Saturday, July 20, 2019

A Wizard's Choice by Maya Tyler

A Wizard’s Choice. Maya Tyler. Tirgearr Publishing.  July 2019. pb, 170 pp.; ASIN: B07SSVX7DQ.

Kurtis Warde has to make a choice – to live as a wizard or a human.  However, he feels very obligated to his grandfather, who has raised him and protected him from the evils of the feud of centuries between the Wizards and the Faeries.  Kurtis first meets Dee, a vampire, who introduces him to a world of phenomenal sex.  He is obviously besotted by her but she sees their initial sexual encounter as just that and no more.  Kurtis is haunted by the fact that he has no idea who his mother and father are but that is about to change.

He begins to visit Alina, a Life Coach, who has the gift of reading auras and spiritually connecting to her clients with her intuitive gifts of connection.  She quickly connects Kurtis to the fact that his ancestors were the Annunaki, beings from space who were the wizards and faeries of old.  This connection unleashes the continuation of the lethal feud between the two groups and previous spells of protection no longer protect Kurtis and Alina.

Kurtis will soon know his parents but may not be able to heal the strife from which his grandfather has been protecting him all these years. A wizard uprising led by the Bauer family began to cover their plans to overthrow the Delafontaines. Kurtis was related to the faeries who nearly annihilated the family who are actually ancestors of Alina.  This then is the story of how Kurtis will act to end the feud of centuries with the help of Alina and his family.

A Wizard’s Choice is an interesting read, a romance, adventure, thriller, and magical tale full of complex characters.  Modern technology is combined with ancient spells and magic to protect characters from the nonstop conflict.  The choice turns out to be so much larger than Kurtis or his grandfather had imagined! Rather than end on a definitive note, it is clear at the end of this novel that there will be more novels in this series (this is the second in the series, although it may be read as a stand-alone novel). Nicely crafted story, Maya Tyler!

If You Want to Make God Laugh: A Novel by Bianca Marais

If You Want to Make God Laugh: A Novel.  Bianca Marais. Penguin Publishing Group.  July 2019; pb, 448 pp.; ISBN #: 9780735219311.

It’s the late 1900s.  Nelson Mandela is about to become the first African President of South Africa, but apartheid is still very much rampant in the minds of white Afrikaan citizens.  Splinter rebel groups have fought for freedom for years; now some of those groups are out to wipe out all blacks.  In this time of new freedom and old prejudices, three women wind up living together.  Zodwa is a young pregnant woman whose failures have given her mother tremendous grief.  Her brother was part of the Inkatha Freedom Group and is considered dead but his body, living or dead, has never been found.  Now Zodwa will never achieve her dreams of being educated and free.

Two sisters, Ruth and Delilah, are seeking to fashion a life of agreement but past memories in both white women haunt the present.  Ruth was a stripper and prostitute who has been married and divorced three times.  Delilah was a convert to the Catholic faith and fell in love with a priest who later abuses her.  She has a son who becomes a priest and later dies under the dominance of his father.  Delilah would do anything to see her son and discover the truth about their separation.  Meanwhile Zodwa gives birth but her mother gives away the child.  By coincidence, she finds him and agrees to work for his foster parents, Ruth and Delilah.  All three live together with their funny bantering, highly sarcastic bickering and a sense of need that brings redemption to all of their lives.

If You Want to Make God Laugh is an uplifting, solid story that is crafted well and includes a huge segment of African history that has not been well-known up to now, the period of reconciliation led by Bishop Desmond Tutu, and the plague of HIV disease that led to an AIDS crisis.  Change is a process, not a miraculous moment or miracle.  Yet many miracles happen in this tale revealing tremendous violence, sexuality, romance, Church abuse, forgiveness and growth into a new life.  You will never forget this amazing story.  Bianca Marais is a writer to watch and relish with this novel and hopefully with what will follow! Congratulations on this story of relentless love and transformation!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Layover by David Bell

Layover.  David Bell. Penguin Publishing Group.  July 2, 2019; pb, 416 pp.; ISBN #: 9780440000877.

Midway through this memorable story, Joshua Field remembers the quote about the “unexamined life” is not worth living.  During the enfolding plot that follows, Joshua realizes that he has fallen into all of his choices without much independent reflection or decision-making. Thus, he is quite amazed at the words of the woman, Morgan, whom he meets at an airport, when she tells him to quit his job and do what he really wants to do.  She is appealing and evasive at the same time.  Her behavior indicates she is in trouble but after kissing him she tells him she will never see him again.

