Appointment With Death by David J. Dundas

AppointmentAppointment With Death by David Dundas is a crime thriller with an interesting premise. The main character of the novel is Mike Murphy, who becomes a cop in the small town of Silverton despite his parents’ disapproval. The first chapter draws the reader in, showing snippets of Murphy’s time in training and significant busts he makes as a rookie. At the end of this fast-paced and interesting chapter, Murphy is promoted to detective. Upon making detective, Murphy stumbles onto the case of his career. There is a killer out there murdering prostitutes and gouging out their eyes.

In an attempt to add suspense to the story, Dundas switches back and forth between multiple points of view. In the space of a chapter, the reader encounters thoughts from Murphy, other officers, reporters, and of course, the killer. This is a wonderful technique, but it is executed poorly. Instead of adding mystery and suspense, it merely creates confusion because there is no rhyme or reason to the point of view changes. Moreover, there are no transitions between the changes. In one paragraph, the reader could be watching Officer Reyes being paranoid in her apartment, and in the very next paragraph, it could be a week later and now the reader is watching the killer select a victim. Point of view switches happen as often as every paragraph and can be extremely confusing to the reader.

The plotline of this book is acceptable. As a crime novel, it does its job. The reader will be left wondering who the killer is until almost the very end. For the reader who loves mystery, this story will be a treat. The characters show real promise. Detective Murphy is extremely likable and the reader will want him to succeed. However, there are so many different characters that it makes individual character development sparse. Dundas does some things very well, such as creating an elaborate town and a crime mystery that’s hard to solve, but his writing style falls short of excellent in some areas. If the reader can push through point of view and sequence of events confusion, he or she will still enjoy the overall story.

Building Long-Term Relationships by John W Leoff

perf6.000x9.000.inddBuilding Long-Term Relationships by John W Leoff is like a textbook for marriage; there is a chapter for almost any topic that can affect your relationship with your spouse, complete with cited research and multiple examples. Leoff tells the reader from the very beginning that this is not a book that you can read cover-to-cover easily; it is better used as a learning tool—working chapter by chapter with your partner and answering the questions provided to better learn about the self and the relationship.

Leoff’s chapters cover almost every aspect of life. He discusses topics that directly affect a marriage, such as communication and problem solving. In addition to the common sense issues, he also deals with aspects that the average person wouldn’t think to associate with their marital problems—family dynamics earlier in life, stages of childhood development, and dealing with change not only in the private sector but the public one as well. Every chapter introduces the topic before explaining in immense detail each aspect and how it relates to a person’s relationships. Leoff cites numerous professionals and follows everything up with examples from society as well as from personal sessions.

Referring to Building Long-Term Relationships as a textbook is the closest analogy the reader can make. This book is packed with information. So much information that at times it can be extremely dense and the reader may find their eyes glazing over. If the reader is looking for a book to provide answers for a “quick-fix” to their marital problems, they will be disappointed. Leoff cautions that there is no quick fix, and he does not waver. When addressing a topic, he exhausts all avenues and sometimes doesn’t even tie in to marriage until the very end of the chapter. This book is for the reader who wishes to fix or sustain their relationship, but who also wishes to know how the self operates, how society operates, and how he or she can reconcile differences that cause tension in marriage as well as internally in the self.

Footprints of a Dancer by Bob Avey

Footprints of a DancerFootprints of a Dancer by Bob Avey is actually fourth in a series of Detective Elliot mysteries. Yet, the reader who has not read the first three novels will have no problem comprehending Elliot’s life and actions. Indeed, after reading this installment, the reader will be inclined to acquire the previous ones. Throughout the entire book, Avery spins a mystery so elaborate that it is almost impossible to gauge how the tale will end.

The story begins with Elliot taking an evening jog. Thinking he will be alone on the trails, he is surprised to find that a woman is running towards him, even more so because she is an old friend by the name of Laura who went missing years ago. To make matters even more bizarre, another old friend calls to tell Elliot that he has seen Laura as well, directly after she disappears on the trails. Elliot agrees to meet with Gerald, as there is something strange occurring, but when Elliot shows at the meeting place Gerald is gone, and no one knows where he went. Suddenly, Elliot is on the trail of two missing friends that he believes have been murdered. By who, he has no clue.

