Monday, December 16, 2013

Fascinomas - Fascinating Medical Mysteries

Fascinomas is a book of true medical mysteries. Each short story presents the patient’s symptoms and then goes into the process of making the diagnosis. These are interesting cases with unusual symptoms and the diagnoses takes a lot of true detective work. The stories have been collected by the author from different doctors around the country. My favorite story was Chapter 9, Medicine Can Be a Humbling Profession. Of course to explain why it was my favorite would give away the mystery and I won’t do that, but it was honest and definitely humbling for the doctor involved. Clifton K. Meador, M.D. is also the author of True Medical Detective Stories , another excellent book on medical mysteries. I highly recommend both True Medical detective Stories and Fascinomas-Fascinating Medical Mysteries. Love the book's cover!!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Grief: A Mama’s Unwanted Journey by Shelley Ramsey

This is a difficult book to read and I am sure a difficult book to write.  This is also a difficult review to write. 

If you want to know what the experience is “like” when you lose a child, the author explains it well. I could identify with all of the emotions, shock, and reactions from other people. I could especially relate to the example of the friend that spotted her in a store and immediately turned her back and walked away. It would have been much more helpful, however, to explain more about how deeply these reactions hurt. 

Unfortunately, if you are going through this experience, and you are looking for guidance or comfort, there is not much here.  Her story is all about her and her son and there is very little reaching out to try to understand the grief of others.  This is evident in her repeating over and over that her son did nothing wrong and made no mistakes even though he died in a single-car accident.  She explains in detail how God provided for the pastor of her church to be with her husband when he was informed of the death. How perfectly her church guided them through the experience. I saw no effort to see through the eyes of someone whose experience was different, and the attitude was as if God gave her family preferential treatment. Did you have more faith than I? No, I don't think so.

I'm sure that writing this book was helpful for the author, but I don't think she was at a stage in her grief at which she could look beyond self and reach out to others.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

What Are You Afraid Of? By David Jeremiah

If we are honest, we will admit that no matter how strong our faith, we sometimes have fears.  In What Are You Afraid Of? Facing Down Your Fears With Faith, we learn to face those fears, work through them,
and revitalize our faith.  The fears covered in this book are common uncertainties such as financial security, illness death, and even a fear of God. Using his own experience and those of others, Dr. Jeremiah gives practical advice and encouragement to bring the fears under control.

This is not a light read, but neither is it dry. The stories are interesting and the advice pertinent to our daily lives.  I received this book from Tyndale for review so I read it through, but I plan to go back and read it as a Bible study, perhaps a chapter a week. 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Settled Blood by Mari Hannah

Settled Blood is the second in the DCI Kate Daniels series. The book seemed to be a little too much of an attempt to be an all inclusive genre. This mystery, thriller, suspense, police procedure and lesbian romance instead ended up a little muddled. There are very descriptive crime scenes, and the high suspense tension lasts until the end of the story.

I usually enjoy a methodical police procedure, but in this book, it seemed the details were too repetitive. How many reports does the DCI Kate Daniels need to receive ( and seem surprised about) stating the fall victim was alive when she hit the ground. It did nothing to add to the horror of the crime. Also, the pining over her ex-girlfriend seemed out of place in the middle of a tense drama.

This is a British author so there were quite a few terms and British slang that I was not familiar with, but that was not a big drawback because it just took a quick search online to find definitions. It did break up the flow of the story though.

A copy of this e-book was provided by Edelweiss, Above the Treeline.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Last Light by Terri Blackstock

We have all had situations arise when our power goes out, sometimes for a day or two.  What would happen if it went out everywhere. How would our smart-phone addicted society react without anything electronic?
Last Light explores how a family adjusts and recreates their lives under the most primitive of conditions.  Travel, food shortages, lack of medical care are all situations explored in the story.

The characters were realistic and well-done, but the oldest daughter, Deni, was so unlikable that I really didn't care about her or her goals.   Had she been portrayed as younger I could have understood her bad choices, but at her age she should have been more mature.

This is definitely a solid Christian book with scripture and Christian philosophy of life as the family struggles with decisions concerning sharing, concern for others, suspicion of neighbors and working together as a community.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A Very Sad Time

Michael Palmer, one of my absolute favorite authors died has passed away. His 20th novel, Resistant, is to be published in May. His memorial service is today.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Darkness First by James Hayman

When a doctor reaches out to try to help an abused woman, the woman ends up dead and the doctor severely injured.   Suspicion surrounds the doctor when a bag of Oxy is found in her pocket.  Detectives Maggie Savage and Michael McCabe know the killers name, but soon learn that is leading them nowhere, and the murdered woman’s young sister is in grave danger.

Darkness First does an amazing job of drawing the reader deep into the story. With its shifting locations and characters, the story is progresses very meticulously.  There is the perfect balance of narration and dialog, and the characters are well-developed and interesting. This mystery/police procedural was an all-around great read, and I highly recommend it for fans of this genre.

I received a review copy of this book from Witness Impulse in return for an honest and fair review.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

If You Were Me and Lived In Norway by Carole P. Roman

Carole P. Roman's If You Were Me series travels this time to "The Land of the Midnight Sun", Norway.  As her previous books in this series,she gives bits of information about the country that would be most
interesting to children.  It covers places you would go, activities you would participate in, foods you would eat, and basic information about daily life in Norway.

I am always so impressed with these books. Text appears on one page with a full page illustration on the facing page. The illustrations are colorful and detailed.  This is an excellent introduction for children to the world around us and cultures that are different from ours. I highly recommend the entire series.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Robert B Parker's Damned if You Do by Michael Brandman

I enjoyed very much this latest Jesse Stone book. The author, Michael Brandman, is carrying forward the late Robert B Parker's series.   I have not read all of books in the original Stone series, but the character in this book was exactly as I expected him to be. His moods, actions, and interactions with the characters are all as I envisioned Jesse to be.  The only problem I had was the portrayal of Jesse as a cat person instead of a dog person!  

 I especially enjoyed the interaction with Jesse and his friend in the nursing home and it was absolutely in character for Jesse. Although a little different, it is still a great addition to the story of Jesse Stone. I hope CBS will pick up this book and make another Tom Sellick Jesse Stone movie!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

365 Pocket Devotions

The best way to start my day is a good devotion to focus on the things of God. 365 Pocket Devotions has a daily text with a Bible verse taken mostly from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Each day begins with “A reflection on:” and then a main topic, followed by times when this topic will be most applicable to my life. Just a few of the topics are Gentleness, Hope, Joy, Unanswered Prayer, Finding True Life and Grace. There is also a Topical Index at the back for those days you may need a particular topic.  In spite of our busy days, these brief passages are perfect for a quick focus for the day.

The Bible passages are perfectly matched with the devotion text, not something I always find in devotionals, and even though the text is short, they are meaningful. One of the shortest devotions was on Hope, and I thought it was also one of the most powerful.

The cover is a pretty color that stands out so I can’t misplace it. It is made of smooth imitation leather and the binding seems very secure for long use.

My only complaint was the numbering of the pages. Instead of a perpetual calendar type labeling, it was just Day 1, Day 2, etc. I found it much more difficult to remember where I was, although it does have a ribbon place marker which does help. I would still have preferred a month and day format.

I received a review copy from Tyndale in return for my honest opinion. 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Grievous Bodily Harm by Jane Bennett Munro

Marcus Manning is hired to help with transitioning a privately owned hospital to one of the large hospital corporations. Unfortunately, he is an over-the-top jerk harassing his subordinates. Just one of those subordinates is the main character, Toni Day. The story held my interest, but there was absolutely nothing believable in the story. The culture in the hospital didn't ring true, and most of the characters have such exaggerated personalities that they became obnoxious, especially the wise-crackin’ Toni. While I know the book was written in a lighthearted manner, there was one incident in the book that just irritated me. Toni and another character, Jeannie, are talking about other hospital employees and one in particular. She was a fellow medical professional, a Certified Nursing Assistant, and they ridiculed her lack of education. They also called her feeble minded.
It was Just OK for me and I think it needed less dialog and more narration.

Bumper Wipe Clean Activities by Juliet David and Illustrated by Marie Allen

Nice and compact, this Bumper Wipe Clean Activities book can be carried along for use while traveling or for a home busy-book. The book has bright colors and good illustrations and with seventy pages of activities, it will keep a child busy for a quite a while. Of course, the wipe-clean feature allows for reuse.  The activities include dot-to-dot, mazes, tracing words and numbers, color pages, drawing pages, misplaced items, same or different, and so much more.  The hardcover and laminated pages are very sturdy and the book opens flat for ease of use.

The book comes with one dry-erase marker, but a note on the back of the book states that most good quality felt-tip pens and crayons can be used on the laminated pages.  The book is labeled for 3+ and for most of the activities that is a good guideline.  I recommend this as a project book or a fun devotional activity book.

I received a review copy for Kregel in exchange for a honest review.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Stillwell, A Haunting on Long Island by Michael Phillip Cash

Stillwell is a very sad story of the grief of a newly widowed father, his children, and the adjustments they must make. The grief overwhelms most of the book and the ghost story gets rather lost in it. I wish the dramatic scenes at the old home had started more slowly and built up gradually. The house and grounds needed more description in a way to create more of a creepy atmosphere. I did like the characters and it was a fast easy read.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Harriet Beamer Strikes Gold by Joyce Magnin

Harriet Beamer Strikes Gold is the second Harriet Beamer book. In the first book Harriet has come to point in her life when her family thinks it is best that she move across the country to live with them. Now in the second book Harriet is settle in, but is restless and looks for things to do and friends to find. She meets Lily and Old Man Crickets, a teen and her father. Harriet immediately gets swept into “gold fever”. This is a lighthearted book a quick read, and even a little silly in places. The message of what having a true treasure is evident as Harriet spends more time with her son and gets better acquainted with her daughter-in-law, Prudence. It was an OK book, but I preferred the first book for two reasons. In the first book Harriet’s personality was that of a long-time married woman, recently widowed, becoming a bit of a free spirit. Although I don’t think it was the intent of the author, in this book, I think Harriet came across as someone flighty and of impaired judgment due to aging. The other reason was that I was totally put off by a conversation Harriet had with the illegal aliens hired to do construction work in Henry’s home and the following discussion about it between Henry and Prudence.

Zondervan has provided me with a complimentary advanced reading copy through BookSneeze®. in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Fastest Growing Religion on Earth by Doug Bremner

Full Title: The Fastest Growing Religion on Earth: How Genealogy Captured the Brains and Imaginations of Americans

The title is a little misleading as this book is not about religion, but more about a growing obsession and passion for genealogy. I have spent about twelve years researching my genealogy, but I have always found that it is difficult to be interested in someone else’s history. Fortunately, Douglas Bremner is an excellent writer, and he has the ability to draw the reader into his story. I found it a little difficult to follow at times, but then I find it hard to follow my research when it gets a few generations back. This is not a recitation of names and places, but a real story of the history of this family and the struggle in finding information about a broken family. I enjoyed reading about his method of finding and connecting with people for whom he hoped would hold the key to his story.

Death Never Sleeps by David Grace

Death Never Sleeps is another great detective story from David Grace. He always has interesting twists and surprise connections in his stories, and Death Never Sleeps is the perfect example of this style. There are two murders, seemingly unconnected, with nothing but a gut feeling that leads the detectives to believe they are connected. There are also previously unsolved cases that haunt the detectives. The main characters, Big Jim and Chris are both interesting and likable. Big Jim is a more traditional detective, but with secrets. Chris is very intelligent, but his social skills and interpersonal associations are limited. The characteristics of these two men blend well together to create a great partnership. This is a good story with complex and unusual characters. It has the prefect balance of dialog and narration, and the story held my interest throughout. I read mainly in the mystery and police genres so it is difficult to surprise me, but this book certainly did.

Friday, August 30, 2013

The One Year My Princess Devotions Preschool Edition by Karen Whiting

This is a very well-timed book with the new Princess movies and television cartoons. The book is absolutely beautiful with lovely illustrations and princess “doodles” through out the book. Even more importantly, the book is a well-written devotional for young children.

Each day has a theme for the day, Royal Words, Princess Thoughts, A Prayer for the King, and Princess in Action.  The Royal Words is, of course, a Bible verse.  The verses are taken from versions NIrV, NIV, NLT and CEV. Each are very well explained so that the child will not be confused and will know exactly what the verse is about.  Princess Thoughts is a short explanation and application. A Prayer for the King is a short, one or two sentence prayer, and Princess in Action is a suggested activity that helps apply what she has learned to her life. 

This is an excellent devotional that can be read to a preschool girl, but I would also expand the recommended 3-5 year age group to 3-7.

I received a review copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers  in return for an honest and fair review.  I provide a link to to purchase the book, but it is only as a courtesy and I receive no compensation if purchased.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Capturing Every Day Life by Jane Goodrich

This is the perfect book for those of us who think we can't do without a point-and-shoot camera. It has an easy tutorial of light, shutter speed, aperture, depth of field, and ISO that didn't make my eyes glaze over. So how do we get those amazing shots? It is all explained in her chapters on working with children and the tips she gives by age group, from infants to teens. There is also a chapter on troubleshooting that explains what is wrong when a photo doesn't look right.

I am surprised with how much is packed into this 63 page book. Not only is there good information, but it is filled with stunning photographs which immediately gave me ideas for unique photographs of my own. I highly recommend this book for anyone wanting to learn more about taking eye-catching photographs.

Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin

Golden Boy is the story of an intersex teen growing up as a boy in a family divided in how to deal with his birth defect.  The story was definitely interesting and held my interest, but it was a bit melodramatic for me.  The main character seemed to be lost in this story that is broken up by the other characters. Each section starts with a character’s name with their POV, much of which just breaks up the continuity of the story and makes it choppy. 

I didn't find the story all that believable and the end was a little too simplistic. As I said, it held my interest, but I wasn't moved emotionally by it. As I was reading I kept thinking it was a plot for a Lifetime channel movie.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Longings of Wayward Girls by Karen Brown

The Longings of Wayward Girls has a rather slow start, but eventually the story unfolds as Sadie and her friends play a cruel trick on a friend. With the descriptions of the woods, the pond, and the inclusion of a town map hand drawn in the book, the sense of location was well done.

Reading about the playtime of children is not exactly compelling, and the book spends quite a bit of time with the main characters as children. The story covers the lives and actions of childhood friends and the repercussions of their childish behavior that lingers after they have grown into adults.

 I guess the character of Sadie was meant to be portrayed as a sympathetic character because of the loss of a baby and overwhelming depression, but Sadie seemed to me to be a selfish, self-focused woman still acting like a child. Caring about her was difficult. Her obsession with a childhood friend and his connection to her mother was a little odd and not very believable.

My biggest disappointment is that the book begins with the disappearance of Laura Loomis and although it appears to be basis of the book, it was really not part of the story at all. Ultimately, the only thing I cared about is never resolved.

Friday, August 9, 2013

If You Were Me And Lived In ...South Korea by Carole P. Roman

I absolutely love this series! If You Were Me And Lived In South Korea... is another in a series by Carole P. Roman introducing young readers to cultures around the world. The book teaches about location, common names of boys and girls, favorite toys, foods, hobbies, holidays, and so much more.

The book is very colorful with very charming illustrations. One page has text and the facing page has the full-page illustration. The series is both educational and fun, and I hope very much to see more of these books in the future. Although for young readers, my two-year old granddaughter was very excited when she spotted the book on my end table and immediately began going through it. I would definitely recommend it for ages 2 and up.

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Widows of Braxton County by Jess McConkey

The Widows of Braxton County by Jess McConkey is a multi-generational story about the sins of the father. Kate marries Joseph Krause and moves to his family farm in Iowa. She has high hopes of a peaceful idyllic life, but the Krause family secrets creep into their lives.

This book was a little different from the books I normally read, but I really did enjoy it. I appreciated the way the true meaning of "sins of the father" was presented and how it can be passed from generation to generation. It also has a message of hope of how the pattern can be changed.

The book was well written and held my interest till the very end. I liked the characters, the friendships, and the amazing emotional growth of the main character.

Amazon link to purchase The Widows of Braxton County
I received a review copy of this book in return for an honest and fair review.  I provide a link to to purchase the book, but it is only as a courtesy and I receive no compensation if purchased.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Bible Stories Painting Book 2 Text by Juliet David and Illustrations by Simon Abbott

Bible Stories Painting Book 2 is a water painting book. Dip the brush in water, wipe it around on the paint palette to pick up color, and then transfer to the picture.  There are sixteen pages with various Bible stories in cartoon form. Each has a two-sentence description of the scene.  For example, the scenes depict Adam and Eve, Abraham & Isaac, Jacob and the dream, Jacob and Joseph’s coat, Moses with the laws, David and Goliath, and ten others.

The front and back covers are fold-in style so that there is sturdy cardboard for the paint palettes. There are two identical paint wheel palettes with purples, oranges, greens, and blues.  There is a full page with tube shaped palettes that have oranges, gold, green, blue, and brown. Also, there are smaller tube shaped palates under the wheels with the same colors.

The pictures are fairly detailed, so I wouldn't recommend them for very small children. I tested the book with a two-year old, and it didn't hold her interest. Perhaps 4 years old and up would appreciate the detail in the pictures more. As with other water paint books, the colors are not vibrant, but the book provides a quick easy project without too much mess. (Paint brush is not included)

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Blood Pressure Down - The Ten Step Plan by Janet Bond Brill, Ph.D. D, R.D., LDN

This should be a hand-out in every doctor’s office when someone is diagnosed with high blood pressure. Blood Pressure Down is divided into 2 parts. The first section is entitled “Everything you Need to Know about High Blood Pressure and Your Health” – and that is exactly what it delivers. It fully explains the condition and how it can cause other serious problems. Part 2 is a ten-step plan to lower your blood pressure. This includes diet, exercise, supplements and weight loss. There are 8 appendices that follow with progress charts, checklists, meal plans, recipes and more. Having been through four home blood pressure monitors that just were not accurate enough to depend on, I was very pleased with the information included in this book about an organization (and their website) that tests and rates all of the different BP monitors. I chose an inexpensive recommended model and I finally had very accurate readings for a home model. I’m not likely to follow the strict diet with fish, soy and tofu and beans of all types, but there is enough included that I can make important changes to my diet and make a difference. I am adding the supplements, using other tips and fully expect good results.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

My First Noah’s Ark Playtime by Lois Rock and illustrated by Alex Ayliffe

This is a fun little workbook for young children.  The book has a very basic description of the flood, ark, and bringing the animals in.  There are two full pages of stickers that belong on various pages throughout the book. Rainy day activities are also discussed. There is one page with a recipe for baking on a rainy day, but it doesn't tell you what the recipe is for on that page. After reading the next page, you find that it is a gingerbread type cookie shaped like an ark that you cut by hand.  It was just a little awkward in its placement.  There is a matching game and a board-type game in which you make dice-type tiles with cardboard. 

It is a cute book that would be nice for a Sunday School Class or Vacation Bible School, but at only 16 pages, I don’t think it has enough to make it a book that a child would be able to use more than a few times.

I received a review copy of this book in return for an honest and fair review.  I provide a link to to purchase the book, but it is only as a courtesy and I receive no compensation if purchased.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Matter of Trust by (A Mia Quinn Mystery) by Lis Wiehl

A Matter of Trust is a fast-paced mystery with a few twists here and there to add to the interest.  Two prosecutors are murdered years apart. Is it coincidence or are they connected?  This is a new series with Mia Quinn as the main character. It is an easy read that held my interest, and I liked that I didn't figure out who the killer was until late in the book.

Unfortunately, it also annoyed me in a few ways. There were two story lines thrown in, neither of which added to the main story. The character of Mia also wasn't very likable. Her parenting skills deserved a call to DCSF, and her constant whining about financial difficulties left me cold. Yes, her husband left her with financial burdens, but she is a prosecutor, not an unskilled worker.

Good, but not great.

Monday, May 20, 2013

No One Else to Kill by Bob Doerr


No One Else to Kill is book 5 of the Jim West Mysteries. Since this was my first Jim West book, I expected to feel as though I was missing something. I am pleased to say that I was not, and this is definitely a stand-alone book.  

Jim West travels to a remote hunting lodge in New Mexico with the intent of meeting up with an old friend to do some therapeutic hiking. The friend is a no-show, but before he can head for home a murder occurs at the lodge. Not yet twenty four hours later, another murder occurs.  While Jim could have been one of the suspects, the police recognize his problem solving talents and enlist his help in solving the crime. Although he wants no part of it, he agrees to be their man on the inside and keep his eyes on everyone.

Jim is a likable character, not really wanting to get involved, but realizing his unique talents and opportunity to be among the suspects. We are introduced to a variety of characters and suspects at the lodge. Things get out of control and brought back to an exciting conclusion.  It is an interesting story with a variety of  possible suspects.

No One Else to Kill won First Runner-Up in the Commercial Fiction category for the 2013 Eric Hoffer Award.

Monday, May 6, 2013

When a Secret Kills by Lynette Eason

I didn't realize while reading When a Secret Kills that it is the third of a series.  To me, that means it is a great stand-alone book.  I never felt I was “missing something,” and I never thought that there were back-stories that needed to be explained.  We do know at the beginning that the two main characters, Colton & Jillian, had a previous relationship, and that trouble follows Jillian everywhere. 

This is a good mystery with a light romance. The main characters are believable and likable even when the story is not quite as believable. Even though I had not read the previous books in this series, I felt I had a good idea of the personalities of the characters involved.

The story is a rather complex twisting tale that managed to hold my interest.  There are more than enough suspects, and the story comes to a satisfying ending. This is my first Lynette Eason book, but it won’t be my last. 

Available May 2013 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Friday, May 3, 2013

If You Were Me and Lived in Mexico... by Carole P. Roman

If You Were Me and Lived in Mexico by Carole P. Roman is part of a series of books to introduce children to different cultures around the world.  It is a nice way to establish an understanding of children who may look different but are the same in many ways.  The book explains common names, terms for parents, coins, and a variety of other daily activities in which children are interested.

The book has brightly colored full-page illustrations that bring the book to life.  A few simple Spanish names and words are introduced, and included is a pronunciation guide at the back of the book.  I enjoyed the mini tour of Mexico with this book and highly recommend it for young children.  

Sunday, April 21, 2013

There Was an Old Woman by Hallie Ephron

Although There was an Old Woman was not at all what I expected, I was pleasantly surprised.  I also think that this is one of the better books I’ve read so far this year. While it doesn't have the intensity that is usually consistent with a psychological thriller, I still think it belongs in that category. If you are waiting for a slasher to jump out and cut someone’s throat, this isn’t the book for you, but if you like a slower steady story that reaches a climax and has well-developed characters, you will like There was an Old Woman.

It was a good story that held my interest but I also found myself totally annoyed with the main character.  The family dynamics with sisters’ resentment of each other and their mother plays a large role in the story.

Evie is called to her childhood home to help her hospitalized mother. She finds that in a short amount of time her mother’s home and health have inexplicably deteriorated dramatically.  Evie becomes involved in events that surround her mother’s neighbor, Mina, an active 91 year old.

Mina is a wonderful portrayal of this elderly character.  She is determined and active, but not the stereotypical depiction I often see of the wise crackin’ grandma.  She is strong, but reserved and refined.

My only disappointment was that the mysterious story from Mina’s past of Mina was lacking the drama I expected, but did still enjoy the book very much.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Frozen Solid by James M. Tabor

A unique location and unique characters, Frozen Solid is set at the remote ASRS, Amundsen-Scott Research Station at the South Pole. The settings and are described very well, as is the deadly cold temperatures and their impact on the human body. The main character Hallie takes at short-term job at the Station. She is replacing a friend that died suddenly while working there. She has a complicated relationship with Wil Bowman and complicated problems that will have to wait. The book is interesting and starts off at a fast pace. I had a difficult time relating to the main character and her actions. For example, at the beginning of the book when Hallie had just arrived at the pole, she stumbles to her bed tired and obviously overwhelmed by the change in environment. Before falling asleep she found a camera above pointing at the bed with some disturbing video on it. Had that been me, I would have been yelling up and down the halls about finding the camera let alone what was on it. Hallie, however, decided to keep quiet about it. She didn’t trust anyone, but had not been there long enough to develop distrust. Also, several people died in short succession, but there was an odd lack of panic. I will also mention a language alert for those who find it offensive. In spite of that, it was a good solid and very unique thriller.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Amish Canning Cookbook by Georgia Varozza

The Amish Canning Cookbook by Georgia Varozza is a very detailed look at canning.  It begins with a short a bullet point intro How to Fit Canning into Your Busy Life and then a short history of canning. There is detailed information on the types of canners, jars, and assorted equipment that makes canning easier. 
It also has techniques and recipes for canning butters, jams and jellies, vegetables, meats, soups and stews, and various other canning projects.

If you are a complete beginner, this book will explain everything you need from preparation through the canning process.  If you are an experienced canner, this book will also be helpful.  I have canned for quite a few years, but I found information I didn’t know, products I didn’t know about, and recipes I had never thought of canning. I make pretty good pickles, but I just may have to try her Sweet Gherkins this summer, and I definitely want to try the Pickled Hot Peppers.

There is something for everyone in this book, but I was especially impressed with her detailed instructions.

Submerged by Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Submerged is a tense drama/mystery/thriller that held that tension through most of the story. All of the characters, both good and bad, are believable. The main character is Marcus Taylor, a recovering drug addict and disgraced EMT, working under supervision as a 911 operator. Unfortunately, his boss hates him and is trying to set him up for failure. Marcus takes a frightening 911 call that could destroy him or save him emotionally. There was truly an edge-of-your-seat tension through the book as Marcus tries to help a woman involved in an auto accident. It is also a light romance, mostly focused on both of their troubled pasts. I have to say I didn’t expect to enjoy the book as much as I did. It held my interest from beginning to end and I would definitely read more books by Cheryl Kaye Tardif. While the end may not have been a total surprise, it was certainly a satisfying ending.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Nightsiders by Gary McMahon

I am not going to waste a lot of time on this review because the book was horrible. This book should have a warning for readers concerning the strong language and graphic sexual situations. I got the book for review through NetGally and there definitely was no indication as to how bad it was.   Not only that, it isn't a book, but a short story  Novella (see note below).  I decided early that I wasn't interested in reading this, but then I realized I was almost to the end.  This book was truly horrible and I can't believe that this book would pass for a good horror book these days. Without giving a spoiler, I can only say that the end is just the author giving himself a big kiss. Horrible!

4/9/13- Just received a message from someone upset that I called this trash a short story.  They claim it had more than 10,000 words and was, therefore, a Novella. I didn't count the words, but since it was about a 20 minute read, I considered it a short story.  Novella sounds so nice doesn't it?

4/10/13 Received another hate-filled comment (of course Anonymous) on this review. Also they are claiming a larger word count so it is not a Novella after all.  I guess this author has some friends that are just as vulgar as the book.  

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Night Blind by Michael W Sherer

Some people have the worst luck and Blake Sanders has the worst.  His lost his son, career, wife, and now one of his only friends. He is also accused of murder.  Although it sounds like he has the life of the Biblical Job, I liked the character of Blake Sanders and especially the friendship he struck with the elderly woman, Midge Babcock. 

When there are several different story lines going at the same time as this story had, I only ask that they smoothly connect at some point in the book.  Night Blind was a little confusing at first because the storylines were so different that I couldn’t imagine how they related. At first it was like reading a book of short stories, all different, and it was little difficult to keep them straight.  There was even a confusing point in which there was mention of an event that turned out not to take place until later in the book. I re-read the that chapter several times before I gave up only to find later in the story where it was explained. 

I thought Night Blind started out as a great story, turned into a good story, but then after traveling down way too many rabbit trails, it turned into an OK story. By the end of the book, honestly, I actually didn’t care much who did what.

I received a review copy of this book in return for an honest and fair review.  I provide a link to to purchase the book, but it is only as a courtesy and I receive no compensation if purchased.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Congo Dawn by Jeanette Windle

I was really looking forward to reading Congo Dawn. I especially enjoy books that are very descriptive of their location and enjoy heart pounding thrillers with a Christian influence. Unfortunately, Congo Dawn was not at all what I expected.

The story was rather slow and drawn out, and I certainly wouldn't call it heart-pounding or edge of your seat suspense. It is actually much more of a romance novel. Even worse, it follows the same type of plot outline used by the typical harlequin romance novels. The story revolves around a woman and man with a past relationship that ended badly and they are now thrown together again. There is rudeness, tension, and plenty of pouting and stomping. In spite of this, they are drawn together. To be honest because of the behavior and "chemistry" between of the two main characters I simply didn't care about them. The only difference is that this, thankfully, is a clean romance.

There are some very good issues of faith that are discussed, especially suffering. The book is very descriptive, but almost too much so. Even the dialog is overly descriptive. For example, "She said firmly" and "He answered harshly...." I could clearly tell by what was said that it was harsh or firm, and I didn't need the author to tell me so.

I received a review copy of this book in return for an honest and fair review.  I provide a link to to purchase the book, but it is only as a courtesy and I receive no compensation if purchased.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Journey of Voices, Stewards of the Land

Book Description: Stewards of the Land is the second book in Diane McAdams Gladow's nonfiction series about common, ordinary families who lived American History and in some cases helped to make it. This book tells the story of the Crume family by interweaving old letters, pictures, land documents, Bible records, and historical references with an account of the family's life and movement through seven generations. The story of this family is truly the story of American history from 1746 to 1946 and the story of American agricultural life and how it changed over two hundred years. 

I honestly thought I would love this book. I have been researching my genealogy for more than 10 years and love reading old documents and information. This book, however, just did not capture my attention or imagination. It was almost like an enhanced software generated genealogy report. This person was born here, lived here, moved here, with facts and dates. Had anyone in the book been a member of my ancestry, it would have been much more interesting, although as a genealogy book it also would fall short because of the supposition sprinkled throughout. There were quite a few statements made with “may have felt” or “Perhaps this was the reason…”, in which the author tried to imagine what happened or how the person felt.
Some of the letters were interesting, but then some were just about resting over a holiday, taking a train ride, or a sore foot. The most interesting information in the book is the shirt-tail connection to Abraham Lincoln. While there is a generation list of the Crume family, a surname index would have been very helpful. I think the key words in the book description are "ordinary people".

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Plague by H.W. Bernard

Terrorism is frightening enough without the thought of a terrorist attack by a deadly airborne Ebola-type virus.   The story starts out strong as the first victims fall ill and the doctors realize what they are facing. The main character, Richard Wainwright, steps in as a temporary CEO of a bio-tech company after the entire administration was killed in an airplane crash. He soon finds himself in more trouble than he can handle.

I did have a few problems with the book.  While the character of Richard was likable he didn't seem very competent in his position, and some of his actions just didn't make sense.  One character in the book came across too much like a cartoon ninja character. Then there was Richard’s love interest, an odd, not very devout Methodist minister.

I enjoyed the beginning of the book, but it seemed to go down too many rabbit trails before if found its way back. I would have liked more medical and fewer escapades.

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Atria International Book of Mysteries

Sample excerpts from 15 different authors from around the world.

This book delivers exactly what it promises.  The Atria takes the works of authors from around the world and gives just of a sample of each.  Some samples are just one chapter and some a little longer, but all of them leave the reader hanging. 

Choosing a book by the title and a short description of the story line can sometimes leave me disappointed. Although the plot may be good, the writing is flowery or overly descriptive which is just not what I enjoy.  With a sampler like this, I was also able to determine whether I like the style in which the author writes. 

I think the one that piqued my interest the most was the sample from Shunning Sarah by Julie Kramer. Her main character, Riley Spartz is a female a television investigative journalist in Minneapolis.  I not only was interested in the topics, but was able to decide whether or not I would like her writing style.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Live Second by Doug Bender

I was looking for a new yearly devotional and was happy to find this new one.  It didn’t take long, however, to decide this wasn’t the one for me.  This seems to be an attempt to be a new and modern devotional, and it may very well be attractive to the under 25 age group. 

The first assignment of the week is to go to a website and watch a video.  For this review, I decided to try a couple of random videos.  The first two links took me to “page not found”.   The third was an odd lecture on a sensitive topic and a testimony.   I tried another and this one was rather long, but in the end was a beautiful testimony of God performing a miracle.  The backdrop for the videos is a single white chair in the middle of a room with a spotlight overhead. It reminded me of the old movies when someone was being interrogated by detectives.  There is also quite a bit of bouncing camera shifts for artistic value.

I was taught to put God first. This modern version is put self second. In the attempt to put self second, you bring the vision of self forward, and to me seems self defeating.

The e-book presentation has a QR code by each weekly entry which really seemed to be there just to prove how new and youth oriented it is.  I believe the movement is sincere. However, links to the website and the constant requests to tweet your thoughts using the website hashtag appears to be an attempt to get everyone to advertise the website which just happens to have books, materials and t-shirts for sale.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Death Relic by Chris Kuzneski

The Death Relic starts out strong in this archaeological mystery. Dr. Maria Pelati is invited to Cancun to discuss employment working for an archaeologist studying Mayan civilization, Terrance Hamilton. It is out of her expertise, but she is curious and decides to at least meet with Mr. Hamilton.  At their initial meeting, he steps out to retrieve some information and disappears.

The book is compelling as it introduces us to Maria, Hamilton, and her friends, Payne and Jones.  This is a “buddy” type story with Jonathan Payne and David Jones, long time friends. The information about the Mayan people and civilization was interesting, and the description of the area was done well.

Unfortunately, there were a few things that kept this from being a 5-star book for me.  First the crude language added nothing to the personalities of the characters and left me thinking they weren't as smart or sophisticated as they were supposed to be.  As the book progressed, the bantering between the two friends started to wear thin. It was like listening to the dialog of 14 year old boys, not adult men. Another distraction for me was the repeated references to a previous case and the relationships between the characters in some previous story.  If you have read his previous books, you may enjoy this one, but I came to a point where I just didn't care how it ended.

I received a review copy of this book in return for an honest and fair review.  I provide a link to to purchase the book, but it is only as a courtesy and I receive no compensation if purchased.

Rally 'Round the Corpse by Hy Conrad

This would have to be my dream vacation.  Travel around Europe with a guided tour and collecting clues while trying to solve a crime. In Hy Conrad’s new book a real mystery develops during one of Amy Murano’s agency tours. Before the tour is over the writer of the mystery tour is found dead 

There is a little of everything in Rally ‘Round the Corpse with a real mystery, a light romance, and travel.  There was a good balance of dialog and narration, which is always an important factor for me. The writing is good with plenty of lighthearted banter.    The characters are a good variety of personalities and they are well defined. 

I also read his previous book, Things Your Dog Doesn't Want You to Know, so I had a feeling I would be in for a delightful mystery experience with this book.

I received a review copy of this book in return for an honest and fair review.  I provide a link to to purchase the book, but it is only as a courtesy and I receive no compensation if purchased.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Eating Right in a Nutshell by Susan Whittaker

This is another e-book I picked up for my Kindle, but I was surprised by some of the content. Care must be taken when reading a book that makes health claims by someone who is not a healthcare professional. Although the book does have a disclaimer that it is for "educational purposes" and "not to be considered medical advice", the author makes several claims about diseases that simply are not true. There is also an encouragement to perform a regular home health care procedure that could prove to be dangerous.

I was especially interested in reading the Growing Your Own Herbs and Sprouts section, but that turned out to be 4 or 5 paragraphs about her failed attempts and then her on-going attempt to grow sprouts. There was not real information on the proper growth and care of herbal plants.

The author mentions  things she has seen on TV that she has tried for "gut flora" and a type of food fermentation, but no real instructions or additional information. I understand the author's own struggles with health made her want to help others, and we all want to eat right and be health, but do a little research before following someone else's experience and non-professional advice.

Link to purchase Eating Right in a Nutshell

Home Made Cookies Recipes for Beginners by Ravi Kishore

This book has a nice selection of recipes and they are definitely not just for beginners. The book is divided by cookie ingredient type with several recipes for each. There are several peanut butter, several oatmeal, several chocolate chip, etc. There are even fortune cookies recipes. Also included are recipes suitable for children and easy recipes using cake mixes. I found quite a few I'd like to try, but I think the recipes I want to try first are Red Velvet Butter Cookies, Fresh Toffee Apple Cookies, and the Homemade Fresh Lemon cookies.

Link to purchase Home Made Cookies Recipes for beginners

I provide a link to to purchase the book, but it is only as a courtesy and I receive no compensation if purchased.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Dinner at Deadman's by C. J. West

Picker, junker, hoarder, whatever they call them these days, Lorado Martin’s hobby is collectibles and antiques. When someone dies, he arranges for the estate sales, adds to his own collection, and makes a little money off of the sales. He makes his living building and maintaining homes for recovering addicts. He also employs some of these same addicts and helps them with their fight to stay clean. The death of an elderly woman from one of his sales haunts him, especially when he finds a note hidden in one of her belongings – with his name on it. 

Dinner at Deadman’s is an intriguing mystery that unfolds slowly to introduce each character and their role in the story. I appreciated the fact that although these characters were working to improve their community, they were also realistic people with major flaws. 

There were several things I really liked about this book. The mystery takes several rabbit trails as Lorado misinterprets events that take place. The author details the physical and psychological permanent damage from drugs that has take place in these recovering addicts. I also found interesting Lorado’s mixed feelings in helping these broken people, but also seeing them as takers in society compared to his father’s work ethic. That part of the book really stood out to me.

I did have two issues that were difficult for me. First, all of the women in the book are pretty much defined by their breast size. Then there was the beginning of the book. It was not a pleasant start. The overly descriptive bodily function was difficult to get through, but if you can get through that first chapter, you will find a satisfying mystery with interesting characters.

Link to purchase Dinner at Deadman's

I received a review copy of this book in return for an honest and fair review.  I provide a link to to purchase the book, but it is only as a courtesy and I receive no compensation if purchased.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Concrete Kiss by David Grace

Detective Ned Danes is in a bind. He can keep quiet and an innocent man will go to jail or report misplaced information to the DA, make an enemy, and lose his job.  Fortunately, he has an old friend, FBI Agent Phil Abbot, who can help him out.  The bond that develops between these two men is an "I've got your back" friendship.

I liked the character of Ned Danes, and his work with cold cases drew me right in to the story.  I was a little disappointed when Ned fell into the background and Phil Abbot's story came to the front, but was pleased as the story progressed and the two of them teamed up again.

The character of Phil is an FBI agent who has adopted an autistic child with a tragic past.  She is able to communicate through her computer and uses her hacking talents to find a killer.  During Phil’s investigation a situation arises in which he now needs Ned’s help.  The back and forth with these two characters was a major theme of the book.  Just when I thought the story was wrapping up, Ned stumbles upon the answer to another cold case.   

Although I had a problem believing that FBI Agent Phil would allow his child to be involved with some of the illegal hacking, I still think The Concrete Kiss is another great book by David Grace.

I received a review copy of this book in return for an honest and fair review.  I provide a link to to purchase the book, but it is only as a courtesy and I receive no compensation if purchased.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Real Ghost Stories from the South by Kevin Bozard

This is a fun quick read with short stories from the state of South Carolina. There are some ghostly stories, some urban legends, and some just odd occurrences. I enjoy these local stories which, although mirror stories from other locations, always adapt to the atmosphere from which they are being told.  I found this little book while browsing for books for my Kindle. I also picked up the followup More Ghost Stories from the South by the same author, but I haven't read it yet.

Link for Real Ghost Stories from the South

I provide a link to to purchase the book, but it is only as a courtesy and I receive no compensation if purchased.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Hard Act to Follow by Henry Bushkin

A  Hard Act to Follow," is a non-fiction literary account of Henry Bushkin's tenure as Johnny Carson's lawyer, business partner, and friend. The book gives genuine insight into the 'Carson behind Johnny' with candid personal vignettes about the two, during the rollicking years when Johnny was the undisputed king of television. This is an engaging, eye-opening, anecdote-packed story about a young lawyer and his client, one of the biggest celebrities in the country. This funny, unfiltered account gives readers a look at the Johnny Carson that none but a select few really knew.  -Goodreads

Johnny Carson was king of the nighttime talk comedy show. Although several have tried, no comedian has replace that night time-slot in the same way that Johnny did so well. From his childhood disappointments to his multiple marriage problems, Mr. Bushkin's brings to light the private side of Carson's life.  It is an honest telling of his life and trials, but not a particularly flattering portrait of the man.  It is difficult to identify with the out of control lifestyle that high profile stars lead, and Johnny certainly battled his demons.  Even more surprising  is that a lawyer would spend his life running interference and cleaning up the messes left behind.

Language and adult situations alert for this book

I received an electronic copy of this book in return for my honest opinion of the book

For more information about the book see A Hard Act to Follow

Isle of Shadows by T.L. Higley

Tessa is a courtesan or high class prostitute longing for freedom. When her master dies, she uses his misfortune to create a new life for herself.

T.L. Higley is a very good writer, but this book didn't hold my attention.  The one thing I missed in his book was the sense of location. As I read another of her books, Petra: City of Stone, I was there at that location and could see, smell, and feel the locality. I also couldn't identify with the main characters.  

Well written, but not the type of book that draws me in, and a disappointment.

I received an electronic version of this book through the "bookSneeze" program.
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