As Joshua continues, he decides to skip his flight and join hers but is totally flummoxed when she acts as if she never met him.  Later she calls and apologizes.  The story evolves to Joshua following her and learning that indeed she is in trouble.  That trouble involves her former work situation, being treated poorly and the theft of a valuable which she needs to pay for her mother’s hospice care.  Joshua truly grows to care for her but realizes she is as ephemeral as a passing cloud. However, for once, he doesn’t run away and commits to following this mystery through to its conclusion.

It also turns out that her former boss’s brother is more involved in this trouble than just a familial interest.  The discovery of a murderer will follow. 

By the time Joshua meets his father at the end of this account, they have a new relationship, one borne of truth and honesty. 

Layover is a fine mystery for all lovers of the genre and a multilayered approach about fulfilling one’s dreams!

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Lions of the Sky by Paco Chierici

Lions of the Sky. Paco Chierici. Braveship Books. Copyright 2018. $26.99; hb, 292 pp.; ISBN: 9781640620674.

Being a Top Gun fighter pilot is not for the timid.  It’s fiercely difficult; that’s why these men and women are being tested and trained to be fighter pilots are going through real and simulated scenarios.  The action of lack of action can mean instant injury and/or death. Enter the cockpit of an F/A-18 Super Hornet and feel the force of gravity on take-off.  This team are not loners; they’re highly dependent on each other for survival.  Sam Richardson is the leader.  Sam’s dealing with a problem; he’s got two females in this latest division. He had become close to a former female pilot who died in an airplane crash.  The questions haunting Sam are did she cause the pilot error and was it because she was a weaker female pilot?  Sam has to unlearn that error in thinking because it so severely affects the current women being trained to fly in battle missions.  There are nail-biting scenes galore that are truly thrilling adventures that are so enjoyable.  Also one experiences many drinking sessions, sharing of meals, sharing of training – supportive and challenging, sad moments at funerals, gifting of hilarious and serious nicknames, on-shore leaves for officers and trainees, etc.  I absolutely loved this novel and learned so much during it.  The author is a real pilot with over 20 years of experience.  The conflict these men and women are getting ready for is a death-dealing one in the South China Sea where China is preparing to do battle with Taiwan and the Philippines over a slew of islands.  Not a training session – Paco Chierici knows how to depict the real deal!  Highly recommended historical fiction of the 21st century!

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Off the Grid: A Mystery by Robert McGaw

Off the Grid: A Mystery.  Robert McCaw. Oceanview Publishing.  July 2, 2019; pb, 304 pp.; ISBN #: 9781608093618.

On the main island of Hawaii lie numerous fields of lava-strewn, barren ground that have destroyed almost all homes, buildings, and cars in the path of exploding volcanoes spread throughout the Big Island. The mystery begins when a tattered piece of cloth leads to the remains of a man who has obviously been tortured before he was murdered and then destroyed in a horrific explosion when a truck and car collide.  A blood-curdling scream is heard as Chief Detective Koa responds to the scene but is followed by an explosion that completely destroys the car which had held the screaming woman.  So begins the hunt for the planners of what quickly seems a planned murder of both victims.

Meanwhile, an election is looming for governor and one of the campaigner’s policies involves drastic cuts in the police department, including laying off one of Koa’s peers who lost his legs in a work-related criminal investigation.  Smithy is twenty-one months away from a pension, one Koa and their peers believe is well-deserved.  There’s also something strange about the way the would-be governor, the mayor and the head of the police are cozying up with each other that goes beyond the usual political machinations.

This then is mystery driven by seemingly insignificant but related past facts.  What is a former Navy Seal doing with spending hours growing variations of orchids.  What is his girlfriend, a former spy, doing with boxes of money that arrive regularly from China?  Who are the goons that try to insert themselves in the investigation supposedly on behalf of the CIA in Langley, Washington? 

Koa has his own secrets, ones that he has sublimated into a hunger for seeking justice wherever he finds it questioned or abused.  He does not brook fools or interference, even with supposedly patriotic or noble motivations.  The struggle will reach all the way back to the beginning of the Iranian nuclear arms policy and a number of American and Chinese spies involved in the Kosovo crisis of the 1990s. 

