Havana Lost by Libby Fischer Hellmann

Havana Lost

by Libby Fischer Hellmann

Genre: Historical Fiction, Thriller

Francesca Pacelli is the daughter of a crime boss and has spent most of her life so far in Cuba. The casino her father runs is in its heyday, but trouble is coming. Cuba is on the verge of revolution. In the charged environment, Francesca, or Frankie, never expects to fall in love, and especially not with Luis. After all, he was sent to kidnap her to raise funds for the revolution. Abandoning her father and his heavy-handed rule over her and his piece of Cuba, Frankie runs away with Luis and starts a new life as a Cuban wife supporting Fidel’s revolution.

Frankie’s act sets off a chain of events that lasts through the life of her son Michael and her granddaughter Luisa. Caught between the affluence of America and the strenuous conditions in Cuba, Frankie and her family struggle to hold onto the ones they love. Separation and death work against them in a fight for power, money, respect, and sometimes love.

When I heard about Havana Lost I knew I would enjoy it because I enjoyed Libby’s book, A Bitter Veil, so much. She didn’t disappoint with Havana Lost. Libby writes with a compassionate and fascinating personal approach to history with her fictional characters. Revolution means so much more to the people inside it, especially if they are in love and pregnant. The frank and honest way Libby looks at the truth about the countries, the people involved in the revolution, and their different points of view gives an important face to the historical facts.

I loved the way Libby’s characters were not quintessential good guys or bad guys. Luis supported the revolution for his reasons and Ramon for his, and both men act in ways that may be “bad” for their good ends. Frankie supported Luis and his values, but as a pampered American had different, more idealistic personal motives for the cause.  Later she embraces the role of crime boss for the power and place it gives her though she hated her father for it.

Spanning three generations, Libby takes on a lot with her tale. But nowhere did the action seem to fall flat or lose the interesting momentum. I cared about each person for themselves and for the other characters connected to them. At first her sudden time shifts disconcerted me, but I love the way they added mystery to the events transpiring and gave the very real sense that time flies. Her details bring Cuba and all the other places and their cultures to life. I thoroughly enjoyed Havana Lost and recommend this riveting historically-based tale.

I approve this title for Awesome Indies. http://awesomeindies.net

I received this book from the author for the purposes of an unbiased review.

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Syd and Marcy by Beaird Glover

Syd and Marcy

by Beaird Glover

Genre: Thriller, Crime, Mystery

Five stars

This book is FREE for Kindle on the review posting date of this review 5/30/2013!

Syd and Marcy have found one another and seem to complete one another. Hollywood and fame call their names and anyone who gets in their way can just die. Literally. The clerk at the Zippy-Doo did, and look what it got him. Armed with a camera and a desire for renown, Syd and Marcy take Memphis by storm. But when Marcy appears on the news in a security camera video from the Zippy-Doo, the two begin to see the consequences of their recklessness. Syd’s backwoods family in Yalahoma Township, Mississippi seem like the perfect refuge. Syd’s uncle Enid is too much like Marcy’s abusive father, though, and before they know it, Enid has a bullet in his brain. Enid’s daughter/wife Sardis, mentally unsound and nonverbal, remains the only witness to the crime. Yalahoma Sheriff Litton Shaw gets involved when he accidentally hits Sardis in her panicked flight around town. Litton brings his good friend Blaine on to help solve the case. But Blaine seems to take it all too seriously. Litton just wanted to help the poor troubled Sardis, after all.

After some brilliant detective work by Blaine and some stupid mistakes on Syd and Marcy’s part, Blaine gets them in his sights. But will Blaine turn them over to Litton and the justice system with very little evidence to convict them, or will he take the law into his own hands?

This book was not at all what I expected. A tale of young love and idealism, this book is not. The cover and synopsis seemed to promise a crazy romp with a mischievous couple. But the story held a lot of depth. Each character seems to symbolize an important aspect of morality, acting out the natural result of their outlook. The bad parts are bad and compassion for everyone (except maybe Blaine) grows with each chapter. The characters screw up and do some bad things on purpose, and then feel remorse. Despite their strong link with their predominant trait, the characters are all very believable as people also. I felt my own connection to each one and the innate human similarities between us.

The mystery of the story is unique because it isn’t whodunit or how, but will Syd and Marcy get caught. Part of the time I hoped they would, but then the author would show more about why they did what they did and I would feel compassion for them. Even the villain, who wasn’t the one we suspected, suffered from a radical dysfunction. Beaird did a great job of making me wonder who was really the “bad guy” and then see that, like life, it was all of them and also none of them. Beaird Glover has crafted a smart and fascinating read. I approve this title for Awesome Indies. http://awesomeindies.net

I received this book from the author for the purposes of unbiased review.

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Life in Death by Harlow Drake

Life in Death

By Harlow Coban

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, African American

Kari Marchant is a Social Worker caught in a deadly web of secrets and murder. During a crunch of cases when one social worker goes on her honeymoon, a little girl falls through the cracks. Detectives Nicolet and Cobb step in to follow the clues and find the person who killed Patience. The farther they delve, the stranger things become and the more people die. The murders are gruesome and the motives are worse. Can they find the killer before the there are no witnesses are left?

This was a fun read with interesting characters and a cool and surprising plot. Harlow kept me guessing about who did it and why throughout the book, and hit me with a lot of big surprises. The main phrase I’d use about the book, though, is “More, please.” I wanted more background on the characters and on the Liberian angle. I wanted more detail about the actual deaths and the investigation. I wanted to learn more about the terrifying villain and his sick agenda. I wanted more tension and detail about the budding romance between Nicolet and Kari. I wanted humor in those little places where it screamed for it, but was left out.

Life in death is an entertaining read with an ending that made me think wow, that was weird, but it could have been a really thrilling and gripping story if there was more of it.

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A Bitter Veil by Libby Hellmann

A Bitter Veil

by Libby Hellmann

Genre: Thriller, Political

A World Literary Cafe book

Anna is in love. It is 1977 and Nouri Samedi is alluring and wonderful, sharing her beliefs about society and her passion for change. She is delighted to marry him and move with him to Iran to finally become part of a family. Leaving her Chicago home and her father, she travels to Iran with her new husband to learn a new way of life and a new culture.

Anna and Nouri know that the nation is on the brink of revolution. But their fervent belief that the country is headed for a peaceful transition to parliamentary democracy prevents them from fearing the change. Unfortunately, their beliefs prove false. Will their relationship weather the violent changes to the country led by the Ayatollah Khomeini? Will they survive the new regime?

Bitter Veil was a fascinating look into culture, preconceptions, power, belief, and the chaos that comes from revolution. Anna transitions from idealistic college student to undeceived prisoner of war. Her understanding of the world transforms as she faces the things she didn’t understand before.

The aspects of mystery Libby wove into the story brought excitement and suspense to an already tense story. I loved the way she handled the reader’s gradual understanding of the truth to craft the mystery that trapped Anna in an Iranian prison.

I love books about other cultures, and I wasn’t disappointed in this one. Details about Iranian life and culture made the story sparkle. The subject also resonates with all of the current events that deal with that area of the world. I love to understand other points of view, and I appreciate the research and care taken with the subject.

Libby didn’t leave out the important gray areas of atrocity that make them real instead of just “good guys vs. bad guys” stories. The parallels to many other nations’ revolutions and dark periods were not forgotten. This work was an excellent contemplation on turbulent political times and what they do to families and individuals.