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Review: The Cambodian Book of the Dead by Tom Vater

 

Title: The Cambodian Book of the Dead, a Maier Mystery
Author:  Tom Vater
Format: Paperback or eBook
Pages:  298
Publisher: Crime Wave Press Ltd.
ISBN:  978-9881655639
Genre:  Mystery
Buy NowPaperback  Kindle
Reviewed for:  Freebooksy
Stars: 5

Book Description: Cambodia 2001 – a country re-emerges from a half century of war, genocide, famine and cultural collapse. German Detective Maier travels to Phnom Penh, the Asian kingdom’s ramshackle capital to find the heir to a Hamburg coffee empire. As soon as the private eye and former war reporter arrives in Cambodia, his search for the young coffee magnate leads into the darkest corners of the country’s history and back in time, through the communist revolution to the White Spider, a Nazi war criminal who hides amongst the detritus of another nation’s collapse and reigns over an ancient Khmer temple deep in the jungles of Cambodia.  Maier, captured and imprisoned, is forced into the worst job of his life – he is to write the biography of the White Spider, a tale of mass murder that reaches from the Cambodian Killing Fields back to Europe’s concentration camps – or die.

The Review:

I received an eBook copy of this title from the author for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for the review, and all conclusions are my own responsibility.

I adore a good mystery, always have. Add in sharp detail that feels like “feet on the ground” research and it becomes a near perfect setting for me.  Being acquainted with several people who are either Cambodian or were in refugee camps as a result of either the Vietnam War or the Khmer Rouge, and having my own visions of the beauty and history of the people: I instantly was interested in the story and where it would go.  So, I was predisposed to like the book on those grounds alone. What I did not expect was the intelligent and very liberal sprinkling and references to the history of the country that all serve to better define and help the reader to ‘understand’ the interactions.

Maier is a former war correspondent from Germany: his speciality was the Southeast Asian area.  Nearing the end of the “defined” war in Cambodia, his fixer Hort was killed by a bomb, left to kill him.  Maier returned to Germany, handed in his resignation and accepted a position with the leading Investigative Agency in the area.   He returns to Cambodia, with his memories and knowledge to track down and ‘return’ a German ex-pat to his family per his mother’s request.

During his investigation, we encounter many of his connections: Carissa an Australian who left her country for the freewheeling world of the “all night” Cambodia, and has entrée into the ‘now and current’ happenings in the country.

What starts as a fairly straight line to the finish mystery / detective story is so peppered with twists and references to violence remembered and current, juxtaposed against the stark beauty amid devastation from 20+ years of war, and the actual beauty of the people seen through the jaded eyes of Maier:  this story is haunting and palpable with tension.

The style is very much one of a war correspondent: while details are beautifully described and details are clearly presented, the prose is spare and less flowery than many would like.  When reliving his memories of times past, we see what feels like a wish for it to be different – for him to reencounter scenes and places of the past again, with fresh eyes and the ability to appreciate the beauty without the knowledge of horrors contained in the history of the spaces and places.  By the end of the book, you are treated to an understanding, at least as complete as Westerners are able to have on the feel of the place, and the history of its people.   It is a beautiful testament, in an offhanded way, to the power of the human will to live, to survive and the equally powerful ability to forget because remembering is far too painful.

I really did enjoy this book, while parts were slower for me than others; the indescribable need to read with my back against a wall was nearly constant.  The tension that Maier feels as a westerner in a land that tends to view all outsiders with scepticism, if not outright hostility, was transmitted through the words and plot.  It was a great read for mystery and history fans alike.

Want to know more about the author or where to find him?
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Review: The Last Degree by Dina Rae

 

Hello and thanks for stopping in again.  Today I am featuring The Last Degree by Dina Rae

Title: The Last Degree
Series: Book #1
Author: Dina Rae
Genre: Action, Adventure, Crime, Paranormal, Political, Suspense, Thriller, Christian
Publisher: Dina Rae
Ebook
Words: 93000
Purchase for only $1.99:  Amazon

 

 

The Last Degree is a fictionalized account of how Freemasons and other secret societies set up the world for takeover. Ancient writings foretell a ‘Shining One’ who emerges as the world’s prophet. A murder of a Most Worshipful mason resembles a secret oath. A cop gets too close to solving the crime. Paranoid preppers go underground, preparing for war.

