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review 2019-08-24 15:18
A Tense, Superior Mystery!
Preacher Finds a Corpse (Evan Wycliff Mysteries #1) - Gerald Everett Jones Daboychik

If you found your best friend dead in a cornfield from suspected suicide, then discovered the cause of death might not be so obvious, what would you do? In Preacher Finds a Corpse, lapsed divinity student Evan Wycliff's discovery leads straight into danger when a turkey shoot turns into a murder investigation.

 

But, what could a dispute over land ownership that holds two centuries of history have to do with his friend's demise? Evan uncovers a series of clues that indicates these centuries of battle are not over and that his friend likely got mixed up in the modern version of the war, complicated further by plans to turn an aging, abandoned facility into a tourist attraction.

 

The first thing to note about Preacher Finds a Corpse is that it comes steeped in Ozark culture. Against the backdrop of turkey shoots and rural personalities lies the efforts of a man who has not only failed at being a full-fledged preacher, but who feels he has botched being a good friend.

Among the puzzles he uncovers is the role wife Edith Taggart played in that life, the possibility of Cora's involvement with his quiet friend, and a series of convoluted relationships among small-town individuals who may have had special influences on Bob Taggart's life or death.

 

Each clue opens the floodgate to historical connections, small-town facts, and secrets that might be worth killing for. As Evan begins to suspect that something more than suicide has occurred, he finds himself in the crosshairs of the sheriff's department, suspected of being a thief and possibly worse, when he winds up in an ambulance, having been clobbered by an investigator who suspected him of looting the local pharmacy during a storm.

 

From the secret contents in a rusty tin fishing box to clues that lead Evan further into danger, Gerald Everett Jones weaves a tense thriller peppered with references to Evan's ongoing relationship to God and prayer.

 

When the clues boil down to a final surprise, will forgiveness be possible?

 

Jones does an outstanding job of crafting a murder mystery that romps through a small town's secrets and various lives. His main protagonist is realistic and believable in every step of his investigative actions and setbacks; but so are characters he interacts with; from his boss Zip to a final service which holds some big surprises.

 

With its roots firmly grounded in an exceptional sense of place and purpose, Jones has created a murder mystery that lingers in the mind long after events have built to an unexpected crescendo. Murder mystery fans will find it more than a cut above the ordinary.

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review 2019-07-24 18:30
The Pericles Commission (The Athenian Mysteries #1) - Gary Corby
The Pericles Commission - Gary Corby

The Democrats and the Conservatives are fighting. I guess democracy has had the same problem since the beginning of its time. Maybe we need a Nicolaos instead of a Mueller? 

 

I've immediately gone ahead and ordered the next three books in this series. It is pretty rare for me to like a first book in a series as much as I liked this one. I usually find them clunky, full of random back stories, and full of characters who lack personality. This book did have clunky parts. However, I found the cast of characters to be charming and funny. 

 

Nicolaos is to Ancient Greece what Gordianus the Finder is to Ancient Rome. The similiarties are striking both in character and story. The difference is in the setting. Much like Saylor does for Rome, Corby makes Greece come to life. You can almost taste the watered wine and smell the back alleys. Also as noted above, Nicolaos' supporting cast is wonderful. It's a big larger and more eclectic than Gordianus' which adds a fun element to these novels that I don't associate with the others. 

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review 2019-03-07 06:25
Suddenly Royal by Nichole Chase
Suddenly Royal - Nichole Chase

Samantha Rousseau barely even notices the royals visiting her college campus. She's a wildlife biology grad student specializing in raptors. Between taking care of injured raptors, teaching classes, convincing her truck to keep working, and dealing with her stepfather's medical bills, there isn't much time in her life for anything else. Then she gets invited to what she thinks is dinner with a potential donor, only to be told that she's one of Lilaria's lost royals. The queen wants to reinstate her title and lands, which would mean leaving her studies and life in Minnesota behind. On the plus side, Lilaria is supposed to have an excellent healthcare system - they might have more effective treatments for her stepfather's prostate cancer, and it would certainly be better for her finances.

