The Lions of Fifth Avenue. A mini review.

I’ve not heard of this book before but, after reading
this review, I’m excited to read it. I certainly
never knew that people used to live in New York’s
public library buildings!

Hidden Staircase

The Lions of Fifth Avenue

By Fiona Davis

Rating: 5/5 Stairs

Which begins like this:

She had to tell Jack.

He wouldn’t be pleased.

As Laura Lyons returned from running errands, turning over in her head various reactions her husband might have to her news, she spotted the beggar perched once again on the first tier of the granite steps that led to her home: seven rooms buried deep inside the palatial New York Public Library. This time, the beggar woman’s appearance elicited not pity but a primal fear. It was certainly some kind of ominous sign, one that made Laura’s heart beat faster. A woman on the verge of ruin, alone and without any resources. Unloved.

The Lions of Fifth Avenue by Fiona Davis

This is the first book I’ve read by Fiona Davis. After looking into some of her other books, it seems that she likes to write…

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Book Reviews: Amnesty by Aravind Adiga and All the Way Down by Eric Beetner @AravindAdiga @ScribnerBooks @ericbeetner @DownAndOutBooks

Amnesty
Aravind Adiga
Scribner, February 2020
ISBN 978-1-9821-2724-4
Hardcover

Danny, an undocumented Sri Lanken living in Australia, has gradually fashioned for himself a satisfactory life. He has acquaintances with whom he socializes and a woman friend about whom he is serious. And now he has a problem. He may have important information that will help local police solve a nasty murder. If he steps forward as his world view requires, he may be deported because he’s illegally in the country. On the other hand, he may hold the one fact that will solve the case.

The novel is not so much a murder mystery or thriller as a thoughtful if sometimes wandering essay on the life of honest hard-working illegals and the pressures and vicissitudes of that life. There is little overt drama in the story, rather a character-peopled tale in which the author adeptly channels his protagonist Danny into more and more tension as he wrestles with a decision which will, in either path, affect a great many people.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, February 2021.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

All The Way Down
Eric Beetner
Down and Out Books, January 2019
ISBN 978-1-64396-010-4
Trade Paperback

This enthralling crime novel starts with a bad cop called on the carpet. Dale Burnett, risen to detective grade, has allowed his need for money to gradually bend his ethics, in a city already badly out of tune with ethics and morality. He assumes the worst but is given one chance at redemption.

It turns out, the Mayor’s daughter has been captured and is being held by one of the city’s most dangerous and brutal gang leaders. Since Burnett is now known to the gang, law enforcement believes an alternative to a frontal assault is a better option. Burnett is tasked with going into gang headquarters and rescuing the young woman.

Of course, Burnett takes this limited opportunity to risk death and retrieve his good standing. What follows is a rousing and ever more dangerous series of encounters with the gang leader and his murderous minions. With the considerable assistance of the mayor’s able daughter, Burnett engages the forces of evil.

The scene is very limited, all the action takes place inside a single large former factory building, so some of the common characteristics of action novels such as weather, are missing. Nevertheless, the pace is relentless, the tension high and the outcome uncertain until the very end.

All The Way Down is a fine thriller of a novel with surprises on almost every page, sustained action and relevant character development. The mayor’s daughter is a strong, important component of the fabric of the story.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, May 2019.
http://www.carlbrookins.com http://agora2.blogspot.com
Traces, Grand Lac, Reunion, Red Sky.

Book Reviews: Hatchling Hero by J. A. Watson and Two’s a Crowd by Flora Ahn @JollyFishPress @funaek @Scholastic

Hatchling Hero
A Sea Turtle Defender’s Journal
J.A. Watson
Jolly Fish Press, March 2018
ISBN 978-1-63163-161-0
Trade Paperback

The move from Puerto Rico to North Carolina was not an easy for one twelve-year-old Clarita. It wasn’t just geography, or missing friends; there was a life-style change as well. With both Mama and Tio having such busy schedules, Clarita felt isolated and in-charge-of her younger brother, Hector.

So, while she wasn’t particularly pleased to be forced into anything, this Science Squad thing that Mama insisted on might be a good idea after all. When the team chooses to track sea turtles for their project, Clarita is excited to finally find a familiarity. With her first American school-year behind her, she is starting to think that summer with the Science Squad should be fun.

