Friday, July 2, 2010

She and I: A Fugue by Michael R. Brown

She and I: A Fugue by Michael R. Brown. Petrarca Press. ISBN #: 9780982040218

A fugue is a musical pieced played with different voices, sometimes flowing together and sometimes showing significant dissonance or different threads or phases. Michael Brown's off-beat memoir begins when he is a boy sent to a military school, is the victim of sexual abuse by a classmate bully and finds a way to make those memories strengthen his life rather than destroy it - by facing it squarely rather than burying the horrific memories. His life then turns around as he becomes totally enamored of a writer with a passion for trains and then a long phase in which the works of Ayn Rand and her followers shape his living philosophy. Later he professes a break from Rand's philosophy, yet his journey from that moment seems to bear an uncanny resemblance to Rand's own controversial role in successful and failed relationship with the opposite sex. Michael narrates his discovery of women, including a passionate and free relationship with a wife who dies of cancer and then a relationship borne out of an evolving, free spirit type of internet communication. The dialogues occurring on the internet occur between Michael and a woman many years younger than he, Mira. But they also include his girlfriend Gabrielle, who is as enamored of Mira as Michael is.

Mira is a dancer suffering from depression until her relationship with Michael bears fruit in changing her inner flexibility and endurance for complex dance movements. The characters spend a lot of time apologizing in advance and being sure they aren't crossing boundaries or hurting each other. They claim this sensitivity increases the depth of their bond, but the effect on the reader is to create more questions than agreement with this lengthy, repetitive process before they actually meet in person. Other crises occur with families and friends, natural events that occur in everyone's lives and other events demonstrating how an Objectivist would break from Rand's original ideas or just show their all-too-human foibles and then attempt to deal with same.

Brown writes in a poetic prose style with broken lines, rhyme, metaphors and similes that are supposed to elicit epiphanies in one's own life. Sometimes it works well and other times it's like viewing abstract art that evokes different thoughts and feelings in every unique individual viewing it. Complexity, compassion, beauty, tension and eroticism fill these pages, sometimes literally and sometimes figuratively open for the reader's interpretation.

She and I: A Fugue will please a limited audience who can appreciate this artistic presentation that is definitely poetry and probably sparks more philosophical questions than it answers. Its romance again will touch those who are culturally open to appreciate a different form of communication that stretches all boundaries. You'll love it, hate it, resonate with it or be totally confused by it all - it's an enigma fore sure! Try it - you may find something new evolving within yourself as surely as its author lived and relished.

Interesting account, Michael R. Brown!

The Art of Meaningful Living by Christopher F. Brown, LCSW, MBA

The Art of Meaningful Living by Christopher F. Brown, LCSW, MBA. Synergy Books. ISBN #: 9780982160176

Are you living a meaningful life? How would you know if you were or weren't living passionately, fully engaged with people, places and events in your world? Are you just functioning? How have life's circumstances affected who you are? These are just a few of the questions that psychotherapist Christopher F. Brown asks people who want more from life but really don't have a clue about the next step or who don't know they could be living so much more dynamically than the life they are presently

Within five sections, entitled Start, Wisdom, Action, Resilience and The Art of Meaningful Lives, Brown invites the reader to make choices, answer pivotal questions that are catalysts for exploration one's internal and external thoughts, feelings and experiences. Sub-themes like suffering, control, understanding rather than having to be right or wrong, embracing the decisions that enable one to live passionately, slowly but definitely facing one's own and others' resistance to the evolution one begins to experience during this process and so much more are presented intelligently, wisely and creatively, with significant questions meant to start and assist in each step of the process.

Each section is accompanied by numerous works of abstract art designed to facilitate and evoke thoughts and feelings that add to the inner journey that the words compel one to follow. These may foster thoughts but just gazing at these artistic "collage" pieces is therapeutic whether one loves abstract art or not.

The Art of Meaningful Living can be the beginning of a new life, a series of new experiences that call for a range of change, whether that be minimal or dramatic, which is a natural, healthy aspect of life that will happen without our awareness or perhaps with our casual or even intense engagement. For some this text is a gift that will be complete in itself; for others it may spur on some deeper investigation with other professional or non-professional support.