Koa has unbelievable but remarkable detective skills and leaves no stone unturned in his search for the truth and justice regarding these two murders.  He is well-connected and capable of making connections where others would fail to tread.  This is remarkable international thriller plot that will more than satisfy others who love to read this particular genre.  Injustice ranges from Indonesian killer goons to the top of CIA and Chinese politicians.  

Off the Grid is fine historical and mystery fiction.  Well done, Robert McCaw.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Rouge: A Novel of Beauty and Rivalry by Richard Kirshenbaum

Rouge: A Novel of Beauty and Rivalry.  Richard Kirshenbaum. St. Martin’s Press.  June, 2019; pb, 320 pp.; ISBN #: 9781250150950.

Two beauty industry icons are at war in both personal and entrepreneur affairs.  They are Josephine Herz and Constance Gardiner.  So what does it take to rise to such a level of rivalry and glamor?  This is their story, which includes their amazing ideas about beauty that went beyond popular ideas of how women could dress in the most attractive style possible and wear a fragrance to enchant everyone around the wearer. 

Josephine Herz is out to offer beauty salons where one could get a full-day spa treatment that would enhance one’s skin and hair appearance.  Her goal was to make women feel like royalty and to attract higher-end customers in society’s eyes.  She always hired the most talented staff including the African-American assistant, CeeCee, who stayed with her as brilliant aide and lover, until an ultimate betrayal (since being homosexual was illegal during the 1930s in America).  CeeCee then moved her talents to the competition.

Constance Gardiner’s business began with door-to-door saleswomen who were enabled to become their own part-time businesswomen, earning up to 40% profit.  They were highly skilled and trained sales personnel who knew how to make every housewife gradually open up to exposing what they had and what they needed.  Ultimately, they were convinced that the pretty colors and colorful shades of makeup would give them that extra “something” that would enliven their marriages or lovers. 

Each woman was ashamed of her origins and Josephine tortured by her failure to extract one sister from war-torn Poland.  Constance always wanted to be more than she was and defied the era’s anti-Semitic tendencies.  Pride and ego were everything and kept them moving forward despite the weaknesses they displayed in their choice of aides, friends and lovers.

Both women open salons around the world and monitor their success and occasional flaws.  After Josephine dies, the Gardiner business sues for a stolen mascara product – a la CeeCee – but in the end, Constance has to admit that their rivalry was actually a parallel journey to be toasted in victory!!!!

Richard Kirshenbaum has crafted an account of the best and worst in the lives of the beauty icons of the early twentieth century, sparkling with descriptions of their virtues and vices, their friends and rivals, their brilliant discoveries and their hatred of the competition’s successful development.  It’s a grand read which would make a phenomenal movie.  For those who love style, fashion, business, makeup, salons, and more, enjoy the dramatic ride of Rouge….

The Good Sister: A Novel by Gillian McAllister

The Good Sister: A Novel. Gillian McAllister. Penguin Publishing Group. Copyright June 2019, pb, 400 pp.; ISBN: 9780525539391.

Martha and Becky Blackwater are extremely close sisters.  However, all that closeness is blown to bits when Martha’s eight-week-old baby, Layla, is found dead while in Becky’s care.  Becky quit her job so become Layla’s nanny.  The death of Layla, though, exposes many aspects of Becky’s life that might be construed by the jury at the trial to indicate Becky was at fault.

The chapters are narrated by the Blackwater family, acquaintances, neighbors and others who knew both sisters.  The author does a marvelous job at depicting the thoughts and feelings of these narrators during the trial with a sensitive touch.  Martha is fraught with guilt about returning to work on the charity group she created plus guilt at leaving a daughter who suffered from reflux from birth and spent most of her awake time crying from discomfort.  Becky is overwhelmed with this new job but feels too guilty to admit it; instead, she descends into drinking too much and too frequently, to the point that her child Xander is frequently afraid of her.  Others see warning signs of danger, including yelling from Becky’s home at odd times of day and night.

The parents of both sisters are anxious but try to be supportive of both sisters.  They have lost a grandchild but love their children.  No one seems to know the truth of what happened, that is until the very end of the story.  It’s unforgettable when this secret is revealed.  All still have to learn to live with the loss and the aftermath in this breach of trust and love that almost destroys an entire family.

A memorable, finely-crafted novel, The Good Sister is a good read about relationships and what challenges do to them in the present and future.  It’s also a warning about making false assumptions from evidence that is highly subjective.  Every situation is unique and above-second-guessing.  Nicely done, Gillian McAllister!