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Kevin Peter's book reviews

Kevin Peter

Losing Yourself – A review of the novel ‘A Man in Control’

“Life is to be lived, not controlled” - Ralph Ellison

Author Harry E. Gilleland’s new novel ‘A Man In Control’ tells the tale of Dave Wynthers, a control freak trying to come to terms with the numerous changes happening in his life. He is a professor of microbiology who suddenly finds his hands full of surprises and sudden changes that disrupt his every laid out plan for the future. These changes include and vary from new love interests to death of family members and to ones as extreme as dealing with terrorists with biological weapons and also tackling the law enforcement agencies. A Man In Control is a mystery thriller centred around the setting of a social drama.

The timing of the book’s release is without question bang on, whether intentional or not, it has come out at a time when the whole world is talking about the main theme discussed in the book. And a few important and contemporary social and political issues too have been added to make it a highly relevant story. The author has also used his own background in microbiology to good effect by conjuring up various scenarios and terms and blending it nicely with the fictional story being narrated.

A shocking first chapter actually sets the pace and mood for the rest of the book. Harry gets into the mind and psyche of his lead character quite brilliantly, he plays with the reader’s perception and connection to his lead character by constantly pulling the strings from the background and gets the reader to love and hate Dave in the same book. The mature handling of relationships, even if they were flawed to begin with of both Dave’s and Heather’s and then Dave’s and Lorrie’s is another highlight. The author then goes on to extrapolate these relationships against the relationship of Lorrie and Caleb, as if to portray how an ideal relationship is supposed to be.

The book has a host of highly interesting characters but none who can match up to the uniqueness of the protagonist. Dave’s calculative and measured mind of a scientist is never switched off, whether he is talking to the authorities or even when he is making love to his girlfriend. But ultimately it is Dave’s insistence on domesticating his powerful and independent women partners that leads to his downfall. Sometimes Dave’s scenes with the police and FBI reminds you of the author’s previous book Zack’s Choice and the similar scenes in them but the content here is far more serious and Dave is no innocent, naive young character like Zack and therefore our attitude towards him too remains different. And it is quite a risk that the author has taken by creating a lead character like Dave, who isn’t easy to cheer for. But it is also a brave step in portraying a lead with grey shades rather than typecast him as either a bad guy or a goody two-shoes.

Anyone who has read Harry’s previous books will know that no matter what the theme or subject matter is, he writes in a casual and easy to read manner and this has been repeated in A Man in Control as well. It is an easy to read fiction with no hidden agenda and its only intention is to keep you entertained for the few odd hours you will spend on it.

Kevin Peter

Takeout Guy – A review of the novel ‘Chinatown’

“And that is how change happens. One gesture, one person, one moment at a time” - Libba Bray

As much as the herd animal that man has become would like to think otherwise, each of us is truly alone in this world. If you look at the important milestones in your life, you will discover it is only you living through the pain and the pleasure. While most people continue on in a life of conformity, there are a few who face the fact they are totally responsible for their lives, and chart a life path as unique as they are.

Author Richard Dawes’s latest novel ‘Chinatown’ is the seventh book in the Tucson Kid Western series. Departing from Tucson’s usual rustic environment, the action takes place in the urban setting of San Francisco. Once in the city, Tucson finds himself in the middle of a gang war between crime bosses of the Barbary Coast and the dreaded Chinese Tongs of Chinatown. As he fights the San Francisco underworld, Tucson also works to rescue a young woman from a crime boss who is holding her prisoner. Once again, Tucson proves he is an unstoppable force against evil, and that a change in scenery doesn’t slow him down.

In Chinatown, Tucson moves into a more suave and sophisticated environment where a calculating Chinese criminal mastermind & Barbary Coast bosses are trying to take over the city’s underworld. The basic premise is very different, and is an exciting departure for readers who follow this series that are used to seeing Tucson act and behave in a certain way in a different milieu. By putting his lead in an alien environment, the author has revealed many nuances in the character as he interacts with foreign conditions. For the first time in the series, Tucson’s famed black stallion gets to enjoy some well deserved R&R for almost the entire book, because in this story Tucson travels predominantly on foot and in cabs. The book starts off with a lengthy prelude before switching to the main plot, which is another first for the series.

Change isn’t always for the better, but in Chinatown, everything seems to have improved. The story is better, the action is more detailed and grand and even the sex has gotten better! There is a good mix of action and intrigue in the story, suited to the legendary fog & murk of San Francisco. Chinatown has a brilliantly choreographed fist fight sequence in it, which has become another of Tucson’s famed skills, second only to his skill with a gun. Tucson’s escape from a dungeon and his subsequent battle against the entire Tong army is literally what legends are made of, and is another epic fight that the character can chalk up to his ever increasing repertoire of victories. There is also a surprise ending that you will not see coming. Finally, in the middle of all the action, Tucson doesn’t forget to mention his way of life, the Warrior’s Code.

Definitely packing more action, Chinatown provides regular readers and fans of the Tucson Kid series with all the thrills they have come to expect. And for first time readers, there is plenty to explore and enjoy.

Kevin Peter

First Cut – A review of the novel ‘Battle Cry’

“New eras don't come about because of swords; they're created by the people who wield them” - Nobuhiro Watsuki

Author JL Snyder’s novel ‘Battle Cry’ narrates the story of a young female protagonist born into a family of samurai warriors. Kai-Ling is the 16 year old daughter of a murdered samurai father and an American mother. She was raised by her uncle Nobu, who taught her all the important lessons in the traditional Japanese art of sword play. And she has trained her whole young life with a single minded dedication to avenge her father’s murder. When she finally sets out to seek revenge, she has to follow certain instructions laid out by her uncle on her journey back to America. And it is on this journey that the young Kai-Ling matures into a fearsome warrior and makes friends who stick by her through thick and thin.

