Saturday, November 24, 2012

Performance Anomalies by Victor Robert Lee

Performance Anomalies. Victor Robert Lee. Perimeter Six Publisher. December 2012. 290 pp., hbk, ISBN #: 9781938409226.

CONO is the perfect wheeler and dealer. He's a loner who's got several girls he cares for but no attachments stopping him from globe-trotting to each new, dangerous job.  The story begins when he gets an early morning telephone call in Istanbul, Turkey, that a woman, Xiao Lin, is being held captive in Kazakhstan.  He sets out to rescue her, only to be sucked into a business deal that will involve bidders for oil-rich Kazakhstan.  Xiao Lin is kidnapped again, to make sure he doesn't back out of the deal and to assure he will be successful.  He knows there's something way out of the ordinary about this job but his feelings for Xiao Lin keep him proceeding according to the plans he's been given.

There's plenty of blood, guts and gore for the addicted spy thriller fans and an added piece to the mystery that involves getting uranium for nuclear weapons.  As the story develops, CONO makes plenty of enemies, including the Chinese who will do anything to get what they want and a jihadist whose mission and goals CONO understands but is not willing to assist.  What CONO sees as just a business deal for money is to others power that is far-reaching beyond oil-rich fields.  The reader has to be sharp with the number of names and places that appear without a moment's notice in this fast-paced thriller, but it's well worth the effort.  

Performance Anomalies is a roller-coaster ride through a relatively unknown part of the world to most Westerners but it is all the more real because it bears so much factual basis that could just be happening today or in the near future.  CONO is a cool, highly skilled dealer and killer when he has to be who does the job so well that the political future of Kazakhstan changes because of his action.  Neatly done, Victor Robert Lee!

Cathedral Windows: A Someday Quilts Mystery by Clare O'Donohue

Cathedral Windows - A Someday Quilts Mystery. Clare O'Donohue. Penguin Special from Plume Books (Penguin Group USA).  November 2012.  80pp. pbk. ISBN #: 9781101615843.

Nell's grandmother taught her by example, not to be drawn to material things but to give when things are needed and to give freely.  All in all, it's better to give than to receive; but she's finding that the latest project is fraught with trouble.  First there are the children whom she is teaching to make a quilt in order to sell it to raise money for the Fire Department their small town shares with nearby Morrison in upstate Hudson Valley in New York State.  The kids are psyched to get into sewing nine inch square patches for the quilt but almost get into a huge fight when they can't share the remaining colored patches. Then the teacher disappears and doesn't seem too thrilled when he returns!

Charlie is the new teacher whom the kids love and see as a hero.  He's actually a veteran recently returned from serving in the military in Afghanistan.  He has a great deal of adjusting to do and the rest of the town assumes he's "strange" or "weird" because he's obviously been through hell in the war, when the reality is they know absolutely nothing about him.  Their suspicion only grows when his home burns down and neighbors are quick to assume it was arson committed by Charlie in his current "state," whatever that may be defined as. However, Nell decides she will stand up for him and she does just that, discovering in the process the love he had for the "Cathedral Window" quilt from his grandmother.

Cathedral Windows might be a very short novel, but it's tightly plotted and well-written as a result. It would make a lovely holiday gift or just a lovely read for anyone who enjoys a mystery with caring, compassionate, and realistic characters.  Very nicely done, Ms. O'Donohue!

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Dalai Lama's Cat: A Novel by David Michie

The Dalai Lama's Cat: A Novel. David Michie. Hay House, Inc.,  October 2012, 240 pp., ISBN #: 9781401940584.

Ah, this is the life!!! Originally dumped in the street by unkind hooligans, this unkempt is meant to be sold into an even harsher life but instead is rescued by the Dalai Lama's Assistant.  Now, he is HHC or "His Holiness's Cat" or Snow Lion...or some other embarrassing but funny names acquired as vital lessons in the path of holiness!

