Monday, August 18, 2014

Echoes in the Night


Echoes in the Night
B. J. Betts
Tornado Alley Publication
e-book $ 2.99
Paperback $ 9.99
ISBN: 972-1500370060
168 pages

Twin brothers, Mathew and Marcus Manning grew up as each other's shadow in their home town of Council Bluffs, Iowa.  Being the neighborhood football heroes, they were naturally popular with dreams of college until they received their draft notices.  In 1967  the draft was active.  Even with the prospect of college, if your birthday was on one of the first chosen days of the federal lottery, then you were to be in service to your country in the army.
The brothers realized that their senior prom was their last teenaged celebration without parental supervision..  They were to report to active duty training immediately after graduation.  For most eighteen-year-olds, the destination was Viet Nam.
In 1968 Matthew returned home to bury his brother.  The two had maintained their closeness while being together in the same unit.   For one brother to arrive at home alive and the other in a coffin, created an immense burden of guilt for the surviving twin, Matt.  Could he have prevented his brother from being killed?  Why was his brother dead and not him?
Fighting in Viet Nam during the time of the TET Offensive of 1968 was one of the most gruesome in any battle history.  The fighting on foreign soil was completely different from life in the U.S.
"No cigarettes from this point on. No bug repellent.  No fires.  The Viet Cong can smell you coming for miles.  Take pieces of masking tape and wind it around your dog tags." 
Added to these basic instructions were the heat and humidity, bugs, poisonous snakes that could kill within seconds, elephant grass which could hide your enemy, and rip palm which had razor sharp leaves that could easily rip their clothes and skin.  The constant challenge of helping people who could be your best friend one minute and your enemy, attempting to kill you was a reality difficult for eighteen-year-old boys fighting as men.
This is Matt's story as he reflects on the past few years attempting to understand his brother's secrets and to attempt to deal with his own post traumatic stress of fighting in a war while dealing with his own guilt of living.
The Viet Nam War was a time of extreme division within our country and B. J. Betts perfectly understands being a teenager at the time reflecting the thoughts and perspectives of the time.   Living in the city of Council Bluffs, Iowa, Betts creates a picture of the city and life during that time period.
The characterization in Echoes in the Night is phenomenal.   Seeing the story through Matthew's eyes, while also having the story unfold from his perspective create a multi-dimensional protagonist frequently confronting the shallow-minded former girlfriend antagonist.  
Echoes in the Night moves quickly as a romantic novel involving real situations from the Viet Nam War era. 
B. J. Betts writes of her home town and a time that truly impacted her life forever.  Her previously published novel, Saigon Moon, is to be re-released in August through Tornado Alley Publications.  She is an active member of Romance Writers of America and Romance Authors of the Heartland.
Echoes in the Night is a journey back to the Viet Nam War era by an author who thoroughly understands those who fought as well as those who waited for their return.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Under the Cajun Moon

Under the Cajun Moon
Mindy Starns Clark
Harvest House Publishers
Eugene, Oregon
ISBN: 978-0-7369-2624-9
$ 13.99
332 pages

"You know all the etiquette in the world, cher, but if you use it to make a person feel small, then I hate to tell you, that's not good manners.  Not at all.  That's just ugly.

Chloe is an expert in the field of international business etiquette can make a person appear a little "stuffy". Emily Post was well-respected years ago, but was she a popular person that people would want to be around?   More than likely, probably not.  

While being interviewed for a local television program, a phone call from home is answered  by Chloe's assistant.   As soon as she is off camera, she is informed that her father is hospitalized and in has been shot.  Who would shoot her father?  Is he alive? 

Her assistant immediately arranges for her to fly to New Orleans to be with her father.  Chloe planned to immediately take a taxi to the hospital, but her mother calls to insist that she go to her father's restaurant to sign some papers.  Since she has power-of-attorney, now that her father's life in endanger, he insists that these papers must be signed immediately.  What can be more important than his life?

When Chloe arrives at the restaurant, she is surprised to find the son of her father's lawyer.  Apparently he inherited the law firm after his father's death.   She is slightly surprised but notices that he is an attractive and personable attorney and the restaurant is providing their meal while Chloe signs the forms.  This has become a wonderful evening even though she does feel guilty about not being at the hospital.

Chloe is shocked to awaken in a hotel room.  The lawyer from last night is in the next room, dead.  How did she get here?  What really happened?  It looks like she scratched the lawyer as one of her fingernails is broken and the police believe that she could have murdered him. 

Who knew where she was?  What did she actually sign for her father?  Why would someone frame her for murder?  Did she kill the lawyer?

Under the Cajun Moon is a well-written page turner set in New Orleans intermixing the mystery of the dead lawyer, the shooting of Chloe's father, the mysterious form signed by Chloe, while also referring back Cajun history into a wonderful story with a little romance, a dash of Christianity, and greed.   The story is exceptional well-planned with the purpose and culprit not being revealed until the very end.  This is not an easy story to predict the ending.

Mindy Starns Clark's books are wonderful books to read with roller-coaster adventures into a delightful mystery.

Windmaster's Bane

Windmaster's Bane
Tom Deitz
Untreed Reads
ISBN: 978--16118-76864
e-book $ 5.99
Originally published in 1986 by Avon Books
$ 17.99
378 pages

"Things have power because you give them power."

For David Sullivan life would be perfect if he could just have the time to read his books.  He loves the Celtic tales of faeries with the Irish legends of years ago.  In real life, he is a teenager who has grown-up on his family farm so there are endless chores and just not enough time to be with his friends and to read.

While reading a book about the Sidhe, the Irish Faeries, he accidentally spoke aloud a chant which enabled him to see into a parallel world, the world of the faeries who are currently on the family land.  At first he is confused about why others, especially his friends Alec and Liz, are not seeing this alternate reality, but then he realizes that this is a gift only for him.   How do your friends react with your viewing of the alternate world?   Obviously, with disbelief.

Viewing two worlds overlapping can be a problem, especially when David's uncle is shot by a faery arrow.  To the human world, it appears as if he had a heart attack or stroke since the arrow is only visible to David.  How can he save his uncle when no one else believes or sees it?
However, his mother is convinced that something horrible is happening when David's little brother is kidnapped and a changeling is left in his place.  She knows that this creature is not her child. 

For legends in the Appalachian Mountains about Irish faeries to exist in present day Georgia, is not unusual.  The heritage and traditions of the settlers merged in the New World with the culture of the Cherokee who traced much of their legends back to the year 1170.  This was supposedly the time of Prince Madoc of Wales who permanently settled with those living in the present area of Alabama creating the tales of the moon-eyed people.

Windmaster's Bane is David's encounter with the legendary Sighe complete with the evil Aihill who even as a faerie is determined to kill David.  Using the knowledge in his books and sticking to the principles of Earth and Water, Fire and Air, and Time, David learns about trusting his friends and himself.  Through a test of his courage, David learns of the responsibility and trust of others in his life.

Windmaster's Bane is a delightful adventure for readers of all ages.  The pace is quick with believable characters in this quest of truth and courage, as well as being a heart-warming tale by a masterful storyteller.

The only complaint I have with this wonderful novel is the cover which is not a true depiction of the story.

The author, Tome Deitz was a native of Young Harris, Georgia.  He studied medieval English literature at the University of Georgia earning both his Bachelor and Masters of Arts degrees.  He was a professor of English at Gainesville State College.  He died in 2009 still dreaming of someday owning a small castle in Ireland.

For a wonderful tale, read Windmaster's Bane.   You might want to keep you own rune stick made of iron and ash near as a precaution.

Daughters of the Dragon

Daughters of the Dragon: A Comfort Woman's Story
William Andrews
MADhouse Press
Minneapolis, MN
ISBN: 978-0-9913958-5-9
Trade Paperback
$ 12.99
339 pages

"It is your fear that will prevent you from becoming who you are meant to be."

Being a Korean child adopted into a Caucasian household, Anna frequently felt that she did not belong.  People would make comments to her parents while her parents always insisted that they were a "real" family beautifully showing their unconditional love to their daughter.  Anna realized that the parents who raised her and were completely devoted to her but she always wondered about her "birth" parents.

After completing three years at Northwestern, Anna still didn't have a major.  When her mother
passed away from pancreatic cancer, she dropped out of college due to money and her lack of focus.  She decided to visit Korea to find her "birth" family and her father insisted on accompanying her on this journey.

Anna's first stop was an orphanage which unfortunately had no information to assist her.  With feelings of defeat, leaving the orphanage was disappointing.  When an elderly woman approached her, forcing a small package into her hands explaining in English that she needed to meet with her at an address inside the package to tell her a story.

This story and the package were to change Anna's life forever. 

The story started in 1943 when Korea was again occupied by the Japanese being subjected to their rule.  Two sisters, Ja-hee and Soo-hee had grown up living and working on their family farm.  With the Japanese occupation, their father was forced to leave the home a year ago to work for the war effort in a steel mill.  Now the family received orders for the two girls to also leave for another town to work in a boot factory.  Their mother was realistic enough to know that she would likely never see her daughters again.  Soo-hee, the older sister was given a family heirloom, a two-headed dragon comb with five toes.  

This begins the story of the comb and the two sisters.

With Ja-hee being only fourteen-years-old the reality was shocking.  There was no boot factory.  These young teens were to be comfort women, meeting the sexual desires of the Japanese soldiers.  If they refused or caused problems, they were killed. 

Even surviving this time, these women were further condemned by society throughout their entire lives. 

William Andrews has written a poignant, heart-wrenching fictional tale based on the many stories of comfort women.   He beautifully found a true voice for both Anna and Ja-hee making the reader feel as if they are the character.

His initial motivation stemmed from his daughter who he adopted from Korea.  He superbly interviewed former comfort women and is committed to telling their story as they weekly protest in Korea outside the Japanese Embassy requesting acknowledgment of the atrocity and an apology.

Daughters of the Dragon won the IPPY (Independent Publishers Book Award) in the historical fiction genre for 2014.  He also won the Mayhaven Award for his novel, The Essential Truth.

Daughters of the Dragon is a story about humanity educating readers in an effort to never allow history to repeat itself.   In every war there are numerous perspectives which we have no idea of how they were involved with a conflict and to understand point-of-view.   All of these are needed to truly understand any war.

One of the best written, enticing, intriguing novels I have ever read is Daughters of the Dragon.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


Stillwell: A Haunting on Long Island
Michael Phillip Cash
Red Feather Publishing
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-1484196090
$ 12.99
232 pages

Any young family with one parent suffering from cancer has immense challenges that few people can really comprehend.  Sometimes just maintaining a career, a marriage, and raising three children is overwhelming.
For Paul Russo, this is his life.
Paul has been a successful real estate agent in the Long Island area.  Fortunately, his financial situation is healthy enough that he can take off time to be with his dying wife.  However, a year with cancer treatments, death, and three children can be taxing on anyone financially, physically, and most of all, emotionally.
His wife, Allison was diagnosed a year ago with a brain tumor.  Keeping a household running smoothly usually fell on Allison's shoulders, but now Paul must do everything possible to keep the family together.   Allison and Paul were blessed with the twins, Jesse and Veronica and their younger sibling, Stella.   Without Allison, Paul knows that he must return to work while helping each of the children and himself through their grief.  He quickly realizes that to meet everyone's needs, including his own, this seems like a never-ending insurmountable task.
Not being active in real estate for the past year has made it more difficult to work with new listings and fortunately an old friend contacts Paul about selling their 200-year-old family mansion name Stillwell.   With a phenomenal location but the house not in the best of condition. He quickly wonders if this is a blessing or a curse especially when he hears the rumors about the house being haunted due to two tragic deaths. 
How do you sell a haunted mansion?  If he is able to accomplish this sale, at least this would solve his current financial issues.
Stillwell does more than just haunt the locals.  The house haunts Paul and his children in their dreams causing them not to be able to eat or sleep.  In the nightmares, a demon is holding Allison's spirit as hostage.  What is strange is how much Allison resembled one of the tragic residents from years ago.  How do you stop this nighttime haunting of the minds?
Stillwell is considered to be a horror story, but in reality, it is a well-written story of love and caring.  The strength of this novel is its phenomenal grasp of the characterization.  Each person is realistic with daily struggles looking for any positive aspect in their lives as they move through their grief. 
Michael Phillip Cash grew up and continues to live in his beloved Long Island creating wonderful horror stories that are more than blood and gore but show the best of humanity.
Stillwell won the award of being a finalist in horror by ForeWard Reviews in 2013.  However, this is much more than a horror story, this is a human story of grief, caring, and love that is an outstanding novel by the masterful storyteller, Michael Phillip Cash.