There are a lot of illustrations in this book that take you back to your own childhood and remind you of the various comic books & cartoon series that you used to devour, the ones that used to visualize every sound effect in writing to maximize the effect. And it’s amazing how quickly you will get pulled into Snyder’s storytelling. His amazing skills as a storyteller ensure that you quickly become a part of the world he has created and begin caring for his characters. He also has wonderful control and brevity over the information and amount of story that is packed into each chapter. And due to the brilliant editing the book moves at an even pace and keeps the reader’s attention in check throughout. There are a lot of scenes in the book that standout for their writing and use of imagination, the scene before entering the town of Mori-Ko and the battle scene in the Threshold of Darkness are brilliant, engrossing and makes for some highly tense reading.

Battle Cry is a classical revenge saga that has been made more accessible by having a bunch of characters who are grounded in reality and with whom you will be able to relate with easily. Another highlight is the wonderful use of language which flows uninterrupted through these pages, and like our lead’s Katana sword, the prose and dialogues usher in the beauty of the environment and the characters with such precision that you may be forgiven for mistaking the author for a samurai warrior himself, albeit a pen wielding samurai warrior. And it is pretty evident that the author has been heavily influenced by graphic novels, in Battle Cry he utilizes the same fast paced action, storytelling and illustrations to make it a gripping read.

And even though perhaps it is targeted towards a younger audience, this is a book that readers of any age are sure to fall in love with and treasure and rediscover the magic that only a good book can bring. Ending on a high note, you will look forward to more adventures involving Kai-Ling, along with a new cast of characters. The internet may say that JL Snyder is a first time novelist and that Battle Cry is his debut novel but nowhere in the book will you feel that and it makes you wonder what this extremely talented author was doing all along. It also raises expectations sky high for volume two of the Battle Cry series.

Kevin Peter

Just In Time – A review of the book ‘Socialcide’

“The unhappiest people in this world, are those who care the most about what other people think” - C. JoyBell C.

It doesn’t take much to be swept away by the tides of change, ever sweeping across the collective conscience of our nation. It doesn’t require your wilful participation, it only demands you to suspend your thought and go with the flow. But not all free flowing particles are alike, some are different from others, some are stubborn and inquisitive and dare question the absurdity that threatens to sweep them all away to annihilation. And when important questions are raised, intelligent answers are sure to follow.

Author Leo J. Battenhausen’s book Socialcide: How America Is Loving Itself To Death is a psycho-spiritual exploration into the ills that seem to plague the modern day American society. The author talks about the Me generation of today that seem to have forgotten even the basic social etiquettes and morals which were a part of everyday living for the previous generation. He claims Socialcide is destroying the basic fabric of our society one moral value at a time. Balancing his own theories and hypothesis with scientific facts and studies, he not only lists the various problems but also the means to overcome these before it’s too late.

The book has a wonderful foreword by John Kelly who amongst other things is also an author and the co-star in the Discovery Channel show ‘Dark Minds’. And once you get past the various introductions, you will be greeted by small and precise chapters delivering exactly what their titles denote and they do so in an extremely professional manner as well. In the book the author presents numerous real life examples of loner people, who may have been self sufficient and mighty hiding behind their online personas but when they ventured out into the open, their inability to cope with reality and their insufficient emotional responses often resulted in horrific outbursts of violence. The author also make an argument for coming out of our shells and communicating face to face and making a sincere effort to get to know our neighbourhoods and community better.

A lot of readers will be shocked to learn that the latest edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Diseases has removed Narcissistic Personality Disorder from its list because it’s too commonplace to call it as a disease anymore. The author presents hard evidence linking the evolution of narcissistic individuals, sociopaths and psychopaths in our society with the increasing cases of depression, drug addiction, marital problems, violent crimes, financial mess and other forms of abuse. And in a society that gets too scared or awkward discussing religion publicly, the author who is a professional psychologist too has shown tremendous courage in bringing religion and spirituality into a discussion about the ills facing our society.

The author also makes many valid points like how nowadays it’s easier to get the youth to organise a flash mob dance than have them come together to do some actual good for the society. The author lists 1978 as the year which probably heralded the beginning of the Socialcide era with the introduction of cell phones, video games that could be played in homes and the birth of the test tube baby.

For the many light bulbs that are sure to go off in your head at the end of every chapter, I wholeheartedly recommend this book and suggest everyone to grab a copy at the earliest.

Kevin Peter

The Z Files – A review of the book “Whatever Happened to the Zodiac Killer?”

“Coincidence is merely the puppeteers’ curtain, hiding the hands that pull the world’s strings” - Kaleb Nation

Psychologists have often said that a man’s character is derived from three elements, these being his inherited genes, his childhood & upbringing and an X factor that no one has been able to decipher till date. And it is this X factor that makes dissecting the life of a person all the more interesting. A person may be good or bad, he may be a scientist or a sinner or both but we still don’t know what makes them like that. And what if it was something otherworldly that ultimately molded people’s character? Then the question arises, do people then deserve credit for all the good that they do and more importantly, do they deserve the blame for all the bad that they do as well?

Author Katherin B. FitzPatrick’s new book “Whatever Happened to the Zodiac Killer?” is a fictionalized account of true events that the author was privy to in her life. Using only a few aliases, the author narrates what she claims is the actual truth behind the Zodiac killer, the world famous malevolent killer who terrorized the San Francisco Bay area in California, USA for almost a decade from late 1960’s to late 1970’s. She tells the story of a couple who spotted the Zodiac killer no less than three times on a 1978 mid October night and whose actions ensured the disappearance of the famous killer. The author claims it was a proverbial fight between good and evil, with powerful angel armies on the couple’s side and dark demonic forces on the killer’s side and ultimately it was the battalion of angel armies that protected them from the Zodiac killer’s demonic threat to their lives.

San Francisco, California is an iconic city-county in North America that is famous for its hills, sun rises, the Golden Gate Bridge, cable cars and the bustling people and lifestyle that has always made this a fascinating city to live in. But like all fairytale stories, this city too had a dark past to it because of an evil killer who terrorized its citizens and made a mockery of its police department and judiciary. Zodiac Killer’s terrorizing ways, his phantom escape from the clutches of police and his mysterious disappearance have always been a hot topic for gossip among popular culture connoisseurs. Everyone has had a different take on who he was and what happened to him. Katherin’s version is not only different and unique from them but it is also perhaps the most original one of the lot.

