Thursday, June 30, 2016

Forgiving Mariela Camacho

Forgiving Mariela Camacho
A Kurchenko and Gonzalvez Mystery
A. J. Sidransky
Berwick Court Publishing Company
Chicago, Illinois
ISBN: 978-0-990 9515-6-8
Trade Paperback
$ 16.99
339 pages

During WWII, many Jewish people living in Europe searched for someplace safe.   For 854 of these people, salvation came when they were accepted by the Dominican Republic to begin a new life in Central America, called the Dominican Haven.   These people became part of the culture, learning the language and customs while adopting the way of living of citizens of this country, true integration.   Eventually, many of the descendants moved to the U.S. but still stayed a little attached to the combined customs of the Jews and the Dominicans.  Many of these people now live in New York becoming part of the various ethnic groups settling in this metropolis.
New York City police detectives Anatoly Kurchenko and Pete Gonzalez respond to a wealthy apartment complex by the management due to an overwhelming odor surrounding it.  All the doors and windows are locked and secured from the inside with the appearance of suicide.  However, the deceased woman is seated in a wooden cross with a knife dangling from her cut throat. 
Anatoly Kurchenko, who goes by the name Tolya, is married to Karin, who is expecting their third child.  Karin is working on a special exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage about these descendants and their history.  Karin uses her analytical and research skills as an investigator and speaking Spanish to create this event about these chosen people who were offered a new life in the Dominican Republic.
For Pete, this is personal.  The dead woman is Mariela Camacho, his first love from the Dominican Republic.  Strangely, Mariella is in possession of other passports with other identities.  Why?  What work did she do?  Where and how did she earn the money to live in this expensive apartment and the extravagant lifestyle with designer clothes?
Forgiving Mariela Camacho is the second book by A.J. Sidransky featuring Kurchenko and Gonzalez and telling the tale of these Jewish families relocated to the Dominican Republic following the first book, Forgiving Maximo Rothman.  Both books are marvelous sources of a rich history that are seldom mentioned and demonstrates a true tale of immigration.    Even though Forgiving Mariela Camacho can easily be understood with having read the first novel, personally I recommend reading Forgiving Maximo Rothman due to the rich historical background and the character development continued from this book.
A.J. Sidransky beautifully creates characters that are realistic while efficiently working in the world with a history that haunts each person showing that each carries some personal baggage.   This unique quality allows you to know and empathizes with every choice and decision as the story progresses.
Both of these books are an example of the masterful storytelling skills by Sidransky weaving history into a present day mystery.  The novel is fast-paced, insightful, and enriching in history and personal relationships.  
Who would enjoy this story?  Everyone who is searching for that particular book that would delight any reader with an appreciation for an unpredictable tale keeping you totally engaged beyond the last page.
Forgiving Mariela Camacho and Forgiving Maximo Rothman are must reads for everyone.  

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Tesla Legacy

The Tesla Legacy
Rebecca Cantrell
Amazon Digital Services
Print list price $ 14.99
Kindle price $ 4.99
327 pages

"Ash was familiar with the rivalry between Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison over the safety of direct  current, Edison's baby, and alternating current, Tesla's idea and the one that ended up being adopted." 
It is the year 1983.  George Tesla probably was not the kind of person his legendary ancestor Nikola Tesla could have expected.   This soon-to-be father is drunk.  What would you expect for a fifty-year-old man who knocked-up a thirty-year-old woman?   This particular female is a trapeze artist.  You would expect that someone in such a dangerous profession would protect herself from the basic things in life.
What could a trapeze artist and a mathematics professor have in common?  Well, they will discover a bundle of joy belonging to both in a few months.
Nikola Tesla had given George's father a mysterious object relaying that it could do great things.   Now George has possession of this metal thing with a square base and a cylinder sticking out of the top.   Supposedly Nikola had patented the object, but could never get it to work.  What was it suppose to be?  What does it do?
George is terrified when he discovers what it can do.  There is an old saying, "With great power comes great responsibility."   His little experiment has caused men's death.    
Over forty years has passed and now George's son, Joe is in possession of the object.   Unfortunately, his father never revealed the device's secrets to his son.
Joe Tesla is blind and has a service dog, unnaturally named Edison.  Joe previously earned a full scholarship to MIT, graduated, and worked enough to be able to retire as a multi-millionaire.  Partially due to his blindness, Joe lives underground, by choice.   He also suffers from agoraphobia, a fear of the outside world causing the person to retreat and not to leave their home. 
With his father's death, Joe must now reenter the world above and discover the power of this inherited device before his hidden enemies find the secrets.
Rebecca Cantrell is an international best-selling author of ten published novels while residing in Berlin with her husband and son.
She has won numerous awards for her books including the International Thriller Writers Thriller Award, Macavity, Bruce Alexander, a Top Indi Pick by Barnes and Noble and nominated for numerous others.
The Tesla Legacy is the second book in Cantrell's Joe Tesla series following the award-winning first novel in the series, The World Beneath and continuing the series with the third book, The Chemistry of Death.
The Tesla Legacy is an intriguing book mixing the actual history of Nikola Tesla into a relevant story set in the present time.   The characters are believable and enjoyable in this fast-paced adventure for everyone who enjoys a well-written historical mystery.


