Choice Cut (The Cut Series Book 3) by Arnold Eslava-Grünwaldt

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Book three in his penetrating “Cut” series, Choice Cut by author Arnold Eslava-Grünwaldt dispenses to readers yet another fast-paced, and intensely exciting addition to his well-received crime thriller series, within which, he capably continues to delve into the activities of the criminally debauched in Yonkers, New York, and the skilled team of detectives that pursue them and bring them to justice.

Maintaining the pace of excitement, drama, and thrills author Grünwaldt artfully continues the general storyline from book two, populated with most of the same characters, particularly the resilient and tough, Detective Sergeant Hamilcar Hitchcock and members of his general assignment squad. With a challenging mystery brewing, the story moves quickly and flawlessly into new and twisted scenarios calling for Sergeant Hitchcock and his team to move into action.

This time, the story starts out with members of the general assignment squad finding themselves coming to terms with the end result of their previous investigation which led to the nearly fatal shooting of a revered fellow officer and the unfortunate and temporary loss of another valued officer. However, the thrills and twists are just beginning with the discovery of a recently deceased male who may possibly be the casualty of a serial killer known as “The Butcher” whose victims are referred to as “one of the butcher’s cuts.”

Geraldina & the Compass Rose: One Woman’s Faith-Filled Journey To Find Love by Geraldine Brown Giomblanco

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

Geraldine Brown Giomblanco’s compelling memoir Geraldina & the Compass Rose is an inspirational read that prompts to self-reflection and action. By telling her story in a most candid way, the book outgrows just one person and gradually reveals its reflective surface in which the reader’s own psyche is mirrored.

The novel closely follows the life of a woman along the major spheres of her life: faith, family, career, and love. Throughout the pages, Geri skillfully tries to find balance between all these which proves to be far from an easy task. However, even in the darkest hours, at least one thing remains constant and safely guides her through hardships – a strong devotion that springs from her beloved Grandmother. When least expected, but most needed, subtle divine interventions illuminate the right path.

Geri is a big personality who does not hesitate to rely on wits and instinct to propel her through career and guide her through personal matters. Even so, she is constantly reminded that the road to success is not easy. Often enough she hits the stop button and gathers all strength to restart hoping for a better outcome. The final payoff is well worth it, as she grows ever closer to her aspiration. After flicking through a magazine an image made a great impact on her and it served as a personification of a successful business woman. Striving to grow into that glossy image, she ends up becoming much more. Behind the aesthetics hides a savvy business brain and the courage to break the mold.

Beyond the ups and downs, Geri’s career seems to have a general upward trend, something that cannot easily be said about her love life. She seems to be a lucky love charm to many of her friends at playing a hand in matching them up with a Mister Right but she is having trouble finding the same kind of luck. Geraldine Brown Giomblanco takes us behind closed curtains and reveals some of her most intimate thoughts and actions in a frank and considerate tone. She does not shy away from hurt and heartache nor from passion and blind love. Trying to balance emotions and rationality in romance is a challenging task, but she relies on both in trying to undo some of the more difficult relationships.

All in all, it is Geraldine Brown Giomblanco’s honesty and courage to unravel her life story that makes the novel so appealing. Whether it is in the big picture or the smallest of details, certainly every reader will find a piece of herself or himself in the pages of the author’s life.

Monsters Are Afraid of Babies by Nicholas Tana

Reviewed by Teri Davis

Living in a home with a big brother can be difficult. The older sibling expects a playmate who obeys their older sibling. There is usually a disappointment when the baby does not fulfill this role. Instead, the family member is a screaming, messy, smelly creature who demands all of the attention. The parents now are more tired and cranky than before the baby appeared. Resentment is common.

Now someone brilliantly discovered a way to enjoy the babies for older siblings. The baby keeps all the monsters and things that make noise in the dark away. With quiet nights, a cry frequently annoys everyone in the household. What if those screams scare away all the monsters hiding either in the closet or under the bed?

Wouldn’t you almost welcome those loud noises to cover the usual thumps and bumps in every house? What sounds are unnoticeable during the day, seem to draw attention at night. From a dripping water faucet to the warmth of a furnace, clicking to turn on the night seems mysterious with noises. Due to natural occurrences, monsters hiding in the dark crevices are believed to be creating the sounds of those creaks and bumps in the night. They hide under beds and in dark closets. This reality has been a problem for eons. Darkness and house sounds scare small children, especially ones who don’t fall asleep quickly. Young children tend to believe in monsters making the noise of a furnace clicking on or a clock ticking. Can you imagine the response to a baby’s cry when being abruptly awakened in the dark?

