Friday, December 27, 2019

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness


Those who read my reviews know that nonfiction books are not my thing, but I agreed to read The New Jim Crow so that we could discuss it. 

Her primary reaction to the book appeared to me to focus on mass incarceration than the racial aspects of the book. My reaction was mixed. As a former student in the social sciences, I was well aware of the idea that African-Americans are over represented in the prison system. I was hoping to read a discussion of that phenomena and ways to change it. What I felt I got was a tired rehash of the history of how blacks (the author uses that identifier so I guess I can too) have been incarcerated in vast numbers. I don't dispute that claim, but the author wrote in a way that made her points difficult to understand at times. For instance she talks quite a bit about how affirmative action has not really been as helpful as intended though she benefited from the policy. She alluded to such policies actually keeping people of color oppressed.Then she calls for more government regulation into hiring and such. It seems that she is actually calling for people of color to be further under governmental control to free them from governmental control. 

The most disappointing aspect of this book (and others like it)? The complete lack of attention to a very basic point. In the case of mass incarceration perhaps if we encouraged people to not commit the crimes in the first place, incarceration would be less of a concern. Length of sentencing based on ethnicity may well be a provable fact and surely needs attention and reform. But no mention of refraining from criminal behavior is just sad. As a student I disagreed with the notion that poor socio-economic status led to more crime. Not that it doesn't show statistically, but being poor is not an excuse. Wrong is wrong, illegal is illegal, I believe there are many more honest people who are economically disadvantaged than there are criminals. 

What we have here is a book which takes a huge, complex social problem and tries to reduce it to race and money. The problem involves so many more components that it is difficult to address in a single book. I my opinion this book misses all the way around.


Quit Church


I was provided a print copy of Quit Church by Chris Sonksen for review.

The subtitle of this book is "Because Your Life Would Be Better If You Did", so we start out with a semi-clever attempt to draw in readers who might not be interested in the real topic: how to make church more effective. I'm not much in favor of tricking readers into looking at a particular book, but decided to give it a look anyway.

Church attendance is down, can't argue that point. So, we get many attempts to help local churches to change how they do things in order to put more people in the seats. This has become a new buzzword in the field. On Goodreads alone, type "quit church" in the search bar and you get 33 entries. 

We have new spin put on old ideas, bottom line; you all suck and if you'd do what I say, God will bless you abundantly. Even the foreward says: "Read Quit Church and do what it says" and "If you want the people in your church to have transformational encounters with Jesus, read Quit Church and do what it says." The arrogance astounds me. How about: Read the Bible and do what IT says. Taking a pop culture attitude is part of the problem, not the solution. Present the Word of God honestly and clearly, do what the Bible teaches and God in his wisdom will see to the rest.

As you can probably tell this book did not appeal to me. As an elder at my church I would not bring this attitude to our church family.

The book is well organized and does hide some cogent points within the pop-culture presentation, so I can't fault it there. But I think you can tell which book I will read and follow.


Monday, October 21, 2019

The Darkside of Good

The Darkside of Good
Author JB Chivvy provided an ecopy of The Darkside of Good for review.

I have to apologize to the author because my ereader decided to lose this book after I read it and I didn't get the review published quickly and it kind of got lost in the shuffle.

The Darkside of Good is an interesting tale of ultimate good vs ultimate evil. Our main character, Jacob, is the somewhat reluctant recruit in the continuous battle. He is embroiled in the struggle between those who wish to bring about Armageddon and those who wish to stop it. The lines are somewhat blurred at times keeping readers on their toes. Over all a good action adventure with apocalyptic overtones.

My negative for this story is that it moved rather abruptly from one venue to another. It didn't transition comfortably for me. Also, Jacob seemed to be unnecessarily mistreated at the beginning. Especially by people wanting him to do their bidding.

A good solid story, but could maybe benefit from a little polish here and there. I did like the book. Enjoy!


The Wrath of God: A Novel

The Wrath of God
Verne Albright provided a print copy of The Wrath of God for review. 

The continuation of Playing Chess with God, The Wrath of God follows our hero Henning Dietzel as he continues to build his fortune as an entrepreneur before the term was in vogue (at least I don't think it was). He has the ability to read the times and prepare his investments to take advantage of them. He builds a world spanning empire based on an interesting commodity (you'll have to read the book, or, some one else's review).

While a committed capitalist, he refreshingly is also a committed humanitarian. His flaw? His love life. For someone with such business acumen he is painfully lacking in the area of romance. 

We get to watch him reach a balance between the two (eventually) which makes the whole story more entertaining. 

My only disappointment with the book is how the main conflict is resolved. as always no spoiler, but the resolution between Henning and the man trying to destroy him was not satisfying at all for me. Minor complaint, but hey, I'm the reader I can do that.

Action, adventure, catastrophe, romance, sex, violence, politics, everything one wants in a story. It will capture the reader quickly and hold them until the ending, and the ending is satisfying and comfortable. I recommend this book and it's predecessor highly, Enjoy!


Monday, September 30, 2019

Camp Lake

Camp Lake (Carson Chronicles, #5)
John A. Heldt gave me the opportunity to read Camp Lake the fifth and final entry in the Carson Family Chronicles before its release today. He provided an ecopy for me.

Readers of my reviews know that I am an avid (weak term) follower of his work. Camp Lake is the fifteenth book I have had the pleasure of reading, and yes, it is by far the best he has written.

Heldt's work is so layered and nuanced. At first blush it reads like a simple feel good book about a family's adventures traipsing through time in an effort to reunite. But when the reader gets more involved, the layers unfold taking us deeper into the story. The depth here is nothing short of incredible. The second half of the book is so riveting, I couldn't stop reading. I wound up staying up much later than normal because I couldn't think of putting it down.