Saturday, June 25, 2016

God Help the Child

God Help the Child
Toni Morrison
Alfred A. Knoff      
Penguin Random House
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-0-307-594174
$ 24.95
192 pages

"Her color is a cross she will always carry.  But it's not my fault.  It's not my fault.  It's not my fault.  It's not."
How can skin color determine your path in life?   It does. Even in those with darker skin, how dark or light is very important.
Her mother knew that skin color would be a problem.  The was extremely dark, better known as Sudanese black. How did this happen?  She is light-skinned as is her husband.  How do two light-skinned blacks have a very dark skinned baby girl?
The mother's husband worked as a porter on the train.  Obviously he had been away from home for stretches of time.  What is the obvious conclusion?   Added to that the baby girl has hair that is straight with a little natural curl.  How could this baby be belong to this father?  DNA did not exist in those days so appearances led to logical conclusions, whether or not they are correct.
This is how Lula Ann entered the world.  Even her mother distanced herself from the young girl.  With the difference in their skin color, her mother insisted Lula Ann call her "sweetness", not mother.   She believed that others would cause problems for them if they knew the truth. What would people think about a light-skinned woman with a dark baby?  What would people think about a dark-skinned girl with a light-skinned mother?
How does anyone become a successful adult when they have been rejected their entire life?
Surprisingly Lula Ann Bridewell is successful in business.  She is a regional manager at Sylvia, Inc. which is a small cosmetics company.  One of their cosmetic lines is hers, You, Girl: Cosmetics for Your Personal Millennium  focuses on all make-up for all complexion colors.
She realizes the need for appearances and quickly thinks Lula Ann is not a prosperous sounding name.  Logically, she changed her name to  match her personality.  Now she is just called Bride.
In the business world she is successful but a failure with her personal life.
To someone who seems to have the world at her feet, her personal life is a complete failure and causes Bride many problems.  Probably one of her biggest issues is guilt and trust.
Haunting Bride is her guilt from a childhood choice that ruined someone's life.  Now she hopes to makeup for what she did years ago.  When someone wants forgiveness does that force the other person to give them what they want?   Can someone be responsible for what they did as a child?
Can someone be responsible for being born the wrong color?
God Help the Child is an enthralling novel.   Unusually, this particular Toni Morrison novel is set in present day rather than the past. The character development is outstanding and a story line that is hypnotic proving that Morrison is a legendary storyteller.
Toni Morrison currently is the Robert F. Goheen Professor at Princeton University.   She has won numerous prestigious awards for her novels such as Beloved and Song of Solomon including a Nobel Prize for Literature, a Pulitzer, and the National Book Critics Circle Award.
God Help the Child is a memorable story that stays with you long after reading the book.  The lessons about life such as dealing with guilt, blame and forgiveness are enriching to each person who reads this jewel.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Warriors of the Storm

Warriors of the Storm
Bernard Cornwell
Harper Collins Publishers
New York, New York
ISBN" 978-0-225094-0
$ 27.99
299 pages