With the recently laid eggs so close to their new home, Clarita and Hector were happy to host their fellow turtle lovers. But when keeping check on the nearby nest turns to witnessing criminal activity, the Sea Turtle Defenders are going to require adult assistance.

Not only did I (a Not-Young-Adult) enjoy this story, but it was educational in a sneaky way. I’m fairly certain I had not seen the word “skeletochronology” before. Now, I know what that means. Although the tiny tome is incredibly informative, it is in no way intimidating or complicated. And, while there’s no doubting the Sea Turtle Defenders’ outstanding deeds, deliberately disobeying rules will not be overlooked.

J.A. Watson’s Hatchling Hero: A Sea Turtle Defender’s Journal will absolutely appeal to Middle-Grade readers, but I kind of want everyone to read it.

Reviewed by jv poore, January 2020.

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Two’s A Crowd
Pug Pals #1
Flora Ahn
Scholastic Press, January 2018
ISBN 978-1-338-11845-2
Hardcover

Sunny lives the perfect pug life. When her human goes to work, she does, too. She has her yoga and Mr. Bunny to tend to. She needs nothing.

So, Sunny was far from pleased when her human came home with another pug. The human calls the spastic pup Rosy. Sunny has nothing to say to wiggly, happy, fuzz-ball following her around.

Until Rosy accidentally loses Mr. Bunny. And then Sunny loses Rosy!

In Sunny’s search for Rosy, she finds fault in her own behavior and vows to make some changes. If she can only find that perturbing puppy.

I absolutely adore this Juvenile Fiction chapter book, but you don’t have to take my word for it. I spoke to the first-grader currently reading it and she says “it’s great” and that Sunny’s yoga poses are “so funny”.

Reviewed by jv poore, February 2020.

How Far Is the Past?

Returning guest blogger Sunny Frazier, whose first novel in the Christy Bristol Astrology Mysteries, Fools Rush In, received the Best Novel Award from Public Safety Writers Association, is here today to wonder if the past remembered by older folks means much to the younger generations.

The third Christy Bristol Astrology Mystery, A Snitch in Time, is in bookstores now.

sunny69@comcast.net   //  http://www.sunnyfrazier.com

Every year on Veterans Day, two dentists in my town (Lemoore, CA) give free check-ups and some procedures on veterans. I took advantage, so that’s why I found myself in the chair getting a tooth pulled. The assistant asked what I did in the military and I told her I’d been a dental tech like her. I also told her I’d been in during the Vietnam Era (when you say that, people always assume you were in-country. Except nurses, most military women stayed stateside. But, joining during any war action gave GI benefits).

The young assistant asked if it was like on TV where there were lots of dead bodies. I said no, it was more like M.A.S.H.

“Oh, I’ve heard of that program,” she said.

“I think I saw an episode once. It was sort of funny” said the dentist.

Conveniently, my mouth fell open. Which is when the dentist went to work.

I get it. The show has been off the air almost 40 years. These two weren’t even born. But still. Isn’t this piece of trivia important enough to have heard about or seen reruns? The last episode was the most watched show in TV history. It still pops up on Jeopardy and in crossword puzzles. Oh, that’s right. Only Boomers do crossword puzzles. Unless it’s an app, nobody younger than 50 bothers with them.

Sometimes my own grasp of the past amazes me. My recent crossword wanted the first lady of jazz: Ella Fitzgerald. What Gorbachev reorganized? The USSR. Summoned Jeeves (who’s Jeeves?): Rang.

It got me thinking. Why do my references span decades? Is knowing the past not important in an age where everything moves at supersonic speed? When 45 seconds seems forever when nuking something in the microwave?

       

And here comes the “Okay, Boomer” moment. Growing up, TV only had 3 stations. There weren’t many children’s programs, but that’s okay because we were in bed by 7:30. We listened to the music our parents had on the hi-fi: Frank Sinatra, Louie Prima, Dean Martin. Lawrence Welk played his accordion, Father Knew Best and we all loved Lucy. We listened to the conversations of adults because children were seen, not heard. We picked up their info.

