Saturday, August 27, 2016

Board Stiff: A Dead-End Job Mystery, by Elaine Viets

Every "Dead-End Job" mystery by Elaine Viets is fabulous. In each novel, protagonist, former corporate executive, Helen Hawthorn, works at a different job. The jobs, in a hair salon, bridal shop, dog grooming business and other businesses, are described as dead-end only because Helen becomes involved in murder investigations in each job. What Viets gets right every time is the warmth and honesty many of Helen's co-workers (except for the killers) bring to the job and to their friendships with Helen. In "Board Stiff," Viets brings to life the waitress who has graduated from the school of hard knocks, and the board-rental business owner who is under attack. Viets also brings back at least one tough and likeable character from prior books.

Viets creates well developed plots and smart protagonists with unique voices, including her tough, engaging landlady; Pete the parrot; Phil, Helen's handsome, silver haired, PI husband with the ponytail; and Thumbs, Helen's big, six-toed cat. (Disclaimer: I have a bias in favor of Thumbs because I am owned by a big six-toed tabby.) If you love a good mystery involving engaging, likable characters, you will love this book.

Print Length: 289 pages
Publisher: NAL (May 7, 2013)
Publication Date: May 7, 2013
Sold by: Penguin Group (USA) LLC

Brain Storm, by Elaine Viets

This book was personal for Elaine Viets. That became clear shortly after I started reading it. Having read most of her other books, the grittiness, the despair, and the pain of the protagonist in "Brain Storm" seemed out of place in a Viets novel. Yet, these elements also make it one of her best books to-date.

Angela Richman is a death investigator, a professional that meets the deceased at the crime scene and documents everything meticulously, without making judgments or drawing conclusions. Half-blinded by persistent, chronic migraines, Angela visits the scene of a deadly car crash caused by a drag race between a BMW and a Ferrari. Both cars were driven by spoiled children of the elite in a wealthy part of Missouri called "the Chouteau Forest." Angela also is a Forest resident, except she resides there because her deceased parents spent their lives as servants to one of the elite families. The victims of the crash, two 16 year old girls, one dead and one disfigured, are from that same family.

Forced by her awful headaches to go to the emergency room, Angela is sent home by an arrogant neurologist, Dr. Gravois, another member of the Forest elite, who discounts the fact that she is on hormone replacement therapy because he claims she is "too fit and too young" to be having a stroke. So Angela goes home, falls asleep and wakes up from a coma 20 days later in the ICU of Sisters of Sorrow Hospital. She learns she has had six strokes and only the talent of a socially inept, outsider, doctor has saved her life. During Angela's long recovery, she has trouble discerning reality from delusion, a problem that becomes dangerous when Dr. Gravois is murdered and she must recover her investigative skills to solve his murder before it is too late.

Angela's story is compelling on many levels. There are still many doctors who misdiagnose women based on obsolete theories taught years ago in medical schools. Women, especially women on hormone replacement therapy, are at risk for stroke, no matter how young and how fit they may be. As she explains in an afterword, in telling Angela's story, Elaine Viets tells her own story, since she too was sent home from the ER with a misdiagnosis only to suffer six strokes shortly thereafter. She tells her story, and Angela's story, well in this riveting first novel in her new series about death investigator, Angela Richman. It deserves many more stars than the five stars I am able to give it.

(In exchange for an honest review, I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.)
* Series: Death Investigator Angela Richman
* Paperback: 320 pages
* Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (August 2, 2016)

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Host, by Stephanie Meyer

This book is about an invasion of Earth by body snatchers who believe that, after the invasion, their hosts no longer have any thoughts, free will or control over their own bodies. One of the invaders, however, knows that is not true for every host and the book charts the evolving relationship between one special invader and her host. Despite its theme, this book is not a horror novel. Instead, it is a very unusual tale about relationships and the strength of free will. This is not a complex novel, but it is a very entertaining book. Five stars.

Print Length: 651 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: B00BG6M74O
Publisher: Back Bay Books; 1 edition (April 21, 2010)
Publication Date: April 26, 2010

The Yearbook, by Carol Masciola

The Yearbook" is a wonderful visit to 1923. Lola Lundy is a 16 year old orphan living in a state-run group home when she comes across a yearbook from 1923. From that point on, The Yearbook is a roller coaster ride through the highs and lows of the early 1920s and 2015. Is Lola dreaming or did she really time travel to 1923? I will not spoil the book for others, but I will say it is a marvellous book written by a storyteller who knows how to tell a very good story. Carol Masciola also has an ear for voices, and her characters reflect that talent. Lola, Miss Bryant, Whoopsie and Miss Hershey will be hard to forget.
Print Length: 224 pages
Publisher: Merit Press (October 2, 2015)
Publication Date: October 2, 2015
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC

The Forgotten Flapper: A Novel of Olive Thomas (Forgotten Actresses series Book 1), by Laini Giles

