Where books are chronicled from beginning to end, and never stop being read.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

An Ordinary Toad's Extraordinary Night

An Ordinary Toad's Extraordinary Night by Joanne McGonagle, Illustrated by Rachael Mahaffey
What is the value of an individual?

It's a difficult question to quantify and yet, a question that each person has most likely asked at one point or another in their lives.

In this story, Andrew the toad comes to a crossroads in his life. He questions his worth as a toad, wondering why he had not been born a frog. He asks his mother the question and she sends him off to visit his wise grandfather.

" 'Toads and frogs are both amphibians, but why does it seem better to be green and shiny than brown and warty?' "

On the way to his grandfather's house, Andrew meets various animals who give him a different perspective on his own sense of worth. As his journey continues, it becomes apparent to the reader that Andrew is quite a smart toad.

"Andrew thought that tasting terrible to a fox might make even an ordinary toad, like himself, something special."

His encounter with three young bullfrogs stands out more than any other part of the book. Perhaps it is because of the boastful nature of the "Bug-Eyed Bullies".

"Deep down, Andrew knew he wasn't in any real danger from the young bullfrog army... Even worse, he began to wonder if they were right. Maybe it is better to be a frog than a toad."

Bullying is not new in any sense. It exists and most of the populous has experienced it to one degree or another. Yet the fabulist way in which this author decided to approach the circumstance was quite extraordinary.

Andrew reaches his destination and finds his own enlightenment through his grandfather.

McGonagle provides an interesting array of characters ranging from highly detailed to purposely nondescript. The environment that she provides in her writing assumes a fantastic whimsy while still keeping rooted in a realistic quandary.

The story teaches children that being different should not only be accepted, it should be welcomed. The visual component adds a deeper connection to the story. An Ordinary Toad's Extraordinary Night is humorous, educational, and entertaining.

Joanne L. McGonagle has an MBA from Ohio University and a Master of Zoology GFP from Miami University. She is the award winning author of The Tiniest Tiger, a children's book.

An Ordinary Toad's Extraordinary Night by Joanne McGonagle, Illustrated by Rachael Mchaffrey, 2013 ISBN 978-0989008808

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Interrogator's Notebook

The Interrogator's Notebook by Martin Ott
Danger is imminent in the title and stark cover of The Interrogator's Notebook by Martin Ott. The author evinces a treacherous cloak and dagger story line that is fueled by vengeance and frustration.

Norman Kross, a retired interrogator, finds himself teaching a class within his field expertise, perhaps feeling a bit bereft of his own path in life. In civilian life, he is going through the motions of a pseudo-proletarian existence. The aphorism "those who can't do, teach", rings with the banality of truth.

His family life is at odds with the successes of his professional life, and he is plagued with certain doubts.

"His bombshell Russian wife, her volatile violinist father, and his two headstrong sons stared at him from their framed family holiday photo. What did it say about him that he wan't in it? ... Did his family like having him around now that he wasn't traveling to the four corners of the globe..."

When Norman is commissioned with a job of interviewing a character actor, George Stark, concerning the death of a young woman, he suddenly finds himself walking a sinister tightrope that shatters his original assessment of the generic private sector.

"The actor paused and slyly looked over his shoulder. 'I'm going to like pulling the carpet out from under you and wrapping you up in it.' Stark tugged on the door handle, slid out, and casually reached back for the light switch, casting the room in total darkness."

With his own family now in certain peril, Norman must unmask the true threat that lurks just beyond the shadows.

I was impressed with the progression of The Interrogator's Notebook and the character development that portrayed a complex understanding (on the author's part) of human behavior. Snippets of the Notebook are added before each chapter, allowing a glimpse at the moral reckoning and experiences of the main character.

"As interrogators, we've all been instructed by our superiors to follow the rules with a wink. The subtext is the get results, that 'our' human lives are always more important than 'their' human lives. There are moral consequences, of course, to this approach, not just to a nation but to its citizens that commit themselves unequivocally to a cause."

There is a hard boiled quality to Ott's prose, it is allegorical and his narration is entirely transfixing. His references are dead on and, upon close inspection, his writing is quite profound.

Martin Ott is a former U.S. Army interrogator. He has published two books of poetry as well as dozens of short stories in publication. He also has a blog for writers: writeliving.wordpress.com

The Interrogator's Notebook by Martin Ott, 2013 ISBN 978-0983605881

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

If You Were Me And Lived In... South Korea...

If You Were Me And Lived In... South Korea... by Carole P. Roman
This is a fantastic immersion into a completely different world. From the author who took us on a whirlwind adventure to Mexico, comes an entirely new experience: If You Were Me And Lived In... South Korea... by Carole P. Roman.

There is a sense of expectation and excitement when viewing the cover of an If You Were Me book. Even before delving into the pages, the reader will know that they are in for a spectacular treat.

The book is filled with a rich and diverse introduction to a people who have "lived there for over two thousand years". It is a lesser known place that is deeply routed in tradition and formality. The little boy and girl will take the reader into Seoul, the capital city of South Korea. From there, visitors are given a peek into the wonders of Min Sok Chon (the Korean Folk Village) and taken to a restaurant to eat bulgogi (Korean barbeque) with kimchee (spicy fermented cabbage).

Roman fills the reader with a sense of culture by showing them crucial differences in currency: "...won, which is like a dollar bill..." and language: "When you call your mommy, you would say Omma. When you address your father, his name would be Appa."

It is important for every child to gain exposure to various cultures. This book provides a creative learning aid that is developed specially for children Pre-K to 8-years old, but has proven insightful for people of all ages. If You Were Me And Lived In... South Korea... educates the mind and dispels certain biases that stem from ignorance. It teaches children that there is an entire world out there, unknown to a vast degree, but, thanks to Roman, a bit easier to understand.

Case in point, my son, who loved every bit of the South Korean culture, especially Seol-nal (the Lunar New Year).

Roman has created an enticing tale that provides a delightful learning tool presented under the charming guise of a simple story. She has also provided a Pronunciation page at the end of the book.

This book will enlighten the mind and cultivate the imagination.

Carole P. Roman is also the author of the Captain No Beard series that deals with issues such as dyslexia, compromise, and leadership. Her new series explores the small world we live in as well as the different, complex cultures of the people around us.

If You Were Me And Lived In... South Korea... by Carole P. Roman, 2013 ISBN 978-1481062343

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Fugitive Grandma

The Fugitive Grandma by Dmitri Ragano
Rage against the system.

Physically? Mentally? Emotionally?

The Fugitive Grandma by Dmitri Ragano is an insightful, dark humored story. Something is seriously broken in our world. How often has a person considered going to the extreme to make a point? To right a wrong? To set aside fears instilled by the laws of society and let conscience dictate their actions?

Stella Valentine is a prime example of this broken system. Retired from Caruso's Grocery, she lives on a very fixed income. To top it all off, her benefits barely cover an experimental drug that allows her to stay cancer-free.

Stella is a fascinating character. She is the epitome of a time long past. There is an old fashioned moral code within Stella's heart that goes beyond fear, beyond hatred, and every now and then, it makes a ferocious appearance.

"It's just like that story with the girl, the grandmother, and the wolf. The wolf comes after all of us, Johnny. When my time comes, maybe there's someone there to save me and maybe I am on my own. So I got to prepare. You better believe that when the wolf come for me, he's going to get one heck of a fight."

The heavy hand of betrayal comes barreling through Stella's quiet life. She loses her benefits and her treatments almost overnight. Great American has absorbed Caruso's Grocery and has refused to honor any pensions or benefits. Dr. Whittier, who had been treating her with the experimental drug that has thus far proven quite effective, has refused to help her; instead, opting to let her die if she can't afford the "miracle cure".

Going one step farther, as Stella is hospitalized, her son Frank sticks her in an assisted living facility and sells her home and car.

