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.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

GRAVE TALKER by Linette Widen

Washington House
801 N. Pitt Street, Alexandria, VA 22314
Genre: Fiction/Pioneer Adventure
Rating: Very Good
ISBN: 1932581626, $18.00, 328 pp.

As the back cover gives a realistic synopsis of this story, allow me to quote:

"When seventeen year old Jim Foster leaves his Ozark home during the spring of 1890, he heads west to begin a new life at a cattle station. What he doesn’t realize is how ill-prepared he is for the challenges he will face during the journey.

"From the hills of Missouri to a farm in Kansas, he finds love with his childhood sweetheart along with the kindness of a family on the Plains. But a tragic turn of events test his faith in God and drives him away to the gold mines of Cripple Creek where devious characters threaten his life. As the twentieth century begins to unfold, follow Jim Foster as a twist of fate takes him to the silver mines of Idaho."

Grave Talker is the first book in the Foster saga. In the beginning, compelled to leave his family home, Jim stands up to his harsh father for the first time. In the end, he has come back home–not to stay–and will take his family on to Idaho. Grave Talker is an unusual title and refers to Jim and his mother who would go to the graves of their lost loved ones to talk with them. I don’t want to spoil the story for you so I won’t tell you too much more.

Linette Widen has written this story from a third-person point of view (POV) and in a saga-type style. Her characters and settings truly come to life, and she writes in a smooth, fluid manner. Her expert use of local vernacular in dialogue is a colorful facet in her style. In this book you will find family, romance, adventure, intrigue, tragedy . . . life. The novel is well-written and well-edited.

Allow me to share a small excerpt as a sample of Linette's writing, from page 319:

"A soft breeze rumpled his hair. He could smell the sweet earth. There was stillness and peace. Taking the small box with the locket, he loosened the dirt and placed it in the hole by her cross, then covered it up.

"She was with him again. She always came if he allowed it.

"‘I’m going’ to Idaho. Gotta start over’ gain. Got four boys yeh’d find amusin’. Yeh’d have a fondess fer Lucy, too. She’s jest like yeh. Gits all fired upset ‘bout things.’ He rested a moment, reflecting on the quiet. ‘Glad yeh was able to be here for yer final restin’ place. The Millers was good people. ‘N they’re stayin’. Ain’t gonna be no strangers mussin’ with yeh, so don’t worry.

"‘I ain’t done this in awhile so you’ll have to pardon me fer soundin’ like a bawbee. Quit gravetalkin’ back in Dornon when I went back.’

"There was so much he wanted to say . . . yet, nothing else he could say. He was looking forward to the new life with Connor and Irene in Idaho. Mary understood-he knew she did. Touching the small prayer book in the pocket of his vest, he said, 'I love yeh, Mary. See yeh in the Big Dipper.’"

Linette Widen originally wanted to write a memoir of her ancestors, but, lacking factual material, the story became a fictional novel imbued with true legends of her contentious relatives. The sequel, The Silver Womb, is the second book in the Foster saga.

Reviewed by Kaye Trout - August 31, 2006

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

IRON MAIDEN by James R. Musgrave

Contemporary Instructional Concepts
6784 Caminito del Greco
San Diego, CA 92120

Genre: Fiction/History
Rating: Very Good
ISBN: 0977650359, $28.00, 355 pp.

Iron Maiden is an eclectic collection of historical and literary subjects strangely woven together to create a unique novel–maritime activities during the Civil War; inventor John Ericsson’s battleship–the Monitor; readings from and references to Walt Whitman, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Moby Dick and The Bounty; John Wilkes Booth’s attempted assassination of Ericsson; three romances; slavery; anthropological research about the South Pacific islands, Easter Island; and Plato’s Republic. Quite a feat–tying it all together!

There’s adventure, romance, intrigue, deception, betrayal and power struggles throughout. John Ericsson tricks the U.S. Government into buying more of his Monitor-class ships for money to escape the war with seven others to create his own version of Plato’s Republic on Easter Island. To find out whether or not John succeeded, you’ll have to read the book.

I generally like to include a sample of the author’s writing to give you an idea of his style and for this I have chosen an excerpt from John Ericsson’s Journal, pages 255-256:

"My grand experiment is going smoothly, even though the addition of Sinclair and his wife has caused me to change some of my plans. I have had time to reflect and to read, and it has been Plato who has been my ultimate salvation. His Republic has given me the inspiration to design my plan so that it will serve us well in our new environs. Combined with my exploration into the characters of my passengers, this philosophical treatise will become the bedrock upon which we will build our community on Easter Island.

"First, off, Plato’s understanding of the human soul has been of great assistance to me in my own designs for the future. He believed that each of us could be categorized according to our class and according to our interest and virtues. And, beneath our surface life, there is the motivation of the soul. . . .

"I note, with pleasure, that I can place each of my new citizens into one of these three categories. For example, Sinclair and Greene are perfect candidates for the Warrior Class. They have the spirit and courage that is demanded of these ‘Guardians of the Republic,’ as Plato calls them. I know that Green has been aspiring toward something he believes is knowledge, but the Transcendentalists are not true philosophers. Emerson never lived in Nature, about which he preaches so profoundly. And Greene has been truly fooled by the chimera of unity. It will not take me long to put him back into the class upon which his soul is truly based, the warrior of spirit and courage! As for Sinclair, he is the epitome of Platonic spirit. He even saw the South as men who were fighting for honor, and thus he became a compatriot for their cause. Sinclair will be easily swayed by the manipulations I will use on him.

"The Commoner Class shall, of course, be the natives on the island, as well as Mister Charles McCord, the Catholic. Even though McCord fools himself onboard ship, once he gets out into this pleasure-seeking wilderness, he will become his old self again. We will work on his temperance." Ah, and how power corrupts!

So now that you know a little about the book and the author’s writing style, let me tell you something about the Jim Musgrave, and I quote from the back cover:

"Following reading experiences such as Camus’ The Stranger . . ., James Musgrave began his own odyssey to become a published author of ‘radstream’ (radical as opposed to mainstream) prose. His nonfiction title, The Digital Scribe: A Writer’s Guide to Electronic Media (1996), was his attempt to teach techies how to write with their entire brains, and his three novels soon followed in an attempt to teach humans how to read with their brains damaged by American ‘bestsellers.’ . . . He presently teaches collegiate humans in San Diego how to think (and hopefully write) with their brains damaged by the American K-12 system. His motto: Carpe nocto!" (Latin for: Seize the night!)

It’s not a bad read and you just might learn something, one way or another.

Reviewed by Kaye Trout - August 29, 2006

Sunday, August 27, 2006

KNOCK KNOCK WHO'S THERE? by Michael Shocket

Authors Online Ltd
19 The Cinques, Gamlingay, Sandy
Bedfordshire SG193NU, England
Genre: Fiction/Literature
Rating: Excellent
ISBN: 0755202414, $14.95, 212 pp, 2006

To begin, let me tell you that Michael Shocket is my favorite POD author. There’s a special ‘something’ in his writing that always delights me. I know he’s in his early eighties, but his mind is ‘young at heart.’ I have reviewed two of his books this year which you can find in my Archives: The Binding of Isaac in March and Know Me Tomorrow in May. As I said in my second review, "He has an intimate, casual tone (not quite as intimate and casual as Stephen King’s, but similar) with spurts of humor, drama and a strong sense of sexuality. His honesty, human foibles and compassion ring true and clear . . . ."

His titles always fascinate me, and to the question of this title, Knock Knock Who’s There?, I would have to answer: Life . . . life with all its ups and downs, joys and sorrows, love and hate, politics, finances, health, sexual encounters, friends and most importantly . . . family. And I quote from the back cover:

"This is a family story, told in turn by each of its members. The matriarch, Diana, a retired headmistress of repute, is suffering from Alzheimer’s. Although smitten with episodes of dementia, she has recurrent period of wisdom, enabling her to play a crucial role in dealing with the various crises which beset her daughter, Harriet, son, Adrian, his wife, Mildred, and their accident-prone children, Sophie, an art student, and Nick, a teenager, who is unable to keep out of trouble."

A unique technique Michael uses is writing from a first-person point of view (POV) for each main character in the novel, so you know what the person is thinking and feeling, which brings you more intimately into his/her life. Another facet I like is his ability to weave contemporary issues–politics, drugs, teenage violence, unwanted pregnancies, extramarital sex, the tragic effects of Alzheimer’s–into this family story. He opens with Adrian completely paralyzed in a hospital bed and only able to communicate by blinking his eyes, once for "yes" and twice for "no," and comes full circle to close with the resolution of Adrian’s problem.