Headlines such as the Norway massacre, meltdown of the European Union, unscrupulous media, animal die-offs, Middle Eastern unrest, and U.S. shrinking power make the plot relevant to present day. This book is an ode to Christians, Birthers, 2012ers, Truthers, preppers, and/or other conspiracy junkies who enjoy Dan Brown, Jesse Ventura, Brad Meltzer, Alex Jones, Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye.

Excerpt and more – The Last Degree by Dina Rae

Review:  Stars:  4

I was given a PDF of this book for purpose of honest review by the author.  I was not compensated for the review, and it is honestly given and all words are my responsibility.

I will say that if you are a fan of conspiracy theories, and enjoyed Dan Brown, you most certainly will appreciate this book.  The author has gone into great detail to research the history of secret societies and the lore that fuels their mystique.  This story focuses on the acts of two main groups, the Preppers (or Prepared ones) and the Freemasons, and the battle to control the world.

The Preppers are working against the goals of the Freemasons, who condone all manner of activities to obtain their goal of unilateral governmental control, including murder, satanic ritualization and political upheaval.   Like many conspiracy theories, there is never truly one clear cut and defined “good” guy or “bad guy” – all have their reasons and their failures, and use the means to justify the end result.

I found this book enjoyable, with a few exceptions.  In places I found the writing to need some editing, there were typos that made little sense from a proofreading perspective.  I’m strangely neurotic about these things. There were also some issues with story continuity and realism – you cannot, for example, take a taxi to the Statue of Liberty.  As a first novel, I thought it was a well created and crafted work, and hope that the author continues to expend what obviously was a copious amount of research time to get little distinctions correct.

If you are looking for a read that will open the door to yet another master plan to take over the world, you can’t go far wrong reading this book.  My expectation is that the story is the first in a series, which would explain the unfinished feel at the end, and only hope that the subsequent volume will do this first book justice.

I gave this book a solid 4 stars.  The book is genre listed as Action / Adventure / Paranormal – among others, and may be rather disappointing for those looking to find more paranormal and layers of political intrigue. But, it will have great appeal to those who appreciate conspiracy theories and enjoy some historical facts and context in their reading.  It was, a solid effort and an enjoyable read.

Review: Dangerous Past by A.F. Ebbers

 

Today I am pleased to present you with the novel Dangerous Past by A.F. Ebbers, a great read for everywhere but that next flight! 

Title: Dangerous Past
Author: A.F. Ebbers
Format:  Hardcover or eBook
Pages:  240
Publisher: SilverHawk Books
ISBN#:  978-0978948238
Buy Now: Hardcover  Kindle
Stars:  4

Book Description: Airline Captain Frank Braden is being stalked by unknown assailants who must arrange his death to look like a suicide or an accident before a specific deadline. He receives an unsigned message warning him against attending a Senate hearing in Washington. If he agrees, he will receive a million dollars and his wife’s life.

The Review:
I was given a pdf copy of this book from the author for purpose of honest review.  I was not compensated for this review, and all conclusions are my own responsibility.  This story is really a thriller whodunit, with information and scenes that bounce back to the Vietnam War.  The protagonist, Frank Braden is now a commercial pilot, and one with secrets.  Those are revealed in tiny bits and pieces as the story unfolds, and we see where the past collides with the present in truly frightening ways; frightening because they are all too believable and possible.

What was more interesting to me is that the plot line is very dependent on the characters and their development. Each character we encounter is a player in the storyline, and any one of them could be the perpetrator looking to kill Frank.  And Frank isn’t the only character developed with a depth of personality that includes the bits that we all would like to ignore.  While the story, the connections and the plot were all very well crafted and kept me intrigued, there were some point of view issues, often in the same character, which would have been resolved with one more round of editing. Sadly, these POV wavers happen rather frequently, and I found myself realigning as I read to better suit each character. It did not, however, distract me from the overlying tension and action in the storyline, not in a dramatic way

The story does bounce about from 1967 Vietnam, early 2000 Austin Texas and Washington, DC and some shadowy operations in Laos that coincide with the Vietnam timeframe:  the frequent hops feel required by the story, even as they distract from the action as it is happening at the present.  This is an amazingly intriguing and successful first novel from this author.  If you are, or know, a military action thriller fan, a fan of Vietnam-era storylines or a fan of mysteries that span decades – this is the book for you.  Just don’t take it for distraction on your next airplane ride.  Every sound will make you jump.