Johnny Valentine is Stella's grandson. He's young and idealistic. Johnny's smaller stature makes him the target of bullying in school. Perhaps that is the putative reason for his deep desire to be a hero.

"Bullies do't go away when you get older... They just get bigger and meaner. So you got to know how to stick up for yourself. Nobody gets a happy ending guaranteed. When the wolf comes to get you, you can't count on some knight in shining armor. You better get ready to take the wolf out yourself."

Together, Stella and Johnny recognize the gaping void of betrayal and despair that have inundated their own lives. There is not a lot of philosophizing at this point. Consistent to Stella's character, the decision was simple and direct. They would steal from the corrupted individuals who had, under the guise of doing business within legal limits, stolen the lives of countless other struggling Americans.

Ragano's story is wholly original, yet the song is a tune that every reader has experienced from one degree to the next. It is the reason the book strikes a chord within each of us. His narrative comes off the page in a life-like manner and keeps the reader hooked in a fast-paced story.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It's a simple irony that we tend to forget in the rat-race of life, it is preserved in our constitution and we are strangely reminded of those rights in books like The Fugitive Grandma.

This is the second book I have read by Ragano. His writing is strong and his theme stays central, on topic, and is always incredibly entertaining.

Dmitri Ragano lives in Irvine, California with his wife and daughter. He has previously worked as a journalist and technology consultant in San Francisco and Tokyo.

The Fugitive Grandma by Dmitri Ragano, 2013 ISBN 978-1470125370

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Last Sewer Ball

The Last Sewer Ball by Steven Schindler
A true dichotomy exists whence looking upon the past and dealing with the present. Memories hold a tenuous grasp upon mortal minds; even recalling growing up street savvy in a blue-collared neighborhood in the Bronx holds a charmed haze.

The Last Sewer Ball by Steven Schindler is a prime example of that remembered past. Mired firmly in rediscovering ones roots, the story presents the past and an all-too-real present.

The main character, Vinny Schmidt, is back to square one when he finds himself without a home, a family, or a job. As he returns to the Bronx after two decades and begins piecing himself back together, he finds something even more important... A gnawing curiosity about his childhood friend, Whitey Shelley.

As the story develops, the reader is taken back to Vinny's childhood; with all of the illogically optimistic meanderings of childhood up to the erratically angst-filled teenage years, awash with the nostalgic references of the 60's.

Schindler's narrative is quite unique, methodically moving from time and place, absolutely comfortable within the intimate surroundings of the Bronx. Old memories and new actualities perpetuate a deceptively simple prose, while precipitating complex emotions within the reader.

There is a certain amount of reflection within the pages of The Last Sewer Ball. Yet, passing through the bound pages of reminiscence, the reader will be given a harsh dose of reality. Schindler has succeeded in something immensely difficult, being able to present both ends of an emotional spectrum within the timeline of a character's life.

It is a gritty, memory-laden, heart-warming story that imprints itself upon the mind, long after the final page is read.

Steven Schindler was born and raised in the Bronx. He graduated Hunter College with a degree in Film and Theatre. He has been awarded four Chicago Emmy Awards and Best Fiction at the DIY/Indie Book Awards for From The Block.

The Last Sewer Ball by Steven Schindler, 2013 ISBN 978-0-9662408-9-4

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Valley Of Thracians

Valley of Thracians: A Novel of Bulgaria by Ellis Shuman
There is a vivid, life-like element to Valley Of Thracians by Ellis Shuman. Perhaps it is because of the author's expertise on Bulgaria, or because of the timeline of history that is refreshingly accurate. Regardless of the reason, the end product has proved to be something quite special.

As the novel opens we meet Simon Matthews, a man on a mission. Simon's character evokes the reader's empathy as his heart-wrenching situation comes to light. He has traveled to Bulgaria to answer a question that had been plaguing him, what has happened to his grandson?

"It was a feeling he had -a gut feeling that was burning inside him and growing in intensity from day to day."

No body had ever been produced from his grandson's death. And as Simon begins his quest, digging into the truth behind the mysterious death, he uncovers something incredibly sinister.

"The bus speeds east through the dark and forbidding Bulgarian night. The rhythm of the tires on the asphalt pavement soothes my worries, and I close my eyes, eager to forget the strange happenings that have led me to this unexpected journey."

With the help of Sophia Ivanova, an expert in Thracian culture, he is able to traverse throughout Bulgaria on an amazing journey filled with the languid rhythms of culture, and subtle clues of muddled deception.

"Simon wiped away a tear that threatened to cascade down his face, something that surprised him each time he thought deeply about his beloved grandson even after all this time."

Shuman's writing style ensconces the reader in an intriguing plot-line that is chock-full of significant detail. His past experiences provide a compelling narrative. Valley Of Thracians is a riveting fiction debut that will enrich each reader to the savoir-faire of Bulgaria.

Ellis Shuman currently resides in Israel with his wife and children. He lived in Sofia, Bulgaria from 2009-2010. Ellis's first book was The Virtual Kibbutz and is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and at other online retailers. He writes regularly at: ellisshuman.blogspot.com .

Valley Of Thracians by Ellis Shuman, 2013 ASIN B00B68J114

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Roxana's Revolution

Roxana's Revolution by Farin Powell
There is quite an unusual undercurrent within Roxana's Revolution by Farin Powell. It takes the reader on a transcendent journey through different continents, reliving a painful part of American and Iranian history.

The book commences on a tumultuous situation for Roxana, an attorney who receives a letter that could threaten the very fabric of her existence.

"Her American dream had just been shattered, like a house of cards blown away in the wind."

It becomes clearly evident during the initial chapters that this book carries a huge weight of political and emotional turmoil. The frightful events that become a national struggle are well delineated throughout the story.

"She began to feel as though she and all Iranians had been blamed for the hostage taking. Friends came to her with stories of attacks on Iranian students and businesses."

Roxana makes a complicated decision that ultimately throws her smack dab in the middle of an entirely different war. This book gives a new perspective to certain old prejudices and sheds light on an international incident that changed course of history in both Iran and America.

Powell has developed a bold, unusually rich tale based mainly on historical fact, her expansive research and knowledge is apparent throughout this novel. The narration carries the reader through several lives, showing a backdrop of cultural significance that has often gone missing. Sensitive issues are given a voice and displayed without hesitation.

The reader will follow a mesmerizing tale of love, identity, and circumstance; deeply symbolic in its painful recount of the Iranian revolution. I highly recommend this book.

Farin Powell practices law in Washington D.C. She is extremely talented and has published short stories and poems in various literary magazines and poetry anthologies. She is the author of A Piece Of Heaven and Two Weddings.

Roxana's Revolution by Farin Powell, 2013 ISBN 978-1475980622

Friday, July 26, 2013

A Sheltered Life

A Sheltered Life: Take It To The Streets by Jeremy Reynalds
Take a walk in another man's shoes.

That's what kept rolling around in my mind as I read, A Sheltered Life: Take It To The Streets by Jeremy Reynalds. There is an emotional resonance that filters throughout this autobiographical work of Reynalds. It represents the down-trodden and, oftentimes, anguished part of society that many choose to ignore.

This novel is deeply rooted in Christianity. The author finds his motivation and illumination from his own beliefs. This doesn't mean that he didn't struggle with the acceptance of religion itself. Having agnostic foundations as a child, he found himself climbing a difficult slope.

"I responded by letting my long-suffering instructor know that Christianity was a crutch for old women and the intellectually feeble... I remember scoffing at various religious posters I saw plastered around town. I proudly declared, 'I am not a Christian. I am an agnostic. You can't tell me if there is a God.' "

The turbulent parts of his own life, from a lonely and futile childhood to an intrinsically inspired leap of faith that took him from England all the way across the pond to the United States, displays a salve of inchoate realization.

