Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Empty Seats by Wanda Adams Fischer

Empty seatsEmpty seats by Wanda Adams Fischer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The ending of Empty Seats by Wanda Adams Fischer is so different from the beginning, it almost reads like a separate book. The novel starts out as a story about baseball. Here's a quote from Jimmy Bailey's first chance to pitch for the Jamestown Falcons, a single A team in the Montreal Expos system. He's a relief pitcher, showing his coaches what he's got in a scrimmage with Geneva, another single A team.

Russ calls for a fastball. I lean down, coddle the ball, rock back on the pitching rubber, pull my left foot up in a perpendicular motion, bring my right arm back, and fire.

There's careful detail in this writing and, when Jimmy's team is fighting to win, the book gets very exciting. You don't have to be a baseball fan to feel it.

Then the season ends and the three main characters head back to their families. These are Bobby, Bud, and Jimmy, all pitchers trying to work their way up from single A. Here the book changes to a story of young men dealing with the problems life hands them in their own ways, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. Baseball has very little to do with this part of the novel, although they still encounter fans from their high school days, still have to deal with their own dreams, and still keep in touch with each other. Here's a quote from this section. This one is also from Jimmy.

Yes, Bud, you are my friend.
You're the real deal.
The peacemaker.
The leader.
My friend.

The description of what it was like to be a young, minor-league baseball player in the early seventies was my favorite aspect of this novel. I had a little trouble transitioning to the tone of the second part, but both sections were well written and exciting.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul, White Horse Regressions, Hopatcong Vision Quest, and Under a Warped Cross.

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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The Rumor by Elin Hilderbrand

The RumorThe Rumor by Elin Hilderbrand
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Rumor probably should have been named The Rumors, since Elin Hilderbrand's novel is filled with gossip, some based on fact and some flat out wrong. It is hard to know which rumor she considers THE rumor.

Madeline is a writer who suffers from writer's block when she doesn't have an actual event to use for the basis of a plot. She was kidnapped when she was young, by a druggie, ex boyfriend. She got her first publishing break after writing a novel based on that experience. Eddie is an ex athlete, who is obsessed with monetary success and will do whatever he can to achieve it. Grace is Eddie's lonely (and horny) wife. Hope and Allegra are the daughters of Grace and Eddie. Hope is focused on success in school, while Allegra is focused on her popularity and a possible career as a model. There are plenty of conflicts in these diverse interests and Hilderbrand makes the most of them.

One of the sections I enjoyed was when Benton, Grace's gardener with benefits, talks to Hope about the books he loves best. (He was a literature major in college.) I've read most of the books he recommended, but there were a few I haven't. I'm going to try some of them. There are plenty of book lists on the web, but weaving one into a good story is fun.

The book is a little too predictable, but still a fun read for someone looking for something light.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul, White Horse Regressions, Hopatcong Vision Quest, and Under a Warped Cross

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Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Aisuru by Anma Natsu

Aisuru (Hakodate Hearts, #1)Aisuru by Anma Natsu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The footnotes in Aisuru by Anma Natsu are fascinating by themselves. They are a tour of Japanese culture, describing among other things: Japanese expressions, food types, and place descriptions. For example - “Honto no sumimasen” has a footnote which provides the English definition of “An extra apologetic apology, usually translated to truly, I am very sorry.” Another example defines “yakisoba” as “Fried ramen-style noodles, made from wheat flour, with a thick, sweetened sauce, vegetables, and a protein.”

Yet, this is not a tour guide. It’s a fantasy about a young Japanese woman named Sakura. She is a high school student who suffered damage to her internal organs when her father had a violent mental breakdown described as “integration disorder,” the term used in Japan for schizophrenia. Sakura has been told she will die soon and has decided to live out her life as a normal Japanese student. To achieve this goal and to avoid hurting people she knows too well, she has kept to herself and has told none of her friends.

Sakura is visited by a yokai, who was a friend of her adopted father. Yokais are “a class of supernatural monsters and spirits in Japanese folklore.” (from Babylon NG) This one, Kazuki, also has royal blood. The story continues with love and adventure.

Early in the book Sakura says, “Yes, sometimes I wonder if textbook writers actually like history that much. They always write it in such a boring fashion.” I think Anma Natsu had this thought when writing her novel. This is a wonderful picture of Japan mixed in with a fun fantasy.

Steve Lindahl - author of Motherless Soul, White Horse Regressions, Hopatcong Vision Quest, and Under a Warped Cross.

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Saturday, October 6, 2018

Boston Metaphysical Society: A Storm of Secrets by Madeleine Holly-Rosing

Boston Metaphysical Society: A Storm of SecretsBoston Metaphysical Society: A Storm of Secrets by Madeleine Holly-Rosing
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Steampunk is defined by the Oxford University Press as “A genre of science fiction that has a historical setting and typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology.” I've only read one other book in this genre, but I find this “what if” concept fascinating.

Boston Metaphysical Society: A Storm of Secrets is set in nineteenth century Boston, but in a version of our world where our country (the “Great States of America”) is run by large family owned industries. This economic/political system has resulted in a class oriented society, which is bigoted, but probably less so than the actual nineteenth century America.

