Required Reading

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Books I have authored.

Many times I receive books for FREE to give them an honest review. I do not get paid to give a good or bad review. Spotlights are promotional and should be regarded as advertising for the book spotlighted. Regardless of where or how I got a book, my review will be as honest as I can make it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Three Days to Die by John Avery

A middle school student finds himself pulled into the morass of a criminal crew who are violently robbing banks. 

Aaron is in a less than stellar family situation with an abusive step father intimidating his mother and terrorizing Aaron.   Aaron's escapism is with Willy, his British accented sidekick.  Together they pull pranks and roam the streets trying to avoid going home.   Aaron blunders into a criminal gang and is suddenly an unwilling participant in violence.

Avery postulates some interesting things.  His web site states that he likes to put ordinary people into tense situations to see how they react.   Aaron exhibits some classic Stockholm characteristics as he bonds with several of the criminals. 

The gang members are a confusing melange with a very mixed background.   Needles appears to have been drawn in due to debt and desperation.   The "good" reasons for his criminal behavior are pale in comparison to the violence he helps to perpetuate.  

A white knight appears in the appearance of Michael who befriends Aaron and plays a minor part in the story.   Aaron's hyper-attractive mother scores the attention of Souther the psychopathic gang leader.  

The story had a lot of action but there was a lack of depth in some of the characters.   The overall feeling was a shallow but exciting story with some plausibility concerns.   I still enjoyed it.

Web site:

 This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Death At Chinatown by Frances McNamar

Death At Chinatown is the fifth Emily Cabot mysteries.  This mystery is a good fit for National Domestic Violence month.   It does not deal with domestic violence but it does feature the development of the liberation of women.  Two Chinese female doctors are resented by the Chinese male community. 

After reading about the previous mysteries, I was somewhat shocked at how Mrs. Chapman was so fixated on child care in the early part of the book.  She seemed overwhelmed with her responsibilities and totally lacking in self esteem. 

Later in the book she shows the character that was apparently featured in the previous stories. It was interesting to see how the subservient roles of women were taken for granted by even the women themselves.  It was inspiring to see how accepting some, both men and women, were able to look beyond traditional gender roles and see the abilities and potential of the individual regardless of gender. 

I've often mentioned in my reviews that I am a proponent of strong women.  The inability of some men to see the value of a partner over a servant in marriage is beyond my comprehension.  It is appalling that the chauvinist pig is still alive and kicking.   Personally, I feel that has a distinct impact on domestic violence which is how I related to this book's view of early women's liberation or early liberated women.  The book is in no way a diatribe on domestic violence but as I completed it going into National Domestic Violence Awareness month, I was unable to separate the plot and background from current events. 

I recommend the book. 


This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Guest Post by Frances McNamara Author of Death at Chinatown

A Guest Post
Frances McNamara

It’s interesting that “balancing family and work” was suggested as a topic for this blog post. In Death at Chinatown, the fifth book in my Emily Cabot mystery series, this is just the dilemma faced by my protagonist.

In earlier books Emily has been a trail blazer when she is thrilled to be one of the first graduate students at the University of Chicago when it opens in 1892. She studies the new discipline of sociology and later becomes a factory inspector at Hull House and is active in the labor movement during the Pullman Strike. But in this book she has married and, with two small children to care for, she cannot see how she can resume her studies and work at the university.

I am not married with children myself, although I do have to struggle for time to write while maintaining a full-time job in the systems department of the University of Chicago Library. However, Emily’s dilemma in the book was actually inspired by something I heard a prominent woman mystery writer say at a conference. She commented that she wasn’t sure that she could continue her series character, a woman private investigator[EV1] , if the character had a child. She speculated that the responsibility of motherhood would have to mean that the character would not be able to risk being in dangerous situations once she had a child. I think the writer was soon to become a mother for the first time herself.

I confess the suggestion bothered me and I wanted to debate the point. Rather than debate it, I wrote it into the story. Emily has the good fortune to have a husband and friends who want her to return to her job lecturing and even to her work with the Chicago police detective she has helped in the past. It is Emily herself who resists being drawn back into her work outside her home. She has to struggle with her feelings before being able to leave her children for her work.

