JUNCTION ISBN: 9781512004458, Create Space Independent Publishing, an e-book by Cody Schlegel.
Plot/Characters: The tale opens with twenty-nine year old Nick Harman vomiting in a “piss-stinking lavatory after binge drinking” while his unaffected 23-year-old cousin Ryan remains at the 5 Span Bar, ancient and still favorite gathering place for Junction’s 3500 population. The story then continues in and around this small Iowa community while we follow Nick and his group of acquaintances as they meander through their gritty life endlessly drinking, using and delivering drugs. The acquaintances include his older seemingly successful brother Bruce, former school mates Zack, for whom he took a minor drug rap, cousins Cory and Dusty Sheeks; Joey, the most active drug dealer who is found dead early in the story; Adam, son of the only Black family in town who survives Iraqi combat, returns and moves to West Virginia where he becomes a top Narcotics agent following in the steps of his 56-year-old father Will who was Deputy Sheriff in Junction County; Sheriff Rick Helmsley who we also discover to be the real power behind the drug trade; Jimmy Baker, another deputy; Patricia, Nick and Bruce’s mother for whom both lovingly assume full responsibility; Toni, Nick’s ex-girlfriend who still lives with him because she presumably has had his daughter Hayden, whom he adores; a Priest who has a gambling problem and other assorted individuals. The course of the story winds through the interplay of these numerous characters as various destructive situations, mostly self-wrought, arise. Regrettably, a finale per se, is not provided. There is no closure, but rather an opening to further the story line.
Discussion: The volume opens with two interesting statements: “If you’re looking for a fairy tale, you won’t find it here”, and an Irish proverb; “When the chess game is over, the pawn and king are placed in the same box.” These simple quotes pretty much address the story ‘telling it like it is’ – an unvarnished tale of the seamier side of life experienced in a largely by-passed small rural American town with a hint that it may speak of possible implications that similar situations could exist on other levels. Interesting discussions are included with respect to life/death and race relations.
Conclusion: A story of mostly psychologically damaged people living lives with no apparent thought and or hope for future happiness. Rather depressing and offering no closure, but apropos the author’s opening statements, sufficiently well and interestingly written to hold the reader’s interest.

4* Somewhat sad but interestingly written story.

Hard Road to Freedom

Hard Road to Freedom ISBN: 9781614565123, Sarah Book Publishing, Book Three in the Saxton-Brown Adventure Series (Illustrated), Paper Back Edition by Stephen A. Carter.

In the first volume, the reader met John Saxton, son of the owner of a Boston shipping empire, his ‘mentor’ Marcus Brown, a trusted family retainer and giant former Masai (Massai, Massi) warrior as he shepherds him through a sailing introduction ‘before the mast’; John’s lovely negro wife Virginia and their collective escape while on the couple’s honeymoon aboard ship from Fort Sumter as it falls; their ensuing evasion of pursuit and ultimate arrival at home. In the second volume, John, now owner of the shipping empire upon his father’s death and Marcus, now wealthy and owner of a sizeable ship as reward for his outstanding activity, are persuaded by Alan Pinkerton to meet Lincoln who accepts their idea of building a new design ‘iron clad’ shallow draft ship and organizing an all-black group of rangers to infiltrate enemy lines to provide intelligence and commit havoc. They complete both projects and the story follows the subsequent activity with John also becoming involved with gaining intelligence through use of the hot air balloon. Virginia is importantly involved in the earlier portions of the book as is Marcus’ wife, Belle and the villainous Major Horatio Garrow and his hulking brute accomplice Hurley Blackstone continue in their roles of importance. In this third volume John is wounded and captured by the Confederates, imprisoned in the infamous Salisbury, NC prison, where he meets Lucas Garrow. He escapes, is recaptured and near death in Richmond, VA Castle Thunder, where through Pinkerton’s intercession he is saved by Union Spy Elizabeth van Lew and liberated by the fall of Richmond. Lucas Garrow, gradually becoming addicted to opiates and attaining near psychopathic status joins his father and his henchman to attempt to track down the hated John Saxton and Marcus Brown who have divested themselves of the shipping business and now are the principle owners of a rather idyllic 5000 acres on Raccoon Mountain in a settlement they call Harambee (a Massai word meaning ‘pulling together). Horatio and Hurley are hanged for past murderous deeds, but Lucas, now tremendously wealthy from finding his father’s hoarded wealth, continues his search as well as organizing an operation to eventually take over the country. Much of the story revolves around the inhuman conditions that existed not only within the Civil War prisons, but within the entire population as well with special emphasis upon the injustices and cruelties suffered especially within negro/white relations.

