KidLit: Double Reverse

Double Reverse

Author: Fred Bowendoublereverse

Hardcover: 144 pages (also available in paperback and e-books)

Publisher: Peachtree Publishers (August 1, 2014)

Synposis:

Jesse’s freshman football team is in big trouble. The Panthers don’t have anybody who can pass the ball! Jesse is not big and strong like his brother Jay, who was the star quarterback on Panthers varsity last year. Jesse is short and he definitely can’t throw the ball like his brother. Nobody on his team can. Maybe it’s time for a brand new plan. Something even a little crazy…like Jesse playing quarterback. At least he’s fast and knows all the plays. What have the Panthers got to lose?

Review:

Let me start out by saying for 30 years men have been trying to teach me about football and for 30 years my brain has been refusing to absorb it. So football fan? No. Fred Bowen fan? Yes!

Just about every kid has a sport they like to play, watch or both. And just about the time so many kids get serious about spending hours throwing free throws they also get serious about avoiding reading. If you ask me, if all Fred Bowen’s books are like Double Reverse they could lure your sports enthusiasts back to the library. Jesse is not the star player on his team and neither are his friends. They are kids who like football and wish they were the stars but instead they’re just average kids. Bowen will draw your young readers in with a sports story full of details (many of which I had to consult my husband to get the meaning — but I’m sure your average 10 year old will know what they’re talking about). But as they read for the sports drama they’ll get a little subtle lesson. In Double Reverse it’s that you can’t judge a book (or a football player) by its cover.

Fred Bowen isn’t a one sport author. In all he’s written 20 books similar to Double Reverse about football, basketball, baseball and soccer as well as one non-fiction picture book about Ted Williams.

I Once Was a Princess by Stacy Verdick Case

Stacy Verdick Case PhotoWhat made you want to be a writer? It’s a common question for me and I never know what to say. Then the other day I watched my daughter playing dress up, which is something she does on a regular basis. I admit that sometimes I join her. As I watched her parade around in all her princess grandeur I realized that I’m still playing make believe, except now I do it on paper instead of in front of a full length mirror.

When I sit down to write I can be anyone I want to be including a princess. During the course of writing An Intimate Murder I became every character I put on the page, all of them from a Police Detective to a murderer, slipping on each persona as easily as putting on a tutu and crown to be a princess.

I have laughed as my characters and cried as them too. I’ve even held the knife of my killer and felt justified when I used it to take another character’s life.

Sometimes writing can be a very uncomfortable form of make believe. It’s a scary place to be when you can justifyprincess killing someone even if they are fictional, but that’s what writers do. We tap into parts of ourselves that everyone has buried inside, but thanks to impulse control we don’t act on. Everyone can be a killer if properly motivated. Likewise, we can all be heroes if properly motivated.

It’s so much easier to be a princess or in my case a goddess (hey, all princesses have to graduate at some point). The days that I have to dig down inside me to the dark side of my personality exhaust me and make me tense.
Then there are the days when I’m able to experience joy as my character. Or the days I get to relive something from my past like my first kiss, the day I met my husband, or the birth of my daughter. Ah, those days are worth the discomfort that comes along with writing.

I guess training for being an author starts with playing make believe. Author’s just never grow up. We are really committed to our lands of make believe. Or perhaps we just need to be committed. Six of one, half a dozen of the other. It all depends on your perspective. Either way, I was once a princess and I might be again if motivated enough.

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Review: An Intimate Murder

Are you ready for a double dose of Catherine O’Brien? Today I review An Intimate Murder, the third book in the Catherine O’Brien mystery series and tomorrow I have a guest post from author Stacy Verdick Case and a chance to win a copy of An Intimate Murder. And if that isn’t enough you can also stop by Goodreads to win a copy today — but today’s the last day!

An Intimate Murderaim cover Web Large

Author: Stacy Verdick Case

Paperback: 284 pages (also available in e-formats)

Publisher: Before the Fall Books (October 7, 2014)

Synposis:

When Jonathan and Susan Luther are murdered in their home, St. Paul homicide detective Catherine O’Brien and her partner Louise discover this isn’t the first time the Luther family has been visited by tragedy. Is it a case of bad family luck or is there something more?

Review:

Catherine is not a super hero, all-knowing crime solver. She can’t hold her tongue (with suspects, the press or fellow cops), she forgets to call her mother (and her husband), she’s grumpy, she wants to always be right (and is even grumpier when she isn’t), she’s addicted to coffee and in her own words, “short, pale, and too round in certain places to be considered slim. I’m more bumpy than curvy, and more dorky than graceful.” In other words, Catherine is me — with a gun and coffee instead of chocolate. Maybe that’s why I enjoy reading Catherine O’Brien mysteries.

