Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Bring Her Home by David Bell

Bring Her Home. David Bell. Penguin Publishing Group. July 2017. 464 pp. ISBN #: 9780399584442. 

Summer and her best friend Haley have disappeared.  Now, a year and a half after the death of Summer’s Mom, Bill, learns that his daughter Summer is in the hospital in the Intensive Care Unit and Haley is dead!  No one yet knows what happened; all that is known is that both girls were found badly beaten.  On his arrival at the hospital, Bill is angry about all the unknowns and wants to go speak to the guys the girls used to hang around.  Haley’s parents arrive to comfort him, remarkable to say the least since their loss is a million times worse than his. 

A few weeks later, the unbelievable happens!  It turns out that the girls used to switch clothes all the time and it’s really Summer who has been killed and Haley who is alive!  It’s beyond one’s imagination and one can barely understand Bill’s shock and grief.  Add to that another girl is missing!  Then there’s a question about whether it was Summer who was dead!  Crazy-making revelations!

This then is the story of a mystery left to unfold!  By now we know that Bill has a definite anger management problem and that he has been questioned about his own relationship with Summer and her Mom.  But that’s minor compared to the facts about to be revealed.  The solution lies with a very friendly neighbor and a bunch of guys trying to up the ante on their competitive reputation as womanizers, that is, tallying the number of girls they’ve slept with.  Silly and childish, right?  But what happens when some go too far?

Bring Her Home is a mystery, a crime thriller!  It also, however, is a satire on those who live daily lives without really paying attention to what spouses and children are doing on a day-to-day basis.  It’s a call to awareness as a few hours can make all the difference between life and death!

Stunning novel that, although somewhat contrived, is a spine-tingling, hair-raising read!  

A Mother Like Mine: Hartley-By-The-Sea No. 3 by Kate Hewitt

A Mother Like Mine: Hartley-By-The Sea No. 3. Kate Hewitt. Penguin Publishing Group/Berkley. August 2017. 384 pp. ISBN #: 9780399583797.  

Abby Rhodes, now a widow, and her 5-year-old son, Noah, have returned to Hartley-by-the-Sea and remained for two years now.  She’s just about taken over running the cafĂ© on the beach as her grandmother Mary has recently had a heart attack and is not well at all.  Imagine their surprise when a knock on the door reveals that Abby’s mother, Laura, has now returned and plans on staying indefinitely.  Laura was, as far as Abby is concerned, an absentee mother for as long as Abby can remember!

This is the story of their reunion and attempt to resolve pain from the past, an opportunity to reshape the future as a family.  Sounds lovely as an idea, but it’s a difficult labyrinth to travel.  No one knows how it will all end!
Abby lives in a constant tension of feeling anger and hurt at her mother’s failure as a mother and a mature attitude and effort to put it behind her.  Giving her mother a second chance is a tall order, but Mary begs her repeatedly to try.  Noah, as a child and grandchild, is innocent about it all and he is the glue that keeps the whole quagmire from exploding and decimating the family again.

As the story progresses, Abby and Laura discover that each carries an unknown story with elements that were unpredictable, causing choices that may or may not have been best for all involved. 

Eventually a great loss and a surprising revelation will change their lives forever.  This is a story of love with all its messy and wonderful moments, a healing journey that forges a new relationship to last forever!

Fine, fine story that is a tense, poignant but lovely read!!!! Highly recommended!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Shadow Girl: An Afton Tangler Thriller No. 2 by Gerry Schmitt

Shadow Girl: An Afton Tangler Thriller No. 2. Gerry Schmitt. Penguin Publishing Group. August 2017. 320 pp. ISBN #: 9780425281789.  

This old-fashioned mystery opens with the reader discovering that a woman packs a long-range missile and proceeds to calmly shoot down a helicopter, an act that not only obviously kills the pilot and his assistant but also causes numerous injuries when the pieces fall on the streets of Minneapolis.  What’s more important, however, is that the helicopter was carrying a brand-new heart that was supposed to be put into Leland Odin, the magnate owner of a home shopping network. Without it, Leland’s hours to live are dwindling rapidly!

