Tag Archives: fiction

A Tip for the Hangman by Allison Epstein- a Review

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I got this book from Barnes and Noble when they had all their hardbacks on sale for half-price after Christmas. I really racked up that day as I had a gift card and some cash gifts to spend on me and book stores are my jam.

The cover of this book drew me in immediately. I like the Tudor era and have read a lot of both fiction and nonfiction set in that time period.  This one was fiction and about Christopher Marlowe. A lot of the story was clearly historically inaccurate, but that didn’t take away from the tale at all.

The author placed Kit in interesting situations, including the plot with Babington and Mary, Queen of Scots.  I liked that she did that as it made the history of the time period (with artistic license, of course) more vivid, especially with the description of the beheading of the prisoner queen. It was visceral for the reader and emotional for our protagonist.

One of the things that made me sad and hurt a lot for Marlowe was the way he was treated by the people he was recruited to work for as a spy. They were unkind and basically treated him like he was less than human. It was as if they had no idea he had feelings and loved ones. All they wanted was what they wanted with no regard for him as a person. I imagine that part was definitely historically accurate. Him being in the corridors of power must have really rankled with some of the people who deemed themselves above him. The class system was in full swing—as I’m sure is still true in some areas of the world but it hurt my heart to read how badly he was treated when all he wanted to do was help his country and he kept his loyalties to the crown even in the face of this terrible treatment.

The author, Allison Epstein, did a marvelous job in making this time period come alive. In some passages, I could swear I smelled the stench of the streets, the pubs and the jail cell. Dingy, dark alleys evoked creepiness and the castles with candles and stoic, cruel men were easy to visualize as well. The memory of Fotheringay Castle with its dead queen on the floor, bloodied and surrounded by beads of her rosary lived on in the mind of our protagonist as well as this reader.

Overall, this was a good story. I can’t really say I enjoyed it due to the sadness and the way poor Kit was treated. And, we all know how Marlowe’s life ended, so reading the book with that inevitable ending in mind, I’d have to say that even though it was not a pleasant read, it was compelling and I’m glad I picked it up. I recommend it as a must-read, but be ready to be appalled by man’s inhumanity to man…even in a work of fiction.

The Blitz Bus by Glen Blackwell

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I received a copy of this book in exchange for a fair review.

This middle grade book is a good one for children to learn about the London Blitz and WWII days of 1940. The main characters, Jack and Emmie are in modern day London and Jack is assigned to write an essay about the London Blitz and how a lot of children were evacuated to the countryside during that time. Meanwhile, in Emmie’s drama class, they are acting out the children leaving their parents.

Jack has a hard time envisioning the city at that time and is kept back at school that afternoon to finish his paper,, making him almost late to meet his friend Emmie. 

When they are finally on the bus headed home, they look out and see a shop they haven’t seen before.  In the window is a mannequin who has a gas mask.

Exiting the bus, there is a large unexplained bang. It’s raining and they take shelter at a tube station. Everyone is dressed differently than Emmie and Jack. There are cots set up in the station. The two children think they’ve stumbled onto a film set. Until very real bombs start falling and they find themselves in the middle of an air raid.

They make friends with a boy in the shelter, but don’t tell him they have somehow come from another time period.

The adventure really begins here. Jack and Emmie discover food lines, cratered buildings, rationing, bombs, anti-aircraft balloons, air raid shelters in yards, and, as well, have to hide from authorities. They fear spies are around and being taken for spies themselves with their modern items like Jack’s calculator. They find some help from their new friend, Jan, a boy from Poland.  

Even though I am nowhere near the age for middle grade stories, I enjoy them and this one was particularly good. The fact that the children were studying this era in school and couldn’t imagine how people were living and then were transported there is very educational—yet done in a fun way—A lot of interesting historical facts came through in a way that entertains and would have a younger reader on the edge of their seat worried about the two protagonists and how they would solve their problems as well as how they would be able to get back to their own time period.

The only thing I would have liked to be added to the story would be an epilogue of the children finding the friends they made in the 21st century when the friends were elderly. That would have been a fun ending. Overall, I was happy with the story and would recommend it to the middle grade age group as a history lesson full of interesting reading that will hold their interest.

Blurb- The Eisenger Element

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Here is the official blurb for The Eisenger Element.  I’ll share a pic or two of New Orleans as well.

Blurb:

She thought she was ready for the hard cases, but that was before she met him…

Emilia Hammond recently earned her gold shield as a detective with the New Orleans police department and is working on her first assignment, eager to prove herself capable of handling her promotion. After a series of attacks on prostitutes in the French Quarter, she finds herself going undercover to investigate. In the process, she’s called to the scene of a murder at an attorney’s office. She has a good lead, a solid case, until her prime suspect turns the tables on her.

He’s trying to clear his innocent brother, and now he’s a murder suspect himself…

Attorney Lincoln Eisenger is from a prominent New Orleans Garden District family. His brother Myles is in Angola Prison for a murder he didn’t commit. Linc is determined to clear his brother’s name and bring him home. But when his law partner is killed, Linc becomes the prime suspect. Now he has to clear himself as well as his brother, all the while trying to ignore the sparks igniting between him and the spunky female detective he thought was a prostitute.

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Book Review- Blood Money

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thI love James Grippando and his Jack Swytek series of novels. If you haven’t read any of these, you’re really missing out. The latest installment, Blood Money, is clearly inspired by the Casey Anthony trial. There are too many similarities to miss. This is clearly a fiction tale and it’s cool how he used this trial to build a thrilling story around some of the facts. I love how Mr. Grippando even made a word play on the horrific Nancy Grace by naming his media shark Faith Corso. That cracked me up. First of all, because the character was clearly based on that odious woman and the last name of Corso made me think of coarse which she is. (Remember, all this is my opinion only-if you like this woman, that’s your prerogative. I don’t).

This book is a fast read and very exciting. I don’t want to give any spoilers so I won’t say much about the plot but this one is packed with lots of angles and turns. I was a little disappointed in a couple of things that never seemed to get resolved and I would’ve liked to know the answers to those questions. It was nothing that took away from the final solution to the whodunit but there were threads left hanging that didn’t please me. There was also the matter of something that niggled at me about Swyteck’s client, Sydney. She acted in a way that didn’t make sense to me. After learning what kind of person she was, I had a hard time reconciling her willingness to do a certain thing with what we learn about her on the journey, but all in all, this was a fun read with enough twists and turns to satisfy the toughest critic.

The story has Mr. Grippando’s usual wit with his main protagonist, Jack and his best friend, Theo. These two characters are larger than life and I adore how they play off each other and the way the zingers keep coming even when they are inthe midst of trouble. I recommend this one. Highly.

Fiction versus Nonfiction

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Herb Garden

I prefer fiction although I read both. I think I like the escapism that fiction provides. I have a high stress day job and fiction helps me relax after a day of dealing with other people’s problems. I do like non-fiction history books, biographies and the books I use for research for my own novels. I’m currently enraptured by books about the Queen Mary and books dealing with herbal medicine as they are useful for my current works in progress.

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