Sunday, April 26, 2009

One Deadly Sin by Annie Solomon

Edie Swann has come home to Redbud, Tennessee. She left when she was ten years old as Eden Swanford, crushed by a family tragedy. Her father had embezzled from the biggest business in town, leading to fears it would close down. Unable to handle the shame, he killed himself. That death unhinged Eden's mother who spent the rest of her life in a mental institution. Eden was raised by an aunt, and grew up believing that someone in the town was responsible for her family's grief.

Now she's come back to find out what really happened. Edie has a list of names she got from her aunt, and the town's legend of a dark angel that wreaks vengence to aid her. She starts sending minature black angels to the men on the list. However, she is shocked when those men start turning up dead, one after the other. Has her reappearance caused their deaths? Is she responsible as the townspeople quickly come to believe?

Holt Drennan is the town police chief. He has grief of his own. His wife died of leukemia, and he has returned to Redbud to raise his little girl and has taken over as police chief from his father. Holt and Edie find an instant attraction to each other, but as the deaths mount, the need for truth and resolution starts to drive them apart. Only the truth can clear the way for any possible relationship they might have.

Annie Solomon has written a compelling book that explores the bonds of family, the realities of small town secrets, and the drive to live happily even when it seems completely out of reach. This book is recommended for suspense readers and fans of romance.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Last Paradise by Michael Kasenow

Michael Kasenow takes the reader back to 1900 in Galveston, Texas. His narrative is different from most; instead of hearing Galveston's history from the rich and powerful, he shows it to us through the eyes of those who are poor and powerless. Ex-slaves, prostitutes, day laborers, card sharps and alcoholics, their day to day viewpoint of how the city worked is rare and fascinating. There are many interesting characters, but the book focuses on a man named Maxwell Hayes. Raised in a dysfunctional family, he broke away and has wandered the United States, drifting from job to job and leaving when situations arose that would tie him down. The defining time in his life was when he fell in love with a camp cook as a lumberjack. They were engaged when he came home to find that she had deserted him for another. This reinforced his inability to get close to other people.

Maxwell has wound up in Galveston, where he works as a laborer at a shipping company, loading and unloading merchandise. All he asks of life is enough money to survive and a bottle of alcohol now and then. He spends time with others like him. There is Blair, a black man whose life story starts as a slave and who now has a son about to go to college. Newt Haskins is a former Yale man who left to make a living as a card dealer and gambler and who also works as a laborer. There is a mentally challenged couple who is protected by the others in the group. Maxwell is fond of a prostitute named Fanny and close to her son, Cody. There is a veterinarian who has lost his license and a fishing boat captain. They provide a support group for each other, and help other group members get through life issues.

Things are about to change for Maxwell. One day Connor, the boss of the shipping company, comes to visit his empire, bringing his wife. Recognition is instant on both sides, as Connor's wife is Maxwell's first love. She wants to reinstate their relationship. As a complicating factor, her daughter Sara, is also attracted to Maxwell. The issue of how these relationships play out fuel much of the book's narrative.

Kasenow has obviously done significant research on Galveston's history. There are funny sections, such as the big shark-hunting contest entered by the group. The discrimination and difficulty of blacks in 1900 Texas is portrayed, along with the observation that one of the keys in ending racial discrimination was the lack of support by the big industrialists, who saw that Galveston was losing financial opportunities due to the way the rest of the country viewed the prejudice that existed there. One of the strongest parts of the book was the portrayal of the 1900 hurricane that killed thousands in Galveston. It is used to bring several plotlines together and to give resolution to the book. This book is recommended for lovers of historical fiction.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Blood Island by H. Terrell Griffin

Matt Royal was a successful, hard-driving lawyer in Florida. Unfortunately, that high-pressure type of life led to too much stress, too much drinking, and the destruction of his marriage. Bottoming out after his wife left, Royal gives up the law and moves to Naples. He has put his life back together and spends his time fishing and occasionally helping out friends with legal matters.

One day, he gets a call he'd never expected. His ex-wife, Laura, is in town and wants to see him. When they meet, she tells him that her stepdaughter, an eighteen year old named Peggy, has gone missing after spring break in Florida. Never having stopped loving Laura, Matt agrees to look into the matter and see if he can find Peggy.

