Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Review: SOMETHING LIKE A DREAM by Robert Richter

Expatriate beach bum Cotton Waters is known to his cantina buddies as "Algo," meaning Something in Spanish. An illegal alien and ex-political activist with old and unresolved legal problems in the U.S., Algo scrounges a lazy fishing village lifestyle and a little beer money out of the Puerto Vallarta tourist trade as a private hustler of a Mexican Riviera lost-and-found--helping some people get lost and finding others--if the price is right or the client's cause worth the time and interest. 

In the summer of '82 the worthy cause is Corina Springfield, possibly the most beautiful woman Cotton Waters has ever seen, even in a town like Vallarta, searching for her husband, heir to the Springfield Foundation, missing and presumed dead for over three years. When Corina shows Algo evidence that her husband may be living among the Huichols, one of Mexico's most mysterious indigenous peoples; and when it's evidence she's held for over a year without bothering to investigate until now, Vallarta's Something" isn't sure he can find her husband, but he knows he wants to try. 

On a search for a lost hero-husband living as a shaman in a tribe of peyote worshipers, Cotton Waters leads Corina Springfield into the center of tribal dissension deep in the sierra heart of Huichol territory. On this strange pilgrimage Waters will find a whole new perspective on reality and dream, on deceit and self-deception, and experience a healing ceremony that will change his life forever or simply end it.

My thoughts: Poetic and well-written. I enjoyed the Mexican richness flavored throughout the book, even though it was a tad too political for my taste.

Cotton Waters seemed to have an encyclopedic knowledge of Spanish and Aztec culture. The reader joins Waters in his investigative efforts across the rugged terrain of Mexico’s ancient villages. Richter paints illustrious scenes through this daunting search; however, the search for Brian Springfield was not compelling enough to hold my interest. The information regarding the shamans was difficult to comprehend and follow along. And how exactly did dreams tie into this story? Were they a metaphor?

It seems that this book would be best suited for those interested in history and archeology. This was not a bad book; it just wasn’t for me.

My rating: 2 stars

Review: TAKE HER FOR A RIDE by Steven M. Painter

Producer Paul Russel knows how to play the shady, glamorous of Hollywood movies, even though the stress can wrench him like a pretzel sometimes. Lillian Nelson is a hard-working actress trying to make it in the industry but is bothered by the fakeness of it all. But that’s what actors do—fake it! The fact that she was dating Paul didn’t make the vicious assumptions that she slept her way into a contract any easier. Perhaps Lillian was in the wrong business. At first, it seemed like she was tired of all the charades.

The story does answer the question: What to do when the star of a future Blockbuster hit suddenly dies? (It reminded me of Paul Walker.) Then to have this happen during the Great Depression made it even harder.

I loved how Paul’s specialty was in horrors. The author included references of some of the greatest classical films. Painter reveals the naked picture behind the glitzy film industry. His attempt to take the reader on a wild trip to 1930’s Hollywood was enhanced by the colorful characters and snappy dialogue. At times, the dialogue was a bit confusing as I couldn’t figure out who was talking.

The reader goes through every daunting, complex stage of the movie-making process through the eyes of Paul (the director) and Lillian (the actress). The steps detailed every task, but where was the story? Judging from the cover, I anticipated there to be a conspiracy or murder or something sinister. And what was the meaning behind the title? Who was being taken for a ride? Lillian? Was she being hoaxed as that was normally part of the old saying, “taken for a ride.”

Still, one thing was for sure: the story revolved around movies, and movies were LIFE.

Painter’s bio declared that “he has written extensively about 1930’s Hollywood,” and this book is strong evidence of it.

My rating: 3 stars

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Review: BURYING BEN by Ellen Kirschman

Dot Meyerhoff is a newly-hired police psychologist with a subdued tells-it-like-it-is attitude. Ben Gomez is a naive, rookie cop, who nearly gets sick when seeing his first dead body at the scene of a crime. Constantly hassled by his superiors and peers, Ben starts to question whether or not he’s cut out for police work. That’s where Doc Dot comes in.

Part of me was worried about poor, old Ben. He obviously was struggling with some major emotional set-backs. But Dot did have a point: “Academic types like to revel in nuance and collect data before making decisions. Cops need to think on their feet and think fast.” (30) SO TRUE! Not everyone can be a cop, and I couldn’t help but think that Ben just couldn’t be one.

Still, you can’t help but feel for Ben in his heart-wrenching struggles and over-bearing stress with his hard work at trying to be a good cop, a good husband, and a good soon-to-be-father. I mean, who wouldn’t be stressed with a whiny, selfish wife like April? What a bitch! What choice did Ben have?

After Ben’s suicide, Dot finds herself at risk at losing her practice, her license, everything she’s ever worked for.

The reader joins Dot in her quest to learn the truth and the reason behind Ben’s suicide.

The author writes with dignified humor and sensitivity. Full of well-crafted characters and a quick plot, this psychological mystery is a gripping read from start to finish.

My rating: 4 stars

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Review: THE BRUTAL ILLUSION by Stephen Jared

Alysson is a young, nubile wanna-be actress, who, on the verge of giving up and moving back home to Indiana, impulsively moves in with a dashing gentleman.

It was fitting how this book was called “Brutal Illusion” for it is the ostentatious glamour of Hollywood that is alluring at first glance, yet deceiving upon closer inspection. You would think that you could trust the tall, handsome man that swept you off your feet, but then again…Suddenly, Alysson finds herself in a troubling predicament.