Want to read what Others thought about this book?
Identity Discovery : Promotional Post
T B R : First Chapter Preview
Mallory Heart Reviews : Review
The Bunny’s Review  : Promotional Post

What about more?  Read an Excerpt, see the First Chapter, Read About the author Read more of this post

Review: Racing with the Wind (Agents of the Crown) by Regan Walker

Hello and welcome. Today I am proud to be a part of the I.O. Book Tour Review blitz of Racing with the Wind by Regan Walker.

Title: Racing with the Wind (Agents of the Crown)
Author:  Regan Walker
Publisher: Boroughs Publishing Group
Format:  eBook
Pages:  248
ASIN: B008OIWMTM
Buy Now:  All Romance  Amazon  Apple iBooks  Barnes & Noble  Smashwords
Stars: 5

Book Description:  The intrepid daughter of an earl leaves Regency London for the Parisian court of Louis XVIII, where she finds adventure, mystery, and above all, love.

THE NIGHTHAWK Hugh Redgrave, marquess of Ormond, was warned. Prinny had dubbed Lady Mary Campbell “the Swan,” but no ordinary man could clip her wings. She was a bluestocking hellion, an ill-advised match by every account. Luckily, he sought no bride. His work lay on the continent, where he’d become legend by stealing war secrets from Boney. And yet, his memories of Lady Mary riding her stallion were a thorn in his mind. He was the son of a duke and in the service of the Prince Regent…and he would not be whole until he had won her hand.
THE SWAN It was unheard of for a Regency debutante to postpone her first season, yet Lady Mary had done just that. Far more interested in politics than a husband, she had no time for foolishness or frippery. Already she had assisted her statesman uncle in Paris, and she swore to return to the court of Louis XVIII no matter the danger. Like her black stallion, Midnight, she would always run free. Only the truest heart would race beside her.

Intrigued and want to read more? Chapter 1
Enter to win one of 25 copies:      Rafflecopter  **This is INTERNATIONAL!!**

The Review:
I received a copy of this book from the author for purpose of honest review.  I was not compensated for this review, and all conclusions are my own responsibility.  

I prefer my period romances with heroines who are not faint of heart and constrained by society. Mary, the heroine of this story is far from compliant with the restrictions placed on a woman of society in 1816 London.  She is encouraged in her difference by her uncle, a diplomat for England, involved in the intrigue surrounding the court of Louis XVIII, after Napoleon’s banishment.  Of course, diplomacy of that time involved some rather dubious ethical connections, and that is where Mary is introduced to her love interest, Hugh, Lord Ormond, who presents with impeccable English credentials, and has a penchant for subterfuge and the continued remove of Napoleon Bonaparte. 
 
Mary is dragged, nearly kicking and screaming to the ‘mandatory’ events for a young woman of her station, even though she managed to delay her debut to her 19th year, and escapes to her country house repeatedly to “ride like the devil” clad in breeches and boots, upon her horse Midnight.  Far from this being her only interest, Mary is an opinionated and well-read woman, full of input, ideas and opinions about everything that makes men cringe.   Mary is a far more interesting character, especially since she has a sense of humour about her more outlandish presentations and theories. 
 
I enjoyed this book: it was a fun read that beautifully described Paris of the time, including a wonderful homage to Notre Dame.  The characters were quite well developed, especially the details that ran to the tone and tenor of the time in which the story was set.  Scenes were beautifully described and detailed, creating description that led to imagining with little effort.   The artful crafting of the character and plot enabled me to feel as though I was right there, on a shoulder so to speak, to follow the action.  
 
For a first time author, this work was amazingly polished and masterful.  As the first in a trilogy all centered on servants to the Crown, it is a stunning opening salvo.  This was a winner on all fronts for me, and I look forward to book 2. 

Don’t Stop Yet! 
Author Bio, how to reach her and the other stops scheduled for this tour?
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Thomas Jefferson: Lessons from a Secret Buddha, A Review

Title: Thomas Jefferson: Lessons from a Secret Buddha
Author:  Suneel Dhand
Format: Paperback or eBook
Publisher: Mindstir Media
Pages: 134
ISBN: 978-0983677123
Buy NowPaperback  Kindle

Stars: 4

About the Book: “A Thomas Jefferson historical fiction mashup book to make you think…..”

