Category Archives: Pirates

Book Review: The Mark on Eve – History and Mystery in a Perfect Package

The Mark on Eve  The Mark on Eve

By Joel Fox

280 pages

Fox  begins The Mark on Eve in New York City 1835. Eve Hale (one of the many names she goes by throughout her life) scoffs at P.T. Barnum’s 161 year-old-woman. It takes one to know one and Eve knows a charlatan when she sees one. Born in the early 1700’s, Eve was cursed by a spell when she tangled with a local witch, Eve was left to wander the earth until the end of time or break the curse by kissing her dead lover on the lips, whichever comes first.

The next chapter is set in modern times. There is a woman running for president and Eve is the first to support her. She has seen women become more powerful over the years and is doing everything she can to get her candidate elected. That literally translates to taking a bullet for her.

Without thinking, Eve jumps in front of the candidate when she sees a would be assassin take aim. Eve is hurt, but miraculously survives a wound that would have killed any other person.  The candidate feels indebted to Eve,  and makes her a part of the political machine rolling towards the White House.

With the national exposure of this incident comes the press. In particular Tom Evanger. Eve Skeller is a mystery to him. She doesn’t want any press for saving the person most likely to be the next President of the United States. What intrigues Evanger even more is he cannot find a record of Eve anywhere other than the fact that she owns a production company that focuses on historical movies. No birth certificate, marriage or divorce information or even a driver’s license can be found in Eve’s name.

His persistence forces Eve to face the demons of her past that are rushing towards her as Evanger begins looking under every stone to uncover her secret. If he keeps digging, he might just bury them both.

Expertly weaving between the past and the present, Fox fills in all of Eve’s years and past personas until they collide in present day California. I love the way he lets the reader know where Eve is with section headings such as “Washington, D.C., 1867”. The chapters are short within the sections, making the reader keep turning pages to see where Eve will take us next.

Watching Eve morph into each different setting she has to adapt to is really interesting. She keeps some of her basic traits, but must change and grow with the times to fit it. As she leaves friends and lovers behind when age catches up with them, she begins closing emotions deep inside herself to avoid the pain. It is very interesting watching her interact with Evanger. He is a man that interests her and frightens her at that same time.

History buffs, mystery fans and anyone who loves to get lost in an intriguing tale will love this book. Fox deftly changes settings and locations, pulling the reader along for a fabulously interesting ride. Any author that can combine pirates, lost love, witches, a woman that cannot die and a few other twists and turns that I’ll let you find on your own is a master.

Fox has written two other books that I will be adding to my queue, FDR’s Treasure and Lincoln’s Hand. Both are from his Zane Rigby Murder Mystery Series.

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

Copyright © 2015 Laura Hartman

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Filed under Book Review, history, Mystery, Pirates, politics

Book Review: Swing by Philip Beard – A Grand Slam Must Read!

Swing    Swing

By Philip Beard

317 pages

Eleven- year-old Henry Graham has a lot to learn about life. What he knows for sure is his father moved out, his mom was unhappy and the 1971 Pirates are heading for a pennant race. What he doesn’t know is how long his father will be gone, how his family will cope with the hole left in their lives  or if his beloved Pirates will win or lose the series.

Determined not to lose everything that makes his live normal, Henry decides to skip school to go to a Pirates’ game alone.  He takes the tickets that his father left behind, hops a bus and meets John Kostka. John will affect Henry’s life for years to come.

John is a man with many problems of his own, but that doesn’t stop him from reaching out to a child who seems adrift. Henry’s mother tries her best to make things as normal for Henry and his sisters Sam and Ruthie after her husband “… had gone to start a new life with one of his students”.

Sam has grown from a promiscuous teen to a bitter adult. Ruthie is failing physically but has reconciled her past and enjoys her future, no matter what it brings. Henry has demons and is at a crossroad in his life that will either enable him to go forward or slip into his family history of past mistakes.

Now married with children, Henry is working as a professor like his father did many years ago.  His life is good, but not perfect. He is up for review and may lose his job and his wife Maggie battled breast cancer and is still fighting the demons it left behind. His children have issues that they may or may not grow out of, only time will tell.

At first, I thought Beard named his book Swing because it is about baseball. Then I thought it was because John has no legs and instead of walking, he swings his torso after putting his hands on the ground to move. Then I thought maybe Swing was named for the way life is going along and all of the sudden decisions pop up that make you go back and forth like a pendulum hoping to choose the right thing to do. Or maybe it is about how your life can Swing out of control in an instant and you can go with it or fight the force of nature. Swing is all of these and more.

Beard uses every word to drive the reader toward the crossroads in his character’s lives that everyone experiences in some shape or form. On the surface this book is one of a legless man becoming a father figure to a little boy who desperately needs one, but doesn’t realize it.  The impact on young Henry and his family is pivotal. Grown-up Henry has a less than perfect life, just like most of us, yet he has learned from John that life goes on even when you think you’ve lost everything. It will be different, but can be just as rich and full.

Subtle nuances woven in tell as much about the story as the main plot. Franny the dog is so real, I see her in my aging Labrador. I held my breath when she had trouble walking, praying that on the next page Franny would slowing rise and lumber home with Henry.

Swing is one of the most compelling novels I have ever read. Beard masterfully pulls the reader into the life of Henry, both as a child and man. The depth of his characters gave them life from the very first page.  I could not put this book down. I took it to work to read on lunch and break, putting my headphones in so people would think I was listening to music so they wouldn’t interrupt me. I cooked dinner with it in one hand and read late into the night.

I like a lot of books for a lot of different reasons. I loved Swing because it was so real I felt I knew Henry and his family by the end of the book. I rejoiced in their victories, felt pain in their sadness and identified with the fact that during your life bad things happen. It is how you cope that matters. Swing deals with heavy issues but is easy to read. After reading it, I realized all of the subtle nuances that affected the story that another author may not have used with the mastery of this one. This allows the reader to think about Swing long after finishing the book.

This is Beard’s third book, and I already have the other two in my queue to read. I suggest you visit your bookstore, download or go to your library to get Swing and read it right now – or at least this summer. Beard has a note at the end “In memory of both the service and daily bravery of Sgt. Kenneth Kocher”. Take time to search out Sgt. Kocher’s Facebook page, to read about the person the character of John is based upon.

Copyright © 2015 Laura Hartman

DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review.

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Filed under baseball, Book Review, family, Philip Beard, Pirates