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The Beauty of the End
Debbie Howells

from FictionZeal.com re: Dead Money Run by J. Frank James

Dead Money Run (Lou Malloy Crime Series) - J. Frank James

Lou Mallory had no sooner been released from the Atlanta Penitentiary than trouble started.  Two guys were waiting in a Lincoln Town Car offering him a ride.  Actually, it was not a polite offer; it was more of a demand.  Just about that time, a prison guard came back through the gate.  Lou asked him to call a cab for him.  Fifteen million.  That’s the amount of money he’d stolen from a casino.  And, fifteen years later, no one had found it.  He took the cab to a bus depot and headed to Jacksonville Beach.


His first order of business was to find out who’d killed his sister, Susan, while he was doing his time.  Hilary Kelly met him at the depot.  She’s a PI.  He didn’t know her, but it didn’t take long for her to confess she’d been hired by the insurance company who was out $15 Mil to befriend his sister and find out the location of the hidden dough.  But she didn’t anticipate becoming friends with Susan; she no longer wanted to fulfil the job.  Lou and Hilary are about to find out that powerful people who are money hungry won’t stop at anything to get what they want.


Lou is not your typical ‘good guy’.  In fact, he’s a ‘bad guy’, but this is one of those books that will have you rooting for the bad guy.  Lou is snarky and brash – a ‘shoot now; ask questions later’ type of guy.  I liked the addition of Crusher to the Lou / Hilary team.  He had been a pro-wrestler and a former inmate with Lou.  Now, Crusher has Lou’s back.  If you like your suspense hard-boiled, this novel will surely peak your interest.  Rating: 4 out of 5.

from FictionZeal.com re: Skeleton Run by John L. DeBoer

Skeleton Run - John L. DeBoer

This is about how ugly human nature can be — the ‘think of yourself first’ mentality.  They were just boys in 1995; freshmen at the University of Vermont.  They’d been drinking.  It was a bad night with snow and low visibility.  They didn’t see the car in front of them until it was too late.  One of them checked the driver.  Dead.  In the back seat, a baby lay snuggled in a car seat in a blanket.  It was alive.  They left the scene.  The baby would be fine.  They’d call 911 when they got back to the dorm.  Jim Dawson reflected the consequences of reporting themselves, “In the short term, I’d be grounded for sure.  But I could imagine how this incident could forever mar my reputation.  I’d be one of ‘those boys’ – the drunken teenagers on a joyride who killed a woman.”


Things have a way of coming back on you.  Twenty years later, one of the four is dying of AIDS.  He calls his friends together while he’s in the hospital.  What he admits to them is how the ‘incident’ has continued to haunt him all this time.  He didn’t realize when he began talking that the nurse was still present.  They all have reputations that could be forever damaged if someone reports them.  Jim is a doctor; Bob Krechman is a retired football player; and Al Granger, who has the most to lose, is the Governor of Pennsylvania and considering a Presidential bid.


We see this story from many different angles.  We have the boys themselves; their wives and families; the nurse who just happens to know the baby, now grown; and Granger’s backers who have a personal interest in his campaign.  The story is told from Jim Dawson’s perspective.  He had not even told his wife of their secret until now when the future had become so uncertain.  The only aspect that was too unbelievable was that it was built upon coincidence that the nurse knew the man who’d been orphaned.  This is an engrossing tale of how these three men will withstand having their reputations destroyed.  How far will they go to save those reputations?  Rating: 4 out of 5.

from FictionZeal.com re: Leaving Blythe River by Catherine Ryan Hyde

Leaving Blythe River: A Novel - Catherine Ryan Hyde

Happy belated Father’s Day!  Not all of us have wonderful fathers.  In fact, some people actually have pathetic fathers.  Such was the case for seventeen year old Ethan Underwood.  Ethan is enthralled with Jennifer, also seventeen, who works in his dad’s office.  But, he and his mom’s trip to Peru was delayed and they walk in on his Dad … with Jennifer.  The author skips over the sordid details when his dad was ‘caught’, but by assumption, we know his dad left and Ethan and his mother were on their own.  When his mom receives word that his grandmother is ill, she has to leave Ethan to go take care of his grandfather.  Ethan has no choice but to go stay with his father in a remote cabin within Blythe River National Wilderness.