Monsters Are Afraid of Babies is an enchanting story about a young boy adjusting daily to a baby sister into a family. The few words along with a story that perfectly matches the illustrations makes this an intriguing read for children of all ages, particularly three-year olds. The book is perfect for pre-readers because the story can be easily followed through the colorful pictures. Author, Nicholas Tana is a writer in every sense. From writing feature documentaries, comedy-horror series, songs, comic books, a movie, commercials, and now this special children’s book. The illustrations are phenomenal. The night with shades of blue and olive green is perfect with the monsters colorfully hiding in the closet. The warmth of family love penetrates each page enriching everyone’s lives.

Wind: A Tragicomedic Tale of Trials & Errors by Simon Plaster

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Wind: A Tragicomedic Tale of Trials & Errors is an entertaining book of political and social satire that focuses on the conflict between religious beliefs and science, along with human rights issues. The chapters are split into sections that coincide with the six days of the biblical account of creation. Genesis 1 has been assigned as part of the reading material for a western literature course at the Oklahoma Public Education Center (OPEC) in Oklahoma City. Should this be allowed or is it unconstitutional? Are the Censorship threats from the American Civil Liberties Union a real concern?

The story centers around Henrietta Hebert, Professor Owen Hatteras, Lawrence Farrell, and William B. Ryan, although all of the supporting characters play essential roles. Henrietta wants to rejuvenate her journalism career by furthering her education. She enrolls at OPEC and takes on the task of writing for the school newspaper under the tutelage of Professor Hatteras. Owen adamantly disagrees with the story of biblical creation but changes his stance in pursuit of his own agenda which ties into the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925. Farrell and Ryan, candidates in a District Attorney’s race, are on opposite ends of the political spectrum when it comes to whether or not Genesis 1 being assigned as reading material in a public school violates the constitution.

Capitol White: A Donnie Brasco Novel (Audiobook – Original Recording) by Joe Pistone and Jon Land

Reviewed by Russell Ilg

As a crime film connoisseur, I place Donnie Brasco among the very best the genre has to offer. Watching Johnny Depp, as the title character, spend five years undercover inside the New York Mob, before ultimately bringing down the infamous families at the top of the food chain, remains great fun every time I watch it.

So it was with great interest that I plunged into Capitol White, more or less a direct sequel to that movie, penned by former FBI agent Joe Pistone working in tandem with bestselling thriller writer Jon Land. The twist is Donnie himself has been re-imagined wondrously here as a fictional hero, as opposed to a fictitious one, to spectacular success.
Pistone famously chronicled his years living undercover in Donnie Brasco: My Undercover Life in the Mafia – A True Story. Capitol White may be all fiction but you wouldn’t know it from the writing and I had to remind myself numerous times that what I was reading was made up instead of a literary rendition of Donnie’s next major case.

The Eye That Never Sleeps by Clifford Browder

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Traversing back in time to New York City circa the late nineteenth century, Clifford Browder’s The Eye That Never Sleeps poses a decidedly brilliant take on the historical crime thriller with an enticingly twisted narrative that brings together history, mystery, and masterfully fleshed out characters.

A growing mystery is afoot in the expanding metropolis of 1869 New York City when three banks are robbed within a nine-month period. Of particular concern is the robbery of the Bank of Trade which is considered the heist of the century. Moreover, the thief has the gall to brag about the robberies by way of sending to the president of each bank gloating rhyming verses and a key to the bank within days of the wake of each masterminded robbery.

Meanwhile, unfortunately for the bankers, the police department has been overwhelmed by the heavy caseloads of other criminal investigations which leaves the city’s bankers in growing desperation. Looking for answers, they turn to private operative/ detective Sheldon Minick who agrees to take on the case for a substantial retainer which enables the financially strapped detective to pay bills and bring meat to his table.

A Dangerous Duet: A Novel by Karen Odden

Reviewed by Jim Eaton

This novel is a romantic thriller of sorts, set in London in 1875.

