Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Devil On 85 by Clark Lohr - a review

“We have seen the enemy and he is us,” said Walt Kelly’s satirically political cartoon character Pogo, which brings to mind that any time the government gets involved in a situation there is bound to be a SNAFU.
Private eye Manny Aquilar follows several dead-end leads in an attempt to discover who murdered Lois Donahue, the wife of a Tohono O’Odham Indian, Donnie, who has recently been released from jail. The Native American has been re-arrested; after all he is the prime suspect, a husband with a violent past; but what husband would mutilate his bride in this fashion and burn her body? The facts just don’t add to Manny.
The investigation leads to a town on the rez, Ajo, Arizona where the line of questioning discovers possible reprisals from the cartels over drug and gun smuggling, not a family argument gone awry, and Manny finds himself in a shootout that leaves Lois’s sister, Evelyn, dead and Donnie critically wounded.
Highway 85, the ‘Devil’s Highway’ that Luis Urrea introduced too in his great book of that title, is a dangerous drug corridor where death awaits smugglers, and money changes hands for the control of the rampant evil between the cartels and those hired to enforce the laws. Guns and drugs cross the border for a profit and sometimes private citizens get caught in the crossfire, or become part of the set-up, like it or not.
Buckle up if you want to survive as Lohr takes us along on this bumpy ride down the Devil’s Highway in this intelligent and fast-paced race into hell and back.

The Jefferson Allegiance by Bob Mayer - a review

On July 4, 1826, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died, unaware of each other’s fate. Both men were part of an ongoing conspiracy, and entrusted a cipher and corresponding wooden discs, inset with a secret code, to trusted informants to hide them from the Society of the Cincinnatians, an organization they both feared would overthrow and bring the U.S. government to its knees.

The Allegiance, secretly written into the U.S. constitution, was to be used to ensure our current form of government was enacted, no matter which political party was in power, and to control the presidency so they upheld the constitution as Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Nixon all discovered. The current guardians of this precious document, The Philosophers, protected the codes and cipher, and had them passed down as their predecessors died. Until now. They found themselves under full frontal attack by an assassin, code named The Surgeon, as the Cincinnatians became determined to capture the codes.

Mayer introduces us to Colonel Paul DuCharme, recently recalled from Afghanistan and Evie Tolliver—next in line to chair The Philosophers—a former member of the CIA, as they are forced to team up to ensure the Allegiance is kept out of the wrong hands.

Wave Old Glory and join in the ensuing game of cat and mouse as the forces of evil in the form of home-based terrorists stalk those that control the codes and cipher and attempt to determine the overthrow of all we hold dear. This is a great drama, steeped in history, which will keep you turning the pages late into the night. Mayer strikes one for freedom.


Don't Talk to Strangers by Amanda Kyle Williams - a review

In a combination of suspense and mystery, the latest Keye Street novel finds the former FBI super-star profiler trekking through the backwater of Georgia where the bodies of two twelve-year-old girls were discovered, one who had been missing for the last decade.
A timely release, only a year after Ariel Castro was discovered hording teenage girls in his urban home in Ohio, the subject matter is so repulsive yet one that we find ourselves pulled into despite the banal evil it represents, probably in the sense of rooting for the survivors, and Williams taps into that vein.
While Street is assisting the sheriff with his investigation, she becomes aware that, at least for other members of the department, she is stepping on toes, an unwilling recruit in a small town world.
A third girl goes missing during the investigation, a pattern is broken, and the killer shows his hand. A door-to-door search is carried on in the county, scouring all the sex-offenders until one by one, an alibi is produced, but can they be believed? Someone is telling lies, hiding secrets. For the local people it was enough knowing that one of their own has committed these crimes. That someone in the community is responsible for the heinous crimes perpetrated on these middle school girls. Is it the teacher, the grocery store clerk, the pastor, or perhaps even someone closer to the girls, a family member? No one is afforded the luxury of a pass, they all come under scrutiny.
As time runs out, Williams weaves an electrically charged plot, sinister and evil, one jolt after another, keeping the reader amped. In the end, the shock is a charge hard to accept. If real-life events have you wondering how well you know your neighbors, then this read will be a chart-topper for you.

Keeping Mum by Alyse Carlson - a review

You have to imagine a C, as in Chrysanthemum, so that Carlson’s third novel can be set as part of the A, B, C series featuring flowers…darn publishers! What you don’t have to imagine though is a story as Carlson has done that for you. Three books into the set and she has really found her stride.