Living, even temporarily in Blythe River, is sharply contrasted to their home in New York.  He has to learn to think about his dangerous surroundings … grizzly bears for instance.  As he’s exploring, he comes to know two of their neighbors, Sam, who a pack guide, and Jone, an eccentric seventy-year-old.  His dad is still practically non-existent, taking off and running for fitness for many hours and about eighteen miles per day.  But, his dad fails to return one day and the search is on.  Then, the search is abandoned as the ranger and cops believe he just abandoned his son.  Ethan keeps looking.  He can’t live with himself if he doesn’t even try and his dad is actually out there in the wilderness, lost or injured.


After a meandering start, the thrusters kicked in and the story became a fast-paced emotional roller coaster.  This Blythe River is fictional, located about 100 miles south of Casper Wyoming and Yellowstone.  The author’s use of subheadings was innovative.  Many would reference the time-line to Ethan’s dad’s disappearance.  For instance, chapter three’s subheading was “Three months before his father disappeared.”  Catherine Ryan Hyde was also the author of the bestselling novel, Pay It Forward.  The story is one that will stay with you as you watch Ethan mature and breakthrough from a teen worried about ‘teen things’ to a very responsible young man.  Rating: 4 out of 5.

from FictionZeal.com re: He Will be My Ruin by K.A. Tucker

He Will Be My Ruin: A Novel - K.A. Tucker

“Celine killed herself.”  That’s what Rosa Gonzalez, Celine’s mother, had been led to believe.  That’s what she lamented to Maggie Sparks who had been serving in a village in Ethiopia.  But, Maggie knew Celine like a sister.  She wouldn’t kill herself, would she?  Maggie returned to New York to Celine’s apartment to clear out her belongings.  She finds out that just maybe she didn’t know Celine as well as she thought she did.  The first surprise was a closet full of designer clothing.  How could Celine afford all this?  The second surprise was a wad of money – hundreds and fifties.  The third surprise was a photo of a naked man posed seductively.  On the back, Celine had written “This man was once my salvation.  Now he will be my ruin.”


Even though they knew each other like sisters, their backgrounds had not been similar.  Rosa was the Sparks family’s housekeeper.  While the Sparks were rich, Rosa struggled financially.  Financial help had been offered, but Rosa had been too proud to accept; Celine grew up with those values.  More than once Maggie had offered to pay for her college.  Celine wanted to make her own way.  That brings me to the fourth surprise.  The diaries Celine had kept for years … but the last one covering the last three months was missing.  Suspecting Celine’s death wasn’t suicide, Maggie begins to follow up on any lead the diaries may suggest.


With very masterful and suspenseful twists, you won’t know which way to turn and who to suspect.  The prologue does exactly what it’s supposed to – it demands your attention and makes you curious to know more.  The plot and pacing were perfect keeping certain details hidden until just the right moment.  On the side, this is not really romance, per se, but more of a falling into bed instead of falling in love.  Parts of the story were from Celine’s viewpoint taken from her diaries.  However, therein lay a logistical problem which was too late in the book for me to identify the issue.  Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

from FictionZeal.com re: Anonymous by Christine Benedict

Anonymous - Christine Benedict

Ants and Spiders and Snakes, oh my!  Greg and Debra Hamilton had just bought an old farmhouse that needed a lot of work, and that’s an understatement.  The home had a buckled porch; cracked and moldy walls; a grimy kitchen.  And, that’s just the first floor.  Under the sink, Debra found “a bucket-size potato chip tin, all rusted and sticky.  Debra moved the tin and choked back a breath when carpenter ants bubbled out like lava.”  While Greg is at work, Debra begins to hear creaks from upstairs.  Is it normal house settling or is it something else?  As she’s exploring the house surroundings, she happens upon some elements nearby, like a rusted child’s swing set, but when she goes to find it again, it’s not there.  Her mother suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.  She begins to wonder if it’s happening to her as well.


