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Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Seeds of a Daisy, by Alison Caiola - a review

Initially this seems to be a story ripped from the headlines of Hollywood glitzy magazines. Emmy nominated actress Lily Lockwood, daughter of famed novelist Daisy Lockwood, has her love life splattered across the front covers of every glad-mag published. Her life-style on display for all  and sundry, the envy of all. Her hospital-themed drama, St Joe's,  has taken the TV watching nation by storm and she is riding the crest of the wave until a single car accident brings her life tumbling to the ground.
As Lily is preparing for  the biggest day of her life yet, she gets the news that her mother, who she owes all her success as an actress to, has been involved in an automobile accident and is in a coma. Dropping everything she flies across country to be at her mother's side. What she discovers is the worst possible scenario. Initially the shock is too much for her to understand the severity in the situation and she finds herself  watching the hospital scenario sensing she can use the information to better her acting chops, but after the initial consultation with the surgeon, and his team, she realizes that Daisy may never recover from her coma and reality sets in.
As friends gather to offer support, Lily finds herself in a stage of discovery, family she never knew, the real story behind her actor boyfriend's apparent infidelity and the possibility of new romance, all playing out around her as her mother's life is slowly ebbing away. Caiola entertains us with a story pulled from life experiences she recently went through and uses them to project upon us a story of a life well-lived, redemption and she uses these seeds to project upon her audience the idea of a series of upcoming novels as Lily Lockwood. Hollywood actress, prepares to burst on to the American scene in book form too.
A fine, well-worked debut novel from a new, talented author that I heartily recommend.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Temple Mount by Keith Raffel - a review

The Temple Mount is historically the place that the ancient cities of Jerusalem are allegedly buried under, both incarnations, and where the Ark of the Covenant is allegedly hidden. Both Arab and Israelis are loathe to bring the hidden religious artifact to the surface as it would cause war in the region over the true ownership of the treasure and the religious power it would offer the victor of the spoils.
Alex Kalman, recent multi-millionaire was relaxing; enjoying the good life now that his Silicon Valley corporation has been scooped up by one of the industries giants for a pretty penny. When the phone call comes in advising him that his grandfather was dying, he was astonished to find the old man was still alive. His father had left home, estranged from his own father, and died leaving the younger man the impression that he had no family, and so Alex, who now found his true name to be Aron, has been left a significant inheritance.
As his grandfather dies, Aron discovers he is the sole male heir and that his grandfather was a rabbi, in fact the rebbe; a great teacher and leader. He had also discovered a tunnel under the Temple Mount twenty-odd years before and had seen the Ark of the Covenant. Aron is tasked with going to Israel to help with the excavation of this symbol of biblical history. Assisted by archeologist Rivka Golen, a historian working for the Department of Antiquities, who was familiar with the rebbe’s teachings, they begin the monumental task of locating and bringing the Ark to the world.
They are chased by several factors all unwilling to allow them to bring the Ark to light, shot at, and thrown out of the country in this riveting, spellbinding fast-paced thriller that will have you glued to the chair until the final page is devoured.

The Shiro Project by David Khara - a review

As I read David Khara’s “The Shiro Project” I was reminded of “Immobility” by Brian Evanson. The story of two giants created for the sole purpose of completing a task. While Evanson’s fine novel is a post-apocalyptic masterpiece, “The Shiro Project” leads us into a plot that is the beginning of the end of the world.
For years, dating back to Japanese prison-of-war camps and followed up by US Army research in the late 1950s governments have been tampering with and collecting viruses to monitor, understand, and afflict these weapons of mass-destruction on their unsuspecting enemies. The Nazi’s evil geniuses, in an effort to produce the Master Race, has built almost Frankensteinish models, enlarged humans that live extended life-spans, in an effort to repopulate the world with a super-human species.
Two such characters survived. One, Eytan, fights for good, and had been recruited in to the Mossad. The other, his female counter-part, Elena, works for evil under the command of the Consortium. Eli, Eytan’s control, a man he loved like a father, is kidnapped by the Consortium and the two assassins are forced to work together. They must discover who stole a viral strain of an airborne virus, taken by terrorists for a biological attack, and report back to The Cypher with the information on where they’re stored and who stole them.
In a thrill-a-minute romp from Prague to Tokyo, the two adversaries form a link of mutual trust as they are thrust headfirst in the rush to avoid the coming apocalypse and expose the truth of the evil that men do.

The Black Stiletto V by Raymond Benson - a review

In this final segment of The Black Stiletto series, we learn along with her son and granddaughter of the exploits Judy Cooper, alias The Black Stiletto, thought of as the ultimate crime fighter.
Judy, now bed-ridden in a nursing home with dementia, had kept very thorough diaries describing her dealings with organized crime. She detailed how she worked hand-in-hand with law enforcement until a party, impersonating her, committed several high-priority crimes, stealing diamonds and killing a mobster’s daughter, which caused her to run not just from the mob but from the very same police officers she had been assisting.
Pregnant, and with the law hot on her heels, Judy finally confesses her real identity to a friend, only to have him and his brother killed as she runs from Los Angeles, CA to her hometown of Odessa, TX where she still has family, only to endanger their lives too.
We learn all the sordid details from the pages of her 1962 diary, as does her granddaughter, Gina, who also heads off to Odessa seeking answers that old age and disease can no longer provide. The relatives of her grandmother’s former nemesis discover who Gina is and kidnap her in order to secure their own answers to the one question they all want to know. Where is the missing diamond that Judy allegedly stole thirty years ago?
Along with pulsating drama, high intrigue, and suspense I was taken with how well Benson captures the female voice and the historical period it was written. Definitely worth putting the five book series on your bookcase.

The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters - a review

It was a progressive time in England. World War I was over, the British Empire covered almost a quarter of the globe but back home, in the reality of 1922, and penniless veterans roamed the streets of London trying to find work. A queer mixture of wealth and abject poverty.
Mr. Wray had died leaving his wife and daughter, Frances, to find out that he was not as careful with the bills as he might have been. They had some debts to pay off and so decided to convert three rooms upstairs in to a bed-sitter and take in a boarder, or a paying guest, as their middle-class neighborhood warranted.
The young couple that rented the rooms, Leonard and Lillian Barber, were close in age to Frances. They were very pleasant, eager to please, and paid the rent on time. Their penchant for music, their art tastes, brought youthful warmth to the house that had been missing for a while. Appearances are never quite what they appear however, and Lillian and Frances forge a bond that will test the bounds of their friendship to its limits.
Waters does a great job of building suspense and intrigue and gives us a feel for how the detectives, in what was still a fledgling Scotland Yard, conducted an investigation. A gothic, coming of age love story set in the London suburbs. The details of life during that period are aptly described, creating a historically accurate novel that leaves you guessing through to the last paragraph. Be prepared to read well past your normal bedtime “The Paying Guests” is a hard book to set down.

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