It's a lot for Samantha to think about, and unfortunately there isn't much quiet time for thinking. Reporters immediately start swarming, and her classes are suddenly filled with people who definitely aren't interested in birds. Then there's the gorgeous and enticing Prince Alex. Is he really as interested in her as he seems, or is he just trying to convince her to go to Lilaria and accept her title? And even if he is interested in her, what sort of relationship could she, an American who knows nothing about royal life and can't speak a word of Lilarian, hope to have with a prince?

If you've read and enjoyed other "ordinary person discovers they're a royal" stories, there's really nothing new here. This wasn't a bad book, but it wasn't great either, and in some ways it suffered from me having read (and enjoyed) Alyssa Cole's A Princess in Theory a year ago.

Samantha was an okay heroine, but a little too prone to jealousy for my tastes. The romance's timeline didn't help - during Samantha and Alex's first kiss (right in front of the mouse that Samantha had just sliced up for the injured raptors), I found myself doing the math, and I'm pretty sure they'd known each other for less than 24 hours. No matter how well they connected, both of them should have had reasons to want to take it slow. Samantha was dealing with the revelations about her family and trying to make a life-changing decision. Alex had a relatively recent relationship scandal - he knew full well what the paparazzi could do if they caught a whiff of anything between him and Samantha. Also, they'd literally just met.

The story was surprisingly low conflict. Every time I thought Chase had introduced a character or detail that was going to become a drama time bomb, nothing came of it. The zookeeper who seemed overly interested in Samantha? Mentioned once or twice later on and then never again. Alex's most recent ex? Zero on-page appearances. Prince Alex's sister's romantic life didn't turn into an enormous scandal, none of Alex's other exes were horrible to Samantha, and no one had problems with Samantha becoming a Lilarian duchess. Even Chadwick's relationship problems were resolved without any drama (and while it's great that the book includes a gay couple, you can bet I noticed and raised an eyebrow at their complete lack of on-page appearances together - not even an on-page phone conversation). Most of the book was devoted to Samantha deciding to go to Lilaria, getting used to her new life, fretting about her growing feelings for Alex, and worrying about her stepfather.

Speaking of Samantha's stepfather, I wasn't wild about how the medical stuff was handled. Each chapter started with a news headline, and Chapter 9's was "Lilarian Health Care Makes Headway with Homeopathic Medicines." I spent the rest of the book wondering whether Chase was going to make homeopathy the miracle cure for Samantha's stepfather's cancer (FYI, "homeopathic medicine" is garbage and I consider the word "homeopathic" on product packaging to be an immediate red flag). Now that I've finished the book, I think what Chase was using things like "homeopathic medicine" (87), "holistic and natural methods" (93), and "herbal supplements" (93) as shorthand for "Lilarian doctors are more flexible." Considering that it ultimately made no difference in Samantha's stepfather's medical treatment (chemo), I wish Chase had written about the Lilarian specialist differently.

All in all, this was an okay but fairly forgettable book. It's unfortunate that it's first-person POV - I didn't hate that aspect, but there's an excerpt from the second book, which is also first-person POV but from the perspective of Prince Alex's sister, and Samantha and Cathy's "voices" aren't distinct enough for my tastes. I don't intend to read the next book in the series.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2018-10-15 21:16
The Girl on the Balcony (Hussey)
The Girl on the Balcony: Olivia Hussey Finds Life After Romeo and Juliet - Olivia Hussey

I'm sorry to say that I came to this because, in connection with #metoo discussions, someone mentioned a nasty sexual assault on Olivia Hussey, taking place in the same house as the Manson murders only months afterwards. I'm also sorry to say that incident is indeed in this autobiography.

 

However, I have some very tender memories of the Hussey/Whiting/Zeffirelli Romeo and Juliet, a film I saw (like so many of my generation) in my teens while studying the play, so I was very happy to read Olivia Hussey's stories about the making of that film, when she was herself a mere teenager. It seems she got along with Zeffirelli very well indeed, and had a little fling with her gorgeous co-star to boot.