This is definitely a crazy family. It starts out with a husband and wife getting murdered for seemingly no reason. And every time Catherine and her partner Louise (cheers for two female detectives as partners) turn around another crazy family member is turning up. Got to love those crazy families. Are they just garden variety crazy family or the type that resort to shot guns and ice picks?

This book is low on action and high on investigation. But that makes the few scenes of violence even more impressive. There are a few clues that I felt we readers didn’t get a fair chance at considering but for the most part you got to follow Catherine and Louise (along with a cast of humorous assistants) through their investigation and learn what they learned, as they learned it.

Need to play catch up with Catherine O’Brien? You can learn about her debut in my post about A Grand Murder and an interview with author Stacy Verdick Case here.

Review: Doghouse

Doghouse: A Gin & Tonic Mystery

Author: L.A. Korentskydoghouse-80x132

Paperback: 278 pages (also available as e-book)

Publisher: Pocket Books(July 22, 2014)

Synposis:

In the third novel in the Gin & Tonic mystery series, the stakes are raised when Ginny Mallard and Teddy Tonica stumble on an underground dog fighting ring with bloody consequences.

Even though she’s unlicensed as an investigator, the infamously nosy Ginny Mallard has begun to make a name for herself as an unofficial champion of the tongue-tied. When a mysterious stranger comes to her with landlord trouble, she convinces her bartender friend Teddy Tonica to help her once more. Soon, they realize they might have gotten themselves tied up in an underground dogfighting ring. With the help of Ginny’s pet shar-pei puppy and Tonica’s tabby cat, they have to figure out what’s going on before someone else gets hurt. Will twelve legs really be better than four?

Review:

In case the dogfighting aspect of Doghouse got you all icky inside don’t worry. There are no graphic scenes of dogfights and the characters barely talk about it, except to say how horrible the idea of it is. So it’s safe to read this book without danger of dogfighting nightmares.

I love that the Ginny and Tonica are less investigators and more…problem solvers. They aren’t caught up in pesky legal rules or even seeing that criminals go to jail. What they want is the best thing for their clients, in this case a punch drunk old fighter who just lost his home for reasons he can’t (or won’t) really explain. But it’s tough getting a house back when you can’t even figure out exactly why your client was kicked out in the first place.

It’s fun reading about the odd relationships that develop in Doghouse. Of course there’s Ginny and Tonica and Georgie and Penny. But now we’ve got Seth and Deke, Shana and Deke, even Staci and Farsi. These oddball relationships lend a feeling of reality to the book that some series don’t have. What makes Doghosue a page turner is that you’re never sure if Deke is telling the truth, lying, or just plain forgot that he did something to bring all this trouble down on his head. Unraveling all that confusion in Deke’s head is what makes this book fun.

If you want to know more about the Gin & Tonic series check out my reviews of Collared and Fixed.

The Devil’s Necktie

The Devil’s Necktie

Author: John LansingThe Devils Necktie

E-book: 295 pages

Publisher: Gallery Books/Karen Hunter Publishing (December 31, 2012)

Synposis:

Retired inspector Jack Bertolino had strict rules when dealing with confidential informants. But Mia had the kind of beauty that could make a grown man contemplate leaving his wife, his job, and his kids. After a passionate night together, Mia is found murdered–and Jack is the lead suspect.

Facing threats from the LAPD, the 18th Street Angels, and a Colombian drug cartel, Jack delves deeper into the seedy world of drug dealers and murderers and discovers that the top players knew Mia personally. And now Jack is torn between fearing for his life and seeking revenge for his slain lover….either way, the body count will rise.

Review:

Jack Bertolino is your typical retired cop: jaded, scarred and alone. But he’s relatively peaceful. Until an old flame/confidential informant sweeps back into his life. What starts out as “for old time’s sake” rapidly devolves into a messy murder investigation. This book will keep you on edge with more bad guys popping up on every page. If you like tough guys, fast paced action and a fight for justice against overwhelming odds you’ll like The Devil’s Necktie.

Visit from L.A. Kornetsky

Decluttering by L.A. Kornetsky

I’m getting ready for a move, and part of that is decluttering. Getting rid of things – objects, old paperwork – that I don’t need to haul with me any more.

But in a folder of otherwise no-longer-needed papers, there’s a sheet I’m keeping. It’s from the ASPCA, and it LAdocuments my adoption of the kitten once known as Minna, who became my beloved Pandora, gone now a little over a year.

There’s no point to keeping the sheet of paper. All it does is say that I paid x amount for a 4 month old female tiger kitten, spayed. But throwing it out isn’t an option, either. Because this was the first connection I had to Pandora, the first contract we made with each other: I would give her food, shelter, care, and a lap when she wanted it. I would give her a home. And in return, she gave me such love and companionship, letting her go at the end was no less a pain than losing a human friend.

