Fall – Candice Fox

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

“How to explain it all to him, a normal human man, someone with all his faculties, with a soul. How to explain that at the core of her being Eden killed people the way she breathed, the way she slept, that when she was hungry for blood it was as all-consuming as the need for sleep when exhausted, or the need for water to quench a thirst. Without the monsters that she hunted and caught and vanquished, she would suffocate. She ran on no other fuel. To decide not to kill was to decide to die.”

Detective Eden Archer has always feared that her partner, Frank Bennet, would discover her essence and her past but in some ways he has always known about this depravity on some level. The real problem is that Frank’s girlfriend, Imogen, a police psychologist, also suspects there’s something sinister about Eve; as does Hooky, a seventeen-year old girl who assists the police department in catching cyber-sex criminals. The latter two won’t stop until they find about Eden’s sordid past.

In the meantime crime goes on in Sydney and there’s a serial killer on the loose. She is coined the “Sydney Parks Strangler”; she kills attractive women jogging in the park.  Yes, I said “she” as our detectives figure out early on that the perp is probably a woman.

I have been impatiently waiting for this installment of Australian novelist Candice Fox’s “Archer and Bennett” series, and still I had no idea how breathtaking this would be!

Like the earlier books in the series, Eden and Hades, Fall is not for the faint of heart. It is just as gritty, dark, disturbing…and thrilling. You delve into the lives and psyches of these flawed characters, ones that refuse to be victims.

You can read Fall without reading the earlier novels. Fox slowly reveals the history of these characters throughout the book. You get what you need to know, and if you have read the others ( like I have), you don’t feel that you’re wasting your time. There’s no redundancy here. I bet though, that you will be enticed to read the others.

Fans of gritty character-driven crime novels, with a strong plot will enjoy Fall and the other two in the series. You won’t be able to put itthem down!

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The Limpet Syndrome – Tony Moyle

(Reviewed by Jeyran Main)

The Limpet Syndrome is a science fiction novel about John Hewsen. John is pronounced dead; however, his soul is somehow still alive. He is in limbo and is in a form of a ball of electricity that still has sensory perception and can experience emotions, characteristics and possess memories. This condition is called the Limpet Syndrome.

John is sent on a mission to locate Sandy Logan, the minister of homeland security for the British government. Sandy is a lost soul and if John is able to retrieve him then he will be rewarded with either having his soul positively charged in order to travel to heaven or he can be housed next to father’s soul, in hell. John is left with a harsh predicament and his mission becomes a not too easy one.

Although the story consisted of a dominant afterlife perspective, it was not a doom and gloom kind of novel. The author managed to create this backstory of life and death, accompanying scientific and logical reasoning, for the possibility of what the plot had to offer. The clerk in the story was like the person giving all the information needed for the reader to understand the position and situation John was under.

The character development was done superbly. I believe that is one of the strong aspects of this book. The dialogue had a British slang to it which was nice and the literary standard was in good quality. Everything was easy to understand and the pace of the story was steady enough to keep the interest going. I particularly enjoyed the heaven and hell concept of the plot. I believe, with all the world building and the settings provided in this story, the author can easily create more work and added storylines to this book.

I recommend this book to anyone that is interested in reincarnation, corruption, the human condition, OCD and talking pigeons.

(The original review was posted on “Review Tales – A Personal & Sincere Review On Books Read“)

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Mistletoe and Murder – S.L. Smith

(Reviewed by Don Jung)

Mistletoe and Murder is the fourth installment in the detective Pete Culnane series. The story starts out with a New Year’s Eve wedding reception in the historic Saint Paul Union Depot in Minneapolis where the matriarch, Collette Hammond, suddenly collapses and dies right before the stroke of midnight.

As detective Martin Tierney and partner Pete Culnane try to unravel the bizarre events leading up to the tragedy, they have to confront the bitter cold winter snow in the Twin Cities and find the witnesses that can lead to the killer.

