The Book Review Club: Caught in a Trap

The April meeting of “The Book Review Club” has me reminiscing about our time living and writing in Florida and talking about Caught in a Trap by my husband and technical writer, screenwriter, and novel writer, Rich Eckardt.

Part humorous mystery, part romantic comedy, Caught in a Trap introduces Sonny Lanai, wacky Florida detective. When Sonny meets his client, a doll named Barbie, he’s consumed by a case that changes him forever. And everyone in his path is left gasping for breath after they live through the antics that Sonny and his cohorts wreak on Tampa Bay.

Barbie has a problem: She’s afraid someone is after her. And, that’s easy to believe because she’s recently widowed from the Tampa Tycoon (or Pookie Pants, as she called him), and she’s now a rich woman. What looks like a simple case is anything but when Sonny Lanai gets involved, turning every situation on its ear.

Sonny faces some tough questions: Was Barbie’s husband’s death really an accident? Who dog-napped Barbie’s precious dog? How can I look cool with my untied shoelace wrapped around the wheel of my chair? But, despite some setbacks, Sonny prevails over the bad guys and finds that, unbelievable as it might be, true love can smile on Sonny Lanai, Private Eye.

Florida is the home of several wacky mystery writers – or I should say the characters in the novels are wacky – lol! There’s just something about the state that inspires writing about humorous people and situations.

My Jersey Shore hubby (Rich) and I, both Silicon Valley technical writers by day, began writing fiction before we moved to Florida. But no place inspired us to write like Florida did. The character Sonny Lanai was born when we looked out at the back patio (called “lanai” in Florida and Hawaii) and said, “Look at that sunny lanai.” Florida wacky humor, for sure, and Caught in a Trap was the result of that.

Moving back to Florida has been on our minds for some time, and Caught in a Trap offers a fun peek into that place. I wanted to share that with you for this month’s book review.

Available on Kindle and in Print.

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@Barrie Summy

Disclaimer: I only review books I want to recommend and have purchased myself, although if I’m excited about a book, I’ll accept a complimentary copy when offered.

The Book Review Club: Caught in a Trap

Reposted from KathyHolmes.Net

The April meeting of “The Book Review Club” has me reminiscing about our time living and writing in Florida and talking about Caught in a Trap by my husband and technical writer, screenwriter, and novel writer, Rich Eckardt.

Part humorous mystery, part romantic comedy, Caught in a Trap introduces Sonny Lanai, wacky Florida detective. When Sonny meets his client, a doll named Barbie, he’s consumed by a case that changes him forever. And everyone in his path is left gasping for breath after they live through the antics that Sonny and his cohorts wreak on Tampa Bay.

Barbie has a problem: She’s afraid someone is after her. And, that’s easy to believe because she’s recently widowed from the Tampa Tycoon (or Pookie Pants, as she called him), and she’s now a rich woman. What looks like a simple case is anything but when Sonny Lanai gets involved, turning every situation on its ear.

Sonny faces some tough questions: Was Barbie’s husband’s death really an accident? Who dog-napped Barbie’s precious dog? How can I look cool with my untied shoelace wrapped around the wheel of my chair? But, despite some setbacks, Sonny prevails over the bad guys and finds that, unbelievable as it might be, true love can smile on Sonny Lanai, Private Eye.

Florida is the home of several wacky mystery writers – or I should say the characters in the novels are wacky – lol! There’s just something about the state that inspires writing about humorous people and situations.

My Jersey Shore hubby (Rich) and I, both Silicon Valley technical writers by day, began writing fiction before we moved to Florida. But no place inspired us to write like Florida did. The character Sonny Lanai was born when we looked out at the back patio (called “lanai” in Florida and Hawaii) and said, “Look at that sunny lanai.” Florida wacky humor, for sure, and Caught in a Trap was the result of that.

Moving back to Florida has been on our minds for some time, and Caught in a Trap offers a fun peek into that place. I wanted to share that with you for this month’s book review.

Available on Kindle.

Click icon for more
book review blogs
@Barrie Summy

Disclaimer: I only review books I want to recommend and have purchased myself, although if I’m excited about a book, I’ll accept a complimentary copy when offered. In this case, I’m married to the author. 🙂

The Book Review Club: The Lost Recipe for Happiness

It’s Tuesday afternoon and I know I need to start writing my book review for the March meeting, which is just a few hours away. I grab an Atkins Chocolate Peanut Butter bar and start writing, leaving me to wonder, “How many of you eat while you’re reading and/or writing?” I eat when I read because it’s fun. I eat when I write because it’s a necessity.