I don’t have documentation from Indy-J, who was found on the street as a weeks-old kitten, and lived a long and adventurous life before cancer took her in 2000. But Pandora’s adoption paper will go in the current file, along with the papers for our current residents, Boomerang (aka Boomer you idiot), and Castiel the Kitten of Thursday (aka DamnitCas).

Because you keep the important moments, the documents that say “this is how you changed my life.”
(and some of you may note that I invite disaster in the renaming of my cats. You would not be wrong. But where’s the fun of living with Sir Napsalot?)

Tell us the names of your animal friends and how they’ve changed your life.

L.A. Kornetsky is an author who lives in New York City with two cats and a time-share dog, and also writes fantasy under the name Laura Anne Gilman. She welcomes visitors to www.lauraannegilman.net, @LAGilman and Facebook L-A-Kornetsky. This week is Animal Welfare Week and Kornetsky’s latest Gin & Tonic mystery takes on animal abusers (nothing graphic, thank goodness). Come back Wednesday for a review of Doghouse and links to my reviews of Collared and Fixed.

Night Blindness: A Novel

Night Blindness: A Novel

Author: Susan Strecker

Hardcover: 304 pages (also available in e-formats)nightblind

Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (October 7, 2014)

Synposis:

A future as bright as the stars above the Connecticut shore lay before Jensen Reilly and her high school sweetheart, Ryder, until the terrible events of an October night left Jensen running from her family and her first love. Over the years that followed, Jensen buried her painful past, and now, married to a charismatic artist, she has created a new life far away from the unbearable secret of that night.

When Jensen’s father, Sterling, is diagnosed with a brain tumor, she returns to her childhood home for the first time in thirteen years, and the memories of her old life come flooding back along with the people she’s tried to escape. Torn between her life in Santa Fe with her free-spirited husband, Nic, and the realization that it is time to face her past, Jensen must make a terrifying decision that threatens to change her life again—this time forever.

An emotionally thrilling debut set during a New England summer, Susan Strecker’s Night Blindness is a compelling novel about the choices we make, the sanctity of friendship, and the power of love.

Review:

Night Blindness is a very truthful exploration of family relationships. A meandering trip through the guilt, the confusion, the anger, the secrets and yes, the love. This books feels like it could be a page from any of lives because everyone makes mistakes, no one is magically transformed, people get hurt, and things are not tied up neatly with a red ribbon at the end. If you want a family drama to pass a few afternoons, try Night Blindness.

Death at Chinatown

Death at ChinatownDeath at Chinatown Cover

Author: Frances McNamara

Paperback: 226 pages (also available in e-books)

Publisher: Allium Press of Chicago (August 6, 2014)

Synposis:

In the summer of 1896, amateur sleuth Emily Cabot meets two young Chinese women who have recently received medical degrees. She is inspired to make an important decision about her own life when she learns about the difficult choices they have made in order to pursue their careers. When one of the women is accused of poisoning a Chinese herbalist, Emily once again finds herself in the midst of a murder investigation. But, before the case can be solved, she must first settle a serious quarrel with her husband, help quell a political uprising, and overcome threats against her family. Timeless issues, such as restrictions on immigration, the conflict between Western and Eastern medicine, and women’s struggle to balance family and work, are woven seamlessly throughout this riveting historical mystery. Rich with fascinating details of life in Chicago’s original Chinatown, this fifth book in the Emily Cabot Mysteries series will continue to delight history buffs and mystery lovers alike.

Review:

The Emily Cabot I met in Murder at Chinatown was a worried little person eager to stay home and care for children that were already perfectly cared for. But there were glimmers of the woman she was in the past that made me eager to read the earlier books in the Emily Cabot series for two reasons: 1) To meet the confident person who flew in the face of convention she once was and 2) To discover why she changed into this homebody that turns her back on all the things it seems she once fought for. Because it is obvious that Emily has had many life changing experiences in Books 1 through 5.

So yes, Emily is going through a tough time in Book Six of the series. But she’s living in a fascinating time and in her travels meets many unusual people (many based on historical figures of the time). The murder she becomes involved in is a confusing web of different people, different cultures and the lies they tell both to get along and to hide the truth about themselves form each other. It was the history woven into this book that held my interest. Not only did I learn about many “advances” both medical and cultural that I didn’t realize could trace their roots to the 1890s but also a peek at the life of women in the 1890s.

Guest Post by Frances McNamara

Today, my visitor is a woman after my own heart: she loves mysteries and histories. Is there a better combination? Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for my review of her latest Emily Cabot Mystery: Death at Chinatown.

