Monday, March 27, 2017

Tightening the Threads

Tightening the Thread
A Mainely Needlepoint Mystery
Lea Wait
Kensington Publishing Corporation
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-1-4967-0628-7
$ 7.99
301 pages

A true friend is there when you need them.
Sarah Byrne is in a situation where she needs the friendship of Angie Curtis.   The two have discovered their mutual love of antiques and needlepoint.
Sarah recently found her real heritage.  Since a single-mother in Australia raised her, she valued her short time with her.  When her mother died, she moved in with her grandmother in England.   It was wonderful for her to be in a loving relationship again.  Fortunately, her grandmother also shared the information leading her to her silent father in Maine.  This was the first time his identity was revealed to her.
Her plan was to again move to another continent to meet her father.
Unfortunately, he died just months earlier.
Sarah discovered a love for her new home, Haven Harbor, Maine and decided to open her antique business in her new home, the home of her father. 
How does anyone inform the surviving members that she is also part of the family?
Finding her uncle without revealing her true identity was difficult, but Ted Lawrence quickly figured out her true identity.  Ted wisely insisted on a DNA test as proof for the rest of his family.  This wasn't for either Ted or Sarah but the expected disbelief and doubt from Ted's children.
Ted has cancer and knows that he does not have long to live.   He has called his children together.  Ted plans a family reunion including each of his three children's families.  His hope is to mend fences, reveal then new relative and to discuss his intended changes to the will.   His expectations quickly become an impossible task. 
Ted's father, Robert Lawrence had been an outstanding artist. Teaching many of the techniques to Ted as he grew.  Ted is now a reputable artist but will never be the legend of his father.
Sarah is apprehensive about meeting Ted's three grown children.   She knows that the do not get along and their lives take them in varying directions.  For support, her friend Angie agrees to go along and assist in any way she can.  So how would you react to a new will that is now going to include a new cousin?   Apparently, this means that each of them will now receive less inheritance.
Surprisingly Ted dies from possibly eating a bad clam.   Did one of his children purposely give him a clam from a restricted area?   Did Ted complete the new will?   What will happen to the paintings he gave to Sarah?
Lea Wait writes from what she knows.   She lives on the Maine coast and is a fourth generation antiques dealer, much like her characters.  Her mystery series, Shadows Antique Print have been nominated for the Agatha awards.
Tightening the Threads is a fast-paced cozy mystery that is fun to read.   The story is viewed through Angie's eyes as she unweaves the complex lives of Ted and his children.  As an outsider, she does not have the long history of their animosity towards each other. 
Tightening the Threads is a fun, quick, and enchanting mystery woven into a marvelous tapestry.

Through a Yellow Wood

Through a Yellow Wood
A Catskill Mountains Mystery
Carolyn J. Rose
Amazon Digital Services
Lexington, Kentucky
ISBN: 978-0-9837359-4-6
Trade Papercraft
$ 16.49
468 pages

'She was a reminder that there are a hundred little forks in our roads every day and each choice can affect the next one.  If we don't think before we step, we might end up a long way from where we intended to be - from where we wanted to be.'
Sometimes you are just in the wrong place at the wrong time. 
Imagine a small New England town where it seems as if everyone is related to each other. 
Dan Stone is asked to check-in on Clarence Wolven, his mother's second cousin.   Since Clarence always came into town in the first, he is now two days overdue, and that was odd for him.  Also, his phone line is dead.
Dan finds Clarence dead on his front steps.  Also dead are the dogs Clarence was training, except for one small pup who is hiding in the back of his kennel.
Dan arranges the funeral since Clarence had no close relatives and took the dog to the vet, who amputates a leg. 
When the sheriff's investigation has no leads, Dan, and his friend, Jefferson Longyear return to the cabin to look for further clues to the murderer.
Unfortunately, the three-legged dog, now adopted d by Dan's family and called Nelson, leads the two along a trail only to discover three women's dead bodies, posed as if in a play.
As the summer continues, Dan's life becomes more complicated with rebuilding his home, living with Camille, and having a teenaged girl becoming part of his homelife.
Through a Yellow Wood is a continuation of the first, reading Hemlock Lake is a prerequisite to enjoying the book.
I discovered both of these books to be intriguing with the mood.   The story line is depressing, but the author so compassionately cares for the characters that this is hypnotically addictive reading.
Carolyn Rose is the author of the Catskill Mountain mystery series; the Subbing isn't for Sissies series, and numerous other novels and publications.
She now resides in Vancouver, Washington where she works as a substitute teacher.  From growing up in the New York Catskill Mountains, to attending the University of Arizona, to working with Volunteers in Service to America in Arkansas, to being a television news researcher, producer, assignment editor and writer in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington.
These characters are realistic and humanly flawed while still being likable and wanting to do what is right in their minds while revealing insights into their morality and values. The pacing perfectly matches the story making the reader feel as if they are accompanying Dan throughout the investigation.
Through a Yellow Wood is an unusual book with a novel approach to a dark story in a caring manner.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye

Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye
Author: Tania Del Rio
Illustrator: Will Staehle
Quirk Books
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
ISBN: 9-8-1-59474-803-5
$ 16.95
225 pages

Some people just seem to be doomed.
Warren is a typical twelve-year-old. 
Unfortunately, both his parents are dead.
Fortunately, his Uncle Rupert is his guardian.
Unfortunately, his Uncle Rupert is married to Aunt Annaconda.
Warren is responsible for his ancestor's hotel.   Warren the 1st planned the building with his son, Warren the 2nd, who built the hotel.
For years, Warren's ancestral line has managed and kept the multitude of secrets hidden within its walls, even the all-seeing eye.  Being that Warren is a descendant of this prestigious lineage, he works endless hours maintaining his legacy.
Unfortunately, Uncle Rupert is lazy, and Aunt Annaconda is a witch.
Fortunately, the hotel has not a customer for five years.
Unfortunately, or perhaps, fortunately, an automobile is approaching the rambling, broken-down hotel.
The visitor doesn't speak, just communicates with cards.
Can the new tenant speak?   Why here?  Why now?
Why is the hotel suddenly full of customers?
Warren is a laughable children's book recommended for third to sixth-grade students.  Part Cinderella, part Wizard of Oz, part Series of Unfortunate Events, part comic book, part chapter book. Warren is just a fun book to read with a happy ending for everyone older than eight.  It might be scary to younger ones.
With a little bit of magic, Warren is an enchanting novel with an ordinary protagonist.   He is not handsome, smart, or charismatic, just hard-working and completely average.
As an adult, I could not put down the book.   The story pulls you in and just doesn't release you until the last page.  Even then, I wanted more.  (There is a sequel.)
Tabia Del Rio writes for Archie  Comics, Dark Horse, and Marvel.  This Los Angeles resident has also written and drawn the 42-issue of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.
Illustrator Will Staehle has been an art director for Harper Collins Publishers creating book covers for many authors including Michael Chabon, Michael Crichton, and Christophe Buckley.  He now has his art studio in Seattle.
Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye is the perfect book for everyone with an intriguing storyline, illustrations that continue the visualization of the text, puzzles, riddles, mazes, the feeling of hope in good overcoming evil, all bundled up in a novel with a wicked sense of humor.

Alaskan Queen

Alaskan Queen
Richard A. Heininger
Amazon Digital Services
Digital format
$ 2.99
234 pages

Lieutenant Cody James is living his dream.  He is a U. S. Navy Officer who has the responsibility of following ships via GPS throughout the world.
Throughout the years of military schooling, his dream changed from being a pilot. His moral character drove him to continue to succeed, just in a different field.
Now Cody is on loan to the U. S. Coast Guard to assist in the development of a global fleet tracking navigational system.  The focus is the Caribbean Sea.   The system follows the usual paths of various legitimate shipping routes and is searching for anything the could be involved with smuggling or a terrorist attack.
One ship, Island Pearl, is drawing his attention by changing its regular route.  Why? Could they be smuggling?  The ship has always passed inspections. Obviously, tracking this boat is a priority.
Cody just hopes that this is not a time-consuming detail since he is soon to be married.   Starting out with your career taking precedence over your wife is probably not a good habit.
Fortunately, Cody's bride-to-be is Abbie who happens to be the daughter of Rear Admiral Stewart.   She obviously understands a military life.
Cody is thrilled that his family from childhood can attend this particular time in his life.   Being an orphan, his family consists of other children with similar backgrounds who bonded into a family throughout the years.
The newlyweds plan to spend a few days at a luxurious hotel, have a few excursions, and then a cruise on the Alaskan Queen.  Plans seldom work out perfectly, and it seems as if danger is constantly in the path of the newlyweds.  Are they destined for disaster?
Juan Ernesto Degato is also fulfilling his dream, being rich. Coincidentally, he shares a similar background with Cody, being orphaned.  However, his choices led him in the opposite direction.
He just needs to complete one job assigned to him by the embassy.  Completing this job will give him enough money for the rest of his life.  Unfortunately, failure is not an option.
Cody and Juan seem destined to be on a collision course.  For both, it is a life or death situation.
Alaskan Queen is the debut novel for Richard Heininger, a retired lawyer who resides in Council Bluffs, Iowa most of the year, and in Texas to avoid Iowa winters.  The basis for this novel is from an Alaskan cruise he took with his wife.  Fortunately, that ship was only attacked in his imagination.
Alaskan Queen is a fast-paced novels that all readers would enjoy.   The reader accompanies Cody through each challenge.
I personally would prefer to read this novel after a cruise, not before, and definitely not during.
You definitely need to read Alaskan Queen.  
I look forward to more thriller from new author, Richard Heininger.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Searching for Gatsby

