Friday, July 28, 2006

Reviewing: "Old Silver" by Carl Brookins

Michael Tanner and Mary Whitney return in this top flight cozy mystery set for most part on the waters of Lake Superior. It is there that while sailing with friends Mary Whitney during a snorkeling trip finds and brings to the surface an old metal plate, probably from the boiler, stamped with the word “Amador” on it. Little does she know that it comes from a ship that sank during a storm in 1905 and theoretically went down somewhere off Sand Island which is nowhere near where she has recovered the plate.

Packed with cargo and family heirlooms of the deVoles the sinking caused a search to be mounted more than once but nothing was found. By finding the plate, Mary has stumbled across an old mystery and possibly a reference point for the shipwreck. The ship went down 100 years ago taking some dark secrets with it. As Mary and Michael start asking a few questions and a person cataloging a recent donation of papers from the family is killed, it becomes clear that there is certainly at least one if not several secrets that someone is trying to keep hidden. Whomever is behind the scenes orchestrating events seems to be willing to stop at nothing, even murder, to prevent them from coming out.

Opposite in tone and style from his novel, “The Case of the Greedy Lawyers,” humor is in short supply in this cozy style novel. Most of the violence happens off scene with the majority of the focus on asking questions from a variety of sources and suspects. This novel slowly builds a chain of clues together as Michael Tanner and Mary Whitney hunt for the shipwreck itself as well as the family secrets. The result is an engrossing 259 page read in large paperback with a great depth of detail, rich characterizations, and a very good mystery tale.

Book Facts

Old Silver (A Michael Tanner & Mary Whitney Mystery)
By Carl Brookins
Top Publications, Ltd. Co
Large Trade Paperback
ISBN# 1-929976-32-1

Kevin R. Tipple © 2006

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Book Review: "The Hard Way" by Lee Child

This tenth novel in the series plays on two of Jack Reacher’s known quirks as well as on an underlying theme that has existed throughout the series. In this novel all three items are used to create a fast moving 371 page thriller and another very good read.

Along with his uncanny ability to know exactly what time it is without a watch, Reacher has always had exceptional powers of observation. Something that worked very well for him in his past life as a military policeman as well as his current life which is sometimes indefinable. As the novel opens, Jack Reacher is sitting outside a New York café late in the evening and sees a rather unremarkable man drive off in an expensive car with a somewhat distinctive license plate. Unknown to him, what he witnessed was a ransom payment for a kidnapping.

Shortly after returning the next night to the same café, Reacher is contacted by an individual who would like to know what Reacher saw on behalf of his employer. Intrigued, Reacher agrees to accompany his inquisitor to the legendary Dakota hotel. There he discovers that a band of mercenaries led by Edward Lane have taken up residence there and they want to recover Edward Lane’s wife and daughter as well as eliminate the kidnappers as brutally and painfully as possible.

Vengeance and retribution aren’t unfamiliar concepts to Reacher and he certainly understands the need to eliminate threats. Reacher isn’t impressed with the idea of mercenaries or of the government’s use of them for contract work. He is even less impressed with the group that Lane has around him as it is clear that while they may have been very good in their day while serving in their respective military units they aren’t very good now. As the kidnappers escalate their demands and he learns more about the mercenaries shared history, he wants to walk away. But, the wife and child are non combats and there is no way he isn’t going to help them.

What follows is another good Reacher read. As he works the case, he discovers more angles and machinations than he expected along with another short term love interest. Little is done to add to the complex character of Reacher and for those that have read the series, none is really expected. What is expected in a Reacher series novel is a fast paced intensive roller coaster of a read where one knows Reacher will win out in the end. That’s exactly what happens and this novel, while an installment of the series, also provides an excellent stand alone read.

Book Facts:

The Hard Way
By Lee Child
Delacorte Press
ISBN #0-385-33669-1
371 Pages

Kevin R. Tipple © 2006

Monday, July 17, 2006

Book Review: "Where Dreams Die Hard" by Carlton Stowers

Having chronicled so much disaster, destruction and unspeakable horror committed by people against other people during his extensive writing career, Texas author Carlton Stowers was looking for something simpler in the wake of the 911 tragedy. As he writes in the preface of the non fiction book “Where Dreams Die Hard” on page XIV:

“When a young editor argued that what those of us under her charge had to provide readers was more ‘red meat,’ more hard-hitting, finger-pointing controversy, I rolled my eyes and began considering my leave-taking. Though fully aware that there were endless fakes and frauds needing exposure and countless crimes begging courthouse justice, such tasks no longer interested me. It was time to let someone else try to sort reason from the unreasonable, spend days in the company of devastated victims, and chronicle the social ills for which there seemed no cure.”

