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Review: Tell No Lies by Gregg Hurwitz

[ 2 ] October 13, 2014

photo22_Reviewed by Marcus Hammond

Tell No Lies by Gregg Hurwitz is a mystery/thriller that follows Daniel Brasher, a counselor for individuals on parole with a quiet, fulfilling life, as he tries to uncover who is leaving cryptic messages of impending murder in his work mailbox. With each message Daniel receives the helplessness and intrigue builds up to an exciting climax. With that said, however, the pacing of the book is slightly disjointed as it gets bogged down in dense detail.

Daniel Brasher is an incredibly interesting character, and Hurwitz excels at portraying him as a strong, yet regular guy with a shadowy family history. Daniel’s moral fiber is clearly a focal point throughout the story. As a public probation counselor, he clearly feels the weight of the run-down, impoverished headquarters and the parolees he hardly has the resources to help. He is quickly faced with a personal dilemma when he decides to write a new chapter for himself and his wife at by starting a private counseling firm. To further the inner conflict that surrounds Daniel he comes from one of the wealthiest families in San Francisco, and has already turned his back on the opportunity to amass great wealth as a financial planner in the family business. This choice brings the ire of his mother, Evelyn, direct onto his shoulders.

The suspense in the novel revolves around a series of cryptic notes that are seemingly delivered wrongly to his work mailbox. Eventually Daniel realizes that the notes he has found are both death threats and ultimatums that have never been read by the intended recipients. This discovery leads Daniel to do everything he can, within his everyday Joe powers, to uncover the author of the notes.

While Hurwitz’s characterization of Daniel stands out throughout the novel, so does his attention to environment and atmosphere. Hurwitz’s use of detail works on both a micro and macro level within the book. His descriptions of the San Francisco cityscape draw the reader into the larger environment within the story, while the details about the psychological atmospheres within each and every scenario add suspense, violence, and desperation into the story. As stated before, however, at points these details, especially within the larger environment, drag the pace of the story down.

Overall, Tell No Lies is a gritty, well-developed thriller if the reader can overlook how it is paced.  Fans of Gillian Flynn and Tana French will find strong similarities in style, while fans of James Patterson will enjoy the, for the most part, quickly paced suspense.

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

After obtaining a Masters in Liberal Arts and Literature Marcus has dedicated most of his time to teaching English Composition for a community college in the Midwest. In his down time, he spends time avidly reading an eclectic selection of books and doing freelance writing whenever he gets the chance. He lives in Kansas with his wife.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by St. Martin’s Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Mailbox Monday

[ 10 ] October 12, 2014

Welcome to Mailbox MondayMailbox Monday are hosted by Marcia at Mailbox Monday blog

Here are the books that made their way into my mailbox last week:

Paper Review Copies

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From Paperbackswap

9780141029207 (1)18640739

Additions to Personal Kindle Library

51CMfpewWoL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_1613040518248320the-colonels-lady

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Review: The Art of Neil Gaiman by Hayley Campbell

[ 6 ] October 12, 2014

9781781571392Reviewed by Jenna Arthur

When you think of Neil Gaiman, do you think of The Sandman comic books? Mirrormask? Although Neil Gaiman is famous for these works, as well as his hit BBC series and comic books Neverwhere, Gaiman’s body of work and personality far exceed what most people know him for.

In The Art of Neil Gaiman, Hayley Campbell tells a tale of a man most people do not know. I, for one, was expecting a completely different book when I first opened this gorgeously bound hardback. Expecting an array of beautiful images and beautifully penned quotes by the master himself, I was instead given access into a world of Gaiman’s inner workings. Throughout the book, Campbell shows Gaiman’s reasoning behind his characters, his collaborations and gives a glimpse into his life both past and present.

Gaiman is unlike any other artist or writer in the market today. He doesn’t so much as write stories, like other authors and artists might, but lets his life do the writing for him. When he was younger, Gaiman hated the idea of college. So instead, he picked up a pen and started what is now an epic body of work. A memorable quote in the book refers to Gaiman’s reasoning behind his choice not pursue school like other students his age were doing at the time. Paraphrased, he said, “School does not teach you what to say to a person who is dying….School doesn’t teach you what is in someone else’s mind…. School does not teach you how to love somebody.”

The Art of Neil Gaiman has everything a fan or even someone newly introduced to Gaiman could ever want to know. It contains everything from brilliant revelations on his characters, such as Death, to how even at his level of notoriety he is still humbled and even sometimes surprised when his works get published. This book is beautiful inside and out; with art, words, and quotes Campbell brilliantly portrays the master himself.

Rating: ★★★★★ 

Jenna lives in the bustling city of Pittsburgh, PA with her wife, her chihuahua Penny, her retriever Ella and her two beautiful cats. Along with her passion for reading and the literary world, she is also an artist, writer, environmental activist, creative coordinator and aspiring culinary genius. She believes there is nothing better to her then a good book, and lives one cover to the next.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Harper Design. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Nine Steps to Well-Being by Steven Smith

[ 1 ] October 11, 2014

413WhXYuG4L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Reviewed by Poppy Johnson

Nine Steps to Well-Being: A Spiritual Guide for Disconnected Christians and Other Questioning Journeyers by Steven Smith is based on the author’s personal experiences and learning stages as he renewed his faith in the Lord. Smith uses those experiences to teach readers how to have a higher level connection with faith and with Christ. The book is a type of personal odyssey with intimate story details of Smith’s life, quotes from scripture on faith, and a faith-based analysis of how God’s love is truly never-ending in the life of a believer.