Though Christianity is his ultimate stimulus for traversing throughout America as a homeless man, the reader is introduced to a transcendental vision. Something highly unlikely, yet incredible in its fruition.

"...this acquisition allowed the shelter ministry a sense of permanence and stability... To me, it also meant an increased hope that however hostile downtown business owners grew toward the homeless, and however large the homeless population grew in Albuquerque, we would be able, with the Lord's help, to be a part of the solution."

While telling his own story, Reynalds engenders throughout the book a growing epidemic around us. It reminds us that each individual has a past that characterizes a desperate attempt at normalcy; the plight of the homeless who, for various reasons, end up in "a deep homeless quagmire". It's appalling to read the injustices committed against people whose only crime is being indigent.

"When you're robbed of the possessions you have and the few dollars you might get for a day's labor, that just adds insult to injury... When our staff first heard about these incidents, we assumed that it was random street violence...happen quite frequently on the streets of downtown Albuquerque, every victim she spoke with said the perpetrator made some comment like 'You're homeless anyway. It's not like you have to pay rent with this money.' "

The author has composed an invaluable and gritty novel that evokes a sense of hope, if not in religion, than in human nature. It is an amazing story that is poignant and moving.

Dr. Jeremy Reynalds was born in England and immigrated to the US in 1978. He founded Joy Junction, now New Mexico's largest homeless shelter. He also writes for the ASSIST News Service and has authored several books.

A Sheltered Life: Take It To The Streets by Jeremy Reynalds, 2013 ISBN 978-1-4497-9020-2

Thursday, July 25, 2013


Nightmarriage by Chad Thomas Johnston
The cover and title of Nightmarriage, by Chad Thomas Johnston, belies the delightful narrative contained within. Though there is a heart in the center of it all, the knives, ax and even the title itself, did give this reader a misleading image akin to a horror-laden story of despair.

That said, upon reading the first few pages, I was imbued with a entirely pleasant, autobiographical tale of the author and his wife, Becki.

Their meeting, courtship, and confusion of a long distance relationship is heartwarming. In recent years, especially with the advent of social media and great leaps in technology, the fundamental ideas of courting and romance have inevitably been changed.

"I began babbling to my friends at church and in my department at school about this woman who lived in Wisconsin. They looked at me as if to say, 'Everyone knows long-distance relationships are doomed to end up in the dating dustbin...' ...While I had attempted to date a few women in Lawrence... none of them were bumblebees in black stockings."

Johnston's recounting of the moments of dating and marriage are ensconced within a humorous voice that is both cleverly unique and earnest.

"I find it fishy, for example, that Becki remembers an eight-syllable word like trimethylaminuria, but forgets where she placed her purse. With the passage of time, I may have developed a hypothesis that may account for Becki's behavior: Maybe-just maybe-my wife is a black hole, incarnate."

There is something quite magnetic in Johnston's entire narration of the early years of marriage and parenthood. It is most certainly not easy to display one's life under a microscope for the world to see, yet each reader will be struck by the stark honesty in Johnston's writing.

Pictures, photographs of art, are distributed strategically before certain chapters, delineating a visual motif for the chapters they precede. Though they are engaging, I do not believe that they enhance the actual writing of this author or the book itself. As a matter of fact, I would have preferred reading the book without pictures and enjoying the art at the end.

The book obviously contains a deep religious theme but does not preach religion. Any person who reads Nightmarriage, Christian or Atheist, single or married, will find an amusing tale, whimsical at times, and completely charming.

Chad Thomas Johnston lives in Lawrence, Kansas with his wife, Rebekah, their daughter Evangeline, and five cats. He is a regular contributor to IMAGE Journal's "Good Letters" blog at Patheos.com. His writings have also appeared in The Baylor Lariat and at CollapseBoard.com.

Nightmarriage by Chad Thomas Johnston, 2013 ebook

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Deadly Election

Deadly Election by Arthur Crandon
There is a certain amount of perceptible greed within every person. Unfortunately, that greed can become limitless when faced with the possibility of incredible fortune. War is something innate in human beings. When greed and war become fused, the human condition is tested, people will most likely choose the path of fortune built upon a foundation of corpses. Deadly Election by Arthur Crandon, displays the absolute path and, oftentimes, failure of mankind.

A rumor exists within the Philippines. A story told from one generation to the next, giving birth to a fantastic legend. It is one of untold riches hidden away within the Philippine jungle, by Japanese soldiers who had committed shockingly deplorable acts of violence and murder during the war.

"No one dared to live in the remote area for a long time... only the brave dared to venture anywhere near the cursed area."

As more than sixty years pass, the legend suddenly becomes a tangible reality.

"The boys were now only fifteen feet away and they could make out the glinting outline of the coins."

Drawing the attention of a decadent and immoral warlord, Senator Enrique Consuelo, a treacherous plan is hatched; murder any witnesses and steal the treasure. But there is one flaw in this misguided turn of events, the adage of Murphy's Law, anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

" ... it was unusual for him to feel confused or uncertain and he didn't like the feelings. He was out of his depth in the dangerous situation he had created. He tried to think straight, soon his survival instincts began to take over... he wouldn't be safe..."

From Manila to Singapore, the reader is sent on an incredible adventure.

Crandon writes with marvelous aplomb and has devised an intricate tale of the cruel veracity of the human soul. From the beginning, the reader will be drawn into a simple and beguiling narrative. Deadly Election has proved to be a powerful story of lust, betrayal, and political deception.

Arthur Crandon was born and raised in the UK and currently lives in Hong Kong.

Deadly Election by Arthur Crandon, 2013 ISBN-13 978-1479236251

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Thank You

I would like to take a moment to thank everyone for their incredible support and concern. My son was sick, frequenting the hospital for the past ten days (most certainly the ten longest days of my life). My husband and I appreciate the emails and messages!

I will be back to submitting reviews within the next 48 hours. Thank you all for your kindness and patience.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Great Wild West

The Great Wild West by Jeff Appelquist
Nothing is freer than knowing that the land and sea in front of you continues on as far as the eye can see. There is a primordial feeling of not being able to truly grasp or even contain the world at large; thus, making possibilities seem quite limitless. The Great Wild West by Jeff Appelquist is a fundamental example of that ideal.

The main character, Jedediah Magnus West, grows up in 1950s and 60s America. He has a fairly normal upbringing within the dynamics of his nuclear family. There is a sense of nostalgic homage in Appelquist's engaging description of a simpler time during Jed's upbringing.

"There was a dad who worked in an office, a mom who stayed home with the kids and cooked and cleaned and showed concern, a sister, and two brothers who went to school and played outside... He went back to school in September as brown as a berry. The family ate dinner together in the evenings. They left the back door unlocked... They attended church every Sunday. They were Patriotic."

As the book progresses, the reader is drawn into an intimate portrait of the West family and friends. Beneath the pretty package of normality and the archetypal family life, each character is displayed with a glaring truth of the past, present and future. From the gloomy and dire recesses of past experience to the fruition of status quo, the reader is privy to an eloquent and succinct introduction of these unique, individual lives.

"Bringing up the rear in 1958, Jedediah Magnus West arrived, perhaps a planned baby, perhaps not. His parents never would say definitively one way or the other, which led Jed in later years to think that maybe his proper name should have been Jedediah M. (for Mistake) West."

The story contains a sharp, intuitive and hilarious narrative.

"Jack and Gloria West, like a lot of parents, were a damn sight more observant and sophisticated than any of their children ever gave them credit for... As she moved into adolescence, Jack and Gloria privately discussed the possibility that their daughter might be a lesbian."

Nothing is swept under the rug or ignored. Dealing with such issues as sexuality, race, and religion, the reader is given a realistic view of the many concerns that plagued most family values.

