I specialize in reviewing Print-On-Demand (POD) published books for my website and Midwest Book Review. Please query for a review by email to hgunther234@hotmail.com.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

LANTERNS IN THE MIST by Edward Fotheringill

Lanterns in the Mist
Edward Fotheringill
Cockeysville, MD 21030
Booklocker.com, Inc.

Genre: Mystery/Metaphysical/Thriller
ISBN: 1591138841, $14.95, 240 pp, 2006

Lanterns in the Mist is the most enjoyable book I have read since I began reviewing POD published books . . . for both the story and the beautiful quality of writing. About the story, I quote from the back cover:

"Part murder mystery, part philosophical discourse, part supernatural thriller, this novel explores the unexpected dimensions of both the light and dark sides of human nature. At the still center of the world lies the energy of pure potentiality, pure possibility. As that energy unfolds outward and manifests itself, anything can happen. We human being are left to interpret the happenings and endure them. We are rarely successful at either."

"Set in and around Baltimore, Maryland, the story chronicles the intersection of several lives gone strangely off course. At the center of it all is Father Dick Byron, a renegade Catholic priest who, despite his loss of faith in Christianity, has become an instrument of God. What Byron discovers is that life on earth is not unlike a Shakespearian drama where the forces of nature, however, inscrutable, are not to be denied."

This story is unique with its many twists and turns and spiritually enriched by metaphysical elements woven expertly throughout the fabric. To my mind, the author tells it like it is, plus he has a refreshing style of writing--short chapters moving to you-know-not-where, which do not fill in all the details, and yet, you understand what has happened. The attractive cover was designed by Julie Sartain.

The book begins with:
"Dreams. Dreams in the unfolding fertile awareness of the human race. Flickering images, never completely transparent, appearing and disappearing across the screen of human consciousness. Dreams breathe through the pulse of a subject, inner landscape which is, at the same time, paradoxically personal and collective. Some dreams flash-out during the waking state. They pick us up and compel us towards our destiny. Some dreams germinate out of the sleeping state. They reveal fragments of meaning, fragments of our possibilities. They are the fabric out of which myths are woven."

"Then, there is The Dream. The Dream in the Mind of God. This Dream has no boundaries, neither personal nor universal. It includes everything because it includes no-thing. Everything possible in the waking state is there. Everything possible in the sleeping state is there. This Dream displays no fragments, only the totality of pure possibility. This dream harbors all myths before their time."

I highly recommend this book to mystery lovers, to readers in search of themselves, to readers on a spiritual path, and to intelligent readers who can appreciate the author's literary gifts.

Edward Fotheringill has taught philosophy for 24 years, from 1979 to 2003. He is currently a free-lance jazz drummer in Baltimore, Maryland, and leader of the Ten Directions Jazz Group. He and his wife, Linda, divide their time between Baltimore and Bridgewater, Vermont. I hope we will see more novels by this very talented author. Thanks for the great read!

Reviewed by Kaye Trout - April 15, 2006 - Copyright

Thursday, April 13, 2006

THE GRIFFON TRILOGY by Andrea & Douglas Murphy

The Griffon Trilogy
Andrea & Douglas Murphy
Published by: Andrea & Douglas Murphy
Booklocker.com, Inc.
Genre: Medical/Thriller
ISBN: 1931391912, $13.95, 236 pp, 2001

About the story . . . quoting from the back cover, and I couldn't have said it better:

"A beautiful young woman suffers a brain injury during an accident in a car chase. The medical rescue team helicopters her to the local community hospital, and ultimately she end up on the service of Dr. John Bishop, a handsome, rehab doctor only a few years out of his residency. Despite a stable medical condition, she dies suddenly and mysteriously in the middle of the night. The event throws the young doctor into unexpected crises as he is caught between an angry, unforgiving family and an international crime cartel bent on his destruction. The struggle for truth and exoneration takes John through some of the most trying adventures of his life as he travels the world in search of answers. The Griffon Trilogy: Part I brings into focus some of the toughest questions surrounding science and medicine in a story that tears at the fabric of life in a blend of danger, mystery and romance."

Although this is a familiar story, the authors make this mystery thriller a page-turning read. The first few lines, besides being the hooker, give you a sense for the authors' poetic ear . . . "On a humid August day at dusk, a beautiful woman in her twenties drove recklessly down a winding country road outside of Baltimore, Maryland in a navy, 500 series BMW. Her hands were sweating from fear, and repeatedly she glanced into the rearview mirror toward the empty road behind."

Dr. John Bishop does indeed find himself in a big mess, and it is his ex-girlfriend, Cristina Gabriella "Gabby" Elizabeth Stavros, who guides and helps him in his search for information about the dead woman, Eva Bentley. Gabby is always handing him a plane ticket and sending him off to some foreign place--Budapest, Hungary to start. The mysterious Rudolf, who hands him an envelope, tells him: "You have stepped on the tail of the dragon and you do not know it. . . . The forces in this country, against which I fight, know about your trip and your purpose. For them you know too much and thus now they want to killl you. Assassination is one of their strengths. Stay more than two or three days here and you are a dead man. So my last message is, get out. Fast. Take the next plane out of here." The death of others and attempts on his life follow Dr. Bishop everywhere he goes.

It certainly must be wonderful to have the imagination to create the unusual and interesting situations in which John finds himself and how he gets out of his predicaments. It is my take that the story is heavy on intrigue and mystery and light on the romance. Genetic engineering and worldwide crime cartels are indeed contemporary issues of concern.

It is my opinion that this is a well-written page-turner and kept my interest to the end. I liked their style of writing and especially appreciated the darker print, which made for easier reading.

I do not know much about Andrea but Doug Murphy lives in Virginia where he works as a physician in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (physiatry). Doug has written a second book titled, Translator's Kiss.

Reviewed by Kaye Trout - April 13, 2006 - Copyright

Monday, April 10, 2006


The Autobiography of a Narcissist
Jonathan Foster
Early Morning Press
1731 Brown Street, Napa, Ca 94559
Genre: Literary Fiction
ISBN: 159113871X, $15.95, 260 pp, 2006

In this "fictional" autobiography, twenty-seven year old Tyler LePerdu shares his journal with us–a journal begun at the suggestion of his mandatory-to-receive-his-inheritance therapist, Jean, which tells us ‘maybe’ this man has a problem.

And, of course, such a journal can’t help but be somewhat narcissistic (an excessive interest in oneself and one’s physical appearance) as it reflects one man’s perspective on life based on his experience and observations. Tyler’s focus on his appearance and that of others–the "Beautiful Class"–certainly is part of his problem and what does that say of our culture in general? Stephen King’s thoughts about sanity from Danse Macabre are: "we are all insane . . . just to different degrees."

So, what is the heart of Tyler’s problem as he searches for Love? . . . to Love and be Loved, which he knows instinctively exists, though he has not experienced it. He shares with us that at an early age he shut down his emotions after hearing his beautiful mother slam her bedroom door so as not to hear him crying. From that night, Tyler was at odds with his insensitive, socially-active, money-controlling mother, somewhat reminiscent of Harold and Maude, though Tyler was not obsessive about death . . . he was obsessive about appearances.

He believes that he is in Love with Susanna, an exceptional beauty, but is unable to tell her. The ending of this Love is the beginning of Tyler’s reconnection with reality and his emotions.

Here are three excerpts which I feel are central to the story and which illustrate the author’s style and gift.

First excerpt is from page 56:
I submit to you, my dear reader, that now more than ever mankind hungers for the guidance of Beautiful Class! In this rapidly changing world where a scientific theory can be unveiled, awarded and then disproved in the same week; a world where new computers are obsolete before they’re taken from the shelf; a world where street lingo changes by the hour and where the imprisonment of our favorite movie star can leave us curiously unsettled, mankind needs the stability that a beautiful face can bestow. We need a cultural continuity that can only be provided by someone tall and tan and young and lovely. You see, in the modern world, beauty is no longer merely an aesthetic preference; it has developed into a source of cultural security that is more comforting than any mother’s arms, more calming than any known antidepressant, and more solid than the planet Earth itself!

Second excerpt is from page 57:
Before I launch into the story of our second meeting, however, let me remind you that by the time she (Susanna) walked into my life, I was so far differentiated from the common experience that I’d begun to accept that a life of solitude was my destiny. I’d realized at a very young age that mine was a very different road in life. Mine was a road less traveled by people. Rather, a road with virtually no other travelers on it . . .

I’m sure this must sound to you like a very sad existence, that of all the roads to be traveling on, mine is the road most lonesome. It is. The only real way to survive it is by coming to a complete and honest acceptance of solitude. It requires courage and determination. It requires that one avoid the pitfalls of self-doubt and its red-headed stepchild, depression; that one keep a watchful eye on Emotion’s clever and never-ending little shelf game; that one maintain strict standards of self-worth by being very selective about whom one gets too friendly with. These things I have long since achieved. I have always known that my life was meant to be lived by myself. Still, I have always secretly held a hope that one day I would discover someone just like me standing in the middle of my path. A bird of my own feather. A Frick to my Frack. Someone in whom I would see the same seeing of the same someone in me. But much more than holding hope, I was determined, if only for my desire to find Love. I knew that I needed to find that rare someone who was programmed with my same intuitive wiring to accept the obvious "what" and move on to ask the "why" of Love.

Third excerpt is from page 69:
"How the hell can you find something of your own in someone else?"

"By listening," she said. "By truly listening with the whole of your heart. Not just hearing the words and sounds coming from the person you wish to Love. Not by seeing their expressions and gestures, and then in turn, responding appropriately. Not even by respect for their individuality or admiration for their special qualities or acknowledgment of their overall importance. No. By listening. Listening. Listening to the entirety of their lives with the unbridled curiosity of a small child. And in the end, that is precisely what Love is: Listening."

As for style, Jonathan Foster knows how to set the hook . . . with the unexpected and a laugh, and I quote from the opening paragraph:

My penis is quite good looking, really. It has a classic shape, is of healthy length and is boldly circumcised as though much too proud to hide its true form beneath a shroud of foreskin. Its girth is substantial and of admirable consistency for all of its length. In its disinterested state, it hangs down with perfect symmetry between my thighs, most notably when I stand with my feet eight to thirteen inches apart, knees slightly bent. When interested, it . . .

He plays his catch and pulls you in with his rich, titillating vocabulary, expert language skills, a casual, intimate tone and memorable metaphors. Then, he brings you full circle to close with . . .

My entire understanding of my own manhood has evolved. And though I feel a tinge of sadness when I say it, I know now that whether flaccid or erect, admired or unobserved, in truth, sometimes a penis is just a penis.

I read a lot books, and they all have something to offer. But, what a "Treat" when you open a new book and the author just grabs you and doesn’t let go. Jonathan Foster is one such author. I truly envy his gift and language skills. Whether or not you like egocentric, psychological-case-study, journal-type stories, you might enjoy this book just for the pleasure of experiencing good craftsmanship . . . for writing is indeed a craft.

As it says on the back cover, Jonathan Foster is a screenwriter and playwright living in Napa, CA. The Autobiography of a Narcissist is his first novel, and I’m certain it won’t be his last. It is of superior quality and will be the third novel included in my "In Search of Excellence POD Book List."

Reviewed by Kaye Trout - April 10, 2006 - Copyright

Saturday, April 08, 2006


The Rose Sisters Trilogy
Victoria Rose
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Parker, CO, USA
ISBN: 1598001663, $15.95, 399 pp. 2005


This story is about three sisters from the destroyed planet Gareth who come to Earth. Gareth was a smaller, older planet, and the sisters’ brains, bodies and culture are more evolved than ours. There are three sisters and three interwoven stories.

I found this book to be uniquely different from the standard run-of-the-mill, formula-type novels, as it does not fit into one particular genre. It is really multi-genre, and if I had to classify it, I'd select science fiction/new wave: science fiction because it's about alien, shape-shifting women and new wave because it deals with the softer sciences–psychology, ecology, sociology, overpopulation, religion. However, there are strong facets of romance, mystery and erotica.

I can't say this is a fast-paced read because there are technical, historical, and philosophical elements which, if you want to learn something from the book, you need to slow down to absorb. She includes factual material about the physics of light, sexual anatomy, functions and areas of the brain, dance theories of Isadora Duncan, Native American cuisine and recipes, and historical information about Comanche Indians.

Her style of writing is smooth, her characters come to life, and there are elements of humor. The author’s theme is strong and clear. Here is an excerpt: (Christina is telling Mac something about her culture.)

"Wars . . . why would we have wars? We are all one community working to care for our planet and our future generations. I'm sorry, but because your people do not understand that they are one community, they are not caring for your living planet very well. Actually, they are slowly killing it out of ignorance, greed, and selfish desires for power and control. Why would intelligent people want to drop bombs and make holes in the living organism that feeds them? Why would they want to pollute the air they breathe and the water they drink? My sisters and I have concluded that the level of human intelligence among the leaders of your countries is not very high. A simple ant colony has more intelligence."

This novel is a compelling blend of fact and fiction and would appeal to adult readers who are looking for something different–an educational, fun, thought-provoking story. The climax may not be as dramatic as some might like, and there is an issue which is not resolved–the hook for her sequel, Trust Me, the Devil Said.

Other books by Victoria Rose include: Cloud Hidden, Whereabouts Unknown (the erotic version of The Rose Sisters Trilogy); Christina - A Sci-Fantasy Romance; Toni - A Sci-Fi Fantasy Romance; Josy - A Sci-Fi Romance; Trust Me, the Devil Said, and her first nonfiction book, Ladies, Are You Lost? - Options for Women in Unhealthy Relationships.

