Author: Charles Ray

Review of ‘Key Takeaways, Analysis & Review of Glenn Beck’s It IS About Islam’

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Conservative TV personality Glenn Beck’s polemic on Islam, It IS About Islam, while not as slanted and ranting as his broadcasts, is nonetheless a biased take on Islam, according to Key Takeaways, Analysis & Review of Glenn Beck’s It IS About Islam by Instaread.

The review begins with a fairly comprehensive overview of Beck’s book, which claims that Islam began as a faith aspiring to conquer other regions and non-believers. He equates jihad with converting others and compares it with Christianity’s violent conversion of Native Americans and the European Crusades.  The review, while it states that Beck quotes from the Kuran, does not say if he mentions those passages in the Muslim holy book that prescribe treatment of Children of the Book, i.e., Christians and Jews. It does not mention, however, what translation of the Kuran Beck used in doing his book.

In analyzing Beck’s style, the review states that in effect that he does not employ his normal ‘over the top’ style and that his views are somewhat ‘muted.’ It remains clear, though, that he has written a slanted book that supports the American right wing’s view of Islam as the ‘enemy,’ rather than those who distort it to their own purposes, much as Christians once distorted the Bible to justify things such as slavery or subjugation of women.

The Instaread reviews are unauthorized, unofficial analyses, and thus tend to be objective. This one was a good review, but I sense that the editors, in an effort to appear fair and balanced, give Beck more credit for journalistic integrity than he deserves. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my review.

The Instaread books are an excellent way to be introduced to full works, but I don’t feel that this one lived up to the reputation I’ve come to expect. It was still a useful analysis, but could have been better.

I give it three stars.

Review of ‘Hill of Secrets’

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When five members of a religious family are found dead in their apartment, victims of a murder-suicide, Israeli police detective Hadas Levinger is put in charge of the investigation. An atheist rebel from a religious family, Hadas is a person who insists on being independent in a society that demands conformity. During the course of her investigation of the case, she not only reveals the painful truth about the dead family, but hard and painful truths from her own life.

Hill of Secrets by Michal Hartstein is a slow-paced mystery that delves into modern-day Israeli society while at the same time telling a riveting mystery story. The author writes with a deft hand as she describes not just the surface of a society struggling with modernity versus tradition while also striving to survive against many challenges both internal and external.

For fans of the more fast-paced mysteries with American or British detectives, this story might seem a bit too slow. But, that very slowness is its beauty. The author allows the reader time to get under the skin of the protagonist until he or she becomes one with the character. Don’t miss this book from an author who shows promise.

Four stars for a stellar second book.

Review of ‘Once Upon a Lie’

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DCI Alistair Fitzjohn is called back from leave to investigate the death of a local entrepreneur found in Sydney Harbor. Just before his death, the victim had checked his aunt’s house to see the room in which his sister died. He said he suspected foul play and something to do with fake art work. As Fitzjohn digs into the case, he finds too many suspects and plentiful motives. In addition, his investigation uncovers dark secrets that many want kept hidden.

Once Upon a Lie by Jill Paterson is an interesting mystery, written with a skillful hand. The phlegmatic Fitzjohn is a likeable character, warts and all, and the supporting characters are not just cardboard props, but real people with whom readers can relate.

For a chilling story about life Down Under don’t miss this book. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Seven For Suicide’

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Sarah Spellman, a Denver police detective, is jerked away from a date to investigate an apparent suicide in a student’s apartment. A look at the invitation to the party at which the victim supposedly took his own life shocks her: ‘Act out your own suicide,’ but as she looks more deeply into the case, she discovers that there’s more than appears on the surface.

I received a free copy of Renee Pawlish’s short story, Seven For Suicide, in exchange for my review. An offering in Pawlish’s Sarah Spillman Mystery Series, in just a few words, the reader is treated to a bit of brilliant detective work, scintillating dialogue, and a story ending that will shock you. When is a suicide not a suicide? Read Seven For Suicide and find out.

This is a story that’s quick to read, but will leave you wanting to read more of this author’s work. I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Keith Ramsbottom: The Return of the Pork Pie’

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Keith Ramsbottom and his hapless friends are back again, and they’re funnier than ever in Keith Ramsbottom: The Return of the Pork Pie by Scott Pixello.

Things are heating up in Roman-occupied Britain, especially in the village of Effluvium. Roman governor Paulinus disappears for days, causing great worry, and the rebel Boudicca burns Londinum, which causes even greater worry. But then, Paulinus resurfaces and decides to hold a poetry competition, and things get really, really zany.

