Time to Run: Part One (Nick of Time) – John Gilstrap

(Reviewed by Ishita RC)

Exceptional

A young woman, on the verge of dying, decides to take a last joyride with a man who is killing more than time.

John Gilstrap has made a name in crime thrillers so I had really high expectations when I requested  this book in exchange of an honest review. Being the first in the Nick of Time series, this book definitely acts as a foundation for the whole plot and promises a future of action and fast-paced drama. Being a founding book has its advantage. You not only learn about the plot but also get to see the characters from the very beginning and see them grow as the book/ series rolls out. The same stands true for this book. The style of narration is quite simple and engaging, and overall matches with the tone of the plot.

The cover image and the title is dramatic enough to attract your attention and both of them complement each other and the main plot very well.

The book is an engaging tale of action and drama that will make the readers come back for more.

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Amerikan Krazy – Henry James Korn

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

The next thing Herb knew he was standing naked in the Johns Hopkins University powerhouse with a combination of Kennedy’s brains and his study date’s menstrual blood smeared all over his body…”

This hallucination was among many as Herb Horn was near death after an explosion in Viet Nam. He had an obsession with finding out the truth behind the JFK assassination. Before serving in the war, he was expelled from John Hopkins for accusing Lyndon Johnson for the murder. Herb’s other possible scenarios would later include a mafia hit or that Joe Kennedy sold his soul to the devil.

For most of the 1970s he was recovering from combat injuries while suffering from permanent PTSD. During this time, he was plagued with an overactive imagination that quietly drove him nuts. The cartoon characters that he grew up with from an amusement park franchise kept creeping back into his mind and he believed that they were controlling society as a whole.

He joined up with some fellow vets and they go through many bizarre adventures for various purposes. Most of all they try to make sense of what was happening to America with the purpose of saving the country from corporate brainwashing and control . However, paranoia, lust and drugs try to to divert them along the way.

Amerikan Krazy takes us on a hilarious, surrealistic trip through American political and cultural history. Part fact, part conjecture with a lot of fiction, this story provides a cautionary tale for American society.

Chunks of current day culture creep into the story such as AnonyMouse (the cartoon mouse) and cell phones. I’m sure that I didn’t even catch all of them.  I thought that the bit with Teyvon Rudolph, the fictional son of Olympic track star Wilma Rudolph and JFK was in bad taste though. The murder of the young Floridian a few years ago is still painful for most of us.

That said, Author Henry James Korn’s bold and irreverent style is what I liked most about the story. If you’re interested in a bizarre fictional take on American history, this is for you .  Just remember, American Krazy is not for those who are easily offended.

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Under the Surface – Anne Calhoun

(Reviewed by Ishita RC)

Exceptional

Eve Webber, the gorgeous and savvy owner of Eve Candy, may belong to the wrong side of the tracks. But she is determined to run a clean business and fix up the East Side. But her new hire seems to have a knack of making her temperature rise higher than ever before. The potential of mixing business with pleasure has never been more tempting.

Detective Matt Dorchester has one job in this new undercover assignment: Keep Eve Webber safe at any cost. He just never expected to fall for the sexiest bar owner. And he never expected his love could be the price that has to be paid to keep her safe.

I think once I put the book down, I was finally able to pace myself and take a breath. What a book!! Absolutely brilliant style of narration; the easy blended perfectly with the slow build-up of the plot that synchronised with the raw passion and chemistry of the lead characters. The little hint of danger definitely spiced the whole story for me.

The lead characters are strong and extremely appealing and will make you want to dip into the whole alpha male charisma. The setting and plot complement each other, and the same can be said about the cover image and the title.

What an absolute page turner!! Quick read, yes, but definitely worth it.

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The Memory of Lemon – Judith Fertig

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

“My body thrummed with the energy I knew to be vivid intuition… Wanderers. Healers. They had something important to tell me. “

Claire, a pastry chef who also caters weddings, depends on her intuition based on flavors. This gift, which she inherited from her grandmother, helps her to cater the perfect event. Not only is she able to taste a flavor linked to a client’s emotions and needs, she can also sense an issue from their past.

Suddenly her senses are clouded and she is unable to “taste”  her new clients:  a bickering mother and daughter disagreeing on the details for the bride’s wedding . For instance,  when she tastes“lemon” which usually implies clarity, she now tastes “wanderer”. “Spice” which is the sign of comfort also signifies “healer”.

Could her confusing personal life be the cause of this? Claire moved from New York City to her hometown in the Midwest. She is trying to end her marriage to a philandering NFL quarterback, while an old male friend may be romantically re-entering her life. Also, she suddenly hears from her father, a Viet Nam vet, who abandoned her at age fifteen. Should she allow him back in her life?

Through flashbacks she, as well as the reader, learn about her family history as well as that of the bride-to-be — wanderers and healers—and how they may have intersected and affected her life.

Even though the the family histories were fascinating,  I initially felt that the  flashbacks were confusing and disjointed. However, I’m glad that I hung in there; as I read further it all made perfect sense. Can memories can be passed down through generations?