Searching for Gatsby
A Ronnie Lake Murder Mystery
Niki Danforth
Pancora Press
Amazon Digital Services
ISBN: 978-1946403001
$ 13.99
320 pages

Ronnie Lake is a fifty-six-year-old woman beginning her new business as a private investigator.   While at a party sponsored by some wealthy friends, she listens to her friend, Marilyn's suspicions about whether her husband Win, is having an affair.  She is a little hesitant accepting the position being that she is friends with both Win and Marilyn.
Marilyn is suspicious of a gorgeous woman, Katya Alessandro who just left the party.
Frank, Ronnie's brother and Juliana seem like they are still honeymooners.   Frank's first wife, Joanie died, and his new wife appears to fulfill all her brother's dreams and wishes.
Ronnie still has the grief of having a son die in Afghanistan.  Fortunately, she adopted her son's K-9 partner from the military.  Warrior is very protective of her and is a great partner in sharing their sorrow. 
Jamie Gordon has a charismatic quality attracting Ronnie as he joins the party.  His handsomeness certainly draws everyone's attention.
Suddenly a commotion is outside with the sound of breaking branches as an older man dressed in black falls through the dogwood tree.  While hanging in the tree, while moaning, Frank calls 9-1-1 just as the branches again break dropping him to the ground,   The man looks at Jamie and whispers, "The book."
"I always said...if it was the last thing...I ever did..."   These are the man's last words.   Why?   What did the burglar steal upstairs while the people were enjoying the elaborate party downstairs?
While waiting for the police, Win notices a bulge in the man's pocket.  Would you look?  It's evident that the man was stealing something from upstairs.  
Ronnie ends up investigating much more than Win's loyalty to his wife in Searching for Gatsby.
Niki Danforth, the author, resides in New Jersey with her dogs and husband.   Notice, the dogs are listed first.   She believes her desire for excitement is from being the daughter of a covert intelligence officer of the Cold War.  She previously has worked as a television director.
Searching for Gatsby is a fast-paced, tightly woven, cozy mystery.  The characters are believable and intriguing.   With a little touch of romance, a smattering of thrills, and mystery with as many tentacles as an octopus Searching for Gatsby is a fun, fast novel for mystery fans.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

If You Were Me and Lived in...Middle Ages, Viking Europe

Author: Carole P. Roman
Illustrator: Mateya Arkova
Create Space Independent Publishing Platform
North Charleston, South Caroling
If You Were Me and Lived in...Middle Ages
ISBN: 978-1533673244
$ 19.99
98 pages
If You Were Me and Lived in...Viking Europe
ISBN: 978-1532875304
$ 16.99
76 pages

