Saturday, December 17, 2016


Tracking Contagions, From Cholera to Ebola and Beyond
Sonia Shah
Sarah Crichton Books
Farrah, Straus, and Giroux
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-0-374-12288-1
$ 26.00
250 pages

"Cholera kills people fast.  There's no drawn-out sequence of progressive debility.  The newly infected person feels fine at first.  Then half a day passes, and cholera has drained his or her body of its fluids, leaving a withered blue corpse."
Pandemic sounds like a science fiction thriller.   Unfortunately, it can be all too realistic and could happen.  
How do we prevent it?   One way would be to read Pandemic.
Most of us do not plan to be exposed or infected with cholera.  What would you do if you were on an airplane from Haiti to Florida in 2013?  
This particular flight was delayed.  The crew disinfected where a cholera infected person had been the previous hour.   What if you had been on the plane with a person suffering from cholera?  They probably felt fine when boarding the flight.   Could you contract cholera by being on a plane with an infected person?
It seems as if the more advanced medical science becomes, the more contagious these diseases become.
Author, Sonia Shah chose to write a readable and understandable journey following the cholera epidemic to demonstrate to everyone, even those not in the medical field, how a pandemic happens.
Shah understands these diseases and has personal experience with the MRSA bacterium herself and in her family.
One of her sons had contracted the disease.  Being a thirteen-year-old boy, she was accustomed to seeing skinned knees and sores.  When he complained about a bandaged sore on his kneecap, she investigated only to discover the sore was boils.  It was a staph infection called MRSA.
MRSA is a nasty disease.   It was first identified in the 1960s and by the year 2010, had killed more people than AIDS.  This disease tends to infect and reinfect family members for years frequently causing people or lose a limb or their life.   How does anyone stop it?
Treatment is painful and takes weeks or months to recover.  How can anyone cope with this?  How does a family conquer this antibiotic-resistant bacteria?
Pandemic is a must-read for everyone.   It realistically explains the precautions in an easy-to-understand manner that makes you a little more cautious in public places and especially boarding planes.
Be prepared.  Read Pandemic.

The Flame Bearer

The Flame Bearer
Bernard Cornwell
Harper Collins Publishers
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-0-06-225078-0
$ 27.99
284 pages

"When we are young we yearn for battle.  In the firelit halls, we listen to the songs of heroes. 
Then the day comes when we are ordered to fight with the men, not as children to hold the horses and to scavenge weapons after the battle, but as men. ... We are almost men, not quite warriors, and on some fateful day we meet an enemy for the first time, and we hear the chants of battle, the threatening clash of blades on shields, and begin to learn that the poets are wrong and that the proud songs lie."
Before the year 1000 A.D., England was a group of tribal kingdoms.  Since the Romans left, there was constant fighting over land and religion with little time for peace.   The invasions from the Vikings were constant.  Throughout the years many of these kingdoms were merged into larger ones through marriages, battles, or treaties.  
Finally, there is some peace due to a treaty between Sigtryggr, Northumbria's Viking ruler and AEthelflaed, Mercia's Saxon queen.
Lord Uhtred has been waiting years for this one opportunity to regain his inheritance of Bebbanburg.   Uhtred's uncle stole this fortress when he was only nine-years-old, selling him into slavery while slaying his father.   To Uhtred it seems as if the stars are finally aligning for his one chance to regain his inheritance.
In this time, every battle determined whether the land would become Daneland or England.  Even though we know the winner today, it was a struggle with a close victory.
The problem for a series of many books is the continuity of the story.  Can you read The Flame Bearer and enjoy it without having knowledge of the other books?   Being this is the tenth installment, probably not.  I do not recommend this as a stand alone book.  The reader needs to know the past relationships and experiences to appreciate these sagas.
That said, I relish in delight in reading these books.   The reader is with Uhtred with every decision, every battle, every conversation and watching as he learns and evolves in his personal character.   Admittedly I did not like Uhtred initially and often wondered if he was supposed to be a protagonist or antagonist.    His bullying nature became instantly antagonist but softened throughout the years due to tragedies and loss. 
Though always an excellent fighter, now Uhtred relies on intelligence and strategy more while planning his moves as well as his enemies. 
The Flame Bearer is historical fiction.  Cornwell does play with inventing events to fit the needs of his story while utilizing real events and real people from the year 917 A.D.   However; history is not well-documented during this time.  
Bringing characters to life in The Flamed  Bearer is enthralling as well as allowing the reader to understand the people, the land, and the constant threats of war even from Constantin from Scotland.
Read Bernard Cornwell's story of Uhtred who really existed while envisioning his quest in taking back his home of Bebbanburg.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The Cold Kiss

The Cold Kiss
John Rector
A Forge Book
Tom Doherty Associates
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-0-7653-6662-7
$ 7.99

"We were the only ones inside except for a man whispering into a pay phone on the other side of the lunch counter.  I don't think we would've noticed him at all if it wasn't for his cough.  The sound, wet and choking, was hard to ignore. 
I did my best.
Sarah didn't."
Sometimes running away seems like your only choices within minutes.   
What would you do if you saw an older man who was coughing and having difficulty breathing?   Most of us would choose to ignore him.
It appeared as if the man's car had died outside the diner.
What would you do if this man asked to ride with you?  What if he was willing to pay you $300?  
Nate and Sara agree to give the man a ride.  That is a mistake that can cost them their lives.
John Rector is an award-winning writer who currently resides in Omaha, Nebraska.  Cold Kiss is his debut novel.  Other books written since are The Grove, Already Gone, Out of the Black and Ruthless.  His next book 2017The Ridge is expected to be released in April of 2017.
The Cold Kiss is an uncomfortable thriller.   Why uncomfortable?  John Rector expertly entices the reader inside the story making them feel as if they have become the protagonist feeling the realistic emotions.   The action is fast-paced with an undercurrent of a threat as the story progresses.
Rector's writing is outstanding in the area of characterization.   Each person becomes real, complete with a physical description but also allowing the reader an insight into their dreams and aspirations as well as their flawed pasts filled with poor choices.
Most of the story occurs at an out-of-the-way Iowa motel during a blizzard.   What could go wrong?
The story is well-organized and written with a voice that feels hypnotic.  You don't want to put this book down.
Cold Kiss is the perfect book to read on a cold, wintry night. Even hot chocolate is not enough to stop you from being chilled by this thriller. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Love's Christmas Past

Love's Christmas Past
Susan M. Baganz, Jewell Tweedt, Rachel James
Prism Book Group
San Bernadino, CA
ISBN: 9781519368775

Three gifted women authors masterfully join their talents creating a collection of three short stories all in one cover in a historical setting all with realistic characters all hoping to find love this Christmas season.
Council Bluffs' author, Jewell Tweedt created an entrancing novelette, Christmas Bells, with her protagonist, Connie Rose Simonson.  Connie manages two cafes on in the frontier town of Omaha, Nebraska during November of 1878. 
Connie is a recent widow who is also raising her seven-year-old son, Andrew.  She enjoys being extremely busy to the point of exhaustion.
With an invitation to a birthday party where there happen to be puppies, the two look forward to Saturday.
Dr. James Connor also works until exhaustion.  Being a lonely bachelor is easier if you are busy especially when you are the only doctor within a thirty-miles radius.    For a booming frontier town, that is a lot of responsibility for one person.
Rachel James is the author of another story in this collection entitled, A Medieval Christmas. 
Nola is experiencing morning sickness.   Her mother, Lady Langley, logically has made this conclusion.  As an unwed woman with a social standing, she realizes that she could marry a man beneath her station or become a member of a convent, hopefully, close enough to observe her child grow.
The Earl of Beauwater needs a wife.  A man of distinction needs a companion and heirs.  With his brother's dying wish is for to marry, can he find a particular woman to fulfill his responsibilities and dreams?
In Fragile Blessings by Susan Baganz, Grant and Lily anticipate the birth of their first child. Unfortunately, the baby dies during its rough delivery.  How does anyone heal from the death of a child?
Misfortune has company when there is a fire leaving three Catholic children orphans at a nearby farm. 
Who would care for three children with an entirely different religion?
These three stories join in themes of Christmas and hope.  All three have practical problems reflective of the time period and even today.
These three short novelettes have an intended audience of women who enjoy reading historical fiction, Christian novels, and romance.  All are thoroughly engaging stories transporting the reader to another time and place.
Love's Christmas Past is the perfect gift for any woman who enjoys historical Christian romances.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Lesson's Learned- Grace's Secret

