Tuesday, July 28, 2015

A House Divided - A Review

A Review

The book focuses on a family of lawyers. Lawyers, yes; family, not so much.

The book opens with the funeral of Corbin Gage’s ex-wife, Kitty - ex, because they had divorced ten years earlier. The split was based, as most are, on many factors; but each had its root in Corbin’s drinking. He “wasn’t an alcoholic”, but his wife and family needed distance from the uncertainty that alcohol brought to their relationship.

Corbin’s law practice was still there - but it was shrinking. He could barely afford to keep his administrative assistant on the payroll. It was the light workload that kept Janelle Griffin around the office.

It was the first day of work after the funeral that things began hopping. A new client walks in, Corbin’s son, Ray (also a lawyer), is seeking to move into private practice law after serving in the DA’s office for six years, and Corbin’s daughter, Roxy (also a lawyer), has a boyfriend that is becoming increasingly serious. The catch, the new client’s case will become the reason Ray is forced from his new job in private practice and the reason Roxy loses her promotion at the large firm where she works. Oh, did I tell you Corbin is an alcoholic.

I have long been a fan of Robert Whitlow - having read most (all?) of his books - legal thrillers occasionally compared to John Grisham. This newest book fills the bill. Combining the damage of industrial waste, the effects of alcoholism on a broken family, and God’s grace, Whitlow has woven a story that held this reader’s attention from the first chapter to the end of the book. Along with this captivating legal drama, the author also introduces his audience to the principles and attitudes which have allowed Alcoholics Anonymous to be successful in supporting the recovering alcoholic and their families. This former aspect is not done in a forceful way but is carefully intertwined into the story as it unfolds in the Gage family.  

My only concern, if that is the right word, is that I want more. There are questions still to be answered if the entire picture is to be seen:

  • Where will Roxy work now that she has lost her job?
  • Where will Roxy and her new husband live?
  • How do Roxy, Ray, and their families work through the effects of a lifetime of living with an alcoholic (could Al-Anon help)?
  • Will Corbin Gage’s small, struggling law practice survive into the future?

Robert Whitlow has had both stand alone novels and series of books with shared characters.  My hope is that this current book falls into the latter category. In the meantime, the potential reader will not be disappointed as he or she chooses to pick up this book and read another story of God’s grace working in the hearts of broken people.

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Killing Maine - A Review

Killing Maine.jpg

A Review

An exciting, fast moving environmental-political-industrial drama that holds the reader's attention from page 1 to the last paragraph.  This author has something to say - not just a plot to deliver.  The novel is as much a  commentary on the interaction between industry, politics, and environmental concerns as it is a story to be enjoyed.  This commentary, the plot, and the theme would suggest the book should easily receive five stars.

However, a book is more than what it says.  Two problems stand out.  The first is that the writing is uneven.  This is partly covered by the first person narrative by a person whose English is marginal at best.  But not all of the writing problems can be covered by the author's use of a first person narrative.  Some of the errors found in the book were obvious slips by the editor - errors that could have been corrected with careful reading. [EDIT: An e-mail from the author let me know that I was reading a pre-publication galley - unintentional errors have been corrected in the final copy.]

This reviewer's second concern is the  author's over dependence on sex as a dramatic element. If translated, as written, into a movie, the result would most likely be an R-rated extravaganza.  Perhaps with some careful (i.e. very careful) directing and editing, the resulting product could arrive on the big screen with a PG-13 rating.  No warning was made that this was a major part of the story - at all levels of the book.  

Mike Bonds has presented eco-terrorism at its best, detailing the potential evil in corporate America, politicians, and greed in all its forms.  In spite of its faults, the book did make this reviewer think - about life, death, values, and people. One cannot walk away from the book without feeling something.  The book will not leave the reader alone - which, I suspect, is the author's purpose.

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Last Con - A Novel

A Review

Attention holding.
Emotionally gripping.
And dare I say, educational.

All these describe Zachary Bartels’ sophomore novel.  Rooted in events upon which the French Revolution had its beginning, the novel picks up as a group of grifters try to recover the ancient artifacts that were the center of events on the Isle of Malta in the late 18th century.

The book is really two stories. Once basically historical as they describe the events involving Malta and Marie Antoinette. The second story focuses on the group of grifters trying to recover the famous necklace (search for the “Affair of the Diamond Necklace”). The story becomes more real as two men in the present time, one a fake preacher, the other an ex-con who was converted while serving time, both question the faith upon which they have built their lives.  They find themselves asking the same question, “Who is the real me?”  They are surprised at the answers that they find.

As I first began to read, the book felt like a crime novel from the 30’s or 40’s.  But it did not take long to find that the book was more like one from Dan Brown (ala “The DaVinci Code”) or John Grisham (ala “The Firm”). A perfect read for the long, hot summer nights.  The Christian will find faith plays a significant part in making this book come alive. The unbeliever will find the historical connection makes this a worthwhile read.  

Reruns are on TV, baseball is done for the evening, time to pick up a book - “The Last Con” would be a perfect choice.

