Book Review: Now’s The Time by Larry Strauss

Title: Now’s the Time
Author: Larry Strauss
Publisher: Kearney Street Books; First edition
Publication Date: December 1, 2009
Paperback: 175 pages
ISBN: 978-0972370677
Genre: Literary Fiction

From the Publisher:

Part mystery, part journey, completely heart-felt, “Now’s the Time” follows jazz trumpeter Didi Heron as she searches for the lost tape of her father’s last gig before he tragically died. A celebration of family ties and musical legacies, “Now’s the Time” is a meditation on jazz and jazz players. Drawing inspiration from a potpourri of stories from the American jazz tradition, notably those of trumpeter Clifford Brown, Strauss has created a fictional work rooted in historical fact.

My Review:

Blending historical fact and fiction, Now’s the Time by Larry Strauss is a beautiful and lyrical novel about a young woman’s coming into her own in the jazz industry. In February 1956, Pianist Billy Heron and three other band members were in a fatal car accident. Twenty years later Didi Heron learns that a tape recording was made of the last performance given by the LB Quintet. A trumpet player herself and blues aficionado, Didi makes it her mission to discover what has happened to the last recording of her father’s music. Now’s the Time creates the tone of the dying out blues-jazz movement, mentioning the greatest names throughout the history of jazz and the evolution and progression of jazz music over time. Strauss writes with a deep emotion, evoking in the reader a passion for jazz music whether the reader has ever heard of the greats or not. Now’s the Time is a beautiful look at history with the added bonus of a mystery and a young woman coming into her own in the jazz world. Steeped in the history of jazz, I would recommend this novel to any music aficionado.

I received a complimentary copy of Now’s the Time by Larry Strauss from Meryl L. Moss Media Relations, Inc. to review. Receiving a copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned novel.


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Book Review: Pieces of Happily Ever After by Irene Zutell

Title: Pieces of Happily Ever After
Author: Irene Zutell
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Publication Date: September 1, 2009
Paperback: 304 pages
ISBN: 978-0312540098
Genre: Fiction

From the Publisher:

What happens after “happily ever after”? Alice Hirsh is about to find out…

Alice, a former New Yorker who thought she’d never feel at home in the bizarre world of the San Fernando Valley, was adapting, raising her 5-year-old daughter while trying to keep her job and make her new house a home. When her attorney husband lands a trophy client – box-office queen Rose Maris – things begin to look up. Then Alex starts working late – a lot. He crunches his paunch into a six-pack and trades his Gap ensembles for Armani everything.

Soon, Rose and Alex’s affair blazes in the tabloids and Alice is plunged into trash-gossip hell. Her life crumbles around her as she navigates her newly single self through suburban LA –a place rife with porn stars, psycho soccer moms and nutty neighbors.

Is there a chance to wrest Alex from the Sexiest Woman Alive? And if so… would Alice want him back? And what about George–her college sweatheart? Or Johnny, a walking charm-bomb paparazzo? As Alice inventories the rubble of her life, she desperately searches for her bearings and is forced to ask herself what she really wants from life, love and herself.

My Review:

Pieces of Happily Ever After by Irene Zutell takes a look at what happens when a seemingly fairytale life turns out to be horribly wrong. Alice Hirsch has it all: A new home in the San Fernando Valley, Alex, her husband of six years who is an entertainment lawyer, and Gabby, their beautiful 5-year-old daughter. Life appears to be going well until the fateful day Alice is recovering from an ectopic pregnancy and learns her husband is all over the tabloids for an affair he is having with well-known celebrity Rose Maris. Suddenly Alice finds the paparazzi camped out on her lawn while her husband is off trying to decide which woman he wants to be with. Pieces of Happily Ever After is well written with plenty of wit and charm. The characters are full of life and while I liked the voice of Alice, I was not too fond of her. My discord with Alice started with her pre-judging a mother who wore a Winnie-the-Pooh sweatshirt and it escalated when she was thrilled her 5-year-old daughter was making her way into television, the autographs sealed the deal. I think people will either really adore Alice or not quite care for her attitudes and beliefs. She is witty though, and I enjoyed her wit as well as her internal dialogues. Zutell’s novel raises many issues brought on by divorce as well as those looking to change their life, especially the issues of what to do when one’s life is suddenly altered, finding one’s true identity and what is important. Pieces of Happily Ever After makes for light and at times witty reading that would be fun for a light discussion group pick or for anyone looking for a fun afternoon of reading.

About the Author:

Irene Zutell began her career as a journalist. She has written for People, Us Weekly, The New York Times, the NY Daily News, Newsday, USA Today and others. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two children. You can visit her at www.irenezutell.com.

