Sunday, October 30, 2011

Great Debut Novel

I just finished Blue Straggler by Kathy Lynn Harris and thoroughly enjoyed it.  The title comes from an astronomy term for a star that has an anomalous blue color and appears to be disconnected from the stars around it.  It is the perfect title, since it so aptly describes the main character, Bailey.

Bailey feels disconnected from her family, friends and even herself.  When she loses her job unexpectedly she decides to head to Colorado and see if she can make a connection to herself by researching what made her great grandmother abandon her family and move to a small town in the mountains of Colorado.The people she meets there and the experiences she has help her see what she truly needs.

The characters are great - both quirky and believable at the same time.  The novel is a great read, providing both hilarious moments and tender, poignant ones.  I definitely recommend it for anyone looking for a little adventure with some great and memorable characters.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Gripping Thriller

Russell Blake's "Fatal Exchange" was a thrill ride that gripped me from the first chapter. The plot twists and turns and keeps you guessing.

It begins with a watch dealer who sells a million dollars worth of watches to an Asian businessman. When it turns out the bills are counterfeit the game is on. The counterfeiters, a foreign government,  realize some less than perfect bills are out and they want them back before anyone knows they exist.  Enter the Asian hit team.

Tess, a bicycle courier, is the daughter of the watch dealer and when her father is murdered and the bodies start stacking up she realizes she's probably next.

Throw in a serial killer that is targeting female bike messengers and you have one more twist in the plot.  Blake ties it all together brilliantly in a turn you won't see coming. 

The characters are quirky and fun.  It's a definite must read.  I for one, can't wait to read more of Blake's novels.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A YA Just In Time for Halloween

I just finished a fun YA read by Laura A. H. Elliott called "13 On Halloween".  It is the first novel in Laura's new Teen Halloween Series.  Judging by the first book, it will be a series to follow.

The story revolves around Roxie who has entered middle school and is hoping to catapult herself into the popular crowd at school with a party for her thirteenth birthday, which falls on Halloween.  A party her parents don't know she is having and wouldn't permit if they knew.  She invites all of the popular kids that she admires and is thrilled when they all show up.

They give Roxie a unique gift which is literally out of this world.  Laura has crafted an alternate reality which is both believable and spooky at the same time. Ultimately, the gift will teach her that you should be careful what you wish for and that 'popularity' is not all it's cracked up to be.

Roxie is a great character with a language all her own and with problems most of us can relate to. Her experiences teach her lessons that we all need to remember.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

War Story

Amanda Hodgkinson's "22 Britannia Road" is a compelling post war story.  Silvana and Janusz are reuniting in England in 1946 after having been separated for 6 long years by the war.

They were living in Warsaw with their son, Aurek, when the invasion began.  Janusz left them to join up with Polish and Russian forces to fight the Germans.  As a result of a bombing raid he doesn't make it to the army post and decides to abandon the army. This begins his journey towards France.  Eventually he does join the British army and settles in a small English village after the war.  At that point he sends for his wife and child.

Meanwhile, Silvana and Aurek fled Warsaw ahead of the Germans.  They wandered the countryside looking for somewhere safe to wait out the war.  They ended up living with a band of fellow refugees in the forest that were hiding from the soldiers.  Eventually they were left, just the two of them, to live off what the forest provided.

As they come together post-war they must try and mesh their lives together.  Each harbors secrets of what happened to them during the war.  They both struggle with the urge to tell and the urge to keep silent.

The story switches between the present (1946) time at 22 Britannia Road and their separate wartime experiences.  Will they be able to put aside the past and forge a new life together?  The novel is rather haunting in it's descriptions of that war torn era.  The mixing of the past and present builds the momentum that keeps the pages turning in a need to discover the truth.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Fighting Crime

Zach Fortier's "CurbChek" is a gritty, fictional account of actual calls that Zach was assigned to during a 28 year career as a police officer.  The novel is written in the style of a memoir and takes you into the day to day life of an officer on the streets.  They see the darker side that most of us, hopefully, never encounter.

We're shown the precinct politics and pecking orders that make an already difficult job even more complicated.  The cases span his career and illustrate the change in mindset from a rookie cop to a veteran on the force.  There's everything from domestic violence, drug gangs and drive-by's to prostitution and date rape.  Zach uses common sense and compassion with the criminals to defuse situations as opposed to escalating them with hotheaded heavy handedness.

"CurbChek" definitely gives you a greater appreciation for what our police officers encounter while keeping our communities safe.  It's a fascinating read and I recommend it to anyone interested in learning what it would be like to be on the ground fighting crime and keeping us safe.