Category Archives: Book Reviews

Book Review–Vacation to Graceland by Phillip Cornell

vacation to graceland

Even the best-laid travel plans go astray.  Often the most anticipated aspect of the trip has some drawbacks. (See Playing Tourist–Guanajuato and Getting Legal–Trip 4) Remember the torture chamber tour and the time the truck axle fell off on the overpass? Man, those were some vacation memories! Wouldn’t you agree? Vacation to Graceland by Phillip Cornell is no exception to Murphy’s Law.

Scooter joy riding Granny, grouchy mom, financially strapped sister Crissy, her two kids, and the narrator head to Memphis for a family reunion barbecue. Hitting the road early to make the family fish fry is complicated by a quick stop at Kmart, another stop for lottery tickets, heading across town to pay a bill, faulty GPS knowledge, hunger, crankiness, hotel reservation issues, parking problems, exorbitant prices and a wrong turn or two. It’s a good thing that all’s well that ends well.

The misadventures that occur in Vacation to Graceland by Phillip Cornell are typical of any family trip and as a result were quite humorous.  I felt like I was stuffed in the backseat along with them on the trip, and none too comfortable either, I must admit.  It was a quick, entertaining read.

However, there were some grammatical issues that I was not sure whether to chalk up to local vernacular, intentional errors representing the narrator’s natural speech patterns, or author mistakes.  There were errors in noun and verb use (sale/sell), homophone confusion (isle/aisle), misspelling mistakes (intensions/intentions), inconsistent spelling (gripping/griping), missing apostrophes (trips expenses/trip’s expenses), verb and adjective mix-ups (drunken/drunk), and words I just couldn’t figure out what they were meant to convey (My mom hackled me?).  Far be it for me to criticize overmuch.  I’ve been known to have language issues myself.   After all, there was that official police visit that had me imagining house stealers and that “go and see if the sow laid eggs” Mexican Spanish expression that caused me some grief. (See Who’s on first in Spanglish and Learning and Teaching–Language)

As most people have had their fair share of road trip disasters, the majority of readers will find something to relate to and laugh about in this book.  I mean, who hasn’t been squashed next to bickering children in the back seat?  If you prefer not to relive such traumatic experiences ever, perhaps this isn’t the book for you.  My overall rating was influenced by the above mentioned grammatical problems. Therefore, I rate this book an entertaining 3 out of 4 stars.

Vacation to Graceland by Phillip Cornell was an OnlineBookClub.org Book of the Day.  Get your copy here.

three stars

******************


disclosure

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews

Inspirational Women Writers in Mexico–Carmen Amato

Pacific-Reaper_200px
Carmen Amato (also known as me) writes romantic thrillers and the Detective Emilia Cruz mystery series. Emilia is the first female police detective in Acapulco. She can take the heat. Can you?
Essentials
“Danger and betrayal never more than a few pages away.” — Kirkus Reviews
Carmen Amato_best

I’m originally from New York, went to college in Virginia and Paris, and my husband’s job took me to Mexico 17 years ago. While we live in the US now, the years we spent in Mexico were life changing, mostly because what I saw and experienced there inspired my writing. I’m now a full-time mystery and thriller author, best known for the Detective Emilia Cruz police procedural series set in Acapulco.

My notions of Mexico City were rather naïve before we got there. I didn’t realize what a huge city it is, or what big gulfs there are between social classes. An early lesson came from a mother whose children rode the same school bus as mine. Her chauffeur drove her to my house because we were the first stop and their house was the last. The mother wanted her kids to have the experience of riding the bus, but not too much. So they got off at our house and were chauffeured the rest of the way home.

Later, the woman took pains to put our Mexican housekeeper in her place, lectured me for being too lenient with the hired help, then asked me to help her maid get a visa. I declined and never saw her again but unfortunately met many more women like her. Great for fictional character development, not so great for Mexico’s social stratification.

Little customs, like tipping the attendant at the Pemex station or kid who wheeled my grocery cart to the car, took some getting used to. Was this a cultural norm or ripping off a clueless gringo? I found myself assessing many probably innocent encounters.

