Monday, June 27, 2011

'Disturbed' A Novel by Kevin O'Brien--Book Review

Molly Dennehy is a new bride and she has a secret; and so, it seems, do the old neighbors that came attached to her new husband and his two kids.  But then, don't we all have a few secrets?  Perhaps, but hers and theirs are becoming dangerous, in fact downright deadly and unlikely coincidences are piling up faster than the brutally murdered bodies.

Kevin O'Brien's latest NY Times bestseller, 'Disturbed', will have veteran thriller readers assuring themselves they have the who-dunnit figured out by the half way point.  You will be wrong, happily.  Completely wrong.

All the major players have their own motives, means and opportunities--but just when you think you know who the culprit is--the character just might get bumped off!

A merciless serial killer is haunting the cul-de-sacs of the metropolitan Seattle area, and local readers will enjoy the area tour as he weaves his web of deception and duplicity.

A misunderstanding at a school leaves a family shattered.  Unwanted shadows from the past haunt the present, and, of course, there is an ex-wife and her neighborhood gal-pals with which to contend.

O Brien plaits an intricate plot that will keep you guessing, literally to the last page, in this knuckle-biting, page turning, twisted, psychological killer-thriller.

If well crafted downright scary murder thrillers are part of your reading game, then Kevin O'Brien is a name that should be a regular on your reading list.

Paperback, widely available.  Support a local independent bookseller, help keep them in business!

Pinnacle (Kensington Press)
ISBN-13: 978-07680-2137-6         or
ISBN-10: 0-7860-2137-3

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Becoming Dad

Becoming a father is an easy thing:  Find a willing, fertile female, engage in unsafe and unprotected sexual activity, repeat as often as opportunity presents itself, and voila', you're a father.  It's easy, and it happens literally millions of times a year around the globe.  We are a remarkably fecund species.

Becoming a dad, on the other hand, requires some indoctrination.  It helps if you had a good example in your own life to use as a reference point, or missing that, knew someone who did.  I learned a little about being a dad from my own father, and dozens of other strong, faithful, giving men.  Men grown up from boys by the acceptance of responsibility, and the willingness to bear its weight.  My own dad wasn't a sophisticated man or well educated, but he and my mom worked hard and gave me every advantage they could.  Now, in retrospect, I understand how often this commitment was sacrificial in scope.

I was an adopted child, as long time readers of this blog will know, yet I was absolutely his son, no question, no doubt, no discussion.  Sometime in the future I will likely write the story of how I spent my summer vacation last year, when I met my natural mother, a brother and two sisters, and talk about the kind of forfeit that mother made, and the courage it takes to make such a decision.  But that is for a later time when my thoughts are more centered.  Today is about dads.

I became a father, well, step-father, in June of 1983.  I approached it from the inside-out.  I married a woman with three children, ranging from six to fourteen, and skipped the whole diaper-changing, bottle feeding, toddler-proofing era of fatherhood.  Sweet!  I got along with the ex, the in-laws liked me, this fatherhood thing was a snap.  Oh, to be sure, there were the cultural conflicts--I was a conservative Republican, they were all tree-hugging Commies, well, Democrats anyway.  They had different familial traditions, and the kids had the temerity to take the chicken breast portion at the dinner table without even asking.  I was eighteen before I got the chicken breast.  I ate the wings, gizzards, legs and thighs.  That was an adjustment.  Truth was, I didn't really like the breast meat all that much, it was just that I was the grown up and I was entitled.

Becoming Dad turned out to be mostly about passing tests.  For the fourteen year old boy, who had spent three years as the 'man of the house', I had to pass the sticky test.  Was I going to be there when it mattered?  Was I trustworthy?  Would I try to rigidly impose a new set of values contradicting their own?  (Yes; yes; the jury is still out.)

For the middle daughter some of the questions were similar, but less sophisticated.  Who was I and what was I doing living in her house?  Did she have to do what I said?

The youngest probably just wondered where the stability would come from in his life.

It is a truism that kids learn and take their cues from the influential adults in their lives, and fortunately for me, acceptance by grandparents, and even the divorced father, gave me a little extra leeway to make mistakes, adjustments and atonements, and over time I became accepted.

People who know me well, and more than a few that have crossed swords with me, know that I am fiercely loyal to my family and friends.  I had opportunities to demonstrate those loyalties, and the kids learned that they could call me any time of the day or night, for any reason and I would knock down the gates of Hell if need be to get to them with help.  What's more important is they know it is still true today.

My kids grew up & got married, I grew grey (not necessarily a cause and effect) and they became adults and parents of their own.  I was honored when they came to me in times of crisis, and I got my chance at changing diapers, feeding bottles, watching sitting up become crawling, then doodle-bugging, then walking, and just last Wednesday, graduating from eighth grade.  This is about where I came in.

My kids make me proud every day.  They slay dragons for their children, they shoulder the burdens willingly, they sacrifice themselves for their children, they touch my heart.  They worry about me and their mother and their ninety-two year old grandmother.  If only a pinch of this caring came from me, I am fulfilled.

Becoming Dad was about learning how to share love, instill faith and hope and a sense of duty and honor. Becoming Dad was also about learning to accept differences, respecting other opinions, and keeping my mouth shut when I desperately wanted to shout a warning that would not be heeded.  Becoming Dad is about understanding that there are lessons that cannot be taught, but can only be learned, even by a dad.

