Monday, July 29, 2013

Murder at the Cherry Festival

This past spring I was walking around an arts and crafts show on the beautiful campus of Michigan State University when I came across a booth for the Buttonwood Press book publishing company. The author, Richard Baldwin was there selling and signing copies of his novels, so naturally I had to buy a couple and get him to sign them.

Murder at the Cherry Festival is his most current novel I believe. It features Lou Searing, a private investigator that has appeared in a series of mystery novels Baldwin has written. In this particular novel, the Grand Marshall of the Cherry Festival in Traverse City is murdered and the local police hire Lou to help with the investigation. There are some twists and turns that lead to Lou being in danger, which make it an even more exciting read.

I found this novel to be an entertaining and easy read. There weren't many complicated scenes and it was simply written. Sometimes the point of view seemed to shift suddenly within the same passage without a break and that made it a little confusing, but that is just a small complaint. The only other thing that I was a little disappointed in was that the murderer was easy to figure out almost from the beginning.

However, being from Michigan, I was excited to read a novel placed in an area that I am familiar with and I love supporting local businesses. If you are looking for a novel that won't make you think too hard, but is entertaining and fun to read then this book is for you. If you need something that is a little more streamlined and dark, then this book is not for you. As for me, I am looking forward to reading the other novel I picked up by Richard Baldwin.

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5
I bought this book from the author at a craft show; I was not asked to do a review of this novel.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Lost Years

I remember reading Mary Higgins Clark years ago and thought it would be fun to pick up her new novel. In this case, it was not fun and I struggled to find the energy to finish it.

There were many things about this book that bothered me. The major one was the plot development. In theory, it was a good idea. I would have loved to have read a book that dealt with historical confirmation of what happened to Jesus during the "Lost Years" from the Bible. At first, that is what I thought that this novel was going to delve into. However, it just glossed over it and that part of the story didn't go anywhere. The villain was almost known from the beginning, which meant that there wasn't any suspense on the part of the reader in terms of trying to figure it out. There also seemed to be large gaps of description and details missing from the plot. Sometimes it seemed more like dialogue only and I didn't get a good feel of the setting or what the character was doing.

On a positive note, I did feel that the characters, for the most part, were believable. They seemed to be grounded in reality and that was really the only part of the novel that kept it together.

Sadly, I did not really enjoy the novel and felt that it was not enough of a mental challenge for me. I love books that suck me into them and allow me to experience everything that the main characters do. This book just didn't do that for me. I loved her pervious books that I read once upon a time, but this book has left me wanting.

If you like books that give you a halfway decent story and doesn't demand that you work too hard to figure out who is behind the mystery/murder at hand, then this book is for you. However, if you like a crafty author who weaves an amazing tale that sucks you in from the very first line, then this book is not for you.

Rating: 1 star out of 5
I bought this book at a local bookstore; I was not asked to do a review on this book.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Fugitive Grandma

When I first read the synopsis of the plot of Dmitri Ragano's The Fugitive Grandma, I was intrigued. Costs of medications are very expensive, especially if there is not a generic version of it on the market. In this book, a grandmother and grandson take off on a "Robin Hood" adventure of stealing medications from a local distributor and giving them to people in their community that do not have the financial means to pay for the medications that they desperately need. There are a few twists and turns in the book that help move the story along that make for an very entertaining time, but I did have a couple of issues with the book as a whole.

For me, this didn't seem like a polished draft of the story. It had many sentences that were incomplete that left passages a little choppy in feel. Also, and this is just a quirk of mine, it had over sixty chapters with each one being seven pages or less in length. By doing that, it made it feel a little rushed and sometimes not expanded enough, like some of the story was overlooked or missing. The view point within each chapter seemed to jump around sometimes, which made it a little hard to follow at times. I also felt that it was simply written, since there was not a vast complicated vocabulary used in it. This is not a bad thing, just an observation on my part. I tend to enjoy books that read a little more sophisticated and not like a young adult fiction, which is how I felt that this book read like.

However, aside from all of that, I think that it is worth taking the time to read. Stella, the grandmother, is a feisty lady who reminded me a little of my grandmother, which I liked. Her grandson Johnny is set on being a hero and is an all around good kid, which helps this to be a light hearted read instead of dark and heavy. This also creates a good balance between the characters, which also helped to get me invested in the storyline.

