Friday, May 30, 2014


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This Bloomsbury Press eBook is rather an odd volume, hard to get into but fascinating all the same.  Beginning in 1916 with the conspiracy to murder Rasputin, this part of the book doesn't really seem to belong, but it does straighten out legend from fact about how much it took to kill the priest.

The book is more about Lenin's takeover of Russia and his grandiose plots to spread his revolution throughout Afghanistan and the other -stans, as well as India and beyond.  He would stir up the various religious groups against the British, which is a little hard to believe when I thought it was common knowledge that Communist Russia was atheist.  However, he succeeded to an alarming extent.

As I read about Lenin and his plans, I kept thinking about Putin instead.  The similarities were a little frightening since Putin was beginning his "invasion" of Ukraine with blatant disregard of what the rest of the world thinks.

The major topic of the book though, is the founding of Great Britain's MI6, their version of our CIA.  Spycraft was in its infancy at the time but Mansfield George Smith Cumming, the founder of MI6, brought together an outstanding roster of brave, innovative, brilliant men who managed to infiltrate Lenin's government as well as foil his association with the opponents of the Raj.

There are interesting little tidbits about the characters and their disguises and ability to evade capture, their love affairs and close calls.  Somerset Maugham was one of them, even though he had tuberculosis, and later wrote his Ashenden spy novels as semi-fictional versions of his own experiences.  The book portrays Churchill as a hothead who could have horribly botched things for his country.  I don't recall anything good about him in this book at all.

Even though I learned a lot about spies and their life on the edge, I never got a real sense of just how much danger they were in most of the time.  The difficulty in getting information to England, on the other hand, was fully explained, but then I kept thinking the spy whose messages were intercepted would be arrested, but they usually weren't.  It also seemed like they were too easily able to fool Lenin.

This review is disjointed, I know, and I think that is a direct result of the fact that the book is too.  I wanted to like the book but never could work up any enthusiasm for it.  Sad.

Not recommended
Source:  Bloomsbury


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Once I've written my thoughts on this excellent novel, I'm anxious to read the reviews of others to see how their opinions may differ from mine.  I come at this story from a unique standpoint.  The victim here is a doctor/scientist who has been researching a cure for cancer, not just one particular cancer but all cancers.  She is only a couple days from making the announcement about the enormous breakthrough she has made when she is murdered.  Everyone thinks that all of the information is on her computer and a backup hard drive, both of which she had with her when she was killed.

At the moment I'm in treatment for the second time for lung cancer so such a cure would be the answer to my prayers.  While the two detectives investigating the case immediately begin looking at pharmaceutical companies, competing scientists, investors and others with motives, I had a different take entirely.  Hard as it was for me to suspect pharmaceutical executives though, I had to admit they would have the biggest financial motive to either finish testing her drug and sell it for enormous amounts of money, or on the other hand to quash it in order to continue selling their big dollar chemotherapy drugs.  

The plot is crafted beautifully and the characters will I hope be seen in further books.  I didn't run into any of those "oh come on!" moments I hate so much.  The investigation proceeded logically and the detectives were sensible as well as great intuitive crime solvers.  I was mildly surprised at a twist at the end, and after laughing, I realized it fit perfectly.

Daniel M. Annechino is a writer whose name I will continue to watch for.  This novel is really impressive.

Highly recommended
Source:  iRead Book Tours

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


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I had read another book about DS Lucy Black and found her a heroine I could care about.  Her father has Alzheimer's and has had to be institutionalized.  She has learned previously that he had an affair with a teenage girl years ago so her feelings about him haunt her life.  She is still living in his house, a less than ideal situation which produces nightmares.

In the Prologue we see a young girl off to photo day at school.  She's 14 year old Annie Marsdon and she disappears.

Then we jump to a day in December when a train stops because the lines have been cut.  On investigation, a woman's body is found with her throat cut.  Black and her boss Tom Fleming have been working a missing person's case; this is the woman, Karen Hughes.  Hughes mother is an alcoholic being held in a psychiatric facility to dry out.  Father is in prison and wants to know if she was murdered because of him.  He's being released soon and there had been an article in a tabloid about him.