In "The Forgotten Flapper," Laini Giles manages to infuse a tragic, somewhat fictionalized, biography with the magic of the Ziegfield Follies, the excitement of early Hollywood, and the whimsey of the "Topper" movies. Olive Thomas, the subject of the book, was the first "Baby Vamp," and the term "Flapper" came from her 1920 film, "The Flapper." After dying in 1920 from an accidental poisoning, Olive, apparently, has haunted the New Amsterdam Theater on Times Square. (According to the current director of the theater, Disney contractors encountered Olive often while refurbishing the theater in the 1990s.) The story of Olive's journey from a poor, Pennsylvania family to star of the Ziegfield Follies and then to silent movie star, is both painful and endearing. Olive was a talented actress who, at the age of 21, was already trying to get experience in directing and writing movies. Giles has managed to present Olive's life without the usual, annoying cliches found in a rags to poor, little rich girl story. She also has managed to strip away the fictional gloss of the Pickford family, including Jack Pickford, Olive's husband, and Mary Pickford, Olive's sister-in-law. It's hard to imagine a crueler, colder set of in-laws than Mary and her mother Charlotte as depicted in the "The Forgotten Flapper."

Giles has given us a glimpse of the true early Hollywood, and she leaves us wondering what wonderful things Olive Thomas could have accomplished if she had not died so young...

Print Length: 422 pages
Publisher: Sepia Stories Publishing; 1 edition (August 1, 2015)
Publication Date: August 1, 2015
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC

Sunday, August 21, 2016

The Garden on Sunset: A Novel of Golden-Era Hollywood (Hollywood's Garden of Allah Novels Book 1), By Martin Turnbull

Did you ever want to time travel back to Hollywood in the 1930s? Do you inhale the films of Hollywood's Golden Age? Do you ever wonder what Hollywood was truly like at that time? If you can answer "yes" to at least one of these questions, then you must read Martin Turnbull's "The Garden On Sunset: A Novel of Golden-Era Hollywood (Hollywood's Garden of Allah Novels, Book One)."

In "The Garden on Sunset," Martin Turnbull introduces us to Kathryn, Gwendolyn, and Marcus, three 20-something odd socks who fall in with each other through happenstance: all three find themselves living at the Garden of Allah Hotel in Los Angeles.

Kathryn wants to be a journalist, despite the frantic push into acting by her stage mother. Gwendolyn, from Florida when Florida was the old South, wants to be an actress, but finds herself fighting off mashers as the Cigarette Girl at the Coconut Grove. Marcus, who was kicked out of his Pennsylvania home and family after his father caught him making out with his boyfriend, wants to write screen plays. He fled to the Garden of Allah at 8152 Sunset Boulevard because this is the address Madam Alla Nazimova had given him when she visited him years before. Her kindness to a small boy with diphtheria, and her message that he should visit her at her home, has carried him through his father's betrayal and it is the only place he knew he would be welcome.

Unfortunately for Marcus, Madam Nazimova has sold her mansion, and it has become the Garden of Allah Hotel. The three young people meet at a bash celebrating the Hotel's Opening Night (which happens to coincide with Marcus's visit). For the next three years, we follow them as they deal with bootlegged liquor and a time when unwed pregnancies were scandalous, and loving someone of the same sex could end a career and send you to prison.

While surviving their own battles with the restrictions of the times, the three friends are befriended by Talulah Bankhead, Greta Garbo, George Cukor, and Ramon Navarro, to name just a few. Madam Nazimova does finally appear, and we learn why she befriended Marcus when he was a young boy. The friends also find themselves tangled up with Louella Parsons, William Randolph Hearst, and Marion Davies.

Turnbull brings the "Golden Age of Hollywood" to life with the same type of humor, insight and love used by Armistad Maupin in "Tales of the City," his homage to 1970s San Francisco, centered around a group of iconoclastic, loving, odd-sock friends.

"The Garden on Sunset" is an exceptional book. If you love time traveling while sitting in your comfortable, reading place, you will think so too.

Print Length: 313 pages
Publication Date: January 16, 2014
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC

The Trouble with Scarlett: A Novel of Golden-Era Hollywood (Hollywood's Garden of Allah Novels Book 2), Martin Turnbull

In his second "Garden of Allah" novel, "The Trouble with Scarlett," Martin Turnbull takes us back to the late 1930s where our three friends, Kathryn, Marcus, and Gwendolyn are a little older, much wiser, and still living at Hollywood's Garden of Allah Hotel.

As Turnbull takes the gloves off, we begin to see the nastier side of old Hollywood. Louella Parsons and Kathryn go head to head (Louella shows us her claws, as she dumps a chicken fricassee dinner on Kathryn). Hedda Hopper shows up, and Kathryn proves there is more than enough Hollywood gossip for the three of them.

In this second installment, Turnbull provides us with a wonderful, front row seat to 1938-39, probably the most glorious two years for film making in Hollywood history. Along the way, we learn that Talulah Bankhead, Joan Crawford, and Paulette Goddard all were considered for the role of Scarlett in "Gone with the Wind," and that Vivian Leigh was the long shot because she was British. We also learn a few secrets concerning the making of "The Women" (my favorite film), and the "The Wizard of Oz."

In one breathtaking scene that takes place during the filming of "Gone with the Wind," we wilt with Marcus as he sweats in the heat in an old, wool, confederate uniform. Joining hundreds of extras, he moans and slowly "dies" as Scarlett (Vivien Leigh) wanders through their midst. Off camera, a still prostrate Marcus delivers a message to Leigh from George Cukor, who has been ousted as director since Clark Gable, apparently, refused to be directed by a "fairy."