Brown's book looks like a beautiful coffee-table-style book; however, it definitely could, when picked up, opened and read from your coffee table, provoke so much more than surface conversation and would be a meaningful gift to those about whom we really care.

Very nicely done, Christopher F. Brown!

Dark of Night: A Novel by Suzanne Brockmann

Dark of Night: A Novel by Suzann Brockman. Ballantine Books. January 2009. ISBN #: 9780345501561

The "black ops," also known as employees of Troubleshooters, Inc., are invisible agents who are part of the government, carrying out missions against terrorists and criminals in the domestic and international arena. However, sometimes a mission goes awry and other black ops are called to "delete" a former colleague. Yes, it's a nasty business full of plotting and counter-plotting, and the characters in Dark of Night: A Novel are painted as able to endure any physical, mental or emotional challenge. Only the reality of this novel's plot (Book 14 in the Troubleshooters series) is that sometimes violence takes on such an ominous reality that the mind, body and spirit are sorely challenged not to collapse.

In addition, Suzanne Brockmann spins a tale in which looking over one's shoulder at one's peers who could be part of the deletion mission and flaming, lusty passion fuels the fires of closeness, exhaustion and mistrust. What a conundrum but this author never misses a beat and keeps the reader wondering how it will evolve and conclude, rooting for the good guys and constantly questioning them as well.

This reviewer has never read a thriller that writes with this panache regarding love and espionage since the days of Robert Ludlum and Eric Lustbader, no small feat at all!

Get ready to meet James Nash, living in hiding since his peers have faked his death in order for him to find out who wants him really dead. Meet his lover, Tess, who may or may not be a part of the killer team waiting to destroy Nash. Early in the book, you will discover a passionate relationship between Dave and Sophia whose detective skills just might be compromised by their painful pasts and their constant need to bed each other anywhere and everywhere. And then we have the complication of Tracy who accidentally and astutely figures out that Nash is not really dead. Each possibly through error could give away the secret that gradually seems obvious to far too many enemies.

These are just a very, very few of the convoluted details that makes this story continuously pulse with energy and danger, along with several murder attempts that raise the ante for all concerned and yet never spoil the mystery herein.

Dark of Night: A Novel is a thrilling, challenging, tautly plotted, phenomenal read!


Fatal Embrace: Christians, Jews and the Search for Peace in the Holy Land by Mark Braverman. Synergy Books. February 2010. ISBN #: 9780984076079

Perhaps it is time for a more complete understanding of the Israel-Palestine conflict! Mark Braverman and many of his known and unknown colleagues, peers and readers certainly make this presentation a quest for peace based on a perhaps set of facts and opinions often ignored for the wrong reasons. This is a hot topic and Braverman's controversial ideas will make many nod their heads in agreement and will unfortunately fan the flames of those incendiary tempers already impassioned by hatred on this topic!!!

Braverman charts this topic first in an overview of Christian/Jewish issues, next in presenting his own personal arrival at his present perspective, third on the impact of anti-Semitism both past and present, and lastly, the topic of Zionism. Overall the theme of this critical text is "balance," a balanced perspective that is unafraid to call prejudice what it is, an honest appraisal of how much reaction to anti-Semitism is a knee-jerk reaction that calls any criticism of Israel anti-Semitism. The author examines the events of the last seventy years, and even beyond that, and arrives at the conclusion that such efforts have been preordained to failure because the motivations behind them are tainted by hatred, fear and shame.

Just what is the solution? The balanced perspective called for in this thematic presentation is one that calls for examination of one's own personal beliefs and shadowed perspective as well as new form of religious, historical and political response. One might only hope that such as new road might progress toward a different future for the Middle East than that which appears to be following the same repetitive cycle of misunderstanding, apathy, militant response, etc.

A mark of an educated person (not only in the book or school sense) is an ability to listen, think and contemplate a balanced presentation of any topic. It is to that ability within all human beings that Braverman addresses his call for peace and justice in both Israelis, Palestinians and the remaining observers, as well as those who hold an eminent role in defining and executing policy in this area.

