About This Blog

I am always in search of a good book, which is getting harder to find these days. My taste is ecclectic though it leans toward books that take me places I've never been.

Through the books I've read during the past few months, I've been to China, Spain, Ireland, India, Afghanistan, Chile, Japan, The Philippines, and many other exotic places. I've lived the lives of a boy soldier in Africa, a Shanghai detective, a foreign intern in Spain, a famous geisha, a precocious boy in Ireland, and a college student in a circus train.

My reviews will not reveal the plot but it will give you a general idea of the storyline and the flavor of the narrative.

I make it a point to only post reviews on the good books I've read, whether from a small or big publisher, those that merit a four or a five stars. In this way, I can point my readers toward a new and exciting place on a journey they may otherwise not have taken.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Book Review: The Belvedere Club by Nicola Twrst

I had promised to focus on little-known independent or commercially published authors, so I thought I'd post the review of this novel.

If you’re looking for a good mystery that will challenge your inner sleuth and offer you lots of giggles, then you may want to check out The Belvedere Club. Set in free-spirited Marin County, a place of hot tubs, new age crystals, and progressive latte-sippers, this debut novel by Marin County author Nicola Twrst is an entertaining read.
The novel opens with a female reporter’s murder in the premises of an exclusive women’s club run by the philanthropic silver-haired ladies of Marin society.
The incident sends Briana Kaleigh, a Washington D.C. photo-journalist and the dead woman’s best friend to Marin County to look into the murder.
Pushy, high-strung, and caffeineated, our lovely protagonist soon collides with the mellow sandal-wearing Lieutenant Dusty Arkansas, the Zen-Buddhist investigator handling the case.
The two couldn’t have been more different. Sparks fly when they join forces to catch the perpetrator, gumshooing their way to a host of eccentric suspects and witnesses from an obese voyeur chef to a blind bag lady to the age-spotted ladies of the Belvedere Club, picking up contradicting clues along the way.
The love-hate relationship between Arkansas and Brianna makes the pages come alive as the reader wonders whether they are romantically attracted or simply tolerating each other.
Quirky description of Marin County colors the pages. Bay Area description and attitude is spot on.
The novel has loads of twists and turns with perfectly placed red herrings that make it difficult to guess the perpetrator.
There are subtle hints, however, giving readers aha moments in the end. Overall, a highly enjoyable book.

first published at blogcritics.com http://blogcritics.org/book-review-the-belvedere-club-by1/

Movie Review: Outsourced (the movie)

I've been slacking off in my reviews and posting on sites other than my own blog. But I'm back in full force.  I thought I'd post a movie review to get me started.

In this time of mindless special effects and comic book-derived blockbuster movies, I was glad to encounter an indie film with simple but engaging story. Outsourced features a character named Todd Anderson (Josh Hamilton), the telemarketing manager of a company that sells Chinese-made American flags, tee shirts, and other patriotic knickknacks. Immediately, one sees the ironic humor in the story.

A high-ranking executive tells him that the company is outsourcing the entire customer service group to India, ordering Todd to fly to Delhi and train a new telemarketing group. He balks at the assignment, but under threat of losing his job and substantial stock options, he eventually surrenders and takes the long flight to India.

Culture shock slaps him in the face the minute he arrives at the airport and when he takes a dangerous pedicab ride to an overcrowded train station on his way to his new telemarketing digs, which turn out to be a dilapidated trailer-like shed with substandard fixtures. On his first week in India, he is stricken with the East Indian version of Montezuma’s revenge. The filth he sees boggles his mind.
But under pressure from his bosses, he half-heartedly begins to teach his telemarketing crew how to interact with U.S. customers by adopting American speech patterns and slang. We are then treated to a series of humorous exchanges between Todd and his East Indian employees.

It takes a while for Todd to realize his basic problem: he is constantly fighting India instead of accepting it and enjoying the culture. The epiphany takes place during India’s Festival of Colors (Holi festival) when Todd mistakenly leaves for work despite his landlady’s warning to stay indoors that day, and is pelted in the streets with fistfuls of colorful powders. Incensed, he fights back and begins pitching powders of his own. He ends up thoroughly enjoying himself. As he begins his acceptance of India’s culture, he sees his employees in a new light, engages them more, earns their respect, and even falls in love with one of them, the lovely and outspoken Asha (Ayesha Dharker).
The scenes in this movie are phenomenal, transporting viewers into the midst of this exotic, dirty, stinky, yet magical and beautiful place. Todd’s transformation from a miserable person stuck in a bad place to someone who slowly accepts and enjoys the culture is endearing.
Outsourced ranks way up there as one of my favorite romantic comedies. It is not a new, circa 2006, but it’s so good it warrants a review for readers who haven’t had the pleasure of seeing the film.

First published at blogcritics.com

Book Review: The Renegades by T.Jefferson Parker

I’ve been reading T. Jefferson Parker’s Southern California mysteries for a decade now, starting with the Merci Rayborn series such as Black Water and Red Light, two of his character-driven thrillers. I have since moved on to another T. Jefferson Parker series featuring Los Angeles Sheriff’s Deputy, Charlie Hood.
The Renegades opens with Hood’s partner, Terry Laws, being machine-gunned to death while on a routine house call with Hood. Hood escapes the ambush and is subsequently hired by internal affairs to investigate Terry Law’s past to see if it has any connection with his murder. What Hood discovers is far from the squeaky clean image Law has established in the department. He finds unusual cash deposits in Law’s bank account and a bogus charity foundation that generates an unusual amount of donations. The recent double-murder of two Mexican cartel runners in a Joshua Tree highway in which a substantial amount of drug money goes missing raises his suspicion that a group of rogue deputies may be operating in the desert.
What I like about T. Jefferson Parker novels is the fast-paced narrative complemented with rich literary tones, so rare in mysteries and thrillers. The same type of narrative holds true for The Renegades, but darkly-flavored with noir. The prose and descriptions in the book are excellent, so cinematic one could almost picture the Joshua trees and the massive boulders of Jacumba. There are a few unlikeable (and unsavory) characters that I thought receive too much page time, which somewhat negatively impacted the book. I mean, who would want to follow these terribly unsympathetic yoyos?
Nonetheless, this is a good story worthy of a read for the gripping suspense built into the narrative. While The Renegades doesn’t compare with the excellence of Black Water, whose main characters were well-developed and likeable, I would still give this book the nod.

First published at blogcritics.com