Sunday, December 7, 2014

Stirring the Plot by Daryl Wood Gerber

It’s Halloween and all the witches are out, or at least the Winsome Witches of Crystal Grove, CA, a fund-raising group made of local businesswomen who are sponsoring their annual luncheon. An evening of fun frolicking with party magicians, fortunetellers, and herbalists is planned until the body of the Head Priestess of the Winsome Witches is discovered, and murder is declared.
In this food-based cozy, (all recipes the characters use are printed for the reader in the back of the book) Jenna Hart, the owner of the Cookbook Nook, is playing amateur sleuth, as well as being mistaken, in this storyline, as a potential killer.
Everyone is under suspicion, from the deceased’s degenerate daughter to the English housekeeper with a mysterious past, to the second-in-command of the fund-raising group and even Jenna’s boyfriend, once mistakenly accused of a crime by the current chief of police, Cinnamon Pritchett. Test your detective skills as false leads and red herrings are sprinkled liberally through the novel, like a game of Clue, only where the whole town rather than just a house becomes the play-board.
A tightly woven whodunit, with a labyrinth of suspects to keep you on your game.

Betrayed by Lisa Scottoline - a review

Mary DiNunzio, head-strong Philly attorney, has finally made partner and fellow attorney, Judy Carrier, feels a little left out; her best friend is now her boss. Not sure where she’s going to fit in with the new pecking order, and overloaded with asbestos damage cases sent over by a New York law firm, Judy jumps at the chance to visit her favorite aunt Barb, even though she’ll have to gear up for some family drama, since her mother, who’s had a frosty relationship with Barb at the best of times, will be there too. 

Little does she suspect what she will discover. Along with the shocking revelation of Aunt Barbara’s diagnosis with breast cancer and impending surgery, there is the matter of Barbara’s close friend and housekeeper, Iris, an undocumented immigrant, who is found dead in her car later that evening of an apparent heart attack.

Judy, with her nose for investigation, suspects foul play. When things take a dark and violent turn as she digs deeper, it looks less and less like a heart attack was the cause of death. Most of the area’s immigrant workers are in the county illegally: the police know it and are looking the other way . . . perhaps, Judy suspects, because they are paid too. When Judy unearths a connection between Iris’s best friend going missing and more questionable financial dealings at the business where she worked, she is lucky to get out alive.

Determined not to let the grass grow under her feet and fall back into the mundane happenings once she’s able to return to her practice, Judy makes some life decisions that have repercussions for everyone at Rosato & Associates, thus setting up an interesting start for the next novel in this exhilarating series.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Brood by Chase Novak - a review

A generation ago many families used an untested, unapproved fertility serum from Europe that promised success for those that had been trying to have children. Unfortunately the side effects turned the parents into some-type of fully-body haired, hideous monsters that ate the family pets, and the odd human or two, usually in front of their growing children.
This group of kids, now known as the brood, do everything possible to stave off puberty thinking that they too will end up running down Main Street, naked, hairy and on all-fours. Novak brings us a book that could be described as Midwich Cuckoos meets Peter Pan, except all the Lost Boys are off fornicating and giving birth to children with wings, and nowhere near as cute as Tinkerbell.
Some of the children’s blood has found to have powers that rejuvenate older people’s love lives and so the group, most who live together in packs, find a way to syphon off and sell their precious commodity. A Big Brother operation is also in operation, kidnapping the kids off the street to gauge their blood and make a killing in the pharmaceutical market.  
We follow the path of creepy twins, Adam & Alice, who at thirteen are on the brink of puberty. Their parents are dead and they are being watched over by a spinster aunt who finds out she has more than normal troubles to deal with looking out for these unruly teenagers. As she tries to confine them to her loving embrace they hanker to be in the park with Rodolfo the leader of the pack. Is there a way to stop the teenagers’ hormones from kicking into over-gear? Aunt Cynthia sure seems to think she has the answers, and leads you alternatively gasping and gagging on this riot through Central Park.
This was one of the most distasteful books I ever read - from the descriptions of geriatric sex, with men whose breath smelled like old scabs, to a scene where children tear a police officer into pieces and eviscerate him to eat him, however I can’t stop talking about how disgusting it was. Read it, having been warned.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Suicide Index by Joan Wickersham - a review

A compelling look at suicide from the point of view of the grieving daughter as she shares the families thoughts and questions and blames. Her father shot himself and left no note. They troll through his recent past history, from his depression, his failed business, loans that had come due and family failings, each family member attempting to reconstruct the why's and wherefores and providing a look at the family dynamic years hence and how totally decimated a family can be when faced with such a tragedy.

Immobility by Brian Evanson - a review

In a climactic, post-apocalyptic tale the man finds himself awoken, from what he is told is thirty years on ice. Two main factions have developed in the new world and one has stolen valuable seeds from the other. He has been pulled back from his forever sleep as only he possesses the skill set to bring back the stolen product. He is told he was a fixer of sorts, a detective, in his prior life, one that he has almost total amnesia from, and that he would be unrecognizable to the other tribe and so perfect to get in and out without suspicion. That he is a paraplegic does pose somewhat of a insurmountable problem until two mules are provided, strapping young humanoids bred for this purpose, to get him there and back.
The odds of survival in the harsh region is impossible, except for the fact that he appears immune. His mules die off, he makes it back but comes to the realization that the seed he recovered was probably being stolen for the first time. His mission is compromised in his mind. Ass his body heals and he is able to walk once again he surmises  the leaders were lying to him, but why? Will he deliver the package and survive? Evenson is a fresh voice in the end-of-the-world sortee on science fiction and a voice to be followed.

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.


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