Kyle and Julie Zourenger come by to welcome them to the neighborhood.  It doesn’t take long before Debra and Julie form a bond.  Each struggles with their own afflictions and manage to rely on each other.  Julie’s marriage, while appearing to be amenable, is in fact, loveless.  She confesses she’s receiving letters from a ‘secret admirer’ who calls himself “Smitten”.  The letters scare her as it seems he knows far more about her than he should.  Debra resolves to help Julie figure out the real identity of “Smitten”.


Let’s put it in simple terms.  Debra willingly went in and worked hard making this house their home.  After just the ants, I would have been long gone.  The author used a lot of fascinating imagery of the setting, the house, and the people.  I was completely pulled in from page one.  Ms. Benedict definitely serves up several ‘creepy’ scenes that physically made me shiver.  Back stories are told for both Debra and Julie giving us a clearer understanding of their complexities.  This has a mysterious element as well as some supernatural.  Rating: 4 out of 5.

from FictionZeal.com re: Saving Abby by Steena Holmes

Saving Abby - Steena Holmes

We begin in the recent past of Josh and Claire Turner.  They’re on an extensive trip, one with a two-fold purpose.  First, they are coming to grips with not having children.  They’d been trying for six years so finally, they want to move forward and just accept it.  Secondly, their many excursions are research for their fictional character, Jack.  They write children’s books about Jack’s adventures.  Josh writes the stories and Claire does the illustrations. They come home with a lot of new ideas for Jack.


In their present time, they’ve returned from the trip and Claire seems to be experiencing extended jet lag.  She is so very tired all of the time and she’s beginning to experience headaches.  The headaches intensify and become debilitating.  Her good friend, Abby, is a doctor and urges her to come in to get checked out.  Once she actually goes, the diagnosis is terrifying all by itself, but now she has more than just her own life to consider … as it turns out she’s pregnant.  Treatment would be dangerous to the life of her baby.  Waiting till her pregnancy is full term could be too late for her.


The story goes back and forth between the present contrasted against their experiences on their trip.  I believe the trip gave us a great impression of how solid their marriage was.  Through flashbacks, we also find out that Claire had become pregnant as a teen.  She had the baby but adopted him out because of the ultimatum delivered to her from her father.  The story definitely pulls the reader’s heartstrings.  It could have made me cry … except it didn’t.  When the ending came, it was a bit abrupt.  The epilogue into the future did little to bring me closure with the ending.  Also, Claire seemed to overly delay an exam to find out what was actually going on.  Rating: 3 out of 5.

from FictionZeal.com re: Destiny's Pawn by D.A. Keeley

Destiny's Pawn (A Peyton Cote Novel) - D A Keeley

Peyton Cote is a Border Patrol Agent in northern Maine’s Aroostook County.  Her duty is to prevent anyone from crossing the border illegally.  As the story begins, she finds a lone thirteen-year-old Ukrainian boy seeking political asylum.  It was apparent to her he’d been in the elements for some time.  His name is Aleksei Vann.  His family’s home had been bombed by pro-Russian separatists.  His mother was wounded and his father, Dariya, sent him here by various means to live with his Aunt Bohana who lives in Maine.


Bohana Donovan has a family of her own and a son, Michael, who’d recently received an acceptance letter from the University of Maine.  He has a great appreciation for art.  He tells his friend, “That’s why I love it—it’s created for the benefit of humanity.  No one owns it.  No one has the right to do so.”  Michael knows a little something about the Boston Gardner Museum art heist from a quarter of a century before … something he stumbled upon …something he shouldn’t know.


Although purely fictional, the novel does reference back to an actual twenty-five-year-old art heist from Boston’s Gardner Museum.  As a side note and for you treasure hunters out there, The Museum offers a $5 million reward for any information leading to the recovery of these works.  Peyton Cote is a strong female protagonist.  She’s a single mom trying to balance work and home life.  She can be tough when she needs to be, but she’s also not afraid to show her compassionate side.  The novel has an international twist and an explosive end that I just didn’t see coming.  It is third in a series, but can be comfortably read as a stand-alone.  Rating: 4 out of 5.

from FictionZeal.com re: Lies I Live By by Lauren Sabel

Lies I Live By - Lauren Sabel

A young teen, Callie Sinclair, was at a park with her family and was approached by a man who called himself Indigo.  My first thought was he’d lead her away from her family and abduct her.  But, no!  His intentions were purely for business purposes.  He’d been watching her over time and figured out she had psychic abilities.  Those strengths were needed for Branch 13, a private company contracted with the CIA.  She fast-tracked her last year of school and began working as a psychic spy in a Governmental Internship.


