Friday, June 16, 2017

A Michigan Boy and the Great War

A Colleague in ShadowsA Colleague in Shadows by Jack Adler

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Young Kirk was not a diplomat, but he found himself rubbing shoulders with some of the most influential statesmen during the years prior to the United States entering World War I. Fresh out of college, this neophyte from Michigan is the assistant to the unofficial spokesman for President Wilson. Based in Paris, Kirk is sent to gather intel in London, Petrograd, and Berlin. Perhaps it’s because he is such a callow youth that he is able to disarm some of the most prominent figures in the Great War. He also disarms some young ladies.

Jack Adler’s A Colleague in the Shadows tells the how and why of the run-up to America entering the war. It recounts Wilson’s stubborn push for ‘Peace Without Victory’ and the resistance his plan encountered in European courts. The United States dawdled for three years, enduring shipping loses at the hands of U-boats, and unrelenting pressure from allies to send American troops to France. Mr. Adler tells this story from an innocuous viewpoint. Kirk Johnson is a reluctant participant in global affairs, but he handles his tasks with aplomb. This story is remarkable in how it places an unremarkable character into such momentous events. It is well told, and the characters well developed. A Colleague in the Shadows is an entertaining way to revisit some history.

This book has some issues that I would be remiss not to mention. I have corresponded with the author, and he has told me that he has no control over the publisher who failed to correct numerous glaring errors. I make this disclaimer with Mr. Adler’s permission. It is a great book, sadly, it has been published by a poor publisher. I hope that you can enjoy it while overlooking the typos.

71500 words

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Saturday, June 10, 2017

If You're Tired of Hearing About Russians...

History of Russia in 100 Minutes by Tanel Vahisalu

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Russians are an unfortunate melding of Vikings, Mongols, and Slavs. Their history is dominated by one recurrent theme—failed ideology. Repeatedly, one ruler takes control with the intention of instituting reforms, and the subsequent ruler reverses them. Ivan the Great broke the yoke of Mongol domination and expanded Russian influence. Ivan the Terrible succeeded him, subjugated the people, and nearly lost Russia to Sweden and Poland. Under the reign of Catherine the Great, the people enjoyed “freedom of speech, political stability, and great victories.” Along came Alexander I who reverted to “autocratic governing.” Nikita Khrushchev ended Stalin’s reign of terror and promoted agrarian reform. During Brezhnev’s “Era of Stagnation” the Soviet Union “became politically, economically, and socially backward.”

This student of history is unaware of any society that has exterminated as large a percentage of its own population as the Russians. Famines, pogroms, wars, and purges have decimated vast segments of the populous at numerous times throughout the history of the place we generally call Russia. Famine during the “Time of Trouble,” following the rule of Ivan the Terrible, decimated one third of the inhabitants. During World War I, Russia may have lost 1.7 million, during the Russian Civil War, after the Bolshevik Rebellion, total casualties have been estimated at 9.5 million. Then came Stalin. Stalin was surely the most murderous in terms of sheer numbers and probably also in percentage of the population. Mr. Vahisalu cites at least fifteen million dead. Other sources have dared to claim twenty-nine million.

Tanel Vahisalu is from Estonia, long part of the Soviet Union and liberated after the collapse of that body. He now resides in Finland. The reader can tell that he has written this delightful history from a front row seat. History of Russia in 100 Minutes covers every momentous event in clear, concise prose, giving the reader the essential facts of who, when, and what happened. The text is linear and chronological. It is followed by chronological lists of events, the rulers, historical figures and even a glossary, making this reader friendly history an excellent reference book for future study. Too many people avoid history. They don’t like it, and to their peril, they are responsible for its endless repetition. According to Mr. Vahisalu, Catherine the Great’s attempted reforms went nowhere. People of the twenty-first century need to look at their own situation in the context of history. History of Russia in 100 Minutes is a great place to start.