Lessons Learned- Grace's Secret
Jewell Tweedt
ISBN: 9781536847024

" know that you can't change the past, only the here and now."
Grace Freeport is a well-respected school teacher in the frontier town of Omaha.  She thoroughly enjoys working with each of her thirteen students but her past still secretly haunts her.
On a typical November day in 1874, the school day begins as usual.  However, the weather quickly changes with a little snow, and temperatures are plunging with the wind accelerating.  
For a classroom with children, the weather can be frightening, and when their teacher steps outside to access the weather, the impending storm is terrifying for everyone.
Fortunately yesterday, Grace had taken the precaution of running a clothesline from the school to her home.   She is well aware of storms in the plains and knows how quickly a blizzard can become dangerous.   Leaving a note of their location, Grace carefully led the children holding the line and each other, to the safety of her home where she knows there is plenty of wood and food.  
So what is her reward for saving the children?   Grace tries to move past her past and reveals her secret.  Now, the mayor's wife wants her fired.
Grace's past is now becoming a part of her new life.   Complete with a feeling of guilt; she learns the value of friendship, loyalty, and love.
Lessons Learned- Grace's Secret is an excellent example of a perfect historical Christian romance.  Perfectly balancing all three genres into one novel is masterfully accomplished in this book. 
Local author, Jewell Tweedt has written numerous books in this Omaha-based series during the last few years.   Many of the characters in this story were in her previous books,  A Bride for the Sheriff, A Lady for the Lawman and Gold in My Pocket. 
Lessons Learned is a part of this series but can also be a stand-alone novel.    Knowing the backgrounds of the characters and their past experiences enrich the story and allows the reader to understand better the choices of each character as they move beyond their problemed past.
Lessons Learned-Grace's Secret is the longest in this series and shows how the author has developed in her writing with superb characterization and well-developed plots including realistic situations based on the history of the area.
Lessons Learned-Grace's Secret has life lessons that every person daily needs to reinforce in moving on with every person's life.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Off the Hook

Off the Hook: A Christmas Ornament Adventure
Author- John Arvai II
Illustrator - Eminence System
Light the Lamp Publishing
ISBN: 9780997941739 - mobi
$ 4.99
76 pages

Why do we have ornaments on a Christmas tree?
Is the reason decoration?   Many trees combine ornaments given as remembrances of family members or memorable events.
Would you be surprised to discover that there is a purpose for the decorations, probably one that has been kept a secret from you?
On Christmas Eve, while most people are asleep and dreaming, each ornament diligently goes to work.   It is the ornaments responsibility to fix the tree lights, tighten screws on the tree stand, and even guard the cookies and milk from pets.   This annual event requires each decoration to be "off the hook."  
The star on the top of your tree is different and not an ornament. 
All the ornaments cooperatively work together to activate the star which is a location transmitter lighting each rooftop to be seen only by Santa.
This year the Thompson family has a problem.   They just don't know that it exists.  
During their annual Christmas Eve party, the family cat somehow toppled the star, falling into an empty gift bag which Aunt Connie brought to her home.  
Once she discovers the star, she believes it is a gift to decorate one of her many trees.
What will happen to the Thompson children when Santa is missing their home?   Without a location transmitter, how will their home be found?
How can their Christmas be saved?
How can the family's ornaments possibly save Christmas for the children?
Off the Hook is a wonderfully creative story with the illustrations perfectly matching the text into a logical and well-organized original Christmas story for children of all ages.  Numerous themes surround this short book such as cooperation, friendship, prejudice, stereotypes, diligence and doing not what is easiest, but what is the right thing.
Surprisingly, each ornament is an independent character with an individual personality humanizing each and even revealing a little of every person's hidden prejudices and biases.
The colorful illustrations perfectly match the text entrancing readers from as young as 2 to 102 focusing on the individual ornaments and the children.
When not being a US Army veteran, an IT professional, husband, and father of three children, he enjoys hockey and using his imagination to create a beautifully original story.
This enchanting Christmas novel is available as an e-book or a paperback. 
Off the Hook is a wonderful Christmas story that will endure the test of time becoming a new family traditional story to be shared with generations.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

White Christmas

Can a reprised show based on a classic be better than the original?
If anyone is questioning if the stage production of White Christmas showing in Omaha through this weekend could be better than the original classic movie with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney, they need to get to the Orpheum this weekend.
Who would best enjoy this show?   Everyone, of all ages, but it does help if you have some memory of the Ed Sullivan Show and Topo Gigio, the puppet.
The show is about a friendship of two song-and-dance men, Bob and Phil, who first worked together while in the military during World War II.   After the war, their act continued making them into successful celebrities.
With the upcoming holidays, the two plan to spend some time in Florida, relaxing and golfing while looking for ways to improve their show.
Phil is intrigued by a sister act recommended by an old Army buddy and drags Bob to the show.   Both are impressed and attracted to the sisters who have been contracted to entertain at an inn in Vermont.
Phil manages to "accidentally" maneuver Bob to the wrong train and being with the sisters in Vermont.
Coincidentally, all four are bound for an inn in Vermont owned by their former general whose new business is nearly bankrupt.
This show has phenomenal actors, singers, and dancers that are also well-known.   Most notably Conrad John Schuck who I recognize as being in Annie and Lorna Luft who is a daughter of Judy Garland and sister to Liza Minnelli.    The entire cast is tremendously energetic and talented.  
What made this particular show special were the small elements not found in the original movie.
In the film, Bob and Betty could sing, and Phil and Judy could dance.   With these four performers, all four both sing and dance.    I find it hard to believe, but Bob and Betty sing as well if not better than Bing and Rosemary and Phil and Judy dance better than the movie version.
The story line in the on-stage production is smoother connecting the past war relationships to their meeting at the Inn ten years later.
The character of Martha Watson, initially portrayed by Mary Wickes, is essentially Ethel Merman.   Lorna Luft beautifully recreated this almost larger-than-life performer.
Yes, I am old enough to remember the Ed Sullivan Show, and I completely enjoy the remembrances.  
White Christmas continues through Sunda y with two shows on both weekend days.   Ticket prices begin at $30 and can be purchased either on-line at of by going to the box office at the Holland Performing Arts Center at 12th and Douglas in Omaha.   For group prices of 10 or more, call (402) 661-8516 or (866) 434-8587 for special rates.
What is unique about this show is the message that all of us need to have always reinforced to daily "Count Your Blessings."
Seeing "White Christmas" is a blessing for everyone.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Witness for the Prosecution

An unemployed man assists and an older woman, Miss Emily French, who dropped some packages while crossing a busy road.  Leonard Vole compassionately retrieved these parcels from the street.  This chance meeting created an unlikely friendship. 
He begins to visit this Miss French who is a senior citizen, aged 56-years-old.   This relationship grows, however, Leonard never brings his wife to meet her.
Miss French is killed.   Surprisingly; he is heir to the estate is this drifter.
Did he kill her for her money?  Did they just have an enjoyable and sincere friendship or was this just a fast-money scheme?
Witness for the Prosecution is a play currently at the Chanticleer Community Theater based on a short story by Agatha Christie originally published in 1925, retitled in 1948, and made into a movie in 1957 featuring Tyrone Power, Marlene Dietrich, Charles Laughton and directed by Billy Wilder.
Leonard Vole, portrayed by Chris Mays is great in this role.  Did he kill Emily French for her money?   While accused of the murder, his guilt or innocence ultimately depends on the witnesses for the prosecution.
Assisting in Vole's defense are John Mayhew, played by Will Muller and Stan Tracey as Sir Wilfrid Robarts.    For  Tracey, this role seems a little familiar since he is an attorney.
With many witnesses, Vole's wife, Romaine played by Stacie Krauth is unquestionably the most memorable.   All the witnesses significantly sway the audience and the jury as each reveals their perspectives and experiences.
The costumes, make-up, and hair were all outstanding creating a scene from the 1930s.  The set perfectly enhanced the play along with superb sound and lighting direction.
For outstanding performances, I adore the clerk played by Christina Thornton.   She professionally maintains the character while also adding a little humor.  It is evident who commands that courtroom.
Also, Kaitlin Carlon playing Greta balances the ditzy secretary with the seriousness of the court system and her character's ineptness.
Witness for the Prosecution continues through this weekend at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights and a matinee at 2 p.m. on Sunday.
To obtain tickets, contact the box office at (712) 323-9955.   For adults, the prices are $20, $16 for seniors aged sixty or older, and $10 for students.   This show is adult-oriented with most of the show being a courtroom setting.
The curtain rises promptly at 7:30 with an intermission around 8:10.  Jury selection is at 8:20 and the show resumes at 8:30 until 10.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016


Telonaut- Book 1 of the Televerse Series
Matt Tyson
ISBN: 9781535163972
364 pages

Sero Novak's current age is forty-six years old. However, he was born one hundred seventeen years ago. For the missing sixty-nine years, he was just code - a spider map - on a permaDrive, waiting for a body.

Currently, he is occupying his eleventh human body.

Sero is the lead Telonaut auditor, whose responsibility is to evaluate the space colony of NineDee. As the auditor, he lives on a wet world planet while assessing construction progress and getting to know the residents and their aspirations.. 

Attitudes have changed substantially over the past centuries. Back in the twentieth century, people hoped their children would have better lives. People worked hard so that their kids could have a better life. Everyone competed to have more than their neighbors. This philosophy just didn't work with so many people losing out in a competitively structured society and after the final global financial crisis, the world crumbled.

Life had to change. People came to believe that to be successful; teamwork would be essential for the good of everyone and the Race was born. Now cooperation rules, rather than competition.

Through that cooperation society build wondrous new things, one of which is the idea of being a colonist on an extraterrestrial planet. Creating a new civilization brings hope and dreams alive again. 

New planets bring new challenges. Humans are still flawed even though people do their best for the good of all, at least most of the time. Encountering a new environment and different life forms is exciting.

Through advances in technology, Sero is connected to the rest of humanity through NeuroVision's memory technology for everyone to witness his experiences, so human society lives the adventure with him – or so it seems.

Sero partners with a teenaged girl who calls this colony home. Prid’s relatable character is inquisitive and diligent while assisting Sero with his explorations into colony life, and adds humor in strenuous and dangerous situations – a good contrast to his personal journey of development through loss grief and resilience. 