Thomas Jefferson. Few in world history could claim such an astonishing array of talents and achievements. A true American legend, he played a pivotal role in the founding of a new nation. But one mysterious facet of his life has remained secret up till now, only recently uncovered from the archives thanks to a trusted friend. Timeless life and well-being lessons to treasure. An amazing story that intertwines the best of ancient Eastern philosophy with the spirit of the American Revolution….

The Review:   for FreeBOOKSY

I received a copy of this book from the author for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review, and all conclusions are my own responsibility.

I will admit that I adore history that focuses on the “how they got there” rather than the more mundane dates and places.  And I think that correspondence is one of the best ways to share that journey than just the dry facts that encompass a CV.  One of the intriguing figures for me has always been Thomas Jefferson: I wanted to try to understand how someone so erudite and learned on so many subjects, so eloquent and advanced for even the ‘well educated’ men of his time could so separate his beliefs to segregate by race, and maintain slaves. Not just maintain, but be one of the premier slave owners in the Virginia colony during his lifetime.

There have been many books about Jefferson, some purely conjecture, others pure fact. None quite attempted to address the questions I had in a book that was enjoyable and informative: until now.

Taken from a series of letters preserved through the years by a group of spiritually enlightened Buddhists; we are taken on a journey of Jefferson’s life that is highlighted in correspondence placed in context of the historical happenings in the burgeoning colonies that would soon comprise the United States of America.  This is a unique and enjoyable perspective on the influence that one man, serving as a mentor of health and spiritual well-being can have on the psyche and behavior of the author of the Declaration of Independence.

While we are well versed now (and think it a reasonably modern practice) on eating healthily and in moderation while exercising regularly: it was not a common practice or knowledge in Europe or the West in the early 18th century. Nor was meditation and finding a center point of calm. But Jefferson was introduced to all of these theories from his teacher and correspondent Buddha Bhai (meaning Learned brother).

Set in a series of vignettes each of which center around a principle or step in the Buddhist tradition, we see Jefferson through his early years: growing from troubled teen to voracious reader and learner, to sloth, to a reluctant if eminently eloquent spokesman for the revolution. We are given insight into his discomfort with a “primary” religious tradition becoming the norm for the new country, and his realization that slavery was inherently amoral.  We are allowed the opportunity to marvel at his curiosity and facility with languages and learning: be impressed with his willingness to embrace science and the scientific method.  This is an opportunity to review what you know about Jefferson, and gain some new insight.

All of the letters are shared within context of the day: we are told what is happening in the colonies, where Jefferson is in his studies, what events are surrounding the letter.  This places the words and the events into a rare perspective of witness to all of the information available to the letter’s recipient, at the time they opened the envelope.  And then, we are treated to Jefferson’s reactions: whether from letter or the multitude of ‘specialized’ notebooks he kept updated with near obsessive precision.

The writing is tight and informative, the author is a trained physician who realized early on in practice that “well-being” encompassed more than just physical health, but was often hindered by poor lifestyles of his patients that were solely dietary in nature.  And then he was introduced to a group of sages, or wise men, secluded in the Nepalese Himalayas.  It was they who shared the stories contained within.

If you are open to reading about Jefferson in a very different way than you have yet encountered, and you are open to the enlightenment provided by the Buddha Bhai, you will find this an easy and enjoyable read, one that gives a brief insight into the development of a character.

 

Saving Peace by Mohanalakshmi Rajakumar: A Review and Giveaway

 

Today I am pleased to participate in the Innovative Online Book Tour for Saving Peace, a novel by Mohanalaksimi Rajakumar.

Title: Saving Peace
Author: Mohanalaksimi Rajakumar
Format: eBook, 218 pages
Publisher: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
ASIN #:  B006VIOZ1A
Purchase now: Buy Saving Peace Now
Stars:  3

Book Blurb: Thirty years intervene in the friendships begun at the all female Peace College.
Sib, the local news anchor with dreams of going national.
Mary Beth, the capable, restless mother of three.
Kim, the college president who admits male students.
Saving Peace is the story of promises made and broken, love found then lost, and redemption sought for the past.
Three women. Two choices. One campus.

The Review: 

I received a copy of this book from the author for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for the review, and all conclusions are my responsibility.