The victim owned a book publishing business and we learn about the inner workings of that industry through the detectives’ interviewing all the employees and former employees who worked there. We also find that she had a circle of friends who knew very little of her company but knew her personally and had been with her through her battle with pain killers and heroin.

As the detectives try to interrogate the restaurant workers and the various wedding reception guests, we get drawn into a very complex woman who had separated her personal life from her business. They must try to patch up the various clues to figure out why someone would want to kill her and why at such an inappropriate time, just before the New Year was to start.

Each character gives a clue as to what happened that fateful night, but the book keeps you intrigued as you try to piece each part of the puzzle together. Even though the story comes to a satisfactory conclusion, I personally would have preferred a different ending. That said, the diverse characters are a major reason that I recommend the book.

Another reason I particularly enjoyed Mistletoe and Murder is that I got an insight into the life of policemen who have had to forsake family in order to do their job during a holiday period. You discover the heartaches and sacrifices that have been made and yet they manage to keep their sanity.

Fans of crime fiction will enjoy this novel.

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Plato Wyngard and the Valley of the Immortals – Marc and James Lindsay

(Reviewed by Jeyran Main)

Plato Wyngard and the Valley of the Immortals is a thriller fiction story, written about Plato Wyngard. He is in search of answers to his father’s death; instead, he becomes stuck in the Vietnam War trying to locate four ancient relics in order to find the Jade Cup.

The power of the Cup provides immortality. The drug Lord and the Guild of Wolves are also trying to find this Cup and use it for its purposes. Although, neither the time, setting nor the genre of the book comes close to the mummy story, I just could not help myself but to remember it or compare it to that plot.

I thoroughly enjoyed the action-packed scene after scene with this adventure book. It truly was an enjoyment throughout simply because the flow and the connectivity of the story had been well put together. The literary standard was admirable.

I believe what makes this book interesting was its character development. Plato and his partner, Luther were drafted splendidly. The characters were relatable and since Plato was also seeking closure over his father, it made the story to have an emotional edge rather than it being just an action venture.

I recommend this book to people that like to read on the Vietnam War and also enjoy thriller fiction stories.

(The original review was posted on “Review Tales – A Personal & Sincere Review On Books Read“)

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Death of a Busybody (British Library Crime Classics) – George Bellairs

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

Fifty year old Miss Ethel Tither has made a lot of enemies in her years in the English village of Hilary Magna. She is a major financial donor to the Home Gospel Alliance for Bringing Sinners to Repentance, and so you can tell where her concerns lie.

It’s not enough that she is persistent in trying to convert non-believers like the town atheist. She makes it her business to uncover illicit love affairs and threatens to expose the activities to spouses and even employers unless the guilty party repents. She admonishes alcoholics and those who she feels are ungodly.

Though she is detested by many, the town is shocked when she’s found face down in Reverend Claplady’s cesspool, after apparently being bludgeoned to death. Of course, the possible motives and suspects are numerous. In addition to the obvious, there are some who would benefit financially from her death.

Since murders don’t tend to occur in this small town, Scotland Yard is called and Inspector Thomas Littlejohn is assigned to the task of solving the murder.

As soon as Littlejohn gets in town, he decides to go to bars and other public gathering places where he can eavesdrop on conversations. Hopefully someone knows something. Unfortunately a lot of what he finds out is wild conjecture from a town that loves to gossip.

Death of a Busybody, which was originally published in 1942, is a light crime novel, with lots of twists and turns. It is character-driven and these personalities are colorful and quirky. There are a lot of them, but not too many to keep track of or bog down the story.  At only 167 pages, it’s a quick read.

Author George Bellairs (1902-1983) was the pen name of banker Harold Blundell. He wrote fifty-seven crime novels featuring Scotland Yard detective Thomas Littlejohn, all or most taking place in small British towns. Fortunately for us, The British Library has partnered with Poisoned Pen Press to publish many of these classic British mysteries in the United States.

Those who enjoy light detective fiction with some humor sprinkled in are sure to like this one.

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Red-handed in Romanée-Conti – Jean-Pierre Alaux , Noël Balen (Translated from the French by Sally Pane)

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

“Benjamin knew that sometimes people were like wine. If they sat and breathed for a while, their full complexity could be revealed, even more so in the right environment and with the right people.”

Benjamin Cooker, a well-renowned enologist from Bordeaux, and his young assistant, Virgile, can read people pretty well. Yes, Benjamin knows the technical aspects of his craft better than most, but also knows how his clients tick.

His diplomatic abilities are challenged when he is called to Burgundy to assist in the harvest of one of the region’s most successful winemakers, Marcel Lemoine. As usual, he brings Virgile.

When they arrive they find that a hailstorm ruined much of the grapes throughout the region. Comparing winemaking to politics, Benjamin asserts, “In winemaking, the weather, the soil, and the seasons may work in your favor, but they can turn on you just as easily.” This not only affects the owners but all of the workers who depend on the industry for their living.

But what was also responsible for the low morale in the fields was the murder of a young, beautiful harvester,  Clotilde Dupont, who worked at Romanée-Conti, a neighboring vineyard. She was strangled at the deserted Saint-Vivant Abbey.

There are many possible suspects and Benjamin finds himself thrown into the middle of it. There is so much more that is uncovered though, from family strife to extortion and more.

In the midst of all of this, Benjamin is distressed about his elderly father who is engaged to his young nurse. Since he’s not around, his wife Elisabeth, has to handle the fiasco. That crazy situation evolves as the story continues

Red-handed in Romanée-Conti is not only a fun whodunit, but you’ll also learn about French wine culture. The story goes into the history of the vineyards, the workers who make the wines, and also the wines that they are drinking. You’ll taste the food and wine, and smell the aromas.

The characters are part of the enjoyment, like Virgile who tries to pick up on attractive female harvesters, and he and Benjamin play well off of each other.

Red-handed in Romanée-Conti will appeal to wine aficionados and is book twelve in the Winemaker Detective series . Personally, I hope to read more.

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The Watcher – Eli Carros

(Reviewed by Jeyran Main)

Exceptional

The Watcher is a crime fiction story written about Chief Inspector Jack Grayson and his journey, hunting a serial killer terrorizing London. The killer attacks blond girls, cuts their throats and then leaves behind a necklace with their birthstone. Jack really tries hard to find any lead or connection to find the killer, but this murder mystery is not to be an easy one.

From the start of the book, the author grabs your attention and engages you with his excellent style of writing and a suspenseful, well-written plot. The literary standard is of high quality, which happens to be very important in writing a thriller. The paragraphs are well connected, and the chapters move along at a pace that keeps your mind thinking.

I believe the fact that you really cannot guess who the murderer is, makes this book a must-read. The built-up anticipation was not annoying, and it was like we were fed breadcrumbs throughout the book but never caught on with the big reveal; that is excellent writing. The author deliciously demonstrations what happens when sexual obsession and abuse meets crime and just plain crazy.

The lead character’s personality was relatable, and the story did develop to create an opportunity to bond with the protagonist. I see great potential in this author and look forward to reading more of his work.

I recommend this book to thriller, suspense fiction, and mystery readers.

(The original review was posted on “Review Tales – A Personal & Sincere Review On Books Read“)

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Why Bad Governments Happen to Good People – Danny Katch

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

“Trump is a tumor, not the cancer. He can do deadly harm if we don’t stop him, but we also have to treat the deeper sickness.”

So how did we get to this point?  How was Trump  able to connect  with “ enraged male impotence”?  This is what socialist Danny Katch attempts to explain in his recent book, Why Bad Governments Happen to Good People.

The Electoral College is a big problem, but there’s more to it.  Citizens are sick of the choices in the two- party system. The Democratic machine, the elitists and “starfuckers” run the party instead of the voters.

Democrats didn’t come out to vote. Democrats promote compromise and realism, but it demoralizes the voters. The popularity of Bernie Sanders revealed this.

If Democrats cared so much about voter suppression, why didn’t they do more to stop it? What does the Democratic party really stand for stand for?

I believe in preserving social security and instituting universal health care,   though I don’t share most of his socialist views. Though Marxism 101 in the current Trump era is woven into this book, I  don’t think he provides a convincing argument for socialism.  What he does accomplish is to expose the problems and offer some solutions.

It’s not just generalizations. He get into the nitty-gritty, and analyzes notable events and people.

He believes that we need to define  a solid agenda for the new left and have an “open battle of ideas”. To defeat Trump we need to have concrete plans and not abstract ones like “love everybody”.

I recommend Why Bad Governments Happen to Good People  to Americans who  feel helpless, are concerned about the future of our country and want to do something about it.

 

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Late Fame (NYRB Classics) – Arthur Schnitzler (Author), Alexander Starritt (Translator)

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

Exceptional

“Around him was an atmosphere of hope, youth, self-confidence, and he breathed it in deeply. …some of the words they were using began to sound familiar to him…words he had thought of from time to time over the course of the passing years as if of something opaque or daydreamt. And which were now flying back and forth between these young people as if the words themselves had become young and alive once again. And it seemed to him that he belonged among these people. As if much of what they said of themselves was true also of him and as if he, too, still had battles to fight as they did. “

Eduard Saxberger, referred by the narrator as an “old gentlemen”, was a one-time published poet and now a long-time civil servant. His life is predictable yet comfortable; that is, until he receives a visit from a young man. This excited man discovered his collection of poems— and commercial failure—“The Wanderings”, which was written decades ago.

He urges Saxberger to attend a meeting of the Enthusiasm Society, a literary club of young aspiring poets who are critical of the current established literary scene. Though some have rather large egos, they practically worship Saxberger and even refer to him as “maestro”. It’s difficult for him to resist this adulation and so finds a home among these early twenty year-olds.

But as age and life experience  changes all of us,  how much has it changed Saxberger? Can he reconcile the life of an artist to one a civil servant and member of the middle class? I don’t want to give too much away, so let me say that it is not all black and white.

Late Fame is an engaging novella that was written over a century ago. It was unpublished, but recently rediscovered in the papers of Austrian writer Arthur Schnitzler (1862-1931).

The characters are fully developed; I especially love the over-dramatic actress trying topreserve her youth. As you can tell from the quote above, the translated prose is vibrant and full of emotion.

Definitely read the Afterward, but as the word implies, not until you finish the story. You’ll learn of relevance to Schnitzler’s life and the nineteenth century Austrian literary scene, as well.

At fewer than 130 pages, this quick read is difficult to put down. You’ll find Late Fame relatable even in current times. I guess some things just never change.

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Writing for Bliss: A Seven-Step Plan for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life – Diana Raab

(Reviewed by Jeyran Main)

Writing for Bliss: A Seven-Step Plan for Telling Your Story and Transforming Your Life is a psychology self- help book written about ways to heal and deal with trauma and stress, through writing. The author uses this technique in order to tell her story and transform her life. Writing is therapeutic and she encourages people by supplying them with seven ways on achieving this blissful stage of life.

This, by far is one of the best books I have ever read. It is so organized and well thought out that everyone should have it. From preparing to write, cultivating self-awareness and speaking the truth, to finding your form and sharing your writing, the author displays a rich and well-worth learning experience for a writer.

The book even goes into detail about how you can write about sex and intimacy or write love letters and what to include when revising or editing a piece. There is nothing off topic and everything receives a well in-depth placement in this book.

Anyone searching for a therapeutic way to heal or to deal with trauma can benefit from this book. It encourages you to write a memoir and to keep a diary. I specifically loved how the author invites you to write without thought, making you realize later where your trains of thoughts take you and how significant the outcome of it is.

I highly recommend Writing for Bliss to writers, psychology majors and anyone that wishes to heal through writing.

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