Saturday, May 22, 2010

'Pecos Valley Revival', 2011, Alice Duncan, Five Star/Cengage

In 1923 Annabelle Blue is 19 when she and her friend Myrtle watch the fall cattle drive coming through Rosedale, New Mexico. Ranches within hundreds of miles participate, culminating in a rodeo and big party that lasts for days. But this October there is another entertaining event in town, a tent revivalist; Rev. Milo Strickland and his sister Esther are the preachers. Myrtle has gone to some of the meetings as well as Phil Gunderson, Annabelle's 'boyfriend' and were 'saved' and are trying to convince Annabelle to go but she wants no part of the 'hell and damnation' preaching. Although Myrtle is quite captivated by the Stricklands and Phil seems interested in Esther, Annabelle just doesn't trust her and feels there is something strange about the preachers. The Gundersons will be hosting the rodeo and all the parties at their ranch and everyone in town is looking forward to it, especially Annabelle's 'obnoxious' 12 year old brother Jack. Annabelle notices strange situations occurring here and there at the ranch during the festivities and before long a cowboy gets very sick and dies; she learns that he was poisoned and Annabelle becomes even more watchful of the comings and goings of the people, but cannot prevent another murder.

Duncan has a unique flair for explicit characterization; each main character is described physically but the reader really gets to know them through dialogue, actions and substance. 'Pecos Valley Revival' shows Duncan's skillfulness with interweaving plots that hold your interest while enlighteming us about 1923 New Mexico and cowboys. Her writing in unparalleled for interest and quality.

I could not put this book down!

'The Pot Thief Who Studied Ptolemy', 2010, J. Michael Orenduff, Oak Tree Press

Herbert Schuze, our pot thief in Albuquerque has discovered that sacred pots were stolen from San Roque, a New Mexico pueblo not open to outsiders. So he makes it his quest to appropriate them and return them, which gives the thievery a charitable side. But he discovers that they are in a penthouse at Rio Grande Lofts, a building with high security. He attends a party in the building with his friend Susannah and runs into the gorgeous Stella on the elevator who foils his plan. A body is found and Herbert becomes a suspect; after all, he was in the room where the body was found. Now Herbert begins to delve further and prove himself innocent, stay ahead of Stella and retrieve the pots.

Orenduff added Stella as a character in this story and she brings humor and reveals a very different side of Herbert. She's funny and delightful; you will laugh out loud. Susannah, his best friend is solid and reliable and always ready to help Herbert. In 'The Pot Thief Who Studied Ptolemy', Orenduff offers up a book with entertaining characters, a beautiful setting and a true sense of the Indidan tribes with their unique talents. A learning experience!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

'L.A. Bytes', 2010, P.A. Brown, MLR Press, LLC

Chris Bellamere is a first class computer problem solver hired by the network manager at Ste. Anne's Medical Center to discover who has hacked into their computers. Chris believes the patient records could be compromised and that the attack came from inside the hospital's network. He leaves to pick up his husband and partner, Detective David Laine who is getting an allergy shot. After the shot is administered, David goes into anaphylactic shock; later Chris is back in the hospital's computers and sees that David received Amoxicillin rather than the anti-allergen that was prescribed and David is allergic to any form of penicillin. Other patients could be at risk and David, with all his expertise, decides to track down this knowledgeable hacker. But the hacker's plan goes far beyond the hospital's computer network and surprises Chris, David and the LAPD.

'L.A. Bytes' is filled with one event occurring after the other and at times on top of each other. Brown has written a book with a storyline that grips you from the very beginning and never loses its pace. Chris and David are solid, likeable characters and Brown has the presence of mind to offer the reader insight into the lives of this gay couple. 'L.A. Bytes' has balance, an intriguing, fast moving plot and a great portrayal of the characters. Brown has accomplished a fantastic job with 'L.A. Bytes'!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

'The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras', 2009, J. Michael Orenduff; "FTC - full disclosure-book provided by the publisher"

In Albuquerque's Old Town, Herbert Schuze owns a shop dealing mainly with old pots of Native American origin. He admits to being a pot thief, but that is not a true description. Prior to 1980 it was legal to dig up old pots from public lands for profit and fun but Herbert still feels the exhiliration of the find is the real reward. Carl Wilkes comes into the shop and wants Herbert to 'procur' a pot on display at the Valle del Rio Museum at the University of New Mexico and offers him $25,000 to get it. That amount would help Herbert with his back taxes he owes the IRS. So he decides to think about it and go check out the museum. Upon returning to his shop, Agent Guvelly of the Bureau of Land Management is there questioning him about a Mogollon water jug stolen in Bandelier - the 'other' water jug. Guvelly accuses Herbert of stealing it and soon the theft magnifies to murder. Stretching his reasoning skills to the limit and overcoming his nerves, Herbert sets out to clear himself.

Orenduff presents surprises from beginning to the very end and has invented an unusual plot that has humor, appealing characters and some zany ones as well as a memorable setting. Orenduff's familiarity with the Southwest in all its aspects really grasps your attention. 'The Pot Thief Who Studied Pythagoras' offers the reader a delightful story, with history, art and some philosophy. It's a very enjoyable read and quite educational.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

'The Fat Lady Sings', 2010, Kit Sloane, Oak Tree Press; "FTC full disclosure - book provided by the publisher

Margot and her significant other Max, live in the Los Angeles area; Margot is a film editor and Max writes screenplays. While attending a college theatre performance of Gilbert & Sullivan's "Iolanthe", Margot meets Lenore Chambers, a singer appearing with the local G&S company, the Los Angeles Savoyards. About a month later Lenore sends Max and Margot flowers with tickets to "The Mikado"; Lenore is performing the part of Katisha in the production. Max decides against going so Margot invites her friend Sophie and as they approach the theatre, it is surrounded by police, a SWAT team and an ambulance ready for the stretcher with a covered body on it. They decide to go for a drink and Lenore calls Margot to tell her that their director, Graham Moody has been murdered. An explosive device has gone off in his desk. Lenore asks Margot to be the director for their upcoming play, "Patience" and Lenore and the cast have hopes that the production will be a finalist in the competition and then on to London and perform against the other companies. Later another body is found at Margot and Max's house and she begins having second thoughts about directing and is fearful for herself, the cast and the production.

Kit Sloane is very comprehensive with her knowledge of the theatre and film fields. Her characters in 'The Fat Lady Sings' are quite an assortment of personalities and Kit Sloane is very skillful at concocting them. The storyline unfolds leisurely offering the reader an interesting and informative story. I only wished that Margot and Max had done more sleuthing.