Being science fiction, lessons about humanity, society, ethics, are evident as well as the consequences of upsetting the natural balance of an environment. Throughout the  adventure, the experience of every action having an equal and opposite reaction plays out, even if it takes a little time. 

Author Matt Tyson has written this dystopian adventure while working with a volunteer program in Africa with his family now residing in South Africa. He earned a bachelor degree in Genetics and a masters degree in Bioinformatics from the University of Liverpool in England and the novel contains a wealth of believable and detailed scientific background on how a future society might stitch together.

Telonaut possesses a winning combination with superb character development, constant uncertainty over when the characters are safe, tumbling adventure and dangerous situations, along with the introduction of new life forms, which forces the reader to wonder about the choices for everyone's survival in a futuristic setting using scientific advancements in a seemingly utopian situation.

With each page, the reader is with Sero observing the new worlds of both NineDee and future Earth. Join the journey of Sero, through his eyes as the lead Telonaut auditor.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

The Emerald Key

The Emerald Key
Mark Frederickson and Melora Pineda
Blue Tulip
ISBN: 978-1-942246-71-8

The end of the school year is always a relief for eighth-grade students.    Laci Reece did not notice when her classmates exited the classroom for their summer vacation.  As usual, her nose is in a book as usual.
Laci always carries a bookbag filled fantasy novels complete with various mythical creatures.
Penny Wright has a special friendship with Laci.  Though opposite in popularity and personalities, the two value their long friendship with acceptance of each other's differences and delight in the time they share together.
The two girls visit Penny's grandmother as wedding preparations are throughout the house.   After Penny's grandfather had disappeared years ago, she finally had a new relationship and was going to remarry.  Years of loneliness and questions had plagued the family for years.  There seemed to be no explanation why a caring husband and devoted father would just disappear.  Now Roy will be becoming part of the household.   He is dull and smells.  Change is difficult for everyone.
Penny also has a difficult task.  She has to wear a pouffy-pink taffeta dress which a cousin had worn at her grandma's first wedding.
While looking for tablecloths in the attic, the girls noticed something under the floorboards discovering a ring, a journal, and a jewel.
With two of their friends, this discovery opens a world into a dangerous adventure for four teens who wonder if they will ever again see their family and home.
Friendship, loyalty, and recognizing the difference between the good for the personal vs. friends are underlying themes throughout this fast-paced novel for teens while in an adventure of good vs. evil in a world of fantasy.
The pacing with the multitude of quests perfectly intermixes realism with a bit of humor in many life or death situations while learning about trust and instilling the values of loyalty and friendship.
Author Mark Frederickson usually spends his time working in the film industry while his co-author, Melora Pineda previously worked in television.  The Emerald Key is the first novel for both.
The Emerald Key is a fantastical adventure featuring loyalty and friendship that is enjoyable for all ages.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Three Sisters, Three Queens

Three Sisters, Three Queens
Philippa Gregory
Simon and Schuster
New York, New York
ISBN: 9781476758572
$ 27.99
550 pages

"You can't do what you want when you are a princess,...You are doing the work of God,  you are going to be the mother to a king, you are one below the angels, you have a destiny."
Can anyone possibly imagine what Margaret Tudor's life was like as a child?   Author, Philippa Gregory, her natural curiosity to this character has created a marvelous, insightful perspective to the infamous and long-lasting events of the time.
Margaret adored her older brother, Arthur who was to be the next King of England.  Along with her younger sister, Mary, the two sisters joined by a third, the intended wife of her brother, Katherine of Aragon from Spain, these three united in a sisterly bond lasting most of their lives.  Her parents were Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, the ones who sponsored the expedition of Columbus.
As with all sisters, loyalty is fierce but not always consistent and not always meeting their personal desires.  The sisterly bond between Katherine, and the Tudor sister, Margaret and Mary is an unusual relationship involving death, riches, power, debt, as well as moral support as each discovers and completes their royal duties, as God, the King and men allow.   Throughout the years, none of these ruling women lived a life of leisure with each enduring hardship and pain. 
Margaret and Mary have a unique lineage combining the Lancaster and Plantagenet into the House of Tudor along with their brothers Arthur and Henry.  Because of this, each one's future is carefully planned to benefit the English crown.
Arthur marries Katherine.   Margaret is to become the Queen of Scotland after marrying James creating peace between the Northlands and England.  Mary, who is much younger, is to become the wife of the Holy Roman Emperor or the Queen of France. 
However, life changes for all of them when their beloved brother Arthur dies of the sweating sickness leaving his wife Catherine, childless and widowed.  Henry is only ten-years-old and now is heir to the throne in England.
Eventually, Henry marries his brother's wife to begin their ruling of England.  All that is needed is a male heir to complete their destiny.
Three Sisters, Three Queens, is an unusual novel in which the lives of the royals is realistic showing how these women who believed their birthrites led to power, riches, and happiness in actuality suffered immense pain, humiliation, debt, and suffering.  These women could never live the life of their dreams.
Three Sisters, Three Queens is an outstanding novel based on real history revealing many of the explanations for many of the conflicts even in today's world.

The Candidate

The Candidate
Lis Wiehl and Sebastian Stuart
Thomas Nelson
Nashville, Tennessee
ISBN: 97800718037680
$ 26.99
October 2016
352 pages

How can you be certain that who you vote for as President is the person the country needs and who you believe is the best person?
Erica Sparks has worked hard to overcome her personal problems with alcohol to become one of the nation's highest rated cable news host.  It isn't easy to be on the top since logically at some time, you know that you have to come off that mountaintop. 
Now she has the responsibility and privilege to get to know the two Presidential candidates.   One is a woman, Lucy Winters who appears sincere, down-to-earth, genuine and trustworthy.  The other is a handsome veteran who also was kidnapped while on a humanitarian mission to Iraq.  This man, Mike Ortiz at times appears charismatic while often his eyes look empty and coached by his wife.   Who would get your vote?
Erica's life is not all glitz and glamor.  She is a single-parent of a precocious and questioning daughter, Jenny.  Unfortunately, the time demands of her career require her to be separated from Jenny longer than either of them likes. 
Erica is bothered by the relationship between Mike Ortiz and his wife.  There is not anything the is noticeable, but she is questioning the possible control of the candidate through his wife.
Author Lis Wiehl knows the world of news broadcasting by being a legal analyst and commentator for Fox New Channel while appearing weekly on The O'Reilly Factor, Lou Dobbs Tonight, Imus in the Morning, Kelly's Court and numerous other programs.  She bases her books from being a graduate of Harvard Law School and being a former federal prosecutor.  She has authored and co-authored many book series with the Mia Quinn Mysteries, the Triple Threat Series, the East Salem Trilogy and the novel, Snapshot.
Sebastian Stuart is the author of four books:  The Hour Between, The Mentor, To the Manor Dead, and 24-Karat Kids.  He has also written under the name Kendall Hart while writing non-fiction e-books, and a senior editor for the book publisher, New World City.
The Candidate is the second novel in Wiehl's series entitled The Newsmakers, with the first book being a novel of the same name.
The Candidate is a fast-paced page-turner following Erica day-by-day as she researches into each candidate while attempting to have a long-distance relationship with her fiance, occasionally reconnecting with friends, and doing her best to be a good parent for her daughter.  Realistically, the constant demands on her time forcing her to make choices placing her career over her personal life applies to every parent, as the guilt accumulates.
The Candidate is what every person should read as they make decisions about the upcoming Presidential election.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

5 Days of Landfall

5 Days to Landfall
Robert Roy Britt
Ink Spot Books
Phoenix, Arizona
November  2016
312 pages

Living along the Pacific Ocean in South Carolina, most people know how to prepare for hurricanes.  Their communities understand the potential disaster and work well to minimize the amount of damage to the communities.  They know that nature always wins.  These communities almost can write a book about storm preparedness including evacuations.
Not all cities near the Pacific Ocean are that way, especially those further north.  For New York City, a hurricane was recorded in 1821.  In 1938 another one devastated the area fifty-five miles east of Manhattan.  