Yes, some of us got stuck in our own era. I have friends who will only listen to the oldies station. Several years ago, a clerk at a music store dismissed me as being too old to bother with until I asked for Green Day’s “American Idiot.” An Uber driver asked if I wanted to listen to soft rock on the radio, but I requested Cold Play. I still love listening to the silky voice of Nat King Cole, but also enjoy Dave Grohl.

      

What I’m saying is, although the present is fast paced and hard to keep up with, it’s worth putting in an effort to know about Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendricks and Jim Morrison. To know the names Mae West, Joseph McCarthy and Josephine Baker. It’s important to expand horizons beyond the present.

       

 

Hawkeye and Radar O’Reilly would no doubt agree with me.

        

Book Review: The Readers’ Room by Antoine Laurain @BelgraviaB

The Readers’ Room
Antoine Laurain
Gallic Books, September 2020
ISBN: 978-1-910477960
Hardcover

Violaine Lepage heads up the readers’ room of a prestigious Parisian publishing house. How she got the position is a story within the story. Violaine has been injured in a bad airplane accident, so she has to contend with a bad leg all through the book. Meanwhile she sees and speaks with famous authors of an earlier time, particularly her favorite, Marcel Proust. A little woo-woo here, or perhaps a bit of a wonky mind.

In the readers’ room, a group of four readers go through the hundreds, sometimes thousands of manuscripts (all on paper, for the purposes of this story) searching for the next super prize-winning best seller. Excitement abounds when young Marie finds what she believes is IT, a mystery written by someone named Camille Désencres and dealing with the deaths of four men.

To much acclaim, the book is hot off the press when the news breaks that two men have been murdered under the exact circumstances described in the book. Another is also found dead, and the book tells of a fourth. Certain they’re on the track of a killer, in a race against time the police search desperately for the author before the last death can happen.

All will be explained in the end.

I see this book is billed as a comedic mystery. Perhaps I’m losing my sense of humor, but I have to say I didn’t emit a single chuckle, never mind a belly laugh. That’s not to say the story wasn’t interesting. The characters are well-defined, the writing is good, and most of the plot follows through well. I did, however, think the reader is led to early conclusions that give no clue as to the way events work out. And really, the nonsense about everyone, including the police of two countries, being unable to discover the identity of Camille Désencres just didn’t ring true. Surely these people have heard of following the money.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, December 2020.
http://www.ckcrigger.com
Author of The Woman Who Built A Bridge (Spur Award Winner), Yester’s Ride,
Hometown Burning and Six Dancing Damsels: A China Bohannon Mystery

Botanical Curses And Poisons

Thanks to this great review, everything about this book is calling my name and makes me wish I was a mystery author 😄

On The Shelf Books

In Botanical Curses and Poisons, illustrator, author, and folklorist Fez Inkwright returns to archives to uncover the fascinating folklore, lurid histories, and untold stories behind deadly plants, witching herbs and fungi. Filled with beautiful illustrations, this treasury of folklore is packed with insight, lore, and the revealed mysteries of everyday flora!

Welcome to my stop on the blog tour for this fascinating book about the hidden nature of things that can be found in the hedgerows Thank you so much to Random Things Tours. for the invitation and I absolutely loved browsing through this book like a wise woman in a medieval manuscript!

The book is published by Liminal 11, a mind, body, spirit publisher and is so so beautiful – it would make a wonderful and special gift for someone you know who is fascinated by the unearthly side of life and would like to know more about…

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Frankly, My Dear…and Other Tweaks of Genius @JMmystery

Jeanne Matthews is the author of the Dinah Pelerin international mysteries published by Poisoned Pen Press. Like her amateur sleuth, Jeanne was born with a serious wanderlust. Originally from Georgia, she enjoys traveling the world and learning about other cultures and customs, which she incorporates into her novels. She currently lives in Renton, Washington with her husband who is a law professor. Where the Bones Are Buried, the fifth book in the series, is in bookstores now . You can learn more about Jeanne’s books at http://www.jeannematthews.com

“Frankly, my dear…”  Everyone knows the rest of that line, even if they’ve never seen the movie.  The American Film Institute rates Rhett Butler’s last words to Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind as the most memorable quote in the history of cinema.  It’s become part of the cultural lexicon.  The original line from the novel was “My dear, I don’t give a damn.”  Sidney Howard, the screenwriter, added “frankly” to give it a bit of zing.  Some writers believe that of all the parts of speech, the adverb is the banana peel that’s sure to trip us up.  But there are times when it’s the extra zing that makes a sentence unforgettable.