Since it’s not fair to readers who haven’t read the book, I won’t reveal too much of the book’s main theme or of its plot line. But I will say this; people shouldn’t approach this book looking to get an insight into the Zodiac case told through perhaps a hard cold journalistic point of view or in the style of a detective story, this is not that kind of abook. And the author has openly stated in the beginning that it is a story based on true events with only a few fictionalized parts, so it basically comes down to the reader willing to take that metaphorical leap of faith and trusting the author’s word.If you are willing to do so then you won’t need any further convincing and will believe the author when she talks about her many unique experiences associated with this case. And that is why I personally enjoyed the book, as it is different and it showed an alternative outlook and ending to this highly mysterious case.

I would suggest you to approach the book with an open mind, be ready to question but do bear in mind that not everything in this world of ours can be explained with a rational and logical answer. And as they say, there is no absolute truth and only variations of the reality as experienced by different people.

Kevin Peter

The Bogeyman – A review of the novel ‘The Hut in the Woods’

“Believe only half of what you see and nothing that you hear” - Edgar Allan Poe

Author Vicki Zell’s latest novel ‘The Hut in the Woods’ narrates the story of Carly Shiffer, a 27 year old woman with an overactive imagination whose life begins to unravel after a blast from her past resurfaces. When she discovers a harrowing truth about her husband, her perfect life in the small town falls apart, while also affecting her parents and her older brother. And with a serial killer on the loose in the town, the law enforcement agencies are on their toes and that is when Carly goes missing. Soon accusations start flying across thick and fast and strange suspects too pop into the picture.

Carly is shown married to Dorian Shiffer, a man that many women in their town consider as the perfect specimen of the male species. But unknown to them her marriage and domestic life is rapidly deteriorating by every passing day. But Carly soon finds out the reason behind Dorian’s physical and emotional detachment from her. And when her caring parents and over protective brother get involved, it initiates a chain of events resulting in Carly going missing and Dorian being blamed for it.

The author makes full use of Carly’s overactive imagination to sheath the small town setting with a cloak of mystery and intrigue right from the start of the book. And more often than not it’s this overactive imagination of hers that fuels the narrative forward. The author often takes the reader inside Carly’s mind and shows you her quirks and her almost paranoid behaviour, leading you to question everything and not knowing whom or what to trust in the story.

The Hut in the Woods is excellently crafted and is a wonderful dramatic piece that manages to scare you, thrill you and also humor you with its understated and almost subtle humor. The wonderful use of the language has to be appreciated as well; it has been altered to suit each character’s personality and demeanour. The book stays at an even pace while providing emotional ups and downs by way of an actual plot and real characters. Initially it does take its own time to get going but after the half way mark the chapters fly by rather quickly. In fact it is after Carly goes missing from the narrative that we get to see some of the best material in the book. The interrogation scenes, almost all the scenes with Decker and the final scene are some of the highlights worth mentioning. The character of Leonard Houser is nicely used and you will appreciate the brilliance in that character’s conception and usage by the end.

For many people a good book means one that is structured properly, one that has got its story moving in a consistent manner and is told in an entertaining voice. While for others it is the ending that they consider as the most important part of the book. In the case of The Hut in the Woods it emerges a definite winner on both the counts. The strength in the writing itself should take this book into the definitive reading list.

Kevin Peter

The Fighting Spirit – A review of the novel ‘Lemmon’s Journey’

“We honour the people we lost by loving again” - Marie Force

Author Philip Oyok’s latest novel ‘Lemmon’s Journey’ narrates the story of Lemmon Grandee, a sixty year old man attempting to reunite his family and the power of second chances in life. Having recently retired from a job he held for 36 years, he finds his days at home in a small town in America dwindling away to obscurity. A tragic incident soon leads to an astonishing revelation about his daughter and grandson who had left home years ago. Determined to get his family back, he pulls away from his depressing routine and sets out on an eventful journey to New York City where he must face more heart breaking news first before finding love & redemption.

Reiterating the fact that coming of age or finding yourself can happen at virtually any age, the author presents Lemmon Grande, a senior citizen who discovers a whole new side to him when put to some very harsh tests in life. Early on in the book the author takes you into the inner workings of Lemmon Grandee’s mind, showing Lemmon come to terms with his age and post retirement life. Divided into three sections, each one deals with a separate part of Lemmon’s life. And even though all sections have the same thread of story line running through it, each one manages to show him in a different light. And this is where the transformation of his character has been captured brilliantly. In the beginning after his retirement he is shown as this quiet man, never letting others know what’s going on in his mind. But this all changes rapidly after the twin tragedies that befall him; he then becomes more emotive and starts wearing his heart on his sleeves.

Purely in terms of storytelling, it’s a brave move that the author has taken by making a 60 year old the protagonist of his novel and that too a man who spends most of the time crumbled down and crying. But none of this really matter because barely a chapter into the book and the character of Lemmon would have won you over and you would be hard pressed not to undertake this long and arduous journey along with him. The book also has an old world charm to it, accentuated by a few details that the author has noted like old timer characters without cell phones and young children riding in Schwinn bicycles. The author has also captured a side of New York City that is sparingly explored in fiction. The city becomes a character unto itself; it is dark, cold, menacing and unforgiving to outsiders trying to make it in there.

With a great lead and a fantastic array of secondary characters, this is a book filled with lots of beauty, heartache, forgiveness, redemption and the power of undying love. And that is why Lemmon’s Journey becomes a book that you shouldn’t miss.

Kevin Peter

The Self Connection – A review of the book ‘The Conversation’

“We can live without religion and meditation, but we cannot survive without human affection” – Dalai Lama

Author Jeff Cannon’s book ‘The Conversation: Your Guide to Transcendence’ is a book that encourages lateral thinking and connecting with your inner self. It utilizes a hitherto underutilized phenomenon of lucid dreaming to come up with questions and answers to the very unique experience that’s a human life. Taking full advantage of these lucid dreams, Jeff completely engages in them and lets the dream and the guiding voice he meets help formulate various hypothesis. The author doesn’t preach, profess or impose any particular belief. Instead, he gives an insight from his own personal experiences spread over the course of five days and five nights.

