Book Reviews

Review of ‘Maharishi and Me’

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For six years, Susan Shumsky served as a personal assistant to Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of Transcendental Meditation. She was associated with his movement or residing in his ashrams for a total of 22 years. She was present for many of his more famous meetings and associations, such as that with the Beatles, and she tells her story in Maharishi & Me, a candid, no-holds-barred personal look inside the reality of this enigmatic man.

The author tells how she was transformed from a shy teenager to the self-confident author she is today, but her journey was not without pain and setbacks. The highs and lows are treated equally in this compelling narrative, which is one of self-discovery as much as biography.

As someone who came of age in the turbulent 60s, and, like the author, discovered Buddhism—although, in my case it was as a GI in Vietnam—experienced the illusion of freedom of Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, and questioned my role in everything, I can relate to the what Shumsky has to say in this book.

For a fascinating look back in time, I highly recommend this book. I received a complimentary copy for review.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Individutopia’

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In 2084, there is no such thing as society. The cult of the individual reigns supreme. But, for one individual, one day the path to self-discovery reveals itself. Individutopia by Josh Sheldon is a dystopian tale that takes the current obsession with individualism to its ultimate extreme. Most of the world’s wealth is owned by a few individuals—does that ring any bells?—and the individual is allowed earn just enough income to survive, but never to be able to escape the heavy burden of debt. Renee Blanca, the last baby born to two people who actually talked to each other, begins to question her place in the world, and begins to rebel against the many restrictions on those individuals who are mere work units for the benefit of the less than one percent who own everything.

You’ll not miss the parallels with our current existence, and hopefully this book will make you think about the path we’re currently on, and what you, as an individual, can do to restore society to its rightful place.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I have to admit it elicited strong emotions, not all positive—but, not against the author or the story, but the fact that it all rings too true—I still give it five stars. A must read in today’s world! Make sure to get a copy of this one when it’s released.

Review of ‘The Elixir’

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A poltergeist reanimates the corpse of gangster Al Capone, and then that of a vengeful spirit causing accidents on Chicago’s streets. Could things get any worse for Bud Hutchins? You bet your silicone-covered magic wand they can—and do. Maeve, a zombie, werewolf, priest who Bud is trying to bring back to life—or un-life, never quite sorted that one out—gets pummeled by the poltergeist and now needs emergency treatment, but Bud’s a bit preoccupied, what with having to transport around the city, with Ivy Zheng, a spunky PhD candidate who is helping him to discover who murdered Ivy’s friend.

This is just an appetizer of what’s in The Elixir by J.B. Michaels. An urban fantasy/mystery/thriller with more improbabilities than Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

The book has a few typos, and is a bit jerky—in tempo not mentality—in places, but is still an entertaining read.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Death by Honeymoon’

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While on their honeymoon in Barbados, Cindy and Clint’s idyllic interlude is interrupted by tragedy when Clint is found drowned in the surf. The local police quickly call it an accident, but Cindy’s not so sure. Back in New York, facing off with Clint’s family, who had objected to the marriage, and some of his friends who don’t seem to care much for her, she discovers that there were things about her new husband she didn’t know—dark secrets that could have caused someone to kill him—and she’s determined to discover the truth. She soon finds herself targeted, so she goes back to Barbados to do her own investigation, not just to honor Clint, but to save her own life.

Death By Honeymoon by Jaden Skye is a romantic mystery that, though it is a bit heavier on the romance than some mystery fans will prefer, will still, I believe, please. Some of the mystery elements are too obvious but given that the main character is a total amateur, it somehow works.

A nice read during the turbulent, indecisive summer weather currently plaguing both coasts.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Iron Curtain Killers’

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When the Soviet Union was founded in 1922, its founders described it as a ‘socialist paradise’, free of the decadent western crimes, which, like everything else Stalin and his ilk did, was a big lie. Russia and the Soviet Union have, for instance, had serial killers since even before there was a Soviet Union, and the police there struggle to find and capture them just as much as their counterparts in the West, often under the yoke of official denial of their existence.

Iron Curtain Killers by Michael Newton and RJ Parker is a detailed account of 26 serial murder cases ranging from 1960 to the 21st century, including one case that remains unsolved to this day. This book is not for the squeamish, but it shines new light on a region that was for long under the shadow of the Iron Curtain.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Ike and Kay’

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Ambulance driver, Kay Summersby, is assigned to drive two-star general, Dwight Eisenhower, in 1942, in the run-up to the invasion of the European continent. The relationship soon becomes more than professional and threatens to up-end both of their lives.

Ike and Kay by James MacManus is a fictionalized account of the true wartime relationship of the American supreme commander and his British driver, a story that made headlines at the time. MacManus has penned an account that rings true and adds new depth to a little-remembered anecdote of the period.

A captivating read. I received a free review copy of this book, and I give it four stars.

Review of ‘The Myth of Love’

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If you’re a fan of 1940s style pulp fiction you’ll like The Myth of Love. If you’re the type who like reading about Eastern mythic stories, you’ll be into The Myth of Love. Despite being a bit discombobulated by some of the formatting issues in the book, I was sucked into the story, only stopping when it got so late I had to quit and get some shut-eye.

