Itsy Bitsy SpiderAuthor:
313 pages The Rundown
In order for an action-thriller to work, it must always be in motion. I can never feel comfortable, in control, or safe. I have to care about the hero. The bad guy has to be bad
. There needs to be a love interest and she has to be pretty and nice and occasionally vulnerable. I mean, really, if she isn’t vulnerable why the heck do we need a hero? If one’s adrenaline doesn’t spike at least once per chapter, the book doesn’t earn a five star review. If I don’t get an urge to put on 3-D glasses and eat some popcorn while I’m reading it, it doesn’t get a five star review. Bottom line, if its not fun, why bother? These were my criteria for evaluating Itsy Bitsy Spider
by debut author Kimberly Shursen.
Matt Christenson is a young, handsome investigative reporter for the Boston Globe. He’s assigned to track down a missing lawyer with connections to Mayor Jack McCallin. Instead, Matt stumbles upon Claire, the mayor’s beautiful daughter, and her little girl, Lizzie. With the help of a few trusted friends Matt discovers Claire and Lizzie are caught in a tangled web of lies originating from the mayor himself. This bloody web stretches from one end of Boston to the other, and now it’s trapped Matt. Claire holds a secret so devastating the mayor will do anything to silence her. The mayor commands Boston’s cops, underworld, and media. There is nowhere to hide as the web tightens around Matt, Claire and Lizzie. Matt becomes part of the story and finds himself falling for Claire, even though it might cost him his life. Itsy
is always in motion. I can think of only two chapters where it even thinks about slowing down. The action takes place across the City of Boston, where Matt and his team find themselves imperiled by the mayor’s powerful allies. I always felt a little on edge, because I knew the characters were never safe. Like them, I never knew who to trust and expected betrayal at every turn. I cringed a few times worrying about Lizzie, Claire’s little girl. The easy-going hero, Matt Christenson, is also very likable. I can see a series of books with him as the hero and can easily see Itsy Bitsy Spider
being turned into a screen play.
Never pretentious and always entertaining, Itsy Bitsy Spider
is a state-of-the-art action thriller. Enjoyably easy to read, I had a strong urge for popcorn the whole time I read it. Now, where are my 3-D glasses?
Five out of Five Stars.
Kimberly Shursen Links: Itsy Bitsy Spider on Amazon
Kimberly Shursen’s Website
Kimberly Shursen on Facebook
, and LinkedIn
Editor’s Note: A UBR alumni and founding member, Kimberly Shursen departed
our staff a year ago to pursue new opportunities. We told her when she published
her first novel, we would be honored to review it, but she wouldn’t receive any
special favors or consideration. This reviewer bought this book and did not
receive a free copy.
TITLE: The Map of Lost Memories AUTHOR:
Kim Fay GENRE:
Ballantine Books (hardcover August 2012, paperback June 2013)LENGTH :
336 pages REVIEWER:
Yvonee LiebleinTHE RUNDOWNThe Map of Lost Memories
takes the reader on an expedition – back in time to 1925, across the world -- from Seattle to Shanghai to the Cambodian jungles – and on a journey of personal discovery. Author Kim Fay masterfully captures the texture of time and place in this riveting international treasure hunt led by Irene Blum, an American on a quest to find copper scrolls that contain the lost history of Khmer, an ancient Cambodian civilization.
After Irene is passed over for the prestigious museum curator job she felt she’d earned and was born to do, she takes the rare map she’s been given and begins her quest. She forges ahead into unknown geographical and emotional territory, fueled by the desire to not only discover the century’s most significant find, but also by a driving need to restore her confidence and reputation. The Map of Lost Memories
made it effortless to forget that I was reading on a couch in the year 2013, not traipsing through the world Fay brings to life. She writes, “As the docks receded, Irene rolled her window down, but the air felt as if it were being pushed through a furnace. It was that merciless equatorial hour that circles around noon like a vulture, when no alternative, not even hiding in a dark room with an electric fan, could bring the kind of relief a person needed, a relief that reached one’s core.” Vivid details like these force a welcome surrender into a myriad of settings -- lush, humid, gritty, refined.
Beyond the intense action that makes The Map of Lost Memories
a page-turner, the emotional landscape of the heroine’s uncertainty-filled adventure is riveting. Irene is never sure whom she can trust, and neither is the reader. From a temple robber to a love interest with a mysterious connection to Irene’s past to a trusted mentor who may not be who he seems, Irene is constantly questioning alliances and ultimately fortifying her belief in her instincts and her own fortitude. THE RECOMMENDATIONThe Map of Lost Memories
delivers. Its engrossing characters, jump-off-the-page settings and action-packed, historically detailed plot bring an exotic world to life. The novel also reveals so much about what it means to be vulnerable yet fearless when embarking on the inner and outer journeys that define us. ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A native of Seattle, Kim lived in Vietnam for four years and still visits Southeast Asia frequently. The Map of Lost Memories,
her debut novel, is a 2013 EDGAR AWARD FINALIST for Best First Novel by an American Author. A former independent bookseller, Kim is also the creator of the To Asia With
Love guidebook series and author of Communion: A Culinary Journey Through
Vietnam, winner of the World Gourmand Cookbook Awards’ Best Asian Cuisine Book in the U.S. She currently lives in Los Angeles. LINKS Visit Kim's websiteBuy the book on Amazon
ABOUT THE REVIEWERYvonne Lieblein is a writer and creative producer from the seaside village of Greenport, Long Island. Visit yvonnelieblein.com to read about her novel,
The Wheelhouse Café, “get lit-erary” novel nights out, and other evolving projects.
: On Message Author:
Joyce Strand Genre:
McCloughan and Schmeltz Summary:
The first in a series of Jillian Hillcrest mysteries, Jillian is head of communications for a biotechnology company located in Silicon Valley. It is Jillian’s job to keep the public informed about the progress of drugs that are in stages of development: in this case for Lupus, a disease that challenges the immune system. In Phase two of the process of testing, ready to go forward into the final of the three phases, the results look promising . . . or are they? Corporate greed in this biotech company is the story behind On Message.
When one of Jillian’s close friends is murdered after meeting Jillian, Jillian is asked to help track down the killer. But then, Jillian becomes the next target of the murderer in this mystery/thriller. Opinion:
I couldn’t wait to delve into this book. With a minor in college in biology, my first real career choice in life was to be a cytotechnologist. My parents disagreed and won: I became a teacher. So, we have a real life situation based on a true events, written by a woman who’s career is the same as Jillian Hillcrest, the head of communications for a biotechnology company, I’m on board!
It didn’t take long before I went off board and became just plain ‘bored.’ Were the commas in the right places? They appeared to be. Were there any grammatical errors? Not that I noticed. It was the long, executed passages, with page after page of nothing that moved the story forward made reading On Message
a chore. To write a full-blown novel is painful, it’s hair-pulled out by the roots time, it’s twelve hours at a time re-writing the same chapter. It’s also adding an editor and a book doc to tell an author what does, or doesn't, work. No amount of education or writing classes will help cut down on the process. On Message
had a message, just one that wasn’t ‘on’ for this reader. Rating:
Two out of five stars.
Find it on Amazon.com
Welcome back to Underground Book Reviews Summer Short Fiction Series. This month I'll bring you three very different short fiction pieces starting with Datafall by Rich Larson.
Datafall by Rich Larson
Datafall is a collection of seven science fiction short stories. Larson’s prose is short and efficient, not a word wasted. Each syllable is crafted for maximum effect to forge stories that are almost tight to a fault. I admire this style, but I think this approach slightly detracted from Larson’s first four tales.
Datafall’s first few stories are intriguing, but stiff. They’re written with machine-like efficiency, but border on cold and lack a certain degree of emotional depth. The themes are effectively executed, but are not especially original or memorable.
Thankfully, Larson’s prose warms in the last three stories and we get a glimpse of not a good writer, but an excellent writer. Back So Soon is somewhat humorous story about self-image and relationships in a not-so-distant future. Factory Man is a fresh take on the Frankenstein theme and a bleak, but powerful, commentary on human life. As for the final tale, Datafall, Larson was smart naming the compendium for this story. This little nugget is very short and beautifully written, a perfect piece of sci-fi gold.
The reader should consider the first four stories in Datafall as the warm-up for the final three. They make this inspired compendium a worthy read for any sci-fi fan and it earns it an 82 out of 99 cents.
