Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Love And Lament by John Milliken Thompson

One dead child after another and then their mother.  How could Cicero stand any more?  He only had three of his nine children left and was constantly worried they would be gone too. His worry wasn't over with the three that were still living. 

LOVE AND LAMENT was the saga of Mary Bet Hartsoe and was set in the late 1800's when typhoid was rampant, when deaths were on a daily basis, and when inventions of machinery were beginning to surface to make factories and lives easier. The late 1800's was a time of change for everyone both personally and historically.  The book dealt with many social issues and is very deep, thoughtful and intellectual.  
LOVE AND LAMENT was beautifully written.  The author had amazing prose and detailed, remarkable descriptions. At times the descriptions were so vivid, you could feel the grass under your feet, smell the aromas in the air, and share the pain of the characters. Despite the marvelous writing, it was a bit tedious and difficult to get into at first, but once I became attached to the main character, Mary Bet, it held my interest.  
Mary Bet was the youngest of the nine children, the one who stayed with her father, and the one who was quite headstrong for a woman of that era.  It was amusing to see the social protocol of that time especially the "rules" for courting and the woman's role in following these "rules."
It was a book about family, suffering, and living life no matter what circumstances are thrown your way.  If you enjoy historical  fiction, description at its finest, but details a bit too drawn out at times, you will enjoy LOVE AND LAMENT. 4/5
This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

A simple letter, but was it really that simple?  A letter written long ago.  A letter indicating it was not allowed to be opened.  A letter that made John Paul’s wife, Cecelia, quite curious.

What harm would be done by opening the letter?  Cecelia was dying to open it, but the message  John-Paul wrote on the front of the envelope said it could not be opened until his death.  When Cecilia asked her husband about it, he said he had been sentimental when he wrote it, and that she should just put it away.  Obediently Cecilia, the good wife, put it away without opening it. 

Hints about the contents of the letter will peak your curiosity as it did Cecelia’s.  When she did open the letter and found out what John-Paul had written, she couldn't believe it. How could this be true? Cecelia the perfect wife and fixer of everything couldn't fix this. 

Cecelia was the perfect wife, mother, and town citizen.  She knew everyone in town, and she knew everything about the city residents.  She remembered Tess when she came back to her childhood town because her husband didn't love her any more.  Rachel was also part of Cecelia's circle.  Rachel had a few heartbreaking situations in the past.  But…what Cecelia found in that letter was going to be more than a heartbreak for Rachel. 

THE HUSBAND'S SECRET was focused on this letter, Tess, Rachel and Cecilia.  The letter’s secret had to do with an unknown connection between Tess, Cecelia, and Rachel and something that happened in the past that linked them together and something in the present that caused more heartache and pain.  

When the book begins, you will think it is going to be a book about a husband’s affair, but it is more sinister than that.  It actually is a tragic secret. 

THE HUSBAND’S SECRET is about more than keeping secrets,  though.  It deals with a parent’s love for his/her child and about the lengths parents go to in order to protect their children. It deals with right and wrong, and it deals with the thought - do we really know our spouse or significant other?

Don’t be mislead into thinking it is simply a book about secrets between a husband and his wife.  It is far more than that.  It is a book about secrets whether they are large or small and about our decisions to reveal the secret or to not reveal the secret.

THE HUSBAND’S SECRET is an excellent read that will keep you pondering life, pondering the decisions we make, and thinking about the secrets most of us have.  What is your secret?  5/5

This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the publisher and LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

An Interview with Steven Gore

It is my pleasure to feature Steven Gore today as he talks about his newest thriller.



Gore is a former private investigator whose international thrillers draw on his investigations of murder, fraud, money laundering, organized crime, political corruption, and drug, sex, and arms trafficking in Europe, Asia, and Latin America. The author of Act of Deceit and Power Blind, Gore has been featured on 60 Minutes for his work and has been honored for excellence in his field. He is trained in forensic science and has lectured to professional organizations on a wide range of legal and criminal subjects. 

His latest thriller, A CRIMINAL DEFENSE, is his second book in his thrilling series featuring ex-SFPD detective, Harlan Donnally.