Since the Northeast seldom experiences hurricanes, they are not prepared. Hurricane Sandy could have caused exponentially more damage. These communities were not prepared then and still lack a plan for this possible disaster.
5 Days to Landfall is a fictional account of what could happen if a hurricane struck this highly congested area. Infused into this thrilling novel is authentic science interlaced with history, real technology, and political realism. 
Amanda Cole works at the nation’s Hurricane Center as a forecaster. She is one of the meteorologists who study every aspect of each storm and based on the information from several forecasting models, predicts the paths and intensities of these possible hurricanes. She has the responsibility of notifying cities if they are in the path of destruction.
This enormous burden is complicated. No community wants to shut down, especially if the storm diverts at the last minute. Many will only close and evacuate residents only if they are one hundred percent confident. In the Carolinas, people understand. In the Northeast, with few tropical storms becoming a hurricane and causing destruction, most just ignore the warnings.
Like many people, Amanda daily excels with a challenging life raising her daughter, Sarah. Her ex-husband shares the curious youngster just two weeks a year. These are difficult times for Amanda during this short separation.
Amanda knows that this particular storm will hit the York City area. Her daughter is in the area with her ex-husband while her father resides near the ocean at a retirement home. Who should be taken to safety first? Strangely, someone is playing the stock market prices; specifically, insurance companies who work with communities in these possible areas. With no plan in place for this disaster, the politicians refuse to inform their constituents of the impending danger. She is also aware of the numerous homeless will not have a chance to survive while living in the tunnel system around the subways under the city. 
The author, Robert Roy Britt, is a journalist who has authored a mystery series featuring Eli Quinn in Closure, Drone, and First Kill along with the prequel, Murder Mountain.
5 Days to Landfall masterfully blends a fictional thriller with science and history. Britt weaves a page-turner while educating the reader about past hurricanes, the science of hurricanes, a guide to surviving during these storms, and even a little research into preparing a home for these attacks. All of this, as well as interspersing political corruption, thrills, romance, and realism are thrown into an actual political meltdown.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Shelby's Creek

Shelby's Creek
Mark Matthiessen
Wave Cloud Corporation
Charleston, South Carolina
ISBN: 978-1-62217-755-4
$ 16.99
306 pages

"The way a person treated nature was the way a person treated human beings."
Everyday farming life in Shelby County, Iowa during 1943  was idyllic.   As an Iowan farmer, life it seems too tranquil for Valentin Schmitz.  Responsibly he farms his 160-acres of fertile farmland near Council Bluffs, refusing to use pesticides, helping his neighbors in need, and contributing to the war effort through rationing, collecting scrap metal, and nurturing his own Victory Garden.
Valentin is a 33-year-old college-educated bachelor who recently separated from the woman he believed was going to be his wife.  While time heals, the challenges of the world and the community frequently occupy his thoughts.  He relaxes by playing his flute and enjoying his art collection.
Valentin longs to enter this war.   He has grandparents currently residing in France where the Nazi occupation has begun.  As his grandfather is arrested and working at a concentration camp due to his religion, Jehovah Witness, Valentin's grandmother hides witnessing the everyday life in this occupied country.  Dealing with the day to day rationing, living under the military law of the Nazis, being dependent on others for your life, is part of the daily routine.
Two thoughts make him hesitate to rescue his grandparents.  The first is that farmers are not to be conscripted since they supply the food the fighters and the nation. 
Secondly, Valentin suffers from certain anxieties.  He has a fear of the dark and has separation anxiety disorder.   To help himself, Valentin keeps flashlights with him at all times. 
How could he possibly serve again in Europe or help his family?  Why would he leave the safety of being a farmer to enter the war in Europe?
His grandparents taught Valentin many life lessons demonstrating words of wisdom to guide him through the challenges of life.   Besides raising Valentin after the death of his parents, he feels indebted to both.
Shelby's Creek enters the world of the French people working behind the scenes fighting for their country during this time with their constant fears and practical problems which unified their citizens with a common enemy.   The part of the French underground is part of the personal voice in this engrossing tale.
Mark Matthiessen knows this story as it is personal to him.  This Shelby County native was born and raised on the1 family's 160l-acre farm which is now operated by the fifth-generation.   He has worked with a computer company while writing their technical manuals.  Recently he is writing articles for national and international magazines.
Shelby's Creek is the first book in this new series by Mark Matthiessen with the next book in this series available this fall.
Shelby's Creek is a work of love of family and the farmland of Shelby County.  The characters are realistic with authentic problems of the time placing the reader into each situation.   Each setting vividly exposes the time and place making the reader feel as if they are the character, creating an enthralling historical journey.  

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Senile Squad

Senile Squad: Adventures of the Old Blues
Chris Legrow
CL1557 Publishing
Omaha, Nebraska
Lexington, Kentucky
ISBN:  978-0-9977036-1-0
Trade Paperback
$ 16.95
302 pages

'We're all undercover now.  Cops playing cops that people think aren't cops.  It's given all of us a new lease on life.  We were just rotting away.  Nobody needed us to do what we've done for most of our lives.  It's just so good to be needed again and to help fellow cops even if they don't know it. To tell you the truth, that's what makes it fun.'
What happens when people who have worked all their lives in law enforcement retire?  Do they miss the danger, the excitement, getting their adrenal pumped?
Wouldn't it be great if somehow their years of experience and the expertise each one possesses could be utilized rather than just having a younger, cheaper recruit replace them?
Wouldn't it benefit the community if someone could find some way to use their years of cumulating all the knowledge into one think tank?  Naturally, no one would want to place these retirees in danger, but could former undercover cops now go undercover to benefit local law enforcement?  Not officially, but off-the-books, behind the scenes?
A group of wealthy Omaha-based business people is discussing this possibility to have a home for retired police officers.  They would fund the home with the medical staff needed and also supply it with anything an undercover officer would need.  These would be law enforcement officers without the active law enforcement community being aware of their existence.
After all, who would suspect old men wandering around assisting the police?   Yes, they have weapons but not the type used by active duty officers.
Senile Squad is a fun read.  The protagonists are delightful, comical, and unfortunately, too realistic.   With picturesque action, the book has everything, danger, romance, conflict, resolution, death, and most importantly a sense of doing the right thing.
Detective Chris Legrow is part of the Omaha Police Department's Special Victims Unit.  When not working, with his wife, he raises nine children.
Who would enjoy Senile Squad? Naturally, law enforcement but also retirees would thoroughly enjoy this delightful gem that is just fun.

Monday, September 26, 2016


Rainbow Rowellli
St. Martin's Press
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-1-250-04937-7
$ 24.99
310 pages

"Georgie. You cannot be jealous of Dawn- that's like the sun being jealous of a lightbulb."
Wow!  You mean the former girlfriend is a lightbulb, and I am the sun to you?
Relationships are usually complicated, in particular between a husband and a wife.  It takes a rare talent to capture a glimpse of the inner workings of any marriage through the eyes of the masterful author, Rainbow Rowell who neither glamorizes or simplifies the reality of being married.
Georgie McCool has one of those difficult choices in life where whatever she chooses will cause her to have regrets. There is no right here, just the logical solution even if it is at the expense of her family.
Georgie along with her longtime friends, Seth and Scotty, have been together since college.  The three have learned how to capitalize their relationships into writing successful comedy shows.
Their dream is just around the corner with their idea of a new show being possible.  Finally, a network executive is looking at their prospective dream, Passing Time. 
Naturally, Georgie needs to take the leap and devote her next few days to writing.
It is a week before Christmas,  Georgie, Neal and their two daughters have plane tickets to Omaha to share the holidays with her in-laws.  Logically, Georgie needs to stay in Los Angeles to write forcing her to miss Christmas with the family, her husband, and their daughters.
How will her husband react to this choice?   Will this be the beginning of their separation? 
Landline is a masterful narrative revealing Georgie's thoughts, insecurities in a real-life situation.  After many years of marriage, many people value those rare romantic memories of the past while secretly dreaming that they happen again.  They don't.  Over many years, all relationships evolve due to work situations, children, stress, money, and numerous other challenges.    Does that mean that your marriage is over?
Added to that, Georgie possesses guilt that her husband, Neal, gave up his career dream so that she could pursue hers.  Is it Neal's turn for his chance to dream?
Rainbow Rowell is a best-selling author who resides in Omaha with her family.  Her previous novels are Fangirl, Eleanor and Park, and Attachments. 
Landline is a unique glimpse into personal relationships between co-workers, siblings, parents, in-laws, children, spouses, and even former girlfriends without being a romance novel and surprisingly, being utterly fascinating. 
How Rowell weaves this tale is astonishing.  
Landline is one book that you never want to put down while you are reading and continue to mull over long after you complete the last page. 
What can anyone learn from reading this novel?  The answer is to discover what holds a family together and what breaks them.  Could this be what some call love?  Read Landline for the answer.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Elf The Musical Jr.

Santa and his elves love their jobs.   Making toys brings happiness to them.  However, things change.  Santa realizes that his elves are hard-workers, but sometimes even Santa needs a break.   Santa is feeling the stress of the upcoming holiday and needs a break.   It is two weeks before Christmas; the production lines are behind and the holiday spirit is down.
Added to that is one rather large elf, Buddy who is just getting on Santa's nerves.   Buddy is always happy, maybe just a little too much.  Unfortunately, he is also lagging behind the other elves with his toy-making duties.  So far today, he has only made eighty-five Etch-a-Sketches.
There is a reason for this.  Buddy isn't  an elf even though he lives it at the North Pole.   Buddy is human, and he is just discovering the reality of being an orphaned and accidentally falling into Santa's bag when he was a baby.
Elf Jr. is a fun, family-oriented show.  The actual performance time runs about eighty minutes, so this fast-paced production is perfect for children of all ages.
What is special about these "Jr." shows is that the oldest performers are only eighteen-years-old!  These are unquestionably extremely talented youngsters that everyone in this area should feel privileged to see before they become well-known.    Surprisingly there are forty-two performers in this particular show, all under the direction of Denise Putnam and Jerry Gray who was in charge of the music.
As with all shows, the behind-the-scenes support is phenomenal with David Podendorf in charge of the sound system, Darrin Golden with the lighting, Ann Coombs as the costume master, and Ariel Ibsen-Bauer with the inventive choreography.   The scenes, props, backstage and technical crews perfectly blended into the show.
Undoubtedly Matthew Hansen commands the stage in this role of Buddy.   He sings, acts, tap-dances and thoroughly engages the audience making everyone believe this is his real personality.  
The entire Hobbs' family were all phenomenal performers.  Nick Haats as Walter, Riley Pope as his wife Emily, and Atticus Paul Coombs Walker as the son, Michael all are great singers who I would have love to see and hear from in future shows.
Also, notable performers were Kira Watson as Jovie, Kyla Mittan as Deb, Conner Mowery as Santa and eighth-grader Grace Garrigan as the despicable Miss Greenway.
These forty-two enthralling performers unquestionably show the best of today's youth.   These are the future Tony, Oscar, and Emmy winners of tomorrow.
Elf, the Musical Jr., opens this year's Chanticleer season.  Upcoming shows are "Witness for the Prosecution" in November, and in 2017, "Steel Magnolias," a surprise musical, and "Carousel."
The show continues through this weekend on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and at 2 p.m. on Sunday.  Prices for tickets are $20 for adults, $16 for seniors over 60 and $10 for students and children.  Tickets can be purchased through the box office by calling (712) 323-9955. show .
Why see Elf The Musical, Jr.?   Matthew Hansen is an outstanding talent that likely will be exceptional in future years since he already excels as a performer.   Nick Haats, Riley Pope, and Atticus Paul Coombs are names to know and watch as they age, mature, and grow.  You will be privileged to know that you saw these outstanding individuals.8:35 PM 9/18/2016

