Book Review: The Witch of Lime Street

TheWitchofLimeSt

RATING: 3.5 STARS

In the 1920’s, the public wanted mystics, spiritualists and mediums. Harry Houdini, the world’s best magician fed his fans with his unbelievable feats. and his repertoire of his tricks including his “mentalist” ability, causing people to believe he could converse with the dead. Actually, he didn’t do either one. Like all magicians, he performed his magic and tricked audiences by using misdirection and trickery.

Several of Houdini’s fans included famous people – including Arthur Conan Doyle. Conan Doyle, the master of British crime fiction, was desperate to believe he could communicate with his dead son. Houdini  and Conan Doyle had their own opinions on the subject and each had their own following of fans.

Houdini was very close to his mother. After his mother passed away, he hoped to communicate with her one last time, even though he knew his performances were strictly a show. He was determined to stop people from using their logical emotions and place them under his “spell”, so he could continue to enjoy his success.

The 1920’s were an age when spiritualism became not only a pseudo-religion but was also considered a science. Prominent institutions such as Harvard University set up a Parapsychology Department. Scientific American,  a well-respected scientific publication even offered a reward for anyone proving they were truly a medium.

The Witch of Lime Street,  Margery, claimed she could communicate with the dead, and bring back the spirit of her deceased brother, Howard. Through endless séances , Howard continued to “materialize” and perform the “tricks” the researchers had contrived to prove he was real. One the tricks involved Mary exuding  ectoplasm – a supernatural viscous substance which appears to exude from Mary’s body during a spiritualistic trance, demonstrating the manifestation of spirits.coming out of her vagina.

Mr. Jaher’s book is well researched and gives the reader an in-depth look into the spiritualism craze that swept the world during the early 20th century. In the end, he discusses Margery’s final séances but doesn’t offer any final conclusions, allowing the reader to make his own decision.

The book was interesting,  yet lengthy and repetitive at times. Margery’s “performances” and the research around them went on for years, often several times a week. Mr. Jaher recounted as many of them as he could. I enjoyed the beginning and ending of the book, but the middle part could have been trimmed significantly if Mr. Jaher only included those séances where something new happened.  I recommend this book for Houdini fans and those interested in 1920’s mysticism.

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Kiss Me When I’m Dead

KissMeDead

 

RATING: 5 STARS

If you’re a fan of pulp noir fiction, you’ll love this thriller. Set in modern London, Kiss Me When I’m Dead is a detective novel narrated by the main protagonist, Daniel Beckett. He’s a womanizing, witty private detective with an air of mystery and street savvy that hints to a darker, immoral past. The narration is written in a stream of consciousness style, similar to Raymond Chandler’s hard-boiled detective fiction. In between searching for clues, he hooks up with many dangerous women. The continuous action captivated me to read “just one more chapter”…. yet I read it beyond the next chapter, until the end. There are some (non-gratuitous) sex scenes throughout the book, but it was presented in a tasteful manner

This tightly written, suspenseful novel with sharp dialogue and an unexpected ending is highly recommended for lovers of pulp fiction detective stories.

 

Book Review: Fighting For Devlin

FightingForDevlin

RATING: 4 STARS

Fighting for Devlin is Jessica Lemon’s first appearance into the world of New Adult fiction. Thankfully, it’s far from the standard college campus NA love story, it’s much more of a real life scenario. Rena, a waitress who is a good girl with a wild side, falls for her boss, Devlin, a wealthy restaurant owner, who inherited the restaurant from his family, along with inheriting his father’s involvement with illegal activities.

Although there is plenty of physical chemistry, I wanted to see a deeper emotional relationship and more fleshed out character development. Yet, it’s a fun quick read I couldn’t put down. I’d recommend it for those who like the “good girl goes for bad boy” trope. I’m looking forward to her next book. Hopefully, Lemmon will add a bit more depth to her characters, which is why I deducted one star. Overall, Fighting For Devlin is a fun, romantic novel which will entice you to read more. Best of all, Lemmon gives the reader a complete ending but leaves it opened up enough for her next book.

Review: French Illusions – 4 stars

FrenchIlusions

RATING: 4 STARS

Linda Kovic-Skow’s dream is to become an international stewardess. Yet, one of the requirements of this job is that she must be bi-lingual – fluent English and at least one another language – preferably Spanish, French or German. Linda is determined to learn French and concocts a plan to make it happen. She applies for a job as an Au-Pair in France and learn French along the way. She lies on her application by stating she speaks French. She is hired and doesn’t reveal she isn’t fluent in French until she meets her future employers in person. Her future employers are a wealthy French family who live in a castle in the Loire Valley and aren’t amused to discover she isn’t fluent in French. Since no other Au-Pairs are available, they decide to let her stay, only if she attends French language courses in nearby Tours.

The story was interesting up until the end, when it ended abruptly,leaving many questions about her love interests. In order to find out what happens next,  you need to buy her next book. Unfortunately, this seems to be a trend in book publishing lately. The author should resolve the end of story, but leave some parts unresolved for a future book, not end the book in the middle of the ending.  I deducted one star for this reason. Overall, French Illusions: My Story as an Au-Pair in the Loire Valley is an entertaining book.

Review: Yes, My Accent Is Real

YesMyAccent

RATING: 4 STARS

Right from the outset, Kunal Nayyar aka “Raj” from the popular TV show The Big Bang Theory, lets us know Yes, My Accent Is Real, isn’t exactly a memoir. It’s more of an entertaining collection of the mishaps, adventures and friendships of his life. Told with a sense of self-deprecating humor, fond memories are shared from his Indian childhood and his Oregon college years,  before his success as an actor. He writes about his extravagant seven-day Indian wedding to the former Miss India. His personal essays of his youth gives us insight to his feelings of awkwardness.  