Set in Ireland in border between Nationalist and Unionist areas, there are many references to "the troubles."  It makes investigating more difficult than in other places.  Black and Fleming discover Hughes had a new cell phone and her Facebook page showed a new friend named Paul Bradley.  The phone has disappeared but apparently she met Bradley at a shopping center.  It proves almost impossible to find out who he really is.  

Yet another plot twist has Black saving her former boyfriend Robbie's young charge from a savage beating by eight boys.  Gavin is a difficult kid who really doesn't want to be saved.  It appears he is being pulled into gang activities.  Since Black had recently broken up with Robbie, she's involved whether she wants to be or not.  Sounds confusing and sometimes it is a little but well worth the time to figure out.

Recommended EBook
Source:  Partners in Crime Tours


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Laura Morelli is an art historian and writer and that is what makes this novel so interesting.  The craft of building gondolas is one I had never even considered, but it is a long-standing family tradition in Venice.  For people who know something about it, each gondola stands out as uniquely representative of one particular gondola making family, a source of pride for as long as that gondola is in use.

Teenager Luca Vianello is the upcoming heir to one of these families in 1581.  At that time the burning of a gondola could be decreed as punishment for a crime.  Luca adores his mother, a woman who has been pregnant most of her adult life.  Most pregnancies have ended in miscarriage but then she dies giving birth to her last surviving child, and Luca is furious at his father for what he sees as murder.  There is a fight in the workshop, a fire, and Luca runs away unable to face what he has done, or for that matter, his father.

His life in hiding in Venice is fascinating.  We see the life of boatmen from the underbelly, as people associated with that life but without the esteem of gondola makers try to get by.  It's a criminal life of thieves, prostitutes, and others living life on the edge.  Costume makers make a good living from the propensity of the wealthy to hold sleazy costume parties; the costumes also giving boatmen a way into those parties.

Mostly though, this is about the burning desire in Luca to build Vianello gondolas himself.  He works hard, falls in love, avoids getting caught up in criminal activities, and finally finds his opportunity.  

I enjoyed learning about this golden age of gondolas and the families who created them.  Also a Venice that is wildly different than the Venice I've read about before.  Though the plot is occasionally too wrought with coincidence, that didn't bother me because I was caught up in the flow of the life of the boatmen.

Highly recommended
Source:  IRead Book Tours

Thursday, May 15, 2014


The fact that this cover looks like something you would have for a college class is intentional I would think.  The story begins with a college student and turns into a psychological study of his supposed crime and its far-reaching effects.

Nineteen year old Michael J. Pollitz awakens in his dorm room to pounding on his door. Confused, he is summarily identified and arrested for a felony.  It turns out his "crime" was  showing a man to a room in the dorm where he could buy drugs.  Pollitz didn't participate in drug dealing and only occasionally used them.  He was a promising student on scholarship in a small Illinois school where the majority came from wealthy families.  His father was a plumber.

Despite  an offer of help from his best friend's father, "the" mobster in Chicago, Pollitz bows to his father's wishes and uses the public defender.  In prison he is beaten almost to death by three punks and raped by two of them.  Upon his release he is picked up by the mobster.  He then returns to finish his degree and goes on to a less than satisfying career in advertising.  

This book is how that episode and his friendship affect his life until years later when he and a cop spark deep reflection in each other about love, loyalty, whether anyone deserves to be killed, the evil that exists in some men, and the real worth of work.  Both had survived tragedy and come out on the other side changed forever, both are smart and inclined to introspection.  These are fascinating characters, as are the mobsters.  Manos makes gentle fun of their way of speaking like movie Mafia enforcers.  The boss though is a complex character and more difficult to figure out.  The major question though is how Pollitz can justify his loyalty to such a man, yet be aware of the evil done by him.

Klinger the cop reminds me a bit of Columbo.  I loved him and his girlfriend Dora, both overweight middle-aged people who enjoy one of the best relationships I've seen in fiction in a long time.  But Michael Pollitz is the mystery here.  Has his life been stunted by his rape, his  deep disappointment in his father, his lack of ambition just a sign that life pretty much ended for him in 1972 in prison?

I'm so glad I read this book.  It's so totally different from anything I've read in ages.  No action, no unbelievable escapades, no big heroes, just the conundrum of Michael Pollitz's life.  Don't take this one to the beach; save it for a rainy evening with no distractions.