If you haven’t started eating before you start reading Barbara O’Neal’s The Lost Recipe for Happiness, you’ll be raiding the fridge soon. But if you’re like me and you don’t have the fixings for tamales on hand, you may be seeking out the closest upscale Mexican restaurant. Here in Vegas, we have several, but one of my favorite local Mexican restaurants is Lindo Michoacan – they do have tamales on the menu. But when you read the heavenly description of the duck tamales in The Lost Recipe for Happiness, your mouth will be watering for something a little more exotic than the usual beef, pork, or chicken.

Food shows on television are extremely popular and any lover of the Food Network will definitely enjoy this book. If you’ve ever seen Iron Chef or Restaurant Wars on Top Chef, you’ll feel like you’re on the set – this book will make all of that come alive. Barbara O’Neal’s web site says this

In this sumptuous new novel, Barbara O’Neal offers readers a celebration of food, family, and love as a woman searches for the elusive ingredient we’re all hoping to find… “The Lost Recipe for Happiness.” 

It’s the opportunity Elena Alvarez has been waiting for–the challenge of running her own kitchen in a world-class restaurant. Haunted by an accident of which she was the lone survivor, Elena knows better than anyone how to defy the odds. With her faithful dog Alvin and her grandmother’s recipes, Elena arrives in Colorado to fine a restaurant in as desperate need of a fresh start as she is–and a man whose passionate approach to food and life rivals her own. Owner Julian Liswood is a name many people know, but a man few do. He’s come to Aspen with a troubled teenage daughter and a dream of the kind of stability and love only a family can provide. But for Elena, ghosts don’t die quietly, yet a chance to find happiness at last is worth the risk.

It’s romantic women’s fiction at its best – nobody writes it better than Barbara. When I started reading it, I had just learned that my uncle was going into hospice. This book offered me an escape into somebody else’s troubles and somehow that comforted me. I say this because, in spite of its light, breezy cover, it’s a bit darker than I normally read. But now I’m looking forward to reading her next book, The Secret of Everything, another book about food, life, love, and mountains – all things Barbara O’Neal must love. In fact, I’m going to start reading it right now.

For more information, see Barbara O’Neal’s (aka Barbara Samuel) web site.

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@Barrie Summy

Disclaimer: I only review books I want to recommend and have purchased myself, although if I’m excited about a book, I’ll accept a complimentary copy when offered.

The Book Review Club: Godfather of Night

This month, I’m reviewing something a little bit different for me for the November meeting of “The Book Review Club.” I’ve chosen a nonfiction book, Godfather of Night: A Greek Mafia Father, a Drug Runner Son, and an Unexpected Shot at Redemption by Kevin Pappas.

First, I’ll post the description found on amazon.com, and then I’ll tell you why I chose this book at the end.

Book Description

What if you belonged nowhere and to no one? What if you learned as a teenager that the father who had mistreated you for years wasn’t your father at all–and that you were actually born to the mistress of a Greek gangster? And what if the only way to connect with your real father was to become his fiercest rival?

Kevin Cunningham grew up in Tarpon Springs, Florida, just another kid from the wrong side of the tracks. But from his first days, Kevin gravitated toward power, and in Tarpon Springs that meant local crime boss Lukie Pappas. As a boy, Kevin hung out at the Pappas Restaurant, and he saw how the townspeople approached Lukie. How they respected him. How they came to him for help. How they called him nounos–Greek for “godfather.” From the shadows, Kevin admired it all.

When he turned seventeen, Kevin’s world flipped upside down. His dying father confessed that Kevin was the son of another man–and not just any man. He was the son of Lukie Pappas. Suddenly, Kevin’s destiny was clear. His lineage became his fate. His rightful place was beside the Greek godfather who ruled his hometown.

But Lukie coldly rejected him, as both a son and a colleague. Fueled by rage and pride, Kevin claimed the Pappas name as his own and embarked on his own criminal enterprise. From two-bit swindling he rose quickly to high-stakes drug trafficking. Money laundering, gunrunning, and racketeering polished his underworld résumé, even as they placed him squarely in the crosshairs of every federal agency with three initials and a most-wanted list. And when he got caught, Kevin’s time behind bars only honed his criminal instinct, hardened his resolve, and cemented his reputation as a larger-than-life outlaw who sometimes went down but could never be taken out.

