Saturday, August 31, 2013

Captain No Beard books by Carole P. Roman

Captain No Beard An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate's Life
ISBN: 9781478151708
Pepper Parrot's Problem with Patience
ISBN: 978147811553
Stuck in the Doldrums
ISBN: 9781479182701
Strangers on the High Seas
ISBN: 9781480177222
Carole P. Roman
Astoria, New York
$ 9.99
40 pages

Living on an island as his home, Captain No Beard sails his pirate ship with his cousin, Halle, his monkey, Mongo, his lion, Linus and Fribbit who is a frog. With a child's imagination, a young boy turns his bed into a pirate ship complete with his visiting cousin and his stuffed animals. Through a variety of adventures, the crew quickly learns pirate and boat terms in order to survive their imaginary quests.
In the first book entitled, Captain No Beard, as they depart, the captain who has years before he sees a whisker along with his first mate learn the lingo of the pirate life and parts of the ship. Many vocabulary terms will need to be discussed as the story progresses for preschoolers to truly enjoy this imaginative and colorful story. The pictures perfectly match the storyline and reinforce the visualization for young and old alike. This particular book Captain No Beard: An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate's Life was the winner of Kirkus Reviews' Best of 2012 and won the star of remarkable merit as well as The Pinnacle Book Achievement Award of 2013 by Children's Indy Best.
In the second book in this series, Pepper Parrot's Problem with Patience a new member is added to the crew, Pepper, a parrot who is the cook. Learning the parts of the boat like port and starboard also reinforces a discussion of left and right. The use and word meaning of patience as well as a deep understanding of this word, continues the adventures of the nautical cruise.
Stuck in the Doldrums: A Lesson in Sharing is the third book in this series. Power goes to the captain's head with the problem of controlling others. Quickly, the captain learns about what it takes to lead his crew. .
With the fourth book, Strangers on the High Seas, Captain No Beard, Cayla joins the crew as the cabin girl. Cayla is a young child still in diapers and does not completely understand this imaginative pirate adventure. The group encounters a black sail ship commanded by Barnabas, the scurvy dog. The lesson in this book is learning to value each person.
In each small book, the illustrations are picturesque descriptions of each story and event allowing reinforcement of the vocabulary along with the story. The vocabulary in all four books possesses many nautical terms as well as words that are not common for preschoolers. These books are perfect for early readers and preschoolers. The short stories are perfect for limited attention spans. The true value of these short gems is unquestionably the life skills that are quickly and concisely taught as the story progresses.
Carole P. Roman as a former teacher and businesswoman who has now turned her talents to writing and illustrating while residing in Long Island.
These books are gems with the winning combination of a simple story complemented by wonderful illustrations with an enriching vocabulary and a life lesson while being creative and imaginative.

No Mark Upon Her

No Mark Upon Her
Deborah Crombie
William Morrow Paperback
Harper Collins Publishers
ISBN: 978-0-06-199062-5
Trade Paperback
$ 13.99
369 pages

Anyone who competes at any level in the Olympic trials tends to be an outstanding athlete. These are the rare few that physically are able to outshine the rest of us and to become a legend. Rebecca Meredith was one of those rare individuals.
She was considered to be an Olympic contender in rowing years ago but because of a reckless choice, a broken wrist left her not being able to compete. She created a new life for her after that incident, marrying, and divorcing while developing a career in law enforcement as a high-ranking detective in London. Untypical of most, her former husband has remained a close friend even through the dissolution of their marriage.
Now Becca has made the commitment to compete again in rowing as an individual athlete. Daily she practices on the Thames pushing her body to extreme limits with her goal of Olympic gold while she plans to minimize her duties with law enforcement.
Her last practice on the river was last night and so far people are becoming concerned because she is missing. Unlike her, she has not called into work or returned her boat. Immediately, local K-9 search-and-rescue teams are called out to search along the river for any clues. Eventually body is found in the river. How could an athlete of her level drown?
This begins the search into Becca's life, the good, bad, and the revealing personal little secrets that everyone hides.
Leading the investigation, is Duncan Kincaid who recently has agreed to adjust his work schedule for his family with the adoption of a daughter. Duncan's wife, Gemma James who also works in law enforcement and the two of them hope to rotate with having one parent at home and one working while their young child adjusts to a new life. Unfortunately, plans are difficult to always succeed with a job that doesn't have set hours.
Gemma is asked to also assist in an investigation that is completely unrelated to Duncan's. Balancing home and work also is quickly overlapping.
No Mark Upon Her is riveting. By alternating the perspective as the investigation progresses, the reader receives a more realistic and almost a desperate aspect of both cases. The feeling is one of circling the actual crimes with sometimes spiraling and at other times drawing concentric circles around the investigations. This style creates an engrossing quality to the story.
Even though No Marks Upon Her is part of a series. This easily could be read without any prior knowledge of the characters and their relationships.
Deborah Crombie is a Texan who has spent extended periods of time in England.  She has won numerous awards including the Mactavity Award three times, been nominated for an Edgar, and is a New York Times Notable author.
No Mark Upon Her is a memorable novel about law enforcement realistically balancing family and career in an engrossing mystery that is difficult to predict but easy to appreciate from this masterful storyteller.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Learn to Tie a Tie with the Rabbit and the Fox

Learn to Tie a Tie with the Rabbit and the Fox
Sybrina Durant
Marie Naval - Illustrator
Sybrina Publishing and Distribution Company
League City, Texas
ISBN: 978-0-972372-1-4
September 2012
$ 14.95
24 pages

For many, the thought of tying a necktie is an unrealistic vision which just doesn't work. That perfect triangular knot is often off-center or a complete mess.
For many, the solution was a clip-on tie. They would never have existed if there hadn't been people who couldn't tie a necktie and make that perfectly triangular knot. Somehow though, that seemed like cheating and society frowned on those who wore the clip-ons. Obviously, the idea of tying the perfect necktie is a task that puzzles many people, young and old, men and women. How does anyone figure out this complicated knotting?
Taking the legendary story of the rabbit and the fox and modifying it to parallel a journey of between trees in the forest is a clever way to understand the path to create the perfect knot. With a rabbit running for safety while being pursued by a wolf and comparing it to the path of the tie perfectly makes this the perfect instructional children's book that even grown-ups can use. Imagine the rabbit as the tie actually proceeds on a journey around the person's neck. With the rabbit's pursuit being illustrated while the story is being read is also compared on each page with a detailed drawing of the necktie in comparison to that part of the story.
Also available, is a free version of the story in the form of a song which the author enthusiastically sings on line. I recommend listening to the song after the book has been read as the song moves quickly. The book is offered is both Spanish and Tagalog, as well as English and e-book form in each language.
The vocabulary greatly enriches learners with words like forage, blazing, morsel, tender, abrupt, and more.
Sybrina Durant writes practical books to help people. Besides Learn to Tie a Tie with the Rabbit and the Fox, she has also written Sybrina's Phrase Thesaurus with different editions while realizing that language is more than words, but how we put those words together into phrases is most important and useful.
Learn to Tie a Tie with the Rabbit and the Fox is a fun book for children of all ages to look through, study, and most importantly, learn to tie a necktie.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Just the Pits

Just the Pits
Hetta Coffey
Mystery Book Five
Jinx Schwartz
Amazon Digital Services
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 978-1490920948
July 2013
$ 12.99
356 pages

Having a job that allows you to travel in your own yacht is perfect for Hetta Coffey. Her yacht, named the Raymond Johnson, makes life a little easier when your destination is close to a harbor and convenient with a home that is wherever you drop anchor.
So being a self-employed engineer contractor who is portable sometimes places her in awkward situations with the male dominated mining industry for her newest assignment. Hetta's long-time friend and employer, Trob, realizes her resourcefulness as well as her commitment to getting a job completely, quickly and efficiently, also knows that he can rely on her to solve any problems or situations, even those involving danger.
This latest opportunity places her at a mining facility near the historic town of Santa Rosalia, Mexico in the Baja. So far, there is a problem with exorbitant cost overruns and people who work with company seem to be disappearing. Are the two linked?
As usual, Hetta's love, Jenks is as usual, independently completing an assignment in Dubai. Even though they Skype frequently, Hetta still feels abandoned. To help with her loneliness, Jan, her long time friend, agrees to stay with her for awhile. Jan has her own problems and is probably best to also take a break from the man who loves her. These two women do find love in the form of an abandoned dog which is appropriately named, Po Thang.
The characters in this latest installment are realistic with the continuation of friendships from the previous novels. The new characters definitely make you wonder about who you can trust and who is out to get you, or steal your Velveeta. (Yes, Velveeta is stolen from Hetta's yacht. This is not something that is easy to replace in a Mexican port.) Whether being a passenger in a vehicle that is unquestionably speeding up and down a narrow mountain road , Hetta's and Jan's snooping and investigating create uncomfortable and often humorous situations, reminiscent of Lucy and Ethel, both at the marina or the office.
While hiding someone that is suppose to be dead, there are always the questions about honesty and who has ulterior motives. The story has constant action and adventure in Just the Pits as also in these prior novels featuring Hetta. With each installment, these characters feel like a reunion with old friends.
Just the Pits is the fifth in this series by Jinx Schwartz. Because of the characters evolving throughout the series, I would not recommend this as a standalone novel, but could easily be enjoyed after reading the first book in the series, Just Add Water. The introduction of many minor characters later on are well-established in this book. Jinx Schwartz uses many of her own experiences traveling on a boat part of the year and the other part in landlocked Arizona.
Just the Pits is a delightful, fun adventure for adult readers from an author that might not be well-known but who is a masterful and wonderful storyteller.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Sirens - Omaha Playhouse

Sirens were those bewitching voices from early Greek mythology who lured ships into hazardous waters and ultimately destroyed. The legendary Odysseus stuffed wax in his crew's ears and had himself tied to the mast to prevent their destruction. Whatever happened to these creatures?
They're back, at least one Siren, is at the Omaha Community Playhouse until September 15th in Sirens.
Having a midlife crisis is not unusual for men of a certain age. Sam Abrams wrote a successful song years ago when he first met the love of his life, Rose Adelle. She was his muse. After twenty-five years of marriage though, Sam has never again found the magic formula for another hit song. Is Rose Adelle no longer his muse?
Rose Adelle works every day in her store while Sam spends hours supposedly looking for inspiration. In actuality, he is on the computer with his Scrabble and Facebook friends, even meeting a few of them. (Apparently, he becomes friends first before he actually meets them.) Their life has become ordinary after raising a son, Barry and one day is much like the next.
To celebrate twenty-five years of marriage Sam and Rose Adelle take a cruise. While on the deck overlooking the ocean, Sam hears the song of the Sirens and is lured in jumping overboard. He awakens on an island with one other inhabitant, a Siren who is addicted to playing Solitaire on a washed-up cellphone. With no fresh water available, Sam is conflicted with his impending death. Should he touch the Siren and die quickly in ecstasy or die slowly in agony? Ecstasy or Agony?
As Rose Adelle Abrams, Judy Radcliff was the perfect frustrated wife with a husband, Sam Abrams portrayed by Ablan Robin, who complains about her no longer being his muse.
"Barry was my muse," Rose states and that line perfectly explains how a marriage evolves with children. Inside Rose though is still her longing,"I want to be adored like my song." She is always questioning why he is blaming her for his lack of inspiration and passion. Ablan Roblin delights the audience with his antics as the bored husband always looking to his wife, or computer, to fill his needs. Regina Palmer was a gorgeous Siren bewitching Sam when not playing Solitaire and Noah Diaz was charming as the crippled old-time love of Rose. The cast and crew excelled in this light-hearted comedy.
Sirens continues at the Omaha Community Playhouse at 6915 Cass St. in Omaha on Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 pm and 2 pm on Sundays. Ticket costs are $ 35 for adults and $ 21 for students. Special rates for groups are available. Either call the Playhouse box office at (402) 553-0800 or online at or

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Saving Faith

Saving Faith
Patrick M. Garry
Kenric Books
Eagan, MN
ISBN: 978-0-9833703-1-4
$ 17.95
304 pages

"You know what I wish?" she sobbed. "I wish you could repossess my past."

Wouldn't that be a great thing? To allow the guilt of your past to be taken away?

Jack grew up in an orphanage. No one had ever adopted him since much of his childhood was in a hospital bed equipped with an oxygen tent. The sisters at the school had arranged for him to find work. His job as a repossessor, one who takes back the possession of used cars from those you cannot pay, was not glamorous, but he actually enjoyed it and had pride in doing his job well.

One mistake changes Jack's life. He repossesses the wrong car. When he realizes his problem, Jack searches out the owner of the green Saturn to explain the situation and to offer his assistance in making this right.

Ev Sorin, the car owner, doesn't get mad but just accepts his situation while Jack works to return his vehicle. Ev has problems of his own from losing his reputation as a top journalist, now finding meaningful employment as a reporter seems impossible. He just doesn't care about anything.

While at the courthouse officially to release the impounded car, Jack and Ev wander into a courtroom and both are fascinated about what they are hearing. An unusual case is before the judge where a nurse and a young woman want to be responsible for a comatose patient, Faith. The hospital is closing and Faith is on life support. To move her to another facility means that she must be off life support likely causing her death. Why are these women fighting for Faith? Simply, because no one else will.

When this woman was discovered near death years ago, she had no identification on her. There were no inquiries into a missing woman that matched her description. After a time, both women became involved with caring for her and named her Faith Powers. With this facility closing, what choices do they have? Should they just quietly sit by and watch as life support is removed? What is the right thing to do?

SAVING FAITH is about doing the right thing while questioning our choices. There are not always easy and obvious answers. The perspective of success and life is strictly up to the individual.

With Jack's childhood in the orphanage, he witnessed many children ecstatic when adopted but also their immense disappointment when they were often returned, rejected back to the orphanage. Jack figured that he was fortunate since no one wanted a sickly child who needed an oxygen tent for survival, so that he had no expectations of happily ever after and didn't suffer the rejections of life.

SAVING FAITH is a well-planned story with the mystery of Faith's identity as well as a drive-by shooting situation while all the characters seem to be in need of someone saving each of them. Dealing with people and relationships is difficult and doesn't always follow the path we want. Faith, even though comatose, is the one thing that these characters have in common. They each independently make their own choices while each attempting to save her. In doing this, each of them learns a little more about themselves, their friends and families, and life.

Author, Patrick Garry has won numerous awards for his previous novels which all effectively demonstrate the conflicts with ethics and morals in daily life. He currently teaches at the University of South Dakota.

SAVING FAITH has already won the best novel in both the Mystery and the General Fiction categories for the Global Book Contest. SAVING FAITH will leave you questioning your own choices, hopefully, from a different and enlightened perspective.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Always...Patsy Cline

"That's how I always wanted to sing."
Those words are from Louise Seger who back in 1957 first noticed an unusual voice singing on the radio that she could identify as unique and definitely special. Quickly, Louise became an extremely loyal fan of Patsy Cline, even nagging her local radio station by requesting Patsy's music daily. This fan devotion continued to grow until she finally met Patsy. Their relationship grew into an unusual friendship which is the basis for this musical, "Always...Patsy Cline" which opened last weekend at The Waiting Room in Omaha.
As Patsy Cline, Erika Hall is perfect. For singing almost thirty songs, it is truly amazing how she really sounds like the legendary artist who was the first female singer whose recordings were in two categories, country and pop. Erika Hall's energy transformed her into Patsy, as she became a star and evolving from country outfits made by her mother into the classy Jackie Kennedy style of the time.
Louise Seger portrayed by Sue Booton tells the progression of Patsy's fame and her special friendship. The relationship of these two actresses and their parts is what makes this play truly magical. Louise is the comedy and the continuity to Patsy's singing. These two are definitely a winning combination reminding me of the 1950s Lucy and Ethel bond.
The band, led by Mark Kurtz, perfectly matched their music and humor of the twosome on and off stage, as well as the men's quartet back-up singers. Their harmonies, arrangements, instrumentation always added to the overall musical experience which was wonderful.
The Waiting Room is the perfect venue for this play. This intimate setting added warmth and delight from the audience while still Sue Booton room for her character, Louise. The production crew and the staff are both outstanding. (Yes, even the drinks are reasonably priced.)
"Always...Patsy Cline" is a production of PART, Performing Artists Repertory Theatre which is a non-profit group. The first and second acts each last about an hour with an intermission. This show will run August 17, 18, and 24th with Saturday shows at 1 pm and Sunday shows at 1 and 5 pm. Tickets costs are $35 with special group rates for those over 10 and can be purchased by calling (402) 706-0778.
Unquestionably, this is one of the best shows and I expect that many of the performers will be nominated for special area theatrical awards. Both Erika Hall and Sue Booton unquestionably deserve awards for their performances.
For those who remember the days of Patsy and those who want to know more about this legendary musician, "Always...Patsy Cline" definitely is a memorable and outstanding show.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Hitman's Guide to Housebleaning

The Hitman's Guide to Housecleaning
Hallgrimur Helgason
Amazon Crossing
Las Vegas, Nevada
ISBN: 9781611091397
249 pages
$ 14.95
Tomislav Boksic, better known as Toxic, is one of the best at what he does. As a hit man for the Croatian mafia in New York, his reputation and performance has been perfect. He kills quickly and efficiently with the minimal amount of attention during the actual "hit".
Unfortunately when you're at the top of your career, there is only one way to go and Toxic spirals down as his latest victim in actuality was an F.B.I. agent. He did exactly what he was assigned to do, so why was he blamed for this. Who messed up? Was this intentional within his organization? Why would someone set him up?
With all law enforcement and mafia associates searching for him, Toxic darts to the airport and looks for someone who resembles him, someone who he can kill and take his identity. He discovers a member of the clergy who he quickly kills while in the restroom, shaves his own head to steal the victim's identity, and departs to whatever destination is on his ticket. So, what does a middle-aged, overweight, Croatian hitman to do while pretending to be a television evangelist in Iceland?
THE HITMAN'S GUIDE TO HOUSECLEANING appealed to me as this self-publication through Amazon has quickly turned into a best seller, thanks to Amazon marketing. Why this book as opposed to the many other possible selections? Very simply, is that this book is definitely different.
This novel paints a vivid picture of Iceland with the descriptions of the environment, people, life style, laws, along with the background of the Croatian hitman, making this book humorous and light-hearted while having a slew of eccentric residents with lengthy names filled with consonants. With vivid descriptions, the reader sees Toxic as more than a killer, a real person who definitely knows the difference between a killing and murder while learning of life in this isolated country.
The author, Hallgrimur Helgason is an artist who resides in Iceland and has shown his art in galleries in New York and Paris.   Internationally, he is also a well-respected author whose books have also resulted in films.  
THE HITMAN'S GUIDE TO HOUSECLEANING is his only novel currently published in English. With a hit man as the unlikely likable protagonist, this picture of everyday life in Iceland allows the reader to feel like they are sharing the body with Toxic.   Viewing the world through this character, justifies some of his immoral and unethical behavior since you actually see that he has few choices while avoiding all law enforcement that is globally searching for him.  
THE HITMAN'S GUIDE TO HOUSECLEANING is definitely a different novel which you cannot predict but will remember.

The Demon's Parchment

The Demon's Parchment
A Medieval Noir
Jeri Westerson
Minotaur Books
St. Martin's Publishing Company
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-0-312-60926-9
Trade Paperback
October 2011
$ 14.99
327 pages
Oh, reading a well-written, well-researched, well-organized novel where the crime is horrendous, but the writing is so outstanding that you feel as if you are the investigator is a privilege and luxury. That is reading THE DEMON'S PARCHMENT.
THE DEMON'S PARCHMENT is one of a series in an unusual medieval series which is considered a noir by its darkness and style. This particular novel in Westerson's Crispin Guest series is the third, following VEIL OF LIES, and SERPENT OF THE THORNS. Previously, I have reviewed the fourth book, Troubled Bones, and enjoyed it so much that I was asked to look at the previous ones. These books can be read as standalone novels, but are definitely better when you know the characters and some of their history.
Crispin Guest is a former knight who lost everything when he was accused of treason and lost his favor with the king. Essentially living minimally in a bare existence now, with his young apprentice, Jack, he works as a Tracker, one who logically tracks from the victim back to the criminals.
Crispin has agreed to find the lost parchments stolen from a Jewish physician residing at the King's court. This is definitely unconventional since Jews are not allowed to be living in England at this time and were previously expelled. It was generally believed that those of this religion practiced human sacrifice.
Also, Crispin has agreed to help the new sheriff in stopping who is killing young boys in a distinctive gruesome manner. These unfortunate victims though have not been reported as missing. Why would someone give their son to another?
THE DEMON'S PARCHMENT is enthralling.   The characters are believable and likable with the murderer always being in disguise.   With shared responsibilities, the relationship between Crispin and Jack is strong while neither is without fault.   The supporting characters are outstanding with vivid descriptions and definitely showing the "shady" side of London while still demonstrating how nobility was frequently above the law.   With actual historical events being intertwined into this story, the reader truly feels like this mystery transports them to another time and place. THE DEMON'S PARCHMENT is not for the feint-of-heart.   The descriptions are graphic and gory.   However, this novel excels in all categories and proves that Jeri Westerson is a true story teller.

The Plague Within

The Plague Within
Lawrence W. Gold, M.D.
Create Space
Green Valley, California
ISBN: 978-1489534521
$ 14.99
365 pages

What can you do is you are sick, very sick? Naturally, you seek someone in the medical profession that believes and hopes to make you feel better and to lessen your symptoms. What happens though if you don't heal or improve? Do you continue with the same doctor or do you look for a second opinion? At what point do you break with the traditional methods and look for other alternatives, even new untested possibilities?
THE PLAGUE WITHIN is a story about two doctors and two philosophies of medicine, the traditional conservative and the alternative or possibly experimental treatment.
Dr. Jack Byrnes is a traditional doctor treating his patient, Rachel Palmer, who despite caring approaches is becoming sicker each day with her family seeing her close death. Rachel's husband believes and trusts Jack, but her mother wants to look at other possible avenues of treatment, whether they have been successful or not.
Dr. Harmony Lane firmly believes that women are not always respected as either patients or colleagues by the older, male-dominated, hospital staff and that their refusal to accept alternative ways, hurts the patients. She is willing to do whatever it takes to help her patients feel better.
Then there is the underlying disease, lupus. Lupus is an autoimmune disease where the person's immune system is hyperactive and attacks normal, healthy tissue. Frequently, a diagnosis of lupus is accompanied with swollen joints, tiredness usually with chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia. Nine out of ten lupus patients are women. The treatment and care requires more attention from a doctor and being that each person's immune system is different, each treatment also needs to meet these challenges.
Dr. Andre Keller is a gifted research scientist. His work with DNA and viruses is impressive, even if his research statistical data is not completely correct. In his pursuit of fame and success, he hides the negative consequences of his project while publicly announcing his successes.
When these three medical professionals merge into the treatment of Rachel Palmer and others with lupus, the short-term effects are miraculous, but the long term consequences delve into a race to save lives.
THE PLAGUE WITHIN is a fast-paced medical thriller utilizing up-to-date discoveries with real-life situations. Well-written, THE PLAGUE WITHIN is a page turner that leaves you breathless with realistic characters in authentic situations. Regarding the differing perspectives of the patients, the medical staff, and their families, this novel is unique in the all aspects are encompassed.
This novel gives a snippet of awareness for those living with lupus and the challenges and misconceptions of the medical community and the general public. Living with a "hidden" disease that attacks any area of the body at any time requires special treatment with caring medical professionals, as well as family and friends.
THE PLAGUE WITHIN is a startling, informative, dynamic, page-turner that will open your eyes to the challenges in today's medical community packaged into one phenomenal novel.