Sure we have a story of teens at camp (Camp Lake see?) but that is only the tip of the iceberg. Various family members, following their own leads, have scattered literally across the country in search of the wayward Carson elders. The strength of familial bonds and love individual characters share is so heartwarming. Author Heldt has the ability to manipulate our emotions at will. We move through the whole range of emotion; from deep despair to overwhelming joy and all points in between. The real trick though is that he can make us experience multiple emotions at the same time, kind of like real life family. 

One of the things I liked most about Camp Lake was that after resolving the main story line of the series, Heldt spends a good portion of the book taking the family beyond where many authors would stop. Not an actual epilogue in the usual sense but a comforting end to the story. How he wraps up a troubling story line floored me. Even though the resolution stares us in the face, I never saw it coming. After, I thought "Duh!  of course". 

As with all of Mr. Heldt's work, we have people behaving like people. Sometimes good sometimes bad, but always realistic. No violence in this installment but there are teenagers who acquire alcohol and sneak off for romantic interludes. I'm older now, but I remember such activities in my youth (don't you?).

I could go on and on about Camp Lake but I guess I've gushed enough. As I've said before; John A. (never forget the "A") Heldt has gotten better with each book I've read. He is such a great story-teller, I can't wait to read where he takes us next. He keeps setting the bar higher and higher. 

I am going to miss the Carson's, I encourage everyone to give this book and this author a read. I truly believe you will come to enjoy his work as much as I do. Enjoy!


Thursday, September 26, 2019

When Blood Flowed as Water: A First Tale of Old Tombstone

When Blood Flowed as Water: A First Tale of Old Tombstone
I received an ecopy of When Blood Flowed as Water: A First Tale of Old Tombstone from author B. A. Braxton for review.

To start, I must admit to not being much of an expert on the whole gunfight at the o.k. corral story. I think my understanding of the story comes from the old Star Trek episode where Kirk and crew take the place of the Earp faction and then the movie with Kurt Russell. That being said, I found this telling very interesting.

The days leading up to the gunfight are told in great detail from several different points of view. We get the Clantons dishing dirt on the Earps and the Earps likewise trashing the Clantons. The author did an excellent job of filling out the characters well... character. Among the main characters there are no real good guys. Mostly they are downright nasty self-centered individuals who have no respect and little tolerance for anyone else. 

The depiction of historic Tombstone is stunning. In the summer it is a hot, dusty purgatorial existence. Not particularly surprising, but the descriptions of the monsoon season were great.  There is no Hollywood style glamorization of the town or its inhabitants. I found this very refreshing from a readers standpoint.  

Naturally even readers with my limited knowledge know what is going to happen. Lots of people die. But the human intricacies are engrossing. The author uses short chapters to move from viewpoint to viewpoint. This was both a plus and a minus for me. We get multiple views of the same incidents which makes for greater understanding. At the same time though it sometimes was difficult to keep track of whose viewpoint we were reading. I found myself having to go back and remind myself who was currently telling the story. Might be more of a comment on my short term memory though.

Anyway, When Blood Flowed as Water is an excellent retelling of the gunfight at the o. k. corral. It felt like a very well balanced and honest book. Enjoy!


Monday, September 23, 2019

Baltic Dance

Baltic Dance: A Michael Quinn Short Story by [Olson, Kevin Scott]

I was fortunate to be given a print copy of Baltic Dance by Kevin Scott Olson for review.

Michael Quinn is the quintessential spy character. Olson has created a masterpiece series with the Michael Quinn short stories. I'll add my voice to all the others calling for a full length novel. Something we can spend some real time with.

The story itself: Fast paced action, intrigue and basically kicking butt and taking names. Quinn's task is to rescue a hostage being held in Russia. Off the books of course, which means no holds barred. Just the way Quinn, and his fans like it. Of course she's beautiful and of course no sex portrayed. 

Great espionage fun. Enjoy!


The Xeno Manifesto: Reclamation

The Xeno Manifesto: Reclamation
I was provided an ecopy of The Xeno Manifesto: Reclamation by the author Brysen Mann.

The continuation of The Xeno Manifesto extends the story of Frank, the Committee, and the Tsiatko.

This story moves at a much faster and more intricate pace than the first installment. More political intrigue. Double dealing, triple dealing, a femme fatal, lots of violence and unchecked ambition. 

For me the story was a bit unbalanced, leaning more heavily to the political side of the story. It felt to me that the Tsiatko were relegated to a minor presence in the over all story when they should be the centerpiece. Just my reaction, judge for yourself. The story is still a good read. Enjoy!


Tasman: An Innocent Convict's Struggle For Freedom

Tasman: An Innocent Convict̢۪s Struggle for Freedom by [Eger, Paddy]
I was provided an ecopy of Tasman: An Innocent Convict's Struggle For Freedom by Paddy Eger for review.

A story of survival for an innocent young man sent to the Australian Penal Colony. The author paints a detailed picture of the bleak existence of those sent to Australia in its early days as a colony. Ean McCloud is sentenced to the colony for theft. What follows is a struggle for survival in as hostile an environment as one can imagine.

Ean's love for his girlfriend maintains him for years as a convict. He is always focused on getting out of the colony. His life turns into what would be termed a grand adventure if it weren't so horrific. The stakes are of the ultimate variety. Probable death if he fails. 

What we witness as readers is the rebirth and renewal of Ean in the new land. We root for him and suffer with him throughout. I was engaged in this story from beginning to end. Good drama, survival action, hope and despair. Very entertaining. Enjoy!