Fatal Embrace is an admirable, highly recommended work which will draw forth multiple responses this reviewer will eagerly be monitoring.

The Blue Crystal by Melissa Bowersock

The Blue Crystal by Melissa Bowersock. New Moon Publishing. 2009. ISBN #:9781448611089

Jared has grown up fast after his father is gored to death by the evil Mal-Zor's monster-like drogue creatures. Quickly recognizing his responsibilities, he takes up his father's farming role, only to be devastated one evening when he returns to find his home destroyed and his mother weeping because his brother and sister have been kidnapped to serve as slaves in Mal-Zor's crystal caves. Despite knowing he has no chance at fighting the evil King's formidable soldiers and drogues, he vows to free his siblings and departs to accomplish the impossible!

The rest of this journey is an epic journey as Jared acquires the mythical companions of a halfling Igli, a volpine (lion-like) cub, and eventually a young lady (Searis) with magical powers. His companions and the magical creatures who advise him along the journey believe he is the "One" who will free the land of Zor from its King who unjustly deprived the real King from his inheritance. So many hidden guards and creatures await the promised One and are willing to help Jared, but he is quite focused on only freeing his brothers and sisters, exhibiting a courage and determination that everyone but him realizes is what is required for the formidable task of overcoming the hateful Mal-Zor and his wizard, Garth, who hopes his magical birds and other magical plans will bring victory and guarantee the safety of his own skin.

The key to it all is a powerful weapon called the Blue Crystal, but Jared and his friends must overcome many battles and life-threatening, hair-raising attacks plus a long, grueling journey before they arrive at the place where the final battle will conclude with ultimate freedom or death.

Melissa Bowersock's writing skills have substantially grown and The Blue Crystal is a fine fantasy tale full of terror, thrills and wisdom necessary to complete the quest of a hero who is willing to face death in order that freedom will prevail over the darkest evil schemes of a greedy, cruel tyrant!

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister. G. P. Putnam's Sons: NY Publication. January 2009. ISBN #: 9780399155437.

Lillian's mother escapes the devastation of her husband's abandonment by reading, silently and out loud during times of rest, meals, even while shopping. Striving to reach through the neutralizing dead zone of this wall of oblivion, Lillian strives to reach her mother and finally succeeds after numerous failed experiments, through the power of food. Yes, food, Lillian comes to understand, literally and figuratively gives life to all who partake.

Quite naturally, Lillian learns to cook on her own and through experience eventually opens a restaurant and offers cooking classes with a two-fold purpose. It is her dream to share that same connection with life imparted to her mother through food. Now, however, she won't know who is coming to her classes but learn she will and be the conduit of teaching how nourishment, healing and love are guaranteed for those who respect the ingredients and process of food preparation.

Lesson One is about interrupting a life process and creating a new one, a tintillating suggestion to Claire, who has lost her identity to the role of mother, who begins to sense a change as she fully engages her appreciation of a live and cooked crab. Then the reader relishes how the act of baking a structurally balanced cake touches Carl and Helen, a loving couple moving beyond hurtful betrayal. Again and again, new recipes address individual stories weaving through different and similar ingredients for a Thanksgiving feast (differnt from what the reader expects for sure), a course of beauty, an immersion into sensual appreciation v. efficiency of food preparation, and so, so much more.

In The School of Essential Ingredients, the reader's own appreciation and love of life grows so much larger because of these endearing, real life characters and the succulent presentations, explanations and depictions of food experienced from a wholly new perspective. Whether you like to cook or eat food, this reviewer guarantees that every reader of this superbly written novel will savor every page, think of it long after the first and second reading, return to its celebration of characters who grow while attending this momentous class, and vicariously taste, feel and embrace this most delicious menu of culinary possibilities!

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett. Penguin Group (USA) Publication. September 2009. ISBN #: 9781594488917.

We all know people who are avid book readers, even booklovers or "bookaholics" as they are humorously called. But what about those individuals who start off as book collectors, especially of those first edition or autographed books, who wind up being so enamored and obsessed with collecting that they turn into common thieves? Is it worth it to steal a first edition book and wind up incarcerated?

