Sunday, February 21, 2016

Just Needs Killin'

Just Needs Killin'
A Hetta Coffey Mystery
Book Six
Jinx Schwartz
Create Space Publishing
ISBN: 978-15002295370
Trade Paperback
$ 13.99
325 Pages

'Let me see if I have this straight.  You agreed to meet some Japanese guy at a ritzy resort tonight, and attend a party with him in return for him funding your boyfriend's treasure expedition in Magdalena Bay?'
'It's not a tryst.  Ishi just wants a, uh, well...someone by his side, like, you know, a hostess.'
Hetta is the type of person most of us would be honored to know.   She's smart, almost too smart. She firmly believes in doing whatever is needed to be safe and to help her friends in any and every way possible.  She is the type of person we all would love to know but you might want to keep your distance.   Hetta has a magnetic attraction to danger.  She always seems to be at the wrong places at the wrong times.
In this adventure, what could possibly go wrong?  Hetta has been anchored her yacht in Mexico's Sea of Cortez.  She  is currently in Puerto Escondido when her gorgeous best friend, Jan  who has arranged for the two of them to attend to a party at a luxury hotel.   So for one night, these two ladies get to lead a glamorous life.
Yacht?  Don't worry, this is Hetta's boat.  She keeps it fairly banged-up with being in need of paint.  Most people are not attracted to beaten-up yachts in good-working order.  They expect yacht to be sleek and shiny.  She also has a watchdog, Po Thang who is her constant boat mate.
The idea of living the life of luxury for a night is exciting.  Jan looks like a model and easily attracts attention.  Being loyal to her boyfriend, Hetta and her have an understanding to prevent either of them from getting into trouble.  This party  is at an elaborate resort.  The two hope to meet a particular Japanese executive with the hopes to obtain funding for a treasure expedition in Magdalene Bay. 
All seems to be going smoothly until they happen to discover the executive's head.  Yes, he was decapitated.
What do you do when you are in over head and don't want to lose your head?   You take pictures.  Pictures are the perfect evidence that might be needed in the future.  
Little does she know that this little action will cause her many problems including having her dog and aunt kidnapped.   Realistically, she really only wants her dog returned, not her aunt.  However, it is a package deal.
Jinx Schwarz written nine books with this being the sixth mystery featuring Hetta Coffey who seems to be the author's alter-ego.   Like Hetta, she travels around the world on her yacht.
Hetta novels are fun.  The intended audience is middle-aged women, most-likely those with empty nests.  The characters are realistic and really do not look for trouble.  Trouble just seems to find Hetta and her friends.
The novels are all well-organized and fast-paced.   Everyone needs a fun read occasionally.  Read any of Jinx's Hetta novels, especially Just Needs Killin'.

Jump Cut

Jump Cut
Libby Fischer Hellmann
The Red Herrings Press
Chicago, Illinois
ISBN: 978-1-464205-19-4

