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.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


Dumbo Books of Brooklyn
72 Conselyea Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211
Genre: Fiction/Humor
Rating: Unusual
ISBN: 1411657969, $12.95, 177 pp, 2006

Highly Irregular Stories is, indeed, a most appropriate title for this compilation of prior writings: Disjointed Fictions, Eating at Arby’s, The Greatest Short Story That Absolutely Ever Was and Narcissism and Me.

Richard Grayson opens with: "The anarchist’s bomb that killed Czar Alexander II in St. Petersburg in 1881 led to the Russian pogroms and the anti-Semite May Laws of 1882. To these events we Americans owe countless things: the comedy of Woody Allen and Lenny Bruce; the popularity of psychoanalysis . . ."

It’s interesting that Woody Allen and psychoanalysis are first among his list and that’s just what I was feeling as I read this book. Grayson has taken that Woody Allen-type New York humor about a self-deprecating, neurotic, talented man one step further into the twilight zone.

As I’m not a New Yorker and never could fully appreciate Woody Allen’s humor, I’ll let the book stand on its own. My experience of reading Eating at Arby’s about Manny and Zelda in downtown Miami brought back memories of learning to read with Dick and Jane. It almost has the same rhythm and meaningful depth. We were just missing "See Spot run."

But to be fair, I would like to quote from Myself Redux which I particularly enjoyed: one, for the historical perspective and two, for the Kurt Vonnegut-flavor of humor:

""On Wednesday, the thirteenth day of October in the year many people call 49 B.C., Caius Julius Caesar, a Roman general, crossed the ancient watery boundary between Cisaplin Gaul and Italy known as the River Rubicon, thus making immortal the phrase "to cross the Rubicon," meaning "to take a decisive and irrevocable step."

Precisely two millennia later, on Wednesday, the thirteenth of October in the Christian year 1951, my Jewish parents took a decisive and irrevocable step in a room of the Quality Courts Motel outside Corning, New York. Within a week, the embryo that was to become the person writing these words was as large as one of Caius Julius Caesar’s fingernails. A tube formed within the embryo. This enlarged at a certain point, and then it began to pulsate. Eventually this pulsating tube developed into a four-chambered organ which circulated the fluid known as blood throughout my body.

On Sunday, October 17, 1971, 185 years and one day after the establishment of the United States Bureau of the Mint, I decided that my four-chambered pulsating organ had been broken because I had found the 18-year-old female whom I described as my "girlfriend" in bed with my 16-year-old brother, their four-chambered organs pulsating rapidly.

One week later, on the twenty-sixth anniversary of the establishment of the United Nations, I attempted to stop the pulsating of my four-chambered organ by making a three centimeter incision with a razor blade across my left wrist.

The following Monday, October 25, 1971, known that year as "Veterans Day" due to federal legislation enacted to give citizens a three-day holiday weekend, I found myself in the offices of the clinical psychologist Marilyn Wertheim, crying into a tissue.""

The story goes on to tell us: his girlfriend becomes pregnant, his brother is killed when hit by a bus, he marries his girlfriend, she has the baby, he doesn’t know whether he’s a father or an uncle, the baby dies, and they annul the marriage. There’s more but that will give you an idea of the beginning.

So, if you’re a Woody Allen fan and using the same stuff as Richard, you just might enjoy this book and a trip into the twilight zone.

Richard Grayson is a prolific writer and to appreciate who he is, what he has accomplished and what he has written, I refer you to his website:

Reviewed by Kaye Trout - June 21, 2006 - Copyright

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

CLOUDS ARE ALWAYS WHITE ON TOP - Flying the Box the B-17 Flying Fortress Came In by Nolan Lewis

One-off Publishing
11 Farmers Heath, Wirral, CH66 2GX, Great Britain
Genre: Fictional WWII Memoir
Rating: Highly Recommended
ISBN: 0952260336, $28.95, 276 pp, 2006

To let you know what this book is about, I will quote from the back cover:

"This gripping story begins in 1943 when the Nazi war machine had subdued most of Western Europe.

A very young Ted Norman pilots an American B-24 bomber of the 448th Bomb Group as part of the Allied effort to win the war in Europe. Casualties are high with 1 in 20 aircraft missing-in-action every mission. As the bombing raids push ever further into enemy territory, Ted is forced to reach the very limit of his own endurance in order to become the Captain his men are depending on.

This is a work of fiction, but the 448th Bomb Group, Very Heavy, was real. The 448th was based for eighteen months in Seething, England, during which time they lost 137 planes to all causes, with a maximum of 48 B-24s assigned at any one time."

Nolan Lewis has created from his own experiences of World War II this fictional novel about a B-24 bomber pilot, Lieutenant Theodore Norman. Ted certainly comes to life for us right from page one as he sits next to Captain Hansen waiting to take off for his first bombing run over Germany. By page 22 Ted has a problem:

"Suddenly all hell breaks loose. The bombardier, who was down under and forward of Ted’s feet is gone, along with the whole front of the plane. The temperature is somewhere around thirty degrees below zero and he has about a two-hundred-mile-an-hour wind blowing up between his feet. The ship begins to fall off on the left wing so he looks over at the Captain.

For the first time he realizes that the left windscreen is also gone, along with most of the Captain’s head.

Next, he gets a panicky feeling. He’s going blind! Everything is going dark. He wipes his hand across his face and realizes that it’s blood running down into his eyes from a scalp wound, but he doesn’t have enough hands to keep it and the ship both under control.

By this time the huge bomber is practically upside down. They are picking up speed real fast. He chops the throttles, hauls back on the wheel, and wracks it to the right, but realizes he’s fighting the weight of the Captain’s body that is slumped over the left wheel. He calls the navigator and says, ‘Jesus Christ, Glen, get up here and give me a hand.’

The spin has progressed to the point where Shannon has to fight his way forward. It seems like hours, but is probably less than half a minute before he reaches the cabin.

Shannon takes one look and says, ‘Holy shit!’ He stands frozen for a couple of seconds before he can digest the mess he has found and begin to move."

Besides describing the dangers of flying B-24s over Germany, the author writes about Ted’s luck with the English ladies, his regular nightmares, his feelings about the men lost to war, and his feelings about flying–the only thing he was really good at. After 42 flights over Germany and shortly after returning to the US, Ted requests a discharge. He thinks he’ll get a job as a pilot and applies at United Airlines.

The interviewer says, "‘Plenty of hours. B-24, B-29. Mostly four-engine. That’s good.’ As he continues to read he suddenly says, ‘Jesus. Is this right?’

When Ted leans forward to check what he’s referring to, the finger is on his date of birth. At Ted’s nod he says, ‘But that makes you only twenty years old?’"

April 1, 1951 Ted is recalled to active duty and assigned to 403rd Troop Carrier Wing to fight in Korea. His response is: ‘Korea . . . What the hell’s a Korea?’

And in conclusion: "Suddenly he’s gripped by a heady exhilaration. He’s going back where he belongs. Back to his world. Where he knows what he’s doing. Back to where he’s the best. Where he doesn’t have to make excuses. Maybe this time he will qualify for the order of the wooden cross and be done with it."

If you like well-written, realistic war stories, you won’t be disappointed by this author. There’s a lot to be learned in subtle ways through another person’s experiences. The book includes a photo of Nolan Lewis at age16 in his Air Force cadet uniform. Nolan currently lives in Ione, WA.

Forty-two flights over Germany and home by age 20. Unbelievable!

Reviewed by Kaye Trout - June 20, 2006 - Copyright

Sunday, June 18, 2006

THE TAKERS: Book One of the Oz Chronicles by R.W. Ridley

BookSurge, LLC
Genre: Fiction/Fantasy
Rating: Good
ISBN: 1419609580, $14.99, 226 pp, 2005

I would classify this story as "low fantasy" as it is set in the world as we know it but a nonrational event has occurred which is not explainable, rationally or irrationally, by natural law. And with regard to themes and types within fantasy, the sword-and-sorcery would be the closest. This is the world of adventure in which heroes (Oz) and heroines (Lou) wage epic combat with evil forces. Oz did indeed have a sword, J.J., which had belonged to James J. Petty, a Union Officer in the Civil War.

Our young hero, 13-year-old Osmond "Oz" Giffith, wakes from an illness to discover he is alone except for his dog, Kimball. In his search for others he soon finds himself responsible for a baby, Nate–a Storyteller, and meets up with Wes, an old mechanic, and Lou, a young girl. Next he befriends Ajax, an American-Sign-Language-talking gorilla and Wes finds two horses, Phil and Ryder. He knows that there are monsters of some kind–the Takers (sometimes called Greasywhoppers because you cannot say the name), and he feels that this nightmare has something to do with stories written by Stevie Dayton, a Down Syndrome boy whom he and friends had teased and who had taken his own life. Oz seems to know that the answers are in Stevie’s last comic book.

If you like monsters, you won’t be disappointed because there certainly are more than one, and I quote from page 175 to give you some idea of the writer’s style:

"The man we thought was Shaw was pinned beneath Ajax’s massive 400-pound frame, and began to morph before our eyes. His round shape shifted into a long slender build. Thin, hairy tentacles sprouted from his face and head. His eyes bulged and turned milky white. He opened his mouth and two vertical pinchers shot out and snapped at Ajax. The military uniform was replaced by a black tattered uniform that left some of the creature’s purple skin exposed. It began to squawk like a bird. The sound suddenly started to come at us from all sides. Looking around the arena, we saw half of Pepper’s men undergo the same change as Shaw. They pounced on their former comrades. The thrashing tentacles held tight to the victims’ faces while the pinchers cut through to their brains."

R. W. Ridley is a gifted storyteller with a rich imagination who has created a complex quest on multi levels which keeps the pages turning. He has that Stephen King quality of being able to write from an adolescent’s perspective and reality. Teens are not always kind and Oz was no exception.

Besides appealing to adolescents, The Takers will appeal to anyone of any age who enjoys a good fantasy, and remember, within fantasy sometimes a difficult truth can be told. I’ll be looking forward to Book Two.

R. W. Ridley tells us that he lives in Charleston, South Carolina, with his beautiful wife, a hyperactive dog, three arrogant cats, and one ugly mortgage.

Reviewed by Kaye Trout - June 18, 2006 - Copyright

Saturday, June 17, 2006

AURORA BOREALIS by Kristin Shoemaker

Lulu Press
Genre: Fiction/Dark Comedy (?)
Rating: Not Recommended
ISBN: 141169242X, $14.95, 228 pp, 2006

This story is described by the author as a "study in what it takes to send the most unlikely person over the edge" and in the press release as "dark comedy."

The plot is not complicated. Alice Pendleton, who has just received her first book contract, allows her scheming older sister Aurora, who has fallen on hard times, to move in and take over her home and life. While Aurora works to sabotage Alice’s career, the days turn into years, five to be exact. Alice, with the support of her new husband Ron, the Fed Ex man, decides to kill Aurora.

I quote from the opening to give you an idea of the author’s writing style:

""For five years now I have lived. . . lived with that scourge. Today it ended, quickly, with only a few wet gurgles and a couple of stains on the rug. I thought I’d feel guilty. Ha! And did I feel guilty when I quit drinking? No. Did I feel guilty when I quit smoking? Hell, no! So why should I feel guilty about starting to really live again?

But I’m getting ahead of myself. It started five years ago now, the day after my first book was accepted at an up-and-coming press somewhere in Kansas, someplace I’ve never been to and never hope to visit. Someplace called "Aurora".

Aurora, coincidently, is my older sister’s name. In the same coincidental vein, my dear Aurora came to visit me. Aurora never left. Aurora had decided to start a new life here in Fleming, New Hampshire. Perhaps "decide" isn’t the right world. She thrust herself upon me when I signed the book contract, perhaps sensing the stench of money.

Her eighty-million-year-old husband had just died and left all of his money to the children. According to her, that was something "just not supposed to be done." A week after the funeral she was on my door step, the door step of her favorite sister Alice. I should have stopped it right there and claimed the last five years of my life for myself. But I’m getting ahead of myself again. It’s just frazzled nerves.

How am I ever going to get the stains out of the rug? Damned white carpet.""

Kristin Shoemaker can write and the book is well edited. However, for a story to be considered a good story, it must be honest or at least seem reasonable. . . even a fiction story. Can the reader relate to such behavior?

Alice knew her sister's predisposition and foibles before allowing her to move in and right off, she lets her take over. Would you do that? Would I do that? It’s very clear in the beginning that Alice had some serious problems with boundaries, standing up for herself and an inability to say, "No!" Then the author is telling us that the only solution to the sister Aurora problem is to kill her?. . . with no feelings of guilt? Here we have two people, Alice and Ron, who think killing is no big deal . . . just when and how is the only problem. Like . . . maybe after lunch?

