Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Carter Lake

Carter Lake
A Slice of Iowa in Nebraska
John Schreier
The History Press
Charleston, South Carolina
ISBN: 9781467118583
$ 21.99
120 pages

Why is a small section of Iowa surrounded by Omaha, Nebraska? 
Imagine a person arrives at Eppley Airfield in Omaha, Nebraska, and as they drive into the city, they see a sign stating, "Welcome to Iowa."  As they continue down the road, they quickly see another sign, welcoming them to the city of Omaha, Nebraska.  Confused?   For many travelers, this is a problem many encounter.
Carter Lake, Iowa is in this situation. 
With the Missouri River being the dividing line between Iowa and Nebraska, the land east of the river belongs to Iowa, west to Nebraska.
What happens when the river changes its path moving east a mile?
Years ago, Dr. Thomas Jefferis purchased thirty acres of swampy land near the Missouri River in Council Bluffs, Iowa along with other land parcels throughout the area. 
However, in 1877, the Missouri River flooded.  When the waters finally receded the pathway of the river had changed.   Dr. Jefferis' land was now west of the river with deposits of new land. 
Who owns the land now?  Who is the owner of the additional new land forced into place by the river?  With a new crescent-shaped lake surrounding much of this land, this Cut-Off Island quickly became in dispute between the previous owner and the two neighboring states.
Carter Lake, formerly known as Cut-Off Island has a unique history while trying to alternately be independent while maintaining its relationship with its birth-state, Iowa,   
Being separated from Council Bluffs has caused a multitude of problems for this community.   From schools for their children, police and fire protection, to taxation, and being a refuge for criminals, Carter Lake maintains its individuality while sometimes being assisted by its mother city, an eight-mile drive, Council Bluffs.
John Schreier, the author, bases his interest in Carter Lake from growing up in Omaha, Nebraska and graduating from the University of Nebraska at Lincoln with a double major in history and journalism.   While managing editor of the Daily Nonpareil, he still finds time to contribute articles to Sports Illustrated, the Denver Post, and the Omaha World-Herald.
Carter Lake is a short book for anyone enjoys history.   What is unique about this book is that Carter Lake, while a small city, becomes a character fighting to maintain its individuality.  Between bullied by Omaha at times and not being protected by either its big brother, Council Bluffs or its parent, Iowa, Schreier successfully demonstrates the success of this community in achieving their dreams.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Tempting Skies

Tempting Skies
Book Three: Beyond the Woods
Michael Rouech
Vesta House Publishing
Bountiful, Utah
ISBN: 978-0-9976980-0-8
Trade Paperback
$ 17.99
366 pages
How would you like to read your ancestors’ journals about their lives while living through the Civil War? Would you be able to understand the perspectives of both sides?
Just recently in the year 2012, while searching through the attic of a mansion in Lexington, Kentucky, scheduled for demolition, a manuscript and letters revealed the history of this estate beginning in the 1820s. These documents are the foundation of the third book of this trilogy.
Betsy Richman Henderson Gragg appears to have a charmed life. Born as a privileged daughter of a slave-owner and beautiful, she married a Southern gentleman who fought for the Confederacy. When he dies in battle, who quickly remarries. Fortunately, Betsy finds love again and this time marries a Union soldier, Their love quickly has her carrying their child.
Now Betsy is in Washington waiting for word of her husband on the battle lines. Unknown to her, he is nearby, in a hospital.
Also in the city is a former slave from her family’s estate. William has taken the last name of Richman since he is now a freed man. He is married to Victoria and enjoys being a father to her son, Adam.
How will former slaves and their previous owner react when then meet at her husband’s hospital?
Unfortunately, another person has plans to change their happiness. Although known by many names, one man sets on his personal mission to possess Betsy. His obsession endangers everyone in his quest.
Tempting Skies is the third book in Roueche’s trilogy entitled, Beyond the Wood Series. The first book, Beyond the Wood, won the 2012 John Esten Cooke Fiction Award, and the second in the series won the the 2014 Drama Laramie Award for Western, Pioneer, and Civil War fiction.
Can anyone read Tempting Skies and understand the characters without having read the previous two books? Definitely. Each character continues in their development with a quick, but not distracting background established in the previous books. By reading the third book first, I found myself wanting to know more about each person’s past when mentioned.
Michael Roueche masterfully reflects on his upbringing in Virginia for being the foundation of this series. Now that his home is in Colorado, he realizes his view of both sides of the Civil War has given him insight into the perspectives of the period.
Tempting Skies is a brilliant novel revealing the day-to-day, unglamorous existence during the Civil War. Showing everyone has some losses during a war, the characters become realistic through Roueche while exploring the sites, smells, and sounds of Washington City in 1864, as well as the dangers.
Michael Roueche is a masterful storyteller creating a Civil War masterpiece in Tempting Skies.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Falling of the Moon

The Falling of the Moon
Book 1 - Moonfall Mayhem series
A. E.  Decker
World Weaver Press
Alpena, Michigan
ISBN: 978-0692526019
$ 14.95
330 pages

How many of us secretly dream of life as "happily ever after?"  
For Ascot Abberdorf of Shadowvale, all she has to guide her through life is a single book of fairy tales.  Being orphaned, she relies on the guidance of her big brother for advice as she is approaching adulthood.
However, when her big brother arranges her marriage to a much older man, she decides to leave her home carrying her guide book of fairy tales and whatever silverware she can quickly grab along with her loyal bat-winged cat, Moony.
She believes that by traveling to the distant Daylands, she will find her true love as her destiny in life.  Her father was from Shadowvale and her mother from Daylands, so why not discover how the other half lives?
Since Ascot is a vampire, this land of brightness is a little strange to her.
As luck would have it, the prince of the land is searching for a wife.
Fortunately, a fairy godmother appears giving Ascot a ring with this inscription to help her find her true love. 
"I burn bright in Love's True sight.  If you light not where I have shown, live out your life, unloved, alone."
Will the ring lead to the prince?
What could stop Ascot from finding her own happily ever after with this prince?
The Falling of the Moon is a delightful adventurous fantasy for teenage girls, but all readers who have ever thought about the "happily ever after" philosophy of life.  Often resembling The Wizard of Oz, Ascot's adventures in life are realistic with her quickly valuing her friendships above all other goals.
The assortment of fanciful characters is unquestionably unique with teaching the reader to judge each person or animal by their deeds and words rather than their appearance.
A. E. Decker is a former ESL tutor and doll-maker who has become a masterful storyteller who resides in Pennsylvania.  
The Falling of the Moon is the first in this trilogy and unquestionably a prerequisite for the second book, The Meddlers of Moonshine. 
I am completely addicted to this fantasy series that has a little life lesson for everyone.   The Falling of the Moon is one of the most enjoyable and fun books I have read in ages.

Poison Feather

Poison Feather
Matthew Fitzsimmons
Thomas & Mercer
ISBN: 9781503939296
$ 24.99

A wealthy billionaire spends seven years in prison for embezzlement. However, he doesn't seem to regret his past crime.   After an interview with a financial magazine about his upcoming release, it is apparent to everyone that he has hidden money from the authorities.  
So who will find the money first?  
Charles Merrick swindled people's hopes and money.  Many people invested with him every penny so that their families would have prosperous futures.   He took their money and left them with nothing.
Unquestionably, Merrick had made some deal with the government since he was at minimum "country-club" facility.  Are they expecting some payoff as he is released?  Why are they still so interested in Merrick?
Before his imprisonment, Merrick had been married and had a daughter.  As with many relationships, his wife divorced him, and he lost contact with his little girl.   
Chelsea, his daughter, had no college fund since Merrick had invested her money.
Now that Merrick is out, who will find his money first?  Or will he outsmart all of them and disappear to some island with no extradition?
Gibson Vaughn is brilliant as a computer hacker.  As a teenager, he was imprisoned for hacking into the Vice-President's e-mail.   Unfortunately, his past continues to haunt him.
Now Gibson just wants to earn a decent living in the computer security field.   He seems to be blackballed with achieving this dream.
Now the former judge who sentenced him would like to use Gibson's talents in finding the money his family lost in investing with Merrick.
Can he find the money before everyone else?
What would you do for one point seven billion dollars?
Poison Feather immediately grabs the reader into the world of Gibson Vaughn and Charles Merrick, two characters wielding the story onto a roller-coaster ride for power and money.  With likable characters who evolve along the journey and antagonistic ones, who stay the course into an enthralling page-turner.
Poison Feather is the second novel for the author, Matthew Fitzsimmons following his best-selling first book, The Short Drop.   He currently resides and teaches in the Washington, D.C. area.
Poison Feather is a thrilling book for any adult reader who enjoys a well-written, intricate story.

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Northeast Quarter

The Northeast Quarter
S. M. Harris
Tucson, Arizona
ISBN: 978-1-62787-376-5
Trade Paperback
$ 20.95
464 pages

A birthday celebration changes their lives.
Colonel Wallace Carson is looking forward to his granddaughter's birthday party.  Now that is it 1918, Ann is ten-years-old and feels special that she shares her birthday with the country. 
During the family gathering, the Colonel gives advice to his heir, Ann, to always protect the Northeast Quarter of the family land.  The Colonel started his estate in that part of Winfield, Iowa and expanding his property as he prospered. 
Warren Hyatt decides that this is his moment to tell the Colonel hat life needs to change.  He believes that the revolution in Russia where the workers own the land should be inspirational to change life in this country.  
The Colonel dies.  Did Warren cause his death?
This one death changes life for every member of the Colonel's family.
The Northeast Corner is the story of the household for the next eight years, especially Ann.   Through sheer determination, Ann daily remembers her promise to her grandfather to protect the Northeast Corner, her legacy.  With constant challenges, she realizes that this promise seems impossible to fulfill.  
The promise to preserve the land seemed simple.  The problem to keep the promise is overwhelming, especially to a teenage girl.  How can she possibly fight for her family when they don't fight for themselves?   What does anyone do when the world is against them?
This family saga is reminiscent of Nelson DeMille's novels centering on one character, Ann, while also observing how each of the other family members change throughout the years. 
The Northeast Quarter has phenomenal realistic characterization portraying life in the early part of the twentieth-century before the stock market crash of 1929.  The setting of Winfield, Iowa in the year of 1918 transport the reader into the rich farmland of the time.
The author, S. M. Harris is a playwright of the Colleen series which have been produced off-Broadway in Spokane, Cincinnati, and Baltimore.  The Northeast Quarter is his debut novel.
The Northeast Quarter is for readers who enjoy well-written historical fictions involving family sagas.  

Love Notes and Old Friends

What would happen if you chose eight singers, four males, and four females, varying in age from eleven to sixty-nine to create a fundraising show lasting only ninety minutes?  Could you do it?  
With varied backgrounds, experiences, styles, education, and preferences, how could anyone merge all of these into one production?
Just ask Gary Bosanek, the director of this current cabaret performance for the Chanticleer Community Theater.   Besides being a director, he was also a performer.  He demonstrated his diverse talent by the singing of "Alone at the Drive-In."  This fifties-like tune was a delight for the entire audience.
Dianne L. Jones is unquestionably the ultimate performer with her masterful stage presence.    Her interpretation of "I Wonder as I Wander" was heavenly.
Kim Alger perfectly blended and harmonized throughout the night.  She also performed the eccentric selection "Summer in Ohio" bringing humor into song.
Vicki Molacek is a great singer that can always be expected to be outstanding.  She masterfully sang "Dreamers," "A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes." and "When I Grow Too Old to Dream."
Lauren Anderson shined as a soprano while singing "If I Loved You," "Almost Like Being in Love," and the haunting "Somewhere."
Bob Schamp's mellow voice in both "Autumn Leaves" and "Try to Remember" was hauntingly memorable.
Ian Mooney is a young talented performer who "wow-ed" me when he sang "Run Away with Me."  This song was unfamiliar to me but unquestionably one of my favorites now after hearing him sing.
Jude Glaser is an incredible talent for being only eleven-years-old.   You should have seen him singing and dancing to "Give My Regards to Broadway."
Kim Hansen demonstrated her ability as an excellent accompanist playing the entire ninety minutes and never missing a beat.
Dave Podendorf, as usual, kept the sound system perfectly balanced throughout the evening.
Unquestionably one of the highlights of the night was when the four women harmonized the song "May You Always."   The richness and blending of their voices created musical beauty.
What I found surprising with this show was the number of songs that were new to me but phenomenally performed.  "Grateful" sung by Gary Bosanek is one I want to hear again and again.   Another number sung by Diane was unquestioningly appealing and intriguing, "A Quiet Thing."
The next fundraiser cabaret night for Chanticleer will be February 17th and 18th with the theme being operettas.   These are fun evenings filled with great music, fantastic food, and delightful company.