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After finishing law school, Kay Powell wanted to start her own business and the one thing she knew for sure was that she preferred working with animals over people. With a background in theatre, as her parents are both stage actors and she was once involved in their act growing up, she decides to start an agency that represents animal actors. Little does she know how this will change her life...
With her new business, Kay sees all kinds of animal talent from many different species including cats, birds, reptiles, and even dolphins. Her latest client, however, is a lovable dog named Bruno. As soon as Kay meets Bruno she can see he has potential to be a great actor for he’s obedient, calm, and above all has a face that all of the audience will fall in love with. Unfortunately, Bruno’s owners Trent and Louise Barclay are not as simple to deal with, making it twice as hard for Kay to seal a contract for Bruno. For you see, Kay is so close to getting Bruno the part of the dog Sandy in the play Annie, if only she can convince Trent to keep his opinions to himself about the director, Les McMaster.
After some negotiation with both parties, Kay thinks she has the role captured for Bruno and is proud of her client’s bright future, but everything takes a drastic turn when the next morning she is informed that Trent Barclay has been murdered. Suddenly Bruno’s future is not so bright as an investigation starts to find a motive for Trent’s murder. This is when Kay finds herself in an odd predicament - she represents Bruno and by all means wants to look out for his best interest and keep him safe. However, if someone was angry enough to murder Trent then Bruno could possibly be in danger too. The situation becomes even stranger when Trent’s wife, Louise Barclay, accuses Kay of dog napping the morning of Bruno’s first rehearsal. Louise doesn’t seem to recall that Kay called her many times to arrange a drop off time for Bruno. Instantly distraught, Louise tries to get Kay arrested, but is quickly told there is no grounds for arrest. Louise, angry with the whole situation, storms away leaving her dog yet again with Kay.
Because Kay is in the center of all the theatre drama, Detective Rodriguez, who has been assigned the case, asks for Kay’s help in searching for clues. At first Kay is a little apprehensive for shouldn’t the police handle all of this business? But then, knowing that the safety of her client Bruno is in her hands, she agrees to help and soon uncovers a dog pile of secrets.
Before I even started to read this book I was pulled in by the unique main character of Kay Powell, for being an agent to the animals is just such a fun and creative place to start. Then throwing in a lovable dog like Bruno, I was instantly hooked to the bond this pair had throughout the story. It was perfect for the reader to see the dog’s perspective in a unique way for the main character keeps the reader in tune with all that is transpiring with Bruno, while still keeping up with a fun dialogue between the human characters. This is a great first novel in this series and I’ll be looking for the second one.
Quill says: Could not ask for a more unique and fun story!
How to Change a Life
By: Stacey Ballis
Publication Date: August 2017
Reviewed by: Diane Lunsford
Review Date: August 15, 2017
Foodie novelist Stacey Ballis is back and delivers yet another delightful read in her latest novel, How to Change a Life.
Eloise has a comfortable life. She is a successful private chef and couldn’t ask for more perfect clients. Her corgi sidekick, Simca, is the only member of her immediate family which is fine by her. Eloise reflects on her high school years and experiences a pang of melancholy when she thinks of her ‘besties’ Lynne and Teresa. She thinks about Mrs. O’Connor and how she was the one teacher who made a difference in Eloise’s life. Aside from her loving parents, Mrs. O’Connor helped Eloise see there was more to her life than being an Olympic contender once those dreams were quashed due to an injury in her senior year. Time moves forward, friends move on and here she is today, months away from her 40th birthday. When she receives the sad news of Mrs. O’Connor’s passing, Eloise had no idea the event would end up being yet another gift of wisdom and hope from her dearly departed teacher.
How fitting the three women would reunite at Mrs. O’Connor’s funeral. They became fast friends in high school thanks to Mrs. O’Connor. When they reconnect, they decide to reignite the flame to their senior class assignment. Each girl was to make a list of things to accomplish before their respective fortieth birthdays in a few, short months. Lynne is a successful advertising executive and has no time for domestic responsibilities. She must get a dog. Teresa has mastered the art of being the perfect mom and homemaker. Her role of wife could use some spicing up and her challenge is to do just that. Eloise has been off the dating scene for more than a decade which is more than too long. Her goal is to start dating again. While the occasion for the reunion was a solemn one, it doesn’t take long for the three to rekindle their friendships. Or maybe the years have paved the way to show their true colors. Perhaps the resurrection of their ‘bucket list’ wasn’t such a great idea after all. Only time will tell if the three women make it to forty together with friendships intact or perhaps they will find themselves achieving their goals solo.