Following Jed's journey and evolution from Midwest schoolboy, to Marine officer, to family man, Appelquist outlines an amazing life that is indefinably American. An amazingly inclusive tale of "pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps", and adhering to a general sense of self-conduct and honor that seems almost a distant memory in this day and age; The Great Wild West is symbolic of what we as a nation seem to have left behind.

The book is heart wrenching, edgy, and beautiful: "Nothing is perfect, nothing is permanent... but anything is possible." The past does not define an individual, nor does the present circumstance stymie the hopes and dreams that one may choose to play out during an entire lifetime. It is most certainly our future choices that guide us, and our own principles that maintain our integrity.

Jeff Appelquist is a former college athlete, Marine officer, practicing attorney, and corporate executive. His first two books, Sacred Ground and Wisdom Is Not Enough, won a dozen literary awards between them, including multiple first-place prizes in the Writer's Digest International, National Indie Excellence, and Midwest Book Awards.

The Great Wild West by Jeff Appelquist, 2013 ISBN 978-1-59298-993-5

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Messiah Matrix

The Messiah Matrix by Kenneth John Atchity
Upon first viewing the title and cover of The Messiah Matrix by Kenneth John Atchity, my curiosity was certainly piqued. My mind instantly ran to a familiar literary bestseller, The Da Vinci Code. Of course, keeping comfortably to that frame of thought would have been quite an injustice.

As the book commences on a wholly vicious murder of a monsignor, the reader is thrown into the inner litany of Father Ryan McKeown's confusion and profound revelation.

" 'The monsignor said,' he gasped, 'Find Father Ryan... memory in the ashes of Jasius...in the Gesu.' Then the man's eyes closed as he breathed his last and made his way to the eternal gates that Ryan's absolution may or may not have opened for him."

"Not only was he wrestling with the shock of dual murders but Ryan's doubts about his faith now consumed his every waking moment and haunted his nights. It was mind versus spirit..."

Enter Emily Scelba, an archaeologist who joins Father Ryan in his quest for answers. From the death of Monsignor Isaac to the strangely evolving discoveries within the gaping questions about religion and faith, there is a certain aura of  determination in the danger laden journey of the main characters.

"He made his way through the labyrinth of shaded arcades and near-hidden passageways, so intent on his destination that nothing else fazed him."

Atchity has woven a brilliant story meshing the divergent lives of various characters within the fabric of this riveting novel. His careful approach in delineating the complex and, oftentimes, turbulent aspects of human nature are indicative of his immense writing skills.

There is nothing leisurely about this book. From the first sentence to the end of the last page, the reader is filled with an intense need to fill the subsequent divide that appears within the vivid narration of the story. The deft skill utilized in displaying the tangible sense of danger, the need for certain knowledge, and the question of faith, evokes the same emotions within the reader.

Kenneth John Atchity was a professor of literature and classics at Occidental College in Los Angeles 1970-87. He also represented writers of both fiction and non-fiction, accounting for numerous bestsellers and movies he produced for both television and big screen. He has drawn on his expert knowledge of Christian history and his classical training to write The Messiah Matrix.

The Messiah Matrix by Kenneth John Atchity, 2012 ISBN 978-095721-890-1

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

If You Were Me And Lived In... Mexico...

If You Were Me And Lived In... Mexico... by Carole P. Roman
A delightful adventure from the author who brought us Captain No Beard - An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate's Life. This time Carole P. Roman takes the reader outside of the fantasy realm into a land of factual sight, language and food in If You Were Me and Lived in... Mexico...

The cover itself is a promising illustration of the fantastic journey ahead. A young boy and girl, who remain nameless throughout the book, introduce a brightly colored, fun filled sampling of Mexican culture. From the ingenious description of Chichen Itza (Mayan temple) to the Descubrimiento de America (discovery of America), Roman weaves history and language into a new and unknown world.

"If you were me and lived in Mexico, your home would be somewhere here, in the southern part of North America."

Identifying Mexico on a map gives the reader a basis. Children learn about counting pesos, exploring tamales, and playing futbol. The book is essentially a developed lesson plan for children Pre-K to 8-years old, triumphantly disguised in a creation of simple discovery.

"When you talk to your Mommy you would call her Mama, and when you speak with your Daddy, you would call him Papa."

There is a bewitching allure to Roman's narration. As I often tend to do with children's books, I used my own small version of a litmus test... My three-year-old son. He enjoyed it immensely, as he has done with other books by this author in the past.

Not only has Roman successfully presented an informative and entertaining book, but always the consummate educator, she includes a Pronunciation page at the end of the story. I highly recommend this charming immersion into Mexico, it is certainly an appealing read for children and parents of all ages.

Carole P. Roman is an award winning author and former Social Studies teacher. Her debut book Captain No Beard - An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate's Life was named to Kirkus Reviews Best of 2012.

If You Were Me And Lived In... Mexico... by Carole P. Roman, 2013 ISBN 1480209627

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Such is Life

Such is Life: Short Stories by Jeri Walker-Bickett
No one raindrop is the same. Even during a deluge, everything is affected within the environment, the atmosphere, the terrain... And though the weather will change, the sun will eventually shine, and there will be nothing noticeably different to the naked eye, something has inexplicably been altered. The same can be said for stories.

Such is Life by Jeri Walker-Bickett is a prime example of such stories. The stories contained within the book are hilarious, rough, heart-wrenching and realistic. It gives rise to an impetus of emotion.

Walker-Bickett allows each character to hold a longstanding voice, raw and powerful, taking center stage within his or her own lament. From a young girl giving way to a careless moment of drugs and sex, to an over-worked, deeply criticized and under appreciated teacher who suddenly rekindles a long forgotten sense of self-worth, the reader is pulled into the fragments of each damaged and unforgettable struggle.

"I wanted to scream in his face that I also loved to drink lots of wine on occasion and that all sorts of premarital screwing around marked my past. I reminded myself I was talking to a man who didn’t drink alcohol or coffee, and who had most certainly remained a virgin until exchanging wedding vows."

Remarkably enough, Shirley Baker struck me as a the most prolific and edifying character. Her story is one like so many middle-class Americans. A wife and mother of two girls, Shirley lives her life with the usual headaches and has a seemingly normal lifestyle. But she is faced with an awful dilemma that divides her mental and emotional stability.

"She opened a bottle of vodka and a container of orange juice. On her way to the living room, she stopped at the gun cabinet, unlocked it, and took Gerald’s pistol from its holster."

There is an intensely quiet scene as Shirley sits getting sloshed with her dog sitting next to her, all the while watching morning cartoons: "Marty raised his head and flicked his ears in her direction. He cocked his head to the side and watched Shirley cry. Gail and Dawn were awake now, cuddling beneath an afghan with Marty at the foot of Shirley’s rocker." That one moment struck a chord. The depth of the attachment was hauntingly morbid and heartbreaking.

There is a confession of the soul that abounds from the vastly different stories contained within this book. Walker-Bickett's writing is stark and vivid, inspiring a certain honesty that draws the reader into a nearly palpable fascination.

I will admit that upon viewing the cover of Such is Life, I assumed the stories would either be entertaining or strange. I was never more mistaken for thinking in such a circumscribed manner. I was shocked at the incredible narration and unique writing style that the author possesses. It was beyond entertaining. The stories were addictive.

It takes a special talent to be able to keep writing simple and witty, yet tell volumes within the same words. Walker-Bickett has achieved both. I certainly hope to read more books by this author in the future.

Jeri Walker-Bickett is an author, editor, and teacher. She primarily writes contemporary literary fiction and psychological suspense.

Such is Life by Jeri Walker-Bickett, 2013 ebook

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Yankee Gold

Yankee Gold by Elizabeth Rogers

This is an impressive novel by Elizabeth Rogers, which takes place within the backdrop of the worst war on American soil. It is a historically accurate narrative that achieves forward motion in its intriguing plot line. Rogers successfully exhibits a difficult conflict within a gradually remorseful climate.