Discussion: This entire series to date exhibits the results of extensive and rather meticulously performed historical research that offers minutia that seldom surface; e.g., the number of Jews who not only served in the Civil War, but even in important positions; the use of opiates by both sides; etc. Interesting illustrations also are included. Such attendance to detail is readily appreciated and understood from an author who has spent years in teaching the subject. And he has interspersed his fictional and historical characters in a most commendable manner with historical fact and fiction and included thoughtful emphasis on the negro/white relationship. Regrettably however, this reader feels compelled to provide a caveat for the tendency that began in the latter part of Book II – the increased amount of historical detail, although fascinating and most appealing to many readers, does provide hiccups to the plot’s smooth flow of advancement. . Most regrettably, a further caveat must be provided for those (hopefully few) readers who cannot accept what today is termed ‘politically incorrect’ verbalization and activity, even though it is entirely correct historically.

4* Engrossing historical novel with unfortunate ‘hiccups’ to plot cohesiveness/advancement; caveat for parochial readers.

Money RX your prescription for financial success

Money RX your prescription for financial success ISBN: 9781534631649, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, an e-book by Joseph C. Newtz.

Generally described, the author has presented and discussed to varying degrees such diverse matters as life, property, casualty and disability insurance, Social Security benefits, checking and savings, the money market, certificates of deposit, annuities, IRA’s, real estate, employer participation in savings/health plans, stocks and bonds. He also has included various areas for investment – utilities, energy, technologies, aspects of the medical/pharmaceutical, etc. In the discussions he has attempted to present a picture of the intricacies of combining all of these individual elements into a meaningful pattern of investments that will satisfy your goals. Suggestions have been offered with respect to: emphasis on the importance of setting YOUR goals to meet YOUR desires and expectations with special regard to truthfully examining them to make sure the parameters are realistic; consider your age of commencement; adhere strictly to the pattern you have chosen to reach your goals; do your homework; stick to ‘the “Rules of the Game’ with respect to asset location; be patient; rebalance your portfolio when necessary BUT know when and how to do it; be aware of adjustments that must be made with changing economies; and especially don’t be greedy because “Bulls and Bears make money, but pigs get slaughtered”. Further suggestions are offered in Chapter 9 by a long list of ‘what not to do’, and the simple, logical recommendation is offered that if you cannot afford the considerable time it takes to be prepared to make the best possible decision with respect to making the best decision, it would be wise to search for a competent advisor BUT with the further caveat that this by no means is an easy task because of the reasons he describes and reiterates throughout his presentation.

Discussion: The author has set forth an introductory course for aiding the neophyte investor through the labyrinthine course of investing that is replete with cogent suggestions and advice. He also has provided an excellent caveat for the investor who timewise cannot properly prepare and maintain a sufficient level of expertise to be successful in his/her endeavors – obtain an advisor you can trust. Further he has provided recommendations as to how to find such a person which even with his suggestions would appear to be a most difficult task to say the least. The author’s presentation does not provide many of the exact details for which the confused investor endlessly seeks. However, he perhaps has provided as much detailed material as is possible on this constantly shifting subject. Thus, he most probably should be considered very thoughtfully because: 1) as described, he is an investment counselor or adviser with an apparent excellent reputation of long standing in the profession; 2) perhaps even more importantly, he seems to be a person who sincerely is interested in aiding the investor through the labyrinthine course of investing and has provided seemingly the best advice possible to aid in finding such a person.

5* for most individuals seeking financial success.

Confessions of a Neighbor

Confessions of a Neighbor ISBN: 9780998012902, Plum Tree Press, an e-book by Heather Nadine Lenz.

Plot: A prologue describes Ella struggling to survive in freezing water while attempting to save her very young daughter from drowning. The actual tale then begins with a lovely seventeen-year-old who was struggling with a massive load of problems: 1) the recent loss of her only family, her mother and most loving grandmother. 2) the three had moved constantly to different cities/countries because her mother was ‘fleeing the Russian Mafia’; 3) she is struggling to attempt to succeed in ballet, like her mother who was a featured ballerina in several ballet companies. 4) she had no idea of her father’s identity; 5) money was scarce, necessitating her working as a waitress while attempting to maintain her ballet training schedule; 6) she was attempting to deal not only with the overriding depressing effects of losing the two most important people in her life, but also had absolutely no supportive friends; 7) she mistakenly becomes involved in a relationship with a neighbor that gradually develops into a devastating nightmare; 8) the fact that she ultimately discovers that her mother suffered from a delusional problem which adds still another dimension to her distress The story gradually unfolds describing the manner in which each of the problems eventually is met and dealt with and provision of further detail would be a great disservice to the prospective reader.

Discussion: The author has produced a volume that provides an intriguingly convoluted plot that certainly would have been highly placed on Oprah Winfrey’s recommended reading list. It has all of the elements of a suspenseful thriller with abundant elements for sustained emotional stress being suffered by an unsophisticated young woman.

5* for devotees of suspenseful emotional thrillers involving an appealing, naive young woman.

The Meandering Orb Trail of Avery Adludian Stein


The Meandering Orb Trail of Avery Adludian Stein, an e-book by Karen Costakes.

Plot: a Prologue describes a seemingly depressed Robert shuffling toward his rather dilapidated truck from another yard sale with a musty box of gatherings labeled “Free Junk”. While opening the car door, it suddenly disengages from its rusty hinges and falls making him drop the box, widely scattering the buttons, yarn and other material. Now greatly chagrinned and about to pull a childish tantrum, two words come to mind – “For Sam” – and his disgruntled state turns into one of resolve. He believes she will look at the world with ‘rose-colored glasses’ instead of from his more jaundiced approach. Then, while recovering the last of the scattered objects, he encounters a dapper man who questions his success at the sale. Robert answers that it was not particularly successful, but there always was the next one that could be. Liking his optimism, the man hands him a small parcel and suggests he take this and “Maybe it will lead you to something of more value.” Robert returns to his home whose state resembles that of his truck, and stops to listen to his wife reading to their soon-to-be-delivered daughter: “You are going to be brilliant and beautiful. You are going to have adventures galore. You may go through tough times but you are a fighter.” The story then opens with a nearly thirty-year-old Sam living at home helping with her father’s EBay business that barely is eking out a living for the family. While going through junk in the barely surviving attic, she discovers a pair of somewhat unique glasses. Descending to the main floor and exiting to the back porch, she dons the glasses and is shocked to see a strange red orb developing from a red spot in the carpet. Even more disquieting is the fact that the orb has multiplied and seems to provide an extended path. She rushes to confirm her sanity with her unusual neighbor Matty, who offers assurance and the two set off on a journey that provides the substance of story.

Discussion: Quite frankly and regrettably, this is one of the very few books I ever have read that I found extremely difficult to finish. For this reason I indulged in a procedure I always avoid – I read the reviews that already had been posted. Here among others, it has been described as “unique and whimsical”, which it is; as “clean, happy, fun, hilarious, and sensitive” which for many no doubt it will be; “If you are a junkie for a good book to take you out of the ordinary, this is it!”

These analyses require me to simply apologize for totally disagreeing with the seeming ‘flow of positive reviews’ and to offer, perhaps somewhat apologetically, the following: 1) I may have ‘missed’ something; 2) my many years as an investigative scientist may have pushed me too far toward pragmatism even though I thoroughly enjoy many books in the fantasy, occult, sci-fi and similar genres; or 3) I simply prefer a book that provides a plot that is somewhat more structured, i.e., ‘seems to be going somewhere’; characters with some, even slightly, more definition to provide some empathy or even a desire for the protagonist to accomplish his/her goals.

Conclusion: I understand that the author’s former endeavors have included Peace Corps volunteer, professional dog walking, kindergarten substitute, nanny and a struggling EBay business. The latter forms a knowledgeable base for the story’s initiation and the various other endeavors provide an insightful basis for the thrust and management of her story. Her optimism is impressive and the story has a most commendable underlying belief set forth in her statement: “God gave no greater gift than creative thought.” Thus, many readers no doubt will concur with the other reviewers. Most regrettably, it just is too unstructured for this reviewer.

3* Commendable endeavor regrettably not for this reviewer. Mea Culpa?

Secrets to Shine through the Noise

     Secrets to Shine through the Noise ISBN: 9781628653182, Motivational Press a self-help e-book by Akasha Garnier.

Note: The book is one of self-help, but seems to be for a dichotomous audience. Thus providing a review is a more difficult task, at least for this particular reviewer. It provides some provisional help for seekers in general, but additionally seems to be slanted toward one wishing a literary career. It has been published by a small independent press that seems to provide subjects in accord with their name. The author is a widely traveled and successful marketer (helping people shine), and an author with a stated desire to find a national publisher from whom she can receive a 3-book deal. Having already written a thousand pages “I am still spinning a travel “thrilogy” inspired by true events.” The bases for this statement are provided briefly by enumeration of such situations as living in a rain forest, weathering a tsunami, swimming with sharks and others. All of this material is quite interesting, but to reiterate, its interjection into the body of the work is distracting to say the least in attempting to provide a meaningful review for a specific group of readers.

Review: Assumedly from the thrust and format of this book the author’s attributes also include successful motivational speaker. It is written with the ‘gung ho’ enthusiasm of such a person and if the prospective reader is one to be motivated by such presentations he/she will discover the material provided to be most helpful. One of the better discussions is that about the tendency for everyone to have their activity, intentions and/or occupation confined within a ‘box’. In the present day of almost unceasing activity, it is the easiest way for associating individuals to be able to eliminate at least one factor it is necessary to think about; e.g., she’s the lawyer, he’s the CPA. Also well-presented is the repeated thought that anyone wishing to become a self-sustaining author should remember an adage that long has been around in the profession: ‘Don’t give up your day job.’ Today with self-publishing, an author must contend with the fact that over one million new titles are published yearly. Her suggestion that Facebook and similar social lines for marketing purposes are routes to success however, may be only slightly useful. Bestselling authors Tess Gerritsen, David Baldacci and John Gilstrap all have expressed reservations with respect to these means of promoting books, and romance/mystery author Michael Davis actually studied his sales figures over a period of time and rated Facebook, Twitter, etc. as effective only at 5 on a scale of 0 – 100. Another problem noted for the person looking for successful writing tips is the matter of repetition. This book is replete with restated ideas – an effective tool to increase understanding and retention of the material being presented by the motivational speaker, BUT such redundancy is to be avoided in writing, even in totally fact based ‘thrillers’. Any material of a diversionary nature must be avoided – specifically, if it does not advance the plot, omit it.

Summary: An interesting presentation for a dichotomy of readers if one does not mind the mixture of themes under the main self-help heading. It can be especially helpful for those who are ‘caught in a box’ and respond to a ‘pep-talk’ approach. Its effectiveness for an aspiring author may be somewhat more questionable.

3* Dichotomous self-help more helpful to ‘boxed-in’ individual than to aspiring writer.