Title: Murder & Single Malt Author:
Mark Anderson Esquire Publisher:
Mike Baker is a serial murder. It’s as simple and as complicated as that. That’s who he is; that’s what he does. Not too far into Murder & Single Malt
, Mike loses his boring job, his only friend moves out of the country, his girlfriend trades him in for a guy who could be his twin, and the only person who cares about him is his dying mother. That’s it. That’s all there is to Mike except... he enjoys torturing and murdering people. Sometimes he murders because of a vendetta, sometimes it’s just on a whim and sometimes someone just ticks him off. There is no rhyme or reason. There is no connect-the-dots like 5’5” blonde haired women that look like his mother, or grumpy old men who remind him of a father who never really cared much about him, it’s just who Mike Baker is. Murder & Single Malt
will take you on a journey into the mind of a killer; a journey that is haunting. As normal on the outside as apple pie and four-leaf clovers in Ireland where Mr. Esquire resides, you will abhor Mike Baker, feel sorry and get angry with him, and then just pause and think, oh my God, do I know this guy? Quote: “I’ve been reading more and more. I’ve come to the conclusion that I am a serial killer. But, at the same time I differ from most. My background isn’t the abusive/broken home stereotype you’d expect. Plus I vary my kills. Usually serial killers stick to a pattern. They might let the pattern evolve over time. But I’m not sure if I’ve killed two people in the same way yet. That’s maybe what’s keeping the police from connecting the deaths.” Opinion:
Okay, I have to admit, I was a bit leery when Mr. Esquire asked me to review Murder & Single Malt
. I’m a total serial murder junky and didn’t know if Murder & Single Malt
would be believable. From Gein, to the Zodiac killer, to Gacy and Bundy, I’ve studied them all, read the books, watched the movies and dug, dug, dug for more. The human mind fascinates me. Obviously it does Mr. Esquire too.
Written entirely in first person, Murder & Single Malt
is brilliantly composed. Mr. Esquire's crisp, concise dialogue puts us right smack inside Mike Baker’s head. Where some authors lose readers by taking us from past to present, Esquire is not that author. Each chapter brings us right back where we left off.
From the one person dialogue Mike has with himself about the Big Bang Theory to his ‘chat’ with God about the crucifixion of Jesus, Murder & Single Malt
is a brilliant down-to-earth read.
I did find myself closing my eyes during the murder scenes as the book was so visual it made me feel as if I was sitting in a movie theater, so you may get a little nauseous at times, yet not enough to put it down. A few minor grammatical errors to fix and this book will soar to the top. Recommendation: Murder & Single Malt
is for anyone fascinated by the criminal mind. We read about it, but never quite understand. It does not offer insight into the ‘why’s’, but gives a first-hand view inside the head of Mike Baker, serial killer. I do not recommend this for children, nor do I recommend it as a gift for a friend you feel is a good candidate to be a serial murderer. Rating: Top Pick!
Five Stars Links: Amazon Book Link Mark Anderson on FacebookMark Anderson on TwitterVisit Mark's personal webpage
If you enjoyed this review, you can subscribe to the Underground or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Your child is missing, whisked away to the other side of the globe by a former spouse. The most precious thing in your life has been reduced to a helpless pawn by someone who can’t see beyond the rage they feel toward you. The government will not help you. The courts cannot help you. You’re alone, running out of money and hope. Now you learn your child is in a country rife with child slavery and prostitution and could forever vanish without a trace. In his fictional novel Chasing the Cyclone
Peter Thomas Senese details a frightening odyssey closely inspired by his own personal story.
Paul Francesco’s ex-wife goes rogue, violates the law, and abducts their young child. The drama begins with a series of court sessions where all the ugliness of a child custody case is laid bare. Soon, Francesco’s ex is permitted by an indifferent judicial system to take the child to New Zealand. Once there, her and the child vanish in the company of an international human trafficker. The story repeatedly lifts the reader with hope Francisco will recover his boy, only to deliver crushing disappointment with another false lead, another missed opportunity, another legal roadblock. Senese takes us to the brink of hopelessness as Francesco plunges into the sordid underbelly of Macau desperately searching for his boy. Chasing the Cyclone
is well-written, but starts slowly in a series of snap-shot moments strung together into a stiff narrative. Initially, it feels like the author rushed to get critical elements on paper. Some of the characters surrounding Francesco are a little hard to follow as the author only paints them with cursory strokes before moving on. What kept me reading was the sense I was only a page turn away from the storm. Senese did not disappoint. About a quarter of the way into the book the prose and narrative warm up and Cyclone
becomes an emotional rollercoaster.