The investigation starts a trail of dead bodies. Someone knows Matt is looking, and they aren't happy about it; witnesses who talk to him are turning up dead. Royal has lots of friends in both the police and military from his time serving in the Special Forces, and lots of other male friends he has made while living in the area. They all help him where needed. The investigation leads to Key West, where Matt finds that two men chased down Peggy and kidnapped her while she was trying to make a call to her father. The clues lead to a charasmastic evangelist, prostitution houses, and terrorism. Matt and his friends rescue Peggy and uncover a terrorist plot that would rock the nation.

Griffin's writing is fast-paced and full of action, yet the reader is not overwhelmed by it. The pace moves nicely, and the relationships revealed move the story forward. The plot is not overwhelmed by coincidences, a feature often found in mystery novels. I enjoyed learning more about the history of Florida, and reading about such a male world and the friendships that propel it. This book is recommended for readers who like action and a satisfactory plot. This is the third Matt Royal novel and I'll be looking for the first two to read more of Matt's adventures.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Man Of The House by Ad Hudler

Man Of the House follows the Menner family for a year as their lives change. The family has recently moved to Naples, Florida, when Jo, the wife, gets a new position as an executive at a hospital group. She has been the breadwinner for years. Her husband, Lincoln, gave up his career as a landscape architect to stay home with their daughter, Violet. But this plan, which has worked for the family for thirteen years now, changes as they move forward.

Linc has been a fantastic caregiver, and has poured his creative talents into raising Violet and creating a supportive environment. But these days, he starts to feel burned out and that he needs something else. After nurturing his feminine traits for years, Linc starts to move more toward his masculine side. He starts to work out and soon has a bodybuilder's physique. He starts to spend time at a barbershop, a retreat that is exclusively and unashamedly male. He does less and less at home, creating confusion in Violet and Jo who expect him to handle everything. His obsession with cleaning, cooking, and fulfilling his wife's and child's every need receeds as he starts spending lots of time with a local contractor, who teaches him about the world of tools and construction.

As Linc changes, so does the family. Violet veers between feeling neglected and cherishing the freedom that her dad's inattention gives her to make new friends and even make tentative moves into the world of dating. Jo takes over more of the household duties, although it is difficult with her 80-hour workweeks. In the process, she realises that her career has in many ways put up a wall between her and Violet, and she is simulataneously upset at the realisation and grateful that she still has years to develop a closer relationship before Violet leaves the family. Outside pressure is put on Jo and Linc's marriage when a teacher at Violet's school develops an obsession with Linc and starts trying to seduce him.

Ad Hudler has done a masterful job at portraying the issues that make up a marriage and the parent-child relationship. Gender differences and how different people respond to gender expectations is skillfully portrayed. I started this book expecting some light chick-lit, and was pleasantly surprised at how well each character was devloped and how different familial patterns were analyzed. This book is recommended for those interested in family relationships and general fiction.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Painless by Bill Poje

Augustus Valentine has a huge problem. Involved in a smuggling ring through his import-export business, he has agreed to smuggle in jewels and precious metals. But before they can be delivered to his client, Augustus is attacked at the business and all the smuggled merchandise is stolen. That's a big problem for Augustus. Not with the insurance company or even the police. No, Aug's problem is with the Mob and the various men he has dealt with for years and that he believed were his partners. Now everyone is after Aug and expect him to deliver the goods. If he can't, death is a real possibility.

Fast-paced, Bill Poje's Painless follows Aug in the days after the robbery as he delves into the intricate relationships between the various partners. Everyone is out for themself, and betrayal and double-crossing is the name of the game. As Valentine moves from gangster to gangster, uses of flashbacks reveal that this crime has its genesis in events that happened decades ago. Valentine must figure out the past and the way it affects the present before he can hope to work his way out of the problems he faces. He learns that he can't trust anyone, even those he considered his closest friends.

This book is recommended for fans of furious action and a look at crime and criminals from the inside. The reader is swept along on waves of action and violence. As one might expect in this setting, there is lots of sex, violence and adult language. The plot twists like a sidewinder and the flashbacks help the reader piece together the puzzle of the various relationships. Bill Poje has created a realistic view of a world most readers will never experience.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


I'm giving away five copies of Men With Balls. If you are interested in sports or live with someone who is interested in sports, this is the book for you. It is a hilarious look at the world of pro sports. Warning: some material is not family-rated.