“Rich, gritty, and terrifically twisty…crackles with legal and psychological authenticity.”

—Lou Berney, author of Whiplash River
In Steven Gore’s page-turning second installment, A CRIMINAL DEFENSE by Steven Gore (Harper Mass Market; July 30, 2013; $9.99; ISBN: 9780062025074), readers find ex-SFPD detective Harlan Donnally running a small cafe north of San Francisco. But when Mark Hamlin, a criminal defense lawyer with a slimy reputation, is found murdered underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, Donnally is drawn back into a twisted and corrupt world he thought he’d left behind.
Over three decades, Hamlin's practice devolved into just another racket: intimidating witnesses, suborning perjury, destroying evidence, laundering money. But is he the victim of murder—or of a dangerous sexual encounter gone wrong? And when law enforcement believes justice has already been done, who can be trusted to find out?
Despite a mysterious request left in the dead man’s hand, Donnally had resolved it wouldn't be him. He had no desire to immerse himself in the deceit that was Hamlin's career . . . nor entangle himself in the corrupted loyalties that turned the dead lawyer's associates into both co-conspirators and suspects . . . nor make himself the proxy for the hatreds and betrayals Hamlin left behind.
But the presiding judge demanded otherwise—and that might cost Donnally his life.


If there is single word that characterizes my encounter with writing crime fiction after decades as a criminal investigator, it’s counterintuitive. 

And it’s part of the explanation why true crime makes for lousy crime fiction, why so few career-long law enforcement officers and private investigators succeed in crime writing and why most of those who do have only worked in the field briefly. In truth, much of what readers want from investigator protagonists are characteristics and habits that experienced investigators have to train out of themselves and train out of young investigators in order for them to succeed.

Readers want different things from investigators than do law enforcement agencies and private investigator clients. Readers want to feel increasing tension, while, with the rarest of exceptions, experienced investigators aim to lower it; readers want to watch investigators overcome obstacles, while experienced investigators aim to avoid them; readers want to read about characters who are uniquely qualified, while in the real world there are only investigators who are especially qualified; readers want to watch investigators run up against walls and then force their way through them, while experienced investigators aim how to slip around them; readers want spontaneity and surprise, while experienced investigators plan and plan in order to limit surprises; readers want to see investigators try and try again, while clients want real investigators to get it right the first time; readers are not troubled by brash, aggressive protagonists injecting conflict into a scene, while real investigators don’t inject it, they anticipate potential conflict inherent in a situation and work to mute it. 

In the end, in the real world, doing all these things in these ways is both the criteria of competence and the conditions for successful investigations.

There is one kind of law enforcement that matches readers’ expectations: narcotics. But it isn’t at heart a crime solving assignment. Narcotics cases are generally built from leaning on people who’ve already been caught dirty—by patrol officers and street drug task forces and through search warrants and wiretaps--to give up those above them. It’s less about solving crimes and more about discovering crimes already in progress or creating crimes by means of informants or undercover agents. The problem is that since the skills and attitudes that succeed in narcotics enforcement fail in investigations, few narcotics officers become first rate homicide detectives. Observe the contrast between the drug enforcement reality shows and A&E’s The First 48. In The First 48, at least during the first few years of the show and before detectives began to play to the camera, nearly all of the excitement came from the music and the jump cuts. The detectives themselves were generally low key and methodical.

The problem for me was to translate the reality of investigation into fiction. That is to say, there could be no “When in doubt, have a man come through a door with a gun in his hand” of Raymond Chandler or “My way of learning is to heave a wild and unpredictable monkey-wrench into the machinery” of Dashiell Hammett. Rather, plots had to be driven internally and conflict had to be exploited from within, rather than imposed from without and the methods used had to be those that succeeded in real life.

On the domestic front, I’m making this effort in the Harlan Donnally novels of which A Criminal Defense is the latest, and on the international front, in the Graham Gage thrillers of which Power Blind is the latest. In each series, the central problem I faced was investigative competence: the protagonists had to apply real world methods and approaches in a realistic way. That meant applying the techniques of genre fiction to stories whose aim is realism. And the challenge was to make the stories not only informative about the real world of crime and investigation, but exciting for readers. In the end, it’s the readers who will judge whether I have truly bridged the gap between the real and the fictional.