Coordinates are placed in a sealed manila envelope, and each psychic has their own way of navigating their thought process to the area in question.  Similar to going into hypnosis, Callie can only describe what she is sensing about the location of the coordinates but is not allowed to give her own opinion about it.  Eventually, after Callie begins to piece things together in her mind, she begins to get more involved in the investigation process … taking the initiative on her own.


This starts out with a bang, and it managed to take me on an unexpected path.  That’s always a good thing when you want to read a mystery, but you don’t want it ‘cookie cutter’ style.  Aspects of this story were highly entertaining, and the characters were amiable.  There is a little romance that buds between the pages.  At times, I felt the dialogue was weak.  The turn of the story became too unreal – kind of like seventeen-year-old girl saves multitude with her psychic ability.  This is geared toward YA and teen readers.  Rating: 3 out of 5.

from FictionZeal.com re: Stranger in the Room by Amanda Kyle Williams

Stranger in the Room - Amanda Kyle Williams

Keye Street has a rather annoying cousin.  Don’t we all?  Miki Ashton, a Photojournalist, who has a touch of drama queen in her, sees a stalker … in her home.  She had her key in the lock to open her door when she saw him through her window.  Keye only half believes her until she gets there and verifies for herself that Miki’s home was broken into.  Keye used to be a police officer, but due to her alcohol abuse, was let go.  Now she’s an Atlanta PI, as well as a few other odd jobs.  She takes all the work she can get since she has quite a large mortgage payment to keep up with.


About this same time, APD Lieutenant Aaron Rauser is investigating the death of a thirteen year old boy who’d been strangled.  Within a few days, there are a couple of more seemingly unrelated deaths.  But one thing Street does well is profile people.  It doesn’t take long before it becomes clear to her that the deaths as well as the threat to her cousin are related.  Now they know they have a serial killer on their hands.


Keye Street practically pops off the page.  This is the second in the Keye Street series, continuing on with Ms. Williams intensely interesting character.  With alcoholism in her background, she’s obviously a flawed character, but someone that readers can root for.  Just to summarize Keye a bit, she’s Chinese American, orphaned when she was young, and adopted by a very southern Georgia couple.  Her adoptive parents also adopted a black male child, so their nuclear family was quite distinctive.  She’s been living on her own for quite some time, taking in a little white stray cat she calls White Trash.  She and Aaron Rauser are now a couple, having gotten together in the first novel, The Stranger You Seek.  There is a side story in this novel which was a fun addition to the story, but it never really connected to the serial killer aspect of the story.  The third in the series, Don’t Talk to Strangers, has been out since July 2014.  I’m looking forward to reading and reviewing it within the next month.  Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

from FictionZeal.com re: The Murder that Never Was by Andrea Kane

The Murder That Never Was: A Forensic Instincts Novel - Andrea Kane

What is Forensic Instincts?  They have formed a private investigation firm of professionals trained in behavioral and forensic psychology who are not bound by the same bureaucratic red tape as the police, FBI, and Special Forces.  They can move forward and get things done while law enforcement’s hands are tied.  The team has a Behaviorist, a former Navy SEAL, a retired FBI agent; a technological guru; a psychic, and even an evidence dog.  Emma is one of the newest members of the team.  At one time, she’d been a foster child and knew the hardship endured by many.  Upon hearing of the murder of a woman who’d been a foster child, she asks the team if they can dig into and find out who killed her and why.


Lisa Barnes, down on her luck, had been looking for a job.  She thinks her luck is about to change as she finds work at Designer Fitness.  The owner, Julie Forman, and Lisa have a strong resemblance.  Julie immediately bonds with Lisa.  Until Lisa can stand on her own financially, Julie offers that she can stay with her for a while.  But, Lisa is running from something and soon, it has fatal consequences for Julie.  Lisa witnesses Julie get shot down.  She grabs any ID that Julie has on her and flees to her techie friend, Milo, who creates an identity for Lisa to become Julie.  That also requires moving and creating written communication that she had to leave town suddenly.  When law enforcement finds Julie’s body, it is Lisa’s identification they find on her and assume it was Lisa that had been killed.


