Princess Reigns by Roger Williams

Reviewed by Daniel Ryan Johnson

Princess Reigns is a story that puts all of the seven deadly sins on display. Ava Edwards (aka Princess Ava) is a young, ambitious minister from the city of Del Toray. Her ambitions, however, do not align with any spiritual path of spreading God’s love. Instead, they are ambitions for money and power. Ava does not believe the messages that she preaches. Instead, she sees her place in the church as a stepping stone to greater things.

Ava is guilty of many of the seven deadly sins herself. Her wrath is on display immediately, as the book opens with Ava chasing an employee around the room, attempting to attack him. Her lust takes the form of sleeping with her ex-con church employee, Joe, behind the back of her husband, Henry. Her greed is visible in her desire to get a hold of her stepdaughter’s trust fund. Her envy is clear in her hatred for Reverend Holt, the leader of the church down the road. Her pride is shown in her self-praise for her looks and intellect.

The only two deadly sins that Ava does not display are gluttony and sloth. In fact, with the level of work she puts into her evil plans, sloth is the last sin of which Ava could possibly be accused. While she might not be guilty of these two sins, her ten-year-old son Jimmy certainly is. Mother and child are not the only villains of this story. Ava’s lover Joe and his brother Robbie certainly carry their fair share of wicked intent. Both brothers can check off several of the deadly sins themselves. Even our protagonist, private detective and stepdaughter of Ava, Tori Edwards, is guilty of wrath. She is constantly at odds with Ava over the way Ava treats Tori’s little sister, Susy.

The RayBright Caper (A Kirbi Mack Novel Book 1) by B.B. Teeter

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

If you are looking to start a new modern detective series with a feminist twist, consider “The RayBright Caper” the debut novel of the “Kirby Mack Series.” The story revolves around the classic tale of thieves trying to pull off a heist and an underdog investigator trying to catch them. However, in B. B. Teeter’s version, this involves a secret military device as a prized possession, an unlikely band of two misfits, and an underappreciated female private security investigator.

Harvey, the man who came up with the grand plan, recruits an unlikely associate, a tech-genius kid named Mark. The start of their professional relationship is a particularly enchanting part of the novel. The tension between the two is palpable, as they each try to size up the other without giving too much away about themselves. Nevertheless, to obtain trust, one must first offer trust.

The two make a great team by complementing each other nicely. There are plenty of moments where they show complete trust in one another. What is more, they seem fully dedicated to the plan. However, throughout the pages, there is a lingering tension, which erupts occasionally.

As their carefully thought-out plan is set in motion, so is Kirby Mack, who is playing for the other side. She is hired by the targeted RayBright Labs, a San Diego Defense contractor. The founders of the company catch on to the fact that something is about to happen but that something seems to elude them.
Kirby proves to be far more resourceful and skilled than her employers thought. Her intelligence and deep knowledge of human psychology enable her to see things in a different light and generally obtain what she wants. In the end, it might even turn out that she was too good for the job.

Coldwater Revenge: A Coldwater Mystery by James A. Ross

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Coldwater Revenge takes place in 2002 with the setting in a lakefront community along the Canadian border. Tom Morgan, a high-powered New York lawyer, has taken a break from his job to spend time with his family. He is at a crossroads in his life and trying to choose the path he wants to follow. Shortly after his arrival in the small town of Coldwater, the body of a local man is discovered in the lake. Sheriff Joe Morgan, Tom’s younger brother, recently lost his staff and is the sole police officer in the town. Joe enlists Tom’s help in what turns out to be a high-profile murder case. During a meeting at Tom’s law firm, he finds out that a case from years ago in which he was only peripherally involved could cost him not only his job but also jail time. Time is critical for proving his innocence, but Tom refuses to leave Joe without support.

When Joe becomes critically ill due to his exposure to a deadly toxin, Tom takes over the investigation, and his theories and probing questions put him in the uncomfortable position of questioning the likelihood of whether his brother or Susan Pearce, the sister of the victim, could be involved in the complicated case in which a bio-research company is also entangled. Career choices along with personal and family relationships all point toward Joe’s and/or Susan’s possible guilt. While working on the case, Tom not only is dealing with inner turmoil, possible career implosion, family differences, and his feelings toward Susan, his ex-girlfriend, but he also winds up in precarious situations that lead to life threatening danger. Will Tom escape perilous predicaments and identify the killer? Is there a potential bio-terrorist plan afoot and can it be stopped? Will Joe’s body succumb to the poison?