Everyone grows up.  That is the overwhelming lesson that arrived with this book.  Set in North Carolina, and centered on the lives of 3 women who have been friends since attending Peace College.  Their all woman’s college is changing, admitting men and renaming itself William Peace University, without forewarning to current students or alumni, a transgression made more egregious when you realize that one of the main 3 characters is currently the president of the school.

Siobhan is the anchor of the local state-wide news, and appears to be terminally unhappy with her life, yet is unwilling to make steps to resolve the issue.  Mary Beth, the first of the trio to marry right out of college, also appears to be the one most disturbed by the changes.  Lastly there is Kim; unmarried and the university president, she is ducking her friends from her college days: if ducking can be explained in the drifting apart they have done in the years since school.

While all three women were from similar backgrounds and chose the same college, it is most evident to me from the story unfolding that their friendships were really created with proximity and chance: Mary Beth and Siobhan were roommates, Kim the single room on their floor.  As is common in the college years, there are many things that are of dire importance that bond you – and in this story, most often those seem to center  around men.  The lack of men, the wanting of men, the marrying of men.  And that is where the story rather lost me.

While I will say that the story was beautifully crafted, and the characters are well developed to show their faults and insecurities, there is some general lack of actual “liking” of one another that would carry forward through 30 years of acquaintance.  All of the women feel incredibly uncomfortable in each other’s presence – whether from unreasonably long held resentments or just the fact that they realize there is no friendship there underneath it all, I am not sure.  Perhaps they all have realized that the ‘idyllic impression’ often given to all-women’s schools, the overwhelming sense of “empowerment and support” is little more than an impression if the people who attend are not supportive and willing to be empowering to the community.

While this wasn’t the instantly engaging story I had hoped for, full of that palpable feeling of 30 years of friendships maintained even when paths have changed, diverged and strayed,  there was a set of mysteries to be solved: how did they come to be so disparate and distant from each other?  It is answered, in ways that you may not expect or realize until long after the book is finished.

It wasn’t my cup of tea – I expected different with far more evidence of friendship displayed in the connections – but if you are an alumni of a woman’s college – you may find a far different impression.

Other Participants and reviewers on this tour:
Andi’s Book Reviews
Living, Learning, and Loving Life
Crystal’s Book Corner
Better Read Than Dead
The Bunny’s Review
Debbie McMullen
The Self-Taught Cook
Hooks and Book
Kaisy Daisy’s Corner  

Excerpt, Author Bio and Contact information: Read More
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Wake by Abria Mattina: A Review

 

I am delighted to be the debut stop on the review and giveaway tour for Wake by author Abria Mattina. A debut novel that I am sure you will enjoy.  Please take the time to visit the other stops on the tour for more reviews, an interview and the giveaway: Wake Tour Schedule

Wake by Abria Mattina

Title: Wake
Author: Abria Mattina
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: self-published
Ebook/Paperback
Pages: 759
Stars: 4 A Very Good Read
Purchase:  Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk | Epub book | Barnes & Noble | LuLu (Paperback) | More formats listed here. |

Book Description: Eighteen isn’t too young to run your life into the ground, but it’s not too old to fix it, either. The desire for change drives Willa Kirk from St. John’s, Newfoundland back to her hometown of Smiths Falls, Ontario, away from her mistakes and the place where her sister died. She’s looking for a place to settle and rebuild, but Jem Harper just wants to get out of town, back to the life he knew before cancer. By letting the tragedies in their lives define them, they are both dying a little more every day. Welcome to the wake.

Here you can enter to Win A Copy of Wake

My Review:

I received an electronic copy of this book from the author for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review, and all conclusions are my responsibility.While this book is often tagged as a YA contemporary romance, or a YA story: I don’t think those simplistic categorizations are complete. Yes, there is romance and there are teenagers as the primary protagonists in the story – but it is so much deeper and more all-encompassing than just tagging it with a Contemporary Romance label.

This story is touchingly and cleverly crafted as 3 or 4 day journal entries: his side then her side where somewhere in the middle lies the real truth fashion.  We have Jem, newly in remission from a long battle with cancer and the treatment and Willa who has just returned to this town after losing a sister to cancer.  The two are introduced in a Social Sciences class in high school, and from there the story begins to unfold.

What the author has done so cleverly is completely immerse each entry with all of the angst, anger, confusion and conflict that are common to the human condition, even without the overbearing weight of cancer, and managed to create two distinct young adults – both of whom are lucky to still be around.  Throughout the 6 months that are contained in the story, we see the characters grow and mature, develop into real people with tangible issues, showing the healing power of openness and acceptance, and what it truly means to love and accept.

Even the secondary characters that are introduced are done so with a flair and a style that creates someone that we all are familiar with, if not exact copies, well enough crafted to give an instant “realness” to them, most of the family members are quite well flushed out, schoolmates tend to be more along the “stereotypical” lunchroom divisions, but even with that generalization there is good depth in characterization.

759 is a healthy amount of pages, and may look quite daunting, but the story really has been trimmed nicely, without many pages of excess.  The need to know what was next, why Willa wore fingerless gloves everywhere, what cancer did Jem have, where would the story go: it went forward at breakneck pace.

As much of the story is told in journal form, and there are several conversations retold from both sides, it could feel stilted to read – but again, very cleverly the author manages to craft dialog that both flows from one speaker to the next, but does so with such concise and clear voice, that the lack of the “he said” then “she said” is not even missed.

There are a couple of spots where words were missed, or typos caused me to stumble as I read – but to be honest, they were nearly inconsequential when I think back on the book.  I just wish that it were available in traditional book form as well as electronic, as I think it’s a book worth passing along to others to read.  While the themes of cancer, and death by extension, are not going to be a first choice read – they are far overshadowed by the joy in acceptance and discovery that happen throughout this story.

**update – this book is available in paperback from LuLu (Paperback)**
Want to know more ?  Read on

Shadow on the Wall: A review for FMB Tours

 

Title: Shadow on the Wall
Series: The SandStorm Chronicles #1
Author: Pavarti K Tyler
Genre: Dark, Political, Speculative, Suspense, Magical Realism,
Publisher: Fighting Monkey Press
Ebook
Words: 55k
Purchase:   Amazon |
Stars:  5 

Winners of the Giveaway:

 

Paperback copy of Shadow on the Wall: 

y

~WINNER OF THE GENERAL FICTION/NOVEL CATEGORY OF THE 2012 NEXT GENERATION INDIE BOOK AWARDS!~

Book Description: Recai Osman: Muslim, philosopher, billionaire and Superhero?Controversial and daring, Shadow on the Wall details the transformation of Recai Osman from complicated man to Superhero. Forced to witness the cruelty of the Morality Police in his home city of Elih, Turkey, Recai is called upon by the power of the desert to be the vehicle of change. Does he have the strength to answer Allah’s call or will his dark past and self-doubt stand in his way?
Pulling on his faith in Allah, the friendship of a Jewish father-figure and a deeply held belief that his people deserve better, Recai Osman must become The SandStorm.

~ Buy it. Read it. It was wonderful.  –Naif Al-Mutawa of the99.org~

My Review:
Let me preface my review with a bit of background: I am a firm believer in the power of a book. A well-written book will transport you and allow you to gain a new insight into a world that you are unfamiliar with.  Books, far more than rhetoric, wars or even diplomacy will do more for people’s understanding across countries, generations, situations, religions and even the sexes.  This book is one of those that both transports and provides insight and understanding, and I am very pleased that the author has allowed me to introduce it to you.

As always, I was given an eBook copy for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review and all opinions are my responsibility.

It is rare that I find myself unable to put a book down.  That was not the case with this book. We meet  Recai Osman, of a Turkish father and a Kurdish mother: orphaned at a very young age: left with great wealth, a wonderful family legacy, and great guilt.

It is said that Art can bridge gaps; whatever form they may take. Essentially this story presents a perspective that is sorely lacking in the fiction of the west: a story that tells us in an entertaining, not biographical or anecdotal, way of how those people embroiled in the conflicts in the Middle East are far more similar than we might believe, or be led to believe.  I do not believe the author planned to make a statement with the book, beyond we are more similar than different, but the portrayal of all of the characters feels authentic and tangible. It doesn’t take a great stretch of imagination to understand them, or their perspectives.  The liberal sprinkling of terms specific to the Muslim religion was easy to understand the sentiment of the word, if not the actual meaning simply with a talent for placement for context. There is a glossary at the end as well – although for me it was not necessary it will be helpful to many.