We also meet F. Scott Fitzgerald as he takes up temporary residence at the Garden of Allah. As he works on screen plays, he falls on and off the wagon; and off the wagon, he is not a pretty sight. Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley move in, providing the kind of advice only they could offer (along with many authentic "Parkerisms" such as when Dorothy tells Gwendolyn that her Scarlett O'Hara-type dress "flounce per ounce ratio is just right").

It truly does not get better than this if you are a film buff and you love to "time travel" while reading. I loved Turnbull's first Garden of Allah novel, "The Trouble on Sunset," and I love this second novel. Thankfully, he has four more in print, and four more promised after that.

Print Length: 347 pages
Publication Date: January 14, 2014
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Summer at Skylark Farm, by Heidi Swain

The fens or fenlands, with its low-lying villages and farms, is an ancient, tradition-steeped part of eastern England. When Amber burns out at her stressful PR job in London, she moves her life to Skylark Farm, an apple farm in the fenlands managed by her boyfriend, Jake, and his 70-something Aunt Annie. As Amber settles in with her new life and friends, we also meet the farm's other inhabitants, including Pip, the pudgy pony, and Patricia, a very broody old hen, who patiently sits on eggs waiting for little chicks to hatch, despite the fact that this is impossible since there is no rooster at the farm.
Author Heidi Swain, with delicate strokes, draws us into the modern lives, loves and feuds of the local villagers. When Amber agrees to host the village's May Fair at the farm, she continues an ancient rite complete with gypsy fortune tellers. The world that Amber moves to, however, is not without a downside, especially when Jake's very spiteful ex-girlfriend, Holly, enters the frame intent on causing Amber harm. If you love a good British romance novel with a bit of comedy and a side of intrigue, you will absolutely love this book.

(In exchange for an honest review, I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.)
Print Length: 331 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (June 2, 2016)
Publication Date: June 2, 2016
Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Train Through Time Series, by Bess McBride

The "Train Through Time" series is a five-book, time travel, science fiction-romance saga. Each of the five books in the series focuses on the story of a different, young woman who gets on a train in the 21st Century, but falls asleep and awakens in the very early years of the 20th Century, penniless and "scandalously" miss-dressed. Leggings, shorts, and yoga pants are not what ladies wore in Edwardian society. In each book, the heroine is rescued from her dilemma by a young man, but the two do not live happily ever after until overcoming some very large obstacles. Although Bess McBride makes little effort to explain the science of the fiction, her exceptional story telling talent overrides any such flaw. The time travel stories are intriguing with tons of mystery, paradox, drama, loss and period detail. You will want to read each book more than once.

A Train Through Time (Train Through Time Series Book One)
* Print Length: 200 pages
* Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
* Publisher: Bess McBride (December 14, 2013)
* Publication Date: December 14, 2013
* Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC

Together Forever Across Time (Train Through Time Series Book Two)
* Print Length: 174 pages
* Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
* Publisher: Bess McBride (December 22, 2013)
* Publication Date: December 22, 2013
* Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC

A Smile In Time (Train Through Time Series Book Three)
* Print Length: 180 pages
* Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
* Publisher: Bess McBride (December 22, 2013)
* Publication Date: December 22, 2013
* Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC

Finding You in Time (Train Through Time Series Book Four)
* Print Length: 159 pages
* Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
* Publisher: Bess McBride (July 12, 2014)
* Publication Date: July 12, 2014
* Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC

A Fall in Time (Train Through Time Series Book Five)
* Print Length: 193 pages
* Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
* Publisher: Bess McBride (November 29, 2014)
* Publication Date: November 29, 2014
* Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Paris Time Capsule, by Ella Carey

In "Paris Time Capsule," Ella Carey tells the intriguing story of a Parisian flat that was sealed for 70 years.

In 1940, Isabelle de Florian locked the door to her flat on the Rue Blanche for the last time. Inside was a time capsule from France's glorious Belle Epoque era, 1871 to 1914. Virtually every surface was covered with the gifts her grandmother, Marthe de Florian, had received from wealthy, powerful male admirers when she was the pre-eminent Demimondaine (courtesan) of Paris society. When Isabelle dies in 2010 at the age of 91, her will mysteriously leaves the flat and its contents to Cat Jordan, an American photographer who is the granddaughter of Isabelle's closest friend, Virginia, an American who spent many years living with Isabelle and Marthe in the 1930s. Cat, however, had never heard her grandmother speak of Isabelle, and Isabelle's descendants know nothing of the flat. Why did Isabelle turn her back on the apartment? Why did she not leave it to her own family? Why did she leave it to Virginia's granddaughter when she never contacted Virginia after 1940? These are just a few of the questions that Carey answers as she meticulously unfolds the story.

The time capsule flat actually existed. It was unsealed in 2010, and it was indeed owned by Isobelle de Florian. The story Carey tells, however, is an intriguing and absorbing fictional tale told by a master storyteller who grabs the reader and does not let go. In her more recent, "The House by the Lake," Carey unfolds her inspired tale even further. I read each novel in one sitting apiece, and I am impatiently awaiting her next novel.