The message in this "dark comedy" (?) is that it’s okay to kill someone when you’re angry and frustrated because you didn’t have the wherewithall to stand up for yourself and say, "no." Ha! I say that doesn’t track, but of course, then there wouldn't be a story. Anton LaVey might say, "Don't complain about anything to which you need not subject yourself." Gary Slutkin would say, "Violence is an infectious disease."

If this was a "study in what it takes to send the most unlikely person over the edge", then I would say, "study a little harder." Most homes have a phonebook with yellow pages full of unlimited resources for help. Call a friend, go to an AA or Al-Anon meeting and get it off your chest. I used realistic examples because the author created realistic contemporary people, and therefore, there were other options besides murder.

Does the author understand the significance of her message? You might think that I have no sense of humor, and in this case, that would be true.

According to U.S. News & World Report in an article written by Nancy Shute, the United States leads the developed world in deaths by firearm, and violence is the No. 1 killer of teenagers and young adults in major cities. In many places shooting a neighbor or child has become the social norm. The disease-causing agent is not a microbe but a thought. Gary Slutkin founded the Chicago Center for Violence Prevention and sees violence as unhealthy behavior that can be changed. Its CeaseFire antiviolence campaign is designed to interrupt harmful behavior and change social norms--immunize against the thought and cure the disease.

Therefore, based on the author's message and in support of Mr. Slutkin's antiviolence campaign and my own personal beliefs, I do not recommend this book.

Kristin Shoemaker works as a reference/systems librarian in Massachusetts. She has been previously published in Soundings East, The Axe Factory, Poetpourri and Poems That Thump in the Dark. Aurora Borealis is her debut novel.

Reviewed by Kaye Trout - June 16, 2006 - Copyright

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

KORY'S LOT: The Other Battle of Antietam by Tom David

Genre: Fiction/Dark Fantasy Folklore
Rating: Highly Recommended
ISBN: 159113935X, $14.95, 248 pp, 2006

A compelling blend of fact and fantasy!

From the front cover and title one might think this is a story about the Civil War, and to some degree it is. However, in reality it is classic dark fantasy–the world of magic, the supernatural, of inexplicable occurrences that don’t have a foundation in the world as we know it. This dark fantasy is the realm of witches, ghosts, ghouls, apparitions, monsters, extrasensory perception as in precognition, telepathy and telekinesis. And yet still, this tale is the poignant story of one man’s love for his young son lost to cancer.

I wouldn’t want to spoil the read for you, so I won’t tell you too much more. I will say that Tom David does an excellent job at building the suspense as to what the story is all about: Why does Dixon and his wife, Rebecca, fear he may not return? What exactly is Dixon’s gift, which was ignited and enhanced by the witches? Can he accomplish what he has set out to do?

Tom is a true artist at verbal description and undercurrents of strong sexuality. His characters definitely comes to life. Their relationships are interesting and complex and leave lingering questions in your mind as to traditional morality. What is a real and abiding love between a man and a woman? Dixon loves his wife and yet he also has an erotic form of love for Leona, the witch who seduced him to preserve his seed within herself, plus . . . he sees all beautiful women as potential sexual partners.

All three elements–the Civil War, classic dark fantasy and a man’s love for his child–are developed thoroughly and woven together with threads of a sensual, erotic sexuality which I have not previously encountered from a male author. It is my guess that Dixon’s sexual perspective may be drawn from the author’s personal experiences with a touch of Anne Rice, and if he likes Anne’s writing, he’ll love Laurell K. Hamilton’s. Dixon's feelings and experiences about his son Kory's illness and death can't help but bring up tears and touch your heart.

Prior to writing his debut novel, Tom David was a stock broker and financial advisor for sixteen years. He did, indeed, sadly lose young Kory to cancer and this book is dedicated to his son. He currently lives near Sharpsburg, Maryland, with his wife, daughters and yellow lab Koby. The sequels in this trilogy are: Journey to Antietam and Flight from Antietam.

Kory’s Lot is a fantasy story with a serious purpose and a powerful message . . . love your children.

Congratulations, Tom!

Reviewed by Kaye Trout - June 6, 2006 - Copyright

Friday, June 02, 2006


BookSurge, LLC
Genre: Fiction/Low Fantasy Folklore
Rating: Very Good
ISBN: 1419606085, $14.99, 330 pp, 2005

From the colorful front cover–showing an angry king, his princess daughter and the fisher boy–one might think to classify this story as a fantasy in an imaginary world. However, classic fantasy deals with the impossible. Fantasy is the world of magic, the supernatural, of inexplicable occurrences that don’t have a foundation in the reality of the world as we know it. It is the realm of faeries, dragons, unicorns and sorcerers. Low fantasy is set in the world as we know it. . . governed by nature’s laws; whereas high fantasy is set in imaginary worlds governed by laws set by supernatural beings.

So, I have classified this story as "low fantasy folklore" because it is a story about an imaginary place and its people. In this isolated mountain valley the Chelks and Zaprians believe they are the only people on earth, that the earth extends to the edge of the ocean and to the tops of the distant mountains. They believe in spirits and witches such as the Ogres of the Cold and the Avenging Witch.

Quoting from the back cover:

"On one side of the Forbidden River lies the land of Chelekai, where Togai is the son of the head fisher. On the other side is the Kingdom of Zaphyr and the City of Light, the site of the yearly Festival. Zaphyr’s ruler, King Praidar, is the father of the princess Prandina. In Chelekai and Zaphyr, lives are governed by rules and customs based on ancient legends and superstitions; some separate, some intertwining. And in a place where there is little, the Zaprians have the most--and they make the rules.

Born with a deformed left leg, Togai has been the object of ridicule all his life. When he decides not to attend the Festival one year, his natural curiosity and increasing courage lead him to a startling discovery. The Short-Legged Fisher Boy of the Land of Left is the story of a boy who uses reason, logic and bravery to challenge the only world he has ever known. In this unique coming of age story, the Webbs have created a tale that will captivate young and old readers alike and take them on a journey they won’t soon forget."

In many ways this story is a social anthropological tale about cultural beliefs, community structure and values, work ethics, prejudices, discrimination, the interdependence of trading nations and is very similar to Jean Auel’s first book, The Clan of the Cave Bear. It is not a fairy tale with the prince and princess riding off on a white horse to live happily ever after.

As a book for children and young adults, it can’t help but be an inspiration: to think, to question and to find the courage to follow their beliefs. The story is well-developed and -written with excellent dialogue and realistic descriptions. The flow and rhythm are smooth and easy. You certainly will soon empathize with Togai and his many personal challenges. My hope while reading was that Princess Prandina would begin to consider the possibility that the Chelks and Zaprians were related in some way.

Ned Webb and his daughter Kalinde C. Webb are both multi-talented peopled, and I refer you to the book’s Amazon site (
http://Amazon.com) and the back cover of the book for personal details.

Would I recommend this book?. . . you bet and not just to children and young adults. Did you like The Clan of the Cave Bear? . . . then you’ll probably enjoy this book and for the same reasons. Congratulations, Ned and Kalinde!

Reviewed by Kaye Trout - June 2, 2006 - Copyright

Thursday, June 01, 2006

PSYCHO PSYCHIC by Betsy Gallup

PublishAmerica, LLLP
Genre: Fiction/Mystery Thriller
Rating: Very Good
ISBN: 14137887614, $19.95, 194 pp, 2006

This story is about a young psychic woman, Princess Eva, who predicts the death of Lily Banks, Kate Libson’s friend. There are two deaths connected by Princess Eva’s predictions and notes left at the crime scenes. Homicide Detective Matt Prescott, who grew up and has a rueful history with Kate, works the case and his chances of getting closer to Kate. Montana Blake, Eva’s protective manager, romances Lily for financial reasons. There are several little romances twisting and turning and then another death. We know early on "who done it" but that is secondary to the reasons why. Do we think the killer is justified and therefore, should be allowed to continue?

I enjoyed this book very much! Betsy does an excellent job on many levels–plot, characters, settings and style. Her characters are interesting and certainly come alive. I thought she did an exceptional job of moving back and forth between Kate’s first person point of view (POV) and a third person point of view, which can be a bit tricky. The romances added some fun and lightness. Will the strong-willed Kate Libson give in to her sensual attraction for Matt? The ending . . . I would say is unique, possibly controversial, and I was left wondering about the story that Eva told Montana which had such a terminal effect upon him.

If you like fun–not too gross and suspenseful–mystery thrillers, then you’ll probably like this book, and I promise . . . Betsy’s style and quality of writing will not disappoint you. It was, indeed, an enjoyable surprise. Thanks!

Betsy Gallup is a freelance writer who resides with her family in Kansas.

Reviewed by Kaye Trout - June 1, 2006 - Copyright