Personal character and growth, family, reconciliation and  yes, forgiveness are all themes of this enjoyable novel.

I recommend The Memory of Lemon for those who seek a unique and somewhat emotional but lighter read.

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Magnate (The Knickerbocker Club) – Joanna Shupe

(Reviewed by Ishita RC)

Born in the slums, Emmett Cavanaugh has known and learned the true grit of life and hard work at a very early age. With his booming steel empire,  he now lives in an opulent Fifth Avenue mansion. But he knows he will never be welcomed amidst the welcoming arms of London’s fawning high society and he has nothing but disdain for it.

But the beautiful and strong-willed blue-blood Elizabeth Sloane just might melt through the steel around his heart. Only if he lets her in. At least that’s what he is fighting against, for now.

There is something alluring about a start of a new series: the introduction of new characters while maintaining the essence and integrity of the lead characters and their story. Historical romances have a way of bringing the best of that. The plot is rich and strong and yet very simplistically based on the age old romance. but its the characters who bring life to the words. Each have been penciled out to make them real and humane which makes the readers wish to transport themselves to the era of London high society and meet them. I would not fault either the plot or the characters because I am in love with them. The simple and eloquent narrative style captures the beautiful romance, subtle personality difference and added a zing of color through the rich and deep passion. The touch of mystery and drama is definitely an added boon.

The cover image felt very weird in comparison to the whole book.  I did understand the symbolic use of it, but only after I finished reading the book. The title is just a mere word and yet symbolism can be understood as you leaf through the pages.

I absolutely loved this book and I am looking forward to the continuation of this series.

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Archibald Lawless, Anarchist at Large – Walter Mosley

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

Exceptional

“I spent that morning inside the mind of a madman or a genius or maybe outside of what Lawless refers to as the hive mind, the spirit that guides millions of heedless citizens through the aimless acts of everyday life.”

Felix Orlean, a New York journalism student originally from New Orleans, answered four employment ads for a scribe. He soon discovers that his “would-be” employer, Archibald Lawless, is a charismatic, eccentric, and somewhat mentally ill detective.. He refers to him as  “The Anarchist”. He advises Felix, “Never give an inch to the letter of the law if it means submitting to a lie.”

Lawless strives to adhere to his purpose: “I’ve spent a whole lifetime trying to fix broken systems, making sure that justice is served.”

However instead of transcribing, Felix is assigned to report on some characters who turn out to be dangerous criminals. After witnessing a murder involving an international multi-million dollar jewelry heist, he finds himself in jail accused with the murder. But that’s only part of the story.

Archibald Lawless, Anarchist at Large is a riveting character- driven novella that has sociological and political overtones . At only 112 pages, neither plot nor character is compromised.

A definite must-read, I hope that there are more stories featuring this odd but driven detective.

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The Jolly Coroner: A Picaresque Novel- Quentin Canterel

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

Exceptional

Finally, a novel that encompasses what I  enjoy most in a read…

“If we can get the news stations interested, maybe we could find something that would lead to the closing down of a prostitution ring and we could all get medals.”

Coroner Billy Rabino desperately sought fame and would stop at nothing to get it. He would order long investigations on  simple death cases, like a heart attack, hoping to uncover a murder. He loved to speak in front of the press and fabricate events that preceded the death with such explicit detail. This behavior accomplished nothing except to alienate  the police department, drain resources and force Billy’s credibility and status to sink even further.

Billy became the coroner Hokum, a small southern town, because he was the only one who applied for the job. His lack of social skills and dull personality went well with the stereotype. However his mood could immediately turn nasty and dark, usually under the influence of cocaine or while he was nursing a bad hangover. He often visited his philosophical drug dealer for Diazepam  which he needed in order to cope with everyday life. Asian porn seemed to help also.

Other cases that impeded his “continual attempts at greatness” were those involving the living and they wouldn’t go away.  A Polish immigrant who was issued a death certificate and lost everything  couldn’t get Billy to reverse it. A distraught husband who thought that his family died in a car crash– though they only suffered minor injuries– demanded that Billy show him their graves.  A young woman who attempted suicide refused to leave Billy alone as she believed that he was her savior. These were just a few thorns in Billy’s side which he refused to deal with. Unbeknownst to our narcissistic coroner,  there was an actual case that could give him glory, if he would just get his ego out of the way.

The Jolly Coroner uses dry, sordid humor with decadent characters and weaves it into an offbeat suspense story.

When I began reading this novel, I thought that it was a series of short stories. In fact, I thought that an early seemingly unrelated chapter was simply a riveting short story. However that was not the case. It was this structure that enhanced the overall plot.

Reads like The Jolly Coroner are so hard to find, and I hope to read more from this author.

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The Bucket List to Mend a Broken Heart – Anna Bell

(Reviewed by Ishita RC)

Exceptional

Abi thought she completed her search for Mr. Right since the day Joseph entered her house. So color her surprised when the love of her life decides to dump her, just before their anniversary.