The traffic terrified me at first, too. Being able to get around by myself was essential and I was determined that the city streets would not defeat me. A major victory came on the day I decided to take the kids to the zoo to see the pandas. I initially didn’t realize that you can’t drive into the zoo itself. We finally parked somewhere in Chapultepec Park and walked, which turned out to be the exactly right thing to do. We saw the pandas and headed into the Zona Rosa for lunch. I parked on the street near the fancy San Angel antiques market. A man with a red rag popped out and assured me he’d keep the car safe. We walked a bit, discovered VIPs and its famously undrinkable coffee. When we got back to the car, I found that I’d left it unlocked! But the man was there and nothing bad had happened to either us or the car. I knew then that Mexico was going to be a good experience.

Being Catholic helped and opened doors that might have been otherwise closed. I loved the way Mexico celebrates the rhythm of the church calendar, the glory of the feast day of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the floral vendors in front of the big cemetery on the rim of Chapultepec Park. I was very involved in the English-speaking church, Saint Patrick’s, but also attended the local church in the Lomas de Chapultepec neighborhood.

My Spanish was non-existent when we moved to Mexico but having to fix up our house forced me to learn rapidly. One of the first things I did was to sit down and write out numbers up to 100 so I would understand prices. Not only did I have to negotiate for cleaning and gardening services but painting, custom curtains, plumbing—you name it. The Newcomer’s Club and weekly immersion lessons saved me!

The children’s school was another reason to learn the language. The children attended the American school, which meant half their lessons were in English and half in Spanish. We got a tutor to help the kids and I took lessons, too. The school’s administration and most teachers were Mexican and many preferred to hold parent-teacher sessions in Spanish.

The security situation in Mexico City was a low-simmering and ever-present concern. We had a hard and fast rule for the kids: no talking getting into or out of the car. This is when it is most easy to be distracted. We had some close calls; would-be robbers were scared off by our dogs, our car suffered minor vandalism, and I was followed around a store. But I think being very vigilant helped us avoid any real trouble.

I had several defining moments in Mexico but the one I recall most clearly was when I was driving back from the big mall in the Santa Fe suburb. I’d had a run-in with a snarky salesgirl in Liverpool. She’d taken something I’d tried on, five minutes later didn’t know where it was, and bottom line, I walked out of the store empty-handed. This was a common occurrence, that and being unable to complete a purchase because the person with the key to the cash register wasn’t there, or the cash register didn’t have change. Using a credit card was generally out of the question; every time I did the credit card company would put a hold on the card. I called them weekly to explain that I lived in Mexico—please see the mailing address—but it never mattered.

So I’m driving out of the mall and the afternoon sky darkens to lead. Sheets of water pour down, deafening me as the rainstorm pounds on the roof of the car. I’m already frustrated and angry and now I’m scared, too. I begin to cry in the car while repeating my mantra, “This city will not defeat me.” I pull up at a red light and there’s this Madonna-looking girl standing in the median, with a thin rebozo over her head, carrying a baby.

Now I generally did not give to street beggars–warnings had gone out advising not to give because beggars are an organized syndicate or in league with criminals who will approach the other side of the car to rob you. Yet today, as it’s slashing rain and I’m sobbing, I realize that my life is pretty good after all. I roll down the window and give her 200 pesos.

If I could do my Mexico experience all over again, I’d travel more. I never made it to Guadalajara or Copper Canyon or Baja. I also would buy more Otomi embroideries and painted alebrijas.

But with my books, my life is now inextricably linked to Mexico. I know I’ll visit many more times.

I owe Mexico a debt of gratitude because I doubt my writing career would have come together the way it has without those high/low, sweet/salt years of experience. It took me about five years to distill it all into my first novel, THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY, a Cinderella story set against the backdrop of cartel drug smuggling and Mexican presidential elections. Next came the Detective Emilia Cruz series which in 2016 was optioned for television by a major US network. I don’t know if the series will actually come about but if it does, I hope it is as authentic as I have tried to make my books.

Thanks so much for hosting me. Readers are invited to join me at any of the links below:

Carmenamato.net

Books on Amazon

Subscribe to Mystery Ahead

Facebook

Twitter

Pinterest

Pacific Reaper is a riveting read with twists and turns galore!  

