Review: A Charm of Powerful Trouble (The Harry Reese Mysteries #4) ~ Robert Bruce Stewart

A charm of powerful troubleIt’s not surprising that a case that begins with a killing in a faux Chinatown and ends in a séance would include a generous helping of farce. But not even Harry Reese—a man well used to a life only loosely tethered to reality—is prepared for what he encounters that autumn in 1902. Before it’s over, he’ll meet cricket ranchers, vaudeville artistes, white slavers, morality crusaders, circus roustabouts, and wayward Utopians, and frequently become sidetracked by the need to rescue his loved ones from jail, or the clutches of a ruthless tong. Is it any wonder the case was put in motion by the machinations of his dear wife Emmie?

4 Thumbs-UpI have been known to review one or two books in a series, but with this review comes my third in the Harry Reese Mysteries, and no I am not being paid to write them; they are just plain and simply a darned good read.  Like the other books in the series I have reviewed this one does not need to be read as part of the series, it stands on its own very well indeed.  This means that, if after reading this you have no interest in any of the others before it; it will have no adverse affect if you read those following.

Once again, the Author has painted a vivid picture of the time in which the novel is set, and transports the reader fully into the locations and events that take place in this novels pages.  I learnt more about cricket ranchers than I ever realised I wanted to know, and chuckled at the shenanigans and predicaments the dynamic couple found themselves in.

Magnificently and skilfully the Author has managed to continue to keep the main protagonists in this recent instalment right on track, there is nothing added to their personalities or traits that would make a loyal reader of this series think they had missed something in previous books, or the newly initiated reader feel they have to read its predecessors.   Despite the feeling sometimes given that our ‘Detective’ is ruled by his wife, in this novel the impression comes across that he enjoys her side tracking although not encouraging it.  Once again I thoroughly enjoyed the character of Emmie, and still feel as if this is one woman who I could really get along with in real life.

I would highly recommend this novels to anyone looking for a good and easy read that moves along at a fast clip but is laced with humour and mystery.

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Review: Timelapse ~ Lorrie Farrelly

timelapseThe accidental death of his beloved wife sent Alex Morgan into a numbing world of suppressed grief and rage, eased only by a profound bond with his son. Suddenly his life is shattered again when a chance discovery propels him into a world gone horribly, terrifyingly wrong.

Piecing together clues in this new nightmare, Alex suspects a colleague of taking a few, meddling steps back in time, changing the course of history – destroying Alex’s family and his world. Desperately clinging to his sanity, he searches for any evidence his young son still exists.

Jessica O’Neil is fighting a nightmare of her own, captured and facing execution for freedom-fighting heroics in her grim, oppressive world. When Alex rescues the feisty young rebel, she resists her dangerous attraction to him – a man who’s clearly crazy, literally in a world of his own.

Bound together first by chance and desperation, then by growing purpose, respect, and emotion, Alex and Jessie must depend on each other to survive. More than that, they must find a way to prevent a terrible crime from taking place – a crime that plunged both their worlds into nightmare – over a hundred years before. To have a future, they will have to find their way to the past.

4 Thumbs-UpAfter having read the synopsis for this particular novel, you may be forgiven in thinking that I may have had too much sun this summer, as this book appears to be one of those dreaded romance novels that I avoid as if I may catch something nasty from them; and you would be right, not about the sun thing but about this being a romance novel… except it isn’t one in the true sense of the word.  From the very first page this book had me pulled in hook, line and sinker and, because I was expecting one of ‘those’ novels took me totally by surprise.

The male protagonist is written wonderfully and in such a manner that both male and female readers will develop a close connection with him.  He is vulnerable while at the same time having an inner strength that the reader can only wonder at, is devoted to his family but also feels that fate is not on his side as life continues to throw one, almost unbearable curve ball after another at him.  The female counterpart to his lead is a perfect foil for him, she is strong and capable in all the traits that he lacks, and is also able to retain her own individuality during the most trying of times and circumstances.  The Author wrote these, and all her characters in such a way that they came alive within the novels pages, and make the reader feel as if there might be a possibility they would run into them as they go about their daily lives.  These are three-dimensional, well fleshed out participants in a definitely not your run of the mill romance.