Imagine living in England during the year 1072.   To help you, former social studies teacher, Carole Roman along with illustrator, Mateya Arkova, have created the perfect tool for transporting each of us into that time and place through the pages of this exquisite book.
The paperback explains how life changed from when the Romans controlled the country and their contributions to the change of the Renaissance period beginning around 1400 A.D. 
By taking a reading journey into each fiefdom, you learn about the world of knights who sold their services and life as a servant or vassal.
This book is through the eyes of a daughter whose father was a knight in William of Normandy's army and rewarded with land for being victorious with the invasion of England.   Describing life inside the keep is picturesque.
Also, well-represented is the perspective from being a peasant.   I find the section regarding the medical field fascinating, but obviously not the healthiest.
In the back of the book are listing about famous people of the period as well as a glossary with definitions and pronunciations of common words of the time.
For the book, If You Were Me and Lived in...Viking Europe, the time period is around 870 A.D. and set in Norway, along the coast. 
I was surprised to learn the difference between Scandinavians and Norsemen.  The difference is that they are from the same area, but the Norsemen was used for the people who moved to the foreign lands explored.
Also explained are the patterns for family last names describing the use of ...son and ...dottir. 
The class system for the Vikings is defined and easily pictured due to the illustrations which perfectly match the text.
The descriptions and pictures of the houses are fascinating transporting you to another time and place.
The section about your grandmother is both educational and entertaining.  "She had a loud voice, and when she was irritated about something or felt that the community was insulted, she would nag and harangue the men into action.  She worried about the town's honor and was known to use her magic to keep them safe."
Listed at the end is a guide including pronunciation and short description of some of the better known Norse Gods.  Also included is a list of some of the great Vikings throughout the period of exploration. As usual, the book is completed with a glossary of common words for the book, including a pronunciation guide.
Both of these books transport the reader into other times and places with the texts in each book perfectly matching the illustrations.
These books are intended for elementary children but readers of all ages can both learn and enjoy the time traveling journeys of a past time.

Playing with Fire

Playing With Fire
A Daniel Jacobus Mystery
Gerald Elias
Severn House
Sutton, Surrey, England
ISBN: 978-0-7278-8614-9
$ 28.99
218 pages

Why did you purchase a musical instrument?  Did you dream of playing music?   Could you imagine yourself in Carnegie Hall playing to standing room only audience embracing the melodies and enriching every listener to a once-in-a-lifetime experience?
Surprisingly, not everyone views the purchase of a musical instrument this way.
Daniel Jacobus is a crotchety blind violinist.  Years ago, he lost his vision just as the opportunity for greatness opened for him.   Perhaps there is a reason for his being upset with life.
Christmas Eve is a special time at Daniel's home with his good friends, Yumi, a concertmaster and masterful violinist,  Nathaniel, a longtime friend who works as a musical instrument and art fraud and theft agent, along with Trotsky, his temperamentally huge bulldog.
Amadeo Borlotti calls Jacobus asking if he can come over to talk with him.   Amadeo repairs violins for school children.  Why would his voice sound as if visiting with Jacobus is important?  Why would he need to consult with Daniel?
The next day, Daniel is feeling guilty when he learns that Borlotti's house has burnt down and Borlotti is missing.
Why?   What has happened?  Could Jacobus have prevented the loss of his home?  Where is Borlotti?
Jacobus, Yumi, and Nathaniel begin to investigate while being thrown into a world they never knew existed.
Playing with Fire is the fifth Daniel Jacobus' mystery following Devil's Trill, Danse Macabre, Death and the Maiden, and Death and Transfiguration.   Unlike the other four novels which all encircle one musical selection, Playing with Fire does not connect to any one piece of music.   This book educates the reader about the world of rare violins made by outstanding and legendary master such as Stradivarius while loosely based on the real-life crimes of Dietmar Machold.
Gerald Elias is the Musical Director of the Vivaldi Candlelight concert series, first violinist of the Abramyan String Quartet,  Associate Concertmaster of the Utah Symphony since 1988, and an Adjunct Professor of Music at the University of Utah. 
He previously played the violin for the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Playing with Fire is a fast-paced novel continuing the story of Jacobus.  The book can be a standalone without reading the previous books in the series.   However, firmly believe that everyone would enjoy the book more if they have read the first novel, The Devil's Trill to better understand the character relationships.
Playing with Fire is a thrilling journey into the world of exquisitely valuable violins interwoven into a enthralling mystery.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Shattered Tree

The Shattered Tree
A Bess Crawford Mystery
Charles Todd
William Morrow
Harper Collins Publishers
ISBN: 978-0-06-238627-4
$ 25.99
287 pages

