Monday, October 26, 2015

A Lady for the Lawman

A Lady for the Lawman
Jewell Tweedt
Prism Book
Stewartstown, PA
ISBN: 978-1517355364
Trade Paperback
203 pages
$ 11.99

"Arianna sputtered then stomped her foot and narrowed her eyes, her gumption returning full strength.  Oh, he was irritating, and no kind of a gentleman whatsoever."
Life for a single female living in Omaha during 1870 could not have been easy. Arianna Quincy had a plan as she entered Weikert-Second Mercantile, she needed to buy a few things, find a job to support herself, and unquestionably begin to live a new life.  She needs to no longer be a burden to her family who has many mouths to feed.  She knows that this her chance to be independent earning money of her own and had hopes for a job at the store.  With her cousin already working there, this connection could be her first step.
What she didn't plan on was to have the store robbed.  As Arianna is choosing material to buy for a new dress and carrying the bolt of material, a man enters the store with a gun.  As the gunman was forces the clerk to give him the money, Arianna observes another customer silently grabbing a shovel.  This other customer quietly mouths to her to drop the bolt of cloth she is holding.   At the instant of the thump, the man strikes the robber with the shovel in his ribs. 
That is how Arianna meets the new deputy, Jason Reynolds.  He definitely is intrigued with Arianna but she does not want to be bothered by a man.  She wants to focus on her new life, not a man.   Jason feels a strong attraction to Arianna.  Will either of them find what they are searching for?
What she doesn't know is that Jason is a Pinkerton agent working on an undercover assignment.  With direct instructions from President Ulysses S. Grant, he is searching for a former soldier who might be in possession of the stolen gold from the Confederacy, the legendary treasure of Jefferson Davis. 
A Lady for the Lawman is the sequel to Tweedt's first book in this series, A Bride for the Sheriff.  Both books are Christian-based romantic novels based in Omaha, Nebraska after the conclusion of the American Civil War.  These books are research based about what life would be like in the frontier town of Omaha at the edge of civilization. 
The story is rich on realism of the time period with authentic characters focused on their day-to-day survival in Omaha.  Living in this time period was not usually easy even though the times were simpler.
With the integration of the gold of the Confederacy, this story delves into an issue that still has many unanswered questions.  Supposedly the gold was to finance the war when the South would again rise to power and to a country just recovering from a crippling war.  The threat was genuine.
Jewell Tweedt uses her hometown as the setting for these books.  She daily lives in history teaching middle school students while residing in her home in western Iowa. 
Who would enjoy these books?  These books are written for female readers who enjoy romance surrounding people living a Christian life.


Two punctures the resemble a snake bite on someone's neck mean one thing, vampires.  The most famous of these creatures is the legendary, "Dracula."
The Chanticleer Community Playhouse is hosting this play through this weekend.  Loosely based based on Bram Stoker's novel, this production has been adapted to theater by Hamilton Deane and John L. Balderston. 
Matthew Kelehan has the part of Dracula.  The character he creates is slightly stooped in posture and just creepy. Yes, he is portraying a villain and unquestionably seems almost slimy and a little difficult to understand.  This is not a Dracula anyone would enjoy being near for long.  The character is not likeable but he is not suppose to be someone you would want to be near.
The role of Dr. Seward is played by Alfred J. Salanitro and Mark W. Reid convincingly becomes the expert Van Helsing.   Amanda K. Vyhnalek is Lucy whose best friend just died of an illness very similar to symptoms she is currently experiencing.  Geana Schneider doubles in her roles of Miss Wells and the dearly departed Mina.  Adam Haverman portrays Lucy's concerned fiancé. 
Unquestionably, Andy Niess as Renfield is perfectly cast into the role of being insane and succeeds with making the audience wonder if he is insane or a victim of Dracula.  Also strangely, his character or his interpretation makes this character likable.  While either eating the flies or feeding the flies to the spiders, he constantly entertains the audience with his escapes from his room at the home of Dr. Seward.  He aylso effectively teaches the audience the difference between a sanitarium and a lunatic asylum. 
Michael Taylor Stewart plays Butterworth and also is responsible designing the set and being technical director.
This set perfectly matches the Victorian era with the furnishings and décor.  Obviously the director, designer, and producers are masterfully invisible with the lights and sound even effectively bringing in some background music.  The support crews including costumes, make-up, and hair are outstanding.
This production is appropriate for any one over the age of ten.  There are no innuendos of sexual situations or inappropriate language.  The show lasts a little over ninety minutes including an intermission.  You want to be seated in the center or on  the right side facing the stage or you will miss an event near the conclusion.
"Dracula" continues through this weekend with the curtain opening at 7:30 on Friday and Saturday night, 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 1st.   An additional performance has been added on Friday at 10:30 p.m. which requires reservations.  Both Friday shows also have opportunities for the audience to participate in a costume party and refreshments following the first show.  The judging for costumes will be in the Chanticleer's lobby  between 9:30 and 10p.m. with chances to win gift baskets and gift cards.
For all the shows the ticket prices for adults is $20, $16 for seniors over 60 years of age and $10 for students. Reservations are available by contacting the box office at (712) 323-9955  located at 830 Franklin Ave. in Council Bluffs.
Halloween is always enjoyable for children that many people miss.  The Chanticleer Community Theater is allowing everyone to again enjoy dressing up in costumes, having a party, and being scared by the creepy "Dracula."
You might want to consider wearing a scarf to keep away the autumn chill or to hide those two little puncture wounds on your neck.

Sunday, October 25, 2015


Robin Mason and Michael Mason
Tricklewood Press
Brooklin, Ontario
ISBN: 97809948337103
$ 12.99
284 pages

"In the center of a small glade in a deep wood, an animal crouched, hidden within the shadow of a pillar of blood-red stone.  One paw rested on the cool, rough granite.  The eyes of the animal closed.  It breathed quietly, its flanks rising and falling; its black nose quivered.  It seemed to be listening...sensing.  All around, the forest was still...The glade echoed with the sound of its fury.  And with its fear...Danger was coming-they could feel it, though none but the beast from the glade knew what it was."
Most people don't enjoy moving to a new home and that is true for Jax.   In England, Jackson who goes by the name of Jax, plays ball, has his friends from school and was enjoying life.
Change is part of life and his father moves the family to a remote wooded area of Oregon. The idea of starting over at a new school in a different country and making new friends does not seem exciting.  In this area, the closest neighbors are just an elderly couple who happen to own the land and who live a little distance away.  Jax feels as if he is living in the middle of nowhere, completely isolated with only his parents.
For lack of anything to do, Jax begins to discover the wooded areas and begins to communicate with nature.  He quickly learns of the animals who inhabit these woods and with the assistance of a little magic.  As he daily grows closer to nature, he also begins to respect each animal's perspective of the world around them including their fears and daily joys while still maintaining the predator/prey relationship in nature.
The theme of land conservation vs. suburban sprawl is well-stated throughout the novel.  With the suggested audience being children 8-12, Oldenglen weaves a magical tale for all readers.  This could easily be a read aloud book for children 6-9 with fairly short chapters or chapters that are divided.  This novel is ideal for teachers as it is a rich resource of literary elements, especially foreshadowing.
This joint father/son writing team is excellent.  Characters are well-developed, the setting is rich with descriptions allowing the reader to visualize each event as the story progresses, and a plot that seems predictable but has twists and turns keeping the reader engaged to the last page.
The authors masterfully use a bit of humor throughout the story.  A great example of this is the discussion about Jax's paw coverings which are obviously, shoes.  "No self-respecting creature covers their paw prints."
With the authors, being father and son, both were born in England.  The idea of the story is a result of the family renting a large estate in British Columbia, Canada years ago obviously when Robin was young.  Robin who is a lawyer today, actually resides in a twelve-acre forest.   For his father, Michael Mason, this is his first novel.   He has earned a doctorate in English literature and is a published poet and playwright.
The idea of doing what is right even when you have no voice is prevalent.  One or two against the world is a theme that rings true on every page.
"For both, the worst summer had become the best summer ever, one they didn't want to end.  Every day was magical.   Everything was magical - everything except the unwanted and seemingly increasing human presence in the glen."
Oldenglen is the first novel in this series that will be a trilogy entitled the Oldenglen Chronicles.  I unquestionably look forward to the entire series in this new and invigorating series by this masterful storytelling father/son duo.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Shocking Secret of a Guest at the Wedding

The Shocking Secret of a Guest at the Wedding
Victoria Alexander
Toronto, Ontario-Canada
ISBN: 978-1420132267
Mass Market Paperback
October 2014
$ 7.99
400 pages

'Plato wrote that originally men and women were one creature but their strength threatened the gods.  So Zeus split them in half and each half spends it life trying to find its mate.  To become complete once again.'

Does each person spend their life looking for their other half?  Is fate involved in each of our lives?

The unexpected guest at the wedding is Jackson Quincy Graham Channing who is visiting England for the first time.  As a banker in New York, this journey is somewhat of a surprise to Jackson who just discovered that his long departed father is alive.   His mother choose for Jackson to believe for thirty years that his father was deceased.   Now that father and son are reunited, he is excited and thrilled to meet his family on his father's side while also giving himself some space due to his anger with his mother.

Fortunately for Jack, he has an inherited title and family wealth on his father's side. What a wonderful opportunity for him.  Where will he finally live?

Jack also has an intended love in New York, Lucy.  The two have grown up together and are each other's best friends.  Even though their family's see that the two are likely to be married, each of them are hesitant to actually marry. 

Jack arrives in England meeting his new family at a family wedding for Camille, Lady Lydingham to Grayson Elliott.   As a newcomer, he obviously is unacquainted with his cousins but is drawn to Lady Theodosia Winslow who has secrets of her own.

Theodosia, Teddy with her mother plans weddings and major events for the wealthy.   Yes, she is one of them, but when her father died, he left his wife and daughter with immense debt.  This is one of Teddy's secrets that has driven her to work to pay off his debts while appearing not to need the money.

Yes, admittedly this is my first Victoria Alexander novel.   She is a legend among romance writers.  Much of the novel is dialogue that argues, teases, discusses and reveals much of the characters and how the intended couple grows slowly closer together.  At times, it feels that there is no action, just dialogue which is likely realistic.  

Victoria Alexander has worked as an award winning television reporter and journalist before she decided to become a full-time writer in Omaha, Nebraska.  In 1995, she had her first book published and has successfully published thirty-one novels in the romance genre.  

I was surprised at the constant twists in the story making the predictable romance interesting until the last page.  Some of these twists do feel contrived but in this particular story, they are enjoyable with many loose ends neatly concluding at the end.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Witches Protection Program

Witches Protection Program
Michael Phillip Cash
Create Space Independent Publishing Platform
Middleton, Deleware
ISBN: 9781511411349
Trade Paperback
$ 12.99
222 pages

It is well known that many law enforcement agencies have special divisions, some even have secret branches for specific purposes.   Who are the people who work in these branches?  Why are some secret?  What do these people know that the general public is not  privileged to know?
Wes Rockville is part of a successful law enforcement family.  However he feels as if he is a failure being the black sheep of the family.   Currently Wes is facing the humiliation of being reassigned, a type of Black Ops within the police department dealing with witches.  Yes, that is correct, witches.
Added to the shock and disbelief is his first assignment.   He is to discover and stop a billion-dollar cosmetic company who utilizes their witchcraft skills with hopes of ruling the world.   Part of this job is to protect Morgan Pendragon from her aunt's manipulations and curses.
Fortunately his partner is longtime witch protector, Alastair Verne.   Will Alastair be able to save the career that Wes is quickly loosing.
Witches Protection Program is a fun book to read.   The good witches and bad being the Willa and the Davina.   Do witches have to be in one or the other?   Can a witch be somewhere in-between?
There are some things which are not completely revealed to the reader but they are also not explained to the rookie Wes.  Does this mean that there will be further cases and adventures?
Michael Phillip Cash frequently is known for his intense science fiction, bordering on horror.  Witches Protection Program proves that he is not limited to one genre and enjoys having a good laugh in the fantasy world.
The characters are well-developed and flawed but human enough errors to be laughable.  The story is fast-paced and moves quickly making you regretting that the tale was not longer.   Hopefully there will be further adventures for the Witches Protection Program.
Who would enjoy this book?   Any adult reader could enjoy this quirky novel.  The introduction immediately hooks you with Wes failing and feeling hopeless and quickly enters the world of what appears to be magic.  Wes is a skeptic.   Will he begin to believe in witches?   Do witches ever used powers to control you?   Do you need help from Witches Protection Program?

The Red Notebook

The Red Notebook
Antoine Laurain
Translators: Emily Boyce and Jane Aitken
English Translation
Gallic Books
London, England
ISBN: 978-1-908313-86-7
$ 14.95
159 pages

"The gap between his ideal and his reality was too great.   The weight turned into an anguish which was succeeded by the intolerable idea that he was wasting his life - or even that he had already wasted it."
This is a reflection of the main character, Laurent Letellier who is a middle-aged male owner of a book store in Paris in a rare literary gem, The Red Notebook by Antoine Laurain and translated by Jane Aitken and Emily Boyce.   By that one sentence, the mood is set for a masterful tale with an eloquent gift of word choices perfectly reflecting the characters.
Paris is a well-respected city for fashion.  Finding an obviously pricey purse abandoned, Laurent Letellier looks for who is the owner.  However, no one is around who would own the purse.  So what does he do?
As a middle-aged male and responsible business owner of a bookstore, Laurent wants to do the right thing.  What if the purse had belonged to his daughter?   What would he expect and want a stranger to do in these circumstances?   Should he look inside the purse?   As a responsible adult and good citizen, he visits the local police station with the purse.   Unfortunately they offer no assistance in returning the purse to the owner.  
This purse is expensive and unusual, likely expensive.  While missing the wallet and cell phone, there are numerous other clues to the identity of the owner.  The most unusual inhabitant of this purse is a  red notebook and autographed copy of a book.  Could the author know who owns the purse?   Most likely, no.
Why hasn't the owner contacted the police about the purse?  With the only clue being a laundry tag, Laurent decides to continue this investigation.   Why wouldn't she pick up her laundry?
With only the purse and its contents, Laurent begins his quest to find the owner.  How do you balance this personal goal without it becoming an obsession?   What is wrong with doing the right thing?
The Red Notebook is a gem.  The writing is lush with the reader being inside Laurent's mind, understanding his daily life while weighing the conflicts of this purse.  The characters are well-developed, the plot is simple but intriguing with words swirling and interweaving into a masterful short tale.  
This small book is a masterpiece for both the author Antoine Laurain and the translators Emily Boyce and Jane Aitken who perfectly matched the differences of the languages and best selecting the words and phrases to reflect the author's masterful tale.

Come Rain or Come Shine

Come Rain or Come Shine
Jan Karon
G. P. Putnam's Sons
Penguin Random House
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-0-399-16745-4
$ 27.95
290 pages

"I'm gonna love like nobody loved you, Come Rain or Come Shine."
These famous song lyrics are the center of Jan Karon's latest Mitford book featuring the wedding of Dooley and Lace.
Dooley Kavanaugh has graduated and is beginning his veterinarian practice back at his home in Mitford.   He is choosing to marry his long-time love, Lace Harper in a simple, down-home ceremony.   The couple wants simplicity so instead of caterers, they are having a potluck and a friend in providing the music. 
For those who have never read any of the books by Jan Karon, don't read this novel first.  You really need to know the characters featured in the Mitford series since much of this story relies on the reader knowing the history from events in the first five books beginning with At Home in Mitford, A Light in the Window, These High, Green Hills, Out to Canaan and A New Song.   With twelve Mitford novels now in this series, the first five are a prerequisite before reading this newest novel.
For any author writing a dozen novel featuring the same characters, some of the novels are more enjoyable than others.   No one can continually redevelop the continuing characters.  Whether it is just too much familiarity or loosing the passion and love of the characters along the way, it is difficult to maintain the same energy level throughout the entire series.  Unfortunately Come Rain or Come Shine just is not as enjoyable as the first five books.  The delight in the simple things were the gifts of the first five, this just concludes a long expected event.
These books are light reading, no crime, little danger, just people doing their best in everyday life with a strong belief in God and taking time to smell the roses along the way while finding the laughter in everyday events.  Unlike the previous novels, this particular novel seemed to have one plot and everything aimed at this high point as opposed to Karon's previous novels with interwoven plots overlapping and complementing each other.
Actually, I found Come Rain or Come Shine to drag in many places, almost feeling contrived at times and being obviously predictable.   For some reason, Karon did not delve into the little events in the everyday lives of these characters but literally focused exclusively on the wedding, not the loving and caring relationships with the characters. 
Perhaps the problem was not the book but my expectation.  I expect more involvement in these books not a linear approach to the climax which is obviously the wedding.   Since the wedding was a simplification, did Karon also simplify the story?
Who would enjoy this novel?  The novel is strictly for Mitford fans who have been demanding more from Karon.  If you are not acquainted with Karon's writing, do not read this book.  The book is Christian based and leans towards the romance genre with its predictability.
My concern regards the lack of love of these longtime characters.   Perhaps it's time for Karon to develop a new series.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Mile Marker 59

Mile Marker 59
B. J. Betts
Fire Star Press
ISBN: 978-1412237566
$ 9.99
164 pages

"Now, he believed there was something out here. He just didn't know what.  A feeling of dread washed over him whenever he stepped from the cruiser in response to automobile accidents here.  Something tangible filled the air; he could feel it. Something dark - - and evil."

Marissa Daniels has everything many people desire.  She is successful with her career as a pediatric surgical nurse and would soon be marrying the love of her life who happens to be a handsome orthopedic surgeon.   With their best friends, the four are returning from a relaxing outing in Sturgis and looking forward to her upcoming wedding. 

What seemed a certainly changed instantly.  Brody James is driving home along Interstate 29 with Marissa in the front seats and their, Evie and Tyler Brooks snoozing in back.  Brody asks for something cool to drink so Marissa twists around in the seat to reach the cooler.  She just needs another inch or two so she temporarily releases her seatbelt.

As she is reaching, turning and stretching into the back seat, a wolf bounds onto the hood of the car.  Naturally, Brody swerves in an attempt to throw the beast.

Seconds later, the car is overturned with Marissa being thrown from the vehicle.  The wolf seems to view her as prey and runs to her, immediately pinning her to the ground with its paws.   The creature tears into her side causing Marissa to scream as she hears her friends also screaming and smelling gasoline.  She is helpless and isn't able to save them before the car burst into flames.  

Marissa survives however she is still haunted by her friends' screams and the wolf who changed her life.

Slowly she physically heals and returns to her career, heavily carrying the burden of the guilt by being alive.   Every night is filled with the nightmares of those few seconds.   What really happened?   Certainly wolves do not attack cars on the interstate in western Iowa.  What can explain this, logically?  She doesn't believe in ghosts, but was that really a wolf?

Marissa decides that she need answers so she returns to the town near where the accident happened at Mile Marker 59 near Cutter's Bend, Iowa.   She quickly learns that this wolf has appeared to others and has caused many accidents becoming a local legend.   With the help of the local sheriff, Michael Morris and another accident victim, the three hope to put an end to their nightmares and to stop this creature, whether supernatural or real from hurting anyone else.

Council Bluffs' native, B. J. Betts married her high school sweetheart while raising their children.  Previously she has written Saigon Moon and Echoes in the Night which are both set in the Vietnam War and inspired by her grandson who served in Iraq.  She in a member of Romance Writers of America and Romance Authors of the Heartland.

Mile Marker 59 is a haunting tale by a local author scary enough that when you are on Interstate 29, you will look to see if the marker exists.   The story is well-organized and developed into a fast-paced adventure that will leave you wanting to read more by this author.

Who would most enjoy this novel?   Even though it involves the supernatural, Mile Marker 59 is still a romance book with an intended audience of middle-aged women.