 

For the remainder of her career, Hussey was (at least for me), one of those "I know that face" actresses; she had parts in any number of films and TV miniseries I am sure I have seen, but of which I have no very vivid recollection. It appears she struggled with anxiety and agoraphobia (she mentions it more in her stories about her youth, but she doesn't say she ever completely overcame it); that in itself is adequate explanation for why she never made that last breakthrough to the top echelon of movie stars. She appears, however, to have more or less made a go of it, right up until she was completely impoverished by a crooked manager (this is not libel - he was prosecuted).

 

She appears to have been attracted by highly extroverted and performative men: her 3 husbands were Dean Paul Martin (son of Dean Martin), a Japanese singer, and an American rock singer. The first two marriages fell apart within a few years, but the third has lasted several decades. She had a child from each marriage, and Alex, the son of the first marriage, is credited as co-author on this book. There's also quite a lot about the budding acting career of her daughter, India, from the third marriage, but very little about the middle son.

 

Hussey goes into considerable detail about her discipleship, formed early, of an Indian guru she called "Baba"; I seriously doubt that he was quite so unequivocally virtuous and wise as she portrays him, and I completely doubt all the little anecdotes she delights in of his predicting all the twists and turns of her life before they occurred. However, she does seem to have been a bit of a religious seeker, and he apparently gave her a fair bit of balance and calm, so it isn't kind to be too censorious. Her reliance on "Baba", however, seems symptomatic of another pattern throughout the book - Olivia doesn't seem to have done well, or even desired to do well, without a man to lean on. The organizing principle of the book, such as it is, is not her progression from professional role to professional role (indeed, she leaves some things out altogether, especially towards the end of her career - you would never know she's a voice-over artist, for instance) but from marriage to marriage. And of course it's her prerogative, but one often gets the sense that even her account of that progression leaves out a lot of (probably painful) detail. In her description of her relationship with Dean Paul Martin, for instance, she tells how they separated after only a few years, and divorced a few years later, but she makes it seem as though he might still have been interested in coming back to her when they were both a bit more mature. The name of Dorothy Hamill (the skater, and Dean Paul Martin's wife for a few years in the early 80s) is never mentioned, and neither is that marriage.

 

Hussey satisfies with some grace what she must know would be a major attraction of her account, namely stories about interactions with actors more famous than herself, such as Laurence Olivier, David Niven, Dean Martin (of course) and Bette Davis (apparently an absolute harridan in her late-life appearance in Death on the Nile). Hussey is not a mean-spirited chronicler; she seems quite self-aware about her own failings, and she does not complain over-much about the truly nasty financial ill luck that attended both her early childhood and her later years, though we can read into her stories about moving from place to place the strain that must have placed on her.

 

There is a section of about 3 dozen photographs, some colour, many of them family, but some from her roles; this section was very well hidden (no chapter heading) in the e-version of the book, and so came as a pleasant surprise at the end of the text. From it, we easily gather that the people around her have been the most important thing in Hussey's life, and also that she has remained into later years remarkably good-looking.

 

Recommended if you like anecdotal film memoirs of the 60s/70s.

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review 2018-06-14 20:22
Muscle Car Barn Finds by Ryan Brutt
Muscle Car Barn Finds: Rusty Road Runners, Abandoned AMXs, Crusty Camaros and More! - Ryan Brutt

This book is perfect for anyone into cars. Especially classic cars. Ryan Brutt has scavenged around through old barns all over the place looking for classic cars for this books. He has surprisingly found enough to fill this book full of many cars.

 

There are cars of all years in this book. Cars that are complete to some that are just bodies or in pieces. These cars have just been locked in the barn and forgotten. Some look like you could jump in them and drive out, others are nothing left but rust. 

 

My husband looked through this book with me and few times I though he was going to cry over some of the cars. Others he had stories of cars just like one in the book. Some cars are famous race cars, others are just old cars. I know several people who wish they had of been on the adventure with Ryan Brutt when discovering these cars. 

 

I received this book from the Author or Publisher via Netgalley.com to read and review.

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