"Fire and smoke concealed the movement of people in the street. It was unclear whether the moving bodies were civilians, enemy, or allies. Occasionally, there would be a clearing."

Steve Elkins begins to blur the lines of societal acceptance. He is an abolitionist attorney in a less than tolerant territory. Though he is brave enough to stand up for his beliefs and politics, it also causes a major hindrance in his personal life.

"'Or they steal from the public coffers'... 'Or take bribes'..."

"He must prove fraud, forgery, bribery, and perjury. Additionally, it appeared he must take on the chief judge of the Supreme Court to force a resignation."

There is a definitive coyness when delving into the incredibly intricate story line. It prevents the reader from understanding the true focus of the ultimate ending. Yet, gradually, as the characters play into the metaphorically sanctioned subplot, Steve Elkins must decide where his loyalties lie.

An interesting character that snagged my attention was Editor Sullivan. As Steve says in a most succinct way: "...he professes in his columns, that he is against peonage, but antagonistic to Radicals. Of course, that's a contradiction in itself." Sullivan plays a thin line and personifies an image of what I would call a troubling epidemic, symbolic in this day and age.

Rogers vividly conveys an empowered and credible narrative. Though Yankee Gold had a slow beginning for this reader, including heavily laden moments of minutiae, the ultimate story is moving and intriguing. It is a unique story that gives every reader an idea of the old politics that our forefathers ventured and braved in a frighteningly new world.

Elizabeth Wall Rogers has been published in the New Mexico Historical Review. She is a member of the Virginia Historical Society and is active in several Virginia writers' clubs.

Yankee Gold by Elizabeth Wall Rogers, 2012 ISBN 978-0-9836058-6-7

Sunday, June 2, 2013

God's Magnificent Beanfield

God's Magnificent Beanfield by Don Bowlin
Have a little faith. Those four words have traveled across time and space into conscious beings for far longer than anyone can recall. Faith exists within every variegated human species. To some, it is religion. To the consummate atheist, it is belief in mortal ability. Regardless of the terminology, every person encounters that delightful and somewhat exasperating belief.

God's Magnificent Beanfield, by Don Bowlin gives a view of one family's experience with having faith and realizing a miracle. John Kelly runs a farm north of Danaville, Florida. He is a descendant of Frank Kelly, the founder, a man who has spent his life building up the Kelly farm to what it would later become. The book contains the fruitful efforts put forth by several generations of the Kelly family, their love, faith, and power of religion that has given the story an idealistic, seemingly puritanical feel.

"When the storm moved north and started breaking up, a large rainbow with an odd shape appeared, just like it had last year. It was brighter and was pointing downward in the center of the fields, just like the first one. It faded within ten minutes or so... It was more than likely that everyone didn't sleep very well as they anticipated the next day. Each person had his or her own perspective on how the family affected by what had happened and what it meant, but they all knew it was God's work."

Bowlin weaves a solid, structured novel that reflects on a lifetime of hard work. The story is told with a single-minded clarity, deeply ensconced in Christianity and coming together in a rewarding manner towards the end.

"An unusual feeling had come over him. He knew without question the Lord was in the process of sending a powerful message to the United States and the world, not from the Middle East in general or the Holy Land but from a farm near a small town in northwest Florida ...further proof that God ruled the earth and at any time could use any part of it for his purposes."

A miracle occurs that speaks to every individual. Some will find religious significance, being the most obvious, since the book is rooted in religion. But in keeping an open mind, others will find a touching story richly detailed in the importance of family and maintaining ones beliefs.

Despite a slow beginning, the characters begin to share their own life burdens and mistakes that allows the reader to empathize and commiserate. Ultimately, the writing sprawls over various lives and creates an enticing and incandescent narrative.

With skillful grace, Bowlin has created a novel that contains a deeply compassionate soul. Every reader will walk away with something gained.

Don Bowlin grew up in a small northwest Florida farm town. He has spent many years in communications as a graphic designer, creative director, fine artist, and corporate advertising and public relations director. He is an Alumnus of Florida State University. He and his wife, Susan, live in Cypress, Texas.

God's Magnificent Beanfield by Don Bowlin, 2012 ISBN 978-1-4497-5192

Friday, May 31, 2013

Tom T's Hat Rack

Tom T's Hat Rack by Michele Spry
The idealistic tendencies of childhood slowly disappear as an individual grows up and becomes exposed to the harsh realities of adulthood. Fortunately, there are moments that take us back, before the erosion of social norms, to a time when "be nice" and "behave" were not a huge cultural revolution but just rules to live by.

Tom T's Hat Rack by Michele Spry gives the reader one of those moments. In the story, fourth grader Shelby Summers, a fairly well adjusted child, is on vacation. She spends a lot of her time at Tom and Kim Tucker's home while her parents are at work. They watch over her and the families become quite close. As an only child of two working parents, she considers Mr. and Mrs. T her pseudo grandparents. It's a clear introduction to the adage, "it takes a village to raise a child".

"Shelby hopped off her stool and gave him a big hug. She and Mr. T were nearly inseparable, and they'd seen each other almost every single day for the last ten years."

At first glance, it seems as if Shelby is going through the motions of an overly sappy young girl. But as the book progresses, some pertinent issues come to light. And it becomes apparent that there is an underlying depth of reliance and motivation that tightly bonds the characters. Mr. T represents absolute faith within his young protege, when he includes her in a secret project, ostensibly giving credence to Shelby's own development.

"...'That is dedication and commitment, two great qualities you have, Shelby.' ... Shelby swelled up with pride and had a huge smile on her face as they headed up to the checkout counter to pay for their materials."

I found myself feeling a bit sorry for Shelby's character. Though she's positive and helpful, she witnesses the experience of Mr. and Mrs. T's struggle with Mr. T's cancer. Aside from school, she does not generally have much exposure to other children her age. She seems so much more responsible and adult-like because of the circumstances within her environment.

All in all, Shelby is a wonderful culmination of the dedicated adults who surround her and take their time to impart wisdom and love.

Spry portrays a simple story of diligence, perseverance, and "paying it forward", that lures the reader to subtly experience a more complex and valuable sense of poignancy. There is something jaded and, oftentimes, arrogant in the adult human psyche. It is inevitable that children grow up. But certain principles should remain intact. For the betterment of society, for the betterment of the individual.

Michele Spry is a Partner in Education with Midway Heights Elementary School in Columbia, MO. She wrote this book while on vacation in Montrose, Colorado.

Tom T's Hat Rack by Michele Spry, illustrated by Peggy A. Guest, 2013 ISBN 978-0-9887782-3-8

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Meanwhile, Back At Cafe Du Monde...

Meanwhile, Back at Cafe Du Monde... by Peggy Sweeney-McDonald
Some traditions never change. For years, Cafe Du Monde in Louisiana has been one of those institutions where you can witness a bit of the eclectic and sample the delights of southern fare all at the same time.

Peggy Sweeney-McDonald has gone a step further with her story-telling cookbook, Meanwhile, Back at Cafe Du Monde: Life Stories about Food. The reader will find a wealth of stories ranging from quirky fun to heartwarming experience.

"I love stories, always have, and in reflection, I recognize how many of them revolve around the comfort of a meal."
-Missy Crews, Event Producer and Miss Louisiana 1980, Baton Rouge.

Each local personality from business owners, to actors, to writers has added his or her two cents. Even the pictures alone contain a vivid story from various generations, lovingly displayed throughout the book.  It is set forth, simply and movingly, with a touch of creative sparkle from Sweeney-McDonald.

"If I were a food, I would be 85 percent cocoa dark chocolate... all of the pleasure with none of the guilt!"
-Janet Daley Duval, Actress and President of the Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival.