I knew that the characters in my series would not remain young forever. In fact, I have plans to bring them through the early years of the twentieth century, beyond WWI and to the brink of the Great Depression. There are a lot more stories to be told. On the other hand, I also did want to bring the romantic plots to satisfactory conclusions. I think it becomes tiresome if there is an obvious romance between hero and heroine yet they never quite manage to come together. I am actually looking forward to writing about a more mature heroine and to do that she does have to face the issue of balancing family and work. I hope her conclusions in Death at Chinatown are at least believable and somewhat satisfactory. Emily’s situation is in contrast to the even more restrained condition of the young Chinese women she meets in the story. Heaven help us if women were unable to act just because they are mothers. On the contrary, I think in real life that kind of responsibility brings out the best in women in their work beyond the confines of their homes.

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.

 [EV1]I think you’re thinking of Laura Lippman, who’s main character is a PI. A lawyer wouldn’t regularly be in dangerous situations.

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Global Predator by Jack MacLean

The use of drones is highly controversial.  This author takes that current controversy and turns it into an entertaining novel.   The unlikely combination of a talented financial dilettante and a dewy eyed altruist provide the two main characters.   The stage is the Swat valley, an administrative district in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province of Pakistan. 

The book provides a modicum of hope through the portrayal of the bulk of the Taliban and al-qaeda as regional thugs more focused on local religious control rather than global domination.  The local people are more enlightened than normally seen in TV and  book portrayals.   They want education for their kids, not just their male children but their female children as well.

The financial aspects were interesting.  The lack of moral values in financial traders seemed a bit stereo-typical.  Wilkins was not likeable, even when he was doing something that ended up good.   Self centered egotism is far too mild a description for his character.   Sally seemed very realistic.   Noting the people willing to put their lives on the line with the Ebola crisis, it isn't a stretch to see Sally willing to do the same.

The use of the Predators and their targeting foibles certainly supports the Humint factors in the government.   All too often what you see isn't actually what you think you see.

The book provided some thought provoking moments.

I recommend the book. 

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Friday, October 17, 2014

The Butcher by Jennifer Hillier

I enjoyed (Disclaimer regarding enjoyment, the books were a good read but the subject matter isn't really enjoyable.) her previous books, Freak and Creep.  This book details the gestation of a serial killer and what results.

The villain is identified early in this book.  That doesn't matter as far as the creepy factor.  The story is well crafted with an excellent plot line.  The characters are believable.   The bizarre intertwining of the characters provides and additional level of complexity that enhances the story value. 

Ms. Hillier provides an excellent read with substantial tension and concern over the eventual outcome.

I recommend the book.

Web Sites:

 This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Monday, October 13, 2014

To Die Fur by Dixie Lyle

Mystery takes place after the first book A Taste Fur Murder.   Foxtrot Lancaster is a billionaire's administrative assistant. She is also is the sheriff of Crossroads, a pet cemetery extraordinaire.   This is an interesting story although the description makes the story sound preposterous it really is quite a good mystery.  Foxtrot's sidekicks are a dog named whiskey who is not really a dog but an ectoplasmic being who is there to help her run the cemetery and Tango her cat who has come back from the dead.  

ZZ, Zelda's Zoransky is Foxtrots boss,  she likes to have interesting conversations and thus holds dinners for a wide variety of people.  She solicits their input by plying them with good food, good booze and revels in the ensuing conversation.

In this book Foxtrot is tasked with keeping a white liger alive and healthy so that the liger can be adopted somewhere in the world. Some strange characters come out of the woodwork to adopt the liqer. Circumstances change and there appears to be a war between the God of tigers and the God of lions over the soul of Augustus, the liger.  Foxtrot needs to see that Augustus is taken care of and to see that there is no war between the Lion's and the Tiger's gods.

Foxtrot develops a love interest in this book, Ben, the chef.  Ben is also a Thunderbird who is tasked with being the envoy between the feline gods.

A long time fan of anthropomorphism, I enjoy this series. 

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Doghouse by L. A. Kornetsky

This is another pet's are smart mystery.   Ms. Kornetsky has Georgie, the Sharpei, and Miss Penny, the cat as major characters.   
I said in my review of Collared that Ms. Kornetsky portrays a very strong female protagonist as well as an equally strong male protagonist.   I like the fact that Ms. Kornetsky can portray a strong female without having the need to demean her male counterpart.   As much as I like strong female protagonists, I have seen where some authors feel that if the woman is strong the man must be a buffoon or patented stupid.   Sadly too many people still have difficulty with equality that men and women can operate together as equals.  Some how that just shouldn’t be a revelation. 