Jane Austen had a knack for the ironic adverb.  “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”  A truth universally acknowledged both elevates the tone and undermines the significance of the truism that follows.  That clause has become one of the most famous in the English language.  In the two hundred years since it was written, it’s been adapted and repurposed in thousands of ways.

Scott Fitzgerald decorated almost every page of The Great Gatsby with adverbs.  At Gatsby’s parties, the guests drank unsparingly, the girls laughed exhilaratingly, and an actress danced tipsily.  Nick Carraway is the first person narrator and the descriptions express his point of view and judgments.  Fitzgerald saves Nick’s best line – and most essential adverb – for the iconic last sentence.  “So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

For those of us on a lesser literary plane than Austen and Fitzgerald, we are well advised to keep our adverbs to a minimum.  Too many “ly” words clutter the prose and annoy readers.  But however thick on the page they may be, adverbs don’t make a sentence grammatically wrong.  Chopping off the tail of an adverb now, that’s an abuse.

“Do not go gentle into that good night?”  Hold the phone!  Shouldn’t it be gently?  You can’t modify a verb with an adjective and get away with it, can you?  What was Dylan Thomas thinking?  Or Elvis, for that matter, when he crooned “Love me tender, love me true”?  Elvis probably didn’t give it much thought, but Dylan would have known he was committing an enallage (pronounced eh NAHL-uh-jee).  Enallage is a deliberate grammatical mistake that makes a sentence stand out.  Some of the most striking and memorable phrases in literature and music are grammatically wrong.  “I can’t get no satisfaction” wouldn’t stick in the mind without that arresting double negative.  And Joe Jacobs, the manager of a prizefighter who lost a match on points, achieved linguistic immortality when he grabbed the mic and shouted, “We was robbed!”

Playing with grammar isn’t the only way to create an indelible idiom.  In 1961, Joseph Heller submitted a manuscript titled Catch 18 to his editor Robert Gottlieb.  The number 18 didn’t work.  Leon Uris had just published Mila 18 and Gottlieb wanted to avoid any confusion.  He and Heller mulled a series of alternative possibilities.  Eleven was out because of the movie Oceans 11.  Back and forth in letters and phone calls, Heller and Gottlieb proposed and rejected a multitude of numbers.  27?  Nah.  539?  Too long.  26?  Didn’t feel right.  14?  Not funny.  And then inspiration struck.  “I’ve got it!” exclaimed Gottlieb.  “Catch 22.”  It’s hard to say why 22 is funnier than 18, but it is.  That plus 4 was a tweak of genius.

All writers aspire to pen something extraordinary, words that will live on after we’re gone.  To help us in that endeavor, computer scientists at Cornell University believe they’ve cracked the code of what makes a phrase “catch” and linger in the public imagination.  They researched dialogue from 1,000 films, analyzing pronouns, articles, verb tense, word choice, word sequence, and sound.  The sound of the language – the bang, the fizz, the snap – enhance memorability.  Brevity, simplicity, and originality of expression also help.  But it turns out that re-usability is the key factor.  If a catchy phrase can be applied in different contexts and situations, chances are it will be.

“Fasten your seatbelts.  It’s going to be a bumpy night.”  That line (delivered over the rim of a martini by Bette Davis in All About Eve) is both distinctive and general.  It’s the perfect warning to one’s friends or significant other should you find yourself in a turbulent mood.  That’s no doubt why it ranks ninth on the American Film Institutes most memorable quotes list.

As we writers strive to put captivating dialogue into the mouths of our characters, we can test our ability to recognize a line worth remembering by visiting the Cornell researchers’ website:  http://www.cs.cornell.edu/~cristian/memorability.html.  Sometimes all it takes is a tweak.