Saturday, September 21, 2019

Rattlesnake Wells, Wyoming

Rattlesnake Wells, Wyoming (Rattlesnake Wells, Wyoming, #1)
I won a print copy of Rattlesnake Wells, Wyoming by William W. Johnstone.

This first entry in the Rattlesnake Wells, Wyoming series has all the required elements of a good western story fest. 

We have the obligatory "Sheriff with a past", who, while being a crackerjack lawman, has little or no clue about relationships. He is your two-fisted "aw shucks" kind of man long on integrity and toughness. 

His deputy is less intimidating, but up to the task when called upon. Rattlesnake Wells is your basic frontier boom town, always teetering on the edge of anarchy. The town is inhabited by a mix of self-serving and sometimes self-centered people on both side of the track. Unlikely allies and foes are around every corner.

So, have we read this story before in other wrapping? Sure we have. Does that take away from its charm? To borrow terminology from the tale; Hell no! This is the story we are looking for when we pick up such a book. The cover prepares us for what's inside; a rough and tumble, shoot -em' up story of life on the wild frontier. Fans of the genre wouldn't have it any other way. Enjoy!



Apocalypse Chow

Apocalypse Chow: A Remix of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness
I was provided a print copy of Apocalypse Chow by David Julian Wightman for review.

Billed as "a remix of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness", Apocalypse Chow does an admirable job filling that role. 

Any student in a college level literature course has probably read Conrad's work, as I did many many years ago. Movie buffs may also be familiar with the cinematic retelling Apocalypse Now

Rather than spending time (and words) on comparisons to the original, let's focus on this book. It is so much fun! Chefs, professional or amateur, will get a kick out of all the culinary references here. A rogue chef creating world class cuisine from indigenous ingredients builds a rabid following of customers and must be taken down. The restaurant establishment can't have him running loose so they send a fixer to resolve the situation. The tie-ins to the original story are many and brilliantly done. I found myself wodering "How is the author going to retell this or that scene". 

None of the sexual content of the movie, and of course not nearly so dark as Conrad. Apocalypse Chow is a must read for fans of the original or the movie, or for aspiring chefs and anyone who cooks. Enjoy!


The Outcast

The Outcast (Summoner, #0.1)
I won a print copy of The Outcast by Taran Matharu in a Goodreads Giveaway.

This is the fourth book in The Summoners series. And although I have not read the first three books in the series, The Outcast stands pretty well on its own.

Our hero Arcturus, has demonstrated the ability to summon demons, a talent thought to be reserved for the nobility. He is sent to an academy where he must deal with the disdain of noble born students as well as academy staff. 

This is a fairly familiar theme, overcoming the odds, overcoming the prejudice of the nobles and coming of age on his own. Familiar, yes but still very entertaining. Characters reasonably well developed, if a bit simple. 

As with most books of this genre, we kind of know what the final outcome will be, but the fun is in how we get there. The Outcast does a good job of keeping the story interesting and engaging. Enjoy!


Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Snakegod Vampirella #6

Snake God (Vampirella, #6)
The second Vampirella book I found in a book giveaway (again attracted by the cover art). Authored by Ron Goulart, Snakegod is the sixth in his Vampirella series.

In this installment our scantily clad buxom beauty is out to save the day in the amazon jungle. She is pitted against followers of the snakegod Naga (actually a thing). Good action adventure. No sex, little vampirism, comic relief and romance.

A quick read at 139 pages, Snakegod is an example of 70's titillation. The cover art and blurb would lead one to believe the place to store this book is under the mattress or hidden in the sock drawer. Enjoy!


Deadwalk - Vampirella #3

I recently ran across a couple of Vampirella books at a local book giveaway. I'll admit I went for them because of the cover art (what can I say).

I had heard the name Vampirella back in the 70's but had never read any. 

Actually vampirism has very little to do with the story, and again a different origin for this vampire. Not a spoiler this time, it's on the cover. Vampirella is actually an alien! Where are the Ancient Aliens on this one?

The story is an action oriented adventure something like an Indiana Jones. Instead of an archeologist we have a hot alien out to save the day. 

No sex, plenty of titillation. We are reminded how hot our heroine is often, but it doesn't really do anyone any good. Except for the son of Van Helsing (yes that Van Helsing).

A fun, campy, quick read. Enjoy! (if you can find a copy)


The Curse of Judas

The Curse of Judas (Revenant City Series Book 1) by [Brandel, Cynthia]
Cynthia Brandel provided an ecopy of The Curse of Judas for review.

A different take on the origin of the vampire, at least for me. Vampire aficionados will know more than me. The title pretty much explains that.

In a world where vampires pretty much, rule our hero Phoebe is trying is just trying to get by. She becomes the focus of the local ruling vampires and so the story begins. 

I found the story well written and interesting. It did keep me engaged throughout. But I will say it could have provided a bit more detail about the world the characters inhabit. More background and fleshing out would be welcome, but this is a minor complaint. 

The actual vampirism is handled in a unique way (spoiler). Some sensuality, some horror, some action, some suspense.

The story does leave itself open for continuation and I would be interested to see where it goes. 

Sadly for some unknown reason this book has disappeared from my ereader, don't know why.

Fans of vampire stories should find this entertaining. Enjoy!


Madame Vampire

Madame Vampire by [Burks, Robin]
Robin Burks provided an ecopy of Madame Vampire for review.

Although this review and the three to follow are vampire stories, such are not a part of my usual reading. The only other vampire book I have read is Bram Stoker's Dracula

This caveat aside, I found Madame Vampire quite interesting. The main character's vampirism comes from a different origin than I am familiar with. But that might be considered a spoiler, so you'll have to read the book for that info. Jeanne “Reinette” Antoinette Poisson,Madame de Pompadour, is a fairly sympathetic character (for a vampire). To her credit she only feeds on people who "deserve it". Not sure if that is really acceptable, but does make her actions a tad more palatable. 