Now we move onto why this is not a romance book, it is primarily a science fiction novel which deals with time travel and just happens to include the story of a developing relationship between two of its characters.  The fact that the romance wasn’t overwhelming made this book even more enjoyable for me.  The plot line is excellent and contains plenty of fast paced action for those readers who like this kind of thing in their sci-fi/time travel reads and, although some of the scenes could have been written with a bit more punch for my liking, I attributed this to being the Author’s writing style more than anything wrong with the novel.  My one complaint and the reason for the four thumbs rating was I would have liked to have read more about the world in which our male lead finds himself in even though it was not necessary to the flow of the story, it would have added a little more depth.

I would highly recommend this to all readers of time travel and science fiction novels and to anyone who want an enjoyable read with a twist.

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Review: 3037 ~ Peggy Holloway

3037
The year is 3037 and technology has come a long ways. There are no more computers. Now everything is implanted directly into the brain and the government is using these implants to control the people. It is up to Ashley, the heroine to come from the past and save mankind.

 

3 Thumbs-UpHaving written many mysteries novels, this book is the Author’s debut in the world of science fiction.

Given the era from which the novels heroine comes, the character of the female lead is captured wonderfully.  When we first meet her she is full of all the indoctrinated expectations of her time and, although this made her come across as naive it also served to make her grate on my last nerve until the book, and her found its stride.  From that point onwards, the female lead developed and evolved to fit the changed world she was now in, and without the obvious difficulties this would cause any time traveller, did it without any of the constant whining and moaning that are often found in books of this type.  Although she was a good fit for her part in the storyline, she still wasn’t a character I particularly liked as I couldn’t find any part of her that I could identify with.

The novel itself is very interesting, and contains a lot of food for thought as to the way mankind is treating the ‘small blue dot’ we live on and how it may affect future generations, so if you are looking for an easy read that will make you think, this would be a good one for you to pick up.  Because of the nature of the writing and the basically simple way in which the storyline is put together, I feel it also would make and ideal read for the beach, or when there are a few moments free to enjoy a book and a glass of your favourite something.  This is not a book the reader will have to invest vast amounts of time and energy into, just to make it to the end.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a light and easy vacation read, but something that will also give them something to talk about over dinner.

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Review: The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History ~ Robert M. Edsel, Bret Witter (Contributor)

The Monuments MenAt the same time Adolf Hitler was attempting to take over the western world, his armies were methodically seeking and hoarding the finest art treasures in Europe. The Fuehrer had begun cataloguing the art he planned to collect as well as the art he would destroy: “degenerate” works he despised.
In a race against time, behind enemy lines, often unarmed, a special force of American and British museum directors, curators, art historians, and others, called the Monuments Men, risked their lives scouring Europe to prevent the destruction of thousands of years of culture.  Focusing on the eleven-month period between D-Day and V-E Day, this fascinating account follows six Monuments Men and their impossible mission to save the world’s great art from the Nazis.

3 Thumbs-UpUnusually for me and this genre of book, we had a love hate relationship.  I have previously read other works on this topic and found them to be engrossing and insisting I keep reading them until the end to discover the next piece in the puzzle; this particular one did not have that hook that pulled me all the way in, and is one of the reasons for the three thumbs review.

The story told within the pages of this book is that of a little known group who can be credited with our being able to view works by some of the greatest Artists in the world that, without their existence may have been lost for all time.  Their story is an interesting and important one as it follows them from the inception of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives to the end of the war.  It documents in great detail the hardships they encountered, and the stonewalling or disinterest shown in their mission by others they met whilst often working on the edge of the battle lines; they actually lost two of their unit through combat related deaths.  Despite this, they regrouped and continued on with the mission at hand, hunting out information and pouring over myriads of records, which in the case of the Paris cultural treasures had been scrupulously kept by a Frenchwoman Rose Valland.  But again, despite this being a fascinating story it was also a frustrating story.

Despite being forewarned in the Author’s Note that some liberties were taken in the creation of the dialogue to help with the continuity of the book, it came across at times that he had taken too many liberties which tended to give this historical account the feel that it was being pulled, kicking and screaming, into the realms of historical fiction; not a place I wanted to be taken when reading this, as there a several great fiction works on this topic out there I have already read.  This created dialogue also took up far too much of the book, and I feel a greater impact would have been achieved if they had been pared down somewhat by a skilled editor, putting the focus firmly back on the purpose and discoveries of the MFAA.  The saving grace in this book, for me, were all the hidden nuggets of information that were buried deeply underneath the unnecessary ‘chatter’.  When taken from a purely historical point of view, this book is well researched and very educational and, combined with pictures taken from the actual time and events mentioned, it could have been something truly exceptional.