This is not a book to read if you’ve just ingested a large quantity of liquids because it’ll tickle you and make you trickle. You’ll laugh until you spew your liquid all over the place. Pixello has a gift for using puns, plays on words, and just plain spot-on comic observations of human nature that will keep you entranced from start to finish.

Five stars and counting!

Review of ‘Cosega Search’

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Archaeologist Ripley Gaines has a controversial theory, and he has spent his entire career searching for the artifact that proves it. This artifact will completely alter human history and the earth’s future. When he finds it, though, there are powerful forces who feel knowledge of it must be suppressed at all costs – even Ripley’s life. He must stay alive long enough to decode the Cosega Sequence, but everyone wants it, and the church wants everyone who has seen it dead.

Cosega Search by Brandt Legg is a heart-pounding thriller that follows Ripley as he scrambles to unlock the secrets of the Cosega Sequence, while attempting to thwart the efforts of assassins sent by the church to stop him.

With more action and thrills than The DaVinci Code, this is a book you won’t want to put down. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Rise of the Jinn’

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Fleeing from the Taliban, a young Afghani girl finds a strange lantern. Rubbing it, she frees a Jinn who grants her three wishes. Her third wish, that everyone on earth, at the age of 17, be granted three wishes, unleashes the Jinn upon the world with disastrous consequences.

Clover Grimwood, a chubby girl with red hair and freckles, and a beautiful but selfish step-sister, learns on her step-sister’s seventeenth birthday just how much of a disaster the presence of the Jinn can be. When Razul, the top dog in the Jinn hierarchy shows up to grant the birthday wishes, he turns Clover’s world inside out.

I received a free copy of William Turnage’s Rise of the Jinn in exchange for my review. Though aimed at a YA audience, this is a book that can be enjoyed by anyone who likes fantasy, adventure, and humor, because, despite the deadly seriousness of the subject, and the events depicted in the book, it is also quite hilarious in places. The author does a fantastic job of showing teen angst and immaturity cheek by jowl with the perfidy of a race of beings determined to bring humanity down a few pegs.

Be warned, the next time you find a tarnished old lamp, think twice before you rub it. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Seconds to Disaster’

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If you fly frequently, Seconds to Disaster by Glenn Meade and Ray Ronan is a must-read book. Beginning with the tragedy of Air France flight 447, which plunged into the Atlantic on a flight from Rio to Paris, the authors detail how a combination of bad luck, bad decision, insufficient training, poor regulation, and pursuit of profits at the expense of safety puts thousands of lives at risk, and how they have contributed to the death or injury of an uncounted number of airline passengers. I say uncounted here because the authors point out that injury to infants who are not ticketed, but flying in an adult’s lap are not counted.

After reading this well-documented account of the worldwide airline industry, you’ll probably be afraid to ever fly again. Fortunately, the authors have included advice on how to increase your safety when flying, although, they’re the first to admit—accidents will always happen, and unless something is done to bring airlines under more effective control there will be more rather than less.

This book reads like a suspense novel, unfortunately, it happens to be true. I give it five stars.

Review of ‘Cargo’

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Former assassin Leine Basso travels to Bangkok in an attempt to rescue the daughter of a friend who has been taken by human trafficker Victor Wang. Leine is betrayed and falls into Wang’s clutches herself. Stuffed into a container on a ship bound for Africa, Leine encounters Derek, a poacher who has also run afoul of Wang, and is being taken to slavery or death himself. If Leine is to survive and rescue the kidnapped girl, she will have to form a partnership with a man who represents the very evils she is determined to fight.

Cargo is another Leine Basso thriller by author D.V. Berkom, and it has all the elements of past books in this series, with the added dimension of human and animal trafficking. You’ll be literally on the edge of your seat as Leine and Derek face not just Wang and the triad, but a murderous band of local guerillas who put no value on human life. If you’ve enjoyed Leine’s adventures in the past, you’ll absolutely love this one. Berkom shows her amazing skill as an adventure writer in this book. Don’t miss it! I only have one criticism. Leine is supposed to know how to speak Thai, but in an encounter in Bangkok, she says, sawadi kap, which is wrong, A gender-based language, women say, sawadi ka. Other than that one little cultural/linguistic slip, though, I have nothing but praise for this book.

I received a free copy of Cargo in exchange for my review. I forgive the one linguistic gaffe and give this book a resounding five stars!

Review of ‘The Devil Will Come’

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Exploring Rome’s ancient catacombs, archaeologist Elisabetta Celestino discovers a strange pattern of astrological symbols that seem to point to a previously unknown pre-Christian sect. The Vatican, however, refuses to support her research. Ten years later, when a cave-in damages a vault that Elixabetta was exploring, events come to light that could challenge long-held religious beliefs, and she is called back to continue her research.