Bess Crawford is a hard-working battlefield nurse.  It is October of 1918 and working in a field hospital in France is exhausting as well as dangerous with combat nearby. 
For one soldier, it is even stranger.   One single soldier is holding onto a single tree.
Somehow, a man is hiding behind a battered-up tree with no shoes and with little left of his uniform.  The rescuers have to pry his fingers from the bark of the tree.  Not knowing whether the man is dead or alive, they place him on a stretcher, covering him with a blanket. 
At the hospital, shivering is the only symptom proving that he is alive.  The staff quickly believes he is a "frog," meaning he is French.
Being diagnosed as having a loss of blood and being in shock, he is being transferred to the Base Hospital accompanied by Nurse Crawford.   While attempting to identify the patient, Bess checks his pockets.  She discovers ripped pieces of material.   Often, names are written inside a uniform for identification.   People sometimes chose to destroy their name if they are important or related to a powerful family and do not want to be identified by the Germans.
She hears him muttering in another language, German. 
Many Frenchmen from Alsace-Lorraine spoke both French and German.  This particular area had been ruled for almost fifty years by the Germans while refusing to give up their native language.
After returning to the battlefield hospital, Bess follows a man into the trenches to help a wounded soldier.  While there, she is shot in the side by an assassin who seemed to purposely miss killing her. 
Bess is sent to Paris to recuperate safely.  Coincidentally, she sees the same soldier in passing.  Is he German or French?  Is he a spy?
Bess discovers more secrets as she seeks to identify the man found by the shattered tree.
Charles Todd is the name used by a mother-son writing team of Caroline and Charles Todd while residing in Delaware and North Carolina.  Their books include the Inspector Ian Rutledge series, the Bess Crawford series, and standalone novels.
The Shattered Tree is an addictive page turner.  The character of Bess reminds me of Sybil in Downton Abbey.  Between the background of inherited wealth and the British upper class as well as an independent spirit, all brought Bess to life.  The logical but unpredictable story is the perfect fast-paced page turner. 
The Shattered Tree is for any reader who enjoys historical fiction transporting them to another time and place.

War, Spies and Bobby Sox

War, Spies and Bobby Sox
Stories About World War II at Home
Libby Fischer Hellmann
The Red Herrings Press
Chicago, Illinois
ISBN: 978-1-938733-97-0

"The volume of literature about World War Two has both fascinated and intimidated me.  I suspect its popularity comes from the fact that it was the last time there was clarity between good and evil."
from the author's introduction
"The Incidental Spy" is the story of Lena, a German Jewish refugee as she begins her new life in Chicago during 1935.  Lena is fortunate to be sponsored by her aunt whose husband is a mathematics professor the University of Chicago.   Immediately, she is enrolled in English and typing classes and quickly becomes a secretary in the physics department at the University.
Naturally, it is hard knowing what is happening to the rest of her family a continent away.   With erratic communication, the constant strain of her parents' hardships, as well as her first love, are trying.   Do you move on or wait?
"P.O.W." revolves around eighteen-year-old Mary-Catherine who works on the family farm along with her mother, little sister, and brother.  With her father being drafted to fight in the war three years ago, every member of the household is needed to keep the farm being productive. 
With a prison being nearby, Mary-Catherine's mother hires the P. O. W.s to help with picking apples. 
What her mother forgot was Mary-Catherine's age and her natural attraction to handsome men, especially one's who might take advantage of her innocence.
"The Day Miriam Hirsch Disappeared" involves a beautiful Jewish woman who is murdered while living as an actress in Chicago.
Libby Fischer Hellman has written numerous novels including her  Georgia Davis series, Ellie Foreman series, a historical novel set in Cuba, a story of revolutionary Iran, and life in the late sixties in Chicago.
This Chicago resident has won numerous award including being nominated for two Anthony Awards, an Agatha, two times for the Foreword Reviews Thiller of the Year and many nominations for the Lovey Award.
War, Spies and Bobby Sox consist of three novellas in varying lengths.  The first and longest one, "The Incidental Spy" is an enthralling novella incorporating the development of the bomb while viewing Chicago through the immigrant eyes of a woman who is both German and Jewish.   Conflicted loyalties regularly trouble Lena, the protagonist.  
P. O. W. is unquestionably a story that likely actually happened in some form.   The German and Italian prisoners in this country were constantly troubled about whether their futures were here or back in Germany.  Most were treated better here than in their country.   The conflicted loyalties had to have been problematic for both those who interacted with the prisoners and the prisoners. 
The strength in these stories are the personal and realistic voices of these strong and independent women.   The plots are well-organized and  intriguing while based on actual events of Chicago between 1935 and 1942. 
Libby Hellman has created the perfect novel traveling back to another time and place.