The best part of this story is how the life of Madame de Pompadour is entwined with French history. She freely moves among the royals of the time while her background should ban her from such associations. Other less savory vampire characters come and go (and come again). 

Madame Vampire does not rely on graphic depictions of vampiristic feedings to maintain the readers interest. They are there of course, but not as a main theme. The author promised a different kind of vampire tale when requesting a review and I believe she delivered. 

Lots of history, mildly graphic sex, vampirism. Well developed characters, good writing. All in all a good story. Enjoy!


Monday, September 16, 2019

There There

I won a print copy of There There  by Tommy Orange in a Goodreads Giveaway.

I'll probably get hammered for this review, depending on how many people see it. 

I started reading There There hoping I was getting an uplifting story of breaking historical bonds and prospering in a hostile world. What I got was a tired rehash of victimology, poor little us, we have been so mistreated there is no way we can be successful. The author even admonishes the reader to not say "get over it" "move on". 

No doubt Indians (the author uses this term so I guess it's okay for me) were horribly mistreated historically, so were Africans, the Irish, Chinese, Japanese, Germans (yes Germans, my father was beaten daily as a school kid during WWII). If you go far enough back in history you'll find most if not all ethnic groups were abused and exploited at some time. The common denominator? They got over it and moved on and became a group to be reckoned with. 

I was starting to have a good reaction to the book when the author inserted his "Interlude". I'm not sure of the intention for including it, but it made me angry. I have great compassion for people who have been victimized, but that compassion quickly fades when people choose to wallow in their victimhood. I dealt with many such people in my years as a therapist. Sadly there are people who do not want to improve their situation, they choose victimhood.

There There became for me the consolation of an adult patting a whining child on the head. A child who can't have their way so they're going to throw a tantrum. 

To not be totally negative, I did find some of the characters sympathetic and I was interested in their well being. The author did provide well developed characters and painted a vivid picture of the community the story is placed in. No complaints about his ability to write. It was just the under current that got to me. It could have been so much more.

So, take this review with however many grains of salt you see fit. There There has been well received by many other readers.


Deviant: A Comedy

Deviant: A Comedy
Justin Xavier provided a print copy of Deviant: A Comedy for review.

I have to say this book did not work so well for me. I have no problem reading sexually oriented material, even when it's "Deviant" (get it?). 

The writing was good, clear and descriptive. I can find no fault with it. I just didn't find the characters sympathetic and wasn't pulled into the story.

It may have something to do with my mood at the time I read it, but the comedy aspect kind of passed me by. I had a hard time sticking with it. So I guess all I can say is that it was okay, not great, certainly not awful, okay. Enjoy!


Necromancy Cottage

Necromancy Cottage
Rebecca McNutt generously provided an ecopy of Necromancy Cottage for review. 

Basically an occult fantasy, Necromancy Cottage hooked me from the start. A runaway teen goes to the most out of the way spot she could find to stay hidden. She gets caught up in a bizarre world of black magic. She finds herself in a situation where she doesn't know whom to trust or where to turn. 

Naturally, the situation is resolved (wouldn't be much of a story if it wasn't right?) ahh, but not in a predictable manner. I really enjoyed the ending, and many thanks to Ms. McNutt for providing a detailed epilogue. Epilogues are often a grossly overlooked part of the story.

The story is tight, but not minimalist. The authoress is very adept at descriptive writing. I've read a few of Ms. McNutt's works and she keeps getting better. 

An aside, our intrepid authoress is currently a full-time student pursuing a legal career. A laudable goal to be sure, but as a fan of her work, I truly hope she does not abandon what appears to be a successful writing career. Just sayin'.

Anyway Necromancy Cottage is well worth your time investment, I think you will enjoy it, maybe even as much as I did (that's a lot). Enjoy!


Construct 11 Part 2

Construct 11 Part 2: Trust and Loyalty by [Miller, Anna Lynn, Miller, Annessa]
Author Anna Lynn Miller provided a print copy of Construct 11 Part 2 for review.

Let's get right to the point, this book is great. Obviously part 2 means there was a part one (which I read and reviewed) and I think this continuation is even better than the beginning and the beginning was pretty darn good.

Although this book calls to mind the 70's movie Logan's Run, is in no way a rip-off of that story. It's more like a behind the scenes look at a Utopian society. Of course the decay of the society is being uncovered by the young people (who else). It is fun reading as the teenagers discover things from history that they just don't understand. Example that is not a spoiler; they find an old globe and they can't figure out what the blue parts are. Many of those kinds of discoveries.

I'm really impressed by the authors ability to stay in the new societies language and not use words familiar to us that are out of place int the world she has created. Excellent attention to detail. Good character development, eminently readable and interesting. It held my interest all the way through. I understand the third installation has been delayed,but I am eagerly waiting to see how the story unfolds. I'm hooked.

We have dystopia within utopia, romance (c'mon, teenagers), political intrigue, suspense, violence, basically all the things a utopian society should not have. Great fun to read. I recommend it. Enjoy!


Friday, May 17, 2019

Beatrice and the Basilisk

Beatrice and the Basilisk

I recently won a print copy of Beatrice and the Basilisk by Bruce McCandless III in a Goodreads giveaway.

A very short children to middle grade fantasy story featuring 12 year old Beatrice and her run in with a dragon bent on bad things. She has a fairy-godmother type helper/guide that I thought was great, very funny. Of course as a children's tale, there is a moral to the story. But, as an adult reader, I didn't find the moral overwhelming the story.