This story becomes complicated very quickly, but in a good way.  The pacing is fast, and it’s remarkably character-driven.  I love everyone on the FI team and I really liked Lisa and her friend, Milo.  Some aspects of the story were not entirely believable, like asking someone you first meet to move in with you, no matter how temporary you believe the situation would be.  Also, I felt the likeness between Lisa and Julie was a bit of a stretch.  This is the fifth book in the Forensic Instincts series.  They can be read out of order as each one is a complete story on its own.  However, the first book, The Girl Who Disappeared Twice, is when the FI team came together and I’d recommend starting there.  This is an amazing series.  My hope is that it will live for many years to come.  Rating: 4 out of 5.

from FictionZeal.com re: The Fixer (Justice series) by T.E. Woods

The Fixer - T.E. Woods

We all listen to the news and often, in our opinions, justice is terribly lacking.  What if you knew someone that could ‘fix’ it?  What if you had the kind of money necessary to pay someone to take care of it … to enact justice?  This is the job of ‘The Fixer’.  She’s not someone you can hire to knock off a spouse ‘just because’.  The Fixer set rules for herself.  Some of the rules were set so that she wouldn’t call attention to herself, like “No more than one job per country per year.”  Some were set to make a judgement call about a case: “Only when it was clear that justice couldn’t or wouldn’t be served …”  Quite simply, she’s a vigilante who will do the dirty work for pay.


The major players were Lydia Corriger, a psychologist; Savannah Samuels, Lydia’s patient who keeps referring to bad things she’s done; Mort Grant, a Seattle detective; and Robbie, Mort’s son and a Denver journalist.  Robbie was working on a hunch that Gordon Halloway was murdered.  Gordon had gotten rich on money schemes that ruined the lives of many.  Originally, Gordon’s death appeared to be a heart attack while enjoying the company of a prostitute.  Robbie’s hunch started the ball rolling for Detective Grant as other cases began to come to light.


Early on, the reader gets to see The Fixer make a decision about a job and turn it down.  We’re given her standards and we are privy to the fact that The Fixer is a woman.  The characters were phenomenal.  The author held back on who The Fixer was until late in the book and there were some great twists on that matter.  Because of the initial secrecy and unveiling of The Fixer, this first book in The Justice series should be read first.  I already knew since I’d previously read book 2, but it was still enjoyable.  While I recommend this book for its engaging story line, I do need to state that it is quite graphic in nature.  Rating: 4 out of 5.

from FictionZeal.com re: June by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

June: A Novel - Miranda Beverly-Whittemore

Cassie Danvers is drowning in depression.  She’s living in an old Victorian, once known as Two Oaks that she inherited from her grandmother, June.  The house is in disarray, but with the small monetary inheritance, it is not enough to repair the house.  Cassie experiences very real-like dreams of her grandmother with her friend, Lindie, from 1955 when they were eighteen and fourteen years old.  The ‘dream people’ she experiences, and there are far more than just two, seem to come to her when she is awake as well as asleep.  As the two girls, June and Lindie, talk to each other in Cassie’s dream, Lindie is concerned about June’s choice for a husband.  Lindie told her, “Artie Danvers is a nothing!  He’s a straight line.  He’s a cold bath.”


They’re also talking, as many young girls do, of actors and actresses.  Jack Montgomery, they heart-throb of the day, was coming to their small town of St. Jude, Ohio, to make a movie.  Extras were needed and both June and Lindie were planning to be there.  Returning to present day, Nick Emmons finally managed to get Cassie to answer the door.  His message is welcome although very confusing.  Jack Montgomery died three days prior.  He left $37 million to Cassie.  This doesn’t sit too well with Jack’s daughters.


The story is two-fold, present (2015) as well as the 1950’s era, with all the pieces meticulously coming together.  Illumination is provided for the past, primarily through Cassie’s dreams.  This was creative and unique, but I found it to be a bit of an odd telling.  I did like the way the story progressed between Cassie and Montgomery’s daughters, Tate and Elda.  The character’s personalities were well-drawn.  Miranda Beverly-Whitemore excels at raising the reader’s curiosity as she carefully lays the details out piece by piece.  Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

from FictionZeal.com re: Tall Tail (Mrs. Murphy Mystery) by Rita Mae Brown

Tall Tail: A Mrs. Murphy Mystery (Mrs. Murphy Mysteries (Hardcover)) - Rita Mae Brown

Mary Minor Haristeen (Harry) is a farm owner in beautiful Crozet, Virginia within the Blue Ridge Mountains.  She loves her animals.  Mrs. Murphy; Pewter; and Tee Tucker tend to go with her wherever she travels.  At the beginning, she barely manages to swerve her truck out of the way of a car going way to fast on this curvy road.  The car lands in a ditch.  Harry recognizes the driver as Barbara Leader.  Barbara is now dead.  She had been a nurse for former Virginia governor Sam Holloway.  Initially, the cause of death appeared to be a heart attack, which was odd because she’d been in perfect health.  Upon an autopsy, they found a lethal drug in her system.  This concerns Susan Tucker, Harry’s dear friend and Sam Holloway’s granddaughter, as she’s afraid that he may be in danger.


The novel is the present (2016) with flashbacks to 1784, when Francisco Selisse was said to have been killed by his slave, Moses.  Francisco had an evil temper.  The Afterword of the book was more like an ‘after thought’, adding details about the characters that may have been better incorporated into the story.  Although Tall Tail can be read on its own, it may be better to begin with the first in the series and work up (this is the 25th).  I found that I really didn’t know the main characters as well as someone who began with the first in the series.  I did like Harry and her relationship with the people of the community and her animals.  Before chapter one, there was a cast of characters and they were a small legion.  They included characters from the present (2016); characters and slaves from the late eighteenth century; and animals from both 2016 and the eighteenth century.  The dialogue was delightful, both between the humans and among the animals.  Rating: 3 out of 5.

from FictionZeal.com re: The Girl from the Savoy by Hazel Gaynor

The Girl from The Savoy: A Novel - Hazel Gaynor

Hazel Gaynor’s newest novel is set just prior to and after the Great War.  When the prologue opens, its March 1916 in Lancashire, England and Teddy Cooper is saying goodbye to Dorothy (Dolly) Lane.  He’s ready to go, boasting, “They won’t know what’s hit them when we arrive.  Look at us. Tough as old boots!”  But, her heart is breaking as she’s afraid she’ll never see him again.  When the story begins, we fast forward to 1923 in London.  It’s mentioned that she’d been walking with Teddy.  So everything feels right!  Right?  Not so fast.  We find out that Teddy had been in Maghull Military Hospital in Lancashire.  The problem?  He’s suffering shell shock.  His nurse reads him Dorothy’s letters, but he doesn’t remember those times; he doesn’t remember Dorothy.


In 1923, Dorothy is running late to interview for a job as a chambermaid at The Savoy, London’s grandest hotel.  She runs, literally, into Perry Clements.  The initial meeting, however clumsy, was also a comfortable and rather playful moment.  She has no idea that when she answers an ad seeking a ‘muse’ that it would be for Perry.  He is a songwriter.  His sister, the rather famous actress, Loretta May, is living the life that Dorothy would like to emulate.


There are three narrators in The Girl from the Savoy – Dolly, Loretta, and Teddy.  Each offers their own perspective into their lives at the time as well as bits of their past.  It was interesting that Loretta knew the struggles Dolly was going through by her own earlier struggles.  The premise and the historical value of this novel were excellent.  I’ve read two of Gaynor’s prior novels, and what she does faultlessly is the research necessary to bring the reader right into the era.  However, I felt the pacing was a bit lagging and the character depth was weak.  Rating: 3 out of 5.