But, of course, what would a cookbook be without the delightful recipes that contain its namesake? Even if one doesn't hail from the South, the reader will feel a connection as they read the small, personal anecdotes associated with each recipe. The sincerity of the food and the recipes don't just warm your body, it warms your soul.

"He had a string of bakeries in the southeast, and all but the New Orleans bakery failed in the depression... I started out as a delivery driver, waking long before dawn to deliver warm pies to the customers on my route. I worked every station in the factory from dough, filling, fry duty, and wrapping. I'm a few decades into the position I call 'passe-par-tout.' The literal translation is 'all-purpose' or 'key for all locks,' which means when the dough man doesn't show-up... I make dough."
-Drew Ramsey, Owner, Hubig's Pies, New Orleans.

I must make mention here that every recipe I have attempted from this cookbook, thus far, has been sensational. Some of my personal favorites being, Hosea's Wine Bottle Buttermilk Biscuits, Four-Generation Olive Salad, Fifteen-Bean Soup, Tequila Shrimp, and Grandma Tute's Pecan Kisses.

The cover of this book calls to readers of all ages and speaks for itself with plates of beignets dusted in powdered sugar and a cup of coffee, all waiting to be consumed.

Sweeney-McDonald has created an intensely gratifying cookbook, that relegates and encapsulates her story along with many others. The food and the people converge within the pages of Cafe Du Monde to create an exquisite and memorable experience.

Peggy Sweeney-McDonald grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She is a graduate of Louisiana State University and was a member of Pi Beta Phi sorority. She and her husband reside in Los Angeles, California.

Meanwhile, Back at Cafe Du Monde by Peggy Sweeney-McDonald, photography by Troy Kleinpeter, 2012 ISBN 978-1-4556-1660-2

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Lords Of Dyscrasia

Lords Of Dyscrasia by S.E. Lindberg
For years, the movie industry has inundated us with some of the most graphic, disturbing, horror-laden tales of terror on the silver screen. It would be quite a rare occasion for a story to cause a deep stir in a desensitized mind. But once in a while, a story is constructed that motivates the mind and gets the wheels once again turning in anticipation.

Such is the Lords Of Dyscrasia by S.E. Lindberg.

Lindberg depicts an intensely savage and volatile world within the pages of Dyscrasia. It is a persistent plague that invades the blood and changes the human genome forever. Doctor Grave desperately seeks to save the long bloodline of his sick queen.

"The lifeless embryos exhibit the disease explicitly. The stillborn mutants present eldritch traits, all unique and terrible. Beaks and downy feathers adorn the avian ones. Translucent, soft-shell exoskeletons wrap the invertebrate insectan type, which are always infected with worms."

The disease has sunken into every crevice of daily life. It is no longer an aberrant anomaly, it has become an accepted form of life. Yet there is an unspoken hope that still exists.

"Anyone who could conquer this disease, which is rooted in the fabric of the Land, must be likewise terrible. Perhaps there will be a hero, a warrior who will vanquish dyscrasia, only to usher unforeseen horrors into this world—horrors that will make us all suffer so much we will wish dyscrasia to return…"

Endenken, the leader of a dying culture, wrestles with his own personal demons. Expected to abide by the traditional rules of his people, he must make difficult decisions in a world strife with the disease. His decision will mark the beginning of an end.

"Their blood was sacred. They had few left to carry it. And it was Endenken’s turn to inherit the burden... And the masked grotesqueries swarmed him now, their human frames transfigured by ornate markings and hollow eldritch skeletons."

The gruesome tale continues and illuminates the struggle within the bonds of humanity. An edict of the soul resounds throughout the pages of this nightmarish other-world with spots of dark humor. Lindberg has created an alternate reality that forces the reader to expand the limitations of their imagination.

We must further open our own minds and perhaps even edify our own traditional definitions of religion, belief, and faith.

The illustrations contained are morbid works of art, continuing to tell an epic that is both compelling and fascinating. Even the cover provides a sense of expectancy.

S.E. Lindberg lives near Cincinnati, Ohio. He works as a microscopist, and has spent two decades practicing chemistry.

Lords of Dyscrasia by S.E. Lindberg, 2011 ISBN 978-0-615-39286-8

Friday, May 17, 2013

A War Hero Returns

A War Hero Returns by Johnny Ray
Letting the trenchant views of a war seasoned expert mingle into civilian life would prove to be a herculean task, indeed. But every so often things come together in the most unlikely way to prepare an individual for a different kind of war at home.

In A War Hero Returns, the main character, Suzan Mercer returns after eight years of serving in Afghanistan as a CIA operative. She is shocked to discover that all the land bequeathed to her upon her father's death has been stolen by her mother, who has an onset of Alzheimer's, and sold off to a developer.

"Home, a funny word to her, considering her mother had sold her place, her legacy her dad wanted her to keep forever."

She finds herself being propelled to fight against the man whom she believes to have tricked her mother into selling her property. As she continues convincing herself of the abuse of power that one man, Matt Harris, had exercised over her sick mother, she realizes just how far gone her mother's condition has become.

"When the door opened, reality set in. Her mother must have lost it. Paint drippings covered the floor, and half-finished paintings hung on the wall. The room looked completely ruined, and thus needing to be gutted and refurbished. The smell of paint fumes caused her to fight the urge to vomit... Present tense, her mother talked in present tense. Her father died over three years ago."

Suzan also finds that she has a finite amount of time to deal with Matt.

"She remembered her training in the CIA which taught her to focus on remembering details. They used her to do the unexpected. No one would ever expect an operative to be an Afghanistan woman walking the streets. Her training would serve her well, now when she needed the skills the most."

As the story progresses, things seem to take on a life of their own. The more that Suzan uncovers, the deeper the secrets go. Nothing is entirely as it seems. And with the usual sense of irony, fate, in it's own dogmatic manner, is not without a touch of humor. Suzan and Matt share a deep attraction to each other.

"...pure raw sex on the spot... Although she still considered him a predator, he remained a predator with a brain."

Johnny Ray's persuasive storytelling has an underlying sense of gusto. There is a sense of cloak-and-dagger with a twist of exploits around the world. The reader will be subject to a tale laden with adventure, betrayal, loss and romance.

On a side note, Ray's choice of cover was a bit confusing. Perhaps it is to symbolize the frustration and operational secrecy within the occupation of the main character, but more than naught, it reminds me of a misbegotten Marilyn Manson poster from the mid-90's. That said, it does not take away from the story inside. As a matter of fact, it may even enhance it, as the reader may not know what to expect upon first viewing the outside of the book.

Johnny Ray won the Royal Palm literary award for best thriller.

A War Hero Returns by Johnny Ray, 2013 ebook

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

This Can't Be Normal

This Can't Be Normal by Diana Estill
When one experiences a moment of introspection and delves deeply into his or her past, there can only be something similar to an implosion within the general zeitgeist of a time that can never be repeated. It is the mind's own ceremonial expungement of the past that stubbornly holds on. This can be something that happened anywhere from five minutes to fifty years past.

Such is the humorous and dramatic sequence of events that makes up This Can't Be Normal.

The author, Diana Estill, grants the reader a peek at certain pieces of her life as only she can narrate. Don't be fooled, this is not a run-of-the-mill, sappy, lesson learned autobiography. It is a quirky, detailed compilation of life stories that holds elements of tribute, community, reinvention and epiphany.

"And even after I’d turned around, I had to travel a long distance in the opposite direction before I could make another U-turn and retrieve my disgruntled passenger. What if he thumbs a ride with a trucker, gets picked off by some nut case, and I have to explain my way out of a murder rap?"

As the story unfolds, Estill offers a special look at her own family and friends, that causes a touching moment for the reader, allowing everyone into intimate parts of her own life for a short period of time.

