Patrick Kanouse “The Clearing”

the-clearing-novel-jacketPatrick Kanouse is an author who knows where he wants to go with a story, and The Clearing begins in medias res with immediate, significant action, and pulls the reader along with the sometimes reluctant characters.

The protagonist, Dean Wallace, a divorced, former New York City detective, finds himself with something to do, something important enough to turn his life around if he demands enough of himself to allow the improbable to happen. And, that’s the real question. Not whether he will solve a twisted murder puzzle, but will solving the case made a difference in his own life?

The Clearing hit Amazon on September 20, 2016, through Walter Glenn Publishing. It is available on Kindle for $2.99. The print length is 276 pages, about 3470 on my Kindle Fire and it’s an easy read, whether you catch some pages before bed or pass the time in your favorite chair by the fire.

I enjoyed the fact that Police Lieutenant Dean Wallace takes charge and develops leads. He actively pursues his hunches, instead of being a caricature of a policeman who things just happen to. On the flip side, I fault the author for being a little lax with some of the forensic work. The story is set in 1979, and we’ve come a long way since then, but little details can add up to big issues. Fortunately in this story they do not.

The author also takes time to set his surroundings, giving the reader ample details about each scene. Main characters are also fleshed-out, minor characters less so. Readers are likely to find this novel readable and worth their time, and money.

FOUR STARS

Characters: 13 Honesty: 14 Originality: 14 Plot and Pacing: 13 Storytelling: 14

CHOPS Review total on a scale of 100: 68

Star grading: up to 19 points = 1 star, 20-39 points = 2 stars, 40-59 points = 3 starts, 60-79 points = 4 stars, 80-100 points= 5 stars

Kerrie Noor “The Downfall of a Belly Dancer”

downfall-of-a-belly-dancer-coverKerrie Noor’s novel, The Downfall of a Belly Dancer, arrived on Kindle November 19, 2016. It runs 231 pages – that’s about 2870 sections on my Kindle Fire.

This is a quirky, funny account of a troupe of women dancing through their friendship’s familiarity, and their life’s uncertainty in their small town located somewhere in the Scottish Highlands. Here’s a quote from the book:

Lochgilphead is not the sort of place that attracts visitors; in fact, there are usually only two reasons why anyone visits Lochgilphead – to spend time with relatives and gloat, or because they were offered a job, and didn’t investigate before they accepted.

As with other “sisterhood” novels (and often in real life), the characters have pet names, and the main character, a belly dancer extraordinaire and teacher, is aptly named Nefertiti. She commands respect and at least grudging admiration from her friends and students until disaster comes on two fronts. She slowly loses students to a more charismatic dancer – or dance – Zumba, and Nefertiti loses the interest of her longtime mate, Rodger, who has built and is now sequestered in a shed, or what some might call a man cave.

Author Kerrie Noor lives in Scotland, so the writing is an enjoyable change for us here, slightly tinged with pleasantries not heard in the US, but she still manages to turn a backhand to restaurant chain McDonalds, so there is no language or societal barriers. And, readers will find a glossary at the end of this novel, just in case a word stumps.

FOUR STARS

Characters: 15 Honesty: 16 Originality: 15 Plot and Pacing: 13 Storytelling: 14

CHOPS Review total on a scale of 100: 73

Star grading: up to 19 points = 1 star, 20-39 points = 2 stars, 40-59 points = 3 starts, 60-79 points = 4 stars, 80-100 points= 5 stars

John A. Heldt “Class of ’59”

class-of-59-book-coverJohn A. Heldt is the prolific author of American Journey, a series of books dealing with time travel and the mysteries they could present. Class of ’59 is the fourth offering, putting modern day Mary Beth McIntire on a collision course with Mark Ryan, who just happens to reside in the same house. The only issue is their date of reference. Mark’s is March of ’59.

Set in Southern California, the book reminds me of the 1980’s movie Peggy Sue Got Married, where a woman travels back in time to about the same date. It’s fun, it’s entertaining, and Heldt doesn’t disappoint in his description of the late ’50’s.

The scenes Heldt sets in LA and Hollywood are vaguely familiar to me from movies of that period, perhaps a treat to relive for older readers. Class of ’59 is 293 pages, about 4118 on my Kindle Fire, and a pleasure to read. Published on September 1, 2016, the novel runs $4.99.

The writing is good solid fun, and quite entertaining as believable characters (with backstory and actual feelings) move back and forth through time. The author focuses much of the story on what was happening in his characters minds in 1959, with high school and young love, instead of trying to prove the experience is real or worrying about the difference in our American heritage from 50-odd years ago. There is a huge difference, and it has to be dealt with, but it’s not the main story.

Five Stars

Characters: 16 Honesty: 16 Originality: 15 Plot and Pacing: 16 Storytelling: 17

CHOPS Review total on a scale of 100: 80 Points

Star grading: up to 19 points = 1 star, 20-39 points = 2 stars, 40-59 points = 3 starts, 60-79 points = 4 stars, 80-100 points= 5 stars

Laura Hillenbrand “Unbroken”

unbroken-coverLaura Hillenbrand is the remarkable author of Seabiscuit: An American Legend, and of course her previous work is also remarkable, but her own story will probably be a movie at some point in our lives. She wrote Unbroken as well as Seabiscuit after being diagnosed with Chronic Fatigue Syndrom and suffering from such an acute case of vertigo that she wrote much of the manuscripts longhand while holding onto the bathtub and writing with her eyes closed. Remarkable.

That said, Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption,  tells the story of Louis Zamperini, a Depression-era youth who is saddled with running track by a school principle and his older brother after repeated scrapes with the law. So Louis gets off easy, emerges as a star runner, participates in the 1936 Berlin Olympics and then becomes a WWII Army Air Corps B-24 bombardier. Then things turn the other way.

Louis and his B-24 crewmates ditch at sea after being shot from the sky. There are three survivors. Eventually, they are to endure weeks and weeks upon the ocean with no food, nestled into a tiny raft the size of a coffin. This is not the worst part. That comes later, in Japanese POW camps.

What is amazing, beyond the story, is the amount of work put into this book by the author. She does credit dozens of people for helping her with myriad details, but overall, this is a stunning work of nonfiction. It does not read quite as lively and free as Seabiscuit, but then again, the subject is much tougher.

Published by Random House, the book is 529 pages and a whopping 12610 KB. Originally published in November of 2010, the book has now been made into a motion picture. It’s not for kids.

As for the Kindle edition, it is $11.99, which is why I read the $9.89 paperback, sorry trees. On the readability side, it is long and very detailed, and certainly not lite fare. I could probably have done just fine with about 150-pages less. Still, you won’t go away unmoved by Louis Zamperini or the author.

FIVE STARS