Month: February 2019

Review of ‘Between the World and Me’

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I received a gift copy of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book, Between the World and Me, over two years ago. For a number of reasons, I put it aside. What with the number of police shootings of young black men under questionable circumstances, along with the increase in racially and religiously motivated hate crimes, I labored under the mistaken assumption that another book about the agony of the black experience in America would only agitate my already agitated mood. Finally, though, I decided to open the covers and see what Coates had to say.

 

In the form of a letter to his son, Coates, an award-winning New York based journalist and author, talks about his own experiences growing up on the mean streets of an inner city, his exposure to the infinite variety of black life at Howard University, a Mecca for young blacks who wanted to get on the path to upward mobility, to his take on American history from a black perspective.

 

I was right that the book would be disturbing, but it was not disturbing in a negative way. It s hook me out of my own complacency, and reminded me that every generation of people of color growing up in America has its own memories; its own story to tell.

 

Every word of this book should be read with care, should be digested, and then passed on to future generations. It is through such sharing of past experiences that we are better able to cope with the turbulent present, and prepare for the unknown future.

 

Must reading, not just for young black people, but people of all colors and ages, if they truly wish to have a better understanding of who we—Americans—are, and what we can aspire to be.

 

I give this book a resounding five stars.

Review of ‘The Last Letter’

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For 17 years Katherine Arthur has had conflicting feelings about her mother who, after their father left them on the prairie, seemed distant, uncaring, and remote. Now, after nearly two decades, she comes upon a bunch of letters that tell the true story of those turbulent times, and in particular, a last letter from her missing father that puts them into startlingly clear perspective. She is faced with a dilemma; can she finally forgive her mother after so much time has passed?

The Last Letter by Kathleen Shoop, though fiction, is based in part on the history of the author’s own family. Told from two perspectives; the present (1922) from Katherine’s point of view, and the events of 1905 from her mother’s viewpoint, it gives a frightening, and fresh new perspective on frontier life and its impact on the families that had to endure incredible hardships and conflict.

The first book in a series, it chronicles our past in a refreshing—though disturbing—new way. An enlightening read that I highly recommend.

Review of ‘The Donut Shop Murder’

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Detroit Homicide Detective Jill Zanos and her partner, Detective Albert Wong, are called to the scene where a young woman is found dead, shot in the head at close ring. As they investigate, the suspects keep piling up, each shown to be at the scene around the time of the murder, and each with a motive, but how do they separate the wheat from the chaff, and nab the true murderer? One way, a rather unorthodox one at that, is Jill’s ‘gift’ bestowed upon her by her mystic Greek grandmother, and as they work methodically through the case, her ‘gift’ keeps pulling her in different directions.

 

The Donut Shop Murder by Suzanne Jenkins is a short read, but, man oh man, is it riveting. False trail after false trail, clues sprinkled like Hansel and Gretel’s bread crumbs lead them up one false trail and down another, until, BINGO, Jill figures it out. Even she is unsure just how her gift works, and believe me, you’ll be surprised at the conclusion.

 

This one is one of the best one-hour reads I’ve encountered so far this year, and I recommend it highly for all mystery fans. An easy one to give five stars to.

Review of ‘Laughing Eyes’

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Laughing Eyes by Haya Magner is a very short, but entertaining book with some nice illustrations and poems about the every-day life of children. While some of the poems might be a bit too complicated for the youngest, every child can enjoy the pictures, and there are lessons to be learned if read slowly and carefully.

An excellent book to introduce poetry to young children.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Sourdough Wars’

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Bread, aka, money, is one of the reasons people kill. But, in Sourdough Wars by Julie Smith, it’s the actual come-from-an-oven type of bread that is the motive for murder. The heir to a sourdough empire is murdered on the eve of auctioning off his cryo-frozen sourdough starter. Lawyer Rebecca Schwartz and her partner decide to represent the estate of the deceased and, oh by the way, try to find out who killed him.

Sourdough Wars by Julie Smith is a tongue-in-cheek cozy mystery that rises up from page one and envelopes you in the aroma of good food and even better story-telling. An eclectic cast of characters, and the author knows how to put them through their paces to keep you entertained page after delightful page.

Three cheers and five stars for this book.

Review of ‘Poison by Punctuation’

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After a rocky start at Thomas Jefferson High School in Pinewood, Colorado, Emma Lovett is finally settling in. She and her best friend, Leslie Parker, are happy not to be stumbling over corpses, but the idyllic live is not long lasting, for soon they find the body of a student in the gym, an apparent overdose, which is soon discovered to be ‘murder most foul.’

 

Emma and Leslie, of course, feel obliged to investigate—after all, they did solve t he case of the janitor’s murder. This time, though, the stakes are higher. They have to deal with mysterious newcomers, a fundamentalist preacher with a snake fetish and a deadly secret, and a bit of jealousy from Emma’s newfound(?) love.

 

Without spoiling it by telling you too much, I’ll just say that Kelley Kaye’s Poison by Punctuation, book two in the Chalkboard Outline series, is every bit as good as book one, and I strongly recommend it. A strong, but sometimes conflicted, female heroine, with an even stronger, and slightly flawed, female sidekick, it moves like a game of dodge ball—things hit you when you least expect them to.

 

I give this one five stars.

 

 

 

 

Review of ‘Disturb’

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The FDA sends Dr. Bill May to fast track approval of a new drug that supposedly eliminates the need to sleep. The problem is, though, N-SOM has some hidden, and extremely dangerous side effects. One of those effects, a psychotic killer, gets May and the daughter of the drug’s inventor in his sights. Can May survive long enough to make the dangers of N-SOM public? You’ll have to read Disturb by JA Konrath to find out.

A gripping medical thriller that will keep you awake—pun intended—and cause you to forever take the TV ads from big pharma with a large shaker of salt. This one is one of the author’s best to date.

I give it four and a half stars.

Review of ‘Love Letters Home’

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Love Letters Home: Love in a Time of War by Chapman Deering is a tale of love and separation during World War II, based upon a trove of actual letters the author found from a USAAF soldier to his fiancée during the period 1942 to 1945.

Ruth LeBlanc’s life as a freelance commercial artist becomes turbulent when her fiancé enlists in the army air corps as an engineer. They had only been seriously dating for a few months at the time of his enlistment, and with him about to be shipped overseas, they become engaged. During three years of separation, they begin to experience the inevitable changes that occur when one goes off to war and the only bridge connecting them is the letters they exchange. Ruth experiences the same angst that lovers have experienced in war-time as she realizes that both are being changed.

Through their exchanges of letters, the reader is taken inside the ups and downs of their relationship as Ruth must decide between following her heart or sticking to her ideals.

A nicely done first novel that explores the human cost of war from an intensely personal perspective.

I give it four stars.