The author invites you in for a magical journey into his lucid dreaming accounts, to illustrate various points he’s trying to make, of stories, of the human element in them; all told with a flowing prose that accentuates the beauty of these dreams. On a holiday on the Greek island of Ithaca, the author gradually slips into these dreams every night wherein he is aware of the fact that he is dreaming and yet is able to interact with the various elements. He finds energy or a guide in his dreams that offers assistance and support to help him decode life’s mysteries. And it is by consciously going deeper into the unconscious that he meets a certain figure that represents the conscious awareness or his inner Self.

On the first night of the dreams, the author and the energy guide talk about a form of energy that goes well and beyond the physical limitations of man. The world we live in is simply a manifestation of the energy we send out; what goes around, comes around. On the second night they talk about love, about commonness & singularity and how no one ever ceases to exist, how they merely transform. On the third night, they talk about how it’s consciousness that holds everything together, a consciousness free from judgement. On the fourth night, the talk veers towards how every experience creates new perspective; questioning & exploration leading to clarity and purity. And on the fifth and final night, they discuss how everything comes from within, understanding your consciousness better by reaching further into the depths of your Self.

The book shows that even during moments when it seems that we are awake and aware; we are in fact sleeping through valuable opportunities life throws our way. Reading this book will lead you to expand your consciousness and get you to ask all the right questions. Then our dormant Self will once again become responsive, conscious and alive. And life will attain its true intensity and luminosity. And only then will the timid and reserved mind become receptive towards real living.

You will find yourself getting emotionally engaged with the content and will experience the author’s enthusiasm as well. It will also ignite or renew your interest in lucid dreaming and will have you practice it yourself. The mix of western philosophy with eastern spiritual tradition works very well and it becomes an original thought of its own. The Conversation will leave you with peace and contentment, it’s a book that reiterates the fact that life is a series of events waiting to be explored and experienced. And to quote a line from the book, “Life is the breath of the soul. Embrace it, share it, let it flow.”

Kevin Peter

Precision Strikes – A review of the novel ‘Death by Autopsy’

“By medicine life may be prolonged, yet death will seize the doctor too” - William Shakespeare

Author Jane Bennett Munro’s latest novel ‘Death by Autopsy: A Toni Day mystery’ is the fourth book in the Toni Day series of mystery books. As the self serving title suggests, it tells the tale of Toni Day, a pathologist by profession who takes it upon herself to solve a couple of mysterious deaths when she is accused of causing death to a patient, death by autopsy. Beulah Mae Pritchard was the woman Toni was supposed to conduct an autopsy on but when she wakes up alive on the table; it sets in motion a series of events that spells trouble for all those involved in the case. Accused of malpractice and being sued, Toni works hard to get her name cleared while also dealing with multiple threats, including one from the actual killers of Beulah and her husband Dwayne.

Now although this is the fourth book the titular protagonist Toni Day makes an appearance in, Death by Autopsy is the first book I’ve read in the series. But that didn’t stop me and I’m sure it won’t stop you either from enjoying this book as a standalone mystery novel. All the characters have been developed in such a manner that you will get to know each person intimately through the course of the book. Toni, her husband Hal, mother Fiona, step father Nigel and a host of secondary characters, including the antagonists are all real and life like and this helps in connecting with their story and emotions. And although it takes advantage of a few fictional liberties to move the narrative forward, it still turns out to be a highly credible and believable story.

This is a medical mystery novel that is thoroughly researched but that’s no surprise considering the author is a board certified pathologist in real life. She takes you through the day to day happenings in the life of a pathologist and lets you know that the job isn’t as glamorous or easy as it’s portrayed on television. And you really got to have a hard stomach to sit through some of the passages as she literally dissects the autopsy procedures, in graphic detail too and it isn’t recommended for the squeamish readers. The strength of the research can be felt in other areas too when she’s discussing about the irrigation company, law enforcement agencies and the judiciary as well. And unlike a lot of other books in this genre, Jane hasn’t tried to dumb it down to reach a wider audience. And I appreciate this because even if you can’t follow all the medical terms and procedures at least you feel that the characters uttering these lines know what they are doing, making the proceedings seem more real.

Toni Day is a woman of strong principles who is intelligent, honest, energetic and exuberant. She has got great attention to detail and the tenacity to follow up on even the hardest of leads, two qualities that any successful detective or sleuth must possess. The first person narrative will take the reader into the thick of the action and the author has managed to make this work throughout the length of the book without it ever becoming monotonous or stale. She also has a great mix of secondary characters who will keep you entertained with their quirks and dysfunctional interpersonal interactions.

A lot of the story moves forward on the strength of some nicely written rapid fire dialogues spoken between the various characters, this also help in creating artificial urgency in the narrative. With almost every chapter ending on a cliff hanger note, you will be hard pressed not to finish the book in a single sitting.

Kevin Peter

Waking Dreams – A review of the novel ‘Pharaoh’s Star’

“Every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other” - Charles Dickens

Author Vera Jane Cook’s ‘Pharaoh’s Star’ tells the story of a city bred couple who purchases their second home in New Kingston in upstate New York and soon realizes that life in the mountains isn’t as peaceful as they imagined. Nick Dowling is a man without a past and although he has made up stories to convince his wife Jenna, he is still searching for answers to fill the gaping holes in his childhood memories. Haunted by violent dreams and strange visions, Nick seeks an explanation in the paranormal while Jenna is convinced that he is hiding something from her. The closure they seek also puts immense pressure on their marital life as they desperately try and make sense of it all.

Pharaoh’s Star has a skilfully written story that is dark and powerful and filled with wonderful imagery about the environment in which it’s set. At the same time it also has an emotional depth to it accentuated by the fine writing centred on Nick’s and Jenna’s relationship. It has a small cast and although the main action is limited to a couple of cast members, all of them primary and secondary characters have been presented as both real and relatable people. And at no stage do their actions suggest that they are on the pages of a fictional book and they often behave like how normal people caught in their situation would act. The valid and almost logical explanations put forward by the two opposing camps divided into Nick, Sam & Lauire and Jenna & Sally ensure that you as a reader will find it hard to believe one side over the other.

The location of the story’s setting lends itself beautifully to the air of mystery surrounding these pages. The tall dark trees lining the long & winding lonely roads and the sparsely populated town all contribute to the eerie and mysterious mood. The preciseness in the writing ensures that you get caught up in this claustrophobic struggle along with the characters. There are so many questions you will find asking yourself as you go along this ride, all the while wondering what is real and what is not. There is this teasing quality to the narrative where every now and then it brings up a scene or a scenario where you think the mystery will be finally revealed but then the author masterfully defers it and makes you patiently sit through till the very end.

Pharaoh’s Star is a well written book with a great story line. Its wonderful mix of suspense and action will keep the reader on their toes throughout. And if you like to read suspense filled books with an ending you cannot predict, then this is the perfect book for you.

Kevin Peter

One Final Tag – A review of the novel ‘Dead Wrong’

“Death ends a life, not a relationship” ― Mitch Albom

Author Betta Ferrendelli’s latest novel ‘Dead Wrong’ is the third book in the Samantha Church Mystery series of books. Ace reporter Samantha Church is back to her sleuthing ways in this edition, trying to uncover the secrets behind the mysterious happenings in a mortuary. Still recuperating from the physical and emotional toils of her previous adventure, Sam unwittingly finds herself helping a young woman who wants to expose the shady dealings going on in a funeral home. But she soon finds out that these modern day body snatchers have too much to lose and aren’t afraid to eliminate their threats forever.

The consistency shown by the author in drawing up the character of Samantha Church even in the third book of the series deserves some serious appreciation. At the same time one can also detect a growth in Sam’s character, she has gotten better at responding to her intuitions and her attitude towards her daughter also show a new level of maturity. Sam has this almost sad, miserable side to her personality that is often offset by this amazing heroic quality of taking the fight to the opposition even when she’s feeling down and out. If the previous books showed her dealing with her alcohol addiction, this time around she seems to have gotten that under control. But another trouble brews in her private life in the form of a terrible relationship with her trainer / boyfriend. Trace is a self -centred individual who becomes possessive about Sam when it suits him and otherwise acts aloof around her.

The second main character of Wilson gets a meatier part to play in this book and his personality shines through all the scenes he’s featured in. We also see him dealing with his own alcohol addiction and getting used to his new prosthetic hand. The special relationship and love shared by Sam and Wilson really comes out in Ferrendelli’s writing. You will also get to feel the genuine affection and respect these two characters have for each other. Even secondary characters like Abby, Peg, Mark, Ralph & Helen too are well etched out and their internal conflicts too have been nicely portrayed. Especially the sub-plot involving Helen and her change of heart when she realizes the pointlessness of her ‘job’ are all well written scenes. The book is well researched and yet doesn’t show off its research by unnecessarily packing in too much information about mortuaries and funeral homes.

The book ends on a definite cliff-hanger and as a reader you will have to undergo a tantalizing wait before you can find out what happens to Sam in light of the shocking revelation made towards the end. So Dead Wrong gets it dead right and the now the wait begins for the next book in the series.

Kevin Peter

Blood Promises – A review of the novel ‘Shadow Born’

“I envy people that know love. They have someone who takes them as they are.” - Jess C. Scott

Author Paul A. Cagle’snovel ‘Shadow Born’ is the first book in the Shadow-Borne Chronicles series of books. A 22 year old orphan Alec Carson may have only faint memories of being abducted and tortured by a strange woman. But he will never forget the changes brought on by that incident. Apart from the magical transformation of his body, he also attained super human abilities. This is because he was turned into a vampire that night. He is also a hybrid version, retaining human and vampire physicality. This not only makes him more powerful than other vampires but also the target of evil forces that aren’t happy with the odd one in their group. And he soon realizes that heroism comes at a steep price.

The vampire in Shadow Born is Cagle’s own interpretation of everybody’s favourite myth throughout the centuries. And it stands out from its contemporaries because of two very obvious reasons. Firstly it’s set in a more urban surrounding breaking the monotony of the woods and the mountains where you usually find your quota of vampires in fiction. The urban space of the story lends itself to making the vampire content more believable and relatable.

And secondly it differs in the treatment of its protagonist Alec Carson. He isunlike other heroes you find in similar books; a finished product fighting immortal enemies and saving damsels from the get go. Alec isn’tpresented as some hunk so full of himself, his transformation takes place gradually and during that period he is confused, angry and often astonished by his own abilities. In fact Alec is such an unassuming hero that he often thinks about whimsical things to humor himself whenever he’s under intense situations. These thoughts also help in breaking the flow of the narrative whenever it gets too serious for its own good.

The writing ensures that right from the start you will feel for this young boy caught up in such extreme situations. And gradually you will begin to root for him to emerge victorious and choose his preordained life path. The secondary characterizations are also good and well rounded in their presentation. Cagle’s Marcus is loyal and honourable, plus he is strong, vigilant, and protective about Alec. And their friendship bordering on a full blown out romance actually spices up the book. But it’s not all fun and games as the narrative also parlays important political and religious discussions as well.

The chapter breaks are precise and each one has been edited in such a manner as to achieve maximum effect in delivering the mystery factor. And even though there are violent action scenes, it’s never too gory and for the genre it’s set in, it’s actually par for the course. The author also deserves appreciation for the originality & the imagination used in the set action pieces. Their ingenious use in the plot also builds up the thrill factor as the storyline moves forward.

Ending with the definite possibility of returning back with a sequel, Shadow Born is a book that all paranormal thriller fans will enjoy. It’s clever, intriguing and will leave you completely hooked to this new series.

Kevin Peter

Deal Breaker – A review of the book ‘Hidden Dangers’

“The heaviest penalty for declining to rule is to be ruled by someone inferior to yourself.”
― Plato

Author Robert Joe Stout’s book ‘Hidden Dangers: Mexico on the Brink of Disaster’ provides a compelling overview of the country’s political, economic and social changes that have taken place in the years 2000 - 2010. Focussing on the historical and the contemporary relation with its neighbour the United States of America, the author lists five ‘landmines’ that could shred this relationship. Armed with a strong array of first hand reports, observations, interviews with officials and superior analysis; the author exposes the potential downside to the social and political settings of both the countries if the problems are left untreated.