Afton Tangler is the family liaison officer for the Minneapolis Police Department.  She and her partner proceed to investigate what starts as a crash and then evolves into a murder.  The pace is quick and the number of suspects grows with each turned page.   Is it the wife who seems normally concerned about this event but whose responses occasionally seem contrived?  Is it the strangely unconcerned daughter whose middle name could be “Frosty?’ Perhaps Leland’s partner, Bart, who is courting a buy-out of another home shopping network, has bigger plans that just might not include Leland?

While we discover who is the perpetrator half-way through the novel, that doesn’t spoil anything as more murders and a truly exciting search and find mission keep the reader’s adrenaline pumping.  Add to that we want to know the why of the crime as well as how it will all evolve! 

There’s an international espionage component to this story and it turns out that Afton Tangler is one hell of a great investigator, a fact that just might wind up with her being moved officially into the Police Department, that is if she survives being a target as she and her partner get closer to the enemy!!!

Fine, fine mystery that is a great read!!!! Highly recommended!

Pieces of Happiness: A Novel of Friendship, Hope and Chocolate by Ann Ostby

Pieces of Happiness: A Novel of Friendship, Hope and Chocolate. Ann Ostby. Carole Baron - editor. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. August 2017. 320 pp. ISBN #: 9780385542807.  

After Kat spent years traveling around the world with her husband Niklas on humanitarian missions, he dies and Kat is a bit lost.  So she invites her Norwegian high school best friends to live with her on the island of Fiji.  Ingrid, Maya, Sina, and Lysbeth agree and the reunion and aftermath is wonderful and stunning!

Age shapes all of us but sometimes a different circumstance propels a person into change. Each chapter is narrated by one of the five friends. Deciding to abandon one’s staid images, jettison a leech of a son, permit one’s sensual side to emerge, engage in leading the initiation of a “chocolate” enterprise, becoming a trusting child, abandoning one’s judgmental standards and so much more fill these pages.  These women cooperate with, challenge, and learn from each other. 

Atetha is a native Fijian who teaches them all about the rich culture of this land where people learn to find joy in life, no matter what problems exist, and share that richness with each other in dance, food, art, language and more.  A friend helps the women when they decide to produce a chocolate business from the cocoa trees on Kat’s property.  Many latent gifts begin to grow in each character during this time.

Secrets are a surprise that initially shock the reader but how these characters interact about these secrets is phenomenal, almost unreal but delightful!

When people think of the tropical islands, the relaxed, lush background induces one to relax and live a “vacation” style.  This is true but there is so much more that the islands have to teach these women and Anne Otsby has captured it all in a highly recommended, delightful read!!!!!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Trueluck Summer by Susan Gabriel

Trueluck Summer. Susan Gabriel. Wild Lily Arts Inc. October 2016. 350 pp. ISBN#: 9780998105000.

Ida Trueluck, a widow, moves into her son’s home in Charleston, South Carolina, in the summer of 1964. Her husband has just died, and she’s not quite sure she’s doing the right thing but she is willing to try it for a while. The only sure thing is her love for her granddaughter, Trudy, a 12 year-old girl full of spunk, questions and smartness. Little do they know at the beginning of that summer that they are about to change history forever.
1964 is the time of pre-Civil Rights Act conflict. The residents of Charleston know that change is coming but few are truly welcoming it. It’s not appreciated when a young African-American boy, Paris, saves Trudy’s life. In fact, it brings the Ku Klux Klan alive and their act appalls Trudy’s father, the Mayor of Charleston. Not only does Trudy find the Klan’s act terrible, but she is determined to continue her friendship with Paris. They also decide they need to do more to make things “right.”

This then is the story of their escapade, their plan to remove the Confederate flag outside of the capital building. When reading this, one wonders if their sanity has run amok as not only is it an impossible endeavor but the implications of success are terrible to contemplate.

To say more would spoil one of the most lovely coming-of-age stories this reviewer has read in a long time. Their actions are so realistically planned and carried out that the reader totally empathizes with their dream and roots for them to the very last page. They truly depict true friendship, loyalty and integrity.

Susan Gabriel conveys a realistic, sensitive point of view for all the characters involved herein, clearly reflecting and paralleling the state of segregation and evolution of that belief system during the 1960s.