It concerns the comings and goings of one Nell Hallam, a young pianist whose chief desire is to study piano at the Royal Academy. At story’s open, she is employed three evenings a week at the Octavian, providing accompaniment for the various acts (magicians, jugglers, singers, trapeze artists, etc.), disguised as a man named Ed. As a woman, she’d be paid for less to play, if she were allowed to play at all.

Her position permits her access to a host of shady characters, some of which might not the scrutiny of her family physician, who fears for her mental health (her mother was manic-depressive), or her older brother, who is employed as a detective by Scotland Yard. Her daytime world bears little resemblance to her gig at the Octavian, and Nell does her dear best to keep these worlds apart, with, as one might expect, dwindling levels of success as we get deeper into story. Organized crime, corrupt coppers, sniveling schemers, sympathetic rogues, and several Dickensian tropes hop about, all bent on ruining Nell’s days and Ed’s nights.

The yarn pulls one along, no doubt. Odden deftly navigates London of the time with the confidence of a tour guide, reminding me at times of a certain Irish author whose creations stumbled and bloomed about Dublin, those they were notably burdened by a relentless ineluctable cavalcade of proto-post modern modalities and odysseys the likes of which Odden chooses to eschew. Instead, she strides forward and through in the manner of perhaps Ann Radcliffe and the Inimitable Boz himself. Her sense of place, of putting in a scene, made me wish to act (as I sometimes badly do) in a production with her as the director or at least set designer. The specificity of imagery is at times remarkable. The actions are equally excellent.

So Long As We’re Together by Glenda Burgess

Reviewed by Jim Eaton

The first thing that comes to mind here is, add a star or maybe two if you’re a fan of country music. I happen to be, very much so, such a fan. Raised on Cash, Cline, Willie, Merle, Don Williams, Conway Twitty, and then them nineties with Strait, Black, Travis, Whitley…you get it. Or maybe you don’t, and if you don’t, I find myself wondering how this book would read to you. Seems to me people have some very strong feelings about country: love, hate, hate more.

But we cannot know what we cannot know, and I can only review the text as me, so to speak. The more nods to Merle and friends, the better. Alan Jackson and Reba too. I enjoyed the Pet Shop Boys reference too, and could even hear them sing “what have I done to deserve this” as Mama Donna flings their cd into oblivion during one of the many flashbacky scenes included in Burgess’ novel.

So Long As We’re Together is a tale having mostly to do with closure. There’s romance, and some mystery, and some ugly stuff I wasn’t entirely sure belonged (particularly when ugly is still hanging around towards the end of the book, menacingly menacing but then just…disappearing). And there’s old friends and professional rivalry and lamentation about roads not taken. But ultimately, this yarn is about closure and the strength its manifestation imbues on the bearer.

I am not a massive fan of first person narrator, having been schooled in the bludgeoning such characters can deliver by way of their oft-touted unreliability. I believe an author binds herself up in choosing the first person because either she must dive full-fledged into the doubts and debacles of that unreliability (a la Dostoevsky), or she must somehow justify the depth and breadth of her character’s observations and insights (a la Nabokov). The former is a difficult choice of course but the latter often borders on impossible.

Run Away by Harlan Coben

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Simon Green has been searching for one of his children, Paige, who not only has become a runaway but also a severe drug user. On one of his searches in Central Park, Simon sees Paige and chases after her. However the young man with her steps in the way and she gets away. Simon knocks the man to the ground and then a group of young folk surround Simon. They hold him until the police come and arrest him.

After getting released he explains to his wife, Ingrid, what has happened and she pretty much tells him it is time to accept what is going on. She feels Simon is getting too involved in Paige’s disappearance. He doesn’t agree and just gets further and further into the search.

When he finds through a friend of his several of the drug sellers he does get Ingrid to go along and try to find if any of them know where Paige lives. This maneuver doesn’t turn out well as there is gun fire and Ingrid is very badly wounded by a gun shot.

Simon pretty much leaves Ingrid, who is hospitalized, under the watchful eye of her sister. He then is free to continue his search and find not only Paige but the one responsible for shooting Ingrid.

Now as the story goes along Coben brings in a group of Truth Seekers who are supposedly working to help and serve the needy and others like them. These folk are basically women who appear to be banded together for a reason other than working as saviors. That reason develops later on.

It turns out some of them have been involved over the years in helping unwed mothers give birth to children (strangely enough it turns out that for the most part children are boys and even more strangely related!).