Allison Bartlett tells the story of John Charles Gilkey, an inveterate book thief, and Ken Sanders, a "bibliodick" or book thief sleuth, whose lives unfortunately weave together. It's the story of pure detective work from a true lover of books and the attempt to steal and escape without being caught. But Bartlett's unique emphasis in this book is to describe the evolution of how one becomes obsessed with being a collector of antiquarian books, old books in their first printing or autographed by the writer. It's about so much more than just loving a good read.

As the author describes it, what starts out as love of good writing becomes an obsession about the texture of a book's binding and pages, a status symbol for those who perceive ownership of something expensive as an indication of obvious wealth, as a war against those who think they can deny something precious to someone with delusions of grandeur or someone with an axe to grind against another bookseller or the police, and so much more described so carefully and methodically herein.

Other tidbits include some other just as fascinating book theft tales and some amazing facts as well, such as the fact that some collectors who will spend thousands of dollars for a book never read their acquisitions..

For those who are avid book buyers, this is a must read! For those who love to read but have never thought of collecting valuable books, this is a fresh and magnetic account that just might open up a whole new aspect of the book world. And for those who love books too much, this is both a temptation and warning that might result in a fascinating obsession!

Then Comes Seduction by Mary Balogh

Then Come Seduction by Mary Balogh. BantamDell Publication. April 2009. ISBN #: 9780440244233. pb. 419 pp.

Mary Balogh does have a gift for writing engaging love stories with believable heroines and redeemable bad boys. Then Comes Seduction is the second novel in Mary Balogh's newest series featuring the Huxtable family. While each of the four novels will stand on its own, those who prefer to read a series in order should start with the first book in the series, First Comes Marriage, as it sets the stage for the Huxtable family's change in circumstances and subsequent entry into the ton . The second book in this series is just as entertaining as the first and follows the youngest sister, Katherine as she is launched on her first London Season and finds that beneath the genteel appearance of society there are dangers that her past has not prepared her to handle.

Katherine Huxtable has never had a shortage of admirers or proposals, even when she had no dowry as the impoverished daughter of the village vicar. As the sister of the new Earl of Merton, Katherine is enjoying a successful first Season and it seems only a matter of time before she makes an advantageous match. Despite a number of worthy suitors, Katherine fears that true love may not be in the cards for her. None of the men she has met has caught her attention like the one she has been warned away from. She knows he is dangerous, she knows she should avoid him at all costs, but there is something about him that draws her in and leads her to the brink of ruin.

Jasper Finley, Baron Montford, is a rake and proud of his standing as the ton's most disreputable and dangerous one. Jasper's never made a wager he couldn't win, so when the seduction of Katherine Huxtable is the objective of a drunken challenge, Japer can't resist. The lovely and innocent Katherine has not escaped his notice and Jasper puts a plan in motion to pursue and seduce her. His plan is flawless and success is within sight, but there is just one thing he hadn't counted on; namely his heart.

Both Jasper and Katherine retreat from London and try to forget their encounter. Three years later, fate throws them together again. Much as she wants to hate the man who once carelessly wagered on her virtue and nearly ruined her reputation, Katherine still feels a strong attraction to him. For his part, Jasper has never been able to put her far from his mind, or his heart. As the London Season whirls around them, they find themselves thrown together frequently. It seems as though, older and wiser, they may have a second chance until they find themselves in the way of someone else's plans.

As the threat of scandal surrounds them, Jasper and Katherine find that all bets are off when love enters the picture.

Mary Balogh has done it again. Then Comes Seduction , is an entertaining read and she does a marvelous job painting Jasper Finley as just enough of an anti-hero to fulfill the bad boy fantasy of any reader. If one is looking for a good romance to snuggle up with, don't miss this one.

Reviewed by Mairead Walpole.

Seducing an Angel by Mary Balogh

Seducing an Angel by Mary Balogh. BantamDell Publication. June 2009. ISBN #: 97803853. pb. 325 pp.