Weeping Goes Unheard: Sacred Tears for Indigenous Victims of Racial Genocide by Lucia Mann

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

Weeping Goes Unheard” no longer as more and more voices speak up through a variety of channels. Lucia Mann contributes to this unveiling of a hidden (or as she argues, a covered) past of Canada by voicing those who have passed away, gone missing, or are still among us.

The author heavily relies on her journalistic investigation skill to document centuries of injustice against the First Nations of today’s Canada. However, she takes the uncovered data and weaves it into a compelling narrative. In my view, the book is a written embodiment of a documentary film with a series of reconstructions of events.

Lucia Mann has proven time and time again with her previously published novels that she is a highly visual writer. Therefore, reading “Weeping Goes Unheard” is not that much unlike watching a documentary. What is more, she is equally a soulful writer, passionately driven by helping and voicing underprivileged communities of all races. This passion clearly transpires throughout the text.

The task set by the author was far from an easy one, as in front of her lay a long history of injustice that seeps into present days. In the book, different aspects of this monstrous manifestation are tackled, like forced deportations, residential schools, institutionalized abuse (mainly from figures of authority who should offer protection), and serial killers to mention just a few.

An Antidote to Violence: Evaluating the Evidence by Barry Spivack and Patricia Saunders

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

An Antidote to Violence: Evaluating the Evidence” is not your casual mid-afternoon read. It is a thought-provoking and in-depth presentation of a still-controversial topic, Transcendental Meditation (TM). The authors, Barry Spivack MA and Patricia Saunders Ph.D. have created a monumental piece by critically analyzing decades worth of scientific research on the social effects of the practice. After a careful evaluation of evidence, the authors conclude that there is indeed an antidote to violence.

This universal antidote is accessible to all and completely free. While this might sound like oversimplifying a vastly complex and far reaching issue, that is not necessarily so. While researchers have linked group meditation to measurable growth in social welfare (under different forms), they do not consider the TM effect the sole cause of these measures. Rather, they view it as part of a complex web of forces which govern the world and life as we know it, yet, often fall beyond our regular conscious grasp.

To those less familiar with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and his teachings, there is ample opportunity to acquaint yourself throughout the pages of the book. Barry Spivack and Patricia Saunders take a peek behind appearances and explore the science behind this elusive phenomenon. They gradually walk the reader through different scientific experiments and statistical analyses of growing complexity to answer a set of questions and consequently ask new ones.

By bringing to the forefront a series of socio-psychological experiments that offer perceivable proof of decrease in violence and increase of social welfare, “An Antidote to Violence: Evaluating the Evidence” aims to attract the attention of both individuals and governments to this feasible antidote. Organized groups have ventured into volatile war zones to bring outer peace through their inner tranquility. And they seemingly succeeded time and time again.

The authors discuss in-depth the implication of paradigms in the history of ideas, mainly paradigm shifts. Discoveries and systems of thought that did not conform to the mainstream view of the time were often first ostracized before being accepted as groundbreaking leaps. The historical contextualization outlined by the authors acts as a possible explanation of why the TM continues to be met with resistance by so many. It simply does not comply with our modern Occidental view on reality and the self.

An Antidote to Violence: Evaluating the Evidence” is somewhat similar to a meta-analysis, in that it collects a vast body of academic literature and analyzes the data and results presented. However, it is far from being a sterile statistical account, as it is deeply infused with the passion of the authors. Although starting from different fields (Philosophy, Politics and Economics, and Music respectively), both Barry Spivack’s and Patricia Saunders’ life journeys merge in the blossoming universe of Transcendental Meditation.

Saw the Forest: A Novel by Patrick L. McConnell

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

A read which keeps your heart as invested as your mind, Patrick L. McConnell’s Saw the Forest explores life through a multi-faceted lens, bringing attention to aspects of the human condition, wrapped in layers of emotion and motive through the experiences of life. Presented with a grove of eclectic characters, each on their own life’s journey but whose paths cross in dynamic and life-altering ways.

A deft storyteller, author Patrick L. McConnell, captures the attention quickly with his literate narrative, which features a well-drawn cast of characters, each as interesting as the next to meet, as well as somehow entangled within the same web of a diverse community collective. Moreover, the story divulges uniquely posed aspects of human nature, exemplified through the characters, inclusive of traits like love, bravado, religion, violence, as well as politics. Moreover, skillfully presented amidst relatable interactions which create an interwoven mosaic of human frailty and strengths, making exciting fuel for this evocative, character driven read.

Immediately, this literate, detail focused narrative brings into view the Right family; father, Artemus a doctor, Mother Taniaz, and their sons, Philip and Adam. The brothers are a unique pair, in that, younger brother Adam takes care of his elder brother Philip, who is considerably larger and stronger than him, but his mind is that of a child. As the family dynamic changes over time, after having lost both parents, the pair of brothers live humble lives as adults, still sharing a close bond. Adam, quietly stalwart, socially awkward, even reticent but well-meaning remains his brother’s faithful keeper who at times can become an unintentionally aggressive and intimidating handful.

The Living Room: A Lung Cancer Community of Courage by Bonnie Addario with Jon Land

Reviewed by Russell Ilg

“It’s not treatable,” one doctor said told Bonnie Addario in 2004.

As you’ll learn in THE LIVING ROOM: A Lung Cancer Community of Courage, though, the book’s author Bonnie Addario is not one to give up. Diagnosed with stage 3B lung cancer at age 55 in 2004, the hard-charging Addario, a genuine force of nature, took on the disease with the moxie and resolve of an underdog boxer facing down the champion in the center of the ring.

The upset she ultimately scored is wondrously chronicled in THE LIVING ROOM, along with the stories of twenty other survivors of advanced stage lung cancer. I plunged into this book figuring it must be more fiction than fact. After all, other than the occasional miracle, no one ever beats lung cancer, right?

Wrong.

As we learn in THE LIVING ROOM, lung cancer has very much become a survivable and manageable disease—not always, but often enough to provide hope where none existed just a few short years ago. But that’s not the only surprise the book offers and not all of them are nearly as positive. Did you know more non-smokers get lung cancer than smokers? How about the fact that many of those non-smokers are under the age of thirty?

Neither did I. THE LIVING ROOM, named after a decade-plus in-person (and now virtual as well) support group Addario started, is a myth-buster of the highest order in that respect. And that’s mostly a good thing, as we get to know the survivors profiled as if they were long-lost friends.

Like Gina Hollenbeck, a not yet forty-year-old and the non-smoking mother of two boys, who looked the picture of health when she walked into the ER holding her X-rays under her arm and had to convince the doctors that something was seriously wrong with her. Or Matt Hiznay, a lifelong nonsmoker was only twenty-four when he was diagnosed with lung cancer. Early treatment saved his life. Then there’s Juanita Segura, a 51-year-old healthy eater and active in a training regimen known as CrossFit. The first doctor diagnosed her with asthma and prescribed an inhaler. Then the wheezing turned into a horrible cough. The next doctor had to deliver the news that she had lung cancer.

“Dude,’ she told him, “I don’t even smoke.”

The positive nature of those profiled is truly mind-boggling, making this is the perfect book for someone living with cancer of any kind, not just lung, as well as those close to them—in other words, just about everyone. THE LIVING ROOM is a seminal triumph of storytelling that tugs at our heartstrings even as it brings a smile to our lips with its overriding message of hope over despair and triumph over tragedy. When it comes to books that matter and bear long-lasting relevance accessible to tens of millions, this one is off the charts.

The Guilty by David Baldacci

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Quite a beginning to this one as Will Robie, a professional top-grade sniper for the CIA, is waiting to get off his shot at an intended target. Although he has been doing this for some time he never actually knows who the target is or why that person is the target. He only knows what his orders are and he has always obeyed and then fulfilled his orders.

This one turns out differently and changes Robie’s life drastically. Yes, his shot is perfect and he hits and kills his target. However as he looks on from his perch he notices that behind his target was a young girl who was completely covered by the target until the bullet went through the target and right into the little girl’s head killing her also!

Robie does get away from the shooting area but he can’t get over the feeling of what he has done. His supervisor understands and tries to help out by not only helping to console him but also by granting some time off so he can get hopefully back together and return to his position.

But as it turns out on his next assignment Robie doesn’t take the shot because he believes he sees a small boy on the scene. Turns out there was no boy and Robie’s supervisor definitely decides it is time to give him a break.

His supervisor also tells him that they have gotten word that Robie’s dad, Dan Robie, has been charged with murder down in Mississippi. At first Robie doesn’t seem to care as he and his dad have not spoken since Robie left Mississippi some years ago and they were never overly friendly or close. But Baldacci uses the murder, etc. to move the story not only to Mississippi but also to move the story into a truly great read.

The Stranger in the Mirror by Liv Constantine

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Imagine yourself with no memory of your identity. This is the situation in which Addison finds herself in The Stranger in the Mirror. Any recollections about her life, before she was rescued by benevolent strangers, are gone. Addison currently lives in Philadelphia and is engaged to be married. She is experiencing fleeting moments of perturbing images. She wonders if memories are trying to break through into her conscious awareness, or if her imagination is conjuring the images. At the same time Addison is dealing with amnesia and its effects on herself and others, another person is facing challenging circumstances. Julian’s wife disappeared without a trace, and Julian has made it his number one priority to track her down. He lives in the Boston suburbs with his seven-year-old daughter. When Julian shows up and claims Addison is his wife, lives are thrown into upheaval. Is Julian’s allegation true? Remembrances of Julian and his daughter elude Addison. What does it mean for Addison and her fiancé? Will Addison stay in Philadelphia or try and embrace her supposedly past life? Will Addison ever recover her memories?

Deadly Anniversaries: A Collection of Stories from Crime Fiction’s Top Authors

Reviewed by Allen Hott

This is a very interesting concept to writing a book on mysteries, etc. in short form. There are a total of nineteen short stories written by some of today’s top writers. And basically each story is centered about some type of anniversary. The writers include Jeffery Deaver, Lee Child, Sue Grafton, and other notables.

“If You Want Something Done Right” tells of how a woman who wants out of her marriage pulls off various attempts but none work because he figures them out quickly. However he does become overly involved himself in how to protect himself and guess what? You got it right. Now read the story (and book)
to get the whole story. Sue Grafton put that one together and it is good.

“Ten Years On” is about an Indian nurse who is drawn to a dead soldier’s brother and it has a very strange ending.

Lee Child wrote “Normal In Every Way” that tells of a very slow thinking clerk who while working in police headquarters uses anniversary dates of various murders and ties them together in such a fashion as to help solve some crimes that have gone unsolved.

Fade Away (Myron Bolitar Novel) by Harlan Coben

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Myron Bolitar has been one of the main characters in several of Coben’s books and in Fade Away he again comes to the forefront. The last team Bolitar played for (he is/was a pro basketball player) was the New Jersey Dragons owned by Clip Arnstein. Clip now has called Myron and asked him to not only find Greg Downing, a top Dragon player, but he also wants Myron to rejoin the team in Greg’s spot. Myron had never actually gotten to play in any regular season games due to his injury.

Strangely enough Greg was the cause of Myron’s severe injury which caused him to quit playing. But now Greg is missing and Clip needs help. He feels Myron as an investigator could be a help in finding Greg but also help as a former player returning to the court. Myron decides to give it a shot although he is very leery of his ability due to the injury.

Hit the Road Jack by Willow Rose

Reviewed by Allen Hott

I thought that this was a follow up to Slip out the Back by the same author and it was. BUT it was not a good follow up. It is a terrible book all the way through. It had high spots and I thought I would keep at it but overall it was not a good read.

It was about Jack who is raising his kids with the help of his parents who own a motel right next to Jack’s house. He is a detective and is searching for someone who is killing women he assumes. Sometimes he finds bodies and sometimes not. But all the women turn out to be women who have lived their lives having affairs with men all around.

The book is too long, too many characters, and has too many loose ends.

Overall it is just a poorly written book as far as I am concerned.

Blue Moon: A Jack Reacher Novel by Lee Child

Reviewed by Allen Hott

By now if you have read Jack Reacher stories by Lee Child you are aware of how they start out. Reacher is traveling (always) and going nowhere in particular but he doesn’t want to stay in any one place very long. As a retired military police officer he feels he has seen the world in that capacity and so now
he wants to see it as an individual. Never travels with someone, always alone, and never really trying to get somewhere in particular. He just likes to move around, meet people and see different locations.

It turns out that the area where Reacher ended up on this bus ride was a municipality that basically was split in two halves. One half was run by the Ukrainians and the other by Albanians. Each leader kept control over his area and didn’t mess at all in the opposite area. About the time Reacher got there it appears that there is about to be a blow-up of some type between the two groups but no one knows exactly why. And Reacher is completely unaware of the situation for the time being.