“The truth is I wasn’t great at understanding sarcasm, which seemed to be the root of all their jokes, so I just ended up laughing constantly at things I had no idea about… . because I was not standing directly in front of them or in the circle of people surrounding them, I now realize I just looked like the guy who enjoyed laughing at walls.”

Nearly everyone can relate to his awkward teenage moments, which makes this book so down to earth. This is an sincere collection of stories, where Kunal isn’t afraid to show his own flaws. The book is a quick, enjoyable read.

I received a ARC through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: 100 Deadly Skills: The SEAL OP’s Guide to Surviving Dangerous and Not So Dangerous Situations

100DeadlySkills

RATING: 4 STARS

Release date: October 16, 2015

100 DEADLY SKILLS by Clint Emerson, Ret. Navy SEAL contains many techniques used by The SEALS which can be applied for civilian use. The techniques are presented in a simple manner, making it easy to understand.  One page describes a brief explanation of a particular skill, followed by a page of step-by-step graphic presentation. The intent of his book is to teach survival skills, so you have the power of knowledge to effectively counter the methods of sinister people. Emerson refers to the use of these skills typical of the “Violent Nomad.”

The most useful information are the skills needed to solve most common inconvenient scenarios. Some of these skills include what to do if you’re locked out of your house or hotel, how to hide items in your hotel room or how to defeat a padlock. Most everything in the non-life threatening section is based on common-sense and a bit of MacGyver ingenuity.

MacGyver, source: www.5au.com
MacGyver, source: http://www.5au.com

I deducted two stars because because the book goes from the sublime to the ridiculous. In the first half of the book, Emerson describes basic emergency survival skills, such as how to create an everyday kit, how to conceal escape tools, how to pick locks and how to construct a rectal concealment. I think the how-to on rectal concealment would be more appropriate in the life-threatening scenarios section. In the second half of the book, he describes life threatening scenarios, such as how to evade a kidnapper, how to steal a plane or rappel down the side of a building. I think the book should have focused on either basic or worse case survival skills, not both. It was overall a useful informational book, good for survivalists and wanna-be spies.

I received an ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Walk Through Fire – Motorcycle Gang Romance

WalkThruFire

RATING: 4  STARS            

Publisher: Forever – Grand Central  

For ages 18 y.o +

Release Date: October 27, 2015

Walk Through Fire is the fourth book in The Chaos Series by Kristen Ashley. Motorcycle gang romance novels are not my genre of choice, but I gave this book a chance. Chaos is the Motorcycle Club where the main character, Millie, returns to reconnect with her ex-boyfriend, High. At first, High is a complete jerk when he first sees her. She walked out on High when he was in love with her twenty years ago, without explanation. Now,  Millie is ready to explain herself.

The first half of the book is intense with plenty of tension. Raw, painful feelings are exposed. Millie and High’s desire is palpable when they lash out at each other. Both of them have a lot of hot angry sex, before we understand why Millie left. What is her secret and why did she leave High years ago?

The pace of the first half of the book finds Millie and High sorting out their pain and dealing with a love that never died. The second half focuses on their rebuilding a life together. Kristen Ashley captured the biker dialogue pretty well. Throughout the entire book, I  envisioned Sam Elliot as High,  with his deep, booming voice.

Bikers Sam Elliot and Cher from the film
Bikers Sam Elliot and Cher from the film “Mask.” Source: wlbpa.org

I’d highly recommend this entertaining, emotional book. Walk Through Fire is easy to read as  a stand alone book, even though this is the fourth one in the Chaos Series. Now, I need to read the entire series from the beginning, since I enjoyed it so much.

ARC courtesy of publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: She’s Not Herself

ShesNotHerself

RATING: 3.5 STARS

She’s Not Herself: A Psychotherapist’s Journey Into and Beyond Her Mother’s Mental Illness is Linda A. Shapiro’s memoir of growing up with a mother who suffered from severe depression or bipolar disorder. Growing up in a wealthy family, as a first generation Jew in New York, her father is oblivious of the emotional damage Linda and her brother suffers on a daily basis. Her father’s explanation for her mother’s erratic behavior is that “She’s having one of those days.”  She delves into the devastating effects her mother’s illness had upon her own self-image and self-worth. Over time, Linda overcame her problems and marries, has children and becomes a successful Psychologist.

Occasionally the writing is dense, yet it’s an insightful, heart-wrenching memoir of growing up with a mentally ill mother.

I received a copy of the book from Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

Review: This is Your Life, Harriet Chance – 5 STARS

ThisisyourlifeHarriet

RATING: 5  STARS

Jonathan Evison drew me into his bittersweet novel, This is Your Life, Harriet Chance,  right away with his unusual protagonist, Harriet Chance, who reflects about the trivial and highlights of her life which didn’t turn out according to her plans. As a widow of two years , still exhausted after caring for Bernard, her Alzheimer’s afflicted husband, she discovers he entered a drawing for an Alaskan cruise – and won. She uses this opportunity to scatter his ashes, with dreams of moving on into her twilight years. Harriet believes Bernard visits her frequently and speaks with him,  as if he were still alive. These conversations reflect the highs and lows of her life, alternating between sweet and  sad.  During the cruise, a lifetime of deception is revealed to her.

The narration jumps from Harriet at age nineteen, then to Harriet at age sixty. The out-of-order narration style often distracts in most stories,  but Evison’s choice of this narration complements the ups and downs of Harriet’s life. Harriet is endearing, but not without faults of her own. Sometimes she is the victim and other times the perpetrator of wrongs done to others. Above all,  Harriet is human, and Evison captures the joys and regrets of a twentieth century woman’s life.

This is a charming novel about soldiering on through disappointment, when your dreams don’t work out as you had hoped, and how love can both surprise and injure us. .Highly recommend.