As is usual in stories in this genre, Beatrice is the most responsible character. Thankfully though, the author does not portray the rest of the family, in this case mom and younger brother, as complete losers. Mom is a good, if not a bit overwhelmed mom, and little brother is just a little brother, not an obnoxious brat. 

A very good quick read targeted at the younger reader. One I will share with my grand kids when I get the chance. Enjoy!


To Catch the Conscience of the King

To Catch the Conscience of the King by [White, Martin]
I was provided a print copy of To Catch the Conscience of the King by Martin White for review.

This is the story of King Edward II after his removal from the throne, and the monk Stephen assigned to be his confessor. I found the story very depressing, though I guess being deposed as a king is not a good time. But the depictions of daily life and the depravity of both royals and clergy were almost too much. Heavy with homosexual overtones, royal and clerical corruption and political intrigue. There weren't any characters I found sympathetic. 

The author supplies an extensive bibliography so I can't claim anyone was treated particularly unfairly, but there didn't seem to be much in the way of redeeming social value either. Stephen is a weak, broken but repentant man of God who becomes a puppet dancing to the tune of his clerical order and various royals. We get a graphic retelling of the history surrounding Edward II, from the execution of Hugh le Despenser and the confinement of the King. 

The author paints a good word picture, depressing as it was. The conclusion of the book however went too far out of the realm of a historical novel. It was jarring and so out of the tone of the book as to be annoying. Given the overall story line, I don't understand the title of the book.

With the exception of the ending, I can find no fault with Mr. White's writing style but I have to say this book didn't really float my boat.


Thursday, May 9, 2019

Caitlin's Song

Caitlin's Song (Carson Chronicles, #4)

I had the pleasure of reading a digital ARC of Caitlin's Song provided by author John A. Heldt.

Caitlin's Song is the fourth and penultimate entry in the Carson Family Chronicles, the time travel adventures of the five Carson children attempting to track down and reunite with their parents. Reminiscent of the 60's tv show The Time Tunnel.

I have read all of MR. Heldt's books so far and thoroughly enjoyed each one of them. Caitlin's Song has decidedly lifted his game. I have commented before on witnessing his growth as a writer through his books, but wow, this book demonstrates his evolution perfectly. 

I know, I know, talk about the book. Caitlin is the youngest (and possibly smartest) Carson sibling. She has a very tumultuous time of things, some of which have carried on from the last book. I actually emailed the author and asked him if Caitlin had made him mad or something. She has to endure a lot. Her family remains steadfast in their support of her. The ongoing story is well crafted and tight, no sloppiness, no explaining away complications as "time travel" as if that explains it. 

Some time travel complications are explored here more than in previous books. Mainly; can we alter history? A very good sub-plot. As readers have come to expect from John Heldt, he develops characters so well that we feel their emotions, experience their triumphs and tragedies. This book has plenty of each to emotionally hook the reader.

Without giving a spoiler, there is a scene which will have many readers (myself included) screaming "Gotcha, that's a mistake" and like me they will be wrong. I leave it to you to find it. The Carson's are becoming more noticeable on the radar of certain governmental agencies as the series progresses. I am eager to see how this plays out as well. 

While there is tragedy to deal with, there is also comedy, romance, intrigue, and heartbreak. The story is uplifting and life affirming at its core. So even though there were a lot of emotions to deal with I still came away with a good feeling after finishing the book. The last several chapter had my heart racing. I was torn between wanting to read faster to get the whole story and wanting to slow down and savor because I knew I was nearing the end.

The downside? Now we have to wait until probably early next year to read the conclusion to the saga. 

An aside I must share here, not related to The Carson Family Chronicles. Mr. Heldt has made his catalog available in print. I recently purchased his first two series; Northwest Passage and American Journey. Although I have both in digital form, I am really happy to be able to have them in print. More permanent that way. 

Anyway, if you like history, romance, love, loss, intrigue, comedy, suspense and oh yeah, time travel, you really should give John A. Heldt's work a look. I know you won't be disappointed. Caitlin's Song is his best work yet. Enjoy!


Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Hunting Season

Hunting Season (Anna Pigeon, #10)

I listened to an audio version of Hunting Season by Nevada Barr while driving on vacation.

Although this book is #10 in a series, it is the first book I have read from this author. It presents all the current social justice tropes even though it was published in 2003. We have a strong female lead, white patriarchy, white privilege, racial injustice, toxic masculinity. I didn't find it preachy, just interesting in light of current social discussion. 

Actually I found Hunting Season to be an entertaining mystery. Almost a locked room murder mystery. The corpse is found not in a locked room but in a room devoid of evidence. 

Our heroine Anna fights a good old boy network, jurisdictional disputes, family history and a general anti-female sentiment. Naturally she persists until the mystery is solved. Although there were many twists, turns and red herrings to keep the listener hooked, both my wife and I had our suspicions about who the perpetrator was very early. Turned out we were right. Still an entertaining listen from an author I would not mind reading more from. Enjoy!


Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Striker

The Striker (Isaac Bell, #6)

The second audio book I listened to while driving on my recent vacation, The Striker by Clive Cussler and Justin Scott is my first Isaac Bell Adventure.

Although Isaac Bell is cast from the same mold as Dirk Pitt and other Cussler heroes. the story itself is a change from other Cussler works. 

Set in the first decade of 1900, the story revolves around the struggle of coal workers trying to organize and owners fighting unionization. 

 The Striker is a twist filled retelling of a dangerous time in U.S. history. Granted, it is fiction, but considering the small understanding of silver mining history I have where I live, the incidents related here are very believable. 