Trueluck Summer is highly recommended historical fiction, lovely writing with thought-provoking scenes that apply to the present as well as the past!

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Punch Escrow by Tal M. Klein

The Punch Escrow. Tal M. Klein. Geek and Sundry. July 2017. 300 pp. ISBN #: 9781942645589.  

It’s the year 2147 and nanotechnology reigns supreme!  There’s no more pollution because genetically engineered mosquitoes suck carbon dioxide out of the air.  Cars drive themselves and chits are used to pay for travel.  But the highlight of this world lies in teleportation, the ability to travel anywhere in the world in literally seconds.  It’s all controlled by International Transport, a company where Sylvia, Joel Byram’s wife, works.  The company is into changing life for the better, all with the science of quantum mechanics which IT’s scientists have completely dissected and applied to modern technology.  But nothing is perfect, right?

To start with Joel and Sylvia are about to celebrate an anniversary, and Joel realizes that this marriage isn’t working at all basically because communication between the two is nil, both in quantity and quality.  Whenever Joel gets close to a time when they can stop and talk, something happens and the talk never occurs. 

Now Joel’s on his way to Costa Rica for a much-needed vacation for Sylvia and him.  However, something goes very wrong and Joel is now the prisoner of IT scientists who proceed to explain that one part of him got transported to Costa Rica but another part of him, one might call “the soul,” is here, never left and ultimately probably dead although his body’s presence denies that last premise.

Something’s gone dreadfully wrong and it all involves a war between corporate higher-ups, who just don’t know when to curb their greed and realize what they can’t accomplish with science, and a bunch of religious maniacs who believe the new scientific world is evil, the Tower of Babel Biblical story updated by centuries.

All of this is accomplished with Joel’s snarky humor, clear descriptions (wee bit too many) of the hard science facts involved in the plot and this world, and a mystery filled with adventure and Sylvia and Joel go out of the box to find out precisely what IT Corporation has done that is science gone amok and why!!!  For science fiction fans, this is a gem! Enjoy it all!

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Dollhouse: A Novel by Fiona Davis

The Dollhouse: A Novel. Fiona Davis. Penguin Publishing Group. July 2017. 368 pp. ISBN #: 97811.1985014.

The Barbizon Hotel for Women in the early 1050’s is a temporary residence for many single women who later became famous stars such as Sylvia Plath, Liza Minelli and more notable ladies. 

At the time when our story opens, Darby is a single woman who has left her nasty mother and stepfather to make a life for herself by studying in a secretarial school.  She’s given a room on a floor with other women studying to be models and they’re catty young women who intimidate Darby.  But little by little, after some harrowing experiences including a blind date that goes awry, new opportunities arise that change Darby’s entire world.  

The scene changes to the present day, when the character Rose has a boyfriend who decides he must dump Rose to go back to his ex-wife and his troubled daughter.  Add to that the fact that Rose’s father has had to be put in a special home because of his advanced Alzheimer’s disease.  She’s working in a news magazine, “Wordmerge,” as a secretary; it’s a company that hasn’t completely decided what it wants to be.  For Rose, that changes when she begins to learn more about the women who have lived in the Barbizon Hotel and its history, including why it’s known as “The Dollhouse.”  It’s a mysterious tale in the 1950s that involved an attack that totally disfigured the face of one woman and resulted in the horrifying death of another. 

This intriguing novel describes the simple account of Darby studying in a secretarial school she hates and Esme a maid who sings nights in a famous jazz club in Manhattan, the Flatted Fifth. It’s where Charlie Parker, Stan Getz and other jazz masters developed their craft.  It’s also where Darby sings with Esme and discovers she’s more than a quiet little mouse, a woman who can fashion dreams to pursue.  But there’s so much more going on in this club and in a return to contemporary times, Rose and a photographer friend Jason pursue the 1950s mystery as it gradually enfolds. 

The end of this novel is shocking but also heart-warming.  The entire story is told, the characters confess their parts and together face the future, freed of unnecessary guilt but determined to live their lives making up for the mistakes made in the passionate dreams of the times.  As the novel fluctuates between the past and the present, a type of parallel resolution occurs that is most pleasing to the reader. The Dollhouse is a great read that is carefully crafted and recommended.  Well done, Fiona Davis!