from FictionZeal.com re: Chasing the North Star by Robert Morgan

Chasing the North Star: A Novel - Robert Morgan

Johah Williams is a slave on a plantation in South Carolina.  It’s 1850; well before the Civil War and Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.  He’s Mrs. William’s house slave serving her two children.  When the children are taught their lessons, Jonah listens.  From those lessons, he teaches himself to read … it was illegal for a slave to read.  Mrs. Williams catches him with a book he’d borrowed from their massive library.  He thought he’d be beaten.  Instead, she arranged for Jonah to read to her from the Bible every day.  It was their secret.  She even gave him a Bible of his own.  This Bible “had letters the size of gnats and hairs.  But it was the prettiest book he’d ever seen ….”  While Mrs. Williams was away visiting her sister, Jonah was reading in the barn loft.  Mr. Williams caught him, accused him of stealing the books, and beat him.  It was then that Jonah decided he would seek freedom.  That night, he took the jar of coins his mama had collected; a knife from the kitchen; and a hat and headed northward.


When he could, he’d travel by night.  When men with guns and dogs were after him, he’d seek water to throw off his scent.  After a few nights, he happened onto a ‘Jubilee’.  He saw a fire blazing and other Negroes dancing and chanting.  It’s there he met Angel.  She was also a house slave.  The master was using her as his bed warmer.  She decided if Jonah could run away, she could run, too.  He tried a few times to leave her behind, but she always managed to reappear back in his life.


The character of Jonah was so well-crafted that I could believe he was real as opposed to fictional.  He literally traveled by foot, boat, wagon, and train on his journey seeking freedom.  The trip was hard not only because he’d be beaten and possibly killed if he were captured and returned to Master Williams, but also because the terrain was perilous and the weather unforgiving.  Angel added something very special to this story.  As much as Jonah was ‘book smart’, she was ‘street smart’.  They complimented each other in ways that Jonah refused to acknowledge.  When the synopsis tells us that Angel manages to find Jonah even though he tried to leave her behind, I thought this would be too coincidental to be believable.  But it was all very convincing.  If you like books in which you can emotionally immerse yourself, you’ll love this story of Jonah’s arduous pursuit of freedom.  Rating: 5 out of 5.

from FictionZeal.com re: Dorothy Parker Drank Here by Ellen Meister

Dorothy Parker Drank Here - Ellen Meister

Dorothy Parker was a real person of 1920’s fame, but this is not historical fiction, per se.  It is more about Norah Wolfe who works for TV talk show, Simon Janey Live.  The company is failing and if they don’t soon secure a phenomenal interview with someone ultra-famous, the show will be cancelled.  When Norah was thirteen, she’d read Dobson’s Night by famous author, Ted Shriver.  The story resonated so much with her, she became obsessed with him.  But several years ago, he seemed to drop off the face of the earth after a scathing accusation of plagiarism.  She now knows he’s hiding out in a room at the Algonquin Hotel.  She also knows he’s gone there to die as a brain tumor ravages his mind.  She knows … OK, she’s hoping … that if she could get five minutes of his time, she could convince him to come forward in an interview.


It’s at this historic hotel Norah meets Dorothy (Dotty) Parker.  At first Norah thought the hotel had hired ‘look-alikes’ to dress and act like the famous authors who’d signed the commemorative guest book.  Those authors were dubbed ‘The Algonquin Round Table’.  They used to lunch together frequently at The Algonquin during their day.  Slowly, it begins to dawn on Norah that this is THE Dorothy Parker.  Parker refuses to go to the light.  She can remain in bodily form as long as the guest book remains open.  Dorothy knows Ted and if she can get him to sign the guest book, he can keep her company after he dies.  Everyone else has chosen to ‘cross over’.  Dorothy conspires with Norah – her version of ‘I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine’.  Can they both get what they want?


Author Ellen Meister does a great job of carrying forth the wisecracks and classic witticism that would likely have come from Dorothy Parker’s mouth.  It’s also a very moving and emotional story that I didn’t quite expect.  I loved the cameo appearances made by Tallulah Bankhead, Lillian Hellman, Groucho Marx, and even Dotty’s poodle, Cliché.  Just when you think you’ve got the story figured out, there’s a tender little twist that ‘ups the ante’ for the reader.  This is Meister’s second Dorothy Parker book, the first beingFarewell Dorothy Parker.  It’s a fun, almost magical, journey into ‘what if’.  Rating: 4 out of 5.