Giveaway Rules:

1. The giveaway starts Sunday, April 12th and runs to Friday, April 24th.

2. Winners must live in the United States or Canada.

3. No P.O. Boxes as addresses. Sorry!

4. For one entry, leave a comment with your email. I've had some commenters leave me no way to contact them, and I hate to think they don't get a chance! If you win, I'll email you to find out where the book should be sent.

5. For a second entry, become a follower of this blog. If you're already a follower, just mention that for your second entry.

6. For a third entry, tell me who your favorite college basketball team and pro football teams are. I'm a huge Tarheel and Carolina Panthers fan.

Good luck!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Midwife by Jennifer Worth

At the age of twenty-two, Jennifer Worth, a new nurse, came to study and work as a midwife at Nonnatus House. Nonnatus House was staffed by nuns, and the focus of their service was a large midwife practice. The time period was just after World War II and into the early 1950's in London. Specifically, the locale was that part of London down by the Docks which populated by people familiarly known as Cockney's. Poor and hard-working, the majority of these families still had their babies at home in this time period. Jennifer quickly learned an immense amount about delivering babies, but she also learned to appreciate and love the people who surrounded her.

The Midwife is a series of vignettes, each giving the reader a view into the life of the people surrounding Nurse Worth. Concita has her twenty-fifth baby during this time and is a contented wife and mother, although she only speaks Spanish. Mary is a young Irish girl, who is drawn into prostituition when she runs away from an abusing stepfather and ends up in London with no means of support. Sister Monica Joan is an older nun at the House, who seems to delight in tormenting the other nuns with her quick wit. Mrs. Jenkins, poor and clothed in tatters, roams the streets, always somehow knowing when a new baby has arrived and refusing to leave until she is told its' status. Betty Smith had a premature baby on Christmas. The arrival of large numbers of immigrants brings up the social issue of babies with parents from two races, and the inability to hide the adultery underlying this. The reader also learns a lot of medical information about how babies are born, advances in medicine and how perceptions of childbirth have changed over the years.

I found this book utterly charming. Jennifer Worth writes with unsparing detail of the poverty and crime around her, yet the people who inhabit these pages are portrayed lovingly and they come alive on the pages. The reader is transported to the Docks to live and learn. This book is highly recommended for readers who enjoy memoirs.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A Case Of Wild Justice? by Yvonne Jerrold

Sir Francis Bacon once said, "Revenge is a kind of wild justice which, the more a man's nature runs to, the more ought law to weed it out." In Yvonne Jerrold's novel, A Case Of Wild Justice?, this question of when revenge is justifiable, if ever, is explored.

In Hannah Meadow's neighborhood, old people are being victimized and terrorized by gangs of young boys. Both Hannah and her sister have been victims, along with many of their friends. Hannah was burglerized, surprising the burgler in the act. Her sister, Jessie, had an even worse encounter. Her garden, the product of years of hard work, had been vandalized and ruined by a gang of youngsters that Jessie had befriended and thought loved her. Now she is a recluse in her own house, refusing to come out and face the world that has turned on her. Others in their circle have had graffiti written on their walls, or were shoved in the street, cursed at, or even beaten up. Even worse for Hannah, one of the ringleaders of the gang is her grandson, Billy. She feels rage and guilt at this relationship at the same time and wonders what she should do.

The "silver bees" show her their solution. They are a group of elderly people who have tired of being victims and are determined to change their neighborhood back to a safe one. They adopt the tactics of terrorist suicide bombers. When attacked, they set off bombs they are wearing and kill themselves to insure that they are killing their attackers. There are several instances of these individuals taking matters into their own hands and setting off bombs that kill those who attack them. This tactic creates a huge controversy. For every person who condemns the silver bees, there is an advocate who insists they are being driven to such desparate measures. Hannah is drawn into their circle, although she isn't sure if she could ever carry out such an operation. The book explores her thought processes as she tries to determine what is right and what she is willing to do to end her feelings of persecution.

Jerrold has done an excellent job of portraying the helplessness that older people can feel, and how quickly a gang of toughs can victimize an entire neighborhood. Readers of mysteries and suspence novels will find this book well worth their time.