Once again, Cam Harris and her best friend Annie, with their reporter and cop boyfriends in tow, stick their noses into places they didn’t need to be and end up finding a body. Roanake, Virginia’s Hunting Hills Country Club, is once again at the center of murder and mayhem when local millionaire, Derek Windermere, ends up dead at none other than a murder-mystery themed silent auction.

A look into his past shows Windermere had a few foes, all of who could want him dead; however, the main suspect is missing, who also happens to be one of the series reoccurring characters, Annie’s father. We know what a loveable old coot he is, so to the reader half the mystery is solved. We know he didn’t do it, so who did? Like a walk down the garden path, Carlson keeps us guessing with so many characters that you need a 3x5 card to plot out all the people and their relationships, but after having had the pleasure of reading all three in the series, so far her style is becoming catching and the maturity in her craft is peeking out from behind the azaleas.

Keeping the society’s reputation intact and averting a scandal are becoming Cam’s full time job; so what’s next, daisies or dahlias?

The Narrow Road to the Deep North, by Richard Flanagan - a review

It is hard to imagine that the author would not know that his novel was to be judged not only by the novel 'Bridge Over The River Kwai,' Pierre Boulle's work, more well known as the movie with starring Sir Alec Guinness, but would be put to the test against arguably one of the greatest novels ever written, Nevil Shute's 'A Town Like Alice." Both of these fine novels dramatically describe the horrors of war in Burma during World War II and the atrocities the Japanese soldiers brought upon the Australian and British. "Alice" is also a romance, encompassing the love that can be brought about due to unforeseen happenings in times of war.

And so 'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' bravely rears its head in to the same realm. Highly descriptive in its passages regarding not just the building of the railroad, yes the same one written about by Boulle, but also in its flights of fantasy and love as our protagonist Dorrigo Evans, an Australian surgeon beds his uncle's young wife and then saves as many men as possible from the scourge of forced labor on the railroad construction.

Unfortunately Evans does not have the same panache as his predecessors in the literature I mentioned previously, and his sordid affair is nothing that he can write home about, so the story, while if you had never read the other more worthy works, would stand alone as a well thought out story of the consequences of war, in fact pales in comparison. Flanagan has written a novel worth the read, one that covers a lot of ground but one that has already been well documented.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Conversations With Dudley Dewlap by Elaine A. Powers - a review

Subtitled: Audio Theater Scripts on the World from a Lizard Point of View.

A delightful theater-style script in the form of radio interviews from a lizard point of view. The stars of our little act are Miles the monitor and Dudley, an iguana. In a setting of personal interviews, interviewing each other and occasionally guests featuring others in the general family such as reptiles and dinosaurs, the two keep a lively repertoire discussing who and what they are.
Powers, who shares her home with a half-dozen iguanas, is an expert who has taken the time to share her knowledge in a fun environment, probably meant for about a fifth grade level, where teachers or reptile club members can learn educational facts about these creatures ie. lizards don’t have vocal chords. We learn this when the iguana’s friends audition for the opera. Alligator wins the part as he can bellow pretty loud.
Written in play form there are instructions for special props and suggestions of names should one of the participants be a female. All in all a humorous educational tool that is fun to read.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

My Lunatic Life by Sharon Sala - a review

Tara Luna lives with her Uncle Pat, has since her parents died. He is as best a parent as he can be to the young girl. We meet them as they move to Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Another new school where they can call her Luna the Looney, Moon Girl, or even worse, witch. Tara is not only psychic but has a couple of hundred-year-old ghosts, Millicent and Henry, who provide a little protection and advice and cause general mayhem to embarrass Tara at every opportunity. 

Other than her ghostly followers and rare ability to read minds and peer into the future a little, Tara is just like every other teenager: likes the bad boys, has a run-in with the head cheerleader, etc. Sala follows the pattern of typical high school cliques that all of us have run into one way or the other.

Dealing with the rigors of just being a teenager and full of angst, Tara also handles being the new girl and the knowledge there is a foreboding dark presence in the house she and Uncle Pat moved into. By the time she meets the ghost of the young girl who was murdered there, helps save the life of a student at school who is having a seizure, and leads the police to one of her schoolmates who has been kidnapped, all by demonstrating her psychic powers to her new friends, Uncle Pat is forced to believe there is more to Tara than meets the eye.

Using real places and street names in the Stillwater area helps bring this book to life. In this, the first in the series of the “My Lunatic Life” young adult novels, Sala gives us a plucky little heroine to cheer for and leaves us eager to read the next book, for after all, there is still a murder to solve if the ghost of the child in her house is to be appeased.


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