Consider the fact of pride as "being" one of the favorites of this revered holy man, the Dalai Lama.  A French chef who owns a very popular restaurant near the actual home of the Dalai Lama wears the symbols of his Buddhist initiation on his physical person and has them draped all over his restaurant.  In a gently amusing way, he is gradually led to see that outer signs and associations matter not at all; the Dalai Lama always voices these lessons near to HHC with a chuckle and a pet.  Meanwhile, HHC manages to keep his revered seat in the restaurant as HHC! You have to laugh and not just read the truth but feel it all in your own bones! Outstanding technique!

So this book continues with visitor after visitor and numerous scenes where HHC mistakes the changes happening around him, always told in a wry, funny way endearing this cat and the Dalai Lama to the reader for the truth and blessing shared!

Outstanding and so well done, more please, David Michie!  This is "real" spirituality!

A Highlander for Christmas by Paula Quinn

A Highlander for Christmas. Paula Quinn. Grand Central Publishing.  October 2012. 80 pp.  ISBN #: 9781455523757.

Finlay Grant is determined to wed the love of his life. As he is a super-handsome bard of the MacGregor clan and a charmer to be sure, the task seems simple. Yet history is a major obstacle because the family of Leslie Harrison considers him and his family "enemies" of England.  So he is first warned off her and Leslie is told she is betrothed to another, an arrangement that both repulses her and yet is complicated because it involves the future safety and well-being of her own mother. This is decision of the heart complicated by two different types of love, neither one to be treated lightly!

So Finn does something that won't ignore the hazards of either plight.  No, no spoilers here!  You must read this short but passionately tension-ridden tale to discover that there are ways around some historical, familial debacles that are more than worth the struggles and some familial or clan rifts are just "old habits" that need to be broken!

A Highlander for Christmas is a delightful holiday tale that is both fierce adventure story and lovely romance exemplifying the celebration of love under the season's holly and mistletoe! Thrilling and charming!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Lincoln Conspiracy: A Novel by Timothy L. O'Brien

The Lincoln Conspiracy: A Novel. Timothy L. O'Brien. Random House Publishing Group. 2012; 368 pp. hardback; ISBN #: 9780345496775.

Temple McFadden is a Washington Police Detective with a lame leg but a feisty spirit.  His story begins with a trip to the train station to pick up a package, a trip that will help him earn some well-needed money.  What he witnesses instead is a suspicious murder and his reaction is to grab a package secreted on the victim’s body.  Here begins super trouble for Temple, his wife Fiona, and numerous other characters who will be chased, brutally attacked and escape death numerous times.

Why?  It turns out the package Temple grabbed is Mary Todd Lincoln’s diary and it contains secrets and hints of a conspiracy which would explain why Booth shot Lincoln and more! Was assassination the main goal?  What exactly was the reason for Lincoln’s death if not the Civil War and the emancipation of slaves?  Who were the most powerful men in Lincoln’s Cabinet and in Washington and what were their designs as well as actions mean to succeed no matter what the consequence?

In addition to the slowly enfolding plot which includes a secret code and more shoot-out close calls – perhaps a bit too much, O’Brien introduces the readers to the ambience of the time through such scenes as medical conditions for those wounded warriors of the Civil War.  We discover the primitive but successful treatments that saved and also ended lives.  We also meet men loyal to Lincoln who worked for him or his Cabinet members but who had sideline plans for becoming wealthy after the Civil War ended.  And there are the African-Americans who were loyal to the Union and now assist Temple in his drive to discover the truth, even more so after they are brutally treated in the most demeaning fashion possible.  Their protection and belief in Temple is ennobling, to say the least, and inspiringly credible.

Mary Todd Lincoln is portrayed in a most unexpected way which one may learn on doing research about her but which doesn’t prepare the reader for the self-absorbed, whining, suspicious and fearful woman who has more comfort from an unexpected source, one that stirs the reader to compassion.

Whether or not you buy the final answers, The Lincoln Conspiracy is an interesting, action-packed story, giving the reader a fine sense of the culture, divisions, and political realities of Abraham Lincoln’s world!  A worthy political thriller or conspiracy theory centered on an assassination without closure to this day!