The Cooktown Grave

The Cooktown Grave ISBN: 9781734384437, prepared for publication by authoraide, copyright and written by Carney Vaughan.

This most unusual tale follows a ten plus year section of a young Australian man’s life following undeserved imprisonment for causing the death of his twin brother. Coincidentally, it also is of the detective’s brilliant police work that helps to establish not only his innocence, but illuminates underlying and unsuspected corruption within the police department. Specifics of the plot are so numerous and convoluted, as are the number of characters and their interrelationships, as to require considerably more space than can be provided in this ordinary review.

Discussion: Although far too numerous to provide plot details, readers should be aware that this is a tale that is divided into three parts with a quite slow beginning and movement into and partway through part two that briefly may cause concern. However the feeling soon dissipates and although admittedly some judicial editing probably still could enhance the presentation, the story becomes an engrossing chase/thriller/suspense vehicle speeding along at a good clip. The finale is satisfying and the final two chapters, in the author’s own words, set forth additional thoughts on police work that a reader will contemplate and well remember. They begin with “In a profession where one is in constant contact with the dregs of society the definition which should exist between good and bad can become blurred. Lost in a fog of vice. The human mind is a strange machine which works in relativities….”

4* Slow start, ultimately engrossing chase/thriller/suspense with riveting message.

Acts of Faith

ACTS of FAITH, a novel published copyright and written by Martin Elsant.

In this “Part 1 of The Inquisition Trilogy”, an initiating statement by Archibald Bower, Authentic Memories Concerning the Portuguese Inquisition, 1761 reads “An Auto de fe is not so much an Act of Faith, which the words would impart, as of the hypocrisy of Inquisitors, who thus make a mockery of God and man, by abusing the venerable name of religion, and forcing the secular judges to become their butchers.” An author’s note follows explaining that, as a teenager, he had found an account of an undisputed miracle that involved Diego Lopes of Pinanocos at his “auto de fe’ in Coimbra, Portugal, and more than 50 years later actual records of the man’s trial. (Both books referenced as additional reading.) However, a discrepancy existed between the trial records discovered and reported by Bodian and the public perception reported in the Roth book discovered so much earlier. The author’s intent in this book simply is “to add a component of human involvement to a process that they (individuals of the time) believed required only Divine intervention.” The story then introduces the young Portuguese Divinity student Aristides and the other characters of greater or lesser importance as it presents the quite specific procedures initiated and employed by the dominant figures in the Inquisition, as well as the surprising number of those attempting resistance, along with his new ‘element’.

Discussion: This is a fascinating and most informative story that should appeal to a rather diverse population of readers. Historians certainly will find much to learn as will those interested in beliefs of Judaism and of Catholicism of the era. A story of unrequited love is included, as are numerous references to bits of understanding of facts about the anatomy and functions of the human body as well as initial, perhaps surprisingly advanced, thoughts about surgical cleanliness available at the time. Thus, as readily admitted by the author, although tenuous, the tenets upon which certain of his actions are based are technically and scientifically feasible as well as the actions of Jews and Christians in this time of religious chaos arising from greed and ignorance. A most interesting and relative ‘Postscript’ is included as are suggestions for ‘Further Reading’ that history devotees will find extremely helpful. A somewhat unique aspect of this volume that may appeal particularly to readers who do not enjoy ‘cliff hangers’ where the protagonist or similar is left in a precarious position, resolution of which awaits the succeeding book, this first of a trilogy is a ‘stand-alone’ volume. However, sufficiently well done to make the reader anticipate the next in the series.

5* Historical fiction engagingly presented for reasons described.

Let’s Pretend

Let’s Pretend a book published by Amazon, copyright and written by Christian Hagesth III.

The opening passages of this book induce a reader to believe the author has set forth a fantasy novel loosely based on the ‘genie in the bottle’ theme. The protagonist, Peter Andresen  is a retired psychiatrist whose wife died several years ago in an accident and he has two grown sons who are ‘too busy’ to bother seeing him. He believes he is in his sixties, suffers from Parkinson’s disease, has been bankrupt and now “scrapes by on Social Security and V.A. Benefits.” He is alone and lonely and walking aimlessly on a beach with no person or even buildings in sight. He spots a corked empty bottle that has drifted ashore, picks it up and sees a note inside. Amused by remembrance of the old tales, he attempts to remove it. The task is difficult so bringing it closer a faint voice seems to emanate from its depths requesting release. Shocked, he rapidly reverts to remembered Marine Drill Sargent’s marching orders continuing until encountering a lovely young woman. She greets him with no hint of a sexual come-on, which would be useless anyway because his Parkinson’s long ago had removed the possibility of any such activity. They do however, acquire what seems to be a deep mutual understanding and attachment, so continue walking together and the young woman appears to be able to provide all manner of ‘good things’ out of nowhere. Thus, the tale’s subtitle “A tale of Mind, Imagination, and Healing” quickly is recalled. Holly is able to cause welcome sleep, wonderful breakfasts, fine dining with all of the amenities, sessions of swimming with whales, functioning as partner of a raptor and of an entire flock of birds and more. She also facilitates visits with his Aunt Nora, participation in conversational gatherings with historical medical figures such as Hippocrates and Galen, another non-religious individual from whom he learns that “God needs to be experienced, not dissected”, and other pertinent individuals.  But eventually from this non-physical reality where everything he needs is provided by his mind because it is not limited in the more usual manner by attention to material reality, the reader witnesses the evolution of a physically ill individual, additionally suffering from a degree of PTSD, who ultimately re-emerges in the ‘real world’ as a truly empathetic individual who is a true ‘healer’.

Discussion: This is an engaging book. It literally forces a reader to return to the too-often forgotten thoughts first provided on the importance of the mind on bodily action centuries before Sigmund Freud. As quoted by the author, Hippocrates stated “It is more important to know what patient has the disease than what disease the patient has” i.e. the mind’s content fundamentally is the important factor in treatment. As an extension on his theme, the author provides examples of the many psychological burdens carried by the protagonist. Included are early strange thoughts arising from the child’s bedtime prayer “Now I lay me down to sleep…”, being recognized as a hated other young boy instead of as her son by his mother just being returned from a psychiatric facility, thoughts about shooting himself in college and a horrifying experience after being shot down on a mission over enemy territory. Many more compelling features of mind-body interrelationship along with additional pertinent details and thought compelling reaction are included. A reminder of medicine’s mortal conflict with ignorance not only is legendary but particularly relevant again today by the recent resistance to immunization and the cautionary admonition “The greater the ignorance, the greater the dogmatism” necessitating the cautionary remark “Be careful talking to people about your understanding of the infinite mind…you know it will be distorted. It will be seen as both heresy and gospel.” But enough! This is merely a review by a relatively knowledgeable reader who has been impressed by the author’s ability to bring forth, in a rather succinct manner, a basic tenet of the mind-body-disease relationship that, as stated, has appeared to have been lost for centuries. Granted, Freud, Jung and others resurrected a piece of it which H. Flanders Dunbar and others expanded to a degree. However, this particular treatise reestablishes the basic tenets and does so in a quite charming fictional tale that is highly recommended both as a simple fantasy, but even more importantly as a book to enjoy analyzing and absorbing its message.

5* Riveting dual level tale; enjoyable fantasy; crying for deeper analysis.

Leadership and Life Hacks

Leadership & Life Hacks ISBN: 9781946633835 ForbesBooks copyright and written by Alyssa Rapp.

Subtitled “Insights from a Mom, Wife, Entrepreneur & Executive”, the author offers an explanation of her personal alternative definition of ‘hack’ – “Woman friends in the same position always are seeking tangible ways to create impact and efficiency in our lives. You might call them secret sources or shortcuts to success. For the purposes of this discussion, let’s call them hacks.” She further explains there will be two sections – lead and live. She suggests the reader may proceed in any order desired – back, forward, ‘cherry pick’, or other. Further explanation is that “she will take you into the Boardroom, manage a household, strategies for answering e-mails, staying fit, and best utilization of my time.” Next, a commendatory Forward, and an Introduction explaining some of her educational and preceding entrepreneurial, as well as marriage/child bearing background, and her observance that “an industry that’s rife with regulation and inefficiency: it’s also ripe for disruption”. Also what assuming a position of CEO in another area would entail. Ultimately, the book opens with the first of ten chapters that provide material about things she did and discovered in her preceding position. The rest of the chapters discuss “Pivot versus Quit: when the going gets tough”; how to transition; hacking the health care industry; managing a board and/or other critical stakeholders; mentorship; leading a team; balancing mom, athlete, entrepreneur, executive; work hard, play hard; twenty-three mini-hacks you never knew you needed; a Conclusion to “keep swinging”; Appendix: reading list; More from Alyssa which includes a sizable number of pictures of her starting in childhood, her family and with  persons of importance in political and/or managerial positions.

Discussion: This book is another in the burgeoning number of books on entrepreneurial activity, CEO positions and management thereof as start-ups and/or changing such positions. However, it is set forth here from a less often encountered perspective, As such, it should be of particular interest to the growing number of women breaking through the ‘glass ceiling’ to take their place among the ‘elite group’ of business leaders. The relevance of certain parts of material included definitely would appear to be of greatest interest to this particular segment, but a large amount of the material presented is relevant to any reader contemplating similar activity. Instruction begins with the very first chapter when she provides a summary of the first 8 hacks and proceeds to offer more detail, following with 9-14 in chapter 2 and several more in each succeeding chapter, except for chapter 8 which details Life Hack #65. Chapter 9 concludes the total number of 77. Chapter 10 provides a few more of those that “have been most meaningful to” the author and pertain to “kids, partners, dual-career households, bodies, technology – and quinoa.”

Conclusion: A ‘different’ perspective on entrepreneurial/CEO development/management no doubt attuned to the increasing number of women advancing in this area. However, anyone interested in business affairs will discover a large number of the suggestions to be meaningful and helpful.

4* Most helpful for target audience; many suggestions valuable to all.

When Worms Abandon their Burrows

When Worms Abandon their Burrows a mystery thriller assumed published, copyright and written by Sean Parr.

After several years in St. Louis, the protagonist Emily Merton has returned home to the small town of Hannibal, Missouri where she had had spent her childhood. While in St Louis, she had established a reputation as an excellent investigative journalist and now was working freelance but with special assignments for the small but important local newspaper. As quite a talented sculptor, she also sells carved pieces from her small studio/shop and is commissioned to provide a piece for the reopening of Lover’s Leap, the well-known local attraction partly destroyed by recent flooding. The funding for the park’s refurbishing has been provided by Malcolm Spencer, a newly appointed CEO of a prominent New York City Investment Company. Unknown to the New Yorkers is the fact that he has served time for the rape of an 11-year-old girl seventeen years before in Hannibal. Actually, it was a crime he had NOT committed but lies, combined with poor police procedures and a poor lawyer with whom his family concurred were responsible. Ironically, the child raped had been Emily and now she was assigned to interview him. She, in turn decides to expose him at the dinner where he is invested with his new position. Her attempt at exposure backfires, but she unexpectedly overhears a private conversation (the content of which she alters when speaking later to Malcom) and the action moves back to Hannibal and the preparation for the park’s reopening ceremony. Presentation of more detail is unrealistic because of their number and convoluted interrelationship.

Discussion: An outright judgmental decision on this book is difficult in the extreme. It has an unusual plot, projects a suspenseful aspect that makes a reader  continue to look forward to a plausible resolution but regrettably really requires an editor, or perhaps a mentor, to bring attention to the following. The story begins slowly with what appears to be stereotypical young girls who seem to continue at that level as grown women. The police work, even accepting the long-standing belief that small town departments suffer from inadequate staffing, is woefully poor; the lawyer again is ‘typically small town’; the inability of most characters to be truthful; the seeming inability of anyone to make sensible decisions; naivety of all to believe that an investment firm would select a CEO without really knowing his/her background; difficulty for anyone to believe the ruse he provides for the belief that the interview would remain ‘local’; and perhaps a very minor, but necessary, criticism that layered white pine is suitable for the lasting piece of sculpture that was to be placed in a position where it would be the recipient of constant change in weather conditions.

Summary: A seemingly somewhat contrived but impressive idea for a mystery thriller as a first by an author who shows promise.

3* 4* Mystery/thriller idea. Regrettably much less for presentation.


Verdunmull is Book 1 of The Ikalreev Prophecies apparently published, copyright and written by Jared A. Zakrin.

A prologue opens the story with quotes from the Ikalreev prophecies which “predict a future grim and terrible, a glimpse of a dying epoch. We the Ikalreev write this script in an attempt to save the mortals of our distant future.” The story then unfolds with each chapter beginning with a quote from these prophecies followed by an unfolding of what occurs apropos its presented description. They range from 1:1 “At the precipice, angels will fall” to the last quite lengthy prediction (Chapter 24, “The First Seal 16:40-44. The power to stem the darkness will lie within the five mages…” and continues to tell what will happen should they fail. With conclusion of the activity pertaining to these prophecies, the storyline states: “To be continued” with prophecy 17:1-2 stating “Cometh chaos. Peace be forgotten?” which prepares the reader for the next volume in the series.

Discussion: Rather concise details of the story are succinctly offered in the prologue and the succeeding chapters introduce a relatively sizable number of characters of greater and lesser importance. The apparent lead is a human-like individual suffering from amnesia who was discovered wandering aimlessly by two elfin scouts who adopted him. He joins to help them and other members of the community as they are forced to fight an invading horde of weird creatures who are just one of many strange enemies successively encountered throughout the tale. His heroic activities lead to his appointment as Commander of a group who are dispatched by the King that furthers development of the story line. Devotees of tales of fantasy will be delighted with the large number of dragons, elves, dwarfs, variously formed monsters, disappearing and other strangely designed creatures and their ability to use magic to cause hurricane-like winds, develop and hurl fire balls and more, along with the inability of many to be killed.

5* Well-written fantasy for devotees of fantasy.