Koos Verkaik’s The Nibelung Gold

I received this book courtesy of Mr. Verkaik for the purpose of a fair and honest review.

Overview: Wolf is any medium’s nightmare. With a few words, he can make or break a medium’s reputation. There is a reason, of course. Wolf is seeking evidence of the power of something called a ‘collective.’ A woman, Wera, warned him about a group of mediums who have joined their minds and powers together for a single purpose, calling themselves a collective. Will he find the evidence he needs to save Wera Kellar? Or will he not live long enough to see the beginning of the 20th century?

Story Telling: It was a pretty smooth ride up to the last third of the book. Then I kind of got lost. It seemed like the thread of the story went from finding Wera, to being a treasure hunt. Perhaps I missed something in the process?

Likes: Wolf’s single-mindedness was something to be admired. Wera did try to do the right thing, she was just up against powers stronger than she was.

Dislikes: Like I said, I lost the thread of the story around the time that Johan disappeared. Up to that point the purpose was to find Wera. Afterwards, we got pulled into a treasure hunt. Where did Viktor Blum get his ideas? Why didn’t we get to see who was stronger between Wolf and Blum? And who was Eckartt?

Favorite Character: Michaela was the best person around. She was a skeptic, but not so skeptical that she couldn’t accept the unexplainable.

Favorite Quote: From Wera: “Don’t forget about the collective!”

Favorite Scene: The point when Johan knocked the tar out of Dr. Blum was pretty cool. Perhaps the good doctor should have learned Dutch?

Conclusion: For the most part I enjoyed this story. I just wish that I hadn’t gotten lost in the reading.

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Tricia Fields’s Firebreak-A Josie Gray Mystery 4

I received this book for the purpose of a fair and honest review.

Overview: The town of Artemis, Texas is in for a mess. There is a wildfire coming from the north, and another one has jumped the Rio Grande to the south. In the aftermath, tragedy seems to have struck. At the house of a home-town star, a body is found. Who is it? And why is the local country star not answering his cell phone? Josie, Otto and Marta are on the case, and, with help from the fire marshal, they’ll get to the bottom of this one.

Story Telling: Ms. Fields has done a good job on her story. Josie seemed quite real. I could have easily put myself in Artemis. And the mystery part kept me guessing.

Likes: This surprised me. I’ve read quite a few books written by women. And most of them get sexual fast. This one really didn’t. Dell was pretty cool. Just a good old boy, busy-body, dog-sitting, neighbor. He’s just my kind of guy.

Dislikes: I had as much love for Ferris, as I did Mark Sinner. Both of these guys had a major problem. Ferris was a people-user, and Mark had a problem with his station in life.

Favorite Character: Dell and Otto have to duke this one out. Such good examples of southern gentlemen.

Favorite Quote: You have got to give small towns credit. They don’t hide the fact that people talk. From the sign of the Hot Tamale: “The Hot Tamale: Quick Service, Authentic Recipes, and the Most Accurate Gossip in Texas.”

Favorite Scene: The atmosphere in the Hell-Bent after Billie’s accident, was pretty good. Mick showed some of his own insecurities at that time.

Conclusion: It was a good story. I enjoyed it and hope you don’t mind the trip to the border.

Carole P. Roman’s Fribbet the Frog and the Tadpoles-A Captain No Beard Story

I received this book courtesy of Mrs. Roman for the purpose of a fair and honest review.

Overview: It’s just another average day on Captain No Beard’s ship. Or it would be if the pirates didn’t find out that Fribbet has a problem at home. Can Captain No Beard maintain order and help Fribbet with his problem?

Story Telling: Well, I guess this is what you could call a two-for, in more ways than one. We have a cute story for children, with adorable illustrations, and it can pass on two lessons. You can show your children the life-cycle of a frog, as well as prepare them for the coming brother or sister.

Likes: The drama that Fribbet felt over his new brothers and sisters wasn’t belittled or treated like it was just one big misunderstanding. Captain No Beard, and the rest of The Flying Dragon’s crew, accepted the trouble for what it was. A big deal to one, was a big deal to all. That takes some skill to pull off while staying sincere.

Dislikes: The only thing that I’ve noticed is the fact that this story leans on the rest of the series. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, unless you cat the series in the middle.

Favorite Character: Picking just one of the pirates is a bit of a dilemma. It’s almost a cop-out to pick Captain No Beard. I guess I could go with Hallie.

Favorite Quote: Hallie gives us this one. “I got a little tadpole of my own!”

Favorite Scene: The best part was when we found out how Captain No Beard got the position of captain.

Conclusion: It’s a cute book. Enjoy it with your ‘tadpoles.’

Lawrence W. Gold’s State of Mind-Brier Hospital 8

I received this book courtesy of Dr. Gold for the purpose of a fair and honest review.

Overview: Drs. Kim Powell and David Cohen are working on a new treatment for PTSD, Parkinson’s Disease, and aggression. Their treatment has already gone past the animal trials with little trouble, and they are working through the first phases of human trials. Then it happens. After a brutal murder, the courts order the project team to perform their treatment on the psychopath accused of the crime. If the treatment works, where does that leave justice for his victim?