************************************************


disclosure

2 Comments

Filed under Book Reviews, Guest Blogger Adventures

Book Review–the hideaway by Lauren K. Denton

the hideaway

Sara Margaret Jenkins has just inherited her grandmother’s dilapidated bed and breakfast in Sweet Bay, Alabama.  Forced to leave behind her New Orlean’s business to attend to the numerous details, she discovers a bit of mystery surrounding her grandmother Mags.  Sara has a chance at a new life in Sweet Bay if she can find the strength to stay.  After all, not all stories end happily ever after.

The Hideaway by Lauren K. Denton is a romantic novel about new beginnings.  The story is told in overlapping chapters, past and present, grandmother and granddaughter. Even though the book begins with Mags’ death, her story is told through her own eyes as Sara pieces together the clues left.

I enjoyed both stories although perhaps Mags story just a wee bit more.  Her in life in the 1960s, with its expectations and issues, was masterly crafted.  The characters that arrived and stayed or left in The Hideaway were diverse and interesting.  It would be a real treat to hear William, Dot, Mrs. DeBerry, Daisy, Starla, Glory, Major, Bert and even Robert’s stories as well.

One issue I was a little confused about was the ownership of the house.  Originally, the bed and breakfast was run by Mrs. DeBerry who leaves the business in dire financial straits.  Legally, how did Mags obtain the title?  Then just how exactly does the town of Sweet Bay use eminent domain when the legitimate owner has due process rights?  Of course, knowing the details isn’t essential to enjoying the story but it would add an additional element of realism.
The Hideaway by  Lauren K. Denton is a delightful light read.  You won’t be disappointed with this one!

four stars

*****************************

This post was proofread by Grammarly.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

disclosure


Leave a comment

Filed under Book Reviews

Book Review–We Won’t Forget You… Mr. McGillicuddy by Ira L. White

Did you ever consider the implications of what you blog about?  Perhaps you should! Robert McGillicuddy has his hands full caring for an elderly father, pregnant daughter, teenage granddaughter and BP, his affectionate dog.  In the moments he isn’t trying to juggle all his obligations, he writes a blog with a steadily growing readership.  He is blissfully unaware that it’s been flagged by the government as subversive.  Life is about to change drastically for the McGillicuddy family.

I enjoyed reading about the ordinary lives of the characters and Robert’s blog posts in We Won’t Forget You… Mr. McGillicuddy by Ira L. White.  Robert’s father’s daily struggles were so typical of many elderly today.  His daughter’s efforts to provide for her children and the failure of the system for those who most need it also have a strong basis in reality.  It’s no wonder Robert becomes vocal about the government’s shortcomings in his blog posts.

I least liked that the book ended.  I’m hoping there is a sequel in the works.  How do Robert and his family manage?  They aren’t in the least prepared for the situation they find themselves in.  They certainly aren’t Preppers.  What will they do?  Perhaps they should come to La Yacata! 

This book appealed to me especially because of my own blog topic this month and its Prepper theme.  My posts were mostly in jest (A to Z reasons why La Yacata is the place to be WTSHTF) however they do address real concerns about living in Mexico.  With the current situation in the US under the newest red-haired leader, it wouldn’t be a surprise to find that life there deteriorates rapidly in the next couple of months as well.

We Won’t Forget You… Mr. McGillicuddy by Ira L. White will be an enjoyable read for most everyone because of its commentary on everyday struggles in the land of the free and the brave.  It might even inspire its readers to create their own Prepper communities in preparation for possible societal disaster in the near future.  However, those that prefer to keep their heads in the sand about current events won’t enjoy this book.

I rate We Won’t Forget You… Mr. McGillicuddy by Ira L. White 3 out of 4 stars.  I would like to have given it a perfect 4-star review, however, I think there needs to be a bit more development in some of the main characters.  Gil and Robert have fully fleshed out characters down to the minutest detail but Ruby and Sapphire seem very one-dimensional.  I would also like to see more of Robert’s blog posts.  Maybe some of the aside chapters, those sections that had nothing to do with the McGillicuddy family, could be presented as blog posts.  And, of course, I want to know what happens next!

three stars

This post was proofread by Grammarly.

This book was an OnlineBookClub.org Book of the Day.  Read about it here.

********************************


disclosure

1 Comment

Filed under Blogging, Book Reviews