Sunday, August 28, 2016

When the Music's Over

When the Music's Over
Peter Robinson
William Morrow
Harper Collins Publishers
ISBN: 978-0-06-239478-1
$ 25.99
421 pages

'When the music's over, it's time to have some fun.'
For Detective Superintendent Banks, his new promotion is overwhelming.   He is in charge of the Danny Caxton case. 
Danny Caxton is now an elderly, retired celebrity who now faces accusations of rape from fifty-years-ago.   Obviously, there is little evidence so till available from that time and fewer witnesses.
One victim, Linda Palmer has come forward.  She has lived a fruitful and well-adjusted life, working as a poet who vividly remembers the event.  As a young fourteen-year-old with dreams of stardom, this could be her chance to audition and to become a star.   Caxton appealed to her ambition, but the cost was being a victim of sexual abuse.   She was young and inexperienced.   Caxton took advantage of her through his charismatic personality on television.
With the media appeal, Banks realizes that this is a delicate investigation requiring immense patience in building a case to prosecute Caxton.
On a rural road, a young woman is found, dead.   Her body is naked and after being sexual with three different partners, and possibly thrown from a vehicle and then beaten and killed later.   Who is she?   Why has no one identified her after days of her discovery?
These two cases consume Banks and those investigators working with him.
When the Music's Over is a realistic investigation involving many of the problems of today such as poverty, immigration, prejudice, racism, ignorance, and drug abuse.  With no easy solutions, these problems frequently spill over into the criminal world.
The characters are well-developed in this tightly-written mystery.  The pacing is superb running parallel to the revelations throughout the investigation.
Author Peter Robinson resides in both Toronto and England while writing his twenty-three Inspector Banks novels winning numerous international awards and honors including the Edgar Award, the CWA Dagger in the Library Award.
When the Music's Over is for an adult audience.  The book has descriptive events and tragedies not appropriate for children.  These are events that are natural in the life of a law enforcement officer.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Lone Wolf

Lone Wolf
Book Two of The Oldenglen Chronicles
Robin Mason
Tricklewood Press
Brooklin, Ontario
ISBN: 978-0994837127
Trade Paperback
$ 13.99
348 pages

"Hunted.  That was the sensation: the feeling of being hunted.  Hunted down. Terror gripped his wolven side.  But even the part of him that was human felt the loss of freedom.  He felt suffocated."
For Jackson, being a new student entering the seventh-grade at Bear Creek Valley Middle School in Ashland, Oregon is challenging.  Even though English is the common language between the U.S. and England, he feels like an alien in this different land in the foothills of the mountains.
His summer w as an adjustment learning to live with the wildlife in their remote home away from the small town.  The magic of nature and this particular place developed into a friendship with the granddaughter of his nearest neighbor and landlord.
Making friends is always a little awkward for Jax.   He is comfortable with animals, but teenagers can be a challenge for anyone. 
Noah observes Jax holding a wren on his finger in the middle of a group of girls.  He states that he is saving the girls and throws the wren against a  window.
Jax immediately verbally attacks Noah revealing a part of him that needs to stay hidden.  Noah is much bigger and older.
Miraculously, after Jax holds the injured bird, it can fly away.  Jax feels relieved.  Noah, angry, calling Jax, a Freak.  Is Noah jealous of Jax's attention from the girls or did he see something that scared him?
Noah wants revenge.  For what, saving a bird?  Making him look bad in front of a bunch of girls?
Noah also is good friends with three other boys who like to bully other students.  Four against one are not great odds for Jax.
For tweens, having thirty-one chapters is perfect for young readers.  Also unique about this series is that the books are boy-oriented.  Most literature for this age-group is girl-based.
Lone Wolf is an excellent fantasy adventure for eight to twelve-year-olds.   The story is appropriate for tweens with issues of bullying and an overlying theme of friendship.  Learning the value of being one with nature and preserving the wildlife and their habitats is also a major component throughout this series.
While recommended for young readers,  Lone Wolf has lessons for everyone of all ages.

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Asssault with a Deadly Lie

Assault with a Deadly Lie
A Nick Hoffman Novel of Suspense
Lev Raphael
Terrace Books
University of Wisconsin Press
Madison, Wisconsin
ISBN: 978-0-30230-6
Trade Paperback
$ 26.95
176 pages

"And how much longer would our relationship last with a minefield like that between us?  If was as deadly as the death of a child, which many couples never survive.  Tragedy didn't always unite complex-often it sundered them forever even if they went through the motions and pretended they could go on together."
Nick Hoffman enjoys his life as a professor at SUM, the State University of Michigan in the English department.  His partner, Stefan Borowski also is living his dream as an author.
Their lives change when a SWAT team enters their home, arresting Stefan.  The police are responding to an anonymous tip regarding a hostage.  Armed with a warrant, while Stefan is being arrested and taken to the police station, Nick is handcuffed.
Fortunately, a neighbor happens to be passing by who is a criminal attorney.  Is this a helpful kind acquaintance, an ambulance chaser, an opportunist, or does she is behind this attack?   The lawyer is dressed well for the middle of the night.
Nick and Stefan have no idea why this is happening as they are not criminals or engage in unlawful activities.
The realism of being accused of a crime and the fall-out is, unfortunately, authentic.  Just suspicion can cause others to believe inaccurately of your guilt, including employers who often search for a reason to terminate people.
The author, Lev Raphael have written twenty-four novels in various genres while currently teaching creative writing at Michigan State University.  Apparently, he chooses his plots based on his setting and experiences.
Theses characters are realistic, flawed and up-to-date with American society being that the two men are partners.   The intended audience is for adult readers due to the police activities.   Similar events mentioned in this book have been part of our modern culture.
The book is from Nick's perception almost daily journaling the attack on their house and their reputations.  From the feeling of paranoia to wanting to purchase a gun and learn how to use it while still curious about who and why this is happening are all relevant to both the story and living in a post 9/11 world.
What is unusual about Assault with a Deadly Lie is how it reveals how these attacks can harm relationships which are usually solid.  Tragedies frequently break families apart as each person must individually process the accusation and resolution within themselves.
Assault with a Deadly Lie is a glimpse of many people's lives who are unjustifiably blamed or attacked.  
Personally, I loved reading this gem and am delighted to experience these feelings only through this book.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016


Linda Howard
William Morrow
Harper Collins Publishers
ISBN: 978-0-241897-5
$ 26.99
384 page

"On a very basic level, fighting was what he knew, what he was, so he fought everything."
Morgan Yancy lives a life filled with adrenalin.  He is a specially trained political operative sent throughout the world on undercover missions rescuing American citizens in dangerous situations.
Finally, he has some downtime and is looking forward to taking his boat, Shark, out onto the Potomac River for a relaxing fishing trip in the Chesapeake Bay, just down time from having a stressful job.
What Morgan didn't expect was to be attacked as he arrived back at his home later that evening.  He saw a flash and a sledgehammer hitting his chest.   Who?  Why?   He had no clue.
The next thing he remembers is waking up in a hospital and being in intense pain.  So much, that his entire body is exhausted, and he sleeps.
He is surprised to awaken to find his boss, Axel MacNamara in his room.  He explained that a member of the Russian mob had shot him and that Morgan had killed him.  Why?  Who hired him?
Strangely, the GO-Team files have been hacked since the attempted murder of Morgan.  He has given this agency his life.
Axel moved Morgan for his safety.  With the files hacked and the attack, where can Morgan heal without the protection of a prison system?
Fortunately, Axel has an estranged step-sister who is in law enforcement.  She also lives in a small isolated town in West Virginia.  No one would easily find him here.  He needs time to heal and regain his strength.  
The race now begins.  Will he recover?  Will he be killed?  Which will happen?
Isabeau Maran is the chief of police for Hamrickville, West Virginia.  Bo has two part-time jobs and is also a technical writer with a demanding dog, Tricks.
Hamrickville is quiet town but does have its share of marital disputes needing law enforcement to keep the peace.  Bo does the paperwork required by law while the other officers handle the town's disruptions.
So what happens when Morgan stays with Bo and Tricks?
The author, Linda Howard has written numerous award-winning and best-selling novels.  She resides in Gadsden, Alabama.
Troublemaker has well-developed characters in a small town with its townsfolk possessing unique but caring idiosyncrasies that make you want to know these people.   Between the residents of Hamrickville and the dog, Troublemaker combines humor into an intriguing romantic thriller.