The Devil Will Come by Glenn Cooper is a chilling suspense novel that spans events from 1st-century Rome to the present day in Europe, taking the reader on a whirlwind ride of intrigue and suspense. An extremely well-written book with only one fault; the author does a lot of scene switching without warning that can, at first, be jarring, but in the end seems to work.

Despite the scene switching, though, this was a hard book to put down. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘7 Days Juicing Weight Loss, Detox and Cleanse: Discover How to Improve Your Health with 7 Day Juice Fast Diet, Detox and Cleanse Recipes Program’

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7 Days Juicing Weight Loss, Detox and Cleanse: Discover How to Improve Your Health with 7 Day Juice Fast Diet, Detox and Cleanse Recipes Program

I approached John Miller’s 7 Days Juicing Weight Loss, Detox and Cleanse with the same degree of skepticism I have for most books that promise fantastic results in a short period of time. Miller’s book introduces juice as a way to jump start your metabolism, flush toxins from your system, and lose weight.

Written in simple, easy to understand language, it does offer some pretty good recipes for making fruit and vegetable juices. It should, however, be viewed carefully and its advice followed with caution. For one thing, it suggests removing the fiber from fruits and vegetables which takes away one of the essential elements for regularity and colon health. He offers some alternatives to this, but they’re not as effective as natural fiber found in many fruits and vegetables. Another recommendation is to buy all organic items, which is healthier, I suppose, but depending upon where you live, could be quite expensive.

Some really good ideas in this small book, but I can’t really recommend that a reader jump in and adopt the whole thing—at least not before consulting your physician. Maybe some of these recipes to replace lunch or supper would achieve the results, maybe in a longer time, but more safely.

A well-written book, but given the topic and my misgivings I give it three stars, with a caution, ‘Buyer Beware!’

Review of ‘Moon Signs’

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Kathleen Williamson wants a quiet retirement, but her older sister, Andrea Flinn, wants excitement. They are in Canaan Valley looking for old paintings, but Andrea is looking for a killer.

For an exciting bit of mystery fiction, nothing beats Moon Signs by Helen Haught Fannick. A fantastic bit of writing, with interesting, fully-formed characters in a quaint setting so real you can smell the magnolia blossoms. As the two sisters prowl their grandparents’ old hotel, they find more mysteries than the missing paintings. This is a book you don’t want to miss.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Dark Web’

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When a family is torn apart by the inexplicable death of their son, and the discovery that he has been connected with players in a dark online world, Detective John Swift is called in to investigate. Swift finds more than he bargained for as he is immersed deeper and deeper in the Deep Web, a shadowy region of the Internet where unimaginable dangers lurk.

Dark Web by T. J. Brearton is a first-rate thriller that explores the heights of spine tingling suspense and the depths of dark human despair. The author includes just enough technical detail to keep the reader in the loop without data dumps, spending most of the story exploring the journeys the characters take as Swift races against time to untangle a web of real and virtual crimes.

Don’t start this book if you don’t have enough time to finish it in one sitting. I promise you, once you start, you won’t be able to put it down. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Unallocated Space’

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When someone hacked into the electronic gaming machines of SPACE, the largest casino in the world, eccentric digital forensics expert Sam Platt was hired to find the hacker and put a stop to it. Once he starts working, though, Sam finds an even darker, and deadlier, secret beneath the complex and no one seems to want to put a stop to it. Sam’s sense of justice forces him to soldier on, though, and when Ukrainian mobsters kidnap his daughter in an effort to force him to stop, it becomes personal. They soon learn that Sam Platt is not someone you want to have angry at you.

Unallocated Space by Jerry Hatchett is the first book in the Sam Platt thriller series, and it’s filled with enough explicit action scenes to satisfy the most hard-core thriller fan. This is not a book for the faint hearted. The violence is graphic and explicit, the language is raw and uncensored, and the sex is no-holds barred. Hatchett writes with an authority and deft hand that surely ranks him up there with the best writers of this genre. This is definitely an author to watch. Five stars, Hatchett and keep up the good work!

Review of ‘The Blue Zones Solution: by Dan Buettner | Key Takeaways, Analysis & Review: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People’

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Dan Buettner’s The Blue Zones Solution is an expansion of research into regions of the world where people live a hundred years or more, the so-called Blue Zones.