This steampunk version of America is further complicated because Elizabeth Weldsmore Hunter (the novel's heroine) experiences visions she doesn't understand. Elizabeth's husband, Samuel Hunter, introduces her to an Irish medium, who helps her understand how to control these visions and leads her to otherworldly experiences worthy of the novel's title.

Elizabeth is a strong willed woman, trying to discover the person she is, independent of the legacy she was born to. The story is about her relationships with her father, her husband, and others around her. She fights to make the right choices and to help people she cares about. But she has her own set of flaws, including a tendency to act in impulsive ways and to keep secrets she should share.

The characters are strong. There are multiple plots, which come together at the end to produce a fascinating story. And the tension builds throughout the novel. Towards the end, I had trouble putting the book down.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul, White Horse Regressions, Hopatcong Vision Quest, and Under a Warped Cross.

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Thursday, September 27, 2018

Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrand

BarefootBarefoot by Elin Hilderbrand
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I enjoyed Barefoot, although it wasn't the light, beach read I expected. It's the story of three women in their early to mid thirties who travel to Nantucket to escape from their problems. These problems capture a wide range of middle age issues: career, money, marriage, motherhood, health, and, of course, their relationships with each other. The women are often self-centered, which is understandable given the seriousness of the issues they face. They do, however, support each other when they are needed.

Vickie and Brenda are sisters, while Melanie is a friend of Vickie's, invited to the summer cottage to distract her from thoughts of her husband's infidelity. For this reason, Melanie is not as close to either of the other women and even makes an attempt to leave the island.

I liked the way the character flaws of the women made them seem real. But Josh was different. He was the only major male character, a college sophomore who took a summer job babysitting for Vickie's two sons. His relationships with all three women and with Vickie's two sons grow as the summer goes on. He is reliable, caring, and always thoughtful, regardless of his role as a caretaker, an employee, a friend, or a summer fling. Yet, he seems unrealistically mature in his relationships, especially with the boys. This is compounded by the personality of his high school girl friend, who keeps showing up at odd times. The Josh we get to know would never have stayed with Dee Dee for any length of time.

Still, the women are wonderfully complex and interesting. This was the first Elin Hilderbrand novel I've read and I intend to read more.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul, White Horse Regressions, Hopatcong Vision Quest, and Under a Warped Cross

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

A Convenient Death by Laurel Heidtman

A Convenient Death (An Eden Mystery)A Convenient Death by Laurel Heidtman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Convenient Death is a mystery set in a small, college town in Kentucky. Two bodies, an elderly man, Kenneth Griswold, and the store clerk, Tracy Andrews, are found in the backroom of a convenience store. They've both been shot. The ballistics report shows the bullets came from a single gun, but the murder weapon is not found in any of the logical dumping grounds.

Jo Valentine, a detective in the Eden Police Department, is assigned the case. She soon finds something unusual about these murders. Tracy had an overactive sex life with lots of emotional baggage and Kenneth had his own set of secrets. These issues, along with the setting, a convenience store during the night shift, provide Jo with an enormous list of suspects. The problem is too many people with reasons to kill.

A Convenient Death is a well written novel and one that is hard to put down. The characters care for each other and worry about their personal lives. They act like people normally do in work environments, sometimes getting along well, sometimes not. The dialogue is well constructed with banter that is believable for a police department. There's also a good deal of tension throughout the book, not only through confrontations with suspects, but also with office politics.

This is an excellent book for anyone who enjoys murder mysteries.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul, White Horse Regressions, Hopatcong Vision Quest, and Under a Warped Cross.

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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Nights Arose by Andrea Roche

Nights AroseNights Arose by Andrea Roche
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Nights Arose is a good vs. evil story centered in 17th century Jamaica, but spreading out as far as the Sea of Marmara in Turkey. The novel is filled with magic on both sides: power to transform people into animals, power to witness events in the past, power to make oneself invisible, power to create great storms, and many others. These powers go head to head like opposing armies on a battlefield, increasing in page-turning intensity as the book moves on.

The “good” is represented by Nessarose (Arose) Du Mouchelle, a young woman blessed with exceptional talents - enhanced by the magic of a gem stone given to her by Bess, a gypsy woman. “De spirit of de stone will protec' you always.” The “evil” is represented by Morel, a Voodoo priestess, whose power seems to grow with each paragraph. Her goal is to steal the powerful gem and use it for her own purposes.

What I enjoyed the most about this novel is that it is not only a fantasy about a war between good and evil, but also Arose's coming of age story. This young woman is able to send her spirit into the astral plane, and, from there, witness events she has already lived. We get to see her youth, as she competes with her friends and first meets her Uncle's valet, who will turn out to be important to her. We also get to see her awakening sexuality, which happens in a beautifully written vision:

Her center started to ache. She thought of how liquid his movements were. How each movement, once begun, tumbled imperceptibly to the next, cascading as water would over rocks in a stream...She wanted him; she wanted his strong arms around her.

I recommend this novel for fans of well written fantasy.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul, White Horse Regressions, Hopatcong Vision Quest, and Under a Warped Cross.

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