Print Length: 282 pages
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (May 26, 2015)
Publication Date: May 26, 2015
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC

The House by the Lake, by Ella Carey

In "The House by the Lake," Ella Carey rolls out a story of a "schloss" or landed estate, in the former East Germany that was almost destroyed, first by the Nazis and then by the Soviet occupation, and that has been left to rot in a village that is also dying. In telling the story of this schloss, Carey focuses on 94 year old Max Albrecht and his granddaughter, Anna, living in 2010, San Francisco. After the story breaks about a time capsule flat in Paris, opened after 70 years of abandonment, Max asks Anna to do one favor for him. He has never spoken of his past, but he asks her to retrieve something for him hidden in the schloss, his family's ancestral home.

As Anna carries out her task, her family's past unfolds for her, one small morsel at a time. Anna learns that her grandfather had a connection to the time capsule flat, and that he fled the Nazis, and his family in 1940. Since he has always refused to discuss the past, she must figure out why he never went back to Germany and why he cut all ties with his family. Along the way, as Anna visits the cosmopolitan, reunified Berlin, and the struggling rural villages of the former DDR, she learns that "the past must be dealt with on its own terms."

This is not a history book, although there is history in it as Carey goes back and forth between the 1930s and 2010. It also is not a frothy romance, although there is romance. It is historical fiction, with some true history. It also tells a very intriguing, suspenseful story that will make you think.

(I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Print Length: 258 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1503934152
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (March 29, 2016)
Publication Date: March 29, 2016
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC

The Goldfinch: A Novel (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction), by Donna Tartt

This is a book that will haunt you in the best sense of that word. Ignore the snarky reviews that claim the book is defective because it has a young protagonist. So did "Catcher in the Rye," and several of Mark Twain's novels. Having a young protagonist does not make this book a "Harry Potter-style, children's book," as several of the book's most famous critics have asserted. The Goldfinch is a story of a young man who is lost emotionally and mentally after his mother is killed in a terrorist bombing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He survived, and events occurred during the bombing and its aftermath that unfold in the book. I loved this book, and I loved the flawed and wonderful characters that Donna Tartt brought to life, including the artist who painted the Goldfinch, and his vulnerable little bird. If you love to read good books, you will love this book

Print Length: 760 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company (October 22, 2013)
Publication Date: October 22, 2013
Sold by: Hachette Book Group

The Cottage at the End of the Lane: A Foldout Dollhouse Story, By Elaine Mills

A charming, endearing book. Written as a children's book, but you will want to keep it for yourself.

Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers; First Edition edition (August 9, 1994)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0517597039
ISBN-13: 978-0517597033
Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 8.5 x 10.5 inches

Picture Miss Seeton (A Miss Seeton Mystery Book 1), by Heron Carvic

"Picture Miss Seeton" was first published in 1968, but the setting is not the swinging England one associates with the 1960s. Instead, the interaction between the characters, as well as Carvic's description of village life, could easily be placed at any time in the 1950's. As one who enjoys to time travel while reading, I found this to be one of the book's greatest attractions.

On the eve of visiting her newly inherited cottage, in the (fictious) English coastal village of Plummergen, Miss Seeton stumbles upon a London murder in progress. She confronts the murderer by poking him with her umbrella. Thus, Miss Seeton becomes embroiled in her first murder mystery.

Her country cottage is everything it should be, including a cupboard under the stairs, a twisty staircase, and a quiet bedroom facing the rear garden. As all of her new village neighbors cluck, with "seed borne on the breath of a scandal," about Miss Seeton's very recent run-in with a murder in London, (which, of course, was in all of the newspapers), Miss Seeton tries to settle into what may become her permanent new home. Peace, however, is not what she finds. After befriending a young resident of the village, she approaches the police detective on "her" murder case, and innocently passes along information on another crime from her young friend. The detective is then sure that Miss Seeton has the soul of a crime solver and admonishes his aide de camp that until he can understand Miss Seeton, he will "get nowhere as a detective."

Although Miss Seeton appears to be a subtle parody of Miss Marple, the gentleness with which Carvic depicts her, combined with his obvious admiration for the toughness of his "old bird," belies any notion that he intended her to be the object of ridicule. This book is a great introduction to the Miss Seeton cozy mystery series. Those readers who like a good cozy mystery, with a touch of grit and a gallon of very funny humor, will be very glad it is back in print.

(I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Print Length: 209 pages
Publisher: Farrago; 3 edition (May 5, 2016)
Publication Date: May 5, 2016
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC

Miss Seeton Draws the Line (A Miss Seeton Mystery Book 2), By Heron Carvic

The year is sometime in the 1960s and Scotland Yard is stumped. There is a child murderer on the loose and the Yard has no clue as to who it is or why the children are being murdered. Detective Superintendent Delphick, known as "The Oracle," calls in Emily Seeton, ("MissEss"), a retired art instructor who helped him solve a series of murders in "Picture Miss Seeton," the first novel in this series.