Reviewed by Nicki Van Ness - April 8, 2006 - Copyright

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


The Affairs of Maggie Trenter
Thomas Villiers
Authors Online Ltd
19, The Cinques, Gamlingay,
Sandy, Bedfordshire SG19 3NU
Genre: Detective/Crime
ISBN 0755200306, 153 pp, 2001

AFFAIRS is certainly an apt title as Maggie Trenter had one with just about every man in the book, with the exception of the police department and possibly the landlord, Jim O'Reilly.

Maggie was one of George Black's agency girls hired out to local companies to fill in as background at promotional and social events. This was where she met and seduced her men.

Six such men, who met regularly at the Victoria Inn for camaraderie, were the prime suspects because they all had been blackmailed by this beautiful temptress. The stories of how each man became involved with Maggie unfold in flashbacks and then it's time for Detective Inspector Pierre L'Villiers's interrogations. There were a few clues here and there about Maggie's Irish background, but who could have guessed the rest?

If you like detective-type mysteries, you'll probably enjoy this book. It's a fast read and the book has a great cover. However, this is my take: 1) Nothing was revealed to make me believe Maggie cared an iota about anything other than herself; 2) I don't care to be led through six men's flashbacks and murder interrogations to an end with no connection--why not just read the last chapter? and 3) How sad the condition of man, but . . . if it were not so, we'd have no story, would we?

Thomas Villiers is married with a son and two daughters plus three grandchildren and lives in Sands, High Wycombe, Bucks, England. Other books by the author include: For the Love of Marie, a fantasy relationship novel, Nightshield and The Mind Readers', science fiction novels.

Reviewed by Kaye Trout - April 4, 2006 - Copyright

Sunday, April 02, 2006

THE LAST JAGUAR by Bruce Bradley

The Last Jaguar
Bruce Bradley
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Parker, CO 80134
Genre: Fiction/Historical Western
ISBN: 1598001906, $13.95, 224 pp, 2006

This story takes place in the Sierra mining town of Grass Valley in 1858. Widowed rancher Tom Allison is the pivotal protagonist involved in a web of suspense and danger when he discovers that a huge jaguar has pulled down one of his 1,000-pound longhorn steers and dragged it a quarter mile. While tracking the cat with his neighbor John Bowden, a retired military captain, he also discovers the brutal murder of the Anderson family by a giant, renegade Indian named Dark Rose.

There are many facets and sub-stories within this story and points of view: Tom Allison’s children, Tyler age 10 (becoming a man) and Mattie age 12 (becoming a young woman); Ollie Barton, a little Irish man, and his conflict with Zeller; the Richard Palin family’s tragedy (wife, Anne, sons, Lyle and Sean); Lorelei Crane’s relationship with the jaguar and Sean; Kate Foster’s boardinghouse and relationship with John Bowden; the jaguar from his point of view; and Dark Rose, from his.

I am going to quote an excerpt from page 200 to give you an idea of the quality and style of the Bruce Bradley’s writing:

For days now, Death had been watching him. Dark Rose had felt its presence. Twice he had glimpsed Death standing just behind his left shoulder.

Dark Rose did not fear Death. His was a warrior’s vision of the world. He looked at his Death as a friend, ever there to remind him that each moment, each breath might be his last. His awareness of Death guided him and made each action he took one of clear intent.

This wasn’t the first time that Death had made his presence known to Dark Rose, but the fact that Death had chosen this particular time to follow him, coupled with the visions Dark Rose had begun having while asleep led the Indian to believe his time might actually be near.

Two white men had begun to invade his sleep–one light-eyed, the other dark. Both men wore grim, determined faces. Death hovered around the two, just as it followed Dark Rose. Unlike him, however, they were unaware of its presence. Few white men ever seemed to sense the presence of Death even when it was standing next to them. Few white men had eyes that saw what was obvious.

This is a true western novel and has a number of dark characters, all with their own agendas. It is a work of fiction; however, there are a number of parts which are historically accurate: The deaths of Rose, Glass and Menard in 1833, the descriptions of the towns of Grass Valley and Nevada City, CA, the history of the Empire Mine, the fact that jaguars did live in California at the time of the story.

The author begins with the problem of a rogue jaguar threatening Tom’s livestock and brings us full circle to close when the jaguar returns. This is a good story, well-written, and will definitely appeal to western genre lovers. Bruce Bradley is a strong, straight forward writer–a man’s writer–who surprises us now and then with bits of wisdom and sensitivity.

Bruce Bradley grew up living in California and Alaska. He has worked at many jobs: Cook, Sheet Metal Worker, Taxi Driver, Newspaper Reporter, Photographer, Private Investigator, Bartender and Winemaker. He published his first book, Hugh Glass, in 1999.

I thoroughly enjoyed your story, Bruce, and look forward to your next book.

Reviewed by Kaye Trout - April 2, 2006 - Copyright