Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Body in the Gazebo

The Body in the Gazebo
Katherine Hall Page
Avon-Mass Market
Harper Collins Publisher
May 2012
ISBN 978-0-06-147428-6
Pages 326

Pastors’ wives do not have an easy life. They are expected to be perfect in the eyes
of the congregation served by their husband. They are always expected to be
impeccably dressed, while not extravagantly, and be the perfect housekeeper, cook,
mother of perfectly behaved children while still being a partner with their husband.
Sounds easy?

Faith Fairchild is all the above and also the proprietor of her own catering business.
However, her husband has just informed her of a problem after the church finances
were audited. Ten thousand dollars is missing from the minister's discretionary fund.
Both Tom and Faith are in shock! Who is the person responsible for the accounting
of this fund? Her husband, Tom Fairchild.

Pix, Faith's best friend, is leaving for preparations for her son's wedding in the South,
asking Faith to look in on her ailing mother, Ursula. When she meets with Ursula who
also has a nurse, she wants to confess something about an incident that happened
years ago. Being that Ursula's tale is long; it takes many visits with each one feeling
like a cliffhanger and becoming more intriguing.

Katherine Hall Page writes a believable and intricate tale. Each clue was logically
built on the foundation of the previous ones developing into a gripping mystery that
intensifies with each page turn. The characters are realistic with daily demands of the
life, even though I felt that the children were sometimes unsupervised or forgotten for
a short period of time. The interactions with the adults were definitely genuine,
including the secrets.

This is one of numerous books, over twenty by Katherine Hall Page that can be read
either as a standalone or as part of this series featuring Faith Fairchild and
entitled "The Body in the ..." This is a new series to me that I thoroughly
enjoyed. The cozy mystery is well-written, logical, and tells a wonderful story.


Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption
Laura Hillenbrand
Random House
November 2010
ISBN-13: 978-1400064168
496 Pages

What is your breaking point? Do you have one? Has there ever been some moment in your life when you have been so desperate that there is no hope? What would keep you going? What would keep you from being broken? What would it take to break your body, your spirit, and your emotional well-being? More importantly, what would get you beyond it?

Does fate decide your life?

Louis Zamperini was a rambunctious child who in his teen years became a juvenile delinquent. He had his own way of doing things. Fortunately his older brother saw his hidden gift of running and assisted Louis into improving and taking up the sport of track. He excelled to the level of the 1936 Olympics and had the dream of possibly breaking the 4-minute mile. Although he didn’t win a medal, he did win the attention of Adolph Hitler and the fans with the immense speed on his final lap.

With the Americans entering World War II, Louis along with numerous others, grabbed the opportunity for greatness, to become a bombardier. After a close brush with death on a mission, he became part of a salvaged crew that felt doomed. They were. Their plane crashed into the Pacific Ocean with only three survivors floating for days on end with the ever present sharks. What do you think about during this time? How do you survive? Even more importantly, will you be rescued and how will you be rescued?

Louis Zamperini had to learn to then survive in a Japanese POW camp. He then had to readjust to coming home with the dream of again becoming an Olympic athlete. When that didn’t work out, he discovered the challenge to just rejoin the regular everyday life. At each event the reader is there with him, understanding every choice.

It is seldom that you can actually journey step-by-step with someone along their life as you can in this book. By this observation, you can’t influence Louis but you have a deeper respect for the man and who he became. I

Unbroken is non-fiction that reads like fiction. It is the powerful and memorable story of one man’s extraordinary life. More importantly, by reading about his life, each person feels that spark of inspiration and of hope that keeps us going each day.

Reading Unbroken is definitely a journey that I have glad to have read.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Blown Away

Blown Away: Sweet Farts #3
Raymond Bean
Amazon Encore
ISBN: 978-1612182513
160 pages
$ 9.95

If you have already built a successful multi-million dollar company and you are still not even in high school, what are your goals from there? How can you achieve beyond that?

Keith Emerson is an inventor. He found a way to make farts smell nice. This invention created the company, Sweet Farts along with his friends, Anthony and Scott, and their advisor, Mr. Gonzales. However, Anthony, a mathematical whiz has attitude to go with his brilliance. He deduced the winning lottery numbers which instantly gave his family immense wealth and allowed the family a trip around the world. With his return, besides having a multitude of experiences, he also brings attitude and a threat to the company leadership.

Sweet Farts has an indoor baseball field and basketball court for the boys. The money Keith has earned goes into his college savings account. His parents refuse to even use a penny of it. With the three boys, Keith's parents, and their science advisor, Sweet Farts has one additional member, Emma, Keith's five-year-old sister. Each one works on their own dream project and grow from their collaboration with each other.

Mr. Gonzales has now challenged the members to be involved with the All World Science Challenge in New York City. However, Sweet Farts will only have one project represented. Whose project will it be?

Added to this, Anthony wants to be the head of Sweet Farts. After an attempted takeover, it is decided that whoever is the one to actually represent Sweet Farts at the Science Challenge will be the group leader. Who will it be?

Blown Away is about observing aspects of science that are successful and the importance of working together rather than attempting to outdo each other. It also shows the value of brilliance regardless of age and learning to appreciate others' gifts.

There is a realistic aspect involving jealousy, competition, and respect for other people's individuality, as well as just pushing someone else's buttons. The idea of stress vs. creativity is definitely a theme.

The story is well-written and works as a standalone novel. However, there would be more character continuity is the first two novels in this delightful series were read first.

The intended audience for all the Sweet Farts books is for boys between the ages of 7 and 11. This is an easy reading, high-interest, fast-paced chapter book that could also be used for struggling readers similar to the Wimpy Kids and the Captain Underpants series.

Blown Away is a life lesson that is enjoyable for all ages.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Fun House

Fun House: A John Ceepak Mystery
Chris Grabenstein
Pegasus Crime
May 1, 2012
ISBN: 978-1605983363
$ 25.00
336 pages
I am fairly certain that law enforcement personnel do not enjoy having a reality show in their community. Between the loyal viewers, fans, and contestants who will do anything to win, keeping within the law is not a high priority. To those people, getting their time, their fifteen-minutes of fame, is the entire purpose while they view this opportunity as having no boundaries with their belief of assured fame.
In the resort suburban town of Sea Haven, near Atlantic City, New Jersey, is the newest location for another reality sensation. This one is called Fun House. It has the typical contestants, busty, tanned, buffed, drunk, and definitely lacking compassion and intelligence. What could possibly go wrong?
John Ceepak is an experienced and ethical police officer who has a reputation for doing the right thing. I see him as a combination of James Bond and Sheriff Andy Griffith. Danny Boyle is Ceepak’s partner who has the advantage of knowing his native town and many of the locals in Sea Haven. Through a chance event involving illegal steroids, Ceepak ends up being an admired policeman who seems to be part of the televised plot of the reality show. However when one of the contestants in murdered, the two also have the almost impossible task of protecting the rest of the cast while investigating at the same time.
Fun House is the seventh John Ceepak/Danny Boyle mystery by Chris Grabenstein. Mr. Grabenstein also has written children mysteries which are outstanding. This series now with Fun House, are all fast-paced with an involved intriguing story line that is somewhat predictable, but still thoroughly enjoyable.
The strength of all these novels is the characterization. As John Ceepak and Danny Boyle grow in their relationship with each other, the readers also get to know each one as a real person with a personality and some depth of the character. Ceepak is the type of person who is a natural hero. His Boy Scout ethics combined with his athleticism and military training makes the reader constantly reassured and yes, makes the storyline predictable. Danny is highly influenced by Ceepak but is more human, even flawed.
Even though Fun House is part of a series, it is also a great standalone novel. From my point-of-view, you could read this novel and then go back to read the other Ceepak novels. Also, everyone definitely needs to read Grabenstein’s children’s novels especially the trilogy featuring Zack Jennings.

Fun House is definitely a fun read for the summer.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Take Charge Patient

The Take-Charge Patient: How You Can Get the Best Medical Care
Martine Ehrenclou, M.A.
Lemon Grove Press
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-0-9815240-3-0
306 pages

Who is the one person who is most responsible for the quality of your health
care? It’s not your doctor.
It’s you.

When you’re sick, really sick, you call the doctor. Then the average person
trusts that the doctor has the correct diagnosis and then prescribes proper treatment to get you back to
normal. This sounds fairly simple but in reality can be a complete nightmare, especially if the
diagnosis is wrong and the prescription does not heal the real problem. What do you do then?

While writing this book, the author, Martine Ehrenclou, had developed a pain which became worse. She went to a variety of doctors which prescribed many different treatments, including surgeries.

Eventually, after many painful challenges that were literally debilitating, she was able to have a correct diagnosis and was able to have surgery to solve the initial problem. These experiences ended up being the perfect guideline for her utilizing her own recommendations to this
excellent resource.

The suggestions and information in The Take-Charge Patient are practical and realistic. The writing style is easy to understand and keeps the reading interested as each chapter continues. From the medical aspect, if you actually follow through with the author’s suggestion, any doctor should be thrilled about any patient being so involved with their care.

The medical records sections are well-written and informative. Most people keep records for their pets. Why would it seem strange not to also keep your own medical records? Ms. Ehrenclou explains exactly what needs to be kept and the reasons for this. Her information on obtaining the best medical care is well-researched but should not be overwhelming for anyone, especially when the person who benefits the most from this is yourself.

As I was reading The Take-Charge Patient, I felt that Martine Ehrenclou was singing to the choir but much of her book had new information that is helpful for everyone. Having a mother who did exactly what her doctor prescribed until it literally killed her and having a non-curable, but treatable disease, I am well aware of the medical profession, the expectations, the trust or lack of, the insurance companies, the pharmaceutical companies, are just some of the influences that
can lead any doctor in a different direction.

The author, Martine Ehrenclou has earned her Master’s Degree in psychology from Pepperdine University. She has worked as a journalist, ghostwritier, public relations professional, and facilitated a program for at-risk teenagers. Through her own experiences, now she works as an advocate for patients with her websites, and

The Take-Charge Patient is a resource that should be available in every home, business, and medical facility.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Happy Days

Usually when people hear about “Happy Days” they think about the television series starring Ron Howard as Richie Cunningham and the legendary Fonz played by Henry Winkler.
What do you think of when you hear “Happy Days, the Musical”? It’s still Richie Cunningham and of course, “AYYYYY!”, the Fonz. This time though the old group is still complete with Ralph, Potsie, Chachi, Joanie, and Pinky. Arnold’s, the old malt shop, is being threatened by urban development and a mall and Denny’s are considering replacing it. The group is planning to have a fund raiser to save Arnold’s.
The musical has great harmonies and steps as you get reacquainted with the characters. Matt Hemingway was outstanding as Richie Cunningham. His unique falsetto, almost a counter tenor, rang out above the quartet while still having a voice with the strength and personality for a lead role. Stephen Michael Shelton definitely became “The Fonz” while singing and dancing with definitely a “cool” attitude. Ralph and Potsie resembled the original actors and both Chris Ebke and John Jones were wonderful with their supporting roles. Added to this was a phenomenal “Chachi” who could masterfully sing and dance, even break-dance, while also maintaining his attitude.
This young cast with Denise Putman, Tim Daugherty, and Steve Ebke in the adult roles, were energetic and upbeat throughout the show. The support crew lead by the director Todd Brooks with the musicians were well-balanced with an outstanding job from the sound crew. The costuming, sets, and props were all perfect for the show. Notable also in the group was Eric Cavanaugh who is an outstanding dancer and singer along with Sadie Devine, the youngest cast member, who just recently filled-in for a part and quickly learned her songs and dances.
This is one of those performances where everyone has fun and thoroughly enjoys the show. I predict that this show will be outstanding for the season’s final performances. “Happy Days, the Musical” will continue through May 27th with the Friday and Saturday shows being at 7:30 p.m. and the Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. Ticket costs are $17 for adults; $14 for seniors, and $9 for children and students. For reservations, contact the box office at 712-323-9955 or email Go see a great show for a great price.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Blood of the Reich

William Dietrich
Harper Collins
July 2011
January 2012
ISBN-13: 978-0-06-198919-3
550 pages
$ 9.99

Rominy Pickett lives a quiet single life in Seattle but is upset about the man who seems to be stalking her at the grocery store. She is proud that she has earned money for her new car and would like to find a special man, even at the grocery store. However, this man just seems too interested in her. When this strange man tackles her as her car blows up in the parking lot, she discovers her life is being hurled into an adventure that she could never have imagined.

What she didn’t plan was to discover was her own heritage! Being that she was adopted by her parents, she didn’t know anything before about her biological parents. It took a grocery store stalker to inform her about her Aryan heritage, especially that she was basically Nazi royalty.

Blood of the Reich is an adventure with the reestablishing of the Nazi party through their search for the source of the Aryan race and the continuation of the pure blood lines literally traveling from Seattle to Tibet to Switzerland.

The history infused reflects around Heinrich Himmler and many of his plans and research in Tibet. It is well known that the Nazi party sent an expedition into Tibet to discover their connection with the Aryan race through the myths of Shambhala or Shangrila. Also intertwined is a quick physics lesson regarding the CERN supercollider in Switzerland.

There were some errors that distracted from the story such as being unable to buy airline tickets with a credit card and cash being preferred. Wouldn’t terrorists be more inclined to buy one-way tickets with cash? Also how can a Buddhist nun who has a shaven head have enough hair to be grabbed? There is also confusion about blood in a centrifuge spinning until the cells fall to the bottom of the tube and the blood plasma being separated.

The story was reminiscent of an Indiana Jones adventure with the main characters never being able to rest and never knowing who they could truly trust. The value of Blood of the Reich is the history of the Nazi party focused on one of the many fascinations of pure bloodlines. This was an enthralling and fast-paced novel with phenomenal descriptions especially about Tibet.

Although this particular novel was not part of the Ethan Gage series, the heroine, Rominy Pickett, still needs further character development if she is part of a new spin-off series. Also, this story was not as tightly-wound as previous novels by William Dietrich. It’s a decent story but the errors, although small, did distract from the story.

I still look forward though to the next William Dietrich novel. Overall, his adventurous writing makes a wonderful journey.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Tierney Sutton Band

The Tierney Sutton Band consists of four talented jazz musicians who know how to accentuate the talents of each other. Tierney Sutton is the lead vocalist whose alto voice is a musical instrument along with her be-bopping fingers, hair, and voice into various jazz melodies. Christian Jacob is a phenomenal pianist, along with perceptive Ray Brinker on the drums, and the reliable Kevin Axe on the electric bass. The foursome beautifully blended together into a unified sound under the direction of the lithe Tierney Sutton.

Once in a while, you can experience that an event when time ceases to exist. For many
concert-goers, they actually attend concerts for these spiritual occasions because they love the feeling of nothing else but the music. This happened last Friday night at the Holland Center during the Tierney Sutton concert. With their pianist arranger, Christian Jacob, Tierney Sutton demonstrated why this group has been nominated five times for a Grammy Award. Beginning with a unique piano harmonization, Tierney’s voice beautifully blended with this quiet arrangement of “America, the Beautiful.” This was one of those times where music transcended into every soul in the audience. At the end of the song, you could hear the audience holding their breath and thoroughly enthralled in the beauty of these two joined in this musical event. There were seconds of silence before the audience erupted with enthusiastic applause.

The night was filled with an assortment of songs from Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess”, “Westside Story”, “I Get a Kick Out of You,” their Grammy nominated arrangement of “On Broadway”, “In Between the Devil and The Deep Blue Sea”, “My Heart Belongs to Daddy”, “Without a Song”, requests from the audience such as “Emily”, “No One Cares for Me”, and “Haunted Heart”, and an encored performance of “We Will Meet Again.”

The Tierney Sutton Band introduced me to a phenomenal jazz pianist, Christian Jacob, who arranges and records selections for his own trio. His beautiful arrangements which Tierney Sutton claims to have stolen, definitely piqued my interest into his work as well as the recordings for The Tierney Sutton Band.

This was the first time that the Tierney Sutton Band has been in this area. For a group with five Grammy nominations and having nine recordings, this is definitely a group for everyone to experience. They are the perfect examples of when four exceptional musicians blend their individual parts to create the sounds of true jazz music.