Required Reading

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Books I have authored.

Many times I receive books for FREE to give them an honest review. I do not get paid to give a good or bad review. Spotlights are promotional and should be regarded as advertising for the book spotlighted. Regardless of where or how I got a book, my review will be as honest as I can make it.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Another year is gone and another year is starting. Can you look back over the last year and conclude that you spent your time in a worthwhile manner? If you can’t, now is the time to plan your new year. I will be so bold as to offer suggestions:

TELL the people you love that you love them. You think they know but make sure they know.

Take the time to explain something to a child. The key here is take the time, we are all busy but childhood is short. Don’t miss it.

Do something that may help someone else. Do it without looking for a reward of any type. Just do it!

Make family your top priority! If we all take care of our own, then they won’t be dependent on the charity of others which may not exist.

Practice tolerance, whether you recognize your own prejudices or not, be tolerant of others. Instead of emulating the demagogues who rant and rave on TV and radio, have pity on them for their narrow point of view.

Have enough sense to know that advice unasked for will probably be ignored.

I suspect that will be the result of this post, but one can always hope for a better new year.

Have a wonderful, happy and blessed New Year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Beastmaster Myth by Richard A Knaak and Sylvio Tabet

Dar communicates with beasts. His world is under attack by a technological devil. How Dar, his animals and his allies fare against a technological juggernaut is the meat of the story.

I generally enjoy this type of book. I wasn’t impressed with this book. The action was good and the evil was palatable. Maybe it was style but I just didn’t warm up to the book. I actually considered not finishing it. The characters were just too two dimensional. There is almost a cult following of the Beast Master so I must be missing something. I finished it and it wasn’t too bad.

Body of work of Richard A Knaak
Body of work of Sylvio Tabet


Web Site:

Web Site:

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Cruel Intent by J. A. Jance

Ali Reynolds just wanted to get into her house and make Thanksgiving dinner. Little did she know that a serial killer would thrust his ugly way into her hopes for a pleasant holiday.

This mystery really moved. Jance put the pedal to the metal and never let up. Ali is a likeable heroine who cares about people around her. She is tolerant of others and their differences. Her butler, Leland, provides her with a steady hand when she lets her emotions run away. Her relationship with her Mother and Dad came off as authentic and familiar. I found her a very believable character. Peter Winters, the psychopathic serial killer was almost stereotypically evil. He had no redeeming characteristics. Jance populated the book with characters that are entertaining and believable. The tension in the story and the action will provide every adrenal junkie a great rush. I liked the book enough to go out and get the three Ali Reynold’s novels that preceded it.

I highly recommend the book.

Body of work of J. A. Jance


Web Site:

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

“The Atlantis Revelation” by Thomas Greanias

Conrad Yeats is an Indiana Jones want to be. His archeological expertise seems to lead to unlikely adventures. This is the third book of the series. In this book Conrad addresses a international conspiracy to thrust the Middle East into armed conflict that will lead to a new world order.

Conrad is just shy of super hero status. It seems like he can’t miss when he shoots, that he can’t be killed and that he always finds a way to succeed. He out Bonds, James Bond. In spite of that infallibility, the book is entertaining and the plot is intricate enough to hold your attention. Conrad Yeats may be a direct descendant of Atlantans, this would explain the close regard he has for all things Atlantis. There is a simplistic aspect about the book that leads to a very fast read. That being said, I enjoyed the book enough to order the preceding books, “The Atlantis Prophecy” and “Raising Atlantis”. The book will not tax your intellect but it will entertain you.

I recommend the book.

Body of work of Thomas Greanias

Web site:

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Boots by Lisa Roman

This book is the story of a little girl who has nothing and who only thinks of others.

I don’t know that I have ever used the word “dear” in a review before but this story is dear. Melisa is adorable and you can’t help but feel for her. She provides a moral lesson that is important for kids to learn. Perhaps more importantly the adults reading it should think about the message. The illustrations will be very appealing to the little ones. It may say something about me, but I thought the illustrations were dear as well.

This book gave me a warm feeling, the style, the illustrations and the message.

I highly recommend it, I will be reading it to my 5 and 3 year old grandchildren.