  Contact: Heidi Richter
  (212) 207-7478


Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Serpent and the Pearl by Kate Quinn

Rome, corruption, Catholic cardinals fathering children, and of course murder all thrown into THE SERPENT AND THE PEARL.  

THE SERPENT AND THE PEARL was set in Rome where the powerful Borgia family was in charge.  You didn't want to go against the Borgia family.  The Borgia family ruled during the 1400's and had servants, money and power, but they mostly had corrupt family members. The corruption began in the book when Orsino and Giulia were married but Orsino never came to the marriage bed.  He had been paid off by the Cardinal.  Guilia found out that Cardinal Borgia wanted her for himself, and that he already had many children from previous women. Cardinal Borgia would hide his indiscretions by paying off and sending away the groom and then keeping the bride for himself.

The book was based on fact and was filled with corrupt, evil characters with chapters devoted to each character.  Guilia Farnese was the main character along with Carmelina, Cardinal Borgia, and Madonna Adriana.  Cardinal Borgia and Madonna Adriana, Guilia's mother-in-law, were the most evil of all in my opinion. The characters and the book itself were interesting, but it took a while to get the gist of what was going on.  It was difficult to follow and seemed to be a tale focused on the Cardinal and Guilia’s lovemaking.  It is unbelievable this really occurred back in the 1400's.

I liked Leonello, the dwarf and bodyguard, the best. Even though he murdered people, he seemed to be the most likeable of the characters.  I also liked Carmelina, the chef. She was believable and a hard worker.  I completely disliked Cardinal Borgia (later Pope Alexander VI) simply because he was evil, cunning, and selfish.  Guilia was likeable, but also a bit naive.   

I can't say I didn't like THE SERPENT AND THE PEARL, but I can't say that I did.  I do like history and I definitely learned a great deal, but the book seemed to drag.  I wasn't "dying" to get back to the book.  Perhaps since I didn't read Ms. Quinn's other books, I missed out on something.   

The reader can’t deny, though, that the writing was excellent, very descriptive, and well researched.  Ms. Quinn definitely did thorough research.  The historical facts were detailed and accurate.  In some respects, this era was a bit comical, and it was difficult to believe that these activities with the Cardinals/Popes took place.  

Not sure what my rating should be, but I am going to go with 3.5 out of 5 simply because it was a bit tedious with the day-to-day living being repeated.  Other than that, if you are a fan of this era, you will not be disappointed.  History was masterfully brought to life through Ms. Quinn’s talents.

This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the publisher in return for an honest review.

I am THREE!!!

Photo courtesy of

Today is my Blogoversary!!!!

Three years of wonderful, enjoyable blogging experiences and most of all three years of meeting amazing people and reading fabulous books.

Thanks to all who stop by and read my  posts.

And...many thanks to Kathy of Bermudaonion who was my encouragement to begin a blog.  

Look at all the fun I would have missed if I hadn't gotten started.  :)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Winter at Death's Hotel by Kenneth Cameron

While the cat was away, the "mouse" was playing.  Louisa Conan Doyle, the wife of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, had an accident in their NY hotel and wasn't able to go with Arthur on his American book tour.  She took advantage of being a woman of the 1800’s without her husband. She was getting to play detective, and it wasn't a murder in one of her husband's books.

Before Arthur left, though, he warned his wife about getting involved in this murder investigation and also about the social implications of her going out alone, but Louisa wasn't one to listen to her husband when she had something on her mind that she "HAD" to do.  Louisa knew she saw a murder victim walking out of their hotel the first day they arrived, and she wanted to make sure the police knew she had information. 
Despite Louisa's being told to stay out of this investigation by her husband as well as the authorities, she pursued it.  She said she must let everyone know what she knew and that she could help them find out where the murder took place, who was involved, and who the murderer was.  

Was it pure luck that she had fallen down in the hotel and was not able to go on the tour with her husband?  She thought it had been luck because now she would be able to help solve the murder, but the New York Police Department wasn't feeling lucky.  