I'm not certain if this is a thriller/black comedy like it was pitched to me, but it did have some thrilling sequences in it that made me fear for the duo's safety and some humor that can only happen in crazy family situations. If you like upbeat detective novels, then this book is for you. If you enjoy something a little more dark and dangerous, then this book would probably not be for you. Overall it was very enjoyable and I will look forward to reading additional novels by Dmitri Ragano.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

I was given a copy of this book by the author via Bostick Communications; I was not paid to give my review of this book.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

The Alchemist

*There may be some possible spoilers in this review.*

I had seen this book at several stores, always picked it up and turned it over several times in my hands. There was something about it that made me want to buy it, but I always put it back thinking I had too many books already in my "to read" pile. The fourth store and fourth time I picked it up, I did not return it to the shelves, but placed in my cart taking it home and stacking it under all the other books I wanted to read. This week, I pulled it out and could not put it down. It spoke to me in a way that I needed to be spoken to and believe that I may even have a better understanding about my life and dreams.

Paulo Coelho wrote this book in a parable style, which is interesting all on its own. There are not that many books out there at the moment written in this form. The main character does not have a name, in fact many of the characters do not and are only known by their profession. It is simply written and very matter of fact, which may be a problem for many people. (There were many reviews that stated this as the main reason that they disliked the book).

In this parable, a young Shepard is approached by an old man that claims to be a king and tells him that he should continue on his "Personal Legend". The young boy has had several dreams in which he was looking for treasure near the pyramids of Egypt. After speaking with the king he agrees to give him a tenth of his sheep and to set out to find his treasure. However, like most parables, the young boy finds more than just physical treasures and finds himself on a journey of spiritual self discovery.

I think that what I loved the most about this book, is that it encompasses all religions and gives a positive message. It states that there are really four things that stand in the way of accomplishing your dream or "Personal Legend": impossible to achieve, love, fear of defeat, and guilt of achievement. This book talked about how you need to let all of that go and just fight for the dream you want.

"To realize one's destiny is a person's only obligation".

For me, at this moment in my life, this book spoke to me beyond its pages. Someone else who is in a different place may pick up this book and decide it is not for them due to the style or to the spiritual nature of the content. In the end, the parable took the young boy back to the beginning to find the treasure he had been dreaming about. Like in life, sometimes what you were looking for was always in front of you to begin with. It may have taken me four stores to figure out that I was supposed to read this book, but somehow I heard what my heart was saying to me and I am better for it.

If you do not like parables, spiritual literature, etc. then you will not enjoy this book. For those of you like me that do enjoy inspirational and spiritual literature from time to time, I would recommend that you read this at some point in your life.

Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

I bought this book at a local bookstore; I was not asked to do a review of this book.

Thursday, July 4, 2013


For once, I am actually a little lost for words. This book touched me in a way that I was not expecting. I knew that it would be poignant due to nature of the material, but my heart is still breaking a little, even now as I write this. Elie Wiesel was a teenage boy when he went into the concentration camps and came out a religiously shaken young man who seemed to be lost in the aftermath of one of the most devastating events to have ever happened in the 20th century.

Written in Yiddish, his loving wife has translated this edition of the retelling of what he went through that night. As I read the powerful prose, I was pulled in, my heart racing and spirit breaking as I experienced what he experienced. The denial in the beginning seemed perfectly natural and then as the reality of the situation set in, I felt his loss of hope and all out despair with how God could have left them to be tortured like this.

There were several passages in this book that were very hard for me to accept as reality, especially being a mother. I don't know if I would have had the same courage and drive to survive that Elie had during this time. At some point long term survival probably would drop from reality and just surviving the night would have become my main goal.

This book is just simply terrifying that this type of event happened in the last 100 years. It was inhumane. It was maddening that individuals in that part of the world believed that this was acceptable to do to a nation of people. If you were to go to some places in Germany, there would still be surviving war criminals that have been allowed to live happy lives with families and freedom. How could this be allowed?

Elie was right when he said that we are forgetting what these individuals have gone through. Their suffering and voices should not remain silent any longer. Just by having wrote this book, he has given dignity back to those that survived and to those that perished during the years of Hitler's reign.

I would recommend this book to anyone to read. It puts a new perspective on life the moment you read that first page in the prologue. This novel does not hold many things back, so those of you that are weak of heart may not wish to read this for I believe that it will stick with you for the rest of your life.

Rating: 5 out 5 stars

This book was purchased at a local store; I was not asked to review this book.