The story of the Huxtable siblings is completed with Seducing an Angel . Readers who began with the first book in this series have seen Stephen Huxtable grow from a seventeen year old with no future prospects higher than becoming someone's secretary or perhaps a vicar, into the Earl of Merton and head of the Huxtable family. This final installment in the Huxtable series introduces us to Stephen Huxtable as a man, and the most eligible bachelor of the Season.

As the Earl of Merton, and at the ripe age of twenty-five, Stephen Huxtable knows that it is time for him to think about taking a bride and setting up a nursery. His guardian, his second cousin, and his brothers-in-law have all schooled him in avoiding the most obvious of man-traps that the matchmaking mamas and their charges might lay for him. He has looked over the Season's crop of young ladies and has seen one or two who might be worthy of becoming his wife, but he would like to find the sort of love that has blessed his sisters. Unfortunately, none of the sweet young things he has met has stirred anything of that nature within his heart.

Cassandra Belmont, the notorious widowed Lady Paget, has her eye on Stephen. He seems exactly what she needs to provide a way out of her current situation. He appears to be innocently harmless, almost angelic, and if she must take on a lover to keep her financially sound, then he is her choice. She brazenly attends the one ball she thinks she has a chance of not being turned away from without an invitation in order to make his acquaintance. The Earl and Countess of Sheringford are no strangers to scandal and welcome Cassandra, much to her surprise. It appears that Cassandra's plan will succeed when Stephen agrees to set her up as his mistress.

Stephen is not quite the innocent that Cassandra believed. He has quickly seen through the mask she wears to the woman hiding behind it. Determined to help her clear her name and reclaim her place within polite society, he decides to become her friend rather than her lover. In doing so, he finds himself falling in love with her and becomes determined to win her love. Cassandra is falling for her Angel, as she has taken to thinking of him, but believes he deserves better than a woman tainted by scandal.

Cassandra's reputation is gradually being restored and it seems that Stephen has worked miracles in her life as she becomes reconciled with what remains of her family and finds friendship among the ton . Everything they worked towards is threatened in a careless moment when their growing feelings for one another are revealed. Stephen's actions to save what remains of her reputation could destroy the fragile thing growing between them for marriage is a state Cassandra never wishes to enter into again. To change her mind, Stephen must face the dark secrets that are hidden beneath the civility of some ton marriages and win not only Cassandra's heart, but most importantly, her trust.

In the fourth book of Huxtable family, Mary Balogh has taken the traditional formula for a romance and turned it around to create an engaging story of love and redemption. A woman left with few choices due to circumstances, Cassandra Belmont is not a traditional heroine. She is, if anything, an anti-heroine and a lovely one at that. When paired with the character of Stephen Huxtable as the quintessential hero this delightful reversal of roles makes for a love story that you will want to read with some tissues nearby.

Reviewed by Mairead Walpole.

First Comes Marriage by Mary Balogh. BantamDell. March 2009.ISBN #: 9780440244226. pb. 388 pp.

Fans of Mary Balogh's will delight in her latest series that chronicles the lives – and loves - of the Huxtable family. This close knit family living in genteel poverty has no forewarning of the changes that await them when a Viscount and his secretary come to their small village on business. The series opens with Vanessa's story in First Comes Marriage and will be continued each month through June 2009 with the tale of how love comes to each of the Huxtables.

Vanessa “Nessie” Dew, nee Huxtable is no beauty. Compared to her siblings, she is quite ordinary, if not plain on first notice. While on the outside she may appear unexceptional, Vanessa has a gift for making people happy and spreading joy wherever she goes. To those who know and love her, her inner beauty is on par with the outward beauty of her siblings. When the arrogant, aristocratic, and stunningly handsome Elliot Wallace, Viscount Lyngate, is maneuvered into dancing with her by her father-in-law, Vanessa is determined not to allow him to intimidate her. Widowed over a year previously, this village assembly is her first entry back into what passes for society in the countryside. For his part, Elliot finds himself strangely intrigued by this woman who is without question the antithesis of all he finds physically enticing.