Louisa wanted justice served and just couldn't understand how New Yorkers and Americans could take murders and disappearances so lightly. She took on the Police Department as well as the hotel manager and the hotel detective to set them straight. 

Louisa was a great character and a character very much ignoring the rules set for a proper English lady or any lady in the 1800's.   I laughed at her antics and her bravery. She just wouldn't give up.

The other characters included policemen, hotel guests, and the hotel owners.  The book was right on for the time period and its social protocol both in and out of the police station. 

I thoroughly enjoyed WINTER AT DEATH'S HOTEL.  I enjoyed the characters, the detailed descriptions, and definitely the humor and the storyline. The ending had the murder solved, but it was a comedy of errors.  

WINTER AT DEATH'S HOTEL is an enjoyable, change-of-pace mystery with a marvelous, entertaining, and determined main character. 5/5

This book was given to me free of charge without compensation by the publisher in return for an honest review.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Lemon Orchard by Luanne Rice

California, Mexico, a lemon orchard, an estate owner, and a special Mexican worker in the lemon orchard.

Roberto, a worker in the lemon orchard, and Julia, the niece of the owner of the lemon orchard had one thing in common, and they were drawn to each other.

Julia and Roberto had both lost children, one in an accident and one in the desert.  Both of their lives were consumed with the grief of their loss even after five years, and they shared this common bond.

THE LEMON ORCHARD was a beautiful story about the cruelty as well as the beauty our lives hold for us.  You will become a part of the lives of Julia and Roberto in this splendidly told tale of what it means to truly love and to truly lose something or someone you love.

Ms. Rice’s descriptions of the California and Mexico landscapes was amazing.  I could easily visualize the lemon orchard, the estate's house and grounds, and the raging forest fire as well as the desert and the path Roberto had to follow to cross the border from Mexico into the United States.

The characters were well developed and believable.  The authenticity and reality of the border control operation and the suffering of the Mexicans crossing the border definitely had been well researched.

This is the first book I have read by Ms. Rice, and I  was very pleased with her writing as well as the storyline.  The story flowed nicely, kept your interest, and the ending pages had me turning as fast as I could to see how things would turn out.  The book will pull you right in as you soak up the beauty of the Malibu countryside as well as the lives of the characters.

Marvelously written and researched, I hope you are able to read this book.  It took a few pages to see where the book was headed, but THE LEMON ORCHARD is well worth the wait.  ENJOY!!  5/5

This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the publisher in return for an honest review.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Story of Sassy Sweetwater by Vera Jane Cook

Sassy Sweetwater was always sassy but also very sweet.

Sassy was born out of wedlock on the riverbank of Sweetwater River.  Her mother used Sassy as her first name just because, and she used Sweetwater for her last name because she didn't want Sassy to know who her father was. Right after her birth Sassy and her mother, Vi, left the area and stayed away for thirteen years until Vi decided to return to her childhood home.

After thirteen years, coming back home was quite difficult for Sassy because she knew no one and was never told she even had any family.  It was wonderful for Vi, though.  Once Sassy saw the family home, she had no desire to live in this huge house and especially with Grandma Edna, but that is what her Mama wanted. Sassy found out very quickly more than she wanted to about her "kin" and about family secrets.

The Story of Sassy Sweetwater was a perfect portrayal
of a Southern family.  I loved the descriptions Ms. Cook used to describe the beautiful home Sassy's mama grew up in, the landscape, and especially the characters.  The Southern mansion and its surroundings sounded fabulous.  Despite the beauty of the home and landscape, though, the McLaughlin family was definitely made up of an odd bunch of characters.

This book has adult situations and is set during the time of segregation. The Story of Sassy Sweetwater is an easy read that flows nicely despite the book always seeming to have a sinister, gloomy undertone that included murders along with everything else strange and dysfunctional. 

It was an unusual book, not what I normally read but it was so different that I continued.  I loved the Southern charm and life style. The ending did turn out well for made a full circle from Sassy's poverty-stricken childhood to a rich, fulfilled Southern woman with the reader sharing her pain as well as her happiness.

The book will appeal to most readers but I would steer young readers away. There was quite a bit of adult content.  4/5

This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the author in return for an honest review.