Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Brotherhood (The Tadhg Sullivan Series Book 2) by Daithi Kavanagh

The Brotherhood (The Tadhg Sullivan Series Book 2).  Daithi Kavanagh. Tirgearr Publishing. May 2015. 236 pp. e-book. ASIN #: B00USBGLJU.  

Tadhg Sullivan is feeling down and out.  He’s been transferred to Clare from Dublin after causing a ruckus with the Minister of Justice and other officials. He’s got an obvious problem with binge drinking and his girlfriend, Helen Carty, journalist has walked out on him.  But now his services are required as the superb investigator he is.  A year ago a young girl was abducted and has never been found and now another girl has disappeared.  Tadhg is told he’s on the case but given dire warnings he’s not to cause trouble with this case.  But trouble seems to shadow Tadhg wherever he goes, mainly because he brooks no nonsense or interference in his sleuthing.  But he won’t be able to do this one alone and the stakes are so much larger than he could ever imagine.

Tadhg quickly knows who has abducted the girl but he’s having a hard time getting into the alleged perpetrator’s home because the Minister of Justice and other higher-ups are protecting the criminal probably hiding the girl.  So what does one do when bureaucracy blocks the way?  Create a new plan.  Once he has implemented his plan and rescued the girl, as well as arrested the homeowner, his troubles are only just beginning. 

Now begins a spiral of violent scenes in which it becomes clear that there is a high-powered group called The Brotherhood, a cult into conducting ritual sacrifices never clearly delineated.  However, what is immediately clear is they are very professional in eliminating anyone who poses a threat or could expose them.  They also make it clear that Tadhg is on their constant radar and go after him and also someone very dear to him.  Tadhg will have to rely on a CIA friend and a member of the IRA, no friend to anyone but essential as far as knowing what it takes to take down the enemy.  The list of those involved is long and some are not only trying to disappear from Tadhg but also their own Brotherhood.

The Brotherhood… is superb crime/adventure fiction. Daithi Kavanagh has crafted a wild, tension-riddled plot that will keep the reader flipping the pages and unable to put down the novel.  While the characters may be stereotypical, the story line certainly isn’t and is riveting, well-paced, thrilling fiction. 

Great writing, Daithi Kavanagh!

Girl Underwater: A Novel by Claire Kells

Girl Underwater: A Novel.  Claire Kells. Dutton. March 2015. 304 pp.  ISBN#: 9780525954934.

Avery Delacorte is an accomplished swimmer, a 19 year-old young woman who has excelled in her sport beyond high school into college.  Still, she’s a typical gal when it comes to romance and Colin Shea, a college friend, has always encouraged her to move beyond her current level of competition.  So far she has refused but that is all about to change.

On her flight home to Colorado, she realizes that the plane she’s on is about to crash land in the Rocky Mountains area.  Five members of the flight initially survive, Avery, Colin and three young boys.  In the beginning, it doesn’t seem so bad as the group eat the remainder of the snacks they find, attempting to build a type of hut to survive the bitterly cold and snowy weather they know will come soon, and so on.  But the tough part of their journey is yet to come.

No spoilers here but suffice to say when they are finally rescued, they aren’t together.  All have serious physical injuries and the post-traumatic syndrome they each suffer is very real.  Claire Kells has got it down pat the way she depicts Avery’s long road back to a semblance of normalcy.  At times she tries to convince everyone she’s fine and at other times she’s still physically falling apart and trying to deal with a secret she shares with no one.  She will eventually meet up with Colin and several secrets will come out and their relationship will be very different from what it was before their nightmare crash.

Girl Underwater… is a superb contemporary novel about surviving and a love that defies description because of what it has endured.  It is said that the young are resilient which in this novel is true but only after each survivor tells his or her story and shares the process of healing and growing into a new life in which one moves on but will never forget the most traumatic, definitive crisis one could ever experience.