Chicago Chinatown in 1896

by Frances McNamara

Death at Chinatown is the fifth book in the Emily Cabot Mystery series. I’ve been a librarian at that the University of Chicago for more than a Frances McNamaradecade. I think it was the campus itself that led me to invent my main character of Emily, who is one of the first graduate students to attend the university when it opened in 1892. Like much of Chicago, the university still bears the imprint of the people of the Gilded Age who founded it. The stories are all fictional, but they all have historical people and some real events as background.

Like me a century later, Emily Cabot comes to Chicago from the East Coast. She graduated from Wellesley College, one of the prominent women’s institutions of the time. I graduated from Mount Holyoke but I worked at the Wellesley College Library while attending library school.  Wellesley had an active Chinese language department that received support from the Soong sisters, three Chinese women alumnae. They returned to China where one married Sun Yat Sen, another married Chiang Kai Shek, and the third married a prominent Shanghai businessman. Generous donations from the family allowed the library to purchase Chinese language materials. Because this meant there was a need for someone to do the cataloging, I had the opportunity to study Chinese at Wellesley and elsewhere. In all, I studied for about five years, including a summer at Middlebury College. The classes included traditional Chinese texts from Taiwan and simplified texts from the mainland. It was during this time in the early seventies that China began to open up to the rest of the world after being shut off since the 1949 revolution. In recent years, as China and all things Chinese have become more and more important to the world, I have continued to study the language as a hobby.

So, when I saw a story on the website of the Chinese American Museum of Chicago about two young women from China who came to America to get medical degrees right about the time of my stories, I was intrigued. A little research turned up the fascinating information about Shi Meiyu and Kang Cheng (Mary Stone and Ida Kahn). At a time when very few women became medical doctors, these two completed studies at the University of Michigan and returned to China to run medical clinics. They were quite famous in their time and Ida Kahn was described as a model for the New Woman of China.

The earlier Emily Cabot books featured interesting women like Ida B. Wells, Jane Addams, and Florence Kelley. At a time when many women suffered from the limitations on what they could do, I have been interested to find women from the Gilded Age who bucked the system and accomplished important things, despite oppressive attitudes and restrictions. It was a great find to learn about Mary Stone and Ida Kahn, who faced even more severe restrictions so strikingly symbolized by the foot binding of the Chinese society. Like Emily and other women she meets, they ignored the limitations that society placed on them to succeed in ways comparable to the actions of men. Personally, as a woman of the second half of the twentieth century, I continue to be grateful to the women who broke down barriers for those of us who came after them.

Frances McNamara is author of five Emily Cabot mysteries, Death at Chinatown being the most recent. She is a librarian at the University of Chicago and a native of Boston who has lived in Chicago for two decades.

 

KidLit: The Fifth Vertex

The Fifth Vertex (The Sigilord Chronicles: Volume 1)Vertex4_FINAL-600x800

Author: Kevin Hoffman

Paperback: 290 pages (also available in e-books)

Publisher: Kevin Hoffman (August 2, 2014)

Synposis:

Urus Noellor–a boy born deaf who is about to be publicly branded as a burden, incapable of being the warrior his people demand–stands upon a rooftop, poised to throw himself over the edge. His failed attempt at suicide unlocks within him a long-dormant form of magic thought to have died out thousands of years before, a power that may be the key to saving the world from an equally ancient enemy. Urus and his companions–Goodwyn, the greatest warrior in Kest, and Cailix, a mysterious orphan–must find a way to stop a powerful group of sorcerers from destroying the five long-hidden vertices that ward the world against threats from beyond, while fighting off threats from within. They soon learn that the scope of the coming danger may be more dire than any of them could have imagined. As the battle for the vertices spreads to the neighboring realms, Goodwyn must face the realities of war and death; Cailix discovers a devastating truth that could change everything; and Urus discovers his uncanny gifts and courage as he peels away clues to his true identity. But even as Urus gains the power he has always craved, he experiences it all in profound, lonely silence.

Review:

Just to be up front, I have just about zero reference points for fantasy so you won’t be getting any “Kevin Hoffman’s writing reminds of Fantasy Writer X…” or “This is a ripoff of Fantasy Writer Y…” I really don’t read fantasy so I wouldn’t know.

That said, this is a book that will keep you on the edge of your seat as it jumps from crisis to crisis. I think part of the intensity comes from the fact that the two best friends (fighting to save the world, of course) are separated, each trying to accomplish the same goal but in different ways. I really felt as if I had dropped into another world with the characters, learning about the past, the powers and the secrets as they did.

I believe this book is for older readers (I don’t think my 11 year old would enjoy it) simply because, underneath the basic plot, there is a lot of complexity. Yes, this a story of the good guys fighting the bad guys but it isn’t that clear cut. The good guys aren’t always good, the bad guys aren’t always bad, people switch alliances, they questions their purpose. Along they will enjoy the adventure, this book will also make readers question bigger issues.