Thanks to Hachette, I'm sponsering another giveaway! This one is for The Turnaround by George Pelecanos. Pelecanos is a master at suspense and a crime novelist's crime novelist. I can't tell you how many other authors I've seen recommend him.
On a hot summer afternoon in 1972, three teenagers drove into an unfamiliar neighborhood and six lives were altered forever.Thirty five years later, one survivor of that day reaches out to another, opening a door that could lead to salvation. But another survivor is now out of prison, looking for reparation in any form he can find it.THE TURNAROUND takes us on a journey from the rock-and-soul streets of the '70s to the changing neighborhoods of D.C. today, from the diners and auto garages of the city to the inside of Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital, where wounded men and women have returned to the world in a time of war. A novel of fathers and sons, wives and husbands, loss, victory and violent redemption.
1. Winners must reside in the United States or Canada.
2. No post office boxes as mailing addresses, sorry!
3. The contest will run from April 7rd to midnight, April 17th. Winners will be selected randomly.
4. For one entry in the drawing, please leave a comment with your email address so that I can notify you if you're a winner. If you win, I'll write and get your mailing address so Hachette can get your prize in the mail. Entries without names or email addresses will not be entered.
5. For one additional entry, become a follower of this blog and let me know in your comment. If you're already a follower, let me know that also and it will count toward this entry requirement.
6. For one additional entry, cross-post this giveaway at your blog.
Good luck!


The Geography Of Bliss by Eric Weiner

Eric Weiner spent a decade as a foreign correspondent for National Public Radio. Fascinated by other places, and curious as to why he didn't seem particularly happy, he decided to visit other countries and see if he could determine why some countries and some people are happier than others.

After finding a database in Holland that quantified each country's happiness, Weiner took off on his adventure. He visited very rich countries such as mideastern oil countries where no one pays taxes and everyone is given an allowance. He visited extremely poor countries such as countries that were formerly part of Russia and everyday life is a struggle. In Holland, most behavior is accepted; in Switzerland, most behaviour is rigidly controlled. He visited more familiar places also; the city in England, Slough, where The Office was originally set, and then Miami and Asheville, NC. The last is interesting to me as it is in my home state.

In each country, Weiner meets locals and asks if they are happy, and why or why not. Along with studies on happiness, we learn about local customs, food and culture. Weiner explores data that suggests that those who are religious are happier than those not, that Republicans are happier than Democrats, that the rich are happier than the poor, but that money is not a guarantee of happiness. Medical research suggests that there are physical reasons for happiness as well.

I love travel books and this one had an interesting hook. It is recommended for those interested in why some people are happy and others not, as well as readers that also enjoy travel books.

Friday, April 3, 2009


I'm very excited to announce my first ever giveaway! Thanks to Hachette Books, I'm giving away five copies of Girls In Trucks by Katie Crouch.
Sarah Walters, the narrator of GIRLS IN TRUCKS, is a reluctant Camellia Society debutante. She has always felt ill-fitted to the rococo ways of Southern womanhood and family, and is anxious to shake the bonds of her youth. Still, she follows the traditional path laid out for her. This is Charleston, and in this beautiful, dark, segregated town, established rules and manners mean everything.But as Sarah grows older, she finds that her Camellia lessons fail her, particularly as she goes to college, moves North, and navigates love and life in New York. There, Sarah and her group of displaced deb sisters try to define themselves within the realities of modern life. Heartbreak, addiction, disappointing jobs and death fail to live up to the hazy, happy future promised to them by their Camellia mothers and sisters.When some unexpected bumps in the road--an unplanned birth, a family death--lead Sarah back home, she's forced to take another long look at the fading empire of her youth. It takes a strange turn of events to finally ground Sarah enough to make some serious choices. And only then does she realize that as much as she tried to deny it, where she comes from will always affect where she ends up. The motto of her girlhood cotillion society, "Once a Camellia, always a Camellia," may turn out to have more wisdom and pull to it than she ever could have guessed.
1. Winners must reside in the United States or Canada.
2. No post office boxes as mailing addresses, sorry!
3. The contest will run from April 3rd to midnight, April 11th. April 11th is my birthday, so what a perfect time to give gifts to my bookbuds. Winners will be selected randomly.
4. For one entry in the drawing, please leave a comment with your email address so that I can notify you if you're a winner. If you win, I'll write and get your mailing address so Hachette can get your prize in the mail.
5. For one additional entry, become a follower of this blog and let me know in your comment. If you're already a follower, let me know that also and it will count toward this entry requirement.
6. For one additional entry, cross-post this giveaway at your blog.
Good luck!