Bell is pitted (not Dirk Pitted) against an agent provocateur bent on creating an all out war between labor and management for his own agenda. 

A much more intricate story than I am used to from Cussler. It was a bit difficult to follow while driving because you really need to pay attention. The story was compelling enough that I actually listened to the last thee discs in the house. 

Suspenseful and cerebral. At first I feared a propaganda piece for unionism but that was dispelled quickly. It plainly showed bad actors on both sides of the fence. Of course there is a romantic story line, but it is different too.

I enjoyed this story more than any Cussler work I have read in quite a while. Historical action, suspense and adventure. Enjoy!


Skeleton Coast

Skeleton Coast (The Oregon Files, #4)

I listened to an audio version of Skeleton Coast by Clive Cussler with Jack Du Brul while driving on my recent vacation.

A hunt for African diamonds in which The Oregon gets caught up. Along the way, bad guys who want to unleash weather caused devastation on the earth (holy global warming Batman). Actually, two main plot lines that intertwine and overlap.

Good action and suspense. The obligatory sexual attraction. Plenty of nautical technology and sea bound action. A really cool chase on the water.

A good story to listen to while driving. Easy to follow. This was an abridged version which may have helped in my instance.

Cussler sticks to his formula and gives an entertaining, if perhaps a bit predictable, adventure thriller. And why wouldn't he? It seems to be working.

If you like nautically based adventure thrillers Skeleton Coast entertains quite well. Enjoy!


The Castle: A Bud Hutchins Supernatural Thriller

The Castle: A Bud Hutchins Supernatural Thriller (Bud Hutchins Supernatural Thrillers)

J. B. Michaels provided an e-copy of The Castle: A Bud Hutchins Supernatural Thriller for review.

The on going adventures of Bud Hutchins (genius) and The Order of St. Michaels (protectors of mankind and trees). This is the second Bud Hutchins book I have read and it is good to have read the earlier books. While the story does not specifically mention previous works, changes characters have undergone continue in the new book. Missing the earlier information could make the story a bit confusing. 

The Castle is a story of Bud and The Order's battle with vampires. It is somewhat reminiscent of the original Dracula by Bram Stoker. 

Hints at budding romance for Bud. Growth for Bud as he is required to rely on others more for help in this book. The tech, while present here is not the main focus, good balance. Good suspense and action scenes. The vampire has the obligatory inept toadies (can you say minions anymore?).

This installment of the series was a bit coarser language wise than previously (at least to me). Just something I noticed, not commenting positively or negatively.

All in all fun to follow Bud Hutchins adventures. Enjoy!


Frede and Santa

Frede and Santa (WINTER) (FOUR SEASONS Book 1) by [Lefebre, Leen]

Author Leen Lefebre provided an e-copy of Frede and Santa for review.

A good short read at 36 pages. Frede is a young boy who travels to meet Santa and ask for his help. His family is struggling and losing. 

A great story of familial love and support. Adventurous story of a child's faith in the magic of the season.

The only problem: the translation is a bit clunky to read.

A nice Christmas story. Enjoy!


Saturday, March 30, 2019

Lost Gates

Lost Gates (Deathlands Book 101) by [Axler, James]

Guilty pleasure time again. No secret I am a big time fan of the whole Deathlands series.

Lost Gates is a different take on the usual format of the stories. I've always enjoyed the jump scenes as there is often a lot of action around them. This story has six of them, so lots of action and lots of suspense. The companions were partnered in new ways and had to function without the support of the rest of the group. 

My problem with the story was the repetitive scene setting. Sometimes as many as 4 restating of the same situation. I get it, he's injured and it's hard to move. I didn't need to be reminded every other sentence. Quibbling maybe but it got on my nerves. 

My actual star rating for those who require it: 3.5. But the important thing is that it is still good post-apocalyptic action adventure even though this is the 101st entry in the series. Enjoy!



Blackstone (Blackstone, #1)

I was given an e-version of Blackstone by Richard Falkirk for review.

Set in Victorian England (I think that's the proper time), we have a who done it with an almost noir feel to it. Our main character (bit of a stretch to call him "hero") Blackstone is a Bow Street Runner (yes, that's was a thing) with a highly questionable past. Assigned to protect a royal princess, he of course makes enemies as he goes. 

A good amount of history here. The early beginnings of police departments, political machinations and royal intrigue round out the intertwined plot lines. While I had a hard time finding the character Blackstone sympathetic or even likable, the story was topnotch. A great detective mystery. Sex (not too graphic), violence (ditto) and plenty of twists and turns. Interesting insight into the lives of the upper and working classes.

Negatives? The only one for me was at times I found the story a bit choppy. Abrupt changes threw me off my rhythm.

Overall a good historic noir detective story. I have since discovered that this book is the first in a series based around the character Blackstone. A good start for the series. I look forward to reading more. Enjoy!


Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Playing Chess with God

Playing Chess with God 
I was given a print copy of Playing Chess with God by author Verne R. Albright for review.

Set in California's gold rush era, Albright has crafted an immensely entertaining saga of one man's quest for riches. Encouraged to seek his fortune in the California gold fields, by none other than a Chilean prostitute. he does just that. 

Our hero Henning Dietzel is a man of great personal integrity which he maintains throughout his experiences prospecting for gold. He endures highs and lows, tragedy and success, love and loss. He carries his feelings for his Chilean lover with him, longing for their reunion. He meets and becomes involved with several colorful characters along the way. 

A case could be made that there is an undercurrent of social commentary throughout the story, but I choose to read it as just confirmation of our hero's character make up. He refuses to mistreat anyone. There is some sex, more violence and adventure spanning the far western reaches of both North and South America. Characters are well realized and the descriptions of the country and the people inhabiting it are easy to picture in the mind's eye.