To make matters more complicated, there seems to be a supernatural aspect to the case. Something to do with an obsidian knife of unknown origins. Moreover, Elliot begins having visions, as well as experiencing fluctuations in time. Is Elliot going insane from the stress of being a cop and looking for old friends or is there something sinister at work? The reader must follow Elliot to the very end to find out the answer, along the multiple twists and turns and inexplicable events.

Avery spins an intricate mystery that the reader will enjoy, especially one who attempts to crack the case as it is happening. Every step of the way, the evidence is so detailed that it feels as if the reader is standing right beside Elliot. This is not one of those mysteries where the outcome is foreseeable; there are so many suspects along the way that the reader is thrown off the trail up until the very end. There are even times when the reader feels they have escaped the confines of time along with Elliot himself. As a detective novel, Footprints of a Dancer does not disappoint.

U.S. Route 99 by Michael Newlon

route 99U.S. Route 99 by Michael R Newlon is yet another coffee table, travel book in his series—this one just as stunning and interesting as the rest. As always, Newlon uses photographs to set the mood of his trip and get the reader excited to begin. He begins this time with a photo of Cadillac Jacks in Sun Valley, California. Seeing the historic building puts the reader in a nostalgic mood and indicates that this trip will be one full of beauty and historical significance. And, as is his usual, he provides a photo of the vehicle that makes it all possible…this time parked beside a Historic Route 99 sign, putting the reader in the mood for a drive.

Before getting on the road, Newlon gives the reader a little backstory and some pertinent information. He starts with the Porsche. As the original owner of the 1969 Porsche 912, Newlon drove the car for a decade before storing it for almost three decades. When retirement rolled around, he decided to get the car a complete rebuild and chassis overhaul, perfect for long-distance highway cruising. Newlon then takes the time to explain highway terminology and signage. For those readers who do not know much about highways or traveling, this is a welcome little detour. A final interesting tidbit is about the maps he uses throughout the book. He explains that they are from a 1959 atlas. The reader will enjoy Newlon’s use of maps because they are augmented with information bubbles. These bubbles contain not only pertinent trip information, but also point out how the current alignment is different from the one the reader would see today. This is helpful to the reader who needs a visual aid to understand the twists, turns, and changes the highway takes.

The body of the work details Newlon’s terminus to terminus trip, starting at the Mexican border in Calexico, California and ending at the Canadian border in Blaine, Washington. U.S. Route 99 was actually decommissioned in the 1970s for reasons such as signage confusion and safety issues, but Newlon drives the “full surviving length,” which is now made up by mostly state highways. Despite this change, he finds the original 1926 alignment still mostly intact. Along the way, he reports such historic sites as former location of ancient Lake Cahuilla, Cadillac Jacks and the Pink Motel, and the town of Yreka. As can happen on any trip, alongside beautiful scenery, Newlon also runs into less than favorable weather and requires an unexpected pit stop before reaching his destination…only to turn around and begin another journey.

Once again, being a passenger in Newlon’s Porsche is an absolute pleasure. His book is both intellectually and aesthetically pleasing. Being photo-heavy and text-light, Newlon conveys a large amount of information in a small space. The reader will learn a lot about U.S. Route 99 and highways in general. The photographs are both beautiful and informative. Newlon writes an interesting travel book that is peppered with his humorous point of view about the things he sees. Because Route 99 was decommissioned, Newlon becomes a detective of sorts, searching for signs of the old route and noting how the highway and towns evolved side-by-side. This is not just a travel book, it is also a work of art, a history, and a practical guide rolled into one interesting and humorous package.