His quest was for a Norman Rockwall type America if it still existed. Where folks still cared about each other regardless of political or religious affiliation. Where crime was not a problem and where red meat referred to what was on the grill and not something literary.

He found what he was looking for in the small town of Penelope, Texas located about an hour south of Dallas. Penelope has a population of 211 and eagerly and actively supports their six man football team the Penelope Wolverines. As sports fans may know, six man football has seen a revival the last few years in a number of states including Texas. Much of the book covers one season in the life of the town both for the players, their families, and the surrounding community.

While he chronicles the struggles of the 2004 team, author Carlton Stowers does much more than that. Writing about the months before and after the season as well, the town of Penelope and its citizens are brought alive for the reader. Mr. Stowers’ folksy style works wonders in this regard as the words flow and skip from point to point much like in regular conversation. Along the way he touches on the history of six mean football, the economy of small town Texas and such basic fundamentals as how to impart responsibility to today’s youth among other topics. This is not a lecturing or antiseptic read but more of a good friend talking about life as he sits next to you on your front porch.

The result is an excellent 205 page read that provides a look at basically slightly more than a year in the life of a small Texas town and its citizens. The bad, the good, and everything in between are covered. At the same time it becomes uplifting as one knows no matter how bad the world news gets, folks that live in Penelope, Texas and thousands of other places are taking it one day at a time, prospering in their own way, and helping each other everyday. A little of that attitude goes a long way and Mr. Stowers book is a very refreshing and enjoyable read.

Book Facts:

Where Dreams Die Hard
By Carlton Stowers
Da Capo Press
ISBN 0-306-81404-8
205 Pages

Kevin R. Tipple © 2006

Saturday, July 15, 2006

A Blog Update

I know it has been a long time since you saw my work here or elsewhere. This hasn’t been a very good summer and not just because the drought continues, the level whatever air pollution continues, the one hundred plus degree heat continues, or the many other joys that make up living in north Texas during the summer. Things have been rather rough here on a personal level.

Without going into great detail, I have had some health issues that for a time became very severe. This cost me my ability to work this summer which has been devastating economically as well as robbing me of the opportunity to work with some very special kids and staff. I was thrilled and honored to be selected to work in the program and devastated when roughly a week and half into the program had to leave for health reasons and despite later trying once more, was unable to return.

I knew I didn’t have a choice but still it hurt. And being forced into staying home on mandatory bedrest when one can’t read because of blurred vision, dizzy spells and other problems isn’t much fun either. Not only did this totally mess up my writing schedule for more than a month, it has also prevented my being able to read and review the many books which had been sent to me since mid May. And while many of you are on different calanders and are wondering why does he consider the summer over, remember here that teachers go back August 2nd and students go back August 9. In roughly ten days, I have an orientation meeting to go to for the coming school year.

So, yes, the summer is pretty much over.

The good news? Well, I have seen no relatives that I know about on any daytime TV talk shows. I have never met the numerous women who apparently do not know who the father was/is. I am more convinced than ever that I will not make a certain icon’s TV show because I am a male that knows how to use all major appliances, never has cheated on my wife, knows no one in Hollywood, and never jumps on the furniture.

All that and the fact that getting movies by mail is a really cool thing.

The meds finally seem to be working or maybe I have adjusted to them and things are very, very slowly getting better. I’m able to sit up and read again which is extremely neat. I also have some reviews that were written before things got really bad and those will get posted soon. Things are turning around slowly but surely and the key here is not to do too much too fast.

I also want to thank the many folks who, as word leaked out from me or from friends in the writing community, expressed their heart felt prayers and wishes both publicly as well as in private e-mails. I have tried to thank on lists and off when I could as the situation developed. I may have accidentally missed a few. Please know that all were much appreciated and that hopefully, it will soon be just a bad memory.

Kevin R Tipple © 2006