The Myth of Love by Randy Neiderman is a fusion of noir mystery and eastern mythology that follows the adventures of two gods who sacrifice their immortality to experience human love. Reincarnated as an alcoholic PI and a Russian dominatrix, Jimmy and Sasha (One and the Second in their pantheon of gods) must find each other and fall in love in order to fulfill the Myth. Their quest sets off a conflict between opposing forces in the pantheon, with one side trying to kill them in order to restore the status quo in the universe and the other making the supreme sacrifice in order to protect them.

One thing I can say with absolute certainty is, regardless of your genre preference, once you start reading this book, you won’t be able to stop until you see how it ends.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘The Orange Curtain’

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People are being killed in an affluent high-rise known as the Orange Curtain. Homicide Detective Max Cusini finds a perplexing situation—his main suspects don’t match the description of the killer or killers, and when a murder takes place that doesn’t match the M.O. of the first killings, he finds himself looking down a rabbit hole, and his life—and sanity—at risk.

The Orange Curtain by Chris D. Dodson is an interesting mystery, marred only by an overabundance of typos and generally choppy pacing.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. I made my way through it, despite the typos, and sadly can only give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘Just Different Devils’

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A sassy, irreverent Texan, Hetta Coffey lives on the edge of legality on a boat in Mexico. When she’s offered a mysterious charter, she talks her best friend Jan into coming along for the ride. The two soon find themselves face to face with Hetta’s bete noir, Nacho, a man for whom she has conflicting feelings. He’s up to something, but they can’t figure out what. Oh, and there are missing mariners, oysters full of pearls, a murderous giant squid, an amorous dolphin, and a sexy kilt-wearing Scot making Hetta’s life even more complicated than it normally is.

Just Different Devils by Jinx Schwartz is funny, provided you can laugh when dismembered corpses are being described in gruesome detail. Well, maybe not so much detail, but what is described is gruesome. And, did I mention that while you fight to keep from spewing your lunch, you’ll be laughing your hind end off? You will, I promise. Hetta is my kind of hero, heroine, or whatever the proper term is. She lives life to the fullest, takes no prisoners, and makes no apologies. Yay, Hetta!

Loved this book, and I’m willing to bet that, unless you’re brain dead and totally without a funny bone, you will too.

I give it four and a half stars.

Review of ‘The Sensual Retiree’

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Just about a year into his retirement, at age 65, Joan Thompson’s husband, Phil, suffered a massive heart attack and died. Alone now, Joan sells her house and moves into a seaside retirement village, where she discovers that life, and sex, don’t come to an end after 60.

The Sensual Retiree by Gordon Smith is a delightful story of aging and how to do it gracefully. I couldn’t put it down.

Review of ‘Cause to Kill’

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Homicide Avery Black was once a promising criminal defense lawyer. When she got a client off who then went on to kill again, she was disgraced. She gave up her lucrative law career and became a police detective to try to redeem herself. Despite amassing a stellar record on the police force, she’s still not completely accepted by her colleagues. Even though they grudgingly acknowledge her brilliant mind, there is pushback when she’s included on a case involving the abduction and murder of girls from one of Boston’s prestigious universities.

In Cause to Kill by Blake Pierce Avery finally lands a case that can lead to her final redemption. But, she’s up against a killer who is every bit as smart and daring as she is. You’ll find yourself plunged into Avery’s murky world as she tries to get a step ahead of a killer who is brilliant and who always seems to be one step ahead of the law.

Despite an over-abundance of typos, this one’s a definite keeper for mystery/thriller fans.

I give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘His First His Second’

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Detective Sergeant Alicia Friend is just too perky and irreverent to be a cop. And, in the bleakness of winter in the north of Britain, Detective Inspector Donald Murphy would rather have someone a bit more serious, even though he has to admit that Alicia is a cracker jack detective. Then, the bodies of young women start appearing, and Murphy realizes that they have a serial killer on the loose. When the father of a kidnap victim begins his own investigation that threatens to interfere with what the police are doing, it’s up to Alicia and her perky personality to keep things on track. Unfortunately, the killer begins to focus on her, and that’s when the tension really mounts.

His First His Second by A. D. Davies is a chilling tale, filled with dark secrets and obscure motivations that are so intertwined you’ll need Google Maps to sort them out. Kept me interested from start to finish.

Review of ‘C is for Cookies’

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Hansel and Gretel are like a lot of millennials, adult, but still living with their parents. When their father finally becomes frustrated with their stay-at-home status, he insists that they find jobs, so they become long-haul truckers. Their first job is delivering a load of cookies to a location that’s not on any maps, where they find that they’ve stumbled into a life or death situation, and the thing they have to watch out for is the cookies.

C is for Cookies by Marc Richard is a humorous take on the old fairy tale that is definitely not for children. Rib-tickling and scary all at the same time.

Another five-star alphabet-for-adults book.

