Friday, December 30, 2016

In the Dreaming HourIn the Dreaming Hour by Kathryn Le Veque

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Victory Hembree committed the greatest sin possible in pre-civil-rights era Mississippi and her nasty redneck father responded just as we knew he would. The doctor who delivered the baby smuggled her from the ante-bellum mansion in a Coke crate covered with bloody towels while claiming she had been stillborn. Eighty years later, Victory’s granddaughter receives a letter from beyond the grave charging her with the responsibility of finding the woman who had been that forbidden child. Add to the mixture, creepy cousin Clyde who has a perverted attraction to granddaughter, Lucy, and knockout Sheriff Beau Meade who has a more acceptable attraction to her. Lucy is reeling from a recent divorce and fantasizes leaving her defense attorney job in Los Angeles to restore the family estate to its former glory. Maybe she will also let the alluring sheriff make his move, but first she has a task and only a few days to accomplish it.

In the Dreaming Hour is a well-crafted tale of love lost, racism and redemption with a component of terror and violence. Katheryn LeVeque is a fine storyteller whose characters are well developed. The author calls In the Dreaming Hour a contemporary romance. In the opinion of this reader, it is more than that. In fact, the romance element is secondary to the rather complex plot.

Katheryn LeVeque was kind enough to speak to our La Verne Writers' Group. She is a very successful self-published author with sixty books to her credit. The group agreed that we should give her a try. My opinion is that she is a better storyteller than writer.

Price is $4.99
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Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Wright BrothersThe Wright Brothers by David McCullough

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Everything that was known about aeronautics was wrong. The Wright brothers started in a hole of misinformation and had to discover all of what they eventually learned the hard way—often by falling out of the sky. Beginning with gliders on the soft, sandy hills near Kitty Hawk, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, they studied the physics of lift. They abandoned that first glider to a local fisherman whose wife removed the fabric from the wings and made dresses for her daughters. Two years later the first powered Wright Flyer flew exactly four times. The longest flight was fifty-nine seconds. When the brothers began to publically demonstrate their machine in a field outside of Dayton, the United States government paid no attention. The first real notice they received was from France. Wilbur and Orville agreed that they should never fly together so that if one were killed, the other could continue their work. Another remarkable fact herein revealed is that the team did not solely consist of the Wright brothers, there was a Wright sister, Katherine, whose support played an invaluable part in the success of her siblings’ endeavor. Plus, they had a mechanical genius running the bicycle shop who built the Flyers’ engines. There is infinitely more to the story of first flight than we learned in school.

David McCullough has a long reputation of being one of America’s greatest historians. In The Wright Brothers he has told the story of a uniquely American triumph. The insight into the singular characters of these obsessed inventors from Dayton, Ohio, is told in brilliant clear and clean prose that reads like a novel. The depth of Mr. McCullough’s research is, as always, phenomenal. The reader is drawn intimately into the race to build the first successful airplane. We share the determination, single-minded persistence and emotional backlash as the Wrights devote their nearly ascetic lives to the goal of flight. If the term ‘Must Read’ is a cliché, so be it. The Wright Brothers is definitely a must read.

Great last minute Christmas present.

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Thursday, December 15, 2016

It Was Required Reading in The La Verne Writers Group

All the Light We Cannot SeeAll the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The lives of a blind French girl and an orphaned German boy come together during wartime in the light of an enormous diamond with a curse. Werner has a gift for building and operating radios. Marie-Laure’s uncle has a secret transmitter in the attic. The diamond is hidden in a wooden model of the house. A Nazi gemologist is determined to find it.

All the Light We Cannot See is for readers who love word paintings. I do not. Mr. Doerr’s literary gymnastics are extraordinary. This is a very long book that would be halved by the elimination of the metaphors. The prose is tortured with unorthodox word usage. ‘He upholsters himself in his uniform...’, ‘...blood gallops through his ventricles...’, ‘breath smells like crushed insects’ are some jarring examples. There are also some anachronisms. Continental drift is said to be identified during the war 1938-1945, whereas, it in fact was not accepted until the fifties. I also objected to references to miles and yards in Europe where it should have been meters and kilometers. Whole chapters seem to do nothing to advance the story and curious statements appear baffling. For example: the blind girl hears a dove, that’s fine, but the next sentence is: ‘Out in the harbor a sturgeon makes a single leap like a silver horse and then is gone.’ First, sturgeons are fresh water bottom dwellers that, to my knowledge, are not prone to leap—I could be wrong, however, the sentence has nothing whatever to do with the blind girl inside her room. The viewpoint shifts are myriad and being written in present tense is not a style that appeals to me. If you love to linger long in novel phrasing, this for you. It wasn’t for me.

Very Long, almost 600 pages on a Nook
Price $13.99
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Saturday, November 12, 2016


Scott Skipper

Copyright 2016

All rights reserved


If you’re not a liberal at twenty, you have no heart.
If you’re not a conservative at forty, you have no brain.

Winston Churchill

I hold it, that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.

Thomas Jefferson

Chapter 1

The page was loading at about one pixel per minute. I kept hammering the mouse button knowing it would do no good, but I needed to punish something. Either I needed a new computer or Google did. Then something weird happened that forced me to stare and blink. A black rectangle opened in the center of the page, and there was something being typed across it. It closed in a second and I didn’t get a chance to see what it said. Finally the page loaded and I had control again. It was definitely a “WTF” moment. Lately I’d been having a lot of them.
    I selected and copied the text of an opinion by the Fourth Circuit Court on the president’s latest attempt to sneak another amnesty around Congress, pasted it into a Word document and saved it with the rest of the research I’d been doing for the manuscript I was currently flogging. Then I donned my discipline hat, and focused on the next twenty-five hundred words. At quitting time, I saved it and made a copy on two thumb drives. After that, it was wine time and the FOX news. It was a slow day—only one truck bombing in Baghdad, and not a single beheading.
    Roger arrived at six. I let him into the foyer and stood on my toes to kiss him. He was a head taller than me, which is good because I rarely noticed the bald spot on the crown of his head. That, the gray temples and fine crow’s-feet, was the only concession to age that he’d made since we met in school. I’m too generous. He may have added a few inches around the midsection, but I’m no one to talk. We hadn’t been together all that time. We were an item for several years, and I fully expected to marry the bastard, but he had this thing about commitment—and other women.
    “Help yourself to a drink,” I said.
    “I always do.” He poured a generous two fingers of scotch from the decanter, and refreshed my chardonnay. “There’s nothing cooking. Did I forget that it’s my night to cook?”
     “No, we’re going out for a change.”
    “Okay. Any place special?”
    “Not really. We’ll take the trolley to the Gaslight District and pick some place that isn’t crowded.”
    “Sounds good. How was your day?”
    “Fine, except something weird happened.”
    “What’s that?”
    I took a sip of wine and thought about how to describe it. “I was waiting for a webpage that was taking forever to load, and a little black window opened in the middle of the screen. Somebody was typing something on it.”
    “Probably just an ad loading.”
    “No, this was different. What do you call that window where you go to get your IP address?”
    “Command prompt?”
    “Yeah, that’s it. This looked like the command prompt.”
    “And you didn’t open it by mistake?”
    “I don’t know how to open it.”
    “You didn’t see it before or after that?”
    “Hmm, well, let’s open it and see.” He rose and carried his drink to the computer desk. Without sitting he entered ‘Command prompt’ in the start menu search box, and the little window opened in the center of the screen. Ghostly fingers were typing something after ‘C/Users/Kate>’, but the window closed before either of us could read it. “Well, that was odd.”
    “It’s downright spooky. Do you think somebody has hacked my computer?”
    “You’ve got anti-malware, don’t you?”
    “Of course I do—the best. I subscribe to that Russian outfit.”
    “Did you ever give somebody remote access to your computer?”
    “What do you mean?”
    “You know, like when you give the guy in India control of your computer because you can’t figure out how to get something to work.”
    “I don’t think so.”
    “Well, my dear, it looks like somebody has access to your computer, and they don’t want you to see what they’re doing.”
    That gave me a chill. “That’s pretty creepy. What should I do?”
    “Turn it off and don’t use it.”
    “You do know that I use that computer to make my living?”
    “Hell, Kate, if you never wrote another word in your life, you’d die a rich woman.”
    “That’s not the point. I’m a compulsive writer.”
    “You’re ’pulsive, all right.”
    “What do you mean ’pulsive’?”
    “Com, im and re.”
    I punched him in the shoulder. “Get out of the way and let me shut it down.” I took the chair and clicked the ‘Start’ button, then the ‘Shutdown’ button. The screen went blue, and the loopy little dots started whirling. A few seconds later the last screen refreshed. “Crap,” I said, “I’ll try again.” I got the same result.
    “Try the task manager,” Roger said.
    “What’s that?”
    “Control, alt, delete.”
    “Oh, yeah.” The task manager window opened, and I manually closed all the running programs, but the shutdown button never appeared.
    He said, “So, push the power button. All your data is saved, and the programs closed.”
    I did, and in a moment, the screen went black. “What am I going to do?”
    “I’ll make a call in the morning, and get you the number of a guy who can figure it out.”
    “Okay, let’s eat.”

After a heavy meal and much wine, we wobbled back to the condo. Roger took me by the elbow and tried to steer me directly into the bedroom. “Whoa, stud, I’m way too full to let you play trampoline tonight. You’ll have to wait until morning.”
    “I figured as much. That was your evil plan all along, wasn’t it?”
    “Hey, why is there a light in the office?” I looked around the jamb and saw the screen saver on the monitor. “Didn’t I do a hard shutdown?”
    “I saw you do it.”
    “Well, the frigging thing turned itself back on.”
    “Pull the plug, or the damn thing might kill us in our sleep.”
    “This is getting scary,” I said, and crawled on my knees under the desk. I groped for the power cord behind the tower and wiggled it until it came free. I listened to the fan whir to a halt. “Okay, the beast is dead.”
    “Let’s hope.”
    “If it plugs itself back in, I’m going to shoot it.”
    “That’s what I’d do. Now, how can you be too full after we walked all the way from the trolley stop—uphill?”
    Roger still had the libido he had twenty years ago—or thought he did. He swore he didn’t take pills for it. Me? I was content to surrender to the sexual vacuum of post-menopause, but he would get so morose, I’d have to humor him. “We walked five blocks. Forget it. If you get the geek’s number in the morning, I’ll do you a favor.”
    In the morning with the favor behind me, and Roger contented again, he called somebody and wrote a number on the pad by the phone. After he showered and was out the door, I dialed it. A sleepy voice said, “Yeello.”
    I said, “Hello, is this the computer service?”
    “Who wants to know?”
    “My name is Kate Baker. Do you work on computers?”
    “Hardware or software?”
    “Soft, I guess. I think I’ve been hacked.”
    “Hundred dollars an hour. Starts when I leave home. Where are you?”
    “Mission Hills.”
    “You’re in luck. Only take me an hour to get there. What’s your address?”
    I gave him the address, ended the call and made sure my revolver was loaded. An hour later the doorbell rang. He wasn’t as grungy looking as I expected.
    He said, “Hi, I’m Nick. You got any coffee?”
    “Is espresso okay?”
    “Great. Make it a double. Where’s the computer?”
    I showed him. “I had to unplug it. It came back on by itself.”
    “Huh. Give me a few minutes of quiet.” He began to crawl under the desk.
    “I’ll get your coffee.” When I sat the cup by his elbow, he was engrossed in a black screen crowded with white characters. They were gibberish to me. “What’s all that?”
    “Shh.” He took a small, noisy sip of the thick coffee, and said, “Have you checked your bank accounts since this happened?”
    “Oh, shit. I didn’t think of that.”
    “Well, duh. What other reason would somebody want to hack a rich lady who writes dirty books?”
    “I don’t write dirty books.”
    “Get out of the way and let me check my accounts.”
    “If they got into your accounts, it’s way too late now. Don’t you have a phone or tablet you can use to check them on?”
    “Oh, yeah. I’ll be right back.” I ran to the bedroom and looked at my bank accounts and investments on my phone. Everything was intact.
    When I returned to the office and told him, he said, “So, for what other reason would somebody hack you?”
    “So, I’m definitely hacked?”
    “Yeah, by the best. Maybe to steal your next book?”
    “That’s not very likely. I’ve got a copyright.”
    “So, if you don’t write porn, what do you call it?”
    “So, who do you make fun of?”
    “Anybody who deserves it. Mainly the government.”
    “Well, I’d say we’re definitely dealing with a government here.”
    “Oh, shit. Whose government?”
    “No way to tell. They’re using the TOR browser. IP address is in the middle of the ocean, but if I were to guess, I’d say it’s ours.”
    “So, how do I get rid of them?”
    Nick sat back and cradled the cup in both hands. He belched lightly, and said, “I don’t think you can.”
    I felt a jolt. “What?”
    “Look, if you get a new computer, router, IP address, email account, new phone number and change your name, they’ll just find you again. For whatever reason, somebody is watching you.”
    “You think my phone’s tapped?”
    He made a disgusted face. “Everybody’s phone’s tapped, but somebody is paying attention to you. They’re listening to your calls, reading your email and spying on your browsing habits. You ever look at porn?”
    “Hell, no.”
    “That probably wouldn’t interest them anyway. What do you do online?”
    “I follow political events, and do research for my novels.”
    “Well, you got somebody pissed.”
    “What do you think they want?”
    “I’d say to shut you up.”

Chapter 2

When I got rid of young Nick, I opened the bottom drawer of my file cabinet. In the very back the folders were yellow and brittle. What I wanted was still there. It was a tabloid size newspaper. The masthead proclaimed it ‘The Toad.’ As I read the nearly fifty-year-old article, I became Katie again—it was still Katie Baker. I retook my maiden name after my divorce.

May 2, 1970

May was balmy in Cleveland that Saturday night. Roger took me to a bar to listen to music and drink beer. Roger was old enough to order the hard stuff. I had to settle for three-two beer, but when I drained half of my glass, he’d pour his beer into it, and go get another. The band made up for dubious talent with volume, and it was impossible to talk except during their breaks.
    In the relative quiet, Roger asked, “Do you have enough money for the next edition?”
    “Yeah, barely. Wally says since his connection got busted he hasn’t been able to score.” Wally was the silent backer of The Toad. He taught law at Case Western Reserve and sold dope on the side. He used the money from dealing to fund our underground newspaper.
    The band adjourned to the bar, and the club’s owner mounted the stage. He adjusted the singer’s microphone and motioned for silence. “Listen up, people. WMMS just announced that the protesters against sending troops to Cambodia set fire to the ROTC building on the Kent State Campus.”
    A cheer erupted in the crowded bar. I didn’t hesitate to join the clapping and whistling.
    The owner waited for the noise to settle. “They plan another protest tomorrow at noon, if anybody can get down there to join them. Governor Rhodes called out the National Guard, so they need all the support they can get. Smash the state!” He raised his fist as he quit the stage and the noise level spiked again.
    “I’ve got to go cover that,” I shouted in Roger’s ear. “Will you drive me, or do I have to hitchhike?”
    “I’ll take you. We can spend the night with my cousin, Bill, in Akron.”
    “Is he still living with that crazy bitch?”
    “Wanda? Yeah, as far as I know.”
    “Great. Bring your stash. I don’t want to be conscious when I’m around her.”
    We left after the next set and strolled along Coventry Road. Cleveland Heights buzzed on the warm Saturday night. Record Revolution was packed, and Jimi Hendrix pulsed from the open entrance of the head shop next door. I hesitated on the corner and looked at the traffic. “Narks everywhere tonight,” I said.
    “Regular pigs, too. They’re uptight about Kent.”
    “Let’s get off the street.”
    Roger’s apartment on Lancashire Road was around the corner, and a few doors west of Record Revolution—he was a regular customer. His second story unit was tiny. To increase rental income, landlords in the area partitioned the once spacious apartments. Roger had a sitting room furnished with a second hand couch and a beanbag chair, a closet of a kitchen that he never used, a bathroom with a ball and claw tub retrofitted with a showerhead, and a bedroom that almost accommodated his double bed and nightstand. House rules forbade any color on the walls, so he plastered them with posters of rock bands and psychedelic art. The first things he did was pull the chain on his black light and push the switch on the lava lamp on the crate he used for an end table.
    “What do you want to hear?” I asked as I leafed through the stack of albums leaning against the wall.
    “Strange Days,” he said while rolling a joint on the coffee table.
    “Why don’t you just bolt that to your turntable, and sell the rest of these?”
    “’Cause I like to hear both sides.”
    “While we’re in Akron, let’s find Snoddy and try to score some hash.” I preferred hash to pot, and my geeky friend, Snoddy, could find it no matter how dry things got. He was the kind of freak who only owned one pair of jeans, and I swore, if you could dissolve the cotton, you’d have an ounce of hash. I took a chest-full of smoke and held it.
    “You got any money?” he asked. I shook my head. “Then I’ll have to go see my mom in the morning.”
    I coughed and had to exhale. “Will she give you some?”
    “If Dad’s not there.”
    “Good, that means I can sleep late.” The mysterious music slowed as the dope expanded in my brain. Roger took me by the hand, and led me to his bed.

Sunday morning was bright and clear. While Roger went to beg money from his mother, I showered and made a cup of his terrible instant coffee, which I drank while I combed the knots from my hair. It was getting a little ratty at the ends, and I wondered if I trusted Roger to trim it. His bullshit story netted him ten dollars, which was just enough for a gram of hash.
    “Do you have gas money?” I asked.
    “I’ve got five bucks, and we’re going to have to eat.”
    “Then we’ll have to swing by Wally’s. He’ll give me an advance on expenses.”
    Wally answered the door in his underpants. “About damned time you surfaced. Did you hear what happened last night?”
    I said, “Cool it, Wally. We’re on our way to Kent right now, but we need gas money.”
    He gave me a five, and we started on the fifty mile drive to the little college town that was on fire over Nixon’s escalating the war that everybody hated. Guardsmen in Jeeps and armored personnel carriers lolled and shot the shit in front of public buildings until we were out of town. They were no older than us, but they looked thuggish and dull, the kind of guys we called ‘straights’ because they hated our lifestyle, and didn’t get stoned.
    I said, “Shit, the pigs are everywhere.”
    “What if we can’t get into Kent?”
    “I wish I had real press credentials.”
    When we arrived, Roger parked on Main Street close to the campus. Most of the shops were boarded, and some had been smudged by fire. I stashed my notebook and camera in my big leather bag with a macramé strap, and we approached the campus through a residential neighborhood hoping to find a way into it without meeting any cops.
    No luck. “Let’s see some ID,” the cop demanded.
    “We went to breakfast. You don’t need ID to eat breakfast. As far as I know, this is still a free country,” I said kind of bitchy.
    “You’re not getting on campus without student ID,” he said.
    Roger said, “You can’t keep us out of our dorms. That’s where we live.”
    “Prove you’re students.”
    I said, “Let me in alone, and I’ll come back with our ID.” Roger gave me a shitty look, but I was the journalist. He could wait for me.
    “No, dice, girl. Turn around and beat it.”
    I gave him my most indignant look. “Hey, Adolph, we’re a couple of students trying to get back to our dorms so we can study. What’s your problem?”
    A guy on a bicycle approached from the opposite direction. He said, “It’s okay, officer. She’s in my English class, and he’s in ROTC.”
    The cop looked suspicious and confused. He waved us onto the campus with a disgusted look. I said, “Thanks, man,” to the stranger, and we walked away from the cop. “They hire the best and the brightest, don’t they?” Roger's shoulder length hair sure didn't make him look like the ROTC type.
    Roger said, “Good thing for us.”
    Things were pretty weird on Sunday. The National Guard had Jeeps and armored personnel carriers all over the campus, but they mingled with some of the kids. They were particularly attracted to the braless girls. Leaflets were everywhere that declared a state of emergency, and outlawed any outdoor gatherings, whether peaceful or otherwise. The most persistent rumor was that there would be an organized protest at noon Monday.
    Somebody announced a press conference was on TV, given by our asshole governor, James Rhodes. Roger and I went into a dorm to see it. Rhodes was in rare form, banging on the table, saying everyone in Ohio was in danger and that the Weather Underground and Students for a Democratic Society were supplying guns to the protesters. I went back outside, and found one of the organizers. He was familiar with The Toad, and agreed to answer some questions.
    “Bullshit,” he said, “there are exactly zero members of the Weather Underground here, and if there are any SDS on this campus, I don’t know about them.”
    I asked, “Do you have anything planned for tonight?”
    “Not that I know about.”
    I thanked him, and said to Roger, “Do you want to go to Bill’s, and come back tomorrow?”
    “This is your trip. I’m only the driver.”
    “It’s kind of boring here. If we hear about something happening, we can always come back.”
    “Suits me.”

Monday the protesters were on the Commons—about an even mix of guys and girls. The soldiers had already given up on tear gas because of the wind and the guys who just threw the canisters back at them. They also threw rocks. An officer in a Jeep bellowed through a bullhorn as he read the Ohio Riot Act. That was a formality that meant anybody could be arrested if they didn’t disperse. We’d all heard it before.
    I began snapping pictures and noticed a group of guardsmen separated themselves from the rest and appeared to be discussing something. One of them knelt on one knee and panned his rifle across the crowd, then he stood and walked away from the others. He headed for a building on the edge of the Commons.
    I said, “Follow that guy. He’s up to something.” I kept taking pictures of him as he entered the building. It had a plaque by the door that said it was Johnson Hall. A few moments later I saw him again on the roof. His head and arms appeared above the parapet without his helmet. He aimed his gun over the heads of the milling guardsmen and he fired one shot. Immediately the soldiers wheeled toward the protesters fifty or sixty feet from them. The front line dropped to one knee and commenced firing. Those behind them fired over the heads of the kneeling shooters. The cacophony lasted forever, although later witnesses said it was fifteen seconds.
    Roger dragged me to the grass and covered me. By the time I crawled from under him, the only sound was the thumping of helicopter rotors and screaming. Faintly, in the distance we could hear sirens.
    “Let’s get the hell outta here before they seal the place,” Roger said.
    We began running, and in the ensuing chaos, managed to get off campus.
    “I’ve got to call Wally,” I said.
    “What for?”
    “He can get David and Debbie started on a special edition.”
    I found a phone booth and dropped a dime into the slot. Instead of a dial tone, I heard, “Due to the declaration of martial law, phone service has been suspended until further notice.” I felt my insides drop as the recorded message repeated.

Watch for the release of A Little Rebellion Now and Then at all your favorite eBook retailers.

Friday, November 11, 2016

NiseiNisei by JJ White

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Bobby Takahashi had three passions, sketching, joining the navy and a redhead named Mary O’Connor. Unfortunately, although Mary loved him, her father forbade their relationship, the navy was off limits to a Japanese-American from Hawaii and a sketch that he made of the battleships at Pearl Harbor fell into the hands of the Japanese. The whole Takahashi family, and many others, found themselves in internment camps in California immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Bobby, real name Hideo, had more trouble than that. His father promised him in an arranged marriage to an older, and fallen, geisha from Hiroshima. An aspiring sumo wrestler named Eddie also bullied him from high school to the battlefields of Europe. Because Bobby’s sketch of the harbor was found in the cockpits of several Japanese zeros shot down during the raid, he was separated from his mother and unwanted spouse, and sent to a high security camp near the Oregon border. Through a tragic and convoluted chain of events, he was given the choice of joining the army or going to jail. Before shipping out to basic training in Mississippi, he returned to Hawaii where he had a brief affair with his true love who had since married a white naval officer. She gets pregnant, as does Bobby’s sluttish wife who screwed Bobby’s best friend back in the internment camp. When the Japanese-American regiment arrived in Italy, their military accomplishments were unparalleled. Bobby separated from the army after being wounded six times and attaining the rank of captain.

Confused? Well, maybe a little, but Nisei is a superbly crafted book told in the format of a first person memoir discovered by that son conceived with the redhead but raised by the geisha who reads it on the eve of his intended suicide. Oh, yes, the story is complex, but it is a tale of redemption. The prose is an engaging Hawaiian jargon. The pace is never slow although the plot is complex and winding. J.J. White deserves kudos for a marvelous recounting of the plight of loyal Japanese-Americans during the Second World War. I loved this book and cannot recommend it more strongly.

73,600 words


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Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Seasonal Reading

Creepy Shorts by Lisa M Griffiths

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Here are monsters under the bed, the disembodied hand in the closet, an evil talisman, a malignant teddy bear and a school bus ride to the River Styx. These stories are a delight for young adults and old codgers as well. They relate the childhood angst lingering in the souls of all of us, and those indiscretions we all committed. Of course, we shouldn’t talk to strangers, of course we shouldn’t sneak into R rate horror movies, we all knew better than to take a shortcut through the vacant lot, but we all did it and there were consequences. These stories are crafted with wonderful twists and turns—who knew Zeus could drive the bus?

Lisa Griffiths has a knack for the unnatural. She filled Creepy Shorts with some great demons and ghouls. Her prose has a light, enchanting storytelling quality to it. The characters are genuinely crafted. They are real people in unreal situations. She is good with the monsters as well. Read Creepy Shorts but don’t turn out the light.

Lisa is a member of the La Verne Writers' Group.

$2.99 only at Amazon so far.

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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Redemption CoveRedemption Cove by David Calder

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Coding ace, Ben Adams, raced headlong into the abyss. Leaving the bar in a Bellevue, Washington snowstorm, too drunk to drive, he was tee boned by an SUV. Waking in the hospital, he found himself in a body cast, uncertain he would ever walk again. A little mail delivered to the hospital revealed that his wife had divorced him, and a visit from his boss informed him that he’d been canned. During weeks of therapy, both physical and psychological, he managed to walk again, and to start thinking about how to cope with the future. Another piece of mail was his mother’s will. It gave him ownership of a cabin on a lake in British Columbia, and he made the happy discovery that his severance package contained a half million dollars in stock options. With his course of action obvious, Ben retired to the lakeside cabin to seek redemption.

The first thing he discovers at Laketown, BC, is that a mysterious tenant had recently vacated the cabin and that the real estate agents who managed the rental owe him a substantial sum. When Ben tries to transfer the windfall from the stock options to a local bank, he learns that the Security and Exchange Commission has frozen his account. The next dilemma that confronts him is the likelihood that his property is on Indian land and he will have to vacate. That is, if the hostile Indians don’t kill him first.

Redemption Cove is a marvelously crafted tale with loads of drama, intrigue and suspense. In addition to the aforementioned hostile Indians and legal trouble, there is a tragic love affair, a hungry grizzly bear, a wounded goose and the specter of hidden treasure stashed by Ben’s abusive father. David Calder has put together a masterful puzzle, and he threatens to keep the ball rolling with a sequel. This reader for one hopes that he hurries. Redemption Cove is a must read—don’t miss it.

Kindle price $4.99

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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Crime and Corruption

Joseph Morgan is the proverbial big fish in the small pond of Overton, Colorado. He has power and he wants more. His youngest son is police chief by Joseph’s decree and now Jack is running for county commissioner. Vegetarian rancher, Frank Jarret is running against him. Chief Jack Morgan receives an order from his father to discredit Frank shortly before the election. Frank is in Durango on business when Jack Morgan takes several deputies to Frank’s Lazy J ranch with the intention of planting two kilos of cocaine there. Instead, Jack claims that Emily Jarret produced a gun and he began firing. This excites the deputies to open fire as well. When the smoke clears, Emily and daughter, Katy, are dead. Two years later, Jack Morgan, in hiding under an alias, is found dead in his rare book store. Two of the deputies involved are found dead, Frank Jarret has vanished and the new police chief, Marcia Williams, must find the killer.

The Seventh Stage is a brilliantly executed crime story. The pace develops the suspense in a highly polished way. All characters are artfully fleshed and the scene shifts elevate the tension. Mr. Nichols’ prose flows smoothly as does his dialogue. A skillful eye renders the settings so that the stark beauty of southwestern Colorado is alive on the pages. The reader will not guess the outcome as the lady police chief traces her leads. This reader strongly recommends The Seventh Stage.

The Seventh Stage is currently unavailable at Amazon. I got my copy from the author. When it becomes available, it's a must read.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Grandpa Wasn't Crazy After All

Nick couldn’t believe his luck when a hot blond came onto him. When something seems too good to be true, it usually isn’t. Holly had a motive—she was being manipulated by her psycho sister, Hanna. Holly and Hanna’s father worked with Nick’s grandpa on an underground bunker in the days of President Kennedy when the world teetered on the brink of Armageddon. Both men were silenced by the government, but not before her father leaked to Hanna the fact of a fortune in gold bullion hidden in the secret tunnels. Nick’s grandpa was supposed to have drawn a map of where the gold was stashed, and Hanna was determined to get it no matter who she had to kill, including her sister and Nick.

Underground is a fast-paced story with a compelling plot and excellent character development. Mr. Chaus’ prose is smooth and flowing. The historical references are on the mark, and the technology is accurate. The reader will vividly visualize the scenes. Underground is a quick read, and one you won’t want to set aside.


Saturday, September 24, 2016


Rum, the lash and sodomy, according to Jim’s father, that was all there was to the Australian navy. Nevertheless, Jim found himself in the engine room of a destroyer about to be rammed amidships by the aircraft carrier Melbourne. The impact throws Jim so violently that it breaks his leg. The ship is split in two and the stern is sinking with the propellers in the air. Jim’s mate, Charlie, carries him to a lifeboat, and returns to rescue the hated petty officer still trapped in the engine room. The stern sinks before Charlie can return to the deck. When released from the hospital, Jim goes to console Charlie’s wife, Big Red. There he meets Jenny who is also lending comfort to the widow and new mother. After much dithering, the government convenes a Royal Investigation into the loss of eighty-two men under the command of Drunken Duncan, captain of the lost destroyer. Jenny’s younger brother is trying to evade the draft, and her mother is campaigning against Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War. Jim is nominated to officer training school, and eventually finds himself combatting underwater saboteurs in the Mekong River where he is forced to garrote a teenaged Viet Cong soldier attaching limpet mines to the hull of a ship.

This complex story is propelled by Mr. Regan’s intimate knowledge of all things relating to the Australian navy. Written in Australian English, the American reader will enjoy the quirky terminology, and occasionally be forced to consult reference material for a definition. My sketchy description above only touches on a fraction of the story. Although 91,000 words—not quite epic length—WTF is an epic tale that is based on true events. Not being conversant with Vietnam era Australian history, I cannot say which things are true and which are not, but the weight of the narration is certainly convincing. This is one of the best books I’ve read in a very long time. Do yourself a favor, read it. It’s also a bargain. John Regan should raise his price.

I am unable to do as much for this writer as I would like. WTF was free at Smashwords when I downloaded it. It is $1.99 now and Smashwords won't let me review it unless I buy a copy. (I shouldn't be such a miser). It isn't available on Amazon US, so Goodreads can't find it. I did review it on Amazon AU. Your bet to buy a copy is Smashwords.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Sound and the FuryThe Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A dysfunctional Mississippi family has a black family of six for servants. The story begins in the voice of Benjy, formerly Maury, who is a thirty-three-year-old babbling idiot, mute and unable to care for himself. Everyone except his parents agree that he should be in the insane asylum. Next, Quentin assumes the narration. He is away at Harvard, but his ability to articulate is no better than Benjy’s. Finally, a third person narrator tells the story of angry Jason, who is working to support his hypochondriac mother, wanton niece, also called Quentin, and of course, the six black servants, who are treated little differently than slaves. It is, however, the matriarch of the black family, Dilsey, who keeps things together. There was also Caddy, who may, or may not have committed incest with her brother, Quentin. I’m vague on this because Caddy, who was a major player when Benjy told the tale in his psychotic jabbering, dropped out of the story except for fleeting and imprecise references. And that’s the whole story.

When I last went looking for reading material, I thought I should broaden my literary scope, so decided to try Faulkner for the first time. He being one of the foremost American writers, I expected something on par with Hemingway. Little did I expect a story that makes Tom Robbins’ hopped-up prose sound conventional, and rivals Lewis Carroll for craziness. Great swaths of The Sound and the Fury are completely lacking punctuation and capitalization, and huge sections are the mind-stream of madmen. It is so complicated, that I never really assimilated who all the characters were. The business of there being a male and female Quentin wasn’t clear to me until the last chapter, when female Quentin takes off with a showman in a travelling carnival, but what became of male Quentin remained unclear. There is no conventional plot or story line that builds tension until the main character either triumphs or dies as in most novels. Many things are left unresolved, like the question of the supposed incest. I have a hard time not thinking that those pundits who acclaim this as great literature are the same folk who refused to stand and say, “The emperor has no clothes.” If I had written this, you’d laugh at me.


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Saturday, September 3, 2016

The Buried GiantThe Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In the days when Britons were menaced by ogres, dragons, pixies and Saxons, a mysterious malady descends across the land robbing all of their memories. An elderly couple, Axl and Beatrice, cudgel their besotted brains to remember things that happened only a short time ago. On a morning when Beatrice slumbered late, Axl forces the memory of their estranged son to the forefront of his mind. He recalls that they intended to make a journey to visit him in the village where he took refuge after some familial conflict. Along the way, they acquire the company of an ogre slaying Saxon warrior, a geriatric dragon slaying knight of King Arthur’s court and a Saxon boy with a dragon’s bite on his belly. Beatrice has a mysterious pain and is advised to seek the counsel of a wise monk. En route to the mountaintop monastery, they encounter a bereaved woman who is sworn to torment a duplicitous boatman for separating her from her beloved husband. The couple should be advised to be wary of taking boat rides from strangers. In the end, no one will be found to be as they seem, and no one lives happily ever after.

The reader should be advised that this is a very dense book. Why then did I read it? Well, it was required reading for the La Verne Writers’ Group. My problem is primarily the pace, which is glacial, and is made so mainly by the dialogue. No character can open his mouth without embarking on a Hamlet-like soliloquy. On they drone, and repeat themselves to infinity. My other problem is the multitudinous viewpoints and tenses. We are treated to storytelling by a first person narrator, third person viewpoints from various characters’ heads and first person ‘reveries’ by characters, particularly the knight who rambles garrulously for way too many pages, and he spends a great deal of time talking to his horse. I’ve told all this in the foul light of my opinion. If you like that kind of thing, Buried Giant is for you. Apparently, somebody likes it, because Kazuo Ishiguro is a bestselling author. As I age, I am forced to say more frequently, “I just don’t get it.”

It may seem mean spirited, but I'm not going to link to this book. After what I said, do you really want to buy a copy?

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Monday, August 8, 2016

The Black Widow (Gabriel Allon, #16)The Black Widow by Daniel Silva

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Natalie Mizrahi’s Jewish parents were driven from Algeria to France by prejudice. Then they were driven from France, where she had studied medicine, to Israel by terrorism. She learned to speak French, of course, Hebrew, English and Arabic, which made her a perfect choice when master spy and assassin, Gabriel Allon needed a woman to infiltrate ISIS in Syria. The only problem, Natalie wasn’t a spy. Not to worry. Israeli intelligence, known as the Office, was second to none in training assets in a remarkably brief time. In the space of weeks, Natalie Mizrahi, French Jewish doctor, became Leila Hadawi, Muslim jihadi, seeking revenge for her dead lover, Ziad. With the cooperation of French intelligence, Natalie is inserted into a Muslim enclave north of Paris where she works in a hastily organized community clinic. It doesn’t take long for ISIS recruiters to take the bait, and she finds herself carried clandestinely to Syria to receive terrorist training, and to meet her quarry, Saladin. Natalie has a deadline to return to France. Nearing the end, and not having met Saladin, terror attack mastermind, she fears her mission will end in failure. When she finally does meet Saladin, he is near death from wounds received in an American airstrike. Does she use her medical expertise to save him, and maintain her cover, or does she do the world a favor and inject him with an overdose of morphine.

Silva’s Gabriel Allon is a masterwork of character development. Allon entered life to be an artist, but he was recruited at an early age to avenge the killing of Israeli athletes during the Munich Olympics. He excelled at his new avocation, but never completely renounced his artistic genius. Later the stress of assassinations was compounded manifold when he lost his family to a terrorist bomb. After years of running from the pain, he found solace in the love of the much younger Chiara, who was also an employee of the Office. The Allon series hasn’t failed me yet, and I expect it never will. The Black Widow is one of the best. It deals with contemporary issues that are frightfully real. The recent attacks in Europe and America are herein fictionalized in chilling reality. In the light of the pending presidential election, all should read this prescient glimpse of the near future.

As a self-publishing author who tires of the perception by some people that self-published books are full of errors, and traditionally published books are flawless, I’d like to point to three errors that I noted in Black Widow, which is published by Harper-Collins. There is a reference to the scent of bougainvillea, which has no fragrance. The phrase ‘entered her bloodstream like drug from a needle’ appears to be missing the word ‘a’ after ‘like.’ Finally, there is reference to a finch in Washington DC in the winter, which is highly unlikely. Nobody is perfect, so get over it.

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Sunday, August 7, 2016

Bragging Rights

5 Star Review by Dawn Sinclair 

Buckle up guys, you are in for few shocks, an eye-opening, thought provoking adventure but above all a barrel of laughs. Scott Skipper set out to shock us with this one with a story that would be ludicrous if it weren't so scarily close to the current situation in American politics. A red-neck for a president? An audacious glimpse into a future that could be facing the world if one of the angry millions got their hands on such mind-blowing power as the nuclear button (nuclear football as Jim West calls it). Angel, daughter of the most daring president ever, is herself a dare-devil who has lost sight of any boundaries including that of self-preservation. Confronting Putin is child's play for this shapely child-woman turned press-secretary of The White House.

You may laugh...I did. You may scream NO NO NO! I did. But secretly, you will be thankful that someone had the balls to write this cautionary tale. If Scott isn't expecting a call from the FBI any day now, he should. He has crossed some boundaries I would not dare to ...but then Salman Rushdie outlived the threats he faced with his daring books so why not?

Ending was slightly abrupt for me but then Scott Skipper tends to do that. I still give this absolute full marks...for the laughter and for the shocks equally!!!

Dawn is a treasure and a faithful fan. She is also a great writer.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Mind Numbing

DemonicDemonic by Karl J. Morgan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Mild mannered Bill Watson, accountant, met a new workmate named Mary Stewart at a time when terrorists were bringing nuclear bombs across the Mexican border. The police issued an order to evacuate San Diego before a device detonated, which knowledge is never explained, nor why the terrorists didn’t push the button as soon as the order issued. Nevertheless, Bill and Mary, thrown together when her car breaks down, make it to the Salton sea before they see the mushroom cloud beyond the mountains. About that time they are attacked by a band of terrorists, and Bill, who has been hearing strange voices, transforms into a demon and slays the terrorist and Mary beheads them. Okay, I was ready to brand this the silliest piece of crap I ever encountered, but I had told the Rave Review Book Club that I would review it, so I soldiered onward through one more chapter.

When an innocuous guy known as J.C. begs a ride to Las Vegas with Bill and Mary, who are on their way to Montana to find Bill’s family, insists that Bill meet his father, I began to see where this might be going. J.C.’s father, Dom Emmanuel, rents a penthouse above the Bellagio—a hundred miles above the Bellagio. At this point the story devolves into parallel universes, dimensional portals, doppelgangers, shapeshifters and myriads of monsters called enforcers.

Demonic is a dark fantasy with a strong cosmological component that is set against a theological theme exploring the nature of God. I would rate it higher if I were into that. I am not, so this read was somewhat painful for me, although I pushed through to the end. The rationale of the multiple universes is thoughtfully constructed and the convolutions mind-twisting. Each character has hundreds of iterations, each universe has variations that make it hard to keep track of where we are, except for the mega-evil universe where Bill has assumed the role of the demonic Gaius Claudius Caesar who intends to crucify the entire population. Since the characters have so many incarnations, it is impossible to know which one we are following. Their names even change inexplicably—hell, everything is inexplicable in this book. Bill’s wife started as Audrey, but switched to Arlene about half way through, and I never did understand if that was intentional, or a mistake. One more quirk that baffles me. The first chapter seems to be part of another story. It ends with a character named Sam getting shot, but we never see Sam again. The writing is solid, if not really outstanding, but there are a dizzying number of viewpoint shifts, some quite jarring. Mr. Morgan’s book is a unique piece of work. If you don’t have a problem with characters flying through space and dispatching hordes of monsters and demons with mystical weapons, Demonic might be for you.

97630 words
Price $3.99

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Saturday, June 18, 2016

A Life Embattled

Finding Billy BattlesFinding Billy Battles by Ronald Yates
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

William Battles grew up fatherless in Lawrence, Kansas. At an early age he embarked on a career in journalism, which took him to Dodge City where he fell in with the likes of Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson. A chance encounter with a family of desperados earned him the enmity of one Nate Bledsoe for the accidental killing of his mother. Bledsoe and his gang haunt Billy Battles with murderous intent. After marrying and having a daughter, Battles’ familial bliss is unsettled by the blood feud with Bledsoe, culminating in a shootout at the homestead at Battles Gap, Kansas. The aftermath and subsequent adversity drive the tortured Battles to escape his past by fleeing to the Orient.

This first installment of the life and times of Billy Battles, supposedly based on his own journals, is a first class tale of the late nineteenth century. The setting is convincing and clearly well researched. The historical characters speak in true to life voices and well-known events, such as the shootout at the OK Corral, are related with the verisimilitude of a firsthand account. The prose is also excellent as one would expect since the author tells us he is a professor of journalism. Therefore, this reader finds it baffling—nay, inconceivable—that the editorial style is so unorthodox. Having multiple speakers within the same paragraph caused much confusion. Mr. Yates must also hold a PhD in colloquialisms. Nowhere will you find more old-fashioned words and sayings as in Finding Billy Battles. Despite these peculiarities, it is quite a good story, although occasionally slowed by a slight excess of detail.

$5.99 Amazon $6.99 Smashwords (I don't get the price difference)
126,430 Words

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

Complicit Or Inept

When the American President testily asks what difference using the term “radical Islam” would make, he is either showing ignorance or inability to address the problem This lends credence to Donald Trump’s assertion that he is either inept or complicit, and Hillary Clinton has no place to be incensed about it. Failure to define the enemy is expressing an unwillingness to conduct the war, and Obama is certainly unwilling to conduct war, which is tantamount to saying he is willing to accept the continued loss of American civilians on domestic soil. That is treason and dereliction of duty. He is clearly not defending America from threats foreign and domestic.

Instead of declaring with presidential vigor that radical Islam must be eradicated at home and abroad, he preaches his tired sermon on gun control ignoring the imbalance of deaths caused by weapons other than guns. In the same breath, he and others assert that an immigration ban would not have prevented the massacre at Orlando because Mateen was born in the United States. Only a supremely myopic creature could fail to see that if the ban included Omar Mateen’s parents, the crisis would have been handily averted. I hear sceptics saying that the elder Mateens arrived before the issue of radical Islam became critical. Au contraire, the first World Trade Center attack was in 1993. I am unable to find the date of Saddique Mateen’s arrival in the U.S., however, since he has said that he supports the Taliban, it was never too late to deport him. If by chance Omar Mateen was born after his father’s ideology became known, let me remind that the theory of the anchor baby is custom, not law, and as usual, our dithering Congress is unable to address it.

“The Orlando killer, one of the San Bernardino killers, the Fort Hood killer, they were all U.S. citizens,” Obama said. “Are we going to start treating all Muslim Americans differently? Are we going to start subjecting them to special surveillance? Are we going to start discriminating [against] them because of their faith?” This is the ultimate “well, duh,” question. When we last fought a war with the determination to win, we interned American citizens of Japanese descent and we surveilled citizens of German decent. Not only did we win the war, but also we suffered few acts of sabotage, and as far as I can determine, no loss of civilian life within the territory of the continental United States.

Columnist, Charles Krauthammer said in response to the proposed ban on Muslims, “We don’t have an immigration problem.” I usually support the learned Mr. Krauthammer, but I insist that we definitely have an immigration problem, and have for a very long time. Aside from the boldfaced fact that we have too many people in the first place, the FBI maintains that they failed to prevent the Orlando attack because they don’t have enough resources—this despite the fact that Mateen caught their attention twice. To my unsophisticated thinking, being acquainted with a suicide bomber is grounds to make the ‘no-fly list’ and get blacklisted by the Department of Justice from buying firearms. We don’t need more laws, we need to enforce them.

In the face of that admitted, or is it feigned lack of resources, only a politician could find the wisdom in opposing the immigration ban. Note that I did not qualify the type of immigration ban. At this time in our country’s history, we no longer need immigration. Whether the lack of resources is real or disingenuous, decrying a ban on Muslims is irresponsible, because clearly, we aren’t willing to deal with the Islamic problem. Paul Ryan claims the idea un-American. The man doesn’t see that every ill-advised remark of this sort is a vote for Hillary Clinton who, Bernie Sanders aside, may be the only person on earth less qualified to be president than Barack Obama.

Image credit: Google Street View

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Stellar Depravity

UnpronounceableUnpronounceable by Susan diRende
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Rose Delancy is a loser from New Jersey. She tells us this herself. When the human race made contact with an alien species, but can’t find a suitable candidate to be our ambassador, Rose puts her name into a lottery in the hope of getting a thousand lightyears away from her older sister, Alice. After the blob-like aliens reject a dozen or so diplomates, they take a liking to Rose. To her credit she decides to spare the planet with the unpronounceable name from the all defiling human race who want to stash nuclear weapons on Unpronounceable to avoid compliance with an arms ban treaty. Her plan is to turn Unpronounceable into a spa for the ultra-rich so the power brokers on Earth will protect it from being overrun.

Unpronounceable is irreverent, quirky, twisted and depraved. Susan diRende tells Rose’s tale in raw Jersey dialect, which is occasionally difficult for a non-Jersey speaker to follow. This is a story that is not only about contact with bizarre alien beings, but dysfunctional human families and corrupt earthly politicians. If you take a pinch of Scott Adams, add a touch of Tom Robbins and get the late Gilda Radner to play Rose, you might have an idea what Unpronounceable is all about.

$5.99 (It's a little overpriced)

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Thursday, June 9, 2016

The dawn of a failed ideology in a teacup.

Russian Revolution: A History From Beginning to End (October Revolution, Russian Civil War, Nicholas II, Bolshevik, 1917. Lenin) (One Hour History Revolution Book 3)Russian Revolution: A History From Beginning to End (October Revolution, Russian Civil War, Nicholas II, Bolshevik, 1917. Lenin) by Henry Freeman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This concise examination of the roots of the Soviet Union to its demise is a sixty minute lesson in how not to organize society. From the brutality of czarist rule, through the cancer of Marx and Engels, Rasputin, Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin, Russian Revolution recounts the most egregiously misguided social experiment in modern times. The story of how the Soviet Union was born in the murder of Czar Nicholas II and his family is told here in simple, and intentionally brief terms. This is history in highlights. We are spared ponderous detail and given the facts in clear digestible bites. For the reader who cringes at history, Henry Freeman’s insight is a painless way to learn how the world came to look like it does today. Read it and consider your politics.

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