Anyone interested in this era in history may enjoy this book; if they can get past the obvious attempts in include a fictional aspect to events.

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Guest Review: Enemy In The Room ~ Parker Hudson

 

The final piece this week is from Loretta Livingstone, Poet and Author, who is sharing her review of what appears to be a ‘must read’ book.

Enemy in the roomEnemy In The Room is a fast paced geo-political thriller, intersected by the tragic choices of a modern prodigal daughter. An American CEO is secretly committed to killing the President and destroying the nation. His employees are unwittingly carrying out his plans. The threads are woven together with explosive actions and crisscrossed relationships. The characters confront high tech theft, internet spying, lies, jihad, betrayal, and redemption.

Wow! An edge-of-your-seat thriller you will find hard to put down.

A highly placed businessman with a finger in every pie is far from being what he seems. Not just a fat cat profiteer, Trevor Knox is a man who has a driving passion, and a plan to topple the U.S. Government, which he is determined will succeed – at any cost.

David Sawyer, one of Knox’s most valued employees, has no idea what he is about to get involved in.

David is just about to discover, too, that his family is disintegrating – drawn unwittingly into Knox’s gigantic empire.

A brilliant strategist in the office, David has dropped the ball where his home life is concerned. Unable to connect with his children or influence their disastrous life choices, he is horrified to discover that, because of  his involvement with Knox, he is in some part to blame for the chaos descending on them. He is going to have to reassess. It is time for him to make his own choices, but he is already up to his neck in something terrifying, which puts his own life and those of his relatives at risk. However, he is also the one man who might be able to put a stop to Knox’s plans.

Hold your breath as this book hurtles towards its gripping conclusion.

However, good as this book is, I do hope readers will remember that the characters in this book are terrorists and do not represent all Muslims, the majority of whom live their faith as honestly and peaceably as those of us of other beliefs live ours.

But, overall, this is a fast-paced nail-biting book. The possibility, God forbid, of this ever happening in real life is far too terrifying to contemplate.

Loretta Livingstone
Author:
Where Angels Tread
Rhythms of Life
Hopes, Dreams & Medals
Jumping in the Puddles of Life
Fire and Ice
http://www.treasurechestbooks.co.uk/
http://amazon.com/author/lorettalivingstone

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Guest Review: Echoing Sacrifice: Traveler ~ Jessica Dodson

When writing their novels the reader knows that each Author has their own unique style and it appears by this review by Author Lex Allen, that is spans into the writing of reviews of other peoples’ work.  Lex gave this book a 5 star review.

echoing sacrificeStill reeling from the death of her parents, thirteen-year-old Khyl Livingston’s entire existence revolves around the care and protection of her brothers. But when an accident strands her in Dolimar, a world populated by both humans and dragons, she finds yet another child in desperate need of protection.

Rever barely survived the slaughter of the Echo Dragons at the hand of the Betrayer. When he meets Khyl, old wounds at last begin to heal, and their growing friendship distracts him from his need for vengeance. But the courageous Traveler couldn’t have come at a worse time. The Betrayer returns to Rever’s home, this time with an army and the intent to carry out a deadly bargain with the greatest threat in all Dolimar.

Bound in friendship and united by common purpose, Khyl and Rever stand against the Betrayer and his allies in order to save an innocent child from a fate worse than death. Dolimar itself hangs in the balance, and one wrong choice could cost them everything they hold dear.

Including each other.

Dear Jessica Dodson,

I am writing to personally thank you for committing the time and effort it must have cost you to write “Echoing Sacrifice: Traveler”. Without the slightest insincerity, I have to tell you that I think that this book will one-day become a classic among fantasy/world-building stories and novels. It must take a special kind of imagination, perseverance and aptitude to put together a novel of this magnitude and complexity while maintaining an easy to read level of dialogue, narrative descriptives and a huge cast of characters.