Body of work of Lisa Roman

Monday, December 21, 2009

Deep Kiss of Winter by Kresley Cole and Gena Showalter

This book is really two separate short novels, “Untouchable” by Kresley Cole and “Tempt Me Eternally” by Gena Showalter. Cole’s story details the frustrations that a Valkyrie and a Vampire have when trying to consummate their love in the face of severe difference and social disapproval by each entities subgroup. Showalter’s story is about a shape shifter’s lust for an alien and his lust for her.

Kresley Cole’s story was one of the best written racy stories I have ever read. It is moving in quite a few ways. The characters are well done, colorful and detailed. The frustrations that the two protagonists deal with are painted realistically if you consider the genre. The plot was intricate and well developed.

Showalter’s story on the other hand had a very loose plot with the exception of the relationship between the alien Breean and Althea/Macy. That apparently was the intent, to just focus on the tumultuous love/hate relationship. The trappings of science fiction seemed almost like an afterthought. I suspect those who revel in this in depth, two person interplay will enjoy the story.

Both of these authors have had books on the New York Times best sellers list so keep that in mind when reflecting on my take.

If you are suffering from some lackluster aspects in your love life these stories may help to fire up the old engine.

Body of work of Kresley Cole
Body of work of Gena Showalter

Web sites:
Web Site

Sunday, December 20, 2009

An Interview with Barbara J. Smith Author of “A Surprise for Grandmother Rabbit”.

One of the joys of the Internet is the discovery of kindred souls that would otherwise never be met. I connected with Barbara on GoodReads. We have read each other’s books and concluded it would be fun to interview each other. What motivates people to write and how their backgrounds differ is always interesting. Her books are available through most book stores and online booksellers and from her website/blog.

1.) Why did you write this book? What initiated this particular burst of creativity?
Probably a combination of grandchildren, retirement and aging. I’ve been a freelance editor since the mid-1980s and have always dabbled in writing but have never actually put my skills to a test until now. My freelance editing background ranges from pre-school through college-level textbooks. At the same time I was a staff member at Princeton University. While there I was the managing editor for a scientific journal, Mammalian Genome, and also edited other departmental publications.
But due to my husband’s employment we relocated to the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. I retired early from the University and was determined to use my extra time to write – finally! At about the same time our first grandchild arrived. Despite my still busy schedule, I was not going to give up on my writing – I’m not getting any younger. And, so it began with A Surprise for Grandmother Rabbit.

2.) Does your story line develop organically or is it a gestalt before you begin?
 It develops as it goes along. Skipper, the main character, hops through the story visiting and trading with his farm and forest friends. He realizes rather late that he may have messed up big time. But it all works out in the end, of course.

3.) Is your process to outline and then fill in the blanks or just sit down and start to tell a story or ?
I tend to just sit down and type. Whatever will be will be. Often, what appears on the screen isn’t anything I would like to show another soul. But eventually, it will turn into a piece I’m willing to share.

4.) Do you have a favorite character in the book and if so why?
My favorite character has to be Skipper, but I also like how Grandmother Rabbit deals with the situation. Guess the mother/grandmother in me relates well with her.

5.) What do you like the most about writing?
Writing helps you escape from reality for awhile. We all lead such busy lives that we don’t take time to smell the flowers. As it is with reading, writing can be an escape from the busy chores of life.

6.) Where do your new story ideas come from?
I’ve gathered ideas over the years but have never put them into action. They can come from anywhere – nature, books, or from children themselves. Generally, something will pop into my head as I’m driving or walking or even food shopping. But many ideas come from my beautiful grandchildren. They are so funny and they definitely keep me on my toes!

7.) What advice has helped the most in your writing?
Be sure to sit down and write every day. I admit I don’t always follow this rule, but when I do I’m far more successful and can at least get a basic story written. I then leave it for a week or so and return to it to see how I feel about it and what I can do to make it better.

8.) Do you have any new books in progress?
I have a couple ideas. My first book, A Surprise for Grandmother Rabbit, has only recently hit the book shelves. It was dedicated to my first granddaughter. We have since had a second granddaughter, and so the pressure is on to write a sequel to A Surprise for Grandmother Rabbit. It’s in the works.

9.) Who is your favorite author and why?
This is a tough question. I read a lot and I love all the classics but I‘m also apt to read anything that comes along. Charlotte Bonte, Leo Tolstoy, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens – oh, the list goes on and on. One of my favorite modern authors is Richard Russo.

10.) What advice would you give for the want to be writer?
Write, write, write and don’t get depressed and give up. It takes a long time to get published. We all know about those rejection letters. Just keep on writing. It will happen, eventually.

I want to thank everyone who has helped me along the path to and since publication. This is all new to me and I find it’s actually harder to market the book than the writing and editorial phase of the process. I appreciate the pointers I receive from both my publisher and from all the more seasoned authors out there. And, I hope you’ll enjoy reading A Surprise for Grandmother Rabbit to your children and grandchildren.

Thank you Barbara for your insightful answers and for taking the time to be interviewed in this hectic holiday period.

Friday, December 18, 2009

What a Hullabaloo! By P.A. Whittington

This is a book of very witty poetry. It is filled with highly amusing, poetic stories of misbehaving kids, swiping food, brawling on playgrounds and just getting into mischief.

Whittington either had a misbegotten childhood or a good grasp of the life experiences of kids. I frankly don’t read poetry and I read this. I did laugh out loud several times; the liver under the table was one occasion. The UK vernacular threw me a couple of times but it also added whimsy to the work. The slug in the sandwich also elicited a laugh out loud. This is a very entertaining book.

I highly recommend the book.

Body of work of P. A. Whittington

Web site:



Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Better Part of Darkness by Kelly Gay

A female cop still takes heat in our so called enlightened society. Gay shows how hot it can get in a future that has put Charlie Madigan on the front line with an alien partner and a refusal to admit who she truly is. Plenty of action in a good mystery with scifi and urban fantasy co-mingled.

If you read my reviews at all, you know I like butt kicking females. It has been suggested that my family contains some delicate flowers who have the propensity and audacity to compete and win against the “stronger” gender. Charlie Madigan is a butt kicker, par excellent. Gay grounded the character with self doubt, a deep loyalty to those around her and an abiding affection for her daughter. Threats to family lie in the arena of unimaginable retaliation and revenge; I feel the author captured that essence with a lot of realism. Kelly Gay did a marvelous job painting the scenes. You felt like you were looking over Hank’s shoulder as he backed up Charlie.

I highly recommend the book and can't wait for the 2nd book.

Body of work of Kelly Gay


Web Site:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Magic Warble by Victoria Simcox

A social misfit finds her self in another world where she can save a kingdom and make new friends. Kristina Kingsley is a girl who doesn’t quite fit in. Her best friend is her pet rat, Raymond. Through magic she finds herself in Bernovem, a kingdom under the sway of an evil Queen. Her adventures there comprise the story.

All kids, at some point, feel like they don’t belong. This book will appeal to anyone who has felt like they may be slightly out of step with their peers. Kristina meets a wide variety of beings and shows no discomfort in accepting them. I’ve mentioned in past review how much I enjoy anthropomorphism. All the animals talk in the book and provide a different perspective. The story is a somewhat simplistic magic quest to save a kingdom. Simcox does a nice job in keeping the action coming while building her characterizations. I suspect this book will do well in the 4th to 6th grade reading groups.

I recommend the book.

Body of work of Victoria Simcox


Web Site:

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Bridezilla Who Stole Christmas by Lisa A. Maddock

This is the second of the Teddy and Pip stories. Teddy and Pip are guinea pigs who talk. The story is the tale of how Teddy and Pip influence Amelia & Wally’s (their owners) wedding. The tale is related by Molly their neighbor and friend.

This was a really cute story. Not to be ever repeated but the guinea pigs reactions to their being ignored reminded me somewhat of a 3 year old who is near and dear to my heart. Molly’s perspective seemed realistic for a 9 year old. The guinea pigs behavior just made me laugh, sometimes out loud. I have seen people bullied by their pets so Teddy and Pip’s behavior was all that far fetched. This book should make your child laugh out loug.

I highly recommend the book.

Body of work of Lisa A. Maddock

Web site:

Monday, December 14, 2009

Saving Christmas by Charles Noland

This is a Drew and Ellie story. There are three books that precede this book but that did not negatively impact the story. Drew and Ellie are brother and sister. They demonstrate creativity, compassion and selfness is this delightful tale of a Christmas miracle.

I really enjoyed this little book. Drew and Ellie are portrayed quite well as normal children. They display laudable concern for others in their reaction to newly adopted Maya. The story demonstrated normal age appropriate excitement over Christmas with a caring Mother helping the kids to see the true meaning of the holiday. When disaster strikes Drew and Ellie respond with caring, concern and creativity to truly make the first Christmas of Maya memorable. An added bonus is Ellie conquering a long held fear.

I like stories that demonstrate positive moral values without preaching or heavy handed moralizing. Noland portrayed some beautiful behavior in a sensitive yet entertaining manner.

I highly recommend the book. I plan on reading it to my grandchildren.

Body of work of Charles Noland

Web site:

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Jacob's Monkey- The Trouble with Lying by Kristi Sayles

Jacob tells his class he has a pet monkey. Jacob is fibbing and this story details the consequence of his lying and clearly demonstrates why it is wrong to lie.

I enjoyed the use of photos of real children for the illustrations in the story. I think it will enable the reader to better identify with Jacob and his dilemma.
Jacob discovers that one lie tends to lead to another and suddenly you are in a bit of a pickle. Jacob discovers that honesty is the best policy and reconciles with all those to whom he lied. It is a delightful story of right and wrong that clearly demonstrates the need for honesty.

I recommend the book.

Body of work of Kristi Sayles

Web site:

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Awesome Lavratt by Ann Wilkes

Junk yard dog meets con-artist with humorous consequences is the succinct description of the book. An artifact creates a traveling nightmare is another.

Horace the junk yard man was the only attractive character in the book. The rest of the characterizations were pretty much un-likeable. The consequences of mind control and domination are thoroughly exploited. The book is a quick read with no guffaws but some definite smiles.

I recommend it.

Body of work of Ann Wilkes

Review of the book:


Friday, December 11, 2009

A Surprise for Grandmother Rabbit by Barbara J. Smith

Skipper is a bunny with a fondness for cherry pie. He must see a cherry pie get safely to his grandmother’s house. His experiences along the way comprise the story.

I read this story to my 5 and 3 year old grandchildren. They enjoyed the colorful illustrations. They were concerned about Skipper successfully getting the cherry pie to his grandmother. They were not convinced that he was going to get the job done. Smith successfully captured their attention and their concern regarding Skipper’s task. Skipper exhibited sharing and responsibility, always good lessons for this age child. The relationship Skipper has with his grandmother and his mother is well illustrated. This is a cute book and when I asked the 5 year old how she liked it she said, “I liked it, Skipper was cool.” I found the illustrations adorable; the three year old liked the bunny.

I recommend the book.

Body of work of Barbara J. Smith

Web site:

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Guest Post by Michael Estepa, Author of “Purged by Darkness”.

Are the police making any progress with organized crime?

In my opinion, yes they are, but the law enforcement are a long way from completely ridding the world of organized crime. While it is well documented that the once powerful La Cosa Nostra is now on its last legs, there will always be other organized crime gangs to take over, if the law does succeed in wiping them out.

The quote “Your enemies become stronger on what you leave behind” is a perfect example of what I said previously (this quote was said during the movie of The Godfather II). During the time of prohibition in America, the Irish and Jewish mobs were the most dominant then the Italian mob took over. If the law succeeds, there’s always the motorcycle outlaw clubs, the Russian Mafiya, Asian organized crime gangs, Hispanic or African American gangs who are waiting in line - fighting to take over.

With tough new anti gang laws in place and local, state, federal and international law enforcement agencies making an effort to work together, it seems gangsters are finding it difficult to make a living in the modern age. While it may be difficult, it is not impossible. The one thing I have learnt about gangsters is that they are incredibly resilient. In my book, Purged by Darkness the reader will see just how many enterprises both legal and illegal gangsters are involved in to earn a living. Gangsters will look at all the angles and make money out of areas you thought there was no money to be made. Just like the law, gangsters are constantly evolving. They have to if they want to survive.