I received a complimentary copy of Pieces of Happily Ever After by Irene Zutell from BookSparks PR. Receiving a review copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned novel.


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Book Review: Deadly Fear by Cynthia Eden

Title: Deadly Fear
Author: Cynthia Eden
Publisher: Forever
Publication Date: July 27, 2010
Paperback: 416 pages
ISBN: 978-0446559249
Genre: Fiction, Romance, Suspense

From the Publisher:

TWO BRILLIANT AGENTS
FBI Special Agent Monica Davenport has made a career out of profiling serial killers. But getting inside the twisted minds of the cruel and the sadistic has taken its toll: She’s walled herself off from the world. Yet Monica can’t ignore fellow agent Luke Dante, the only man who ever broke through her defenses.
ONE DREAM TEAM
Luke has the unique ability to put victims at ease . . . professionally, he and Monica made a perfect team. Now they’re reunited to catch a murderer who uses his victims’ deepest, darkest fears for sport – but their investigative skills aren’t enough. Luke and Monica will have to face the secrets from their past, the ones that terrify them the most, if they are to have a future together.
But can they catch a killer whose weapon is . . .
DEADLY FEAR

My Review:

Deadly Fear by Cynthia Eden is a fast-paced thriller with the added elements of romance and mystery amongst the members of the Serial Services Division of the FBI.  Special Agent Monica “Ice” Davenport is a profiler with a hidden past who is about to be partnered up with an old fling, Agent Luke Dante, who is new to the Serial Services Division of the FBI and eager to show the team he is worth being there.  Luke and Monica are sent to coordinate efforts with Jasper County’s sheriff Hank Davies to help stop a serial killer who is intelligent, sadistically brutal, appears to know his victim’s biggest fears, and is not only escalating in his killings; he is also targeting Special Agent Davenport.  Agent Davenport may need to confront her past to survive this case.   Deadly Fear is a definite page-turner, which takes the reader through a maze of clues, setbacks and plot twists making Deadly Fear an exceptional book to read.  I have two minor complaints about the novel and the first is not legitimate and the second is minor.  I know this is a romance suspense novel but it would have been just as good without the romance sections and as I mentioned, that one truly is not a valid complaint as it is the genre of the book.  The second is more a pet peeve of mine and in this case it came in the form Luke’s apparent habit of calling Monica “baby”, pet names have always irritated me, minor as I said and did not detract from the novel.   With those being my only grievances, minor as they are, I can say without a doubt, this is a brilliant suspense novel.  The characters are flawed which makes them all the more vulnerable and realistic.  Deadly Fear is the first novel in Cynthia Eden’s newest series and fortunately her next book, Deadly Heat will be available in February.  I recommend Deadly Fear to anyone who likes a well thought out and planned suspense novel.

About the Author:

Cynthia Eden also writes tales of paranormal suspense and erotic romance for Kensington Brava, Avon Red, and Red Sage. In college, she majored in Communication and Sociology, graduating summa cum laude and spending many hours working on the campus paper. She soon decided writing fiction was much more fun than just sticking to the facts. Later, as she traveled the long and bumpy road to romance publication, Cynthia was employed as a teacher and a college counselor. She is a member of the Gulf Coast Chapter of the RWA and Mensa.

Further Information:

Visit the author’s website.
Follow the author on Twitter.
Five Fun Facts.
The author’s FaceBook page.
The author’s MySpace page.

I received a complimentary copy of Deadly Fear by Cynthia Eden from Hachette. Receiving a copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned novel.


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Book Review: Never A Bride by Amelia Grey

Title: Never A Bride
Author: Amelia Grey
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Publication Date: September 7, 2010
Paperback: 384 pages
ISBN: 978-1402239786
Genre: Fiction, Historical Romance

About the Book:

Her name is on everyone’s lips . . .
When he left for America six years ago, the handsome Viscount Stonehurst never suspected that he would return home to England to find his lovely fiancé embroiled in the scandal of the decade. The woman he planned on making his wife has been kissing every man in London . . . except him!

But scandal doesn’t matter in search of the truth . . .
Engaged and then abandoned, Mirabella Wittingham is determined to find the man who drove her cousin to suicide, even if it means ruining her reputation and disgracing herself in the process . . .

When her plans go awry, Mirabella has no choice but to turn to her long-lost fiancé for help. But can she trust the man who deserted her so many years ago, or is he destined to fail her yet again?