MissEss, deeply concerned that she doesn't have much artistic talent, proves just the opposite as her intuitive, and probably psychic, abilities allow her to draw sketches for the Oracle that identify a child at risk, that crack the modus operandi of a series of Post Office robberies, and that identify two very nasty murderers. Along the way, MissEss's empathetic instincts also save an unjustly accused young man, and cause her to unknowingly place herself in great danger multiple times. MissEss, however, has a new friend who recognizes that MissEss and her umbrella ("brolly") are survivors. This friend, newly promoted, crime writer, Miss Mel Forby, proves, in many ways, to be as understatedly brilliant at her job as MissEss is at hers.

Heron Carvic clearly loved MissEss and took great joy in writing about her escapades with a dry, subtle wit that may have scorched the village busy bodies, but never disrespected his heroines. This is a five star novel written by a five star author. I highly recommend that you gobble up this series.

(I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)
Print Length: 212 pages
Publisher: Farrago; 3 edition (May 5, 2016)
Publication Date: May 5, 2016
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC

Monday, August 15, 2016

Puppy Mind, by Andrew Jordan Nance

This is a delightful book with an important message for young readers who are having trouble focusing or who are anxious. The illustrations make this book super special--they are truly magnificent!

(In exchange for an honest review, I received an advance copy from the publisher via NetGalley.)
Publisher: Plum Blossom (September 13, 2016)
Publication Date: September 13, 2016
Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services

Into Dust, by B.J. Daniels

B.J. Daniels has a unique gift. She weaves plots within plots within plots effortlessly. If this was any other author but Daniels, the layer upon layer of plots and characters would exhaust any reader trying to keep names, dates and subplots straight. Daniels, however, has the magic touch. Not only are her books not confusing, they are addictive for readers who love meaty plots with tons of intrigue--like me.

In her latest book, "Into Dust," Daniels centers her story around Cassidy Hamilton, the youngest daughter of Buckmaster and Sarah Hamilton. In earlier books, we learned that Buckmaster was running for president and that Sarah had suddenly reappeared, without her memory, 22 years after her disappearance and supposed death.

Cassidy has been lured to Houston by several new acquaintances. While walking to meet them, she is accosted. Jack Durand stops her assailant from abducting her. Jack, a rancher, had been following one of his father's employees after he saw his father, Tom Durand, hand that employee a large envelope full of cash. Together, Jack and Cassidy must figure out why his dad wants her kidnapped, or dead, and where Cassidy's mother has been for 22 years......

Are you hooked yet? If not, you will be if you read just a few pages of this book. It's a great summer read!

(In exchange for an honest review, I received an advance review copy from the publisher via NetGalley.)
Print Length: 368 pages
Publisher: HQN Books (August 1, 2016)
Publication Date: July 26, 2016
Sold by: Harlequin Digital Sales Corp.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Anxious Lawyer, by Jeena Cho and Karen Gifford

Lawyers are notoriously cynical, and meditation is not the first thing the average lawyer thinks about when he/she is burnt out. Quitting law, sabbaticals, long vacations, and/or changing jobs are what pops into the mind of a very tired, very anxious attorney. I should know, I have practiced law for over two decades. Accordingly, I have to admit that I approached "The Anxious Lawyer" looking for a quick fix, will it "fix" the problem now? I found that the answer is both yes and no. The act of reading the book is the beginning of the "fix." Learning to meditate, grappling with mindfulness, learning to breathe and have compassion for yourself, as well as others, these are some of the lessons Jeena Cho teaches. I think Cho's seminar must be an effective continuing legal education course, and I would like to see it offered. I also think this book would be a very effective audio book or dvd (if they don't exist already). Will this book "cure" anxiety? No, the practice of law produces overwhelming amounts of anxiety, as does almost any profession in 2016. Cho does, however, provide many of the tools needed for dealing with that anxiety and minimizing the damage to your health and mental well being.

(In return for an honest review, I was provided with an advance review copy of the book by the publisher via NetGalley.)

Print Length: 251 pages
Publisher: Ankerwycke (July 1, 2016)
Publication Date: July 1, 2016
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC

ELGIN PARK: Visual Memories of Midcentury America at 1/24th scale, by Michael Paul Smith and Gail K. Ellison

Michael Paul Smith and Gail K. Ellison recreate, in 1/24 scale (1/2 inch = 12 inches), midwest houses, streets and life from the 1920s onward, including Smith's own childhood home. Smith also provides instructions on how to build, how to create the right mood, and how to best photograph the scene. I am a miniatures collector and creator, and I have explored this world for most of my adult life. Elgin Park astounded me, it blew me away. This is a book to spend time with, to absorb one photo and one page at a time, and to keep around for years to come. I absolutely loved it!

(A page from Elgin Park demonstrates how amazing this book is.)

(I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Perfect Paperback: 324 pages
Publisher: Animal Media Group LLC; 1st edition (June 24, 2015)
Language: English

Thirtiestyle: Home Decoration and Furnishings from the 1930s (Moda Style Guides), by Katie Arber

This is a wonderful collection of advertisements and photos that depict the influence of the Art Deco/ Art Moderne style on British furniture and interiors during the 1930s. If this is your decor style, or you just like/love this period, this is the book for you. I love this book!

Series: Moda Style Guides
Paperback: 64 pages
Publisher: Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture; New edition edition (July 23, 2015)

Art Deco, by Camilla De La Bedoyere

This is a beautiful little book full of photos of art, furniture, textiles and ephemera from the Art Deco era. If you love this era, as I do, you will treasure this book!

Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Star Fire (2006)
Language: English

Want to Know: Going To the Theater, by Florence Ducatteau (Author) and Chantal Peten (Illustrator)

The illustrations in this children's book on the theater are wonderful, and they make the book very special. The author also does a good job setting out the history of ancient theater and describing the basics of modern plays, acting, directing, and scripts. It is a remarkable book that I wish had been published when I was ten. (I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Age Range: 5 and up
Grade Level: Kindergarten and up
Series: Want to Know
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Clavis (July 12, 2016)

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Dancing Books: Sometimes you just have to get off the shelf and dance!

The White Cottage Mystery, by Margery Allingham

Imagine being a female author writing police procedural mysteries in the 1920s. Margery Allingham was born in 1904, and she wrote "The White Cottage Mystery" in 1928. She was one the most pre-eminent mystery writers during the "golden age" of detective fiction. Luckily for those of us who love classical mystery novels, Bloomsbury Reader has just reissued this book, and has plans to re-issue more of Allingham's books.

W.T. Challoner is a British detective with the "yard," and he has a young, adult son, Jerry. Jerry has an eye for pretty ladies and offers one, with a blister on her heel, a ride home while driving down a lovely country lane. Shortly after dropping her off, after stopping to put his car's roof up, and chatting with a local policeman, he hears a gun shot and a parlour maid comes running out of house screaming (what else?), "Police! Murder!"

Although constrained by her age to use only acceptable language, and polite terms, Allingham pushes the boundaries set by the British class system and the social mores affecting women. Published in 1928, the plot is actually set five years after the beginning of WW I, which makes several of the plot revelations quite shocking for the time. Allingham also depicts a darker undercurrent, one that is reminiscent of the early Dorothy Sayers's Lord Peter Whimsey stories, and several of Agatha Christie's novels. Set in England, Paris and the Riveria, the book offers a wonderful window into those places after the Great War. If you appreciate a good mystery, with a calm, polite unfolding of the plot, and no gore, you will love this book. If you have read it before, revisiting Allingham is still a treat. I give the book five stars. (I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

  • Print Length: 170 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Reader; 1 edition (October 28, 2011)
  • Publication Date: October 28, 2011
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC

When We Meet Again, by Kristin Harmel

"When We Meet Again," is much more than romantic novel. I read this book in one sitting because I was captured by Kristen Harmel's profound story telling ability and exquisite use of words. The protagonist in the novel, Emily Emerson, has lost her job as a syndicated relationship columnist at a local newspaper. Daily, she deals with the pain of her father's abandonment of the family when Emily was eleven. Her father also deals with the pain of abandonment, since he never knew his father. His mother, Emily's grandmother, Margaret Emerson, raised him alone. After Emily's mother died when Emily was 16, Margaret also raised Emily.

Now in her mid-thirties, Emily refuses her father's attempt to reestablish a relationship, and her anger at him is palpable. Her anger is mixed with her grief over Margaret's recent death, and her constant pain over giving her baby up for adoption when she was 18.

Out of the blue, a beautiful painting is sent to Emily from an art gallery in Munich. It is of a woman in a red dress in a field of sugar cane. The sky is a gorgeous violet. A note accompanies the painting. It says, "your grandfather never stopped loving her. Margaret was the love of his life." The mystery of this painting sends Emily to the former German POW camps near Lake Okeechobee, Florida, and to her grandmother's hometown in Belle Creek, Florida. There she learns that over 400,000 captured German soldiers were sent to POW camps across the U.S. in order to fill the labor shortage caused by World War II. Unlike the Nazis, the U.S. complied with the Geneva Convention, and treated the POWs well. Near Lake Okeechobee, the POWs harvested the sugar cane fields, and it is there that POW Peter Dahler met Margaret and fell in love. Emily also learns that her grandmother's family disowned her when she became pregnant with Peter's baby. Driven by the need to solve the mystery of the painting and the mystery of the disappeared Peter, Emily accepts her father's help and the pair go to Munich, Savannah, and Atlanta.

Kristen Harmel elegantly creates mysteries within mysteries within mysteries. The ending took my breath away, and I cannot praise this book enough. If you love good, well written books, you will love "When We Meet Again." (I received this copy from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.)

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Lost Tycoon: The Many Lives of Donald Trump, by Harry Hurt, III

The Lost Tycoon is an exhaustive depiction of Trump's scams, cons and lies. Here are just a few take aways:

- Trump used illegal labor from Poland to tear down the old building on the site where Trump Towers would be built. The laborers slept on the construction site, and many were never paid. (And they destroyed the Art Deco statues and grill work in order to meet the construction deadlines. Trump apparently ordered this destruction, despite promising to preserve the statues, etc.)

-Trump Plaza, in Atlantic City, met its state minority contractor quota by listing Mike Tyson as a minority contractor.