Thanks, kids, for the education.  I wouldn't change a single minute, for it is through the trials and triumphs we all have become who we are  I love you all, each and every one--not from the ties of blood--but the strings of my heart.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

So Faithful A Heart--by K. Lynette Erwin - Book Review

The full title of this book is, 'So Faithful A Heart:  The Love Story of Nancy Storace and Wolfgang Mozart', but it wouldn't fit in the header space.  In some ways this was groundbreaking for me technically.  I read this book via an Amazon Kindle app for my PC initially, and finished reading it using a similar app (both free) for my phone.  Yep, 150 pages or so read on my Droid.  Ain't technology grand?

If your idea of great music is 'Lynyrd Skynyrd' and great romance is 'The Batchelorette' you may stop reading here.  In fact it's possible you may have stopped reading altogether.  If, on the other hand, the soaring notes of Mozart's Requiem leave you breathless, as they do me, and the plight of Madama Butterfly in Puccini's opera brings tears to your eyes, then this is a book you want to read.

Writers of historical fiction usually take one of two paths; they put fictitious characters into real situations, or they have historical characters do things in an alternate reality.  K. Lynette Erwin, a noted Storace and Mozart historian, and a lyric soprano herself, chose a much more difficult path.  Part history sleuth, part imagineer, a she chose to portray what may very well have happened between these two rich historical figures.  She uses all the evidence she can muster and then creates a completely plausible story that brings dry facts to vivid life.

Mostly the public is aware of the sanitized version of Mozart's life, and perhaps a few myths or half-truths suggested by 'Amadeus', but Erwin leads us to a much deeper understanding of what was more likely, and her scholarship and research is evident on every page.

Make no mistake, this is a romance.  There are liaisons aplently that will raise the heart rate of fans of the genre, but sex is only a small part of the story.  What sets this apart from the crowded field of bodice rippers is two-fold.  First, these are real people, not the fantasy of some paint-by-numbers author cranking out another formula page-turner.  Second is the attention to detail and a sophisticated and nuanced approach to help us understand the time in which these people lived and the heart-wrenching sacrifices each made for the other.  Perhaps most importantly, this book reveals that true love triumphs over time and circumstance and lives on, even if only in the heart.

I spent years as a classical music broadcaster on radio (it's what you do when you have no musical talent, but love it nonetheless) so I am familiar with Mozart's work and story, yet time after time I was surprised and delighted by some new fact that illuminated such a storied life and glorious music.

Lovers of romance should be swept away by the scope and sensitivity of the portrayals in this book.  Lovers of great music and some of the forces that inform the work of composers touched by genius will find much to admire in this work.  Readers of an historical bent will relish with satisfaction the fine detail, and those who are touched by portrayals of the titanic forces of love, duty, honor and sacrifice will perhaps feel a tear or two slide silently down their cheek.  Open your heart and find a place for this book and it will open its heart to you.

Available in just about every format, including Kindle, Nook, Smashwords and as a trade paperback from  Should be easier to find than your car keys!

ISBN 978-0-557-35652-2
Copyright K. Lynette Erwin (Standard Copyright License)
Edition Second Edition
Publisher Alla Breve

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

'House Divided' a Joe DeMarco Thriller by Mike Lawson--Book Review

Joe DeMarco has a week off.  His boss, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, is out of town, and Joe wants to play golf.  As the shadowy 'fixer' for the Speaker, the guy that gets things done that shouldn't see the light of day, this rare opportunity is not to be missed.  His gal pal, a CIA operative, is on assignment too, so nothing should come between his pitching wedge and a bucket of balls-except murder.  Specifically the murder of his nephew, an innocuous hospice nurse in Washington D.C.

The Deputy Director of the NSA, after politically embarrassing revelations of illegal wiretaps on U.S. citizens forces changes in public policy, concludes that the only patriotic solution is to ignore the law and create a black-op division hidden in plain sight (as much as the NSA is ever in plain sight).  During an illegal surveillance they intercept communications that implicate another U.S. entity with military connections.  It may be responsible for a murder, or murders, and it might just be led by someone very powerful at the Pentagon, who seems to be tasking members of the army 'Old Guard'--sentinels at the Tomb of the Unknowns--for an illicit agenda of his own.  Being illegal themselves, they can't very well just turn it over to the Justice Department, so NSA sets up a black-op sting operation of it's own.

Joe, meanwhile, trying to quickly tie up the loose ends of his nephew's affairs finds himself drawn deeper into a scenario that just doesn't pass the smell test.  Ordinary nurses don't usually draw the scrutiny of the FBI within minutes of discovery of the crime.  As he tries to sort out the mystery, the web of conspiracies deepens and he's soon inextricably enmeshed in a titanic struggle of egos and agencies all trying to prevail while remaining cloaked in a shroud of secrecy.

DeMarco knows full well that in any fishing trip being the bait is never a winning strategy,  nonetheless he finds himself helplessly forced into the role, with the NSA as the fishers, and the Pentagon as the lunker.  House Divided races inexorably, with gathering speed and action-packed excitement, toward an unnerving conclusion loaded with tightly plotted twists, memorable sinister characters and a singularly disquieting imagination of just how vulnerable we all are in this age of electronic eavesdropping and satellite tracking, no matter how well informed or connected we think we may be.

Mike Lawson, in his sixth installment of the Joe DeMarco series, has demonstrated once again his mastery of the political thriller and an enviable ability to make believable characters jump off the pages and into our own adrenaline rush to turn the pages to find out what happens next.  Buy and read this book thriller junkies, it won't disappoint.

House Divided  (tentative release date July 2011)
by Mike Lawson  (click for FB link)

Atlantic Monthly Press (Grove/Atlantic, Inc.)
ISBN -13:  978-0-8021-1978-0