The premise—teenage girl from our world (Khyl – First Creation) enters the parallel universe (Dolimar) of Rever (Echo Dragon Clan) and promptly jumps into the hunt to save the SouthKing’s daughter (both human) while fighting against the evil of the Betrayer, aka Vayne (human – King of Feinden), his son Cyre, along with the bandit dragons and the EastGate guardian, Tymbos (dragon) and his Keeper, Tumulus (half-human dragon).

There are too many characters to mention them all, but those above are the lead actors in this marvelous tale of a parallel universe that’s a mixture of indescribable geography and scenes, creatures and dragons. I can’t begin to adequately describe, nor thank you for, the meticulous attention to detail that you incorporated into this story. The entire concept of dragon clans—their differences in colors, sizes, characteristics and talents is mind boggling!

Unlike the climax of many books that are part of a series, you designed an ending that is fully satisfying, in and of itself, while clearly leaving an opening for the sequel; a book I am eager to get my hands on. In short, I want you to know that I believe that “Echoing Sacrifice: Traveler” belongs on the bookshelf right between the classic high fantasy of “Lord of the Rings” and the science fantasy/creature horror series that is “The Dark Tower”.

In closing, thanks again and please get the sequel out there quickly!

Sincerely – Lex Allen

Author:
No Heaven
No Hell
Reviewer – Readers’ Favorite

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Guest Article: Courage, Heart, Corazon ~ Daniel Wetta

Daniel Wetta

Courage, Heart, Corazon

By Daniel Wetta  

 My depression, usually situational, no longer afflicts me for weeks or months. It is because I have taught myself finally to think with my heart instead of my head. I am a heart person, but I tried to be a head person. That disconnect might have killed me. Since I am a born story teller with a living imagination, I am also a good actor. I had everyone fooled for years. People at work thought I was happy. After working eleven hour days or more as CEO of a hospital, I went straight to bed when I got home and pulled the sheet over my head. Classic.

This piece is not about depression. It is about finding courage. If you are a depressed person, there is no doubt that you feel completely discouraged by the world around you. It seems that everyone else has done it right, everyone else has energy, and all you want to do, please God, is to make it through the day until you can hide again.

I did finally become a happy person even when looking evil in the eye. Permit me to shortcut the recovery part by explaining that I developed tools to fight my depression, and I use them whenever I feel a bout coming on. Usually this happens when I am in a bad situation. I learned to get out of these, or, at least, to recognize that the situation is toxic, it is depressing, and I need to find the way out. That is one of the tools: get out of a bad thing. What precedes that is to recognize when depression is setting in and to admit it to self and others. Depression grows in strength in darkness.

To name depression is to start to defeat it. Did I mention darkness? The antidote is light. Classic depressive behavior is to pull the shades and to live in dark rooms. So my tools included anything that exposed my body and soul to light: going outdoors in the sun, opening windows, taking showers, taking vitamins, eating correctly, exercising, sleeping regular hours, doing yoga, meditating, and forgiving myself if I had thoughts that my Catholic upbringing taught me were wrong. That last one, said another way, is to practice self-forgiveness.

Energy and compassion for others comes out of the heart of some people like pressurized water from a fire hose. When this happens, a person can deplete quickly. It is important to take the time to refill the reserves. If you give it all away and do not drink it back in, you are done. I explain this because I have met so many people who caretake for others, give to others, and do nothing for themselves, and eventually they burn out. The listless life remaining is a depressed person. His or her heart needs to be refilled. Who will do this for them?

Of course, the Latin roots for heart are “cor” and “cord.” In Spanish, the word for heart is “corazón.” The French transformed the Latin root to their melodic and sweet sounding “couer,” and when this routed to English, we ended up with many words relating to heart, such as courage (to have heart to do something), encourage (to put heart in someone to do something), and accord (harmony, or to have hearts in agreement). To discourage someone is to take his heart away from doing something.

I never had really terrible things happen to me in life. That notion becomes very relative, true, but for the most part, what I regarded as personally traumatic began to pale when I saw first-hand some of the things happening to people in Mexico when I lived there. I moved there six years ago to learn Spanish better, and I leased a condo in Mexico’s most educated, affluent, and supposedly safest city, Monterrey, with about four million inhabitants. Luckily for me, many of the residents there spoke English, because my Spanish was horrible for the first six months.