- Trump used Damin Aviation to ferry himself and others back and forth to Atlantic City. Joe Weichselbaum headed it up until he was indicted on illegal drug smuggling (Hurt wonders if there was any truth to the rumor that Weichselbaum procured cocaine for Trump's casino high rollers). Then the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) forced Weichselbaum out. Weichselbaum pled guilty and was sent to prison. A year later, Weichselbaum's girlfriend paid $2.35 million for two apartments in Trump Towers, claiming the money was her own. When Weichselbaum was paroled, he moved into the apartments (now a duplex) and told the parole board he was going to be Trump's helicopter consultant.

- In 1989, three of Trump's top Atlantic City executives were killed in a helicopter crash following a meeting with Trump. Upon hearing of their deaths, Trump told a colleague that he couldn't resist milking the deaths for publicity. He then falsely claimed he was supposed to be on that flight.

- Ivana worked hard at Trump's hotels and casinos, despite his constant attempts to belittle her work (during their famous divorce, he once claimed she stayed home and did the laundry).

- The book reports on Ivana's divorce-deposition testimony where she claimed that Trump violently raped her and tore out chunks of her hair because he believed her plastic surgeon had harmed him by performing a poor scalp reduction surgery. He was in great pain, and he blamed Ivana. Ivana disclaims the rape in a letter inserted in the beginning of the book. In it she claims that her use of the term "rape" only meant that Trump was "not loving" to her.

Story after story about Trump's temperament fill this book. Trump seems to have lurched from one temper tantrum to the next, from one lie to the next, from one con to the next. He claimed his wife and children were important to him, but business and money seem to always have been his true love. As set out in this book, there are two constants with regard to Trump's personality: if the truth doesn't suit Trump, he changes it, and he will not tolerate criticism of any kind. This is an important, highly charged expose of Trump's past. Unfortunately, it only covers Trump's life up until the early 1990's. Nonetheless, this is a book that should be read by voters in this election year.

(Although I read a Kindle Unlimited version of this book, as of the date of this review, this version has been pulled by Amazon.)

Hardcover: 447 pages
Publisher: W W Norton & Co Inc; 1st edition (May 1993)
Language: English

The Life Intended, by Kristin Harmel

Are we living the life we are intended to live, do we construct the life we want to live, or is life a combination of individual will and fate? These are the questions around which Kristin Harmel weaves her story in "The Life Intended."

Kate Waithman, a music therapist who works with children, has been a widow for 12 years. Now at age 40 she is engaged to the "perfect" man. Suddenly she starts having vivid dreams where she is still living with her husband, and they have a 12 year old, hard of hearing daughter. The dreams are so real, Kate begins a course in American Sign Language in order to better communicate with her dream daughter. Through this sign language course, she expands her music therapy to include hard of hearing foster children, and her life takes an unexpected turn.

Although at times Kate comes across as too weak and vulnerable for my taste, I think this weakness is key to demonstrating the growth of her character as Kate regains her willingness to take risks and truly live and love again. In her trademark fashion, Kristin Harmel tells an engrossing story with a heart stopping, wonderful ending.

Print Length: 368 pages
Publisher: Gallery Books (December 30, 2014)
Publication Date: December 30, 2014
Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc

Toto's Tale and True Chronicle of Oz, by Sylvia Patience

L. Frank Baum wrote 14 novels about the land of Oz before his death in 1919. The books were so popular that sequels continued to be written after his death by many different authors. There have also been stage plays, musicals, an early silent film and, of course, the glorious 1939 film starring Judy Garland. Yet, despite all of the above, no one has written Toto's side of the story. (You remember Toto, the adorable little dog who never left Dorothy's side. Who can ever forget the Wicked Witch of the West cackling "I will get you and your little dog too"?) Until now.

In "Toto's Tale and True Chronicles of Oz," Sylvia Patience gives Toto his voice. This is his story, and it is very charming and endearing. There are no big surprises. We know he loved Dorothy and that she loved him. We also know he fell asleep in the field of poppies, that he barked at everyone and that he was terrified of the winged monkeys, (every child was terrified of them, I still get chills thinking about them). We didn't know, however, that Toto ran away from an abusive farmer as a puppy, and that he was rescued by Dorothy as she stepped off the Orphan Train in Kansas. We also didn't know that he peed on the Wicked Witch's leg and caused her to begin to melt! (Dorothy threw a bucket of water to stop the melting, and we know what happened then-she melted away completely). Some of these "facts" were added by Patience, some are in the original Baum novels, like the fact that Baum named the Tin Man, Nick Chopper, the Scarecrow, Jack Straw and the Cowardly Lion, Leo the Lion. Ms. Patience weaves all of the above, and more, into Toto's Tale, and the end result is a wonderful children's novel that will delight and enchant children and adults alike. (In exchange for an honest review, I was provided with a review copy by the publisher via NetGalley.)

Print Length: 248 pages
Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0692542558
Publisher: Sylvia Patience; 1 edition (November 9, 2015)
Publication Date: November 9, 2015
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC

Marvel's Captain America: Sub Rosa, by David McDonald

Swashbuckling Captain America saves the girl and the good guys, while battling forces within and without America who want to destroy freedom. David McDonald does a great job of showing both the sorrowful side of Steve Rogers and his heroic side, although perhaps both sides are the same. Rogers is a man out of time. His era was WWII, big bands, swing music, small town America and fighting enemies who clearly were evil. In 2016, the lines are not so clearly drawn, and, at times, Rogers has a hard time understanding how certain forces within his own government can conduct black ops and cavalierly restrict freedom in the name of the "greater good." Don't expect to only be entertained by this book (and it is entertaining), you may also find yourself siding with Rogers and questioning whether two wrongs actually can ever make a right. (I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review.)