Ginny and Teddy are both back.  They complement each other’s skill sets quite nicely.   They still insist they are not investigators or at least Teddy does.   Their rivalry seems to have cooled and they are more partners now than adversaries.  Seth the cook involves the two pseudo-detectives with his friend, Deke.   Deke is dealing with life through the haze of multiple concussions in the boxing ring.   Another animal is introduced too, Parsifal an abandoned terrier.   Deke's eviction from his home avalanches into another full blown pet mystery. 

I have always enjoyed anthropomorphism and I think the addition of the pets adds flavor to the story.  They are still not prominent in the story but do figure into the plot line.   The intimate watering hole of Mary's reminds me of a similar but different bar in college where the owner/bartender wouldn't serve of age students more than one beer during the week when they were supposed to study.   On week ends, he was happy to serve you as long as you were keeping your grades up.  Places like Mary's exist but need to be discovered.

This book deals with concerns about the treatment of animals and is an ideal read for Animal Welfare Week. 

I enjoyed the book and look forward to sequels.


This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.

Monday, October 6, 2014

In honor of Animal Welfare Week (October 5-11) and National Animal Shelter and Rescue Appreciation Week (November 2-8)

Praise for the third Gin & Tonic Mystery, Doghouse:
“Human and animal characters are equally appealing.  A thoroughly enjoyable read.”  I Love a Mystery

Doghouse is a crafty mystery with engaging characters and countless unknowns…L.A. Kornetsky makes mysteries inventively delightful, and Doghouse entertains with wit and cleverness.”  Single Titles
“I recommend it to those that really like animals and cozy mysteries.”  Books and Things

“The third Gin & Tonic “researchtigations” is an appealing anthropomorphist amateur sleuth enhanced by life in a cheerful neighborhood bar. The lead humans and their animal owners remain fresh leads while the case proves bloody in the ring and the bar.”  The Mystery Gazette

“Sniffing out clues…L.A. Kornetsky brings back Ginny Mallard and her bartender friend Teddy Tonica, along with Ginny's pet shar-pei puppy and Teddy’s tabby cat, for their third outing in Doghouse.”  Library Journal

Praise for the second Gin & Tonic Mystery, Fixed:
“[Fixed] is the second foray into the lives of a very unlikely pair of investigators; unlikely and a whole lot of fun…Collared was the first title that introduced this extremely fun ‘family and friends’ grouping, and the author has come back with a sequel that will truly make Gin & Tonic a well-known duo! Very light-hearted, this is a great book. Any reader who likes the ‘cozy’ avenue will love this mystery, with a little bit of cat and dog language thrown in for fun.”  Suspense Magazine

Praise for the first Gin & Tonic Mystery, Collared:
“The plot moves quickly, enhanced by smart dialog and good characterizations…Recommended for purchase where pet mysteries are popular.”  Library Journal

Summary of Doghouse:
Amateur sleuths Ginny Mallard and Teddy Tonica and their furry partners prove in L.A. Kornetsky’s DOGHOUSE (Pocket Books; July 22, 2014; $7.99) that twelve legs are better than four when it comes to solving a risky new case in the third novel from the “entertaining” (Library Journal) Gin & Tonic mystery series.  At her favorite Seattle bar, professional concierge Ginny Mallard can always count on a perfectly mixed gimlet and a friendly welcome for her shar-pei, Georgie, from resident cat, Penny.  On this visit, Ginny gets an unexpected bonus.  One of the regulars asks her and her sometime partner, bartender Teddy Tonica, to save an old friend who’s facing eviction.  This is no simple landlord spat.  Rumors abound of an underground dogfighting ring on the premises—a crime guaranteed to get Gin’s hackles up. Gin and Teddy want to believe the old man is innocent of all charges, thought a new piece of evidence suggests otherwise.  Penny and Georgie keep their noses to the ground as they help their humans investigate the vicious animal rights case.  But the truth is buried deep, and digging it up will unearth dangerous complications for owners and animals alike.

About the author:
L. A. Kornetsky is the author of two previous Gin & Tonic mysteries.  She 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, @LAGilman and Facebook L-A-Kornetsky.

See my review on Thursday October 9th on this blog. 

This book may have been received free of charge from a publisher or a publicist. That will NEVER have a bearing on my recommendations.