Review of ‘A is for Adam’

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So, you think you know the story of Adam and Eve? Well, think again, or better, read A is for Adam by Marc Richard. A really funny take on Genesis that will have you rolling on the floor, laughing your fig leaf off.

Adam is alone in Eden, busily naming things and wondering about two things: the tree with the strange fruit that God has warned him not to eat, and the goat walking on two legs who has eaten the fruit, and except for his unusual form of locomotion seems to have suffered no ill effects. Then, a rib is taken and Adam is given a companion, Eve, and that’s when the fun really begins.

Unless you’re a biblical literalist, you can’t help but enjoy reading this book.

I give it a solid five stars.

Review of ‘Invitation to Die’

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When two missing women are found dead, one by a child in a popular Swan Boat in a park, the FBI Behavioral Unit calls in their favorite profiler, Tracy Wenn, to help them solve it before more women are murdered. When a third woman goes missing, Tracy feels that she’s closing in on identifying the killer, but she then becomes the next target. To add a complication to her life, her fiancé is suddenly experiencing second thoughts about her line of work.

Invitation to Die by Jaden Skye will pique your interest from the first page, keep you sniffing for clues throughout, and floor you with a surprising climax. Pulse-pounding suspense and intense emotional drama on almost every page.

I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘The Effective Vegan Diet’

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Most of us associate vegan diets with social issues, but in The Effective Vegan Diet by Chef Effect the reader is introduced to a number of recipes that contain all the nutrients a body needs to be healthy.

This book exposes many of the myths about vegan diets and offers advice not only on how to cook foods that are good for you, but how to shop effectively to remove unhealthy foods from your diet. An interesting book, but it fails to warn the reader that some of the advice, such as increased consumption of citrus fruits and tomatoes can aggravate gastric conditions.

While I wouldn’t recommend adopting everything this book advocates without consulting a doctor, I still found it interesting and some of the advice useful.

I give it three and a half stars.

Review of ‘Cursed Magic’

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Cursed Magic by Antara Mann is a quick read, not because it’s a short story—which it definitely is not—but because it moves at the breakneck pace of a hundred-meter dash. Half-goddess Alexandra Shaw, with the help of her lover, the fae, Kagan, battles one hybrid dangerous demon after another, while trying to find a cure for the curse put upon her by the dastardly infiniti. The action never stops from page one, and by the time you reach the last page—which, like I said, is mercifully quick for the faint of heart, you’re breathless. If you like fantasy and speed, this is the book to read. Deliciously entertaining. I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Last Reunion: an Ageless Comedy’

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When an over-the-hill comic joins his high school classmates for a 70th reunion at a posh resort near San Antonio, he and his friends have been promised that for the week they will be ‘young’ again. But, is the Social Security Administrations offer to good to be true? They’ve had to promise to forego the balance of their benefits in exchange for a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but, when his classmates start dying he realizes that this might indeed be their ‘last’ reunion.

Last Reunion: An Ageless Comedy by Joe Dacy is both funny and scary. A tongue in cheek look at aging and the impact it has on the national economy, it’s also a subtly crafted murder mystery. You laugh and cry in turns as you make your way through this book.
I received a free copy and was frankly impressed with the author’s ability to keep the humor going, even when describing some pretty horrific events, all without becoming cheesy.

I give it four stars.

Review of ’51 Sleepless Nights’

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If you like stories that chill your blood and make you afraid to turn out the lights at night when you go to bed, you’ll love 51 Sleepless Nights by Tobias Wade. A collection of spin-tingling horror stories that explore all the things that go bump in the night and make the hairs on our arms stand on end.

The entire book can be read in about an hour, two if you’re really into being scared silly. I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my unbiased review. If you’re the impressionable type, you might not want to be alone when you read this book.

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Between the World and Me’

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I received a gift copy of Ta-Nehisi Coates’ book, Between the World and Me, over two years ago. For a number of reasons, I put it aside. What with the number of police shootings of young black men under questionable circumstances, along with the increase in racially and religiously motivated hate crimes, I labored under the mistaken assumption that another book about the agony of the black experience in America would only agitate my already agitated mood. Finally, though, I decided to open the covers and see what Coates had to say.

 

In the form of a letter to his son, Coates, an award-winning New York based journalist and author, talks about his own experiences growing up on the mean streets of an inner city, his exposure to the infinite variety of black life at Howard University, a Mecca for young blacks who wanted to get on the path to upward mobility, to his take on American history from a black perspective.

 

I was right that the book would be disturbing, but it was not disturbing in a negative way. It s hook me out of my own complacency, and reminded me that every generation of people of color growing up in America has its own memories; its own story to tell.

 

Every word of this book should be read with care, should be digested, and then passed on to future generations. It is through such sharing of past experiences that we are better able to cope with the turbulent present, and prepare for the unknown future.

 

Must reading, not just for young black people, but people of all colors and ages, if they truly wish to have a better understanding of who we—Americans—are, and what we can aspire to be.

 

I give this book a resounding five stars.