Allow me to provide you with a sample of Michael’s writing and share one such issue as Diana writes a letter to Mildred, from pages 124-125:

"I’m taking the opportunity to write this while still in relatively full control of my faculties. It’s open to question whether or not I am fortunate in having the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s made known to me in its very early stages. On the one hand I am able to make appropriate arrangements, prepare psychologically for what lies ahead, and avoid being taken by surprise by the symptoms which will inevitably arise. On the other hand, if I were unaware of the condition I’d be spared the agony of knowing that I am inevitably going to lose the faculty of reason - the most precious one of all. I’d rather lose sight, hearing or both my legs.

"However, Dr. Alzheimer may not know it yet, but he’s got a fight on his hands. There are still enough cells functioning in this old brain of mine to resist his weapons of biological warfare. Diana Harcourt-Smith has no intention of going like a lamb to the slaughter. Apart from anything else she’s an incorrigible optimist. What do you know about stem cell research, Dr. Alzheimer? Even if it’s too late for me - and I’ve got a sneaking hope it might not be - one way or another we’ll beat you! Please take note of the fact that - given the opportunity - I intend to volunteer to be a guinea pig on any experimental programme.

"Brave words! But realistically I have to face the fact that I am likely be reach the stage of becoming little more than a vegetable, except that certain unpleasant animal functions will persist, and make me a disgusting burden either to those I love, until they can no longer stand the sight, sound and smell of me. And then what? There’s the prospect of being the discarded shell of a human being kept alive in some infernal asylum, in the unwelcome company of other creatures best described as the walking dead. I can’t rid myself of the thought that somewhere inside the useless and offensive husk of my body will be some element that is me. Will I be remotely conscious of what I have become? Because that, Dr. Alzheimer is a condition I cannot - and will not - accept. The alternative is inescapable, and the purpose of this document is to ensure that, while I am still of reasonably sound mind, I can make my wishes known.

"I do not want my body to survive my brain, whether the solution is suicide or euthanasia. It would be a simple matter for me to put an end to it all here and now. The idea has indeed crossed my mind, but been quickly dismissed. I love my life too much. I always have. Even in its darkest moments, after the death of my beloved Arthur, I clung to the comfort of a wonderful family, learned to laugh again, immersed myself in work which brought me both satisfaction and pleasure. I’m blessed with the joy of having two wonderful grandchildren.

"Perhaps what makes the wonders of this world - this life - so precious is their very transience, and my awareness of being deprived of them before very long. I savor the delights of each season, even the harshest chill of winter.

"God bless you - if there can be a God - and, if not, let me bless you, dearest Mildred, together with all my wonderful family."

Dr. Michael Shocket is a retired lecturer living in Hertfordshire. Knock Knock Who's There? is his third novel, and I highly recommend them all!

Reviewed by Kaye Trout - August 27, 2006

Sunday, August 20, 2006


Genre: Fiction/Mystery Thriller
Rating: Highly Recommend
ISBN: 1591139708, $31.95, 396 pp, 2006

A serial killer is hanging people and attaching notes by a six-inch hand-forged nail to their bodies, "It is a righteous thing to recompense affliction to them that afflict you." The antique yacht Poseidon is stolen from a Biscayne Bay canal and destroyed. Mysterious letters signed "G" are sent to Brock and Sarah London. The werewolf Gondul sees all but where is Aklia, Cain’s sister?. . . and who are Aegir and Ran, John and Isabel Cole?

Retribution is a multifaceted, mystery thriller, close in complexity to Dan Brown’s, The DaVinci Code, with life and death hanging in the balance. More questions: who, why, what is the connection between the murdered people, what about the yacht Poseidon?. . . how are Brock and Sarah involved? And then, too, it has some mystery-solving similarities to Nora Roberts’s Key Trilogy. You'll get a little taste of lots of history: mythological, biblical, European, the New England witch hunts and organized "mafia" crime.

Ron Starr is a good writer with a fertile imagination. Retribution is a quality hardcover, well-written and well-edited novel. The complexity is above normal which spikes your interest and makes the mystery a page-turner. Mythology and biblical history are significant factors in this tangled web of intrigue. To find out how R. E. Starr weaves his multi facets together, you'll have to read the book, and . . . I highly recommend you do.

Retribution is R. E. Starr’s third novel. He is an author of multiple supernatural suspense and detective novels including Welcome to the Alwahnee and Mounds. He lives with his wife Doris and their cats in a Central Florida beach community. You can contact Ron via E-mail at
ron@quillandpen.com or visit his website–quillandpen.com.

Reviewed by Kaye Trout - August 20, 2006

Friday, August 18, 2006

THE COLOR PURPLE by Alice Walker

Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas, NY, NY
Genre: Fiction/Literature
Rating: Excellent
ISBN: 0671526022, $8.93, 251 pp, 1982

Typically, I spend my free time reading POD published books to review; however, now and then I read something else. "The Color Purple" is not a new book and has won several awards: the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the American Book Award. Quoting from the back cover:

"Life wasn’t easy for Celie. But she knew how to survive, needing little to get by.

Then her husband’s lover, a flamboyant blues singer, barreled into her world and gave Celie the courage to ask for more–to laugh, to play, and finally–to love."

I had not planned to do a review but as many books contain some element or discussion about religion, I thought I’d add Shug Avery’s thoughts on the subject to the mix, quoting from page 177-178-179.

"Well, say Shug, if he came to any of these churches we talking bout he’d have to have it conked before anybody paid him any attention. The last thing niggers want to think about they God is that his hair kinky.

That’s the truth, I say.

Ain’t no way to read the bible and not think God white, she say. Then she sigh. When I found out I thought God was white, and a man, I lost interest. You mad cause he don’t seem to listen to your prayers. Humph! Do the mayor listen to anything colored say? Ask Sofia, she say.

But I don’t have to ast Sofia. I know white people never listen to colored, period. If they do, they only listen long enough to be able to tell you what to do.

Here’s the thing, say Shug. The thing I believe. God is inside you and inside everybody else. You come into the world with God. But only them that search for it inside find it. And sometimes it just manifest itself even if you not looking, or don’t know what you looking for. Trouble do it for most folks, I think. Sorrow, lord. Feeling like shit.

It? I ast.

Yeah, It. God ain’t a he or a she, but a It.

But what do it look like? I ast.

Don’t look like nothing, she say. It ain’t a picture show. It ain’t something you can look at apart from anything else, including yourself. I believe God is everything, say Shug. Everything that is or ever was or ever will be. And when you can feel that, and be happy to feel that, you’ve found It. . . .

She say, My first step from the old white man was trees. Then air. Then birds. Then other people. But one day when I was sitting quiet and feeling like a motherless child, which I was, it come to me: that feeling of being part of everything, not separate at all. I knew that if I cut a tree, my arm would bleed. And I laughed and cried and I run all around the house. I knew just what it was. In fact, when it happen, you can’t miss it. It sort of like you know what, she say, grinning and rubbing high up on my high.

Shug! I say.

Oh, she say. God love all them feelings. That’s some of the best stuff God did. And when you know God loves’em you enjoys’em a lot more. You can just relax, go with everything that’s going, and praise God by liking what you like.

God don’t think it dirty? I ask.

Naw, she say. God made it. Listen, God love everything you love–and a mess of stuff you don’t. But more than anything else, God love admiration.

You saying God vain? I ask.

Naw, she say. Not vain, just want to share a good thing. I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.

What it do when it pissed off? I ast.

Oh, it make something else. People think pleasing God is all God care about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.

Yeah? I say.

Yeah, she say. It always making little surprises and springing them on us when us least expect.

You mean it want to be loved, just like the bible say.

Yes, Celie, she say, Everything want to be loved. Us sing and dance, make faces and flower bouquets, trying to be loved. You ever notice that trees do everything to get attention we do, except walk?

Well, us talk and talk bout God, but I’m still adrift. Trying to chase the old white man out of my head. I been so busy thinking bout him I never truly notice nothing God make. Not a blade of corn (how it do that?) Not the color purple (where it come from?). Not the little wildflowers. Nothing."

And here we find the heart of this story, to which I say, "Amen, Alice Walker."

Reviewed by Kaye Trout - August 18, 2006

Sunday, August 13, 2006

BEYOND INNOCENCE by Sunny Serafino

P.O. Box 985, Collierville, TN 38027
Genre: Fiction/Literature
Rating: Very Good - based on the quality of writing
ISBN: 1598723596, $17.95, 331 pp

This story is about a young woman, Dorothea "Thea" Fitz-Simmons, who moves to New York City in 1950 to teach music at a private school against her mother’s strong objections. Through one of the male teachers at the school she meets Edward, who cleverly manipulates her into marriage for her money. He wines and dines and ultimately convinces her to elope with him. When her famous attorney father dies, it turns out there is no estate. When she finally tells Edward, he beats her close to death. Edward goes to jail, but wants to talk with Thea before they extradite him for a previous crime. In this last meeting Thea, still bruised and broken, has her say and walks away . . . to continue her life teaching music in New York City.

There was much I could relate to in this story as I personally left home against my parents wishes when I was eighteen in 1959 and took a bus to Los Angeles, where I knew no one. Somehow, I found Jackie’s boarding house at Hobart and Wilshire (food and shelter for $20/week) and froze in place when a four-foot tall man opened the door. I gathered up my courage, rented a room and soon found a job ($300/month) within walking distance. Also, the relationship between my father and me grew deeper in a similar manner to Thea’s.

Even though I could relate to the situation and the problems, my feelings while reading were . . . it’s all so typical. Plus, I couldn’t buy into the idea that Thea’s marital problem was the result of her naivety. If such an "Edward" were to come into my life now (with all my experience) and treated me as he did Thea, I probably would elope with him, too. And then there is the question: how will she know the difference when she wants to trust another man?

Sunny Serafino is an excellent writer, and Beyond Innocence is well-written and well-edited. Just because the plot didn’t grab me, doesn’t mean it won’t appeal to you. We all have different tastes in what we like to read. When I finish a book, I like to feel that I learned something, that I experienced something through the book that I could not have otherwise, that the book moved me spontaneously to laughter and/or tears and that the style and quality of writing deliciously titillated my mind--a big order to fill.

Sunny Serafino is an award-winning novelist who currently lives in Avon Park, Florida. Other novels by Sunny include: Secrets; Echoes, Nobody’s Child, and Pure Gold. Following Daddy is her only nonfiction work.

Reviewed by Kaye Trout - August 13, 2006

Saturday, August 12, 2006

HOOKED ON A HORN - Memoirs of a Recovered Musician by Gene Hull

Trafford PublishingVictoria, BC V8T4P4 Canada
Genre: Memoir
Rating: Highly recommended
ISBN: 1412067219, $22.00, 261 pp, 2005

As I specialize in reviewing POD published book, I regularly receive memoirs–twenty-five in the past four months, to be exact. In addition, I have reviewed novels based on the true-life experiences of the authors: Clouds Are Always White on Top by Nolan Lewis, Battle Downunder by Charles Rush and Fears Flutterby by Rose Lamatt, to name a few. Memoirs are written for many different reasons: to share a problem, loss and insight with others; to help work through the loss of a loved one; to share travel adventures and aspects of different cultures; to purge one’s soul–confess our human foibles; and, in the end, to remember and immortalize one’s own life.

Hooked on Horn is indeed a memoir, but in many ways, so much more! It’s a sea adventure, a musical adventure, a small insight into our greatest jazz musicians in eras past, a family adventure, a mother’s pride for her son’s success. It is the story of a young man’s dream, begun at age 10, and his disciplined ‘alpha’ efforts to make that dream come true.

The parts of Gene Hull’s life that he has chosen to share about his professional musical journey are entertaining, educational, humorous, musically enlightening, heart wrenching, poignantly inspirational and presented with a creative flair. Gene has been in the music/entertainment field just about all his life. He has put together a number of bands, been on the road with big-name bands, conducted bands and produced shows. Prior to retiring, he produced award-winning productions and ice shows for Royal Caribbean International.

Several stories conjured up a tear or two. The first is about the 1962 Newport Jazz Festival. Gene’s group, the Jazz Giants–a band of ex-professional musicians who wanted to play interesting big band arrangements, was selected to be the guest opening band. This was their big opportunity! Allow me to quote several passages:

"Months zoomed by with extra rehearsals, arrangements being polished, new ones written, PR mailings to hundreds of jazz fans, stories and interviews in local papers, even radio interviews. Interest in us steamrolled. We were becoming a household name in Connecticut. . . .

"We kicked off our program at 8:00 PM. I don’t remember a note we played; it went so fast. But I do remember the brass section screaming out into the night with colossal fire. The saxes steamed together like bonded brothers and took their ensemble sound to another level. From our first note, the energy and drive poured over me, almost putting me in a trance. The band was like a locomotive. Get out of the way everybody. Here we come.

"The applause was generous from the sell-out crowd who had come expecting to see the famous. . . . In reality most every player had managed to play close to his best at the same time. A rare moment for us. I was proud to stand up there in front of this real band of brothers, who had laid it out for all to hear. This is who we are, world."

They were expecting the album from the 1962 Newport Jazz Festival to be their "big break." But, as fate would have it, all the tapes were spoiled by an electronic quirk. There would be no album, and ultimately, the Jazz Giants’s sound was lost with no ‘recorded’ history. If Gene was 12 in 1941 when he received his first saxophone, he would have been 33 in 1962.

The second story took place over forty years after that Newport Festival. Peter, one of Gene’s eight children, tracked down the live recording of the 1962 Festival and contacted the Library of Congress.

"The Gene Hull Orchestra, The Jazz Giants," had been recorded at Newport '62. A single CD could be assembled from the tape and made available with permission of the producer and for non-commercial purposes only."

Peter chose a family reunion in 2003 to present Gene with the CD of the live recording.

""Just looking at the packaged CD placed before me gave me a jolt like a sudden electric current. Shivers came right from the stomach. Then I completely lost it.

"Dad," my daughter Amy whispered, "why are you crying? I’ve never seen you cry."

"I don’t know."

But I did know. I was seeing my yesterdays. My grown children as wide-eyed little kids, asking me where I was going. And me telling them, "Straight up." The Jazz Giants rehearsing at Bill’s Castle. A boy sitting on a bus on a cold winter night, clutching his first saxophone wrapped in a pillow case. All the jazz concerts the band had played. Katherine Hepburn scolding me. Benny Goodman captivating me. Paul Whiteman berating me. Woody Herman and Duke Ellington making me feel humble. Las Vegas dazzling and disappointing me. The years with Damone. Elvis greeting me with such honesty. The miles of piled-up travel. And saying good-bye to a teary young family on the front porch, as I’d leave to seek fame and fortune on yet another road trip. . . .

I tried to tell my family that this CD was more than just a recording, that their lives were in it as much as mine. It didn’t matter that I couldn’t find the words. They knew.

We listened to the CD together. The sound of the band–its energy and musicality–far exceeded the memories I had parked away. Now suddenly the sounds were alive and bright again, clearer than ever.

The look on their faces was worth the struggling years. The kids understood at last why the Jazz Giants had been one of the most important musical accomplishments of my life, and appreciated what it took to create it.""

So, if that doesn’t grab you, you’re either dead or nothing will. I highly recommend this delightful, entertaining memoir and hope with its next edition we find a CD included so that we too can enjoy the sound of the Jazz Giants.

Reviewed by Kaye Trout - August 11, 2006

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Outskirts Press, Inc.
10940 S. Parker Rd - 515, Parker, CO
Genre: Fiction/Mystery/Romance
Rating: Very Good
ISBN: 1598002333, $23.95, 260 pp

You open this book to immediate intrigue–a letter of confession written by a husband to his wife. Will the marriage survive? What did he need to confess?

"I just finished reading a letter, a confession, from a man I grew to trust, to understand, to admire, to respect, and to love. Yesterday my husband, Lucas, mysteriously asked me to come to this place, a place he called "holy," a place unknown to anyone, even me, until today. It was here I found the letter.

"As I sit here on this cold, hard rock, high above my homeland, the early June afternoon sun can barely break through the darkness that surrounds me. The warm southerly breeze cannot piece the coldness in my heart. Not more than fifty feet behind me are the makeshift graves of my two sisters."

From there, the primary protagonist, Lucas Ambler, is pulling a sixteen-year-old girl, Barb, out from under his truck and taking her home with him. Barb is one of three women, all with tragic histories, who live together and considered themselves sisters. Lucas Ambler lives alone in his family-built log home in the Adirondack Mountains; he is financially independent but works as a nature guide. It is evident that Lucas’s experience with intimate relationships is limited. Almost at first sight he falls in love with Anne, one of the sisters. Soon, all the sisters are living with him, and he has family again. Barb psychically sees death in the future and elicits a promise from Lucas . . . a promise for destiny.

For a fictional romance novel, the characters in this story are very unusual, and yet realistic. The circumstances of their coming together are strange, yet also believable. The depth of conscience is extreme, to the point of physical disability. There were occasions, however, where I felt the characters were somewhat out of character, given what we knew about them, but, in general, the story is a page-turner of suspense, intrigue and romance. The author excels at descriptive narrative, and I would recommend this book to readers interested in fictional romance with a twist.

Leonard Moody was born and raised in the Adirondack Mountains of northern New Your State and A Promise for Destiny is his debut fictional novel. Congratulations!

Reviewed by Kaye Trout - August 9, 2006 - Copyright

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Virtualbookworm.com Publishing Inc.
PO Box 9949, College Station, TX 77842
Genre: Science Fiction

Rating: Delightful
ISBN: 1589395794, $14.95, 288 pp

To begin, I’d like to let the author tell you about himself, and I quote from the back cover:

"Charles Inglin was born, raised and still resides in the Wine Country of Northern California. His favorite whine is that he’s the only one he knows who doesn’t own a vineyard.

"Mr. Englin earned a degree in History, on the reasonable premise that if you haven’t a clue where you’re going, you should at least know where you’ve been. At one point in his career the U.S. Army spent a considerable amount of money in an effort to make a soldier of him. The sole result of this program was to provide yet another example of how the Department of Defense squanders taxpayer money.

"Having shown little aptitude for either academe or the military, Mr. Inglin of course turned to the last refuge of Liberal Arts majors and became a computer programmer, at which profession he has labored for more than two decades."

After reading these three paragraphs, do you feel what I felt?. . . a desire to read this book and meet the author. It’s the "tone" that’s the key. My grammar book tells me that tone is the basic attitude expressed by the writer, and mood, the atmosphere he creates. The tone of this book will delight you, as it did me.

Unpredictable Results is written in the first person and its protagonist, Dunstan "Dunce" Malvern, is like a leaf upon the wind who unwittingly finds himself with three life-threatening problems in a futuristic world with advanced technologies on Hildred’s Planet. As the forces of greed work beneath the surface, Jheebs, an android servant and the salvaged property of Dunstan, may save the day. But, don’t forget . . . there are unpredictable results.

As I seem to be quite taken with the tone, allow me to quote so that you may decided for yourself, from page 3:

"Thank you, Jheebs. You may clear the table now. Everything was done to perfection, as usual. I think we shall be ready for dessert in, say, twenty minutes or so. This splendid pinot secco should keep us happily occupied until then.

"Jheebs? Why, yes, he is quite a useful fellow. Couldn’t do without him. Also quite unique, and you know, only one of his kind on Hildred’s Planet. Jheebs and I go back quite a few years now. How I came to be associated with him is one of those stories so absurd, so riddled with improbable events, even I wouldn’t believe it if I hadn’t been there.

"I well remember how it all started that evening at Uncle Grump’s. A pleasant, clear early summer’s evening much like this, with the lights of Ilnestrom just starting to come on as they are now, all strings of white, amber, gold against the deep blue of the western horizon. Very spectacular. And if you think the view from here is wonderful you should see it from Uncle Grump’s penthouse."

And in closing from page 286:

""That gave me something to think about. After a bit I ventured an observation.

"You won’t be offended, I trust, if in the future I occasionally indulge in somewhat lengthier consideration of your recommendations before deciding whether or not to endorse them?"

"Of course not, sir. Such is always a good policy when dealing with automata.""

So there you have it–a small sampling of a well-written, delightful mystery tale about a futuristic socioeconomic system where one works at what one likes as much as one cares to. Any financial gain you made during your lifetime is returned to the central money pool when you die to support future generations. I agree completely and espoused a similar idea in my book, The Rose Sisters Trilogy.

I highly recommend Unpredictable Results to anyone and everyone!

Reviewed by Kaye Trout - August 8, 2006 - Copyright

Saturday, August 05, 2006

CHOCOLATE DAYS MARGARITA NIGHTS, The Lottery Murders by mckenna davis

Rating: Average
ISBN: 142088935, $19.99, 328 pp

This novel is a fast-paced, easy-read mystery/romance. After Shay Caldwell wins $127 million in a lottery, the murders begin. A greedy man wants all the money and kills the people in his way.

Although it is a contemporary story based in Manhattan, it had a fairytale-feel for me–somewhat superficial–from the beginning to the end.

The author’s writing style is typical. The title and cover are interesting and attractive. If you like contemporary adult fairytales, you might try this book, though $19.99 is a bit high.

Reviewed by Kaye Trout - August 5, 2006 - Copyright

Friday, August 04, 2006


Tapestry Press
2000 E. Lamar, Ste 600
Arlington, TX 76006
Genre: Fiction/Mystery
Rating: Excellent
ISBN: 193081948X, $14.95, 198 pp

I would like to start this review by telling you a little about Natasha Roit, the author, and what she has brought to this novel. Natasha was born in the Soviet Union and came to the US when she was 14. She graduated from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. As a lawyer she represented the Browns against O.J. Simpson in the custody battle for Nicole Brown’s children and won on appeal. She earned the Clay Award in 2003, which named her the California Trial Lawyer of the Year and in 2004 was named one the top 50 Female Attorneys in California by the Daily Journal.