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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

True and Tragic Tale

The Merrell Saga: Based on a True Story from the Red Stick War of 1813-1814The Merrell Saga: Based on a True Story from the Red Stick War of 1813-1814 by Charles E. Sowell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

At the time of the time of the War of 1812, wild Indians may have “raised commercial crops, owned slaves, and bred racing horses” but that did not make them less wild. Jack Merrell lived with his young wife and infant son on the fringe of the Creek Nation. Zealot, Josiah Francis, AKA The Profit, and William Weatherford, AKA Red Eagle, threatened war against the white settlers encroaching on their land. The threat posed by the warlike Creeks, known as Red Sticks, moved Jack to sign on for a six-month stint with the militia. While he languished idly in one of many hastily erected forts, the Red Sticks attacked his and the surrounding farms while most men were preoccupied with tending their fields. Women and children were clubbed and scalped by the murderous savages and left for dead. News of the massacre reached Jack by the slow and unreliable mail system of the time. He, naturally, lapsed into a deep depression, however, neither his wife, Sarah, nor his son, William, died. Both were slowly and painfully nursed back to health. Jack, on the other hand, threw himself into the quest for revenge with careless abandon. He sustained nearly mortal wounds in a desperate attempt to drive the Red Sticks out of Alabama, but he also did not succumb to his injuries. Just as in the case of her own near brush with death, Sarah only received word that he had died. Neither received what should have been the happy correction. What transpired over in the next few years was as tragic as the near mortal wounds themselves.

The Merrell Saga is the novelized account of family history. Mr. Sowell did years of genealogical research before composing his excellent account of the disastrous chain of events that befell his ancestors. As a lover of historical fiction and family history, this book struck a sympathetic chord in me. If this story had not been true, one would be tempted to think that the unthinkably cruel coincidences that befell the characters were the result of the twisted imaginings of a deeply troubled author. The prose may lack a little sophistication, but it does not detract from an excellent, and moving, tale.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Ripples Through TimeRipples Through Time by Lincoln Cole

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Calvin’s devotion to Emily bordered on codependent. When Emily died, he found no reason to continue living. At eighty-five, or was it eighty-one, he felt no stigma attached to visiting her grave and then joining her in a better place, but first he called his daughter to say goodbye. He said it in less than uncertain terms, which triggered Bethany, not to rush to his side, but to call her brother-in-law to ask him to do a welfare check. Edward liked the much older Calvin and gladly complied. This led him into a desultory visitation through the past and a firm refusal to drive Calvin to the cemetery. The old man’s response was the revelation of Edward’s darkest held secret.

Ripples Through Time is the reliving of a lifetime through family vignettes told in the course of one profound morning. The flashbacks are related in random order, in various voices, and from various viewpoints. This, although artfully done, is a challenge to reader to keep in mind who is narrating. The several characters, who tell their stories, sometimes in first person, sometimes in third, are fully developed and not lacking in individuality. If not conventionally written, Lincoln Cole has found a fascinating method to weave his tale. The conflict of threatened suicide contrasted to hopelessness at the end of life is artfully laid onto the pages. Ripples Through Time is a poignant story that probes depths that are resident in every family. It is a book I recommend without reservation for everyone, especially the loyal members of the Rave Review Book Club.

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

The Terra Debacle: Prisoners at Area 51The Terra Debacle: Prisoners at Area 51 by Marcha A. Fox

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Get ready for Thyron. He is a peda flora telepathis; in other words a sentient, bipedal, telepathic plant. He not only communicates telepathically, he acquires knowledge remotely. While imprisoned at the infamous Area 51, he stumbled onto a treasure trove of information and overdosed himself by assimilating it, which caused him to lapse into a dormant state. This triggered a panic in Gabe Greenly, astrobotanist for NASA. Greenly nursed Thyron back to a healthy state and was rewarded with a handful of seedpods.

Thyron’s vegetable chauvinism makes him highly opinionated. He bristles at the nature of paper, he thinks lumber is a crime against botany, vegetarians are serial murderers, and a harvester is a weapon of mass destruction. He cuts Gabe some slack since he is a fruitarian and can gain sustenance without killing the fruiting plant. This makes for a strange relationship, because Gabe is bound by his security agreement, which forbids abetting an escape, and Thyron’s goal is to get off the earth at all costs, along with an artificially intelligent robot—since disassembled—and a humanoid girl.

Marcha Fox has not only created a phyla, she has invented multiple vocabularies. The psychic terminology is plain enough to understand, but you might want to read The Terra Debacle on an ereader with a built-in dictionary to help decipher the botanical terms. This is a brilliant story, extremely well written and with great character development. It is off-the-wall in a way that is similar to how Tom Robbins grabs the reader and shakes him. The research is profound and convincing. It is loosely aimed at the young adult audience, of which I am not a member; however, I recommend it for anyone who wants to venture into a leafy new world.

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Same price at Smashwords and you can download both Kindle and Nook copies

Release date: May 30, 2017

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Interview with David Calder, New Zealand Writer & Rave Review Book Club Member

David Calder lives in New Zealand, lucky guy, but he has previously lived in California. Today he shares some insight into his excellent literary work.

Hello Scott. Thanks for having me on your blog.

>> You have written The Children of the Nakba, Redemption Cove, and a collection of short stories, Shorter Journeys. Am I missing anything?

Those are my books available through Amazon, Ingram Spark, SmashWords, and Kobo. Additionally, I have a paperback book of illustrated poems called Scenes from a Life, which I make available through book groups because of the cost of color printing, but will soon have up as an E-Book. I also have some work published in anthologies.

>> Do you feel that being a writer of various genres makes it more difficult to attract an audience?

Yes and no. Attracting an audience these days is hard for everyone. The flood of self-published books over the past few years has really diluted the market. You have to be prepared to work hard at it, via all means available. For me that means Twitter, Facebook, book-clubs, writers groups, and mutual of mouth with other writers I respect, as well as my general contacts. Having more than one genre gives me different target markets to work with, but there’s always the problem of spreading one’s self too thin as well.

>> When you read for pleasure, what do you prefer?

I follow other authors mostly, and go where they go. I was lucky in discovering your terrific Alien series and then enjoyed a number of your other books, whereas I wouldn’t normally have gone looking for science fiction. Mario Puzo reignited my love of reading as a teenager, and then the South African Writer Wilbur Smith cemented it with one of his early books, Eagle in the Sky, which also importantly piqued my interest in Israel. I enjoy all the current great ones, such as Lew Child, Stephen Coonts, John Grisham, Robert Crais particularly, and most recently Mark Greany, who’s taken over Tom Clancy’s mantle. Another favorite is Dave Edlund with his very good Savage Series. Speaking of going where they go, Dan Winslow’s very fine, The Cartel, has me interested in Mexican crime and politics currently.

>> I am aware that you once traveled to Mexico to do some writing. Does that say that environment plays a part in your writing?

As far as an environment to work in goes, yes, I was lucky to spend some devoted time in lovely Baja last year and found it fascinating and conducive, but I’m far more influenced by events than places. I have the privilege of beautiful horse ranch in NZ to live and write from, so I don’t lack beauty around me.

As for an environment as a setting, I heard Lee Child once say in a talk, that people think he studied the American south, but he actually got the idea for the red clay in most of his early books from watching My Cousin Vinnie on DVD. He feels environmental inspiration should be as far in the past as possible, and I tend to agree. Dwelling on a book’s setting can flatten out the emotion if overdone. I’m fond of the Pacific Northwest, but it was more of a metaphor for escaping to somewhere beautiful to heal, when I wrote Redemption Cove. Likewise, I have a deep interest in Israel as shown in The Children of the Nakba, but it’s the social/military/political dynamics that drive my work in that direction.

>> Where do you look for inspiration?

I write a lot of outlines, just sketches that flesh out a scene, or develop a ‘what if?’ thought. Some become short stories, such as Saving John Denver or Defying God, from Shorter Journeys. Others shrink down to what I feel is their purest form and become poems. Once in a while a character will take hold and begin to grow real, and I just follow it. Likewise a good storyline is hard to let go.

That said, The Children of the Nakba is a special case. It arose from experiencing the event it describes through the pain of an Israeli friend, in college, and needing to profoundly understand what it must have been like.

>> What motivates you to write?

As the most basic, if I didn’t write, I honestly wouldn’t know who I was. But on a day to day basis, I love to vicariously live out my characters’ adventures. Go on journeys with them, if you like.

>>What are your pet peeves with other writers? In other words, what turns you off about a piece of writing?

A piece of reading for me, has to have a strong opening. I try to give my readers the same thing. A book that starts out well, but becomes preachy because the writer lapses into driving home their point of view rather than entertaining me, loses my interest too. Other than that I like all kinds of writing and subjects, and try to give a writer every opportunity to grab me, even putting a book down and starting over sometimes, because I know how hard it is to do and how much a writer gives to a work.

>> How would you describe your writing technique?

I live by the creed that the first draft is your art, and the next ten or so, are your craft. I write the first draft in Word, fighting hard not to rewrite as I go. Then I rewrite and rewrite until the book feels right. Then I run the result through some tools such as Grammarly and Ginger, and do the final re-structure in Scrivener. I’m a big fan of Beta reading, and enjoy doing that for other writers too.

>> What are you working on at the moment?

They are dragging on a little bit, but I have a follow-up to The Children of the Nakba about ready to go (actually a prequel.) Also a sequel to Redemption Cove set in France, involving some lost art and a cooking school. After that I believe my RC character Ben Adams has some more adventures yet to discover.

>>Please share your social media links and handles and links to where readers can find you.

Thanks again Scott, I’m honored and grateful that you have given me this time.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

When Pomona Was A Nice Place

Family Forever: In The Beginning (Family Forever-In The Beginning Book 1)Family Forever: In The Beginning by Tamara Miller

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Twin girls coming of age in the fifties in Pomona, California, were all about boys with cars, drive-in restaurants, drive-in theaters, and school dances. Emma and Jani came to be born in Pomona because their grandmother fled a small town in Iowa with her alcoholic husband to make a fresh start in the land of opportunity. That didn’t really work out as planned and Jake met an unfortunate end. Fast forward several years and two teenage girls are doing their best to give their parents ulcers.

In the Beginning is the first volume of Tami Miller’s Family Forever series, a candid family history told in the form of a novel. It is a beautifully written tale with an excellent pace and is nothing like reading someone’s genealogy. This is a real story with real characters that are fully developed. The settings are genuine. The reader enters them and looks around at the way things used to be. Family Forever, In the Beginning is a wonderfully nostalgic trip.

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

More Required Reading

Left Behind (Left Behind, #1)Left Behind by Tim LaHaye & Jerry B. Jenkins

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Buck Williams is a reporter in Israel to interview the developer of a fertilizer that makes the desert bloom. While he’s there the Russians launch a nuclear attack that is thwarted by hailstones, lightning bolts, and earthquakes. There are no casualties and the Israelis score a net gain by recycling rocket fuel. Buck senses divine intervention but falls short of accepting Christianity. Later he is on a flight to London piloted by Rayford Steele who is thinking lascivious thoughts about his first flight attendant, Hattie Durham. He credits this peccadillo to the fact that his wife has become obsessed with religion and has become somewhat withdrawn. In the dead of night, over the Atlantic, Hattie informs her captain that a large percentage of passengers have vanished right out of their clothes. Because of his wife’s harping, Rayford guesses the cause of this bizarre event. Naturally, Buck was not one of the chosen. Simultaneously, a charismatic politician from Romania mesmerizes the United Nations, the media, and pretty much the whole world. Who can this be, boys and girls?

Personally, I always thought it was a poor decision when God stopped giving signs. Burning bushes, floods, ladders, and wheels in the sky are highly compelling. When salvation began depending strictly on faith, things became complicated. On the other hand, the vanishing of a large number of Christians, including all the infants and young children, would be a very persuasive sign, but it didn’t convince all that many of those who were left behind. Fictionalizing the Second Coming is a premise with potential. At the same time, it is a story that has already been told, therefore, it is difficult to generate suspense. Left Behind is a book that had a hard time engaging this reader. There were long, preachy passages that did nothing to advance the story and violated the first rule of good writing—show, don’t tell. I suspect that the fact of there being two authors contributed to the duality of style. The sections concerning the Rayford Steele character left me flat and unable to identify with him. Buck Williams is a more fully developed character, and the parts devoted to him were easier to read. I have to say, it was a relief to reach the end.

I don't even want to give you a link.

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Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Improbable Journeys of Billy BattlesThe Improbable Journeys of Billy Battles by Ronald E. Yates

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For the Rave Review Book Club

William Fitzroy Raglan Battles lost his wife at the end of Volume I. In despair, he voyages to the Orient to meet an old friend who lives in Saigon. En route, a shady German, who claims to be a Pinkerton’s detective, threatens a recently widowed German baroness. Katherina, who hails from Chicago, killed her husband in defense of her brother, Manfred, as the baron was in the process of beating him to death with a poker. Her well-connected father managed to divert the responsibility from his daughter; however, she felt it prudent to travel to Manila where Manfred operated a hardwood business. The baroness enlists the aid of Battles to protect her from the alleged detective who proves to be an agent for the German government. Through a series of convoluted machinations, Battles and Katherina manage to have their nemesis Shanghaied to Africa. End of phase one.

In phase two, Battles settles in Saigon with his old friend, Signore Difranco, a wealthy pepper planter. While in Viet Nam, known then as Nam Ký, he is determined to find another old friend from his days in the American West, Giang Ba. Unfortunately, Ba has joined the resistance fighting to oust the French occupiers. This leads Battles into a heated battle on the side of the rebels. When Manfred and Katherina visit Saigon, Battles finds that he is increasingly smitten with the lovely baroness. There is another change of scene. The three return to Manila, from where, eventually, Battles accompanies Katherina back to the States, and they part company. During this interlude, the German agent, Oskar Eichel, reemerges and puts Battle’s family in peril. Then there comes the outbreak of the Spanish American War when Katherina urges Battles to travel to Manila to check on her brother’s wellbeing. End of phase two.

Back in Manila, Battles watches as the Americans make short work of the Spanish, but he is dismayed when he realizes that the United States intends to occupy the archipelago. The Filipino resistance wants freedom from occupation and intends to fight. Reluctantly, Battles and Manfred accept brevet commissions as captains attached to the Kansas Volunteer Regiment. During his less than willing military career, Katherina arrives in the Philippines and voices strong objections to the two men in her life being involved with the army, and much more ensues.

Billy Battles is an old Kansas sand cutter who hobnobs with the likes of Wyatt Earp and Bat Masterson. This is the second installment of the Finding Billy Battles trilogy that I have read, and I am still not quite sure what a sand cutter is. Mr. Yates is a master of western jargon. He infuses The Improbable Journeys of Billy Battles with a plethora of colorful sayings and expressions that give the characters verisimilitude. This is a 160,000-word story that takes place in numerous exotic settings with ceaseless action. The characters are extremely well developed. The prose is fluid and the dialogue convincing. This reader and reviewer strongly recommends the Finding Billy Battles series to everyone who enjoys historical fiction or just likes to read about sand cutters.

Buy at Amazon $5.99

It's cheaper at Smashwords $1.99

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Guns of NavaroneThe Guns of Navarone by Alistair MacLean

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A team of world class rock climbers must destroy the lethal guns commanding a strait that is the only access to a thousand British troops trapped on the doomed island of Kheros. New Zealander, Captain Keith Mallory, leads a team that includes a giant Greek and an aging American explosives genius to the German occupied, and seemingly impenetrable, island of Navarone. The danger starts before they approach the island, sailing in an ancient, leaking skiff, they are halted and boarded by a German patrol in a similar vessel, which they sink handily. Next, they shelter from a storm beneath a German watch tower, whose defenders are dispatched by the oversized Greek. When they approach the vertical cliffs of Navarone, they are still in the grip of the storm and are dashed against the rocks. The wall is considered an impossible climb, but it presents no obstacle to Mallory. Unfortunately, there is a German sentry at the top. From this point forward, things really get difficult.

The Guns of Navarone is an iconic war story made famous by a movie of the same name. It is at once a page-turner and an introspective tale. It is unconventional in its nearly complete disregard for viewpoint, with the narration moving freely among the characters. There is, perhaps, a minor weakness in that the characters tend to give speeches and are prone to do so as the Germans are breaking down the door. It is a white-knuckle trip with more close calls and narrow escapes than some readers will easily stomach. Mr. Maclean tells us in the forward that he invented Navarone based on his own military experience in the Mediterranean. He did a fine job.

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Saturday, March 11, 2017


In the #RRBC Spotlight today Rhani D'Chae 
Author of Shadow of the Drill

Rhani has a slightly different story to tell.

My mother doesn't really know me

I was raised in a middle class home, the youngest child of devout Christian parents who met as kids, and married in their late teens. We didn't have much money, but I never wanted for the necessities of life. I was surrounded by love, and a strong sense of family. It was a good childhood, and I had no reason to wish for anything more, but…I did.

Like many young girls, I had dreams of finding fame and fortune in my life. I dreamed of being an actress, and just knew that all I had to do was get down to California, and my future would be assured. I left home the first time when I was fourteen, but things didn't go the way that I'd planned. I did find fame, of sorts, in adult films, but they sure weren't the kind of films I could brag to my family about. I also began dancing in topless/nude clubs, and I enjoyed that line of work enough to use it as a fill-in job when I wasn't doing something else, or if I just needed some quick and easy cash. I remember that my mother once found a visor that had the name of a local topless club emblazoned over the stage name that I was currently using. She was horrified, so I told her that it belonged to a friend, and she was more than willing to accept that as the truth. From that point on, whenever she asked about if or where I was working, I gave her an answer that she would be okay with. Something "respectable," that she could tell her friends and sisters when they asked for family updates. Basically, I lied.

Since then, I've done a lot of things for fun and enjoyment that my mother would most definitely not approve of. I've always had a thing for the bad boys, and dated several men that would have made her skin crawl. So I decided that there was no reason to add that kind of stress to her life, until such a time as I was getting ready to walk down the aisle. End result – she never heard about any of them. For years, I've been involved with a fundraising group that held its events in bars, or other places where alcohol is served. Again, not something that I told mom about. I went through my drug phase, my alcohol years, and a revolving door of lovers; none of which I ever mentioned to her. She and dad didn't even know that I was pregnant until my son was almost four months old. I knew how she felt about pregnancy out of wedlock, and I didn't want to cause her that kind of disappointed sadness until I absolutely had to. I wish that things between mom and I had been different, that I could have shared more of my life with her. But her vision of the world was so tightly wrapped up in what her Bible, and what her personal sense of morality said was right and wrong, that such conversations would have only caused her to be more disappointed in me than she already was. She would have felt like a failure for not raising a daughter who shared her desire for a morally upstanding and religiously grounded life, even though her definition of those things had not changed since the early 1930's. To this day, I'm amazed by how different the actual world is from the one that she lives in. But, she has no desire to open her eyes, or change an opinion at her age, so that's another conversation that we don't have.

Cancer took dad ten years ago, so I've spent a lot more time talking with mom. During my visits and phone calls, we've covered an assortment of topics such as our respective health issues, how my son is doing, what's going on with my sister's family, and should mom sell her house or stay. We've talked about a few things of interest on the voting ballots, such as Tacoma's ban on casinos, and the legalization of marijuana. We've also discussed a few of the Presidential elections, and the Trump/Clinton showdown fueled several interesting discussions. We've talked about Christ's return; she thinks it will happen in her lifetime, but I don't agree. I showed her my newest book cover, and she told me that she didn't like the blood, though it did add much-needed color. But she didn't ask about the book's plot, or how my writing is going. She doesn't ask if I’m seeing anyone, or what I do with my free time. I think she's afraid I'll tell her, and she'd rather not know. She never wanted to know. And because causing her pain is something that I have always tried to avoid, I did – and do – allow her to live in ignorance where I'm concerned.

So now, after decades as her daughter, my mom doesn't really know me, and probably never will. But she does know that I love her, and at the end of the day, that's what counts.


A brutal experience transforms an unproven young tough into a ruthless killing machine. For 15 years he waited, building his body into an unstoppable weapon so that vengeance would be had through the strength of his will and the power of his hands.


Rhani D'Chae is a visually impaired writer, reader, and lover of cats. She is currently working on the second book in the Drill series, about an unrepentant enforcer and the violent life that he leads.

Twitter - @rhanidchae
Website -

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Book Thief

The Book ThiefThe Book Thief by Markus Zusak

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Liesel Meminger and her brother were put into foster care at the start of the Second World War, but Werner died on the train taking them to 33 Himmel Strasse in Molching, near Munich. Hans Hubermann is a kind, patient man who works infrequently as a painter and plays the accordion at night in bars. Rosa Hubermann is a foul-mouthed disciplinarian who beats Liesel with a wooden spoon. Hans taught Liesel to read but the only book she has is The Gravedigger’s Manual, which she found in the snow at her brother’s funeral. Over time, she acquires more books, rescuing one from the ashes of a book burning, finding one floating down the river and stealing them from the mayor’s library, although the mayor’s wife told her to help herself. Max is a Jew trying to stay out of the hands of the Gestapo. He happens to be the son of a friend of Hans who died in the first war and was the source of Hans’ accordion. Max finds his way to 33 Himmel Strasse and hides in the basement putting the family in deadly peril.

The Book Thief is narrated by the Angel of Death, who, as one might expect, has a wicked sense of humor. He also has an outlandish manner of speaking. Mr. Zusak put words into the Grim Reaper’s mouth that should never be juxtaposed. “His skin widened.”; “His face tripped over itself.”; “Her teeth elbowed each other...”; “If they killed him tonight, at least he would die alive.” are some examples that this reader simply didn’t take seriously. The author is also much too fond of sentence fragments that litter the text seemingly at random. The plot is an all too familiar one. The strength of The Book Thief is the characters. They are well developed if somewhat guilty of doing uninteresting things. There is little tension or drama, in fact, the narrator tells us what is going to happen and then takes forever to make it come to pass. The greatest fault in this book is the pace. It is leaden.

It is overly long.
Price $8.99

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Saturday, February 4, 2017

"SPOTLIGHT" Author Blog Tour!! of The Rave Review Book Club

The RAVE REVIEWS BOOK CLUB is a proactive group
of readers and writers, that I strongly recommend 
all might consider joining

Today I am participating in their
"SPOTLIGHT" Author Blog Tour!!

Spotlighting author 
Suzanne Burke
Australian author of
Acts of Betrayal
and many other titles

Suzanne is going to share some intimate insight into herself and her writing.


Hi, and thank you so much for joining me here today on the first stop of my Rave Reviews Book Club 'Spotlight Author Tour'. Please join me in thanking my awesome host.
Today I want to share with you a part of the reason I write.

The Hopes and Dreams scattered amongst the Cracks and Crevices that are me.

It's a strange title for a post, isn't it? But that is what I'm compiled of. A mass of hopes and barely explored dreams, all vying for attention and hoping like hell not to slip through one of those cracks, or become wedged and immovable from the depth of the crevices.

At times a seething snakelike coil of unexpressed frustration and anger surfaces to be plunged back firmly beneath the veneer of acceptability we all need to possess in order to survive.

Can we survive without compromise? Oh, yes, we can survive, but in refusing to compromise, we can restrict our ability to truly live the time that fate grants us. I have needed to compromise my hopes by reducing my expectations, until, over time; the hopes have resurfaced, but in modified form. Because I had made them more attainable, and by extension less likely to show me the bitter disappointment of my failure to live up to my own versions of, Can do, Must do, Will do, and Try but can't do.


Here I can be free of all the bondages of remembered pain and disillusionment, or the freedom-hampering legacy of disability. I let them escape into the safety of a character yet to be written.
Ah, yes ... my creations; I can admonish and astonish them, move them, and flay them raw with emotion.

I can let them retaliate, fully aware, prepared for, and willing to accept, any consequence that their retaliation may bring in its' wake.

I can permit them to feel the shattering soul changing taste of new love; I give them over freely to explore and bathe in its wonder, and to lay stunned and barely breathing, whilst awaiting its slowly evolving demise.

They can laugh too loud and too long, or in some cases not at all.

They can find their own sad movie to cry over and recall with a smile, and a shake of their head. They take on with gusto the life I have granted them, they live it and see it, taste it and smell it, and they die, or they grow.

They have faults and fantasies, often combined. Good and bad coexist hand in hand within the body I have borrowed to house them. They can be unconventional, patriotic and proud, losers and winners, or simply disappear without color into the crowd. They are resourceful and brave, or broken and bent, damaged or soulless ... or simply exhausted and spent.

I have granted them existence so I can survive.

By doing so, I have resuscitated my hope, and given form to some of my dreams.

It's all a question of balance between the reality of the one and the unfettered joy of the other.
How glad I am that I do this crazy, exhilarating, terrifyingly glorious thing. This freeing, dominating, amazing thing, we call writing.

Thank you for being here to undertake a part of this journey with me.

Suzanne Burke lives, laughs, writes and enjoys her life in the beautiful harbor-side city of Sydney Australia.

She is a mother and grandmother, now in her sixties, and considers every moment of every day as a precious treasure to be valued and explored, and not simply endured.

Her non-fiction works are written under the pen-name of Stacey Danson.

They are both challenging and thought provoking works covering the earliest years of her life, the topic of child abuse and the PTSD that accompanied her into her later years  are not, by virtue of their subject matter an easy or comfortable read, yet so many have read them. She will be forever grateful that her readers have assisted in raising the awareness into this painful and enduring evil.
An awareness that is vital in any efforts to stem this tide of inhuman acts perpetrated on the most innocent of us all … the children.

She escapes into the world of fiction in her thriller and suspense novels, continually exploring other genres such as paranormal and dystopian, and always delighting in the magical escapism offered in the written word.

She is an avid reader and reviewer who enjoys sharing the works she explores.

Follow Suzanne online:
Twitter handle - @pursoot

Website -

Friday, January 27, 2017

Sick to DeathSick to Death by Greg Levin

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Gage had stage three pancreatic cancer. After despair came anger and a self-righteous urge to flex his “nothing to lose” muscles. He satisfied his murderous urges by dropping lethal amounts of cyanide into the cocktails of known pedophiles and rapists. Soon he coaxed two members of his support group to join him. Ellison succumbed to his cancer after only a couple of hits but Jenna had found her calling. What was Gage to do with the monster he created?

Greg Levin is a darkly funny guy. Sick to Death is loaded with gallows humor and irony. The characters are fairly well developed but this is a story that is mostly told as opposed to shown. For the ominously breezy tale that it is, it moves a little slowly. Mr. Levin also lets his political agenda shine through the pages for which I do not begrudge him however much I may be in opposition. Nonetheless, Sick to Death is a clever story that is good for a laugh.

Only available at Amazon

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Thursday, January 12, 2017

American Government, Inc.

This is an unconventional book, so I will write an unconventional review. I opted to read it because the description sounded like my own book, Capital Blues. The similarity ended there. First of all, George Abraham Lyndon is a pseudonym. The author tells us in the afterward that he chose the given names of the three presidents he admires most. One must worry about anyone who claims to admire Lyndon Johnson, the founder of the Great Society that still burdens us sixty years later. American Government, Inc. is a parody of a hypothetical Donald Trump presidency as viewed by a denizen of left. The story is told as pure narration by a researcher 130 years in the future, therefore, there is no dialogue nor developed characters. The characters are merely names that the narrator continually pummels. The only good guy is, not surprisingly, named Lincoln. The hypothetical president is named Powers and he runs a mega corporation that he uses to build all the projects he proposed in his campaign promises, such as the southern border wall and a myriad of infrastructure projects. Paradoxically, the infrastructure projects create plenty of jobs but the unemployment rate still rises. Naturally, Powers prospers personally from all this. On the first day of his presidency, he signs something 250 executive orders that the reader is expected to digest. This book was made for skimming. Of course they are all Donald Trump’s ideas and they are put forth with the implication that they lead to catastrophe. The catastrophe they incite is no less than civil war. American Government, Inc. is a short book and I guess the best thing I can say about it is that it’s priced right. It’s free.

I only found it at Smashwords. Here's the link if you're brave or foolish.

Monday, January 2, 2017

A Good Idea at the TimeA Good Idea at the Time by Greg Carter

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Flying Officer Hacker had a knack for doing things “detrimental to retaining rank.” He was also a highly effective fighter pilot. Wing Commander Padshaw had a knowledge of Chinese languages. Commanding Officer Marsland ran an air base in the middle of the Indian jungle. Coronel Connor led a mule train through the monsoon to resupply the air base. A mysterious civilian named Smith seemed to know everyone and everything. The paths of these, and even more characters, converge and diverge as the British try to dislodge the Japanese from South East Asia.

A Good Idea at the Time is a unique book in that it follows several concurrent plots. There are scads of characters, all well developed, and given singular voices with which to tell their stories. Mr. Carter has told this tale of the perils of World War II from scores of viewpoints. The narration gets into the head of nearly every character who is introduced. I can hear the editor types scratching this book off their ‘Want to read’ list, but that would be a mistake. Once the reader makes peace with the juggernaut that is the narration of A Good Idea at the Time, it becomes a very compelling read. One will find a little bit of Catch 22, a little bit of Mash and something completely different that can’t quite be categorized. The plethora of characters will require some discipline to keep them straight but it’s those characters and the vivid depiction of aerial combat that made this reader unable to stop, until I got the end, and fell off a cliff. The ending is truly a whiskey, tango, foxtrot experience. Unorthodox as it is, I loved it.

97,000 words
$4.99 at Smashwords; $5.12 at Amazon (What's that about?)

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