There has been numerous books about Richard the Lionhearted and his mother, Queen Eleanor.  However, the years before their reigns do not have the documents supporting the history.  The basics have been recorded but not many accounts still exist showing the various perspectives.  What about the time period just as England was becoming a country?
Fortunately for most of us, Bernard Cornwell masterfully has researched this time period and has created a phenomenal saga in his Saxon stories.
As in many times throughout English history, the country was in constant civil war.   Between the ever-invading Norsemen from Scandinavian lands searching for fertile lands to extend the future of their families and the Saxons who already ruling in the southern part of the island with a continual threat of the Irish and the rebellious Scots, peace is always short-lived.
The land in now known as England even though it was almost Daneland.  That is being held together by a thread. 
Uhtred is the main character in this Saxon series.   He was born a Norseman of wealth and title.   Throughout the years, he has won and lost many battles for those he love.  Unlike the Saxons, he is not a Christian and believes in the gods of the Norse.  Ironically he fights for the Saxons who are Christians.  Uhtred has difficulty believing in their god.
For those who see this land as home, life is dangerous.   Peace lasts only for short lengths of time.
King Alfred's son, Edward and his daughter, Aethelflaed rule the kingdoms of Wessex, Mercia, and East Anglia.   To keep these valuable lands, there is a constant battle from the Norsemen who are always threatening these lands.
Uhtred of Bebbanburg is beginning to feel the effects of aging.  He dreams of regaining his homelands again but it appears that this is not to happen yet.   He remains loyal Edward and Aethelflaed even if they believe different things and are different in many ways.  For years, he has loved Aethelflaed.
Now Raynall Ivarson is invading these lands.  To make life more interesting, Uhtred's daughter is married to Raynall's brother.   So who are they loyal to?  Will Uhtred be fighting his son-in-law?
Raynall's forces are well-trained and equipped and looking forward to raiding these lands.  Added to that the Irish have joined forces against Uhtred.   Those defending this land are at a disadvantage.  How can they possibly win?
Bernard Cornwell is a masterful author.  This is the ninth book in this Saxon series.   Throughout the books, Uhtred has mellowed and become more likeable and not as barbaric or arrogant.  He has learned about life in these fictional accounts.   Sometimes the reader can't help but be repulsed by Uhtred, while evolving him through the numerous adventures, you actually begin to sympathize and even love him a little.   I doubt that anyone living today would want to go back in time to actually meet this fictional character.  This is a character that makes the reader love him while immediately afterward, you can't stand him.   The better you know him, the more you understand his motives, choices, and opportunities.   He daily struggles with opposing loyalties, commitments, obligations, religion, personal values, and a challenging family.
Cornwell is outstanding at taking these little documented events and creating a vision explaining the history into a readable account.   He fills in the blanks surrounded the documents into an engrossing tale of history.

Utopia, Iowa

Utopia, Iowa
Brian Yansky
Candlewick Press
Somerville, Massachusetts
Berryville, VA
ISBN: 978-0-7636-6533-3
$ 17.99
323 pages