When the Viscount's business turns out to be Stephen Huxtable's inheritance of a title, properties, and the money to back them up, the Huxtables find themselves in a whirlwind of change. Swept away from their humble home to a grand estate and with the daunting task of becoming ready for entry into London 's society circles within mere months, Vanessa and her siblings are taken under the wing of Elliot's mother, Viscountess Lyngate. Launching the family into the ton would be easier if Elliot were to marry one of the Huxtable girls and he reluctantly sets out to ask the eldest, Margaret to be his wife. Vanessa, knowing that Margaret's heart belongs to another, decides that her sister has sacrificed enough for their family and proposes to Elliot first. Shocked at first by Vanessa's actions, Elliot surprises himself, and Vanessa, by making a formal declaration for her hand.

What Elliot and Vanessa discover in their marriage of convenience is that there is more to beauty – and to love – than what is on the surface.

This is a touching love story that breaks the traditional romance novel formula by featuring a heroine who isn't the breathtaking beauty desired by all. Vanessa is a woman readers can all identify with. She feels insecure about her looks, but she doesn't let it hold her back. She cares for those she loves and does all within her power to bring happiness and joy to their lives. Readers will fall in love with her as Elliot finds himself doing and for many of the same reasons. Ms. Balogh also weaves in the beginnings of the other Huxtable stories in such a way that enhances Vanessa's story and makes the reader eagerly anticipate the release dates for the next three novels.

Reviewed by Mairead Walpole.

At Last Comes Love by Mary Balogh

At Last Comes Love by Mary Balogh. Dell Historical Romance - BantamDell. May 2009. ISBN #: 9780440244240. pb. 386 pp. Book provided by courtesy of

Fans of Mary Balogh will not be disappointed with the third novel in her series around the Huxtable siblings. Whether one has recently discovered Ms. Balogh's writing or has already dedicated a shelf to hold these novels, At Last Comes Love will soon become a favorite.

The eldest Huxtable, Margaret, has put her dreams of love, marriage, and motherhood aside to see her siblings raised to adulthood and settled, even though she is not that much older than they when their father dies. Although still a great beauty at thirty when her promise is done, Margaret Huxtable fears she has waited too long and may face a future as Aunt Margaret to her nieces and nephews, always dependent on the charity of her siblings. She decides to go to London for the Season with the express purpose of soliciting and accepting a proposal. Despite her age, Margaret's beauty, poise, and respectability as the sister of the Earl of Merton has always drawn a number of admirers to her side, as well as a few offers each Season.

Arriving in London , she finds that Crispin Dew, the man she loved from the age of eighteen until he betrayed her by marrying another, has returned to England as a widower and expects to pick up where they left off twelve years previously, without benefit of any kind of understanding. Hurt and offended, she declines his offer of company under the pretense that her fiancé will not approve. Swearing Dew to secrecy, she explains that her betrothal has yet to be announced. Margaret feels sure that the lie will become truth once her most ardent admirer realizes she is in town. Unfortunately, Margaret discovers that a man can only be turned down a certain number of times before he seeks someone else who will have him. Horrified by the predicament she finds herself in; Margaret is desperate for a miracle.

Duncan Pennethorne, Earl of Sheringford, has also arrived in London with a mission to carry out. To keep from being cut off from his inheritance, he must woo and wed, within fifteen days, a respectable female of excellent breeding, and willing to align herself with him. A daunting task since the Earl is tainted by a scandal so dark that he is not received by any but those on the absolute fringes of the ton With nothing to lose and all to gain, when he collides with Margaret at a crowded ball, he makes her an extraordinary offer that may solve both their dilemmas.

Before Margaret and Duncan can devise a plan, she is betrayed yet again by Crispin when he breaks his vow and news of the betrothal is spread throughout the ton by the next morning. Her reputation at risk whether she accepts Duncan 's offer or not, she soon learns that there is more to Duncan 's situation than the loss of his inheritance. Some betrayals are worse than others and the truth is not always best revealed.

In this novel, Ms. Balogh takes up a theme explored in some of her previous novels - romance can and does occur for women older than twenty. Margaret Huxtable is thirty, an age that is not typical for the heroine of most historical romances. By choosing an older heroine, Balogh has added a certain depth to Margaret's character and as a result there is more complexity to this story than either of the first two novels in the series. It is a wonderful story and well worth making some time to read it.