Even though it was inspired by true events Senese makes it clear this novel is a work of fiction. However, it reads so much like a personal account I had a very difficult time keeping this in mind. I was somewhat uncomfortable by the vivid detail of the court scenes and was concerned the novel might devolve into a loosely veiled personal vendetta. Thankfully, it didn’t. Senese doesn’t name the fictional female antagonist and never makes her the center of this story. She is described frankly, but never maliciously and I couldn’t help but pity her at the end. In the epilogue, the author discusses the importance of reconciliation and the role of both parents in a child’s life following the trauma of parental abduction. For me, this enhanced the novel’s credibility.
It’s clear Peter Thomas Senese is a crusader, a man on a mission to never let this happen to another child. Chasing
is more than a fictional drama, it’s part textbook and part compilation of personal lessons learned. Every so often a character monologues important facts regarding parental child abduction. The final section is a compilation of resources for what Senese calls ‘Chasing Parents.’ Cyclone
reaches out to Chasing Parents with critical information to guide them through the coming maelstrom.
More than anything else, Chasing the Cyclone
is about one father’s relentless love for his child. While slow to build speed, it is a powerful story and earns 85 out of 99 cents.
99 Cents Worth of Peter Thomas Senese Links: www.peterthomassenese.com
www.chasingthecyclonebook.blogspot.comIf you enjoyed this review follow Underground Book Reviews on Facebook, Twitter and subscribe to our newsletter.
You can also follow Brian Braden on Facebook and Twitter and buy his book, Carson's Love.
When Dexter Moore tells his wife of an opportunity to redesign a bank’s electronic security system in Luxemburg, Kate has mixed emotions on moving to a foreign country. After all, she's been a CIA agent in Washington DC for the past 15 years and her life has been exciting and totally unpredictable. Besides that, her computer geek husband doesn't have a clue what Kate does for a living.
Dexter's new position will be lucrative enough that Kate can now be the stay-at-home mom she has often dreamed about. The Moore's pack up their belongings, their 4 and 5 year old sons, and begin their new lives as expats.
It isn’t long before Kate becomes bored with the role of housewife and mother. She tries to play the part, even joins the Luxemburg Women’s Club, but living life on the edge and is much different than the hum-drum luncheons and spending time with other expat wives. It's just not enough for Kate Moore. The real plot begins when Kate becomes obsessed with her husband. Why is he gone so much? Why is he so elusive about what it is he does? And who is this expat couple Bill and Julia Maclean that seem to ‘show up’ wherever Kate and Dexter are?
Something is wrong. Dexter is lying about what he does and Kate is bound and determined to use her CIA experience to find out the truth; no matter the risk or how the Maclean’s try to deter her.Opinion:
There is little doubt that Mr. Pavone is a writer. A master of description, Pavone’s plot becomes lost in translation with vivid, long-winded descriptions of people, places and things that camouflage what I would describe as an ‘okay’ plot. The Expats
cannot be regarded as espionage fiction as there are no related international consequences to Kate’s discoveries. It’s all about Kate and Dexter Moore with the Maclean’s playing the mysterious side-kicks.
I found the characters to have no real connection to each other which makes it difficult for readers to connect to them. Who is Kate? I kept hoping I’d find out. Does she like flowers – does she like sex – does she enjoy murdering people? All I know is that Kate is afraid the past will catch up to her.
I want thrills when I read a thriller. Somebody has to die, maybe a bloody massacre, someone looking over a shoulder waiting to catch another character off guard. The Expats
is a predictable cat-and-mouse game that never quite spreads its wings.Recommendation:
I would not recommend The Expats
for your next read, however I would definitely stay tuned for Pavone’s second book. Rating
: 3 starsThe Expats on Amazon
Overview of Relativity by Kimberly Shursen Definition of RELATIVITY
the quality or state of being relative b :
something that is relative:
the state of being dependent for existence on or determined in nature, value, or quality by relation
to something else
In a breaking news report, Jack McCallin, the prominent Mayor of Boston, makes a statement that his daughter and granddaughter have been abducted. He knows the truth, however, and so does his twenty-four year old step-daughter Claire.