I particularly like the quote from which the title is taken (nope, not gonna tell ya. You have to read the book). I don't know if it is the creation of the author or a quote which can be attributed to some historic person but it is great. Fair warning to Mr. Albright: I am going to use it (but I will attribute it to your book).

An engrossing, sweeping historical novel rich with detail of the wild and tumultuous times early in our history. Should such stories appeal to you, you really need to read Playing Chess with God by Verne R. Albright. Enjoy!


Friday, March 8, 2019

Champion's Rising

Champion's Rising (Champion of Psykoria Book 1)

I was provided a print copy of Champion's Rising by S. F. Claymore for review.

Champion's Rising is the first installment in the Champion of Psykoria series. Our hero, Prince Snarmis, is the less than intimidating son of the powerful King Breetor. Although he has no problem succeeding his father when the time comes, he is less than skilled as a warrior. Much to the disappointment of his father, and therefore, himself.

Naturally, events conspire to force the Prince to basically man up (It would be a short series if they didn't wouldn't it). We see just about every fantasy character we've ever read about make appearances in this book. We get everything (everyone?) from vampires and werewolves to faeries of all description, mages, daemons, dragons, you name them. But all these characters belong, they are not included just to have more, they are integral to the story. Once the action begins it doesn't let up. The suspense, and excitement build and is maintained throughout. The reader is involved. The action involving the Prince is told in the first person. It did take me a while to catch on to this. Other action is told in the third person. 

The best part? Although this is the first in the series, NO CLIFFHANGER ENDING! I so much appreciate that in a series.

The worst part? We have to wait for the next book in the series to get more. But what you gonna do? Fantasy readers should like the heck out of this book. I'm looking forward to continuing the story. 

When author S.F. Claymore offered me this book I did chide him for using my picture on the covr without my permission. I see that on Amazon they show a different cover. I was only kidding! Sheesh! Enjoy!


Science and Wonders III: As X Goes To Infinity

No cover art yet for this book.

Author Amy Joy allowed me to read an e-copy of Science and Wonders III: As X Goes To Infinity prior to its being published. For the record: Amy Joy is a friend of mine.

Science and Wonders III is the continuation of Amy Joy's attempt to build a bridge between Science and Christianity via her own experience as a student of chemistry, biology, and geology and her interactions with professors with varied beliefs (and non-beliefs) in Christianity.

This third installment is much meatier than it predecessors, on both ends of the spectrum. The easiest way to describe it? More. More depth, more feeling, more detail. Deeper than the first two books, I would have to say it is not quite as easy a read. This book shows more of Amy Joy as an academician while maintaining her ability to speak coherently to non-scientists about intricate scientific topics.

We get deeper insights into our author; Amy Joy, and the characters in this book. The professors she associates with throughout her studies (and after).

The spiritual incidents she shares are nothing short of chilling at times, perhaps more so to me because, as I said earlier I know this author and know her to be an honest person not given to hyperbole.

Science and Wonders III presents information as I wish any professor, university, or Christian proponent would: the info is presented and the consumer is given the opportunity to make their own decision. Watch for this one when it becomes available, it's worth your time. Enjoy!


Monday, February 25, 2019



I was given an e-copy of Hiding by Jenny Morton Potts for review.

Readers of my reviews know I refuse to trash any book I review. I will hold to that standard here and just say that this book did not work for me on any level. It was so depressing I struggled to finish it. I did finish because I wanted to give it a full chance. 

Jenny Morton Potts may in fact be a great writer (I see she has written other works) but for me Hiding doesn't work.


Sunday, February 17, 2019

The Line Between

The Line Between

I was given an e-copy of  The Line Between by Tosca Lee for review.

It took me a while to really get into this story. The prologue set me up for one story, but then it seemed the main story started in a different direction. It took me a while to connect the two. Don't get me wrong, the story started very interesting, but I wasn't feeling "thriller". 

I predicted the connection, but as usual, missed by just a bit. When the connection was made, the story took off for me. Then it had me and it was, hang on. It truly lived up to the promise of thriller. The perfect blend of suspense and terror with a wholly sympathetic main character. The plot complications were tight and believable with solutions not worn out, trite, or expected. The characters were well developed and behaved true to type.

My biggest complaint? The file I received was not reader friendly. The type was sooo small and couldn't be adjusted. The only way I could read it at all was to set my reader on landscape. This of course does not affect the story, but did slow me down a bit.

We have cult life, abuse, megalomania, deception, redemption, anarchy, selflessness, a plague, apocalyptic mayhem, preppers, good guys vs bad guys, and some who fall in between.

So I started out not feeling "thriller", but by the end my heart was racing and I was thoroughly entertained. The Line Between  by Tosca Lee is definitely worth your time if you like thrillers. Enjoy! 


Monday, January 28, 2019

The Tyre

I was given an e-copy of The Tyre by C.J. Dubois & E.C. Huntley for review.

Set in India, an untouchable caste man finds a huge tyre (tire in America) and we follow the changes this brings to his life.

What I liked the most about this story was Ranji, the main character. Immediately sympathetic, he is at once illiterate yet very wise. His existence is a daily struggle to keep body and soul connected but he does not bemoan his state. He doesn't whine about injustice or unfairness. 

He has a beautiful wife and loving family (they actually respect him, how unusual today). I enjoyed the strength of their bond and their unity in working to benefit the family. 

Obviously I can not speak to the accuracy of the portrayal of life in India, but the narrative was rich in detail and feeling. It captured me completely, drawing me into a much different lifestyle.