U.S. Route 99

Travel America’s “Pacific Highway” in a Classic 1969 Porsche 912

Michael R Newlon

Copyright 2010

U.S. Route 95 by Michael Newlon

route 95U.S. Route 95 by Michael R Newlon is another in his series of coffee table, travel books. In this installment, Newlon and his 1969 Porsche 912 travel along U.S. Route 95, or as it is also called, “Desolation Highway.” Before Newlon takes the reader along for the ride, he explains his relationship with his car, which is truly the protagonist in all of his books. Being the original owner of the 1969 Porsche, he had the advantage of knowing that everything came factory-installed, which makes it easy to know inside and out. After storing the Porsche for decades, Newlon decided to modernize the vehicle for long-distance highway cruising. The first few pages of his book detail this process further, and he includes pictures that the “highway geek” will enjoy.

One thing Newlon does to prepare the reader for the trip is to explain highway terminology. For those readers who do not know much about highways or traveling, this is a welcome little detour. He also notes the High Priority Corridor system in progress, which explains all the construction he sees along Route 95. One last piece of information he shares before beginning the journey is about the maps he uses throughout the book. He explains that the maps are scanned images from a 1959 oil company road atlas. An interesting detail is that they do not contain a single Interstate Highway; if someone wanted to travel back in 1959, it had to be done on U.S. highways. The reader will enjoy Newlon’s use of maps because they are augmented with information bubbles. These bubbles contain not only pertinent trip information, but also point out how the current alignment is different from the one the reader would see today. This is helpful to the reader who needs a visual aid to understand the twists, turns, and changes the highway takes.

The body of the work details Newlon’s terminus to terminus trip on U.S. Route 95. The 1,574-mile drive begins at the U.S./Mexican border at San Luis, Arizona and continues northbound to the U.S./Canadian border at Eastport, Idaho. During the journey, Newlon shares with the reader site highlights in each state, such as the Colorado River, Wyatt Earp’s mines, and a hotel in Goldfield Nevada where President Teddy Roosevelt gave a speech. The “highway geek” will particularly enjoy this book because Newlon spends quite a bit of time detailing how the highway is changing from its original alignment. He includes many pictures showing old roads, construction zones, and places where the highway is co-signed with other roads.

U.S. Route 95 is aptly named “Desolation Highway.” A majority of the road is simply open asphalt with no car in sight. “Highway geeks” will enjoy learning about the process to rebuild Newlon’s Porsche as well as his in-depth look at how the highway evolves. The average reader will enjoy the beautiful photos of gorgeous scenery as well as the practical advice Newlon peppers throughout the piece. For example, when Newlon encounters a snowstorm on the way to Oregon, he explains the maintenance needed to make sure his car is highway ready. Even though U.S. Route 95 may not be as exciting as other U.S. routes, Newlon’s book is still enjoyable and useful to both the “highway geek” and the average reader.

U.S. Route 95

Travel America’s “Desolation Highway” in a Classic 1969 Porsche 912

Michael R Newlon

Copyright 2009

U.S. Route 395 by Michael Newlon

route 395U.S. Route 395 is coffee table, travel book by Michael Newlon—this one just as stunning and educational as his others. The volume begins with three striking photographs—a scenic view of the eastern High Sierras near Independence, CA, a shot of his steering wheel and dashboard, and an artistic pose of his Porsche 912—all of which get the reader in the mood for a drive! However, before he begins detailing his actual trip, Newlon takes the time to introduce readers to highway terminology. For those readers who do not know much about highways or traveling, this is a welcome little detour.

A majority of the piece details Newlon’s southbound journey along U.S. Route 395.  He begins at the northern terminus at the Canadian border near Laurier, Washington and finishes when the highway merges with I-15 near Hesperia, CA. During this 1,305-mile journey, Newlon sees Washington, Oregon, Nevada, and California. The reader will enjoy this trip for the beauty, information, and historical significance. In Washington, there is the Ritzville walking tour, Oregon has mountainous scenery, and there are tiny gems of history and geology peppered along the way.