Simon continues to work hard on his end and ends up getting help from some friends and those who work with him. But it just keeps getting more and more involved as there doesn’t seem to be an end to the chase.

In the meantime one of the women from the Truth Seeker group has bonded with a gentleman who is especially good with a gun. They begin working on a list of young men that they not only find but in most cases annihilate for what seems to be no real reason. Needless to say these two end up with Simon in their gunsights as he works to continue looking for Paige.

An interesting story with normal twists and turns in Coben’s way. Profanity and sexual items, as usual with Coben, are pretty much omitted. The ending does kind of baffle the readers. Just good writing with good dialogue and normal twisting and turning!!!

Gretchen: A Thriller by Shannon Kirk

Reviewed by Jim Eaton

At first, I had no idea what to make of this book. It seems in some sub-textual way to be a sort of treatise on coincidence (dare I say, a puzzle within a puzzle). I wasn’t sure to what degree the supernatural was going to play a role; I myself had never heard of any human being (outside of fantasy and sci-fi) having violet eyes. So I suppose you could say this book kept me very much off balance from the start. And it probably isn’t the sort of story I would typically read. Was it a thriller? A mystery? A puzzle in puzzle wrapped in coincidences? It took me more than a few chapters to try to hone in.

How to describe the book without betraying its plot? Hm. You’ve got a woman and a daughter on the run, moving from state to state, hiding from…we don’t know what. The mother won’t tell the daughter. But we do know this has been going on for about thirteen years, since the girl (Lucy) was two years old. I found it ever so slightly confusing that the mother would be worried about them being recognized if in fact the girl was two when they’d fled…but I surmised that the uniquely of the eyes was the root of the paranoia. Maybe. Maybe they were aliens or witches. You decide.

Surviving the Survivors: A Memoir by Ruth Klein

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Surviving the Survivors: A Memoir is a heart-wrenching life story that will touch readers in deep, emotional ways. Ruth Klein is a second-generation survivor of the Holocaust, and she candidly shares the story of her turbulent childhood in a brutally honest way. Ruth was born in a displaced persons camp in Europe, and the family emigrated to the United States when Ruth was a toddler. A number of factors affected the Klein family and made it far more challenging for the household members to integrate themselves not only into American life but also into a cohesive and loving family. Things such as the psychological trauma that haunted Ruth’s parents because of the Holocaust, the post-war treatment of Jewish refugees, the difficult transition to a new country that included poor living conditions and social rejection, and their father’s struggles with mental health problems.

Skin Game (A Teddy Fay Novel Book 3) by Stuart Woods and Parnell Hall

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Teddy Fay was now working as a film producer when he gets a phone call from his old CIA boss. Fay had to leave the CIA at one time because of a mix-up but now they want him back. They believe there is a mole (spy) that is infiltrated into the Paris office of the CIA. So Fay, with very little hesitation heads to Paris as a re- hired CIA agent.

From there it gets very confusing as Fay is constantly finding out strange things that appear to be building up in Paris involving many different countries. They all have not only their normal embassies but these folks are additional countrymen of many countries. They seem to be trying to get to something but neither Fay nor his fellow CIA agents seem to know what.

Fay, working in disguises of all sorts with names of all types, seems to be doing well blending in and learning some things. He quickly meets up with Stone Barrington, perhaps the richest investigator ever, and the New York City police commissioner who is also rich and an investigator. They put together a plan to all work together hunting for the Parisian mole.

Hour Game by David Baldacci (Review #3)

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Not quite what I expect from a David Baldacci story but I am sure that it will appeal to many readers. Theoretically there is one killer out there.He is leaving signature items to show that he did the dirty deed and that more will come. However as the story rolls along it appears to be more of a tale (long winded at that) of one family that not only is incredibly rich but also very twisted up in behavior.

Sean King and Michelle Maxwell, who are now working as private investigators, are hired to do some investigating into a somewhat bizarre burglary. However even before they can get into that several murders occur and bodies are left in somewhat mysterious states. Not only are they wearing watches but altered faces. Each watch has just one dial still on the face of the watch. The first body appears to be wearing a watch with a dial pointed at 1 and then as they find more bodies the dial begins climbing to 2, 3, and so on. However also on several of the first found bodies they dial is not directly on the one but about a minute past it.