My Review:

Amelia Grey sweeps the reader back to the Regency era where within the ton, all ladies are proper and men are gentleman, or so it appears.  Appearances can be quite deceiving and deception is well played in Never A Bride.  Lady Mirabella Wittingham has been quite the talk of the ton, first her fiancé Viscount Camden Brackley up and leaves her for America, and worse is Lady Mirabella’s obsession with kissing all the eligible men in the ton.  True, Lady Mirabella has just cause for she is searching for the rogue who lead to the tragic end of her young cousin’s life.  However in so doing, she may destroy her reputation unless her wayward fiancé is able to assist her in the quest.  Never A Bride is a fairly predictable read in one sense and a delightful mystery in another.  Grey does an excellent job combining mystery and romance amongst the Regency era backdrop.  Grey’s characters are without a doubt interesting and quite unconventional, especially the main characters Camden and Mirabella.  Overall, Never A Bride makes for a charming afternoon of reading.  Her next Regency book A Viscount to Wed will be released in the spring of 2011.  Fans of Regency romance novels with strong and unconventional characters will most likely enjoy this novel.

About the Author:

Amelia Gray won the Booksellers Best Award and Aspen Gold Award for 2004. Writing as Gloria Dale Skinner she has won the coveted Romantic Times Award for Love and Laughter, the prestigious Maggie Award and the Affaire de Coeur Award. Her books have been sold in many countries in Europe, Russia and China, and they have also been featured in Doubleday and Rhapsody Book Clubs.

Amelia Grey grew up in a small town in the Florida Panhandle. She has been happily married to her high school sweetheart for over 25 years. She has lived in Alabama, Connecticut, New Hampshire and now lives in Panama City Beach, Florida.

I received a complimentary copy of Never A Bride by Amelia Grey from Sourcebooks. Receiving a complimentary copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned novel.


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Book Review: The Land of Green Plums by Herta Müller

Title: The Land of Green Plums
Author: Herta Müller
Publisher: Metropolitan Books; First Edition edition
Publication Date: November 15, 1996
Hardcover: 256 pages
ISBN: 978-0805042955
Genre: Fiction

From the Publisher:

Set in Romania at the height of Ceauescu’s reign of terror,The Land of Green Plums tells the story of a group of young people who leave the impoverished province for the city in search of better prospects and camaraderie. But their hopes are ravaged, because the city, no less than the countryside, bears everywhere the mark of the dictatorship’s corrosive touch. All the narrator’s friends—teachers and students of vaguely dissident allegiance—betray her, do away with themselves, or both. As they do so, we see the way the totalitarian state comes to inhabit every human realm and how everyone, even the strongest, must either bend to the oppressors or resist them and thereby perish.
Herta Müller, herself a survivor of Ceausescu’s police state, speaks from intimate experience. Scene by scene, in language at once harsh and poetic, she constructs a devastating picture of a society and a generation ruined by fear. In simple images of hieroglyphic power—policeman filling their pockets and mouths with green plums; girls sleeping with abattoir workers for bags of offal; a docile proletariat making things no one wants—”tin sheep and wooden watermelons”—Müller anatomizes a country and its citizens and the corruption that has rotted the core of both.

My Review:

Rich, symbolic and full of lyrical prose, The Land of Green Plums by Herta Müller takes the reader to Romania and through the oppression suffered by the people under Ceausescu’s totalitarian regime.  The narrator does not tell the story in a linear pattern, rather in bits and pieces that become interwoven to bring forth a masterful tapestry, rich, deep, and dark.  The reader learns about Lola and the days leading up to her apparent suicide, which is what brings the narrator together with Edgar, Georg, and Kurt.  The four speak of freedom and hope without ever uttering the words.  The narrator refers to the proletariats as sheep and wooden melons and speaks of barbers, graveyards and ailing mothers, all seemingly random topics, yet deeply symbolic of a life that offers little happiness or hope.   Müller has once again created an intensely intellectual novel, filled with the bleakness that comes from living under such a brutal regime, yet Müller offers up blooms of hope.  The Land of Green Plums is a short novel, yet deeply intense, symbolic and intellectual, commanding the reader’s full attention.  While the subject matter of those living in oppression is neither light nor cheerful, I strongly recommend this novel to anyone looking for a deeply intellectual read.

About the Author:

Born in Romania in 1953, Herta Müller lost her job as a teacher and suffered repeated threats after refusing to cooperate with Ceausescu’s Secret Police. She succeeded in emigrating in 1987 and now lives in Berlin. The recipient of the European Literature Prize, she won the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award for The Land of Green Plums.

I received a complimentary copy of The Land of Green Plums by Herta Müller from Henry Holt and Company Publishers to review. Receiving a copy in no way reflected my review of aforementioned novel.


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