Saturday, October 31, 2015


The Alexandrite: A time-travel noirThe Alexandrite: A Time-Travel Noir by Rick Lenz
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Every once in a while I am asked to review a book as opposed to the ones I request from NetGalley. Most of the time I am disappointed. The plotting and writing can be uneven. On the other hand I have sometimes discovered a gem I might otherwise have missed. That is certainly the case with this book by Rick Lenz.

The cover identifies The Alexandrite as 'a time travel noir'. I have read a few time travel stories with varying degrees of satisfaction, but time travel seems to be having a moment so I thought, "Why not?"

My two basic requests of any book are interesting writing and something I haven't seen before. The Alexandrite fullfills that criteria and so much more. Rather than an imitation of any of the time travel stories with which I am familiar, it is a completely original, wonderful surprise.

THE STORY: Actor Jack Cade, is adrift. At 40, he has nothing to show but a life that is falling apart. He's having nightmares; he loses a part in a play that didn't even pay; and his wife feels they need time away from each other.

When a mysterious pawn ticket turns up in the mail, it redeems a valuable Alexandrite ring. The changing colors of the stone foreshadow the twists and turns that Jack's life will take.

Then an unexpected invitation to meet with a psychophysicist sends Jack traveling back in time where he not only meets Marilyn Monroe but gets himself killed several times before emerging to a better life.

WHAT I THOUGHT: Even though time travel is popular these days, Rick Lenz has fashioned a completely original story. His slightly off-track narrator confesses he is "barely holding it together" but he serves as an excellent guide through old Hollywood commenting on what has been replaced and what used to be.

Told with a lot of dark humor and angst, The Alexandrite is a compelling tale that is difficult to put down. Skillfully plotted, all the threads of the story weave together to make this a most worthy read.

FIRST SENTENCE: "At some unidentified point during the first time I live through the following events, it becomes as clear as my muddled brain has ever experienced clarity that most of us do not see what we see or hear what we hear; in fact, we can't tell what's going on right in front of us."

BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended. You will want to take this journey. (Besides, as it turns out Alexandrite is my alternate June birthstone.)

DISCLAIMER: Invited by the author to read his book and provide an honest review.

Title: The Alexandrite
Author: Rick Lenz
Genre: Time Travel Noir
Publisher: Chromodroid Press
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
No. of Pages: 234 pages
Copyright: August 13, 2015
ISBN-10: 1514135744
ISBN-13: 978-1514135747

Rick Lenz is a jack of all trades in show business: actor, artist, and author. Besides plays he has also written a well-received personal memoir, North of Hollywood. When Lenz is not riding away on his next kaleidoscopic quest, he can be found painting, playing the piano, or reading at home with his beloved wife, Linda. Come to to discover Rick's blog, books, art, and interviews.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Catching My Breath & Getting Organized

I never seem to be able to curb my enthusiasm for new books, which I don't have enough hours in the day to read.

This bothers me the most when I have requested an interesting title from NetGalley with the very best intentions. And I must confess I have fallen behind again.

Currently I am reading a physical book, provided by the author, called The Alexandrite by Rick Lenz (2015). It's a time travel noir that I am finding quite fascinating.

On my Kindle awaiting me are My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem (on sale today), Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning by Timothy Snyder (went on sale September 8), and The Passenger by Lisa Lutz (not on sale until March 1, 2016). If that doesn't sound eclectic, I'll throw out our book group selection for November, On Canan's Side by Sebastian Barry (2011).

Friday, October 23, 2015


Dark CornersDark Corners by Ruth Rendell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ruth Rendell's last book reminded me why I have read so many of her stories (some written as Barbara Vine). She leads the reader down a normal path that somehow spirals to despair and worse.

THE STORY: Carl Martin's father has died leaving him a lovely London house and it's contents. As a newly published author, he lacks the money necessary to maintain the property without taking in a boarder. This begins a series of mistakes Carl makes that totally change the course of his life.

Like many of us, Carl tends to overlook simple tasks. Rather than dispose of odd medicines his father collected, he ignores them as he unsuccessfully pushes himself to work on a new book.

Then he makes his first real mistake. He rents his upstairs to the wrong person to allow into his life. Dermot McKinnon seems to be harmless, if annoying, but he pays his rent on time.

Dermot works the front desk of a veterinarian's office. Rendell uses that office as a way to connect the various characters and move the plot along.

To say much more would spoil the experience for the reader. 

WHAT I THOUGHT: I've always appreciated how Ruth Rendell's stories can take the reader inside the mind of others who think differently. The way she assembles small, inauspicious happenings creates a sense of dread. Between blackmail, murders, and unplanned deaths, Rendell creates a story of dark comedy, an intricate web of calculated and accidental intersections with a warning about the destruction that can result from keeping secrets.

The final sentence in the book seemed a fitting ending to the career of a mystery writing legend. “Now it’s all over.”

Ruth Rendell died in May. She wrote the Inspector Wexford novels (made into a television series), stand-alone suspense novels, and psychological thrillers under the Barbara Vine pseudonym.

FIRST SENTENCE: "For many years Wilfred Martin collected samples of alternative medicines, homeopathic remedies, and herbal pills."

BOTTOM LINE: Highly recommended. If you've never read a Ruth Rendell tale, you might check out this article that recommends five excellent choices.

DISCLAIMER: Invited by NetGalley to request and receive this title for an honest review.

Title: Dark Corners
Author: Ruth Rendell
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Thriller
Publisher: Scribner
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
No. of Pages: 240 pages
Copyright: October 27, 2015
ISBN-10: 1501119427
ISBN-13: 978-1501119422

Ruth Rendell (1930 - 2015) won three Edgar Awards, the highest accolade from Mystery Writers of America, as well as four Gold Daggers and a Diamond Dagger for outstanding contributions to the genre from England's prestigious Crime Writers' Association. Her remarkable career spanned a half century, with more than sixty books published. A member of the House of Lords, she was one of the great literary figures of our time." (from the book)

Friday, October 9, 2015


The Color of Water in JulyThe Color of Water in July by Nora Carroll
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What attracted me to this book was the Northern Michigan setting, but the story was what kept me reading. There are only so many stories. It's how they are told that makes the difference.

THE STORY:  Jess is 33 and has just inherited a big Victorian cottage she hopes to sell so she will finally have some money to comfortably cushion her ordinary life in New York City. Reluctantly returning to Journey's End after so many years, however, awakens yearnings for lost opportunities, family secrets, and old loves.

WHAT I THOUGHT: Carefully plotted, the reader finds clues from the memories of two women separated in time by many years. The story belongs to Jess, but the revelations come from Mamie, her grandmother. The story is not as predictable as one might assume and there is some lovely writing.
"I call that summer blue, the color of water in July - all of promise wrapped up in it, and every disappointment too."
 "It had turned August now, you could feel it right away, the lack of sincerity of summer, the hint that it was already planning to leave."
The Northern Michigan setting is a character as well and capable of inducing all sorts of nostalgic memories of summers by the water. It is obvious that the author knows and loves this part of Michigan.

The message of the book is an important one. Hold on to what matters. The trick is to find out what truly matters.

FIRST SENTENCE: "There must be a precise moment when wet cement turns dry, when it no longer accepts footprints or scratched-in declarations of love; an ordinary moment, unnoticed, just like any."

BOTTOM LINE: After reading this book, I immediately requested permission to download the author's second book Academy Girls and loved that as well! Highly recommended.

DISCLAIMER: Invited by Net Galley to request and receive this title for an honest review.

Title: The Color of Water in July
Author: Nora Carroll
Genre: Mystery, Suspense, Chic-Lit
Publisher:  Lake Union Publishing
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
No. of Pages:235 pages
Copyright: August 18, 2015
ISBN-10: 1503945634
ISBN-13: 978-1503945630

"Nora Carroll is a pseudonym for #1 New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Letts. As Nora Carroll, she writes multi-layered novels filled with the things she loves most-- rambling houses, old letters and manuscripts, and most importantly, the mysteries of love, women, and family." (from Amazon)

Sunday, October 4, 2015


Academy GirlsAcademy Girls by Nora Carroll
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A perfect book to read on a crisp autumn day! Filled with poetry, mystery, and the angst of young women, this book will appeal to those who want a lighter version in the vein of Donna Tart's The Secret History or have enjoyed Carol Goodman's Lake of Dead Languages.

THE STORY:  Thirty-five years after leaving, Jane Milton has come back to Grove Academy with her teen-aged son Charlie. Their world has collapsed and she has one last chance to put it back together. Given the opportunity to teach English, for which she is totally unprepared, Jane fights to overcome her memories of dark secrets in the past. When her least favorite student starts submitting stories that seem all too familiar, Jane knows she has to discover the truth before it is too late.

WHAT I THOUGHT: Told in the present and the past, the layers of deception and deceit are slowly pealed away. The reader becomes invested in the characters. And the poetry of Emily Dickinson woven through the story is a wonderful bonus to this truly compelling mystery.

FIRST SENTENCE: "At the Grove Academy, we learned three immutable lessons" literature is a kind of religion, only failures get married, and though we would eventually leave the academy, the spirit of the Grove would always stay with us."

BOTTOM LINE: I have read that you should write the book that you would want to read. Nora Carroll has written that book for me. Gothic, mysterious, and in a beautiful private school setting, this was a book I didn't want to put down until there were no more pages left.

DISCLAIMER: Invited by Net Galley to request and receive this title for an honest review.

Title: Academy Girls
Author: Nora Carroll
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
Publisher:  Lake Union Publishing
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
No. of Pages:512 pages
Copyright: September 15, 2015
ISBN-10: 1503947440
ISBN-13: 978-1503947443

"Nora Carroll is a pseudonym for #1 New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Letts. As Nora Carroll, she writes multi-layered novels filled with the things she loves most-- rambling houses, old letters and manuscripts, and most importantly, the mysteries of love, women, and family." (from Amazon)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

September Update 2015

Well, here we are weeks later, and I still have not delivered on my promises from last month. And, I have a new group of books out of the library besides what's on my Kindle waiting for me. Right now I am reading John Henry Hepp, IV's The Middle Class City: Transforming Space and Time in Philadelphia 1876 - 1926, which is helping me place my ancestors in historical context. Then there's waiting for me Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, Julia Pierpont's Among the Ten Thousand Things, and Patti Smith's Just Kids, which I read a few years ago but want to re-read.

I've been reading Slave: My True Story by Mende Nazer and Damien Lewis for October's book gathering on my Kindle as well as a new Nora Carroll called Academy Girls.

Now if I could just get those pesky reviews written, I might make some progress!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

August was a Lovely Month

No, not the title of a book. Just an excuse for not having posted for a while.

In the meantime, I have been reading but very slowly. I'm working on a review of Among Others (Jo Walton), currently reading The Color of Water in July (Nora Carroll), and just added Eileen (Ottessa Moshfegh) to my Good Reads list.