Losing My Faculties: A Teacher’s Story by Brendan Halpin

Reviewed by Nancy Eaton

This book is about Brendan Halpin’s experiences of being a high school teacher. It follows him through teaching jobs in an economically depressed white ethnic town, a middle-class suburb, a last-chance prevention program in the inner city and an ambitious college-prep urban charter school.

Halpin describes his first test as a student teacher where he states he failed miserably. He turned around to write something on the board and someone threw a piece of chalk. He turned around and said, “you know…that is not cool”. The class giggled. Halpin states that he knew he lost them right at that moment. From then on it was open season when Halpin turned his back – spitballs, chalk and basketballs were thrown. To make matters worse, the school had no kind of detention. You had to deal with this type of thing on your own.

Run for Your Life (Michael Bennett, Book 2) by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

Reviewed by Nancy Eaton

What has Michael Bennett done to deserve this double whammy?

A psychopath is killing people in New York. He seems to be hung up on his victims’ manners. What do all these killings have in common? The killer, who refers to himself as The Teacher, has a list of people he wants dead. Why?

Detective Michael Bennett is assigned to this case. Just as Michael was set to begin work on this case, his children get sick with the flu. Michael’s wife died a few years ago and he has 10 adopted children. He gets help from his grandfather Seamus who is a Catholic priest and Mary Catherine, the nanny. Could there be a future romantic interest between Michael and Mary Catherine starting to take place?

Case of a Puzzling Book: A Maximo Morgan Mystery by William LeRoy

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Case of a Puzzling Book: A Maximo Morgan Mystery by William LeRoy is a tricky mystery told in a uniquely creative format. Readers are immediately drawn into a rollicking adventure set off by the actions of a baldheaded stranger who goes into the Twisted Sister Coffeehouse in the small town of Henryetta, Oklahoma. Popo Crowder owns the coffee shop that includes a free library book exchange with erotic novels and similar literary fiction as part of the collection. The literary works on the bookshelves are regarded with antipathy by Eppie, her twin sister. Eppie is part of a group that “edits” books of an “objectionable” nature. The differing points of view between Popo and Eppie have created a rift in the sisters’ relationship, which comes into play in the story.

When the baldheaded stranger takes Lady Chatterley’s Lover by D.H. Lawrence and leaves The Same Old Story by William LeRoy in its place, Popo is perplexed as to why words and sentences are missing from pages in the book. Popo hires private detective Maximo “Max” Morgan, whose role model is private investigator Brad Runyon, a character created by novelist Dashiell Hammett. Popo asks Max to look into why The Same Old Story is the target of intentional defacing of parts of the text. Is there more to the case than meets the eye? Will Max figure out who might be responsible for the vandalism and the purpose behind it?

The Day of the Ferret by Michael Woodman

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

A witty, satirical romp through the political world of the President of the United States, author Michael Woodman’s The Day of the Ferret, craftily intersects politics, intrigue, comedy, and a cast of well-devised, skewed characters into a memorable and overall humorous journey into presidential politics.

Aiming for the jugular of this specific political machine, in this case, the presidency of the United States, this is the type of book that you either dislike or love, due to its undeniable relatability to a former president (especially judging from the front cover of the book) as well as some similarities to some of his antics while in office. Personally, I loved the provocative nature of this book and found it easy to laugh at its often-comical moments.

The story starts out with a sarcastic bang as characters are brought into focus beginning with (ahem) President John Thomas Rump.   He’s narcissistic, gross and a character that you may grow to have a love-hate relationship with. Moreover, facing low approval ratings, and sexual harassment accusations Rump needs something to alter the public view of him and the answer to his political dream comes in the form of an idea from his lawyer and “yes” man Benedetto Luigi Capone, which involves an intriguing entanglement of characters.   In particular, Eve Coronata is beautiful, intelligent and a former beauty queen looking for some payback when it comes to President Rump . The exchange between the two men is hilarious and sets the tone for the rest of the book.  As well, the additional characters who follow, as the story progresses, offer their own unique personality quirks, issues, and machinations into the fray of this wholly engrossing satire.