Highly recommended
Source:  Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours

Saturday, May 10, 2014


You may have noticed I haven't been posting as much.  That's partly because I had quite a few commitments coming up so I've been reading those books and getting the reviews scheduled for the future.

The other reason is more important.  If you have been reading my blog for a while, you'll recall I had a bout with lung cancer a couple years ago.  This winter I was sick again for week after week and then was diagnosed with a recurrence of cancer.  I've had all the tests so now I'm all set to start another round of chemotherapy next week.  

This time I'm not so confident, nor am I as cheerful as I was before.  I'll get my attitude straightened out, I'm sure, but I don't know how much chemo will affect me this time with different medications.  I just hope I don't get chemo-brain again.  

At any rate, I'm not accepting as many books for review for the time being.  Who knows?  Maybe I'll even get to make a dent in my TBR piles.  I'll post reviews as much as I can, but don't think I have forgotten you because I would never do that.

Once again my friends including you virtual friends I have yet to meet, and of course books will be my comfort and joy as I renew my fight for health.  Thank you for your support and patience.


This is a delightful novel with an engaging hero, Dr. Cyrus Mills.  Mills had left his home town after his mother died.  Things were difficult with his father, everyone's favorite veterinarian, Dr. Bobby Cobb.  In fact, Mills had gone so far as to change his last name, and had been working for years in research where he could keep to himself, tackle challenging work every day, and not be involved with people.

Then his father died and reluctantly Mills returned to take over his dad's practice, The Bedside Manor for Sick Animals.  He even lives upstairs, where he grew up, and begins to get a more realistic idea of who his father really was.  Things have changed drastically though.  There is a new competitor called Healthy Paws with all the new equipment for testing and diagnosing and an aggressive marketing approach, but no sense of respect for the local people.

You'll love the Bedside Manor receptionist/secretary Doris, a chain smoker who is the best source of local history and gossip in the county.  Dr. Lewis, Cobb's partner, has stayed on too. Both are loyal to a fault and ready to do anything to keep the practice going.  

Mills is highly skilled and as he works he becomes easier with people, with the exception of the girl he desires, Amy, a waitress at the local diner.  She is a puzzle he simply cannot figure out but he can't let it go either.  There are silly complications, adorable and/or hilarious pets, misunderstandings with women, and an over-jealous computer nerd "helping" Mills fight the competition.

Load this one onto your e-reader to take on vacation or read when you need a little laugh.  It's great fun.

Source:  Netgalley

Thursday, May 1, 2014


DI Marjory Fleming has become one of my all-time favorite fictional heroines.  Most of us can relate to the issues, joys, and desires in her life.  She is married to a farmer, Bill, and they have two children.  The farm, Mains of Craigie, has become easier for her by now because they have hired a Polish immigrant couple, Raphael and Karolina.  Raphael works for Bill and Karolina has taken over household chores for Marjory.  Since she also has a small catering company, the Fleming family is eating better than ever.

Marjory is the daughter of a by-the-book cop who never gave her credit for being such a good cop herself.  Old-fashioned.  Women belong in the kitchen.  But Marjory is an incisive, intuitive, dedicated cop who takes her responsibilities both at home and at work very seriously.

She is asked to investigate a cold case where the body of a young pregnant woman was found within sight of a lighthouse.  She was a local girl who had come home from Glasgow to await the birth and she had never revealed the identity of the father.  Most people assumed her father had killed her, but the mother and brother had always blamed a local boy who was now a big television star.  He had been in the U.S. for a year which ruled him out but that didn't deter them.

Meanwhile, many Polish immigrants have come to this area of Scotland for work.  Most locals welcome them and employ them, but a few young punks have determined to drive them out. There are fights, knives flashing, and one group of Polish men in particular are targeted.  Their cruel boss isn't paying them as agreed and is practically holding them prisoner.

The TV star, Marcus Lindsay (real name Lazansky) has come home temporarily while an episode of the show is filmed in Ardhill.  Lots of excitement about stars in their midst.

I always enjoy reconnecting with the main characters in this series, but Dead in the Water also introduces many new characters who are well-drawn and fascinating within the framework of this wonderful plot.  I had my suspicions but didn't really figure it out until the end.  There were times when I wanted to cry for Marjory as her personal and work responsibilities tear her in opposite directions.  

Highly recommended EBook
Source:  Witness Impulse Imprint, HarperCollins