Print Length: 240 pages
Publisher: Joe Books Ltd. (July 13, 2016)
Publication Date: July 13, 2016
Sold by: HarperCollins Publishers

The Misadventure of Sherlock Holmes, by Giles Chanot

Arthur Conan Doyle would be honored by this latest addition to the world of Sherlock Holmes literature. Full of the Edwardian era details we have come to associate with Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, Chanot's book was hard to put down. A great gift for true Sherlock fans. (In return for an honest review, I was provided a review copy by the publisher via Net Galley.)

Print Length: 232 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publication Date: January 4, 2016
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC

Star Trek: Starfleet Academy, by Mike Johnson, Ryan Parrott & Derek Charm

"Star Trek: Starfleet Academy" (yes, Star Trek!) is an enjoyable foray into the academic life of some favorite Star Trek characters, including Kirk and Spock. Nyota Uhura and T'Laan lead the way as the young students deal with romance, studies, time travel and competition. The art work surpasses the plot and dialogue in vibrancy and color. I give this book four stars. (In exchange for an honest review, I was provided a review copy by the publisher via NetGalley.

Series: Star Trek: Starfleet Academy
Paperback: 120 pages
Publisher: IDW Publishing (August 16, 2016)

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Valley of the Moon: A Novel, by Melanie Gideon

On a sunny day in April, the ground shook and a thick grey fog encircled Greengage farm, a communal enclave near Sonoma, California. It was 1906, and the great San Francisco earthquake had just struck. Joseph, the British founder of Greengage, soon realizes that the fog kills anyone who tries to go through it. Four months later, the now isolated community still has not found a way to break through this fog. Then Lux, an unwed mother, struggling to make ends meet in San Francisco while caring for a young son and working in a bar, stumbles through the fog. Lux, however, is from 1975. Apparently the only person able to travel through the fog unharmed, Lux discovers that time flows differently in Greengage; while the community has experienced a passage of time of only four months since the earthquake, close to 70 years have passed on the outside.

Weaving a delicate tapestry composed of her own unique story, combined with hints of Brigadoon, C.S. Lewis, H.G. Wells, and non-Orwellian futurism, Gideon gifts us with a compelling novel of familial and romantic love trapped and then freed by time and circumstances.

Valley of the Moon is a fascinating book that spans more than two centuries, I could not put it down. (I was provided a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley in return for an honest review.)

Print Length: 416 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books (July 26, 2016)
Publication Date: July 26, 2016
Sold by: Random House LLC

The Titanic Murders, by Max Allan Collins

The Titanic Murders, by Max Allan Collins, all in all is an excellent book. I have read several of Collins' other historical mysteries and I continue to be impressed by his mastery of historical detail. Although Jaques Futrelle, the lead character and the author of the Professor Van Dusen detective stories, was one of the Titanic's victims over 100 years ago, Collins brings him to life and makes his death a recent tragedy.

Collins also gives the reader a front row seat to the Titanic's staterooms, cabins, restaurants, and lounges. For the first time, I learned that the Titanic's steerage passengers enjoyed the most luxurious accommodations ever provided to steerage class travelers. The floors and walls were sparkling, the beds comfortable, each cabin had washing facilities, and the meals were both tasty and abundant. The second class accommodations were the equivalent of first class on other ships, and the first class staterooms were unsurpassed in their luxury. Each of the characters that Collins introduces to us, lives, laughs, conspires, and, some even love. Too many, however, lose their lives when the great ship sinks. That is history's fault, not Collins'. Nonetheless, I am grateful that Collins did not devote many pages to describing the tragic sinking. I also am grateful that Collins avoided the cliche of allocating blame for the tragedy. He tells a truthful story with some whimsical attributes, and he solves a mystery. If you enjoy mystery novels that make you smarter, you will enjoy this book.

Mass Market Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Berkley; 1st edition (April 1, 1999)
Language: English

The Girl Who Could Read Hearts

Six year old Katie loves her plastic angel doll named Etta Ebella. With Etta's magical help, Katie sees the light, vibrant colors and love in her family's hearts. She also sees the darkness and snakes in some other hearts outside her family. Born with red hair, just like her beloved "Grammy Mer," Katie is gifted with unexplainable talents. Although religious belief plays a role in the book, Maysonave approaches faith from Katie's inclusionary standpoint: there is "Jesus-man," who is all things to every religion, and there is the Great Angel Mother who is the feminine side of God. Prejudice, the " pre-judging" of others, is taboo. Those that practice "churchianity" instead of Christianity are called out for being small-minded hypocrites, who are at times dangerous and evil. "The Girl Who Could Read Hearts" is a delightful, inspiring novel. In a world that seems to be getting darker, Maysonave creates a little child to help us focus on the beauty of our planet, and to help us let the light in. (In exchange for an honest review, I was provided a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley.)

Publisher: Balboa Press (April 26, 2016)
Publication Date: April 26, 2016
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC