Title:                                             Al Capone at the Blanch Hotel
Publisher:                                     Soul Mate Publishing
Publishing Date:                          July 9, 2013                                                                     
Author:                                         Linda Bennett Pennell
ASIN:                                            B00DULERAK
Page No.:                                      320

Al Capone at the Blanche Hotel by Linda Bennett Pennell, is a unique piece of fiction because it blends two time periods together: 1930 and 2011. This book opens with a suspenseful event: two boys by the side of the river witness  that will later shape the rest of the story. The opening is a grabber ,but the next chapter moves forward about seventy years later, and takes place at a university where a historian shows up to teach, as she also works to unveil that historic event by the river.

The writing alternates each chapter with the two time periods. This was a difficult transition to make at first, because the 1930 time period was full of direct action, suspense, and mystery, while the 2011 period was dryer and more formal in tone, including the dialogue. But once the characters became more conflicted, more intimately known, and connected to each other, the reading transitions became smoother and the pace quickened.

Pennell did a good job of electrifying her book with romance in both time periods.  Not an easy task, but she pulled it off well. While doing so, she showed the challenges of being a woman in the past––being dominated, expected to wait on the opposite sex, and accept being treated like an obedient girl. Yet, the author does not protest or lecture in her writing. She shows the evolution of a healthy, modern relationship based on friendship and respect for each other, as two people let go of a painful past and take a risk with each other.

Pennell also demonstrated how a town full of church-going people could commit crimes in the hidden shadows of society’s complicity. The author shows the brutality inherent in a dangerous society full of players striving for political power to assert control of others. As for Al Capone?  It seemed like his presence if the book was more symbolic than real, a slight disappointment. Yet, the book delivers. It is filled with suspense, danger, tragedy, love, and surrender. Most of all, it weaves hopeful and wise messages into the story-line, as characters move through time and reap the consequences of their choices and actions.



Title:                                             The Consequences of Stars
Publisher:                                     Adelaide Publishing
Publishing Date:                          March 218, 2019                                               
Author:                                        David Berner
ASIN:                                           1950437442  
Page No.:                                      208

The Consequence of Stars by David Berner is a poignant memoir about growing up and breaking away from previous generations entrenched in age-old traditions. Leaving behind a life surrounded by his church, hometown, family, and life-long friends, Berner spins into a fast-moving generation sparked by new possibilities, There is no compass for the newly-defined society of post-war upheaval, and like so many others, Berner is swept into a tide of change that affects his family, himself, and the world.

Berner’s stories, like colorful patterns fitting into a large mosaic; are entertaining, rich, and engaging. He describes his hometown and close-knit family, the tortuous reality of a loved one damaged by the shadow-side of her generation, and a mother and father, once large and heroic, receding into the background of his life.

Berner’s memoir expresses the longing heart of an artist. His passion for music weaves throughout his writing. Yet, it is his search for connection with great writers, no longer living, that compels readers to  understand Berner's deepest yearning. What writer hasn’t longed to find the spirit of other writers, to visit their haunting grounds for inspiration and the deeper knowledge of their creative processes? Yet, in the end, Berner’s treasure is found at that place of risk when his heart is open, ready to be filled with the call of his own destiny.

The Consequence of Stars is a memoir with historical overtones, a rich tapestry of stories full of innocence and age, woven with passionate hunger for self-discovery, artistic connection, literary escapades adventures,



Title:                                             Personal Wisdom
Publisher:                                    Denro Classics
Publishing Date:                         Feb 9, 2016                                                   
Author:                                        S.P. Joseph Lyons
ASIN:                                           B01BMKXALW    
Page No.:                                     193

Personal Wisdom by Bob Brown is a well-written book about living a life that is independent of the rules and expectations of one’s history, society, and gender-based frameworks. Although the author acknowledges that people enter the world with expectations imposed upon them by previous generations, he is also aware that people are able to untangle from their roots and move towards self-created lives.

Brown draws from his graduate studies, his clinical psychology practice, and his research to uncover the cause of human suffering. According to him, human struggle is an extension of remaining rooted in beliefs relegated by society and its fleeting trendiness, rather than self-acceptance and living a bold life of self-fulfillment and uplifting connections with others.

The beauty of this book is the author’s revelations of his own journey as he sheds his preconceived biases in order to live a life of truth. Often, he explores the demarcation between life and death as a guidepost for daring to live fully. Brown encourages readers to question what holds them back from happiness and the perfection of “moments” that bring great joy with great surrender. Written at times like a series of parables with interesting stories about clients and himself, and at other times like a textbook with exercises and active steps to take for an authentic life, the author urges readers to seek “personal wisdom,” that state of mind that is wholly unique and original in its reflection of a personal life passage worthy of one’s best life. 



Title:                                             The Demond of Legend
Publisher:                                    Amazon Digital Services 
Publishing Date:                         November 26, 2018                                                   
Author:                                        S.P. Joseph Lyons
ASIN:                                           B07KX6MK8T       
Page No.:                                     275

The Demond of Legend is challenged to give up his supreme powers and unlimited life by becoming human. He is sent away from Drux to battle the Wizards, freeing mortals from terror and the wizards’ cruel dominance. By becoming mortal, Demond risks being weakened by human emotions including fear of death. But surprisingly, what Demond finds when he leaves the universe of Drux, is the erotic delicacies of love and pure spiritual energy emanating from love’s blissful light forms.
But Demond must accomplish his task and battle wizards.  He travels by ships beyond the stars to places where there are no planets, no moons, to places where there is no longer natural light as he faces the raze of battles, and dark places of despair within himself, as he travels further away from his lover. In the end he must face the ultimate truth, a truth he has no power over. And he learns there is one thing that is stronger than the mighty sword.
This is an imaginative book full of enchanted beauty in multi-hued fields, shimmering skies with exploding lights, lovemaking in meadows of sparkling flowers; and conversely, premonitions in nightmarish dreams as dark gathering storms of battle approaches.  This is a fun and entertaining book by a playful author who sees the world in a unique and daring way, sharing his wonders with readers who will be consumed by ongoing suspense.



Title:                                             Key Moments
Publisher:                                    Cypress Moon Publishing                                                      
Author:                                        Rosie Politz
ASIN:                                            099988770X         
Page No.:                                     382

Key Moments by Rosie Politz is a romantic thriller that exudes passion in every chapter. Her book demonstrates the architecture of a happy marriage. No hang-ups or faltering in the love department; readers get a thrilling glimpse into the details of the intimacy between Lynn and Clay, two very alive and adventurous marriage partners.

At one point, the author touches on the couple’s first meeting, showing their immediate attraction for each other. Like most attractive young people who fall in love, there are usually ex-partners lingering nearby and initial problems of uncertainty and jealousies to overcome in the beginning of a relationship. This is where suspense begins in romance. Instead, this book glides along smoothly, leaving the suspense for the latter part of the book, when old flames from the past finally show up and jealousies ignite, succeeding in fanning a higher and hotter flame in an already boiling-hot marriage.

Politz is an imaginative writer who peppers her book with sensuous descriptions of the southern part of the United States. She also creates a unique theme: a treasure hunt after a beloved great aunt dies and leaves a box with instructions to uncover dark family secrets.  As the couple travels on their treasure hunt, the love scenes are smoldering and portray the varied erotic landscape of two people in love. Fantastic romance, but a little light on suspense. However, if you like a steaming hot book, this is well-done.

REVIEW OF: The Murder of Leopold Beckenbauer


Title:                                             THE MURDER OF LEOPOLD BECKENBAUER
Publisher:                                    Lililoom Publishing                                                        
Author:                                        K.Kris Loomis
ASIN:                                           B07KTCB4KY
Publishing Date:                         November 22, 2018
    Page No.:                                     140

    THE MURDER OF LEOPOLD BECKENBAUER begins with a tragic mystery. Someone is missing; a very important famous personality who is the star of the show, fails to appear. As the story pans in another direction, the missing person's students show up, all eager to spend a week in a music retreat with the great Leopold Beckenbauer.

    The students swarm around the great piano master, moths to a brilliant flame; they burn from the relentless humiliation and abuse heaped upon them. Even as they wriggle for Leopold's approval, they inwardly know what he is capable of, all of them, except the pie-eyed college student who falls under the spell of his flattery. What happens next is too terrible to mention.

    This book moves from 1st person to 3rd person as the college student, Clarissa, winds her way to Leopold's cottage. K.Kris Loomis, a spirited, experimental author, is successful with her unique transition, allowing readers to experience Clarissa's foray into the dangerous world of a mad genius, as other members of the retreat remain increasingly mysterious. This book within a book builds the momentum to a surprise ending. A gut-wrenching revelation unfolds regarding the slow-suffering piano students, who returned to do much more than study with their master.



    Title:                                             Ineke's Mitten
    Publisher:                                    Show and Tell Publishing                                                           
    Author:                                        Charles McNamara
    ASIN:                                           B01MV2YOH7
    Publishing Date:                         February 7, 2017
      Page No.:                                     183 pages

      Charles McNamara's novel, INEKE'S MITTEN reveals the writing talent and rigorous research ability of the author. His book begins by describing life in Norway where skilled athletes slide through snowy woods and return to warm hearths and close-knit families . . . that is, until the German's invade. At that point, Norway's free-expression is shut down as oppression takes over, and gloom fills the homes once filled with laughter. 

      The main character, Nels, young and in love, suffers a life-altering tragedy by the Germans. He is forced to flee Norway, to leave behind his fiance Ineke, and to start a new life. Although his memory of Ineke remains hauntingly constant throughout the book, not getting to know her, either by spending more time with her in the beginning of the book or through Nel's personal recollections of her, causes his grief to become symbolic through the mitten rather than shared emotionally with the reader.

      Still, this author can write a powerful tale. His narratives of soldiers' training forays into the mountains are riveting. His ability to show time and place makes the adventures seem real, adding an extra layer of suspense to the plot. Same with his brilliant combat scenes-showing real-life, near-death emotional escapades, not just with soldiers but with civilians as well, an exploit not easily accomplished by authors. His success at artfully rendering a searing portrait of World War II is the result of his disciplined research, his passion about his subject matter, and his strong development as a writer.



      Title:                                             A Broken Shell of a Man
      Publisher:                                    PublishNation                                                          
      Author:                                        Elizabeth O'Neil
      ASIN:                                           B074W5Y245
      Publishing Date:                         August 16, 2017


        A Broken Shell of a Man by Elizabeth O'Neil is written with the Scottish dialogue intact in the story. At first this was surprising, but soon it became fun to hear the musical tone of the conversations between characters and to decode the shocking language interspersed within their rapport. This story wraps around the Legg family: Peggy, Meggie, Chicken N and Hen, all self-destructive, all spokes in the great wheel of a violent father and addictive mother. Yet they survive by identifying with each other, even as they wreck lives because of their destructive impulses.

        This book starts out with a great play on characters and words. It is side-splitting funny, satirical, and at times hysterical, like watching a Monty Python show. The quirky and unexpected events are fun to read. Consider Peggy Legg and her rage when she has PMS, which causes her husband to build a wooden womb in back of their house to get away from her during a certain time of the month. Her ridicule of him, and everyone around her, is funny when she blathers coarse descriptive metaphors about others as she flips eggs for the village.

        The author, Elizabeth O'Neil is an excellent writer. Sadly, though, the tone shifts in this book to a more serious, therapeutic tone. How can it not? The theme moves into domestic abuse as male characters are abused and learn they have nowhere to go for help. As they grow more helpless, they become cornered and desperate. This is a sad fact in our society that is often overlooked: when men need help, they are often stigmatized and considered "weak" by others. When Peggy Legg's husband stops making excuses for her and finally does the only thing he can do to save himself and another family member, this book turns on its head. What happens next is no longer funny. The author does a brilliant job of entertaining, even as she imparts an important message about a lingering social problem.



        Title:                                             How to be Happy Alone
        Publisher:                                    Spirit Kat Press                                                            
        Author:                                        Katherine Coggeshall
        ASIN:                                           B0746SRWLZ
        Publishing Date:                         July 23, 2017 
        Page No.:                                     65 pages

        This is an uplifting book that emphasizes self-enjoyment. What a positive perspective. Rather than focus on how to find someone special, Katherine Coggeshall reminds readers that being single is a terrific choice. Or it can be a positive interim between relationships that allows for self-growth and exploration.

        The photos are lovely. This book would make a beautiful coffee table book, with its colorful photos, tidy chapters, and organized resources at the end of the book.

        Although most of us know the importance of body/mind balance, mediation, and exercise, what I like about this book is that the author is not pushy about these topics. She uses a suggestive approach, emphasizing opportunities to live better lives. She dares her readers to try new things and realize happiness, in lieu of living according to others' rules and expectations. After all, there is no shame in being single. In fact, according to this author, a solo journey can be a lot of fun.



        Title:                     Harness the Power Within
        Publisher:             Aditi Agarwal Books LLC;                                                                 
        Author:                 Aditi Agarwal
        ASIN:                    B06X6KNT82
        Publishing Date:  March 16, 2017 
        Page No.:              216 pages


        HARNESS THE POWER WITHIN is unique, because it gathers truths and anecdotes from various religions, all leading to one's focus on God and a path to personal development. The author, Aditi Agarwal, is a passionate writer who eschews the importance of maintaining faith, developing power over the mind by positive thinking, and living life with total compassion towards all beings.

        Garnering the wisdom of the bible, the teachings from Buddha, Swami Sivananda, Confuscius, Shirdi Sai Baba, The Bhagavad Gita, Krishna, and Jesus, Agarwal has brought together the seeds of wisdom from spiritual teachings and simplified them for readers. She has done a good job of this. However, I was disappointed that she did not discuss the feminine divine, or use egalitarian words when she discussed the concept of God.

        Agarwal continues her discourse by teaching what leads to personal peace. She talks about the things one must surrender to achieve higher consciousness, she discusses the power of sound and she gives links to chanting recordings, she reveals the healing power of meditation, and she talks about what karma is and how to create a good version of it. Most of all, she talks about the power available to all of us through focusing on God, the all-powerful force in the universe.

        This is an uplifting book with a lot of resources in it. It is also a unique book, because it breaks away from the rigidity of religion as it aspires to heal through universal spirituality. Agarwal brings hard work, generosity of spirit, and faith to this book.



        Title:                     Dark Demons
        Publisher:             Oceans Ending                                                                   
        Author:                 Beth McCue
        ASIN:                   B079LYR2CF
        Publishing Date:   Feb. 19, 2018
        Page No.:              220

        Darker Demons, by Beth McCue is a book about lives lived in a multi-layered universe. Alexandra, the main character, wakes one morning to a universe that has shifted. She remembers a dream – an erotic dream with Jake, a man no woman can resist. His irresistibly lurks in the shadows of the universe, and Alexandra is in increasing danger as she is drawn to him. He gets involved in a plan that sets her up for trouble.

        Yet, is Jake’s identity so different than hers? As Alexandra returns to her convent in search of safety, strange truths are revealed about who she really is. She must increase her powers if she is to stay safe, and by doing so, she must return to where she really comes from. However, she suffers at the hands of Jake until she disappears and can gather those who will strengthen her by giving her powers.

        This is a fun book of time travel, spells, witches and warlocks. It is full of adventure and bizarre, unexpected episodes, and of ordinary people taken over by demons. Yet, in the end, Jake must prove himself to Alexandra if love is to win. This story has an erotic undertone that spices up the book. Beth McCue has successfully written a book that is playful, surprising, arousing, and full of fantasy and delight.



        Title: Lunar Rampage
        Author: Samantha Cross 
        Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
        ASIN:   B07CNFQK7Z
        Publishing Date: July 1, 2014
        Page No.: 306

        Author Samantha Cross is, without doubt, a talented writer. Her book LUNAR RAMPAGE starts off with hilarious banter and funny character descriptions. Enjoyable. However, as the book proceeds, the banter continues, where suspense should be developed. For instance, the first character who got in trouble could have been a warning to readers that further danger was afoot. There could have been citizen searches, imploring relatives, and concerned police officers thronging the streets, instead of a disappearance that caused the character to fall out of the book.

        A good climax always needs a build-up of tension. It also needs characters that avoid being stereotyped. In this book, there is the aging relative - slightly demented and funny because her brain is failing her - the "dirty" hippie whose mother has to hold her nose, and the antagonist who never shows herself to be more than a loose goose. There are qualities in these characters that are easy to poke fun at, but it gets tiring after awhile.

        Samantha Cross has a natural ability to be satirical and funny. Her writing is edgy and spirited, and her author's voice is full of independent, female grit and confidence. Her shameless sensuality moves between the lines which gives her book a playful punch. Her surprise at the end of the book shows she has a fun side and knows how to entertain. A final edit would tighten this book up, and keep this talented author poised for ongoing commercial success.



        Title: Salsa
        Author: Anupam Dasgupta 
        ISBN- 13: 978-8192851853 
        ISBN- 10: 8192851850 
        Publisher: Omji Publishing House
        Publishing Date: July 1, 2014
        Page No.: 124

        This book is unique because it builds characterization through dialogue. Because of this, the book presents as bold and experimental, modern, and interesting. The book starts out with two star-crossed lovers who, through life's twists and turns, move towards and away from each other.

        The book continues to be interesting as it crosses over cultures. Love, and the expectations of it are expressed through overlapping eras. Yes, you have the modern-aged young people, male and female, who pursue careers and live within a new era of intellectual and sexual equality. But what about the remaining prevalence of "arranged marriages"? Does that still affect couples? Read on, and you will find out.

        This book does a good job of integrating Indian, American, and British influences. It also does a good job of showing global influences on young people. It is a snappy and chatty book. It does not have the slow build-up of characterization that a Tolstoy or Maugham would produce, but it calls to a new generation of readers.

        The book's message harbors a sweet universal truth about love. It is up to readers and their imaginations to fill in the other parts. After all, experimental writers create experimental readers.



        Title:                           The Cult of Dissatisfaction
        Author:                       Jacqui Brauman
        ASIN:                         B06XFVY5HR
        Publisher:                   The Master Wordsmith
        Publishing Date:         March 5, 2017
        Page No.:                    115

        The best part of reading THE CULT OF DISSATISFACTION is the raw honesty of the author. Jacqui Brauman, an attorney and business owner, two accomplishments that are huge by anyone’s standards, shares the inner battles she dealt with as she developed into a professional woman. She discusses the lack of female heroines for women to model after, the stereotypes and expectations of being a woman that creates inner baggage, and the worst culprit of all, the fear that comes with being a woman.

        Perhaps honesty is at its core, an expression of contradictions and generalizations. There are some of these in this book. For instance, the author writes: “Women are also more likely to let fear get in our way than men. "  This broad assertion by the author is a concept that risks serving as a limiting affirmation for women. Although the author continues to reveal steps women can take to conquer their fears, she also discusses the “imposter” system based on women’s feelings of “not being good enough.” She writes about the disparaging reasons women wear masks instead of being themselves. Yet, she also writes: “Wearing a mask can perform a valuable function, particularly as a woman in a business world…”

        Perhaps the boldness of this book is the author’s willingness to sift through dichotomies and personal struggles. She is not afraid to be herself, and she does not hold back from digging into her experiences, including something terrible that happened to her at work, and how she responded to it in her role as a “woman" on the job. Although she decries feminism in its original form, she tailors it with new meaning and possibilities, making her book unique, even if readers have differing opinions.

        This author is genuine in her approach to helping women. She shares a link to a beautiful website full of information. Also, by the end of her book, she gives readers concrete tips for growing into happier and more fulfilled women, as she teaches them to follow their truths and let go of the expectations of others. Jacqui Brauman is doing an important service, and chances are, she will continue to take risks, in order to follow her life path of helping others.



        Title:                            Dark Hunger
        Author:                       Demetrius Sherman
        ASIN:                          B06WVH1FD5
        Publisher:                   Sherman
        Publishing Date:        February 19, 2017
        Page No:                     190

        DARK HUNGER is a book about a former cop who opens a private investigation business. He has an exceptional amount of people coming to his office in search of loved ones who have disappeared. It is the investigator’s job to find out where these people are going to and what is causing their disappearances. The book reveals interesting cases, as the private investigator searches for clues that lead to the culprit.

        Sherman is a talented writer with a good grasp of flowing dialogue. He has a grip on creating good descriptions which is evident when he writes: “The area was dark with rows of closed offices on opposite sides of a large carpeted hallway. The overhead florescent (sic) light was a broken fixture that emitted a dim, dying eerie glow. “

        Yet, when the writer describes women, he categorizes them as those who are capable, or incapable, of being attractive to men. For instance, he blatantly objectifies a female character when, instead of giving her a name, he writes: ‘I guess you do a lot of jogging? ' the big breasts said.”

        This is an action-packed book written by a promising writer. It is a quick read. However, some readers may need more time getting to know the characters. Often, readers crave contradictions, foibles, and fears in characters before characters become heroes and save the world.

        As for imagination? This book is a rich exercise of imagination and intrigue. It is full of “who done it?” and “what will happen next?” It never lets up on the action. Like a video game, it is in constant pursuit of killings and adventures



        Title:                              The Green Unknown
        Author:                          Patrick Rogers
        ASIN:                             B0759PFF28
        Publisher:                      Westland
        Publishing Date:           Sept. 8, 2017
        Page No.:                       140

        THE GREEN UNKNOWN by Patrick Rogers is a climb into the past. Literally. This trekker, who dared to go through jungles and over cliffs in Northeastern Inda, to places where some people had never seen foreigners before, revealed his enchantment through stunning color photographs. He also recounted his daily adventures in a breathtaking world of danger and beauty.

         He told of the long slippery stairs to villages, hundreds of rock stairs that were brutally treacherous on the way down. He shared what he went through as he tried to conquer the stairs, as people in their seventies and eighties passed him by carrying crops on their heads.

        The author was able to show his search for living root bridges in deeply personal ways. When he came to hanging root bridges, they were usually sturdy and well-built. But he also shared what happened when the weather got the best of them. Often, they hung over perilous gorges where sucking water waited for anyone who made a mistake. He told about what happened when someone miscalculated a river hole. Scary.

        The beauty of this book is the author's stories about the villagers he befriended and stayed with. These were people challenged in every conceivable way, yet their ability for friendship, laughter, and yes, survival amazed.



        Title:                         Murder Without Pity
        Author:                     Steve Haberman
        ASIN:                        B0080UM456
        Publisher:                 Steve Haberman
        Publishing Date:      May 5, 2012
        Page No.:                  319

        MURDER WITHOUT PITY is a mystery of “who done it” proportions that defies the readers’ sense of reality. In France, where the German occupation still injures and tears apart families and foes alike, an inspector works in a world of impending violence to root out the criminals in the post-war era. The inspector calls his cases “little miseries” as he remains tethered to their dangers and intrigue.

        Yet, this same inspector has a family secret that impels him to be surrounded by body guards who follow him everywhere. Witnesses come out of the shadows, each bearing the hidden knowledge of crimes and sorrows from the war. No one is untouched by the German occupation and the ideological, political mix-ups that shaped the thinking of its murderous participants. 

        Boucher, a well-off citizen who is investigated for his war participation, is a crafty dodger of the law, as the inspector dogs him relentlessly. There is a certain sympathy that grows for this Boucher character because the author reveals his fears, uncertainty, and urge to flee, as he instead, faces his fate, The foreshadowing of his prediction is well-expressed by the author when Boucher takes a walk one evening.

         “Near the start of its muddy footpath, he hesitated. Branches of enormous oaks had sagged near their tops under the onslaught of dew; far below blotches of mist near the ground menaced into swirls. He scolded himself for his child’s fears and tramped ahead through the muck.”

        Murder Without Pity does a good job of showing how suffering and violence continue long after a war is over. One disappointment: although the book hints at desires and promising rendezvous’s,  romance never heats up. Perhaps romance would lighten the mood, and give a reprieve from the agony of the political unrest and constant danger in the book. Yet, for mystery readers who enjoy suspense and conspiracies, this book delivers.



        Title: Morning People
        Author: Sevda Khatamian
        ISBN: 13: 978-1530053902
        Publisher: Sevda Khatamia
        Publishing Date: 2017
        Page No.: 135

        Morning People by Sevda Khatamian is a daring stream of consciousness expressing the energy of a young person who has moved away from her country. She describes a city by the sea she is getting to know. Her mixture of emotions is similar to a new love affair, the mystery is hidden in the unknown and the excitement of new possibilities while creating a semblance of familiarity and a sense of belonging in her new surroundings.

        This young foreigner does not shy away from the darker side of her adopted city: the poverty hidden among the terraced apartments and the cold, unforgiving days when there is no money for heat. She also expresses the daily struggle of life as an immigrant, as she tries to pay for her transportation in the city and her telephone service, an integral part of her life among young roommates and staying in touch with her family. Throughout the book, she poses a veneer of gaiety as she makes new friends and spends her money on cafes, but there is a sense of violence, perhaps trauma, underlying it all, as she continues to escape a country that is too upsetting to watch on the news.

        At one point, the character is eating out with friends. She slips into what appears to be a feeling of alienation. Her words are poignant but her meaning mystifies as she writes: “My brain lets me know that it’s freaked out, and it couldn’t do much for me at that moment. Sit calm and look away, it probably ordered to the rest of my body. It happens a lot, and sometimes never. Feeling uncomfortable, facing the unexpected, sipping distasteful emotions. Although, after a few years of life experience, I’ve learned that keeping a neutral silence is the best solution. Keep touching the fingertips. Let things take place by themselves, just as they would anyway.”

        There is a Gertrude Stein quality to this writer’s work. Stein, who rebuffed the use of quotation marks and scoffed at literary rules, reasoned that no writer should be shackled by the expectations of others. As a result, this book’s character slips into thoughts, dialogue, and memories without a hint of a quotation mark. For the reader, it involves climbing into someone else's brain and plowing through thoughts and feelings. It involves figuring out if the character is thinking, talking out loud, or conversing with someone else.

        However, there are sensitive nuances and varying layers of reality this talented author portrays in her writing. There is also beauty and ongoing collective truth when she writes: "There are a lot of things you need to take care of before you could think about the color of the sun when it rises or sets. People are busy—no time to look up. They might be going to work, or on their way to visit a friend they know, and we don’t. They might miss the ferry. Sun and clouds, very distant from our everyday lives." 



        Title: The Burgas Affair
        Author: Ellis Shuman
        ASIN: B0767KHQPW
        Publisher: Elllis Shuman
        Publishing Date: October 30, 2017
        Page No.: 426

        THE BURGAS AFFAIR by Ellis Shuman is full of suspense and intrigue. The author Juxtaposes two sets of characters against each other as a terrible danger approaches them. The reader starts off rooting for the good guys to make it through the minefield of danger they are about to encounter. This is an excellent way to begin a novel. The reader is drawn in, the danger is exposed, and the mystery intensifies. 

        However, because of a terrible unexpected calamity, these characters fade within the first chapter, a disappointment that cuts into the reading. Afterward, two investigators brought together to sort through the calamity are made known to the reader by their differing cultures and countries, shown by their contrasting pasts. Going into the past too often, risks bogging down a book and distracting the reader.

        However, the plot(s) in this book are rich: searching for terrorists, sex-traffickers, drug dealers, arriving at bungled police set-ups, and chasing down a nasty, blood-thirsty, bird-killing Hunter that keeps the main character on edge. This is an action-packed book, one that adroitly describes the gut-wrenching reality of living with the threat of terrorism and the very real possibility of loss of family members from bombs. This book is all about intrigue and action, packed into an artistic tapestry of limitless imagination and daring escapades.

        REVIEW OF A Way Out


        Title: A Way Out
        Author: Michelle Balge
        ASIN: B0795BXFW6
        Publisher: Michelle Balge
        Publishing Date: February 2018
        Page No: 171

        A WAY OUT, by Michelle Balge is a rare glimpse into the mind of mental illness.  This author’s memoir gives a raw look into the dark caverns of emotions accompanying mental illness, a necessary revelation for those battling the grip of its agony.  Her book unleashes the day-to-day expressions of depression, anxiety, self-hatred and suicidal urges. While this book is a sad testament to the power of genetics and the roller coaster ride of clinical treatment, it also expresses hope for those needing healing.

         Often, what feels like a solitary journey into hell by the mentally ill sufferer, is also cloaked in shame and denial by society. This gives the mentally ill person a double load to bear. It appears that Michelle Balge attempts, by writing this book, to “shed light” on the subject, to normalize it, and give hope to those in the relentless grips of mental illness to speak out. 

        However, there is the risk inherent in writing a first-person memoir of limiting the audience of readers. At times, there is so much pain expressed in A Way Out, that there is a feeling of “clawing at the coffin,” a reader’s desperate gasp for breathing room and fresh air. Be that as it may, this book is an act of courage, a guidepost for those in the unmerciful claws of mental illness, and those in society who need to understand how to help and give a reprieve for sufferers battling to live. This book is a victory lap of daring honesty and compassion for the mentally ill. It is also a testament to how much can be achieved and contributed to society by those diagnosed with mental illness.



        Title: The Other Side of Him
        Author: Alice Rene
        ASIN: B01ATXYAPI
        Publisher: California Country Press
        Publication Date: Jan. 2016
        Page No.: 300 pages

        THE OTHER SIDE OF HIM by Alice Rene is a compelling historical romance. Claire, the main character, is a young woman determined to leave the low-income projects of Chicago in order to get an education. She successfully avoids the familiar trap of women living in the forties and fifties, a time when women often believed marriage was their ultimate destination.

        Claire expresses the unique conflict of living a life true to herself throughout the book, at the same time her roommate, brother, and mother encourage her to stay in a relationship with a well-dressed, handsome, successful doctor, a doctor Claire experiences a growing discomfort with. Claire has intuition, the same trait that will make her a good social worker after college, allowing her to pick up hidden signs about the doctor others cannot see.

        The author develops the doctor’s character by using techniques of foreshadowing and revealing his characteristics through subtle actions rather than telling the reader who he is. This causes the mystery and intrigue to heighten, making this book a “must return to read.”

        However, the pacing of the book slows at times when the author shifts to Claire’s internship experiences. Although the author reveals the interesting world of social work, she does not use the same literary devices to introduce Claire’s clients, thereby rendering them less intriguing, although she returns to them throughout the story.

        Overall, this book is well-written with tight editing, good descriptions, and action culminating into a dramatic climax that is riveting and unexpected. This is a good read and an amazing first novel.



        Title: Stronger Within
        Author: Coral McCalhum
        ASIN B00VXDSC1M
        Publisher: Coral McCahum
        Publication Date: April 2015
        Page No.: 537 pages

        STRONGER WITHIN by Coral McCallum, is a sweet story about two people who meet on the beach and blossom into a friendship/romance. The author has worked hard on this book–the writing is tight and well-laid out and the storyline hums along. But for me, a well-written story politely humming along is not enough to keep me turning the pages. By page sixty, I was still looking for the antagonist, whether it was person, place, or thing. I wanted to be jolted, excited, dared, and/or searching for clues that something riveting was about to happen.

        What I got instead, as I continued to read, was the memory of a previous car accident eclipsing a professional woman’s life and a hunky rock star with long blonde hair and a rippling body —when she finally got to see it—moving politely and tenderly together throughout the book.  A polite rock star?  He was never a “no show,” never arrogant or unapologetic, and besides a hint of machismo when he called her “lil lady,” he was more perfect marriage material than bad-boy rock star needing a good taming.

         It is obvious that the author of this book is disciplined, imaginative, and dedicated to her writing craft. But in my opinion, although the author introduced a few unsettling life events into her plot, there needed to be more tension and less politeness in her story.  For instance, when the rock star (Jake) had a horrible experience onstage, I was disappointed that the event came out of nowhere. I would have preferred Jake to have had a foreboding sense that something bad was going to happen weeks before the concert. And afterwards, I wish that he had not been so quick to forgive and make everything right again. I would have preferred to suffer with him in the torment of hatred and self-pity before he came to his senses and realized he had to “let go.”

        Because in my opinion, people always move in a forward and backward motion. Writing about life's contradictions is what creates the space necessary for readers to soul-search and 'feel' as characters struggle to make it over hurdles.

        Nevertheless, this is a charming romantic story, one that builds on friendship and trust and takes its time. For an attractive read with pleasant whimsy and trust in love, this is your book.

        REVIEW OF: Oceans Ending


        Title: Oceans Ending
        Author:Beth McCue
        Publication Date:2016
        Page No.:213

        OCEANS ENDING, by Beth McCue is a book driven by a fast-moving plot. What starts out as a normal novel with a wife looking for her husband after an argument, turns into a macabre series of strange occurrences. The twists and turns in this book keep the reader spinning, like roaring into fast “dead man” curves in a high-speed racing car.

        This book moves forwards and backward at a fast clip, and time zones melt into dream states that warn of terror and impending doom. Fasten your seat belt readers, nothing is as it appears.

        The main character is a woman who faces threats head-on, as everything slips away from her and returns in new guises within new dimensions. In the end, she must make the final sacrifice to save the world, as she agonizingly moves into new forms and travels to that dark, overpowering vortex where the terrible awaits her. Her final horror will rearrange her life and the world as she, and shaken readers, once knew it to be. This book is a terrific visual exercise in rich apocalyptic imagination and colorful designs of earth's nature.



        Title: Eyes of a Valley Girl
        Author: M.W. Lilly
        Publication Date: 2016
        Page No:189

        EYES OF A VALLEY GIRL, by M.W. Lilly is a poignant first-hand account of a young girl growing up in a time of exciting possibilities in a land filled with geographic beauty and cultural enrichment. At the same time, this young girl's growth is eclipsed by a large shadow constantly hovering over her: the unpredictability and at times, horrifying actions and words of a mother addicted to alcohol.

        This book reveals an energetic girl growing into awareness; her senses are filled with the beauty of the beach, the salt air, and carnival rides that excite her. She is aware of the artistic and intellectual explosion of new ideas around her, at the same time her home life is becoming more constricting with the rapid progression of alcoholism.

        M.W. Lilly is a passionate and poetic writer. Notice how she describes getting into trouble at home: 

        "Mom--Mom. We had nothing to do with. . ." I attempted to tell the story.

        "Shut up! I don't want to hear anything from you!"

        She was now almost at the top of the stairs, in front of us, a formidable, erupting, volcano, a swirling curtain of red fury.

        This author's use of metaphor as she juxtaposes the growing excitement of the times she lives in, with the growing horror at home, works to build tension in the book. Yet at times, there is a revelation of a mother who is adored and trusted, if only for a moment between drunken tirades. This is a touching book, one that reveals the underbelly of addiction's impact on a young, formative life.



        Title: One-Two
        Author: Igor Eliseev
        ISBN No::978-1-911414-23-0
        Publication Date:
        Page No: 240 pgs

        ONE-TWO BY Igor Eliseev is a novel written by a young Russian author in the manner of Dostoevsky- dark and riveting. The author uses two POV's in his writing. The first person is used when he describes his traumatic childhood, and the second person is used when he talks to his other half. This is a technique that creates increasing tension, as the author foreshadows something dark throughout the book. The author switches POV's so consistently that he does not take away from the reader's focus, but instead, creates a frightening foreboding.

        This book is brilliantly written, although at times, it begs for relief from the agony of those marginalized in society. Eliseev raises Dostoevsky's lingering question in a unique manner: What is the value of life for those who cannot live within society? Eliseev goes one step further and asks what the suffering of humans brings out in other human beings and why? He answers the question in his book's resolution - the last desperate act for a human misfit to achieve a life so many take for granted.

        No reader will be untouched by this book. It dares readers to search their own humanity in the world of dark shadows and hidden pain.

        REVIEW OF: Ship The Kids On Ahead


        Title: Ship The Kids on Ahead
        Author: Bill Stokes
        Original ISBN No: 10:0692743510
        Publication Date: 1968. 2016
        Page No: 246

        SHIP THE KIDS ON AHEAD, By Bill Stokes is a humorous book with timeless vignettes of family life. Although there are old-fashioned record players and typewriters in it, the stories are affectionately funny and draw on family episodes that are intergenerational.

        Stokes demonstrates his unique originality when he writes about the seasons. For instance, he describes the Month of March as: “It is the month when the car license expires, seven insurance payments come due all at once, and you get an orthodontic estimate on a kid with crooked teeth.”

        His satire runs throughout his storytelling. As he describes today’s modern era, he so aptly points out: "What I need, obviously, if I am to fit in with the rest of you, is more tension. Somehow, I have got to get my spring wound up so that I am more like a short-fused bomb and less like a mound of wet goulash."

        Unfortunately, there are several typos that appear in the book. For instance, the “fight” is still on in the kitchen instead of the “light” and the word “die” is used instead of “the” throughout. These are small distractions in an otherwise well-written book.

        Bill Stokes has a unique ability to laugh at himself. He includes sketches by his son in the book depicting Bill and his wife Betty in funny ways - ears sticking out and hair-a-fright. The drawings add to the humor of an already hysterical book.

        Overall, this is a funny, yet affectionate read, about daily life in an intact family that is brim full of children, animals, and parents sometimes wanting to run away. 

        REVIEW OF: Proud American, The Migrant, Soldier, Agent


        Title: Proud American
        Author: Sergio A. Tinoco
        Publication Date: 2016
        Page Numbers: 320

        A Proud American by Sergio Tinoco is a first-person account of a man’s life from his beginnings as a child of Mexican immigrants to his status as an honored veteran and a brave agent. Sergio Tinoco is a natural storyteller. He writes with raw honesty as he describes the hard migrant labor in the agricultural fields as a child and the inevitable bullying he experiences at school from privileged children.

        Tinoco reveals the agonizing break he has to make from his family - being born on American soil - he has a steely determination to seize opportunities available to U.S. citizens. To do so, he begins a journey into hell where brutality and horror become the norm for him. His descriptions of what he experiences are candid and gut-wrenching. What he achieves, in order to rise above life’s cruel circumstances, is inspirational.

        While Tinoco has the courage to explore his inner challenges in his writing, he shies away from sharing the conflicts in his romantic life. Yes, he mentions them, but the reader is left to guess what happened and why. This is incongruent. Tinoco otherwise, has the writing guts to express deep emotions as he soul-searches the loss of his mother in Mexico and the pain of shattering family expectations, as he moves forward and overcomes harrowing hurdles.

        Tinoco takes the reader through his life’s journey, giving uncensored accounts that put the reader “in his shoes.” Tinoco, ever the hero, goes on adventures and brings back gripping stories. This is a book that must be read.

        REVIEW OF: The Clerk


        Title: The Clerk
        Author: Matt Cowper
        Publication Date: 2016
        Page No: 285

        THE CLERK, a debut novel by Mark Cowper, opens on the main character’s fortieth birthday. Thomas walks on the beach contemplating his life and the “midlife crisis he is not having.” The author conveys a mood of mellow contentment when he describes Thomas’s birthday surroundings: “Golden late-afternoon light shone on the dunes and beach houses. Willets scurried about, pecking at the white sand. To the west, the beach houses, the pier, and the tall Scotch Bonnet Hotel were smoky silhouettes.”

        Cowper is a master of description, employing the readers’ senses to set the tone. Throughout his writing, he uses highly original metaphors and similes to bolster his descriptions. However, when he describes women, he often describes them in terms of their bodies. For instance, Thomas’s sister is described as “long and lean, with an ass that announced its succulent presence no matter how baggy her jeans were…” and one of his fellow co-workers is described as: “…having a tendency “to lean over her checkout counter whenever there was a slow moment, jutting out her firm, enticing behind.”

        For someone who has gathered this many candles, Thomas has no regrets, but he does have something he yearns for throughout the book, something that drives this story. If he is not thinking about it, he is acting on it. . . trying to fulfill his libido. The libido of other male characters are alive and well too. Rock, Reggie, Noah, Vernon, and Grant are gangbusters when it comes to their male hormones.

        Thomas’s main conflict lies in the unwelcome configuration of his family, all spokes in the great drama-wielding wheel of his sister’s mental problems. The author does a good job of peeling away the layers of falsity, stagnant roles, and boredom lying beneath a role-constricted family led by a dominating, perfectionist father.

        Mark Cowper is a promising writer. He never sinks to the writing laziness of cliches and his grammar is tight. His originality is stunningly clever and his dialogue flows comfortably throughout his book.

        This book is a good read for someone who enjoys the old versions of Hustler and Playboy. Maybe there’s a salty dog or a salty tigress who would enjoy lapping up the adventures of hormones on the prowl.

        One thing is certain. This author has a lot of writing strengths and he is not going away soon. It would not be surprising to see him on the New York Times bestseller list someday.

        REVIEW OF: Memoirs of a Pakhtun Immigrant


        Title: Memoirs of a Pakhtun Immigrant
        Author: Teresa Schapansky
        ISBN No: 13-978-1-988024-07-3
        Publication Date: 2016
        Page No: 85

        MEMOIRS of a PAKHTUN IMMIGRANT, by Teresa Schapansky is a compelling story about the sacrifices of immigration and the enduring love of a family that is separated by mountains, oceans and years. This author is a natural storyteller, bonding her readers with characters she describes through their hardships, traumas, and triumphs.

        The author weaves this story of a family living through the violent political upheaval of Pakistan’s independence from India, while the head of the family, the father, submerges himself into another country, working ten-hour days at forty-two cents an hour as an illegal immigrant. He is determined to make a better life for his family at a great cost to himself.

        Years later, the middle son tells the story of that father who accomplished such an amazing feat for his family. This author takes the son’s memories and brings them to life. The one thing missing is getting to know the sons as they were growing up and finding out later, how they lived their lives in new surroundings. However, the author reveals powerful incidences in their lives that shaped them; although at times, which son was which, became confusing.

        The author ties in the history of the world, as she writes her story and shows its effects on the economy, immigration, and geographic opportunities around the globe. She is bold in her writing, and the historic influence on her story keeps it interesting. Her photos and archives at the end of the book are captivating.

        This author took on a complex task─ telling a story from a third party’s perspective and getting it across to readers with human interest, suspense, and sound writing skills. Readers will be touched and inspired by this book for generations to come because true heroes continue to touch others long after they are gone.

        REVIEW OF: Undoing the Loop   



        Title: Undoing the Loop
        Author: Nesha Tandon, Ph.D.
        ISBN No: 1539488984
        Publication Date: 2017
        Page No: 160

        Undoing the Loop: Transforming Your Emotions Into Personal Freedom, by Dr. Nesha Tandon, is a well-thought-out book, backed by quotes and references. The premise of this book is based on the author's theory that most people are trapped by old thought patterns and emotions from past experiences. For this reason, most people suffer from not being "in the moment," free of judgments and stale perceptions.

        Dr. Tandon discusses what true power is, what emotions are, and how to transcend them. She writes about the one thing that breaks the "loop" of old thought patterns, and she gives short exercises for readers to practice new awareness.

        Dr. Tandon shares anecdotes and true stories about people who lifted their lives into unhindered possibilities. She dispels myths that keep people living fear-based lives by revealing what is illusion versus what sets people free. This book offers practical steps to letting go of life's burdens and instead, living a life based on limitless perceptions and expansive joy.

        REVIEW OF: Blind Side


        Title: Blind Side
        Author: Jennie Ensor
        ASIN No: B01IX1953A
        Page No: 330

        BLIND SIDE, by Jennie Ensor, is a well-crafted novel with psychological thrills galore. This is a fast-paced book that keeps the reader hanging on with bulging eyeballs.

         The author gives a brilliant sense of time and place, with sensory descriptions that make rain taste delicious and flowers smell intoxicating. Her love scenes are sensual and passionate, but not vulgar or raunchy in tone.

        This story is about a modern woman living independently, with a career, friends, and a good social background. Someone comes into her life who is the opposite, a misplaced immigrant who slowly reveals terrible truths about himself that spin her into a chaotic and dangerous tempest.

        She is faced with the unexpected fury and jealousy of other people in her life, as she spirals into "the moth to a flame" relationship, a wild and uninhibited ride into heaven and hell.

        When she finds out about dangerous plots and planned murders, she is tested to the core of herself. Her love for this man strips the truth of herself to the bone. Her discoveries lead her to uncover dangerous falsehoods in those she thought were upright friends and citizens, and she does something terrible before she looks at herself and her life in a new way.



        Title: Beautiful
        Author: Ruth Hamilton
        Publication Date: 2nd Edition/2017
        Page Numbers: 50

        Beautiful: Simple, Everyday Advice for Improving Your Self-Esteem and Living the Life you Deserve, by Ruth S. Hamilton is a fifty-page book that offers tips for self-improvement. While it is Psychology 101, it is also positive and uplifting. Her book covers such topics as what self-esteem is, the difference between healthy and unhealthy self-esteem, how to recognize and stop negative self-talk, how to deal with a bad body-image, and how to stop trying to be perfect.

        The most interesting part of this book is Hamilton's dialogue about people who were once considered failures and eventually rose to become inventors and genius creators. Her "get up and try again" philosophy is inspiring and good for those struggling to recreate themselves.

        While this book is short and does not offer exercises to reinforce the author's suggestions for a healthier self-esteem, it is a well-written manual about caring for yourself, instead of neglecting the most important person in your life — yourself.



        Title: A Cat Came Back
        Author: Simone Martel
        ISBN No: 978-1-941861-18-9
        Publication Date:2016
        Page Numbers: 164

        A CAT CAME BACK, by Simone Martel is a book written in a journalist manner by a human trapped in an animal body. This human consciousness stuck in an animal, limited in the company of others by its lack of words, but also set free by the absence of conventions, experiences a relationship with her partner in a new way. No longer his girlfriend, she becomes a voyeur within a cat's body. She discovers who he really is, a person who is wounded, who knows the art of love,  and one who experiences his grief in a unique way.

        The cat's voyeurism is at times shocking. Imagine the cat being a bathroom mirror, imagine the cat being a mirror on a bedroom ceiling. Simone Martel pulls it off, with language that at times teeters on the verge of nasty, but she quickly rights course, just in time to be in the presence of children and college professors.

        The strength of Martel's writing is in her descriptions of time and place. Her language soars artfully when she describes nature: the fog lifting, the winter sun setting, the bay leading out to Japan, and the delicate plants that glow at night. Her powerful descriptive language puts halos around the moon and brings to imaginary life, withered Easter flowers and neglected roses after death. Martel has a powerful connection to nature that beautifies her writing.

        Martel's description of older people, however, seems cliched: the skinny old man, the old man who may be lonely, the old people feebly shuffling by in her novel. Cliched writing runs the risk of deadening language. However, Martel 's writing remains poignant and infused with awareness. Her writing is daring, spunky, and unique. She has written an engaging, well-crafted book that readers will enjoy.