According to Wikipedia, "A jump cut is a cut in film editing in which two sequential shots of the same subject are taken from camera positions that vary only slightly. This type of edit gives the effect of jumping forward in time."
So how could a novel entitled Jump Cut incorporate murder, spying, terrorism, bombing, kidnapping and film editing?  Ask author Libby Fischer Hellman about her newest novel.
Jump Cut continues the story of Ellie Foreman as the protagonist who seems to attract trouble.  She has the natural ability of being in the wrong place at the most inconvenient times.
Ellie is a video producer who is hired by companies to create promotional material.   In this story, the company is Delcroft Aviation.  They specialize in drone technology, specifically ant-drone technology creating a method to stop the drones sent to various places to spy and attack throughout the world.  The video is to present a positive social image to the public of this company that lives their day-to-day life in governmental and military secrets. 
Delcroft fires Ellie and her company once they view the initial video.  The new vice-president and director of engineering, Charlotte Hollander angrily lashes out at Ellie once she sees one particular person in this video.  What is the importance of this person?   Why can't they just edit out this person?
Ellie is especially curious when the object of trouble appears to have jumped in front of an on-coming train.  Or were they pushed?  Ellie cannot resist investigating.
Strangely Charlotte now wants to meet with Ellie.  Why?  What does she really want?  Why fire someone and then ask to meet them in a restaurant?
In many of Libby Fischer Hellman's novels, the reader is privileged to learn lessons.  In this particular one, the idea of terrorism is evidently apparent depending on whose perspective you are considering.  What is terrorism can depend on your heritage, education and values and which side you are supporting?  What if you discover that your country is attacking innocent civilians through the use of drones.
An added treasure in Jump Cut is the short discussion of the Uyghur people who live in China.  These people are truly a mix of continent with both European and Asian blood and a feeling of not belonging. 
Another issue which is also a concern is the lack of technological privacy and a few helpful hints for the everyday person who values their computer information with technology that is constantly changing.
Libby Fischer Hellman has lived in the Chicago area for over thirty-five years.  This novel is the fifth installment in her Ellie Foreman series.  She has also written three separate historical fiction novels as well as another series of four volumes featuring Georgia Davis.
I thoroughly enjoy these novels.  The pace is quick with constant action, sometimes almost too much for the protagonist, Ellie.  She has to be exhausted by the last page. These novels are not dependent on having read the previous novels but I believe the story is more enjoyable if you understand a little of the past of Ellie's family and friends.
Jump Cut is a great novel for everyone to read dealing with the real issues in today's news surrounding a logical fast-paced mystery that keeps the reader completely enthralled until the very last word.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Hose Monkey

Hose Monkey
Reed Farrel Coleman
Tony Spinosa
Tyrus Books
F + W Media, Inc.
Cincinnati, Ohio
ISBN: 1-932557-18-0
292 pages

"Setting things right is God's work and he seldom seems moved to do it."

Joe Serpe is a survivor.  He is an former NYPD detective who is still feeling the death of his brother.  His brother was one of the firemen who were evacuating the Twin Towers on September 11th.  Joe still feels the loss.  This is survivor's guilt.  He just cannot successfully continue with life as it was proceeding.  Being a policeman reminds him of his brother. 

Now he works as a driver of a heating-oil truck.   It is seasonal work that can often be stressful collecting payment for the heating-oil and frequently having to drive in icy conditions.

One of Serpe's co-workers is found dead.   This employee had idolized Joe.   The unfortunate victim had been developmentally and mentally challenged.  Realizing that he was a role model brings back memories and thoughts of his brother.  Did Joe accidentally set-up the unfortunate victim?

Joe begins to use his old investigative skills along with his old enemy from Internal Affairs, Bob Healy.  The two team up to discover what really happened to the hose monkey.

Bob has issues that continue to haunt him from the past.  He knows that he owes Joe.

The guilt the two of them carry brings a humanistic and realistic feel.   During the investigation, the two have an array of suspects from the Russian mob to anti-immigration activists.

The characterization in Hose Monkey is outstanding.  You know the characters, understand their motives and their flaws.  Even though the reader might not always like Joe, you empathize with him. You see this story through Joe's eyes.

Reed Farrel Coleman has been called a "noir poet laureate" by NPR's Maureen Corrigan.  Having written over twenty novels, he has won numerous awards including the Shamus Award for Best PI Novel three times, an Edward nominee also three times, and has won an Audie, Macavity, Barry and Anthony.   Coleman also is an English instructor at Hofstra University.

Hose Monkey is the first installment in a new series featuring Joe Serpe under the pen-name of Tony Spinnosa who really is Reed Farrel Coleman.

Hose Monkey is violent.  However the stylistic writing is addictive creating a memorable tale.   The pages seem to fly as you read faster and faster until the last page.

Monday, February 15, 2016

"Hail Poetry" An Evening of Gilbert and Sullivan - Chanticleer - Cabaret - February 2016

A night with Gilbert and Sullivan was the focus last weekend of our community theater's fundraising cabaret event at the Chanticleer Theater. 
Gilbert and Sullivan joined together to create operas in English that were comedies in the late part of the nineteenth century with Queen Victoria and the British Navy ruling much of the world.   W. S. Gilbert wrote the words to music created by Arthur Sullivan.  The operas were usually mocking the officers in the Royal Navy poking fun at their current political situations especially the monarchy and upper-class, highly educated officers in Her Majesty's Royal Navy.  These were what appeared to be those emotionless, all-business, fast-talking and nose-in-the-air Brits with highly enunciated and crisp words.  The words of the songs are usually in some sort of rhyme even though they are frequently sung at what seems to be the speed of lightning while the melodies are catchyand easy tunes that are recognizable and memorable.
Times have changed since Gilbert and Sullivan.  The words to these songs are frequently so fast that you can barely catch them.  Added to that, the vocabulary is complex with slapstick-like humor.  The performers have to be accomplished and trained to be successful.  Every singer in this show excelled in this area.
For example, one of my favorite selections which was sung with an additional violin accompaniment played hauntingly by Tyler Roberts has these words,
"The Sun whose rays are all ablaze with ever living glory
Does not deny his majesty, he scorns to tell a story
He doesn't exclaim 'I blush for shame' so kindly be indulgent
But fierce and bold in fiery gold, he glories all effulgent.
I mean to rule the earth as he the sky
We really know our worth, the Sun and I."
Being this is opera, the Chanticleer Theater was outstanding with their choice of accomplished singers with these challenging selections.  The performers were Kim Alger, Jerry Brabec, Gary Bosanek, Jennifer Bull, Michael Bull, Brandon Fisher, Dianne Jones, Joseph Miloni, Vicki Molacek, Nathan Popp, Tyler Roberts, Laura Stannard, Lindsey Ussery, and Dan Whitehouse.   Kim Hansen was outstanding as the accompanist being always alert.  She had to be exhausted with the energetic demands of controlling the racing tempos and following so many different soloists and ensembles..
Most of us who know a little about Gilbert and Sullivan operas were acquainted with the better known operas of H.M.S. Pinafore, Pirates of Penzance and the Mikado.  Also included were the lesser known operas, some of which the original scores have been lost forever.  Fortunately, some of these songs survived.  These selections were from Yeoman of the Guard, Patience, Trial by Jury, Utopia Limited, Thespis, Iolanthe, Grand Duke, Princess Ida, Gondoliers, Sorcerer, and Ruddigore.
With almost thirty selections in this fast-paced show, amazingly the time flew swiftly with the racing words of poetry combined with comical props, choreography, and some acting appropriate to each song allowing the audience to learn a little about each separate opera.
As with all cabaret shows, some numbers to me are more memorable.  
For me, I was completely absorbed in Joseph Miloni's "When I Was a Lad" from the H.M.S. Pinafore.  He was the perfect British Major general ruling a ship with those quick, clipped words.
The acapella number from The Pirates of Penzance was phenomenal with confident, musical voices perfectly blending together.
I loved Vicki Molacek's "I'm Called Little Buttercup".  It was enchantingly sung with humor along with a great men's ensemble.
What was exciting was to see the mix of ages in this ensemble and how well all of them worked together in these varied selections. 
From dancing fairies stomping and singing on stage to a wedding of true love that is forbidden until the true identity of the groom was disclosed, this night of "Hail Poetry" titillating event in reflection of a time that was truly British.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

By the Break of Dawn

"By the Break of Dawn"
B. J. Betts
Prairie Rose Publications
February 2015
Kindle edition $ 0.99
60 pages

"On the morning of Valentine's Day, a young maiden must go to her window and look out just before the dawn breaks.  If she sees a man walking below her window, he is the man she will marry before the years is out."

What if the man you see is not the man you love or long to marry?  What if he is not the love of your life?

Isabella Bellini has loved Eli King most of her life.  Now that both of them are graduating from high school, they both feel that it will soon be time for them to become husband and wife.  They have both been dreaming of this for years.  They can't wait to begin their lives together in Council Bluffs, Iowa in this year of 1880.  Now that Eli was of age, finally, he could properly court her.

Everything seems set in place for the two lovers.  Why does Isabella suddenly marry Chace Monette, an older, wealthy man with a questionable reputation?

This tale is a light romantic tale involving a little of the historical Council Bluffs, Iowa with cameo appearances by James Rue and R. J. Kattleman and the legendary Ogden House.  Also incorporated in this novella is a discussion of the Mormons trek and how the town changed after they left on their journey to Utah.  Numerous people of questionable businesses moved into town including many brothels.

Also historically is the short discussion of the Morganatic Marriage held in a Catholic church.  It is amazing that this practice ever existed.

Being born and raised in Council Bluffs, author B. J. Betts now resides in Missouri Valley but still feels a close kinship to her hometown.  She has previously published other romance novellas and novel: Saigon Moon, Echoes in the Night, Snowflakes and Teardrops, Mile Marker 59, Belle's Crossing and A Moment in Time.

"By the Break of Dawn" is a Valentine story with the simple gift of a Valentine threading through the tale to show the way to true love.

Kat and the Bone

Kat and the Bone
Tom Hoch
Dog Ear Publishing
Indianapolis, Indiana
ISBN: 978-1-4575-4215-2
$ 17.97
275 pages

"In order for your circumstances to change, YOU must change."

Bullying is a common problem facing schools and neighborhoods.  Unfortunately it usually does not end at graduation and carries into adulthood.  How can anyone stop it?

Fortunately retired teacher Tom Hoch has written a fictional novel utilizing his years of experience in coaching and teaching social studies to offer a slightly different perspective that exhibits wisdom every person can value.

Jim Snertzbaum has been bullied for years.  His parents died in a car accident forcing Jim to live with his grandfather.  His new parent is concerned but is seldom home since he works as a trucker. Jim was bullied at his old school.  Now in addition to losing his parents, he is a new student with a strange last name.  He already was not very athletic due partially to being overweight.  With few friends and no adult support, he is an easy target for the bullies.  Jim quickly learned to ignore those who made fun of him and the putdowns but he did remember them, reflecting on those comments during his frequent loneliness.

As Jim is entering the eighth grade, he is determined to change his life.  By chance, he discovers a paper outside a classroom which gives him an opportunity to change his life.  No, this is not a fantasy but a page of mature advice with quotations that every person can use throughout their lives.

Jim wants to play high-school football.  He is heavy enough but has never played the game.  Also, Jim realizes that just showing up for fall football as a freshman with no experience, skills, or friends could possibly make his situation more difficult.  He does not want to be the object of additional bullying.  How could he possibly become a part of this well-respected group?  How can he learn football without being part of the team.

Kat and the Bone allows the reader to accompany Jim as he attempts to overcome being a victim.  This is his journey as he learns to take control of his life.  Jim knows that his success at achieving this goal will set a foundation for his future.  Through setting goals for himself, he learns how to deal with the everyday challenges of being a teenager who is not popular or respected but is taking steps to change himself and those around him.

This novel is a gem.  With a character who really is a "diamond in the rough."  The story is progressively logical and well-organized with realistic characters.  While Jim is facing his day-to-day challenges, the author encircles his experiences with a wealth of wisdom appropriate for people of all ages even though the intended audience is young adults.  Kat and the Bone provides role models for teenagers as well as adults.

The value of friendship is a strong throughout this story .  Respecting each person for their own individual gifts and talents is the underlying supporting theme.

A surprising aspect of this novel is the mentoring.  Jim doesn't wait for a mentor to magically appear, he learns how to find a mentor who can assist him to achieve success with his life.  He finds the person and people that he needs to be successful in life.

Tom Hoch who has also written under the name T. L. Hoch, writes novels for young adults about sportsmanship.  Kat and the Bone is his fourth novel following Chasing Normal, Discovering Balance, and Divot Dogs.

Kat and the Bone has no profanity or sexual incidents.  There is some fighting with football players on and off the field.  What is unusual is that this book is appropriate for young adults and anyone who enjoys realistic characters becoming role models in a variety of awkward situations.

Kat and the Bone is a wonderful novel for all readers.