Still in his early twenties but as powerful as any crime boss, Kevin surrounded himself with an elite group, a posse that called itself the Band of Five. Flush with fast cars, boats, planes, and women, they wanted for nothing, but their antics invited violent attempts to bring Kevin to his senses–or at least to his knees.

More than a gripping tale, Godfather of Night unveils the Greek American crime syndicate and its close alignment to power and takes readers to a dark place where family secrets collide with high-level crime and corruption. Kevin Pappas’s story is a true-crime epic for a new generation of wiseguys–full of the harrowing war stories and hard-won wisdom of a man who lived by his own rules, broke everyone else’s, and dared the world to try to stop him.

Why I Chose This Book

I was reading the Tampa paper on my iPhone, and found a story about this book, which was causing quite a stir among the locals. The good people of Tarpon Springs didn’t want to believe it was true and insisted it wasn’t. Having lived not too far from this town, I was extremely curious about the book.

So, hubby purchased it on Kindle, and we both read it. Now I don’t usually read books with “Good Fellas” and “The Sopranos” type of language, but I couldn’t resist skimming this book for two reasons: (1) he was raised a Jehovah’s Witness, and (2) he didn’t know his father growing up. I can relate to both, having met my father for the first time after the age of 40 (although there are rumors I saw him when I was 3.)

What really touched me was how desperate he was for his father to acknowledge him. Thank goodness my own father wasn’t a “wise guy” type because that type of internal desperation led him to live a life of crime and fear. But he also validated what I’ve been trying to express about my own experience – that biological fathers are very important to people – both sons and daughters – even if you’ve never met them – especially if you’ve never met them. And to deny your child is cruel; plain and simple.

Growing up in his mother’s religion (Jehovah’s Witness), he had two choices: either use the manipulative tools they use to control people to control people for your own use, or live a small life of repressed submission. He chose the former; I chose the latter. Thankfully, we both broke free. But the part that disappointed me in his “redemption” is that he never found God. But with two negative religious influences (and I’m disappointed the Greek Orthodox Church allegedly allowed the Greek Mafia influence into the church), it’s not surprising. Many who have had such a negative experience with religion leave, and often do not find their way back.

But many do find God, and for a small sample of conversion stories, you might want to check out my link here.

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@Barrie Summy

Disclaimer: I only review books I want to recommend and have purchased myself, although if I’m excited about a book, I’ll accept a complimentary copy when offered.

The Pink Monorail

The title may be “Real Women Wear Red” but some things are meant to be pink.

One of the scenes in my novel Real Women Wear Red was inspired by a woman who ordered a Pink Monorail at the Trout Pass Bar at Wilderness Lodge at Disney World.

Working at the Cancer Center in Tampa, she often took weekend getaways to a Disney World resort to relieve some of the stress of her profession. Apparently, this drink used to be featured at the top of the Contemporary Resort at Disney World, but not anymore so she had her own copy of the recipe, which she gave to the bartender – a friendly British chap – so he could make the drink for her.

That experience stuck with me and I had to write that into my book – or something similar since the book is set on a cruise ship. Anyway, I put out a call on Passporter for the drink recipe. And lo and behold, a woman who goes by the name of “Pinkerbell” came up with the recipe. I had to share it here:

From Mickey’s Gourmet Cookbook:

PINK MONORAIL
Top of the World
Disney’s Contemporary Resort

1 1/4 ounces gin
1 1/4 ounces pineapple juice
1 1/4 ounces orange juice
1 ounce grenadine
1/2 ounce lemon bar mix
1 1/2 ounces heavy cream
3/4 cup crushed ice
orange slice
maraschino cherry

Mix gin, fruit juices, grenadine, lemon bar mix, and heavy cream in a blender with ice. Blend for 10 seconds. Pour into a tall glass. Garnish with orange slice and cherry.

I think we should bring back the Pink Monorail and order one whenever we’re at Walt Disney World. But we might want to have our own copy of the recipe with us just in case the bartender doesn’t have one of his own.

Ah, how I miss those weekend getaways to Disney World myself.

The Book Review Club: The Ever Running Man

It’s the first Wednesday of the month and that means it’s time for the October meeting of “The Book Review Club,” hosted by Barrie Summy. For my review, I’ll be posting something about “The Ever Running Man” – a Sharon McCone mystery – by Marcia Muller. Marcia Muller’s web site says this:

cover_everrunningSharon McCone is hired by her husband’s security firm to track down ‘the ever-running man,’ a shadowy figure who has been leaving explosive devices at their various offices. She doesn’t have to search for long. When McCone narrowly escapes an explosion at the security firm’s San Francisco offices, she catches a glimpse of his retreating figure.

