for just being yourself.
While in the line of duty with the LAPD, Scott James was wounded and his partner died. They were just at the wrong place at the wrong time but his permanently changed their lives. For Scott, his partner, Stephanie is dead and he was critically wounded. Unfortunately the physical wounds heal faster than the emotional ones.
Scott was expected to just take a medical disability, but that is not Scott. He endured pain for months during physical therapy with his own expectations of being an active member of the LA Police Department. He does realize that things need to be different for him now. He chose to take the training to become a K-9 officer and his new partner will be a dog. What is admirable is Scott's determination! What is bizarre is that he has never owned a dog and is not a dog person! Why would a person who is not a dog lover want to be in the K-9 unit?
Scott is assigned an excellent dog but he is intrigued by another dog who served in the military in Afghanistan. The handler died and the dog was severely wounded and also has PTSD. Scott doesn't want the dog he is assigned, he wants this dog who was wounded in many ways like him. Scott wants this dog and is given a two-week test period.
The odds are definitely against these two being successful individually.  Can they become a successful team?  Can a person and a dog who both suffer from PTSD become partners?
Even though it was investigated, no one was ever brought to justice for Stephanie's death. In fact, the case had absolutely no leads after nine months of inquiry. What did the investigators miss?
The author, Robert Crais has written numerous novels is was the 2006 recipient of the Ross MacDonald Literary Award.
Suspect is a packed-filled adventure thriller for dog-lovers. The characters are well-developed into a logical mystery enabling Scott to discover the path for disclosure of that horrible night. The setting descriptions are easy to visualize with realistic action throughout the story creating a page-turner that makes it difficult to put the book down.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Captain No Beard and the Aurora Borealis

Captain No Beard and the Aurora Borealis
A Captain No Beard Story
Carole P. Roman
Create Space
North Charleston, South Carolina
ISBN: 9781496138705
44 pages

Captain No Beard is an imaginative young boy who obviously does not have a beard yet but does have the pirate dreams of adventure in exploring the world. Hallie and Cayla accompanies the Captain on his journey as their bed miraculously becomes a pirate ship, The Flying Dragon along with Mongo, the stuffed monkey, Fribbet the frog, Linus the stuffed lion and naturally Polly the parrot. Stuffed animals become willing crew members swabbing decks and keeping a ship “shipshape”.

On this particular adventure the crew of The Flying Dragon has to deal with the chilling weather of the arctic with snowflakes and icebergs.

Captain No Beard and the Aurora Borealis has beautiful watercolor illustrations on each page perfectly matching the pictures with the text for the imaginations of the young crew. This makes this book ideal for those children under the age of eight.

Captain No Beard and the Aurora Borealis excels with vocabulary experiences for young children in the latest installment of the Captain No Beard series. Bringing in the words aurora borealis, icebergs, arctic, horizon as well as Polaris as it relates to other stars also extends easily into a science lesson.

The pirate terminology is fun and appropriate for children to understand with phrases such as "Shiver me timbers" and “Aye” being used.

Added to these vocabulary are other words which are age appropriate but at the same time enrichment without losing the meaning and relevance of the story.

Most importantly is the moral lesson about taking or borrowing things and what is stealing. This seems ironic in an imaginary tale with pirates, but the life lesson is refreshing in this imaginative tale.

Carole P. Roman is a former teacher who is now an author and businesswoman while she resides on Long Island.

The previous books in the Captain No Beard series have won numerous awards and recognition and most recently the Children's Indy Best- The Pinnacle Award of 2013 and the Readers Views Kids Award- Best Children's Book of the Year.

Have you wondered what is a good book to give young children that the entire family will enjoy? You can't go wrong with Carole P. Roman's Captain No Beard series. All of these books are fun to read for kids of all ages.

Kittens Can Kill

Kittens Can Kill
A Pru Marlowe Pet Noir
Clea Simon
Poisoned Pen Press
Scottsdale, AZ
Trade paperback
ISBN: 978-1-4642-0360-2
March 2015
$ 14.95
294 pages

In the Berkshires, life is relaxing. This a not a high-crime area and murder is usually non-existent. So when an elderly and retired attorney passes away, a heart-attack would be the logical reason for his death. When poison is suspected though, who could or would poison him? Was it an accident? Could a new kitten have accidentally dropped something in his tea that could kill him? What do you do with a murdering kitten?

When asked to check on a new kitten, the last thing you expect to find at the residence is a dead body. Prudence Marlowe had been knocking on the door for over twenty minutes when she finally decided to enter the house. Imagine her surprise to find the body of an older man and a kitten batting around what appeared to be a button from the dead man's sweater vest.

It would have been easy to just pick up the kitten and to back out the door but it would be leaving a crime scene. The right thing is seldom the easiest. Pru chooses the correct path and informs the local law enforcement, Jim Creighton who just happens to have a special relationship with her.

What Jim suspects but does not know is that Pru has a special ability. She understands the language of dog, cats, birds, etc...she can talk with the animals. Now only if these creatures would answer her questions and speak in complete sentences. However humans are not usually privileged to the secrets the animals confide in her.

Added to that, Jim has used the “love” word with Pru. She definitely does not want him to believe that she is mentally unstable. She prefers to describe herself as an animal behaviorist.

So how did the old man die? What was the cause of his death? What did the kitten do? What did the kitten witness?

It turns out that the deceased is a retired attorney, David Canaday who has three surviving adult daughters. Sibling rivalry still continues into their single adult lives and include fighting over her father's will and of course, the kitten.

Clea Simon is a former journalist who lives in Somerville, Massachusetts. She is the author of three non-fiction books as well as three separate mystery series featuring the characters Pru Marlowe, Dulcie Schwarta, and Theda Krakow.

Kittens Can Kill is a fun cozy novel which is a very quick read. The story is well-organized with excellent character development as the possible culprits are slowly revealed. I would recommend one of the earlier books in the Pru series if you are not acquainted with the series.