The Oregon Project is a well-written, intricately woven mystery of multiple facets bound together in a realistic fictional tale with a strong theme about the power and political pressures existent within our current justice system. In this tangled web we have DA Grant Bellinger and Assistant DA Mitchell Landau in an election battle, several real estate scam artists (George Stone and Charlie Parks)–The Oregon Project, the beautiful Tess Lowe, and organized Chinese crime. Allow me give you a sample of Natasha’s writing from page 1:

"On any given night, this alley was permeated with a brew of dumpster trash and drug-filled urine. Its filth was matched only by its darkness and the scent of gut wrenching fear emitted by anyone who happened to turn into it by accident or, as in this case, was brought here against his will.

"He stopped feeling his hands somewhere midtown. Luckily, the rope cut off circulation and relieved him of the pain. Now, he knew it was only a matter of time–his time. The stench of the alley hit as soon as he was dragged out of the back of the black sedan. There were three of them, but he could only feel two now, one on each arm, pushing him further and further into the abyss of this strange location, which would soon become his final resting place. Where was the third? Did he stay with the car? Was he the one holding the gun, and would put the bullet in his head? Did any of it really matter?"

And the essence of this book from page 197:

"In truth, it was not hard to explain at all. The first two years being the district attorney were, in short, unbelievably satisfying. Mitch was exactly where he wanted to be. He worked hard, made good changes, and made the right decisions. But then came the new campaign, the fundraising, the contributions and the expected promises in return. He was being challenged by one of his subordinates, a woman he respected and liked.

"This was nothing compared to his battle with Bellinger, but the scent was rising. He could feel himself softening his once hard-line stances in order to appease, even slightly, those who would help him get reelected. He was breaking no laws, and crossing no lines. But he felt himself slipping into the Bellinger abyss, tasting, and for the first time, understanding what must have turned Bellinger from a good prosecutor into a corrupt politician.

In a good system of laws, this was a bad system of politics. In order to stay in power to do good, one had to succumb to allowing some bad. Nor did he see a good solution to this quagmire, although he contemplated it often. If, instead, the district attorneys were appointed for life, the way U.S. Supreme Court justices were, there would be no accountability other than one’s own conscience, a rather weak monitoring system. . . ."

Natasha Roit has used her knowledge and legal experience to create this excellent, contemporary mystery. The Oregon Project is her debut novel, and I highly recommend this engaging, fast-paced read which will be available September 2006.

Reviewed by Kaye Trout - August 4, 2006 - Copyright

Thursday, August 03, 2006

PETER and BETH by Doug Lalli

Hats Off Books
610 East Delano Street, Ste 104
Tucson, Arizona 85705
Genre: Fiction/Literature
Rating: Very Good
ISBN: 1587364964, $16.95, 186 pp

The back cover tells the essence of this fiction novel:

"Five years after Peter Granelli’s lone sexual encounter with Beth, a close friend from his college days, he spots her from a distance on a Manhattan street. Soon he becomes obsessed with the idea that Beth might have become pregnant as a result of their (somewhat disastrous) tryst, and for months he considers tracking her down and learning the truth. Finally Peter and Beth come face to face and he gets his answer. Why, though, doesn’t he quite believe what she’s telling him?"

Doug Lalli is a good writer–clear, straightforward–and carries you right along, but this novel is much more than a story about Peter’s obsession over Beth. It’s about Peter: his childhood, family, relatives; his feelings about his father, Mike, who rejected him; his job, which he doesn’t like; his friendship with Rick, a co-worker; his marriage to Claire which recently ended; his developing relationship with therapist Dr. Rhonda Millstein; and at the heart of it all . . . "But how can you trust people," I asked, "when you don’t trust people?"

Somehow you feel a New York influence in Peter’s psychological tripping but it’s the mystery of the possible child which holds you and still, even when you know, continues to hold you as Peter can’t decide how he feels, can he trust her, what does he want to do. It may be called Peter and Beth, but it’s definitely not a romance novel.

I would recommend this book based on the quality of Doug’s writing and his insightfulness into the complexity of the human condition.

Reviewed by Kaye Trout - August 3, 2006 - Copyright