Reviewed by Mairead Walpole

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Devil's Garden by Ace Atkins

Devil's Garden by Ace Atkins. G. P. Putnam's Sons/Penguin Group (USA) Inc. April 2009. ISBN #: 9780399155369.

Silent screen comedy actor Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle is in very big trouble! Rolling in some very big money and throwing wild parties with booze (during Prohibition) and babes, he's caught in a party gone way too wild. An uninvited guest, an actress, Virginia Rappe, shows up drunk, parties very briefly and winds up screaming, writhing and tearing off her clothing in an adjacent hotel room, dying very shortly thereafter despite the efforts of some to revive her. Now Roscoe is on trial for manslaughter and the case at first seems clear-cut but has many problems that seem to indicate more than Fatty's hand is at play in this death.

Part of his defense team includes Dashiell ("Sam") Hammett, a gritty Pinkerton detective who's very quick on his feet and mentally astute but who also is suffering from TB he picked up during his WWI Army service. He's also married and about to become a father, a fact not conductive to his poor salary as a detective in the famous Pinkerton Agency. Be that as it may, however, the reader will love how this famous detective is depicted with all his gritty flaws, foibles and charm. Because of who he knows and his ability to work those sources, he discovers innumerable questions about this case that will keep the reader guessing to the very last page.

Why is the famous publisher, Randolph Hearst, so interested in this case? What lies in the checkered past about Virginia Rappe that might indicate she was very sick for some time before she arrived at this fatal bash? Why were parts of her body removed during her autopsy and by whom? Why are so many witnesses being paid to perjure themselves with an expected and scripted testimony? And why is Sam Hammett removed from the case just when he is solidly sure he's on to some facts that would definitely clear Roscoe?

The pace is slow and easy in part, rapid and dangerously thrilling in others as Ace Atkins presents the details about this infamous case in 1920's San Francisco and Los Angeles, California. He is faithful in describing the famed detective, Sam or Dashiell Hammett's actions and thinking, not your usual TV crime drama style but presented in a jazzy, gangster-style mode reminiscent of the way things really were in crime scenes and the acting world of that er a. Readers will come to appreciate the ambience of these cities in their plushest and seediest sites and people.

Ace Atkins has done a splendid job and offers the reader a fascinating look into a bygone era of fame and fortune that could be destroyed in the wink of an eye, in a time when criminal investigations were not always on the side of fairness and justice. Very nicely done for sure!

No Law Against Love Anthology

No Law Against Love Anthology by Leanne Burroughs, DeborahAnne MacGillivray, M. J. Sager, Kemberlee Shortland, Kristi Ahlers, Cissy Hassell, Diane Davis White, Rekhar Ambardar, Michelle Scaplen and Jacquie Rodgers. Highland Press, January 1, 2006, ISBN #0974624934.

This wonderful collection of contemporary and historical romantic stories was written to raise money in the Fight Against Breast Cancer, a cause motivating both authors and readers to give their very best creative efforts. Seventeen authors have accomplished just that in twenty-four exciting stories, each one based on a current or obsolete law in various locales throughout the world. The laws are comic, but the highlights of this anthology include romance and strongly plotted tales to please every reader's taste.

Here's a few snippets of what awaits your fascinating read:

Watch with glee as Katlyn Mackenzie plots to snare her neighborly masculine "hunk" - with the collaboration of her feisty feline friend.

Ah, what would a collection of romance tales be without a damsel in distress, who turns from a chaste and pure lady of an earlier age to one willing to break several nasty and sweet laws to escape a "would-be" gold digger.

Meet Sadie, a novice angel in heaven, who's got one more chance to become a permanent angel (with wings) if she can provide the courage to a woman who is wishing for the perfect, loving partner. The perfect partner? Hmm..

Or consider the deal that two friends shake hands on - marry this woman for six months (and stay in the marriage no matter what happens) and one of the partners will sign over an entire partnership to the winner. Doomed to disaster, think you?