"Hubby squinted and looked at the recipe card. 'Yep, it says two cups.' He blended the ice cream and then gave me a bowl filled with what looked like frozen baby poop... I studied the disaster and made a face. Then I scooped a teaspoonful of his creation into my mouth. It tasted like chocolate spinach with a mild fruitiness and a hint of Bermuda grass."

This book is a scathingly honest articulation of a southern woman and her insight into the layers and layers of the soulful dynamics of married life, child rearing, and social interaction; all wrapped up and, to a large degree, depicting emotional nuance.

Estill, by far, holds an incredible voice within her writing. The central theme remains concrete, whilst the story continues to multiply and jump from one scene to the next. This Can't Be Normal is a quick read, full of simple, engaging stories that beset meticulously complex meanings. The essential affection and altruism within the average American family is not lost here. It is celebrated.

This Can't Be Normal by Diana Estill, 2013 ebook

Friday, May 10, 2013

Blood Pressure Down

Blood Pressure Down: The 10 Step Plan to Lower  Your Blood Pressure In 4 Weeks Without Prescription by Janet Bond Brill
For years, society's love affair with poor dietary habits and very little exercise has contributed to a rapidly growing problem in the United States. One of the leading causes of preventable death in the U.S. is a sudden and silent killer called High Blood Pressure. Going beyond the national data that nearly two-third of the nation is obese or overweight, any sort of solution often goes ignored.

Why, you ask?

Because people live their lives accordingly. Not only are people busy, often over-worked, dealing with the stresses of a bad economy, freewill is something built into human DNA. So when human beings are faced with an overload of statistical data, restrictions, and this-is-for-your-own-good guidelines, it is natural to rebel.

The key to functional success with long term goals is not deprivation. It is knowledge.

Blood Pressure Down is the ultimate tool chest that provides a wealth of ideas and information on how to lower blood pressure and take less prescription drugs. This is not a quick fix, or band-aid, or an ultimate cure-all. It gives a straight forward way to understand what is potentially damaging and how to tweak bad habits without going to the extreme.

"When you are buying packaged foods, read and use the information on the food labels to allow easy comparison between brands. Always check the ingredient list for sodium, MSG, baking soda, and other sodium-containing compounds. You will be surprised at the tremendous difference between products in terms of sodium content. Only buy boxes, cans, and bags of food with the words "low sodium" or "sodium free" on the front."

There are sensible nuggets of wisdom that can be incorporated into daily life without ridiculous crash diets.

"...bananas are Mother Nature's sweet blood-pressure-lowering medicine because of their potassium content..."

"Coffee is... linked with reduced risk of developing a number of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson's, and Alzheimer's. Coffee is loaded with magnesium..."

"Eat yogurt..."

"Eat chocolate..."

"...drinking a small amount of red wine daily with food is part of the lifestyle prescription for preventing the onset of high blood pressure."

Of course, everything should be in moderation. But for those individuals needing a little more guidance, the author has produced sample weekly optimal BP-lowering strategies that combine food and exercise, all the way down to guided meal and snack suggestions, calorie counts and mineral consumption. The book also contains delicious recipes for meals, snacks and desserts, with nutritional information broken down so all the reader needs to do is cook, eat, and enjoy.

Brill's clever approach and deft knowledge has taken on both the psychological and physiological factors of a healthier lifestyle to deliver the most comprehensive, sustainable and empowering program. The approach can be personalized to each reader's needs; whether a person is already on a different plan, has a prescription or is under therapy, it is incredibly modifiable.

Never has it been easier than what is laid out in Blood Pressure Down, it's time for every individual to take responsibility and acknowledge when enough is enough.

Janet Bond Brill, Ph.D., R.D., LDN, is a nationally recognized expert in cardiovascular disease prevention. She has been a nutritionist in private practice for many years.

Blood Pressure Down by Janet Bond Brill, 2013 ISBN 978-0-307-98635-1

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Forth Conspiracy

The Forth Conspiracy by Thomas Thorpe
Human nature gives individuals the drive to complicate simple matters. Further delving into the psychology deeply embedded into our brains comes two instinctual reflexes: one of greed and the other of survival. This is not a scarce concept, but it may be a challenge to moderate.

The Forth Conspiracy, which takes place in the 1830's, presents this on a grander scale.

The reader is introduced to William and Elizabeth Darmon of Kent, the proprietors of Mayfair Hall, a historic landmark, are caught in an incredible complication. A new bill has been introduced into parliament entitled the "Writ of Confiscation".

"...the Writ may apply to any property without a recorded deed on file. That could qualify as abandonment."

Any sort of justification for the State to make in order to seize of property to fund their own coffers is up for grabs. Mayfair, a place that has been handed down through the generations of William's ancestors, is one of the first properties listed for confiscation unless the Darmons can produce the original deed.

William and Elizabeth, along with their relatives Charles and Emily Bagwell, are met with a journey that takes the two men around the world.

"The Deed is within our Reach
When judgement day is at hand
Lion will lie down with lamb 
Who can tell what wealth we gain
From ancient Egypt to Charlemaine

As Abull Hull lies fast asleep
God will save us from his keep
Our treasure is in heaven now
If we but escape Satan's vow"

As the men race against the clock to the Mediterranean, Elizabeth and Emily must continue an embittered battle at home against the imposing Forth family; who wish to lay claim to Mayfair. It didn't help matters that a member of the Forth family had been found dead on their property.

"The Forth's are seeking a map to the deed, which they believe John Forthwait gave to Victoria. I have discovered that Forthwait was actually Steven Rothwild. You must find the map and send it to William at once."

The complex patchwork of clues provides the book with a story full of rich historical detail. Thorpe's astute and knowledgeable tone of the time period, along with his attention to detail lends a winning salvo to a complicated mystery.

The Forth Conspiracy is the second book in the Darmon Mysteries. It stands alone as a genuinely entertaining read.

Thomas Thorpe has written six historical mystery thrillers of the Darmon Mystery series.

The Forth Conspiracy by Thomas Thorpe, 2013 ISBN 978-1-61296-163-7

Saturday, May 4, 2013

The Voting Machine: A Temo McCarthy Mystery

The Voting Machine: A Temo McCarthy Story by Dmitri Ragano
Losing a grip on the constituents of Sin City, aka Las Vegas, is a treacherous perch for an able bodied politician hoping to clean up in votes from a crucial swing state. Strange as it may seem, casting a vote has never been so dangerous. The Voting Machine is an unflinching atmospheric murder-mystery.

Temo McCarthy is the main character who has a connection with the murdered voters. The FBI decide to include Temo in the investigation of the mysterious deaths of two voters. Perhaps channeling the naysayer of doom, the book begins with a simple statement from Temo.

"My father always told me that no good deed goes unfinished. Try to do the right thing and sooner or later, it's going to bit you. Of course I hated to agree with anything he said, but in this case he had a point. I was in trouble again."

He obviously has a point.

As the story ensues, Temo finds himself between jobs. The usual kind let-down of "over-qualified" or the castigation of "not enough experience" constantly comes up as he is plagued with feelings of inadequacy. The author's raw emphasis on such a situation gives the reader pause. Most readers will feel an even deeper connection and identify with the plight of the main character.

"I felt more worthless with every passing day. A man who cannot provide for his family is really not a man at all. I hated myself intensely, because that's what losers do. It was just like I had always feared: deep down inside, a loser is always a loser, even if he wins once or twice along the way."

But it doesn't stop there. The plot intensifies as two voters are murdered inside a voting booth without any sort of visible agitation. An investigation reveals something even more sinister, and a simple murder-mystery is turned upside down.

Right or wrong, true vs. false is thrown out the window. There is a sliding grey scale that each character in this book must venture and decide upon. It is a realistic point in certain aspects, such as Brenda with her PTSD and Anabelle's rehabilitation centers. The reader is drawn into a provocative story line that is honest and gritty.