I truly enjoyed my time with Ranji and his family. I saw on the authors Goodreads page that they were considering a sequel, I hope they do. Enjoy!




I received a print copy of Caina from author Joe Albanese for review.

I enjoyed this book quite a lot. Although not a new premise; basically one twin taking the identity of the other, it is engaging and suspenseful. The moral could be; the grass is greener on the other side of the fence, but you don't see the weeds until you've climbed the fence.

Our main character Lee, finds this out when he assumes the identity of his more successful twin Grant. Lee is not a complete loser but he is pretty close. He learns all is not as he interpreted it. Good character development, a good mix of good, bad, and shades of gray in between. 

The plot is very complex, more than I expected anyway and it is unclear for most of the book who the good guys and who the bad guys actually are.

Good read for those who like action, suspense, and redemption. Enjoy!


Sunday, January 27, 2019

Godan 2: Lycaon Strikes

Godan: Lycaon Strikes!

I received a print copy of Godan 2: Lycaon Strikes from author Garret Schuelke for review.

I received both the first and second books in the series, at the same time, so I was able to read it immediately after the first. I found this helpful and it increased my enjoyment. The second book maintains the same style as the first; minimalist action only. I still feel on the outside of this genre but was more comfortable with the book. This second installment is based on one situation to be resolved by Godan. 

For me this second book was more clear and focused. Fans of the first should be pleased with the second. Enjoy!


Godan: The Gray Wolf of Chicago

Godan: The Gray Wolf of Chicago by [Schuelke, Garret]

I received a print copy of Godan: The Gray Wolf of Chicago from Garret Schuelke for review.

Mixed reaction to this book. I am guessing that I am probably not the target audience for this book. Not that it is so far out of my reading taste but rather that it is written in a style I am unfamiliar with. Godan is a true anti-hero. For me very little to feel a connection to and therefore difficult to root for. 

Having not read graphic novels, I got the feeling that I was reading one without the graphics. Minimalist narration, full-on action, little plot beyond linking violent encounters. I had the feeling that I was supposed to know the main character, perhaps from another work. I felt kind of lost because I didn't understand who he was. Much of the story is presented this way. His powers are revealed in a "Oh yeah, he can do this or that" takes this to a strange place for me. The same with the bad guys.

The "gutterpunk" lifestyle is a bit beyond me, sex drugs and rock and roll I get, but author Schuelke take this to a strange place for me. A completely amoral existence without meaning or purpose. I finished the book a bit bewildered, kind of like being the only sober person at a big party. 

A good book for non-stop action fans who don't need much in the way of plot. That's not me, but if it's you, enjoy!


A Tongue in the Sink

A Tongue in the Sink: The Harrowing Adventures of a Baby Boomer Childhood

I received a print copy of A Tongue in the Sink by Dennis Fried for review.

A book definitely written for all of us babyboomers, Author Dennis Fried's memoirs of childhood pre-political correctness or social justice is a real treat. Evoking a feeling akin to Jean Shepard's Christmas Story we relive 50's and 60's childhood through the eyes of an actual eyewitness. A great trip down memory lane for those of us who experienced the times and a good picture for those born in the time of cell phones, computers and online video services. Kids left to their own devices to entertain themselves and learn the lessons of life "on he streets".

Hilarious at times (the introduction to sex is priceless) seeing the world through innocent eyes is so much fun. Irreverent without being rude. Well written, it paints a vivid picture of the times. I recommend it to those who want to relive the "good old days", or those younger folks who want a peek into how "old timers" (as I was called for the first time recently) can openly scoff at the computer age. I thoroughly loved this book and I bet you will too. Enjoy!


Saturday, January 12, 2019

The Last Voyage: And Other Stories

 The Last Voyage: And Other Stories  

I was given an e-copy of The Last Voyage and other stories by Fernando Sachetto for review.

I don't usually review short story anthologies, I've done a few short stories as stand alone works. In anthology format I find stories abruptly ending leaves me unsettled. That would be my complaint about this book, abruptly moving from story to story just doesn't work well for me.

As for the individual stories presented here; some were very good and others okay. None of them could be called bad, the most I could say is that I figured out a couple before I should have. 

The first and last stories of the compilation were for me the best. Good fantasy with a bit of a twist. 

Over all, the stories were engaging and entertaining quick reads worth a look. If the format works for you, you will probably like this collection. Enjoy!


The Mummy Cursed

  The Mummy Cursed
I was given a print copy of The Mummy Cursed by Jerry Flu for review. 

The book is billed as a "Hysterical Historical Fantasy" it says so right on the cover. In this case you'll get no argument from me. This book is seriously funny. 

We follow the misadventures of Djoe the mummy, who is stuck as a museum display in Cornblight Kansas. Djoe relates the story of how he came to be in this less than exalted state. 

Djoe is (was) a beer delivery guy in ancient Egypt who unwittingly gets caught up in underhanded dealings involving religious personages, union types, gods of various power and importance, organized crime and the afterlife. 

Along with Bra'at a beer brewing Temple Dancer, and Shehaw, his donkey, Djoe tries to get himself clear of his involvement only to find himself deeper and deeper enmeshed in a twisted plot. The author does a great job of creating a current feeling atmosphere while using ancient words and expressions to keep us in the moment. 

Jerry Flu takes great liberty with Egyptian culture and myth twisting gods we may be familiar with and putting them in hilarious settings. He takes the serious sanctity of Egyptian mythology and sets it on its ear (or, knocks it on someplace lower).

Having read more of Mr. Flu's work (Who Killed Randy Ratphink?) I expected something wild and fun. I was not disappointed.

Fun, funny and irreverent, The Mummy Cursed is well worth a read. Enjoy!