The book is organized into several smaller parts, each deals with a specific set of events  that further allow us insight into events that both surround and involve Recai, while introducing us to characters that, despite their assumed differences, are able to form real bonds of friendship and family. We get to discover Recai as he discovers, or rediscovers who he is, and what he is meant to be in the progression of the story.  We meet Rebekah and her widowed father, Hasad Sofaer, both Jewish who rescued him from a sand dune avalanche.  Darya, a woman born to privilege and chafing at the restrictions of society, and Maryam who works as a nurse and lives independently, but appreciates the comfort and familiarity of the clothing restrictions.  All have different perspectives on what their society has become, and what steps need be made to change it.

I really did enjoy this book – to sit and read it, and only it, straight through is a VERY rare occurrence for me.  I will say that it is a story that has some very detailed and specific violence: violence against women, fights with men, fights against the sand.  I would recommend this book to any adult who enjoys a read that captures your imagination and answers questions that we all have, but never asked.

To find the other Tour Stops go here: Tour Schedule
More about the author – Read on
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Sportsman’s Bet: A review

Sportsman’s Bet
By: Judy Nichols

 

Sportsman’s Bet
By: Judy Nichols
Ebook: 229 Pages
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
ASIN:  B008OY00QS
Genre:  Mystery
Stars: 5 – Fabulous!
Buy it:   Amazon    Smashwords

Book Description:
Velma Saunders, the meanest woman in Tobias, North Carolina turns up dead in the Town Hall bomb shelter. The only clue to her murderer is a copy of a Nigerian Email scam message. It’s up to British transplant Ian Dodge to find out who hated her enough to kill her. And what made her so mean.

The Review:

I was contacted by the author to review this story.  I gladly accepted: not only did I appreciate the opportunity, but I get the chance to highlight an independent author and a genre that is a personal favorite.   I was given a copy of this book for honest review, and was not compensated for my words or opinion. I have provided links to purchase the book and find the author for your convenience, and do not benefit monetarily from your actions.

Take a butcher’s at the Sportsman’s bet.
It makes little sense doesn’t it? It’s Cockney Rhyming slang – said to have developed in the mid-1800’s in the East End of London, and it’s not certainly known if it was a game, an accident or intentional dialect meant to confuse, distract or deceive outsiders.  What I wasn’t aware of was the continual growth of the slang; its references have modernized along with society.   One of the best examples of rhyming slang in action is in the Austin Powers movie Goldmember – you can youtube the relevant clip.

The slang provides a nice side-note to the presence of the main character, private investigator and narrator and storyteller Ian Dodge.  Ian is a former police officer turned private investigator, twice divorced, with 3 children, a dog and a house he rents while he lives in a trailer in the yard. Ian presents with a wry sense of humor, slightly fastidious in his personal habits and an unerring habit of ‘putting on the accent’ when being charmingly polite to the women he encounters.

As an unwitting and not exactly willing participant in the discovery of a murder victim in the town’s decrepit bomb shelter, Ian is hired by the defense lawyer to find “anyone that could have done the crime” aside from the current suspect.

I admit – I am a fan of mysteries, and have read my share of them. In most of the mysteries I do read, I have not found more than a handful where I was unable to figure out “who did it”.  I was killer at Clue as a kid. This mystery had me stumped. There were far too many possible options, and the majority of the ‘evidence’ that pointed to one person or another was over forty years old.  Add to that a relatively small and insular area, where many people are related through blood or marriage, or even both – and you have a real ‘feel’ for the area in which the story takes place.

The writing is incredibly tight and smooth, each chapter is relatively short and nearly all are dedicated to one little piece of the mystery to be solved.  All of the characters that are introduced are done with just enough detail to be fitting to their importance to the entire plot.  Recurrent characters (as I do believe this is going to be a series of mysteries) are given enough detail to want to know more; from quirks to relevance in the town or area – they all have some endearing quality that fits in both the story and the area.  And once I discovered the “who” in the “whodunit”  all of the hints to the murderer came clear.  That, to me, is the true mastery of a mystery author – enough dissembling and partial reveals of evidence mixed with other superfluous bits to sift through. Done with a flair for smooth and cohesive writing, careful plot construction and a keen sense of humor in the main character make this a book easy to recommend.

Like mysteries? What about stories based in the south? Have a “thing” for a brit? Just want a new read with an author you aren’t familiar with?  This is the book.

