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.

The Lost Concerto

The Lost Concerto
Helaine Mario
Oceanview Publishing
Longboat Key, Florida
ISBN: 978-1-60809-151-5
$ 27.95
435 pages

"Where words leave off. music begins."
Why would Sofia Orsini grab her young son and hide at a convent on a remote island off the coast to France?  Unfortunately, Sofia was died in a tragic accident there and her son, Tommy disappears.
The boy's godmother, Maggie O'Shea is haunted by the woman's death.  She had been her best friend.  Isn't is her responsibility now to find the boy?
Magdalena O'Shea who goes by the nickname Maggie owns Stewart's Music Shop, which she renamed The Piano Cat.   She doesn't make much money selling sheet music, her main source of income is being a concert pianist playing classical music. 
Raising a son alone for twenty years, the shop and professional music performance fees allowed her the much-needed extra income to raise a family.  Sometimes her joy revolved around her t-shirt collection with musical inspirations such as, "You are the music while the music lasts. T.S. Eliot."
At a Red Sox game, their lives changed when the two met John Patrick O'Shea.  His work as an award-winning investigative reporter was fascinating as well as his gift of bringing joy into their lives.
With no answers as to her friend's death and the location of her godson, John chose to visit the island and to use his personal and professional skills to find the truth.
Now Maggie is in mourning.   She doesn't think she will ever play professionally again.   Johnny died while on this quest for Maggie.
Someone then breaks into her store and home, stealing Johnny's computer files.   The loves in her life are gone.
Her only happiness is thoughts of her soon-to-be-born grandson.
All that changes when she hears a recording. This music haunts her.   This composition was written by her former love, the father of her son, but could never be finished.   Zachary Law was missing in action with his body never found after he had volunteered for a special mission in Lebanon years ago.   He never knew he had a son.
Colonel Michael Beckett has an agenda which coincides with Maggie's healing to again learn the past and how to live and love life and music.
The author, Helaine Marion is the founder and president of The SunDial Foundation, which is related to numerous nonprofit charities in the Washington D.C. area.  She resides in Arlington, Virginia, and Sarasota, Florida.  She has previously written the novel, Firebird.
The Lost Concerto is a unique mystery intricately entering the world of professional musicians while still maintaining the passion for the music, her loyalty to her godson and friend, and the story.   Each page masterfully unfolds to reveal a small piece of this intricately woven puzzle into an outstanding novel with realistic characters who are driven to their limits in achieving what they believe is right.
This is unquestionably one of my favorite books of the last few years from a little-known author.  I am looking forward to reading more of Helaine Mario's future books.