When Joseph leaves a box of her possessions on her doorstep, she finds a bucket list of ten things she never knew he wanted to do. What better way to win him back than by completing the list, and proving they’re a perfect match? But there’s just one problem. Abi is scared and terrified of everything, which is not ideal for a list that includes everything she is scared of. Completing the list just might break her. But as time passes, she discovers the list just might make her into something far better and empowered.

I think we have all had disappointing love stories. I have heard it way too many times regarding how to get over a painful break-up. The book is pretty straightforward when it comes to the plot line; the title spells it all out. But what appealed to me the most was the candid writing employed by the author which resulted in a beautiful story about how to mend a broken heart. The plot line is quite simple and the candid narration in first person makes for a compelling and yet a romantic comedy.

The characters are well thought out and they undergo a development which is in sync with the way the plot has been narrated. They definitely endear to the readers because of the personality traits that make them more real than fictional.

The cover image is as lively as the story and the characters and definitely attracts the attention quickly.

I loved the book, not only for the simplicity of the plot, but also for the lively entertainment that it provided.

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Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy: Curiouser and Curiouser – Philosophy – Richard Brian Davis and William Irwin (Editors)

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

Is Alice in Wonderland simply a fantastic children’s tale? Is it a result of author Lewis Carroll’s madness or opium addiction? No, according to some academics, there’s a lot more. In fact, philosophy professors Richard Brian Davis and William Irwin claim that this story carries the codes to unlock one’s personal identity. In order to convince readers, they’ve compiled fourteen essays from philosophy instructors to English professors in  the 2010 book, Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy: Curiouser and Curiouser.

Each of the fourteen writers presents a philosophical topic or question, illustrating it through the Alice in Wonderland story. Why do we procrastinate? Why do tedious daily activities add up to a satisfying day? How is Alice a prime example of good inductive reasoning? What is the role of language and memory? What is time, and how can we measure the past and the future? Each writer also ties in the ideas of philosophers like Socrates, Plato, St. Augustine, Immanuel Kant, David Hume, Friedrich Nietzsche, and 20th century philosophers such as Donald Davidson.

Lewis Carroll was a mathematician and logician, and, in the essay “Serious Nonsense,” his work is looked at as a series of philosophical puzzles. The essay “Unruly Alice” demonstrates how Carroll was challenging the role of women in Victorian England. “How Deep Does the Rabbit-Hole Go?” questions what makes up a person’s reality and the role of drugs in seeking the true meaning of life. “Nuclear Strategists in Wonderland” discusses the nuclear paradox and the power of propaganda, as when the Queen of Hearts exaggerates the power of the enemy.

The essays in Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy were written for an educated audience, but there were no assumptions that the reader had ever studied philosophy. In fact, the authors have written their essays in such an entertaining and relatable manner that it’s difficult not to at least consider their points of view.

Now, I’m not a big Alice in Wonderland fan and won’t even be checking out the recently released  film, “Alice Through the Looking Glass”.  Also I tend to take things at face value, as opposed to looking for a deeper meaning.  If you’re like me, this book may persuade you to change that inclination though. I can’t even begin to pick a favorite essay; there are quite a few. Let’s just say that I enjoyed reflecting on each writer’s interpretations, and each piece forced me to mull over these seemingly simple questions of life. Since reading this book in 2010, I found myself looking beyond the obvious–which can be good (and not-so-good).

Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy is a part of the Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series. Its goal is to take philosophy out of the “ivory tower” of academia and show that it’s relevant to our lives. The writers have succeeded in accomplishing this—at least in this book.

The series began with South Park and Philosophy and continues to include more movie and television titles (check out AndPhilosophy.com for a complete listing). There’s even a Lego and Philosophy and Metallica and Philosophy . This series could definitely become an addictive trend for many readers.

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Most Wanted – Lisa Scottoline

(Reviewed by Ishita RC)

Exceptional

Christine always wanted to have a family of her own – a husband whom she loved and who loved her back and the children they would have together. What she never imagined was that her husband might end up being infertile and the child that she wanted would have to be conceived using a sperm donor.

Three months pass and she is happily pregnant. But instead of looking at her first ultrasound, she finds herself looking at the bulletin news of a man who looks uncannily like her sperm donor, arrested for a series of brutal murders. What follows is an emotional journey in search of truth.

Holy Cow!!! I am so glad I opted for this book. I should thank the author for the brilliant playoff contradicting the cover image with the title; it definitely works in attracting attention.

The book is quite simple when it comes to its main plot; infertility and sperm donation is slowly emerging to be one the biggest health concerns in the current population. There are huge number of factors involved – the clinical nature of infertility as a medical problem, the ethics and laws that form the pillars, and the emotions and psychology that get invested through the people that are involved. The author was brilliantly able to capture all these essences in this book, which definitely helped in making it more insightful and interesting.

When the foundation is strong, it can build mountains. Thanks to the solid plot and excellent narrative style, the characters have been built with fiction in mind and yet grounded in reality. The humane traits of each personality helped in making them approachable and easier to relate. I was not overtly fond of the lead character Christine since I found her too naïve, but by the end of the book she definitely grew on to me as a person.

There is not a single thing about this book that I won’t praise, so yes I am definitely going to recommend this to one and all. You won’t be able to put it down once you dig in.

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