Thursday, July 09, 2020

Simone LaFray and the Chocolatier's Ball

Book Review: Simone LaFray and the Chocolatier's Ball by S.P. O'Farrell
Version: Amazon Prime Kindle-free ebook

Don’t be late to the ball -- to reading Simone LaFray and the Chocolatier’s Ball by fine storyteller S.P. O’Farrell. It’s an enthralling YA suspense tale for young and older readers alike.

Simone is a twelve-year-old sleuth in training, following in her mother’s footsteps to becoming a master spy. While mother is away “on business” outside of Paris, Simone helps her father run the family’s famous chocolate patisserie and watch over her sister Mia, a dancer who loves being the center of attention, really the opposite of Simone. Mentoring Simone is Elaine, head of the French spy ministry, and ready to spring a trap on everyone is "The Red Fox", a notorious art thief, who has an eye on a major piece of art in a Paris museum, Simone, and her father’s busy shoppe. Simone spends 150 clever pages trying to catch "La Volope Rossa" who is here, there, and everywhere, while trying to help her father escape the scowls of his penniwise accountant-cousin always going on about the miserable financial shape of the otherwise most desirable patisserie of Paris, while also helping him avoid the clutches of a ruthless chocolate magnate intent on securing his book of secret family recipes. Then they are stolen in the dark of night, plunging the patisserie into disarray -- and the only answer is crafting a winning entry in the infamous Chocolatier's Ball of Paris.

How all this plays out is the well imagined story in Simone LaFray and the Chocolatier’s Ball. For as with all tales of suspense, nothing is as it seems which plays out until the final suspenseful page.

As much as this is a great story, it is also a well crafted tale. You will find it easy to read but hard to put down, with it's breezy chase scenes and lost umbrellas and suspenseful reveals. O'Farrell engages your senses in each stroll or run or stationary view of the streets and districts of Paris, and there is the busyness of the patisserie with its many delectable smells and chaotic sounds. You've got to be there, surrounded by chocolate.

Now I'm looking forward to O'Farrell's next novel.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

Windsong: A Great Tale of Adventure Across the Atlantic by Sail

Book Review: Windsong by Shane Granger
Version: ebook by author

I've written about the harrowing tales in the life of Shane Granger before in The Vega Adventures. In it, he survived a category 5 cyclone (hurricane) and the 2004 tsunami that hit Sumatra and surrounding lands and islands and discovered a mission in life: delivering life-saving medical and educational supplies to the spice islands off Indonesia. Now Granger is using his amazing storytelling skills to tell about some of his other life-changing adventures. His newest book is Windsong.

You will join Granger as a down-on-his-fortunes young man walking a quiet beach in West Africa who stumbles on a half buried hull. Curiosity gets the better of him and before he knows it, he is consumed with a desire to figure out why a sailboat is half buried on a tropical beach, and he becomes almost obsessed with uncovering the truth. The locals think he is crazy, but many come to admire his determination and soon they begin to aid his quest until one day he has unburied the hull to find a decent old ship that's actually worth salvaging. 

And so begins the tale of a man and what will become dreams of restoring an old sailboat to its former glory and a sailing jaunt across the Atlantic Ocean. Along the way he will meet an old boat builder, a young boat repairman, several willing accomplices with supplies their owners won't miss, a couple of lovely ladies, amiable sailors willing to share their food, and one large great white shark down on its luck. 

Granger will restore the sailboat and have several run ins with nature before he actually launches Windsong westward, where nature will do its best to delay landfall in Brazil. But this is ultimately a story of the journey to get there. And Granger will learn a lot about himself as a sailor and a man along that journey. His story is full surprises and interesting twists about a trip that should have taken a couple of weeks but lasted more than a month. And then when he got there, there were even more surprises you will never guess, including a hilarious encounter with a pope.

It seems Granger never makes a port without finding an amazing woman he falls madly in love with, and one that causes him troubles he can do well enough without, thank you. He barely escapes one in West Africa only to meet two in Brazil, one who risks his life and freedom. 

Windsong is available as an ebook only through Granger's website, Vega 1892, where sales are for fundraising to support his mission to bring medical and educational supplies to the remote spice islands off Indonesia and the Banda Sea. Also on the ebook page is The Vega Adventures and soon, The Sahara Adventure. All great adventure reads.