Review of ‘The Healer’

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Hope is an 18-year-old high school student with a secret. She can heal people, not everyone, but some. She and her father struggle to keep her ability secret; but it’s far from the only problem she has. She learns that she is actually the incarnation of an ancient princess, Princess Mikomi, who is the love interest of two warring gods, and that a fallen deity wants to control her for his own evil purposes She is forced to make a choice, surrender to her fate, or fight.

The Healer by C. J. Anaya is a young-adult, paranormal romance story that has so many elements woven into the narrative one is almost forced to write notes to keep track of them. An interesting and somewhat entertaining story if you like this genre.

I received a free copy of this book. I give it three and a half stars

On the road

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Asnycnow Radio

I like doing candid photos of people going about their daily lives, unaware of the camera. If you’re on foot, though, that’s often hard to achieve, so I usually shoot from a vehicle as I travel. When I was in Zimbabwe, with a driver at my disposal, this was easy to do. During my three years in southern Africa, I documented a lot of the ‘life along the roadways.’ Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party is one of southern Africa’s poorest countries, but has a higher per capita number of luxury cars than the richest countries of Europe, saying something about the degree of official corruption. Members of the African Apostolic Church on the way to services. Everything with wheels becomes a form of public transportation. On the open road. Schoolboys in Arusha, Tanzania. Passengers at Nairobi’s airport. An abandoned factory in Zimbabwe.

Source: On the road

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Review of ‘Acceptable Losses’

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Irwin Shaw was a talented American writer who went into self-imposed exile in Europe after being targeted in Senator Joseph McCarthy’s communist witch hunts of the 1950s.  From Europe, Shaw continued to write critically acclaimed works until his death in 1984, works that are now being reissued in e-book format.

Acceptable Losses was Shaw’s final book. It is the story of Roger Damon, a literary agent, who gets a strange phone call. The caller demands that they meet or else sins of Damon’s past will be exposed. He doesn’t take it seriously at first, but as the caller persists, Damon begins to reflect upon his past in an effort to identify his telephonic extortionist.

This story, like most of Shaw’s work, defies characterization. Filled with social commentary and mental journeys, it is also a mystery, as Damon’s caller continues to stalk him, But, typical of Shaw, we never know who or why. The stalker serves merely as a backdrop to Shaw’s views on the culture and social mores of the time.

If you like your fiction formulaic, you might not warm to this book, but if you like a good story that will suck you in and hold your interest for several hundred pages, get this book.

Five stars.

Review of ‘Bombay Blood’

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When the selling of human organs became legal, one company, Zarus, came to dominate the world market for body parts. Most prized for the donation of organs are those with the rare blood type known as Bombay Blood. Secret Service Agent Lynn Clarke, charged with protecting the President, happens to be one of those people, and this puts her on the most-wanted list of Zarus’s CEO, bloodthirsty in a literal sense, and his mission to serve his privileged and wealthy clients at all costs.

 

Charged with treason and stripped of her badge and gun, Clarke is pursued by government agencies and organ harvesters, all determined to take her, piece by piece if necessary. But, they failed to take into account her strength of will.

 

Bombay Blood by Ray Ronan is a riveting look at what the world could look like if profit-driven CEOs were allowed to dictate the law. It also shows the power of the individual who decides to take a stand against a government dominated by the 1%. In today’s American political climate, this is must reading—almost reads like nonfiction.

I give it four stars.

 

Review of ‘Kissing the Beehive’

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Writer Sam Bayer is suffering from writer’s block. His work in progress—isn’t, so, remembering finding a dead woman floating in the Hudson River when he was 15, he decides to return to his hometown, investigate the case, and then write a book about it. Just before beginning his journey, he meets the enigmatic Veronica, a woman of many personalities, some loveable, some frightening, which adds to his angst as he begins to uncover secrets that have lain hidden for decades.

Kissing the Beehive by Jonathan Carroll weaves from start to finish like a river, languid and lazy on the flat terrain; tumultuous and frightening in the narrows, as Sam moves close and closer to the identity of the true killer. You won’t be able to put this book down, and I promise, the ending will knock you for a loop.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘The 9/11 Machine’

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On September 11, 2001, Dr. Donald Ellis lost his wife and daughter when the second tower of the World Trade Center was destroyed in a terrorist attack. Many who lost loved ones that day retreated in grief or plotted revenge, but Ellis retreated instead to an isolated warehouse where he worked on a strange machine. Though consumed by grief over the loss of his family, he was not plotting revenge. His objective was to perfect his ‘time travel’ machine to make the events of 9/11 ‘unhappen.’

He makes several trips to the past, some just days before the attack, and others farther back, in an effort to change the outcome of this tragic event, but each trip only results in greater losses and global upheaval.

The 9/11 Machine by Greg Enseln is a fascinating retelling of America’s greatest tragedy; alternate history and science fiction brought together in a story that will keep you on the edge of your seat as Ellis tries frantically to ‘undo’ history. The author skillfully melds actual events with speculative forays into what ‘could’ have happened in a most compelling tale.

I give the author four stars for a most interesting read.

Review of ‘Bad War’

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Bad War by Summer Cooper is billed as a military paranormal romance. A soldier in Vietnam is severely wounded, and the story follows his return home where he wonders if he’ll be able to be a whole man again. While the combat scenes weren’t bad, they would have been better with more dialogue and less telling. I’m not sure the graphic love scenes really added anything to the story other than justify the romance label. They could have been left out, or related in less graphic detail and made a stronger story.

I received a free copy of this book. I give it three stars.

Review of ‘Wanderer of the Wasteland’

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Although Zane Grey wasn’t born in the west, he was one of the first authors to make it come alive for readers, beginning with Riders of the Purple Sage. Though panned by critics in his day for his overly vivid, often violent portrayals of the American West and its people, he was immensely popular with readers. His works still stand the test of time, and the way he tied the characters into the land, and the land into the story still serve as models for writers of many genres.

His Wanderer of the Wasteland, the story of a young man who, after killing his brother, flees to the desert to atone, and how he becomes one with the land, is quintessential Grey. Adam Larey was betrayed by his older brother, Guerd, a gambler and wastrel, so he ran away to a mining town. Guerd, in the company of a vicious and unscrupulous sheriff, tracked him down, and in a confrontation, Adam shot his brother and assaulted the sheriff. He then ran away to the desert, feeling that he must atone for the worst mortal sin, fratricide.

In the years that follow, Adam grows into a man, and becomes one with the desert. The land, in all its magnificence and malevolence, changes him, and he in turn changes everyone with whom he comes into contact.

In this story, the land is as much a part of the story as the characters, shaping their moods and actions, and often serving as the arbiter of their fate.

A classic western that will delight fans of the genre. This book was reissued in e-book format. I received a free copy.

I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘Uscolia’

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You can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but a youngster can learn almost anything. In fact, according to Gabriel Lanyi’s Uscolia, you can’t really teach anything because all real learning takes place internally in the brain.

An account of a fascinating journey to the island of Uscolia, where there are no schools, yet children of all ages display amazing linguistic, mathematical, and musical acumen. Lanyi shows, though a narrative that sounds fictional, that the way people truly learn anything is the same way children develop native fluency in their mother tongue, by absorbing, repeating, and making sense internally of their experiences.

This is an interesting read, and useful for anyone who wonders why our school systems consistently fail the way they do.

I give this book four stars.

Review of ‘Murder Western Style’

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It was supposed to be a nice, quiet day at a local rodeo for sisters, Lea and Maddy, but things take a turn for the worse when a local rancher who’d been in a confrontation with Maddy’s friend, Scott, is found shot to death. The murder weapon belongs to Scott, but when the investigating detective, Tom, who has romantic feelings for Maddy, focuses on Scott as the prime suspect, she’s determined to prove his innocence.

She has trouble convincing Lea to help her investigate until Lea’s husband, Paul, learns that one of his clients, a land developer, is also a suspect because the victim had been refusing to sell his land to the client’s assistant. Paul had been against Lea’s involvement in criminal investigations, but, like Maddy, he’s convinced that his client is innocent and asks her to help prove it.

With no shortage of suspects, the two sisters begin to dig into everyone’s background, and in doing so, turn over rocks, exposing many dark secrets that people would rather remain hidden. All this is happening against the backdrop of Tom trying to bring down a shadowy figure known only as the Kingpin, the boss of an extensive drug and trafficking operation in coastal California.

The disparate threads of the two cases come together in an explosive conclusion in Murder Western Style by Rayna Morgan. If you’re a fan of cozy mysteries with protagonists who are always one step ahead of the police and the bad guys, you’ll love this book. It moves like a sidewinder from start to finish, and sinks its teeth into you without warning.

I received a free copy of this book

I give it four stars.

Review of ‘Out of Latvia’

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Australian, Peter Jirgens, the son of Arnold, a Latvian immigrant, had a somewhat strained relationship with his father. Treated as an outsider, a wog, by the locals in the small Australian community in which the family settled, Arnold never cut his emotional ties with his native Latvia. Raised with stories of the old country, Peter grew up a child of two cultures, fully acculturated in Australia; he nevertheless felt in his heart that he was Latvian.

Finally, as a young adult, Peter decided to achieve two things; he would experience the world outside Australia, which included visits to Canada, the US, England, Western Europe, and Russia, and finally, he would visit his father’s native land. Along the way, he has many adventures, reconnects with members of his family, and gets a firsthand look at the devastation wrought upon Latvia, first by the Germans during World War II, and subsequently the iron-fisted rule of the Soviet Union.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, and Latvia regaining its independence, Peter decides to take his father for a visit, a trip that took place shortly before his father’s death.

Out of Latvia, a first book by David Kerr, is an account of Peter’s journey, physical and emotional, as he experiences the world and achieves a sense of understanding of his father and the psychic turmoil he and other Latvians experienced during the efforts by two totalitarian regimes to stamp out Latvian culture.

While certain themes, such as Peter’s desire to visit Latvia and his need for money, are repeated throughout the book, more actually than necessary, the book is a fascinating read. Implicitly it addresses the difficulty immigrants have assimilating into a culture that is often less than hospitable to them because of their foreignness, and the schisms that develop between the generations in immigrant families. But, in the end, it shows the value of close family ties and the binding effect shared culture has in helping people come to terms with the difficult task of maintaining their cultural identity while at the same time adopting their new land.

Despite the repetitions, without which the book would be better, it is an engaging read; an emotional travelogue and coming-of-age tale that offers the reader a look at significant world events through the unique lens of one family.

I give the author four stars for his first book

Review of ‘The Savvy Solopreneur’s Guide to Business Basics’

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The Savvy Solopreneur’s Guide to Business Basics by Karen Barnes is an overview of how to successfully run an online business. Like the author’s other Savvy Solopreneur’s guides, this brief book offers practical advice to anyone who wants to operate a business online. While it’s designed primarily for start-ups, it is also useful for the entrepreneur who is already engaged in online selling of goods or services.

As you begin this book, remember that it is just an overview, and while it provides sage advice that can be implemented in your business, to get the most out of it, you should follow the author’s links to more in depth information.

This is a valuable addition to any entrepreneur’s reference collection; a definite value-added tool that you’ll find yourself referring to often as you grow your online business.

I give this outstanding little overview four stars.

Review of ‘Blood Work’

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In 1978, Ted Bundy, one of America’s most vicious serial killers, cut a bloody swath through Florida before he was arrested, convicted, and subsequently executed. Around the same time that Bundy was making his way through Florida toward Alabama, and his date with the executioner, Janet Leigh Lester, had been crowned Miss Valentine in her town pageant and Queen of the high school Sweetheart Dance. On the way to meet her boyfriend, she disappeared, and when her blood-filled car was found, was presumed dead. Prison chaplain John Jordan’s father, Jack, sheriff in a neighboring county was called in to investigate her disappearance because the local sheriff’s son was her boyfriend, and thus, a suspect. Though Jack cleared the boyfriend, and was convinced that Janet was one of Bundy’s victims, decades later, retired and seriously ill, he begins to have second thoughts, and is relentlessly pursuing this coldest of cold cases. Seeking to establish a better relationship; with his often distant father, John agrees to help him investigate.

As the two men begin retracing old leads, they face the unfortunate racial history of this part of Florida, family relationships that are beyond dysfunctional, and a mysterious stranger who is threatening Jack in an effort to get him to drop the investigation.

Blood Work, by award-winning author, Michael Lister, is another chilling and evocative tale in the John Jordan series that will keep you on the edge of your chair from page one. As the two learn more, things come to light that have been kept in the shadows for decades, and finally lead to a conclusion that I will not even hint at in order to avoid spoiling this fascinating book for readers. Suffice it to say, like John, you will be shocked to the core at the ending.

