Saturday, May 23, 2009

By John Hart

Johnny Merrimon  is living a life that could be described as ideal.  His family is happy and the childhood of he and his twin sister Alyssa is typical until the fateful day when Alyssa is kidnapped.  That one, catastrophic event changed everything.

Certain his sister is still alive, Johnny, a thirteen-year-old boy, takes matters into his own hands and begins searching the North Carolina county where he lives to find his sister.  During his quest he uncovers the terrifying secrets of  other people in his town. 

Johnny finds two unlikely allies.  One is Detective Clyde Hunt.  Hunt is more than a little infatuated with Johnny's ethereally beautiful mother and finding out what happened to Alyssa.  His marriage is destroyed, his job jeopardized, and his relationship with his own son is damaged beyond repair.  Levi Freemantle also comes to Johnny's aid.  Levi is a mysterious giant of a man with his own strange secret.

The loss of and search for Alyssa sets off a chain of events that bring interesting characters together.  Johnny, Hunt, Johnny's friend Jack, and Levi each have painful discoveries along the way.  Each of them is on their own redemptive journey.

This is a mystery/thriller with a Southern Gothic feel.  It is a dark novel to be sure.  Comparing this work to the great Harper Lee novel, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, would not be out of place.  The characters are memorable.  What do you think? 

By Meredith Cole

Art as death or should that be death as art?  

Photographer Lydia McKenzie finds an old book titled "Lost Girls" that details unsolved murders of young women in New York.  It inspires her to create a series of photographs based on the descriptions in the book.  She uses her friends as models and the idea generates enough interest to get her first gallery show.

Lydia is on top of the world until her friends start dying just like the photographs she has taken of them.  She becomes a suspect in the multiple homicide case and her own life is turned upside down when someone breaks into her very unsecured apartment.

Worried that the detectives assigned to the case aren't doing all that they should, Lydia sets out to find the killer.  She becomes convinced that the murderer knows far too much to be a stranger and has to be among her fellow artists in the hip area known as Williamsburg in Brooklyn.  

Kidnapped off of the street and thrown into the back of a van, is Lydia to become the killers next victim?

The idea of death as art is intriguing.  This isn't a horror book, it's an intriguing mystery set in the art community.  I think it works well because Lydia McKenzie is a character readers like and her work isn't done with any weird motivation.  This was fun to read and a great escape.  What do you think?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

By S. L. Linnea

Author S. L. Linnea is actually two people.  Sharon Linnea and her co-author Chaplain Barbara Sherer who is currently serving a tour of duty in Iraq.

These two women have combined their considerable talent to write a thrilling trilogy.  TREASURE OF EDEN is the third book in the series, but it's a stand alone book.  A reader doesn't have to read the first two to enjoy this one.

The story begins when two Bedouin boys find a treasure, an ancient, jewel-encrusted box in a cave in the Judean wilderness.   More than a half-century later, the box is for sale on E-Bay.   The reappearance of the box, a Bedouin wedding and an Economic Summit, put Army Chaplin Jamie Richards in one of the most dangerous situations of her life.

Several years ago, Jamie helped discover the location of the Garden of Eden.  After a three-year stay in Paradise, she is armed with eternal secrets and knowledge that mere mortals will kill to possess. 

The plot thickens as Jamie renews her acquaintance with an old friend, only to find she has been betrayed and turned over to a rogue CIA agent who will make her pay the ultimate price unless she gives him the secret to the box and the Garden of Eden.  Can Jamie escape her captor and find the box before it falls into the wrong hands revealing its secrets?

Wow, this novel is a real thrill ride.  It is intelligently written with a plot that twists and turns.  I really enjoyed the complexity.  What do you think? 

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KILLER CUTS:  A Dead-End Job Mystery
By Elaine Viets

If you're not familiar with the "dead-end job" series, let me enlighten you.  Each book depicts a job that is often "invisible."  Most of us take the individuals who groom the dog, do customer service, or bring us water at the high-end hair salon for granted and we don't even see them.  One of the things I like about the dead-end job mystery series is that the author  works in each and every job represented in the books, so she has real insider knowledge about what it's like to actually walk in those shoes.

Helen Hawthorne has been "living life on the lam" ever since her divorce from her dead-beat husband.  A judge ruled that Helen should be the one to pay alimony.  She decided instead to just take off and has been avoiding her ex-husband by working a series of low paying, low profile jobs in Florida.

Helen's latest gig is working in a high-end hair salon where a trim done by Miguel Angel, the superstar stylist, can cost as much as a car payment.  Helen does heavy lifting when she brings the rich and famous clients the Fall issue of Vogue or water with lemon slices.  

One of Miguel Angel's  not-so-famous clients is to wed an ego-driven, ex-night club owner turned gossip blogger named Kingman "King" Oden.  Oden turns up dead at his own wedding reception after a public fight with Miguel Angel.  The salon gets tangled up in a web of negative publicity when Miguel is named as a primary suspect.  Helen becomes involved trying to help her boss prove his innocence as she tries to figure out who at the wedding was dressed to kill.

I always enjoy these books.  They are a wonderful escape.  I enjoy Elaine's storytelling style because of her ability to tell a story about a murder with a sense of humor.  She's funny without being inappropriate.  I like the way her character Helen Hawthorne thinks.  What do you think?

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Monday, May 4, 2009

THE BRAIN POWER COOKBOOK:  More Than 200 Recipes to Energize Your Thinking, Boost Your Mood, and Sharpen Your Memory
By Dr. Frank Lawlis and Dr. Maggie Greenwood-Robinson

This is a timely book.  Millions of us are concerned about our memory and keeping our brain as sharp as possible.  We are also concerned about our health and looking for ways to more effectively manage our stress.  Tackling a different challenge in each chapter, this book discusses which foods will give you the benefits you're looking for and incorporate those ingredients into good tasting food that also happens to be good for you.

The 11 chapter book includes chapters on:
-Brain-Energizing Foods
-Foods That Soothe Stress and Anxiety
-Dish Up More Concentration
-Memory-Boosting Meals
-Foods To Help You Snooze
and last but not least Aphrodisiac Foods

In the current state of calamity for all of us, we could all use some help keeping our diets on track, sleeping more and managing our stress.  I think this book is terrific.  What do you think?  
By Marilynn Brass and Sheila Brass

The Brass Sisters cookbooks are quite unique.  Marilynn and Sheila could be classified as "cuisine historians."  Their cookbooks contain handwritten family recipes they have collected from all over the United States and Canada.  These recipes come from  a variety of places, heirloom, handwritten recipe books, known as "manuscript cookbooks", loose handwritten recipes , known as "living recipes" and are gleaned from a variety of places like garage sales,  used bookstores, as well as individuals who wanted to share a treasured recipe from their mother or aunt.

The recipes are simple to make and don't require exotic ingredients, as a matter of fact you probably have all that you need right in your pantry.  The Brass Sisters encourage all home cooks to begin to collect their own heirloom recipes in the lined pages provided in the back of the cookbook.

The photographs are wonderful and feature images of original recipes and prized antique kitchenalia from the Brass Sisters personal collection.  This is truly a one-of-a-kind cookbook by two wonderful, unique authors!  What do you think?

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By Kate Jacobs

The novel revolves around August "Gus" Simpson, a TV cooking show host who is about to celebrate one of the big "O" birthdays, her 50th. For the first time ever, Gus, a consummate party enthusiast, cake lover and hostess both on and off the air, doesn't want to have a birthday party this year. Worse, her shows' ratings are in the tank and the Food Network is talking about taking her show off of the air.

Gus uses her creativity and internal fortitude to reinvent herself. The show becomes a "reality" cooking show featuring real people who are not only members of Gus's real family, but also extended family members, members of the staff and a Spanish beauty queen who is the current love interest of her boss. The show not only goes "live" but it also develops a "life." In the process of all of this change, the characters learn lessons not only about cuisine, but also about love.

I love Kate Jacobs writing style. Her "comfortable" way with words, plot and characters makes this novel fun to read. Her novels fit my definition of "slice-of-life." I really enjoyed reading about Gus and found myself rooting for her. I think you will find yourself caught up in the world of food, television, and business. You won't like all of the characters or all of the things that happen, but hey, welcome to life! What do you think?