Saturday, February 28, 2015

The pink hair is so last week

Holly Cramer has a history of making bad decisions in Twisted Innocence.  The recent birth of her daughter, Lily, has made her grow up in a hurry.   She's working two jobs: one doing some private investigative work for her sister's boyfriend and the other driving a cab.  When she gets mugged while driving the cab, she begins to once again question her life choices.  Things only get worse when the police show up to talk to her.  She thinks it's news about the people who mugged her, but instead they want to know if she knows the whereabouts of Creed Kershaw.  Creed is Lily's father, but after their one night stand, Holly hasn't seen him again.  It turns out there's been a drug-related murder, and Creed is the prime suspect.  To make things worse, Holly finds out that an acquaintance has told Creed that Lily is his daughter, so she's doing her best to keep her distance from him.

Holly's two sisters are also going through rough patches.  Juliet is a single mother struggling to raise 3 kids after the death of her husband.  The third sister, Cathy, has also lost her significant other:  her fiance Joe Hogan was murdered, and she's now engaged to his brother Michael (who owns the private investigative agency).  Unfortunately, Michael is in prison, incarcerated on questionable grounds.  Cathy spends her days assembling media packets and writing letters to the governor in an attempt to get Michael released.

Holly's impulsive nature leads her to try to track down Creed herself, and results in her and Lily being "kidnapped" by him.  He is on the run not from the police, but from the criminal gang he insists framed him for the murder.  It turns out he may of knowledge of how to find Leonard Miller, the man responsible for Joe's death and Michael's imprisonment.  Can they find the killer, get Michael released from prison and keep baby Lily safe?

I enjoyed the story, but since this book is the third in a series, it feels a little like walking in on the middle of a play!  Still, the back story is pretty well explained and the pacing of the events keep you interested to find out what will happen next.  The book includes some Discussion Questions at the end for further exploration of the events and themes of the novel.

Disclaimer:  I received a copy of Twisted Innocence from BookLook Bloggers in exchange for this review

Monday, February 9, 2015

Did you lock your house? Doesn't matter

Did you change your house keys when you moved in?  You will definitely consider doing so after
reading A Pleasure and a Calling by Phil Hogan.  William Heming is a real estate agent who prides himself on his unremarkability.  People never remember him, which suits Mr. Heming just fine.  He has worked his way up to owning the agency, and he's very successful.  This is useful to him, not just financially, but because it allows him increased opportunities to pursue his greatest hobby.  Mr. Heming keeps all the keys from the properties he sells.  He watches the new homeowners to determine their habits, and when he's sure the properties are empty, he lets himself in for a leisurely snoop around.  He often takes meals in some of his "favorite" properties.  He never gets caught, but surely the possibility is part of the thrill.


While observing one of "his properties," he sees a married man who seems to be having a fairly intimate meeting with an attractive young woman.  He becomes obsessed with finding out if they are having an affair.  Soon, he is infatuated with the woman, Abigail, and determines to somehow get her away from the cheating husband.

Abigail's property isn't one of "his" so he comes up with a daring plan to get her key so he can copy it and explore her home.  He eventually achieves this, even hiding at the home when she's there (to better observe her routines).  Unfortunately, he miscalculates during one of his explorations, and this requires him to go to extraordinary lengths to keep his secrets from being exposed.  

William is certainly a fascinating character.  In telling his story, we get glimpses into his childhood which help to explain why he is the warped person he is today.  Odd as he is, he seems to appear "normal" because he has no problem in attracting female attention (when he's not trying to be invisible, that is!).  Still, the ladies would do well to steer clear of this character, and certainly not to ever try to beat him at his own game . . .

I really enjoyed the events leading up to the conclusion, but when Heming was under pressure, his attempts to cover his tracks and mislead investigators got a bit confusing.  It was certainly an interesting premise, and the deluded character of Mr. Heming (who keeps telling himself that he only wants to observe, not cause any harm) is a memorable one.  This would make an interesting film -- one that would surely inspire a great deal of unease about what may be going on in your home after you leave for the day.

Final Verdict for A Pleasure and a Calling: Three Gherkins, for being a creepy look at the activities of a less-than-benign invisible man

Monday, February 2, 2015

Superlatives abound

Any book about London is OK by me, so I was thrilled to find this little gem of a book on my most recent visit last November (although the shop where I found it, The Book Warehouse, is sadly apparently closing soon -- if it hasn't already).  The London Book of Lists includes (according to the subtitle) "fascinating facts, little-known oddities, & unique places to visit."  It's always nice to find a book about London that presents facts in an interesting way, and this book certainly fits the bill!

The book isn't really divided into categories -- one interesting page of facts simply follows the next, although there is a "Fast Fact" of fascinating information on nearly every page.  My favorite of these is the fact that the Duke of Westminster offered to sell the US the land that the American Embassy is located on, if the US would return the land his family lost in the Revolutionary War.  The US didn't take him up on the offer, since this mainly encompassed the state of Tennessee.  It might have made for an interesting geographic feature if it had worked out!

Some of my favorite lists include "Who's Buried Where," an overview of the major cemeteries and the famous inhabitants to be found within; "Infamous Murders and their Locations," proving Jack the Ripper doesn't have a monopoly on gruesome murder sites; and "The 15 Oldest Stores" still operating in London (the oldest dates from 1676).

The book is packed full of fascinating facts and information, but there are also plenty of lists that are subjective, such as "London's Best Markets" or "The Best Fish and Chip Shops."  Still, it gives you a background on the places mentioned, as well as addresses to look them up on your next visit.  I also enjoyed the "first person accounts" included of such things as the plague and Victorian-era slums.  It's one thing to read a modern perspective of terrible places and events, and quite another to re-live them through the eyes of those who were there.

Plenty of statistics are also to be found, including those involving the Underground, The River Thames, and Westminster Abbey.  Along with the numerous photos (all in black and white), this book is a handy and fascinating look at all aspects of London.  The disclaimer by the authors at the front of the book states that they have done their best to compile the facts in the book -- even when older claims are hard to verify or sources disagree.  They invite comments on their Facebook and Twitter accounts, so we can hope this means that if there is enough interest there might be an updated and expanded second edition sometime it the near future!

Final Verdict for London Book of Lists:  Five Gherkins, for being a fun and useful look at some of the more unusual aspects of the capital