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The Thoughtful Spot

Author: Eric R. Wuele
Genre: Mystery
Reviewed by Liz Burton

10080410Once in a great while a book arrives from a self-published writer that is the exception to the unfortunate truth that most such books fail to meet professional standards on one if not more levels.

The Thoughtful Spot is such a book.

Written with a marvelous economy that makes it difficult to discuss the story without giving away spoilers, this second novel by Californian Eric Weule tells the story of Tyler, a young man whose world crumbles around him, and Stacey, a woman whose world ended in all but name three years before with the death of her five-year-old son. Yet these two strangers are bound in a mystery that they must solve before they can begin to rebuild what has been shattered.

The Thoughtful Spot relies heavily on coincidence, at least at first glance. As one follows Tyler and Stacey on their paths of inevitability, however, the question is posed whether there really is such a thing as coincidence; or whether we are, in fact, driven, guided and led to be where we need to be to achieve what needs to be done. Mr. Weule never feels the need to rely on religious ideas or imagery. Instead, he leaves the question open so that the reader can interpret events and manifestations as it suits.

From the first page, both the compelling characters and the unrelenting pace keep the reader snared in the unraveling story until the moment of revelation when the mystery is solved. For this is both a mystery and a personal spiritual journey for Tyler and Stacey from which they cannot help but emerge changed, whether they solve that mystery or not.

A master of imagery, Mr. Weule’s book is a sensual banquet, full of sights and sounds and scents and touches that bring his world to vivid life. This is a book that should somehow be placed in the hands of M. Night Shayamalan, for it begs to be a movie.


October 29, 2004 in Mystery | Permalink | Comments (0)

Nine Days To Evil

Author: Nancy Glass West
Genre: Mystery
Reviewed by Kevin R. Tipple

10190402For Meredith Laughlin her life is almost perfect. Naive and wealthy, she is for the most part happily married to Dr. Conrad Laughlin, staff member of Methodist University Hospital in San Antonio, Texas. In addition to his hospital duties, he also sees private and clinic patients at locations some distance from San Antonio. He makes a circuit every week of a different area and uses San Antonio as his center point.

As the book opens, he is on the road to see some of his patients and behind the wheel of his beloved Jag. Despite the thunderstorms in the area, he manages to get through to Meredith briefly on his cell phone. They only manage to connect for a minute or so and then Meredith hears her husband scream and what sounds like the noises of a violent car crash before she is cut off. She reports the incident and initially Texas Department of Public Safety Troopers can't find the car and have no record of a crash in the area. As the hours pass into days, Meredith takes the first tentative steps on a long road in trying to find out what happened to her husband.

For Conrad's partner, Dr. Key Walker, the disappearance ads a tremendous amount of work to his shoulders. In addition to everything else, Walker now has to cover Conrad's patients. Something that would be easier if the files were in the proper order and if some of them made medical sense. This isn't the first time Conrad has done something odd and Key suspects something sinister is going on.

Meredith is also beginning to wonder about her perfect husband. While she knows far less than Key, Conrad's behavior with her has been a little odd from time to time. As she begins to attend Grad School, she starts recognizing that her husband might not be all that he appears to be and that she needs to find him and get answers before moving on with her life.

This is an enjoyable mystery featuring an interesting set of characters at the beginning of what appears to be a series. As the ripples of Conrad's disappearance touch other lives, the point of view shifts between those characters adding further dimension to this cozy style mystery. In so doing, the author creates a fuller, deeper work, while sacrificing none of the plot, pacing, and storyline points that make this novel an enjoyable read from start to finish.


October 28, 2004 in Mystery | Permalink | Comments (2)

Doc Ardan: City Of Gold And Lepers

Author: Guy d'Armen
Genre: Adventure
Reviewed by Kevin R. Tipple

10080401While many readers are familiar with the exploits of Doc Savage, not so many are familiar with his French predecessor, Doc Ardan. In this novel, which may have inspired the literary legend of Doc Savage, grand adventure is the key concept. And while some may dismiss the novel as mere pulp fiction, for which it is a fine example of some of the best France has to offer, it is very interesting to read a novel that so vividly describes the use of weapons of mass destruction and the possibilities as well as consequences of nuclear energy. For its time, this was a visionary book and for this time, it still is visionary as well as being a very good read.

It is 1927 and the explorer Doctor Francis Ardan is leading a small group across the wasteland of the Koko Nor desert of Tibet. The group is small, the land is harsh and then they are attacked. Ambushed, shot, and left for dead while the rest of his group is slaughtered, Doc Ardan barely survives. Unable to do much more than crawl after he regains consciousness, he begins to do so and as night falls and the freezing cold begins to ravage his body, another traveler happens to find him.

Days pass and a series of small adventures results in his being captured by the evil villain Doctor Natas. Doctor Natas (Satan spelled backwards) is the unmerciful ruler of the magnificent underground city, the "City Of Gold And Lepers." Stunned by the appearance of everyday objects created out of gold, seemingly an inexhaustible supply of gold, Doctor Ardan soon learns that Doctor Natas has no limits. Doc Ardan is condemned to be a prisoner forever, infected with a particularly virulent form of leprosy that requires the presence of Z- Rays, another Doctor Natas discovery, found in the city to hold it in check. If he were to leave, the lack of Z-Rays would cause a most painful death within less than 24 hours. He is to be a slave and personally assist Doctor Natas and while his accommodations and working environment may be better, he is no different than the thousands of slaves that toil under the evil Doctor Natas.

Forced to comply, Doc Ardan is revolted by the evil Doctor Natas, his brutal treatment of everyone, and his insane scheme for total world domination. Alone, he is virtually powerless, but soon he is joined by the lovely and talented Louise Ducharme. They hatch a plan to save themselves, the slaves, and the world and in so doing, defeat Doctor Natas.

This is a fast, fun read and a highlight of French pulp fiction. Much like the recent release of "Doctor Omega," also by this same publisher, this novel features some illustrations from the original novel, some social commentary, and a great storyline with interesting characters on a grand adventure. They simply don't write books like this anymore, which is a great pity. It succeeds on all levels very well and is very worthy of a place on your bookshelf.


October 28, 2004 in Adventure | Permalink | Comments (0)

Running Away to School

Author: Maryjo Holland
Genre: Children's Fiction
Reviewed by Karyn Walden-Forrest

10080402When I saw the title Running Away to School I had no idea what to expect. This book was quite different than any other book I've read, with an interesting telling of a surviving away from home as a child type of story.

Running Away to School is written by Maryjo Holland who is a retired elementary school teacher. It tells the story of a misfit boy named Dirk who, at the beginning of the book, has gotten in trouble for beating up another student on the school bus on the last day of school before Christmas break. His mother is upset at him and when Christmas arrives Dirk sees no presents under the tree with his name on them. So he excuses himself, packs some things and decides to run away.

Thinking about a safe place to stay alludes him for a while, but ultimately he figures he can stay at the school during the break because noone will be there, it wilCl be warm enough from the cold, and he would be able to find food leftovers hopefully. Thus the name of the novel.

The author does a good job of describing Dirk's thoughts. Not a lot of conversation occurs as Dirk remains in hiding, hoping to not be found. This boy is resourceful in his new home but it is still difficult to cheer for this "bad boy" for most of the book.

However as the story progresses and different events, such as a painful tooth, and witnessing another student he thought was a goody-two- shoes do something he shouldn't have done, Dirk seems to change. And with the change the reader can come to relate with him more and want something to turn out right for him.

After almost 6 months staying in the school undiscovered, summer break approaches and Dirk knows he won't be able to live without any food for that long. He ventures out to find a new alternative place to stay and finds himself in a new predicament. Fortunately it turns out for the best. Exactly how? Read it for yourself to see.

The only negative I found to this book was that the entire story, including the ending, is found on the back cover. I like to know something about a story, but I want an element of surprise as I'm reading it.

Overall this book is an interesting read for children aged 8-12. It is a short read at 49 pages, but presents situations that children could relate to and learn from. An upper elementary student will enjoy this twist on running away from home.


October 28, 2004 in Children | Permalink | Comments (0)

Jay Walker 4th Grade Noir: The Case Of The Missing Action Figure

Author: Grant R. Philips
Genre: Children's Mystery
Reviewed by Kevin R. Tipple

10080403For Jason Walker, forth grade student and son of a police officer, school occupies just part of his day. Sometimes he helps his fellow students solve mysteries and like any good private investigator or police officer, he keeps things quiet.

Which is precisely why Benny comes to him for help, as he does not want anyone at school to know about his problem. Benny brought a very special action figure to school and now it is missing. Named "Daisy Flyer", the doll, or as Benny prefers to call it, the action figure, is very important to him and if his classmates found out, he would never hear the end of it. Not only is it missing but apparently it has been toy napped and is being held for ransom in the form of an extremely valuable playing card from a popular series. If Benny does not give in to the ransom demand on a poorly spelled note, the entire school will be told about Benny's action figure.

Walker is on the case and with an occasional observation that reads a bit old for him; he diligently begins to sift clues and suspects. What follows is a very enjoyable read and on the level of the Encyclopedia Brown series of my youth. Phillip Tomasso III, writing here as Grant R. Philips, can always be counted on for books featuring interesting plots, characters and plenty of action along with a very good story. Such is the case here in this children's novel which is simply a great read. Hopefully, this is the start of a series as this novel is a success for young readers and adults.


October 28, 2004 in Children | Permalink | Comments (0)

Who Died In Here?

Author: Pat Dennis, et al
Genre: Crime Fiction
Reviewed by Kevin R. Tipple

100804042004 seems to have been the year of the anthology. Not only do I have several to read and review in my stack, I receive several queries and proposals concerning anthologies to be reviewed a week. However, few, if any, have such a unique and laugh out loud premise.

Combining a lament heard in bathrooms and adjoining bedrooms across the country, if not the world, with crime and often murder, the resulting twenty-five stories are well worth the read. Some are downright funny from start to finish while others border on the twisted side of looking at life and death. Some readers might even find them perverse. And while each story selected by editor Pat Dennis, who also contributes one (more on that later), are good, I don't have the space here to go into all of them. So here are several in no special order, other than the order they were presented in the book that really made an extra impression on me.

"Nothing Good Ever Came Of A Bad Hair Day" by Kris Neri (page 16) tells of the ultimate revenge plot against a certain hairdresser. Image is everything and for the narrator lawyer, a bad style is unacceptable.

"What David Was Doing When The Lights Went Out" by Ben Vincent (page 67) uses the widespread blackout of last year as the setting for his story. It is a bad thing to try to commit murder and to be interrupted by a power failure. They just don't make hair dryers like they used to.

Payback, a theme used often in the anthology, is the theme for the story "One For The Road" by Pat Dennis (Page 79). "Jenkin's Service Station specialized in fixing unnecessary repairs on RV's driven by seniors." Two can play that game.

Then there is "Port-O-Prince" by R. J. Mills, (page 102) where the ultimate resting place for the recently deceased is a unique place. Sometimes your coworkers know you better than you know yourself.

Also included in this very enjoyable anthology are stories by R. T. Lawton, Thomas Bray, Terry Burlison, Michael Giorgio, Nick Andreychuk, Mike Befeler, Peggy Jaegly, Stephen D. Rogers, Michael Learmond, Kevin Carollo, David Dumitru, Beverle Graves Myers, Jeremy Yoder, James C. Wardlaw, Donna Sundblad, Sandra Levy Ceren, Lori G. Armstrong, A. S. Berman, Lance Zarimba, Joan Hall Hovey, and Dean Johnson. While I did not go into detail about their stories, that should not be construed as a negative reflection on their work. Far from it as there is not a bad story in this 190-page anthology. It is all good.

As noted on the back cover, "Twenty-five mystery stories of crimes and bathroom ranging from zany to deadly serious, by some of today's finest short story writers." That pretty much sums it up and makes this book well worth reading. Whether you read in the bathroom or not, remember, please leave the fan on.


October 28, 2004 in Crime Fiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Valley Fever: Where Murder Is Contagious

Author: Sunny Frazier, Jo Anne Lucas, Cora Ramos
Genre: Crime Fiction
Reviewed by Kevin R. Tipple

"Clear and potent in a crystal glass chilled, A lacing of poison for the next to be killed. A touch of vermouth, more generous with gin- A toast and a promise, let the murders begin." --Murderous Martine by Jo Anne Lucas (Page 11)

10080405As a native Texan, I know a little bit about the thing called summertime heat. It becomes a living oppressive thing all around you that has absolutely no escape. It can make one a little crazy as the days pass in the blinding glare and it might make one crazy enough to commit murder. Apparently, despite the picture postcard perfect image of The San Joaquin Valley in California, the heat there has the same effect. According to these three authors and this enjoyable collection, The Valley has a very violent and dark side.

Broken into five sections titled, "Fine Dining," "Valley Heat," "Stormy Weather," "Deadly Destinations," "Culture & Consequences," and "Holidays Can Be Murder," with a total of 27 stories, this 159 page read features murder and mayhem in various forms. While no two stories were alike, several stories really whet my appetite.

"Too Hot To Handle" by Cora Ramos (Page 37) features Detective Mac Mullain who wants to get out of the heat and into a bar as well as out of Vice. The beer is cold as is the plot he overhears.

"Killer Tan" by Jo Anne Lucas (Page 41) involves a young woman who is more than fed up with Stella, her deceased father's second wife.

"Final Forecast" by Sunny Frazier (Page 72) features a story where everything is blamed on El Nino with good reason.

Each story in this collection from these authors is very good with many of them having a twist at the end. They depict a variety of situations, characters, economic spectrums and lifestyles, with sometimes amusing, and often times chilling results. This is a good one to read and if you are interested in collections, one worthy of your consideration.


October 28, 2004 in Crime Fiction | Permalink | Comments (0)

Within the Shadow of Stone

Author: Sheri L. McGathy
Genre: Fantasy
Reviewed by Kim Richards

10080406This is a charming fantasy tale where the magic of two time periods come together to save the world. A young girl, Bree, becomes the only priestess of an abandoned religion. She and her grandfather seek to restore the religion, their clans, and the well being of their beloved ancestral lands.

Aided by countless fairies, nymphs, and Bree's goddess, Hertha, she travels with the band of Reformers hot on her heels. These enforcers of religious intolerance are led by a boy of her clan who still loves her, in a possessive way. He serves a resurrected commander who, in turn, serves Hertha's rival, a deity named Blight.

The best part of this story is that Bree has her own personal spirit warrior. Though we are led to believe Bree is the key to this world's salvation, the spirit warrior--Nathan--plays just as crucial role in bringing all the necessary components into play. He faces an enemy from his past. Through all this, he earns his corporeal life back along with Bree's love.

There's lots of magic, sword fights and interesting bits of humanity throughout this tale. It might be too light for some people but I enjoyed it immensely.


October 28, 2004 in Fantasy | Permalink | Comments (0)

Elated by Details

Author: Adam Freedman
Genre: Humor
Reviewed by Patricia Ferguson, PsyD

10080407Adam Freedman’s book of short stories is an interesting look into humor from a man’s perspective, or at least Freedman’s perspective. I’m not sure if it is representative of humor of men in general, but I believe it may be. Men tell jokes, women never remember them. I know studies have been done on the differences in humor between the genders and that is what is found. But of course, I have read many humorous writings by men, such as Dave Barry, Woody Allen, and others, and I enjoyed them completely.

Perhaps this particular humor is the problem. Are puns really funny? Well, not to me. So it is not really a wonder that I found myself having difficulty relating to this book. However, I’ll bet money that a man would like it, or at least more men than women. Freedman’s premise throughout the book is playing on words, turning them inside out and backwards, and the joke is that the other person doesn’t get it. I got it, but didn’t see the humor in it. I tried reading it from the perspective of ignoring the bad humor and just getting into the stories, and that didn’t work for me either.

There are several stories about different topics, so I hoped that as the book went on I would come to like it more. For me, the characters weren’t developed enough, the story didn’t catch me and keep me interested, and thus I was a reader lost.

I think that certainly there is a market for books like this one, and that just because I didn’t care for it doesn’t mean someone else won’t. Obviously, we all have different tastes. What I can say to a reader interested in this book is that it is a book of humorous short stories, generally about coming of age or breaking out of the mold of everyday life. While the topics and characters change, it is clear that one voice is speaking throughout: Freedman’s.


October 28, 2004 in Humor | Permalink | Comments (0)


Author: Jeannette Angell
Genre: Memoir
Reviewed by Claire Krulikowski

10080408Prior to writing Callgirl, Jeannette Angell had been writing fiction, with four books published in the last 10 years. In Callgirl, though, Angell breaks the mold to share a true, personal story with insight, grit, humor, and a fine writer's expertise of the three years when she was teaching courses at universities in Boston during the day and working as a call girl at night.

There was a professor at my college in the '70s who, I'd learned back then, was doing the same. Money, making ends meet, was the reason then as universities paid less than prime.

The reason was the same for Angell. Holder of 5 degrees (a Bachelors from the Universite Catholoique del L'Quest in France, another B.A. in History from Fitchburg State College, a B.S. in Education from Lesley College, a Master of Divinity Studies from Yale, and a Ph.D. in Anthropology), when one of those ill-fated life situations happened that wiped her our financially and she needed fast cash, she went looking in the classifieds. It took a little consideration, but she finally decided to do it. At $140.00 (her take) an hour, it was a financial no-brainer.

What she was surprised to learn on her first evening "try out" was exactly how good she could be - not just sexually - but in all the other skills necessary for success and safety in the profession. Skills most people wouldn't even think were necessary, including a highly attuned intuition, and an awareness and a plethora of subtle abilities that keep you desired and keep you safe. We also come to meet others: the woman who ran the agency, a friend into drugs whose life we can sense slipping away even in our presence, other very business savvy “girls.” We share heartfelt conversations with a friend – a friend who doesn’t stay one very long.

In Callgirl, Angell draws readers intimately close to her life, day and night. Don't expect sensationalism, though. That's not what this book is about. Instead, Callgirl is written to do away with assumptions about this profession and the women who work in it. Assumptions like, "...call girls have no ethics" or that "she, essentially, is her profession and that her profession is nothing to be proud of."

It's a subject Angell can teach well and understands even academically. During the latter period of her days working as a call girl, she created and taught a fall university class entitled The History and Sociology of Prostitution.

Callgirl is an intimate glimpse into a world not many people, least of all the clients, has ever seen or understood.


October 28, 2004 in Memoir | Permalink | Comments (2)