Taking up five main areas of discord and misunderstanding between Mexico and U.S.A, the book presents a multifaceted take on the current state of Mexico’s socio and political environment. It highlights issues like the problem of unchecked production and distribution of drugs because of high demand from U.S. and the ever increasing gang violence. It also looks at how the famed War on Drugs has actually contributed to more deaths than curbing the demand of drugs. It discusses the unchecked migration problem of Mexican youths travelling to U.S. in search of employment and the United States militarized persecution of such illegal workers. It also covers the various uprisings and protest movements that has emerged of late challenging the U.S influence and neo liberal politics of the land. The book also manages to analyze Mexico's economic, political and social settings within the politics of corruption. And how this backlash will affect modern day Mexico and the implications it will have on the Mexico-U.S. relationship.

This book also raises many important questions that are critical to understanding Mexico's current economic and political challenges. Mainly how it continues to drown in debt in spite of opening up trade with NAFTA and export of oil. The reasons why it hasn’t been able to sustain all inclusive economic development is another issue addressed. The failure of repeated governments in not being able to provide for the welfare of its citizens and how it’s affecting the social fabric of the country is also discussed in great detail.

This book is exhaustively researched and told with the journalistic nitty-gritty style that presents both a historical and modern overview of the Mexican society and politics. Tackling various social elements in its endeavour to form opinion and relevant commentary, the book takes into account the voices of different policy makers, organizations, workers and others. The book also delves into detail the strengths and weaknesses of the relationship between Mexico and the United States. And with respect to the issue of migration, trade and criminal activities, a host of policies and processes are addressed to improve the prevailing relationship between the two countries.

Balanced and objective Hidden Dangers: Mexico on the Brink of Disaster provides a different and refreshing approach to understanding the country of Mexico. It presents a comprehensive and nuanced analysis of modern day Mexico that helps in better understanding its position on migration, war on drugs, business & commerce and political uprisings. This scholarly work is highly accessible and anyone who picks this book up is sure to take away something useful from it.

Kevin Peter

Within your reach – A review of the book ‘Twelve Qualities of Highly Successful People’

“At the end of the day, let there be no excuses, no explanations, no regrets.” – Steve Maraboli

Author Sati Achath’s latest book ‘Twelve Qualities of Highly Successful People: And How YOU Can Develop These 12 Qualities’ is an inspiring account by a successful individual himself, highlighting the twelve qualities found in highly successful people. Sati has taken a group of 130 individuals from across the globe, from the past and the present, from the living and the dead and from the famous and the not so famous to illustrate his point. You not only get to read the success stories of these individuals and the qualities they shared but also the author’s personal insight into these qualities at the beginning and end of each chapter. This book will transform the way you approach life and will get you on the right path to greatness.

Unlike other books on this topic which are often heavy on concept but light on its practicality, this book offers something different to its readers. Here an entire chapter's concepts are summarized in two sections. ‘Common traits’ at the beginning and ‘You too can develop’ at the end talk about the traits corresponding to each of the twelve qualities and how you can adopt them in your life as well. While reading this book it becomes pretty obvious that Sati Achath has taken great pains to ensure the book is reader friendly and highly approachable. And this is really helpful to the readers as they can re-read the book multiple times without the message or its delivery ever getting stale.

While you may or may not agree with the author’s choice of ‘successful’ people, you can’t help but notice the similarity in them, the unifying quality or drive to succeed that was present in all of them. The single common trait all these successful people shared was a dream, a vision they had of what they wanted to do, where they wanted to be. And the author’s highly inspiring and yet simple message talks about the same thing. Always have a dream and work hard towards it as if your life depended on it and success will follow.

The core message contained in the book may be already known to you, you may have heard it or read it before but where Twelve Qualities of Highly Successful People varies is in its delivery. The book not only contains biographical summaries of some of the most important men and women of the past two centuries but reiterates the fact that even ordinary men can achieve success like these people.

I would recommend this book to all those people who think that the over-achievers of this world are a special breed and they succeed because they have luck on their side. It includes numerous stories of people born and brought up in really difficult conditions that turned their lives around by applying a few simple positive traits to their lives. After reading this book, it will be difficult not to get influenced by the various success stories and have the urge to try these ‘success’ qualities in your life as well.

Kevin Peter

The Power Within – A review of the book ‘Embrace the Real You’

“Before you find your soul mate, you must first discover your soul.” - Charles F. Glassman

Author Shawn Crenshaw’sbookEmbrace the Real You’ challenges you to throw away the masks that hide your true identity from the world. Each one of us is born unique and different from one another but somewhere along we grow up hiding behind other people’s identity, remaining ignorant about our true purpose in this world. Crenshaw not only identifies the various false masks we wear but also help in ripping them off our faces by tapping into the Word of God and enlightening us on the path He has chosen for all of us. Readers can follow these simple steps to get back on their preordained paths and live the life they were destined to live.

This book will ask its readers about the various masks their wear in their daily life, the actions they choose to take and question if it’s benefitting them or others in the end. Bringing the spiritual discourse back into our everyday lives, Crenshaw encourages us to acknowledge our true authentic self. Written in a straight-forward manner and in an easy to understand language, the author explains using the help of various real life examples, metaphors and biblical stories to unmask our fears and let the shining true self out, as God himself would have wanted. Even though it’s a short read, this little dynamite is packed with more wisdom and insight than other books in this genre.

I will say this book has come out at a timely juncture too because when you look around, you feel there are far too many people living their lives without any purpose, a life full of regrets, worry, mediocrity and anxiety. Seeking solace in the scriptures or believing in a higher power through this book will calm these minds down and set them on the path to attain peace and contentment.

Embrace the Real You has short chapters that get to the point without dilly-dallying around the subject. Every chapter also ends with a finely summarized paragraph that condenses the various important points presented in the chapter. The carefully selected inspirational quotes at the beginning of each chapter also set the perfect mood for the rest of the messages. Crenshaw has a strong, confident voice that is very sure about what it has to say. You get the feeling that the author is speaking about these points from experience itself. The author’s personal stories shared in the end in the testimony section are not only heart warming but further propel the author’s claims that God has in store a life plan for all of us.

It doesn’t matter where you are in life and what you’ve been doing till now, everyone should read this book to identify and celebrate the real you. Shawn Crenshaw’s simple and yet effective message inspires you to live your true life, the one that you truly deserve.

Kevin Peter

The Ultimate Carnival – A review of the novel ‘Peace on Earth’

“In a mad world, only the mad are sane.” - Akira Kurosawa

Author Paddy Bostock’s latest novel ‘Peace on Earth’ is a series of adventures in search of mankind’s latest fallacy. A wannabe actor comes into possession of a disk containing the formula for attaining peace on earth. But he loses it and soon an international array of oddball characters descend in search of it and further mayhem ensues.Random events and coincidences are aplenty and when these characters get together it lets loose quirky madness like never before. Even in the midst of its lunacy the book manages to reflect the banality of our everyday endeavours.

Paddy is fast becoming a master of the slightly quirky storytelling which in reality shouldn't work but invariably does and that too very well. The absurdities of life that humans, the supposedly intelligent life beings run after have been discussed in this almost allegorical story. ‘Peace on Earth’ like Paddy’s previous books is also full of British humor and charm that engages your intellect too. For a disillusioned generation it’s a gift that such writers exist who can hold forth logical and rational arguments in a witty manner. The flow of words have almost a poetic feel to them, they manage to make this deep connection with your soul. Which when you think about is quite special because of all the zany madness going around in the background. It provides a refreshingly fresh take on modern life and its many distractions.

It has a plot that is rooted in the present times with excellent use of pop-culture references and elements from our day-to-day life. The chapter breaks are brilliantly put together, the editing is so precise that you will find it hard to stop reading at the end of a chapter without wanting to start the next one immediately. Some of the lines in the book are just too hilarious and worthy of being re-read and highlighted in your book. The novel also celebrates girl power in the kick-ass fashion that Hollywood films are famous for. And ever so occasionally in the plot, the author takes it upon himself to take on the archaic rules of the establishment and poke fun at it and does so splendidly. Paddy has this understated ability to take the mortification of everyday life and string a highly entertaining story around it.

Make no mistake; there is an underlying feel of seriousness to the proceedings. Because even though a lot of the scenes and characters have been designed to invoke laughter, they also make you think about the bigger picture. The author has created a remarkable fictional world that just gets better by each turn of the page. All his characters stand out and the Dickensian mirror he brandishes really reflects our current state of affairs.

The charm of this book lies in the unpredictability of its plot line, one strange situation changes quickly into another equally befuddling one. So the only advice I can give you is to fasten your seat belt and surrender to its brilliance for maximum enjoyment.

Kevin Peter

The Oregon War – A review of the novel ‘Range War Legacy’

“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” -Benjamin Franklin

Author Patricia Stinson’s novel ‘Range War Legacy’ is set in early 1900’s American West. A story of history and fiction, it retells a bloody war fought between cattle ranchers and sheep owners over control of open range. The trend of lies, corruption and murder by a few cattle ranchers found an ally in the government with crooked judges and sheriffs too being a part of such debauchery. Molly was a little girl when she witnessed a bloody massacre of sheep herders and their sheep by people she knew well. To protect her family she swore to never reveal the identity of the killers. While Molly struggled with the truth, fate revealed its own justice system to balance out the injustices done.

Range War Legacy has an extraordinary story played out by a wide array of colorful characters. It’s punctuated with several dramatic scenes that will stay with you long after you’ve done reading the book. The first chapter itself sets the right mood as a mix of awe and intrigue welcomes readers into its midst. The author doesn’t waste time going into the intimate details of 19th century life and instead paints a broader sense of the place and the time. She captures the lives of ordinary citizens caught up in the early 19th century struggles and who are unwittingly thrown into an economic conflict with their neighbors. She shows just how easy it is for good guys to turn bad and how individual perceptions can influence this classification.

From the beginning itself the reader is thrust into the lives of Molly and her family and it’s difficult to disengage yourself from them. Paul Langster, Molly’s father is shown as an honest man trying to do the right thing even in the midst of a social uprising. The character of Molly is a role model for women empowerment and independent thinking. Her marriage to Aaron and her life choices are testament to this fact. And the growth of her character over the years has also been explored nicely.

There is an underlying feel of tragic overtones to the entire story. The editing is spot on and there is consistency in the mood and pacing of the story. The dialogues between the characters too deserve a mention here. Be it amongst children or between adults, there is a clear distinction made by the use of right flavors and dimensions. For readers there is the added bonus of getting to know a part of U.S. history that is perhaps not that well known. It may be a fictionalized version but there is enough in there to invoke interest to find out more about the period and what transpired in these range wars.

This is a novel that starts with a bang and ends with a bang. I would definitely recommend this to other readers.

Kevin Peter

First Lady – A review of the novel ‘Figs & Pomegranates & Special Cheeses’

“If the married life possess love and virtue, these will be both its duty and reward” – Thiruvalluvar

Author Mona Gustafson Affinito’s latest book ‘Figs & Pomegranates & Special Cheeses: A Love Story’ retells the story of biblical Job from the point of view of his wife. Enter a mystical and exotic land of great happenings as Mrs. Job a.k.a. Dara takes you behind the scenes in a unique first person narrative. We follow her journey from childhood to adulthood as she tackles varied themes of friendship, love and faith in her life. This is not just the story of Job’s wife; it is a story about a woman who showed unparalleled courage in the face of multitudes of change that rocked her life. It’s an inspiring story that encourages you to have faith in your own core beliefs and values.

Diving deep into biblical times and the lives of its inhabitants, author Mona comes up with a highly detailed and descriptive narration of an extraordinary story. Christian or otherwise, everyone’s bound to have heard the story of Job and his tryst with God because of the story’s wide appeal and relevance in popular culture. While Mrs. Job gets only a fleeting mention in the bible, this historical fiction puts her at the center of the action and tells the story from her point of view. From the time of her betrothal and subsequent marriage ceremony, Dara loved Job and stayed with him through thick and thin.