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The SHADOW: Midnight in Moscow - A Review

Midnight in Moscow


Howard Chaynim

A Review

I grew up too late.  Radio drama was all but done during my childhood.  Television (albeit, black and white) was all the rage.  Except for one local radio station that chose to rebroadcast classic radio drama from previous decades on Saturday nights.  And when they did, I would head to my bedroom and turn on my small table radio and listen to those tales of old.  As you might guess, one of my favorites was the Shadow.  Those opening lines still echo through my head:

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?
The Shadow knows!

I was caught - I still am captivated by the Shadow - whether it be on Radio, on the big screen, in a book, or as a graphic novel.  I was, thus, pleased when Dynamite Comics was issuing a new graphic novel featuring The Shadow and his crew of agents, including the ever present Margo Lane.  

The story offered by Howard Chaynim and the editors at Dynamite Comics held this reader's attention as the characters moved from New York to London to Paris to Moscow. The story takes place in the months following World War II - and with the nuclear bombs being developed by nations around the world, it is not surprising that the story's villain will not want to change the world's political landscape by destroying its major cities.  The Shadow must find and stop the coming crisis, if he is able. Not a page was wasted on unneeded and unwanted backstory - the story moved along nicely through the six parts that were brought together to create a roughly 160 page novel.  The characters were well developed and interesting to follow.  The inclusion of the raw script as an epilog to the book added additional value to the volume.

My biggest, and only, disappointment was the artwork.  The backgrounds created for the various cities and settings were well done.  However, the character drawings all seemed bloated - as if their faces were inflated or filled with water. Even the ever fit Lamont Cranston's (aka The Shadow) face made him seem like it was time for a serious diet.  Did the bloated faces reduce the value of the story - NO; but it did diminish this reader's enjoyment of the book - thus, a four-star rather than a five-star review.

For the reader looking for a story with an international theme starring classic characters, this newest addition to the Shadow's list of adventures might just fill the bill.  It did for me.
This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Winterthorn - A Review


David R. Phillips

A Review

Winterthorn is a continuation of the Fairy World stories begun in the author’s earlier work, Gliserwood.  It, like the previous work, has the feel of reading The Wizard of Oz for the first time - magical, mysterious, and attention grabbing. I was certainly glad that I had taken the time to read the first book in the series as it introduced the reader to many of individuals and species that are part of this second book.  Having said that, this second book adds new characters, species, and history that make this make believe world come alive to the reader.

As we learn more of Laurel’s heritage and the reason the Fairy World seems so much like home.  At the same time, the Fairy World if facing its worst crisis as a group of rebellious beings try to redefine the very world they have called home.  Laurel and her new friends will need to step forward and help save the environment that has become home.

My first comments to myself, as I began to read this book, included the following thoughts:

  1. I am glad I had read the first book.
  2. The author has matured as a writer - there is an obvious improvement in the style and approach the author has taken has he puts words to paper.

It was a pleasure to again visit the fairy world and walk with Laurel and her friends as they seek to understand the events around them.  I am already looking forward to the third part of this trilogy.

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the author for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Star Trek: New Visions - A Review

A Review

Six stories from the original Star Trek universe was too much for this old timer to resist.  John Byrne had done an excellent job of resurrecting the characters, settings, and scenarios from those brought to life by Jim Kirk, Spock, Leonard McCoy (aka ”Bones”), Montgomery Scott (“Scotty”), Sulu, Uhura, and Chekov on the small screen.  Using a photo realistic technique that gives renewed life to the characters, the stories in this compilation play well to the eye.

At just over 100 pages the current graphic novel combines six previously published stories, plus one new story, into a delightful collection - just right for a couple of nights of light reading.  Turn off the TV, put aside the remote, stop surfing the net, and reminisce about an earlier time (?) when we were called to

To explore strange new worlds,
To seek out new life and new civilizations,
To boldly go where no man has gone before.

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.

Second to Nun - A Review

Second to Nun.jpg

A Review

Ms. Loweecey has created another fun novel featuring former nun Giulia Driscoll.  Though her former career does not play as big a part in the story as in her earlier book, the story does present some odd (in a fun way) playfulness between that occupation and the current mystery.  The presence of Tarot Card readers, fortune tellers, ghosts, and spirits will confuse the logically minded Giulia and her husband as they seek to free MacAllister (“Mac” to her friends) Stone, the owner of a haunted lighthouse, from the ghostly figures that seem to have begun to destroy her and her business.

Ghosts or not, Giulia Driscoll, Driscoll Investigations, and her husband, Detective Frank Driscoll, will get to the bottom of this creepy tale. Giulia and Frank begin by going undercover by taking a much needed vacation at the Bed and Breakfast that was the current incarnation of the lighthouse - and things go downhill from there.  Break-ins, thefts, accidents, and other mischief all seem to point a finger at the long-known lighthouse ghosts. What other explanation can there be?

The book held my attention - keeping me up nights so I could quickly get to the end. Though I read the book at the tail end of a cool spring, the book would make a perfect Halloween read for the cozy mystery enthusiast.  Of course, it could just as well fit into anywhere into an avid readers schedule - as long as they are willing to face a ghost or two.

This review is based on a free electronic copy provided by the publisher for the purpose of creating this review.  The opinions expressed are my own.