Perhaps some more historical characters appeal to you. Join Pam and Hank who agree to dress as historical figures (but in the opposite sex's clothing) for a charity costume contest. What will happen when they meet, only to discover they are past, hurting lovers?

Disease, tigers and elephants, jail, rigid societal rules, cherry pie, ice cream, previous marriage agreements, murder, trashing book reviews and arrows shot in the heart, tattoos, oh so much kissing, assault and the law, loss, a reality TV situation, a mysterious disappearance, a pickle-making contest, panthers and mysterious injected chips of the future, a family feud, and the longings of a young widow people throng these pages with spicy, hot romance; comical scenes at every turn, and so much more.

What unites all of these very talented fictional tales is the mystery and magic of LOVE - a love each author here shares in the hope that others may continue to share the same through your purchase of this REMARKABLY MARVELOUS COLLECTION! ENJOY EACH AND EVERY STORY - LOVELY AND WELL-DONE!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

French Letters: Virginia's War: Tierra, Texas 1944

French Letters: Virginia's War: Tierra, Texas 1944 by Jack Woodville London, Vire Press, February 2009, ISBN #: 9780981597508

WWII forced many couples to declare their love in the hopes that a beloved girlfriend would wait for her man who was off in the awful trench warfare stretching across Europe. Sandy, a young boy, who worships the world of wartime aviation, is the one who accidentally hears something he shouldn't and is threatened by the town "quack" with violence if he utters a single word.

Virginia Sullivan's family are a unique lot. After Virginia reads in the local newspaper about her marriage by elopement to Will, she realizes that her father planted the story to protect her and the family's name. But just what is permissible when the young man, who may or may not be where everyone thinks he is, knows nothing of his supposed marriage or the fruit of that union?

Patriotism is stronger in this war than ever before, and it is Virginia's father, who owns the local paper, who controls the news and most of Tierra, Texas. Rationing is the rule of the day, but it turns out that just about anything can be obtained through the influence of Pappy Sullivan. While he's manipulating and maneuvering the news and everyone's lives, Virginia's brother, Bart, who has evaded the draft, is busy wrecking lives around him and committing an act against Virginia that will have far-reaching effects that are far larger than Bart imagines.

French Letters is the first of a planned series in which the reader meets small-town news, politics, culture and loyalty to a larger cause, WWII, which has transformed every life, even in a Southern backwater community like Tierra, Texas. Mr. London's got the characters, with their blatant flaws and virtues, exactly right, as well as the nature of wartime life in Southern America.

The beginning of a promising, enjoyable series!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Swallow by Tonya Plank

Contemporary Fiction - December 2009 - Dark Swan Press - ISBN # 9780615280998

An intelligent accomplished appeals attorney thinks, feels and acts as if she were a positive nervous wreck. Sophie Hegel has had an astonishing education and now has a boyfriend others would die for! But Sophie is stressed out that she's got an overwhelming psychological problem manifesting in the feeling that she's got a huge lump in her throat causing an inability to swallow. It's not physical and so Tonya knows she needs help, but the assistance she needs isn't what she gets. For Sophie's story is quite unique from most "immature girl grows up into mature woman" tales. The reader gets to experience Sophie in all her flaws, faux pas, successful moments and all of those more often in-between moments.

The road to recovery isn't an easy one, and at one point it appears that Sophie's job as she begins to lose it, blurting out truthful albeit inappropriately timed comments in and out of court. While she is trying to overcome her swallowing problem, she's dropping massive amounts of weight. Her boyfriend, also a brilliant yuppie lawyer, is growing unhappy with Sophie's behavior. Readers will cheer at how she finally deals with the "perfect" Steven.Psychology associates disorders with some sort of major trauma from childhood, but how does one handle it when everyone in the family seems to remember a totally different version of pivotal memories? Sophie is initially brutal in dealing with her father and sister but slowly comes to perceive their past from their points of view as well as her own, launching the possibility of a very different future - perhaps...

The reader feels Sophie's pain and turmoil as Tonya Plank has managed to deftly present her character with no cover-ups but with an honest, engaging, tense presentation that opens a new window into the life of families, friends and the law profession.

Very nicely done, Ms. Plank!