This novel’s basic premise of presenting this lone woman as a fallible and yet living and breathing soul in a patriarchal society deserves much appreciation. It is a well researched book but at the same time the narration doesn’t get lost in the details. Even though the characters in this novel are your favorite immortalized ones from the bible, here we get to see them in a different and unique setting. Speaking about the setting, it is one of those things that go unnoticed while reading a book. Story writers simply narrate a story while story-tellers manage to take readers straight into the world of the characters they create. Mona lets them tell their own story; it is they who compel the plot to move forward and not the other way around.

There is an appropriately titled section called ‘story behind the story’ at the end of this book. It is akin to a director’s commentary on your favorite movie’s DVD. But here it’s an author who opens up about her craft and her book.It is a must read if you are a bibliophile or even someone who wants to know more about the inner workings of a writer’s mind.

Mona Gustafson Affinito’s passionately created portrait on the lives of Dara and Job appeals at so many different levels. It is intrinsically humane in its approach and turns out to be an inspiring read that you will keep coming back to.

Kevin Peter

New beginnings – A review of the novel ‘The Soul Retrieval’

“Words are a pretext. It is the inner bond that draws one person to another, not words.” – Rumi

Author Ann W. Jarvie’snovel ‘The Soul Retrieval’ tells the story of Henrietta Clayborn and her tryst with love, loss, healing and new beginnings. Set in the 1950’s between a small town in South Carolina and a Native American reservation in New Mexico, it follows the story of Henrietta and her physician husband Jeff who’s researching cases of spontaneous remission found among the locals on the reservation. While the good doctor tries to help the tribal community and research their spirit medicine in the process, there are dissenting groups within the white community as well as the tribe’s members who aren’t happy with the doctor’s meddling presence. Meanwhile Henrietta has a deep dark secret that has scarred her soul but in the company of a sage Apache woman Altie and her eccentric mystic husband Joe, she finds the courage to get over her past and the many hurdles she faces in her present.

This suspenseful, beautifully written novel focuses on the lives of an American family of the 50’s temporarily living on a Native American reservation. While most books with this premise tell stories of battles and bravado, very rarely do they focus on the personal lives of the participants, of the human drama involved, like this one. Here we get to know and care about a young family as they struggle to survive and exist within their own southern white culture and the vastly different traditions of Native Americans. The two cultures do not easily coexist, yet they come to rely on each other because of the medicinal knowledge and cures available to each side.

And while we are talking about this book it would be a shame not to mention its wonderful cast of characters on whose shoulders this novel achieves its glory. Sure the story is original, suspenseful and one of a kind. The treatment of plot offers novelty and ingenuity, but it’s the characters that take it to a whole new level. Henrietta is the soul and star of this novel. She is traumatized and yet has the capacity to open herself to the forbidden and search for healing truths. She is vulnerable and yet resolutely strong when fate demands it of her. Henrietta behaves within the boundaries a 1950’s society has permitted for a woman but she isn’t afraid to break the same shackles when needed.

Going head to head with her and sometimes quite literally too is Dr. Colonel who’s Henrietta’s father-in-law. He is the quintessential patriarchal macho man who feels everyone else must bow down before him and serve his every whim and fancy. Now this was a character the author could have gone overboard with and made a caricature of but she puts in the right amount of menacing and evil and he appears as a highly dislikeable man but a real person nonetheless. Joe and Altie are her native friends and the ones who help her through her life transition. Joe speaks a lot through metaphors and parables, most of which contain hidden meaning and others just witty quips. He is a bit of everything, taking the good aspects of different cultures, traditions and institutions. Altie is another strong woman like Henrietta and the strong bond they share automatically transforms into a warm friendship.

Even though it’s a big book, coming to around 400+ pages, you will never be put off by its size. Especially the last 100-150 pages wiz by pretty quickly as the story picks up its intensity and important events start happening one after the other. A compelling storyline and a great cast of characters ensure this novel’s longevity in your mind long after you are done reading it.

Kevin Peter

Our Time Now – A review of the novel ‘Madderakka’

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them, neither persons nor property will be safe.” - Frederick Douglass

Author M C Raj’s novel ‘Madderakka: A Romantic Journey Through Cultures’ is a love story that celebrates the human spirit in its highs & lows. The protagonists in this love story are not just a couple of individuals but representatives of two indigenous communities from separate parts of the world. Veeran is an Adijan, member of the so called untouchable caste from India while Ramona is a Sami woman from Norway. An anthropologist and a philosopher meet under special circumstances and romance blooms between them. They also discover the similarities in rituals followed and oppressions faced by their respective communities back home. And Madderakka is the blessing brought forth by their love, she isVeeran & Ramona’s beautifulandintelligent daughter. Andshe continues the fight her parents had started to ensure the Adijan community gets the recognition & respect that they deserve.

This book provides a great insight into the culture and way of life of the Sami people and the Adijan people while also revealing the differences in the cultural and social set-up of Norway and India. The early part of the book is fully devoted to capturing the romance between Veeran and Ramona and this has been done exceedingly well. And that the author has managed to narrate it within the framework of the tales of struggle by indigenous people is quite a laudable effort. There is a good mix of political diatribe within these lines and these reveal much about the author’s thought process as it does of his characters.

There is a good flow to the structure of the narrative. The weaving of the romance with the domestic life story and the past with the present time frame are testament to this fact. The prose in the narrative does a first rate job of extrapolating the beauty of the nature with the feeling of love and lust of the characters. In fact almost all the sequences involving Veeran and Ramona have this amazing dream like quality to it. And yet one shouldn’t forget the high dosage of harsh reality the author has infused within these pages. There are some hard-hitting and possibly uncomfortable truths within this story. Reiterating the fact that politics isn’t some external element that you can choose to accept or ignore, the author shows that politics is intertwined with our everyday life and that our every action, social and cultural is in fact a political action.

The book has a wonderful cast of characters who will leave a lasting impression on the readers. The energy & innocence of Veeran, the philosophical & beautiful mind of Ramona, the spunk of Sarah and Deepti and the leadership & magnanimous nature of Madderakka will remain with you even after you’ve finished reading the book.

Madderakka is a simple story well told within the vastness and beauty of two distinct and yet similar cultures. It entertains the reader as much as it educates them about the world and its various human inhabitants. It’s definitely worth a read and maybe some more.