Overall, I truly and resonantly enjoyed The Day of the Ferret. It was a gritty humorous jaunt into politics, which while reading often made me laugh or smirk. But most of all, this was a story that showcased (to me at least) the human or inhumane conditions that can be brought on by excesses of political privilege and wealth told in a dark humorous way.  Essentially, ensconced in adept storytelling, and told through characters that were gritty and often morally challenged. Overall, author Michael Woodman brought forth a well-written narrative, replete with seedy politics, plot twists and turns, affairs, backstabs and strange friendships, which ultimately made for a great adult themed read which was very entertaining. This is a definite must add to the “want to read” list.

 

 

Grind Slowly, Grind Small: A Big Ray Elmore Novel by Thomas Holland

Reviewed by Daniel Ryan Johnson

Grind Slowly, Grind Small is the second novel by Thomas D. Holland set around Big Ray Elmore, a small-town police chief from Split Tree, Arkansas. You don’t have to have read the previous novel in the series, Their Feet Run to Evil, in order to enjoy this gritty crime drama. However, once you have finished reading, don’t be surprised if you find yourself immediately looking to get more of Big Ray Elmore in your life.

Grind Slowly, Grind Small primarily takes place in 1960 and focuses on the discovery of some old bones dug up during a construction project. The discovery leads Big Ray on a dark path to uncover the truth and bring justice to the long-dead victim. As one would imagine in a small-town murder case, Big Ray is tasked with investigating people he has known his entire life.

Thomas D. Holland does a superb job of making the reader feel like they are in the room with Big Ray every step of the way as he pursues answers about this mysterious skeleton. The picture painted of a small Arkansas town in 1960 is vivid, and the reader is transported back in time. The characters that Holland creates are well fleshed out and easy to visualize. You can almost feel the summer heat and taste the refreshing iced tea as sweat rolls down your cheek.

Maximise Your Child’s Performance: A Concise Guide to Unlocking their Potential by Jennie Segar

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Maximise Your Child’s Performance: A Concise Guide to Unlocking their Potential is a marvelous book of information. Jennie Segar discusses ways to make a difference in children’s development and benefit them academically, professionally, and socially. The book is an invaluable resource not only for parents but also for anyone involved in the caregiving role of children. Segar is well-qualified in the book’s subject matter, as she has years of experience as a parent and in different jobs working with children.

The book is divided into ten chapters with sub-headings and the corresponding page numbers, making it easy for readers to explore chapters that focus on issues of interest. The introduction is a wonderful overview of the specific topics discussed in the book. Readers will gain helpful insight into many topics important to a child’s healthy growth and development. Segar shares meaningful experiences from her own life, offering readers a personal perspective on everything the book addresses.

Some of the discussed topics pertain to positive and constructive approaches to guiding children’s behavior and how playing games can help build cognitive skills. The author also includes the advantageous effects of exercise and healthy eating on a child’s physical and mental development, the educational benefits of learning to play an instrument, the importance of shared reading from an early age, the value of a family-owned pet, and the impact of technology on children.

Black, White, and Gray All Over: A Black Man’s Odyssey in Life and Law Enforcement Frederick Douglass Reynolds

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

If you are looking for an exploratory journey into the many dimensions of gray, look no further than “Black, White, and Gray All Over:  A Black Man’s Odyssey in Life and Law Enforcement” by Frederick Douglass Reynolds. The author goes beyond the dichotomy of good and evil – from within an individual, institution, or community – to investigate this precarious and uncomfortable in-between state.

This memoir is not a comfortable read. It is a daring tale that bravely exposes the inner workings of an individual. The book goes even further, piecing together a puzzle of the many faces of humanity painted in blood and gore, but also acceptance, kindness, and love.

Frederick Douglass Reynolds took a circular approach to his life story, starting from his childhood and closing with his golden age, and this embracing fleeting decades of the life of a community. The opening pages provide a closely intimate look into the upbringing of the main protagonist inviting the readers to observe his family life and the community in which he grew up.

The Nosferatu Conspiracy: Book Two, The Sommelier by Brian James Gage

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

The Sommelier is the second book in The Nosferatu Conspiracy series by Brian James Gage. A synopsis of the first book, The Sleepwalker, provides an excellent framework for readers in this riveting, chilling, and hair-raising tale that is both unsettling and addictive.

German Emperor Kaiser Wilhelm II, the ruler of the Prussian Empire, is working toward world domination and searching for the bottle of Vlad Dracula’s blood so that he and his mistress can achieve immortality and conceive a superior and untouchable child personified by evil. Augusta, Wilhelm’s wife, has stooped to devious measures in the hopes of stopping the mistress from becoming her successor.

Shapeless Summers by Hayden Thompson

Reviewed by Lily Amanda

Shapeless Summers” is an intimate and touching story of William Greenwood, a middle-aged man from England, who retired from his lifelong career as a seafarer. William moves to the Pacific Islands and takes up data engineering positions and later begins working as a development program manager.  William hopes to regain his vibrancy and his happiness and forget the painful memories and experiences he left in England. “Shapeless Summers” is a tale of loss, pain, soul-searching, and self-discovery.

 

A rare gem, this book displays the picturesque descriptions of the Pacific Islands, its people, their history, and traditions. With Thompson’s artistic proficiency, the author does a remarkable job highlighting the indomitable spirit of locality and solidarity. While here, William learns how to endure human lights with lightness and simplicity.  The author manages to capture the richness of the local people while also some of the challenges in these islands in an all-embracing duality. This makes the story relatable and resonant as well.

Murder at the CDC: A Capital Crimes Novel by Jon Land

Reviewed by Russell Ilg

I’ve reviewed more books by Jon Land than I can count but his latest, MURDER AT THE CDC, stands out for all the right reasons.

And all the wrong ones, too.

That’s because the book, completed prior to the January 6, 2021, eerily explores the very mindset that made that chaotic, violent day possible. Not only does the book open with, yes, a mass shooting on the steps of the Capitol Building, it centers around a crazed plot by unified militias and extremist groups to wage what is essentially a second civil war to seize power forever.

Five years ago, we learn in the prologue, a tanker carrying a deadly bio-weapon called the “White Death” seemingly vanished into thin air. Once those contents fall into the hands of an unscrupulous politician eyeing the White House and the powerful offspring of a famed televangelist, all bets are off and a fanatical plot that dwarfs January 6 is underway. We’ve seen the politician, Senator Byron Fitch, before. It’s a classic thriller trope and there’s nothing new there.

Still the Night Call by Joshua Senter

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Joshua Senter’s Still the Night Call traces a memorable and emotionally rending journey to self- realization, with a tale which rattles the heart and mind into giving pause and reflecting on how you may value your life and the world you live in.

Told through the lens of central character Calem Honeycutt, a dairy farmer, whose whole life is centered around making a living through farming which he does mainly by helping his father work his farm. Moreover, at thirty-two years old, Calem is a man who has lost hope. A quiet man of few words, the narrative is fueled by his internal mentations, more so than his face- to-face interactions. Ultimately a bit of a loner, he does not often venture far from his life as a dairy farmer; however, for the most part, he seems to enjoy his life that way and sees his life as nothing worthier than that.

Immediately the curiosity is piqued when Calem, who comes across as an intelligent, determined and sympathetic character, seems convinced he is living his “last day”. Consequently, the story traces the events of his self-prophesied last day counting time down, to his final “night call”, a time known when your activity ceases to go to bed, but for his intents and purposes it would mean much more. As he lives out the hours of his last days he ruminates over his life’s events, experiences, and memories as well as comes across a life altering experience which would teach him the hardest lesson of all to value your life, live it your way no matter what is happening in your world externally.

Enough to Make the Angels Weep by Ernesto Patino

Reviewed by Daniel Ryan Johnson

Enough to Make the Angels Weep is an intriguing and well-researched mystery novel. The novel features P.I. Joe Coopersmith as he investigates the murder of his client’s grandmother four years prior. However, as his investigation progresses, it becomes clear that this murder is a small piece in a much larger mystery involving the Mexican-American War, a group of Irish-born soldiers known as the Batallón de San Patricio, and a missing diary.

The primary mystery that will keep you turning the pages is not identifying the killer but rather the motivations behind the killing, which can be traced back over a century and a half. Ernesto Patino uses his narrative to shed light on a period of North American history that few people in the U.S. know much about but which is far more well chronicled in Mexico.

The Extraordinarily Ordinary Life of Prince: Everybody’s Good at Something by Prince A. Sanders

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

Several things make a children’s book iconic, like addressing pressing social issues, speaking to adults and children alike, and the test of time. The only box that “The Extraordinarily Ordinary Life of Prince: Everybody’s Good at Something” has left to tick is the test of time. Freshly out of the press, Prince A. Sanders’ book continues building a magically creative universe.

This is the second piece of a puzzle that reflects the author’s childhood. The series is infused with a strongly personal note that immediately disarms the reader, leaving them open to the full magnitude of the experience. The short book is more than just a read; it is an experience of how the world of adults and children intersect.

Seven-year-old Prince is at an age driven by exploration. He spends many recesses chasing after the secrets and wonders of nature. It soon dawns on his classmates that Prince does not follow the script. While his older brother is a star athlete at the school, Prince fails to prevail at sports and live up to his brother’s reputation. Shortly, Prince starts feeling more of an outsider and, worst of all, a stranger to himself.

Prince grows to accept that his path is different from his brother’s and what others might expect of him. But he is yet unaware of where his own path will take him. The road ahead is cleared when he least expects it, at a ballet performance. When the whole family goes to watch a show, Prince becomes entranced by the organic movements of the performers and longs to be part of the magical universe.

Mystery at the Blue Sea Cottage: A True Story of Murder in San Diego’s Jazz Age by James Stewart

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Reaching back in time to the roaring 20’s in southern California, author James Stewart’s debut work, Mystery at the Blue Sea Cottage, offers a compelling view of the intricacies of an unsolved homicide, the murder of young and beautiful, interpretive dancer, Fritzie Mann.

Based on years of research, this true-crime narrative poses an adept tracing of the history of this once sensationalized murder mystery brought forth through a multi-faceted lens which explores not only the murder but journalistic behaviors, the investigative processes during that era, and a Hollywood sex scandal connection as well as exploring the culture of the time.

Piquing the curiosity from the outset, this work of true crime immediately draws the attention into the fascinating backstory of Fritzie who, for the most part, was a seemingly sensible but “modern” woman in her early twenties who worked to help with her sick sister’s medical bills by dancing. However, to her family, there was an air of mystery in her life when it came to her romantic associations, relationships or dating.

Daughter Of Careful-ish: What Have We Learned? Nothing! by Honey Parker

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

Daughter of Careful-ish: What Have We Learned? Nothing! pulls on readers’ heartstrings. It focuses on a group of young adults who are dealing with the vicissitudes of emotions from being socially isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Honey Parker has created an appealing group of characters who come from diverse backgrounds. Each of the characters has been instilled with their own distinctive likes, dislikes, and idiosyncrasies. The group of friends live in New York and participate in weekly video calls filled with both amusing and serious conversations. Readers get a clear picture of what the characters are going through and the motives behind their reactions to emotionally draining circumstances. Part of the story takes place in Florida as one of the characters travels to Florida to stay with her mother, who is recuperating from an accident. The author does an excellent job of showing the different ways in which the characters deal with the stress of being sidelined when it comes to the deprivation of face-to-face contact.

Daughter of Careful-ish will resonate with readers in this fictional accounting of how people deal with an epidemic that blindsided the population. Parker has crafted a book that artfully shows how unforeseen life-altering events can affect people’s jobs and career choices, lifestyle, and social behaviors and interactions with others. The story will reach readers on a deep level and appeal to their emotions. Throughout the story, the characters are riding on a roller coaster of emotions while they are facing unprecedented challenges both in their socioeconomic status and in the effects on interpersonal relationships.

Reprise: A Memorious Tale of Things Present by Simon Plaster

Reviewed by Douglas R. Cobb

Reprise, by Simon Plaster, continues his series of humorous and satirical novels about Henrietta Hebert, who has gone from being an investigative reporter to now being a Private Eye. She figures that being an investigative reporter is not that much different, in that she digs up the dirt on the people she writes about, just like detectives discover all sorts of secrets about whoever they are investigating, and she might as well get the credit for solving a crime or mystery that some inept detective would claim. otherwise.

The trouble is that, at the start of Reprise, Henrietta is not getting any bites. That is, not until one day, a fateful knocking at her door and buzzing at her doorbell launches her new career. When Henrietta answers the door, she sees a woman standing there who introduces herself as Dr. Gloria Stern, and she explains that she has been searching for Wynona Sue Lehough, namely, Henrietta’s mother. Though Dr. Stern admits that the last time she saw Henrietta’s mother was three years ago, because she is “downsizing her practice,” she suddenly is concerned about Wynona Sue’s whereabouts and wants Henrietta, listed on old paperwork as Wynona’ Sue’s “next of kin,” to find the so-called missing woman, who has been without her meds for a period of years by then. Unbeknownst to Dr. Stern, right at that very moment, Henrietta’s mother is trying to reach her via her daughter’s “eye-phone.”

Dr. Stern has some rather potentially serious news to tell Henrietta. Based on her knowledge of Wynona Sue’s somewhat flighty and unstable mental state, Dr. Stern says that she believes Wynona Sue likely is responsible for having killed her husband, Henrietta’s step-father, Professor Alexander Lehough. As it’s also been reported that Wynona Sue fired a gun into the floorboards of her house, when her husband of five years plus was underneath the house tending to some of his insect “pets,” that idea is not, in theory, beyond the realm of possibility.

Who, Me? Fog Bows, Fraud and Aphrodite: Macavity and Me Mystery Book 2 by Charlotte Stuart

Reviewed by Daniel Ryan Johnson

Who, Me? Fog Bows, Fraud and Aphrodite is a classic who-done-it. Bryn Baczek is a consultant living on a boat in Seattle with her strong-willed cat Macavity and an ailing goldfish who is fourth in line to the name of Bubbles. Due to too much coffee resulting in a late-night need to use the bathroom, Bryn overhears a heated argument on a neighbor’s boat, followed by a splash and silence.

From there, Bryn is not-so-reluctantly pulled into a mystery involving a missing woman, Captain America pajamas, questionable taste in art, scuba diving in the dark, a non-profit organization, a post-it note, a poker game, a stuffy auditor, and a pseudonym. While Bryn tries to play the part of a witness who is just trying to do her duty for justice, it is clear that she is very much enjoying her chance to play Sherlock Holmes. Bryn takes the one loose thread that lies in front of her and keeps pulling until the whole sweater has come unraveled. While Bryn continues to share her knowledge with the police throughout, she does so only after investigating each clue herself.

Charlotte Stuart presents us with a fun mystery, which, despite moments of darkness, generally plays as a light-hearted caper. Stuart has created well-rounded, intriguing characters to populate her story. Told from the first-person perspective, we get a thorough look into Bryn’s psyche and discover more about her than she is even willing to admit to herself.

The Bubble by Joseph Patenaude (Author) Mauro Lirussi (Illustrator)

Reviewed by Teri Takle

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to experience the freedom of complete weightlessness and to float on gentle wind currents? Unfortunately, to experience total relaxation as if you were a bubble can only be imagined if you were a bubble. The Bubble is that story.

Blowing bubbles is a delight for people of all ages. It is hypnotic to follow their paths as they maneuver through the air. This thought captured Joseph Patenaude’s thoughts as he observed his children blowing bubbles and developed those memories into a children’s book, The Bubble.

The Bubble is a read-aloud book for children aged two to eight. The basic setting is a coastal environment, so it is an excellent opportunity to enrich different types of places people live.

Lush illustrations match each text word perfectly, emphasizing the environmental settings such as autumn leaves, new springtime life, mountainous regions, stormy seas, colorful marine life, forests, lakes, and fields.

For example, as a storm approaches, the reader experiences the sheer fear of being a bubble encaptured inside its surroundings, being pushed by the wind, crashing into waves, and even hiding in the water. This picturesque perspective is an illustration of the story.

The Storm by Val Bardash

Reviewed by Timea Barbaras

The Storm” by Val Bardash is a beautifully written tale about intimacy in its many forms. Intimacy between family, friends, even strangers… and also the empty space between us. But above all else, the void that we all carry around within us. A bottomless black hole that we try to fill with love, tenderness, adventures, or writing.

The book follows two main stories that become interwoven, that of youth and of aging. A young aspiring writer tries to find himself and his estranged father through writing. Perhaps the one thing that connects them, beyond blood. The books written by his famous father, John Stark, become a window through which the son can glance at an image of a father figure. But the figure is distorted. It is uncertain which features are real and which are carefully crafted by the Stark’s pen.

The author showcases throughout the pages how years of life and living transform some raw innate elements while washing over others without leaving a mark. The characters seem to be lost souls aimlessly wandering in the modern wilderness desperate to reach a clearing. For the main protagonists, the coveted clearing was, in fact, a mountain, a place of solitude, rest, and death. They were drawn to this beacon of resolution for similar reasons, and on their journey, they discovered not only themselves but each other as well.

They Call Me Ms: A Vic Carella Mystery by Terry Adcock

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

They Call Me Ms. takes place in the Washington metropolitan area and introduces readers to Private Investigator Vic Carella. Mitch Goldberg hires Vic to locate his stolen luxury yacht. What Vic thinks is just a simple problem of tracking down a missing vessel turns into a challenging and dangerous adventure as Mitch was not forthcoming when Vic agreed to take on the case. It comes to light Mitch is tangled up with a criminal organization that engages in arms smuggling, money laundering, and human trafficking.

Mitch’s dead body turns up before Vic figures out who might have hidden the yacht and its location. Vic’s inquiries to determine who killed Mitch and his involvement in illegal and nefarious activities bring her to the attention of miscreants. She comes up against seemingly inescapable and life-threatening situations. Concurrently with Vic, law enforcement officials are investigating. Who will prevail? Will the individuals engaged in unlawful activities get away with their crimes or be stopped by Vic and/or police and government agencies?

The novel is a terrific debut in A Vic Carella Mystery series. Vic, the newly featured female private detective, tells the story from her point of view. Terry Adcock’s writing style lets readers get a first-hand look into Vic’s emotional and behavioral responses to ethical dilemmas. All the characters are imbued with distinctive personality traits, which affect their approach and reaction to situations. New challenges and more complications for the characters make readers want to know what will happen next. How complicated will their personal lives become? Can they overcome obstacles in their way? The profanity chosen by Adcock suits the characters.

The Architect of Auschwitz by S.J. Tagliareni

Reviewed by Nancy Eaton

How can a nice young man change so much that he becomes an evil monster?

Gerhardt Stark’s father was killed in the war. His mother remarried and everything seemed to go downhill for Gerhardt. He and his stepfather did not get along. Gerhardt’s aunt and uncle offered to let him stay with them. They knew there was conflict between the two and made the suggestion that their residence would be closer to Gerhardt’s school. Even though this family was nice to Gerhardt and made him feel welcome, he experienced many mixed emotions.

When Gerhardt got older, he attended school at the university and fell in love with Frieda. Frieda was involved with the University National Democratic Socialist Party. Until now, he was not interested in political parties. Gerhardt moved in with Rolf, Frieda’s brother. From this point, he is introduced to an emerging political party, National Socialism.

Rolf recognized Gerhardt as the ideal candidate for the Nazi party. Gerhardt got more involved and attended many meetings. Rolf kept instilling in Gerhardt that his father died because of the Jews—they were more interested in money than morality.

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