I’ve read several books in this series, and I have to say, this one is the best by far.

I give it five stars.

Review of ‘The Wrong Side of Goodbye’

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After being unfairly pushed out of his job at LAPD, Harry Bosch is doing occasional work as a PI and also as an unpaid reservist with the San Fernando Police Department. When one of the richest men in California hires him to find someone who ‘might never have existed,’ the child of his  relationship with a young Mexican cafeteria worker over fifty years ago, Harry has to balance this with his determination to catch the Screen Cutter, a serial rapist who has been terrorizing women in San Fernando.

Deeply involved in both cases, memories from his past come back to haunt him.

The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly is a fascinating story with what I like to call a parallel plot; two separate crimes with related elements, both of which bedevil the protagonist as he struggles to sort the clues he uncovers into the appropriate basket. The tension and drama in this story is as thick as L.A.’s smog, and it moves in a dogged pace, suitable for a middle-aged detective, until at the end it breaks into a sprint that will leave you winded.

I received this book as a gift. I give it five stars.

Review of ‘A Necessary Kill’

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I want to paint a picture for you. Imagine ‘The Over the Hill Gang,’ The Gang that Couldn’t Shoot Straight,’ ‘Rambo’, and ‘Mission: Impossible;’ not in sequence, but all smashed together. Sound like a crazy picture? Believe me, it is, and it’s just what you get when you read A Necessary Kill by James P. Sumner.

The world has been devastated by nuclear attacks, and everyone has been led to believe that they were the work of terrorists. But, legendary hitman, Adrian Hell, knows the truth. The American president was the mastermind behind this dastardly operation, and Adrian has information that points an accusing finger. Because of this, he’s being hunted by the CIA and FBI, with orders not to apprehend, but to kill.

Adrian, though, is not an easy target, and he’s determined to see the truth come out. His mission is to kill the man responsible for the largest mass murder in human history, even if it means sacrificing himself to achieve it. Adrian organizes the oddest team imaginable to accomplish this impossible mission: an over-the-hill smalltime mob hitman, a female assassin so crazy she’s been confined to a mental institution from which he must spring her, and an illegal arms dealer who doesn’t like field operations. With this ragtag crew and with the combined might of the security forces of the world’s most powerful country out to stop him, the odds are definitely not in his favor.

As they get closer to their target, though, he learns that the nuclear attack was just the prelude to an even more macabre and Machiavellian plan, one that affects not just his life, but the lives of every being on the planet. Any sane man would quit, but Adrian and his band are no longer in it just for the money—they’re out to save the world.

Death isn’t exactly funny, but you won’t be able to help laughing occasionally as this unlikely crew goes up against power in encounter after deadly encounter. As you make your way through this story, you’ll alternate between laughter and chills, because, as improbable as it sounds, there’s an eerie ring of credibility to it.

I give this book four stars.

Review of ‘Shipwreck: the Strange Fate of the Morro Castle’

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On September 8, 1934, the luxury liner, S.S. Morro Castle, just hours from the port of New York, caught fire. Of the 566 passengers, officers, and crew aboard, 134 perished in the disaster. Inaccurate media coverage and missteps by investigative agencies abounded, swinging wildly from speculation that it was an unfortunate accident to a deadly plot by Communists. In Shipwreck: The Strange Fate of the Morro Castle  by Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan-Witts, an exhaustive examination of surviving documents and media coverage, as well as interviews with some of the survivors and their families, the reader is treated to an alternative answer. The S.S. Morro Castle disaster was the work of one man, a deliberate and meticulously executed plot by chief radio officer, George White Rogers.

Sounding more like a thriller than nonfiction, this book pieces together the final days of Morro Castle in a compelling narrative that, while it probably couldn’t stand up in a court of law, leaves no doubt that this deadly disaster wasn’t part of some Machiavellian Communist plot, but was the work of one deranged psychotic who had little regard for human life, and who was striving for recognition and attention. At the same time, it shows how individuals and organizations, even government agencies, can be misled in an atmosphere of fear and conspiracy theories. With the attention today being given to ‘fake’ news, it’s instructive to see that this isn’t a new phenomenon, but something that has been with us for a long time, and how people with over-large egos and sociopathic tendencies can manipulate it to the disadvantage of society.

A fine bit of investigative reporting to which I give four stars.

Review of ‘Motown’

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In the 1960s, Detroit was in transition. The auto industry was raking in big bucks, but was threatened by a consumer advocate who was calling GM cars ‘death traps,’ and the city’s black population was chafing at the discrimination they suffered, reflecting the mood throughout the United States at the time. To add fuel to the flame, organized crime was moving to displace the black criminals from their traditional turf. Into all of this was thrust Rick Amery, a former cop who had been forced off the force by trumped-up corruption charges. Rick is hired by another former cop, now working as security chief for GM to find dirt on the consumer activist, while Quincy, a boss in the black numbers racket, is facing off against the son of the former Italian mob boss who was deported back to Italy. In the background of this swirling storm of chaos is Lew Canada, head of a special police task force that reports directly to Motown’s mayor who has national political ambitions.

Motown is the second book in the Detroit Novels series by Loren D. Estleman. While the main human characters carry the story well, the true main character in this drama is the city itself, and how it fares in a time of tumultuous change. The roles played by the recalcitrant auto industry, and its blind adherence to an outmoded business model, politicians reluctant to embrace the changes that are inevitable, and the dying social mores of a society that kept certain people on the lower rungs because of race chronicle the death and partial rebirth of one of America’s most vibrant cities.

This story moves with the pace of a super-charged engine running on high-octane fuel, and will keep your interest from beginning to end.

Five stars!

Review of ‘A Million to One’

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In One in a Million by Tony Faggioli, Kyle Fasano is given a chance at redemption. He is the millionth, which means that by sacrificing himself, he creates the opportunity for a million souls to be called to repent. Some will answer the call, but some will not.

In A Million to One, the journey continues. In hell, Kyle struggles to learn what his true mission is, while Detective Napoleon Villa, a man who believes in heaven and hell, has volunteered to accompany the Gray Man to hell to find him. In the meantime, back on earth, Villa’s partner finds a case that is somehow tied to Fasano; a serial killer who heeds the voice of the Other, and Fasano’s wife is fighting off demons who seem determined to destroy what’s left of her family.

The reader is taken on a whipsaw journey between hell and hell on earth as the forces of Good and Evil battle for dominance, a journey that will leave your blood chilled and have you shrinking from every shadow.

I received a free copy of this book.

I give this one four stars.

Review of ‘Faery Dust’

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Arthur ‘The Hat’ Salzman, the gangster wizard, is back and as bad as ever. When the elf, Elion, breaks the wards to his house and offers him a job; steal the Raeth Naeg, Beowulf’s legendary belt, for which he’s willing to pay the princely sum of a million dollars, Arthur’s reluctant, but you don’t say no to an elf, who also happens to be one of the Fallen, an elf who has been exiled to the land of the humans.

In Faery Dust by Al K. Line, the second book in the Wildcat Wizard series, Arthur has to deal with an enigmatic, but extremely powerful, elf, said elf’s jealous siblings, a teenage daughter who is a witch in training, and Vicki, his new, untrained sidekick. Like the first book in this series, the reader is treated to a  hero who is often anything but heroic—he kills a thug who abused his daughter and feels no real guilt about it, does some pretty gruesome things to other beings who get in the way of the completion of his mission, and worries when his favorite hat is vandalized.

If you like your paranormal story to be bloody and bloody funny, you’ll love this book. For readers who like their hero to be flawed, but still principled, it’s all there in Faery Dust.

I received an advanced reader copy of this book.

Another five-star offering.

Review of ‘Dead Lemons’

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After losing the use of his legs in an auto accident, Finn moves to the far south of New Zealand, as far south as you can go without ending up in Antarctica. In the smuggler’s cottage, he meets his strange neighbors, the Zoyl brothers, and learns of a young girl and her father, missing and presumed dead for decades—and, it’s all somehow connected to the Zoyls. In therapy to come to grips with his disability, Finn becomes obsessed with unearthing the mysteries of the past, a search that puts his life in danger.

Dead Lemons by Finn Bell is an intricate mystery that opens with Finn fighting for his life as the Zoyls endeavor to kill him, and then switches back and forth as it details how he unfolds the intricate puzzle of the former whaling town’s deadly past. The tension is palpable, and the details of history and culture the author skillfully weaves into the plot put you in the middle of the action from start to finish.

The denouement caught even this avid mystery reader completely by surprise. This one will give you chills.

I give this book four stars.