Monday, July 25, 2016

The Truth about Fragile Things

The Truth about Fragile Things
Regina Sirois
Create Space Publishing Platform
Amazon Digital Services
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-1505407600
$ 14.95
308 pages

"I'm here to forgive you.  It wasn't my idea---to forgive you.  
It was my dad's."
What has made you fragile?  What event in your life left you so scarred emotionally that you could break?  That feeling as if you are made of glass is terrifying for each person, always wondering when you will shatter.
For Megan Riddick, she carries the memory of her two-year-old self. As a toddler, she was following a butterfly when she ran out onto the road in front of an oncoming vehicle.   Miraculously, a man pushed her out of the way, giving his life for hers.   The guilt of his death and hers being spared still hangs on her like an albatross around her neck.
Megan is a junior in high-school and enjoys being the prize of the drama department.  She loves becoming someone else.  That is much easier than being herself.
Her life changes when a new girl enrolls at her school. This new girl glares at her.   Why would this freshman show Megan such contempt?
Charlotte Exby is the daughter of the man who died saving Megan's life.  As a lowly freshman, she is scared of nothing.   It's obvious that she blames Megan for her father's death.
What can Megan do?   
The Truth about Fragile Things excels in characterization.   Having a character burdened with guilt as a teenager shows an authentic protagonist who feels as if she were the antagonist.    Learning to forgive others and yourself is an issue every human being struggles at some time in their lives.  How does anyone move beyond the guilt and learn to take chances, have fun, to feel the joy of living?
Besides guilt, Megan along with the other characters learn about the value of trust and developing friendships that last a lifetime. 
Through great examples of maturity with solving problems, each character views life through their individual perspective learning how best to become the person they each dream of becoming.
Due to these overlapping themes, this book is appropriate for all ages, having no inappropriate scenes or language.  The intended audience is for eleven to eighteen-year-olds, but every reader can easily find this a novel, a gem.
Regina Sirois has previously written the novel, On Little Wings while currently residing in Kansas with her family.
The Truth about Fragile Things is a phenomenal journey of a teenager but for readers of all ages.

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Dream Lover

The Dream Lover
A Novel of George Sand
Elizabeth Berg
Random House Book
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-081299152
$ 28.00
368 pages

"There is only one happiness in life, to loved and to be loved."
George Sand was of the few women throughout history who followed her dreams and desires without consideration of society's rules.   She liberated herself at a time when females were considered property.   She wore trousers, left her children, wrote books that were admired even by Balzac, lost her inheritance to her husband when she divorced him, how could this person survive in the world of France in mid-1800s?   This woman who wrote under the name of a man while living with her personal standards and not society's.  I was curious about any woman who held Chopin spellbound.
George Sand was born Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin but usually was called Aurore. Her mother had been beautiful attracting the attention of many men.   Unfortunately, she was not of the class of people of her father creating animosity between her mother and grandmother.
Living in the French countryside, she grew up as a daughter of privilege.  Her father came from a well-respected family who fell in love with a beautiful woman.  Aurore was the result of their marriage.
Aurore's  mother was not well accepted by her husband's family, especially after his death.  While her mother pursued a new life in Paris,  Aurore lived with her grandmother.
Although brilliant and rebellious, Aurore married a man who gave her the expected status of prosperous French wife.  Quickly she became the mother of a son, Maurice and a daughter, Solange.
Aurore quickly learned that she was given a brilliance mind with her gift for creating realistic characters in her writing which completely opposed her life as a wife and mother.  Added to that was her daringness to write what no other female had ever written even pushing her contemporaries to higher levels.
"It is expected that people who are not artists might not understand the need for one to immerse oneself totally in one's work, but it also sometimes happens that other artists feel no compunctions about interrupting, or in feeling slighted that one's attention is not focused on them first and foremost.  What jealousy can be inspired by a person's singular devotion to something the other cannot share!  It was a concern for Liszt, I knew, who had once confided to me that it was difficult to play the piano with a woman's arms around his neck."
George Sand changed literature with her writing while at the same time influencing much of the writers of her time and memorably, her time with Chopin.
"Music is limited, too: to the power of the instrument, to the power
the musician's imagination, to one's ability to let go of conscious thought in favor of an unseen power."
The Dream Lover is a fictional account based on George Sand who and her with her rebellious attitude socially, even being accused of a lesbian relationship, who strongly influenced the world through her writings.   Elizabeth Berg beautifully captures both the objectivity of this larger than life personality along with her beautiful gift of writing.

Lethal Boundaries

Lethal Boundaries
S. M. Senden
Dagger Books
Second Wind Publishing
Kernersville, North Carolina
ISBN: 978-1-938101-46-5
$ 14.95
279 pages

"You cannot save the world and you cannot go back and change what has already been done.  All we can do is go forward and hope to see there will be some good to come of all this tragedy."
These are wise words for any horrific event.
The year was 1912 in Red Oak, Iowa when a young girl met her lover in an abandoned theater to confront him about her troubling condition.  Yes, she was four months pregnant and planned on forcing the boy to marry her.   Unfortunately, the boy had other plans since he was promised to another girl from a wealthy family.
More than twenty-five years later, the theater is now a hardware store with the upper floors abandoned. Only the main floor is used to occupy the hardware store.
Paul Newberg is an idealist eager to join in the impending war in Europe.  He dreams of heroic actions and is frustrated with Canada joining the Allied forces whereas the United States is remaining neutral. 
Paul enters the store in a bad mood.  He had been arguing with his father about whether or not America should enter the impending challenge.
Mr. Milledge, the owner, quickly recognizes the situation and wisely send Paul away from people for another, somewhat useful task.  He has considered expanding into the upper level and sent Paul upstairs to evaluate the possibility.
What Paul discovers is a dead woman's remains from years ago.
This death changes many unfortunate lives twenty-five years later.
Lethal Boundaries is a journey into 1912 with the present day being 1939.  S.M. Senden is masterful at placing the reader into this time segments in Red Oak, Iowa.  The laid-back Andy Griffith-like character of Lieutenant Nigel Lockhart even following him to his home and allowing the reader just a glimpse at middle America before the U.S. entering World War II.  
S. M. Senden currently lives in the metropolitan area.  She is currently writing a series involving a forensic artist, Dr. Kate Ahston, a series in the fictional city of Lemmington, and historical murder mysteries.
Lethal Boundaries is appropriate for all adult readers.  It has many short chapters which make reading easier for those with very busy lives. 
Senden's writing is magical.  She has the masterful gift of weaving words into a coherent and addictive manner of a legendary storyteller.  
Unquestionably read Lethal Boundaries by S. M. Senden.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

The Maestro Wore Mohair

The Maestro Wore Mohair: A Liturgical Mystery
Mark Schweizer
St. James Music Press Books
Tryon, North Carolina
ISBN: 978-0-9844846-8-3
July 2015
$ 13.95
206 pages

"The Maestro was a terror: a choral genius with an AA, a BME, an MME, a Ph.D., and a DMA in conducting from Florida State, which is not a diploma mill.  I don't care what they say.  The letters trailed after her name like educated baby ducks, waddling advertisements of her brilliance.  When she sneezed ( as she often did, being allergic to Eric Whitacre) all the letters flew out her nose and nearby singers gleefully wiped them up with bath towels and sold them on eBay.  This case was coming together like two things come together and make one thing, and there you have it, one final thing. "
These are the words written by Hayden Konig on his old 1939 Underwood typewriter that was once owned by the legendary Raymond Chandler.  Among his many artistic gifts, he writes these almost undecipherable short mysteries to keep his choir members entertained during the sermons on Sunday mornings at St. Barnabas Episcopalian Church in St. Germaine, North Carolina.
Hayden is the police chief of a small law enforcement department in this little Southern town.
St. Germaine does attract one unusual crime.  Murder at St. Barnabas Episcopal Church.   To prove it, he has a loaded gun hidden in the organ bench.
A skull is discovered by two teenaged boys.   One of the boys picked it up, brought it home and even ran it through the dishwasher before placing it on his bookshelf, still having hair hanging off of it.
It would still be there if the other boy hadn't revealed the discovery to his prayer group at St. Barnabas.
Logically, law enforcement went back to the site to reveal most of the skeleton. The local doctor decided the body had been killed about thirty years previously.
How do you solve a thirty-year-old mystery?  The first thing is to identify the body and to figure out what life was like during that time.  With diligence and patience, the police of St. Germaine always solve their cases.
The Maestro Wore Mohair is the thirteenth no.vel in Mark Schweizer's Liturgical Mystery series featuring Hayden Konig and the community of St. Germaine.   Yes, I have read every one of these musically based mysteries.
The author, Mark Schweizer is a musician, composer, author and publisher while residing in Tryon, North Carolina.  He earned a Doctor of Musical Arts from the University of Arizona.
Throughout the years, the characters have grown and aged, similar to real life, so it is not a good idea to read these books without understanding the characters.  I highly recommend, to begin the first one in this series, The Alto Wore Tweed.
Part of the reason I enjoy these books is the interweaving of musical history, a light mystery, characters who are unusual and memorable enough to feel like family and I care about how they have changed,  superb choral and organ music suggestions, humor all gathered into a reading event that is fun.