Stacey Ballis is the quintessential author when it comes to spinning a light and balanced read. How to Change a Life introduces three women (besties in high school) years later and Ms. Ballis manages to craft events and dialogue to portray a ‘that was then, this is now’ allure which is believable. The level of drama is tempered, but it does manage to surface at opportune moments in the story. Eloise is the grounded and nurturing type, Teresa is the loyal friend and Lynne is the jet-setter who may want what Eloise and Teresa have, but will never admit it. Ms. Ballis nailed the balance of conflict and kinship individually and as a group beautifully. I’ve had the pleasure of reading other titles by Ms. Ballis and, once again, say I am a fan of her work. I look forward to the next ‘foodie’ adventure.
Quill says: It’s never too late to change a life and become that someone you were always destined to become.
By: Steven M. Moore
Publisher: Penmore Press LLC
Publication Date: May 2017
Reviewed by: Lynette Latzko
Review Date: August 4, 2017
Aging Inspector (and three-time widow) Esther Brookstone, remarkably skilled in the Art and Antiques Unit with Scotland Yard, has a few major life decisions to consider. Should she quietly retire from a lengthy and productive career with the Yard, or should she, as Dylan Thomas once penned, "...rage against the dying of the light" and continue to pursue her passion as a specialist in stolen art? Almost as if to instantly answer her quandary, Brookstone comes across an invitation to a private showing of "An Angel With Titus' Features" by the artist Rembrandt van Rijn. She is fairly certain that this piece of artwork is either the long-ago stolen original by the Nazis, or, more than likely, a black market forgery, and sets out to pursue the dealers and investigate the criminal activity, putting aside any thoughts of retirement. To assist her in this wild endeavor, she joins up with Bastiann van Coevorden, who is not only a well-respected Interpol Agent, but also Brookstone’s significant other. Together their hunt takes them traveling through numerous European countries and all the way to South America and they are briefly assisted by a cast of special agents from America and Germany, as well as numerous nefarious characters, who are hell-bent on thwarting their efforts to uncover the truth behind the artwork and put a stop to a potential plot that will create a worldwide disaster.
Rembrandt’s Angel, by Steven M. Moore, is a thrilling, globetrotting adventure that provides readers a glance into the world of art forgery, Neo-Nazi conspiracies and even links to ISIS. The duo of Brookstone and van Coevorden can be favorably compared with utmost respect to Agatha Christie’s classic characters, Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot. Esther is a strong, well-liked character with a saucy disposition, while Bastiann, though he plays costar and lover to Esther, is able to hold his own with regards to likability. In addition to Esther and Bastiann, there were quite a few other characters in the story and while the author did include a "Cast of Main Characters" (which was used extensively throughout the book) this reader found it quite distracting to the overall reading flow. Perhaps if there were fewer characters or if their descriptions were a little bit stronger, it would make it easier to remember everyone involved.
The plot is complex, taking readers to many different locales, intertwining characters both new and old and this can lose the reader if they do not carefully follow along. Also, this reviewer found the subplot that included the character Sylvia Bassett to be a bit farfetched. Specifically when Sylvia, who is on the run, just happens to be discovered hiding out in Esther Brookstone’s recently inherited Scottish castle. However, despite the few issues Rembrandt’s Angel may have, this reviewer believes that Steven M. Moore’s novel should be read by fans of the mystery genre. Particularly because the author has a keen ability to weave a great storyline that is not only filled with suspense, but captures a reader’s attention. A few quotes stood out as quite descriptive and remained with this reader well after the book was completely read, for example, "In the ice cream shop of crime, there are many flavors" and "A committee of clouds enjoyed a private meeting over the manor." Finally, the character Esther Brookstone provides readers with an unusual female protagonist who is more than just a senior Scotland Yard Inspector, she is a memorable and tenacious dame who readers will undoubtedly enjoy throughout the novel and will look forward to reading any of her possible future exploits.
Quill says: Rembrandt’s Angel is a complex thriller with several plots intertwined throughout the story. It is recommended for serious mystery fans who are looking for not only a challenging read, but also one that allows readers to become an armchair adventurist and detective, along with Brookstone and van Coevorden, spanning many different parts of the globe.