The book contains nine chapters that explain the Christ-centered conversations a believer will have with himself. Each step is analyzed in detail, based on faith questions such as whether God is on our side or not, or whether we have Christ as a partner as we go through everyday trials. For example, the book explains that God’s grace offers believers the clarity to know that he is with us each minute, in good times and in bad. This is an important point since people often lose faith during tough times and may mistakenly believe God that has stopped caring–which the author feels is not the case at all. God is in the thicket with his followers and believers can rest assured of God’s love at all times.

I appreciated the author discussing a “car manual” type approach to reading the Bible, and encouraging a more open approach to religion. Smith expects believers to approach scripture with a humble spirit and to seek wisdom in the word by asking probing questions with an open heart to God’s love. Highly recommended for all ages.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

After a decade of working in several NYC law departments and teaching, Poppy decided she enjoyed writing full-time. She currently works as a freelance writing consultant, and lives with her husband and sons on the East Coast.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Whispering Tree Original Books. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Hanging Tree by Michael Phillip Cash

[ 1 ] October 11, 2014

81LqKTCZwAL__SL1500_Reviewed by Marcus Hammond

The Hanging Tree is a short dramatic paranormal novella by Michael Phillip Cash that revolves around a curse handed down through generations of family members. The story is smoothly written as it transitions between different time periods, but lacks any real intrigue.

The story begins with two teenagers, Arielle and Chad, relaxing underneath an old tree. Chad desires to add Arielle to his list of conquests, yet Arielle is conflicted. Her mother leaving to live a life of lavish irresponsibility has altered her life irreparably, and she can’t decide if her attraction to Chad is solely an act of rebellion.

The story then switches to mid-1600, where Goody Bennett, a quiet, misunderstood woman who is accused and punished for witchcraft, stands against the injustices of her Puritanical community. Goody Bennett is both the protagonist and antagonist of the story. It is her ability to intuit the motivations of those around her that uncovers the evil residing in her community’s preacher and ultimately sees her hanging alongside her granddaughter for witchcraft.

The story progresses through a small cast of characters who have succumbed to the curse. The reader meets Martin and Arthur, a homosexual couple who struggled to fit into the social elite, and their untimely death in a car wreck. Cash also briefly develops Goody Bennett’s granddaughter, Claire, and a young rape victim known as the Gibson girl. Each of these characters illuminates the rage and injustice of Goody Bennett’s treatment during her own time period.

Between Goody Bennett’s tribulations and the unraveling of her curse’s victims there’s the present that revolves around Arielle and Chad. Both teens are descendants of the preacher who killed Goody Bennett, and they present an opportunity for Cash to neatly summarize the themes of injustice and redemption.

Overall, the novella is fast-paced and well written. The characters are relatable, yet it feels like something is missing. It could be that so much of the 74 pages is spent developing Goody Bennett as the originator of injustice and revenge in the story; or it may be that Arielle and Chad are too quickly developed. Cash quickly fills in very necessary blanks just before the climax happens so that the whole thing will make sense, and that leaves the reader wishing the story was just a little bit longer.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

After obtaining a Masters in Liberal Arts and Literature Marcus has dedicated most of his time to teaching English Composition for a community college in the Midwest. In his down time, he spends time avidly reading an eclectic selection of books and doing freelance writing whenever he gets the chance. He lives in Kansas with his wife.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Red Feather Productions. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Politics of Washing by Polly Coles

[ 3 ] October 10, 2014

9780719808784Reviewed by Nina Longfield

“Ah, Venice.” I cannot think of Venice without adding the sigh of longing and nostalgia. Venice is one of few foreign cities that I would love to spend time in, get to know the back alleyways, happily be lost in then found in over and over. Polly Coles memoir, The Politics of Washing, gives the reader a vicarious invitation to the inside, underside, and every-side of Venice that the traveler (tourist) cannot experience.

Polly Coles begins her memoir, The Politics of Washing, in a rush. Her family of six is packing up to leave England for a year in Venice, Italy. As with any move, small distance or further, there are last minute emergencies, traumas and panics, but nothing can sway the Coles family from their set itinerary. In reaching Venice, they immediately stumble into a wait mode. This is the essence of Coles’ reflections, a lot of hurry and wait situations. However, as Coles explains, this is what Venice is about.

Coles shows the reader that Venice is a city of rich history and it is sinking slowly into decay. It is not the lagoon and threat of rising waters due to global warming that has the city faltering, but rather the rise in tourist tides brought in on giant luxury cruise ships that are eating away much faster at the once grand city than any environmental threat. Venice, during the day, especially within the grand squares throughout the city, is thronging with people. They are everywhere. Coles leads the reader into Venice behind the scenes and after the tourists have left for the day; this is when Venetians relax, wake, and reclaim their city for themselves. The Venetians are a tenacious people who will not give up their city to the outsiders.

The Politics of Washing allows the reader into everyday life within Venice. This is a city like any other. Children walk to school. Laundry is hung on strings between buildings to dry. Everyday necessities and luxuries are delivered via boat and cart. Unfortunately, one has to dodge about a bevy of heavy foot traffic most days when the ships arrive. And it is a common occurrence that must be endured and conquered when the city frequently floods through the cooler months.

Polly Coles shows Venice as it is. She holds nothing back. She is an outsider reporting the grandeur and squalor of the city. Coles writing is solid. She vividly describes both the beauty and despair of this ancient city. The Politics of Washing is a readable memoir, at times funny, enjoyable, and feels very real.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Nina Longfield is a writer living in Oregon’s fertile wine country. When she is not reading or writing in her spare time, Nina enjoys hiking in the hills surrounding her cabin.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Robert Hale. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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