In addition to the dreamlike beauty in Newlon’s photographs, the reader also receives a taste of reality in this installment when it comes to long highway trips. Newlon cautions about careful fuel management because of long stretches without travel services. The Porsche encounters a nail just outside of Spokane and gets a flat tire. In Oregon, a herd of cattle means that Newlon has to crawl along as quietly as possible so as not to spook the animals and cause a stampede. This book is peppered with humor, beauty, and practical advice—making it valuable for the reader who wishes to take the trip down 395 or any other highway.

A distinct feature in this volume is the maps. Newlon always includes maps to illustrate his trail, but in this installment, the maps are augmented with information bubbles showing trip highlights. This is helpful for the reader who is unfamiliar with that part of the country…or who simply appreciates a little levity, since one bubble points out where Newlon encountered the cattle. This feature makes the maps more interesting and valuable as well as inserts Newlon’s personal touch into the piece.

As always, his Porsche 912 is a focal point of the book. It does not matter in what order Newlon’s books are read, the loyalty to his car is always apparent. Which is rightly so, since they have been together since 1969. In every page, Newlon’s passion for his Porsche, the U.S. highway system, and the history along U.S. Route 395 is readily apparent. Novice and experienced readers alike will enjoy this journey.

U.S. Route 395

Travel America’s “Three Flags Highway” in a Classic 1969 Porsche 912

Michael R Newlon

Copyright 2009

Protect and Serve by Robin Leigh Miller

protectandserveProtect and Serve by Robin Leigh Miller is a steamy romance novel and a nail-biting mystery all at the same time. The story begins when Lieutenant Kevin Smith is called to a domestic violence dispute. When he arrives on scene, a man—who is later identified as Briggs—is beating and kicking his wife. Just as Kevin is exiting his cruiser, a woman comes out and hits Briggs with a cast-iron pan, knocking him unconscious. Kevin recognizes the woman as Tami, the waitress he’s been eyeing up at the local diner.

In the aftermath of the assault, the reader learns that Tami is a take-charge, cocky, vivacious woman who keeps polite, kind Kevin on his toes and off-balance. Their flirty, sexual banter during his attempt to get her statement is soon interrupted by a chirp from Tami’s cell phone. He is surprised when she reacts in fear.

When the next chapter turns to Tami’s point of view, the reader learns that Tami has downloaded an app on her phone that is supposed to tell her when she is going to die. At first, it was meant to be a joke, but after the texts started coming several times a week, fear sets it. The app is just the beginning of the creepy things that happen to Tami. After work the next day, she comes home to a trashed house—broken dishes, spilled food—but when she searches for signs of a break-in, all the doors and windows are locked. Then, to make matters worse, she goes for a twenty-minute walk, and when she returns, everything is back to normal. Over the next few days, she hears inexplicable noises and experiences more weird events. Finally, she decides she has a ghost living with her and realizes she must find a way to get rid of it.

Interspersed between spine-tingling episodes are steamy, vividly detailed sex scenes between Kevin and Tami as they discover their mutual desire and respect for each other. Tami is wild and uninhibited; she knows what she likes and wants, and she goes for it. Kevin has always been reserved, brought up to treat women with a certain amount of decorum. The more time they spend together, Tami shows Kevin that it’s okay to have a wild side…and his wide side sure is something!

If the promise of erotic, intimate love scenes isn’t enough, Miller also writes an intriguing and puzzling mystery. Tami is so sure that she is living with a ghost, but what do the death app and the ghost have to do with one another? Are they related or are they two separate events? When people around Tami start to die, the question of who is haunting her becomes even more important. Can it really be a ghost causing all this mischief or is there someone out there gunning for Tami? Maybe it’s both. Until the very last chapter, the reader will be questioning every piece of evidence and every detail, much like Kevin and his fellow officers.

Robin Leigh Miller does a fantastic job of blending love, lust, terror, and mystery in Protect and Serve. It is a romance novel with a little something for everyone. For the reader who enjoys romance and intimate scenes, the wait is a short one. For the reader who enjoys puzzles that are hard to solve with unexpected outcomes, the pleasure lasts until the very last page.

Protect and Serve

Robin Leigh Miller

Ellora’s Cave

Copyright 2012