  "I wanted to write about a magical Midwestern small town and a boy who will have to leave that magical town to chase his dream of writing the movies.  There's murder, mystery, and mayhem in this novel, but at the heart is the struggle of a boy to leave family, friends, and home behind to pursue his dreams."
For Jack Bell, who is entering his senior year in high school, life is not easy.  Jack's mouth tends to have a life of its own and he enjoys the trouble he causes, even if it means numerous detentions.  He has big dreams of being a screen writer and believes that this will be his last year living in Utopia.  His life next year will need to be in California.
Utopia, Iowa is a quiet town where almost nothing happens.  It truly lives up to its name.  There is  no crime, no murders, almost so safe and quiet that it is magical.  Yes, it is magical and even though the residents appear normal, most who call this their hometown have inherited special gifts or talents.
Jack, like those in time, has a special gift.  He communicates with the ghost of those recently deceased.  Adding to his problems, there is a new ghost visiting him, wanting his help.
All of that changes when there is a death at the local college.   This dead female student is the one who is currently "haunting" Jack.   She is confused about her death and wants answers.   Was this murder or suicide?
This one event seems to upset the entire town.  Things that were quiet and perfect and now changing.  This quiet town in northeastern Iowa overlooking the Mississippi River is now having family fights.  This includes Jack's parents who always seemed to be deeply in love.   Now they are fighting and talking about separating.  Will they divorce?
The ghost  is making more frequent visits and really seems to want peace. So how does a teenaged-boy get into a girl's dormitory room the is closed with police tape?  He doesn't even know the girl.  Will he risk it?   What will the police think when he finds the book that might answer the dead girl's inquiry?  Will this solve the mystery?  If it is murder, will Jack be involved?
This story is appropriate for all readers with an intended audience of high-school students.  There is acceptable language and no violence.  There is a light discussion of smoking cigarettes and drinking.  The magic is limited to the special abilities of the town.
.Author Brian Yansky is an associate professor at Austin Community College in Austin, Texas where he also resides.  He has previously written Alien Invasion and Other Inconveniences and the sequel, Homicidal Aliens and Other  Disappointments.   His other published novels are Wonders of the World and My Road Trip to the Pretty Girl Capital of the World.
Utopia, Iowa is a story of the idealistic Midwest of small town Iowa.   The characters are basically realistic even with their special gifts all combined into a fast-paced lightly humorous mystery.

Friday, June 10, 2016

The Sins of the Father

The Sins of the Father
A Derek Stillwater Novel
Mark Terry
Orox Books
Lexington, Kentucky
ISBN: 9781478112938
Trade Paperback
$ 12.99
319  pages

Derek Stillwater enjoys living on his boat.  Life this way requires constant upkeep which almost compensates for the peacefulness.  That changes when he receives a package.  Unfortunately, the letter begins, "If you are reading this, I am dead."
Derek immediately calls Tom Ross, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security requesting an immediate and indefinite leave of absence.  He works with preventing and investigating biological and chemical terrorism attacks.
Next, his call is to his travel agent to arrange for his upcoming trip to Moscow.
His final call is to the State Department to arrange a meeting with the director to discuss his plans.  Derek plans to investigate the death of Irina Khournikov, who had been a counterterrorism expert in Russia's FSB which is Russia's version of our F.B.I.  Irina was his former lover and now that she is dead, Derek learns that he is a father.  With a picture, he can easily see himself in the boy.
Being tired after the long plane trip to Moscow, Derek's thoughts were of getting through customs while standing in long lines in rooms filled with cigarette smoke, hailing a taxi and collapsing in his hotel room.
He was surprised to see a sign at the terminal with his name.   Perhaps the hotel or his travel agent had arranged this pleasant courtesy. 
Derek suspiciously enters the cab meeting the driver and attendant but immediately recognizes something as very wrong.  They are driving away from the city, not to his hotel.   Has he been kidnapped?
The Sins of the Father by Mark Terry is the sixth novel featuring Derek Stillwater as a counterterrorist agent following The Devil's Pitchfork, The Serpent's Kiss, The Fallen, The Valley of Shadows, and Dire Straits.   The book Gravedigger and Vengeance continue Derek's story.
Mark Terry, the author also has written the book Hot Money and three books for middle-grade students.  He also is very active and teaches karate.
These books are great fast-action thrillers.  Surprisingly in this particular novel, there seems to be a preponderance of redheads.  The action is fast-paced to the extreme with characters who appear almost indestructible. 
The Sins of the Father is a great page-turner for a great book, action-packed for a summer read.