Fine writing, Claire Kells, and highly recommended for readers of all ages!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

At the Corner of King Street by Mary Ellen Taylor

At the Corner of King Street. Mary Ellen Taylor. Berkley Books Trade Paperback Original. May 2015. 252 pp.  ISBN#: 9780425278253. 

Addie Morgan’s family is cursed!  Her mother and sister suffer from a mental illness which seems to be a bipolar disorder.  The question is whether or not this is truly a family curse or a genetic predisposition for the females in the female to inherit this debilitating disease.  This is a story about how this disease affects the woman afflicted by it and the effect it has on family.  It’s a rollercoaster ride to be sure, and Addie has spent the last seven years escaping from it after she and her sister were in a terrible accident.

Addie has found a new life away from Alexandria, Virginia where she has fallen in love with a man whom she adores and has gone from grape picker to manager of her partner’s winery business, a profession she has also come to love.  All in all her life is presently serene, with occasional memories that she immediately rejects in spite of their haunting quality.

The moments’ bliss is broken, however, when she receives four telephone calls from her sister, Janet.  Unknown to Addie, Janet had disappeared from her husband and son’s life and has now reappeared in dire straits.  It turns out she’s pregnant, about to deliver a baby and has not been taking her medications for a very long time.  Needless to say, she’s psychologically as unstable as possible.  Addie’s Aunt Grace calls for Addie to come to the rescue.

This is the story that will keep any reader riveted to the page as Addie returns to deal with a very ill sister, an Aunt who is feeling her age and more, and a newborn who is possibly the crankiest baby in the planet except when in Addie’s arms. Oh, there’s a family salvage business to be rescued from bankruptcy as well! What about her lover who knows absolutely nothing about her family life? Secrets sometimes do more harm than good, don’t they? Is there truly a secret curse on the Morgan family?

Addie is torn between staying and leaving but the reader must follow the story to see how Addie’s entire world is changing in unpredictable, challenging ways that are so very credible.  This honestly doesn’t read like fiction but more like a memoir about the ravages of mental illness and the growth and sacrifice it demands from all involved.

Outstanding story! Fine contemporary fiction, indeed!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Oh You Pretty Things: A Novel by Shanna Mahin

Oh You Pretty Things: A Novel.  Shanna Mahin. Penguin Group (USA). April 2015. 368 pp.  ISBN#: 9780525955047.

Some readers and TV viewers thrive on anything to do with lifestyles of the rich and famous! Well, here’s a sneak view into the life of the “personal assistants” who spend 24/7 doing the biddings of the semi-famous but rich stars of Los Angeles.  Jess Dunne belongs to the third generation of Hollywood “wanna’ be great” actors and actresses and certainly knows the workings of the desire for that ultimate win, success.  But she’s not doing so well on the acting scene; and when our story begins, she’s working as a barista at a local L.A. coffee joint and being passed over for decent hours because she’s not young and chic enough! Her only consolation is her roommate Megan who is also auditioning for every possible actress position on the planet.  Their snappy and snarky dialogue puts plenty of humor and reality into what would otherwise be absolutely pitiful and moronic situations!

At an acquaintances suggestion she applies for and is accepted to be the personal assistant of a semi-famous actor, who turns out to be an agoraphobic, demanding son of a gun whose every whim becomes Jess’s desire to fulfill!  The real question that keeps occurring to the reader while reading page after page of this unreal but ironically real world is how long will it be before Jess quits.

However, Jess’s Mom appears on the scene soon enough, another “potential” actress who everyday life is an endless drama, usually ending with an empty hand held out to Jess for financial assistance for her Mom’s latest project.  Oh, did I say Mom – because Jess’s not allowed to call her that but instead calls her by her name, Donna.  But there’s a dramatic change coming that will shock and soften Jess’s heart about Donna, a rather poignant, seductive scene about the possibility of change in every scene that struts across life’s stage.

Jess next is able to land a job, again as a personal assistant, for another near-famous actress, due to Jess’s amazing culinary skills.  The story beyond here is where Jess begins to start analyzing what is really happening here and what it means for the rest of her life if she chooses to keep pursuing her own dreams! 

There are some meaningful and potent scenes in between a great deal of absolute nonsense (acceptable euphemism)!  Plenty of funny comments and scenes save the day for this novel especially geared for Hollywood watchers, lovers of certain newspapers and magazines tending to this specific life form, and those who are true people-watchers who are always looking to connect to fame, even if it is vicariously!  Highly recommended for only those who thrive on this world!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Cake Therapist: A Novel by Judith Fertig

The Cake Therapist: A Novel.  Judith Fertig. Penguin Group (USA). June 2015. 304 pp.  ISBN#: 9780425277324.

An old Chinese teaching says that flavors match moods or emotions!  So Claire “Neely” O’Neil discovers on opening her bakery in Millcreek Valley, Ohio that she can put this skill to use with her customers.  Imagine preparing a wedding celebration for a couple and picking up moods of memories, tension, anger, and more and imagine you can create the perfectly beautiful and tasty cupcake or wedding cake to meet that need.  Neely is a very talented pastry chef who has a magical crew who create looks and tastes that the town is quickly drooling over and ordering by the dozens.  But the work is exhausting and situations quickly arise that bring both tension and crises to the town which involve family, friends and acquaintances at the most unexpected and usually awkward moments!

First and foremost are the messages Neely’s husband keeps leaving, even though they are separated.  What is about him that Neely is drawn toward in spite of knowing he is the most selfish, unfaithful man anyone could wind up with, a guaranteed disaster in spite of his sexy charm that he lays on everyone with whom he comes in contact!

And what’s with the nasty lady and her drunk daughter who will create a stormy scene later on in the story that is replete with secrets, hurt, and abandonment going back all the way to World War II?
Add to the motley crew a Goth gal whose boyfriend or ex-boyfriend beats her up but who can create the most gorgeous designs on everything in the bakery and who only lets Neely see her hurt side.

The descriptions this author presents of these confectionary delights are mouth-wateringly tempting, making the reader run out to the best bakery in his or her locale to find something equivalent to relish slowly.  Sheer rapture!  This is a talented writer who can titillate one’s senses and at the same time create a mystery that unfolds gradually but with enough zip to keep the reader fascinated.

The Cake Therapist is a great read that should be on every reader’s list of summer fiction to enjoy at the beach, mountains, in one’s yard in a comfy chair or just about anywhere, any time!  Delightful and highly recommended!

Sweet Forgiveness: A Novel by Lori Nelson Spielman

Sweet Forgiveness: A Novel.  Lori Nelson Spielman. Penguin Publishing Group (USA). June 2015. 368 pp. hbk. ISBN #: 9780147516763.

Hannah Farr, a popular Louisiana TV talk show host, receives an offer to submit an idea for a talk show she might be hired to host.  She chooses the Forgiveness Stones – a project or program that is the rage of the nation right now.  The idea is to send out a pouch of stones and send them out with two requests, to use them as a sign of forgiveness you ask of another you have hurt and to use them as a sign of forgiveness you are being asked to give to someone who has hurt you.  It’s a “heart-throb” topic that has attracted many people but the process is certainly not as easy as it sounds.

Forgiveness requires honesty and purity of motive that calls for some gritty recognition of truth, lies, glib attitudes, and may even make a situation worse instead of better.  But all in all, Hannah is determined to make it a part of her life; at least she is willing to initiate this process which will call for far more than she’s ever given to any person or project in her past experience.

In the course of this story, Hannah will find a true love and discard those who are more into “appearances’ than anything real.  She’ll be forced to examine familial relationships that are not the story she has formed carefully to protect herself. She’ll get a better look at what a future with a certain person would be like, a vision that’s both shocking and not so pretty. 

A wise old Southern lady, a good friend and the woman who started this “forgiveness” trend will provide the wisdom that makes this story so “real” and saves it from being just another melodramatic soap opera.  Sweet Forgiveness… is a wonderful, heart-moving story that is poignant to read and memorable to think about when it reaches its unexpected final pages. 
Nicely done, Lori Nelson Spielman!

The Wounded Thorn by Fay Sampson

The Wounded Thorn.  Fay Sampson. Severn House Publishers. June 2015. 208 pp. hbk. ISBN #: 9780727884855.

Hilary and her friend Veronica are off to vacation in Glastonbury, the famed, sacred site where it is believed King Arthur and Guinevere were buried, where the Isle of Avalon existed, where ancient Celtic Churches were founded and where danger lurks for our two main characters.  A place like Glastonbury is a place that attracts not only sincere, curious, educated and sincere tourists but also some people who can best be described as “strange.”  Yes, there are New Age followers, staunch Christians, Muslims, and other individuals one would expect in any tourist spot in the world, but some of the characters in this story are “colorful” to say the least.

Hilary and Veronica on their first day of visiting the are run into a Muslim woman dressed in tradition burka, a gentleman who dresses more like a court jester than a 21st century male visitor, and a deeply conservative man who promises curses and damnation for all those who are not Christian.  His intolerance gives him an apoplectic look that actually frightens Hilary and Veronica.  But their shock at this person is nothing compared with what is to follow.

Without spoiling the story, the reader will be flipping the pages as Hilary and Veronica explore a potential bomb plant, a devastating bomb explosion and a shocking murder.  It’s these two spunky ladies who are always two steps ahead of the police and detectives in their slow but precise investigation.  The plot is complex, several characters are the targets of our heroines’ search, and the conclusion is so staggering the reader could never imagine it all coming to pass as it does.  Suffice to say that the need for attention in several characters runs over the top and the author challenges all who would stereotype certain characters to task for their erroneous thinking. 

In a world where terrorism on the national and international levels seems always looming, this novel explores the issue with its ambiguous, complex and deeply frightening complexities.  “If you see something, report it,” becomes much more than just a nice platitude in this cleverly crafted mystery thriller.  Nicely done, Ms. Sampson!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Ten Days in Paradise: A Novel by Linda Abbott

Ten Days in Paradise: A Novel.  Linda Abbott. White Birch Publishing. December 2014. 344 pp.  ISBN#: 9780692345504.

How do individuals not only change over time but also cope with that change as it occurs?  And how do we cope with other people around us who are also changing gradually or dramatically? Linda Abbott has written a story that examines some fascinating scenarios for exactly those scenarios described above.  The account of these people takes place on the gorgeous island of Sanibel Island located off Florida’s Gulf Coast, a place of such immense beauty and serene ambience that it relaxes visitors.  As the rest takes root, it allows reflection which raises pleasures and pains in stark relief!

David and Marianne are at odds about how to raise their children.  David thinks they are spoiled brats who can get anything and everything but just throwing a rousing tantrum and Marianne claims they are “Indigo” children with special needs that must be fulfilled in untraditional ways.  Add to that the fact that David meets Ellen, a sexy-looking woman. Ellen is on a vacation from life, work, her passionless husband and a teenage son straight out of a horror story.  Ellen is questioning whether this is normal, whatever that word means anyway, or a difficult transition she should abandon or faithfully endure!

David and his family are here on the island to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of his parents.  That in itself may be in jeopardy as David’s Dad’s behavior is worrying his Mom, with his Dad’s mood swings and forgetfulness suggesting something is seriously wrong.  Add to that his successful sisters are eventually going to be present, and the family definitely has problems with both of them. 

Add to that a non-denominational Church that’s been given a date to either relocate their building or have it bulldozed!  The urgency of the devoted members quickly becomes concerted, united effort!

Fiction reflects the truth about reality, and this is human life with all its fun, passions, and foibles which Linda Abbott finely depicts.  While there are many characters, once one has distinguished them, the story jettisons forward, with plenty of conversations and scenes to rivet the reader on every page.  As in real life, some situations resolve quite nicely and others – well, let’s say they are evolving! 

Fine contemporary and romance fiction, Linda Abbott!