You may think all is lost, but you couldn’t be farther from the truth. “The best cure is prevention” and by educating our youth of today we empower them with knowledge to make the conscious choice to stay clear of a life of crime. At the end of the day, it really comes down to that individual caught in this crossroad to make the right choice.

My thanks to Michael for taking the time to do a guest post for my blog.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Purged by Darkness by Michael Estepa Author

Life in a gang is depicted in an almost text book manner. The rise and subsequent disillusionment of a “boss” is depicted. Kai’s struggles with his self identity and his life goals smash against tradition’s harsh walls.

The book was hard to like. Estepa paints a sad portrait of young men pulled into a life by tradition and greed. The love and loyalty they have for each other and the disillusion with the life style provide a counterpoint to the casual acceptance of lethal violence as a business tool. Kai’s introspection and his eventual personal redemption by his own hand show the stark reality of how youthful indiscretion can lead to adult despair.

I recommend the book, it isn’t an easy read but it may provide better insight to the motivation of the young men who fill the ranks of gangs worldwide regardless of their society.

Body of work of Michael Estepa



Sunday, December 6, 2009

I,Alex Cross By James Patterson

Alex Cross faces yet another threat to his family. Set in the real world of political intrigue and back stabbing, Alex faces the seamy side of Washington D.C. that directly impacts his family.

Alex Cross loves his family passionately. I like that aspect of his character. He jumps in with both feet and treads where angels would fear to tread. Alex bows to no authority, none whatsoever. In this book he faces political pressure beyond belief and stands solid. A foe he can’t face attacks one of his most beloved relatives and he sits on the sidelines watching others fight that fight for him. The mystery was intriguing with plenty of disturbing action. This was a masterful and classic Patterson.

I highly recommend it.

Body of work of James Patterson

Review of the book:

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Amanda Knox Outrage

My last post posed hypothetically that anti-Americanism may have played a part in Amanda Knox’s ludicrous conviction. After doing a web search, it appears that I am not the only one that questions the basis of the conviction. It appears that this young woman is being a scapegoat to the rabid anti-American feelings in a very conservative Italian community. The more I read, the more I am outraged. Here is a link to a site that summarizes the case. Don’t just read this article look at others and make up your mind. If you are as outraged as I am, email or call your congressman and senator, perhaps official pressure may help.

I have found a website that claims to be the Amanda Knox defense fund. I have emailed the Associated Press and asked if their reporter, Gene Johnson who has done many stories on the Amanda Knox case, can verify if the website is legitimate. If it is legitimate, I am going to donate, that family is taking an emotional and financial beating.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Italian Justice, An Oxymoron?

If you don’t know who Amanda Knox is, you are probably living in a cave. I am sure I don’t know enough to rant about the jury’s verdict but I do have to question how it was reached. If the news reports are accurate, there was no, repeat NO forensic evidence to show that Miss Knox was ever in the room where the murder took place. Somehow that seems to indicate reasonable doubt. Of course reasonable doubt is part of the judicial process in the good old US of A. It doesn’t appear that is the case for the Italian judicial process. One hesitates to suggest that the seeming mindless pursuit of a guilty plea regardless of evidence may be indicative of the European dislike of Americans in general. It would truly be a tragic miscarriage of justice if a young woman is sentenced to 26 years in prison primarily due to her nationality.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Once A Witch by Carolyn MacCullough

“Once A Witch” is a delightful coming of age story. Tamsin perceives herself as an outsider in her own family. The family universally displays “talent”. Tamsin shows no signs of following the hereditary skill set of her family of witches. How she works through this problem and the relationships she establishes are the gist of the book.

MacCullough captured the essence of teenage angst. As a counselor, I saw many teens searching for personal identity and MacCullough portrayed this search with accuracy and sensitivity. The story line was good, it recognized that even good people may find themselves doing bad things for the “greater” good. The relationships and the soul searching were believable. I suspect this will be a very successful series.

I highly recommend it.

Body of work of Carolyn MacCullough

Review of the book: