Month: October 2015

Review of ‘Claudia Must Die’

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Claudia stole money from her husband rather than file for divorce. He now has thugs hunting her—to kill her. In order to live, someone else must die. Claudia picks a look-a-like, but there’s a terrible mistake, and the intended target’s best friend is killed instead. Too bad for Claudia, the friend is related to an Irish mobster who wants blood.

Claudia Must Die by T. B. Markinson is a thriller you won’t want to put down once you start reading. In this book there are no good guys, but you’ll be rooting for a few of them anyway. Taut action, crisp dialogue, and a thrill a page. Don’t miss it.

Totally unpredictable. Four stars.

Review of ‘Quigley’s Christmas Adventure’

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Alarm bells ring in heaven. The angels know there’s a crisis on earth. The evil Ro plans to destroy Christmas by getting rid of the toy store in her town and replacing it with a freeway ramp. An angel must come to the rescue, and it’s the turn of Thurmond, heaven’s canine trainer, a guardian angel who has been less than successful on his previous missions. Thurmond choses as his companion on this mission, Quigley, a famous canine angel with an attitude problem.

Quigley’s Christmas Adventure by William Byron Hillman is the story of how Thurmond and Quigley save Christmas—but, it’s more. It’s funny, in a rib tickling way; it’s aimed at young adults, but will also appeal to the young at heart; and, it’s a story of self-confidence and faith. That’s a lot of baggage for one book, and one aimed at such a young audience, but Quigley carries it well. Christmas is just around the corner, so consider this book as a stuffing stuffer for someone on your Christmas list.

Four stars.

Free 7-Day Nonfiction Writing Challenge

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I’m participating in writing coach Shelley Hitz’s free 7-Day Nonfiction Writing Challenge, designed to help authors write and promote nonfiction works. Check it out here:

Review of ‘Maids of Misfortune’

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Widow Annie Fuller runs a San Francisco boarding house in 1879. She learns that her husband, just before committing suicide, squandered their money and incurred a debt that she is now being told she must pay or lose her business. Annie, though, has a secret. For a long time she has been supplementing her income as Madame Sibyl, an exclusive psychic who specializes in investment advice.

When one of Madame Sibyl’s clients turns up dead, she is considered a suspect. Police Officer Nate Dawson, assigned to investigate, has a problem. He is drawn to Annie, but then learns of her secret identity.

Maids of Misfortune: A Victorian San Francisco Mystery by M., Louisa Locke is a finely woven story, evocative of the era, with richly drawn characters, but with all the hallmarks of a good mystery. The language rings true and the settings are so descriptive you can smell the salty San Francisco air and feel the damp fog.

A don’t miss book. Four stars.

Review of ‘Caribbean Moon’

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LAPD Sergeant Manny Williams and his partner Sophia Lee are attending a wedding in Puerto Rico, but they’re still mentally working a brutal murder case back home. Then a killer is stalking the wedding party. The killer, Eli Jenkins, is killed when Williams and Lee identify him, so the case is over—or is it?

Caribbean Moon by Rick Murcer is a chilling thriller that follows in great detail the procedures of a pair of tough cops as they race against time to find a vicious killer. At the same time, the author does a good job of taking the reader into the mind, not only of the killer, but the cops on his tail.

A first-rate read that will keep you on the edge of your seat. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Rocco’s Wings’

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Rocco is the only being in his village with wings, making him an outcast. Worse, at night, his wings glow a luminescent blue, which can attract the attention of the Urvogels, beings who live on the upper levels of the land. An explorer by nature, Rocco decides to fly to the upper levels. There he finds others who, like him, are winged, but the society there is oppressive. Rocco witnesses others having their wings cut off for what wouldn’t be considered violations at the lower levels.

Rocco’s Wings by Rebecca Merry Murdock is a brilliantly written coming of age tale of love, honor, and bravery, that follows Rocco as he forms bonds with other young beings like himself, youngsters who just want the freedom to think for themselves. A heartwarming story that will appeal to readers of all ages.

Four stars for a very good first novel.

Review of ‘Language of the Bear’

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Lieutenant Hugh Pyke is a British army officer, newly arrived in the Pennsylvania Colony, who finds himself attracted to his commanding officer’s daughter. Wolf Tongue is a brash young warrior of the Susquehanna tribe, once rulers over others, now on the verge of extinction. He seeks to earn honor so he can marry his chief’s daughter. The lives of these two men come together when Pyke’s commander sends him on a deadly mission with Wolf Tongue as his guide.

A rich historical novel full of action, suspense, betrayal, and love, Language of the Bear by Evan Ronan and Nathaniel Green brings alive a time in American history that has only been scantily documented and a people, the Susquehanna, now lost to history. The reader is made to see, hear, smell, and most importantly, feel, what the characters experience as the very proper young British officer is taught the meaning of honor by a man he first views as a savage. At the same time, Wolf Tongue, a half-breed son of an English settler, learns to have more respect for himself and his mixed heritage.

An extremely well done piece of historical fiction, only marred by a few typos that another round of proofreading would remedy. I use the term ‘marred’ lightly in this case, because I truly enjoyed reading this book.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my review. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Murder on Molokai’

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When a beautiful heiress, Adrienne Ridgely, appears in the office of Kai Cook, the surfing detective, insisting that the accidental death of her sister Sara was in fact a murder, Kai is intrigued. He takes the case out of curiosity, and an undeniable attraction to his client, but soon finds himself convinced that she’s right—but, also, that she might be the killer.

Murder on Molokai by Chip Hughes is a delightful mystery, full of realistic portrayals of Hawaii and its culture, and with a large dose of humor and thrills from the very first page. Readers will be enthralled by Kai’s pursuit of justice for the murdered woman, and his race against the clock, not only to solve the case, and perhaps save his own life, but to save the islands from the machinations of greedy politicians and unscrupulous developers for whom murder is not an option left off the table in their pursuit of money.

I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review, and without reservation I call it one of the best mysteries I’ve read so far this year—and, I read a lot of them. If you want a fast-paced thriller that stands in a class by itself, this one is highly recommended. It has a few typos, but they don’t detract from a great story. Every page is a treat to read.

I give it an unqualified four stars.

Review of ‘In Gallup, Greed’

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When Mirage awakens from an alcohol-induced stupor to find her brother, Lonnie, murdered, she can’t be sure she’s not the killer. She hires Cinnamon and Burro, amateur PIs and civil rights investigators for the state of New Mexico, to help her determine who killed her brother—even it’s her.

Cinnamon is on a quest to find her namesake mother who deserted her and her father when she was a child, and sees Mirage as a resource in that search. Burro, Cinnamon’s partner, is plagued by visions, but they often help them solve cases.

In Gallup, Greed by Tower Lowe follows Cinnamon and Burro as they become immersed in Gallup’s Native American art culture, a complex money laundering scheme, and a group of really, really weird people. The ending will catch you completely by surprise. A fascinating story that moves through several different points of view, with Cinnamon being the main character and in first person POV, to create a twisted tale that is entertaining. It would have been nice to know a little more about Cinnamon, her full name for instance, and Burro too for that matter. With the amount of detail given on attire and food, this omission was a bit glaring.

The author does a good job of planting clues, though, making this an interesting mystery to read.

I give this book three stars.

Review of Man’s Search for Meaning: by Viktor E. Frankl | Key Takeaways, Analysis & Review

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Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor S. Frankl/Key Takeaways & Analysis by Instaread is a summary of Frankl’s book. It covers the main takeaways, from his analysis of what contributed to some peoples’ ability to survive the torment of concentration camps to an overview of logotherapy. It gives brief overviews of the three stages people in dire situations go through, from denial to apathy, and after coming out of the situation, the feeling of displacement and the long road back to normalcy.

This analysis does a particularly good job of describing Frankl’s writing style, from the dispassionate way he deals with the stressful situations of incarceration to the technical language he uses when writing about his school of psychotherapy. It makes it clear that this is a book that will appeal not only to experts in the field but to the average person who might want some guidance on how to search for meaning in life, and the fact that the traditional view of people like Freud and others that pleasure and power are the prime human motivators is not completely true; that it is in reality the search for meaning that motivates people, and not always for good.

After reading the review, I found myself intrigued by Frankl’s theories and look forward now to reading the full book. I give it five stars.

Review of The Total Money Makeover: by Dave Ramsey | Key Takeaways, Analysis & Review: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness

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The Total Money Makeover: by Dave Ramsey | Key Takeaways, Analysis & Review: A Proven Plan for Financial Fitness by Eureka Books is a summary of Dave Ramsey’s book outlining the 7 steps to financial security. This short guide to Ramsey’s work, which gives the baby steps he recommends for anyone desiring financial security, is a good stand-alone guide to financial wellbeing. I particularly like Ramsey’s seventh step: have fun, invest and do good with your wealth. The final section, giving some of the myths about money and moneymaking, are also very useful.

This has been one of the better—and most useful—Eureka Books I’ve read and reviewed. Like I said above, this book alone is a good brief road map to financial security, and it certainly makes me want to read Ramsey’s book.

Thank you Eureka Books. Easy five stars.

Review of ‘Project Moses’

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Enzo Lee had been a hot shot investigative reporter in New York until he got caught up in a journalism scandal that threatened his career. After relocating to San Francisco, and getting a job as a fluff features reporter, he seemed finally to be getting his grove back. But, when a judge and a prosecutor die under mysterious circumstances, his editor assigns him to cover the cases. Suddenly, Lee finds himself knee deep in a bio-terrorism conspiracy involving a well-known bio-tech company and government officials who have a secret they don’t want known, and are willing to go to any lengths, including murder, to keep it from ever coming to light.

Project Moses by Robert B. Lowe is a story of nonstop thrills and intrigue that grabs you by the throat from the first page and keeps you spinning until the twisted ending. Full of chills and a bit of wry humor, it will keep you turning pages and guessing, with an ending that will leave you breathless as you follow Lee from coast to coast in his effort to untangle the threads of a deadly plot with global implications.