This is the second book in a series of Temo McCarthy stories. I have never read the first book, but The Voting Machine stands well on it's own. I did not miss any character subplots or extraneous references that would have muddled a great book.

Ragano is an exceptional storyteller; it is evident in his eloquent summation of detrimental circumstances that paints an intriguing landscape for heroes and villains alike. It was indeed quite a pleasure to read such a well executed book.

Dmitri Ragano is an ex-journalist and technology consultant in San Francisco and Tokyo. He currently resides in Irvine, California with his wife and daughter.

The Voting Machine by Dmitri Ragano, 2012 ISBN 978-0-615-65940-4

Friday, May 3, 2013

Murder Under The Microscope

Murder Under the Microscope by Jane Bennett Munro
What can possibly be preserved when everything around you is completely altered?

How do you fight accusations from your own peers, including the police?

Jane Bennett Munro has orchestrated the ultimate novel to answer such puzzling dilemmas. In the world of Dr. Antoinette Day, a pathologist at Perrine Memorial Hospital in Twin Falls, Idaho, reputation is everything. Never has it been more crucial to necessitate the preservation of her professional integrity than the present.

The appearance of Dr. Shore, a temporary replacement for a regular resident, begins the rapid decline into strange occurances such as misread reports and missing patient data. The sudden onslaught of murder doesn't help matters. It seems that practically overnight, Dr. Day has become the focus of a police investigation that places her as the prime suspect.

"Oh, no. I broke out in a cold sweat. My knees felt as if they were going to buckle under me."

But her professional life isn't the only thing threatened. Antoinette and her husband, Hal, are thrown yet another twist, they are being stalked within the privacy of their home.

"I opened my mouth to answer, but before I got a word out, Hal took the phone away from me and hung up. I was so angry I was shaking. Hal put his arms around me and held me without saying a word. I buried my face in his shirt front. We stood there like that for a long time."

It is an intriguing tale of murder, deceit and, strangely enough, faith. The author's background lends a deeper perspective into the medical world, illuminating and merging complicated data into an intelligent and appalling story. Munro demonstrates her talents of narration throughout the book.

If there's any downside here, it is that I wish the antagonist who was thought to be the villain, had been given a longer lifespan; after all, I do love a horrible nemesis. Perhaps it was Munro's way of presenting a murderous intent, so deeply hidden, it projected the ultimate sinister unknown presence.

Jane Bennett Munro, MD, has been a hospital-based pathologist for thirty-three-years. She is now semi-retired, residing in Twin Falls, Idaho.

Murder Under the Microscope by Jane Bennett Munro, 2011 ISBN 978-1-4502-9862-9

Saturday, April 27, 2013


Khantara by Michelle Franklin
The beauty of a song, a poem, a story...

Khantara evokes the feelings that quite often lie dormant in the reader's heart.

The country of Haanta invades Thellis. It is an act of reprisal by an old enemy looking to make a direct statement of intent.

The rank of Khantara is an honor only given to the greatest warrior and tactition. The current Khantara, with all of his imposing stature, excellent credentials, and incredible aptitude for domination is the ideal candidate to represent Haanta and occupy Thellis. Ironically enough, Khantara did not like war; instead, preferring peaceful and non-violent methods.

"It could not be denied that war was something Khantara did rather well, though he had little taste for battle. Overshadowing and overpowering others was an easy office for him to fulfill, and he often preferred allowing his opponents to escape rather than using the extent of his immense strength to subdue them."

As Khantara and his imposing fleet of Haanta warriors invade Thellis, there is surprisingly very little resistance from the local populous. The sheer size of the Khantara was enough to quell any oppugnancy.

 "He could not but observe their wide eyes and their trembling forms as he approached to address them. He bowed to them, assured them that they were not here to harm them, but they would not attend; they were too fixed on the giant’s gargantuan form and immense army to hear his explanation."

Thus begins the occupation.

Enter Anelta. A slave whose owner and "husband" barely provides for her, leaving Anelta to starve and live in her impoverished state. She is categorized as one of the Marked, and is regarded as a sub-species to the Thellisians.

"He had heard of Thellis’ self-oppression but had never conceived of its going this far. For a nation to refuse education to their own was to diminish the value of its people... To keep one so eager as ignorant, regardless of situation and consequence in society, was an attestation of Thellis’ unbidden 

From Khantara's own sensitivities, stems a sense of compassion for the impoverished Anelta. She is not only at the very bottom of society's ladder but her inhumane treatment draws Khantara closer to her; the great warlord finds himself in a difficult predicament.

Michelle Franklin has created a touching story of love and war. Her writing flows in a poetic composition that wraps around the reader like a warm blanket, it is captivating and persuasive.

I was at a loss upon first view of the cartoon-ish cover. It reverted back to some type of Japanese comic book. But upon reading the story, I found a book well-written, detailed and flowing with calm sense of prose.

This was my first experience reading a Michelle Franklin book, but it will most certainly not be the last.

Khantara by Michelle Franklin, 2011 ebook

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Coming Through The Fog

Coming Through the Fog by Tami A. Goldstein
Unless one is in direct conflict with such issues, no one can realize the heartache and worry a parent goes through when a daughter or son is diagnosed with any sort of disorder.

Coming Through The Fog is a triumphant memoir of Tami Goldstein's personal journey as a parent whose daughter was eventually diagnosed with High-Functioning Austism, Asperger's Syndrome. Heather, along with her daughter Tami, must take on a slow-moving medical institution with various diagnoses to weed out questionable "professional" opinions and useless medications.

"...Asperger's is a developmental disorder so I wanted to know if he had even looked at that possiblilty. Why wouldn't he look at that? His response was to dismiss us as patients and tell us to seek help elsewhere... At this point, we had three diagnoses... and none of the prescribed medications were working. I don't want to speak for this doctor but I think he was surprised when he saw Heather's decline."

The pain, anger and frustration in Tami's writing comes through loud and clear. Though she gives valuable advice as she continues to walk the reader through the tumultuous path of a decidedly set institution, it's absolutely astounding that the system continued to fail Heather.

"During these ten minutes, she didn't ask me a single question. She didn't look at or ask Heather a single question. This woman told me that I was a bad mother who was using Heather like a specimen and that she didn't have AS... I asked her if she had read the medical records which I had delivered from the Waisman Center. She informed me that she didn't have to read them... I received a letter from the Therapist/Social Worker terminating therapy 'due to the medical complexity of the case'."

This book is a glimpse at a deeply tangled and nightmarish process. Heather's education was also an uphill battle. Not being diagnosed properly, and having had very little supplemental data and progress, the school system was apt to grade Heather on a contradiction of information. Eventually, after being diagnosed properly and even given the proper paperwork and diagnosis, the administration refused to acknowledge Heather's issues; instead, opting to find loopholes in a medical professional's usage of certain terminology.

"Here's the semantics game: In the medical domain, a doctor writes a recommendation or a protocol to follow. The educational domain does not recognize these words as required for education... We could not have this undermined by a group of teachers unqualified in Autism and Sensory Processing Disorders... I had to protect the people who were helping us and still function through this crazy school system."

There is a sense of frantic scrambling as Tami and her husband try to find a way to navigate their way through an incredibly daunting learning curve.

I was amazed at the entire account of Tami's persistence and never-say-die attitude. No parent should feel that they are alone. There is a helpful list of tips and resources in the book for readers who must approach Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder in their own lives.

To be completely fair, the book cover looks like a mother-daughter photograph from the mantel. Even the font of the title would not have been my first choice. There were a few spelling errors throughout the book. But those things aside, it was a compelling and engrossing read.

Tami Goldstein's writing is straight-forward and informative. She is State and Nationally Certified in Therapeutic Massage and Bodywork, Certified in CranioSacral Therapy, and continues to advocate for children and families.

Coming Through the Fog by Tami A. Goldstein, 2013 ISBN 978-1-4787-1413-2