About the Author – and where to find her:
Read more of this post

The Wedding Cake Girl – a Review

The Wedding Cake Girl
by Anne Pfeffer

The Wedding Cake Girl
Author: Anne Pfeffer
Ebook
202 pages
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN:  B0080NMR2Y
Genre: YA Contemporary

Buy it at Amazon
Stars : 5

Book Description:
Seventeen-year-old Alexandra spends so much time helping others realize their dreams that she never has time for her own. An expert ocean diver and reluctant maker of wedding cakes, she longs to leave roses and frosting behind to study oceanography. Alex’s mother won’t have it—needy and dependent, Mom can’t run the family wedding cake business on her own.
No matter what Alex does, things only get worse for her. When she saves a man’s life while scuba diving and becomes the local hero, Mom’s angry with Alex for going diving at all. Mom discourages Alex’s new friendship with Jeremy, a fun and insanely wealthy boy who happens to have a secret. Then, Alex’s best friend, Zack, a hunky island guy, starts to take an interest in her as well. The problem is, he’s dating another girl.
As Alex struggles to learn where she stands between her two difficult and confusing Prince Charmings, it occurs to her that maybe what she really needs is a Prince Charming for Mom. If she doesn’t do something fast, they’ll bury her in her “Sue’s Wedding Cakery” apron with a spatula in her hand.
The Wedding Cake Girl features a colorful island setting, dangerous underwater diving adventures, a family of billionaires, and lots and lots of buttercream. The book is Alex’s journey toward not only finding love, but learning how to step forward and take control of her own life, a rite of passage that faces all young readers.

The Review:

I received a copy of this book from the author, for purpose of honest review.  I was not compensated for this review, and conclusions are honestly given and entirely my responsibility. This book review was requested by Freebooksy reviews.

Alex is a soon to be senior in high school, an exceptional science student with dreams of becoming a marine biologist, if being far too involved in managing a very irresponsible and manipulative mother doesn’t derail her dreams.  At almost 18, she has never been off the island; her only escape is scuba diving, an activity her mother despises. Her mother, Sue, has an amazing talent and love for making and decorating wedding cakes, but no skill or willingness to manage her own business; leaving all of the “details” to Alex.

We see Alex “parent” her mother, waking her up, managing the business, baking the cakes, delivering them, and deferring to her mother in all things.  What has been done, that is clear from the start of the novel, is that Alex feels she is the only person who is both willing to, and understands just how much care her mother requires.

While tangled relationships are not easily portrayed or defined, the author has done a fabulous job of creating in Sue, a character that is the example of “what not to do” to your child.  Her fears of being alone have trumped her capabilities, leaning on Alex to such a degree that the child is literally convinced if she doesn’t do all that she has taken on in the home, that they will be homeless, penniless and it will be her fault.  To that end, I was completely unsympathetic and disliked Sue with a near visceral reaction.  Her actions are selfish and her temper hair-trigger, placing her daughter in a position that lying, either directly or by omission, is the far simpler option when attempting to live her life.

You will cheer for Alex’s triumphs, and there is a real sense of ache and loss when things don’t go her way.  And then we hit the one place of the story that I had issues with.  While it’s really a wonderful concept to believe that “deserving” something, and actually achieving it in the real world is often two very different things.  Throughout the story there are little events where Alex “wins” in the battle between her wants and her grasping and controlling mother, but the situations converged in such a “fairy tale” happy ending way that I found it rather unrealistic.  And to that point each character and scene was so realistically crafted and real that I was torn at the end.  Yes, I believe that Alex’s  18 years of struggle were deserving of reward and happiness – perhaps it was a feeling of too much positive and I was left with wanting to know what happened next; when the other shoe would drop.

I have been a YA fan since my daughter was young, and I felt it part of my job as a parent to be aware of what she was interested in reading, and have some ‘forewarning’ about the subjects tackled in the books.  I still read YA with an eye to the “parent” role, being hyper aware of language, sexual situations and characters, as well as writing style and skill.  This is a book I would happily and wholeheartedly recommend to all readers, young or not so young.  While there are several ‘important’ characters, and I have seen fit only to concentrate on the two main players – each character is treated with a deference and detail that defines them as they relate to the whole story with great skill.  The writing was both smooth and tight – I literally read the entire book in one sitting: more because I needed to know what happens next.  There was only one typo that stopped my flow of reading for a moment, otherwise if there were errors – they went unnoticed. Anne Pfeffer has certainly found a niche for her style of storytelling, and there are 2 other titles in this genre available… I suggest you rush to the link and get them !