The war against the drug cartels began in 2006 and began to move into Monterrey towards the end of my stay there in 2009. My website and my first novel, The Z Redemption, explain how the murder of my young friend, Israel, impacted me, but what I want to share with the readers of this post is that many good people experienced horrible, unspeakable things that no person on earth deserves to have happen. What really got to me were the mothers who lost children and who either tried to protest against the violence or tried to find their missing sons and daughters. These mothers were often murdered or tortured for this. They were scared to death many times, but they looked to find their children or they looked to find ways to stop the violence so that no one else would have to endure the horrible pain which they were suffering.

I wondered sometimes how they could have the bravery to speak out, to organize demonstrations, and even to go into the lairs of the drug cartels when they understood that they themselves would be murdered like their children.

Finally I came to realization: Courage doesn’t mean not being afraid. It means having the heart to do the right thing despite being scared to death. Many of the mothers who have organized and have staged rallies, caravans for peace, and marches on government offices have been able to do so because of the love that they felt for their children and also because of the encouragement from others, especially from those finding “heart strength” by working in groups or community. In working as instructed by their hearts, these people, these ordinary heroes, sometimes found solace to co-exist with their deep, unimaginable pain.

What I did is not for everyone, but in terms of dealing with my own depression, I knew that I needed to shine light in the darkness. To do that, I had to shine light on what many do not ever want to see. I researched through Spanish news sources and first hand accounts exactly what the violence in Mexico entailed, who was committing it, and why. I watched videos of torture and murder that the drug cartels so gleefully put on Youtube as an intimidation technique. I followed the writings of journalists who ended up missing or murdered. I learned about the history of Mexico and the history of the drug cartels, and found that the history of the latter preceded the Mexican Revolution. I talked to friends who had had encounters with violence. I looked evil in the eye instead of pretending that it did not exist or that it existed in a world far removed from mine. All of this lived in my heart.

And then I put my heart on paper, and I never felt so connected to my life before. For the first time since I was a child, I felt completely integrated.

I was scared to death. I had no idea whether my writing was good or not, and I wanted to do justice for the people I had come to love and admire so much. I mustn’t fail them, I thought. They suffer enough.

This is where encouragement comes in. After I had written about half of The Z Redemption, I built up the nerve to let my lifetime friend, Robert Selfe, know what I was up to. I showed him the novel. Robert is a career educator in English literature and he tells the truth, so I awaited his verdict with bated breath. He responded with encouragement to finish and encouragement of the best kind: he committed himself to be editor, and he stuck with me to the end. (He became even more involved with the second novel.)

Book reviewers wield a lot of power over the hearts and psyches of authors. I respect Cate Agosta because she truthfully tells how she feels about a book. Cate finds encouraging things to say even to the authors of books that she is rating lowly. That is the thing about encouragement: it is an act of compassion. You cannot put something genuine into someone else’s heart without it coming from your own.

It is so important to encourage others. Our world does require a substantial amount of logical thinking, but there is no mental health without heart and mind being nourished and balanced. The contrary to that, discouragement, should also be done as an act of compassion or concern for someone’s safety. To discourage someone through words or acts entails a considerable amount of responsibility. I believe that somehow in the end we are accountable for what we think and do on earth, so before I discourage anyone, I look hard at what is in my heart as well as to check the logic of my thinking. If I am uncertain what is going on with the person, I ask them! It is vital to know the condition of the other person’s heart and circumstances.

Because of my own acting abilities, I have learned not to assume that because a person seems cheerful or happy most of the time that they do not need a little piece of my heart. It is surprising the number of times I have offered some minor encouragement to someone only to see them pause with traces of tears in their eyes. The reverse is important: if someone offers a kind word, I take it and accept it and consider the possibility that what was said might be true. Without doing this, my heart would empty once more, and I would be heading back to the bed to pull the sheet over my head.

Now I am sixty-five years old. I just received my Medicare card, official government certification that I am elderly! Recently a young person approached me and asked me how to make sense of life when there is so much good but also so much violence and heartbreak. My answer came out spontaneously: Life doesn’t have to make sense. It only has to have purpose. Sometimes we find a life with purpose because someone has encouraged us.

Daniel Wetta
Author:
The Z Redemption
Corvette Nightfire

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