First rate writing with enough plot twists to bedevil even the most ardent thriller fan. A book you’ll not be able to put down, and that will leave you thinking long after you stop reading. How far will people go in their efforts to hang on to power? You’ll just have to read it and find out.

A great first novel that I give four stars to.

Review of ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: by Oliver Sacks | Key Takeaways, Analysis & Review: And Other Clinical Tales’

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The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: Oliver Sacks/Key Takeaways, Analysis & Review by Instaread is a summary of the 30th anniversary edition of Dr. Oliver Sacks’ book on neurological problems. The strength of Sacks’ work is his use of narrative as opposed to case histories in describing the totality of a patient’s problems. As the analysis points out, case histories focus on technical issues and what’s wrong, whereas Dr. Sacks brought the entire patient into the picture, and showed that, in some instances, the neurological disorders actually had positive effects.

An excellent capsule look at a groundbreaking work that brings a complex medical subject down to earth, enabling nonmedical persons to understand and appreciate the problem.

Once again, Instaread has provided a great way to get the gist of a book before investing in it.  Great  job! Five stars.

Review of ‘Immortal Plague’

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William Barrow, Smithsonian Institution archivist and part time CIA operative, has a secret. He was once known as Judas, the betrayer who is cursed to walk the earth until he can reclaim the 30 pieces of silver he was paid. He has retrieved 21, and while he and his current ‘son’, an esteemed university professor, are in pursuit of the 22d they encounter a Russian billionaire who is after another deadly secret—a quest they must stop in order to save the world as we know it.

Aiden James’ Immortal Plague is a spine-tingling thriller that combines intriguing characters with a compelling plot, finely crafted into an unforgettable story. You’ll find yourself immersed in James’ world and identifying with even the most outrageous events. He’s just that good. Don’t miss this book! I give it four stars.

Review of ‘For the Love: by Jen Hatmaker | Summary & Analysis: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards’

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In today’s world, most women are bedeviled by a pursuit for unattainable levels of perfection. Jen Hatmaker’s book For the Love is a self-help book about this meaningless and counterproductive pursuit for perfection, and how it is impossible. For the Love: by Jen Hatmaker/Summary & Analysis by Instareads very succinctly but fully summarizes Hatmaker’s book, outlining the steps women (and, although the book doesn’t come out directly, this advice also applies to men) can take to have more productive, fulfilled lives, beginning with a healthy dose of self-acceptance.

It’s tempting to say that after reading this Instaread summary you don’t need to read the whole book. You could, I suppose, do that, but what will really happen is you’ll want to go out and get Hatmaker’s book and get the whole ball of yarn.

Another great Instaread help for busy readers. Five stars!

The Author as Historian by Charles Ray : #race, the frontier and setting the record straight

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I appeared as a Guest Blogger on author Helen Treharne’s Blog. Go on over and check it out!

Review of ‘In the Garden of Beasts: by Erik Larson | Summary & Analysis: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler’s Berlin’

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In the Garden of Beasts: by Erik Larson/Summary & Analysis by Instaread is a review of Larson’s account of the experiences of Ambassador William Dodd and his family in Hitler’s Germany in the 1930s just before the outbreak of World War II.

A fairly good overview of a book about an interesting episode in US diplomatic history, with a good analysis of the author’s style, but it does not live up to the standards that I’ve come to expect in Instaread books. For one thing, in the opening, it mentions that the book is about life in Berlin through the eyes of the American ambassador and his family, without naming them, and then in the next paragraph brings up George Messersmith, who was the US consul general in Berlin. Later in the review this is explained, but it confuses the reader to have to wait for this explanation. Would have been better to make it clear up front.

Later in the book there’s a bit of confusion that is never explained. It mentions the death of Mattie (the name of the ambassador’s daughter) in 1939, and then a couple of paragraphs later, after detailing her marriages, says that she died in 1990. While I’m sure the first death mentioned was actually Dodd’s wife (whose name, by the way, was not Mattie), meaning this is just an inadvertent typo, it is nonetheless very confusing.

Beyond these two problems, it is a good review that I feel captures the full book’s essence effectively. I’m afraid I can only give this one three stars.

Meet Me at the AFSA Book Market in November

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I will have autographed books for sale, as well as custom bookmarks. I'll also be discussing my books. Hope to see all in the DC area there!
I will have autographed books for sale, as well as custom bookmarks. I’ll also be discussing my books. Hope to see all in the DC area there!

Review of ‘When the Stars are Right’

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The military is agog over a new form of energy, and plan to use it for space ship propulsion. But, why do they need an exorcist aboard the ship as it prepares for its maiden voyage?

Read William Meikle’s short story, When the Stars are Right, and find out. A chilling story of adventure and paranormal phenomena that involves religion, politics, power plays, and ritual magic that sneaks up on you before you know what hit you.

Meikle’s story has only one flaw in my opinion—it ended too soon. I was just getting into it when his ending, though excellently crafted, came at me out of the blue. I give Meikles five stars for this super story.