Key Takeaways, Analysis & Review of Dan Buettner’s The Blue Zones Solution by Eureka Books is a fulsome analysis and review of the book with a critique not only of the book itself but the author’s writing style. This in depth analysis goes into some detail on each of the book’s main theses, pointing out the lack of solid science to back up the author’s claims, and the often contradictory stands he takes in different places in the book.

The analysis of the section on how to create Blue Zones is the most valuable thing about the Eureka book because it points out, perhaps even better than the author does in his full work, the challenges faced in the modern world by people who want to reintroduce a pre-industrial life style in an area that is dependent on technology—especially the automobile.

It would have been helpful if this book had contained a few more resources or references a reader could use to further evaluate Buettner’s book, but despite that lack, it provides a solid basis for deciding whether reading the whole work is worth the effort. This is the next best thing to reading the book itself.  I give it four stars!

Review of ‘Key Takeaways, Analysis & Review of Plunder and Deceit by Mark R. Levin’

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Key Takeaway, Analysis & Review of Mark R. Levin’s Plunder and Deceit by Instaread is about what Levin calls a threat to American democracy by an executive branch run amok.

While the book makes a really simple grammatical error when it uses the term ‘the United State’s, it is nonetheless a comprehensive review of the book. It goes into some detail on the author’s views that the problems in the country are almost solely the fault of an executive branch that has usurped too much power, spent too much on social programs, which has caused an $18 billion national debt, and rendered the congress ineffective. While the author heaps praise on Ronald Reagan, he puts most of the blame on the Obama Administration, betraying his obvious bias.

Without being judgmental, this review clearly shows the one-sided nature of Levin’s arguments. It would, though, have been an even better analysis if it has pointed out the weakness and bias of his arguments. For instance, the review fails to point out the role that congress plays in expenditures, congressional reluctance to touch social programs, the percentage of the national debt that should be attributed to often out-of-control defense spending, etc.

This is an analysis that would have definitely benefitted from more references or resources, not just the two that were included. And, more should have been said about the clearly partisan slant of Levin’s book. In fairness, his association with previous Republican administrations were pointed out.

On the whole, it wasn’t a bad review, it just didn’t go far enough. It did, however, warn me off Levin’s book, so I’m thankful for that. I give this book three stars.

Review of ‘Daring Greatly by Brene Brown: Key Takeaways, Review & Analysis’

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Daring Greatly by Brene Brown: Key Takeaways, Analysis & Review an Instaread summary of Brown’s book is a most useful introduction. It looks closely at Brown’s thesis that being vulnerable is not a negative but a positive condition that people should learn to take advantage of. The review of the author’s style, points out that she uses her professional authority, personal anecdotes, and an informal writing style to effectively get her points across to lay readers.

Like other Instaread summaries, this is an unofficial, independent review, making it a trustworthy guide to the work being reviewed. In fact, this is such a thorough analysis, one can get most of Brown’s points without ever reading her book—of course, after reading the review, I would recommend it.

One of the best Instaread books yet. I give it five stars.

Review of ‘A Dream Unfolding’

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Hannah Anderson is married to the man of her dreams. When her husband’s brother gets in trouble with the law, the town turns against them, and they decided to move to Arizona Territory. The way is difficult, and enroute, her husband is killed in an avalanche, leaving Hannah to fend for herself.

When Will Colter’s father dies, leaving his Texas ranch to Will’s older brother, Will decides to take his cattle and move to Arizona to start a new life.

The two paths cross as they face the many trials and tribulations of life on the new frontier.

A Dream Unfolding by Karen Baney is a moving story of two people who through strong faith find their way through life’s perils, and in the process find each other.

A fairly interesting novel, it is often hard to tell which character’s point of view the author is writing, and there is an overuse of characters’ names which is frankly a bit distracting. It’s also a bit too wordy in places, providing information and details that add little or nothing to the story itself.

The author shows talent, and with more experience will be turning out some top-flight work. This one, though, is not quite there yet. I give it three stars.

Review of ‘Witch Hunt’

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After a decade of marriage, Leigh Hawthorne learns that she has married into a family of witches. When a firebrand, Preacher Cody, starts a global witch hunt, Leigh is forced to take sides – she must choose between her family, or running for her life.

When Leigh decides to stand by her family, witches and all, the battle is well and truly joined.

Witch Hunt, book 1 in the Witch Hunt series by Devin O’Branagan, is a chilling look at what can happen when people’s emotions are manipulated by external forces. The author paints a frightening portrait that could very well be of some of our current-day politicians in Preacher Cody. A book that is part paranormal, part political thriller, Witch Hunt will cause your blood to run hot and cold by turns as the author takes you on a journey that you’ll not soon forget.

I give it five stars!