Claire was four when the Mayor first molested her, warning his step-daughter that if she told the 'secret,' bad things would happen. Twenty years later when Claire discovers the Mayor standing over her three year old daughter's bed, there is nothing will stop her from protecting Lizzie.
Claire has been totally dominated by the Mayor since he married Adrianna, McCallin's French born second wife, and adopted Claire at the age of two. Soon after Claire meets twenty-five year old Boston Globe reporter Matt Christenson, she enlists his help.
When McCallin orders Claire never to see Christenson again, Claire and Lizzie suddenly disappear. Claire has never told anyone, including her mother that McCallin is Lizzie's biological father. The only way Claire can prove that McCallin is a child molester and rapist is to have his DNA tested along with Lizzie's. But the evidence lies in the heavily guarded McCallin mansion and everyone in Boston is on the lookout for Claire and Matt.
One person found brutally murdered, Claire left for dead when McCallin's lackeys run her off the road after locating McCallin's biological daughter to testify against him, Matt and Claire don't know who to trust. The one thing they do
know is that Mayor Jack McCallin wants them dead before his empire comes tumbling down.
In the vein of such thrillers as Alafair Burke’s 212
and John Grisham's gripping A Time To Kill
this edgy political thriller is a page turner until the final twist.
Move over James Patterson, Patrice Fitgerald has arrived! Step aside Clinton, Obama, and Newt -- it’s time to vote and the nominees for Presidency are Vice President Catherine MacGuire-Young and the beautiful southern bell Jersha Hutchins.
A widow with two grown children, Vice President Catherine Young has worked herself up the ladder; from the school board, to the Maryland Legislature, to Congress to Vice President of the United States. Representing the right wing is socialite Jersha Hutchins, a former flight attendant and married to the devout Reverend Quigley Hutchins. The Hutchins have eight God-loving, squeaky clean children.
When President Tom Drummond is taken to the hospital for an emergency operation, Vice President Catherine Young is sworn into office. And when she receives a note telling her to pay $250,000 or someone will tell her secret, all hell breaks loose in the White House.
Catherine’s good looking, but cocaine addicted Campaign Manager Zane Zarillo is romantically involved with the sweet, naïve twenty-nine year old Brazilian beauty Maria Flores-Jenkins. Zane sees a golden opportunity to pay off the drug lords who threaten his life when he discovers Maria is the Vice President’s illegitimate daughter. Maria was conceived when Catherine was serving in the Peace Corp and fell in love with a married black man. Think of all the voters Catherine risks losing if her secret happens to slip out. The Vice President now faces a decision.
Halfway through the novel, Running
takes an even darker turn. Quote:
President Tom Drummond talking to Vice President Young.
“Because you're the first from our party, you will be remembered. And the next time the Democrats consider a woman for the top spot, they'll shake their heads and say, 'Don't forget what happened with Catherine Young. Let's not make that mistake again.'“ Drummond pointed his finger at her. “You don't deserve this burden, Catherine. To be the standard bearer for your gender. But that's the way it worked out. If you walk away from this – admitting that what you did was so wrong that you don't deserve to be president, the next female candidate will have to be a nun. I mean, where does it stop? Everyone is entitled to a life, a history...a youth. What was your mistake? That you had sex before marriage? Yes. You and nearly everybody. And most of them don't think it's such a terrible thing.”Reaction
is definitely one of the top two books I have reviewed so far. The cat-and-mouse twists and turns that will leave you on the edge of your seat are well worth the ride. Ms. Fitzgerald’s words flow easily from word-to-word and sentence-to- sentence allowing the reader to read quickly -- which is what you have to do to find out what happens next.
Take a little Hitchcock, mix in a some James Patterson, sprinkle a touch of Grisham, and then add a whole lot of Fitzgerald and Running
is what you get. Recommendation:
Make no mistake, this novel is NOT just for women. It is for the sophisticated reader who will be taken behind the scenes to feel the emotions and experience the struggles a candidate faces when running for the highest position in the country. Rating:
Five and a half out of Five Stars – Top Pick.
You can find Running
and other eFitzgerald books here:Running on Amazon
Looking for Lance: Amazon eBook
How David Met Sara: Amazon eBook
Dreamboat: The Frisky Chronicles
You can also follow Patrice Fitzgerald on Facebook
.If you enjoyed this interview, you can subscribe to the Underground or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.