Jimmy is a struggling screenwriter stuck in the politics of Hollywoodland. He is enamored with Alysson, who shares the same child-like innocence for the film arts. Both endure abuse at the hands of corporate greed and aspiration.

Well-written and vivid. It was like seeing a movie from the 1940’s with its classic black-and-white film noir style. The author paints a brilliant portrait of the Hollywood scene with radiant sensitivity. This book is an exciting and colorful read with a dark twist.

My rating: 5 stars

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Review: UNDELIVERABLE by Rebecca A. Demarest

When Benjamin Grant’s son disappeared a year ago, he threw himself into the search, and his obsession left him without a home, wife, or job. Now, he’s managed to find work at the United States Postal Service’s Mail Recovery Center, which he hopes will prove an invaluable tool in his investigation. With the help of his coworker, Sylvia—a kleptomaniac artist—Ben learns the ins and outs of a warehouse full of lost mail, and explores every lead in his son’s case. But when it all points towards the monstrous Leonard Moscovich, Ben fears the worst.

My thoughts: Ben is a heart-broken father who keeps pounding the pavement every waking hour, full of determination and hope. You can’t help but feel for the guy in his soul-wrenching journey. In the beginning, I found it a bit odd how it started off with Ben’s wife learning she was pregnant before diving into the aftermath of the son’s disappearance; however, I was glad that, at some point, the author provided the back story to that horrible day.

Even though everyone else seems to have given up, Ben continues to pursue the case and feels that by working for the U.S. postal service might help him do that. Did he really believe that he would find his son that way? I wasn’t sure if Ben’s relentless search for his son was naively optimistic or endearingly brave.

I enjoyed Sylvia’s spunky and crafty attitude. Like her, I am also an artist and a reader. She was a great character. She was the friend that Ben needed in his endless down-ward spiral—she made him laugh, she was in his face about his reckless behavior, and, most of all, she listened. If he wasn’t still married and she was a bit older, I would’ve thought that they had a real shot together.

Illustrated against the day-to-day operations of the mail recovery system, the story is a vivid portrayal of the emotional impact of loss and psychological destruction. A sensitive tale with a touch of humor.

You will be most impressed by this talented writer!

My rating: 4 stars

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Review: TIME TO RETIRE by Jon Foyt

Things are not quite what they seem at Sunset Gardens, an active adult retirement community in California. The directors of the Homeowner’s Association has been handling money in questionable ways, there’s secret meetings occurring at The Silent Front, a former speakeasy, and an influential resident recently committed suicide. Reporter Willy Herbst, approaching retirement, is curious about what’s going on in the neighboring community “over the hill.” He and his eager intern, Sally Saginaw, team up to investigate. Their discoveries are surprising…

My thoughts: What do you do when you retire? Many think that old people just have way too much time on their hands, which is really what retirement is all about—finally getting to do what you want to do. For me, I’d spend all my time reading, writing, and traveling. However, Willy Herbst just can’t shake off his reporter’s instincts. Something is going on at Sunset Gardens, and Willy is determined to find out what.

As we dive into the story, the author presents some background and historical information on the scenes and characters. It acutely describes retirement living.

I was intrigued by the mysterious conspiracies of the retirement community and was looking forward to the unveiling, but my efforts were waned by the slow pace of the plot. For the most part, the writing was satisfactory and contained that small dose of “old timer” humor; however, it was not enough to hold my interest.

My rating: 2 stars

Tuesday, February 4, 2014


On the eve of her only daughter, Princess Raven's wedding, an aging Snow White finds it impossible to share in the joyous spirit of the occasion. The ceremony itself promises to be the most glamorous social event of the decade. Snow White’s castle has been meticulously scrubbed, polished and opulently decorated for the celebration. It is already nearly bursting with jubilant guests and merry well-wishers. Prince Edel, Raven's fiancĂ©, is a fine man from a neighboring kingdom and Snow White's own domain is prosperous and at peace. Things could not be better, in fact, except for one thing:

The king is dead.

My thoughts: My fascination piqued as soon as Queen Snow White entered the scene. For her daughter, the princess, every wedding guest would bring a gift that was more exuberant than the last—and Snow White grew weary of it. This was definitely different than the Snow White most of us grew up with. Once the pristine maiden “as white as snow,” our queen spent her days growing older in desolate and forlorn despair. 

Aimlessly wandering in bitter hopelessness, Snow White was lost without her king. In a desire to escape, she fled into the dark corners of the castle, where she stumbled across her evil stepmother’s chamber, bringing forth distant and tortured memories. Then she saw it again—that old mirror that answered the constant question, “Who was the fairest of them all?” This then launched the tale into a whirlwind of memories.

Draped with a dark twist, this story illustrates the emotional scars of loss and repression. Fear, anger, and sadness consume our dear Snow White in her suspenseful journey as she confronts the harsh truth of the mirror: “The past is the past and your past is ever a part of you! Only by facing it can you truly leave it behind. Otherwise, it will ever intrude upon your present…” (32)

The reader embarks on a harrowing voyage through time, experiencing fleeting moments in Snow White’s broken past. Much of the story and dialogue was in this Old English, which was somewhat ambiguous and at times unpronounceable, but oddly fitting.

Well-written and enthralling! This story reveals the underside of the “happily ever after.”

My rating: 4 stars