The ever-running man is dangerously close-and anyone connected to the firm seems to be within his deadly range. To complicate matters, McCone is forced to question her intensely private husband, Hy, about his involvement in some of the firm’s dark secrets. The history of corruption may jeopardize their marriage, but uncovering the secrets of the firm may be the only way she can save her husband’s life, and her own.

What I love about Marcia Muller’s writing is similar to what I love about Laura Caldwell: the characterization and personalization of the main character involved in solving bigger mysteries outside themselves, while affecting a change within themselves at the same time. I’m not a die-hard mystery or thriller fan, but I do love a mystery/suspense or psychological thriller told in a personal way and is most likely written in first person.

I’ve recently concluded that those who react strongly to first or third person may be influenced by their personality profile – some readers want the intimacy that comes from becoming the main character as written in first person, while others prefer the distance of participating more as an observer. Neither is wrong – it’s just personal.

The other thing I enjoy about the Sharon McCone series is that she is San Francisco-based with a history in all of California – from the Mendocino Coast, to the Sierra/high desert borders, down to San Diego. She references things relevant to California, the real California, which I understand, having my own history with the entire state, having lived in most of it and with family in the rest of it. Reading Sharon McCone allows me to revisit my California past without having to relive it. 🙂

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@Barrie Summy

Disclaimer: I only review books I want to recommend and have purchased myself, although if I’m excited about a book, I’ll accept a complimentary copy when offered.

Review

Review of Real Women Wear Red 
By Jamieson Wolf, The Book Pedler

Kate “Cyn” Francis is in a frump.

Unlucky at love, Cyn wonders if her second chance at love will ever come along. At forty five, it’s been years since she’s had a man in her bed and love in her heart. Her ex, a big fake, turned out to be more lust than love and Cyn wonders if love is possible for women over forty.

At the behest of her close friend Maggie, Cyn decides to take drastic action and change her life. Her old one sure isn’t working for her. She dyes her hair, changes her name and her age and heads out on a Caribbean cruise. On a boat full of men, there’s got to be one Mr. Right among them. Right?

Instead of Mr. Right, Cyn meets two other single women who are also looking for love: the beautiful Sandy Brown is traveling the cruise trying to mend her broken heart. Divorced and self-conscious, she is also looking for love, hoping that she can find someone to make her feel love again.

There’s also Millie Evans. Having sold her publishing empire, Millie is on a succession of one week cruises looking to find her long lost love. A widow after losing her husband, Millie searches for the man she met years ago on a cruise. Even though it is an impossible task, Millie hopes to find the man she loved and walked away from.

When these three women board the S.S. Platinum Queen, they have no idea that their lives are about to change forever. They come together in a time of need for each of them and find each other. Before they can find love, however, they will have to learn to love themselves.

But, thankfully, there is nothing that can’t be accomplished with friendship, more than a few martinis’s and lots of red. A real woman does wear red after all….

I absolutely loved this book. Without a doubt, it was THE best chick lit book that I’ve read in years. It has everything you could possibly need in a chick lit book: girlfriends, a search for love, martini’s, sandy beaches and sexy men.

But, really, Real Women Wear Red is so much more than sandy beaches and sexy men. The novel is about love, loss and the courage it takes to move on with your life. It’s also about the strength needed to look inside yourself be honest with who you are.

What I loved most about Real Women Wear Red is the fact that these women are real. I felt for them, ached for them, laughed with them. I felt like I knew them, like I had known them for years. When I finished the novel, I felt as if these women were my friends, my confidantes. In short, I felt for them.

It’s not every author that can accomplish this. Most chick lit is peopled by cardboard cut out characters that all sound and talk alike. Likewise, the plot is usually the standard girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl pines for boy, boy comes back to girl. Don’t get me wrong, I love chick lit, but it’s rare to find something that fits in the mold and also goes beyond the genre at the same time.

But Holmes has created three very distinct women surrounded by an incredible plot that will take you on the ride of your life. She has done the impossible: created a chick lit novel that transcends the genre and, instead, becomes something else all its own.

Real Women Wear Red is a fast, fantastic read and I loved every word. You will laugh, you’ll cry and then you’ll laugh again. This is not your average chick lit. Do yourself a favor and read it, won’t you?