Station Eleven

Station Eleven
Emily St. John Mandel
Vintage Books
Penguin Random House
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-0-8041-7244-8
Trade Paperback
$ 15. 95
352 pages

"I'm talking about these people who've ended up in one life instead of another and they are just so disappointed.  Do you know what I mean?  They've done what's expected of them.  They want to do something different but it's impossible now, there's a mortgage, kids, whatever, they're trapped...You probably encounter people like him all the time.  High-functioning sleepwalkers, essentially."
And so it begins.
How often is the world we live in one step away from annihilation?   No, not a comet hitting the Yucatan peninsula, but one choice, one small event or virus that could change the way we live.
Have you ever seen an actor who left a lifetime impression on you?  For Kirsten Raymonde, that person is Arthur Leander, who is a famous Hollywood actor.  Unfortunately, she remembers Leander having a heart attack during a production of King Lear. 
That same night was an unlucky night for many.  As Leander is dying, many are just receiving a flu bug that will quickly become a global pandemic, ending the world as we know it, leaving alive only 1% of the global population.
After twenty years, Kirsten is part of a traveling group of actors and musicians sharing their art with the chosen ones who have survived.  Life has changed substantially in twenty-years, deteriorating from a global world of communication and travel to basic day-to-day survival with the influence of a prophet.
Station Eleven is the fourth novel written by Emily St. John Martel and was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Pen/Faulkner Award.
Station Eleven is about the people in how they interact in attempting to rebuild civilization.  The idea of sharing music and theater in a survivalist society provides a bit of hope and light in this dim post-apocryphal tale.
The characterization in Station Eleven, I found hopeful with these diverse people who are often shallow to incredibly deep while learning to rebuild humanity, transportation, civilization, and a sense of belonging.   The importance of being a part of a community and the need to be needed are embedded as the story alters between the past and the present.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Time and Trouble

Time and Trouble
An Emma Howe and Billie August Mystery
Book 1
Gillian Roberts
Untreed Reads
San Francisco, California
Kindle Edition
366 pages

"People were incredibly stupid, Emma thought.  Which was good new for her.  She'd never entirely lack for business because human beings would inevitably, irresistibly screw up, lie, cheat, pose, and in general, wreak havoc.  And at some point during that process, someone who still believe life could be brought into alignment would want help from a person like Emma. "
A fifty-year-old female private investigator is not usual.  For Emma Howe, it is her life.  Unfortunately, she expects her assistant to be highly competent.   Competence is hard to keep for what she is paying.
Billie August wants to prove herself as Emma's new assistant.  She has no experience, but Emma is desperate.   She has no actual work experience. 
Billie does have something special in her background.  When her ex-husband took her son, she successfully tracked him.  Yes, she found her missing son.
Billie is driven to do well, smart, quick to learn, and ambitious.  She wants to be successful and become a private investigator.  She needs a substantial number of working hours under the direction of a licensed private investigator.  The number seems humongous but doable.
Sophie Redmond has many problems.   Her most immediate concern is her troublesome teenage daughter, Penny, who is missing from their home.
Penny is independent and rebellious.  Is she a runaway?  Why?  Is her step-father causing a problem for her?
As life would have it, these answers are no simple with many hidden issues overlapping the investigation.
Also, Penny is a high-school senior and is eighteen years old.  So does anyone call this a runaway since she is considered an adult be the law?
Wesley is Penny's little brother who has the misfortune of being left at home.  What is going on in this home?  Are they abusive parents?  Some things just don't  make sense.
Sophie believes Penny has joined a cult.  She is with a group of young adults who are devoted followers of Renaissance Faires.  The other members of the troupe are slightly older than Penny and resent her attracting the attentions of one of the male members.
While in a field, Penny discovers a heart-shaped pendant and the bones of a long-deceased baby. Eventually, the police uncover a woman's skeleton nearby.
What has Penny stumbled upon?  Is she in any danger?  Who?  Why?
Untreed Publishing offers an unusual service.  Time and Trouble was originally published in 1998.   They rediscovered these discarded and forgotten novels and republish these fortunately chosen hidden gifts.
Time and Trouble is a fast-paced story revealing depth into family problems with flawed characters who do not always make the wisest choices.  The combination of the fast-paced experienced investigator in Emma contrasting with Billie who has such big dreams of being independent creates an authenticity creating a wealth of emotions for both.  The objectivity in presenting Penny and her mother is outstanding with the reader constantly revising their impressions of both making this a fascinating read.
Time and Trouble is a great read from the past that fortunately has been revived for today's adult mystery readers.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

If You Were Me and Lived in Elizabethan England, Renaissance Italy, Colonial America, Ancient Greece

If You Were Me and Lived in Elizabethan England
Illustrator: Paula Tabor
ISBN: 978-1523229369
If You Were Me and Lived in Renaissance Italy
Illustrator: Silvia Brunetti
ISBN: 978-1523234271
If You Were Me and Lived in Colonial America
Illustrator: Sarah Wright
ISBN: 978-1523234073
If You Were Me and Lived in Ancient Greece
Illustrator: Mateya Arkova
ISBN: 978-1523234295
Carole P. Roman
Create Space Independent Publishing Platform
North Charleston, South Carolina

Imagine residing in England around the year 1578.  Queen Elizabeth is the ruler.  You would be in one of the richest times in history. The Renaissance period when art and literature excelled with writers like William Shakespeare. 
Much has been written about Elizabeth.  What about the ordinary people?   What was life like for them?
Imagine the regular life for most London residents.   With dark and filthy streets covered in waste and overcrowded conditions, life was simple but hard working.   Even with this being a time of wealth, life was difficult for the everyday people. 
Roman masterfully compares life as the wealthy, but also showing how the commoners enjoyed their homes.
It is hard to imagine life inside their house.  Carole Roman excels in explaining life indoors.   From sharing beds to straw rushes covering the floors to herbal scents, to their clothing, to toys, and community fairs.   There is also a light discussion about money and the prices of standard items as well as the school system.  There are even pages about the theaters and religion customs.
Carole Roman's book If You Were Me and Lived in Elizabethan England illustrates and tells the tale of this time and place.
If You Were Me and Lived in Renaissance Italy focuses on living in Florence, Italy while the Medicis were ruling.  Roman takes the perspective as being a youngster in a well-to-do house working for the Medicis.  The status of wealth is directly discussed and illustrated with simple and clear explanations.  Explaining the Renaissance and the changes into the culture is shown throughout this book.
If You Were Me and Lived in Colonial America begins with your birth in London.  You are born into a Puritan family and traveled to the Dutch Netherlands where you lived for a short while.  Then you begin your adventure in establishing a new nation.
In If You Were Me and Lived in Ancient the year is around 350 B.C.  You would probably worship the Greek gods like Zeus and worship in the various temples.  
All of these short books, around 32 pages are avenues to time travel to both another place and time.   Whereas Roman's books are visiting countries are wonderful introductions before visiting, this new series of different times and places accomplishes more with the information and illustrations intended for children but educational for all ages.
Carole P. Roman is a retired social studies teacher who has written numerous award-winning books in multiple series.  She continues to educate everyone with her delightful series.
Have you ever considered a time machine?  The safer journey would be transported with one of these excellent Carole P. Roman books.

The Nightingale

The Nightingale
Kristin Hannah
St. Martin's Press
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-0312577223
$ 27.99
449 pages

Living in France before the invasion by the Germans at the beginning of World War II is difficult to imagine.   Were the people ready?   What should they buy and store?  Were their clues of the impending invasion?  Why didn't the citizens leave the country while they were allowed to travel freely?
From our perspective, today, looking back in history,  we often cannot understand why the French people didn't all leave the country.  Of course, where would they go?
The Nightingale is a masterful tapestry interweaving the tale of two sisters, Vianne, and Isabelle.  The two live in the same place but have very different lives.
Vianne has just said goodbye to her husband as he leaves to fight with the military on the frontlines.  Both of them feel and or naively hope as if this will be a quick battle and he will return home within the next few weeks.   When her husband doesn't return life changes for Vianne.   A German captain has taken possession of her home.  How can Vianne live and support her daughter?
Isabelle is younger at the age of eighteen and has all the idealism of a world ready to welcome her.   She meets Gaeten, who believes that France can beat the Germans.   Isabelle is devastated when he betrays her, and she decides to join the French Resistance. 
Kristin Hannah has written more than twenty novels including her best-sellers Winter Garden, Night Road, Home Front, and Firefly Lane.
The Nightingale beautifully portrays the women's perspective and behind the scenes contributions to their defense of France.  The sisters' differences perfectly framed the movements by the Resistance with only a few of their actions that were all dangerous in an occupied country.
Kristen Hannah shows the war through these two women combining the history into an action-adventure with romance and mystery into a captivating literary drama. 
The Nightingale excels with an unusual setting immersing the readers into France during the year 1939.   You honestly feel as if you are transported to both time and place through this masterful storyteller, Kristin Hannah.

Death and Transfiguration

Death and Transfiguration
A Daniel Jacobus Mystery
Gerald Elias
Minotaur Books
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-0-312-67835-7
$ 34.99
322 pages

"Management gave me a week for my eyesight to come back.  The doctors called it fovea macular dystrophy, a swanky term for sudden blindness.  They always have fancy names for diseases they can't cure.  They said, Yeah, it's possible it'll come back.  But it didn't.  And I had to give back no only the concertmaster position but my job in the orchestra as well."
These words belong to Daniel Jacobus, who is an incredibly talented violin concertmaster. 
Daniel Jacobus is a crusty grumbling soul, but no one can doubt his genius when a violin is in his hands. That is when the magic of music happens.
Daniel has reasons that for his crustiness.   Years ago when he was auditioning to become the concertmaster, he lost his sight.  Sudden blindness.  Yes, he could and would continue to play beautifully from memory, but how can he watch a conductor?  Can anyone be successful as a blind concertmaster?  
Now he still spends his days with his music but works as a teacher, sharing his musical gifts with the younger generation.  That is if they can tolerate his nasty disposition.
Scheherazade "Sherry" O'Brien is likely to become the next concertmaster of Harmonium, an outstanding highly regarded world-class touring orchestra direct by the legendary musical director, Vaclav Herza.  She has the position temporarily but dreams of it being permanent.
Sherry calls Jacobus requesting a private lesson before her audition.  When she asks about the fee, Jacobus simply states, "Incalculable," and hangs up.
Daniel also feels a little conflicted with this contact since his former student and surrogate daughter; Yumi Shinagawa is also trying out for this position.  At least this will allow him to judge Yumi's competition.
When Daniel hears her play, he knows that Sherry should be the concertmaster.   Apparently, she has a problem with the conductor.
World class conductor Vaclav Herza is a combination egomaniac and sociopath.  The audiences around the world love and respect the musician.  The people who know him realize that he is both unpredictable and dangerous.
What is unusual about this book about the inside of the music business is how closely the story parallels the music "Death and the Transfiguration" by Richard Strauss.  Few people understand the behind the scenes reality of the music world which is not glamorous.  This book continues the insight into diligence,  perseverance, talent and leadership all combining into genius.
Gerald Elias creates his stories from his life as a violinist with the Boston Symphony, Associate Concertmaster of the Utah Symphony, adjunct professor of music at the University of Utah, first violinist of the Abramyam String Quartet, and Music Director of the Vivaldi Candlelight concert series.  
Death and Transfiguration is the fourth in the Daniel Jacobus series following Devil's Trill, Danse Macabre, and Death and the Maiden.  Another book in the series, Playing with Fire, which should be released September 1st.
Death and Transfiguration is a well-written mystery plopped into the world of professional musicians revealing their flaws and the joy of creating voices that cannot be described in words.

If I Run

If I Run
Terri Blackstock
Grand Rapids, Michigan
ISBN: 9780310332435
Trade Paperback
$ 15.99
352 pages

"We've logged all the evidence against the girl.  We have a rock-solid case.  Her DNA is all over the place.  Shoe prints, finger prints, the weapon...She did it."
The police said that she is the "person of interest," the one in their mind who committed the crime.  But she is innocent.
Casey Cox is the type of person most of us would enjoy knowing.  She's kind, considerate, and is driven to help people. Thirteen years ago when she was twelve-years-old,  her father died.  The police investigation concluded it was a suicide, but Casey never believed it.  Her father as a police officer had been investigating dirty cops.  Strange that he died just as his findings were to be revealed.
What do you do when you happen across a murder scene?
Casey's good friend Brent is an investigative reporter.  He knows that Casey is haunted by her past, and he agrees to look into her father's death.  Brent is developing a solid case revealing corruption in this police department and collecting evidence.
Casey innocently goes to Brent apartment only to discover him what appears to be dead.   Naturally, she feels for a pulse which places her feet in his blood.   She is a frequent visitor at Brent's home, so she knows her DNA is everywhere.
Believing that the police who were her father's comrades were dirty, she can't go to them now.
"Don't do stupid."
"I can't promise that because I know myself, and I've already 'done stupid' since finding Brent dead."
What do you do?  Run, leave town, go somewhere while the investigation proceeds. Who is the logical criminal?   Casey.
Dylan  Roberts has returned home from three deployments, two to Iraq and one to Afghanistan and suffers from PTSD.   He earned an honorable discharge from the Army as part of the Criminal Investigations Division.  However, no one will now hire him.
Brent was a childhood friend of Dylan's.  The police do not have the resources to find Casey outside their immediate area, so Brent's family hires Dylan to bring Casey back.
If I Run is a fantastically written gripping tale.   What do you do if you are accused of a crime that you did not commit?  How do you be smart, honest,  and survive when you are being hunted as a murderer?
The characters are always struggling with the challenges of everyday life while still desiring justice for their past.
Terri Blackstock is a Christian writer of many bestselling series, Moonlighters, Cape Refuge, Newpointe 911, the SunCoast Chronicles and Restoration as well as her novels Intervention, Vicious Cycle, and Downfall.
If I Run is a fast-paced story to read even for those of us who don't plan to be accused of murder.  The smart and honest characterization of Casey is a remarkable role model for all adult readers.  The book does incorporate Christianity into the story elegantly and naturally. My only criticism of If I Run is that it ended, but I do see the possibility of Casey appearing in a future Blackstock novel.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Death Chamber

The Death Chamber
Sarah Rayne
Felony & Mayhem Press
New York, New York
First U.K. Printing 2008
Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 978-1-63194-050-7
Trade Paperback
$ 14.95
491 pages

Georgina Grey received an unusual letter.   Apparently, she is the recipient of the Caradoc Society's assets.    Her great-grandfather had made a generous bequest to this group back in 1940.   Now that the group is has dissolved Georgina seems to be the only surviving heir.
For Georgina, this possible treasure could be the answer to her prayers.  Recently her boyfriend left with her bank account along with her business partner.
Chad Ingram is always on the lookout for a story.  He is a television producer and his special is going to focus on Calvary Gaol.  Now abandoned, Calvary was the final destination for numerous British criminals since World War I.   The team is doing research on evidence of an afterlife and what better place to look than an execution chamber where many met their maker through being hung.
Chad wants an unbiased perspective of the execution chamber.  A friend of his, Jude Stratton is chosen to spend some time alone in what they believe could be a nest of spirits.   Jude is the perfect person for this choice since he was a freelance journalist.  He is blind from covering a story while in the Middle East, and a bomb blinded him.   Jude would not know where he is, and this would be perfect for the show.
The Death Chamber is an unusual novel.   The first half of the book is the groundwork for the rest of the story, similar to unpacking a jigsaw puzzle.   There seem to be numerous unrelated pieces which need to constructed into a frame and then filled-in one piece at a time.
The second half amazingly connects almost to being contrived.  The coincidences and relationships are shocking as each page is revealed.
Sarah Rayne has written many psycho-logical suspense novels including Ghost Song and A Dark Dividing.  She resides in London.
Surprisingly, I thoroughly enjoyed Rayne's writing style. I was amazed to analyze that in the first half of the book, nothing happened.  Even then, it did keep my interest.  The second half made me feel that I had to read each page faster.   There was an anxiousness to discover how the characters were related, what secret crimes are found, and how all this is relevant to Calvary.
The Death Chamber is for adult readers who enjoy intricately woven tales.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Though Heaven Fall

Though Heaven Fall: A Medieval Parable
Jeri Westerson
Old London Press
Menifee, CA
ISBN: 978-1502466280
Trade Paperback
October 2014
$ 13.99
254 pages

"The sins we commit on earth are like pebbles upon a scale, each weighing a man's soul heavier and heavier.  If his soul is too heavy, you see, it cannot soar aloft to God.  Bus when we pray and atone, only then may we lift each pebble--one by one--free of this scale."
In the thirteenth century in England, life's hard.
For Edric, he is barely surviving.   He is a cripple with a clubfoot who roams the streets of England, begging and or stealing and even occasionally earning a little money playing music on his pipe. 
As fate would have it, Edric unwittingly saves someone's life who just happens to believe that he is an angel.  Yes, Edric saves an angel, Azriel. 
Who is Azreil?   He could be Brother Peter, the missing "Mad Monk" from a nearby monastery.  Brother Peter is mentally ill.   Could Azreil be Brother Peter?   Can a mentally ill person be an angel from heaven?
Azreil believes that God has sent him to earth on a temporary quest as punishment.  He can't remember what was the wrongdoing.  He does remember his feelings of shame and regret.
When Azreil and Edric join in song, the twosome attracts the attention of the commoners and money.  Azreil does sing like an angel. Even Edric begins to question whether he is one.
At the monastery, Brother Latimer is extremely concerned about Brother Peter's disappearance.  He is well aware that the world does not treat mentally ill people fairly.
Sir Hugh Varney is assigned the task of finding Brother Peter.   Remember there is only a description of him at this time in history.  Added to this, Sir Hugh has cancer and is looking for spiritual answers to his destiny.
Somehow all of these characters interact in discovering their answers in a type of quest.  
The characters in Though Heaven Fall excel in Westerson's tale with the reader recognizing each ones' strength and short-comings.  The action is fast-paced, and a slightly resembles Don Quixote in the adventures.    There is murder, humor, compassion, unfairness, in this tale that searches for justice.
Jeri Westerson has written numerous historical adventures in her Crispin Guest Medieval Noir series.  She is a native of Los Angeles, California.   Some of her previous novels are Veil of Lies, Serpent in the Thorns, The Demon's Parchment, Troubled Bones, Blood Lance, Shadow of the Alchemist, and Cup of Blood.
Westerson is a master storyteller with the exceptionally well-developed characters in Though Heaven Fall.