Story Telling: Dr. Gold is a bit slow with his story at places. The science is what did it though. When it came to the treatments, the science bogged down the story’s momentum.

Likes: Abbie was much better in this book. It was interesting to see her as more of a friend than that of a psychiatrist or marathoner. Michael and Karen are back as well.

Dislikes: I didn’t like Kim. Being ethical is one thing. But she was so wishy-washy over what she should do, and she had the call to call it ‘being a conscience.” Really, she struck me as someone who is afraid of being held accountable for her actions.

Jose was my biggest problem. How bad does someone have to get before you stop making excuses for his or her behavior? Fro the record, I don’t believe that either Maria or her family received justice at all. Here a girl is brutally murdered, and all anyone can seem to think of is what is going to happen to Jose? Where are people’s priorities?

Favorite Character: this would be a toss up between Raul Diaz and Al Russo. They were both strong, stand-up men.

Favorite Quote: This is perfect. Straight from the DA’s office: ““I wish I could give you an answer,” Charlie said, “but I can’t. After many years as district attorney, I fully accept the fact that evil exists in this world.”” (Bingo, and I don’t even work for the DA.)

Favorite Scene: The best part, for me, was when Raul was giving his victim impact statement. It was good.

Conclusion: The story was good. I just didn’t agree with the sentencing. But, here in Texas, that wouldn’t be a problem.

Gary Rex Tanner’s The Oklahoma Gamblin’ Man

I received this book courtesy of Mr. Tanner for the purpose of a fair and honest review.

Overview: Rex Tanner had an interesting life. These stories lead us from his early years in the Oklahoma countryside, to his time in California during the Depression and thereafter.

Story Telling: How many of us have heard stories from our parents and/or grandparents and were just fascinated by them? Well Mr. Tanner has taken this fascination one step further. He has written his Daddy’s stories down, making this a special kind of memoir.

Likes: Rex did a lot of bad things in this book, but–with a few exceptions–he did what he had to do for his family’s sake. It will really give you a feel for The Great Depression era.

Dislikes: The problem that I had with this book came in the last two chapters…er, the last chapter and the epilogue. The didn’t seem to fit with the spirit in the rest of the book.

Favorite Character: I liked Effie. She was able to keep a house full of children running, and still had time to teach those interested how to read.

Favorite Quote: Now I personally disagree with the assessment, but here we go. “Rex had one weakness in business: he was an eternal optimist.” Optimism can’t be that bad.

Favorite Scene: Rex going to speak with Frank, after his brother had pulled a knife on the bartender, was pretty good. Bet they were watching what they said in that bar for a while afterwards.

Conclusion: It’s a tidy collection of short stories. But if you want my advice, skip the last chapter and the epilogue.

Michael Don Fess’s The Secret DNA Code

I received this book courtesy of Mr. Fess for the purpose of a fair and honest review.

Overview: Former college roommates, Bo and Ken, are working on a top secret research project. It’s not top-secret because they’re working for the government; it’s more like they are trying to hide it from the government. Too bad, because the NSA, the FBI, the Iranians, and the Saudis are all aware of their research to decode the universal parts of DNA. It’s not like it could get anyone killed though, right?

Story Telling: Mr. Fess had an unique idea. Can you imagine what the results would be if the evidence of intelligent design was found in our DNA? IN my opinion, though, Mr. Fess allowed his prejudices to bleed through the story.

Likes: I appreciate the fact that Bo and Ken, along with the other researchers involved, were determined to find the truth. Hanks and Smitty did a pretty good job protecting them as well.

Dislikes: Here’s the thing. Bo, seemed to pull some impressive contortions to keep from giving credit for intelligent design to an omnipotent creator that most believers refer to as God. Also, some of the believers in God–with exception of the Jewish professor in the researchers crew–were painted as ignorant, violent, or both.

Some of Mr. Fess’s research seemed a bit off. Marrying your first cousin will not make your children lose up to ten IQ points. Some families are just so large that, unless you met at the family reunion, you may not know–until too late–that you were related. Therefore I don’t agree that Muslims are somehow too ignorant to be anything but a clerk at a convenience store.

Conclusion: I don’t have a favorite character, quote, or scene from this book. It held a spirit of disdain for those who believe in God. And that ruined the story for me. You can read this book to see how the other side thinks, but be prepared.

Marsha Sramek’s The Great Grammar Book

I received this book courtesy of Ms. Sramek for the purpose of a fair and honest review.

Overview: Ms. Sramek has written this book in order to help others learn the rules of grammar for their writing needs.

Story Telling: This seems like it would be a good book for a writer, doesn’t it? We have a diagnostic test and chapters separated in such a way as to make learning easy. It just doesn’t seem to work that way in practice.

Dislikes: While some of the sentences were grammatically correct, quite a few of them didn’t sound right. I mean if you’re a writer (or want to be one), then this doesn’t help much.

Then there was this one question in the diagnostic test. “Since the Bennets buy gourmet cereals, are always in Starbucks, and constantly wear designer clothes, they have a lot more money that we/us.” As you can see, it’s a ‘pick the right word’ question. The problem that I had was there was an implied word in the answer key. Implied, mind you. The word ‘do’ is nowhere to be seen in this question. Perhaps, this was a misprint. Otherwise, I see Ms. Sramek’s answer as cheating.

Conclusion: Like I said, the sentences might be grammatically correct. But, I think I’ll stick with Strunk’s “Elements of Style” for my writing needs.

Paul Snare’s The Monticello Project-Jon Scott 1

I received this book courtesy of Mr. Snare for the purpose of a fair and honest review.

Overview: Let’s meet up with Jon Scott. He is a trouble-shooter for contracting companies. His basic job is to weed out anyone who wants to make a quick buck by siphoning funds from the parent company. It can be something as simple as ‘lifting’ construction supplies, to something as complex as state tax fraud. His new job with the Monticello Paper Company is a dual effort. He has to root out the thieves, while helping the project manager get comfortable in the job. This should be a piece of cake. Wonder what the feds are looking for around the job site.

Story Telling: Mr. Snare had a good idea. A private investigator looking for construction thieves sounds like a fun story. Especially if the investigator took the time to get his hands dirty. But, Mr. Snare seemed to do more telling than showing in this episode. By that I mean that there wasn’t much emotion to the tale. The people didn’t seem very life-like.

Likes: I did appreciate that the sexual elements of the story were glossed over and left behind closed doors. Oh, and Jon did seem to show a great amount of respect to Joe.

Dislikes: This part is never fun. I’m going to start with Jon’s personality. Like I said, Mr. Snare didn’t have much emotion in this book, and maybe that was why I couldn’t buy Kathy’s reaction to Jon. It’s either that or I’m more old-fashioned than I thought I was.

Then it comes to Rhonda. Here death came about by either gross negligence, sheer stupidity, or a combination of the two. There was nor logical reason for her to die the way that she did. Where was hers or Jack’s danger meter when they came up with that plan?

The conclusion left a lot to be desired. I never like it when there isn’t a conclusion that satisfies my sense of justice.

Favorite Character: Harry was a pretty neat guy. He was humble, but could lay down the law when it was necessary.

Favorite Quote: This explains a lot of things when it comes to Washington–the state, not D.C.. “The sales tax. Washington has variable rates for each governmental area.”

Favorite Scene: I wish that the spaghetti dinner was more fleshed out; it was a fun idea.

Conclusion: While it was a good idea, Mr. Snare needed to work on it a little more. I look forward to seeing him grow as a writer.

Marchen Art Studio’s Macramé Pattern Book

I received this book for the purpose of a fair and honest review.

Overview: How’s this for a different style of craft book? This is macramé, and it shows some beautiful work. Let’s see what it has to offer us.

Story Telling: This book was designed for beginners (like me), with a few tips and patterns that might attract even the masters of the craft.

Likes: You’ll never look at the friendship bracelets, that girls make for each other, the same way again. It turns out that those are just one of the basic patterns for this craft. The translators took their time on this book. There didn’t seem to be anything left out during the process.

Dislikes: The only problem that I have is with one of the basics of the craft itself. You work macramé projects with a chart pattern. If you have a hard time reading charts, then you’ll have a hard time getting used to this craft.

Favorite Patterns: I really liked the handles as well as the tote bags. They don’t look like they will get as easily as the crocheted tote bags.

Conclusion: This is a very informative book. I think it can help bring a new element to almost, if not, all crafts. I hope you find great use in it as well. I have, and will use it further as a reference book.

Petrina Khashoggi’s Operation Bumpkin Birthday

I received this book courtesy of Ms. Khashoggi for the purpose of a fair and honest review.

Overview: We get to meet the three rat brothers: Sketch, Snatch, and Snitch. They are moving up in the world, from the depths of Manhattan’s subway system to a nice neighborhood in the suburbs. Oh, goodie! It appears that there will be a birthday party tomorrow. Can the brothers work together in order to make a huge windfall food-wise? Or will one of them get too greedy?

Story Telling: Ms. Khashoggi and Mr. Graham came together nicely with this one. The Rat Brothers were a pleasant mix of realism and fantastical artwork. The story was told in a fun way. Items were listed in such a way as to increase the tempo.

Likes: Young Horatio is my kind of child. He likes chocolate and cheesecake. Also the brothers did try to stick together. Try being the operative word.

Dislikes: There’s not really a dislike this time.

Favorite Character: Sketch did seem to care a lot for his brothers. Yet, that care wasn’t blind. When problems arose, he knew who was usually behind them.

Favorite Quote: Sketch provides the quote this time. ““Repeat after me. Our mission is to get the maximum amount of food, and not get caught,” Sketch said.”

Favorite Scene: The best part was the situation right after the food-run. It was pretty good.

Conclusion: This one was fun and cute. I hope you and your children enjoy it as much as I have. It made my library, here’s hoping it makes yours.