If You Were Me and Lived in ...China, Italy, Egypt

If You Were Me and Lived  in...China
ISBN: 9781511440844
If You Were Me and Lived in...Italy
ISBN: 9784519241412
If You Were Me and Lived in...Egypt
ISBN: 9784523374465
Illustrator: Kelsea Wierenga
Author: Carole P. Roman
Create Space Independent Publishing Platform
North Charleston, South Carolina
How does anyone prepare to visit another country?   Most travelers quickly have discovered that the experience is more enjoyable when you know what to expect.   Immersing yourself in any place with another language and culture is the best way to understand others.  How do you prepare for the multiple aspects that no one source can explain?  
With various mannerisms, inferences, and customs, how does anyone learn about successfully integrating themselves in another place with a different language, food, dress and a life that is completely different from your usual home?
Former social studies teacher, Carole P. Roman, recognized this need and created this series for children of all ages, even though the intended audience is for those between the ages of four and eight.
These books beautifully introduce the country first through geography by looking at the shape of each nation and then a world map showing how it relates to its neighboring countries. 
The next focus is the capital city, its name, and sites, sounds, and even smells including name changes and describing the uniqueness of each.
Family life as parents and children is then both written and illustrated, demonstrating the traditional cultural homes, along with their common name.   Included also in these short gems of books are a brief discussion of the money system and the typical and traditional food with illustrations.   The recreational sports as well as the schools and how they are different including the school systems.
Focusing on the popular tourist attractions are highlighted as well as a little of the history.  Also, a brief overview of the major holidays is also included to let the reader know what to expect during these celebrations.
Also included in each book is a short glossary including pronunciations for each country.
These are the perfect books to read before visiting a foreign country.  With the multiple illustrations, every reader would know more how to dress and act when visiting the places of which many of us are ignorant.
Carole P. Roman is a former social studies teacher who now utilizes her years of experience by creating this excellent series.  Each page
perfectly coordinates words with the colorful illustrations for a better understanding of each concept.  The illustrations mix photographs inside various drawings.
Previous books in this series visited the countries of Australia, France, Greece,  India, Hungary, Kenya, Mexico, Norway, Peru, Portugal, Russia, Scotland, South Korea, and Turkey.
These colorful, educational, informative and entertaining books should be read whether you are planning a trip or dreaming of a future adventure.  They are wonderful additions to everyone's home library for all ages.

Flight of the Sparrow

Flight of the Sparrow
Amy Belding Brown
New American Library
Penguin Group
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-0-451-46669-3
Trade Paperback
July 2014
$ 15.00
331 pages
"We have both sold our souls to gain acceptance in this new and terrible world."
Living as a Puritan woman in 1676 as a resident of Massachusetts Bay Colony is not easy,  even for Mary Rowlandson, who is a local minister's wife.   Her daily life is always demanding with raising children and providing for her family.  Her position is one of service, night, and day, to her loved ones and church.  She does not have free time to reflect, think, or read.
While her husband is away, her home is attacked by Indians.  Unfortunately, there is not enough defense to protect her family and friends from the attacking natives. Very few men were left behind to defend them.
During the attacked, she was grazed by a bullet that hit her daughter.   With little defenses, her friends and family are either killed or captured as slaves. 
Being dragged through the cold and snow while carrying your injured child while being hurt is overwhelming.  The prisoners are roped together by both the neck and hands to person both in front and behind her.   Somehow she continues while frantically looking for her son and daughter among the prisoners.  She witnesses abuse to her friends and neighbors on this arborous journey, even death.
Flight of the Sparrow is Mary's story relating her life as a Puritan woman, through her survival as a slave and even through her return to Puritan life.   The reader is with Mary as she quickly learns how to survive as a slave while living day-to-day as a Native American.   With the challenges of a new culture and language, while fighting the winter cold, hunger, and exhaustion, she also experiences immense kindness and a way of life that makes her envious of their way, even though their culture is dying.
For Mary, this realization is precisely the opposite of everything in her upbringing whether hating Indians, submitting to her husband and fearing God.  She is shocked to learn that this new life is preferable to her Puritan ways.
Flight of the Sparrow is an enthralling novel seen through Mary's eyes.   The reader journeys through her experiences both in the daily life of both the Puritan and Indians creating an outstanding example of setting for both the pace of the area of Massachusetts Bay Colony around the year of 1676.   The reader is with Mary in both time and place.
While rich in history, I did find fault with this gem weaving itself into a romance novel.  This story is well written.  For such an excellent fictionalized account based on the published journal of Mary, the intended audience is adult women who enjoy historical romance novels.
Amy Belding Brown is currently a writing teacher at Granite State College.  She is married to a minister and has raised four children.  Previously she has written numerous articles for various magazines and one novel, Mr. Emerson's Wife.
Overall, Flight of the Sparrow is a wonderful historical romance novel of the Puritanical and Native American times.