Cry of an Osprey by Angie Vancise

Reviewed by Timea Barabas

Cry of an Osprey by Angie Vancise is, in short, an emotional roller-coaster. Although the main topic seems to be an alternative love story, this is only the backdrop for a bigger picture to which each reader can relate to a certain degree. It is a story about family ties, solidarity and losing a loved one.

At the center of the story stands Jax Vanbeerman who only at the age of 48 suffers a stroke. This is the trigger that unites a dispersed family, a current and a former lover and many more people to share a couple of agonizing days in close quarters. At which point there is a temporal bifurcation, on one hand we are in the present next to Jax in the hospital together with the loved ones, but also in the past, reliving memories of the good old days. It is in this process of remembrance that regret creeps in as characters wonder about alternate decisions and actions, about what could have been. In fact, as Jax fades away from the living, he grows ever stronger in the hearts and memories of the people who loved him. Perhaps this is the most important lesson of the book.

Murder, She Wrote: Murder in Red by Jessica Fletcher & Jon Land

Reviewed by Russell Ilg

“Well, at least I wasn’t murdered.”

So opens Murder in Red, Jon Land’s third effort writing as Jessica Fletcher for the eternal Murder, She Wrote series and one he pulls off with literary alacrity so smooth and suave that I almost forgot he cut his teeth on the more hardcore thrillers he continues to dazzle us with. In fact, I’d venture to say that under his steady hand Jessica Fletcher has come to resemble his Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong without the gun, given that she, too, is relentless in her pursuit of justice.

And there’s plenty of it for her to pursue in Murder in Red, starting with the suspicious death of a close friend Jessica thought she knew far better than she actually did. Secrets, of course, have long been a staple of the mystery genre. In this series, though, more than anything Land has managed to deftly blend the more modern material of Michael Connelly or Robert Crais’s hardboiled mystery writing within the fabric of a classic cozy. Think Phillip Marlowe or Sam Spade if Chandler and Hammet respectively had written them as women.

Brokla: A Tale of Things Falling Apart by Simon Plaster

Reviewed by Douglas R. Cobb

Brokla: A Tale of Things Falling Apart is the newest satirical, LOL book in author Simon Plaster’s series of novels featuring a small-town Oklahoman reporter known as Henrietta. As with other books in the series written by Plaster, he pulls no punches and he uses the actions and comments of his humorous, larger-than life characters to target several controversial topics that have been in the news in recent months and since the election of President Donald Trump. No topic is sacred or immune from Plaster’s playful jabs and satirical barbs, all related to the breaking apart of the social structure and very fabric of the United States. Plaster uses his large and motley cast of humorous characters to target subjects like the decline of TV viewership in the NFL, the resurgence of Feministas, the continued influence of the Antifa movement, the poor irrigation practices of Oklahoma panhandle farmers, the possible secession of California from the United States, the intense college football rivalry between Texas and Oklahoma and much, much more.
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The author’s female protagonist, erstwhile reporter Henrietta, started off in the earlier novels in the series with big ambitions, and she still has them in Brokla. She longs for the day when she will be assigned to writing the type of newsworthy story that could earn her a Pulitzer. At the start of Brokla, she thinks that maybe she’s finally hit on a story that is big enough and important enough to gain her the fame, and Pulitzer, she feels she richly deserves, when her boss at the local weekly newspaper, SCENE, Nigel Fleetwood, assigns her to cover a Town Hall Lecture Series where a certain Colonel Top Secret, a foreign government think tank expert, complete with a paper bag over his head, is speaking and prophesying about the future of the United States. A man Plaster calls “Agent X” sits at the same table with Colonel Top Secret, helping to interpret the foreign military leader’s dire predictions.

The Dumb Class: Boomer Junior High by Mike Hatch

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

The Dumb ClassAuthor Mike Hatch delivers originality and spunk with his The Dumb Class: Boomer Junior High; a retrospective coming of age story that unflinchingly provides readers with a gritty, humorous, and boldly creative romp through life with a group of Junior High school friends.

Taking place in the 1960s, the story follows “baby Boomer” friends Bill Jones, Eddie, Jeff, and Harley through their formative years in Boomer Junior High school. Events are detailed by Bill Jones who is also the story’s protagonist. As a whole, the teens are a cast of tenacious, drinking, smoking, sexing and scheming set of youth whose friendships and wit carry them through many escapades and life experiences. Jones, in particular, makes for a captivating character to follow. He has wit and a peculiar charm and albeit. Although in the lowest of the class designations in the junior high school, “the dumb class” he seems to be one of the smartest and conniving.

Instantly intriguing from its outset the story draws your attention along with piquing the interest with an opening scene of a crudely humorous debate about the female anatomy, being held by the group of friends, which serves to bring the diverse main players into focus and sets the tone for the story as one replete with humor, raw depictions of life and teen behavior. As the story progresses, it follows their adventures, experiences, and explorations fueled by raunchy desires, cursing, teen angst, drugs, alcohol as well as other diversions like revenge. As characters, their unique personalities and interactions drive the story forward, while heralding authenticity via infused bits of historical and cultural references.

The Persistence of Memory Book 1: Déjà Vu by Karen Janowsky

Reviewed by Dianne Woodman

The Persistence of MemoryThe Persistence of Memory Book 1: Déjà Vu plunges readers into an intriguing novel that is a blend of mystery, romance, suspense, supernatural, and thriller. Karen Janowsky captures and keeps readers’ attention from the first page all the way through to the last page. Locations vary from Germany to Yemen to the United States with the majority of the story taking place in Washington D.C.

This compelling story revolves around Daniel Hecht and Nina Asher, who are struggling with issues that affect their personal and professional lives. Imagine being used as an experimental subject for Nazi scientists, being transported through time to the future, facing the challenge of dealing with decades of memory loss, and no longer living your life as a sickly person but as one with an extraordinary physically enhanced body. This is exactly what has happened to Daniel, the team leader of a clandestine group of people with various superhuman abilities. However, Daniel is not the only one with memory issues. Imagine suffering from amnesia with no idea of your own identity or any memories of the past. This is the predicament Nina faces as she wonders what kind of person she was in the past. Both Nina and Daniel experience visions transporting them elsewhere, which are smoothly incorporated into the story.

Strong As Steel (Caitlin Strong Novels) by Jon Land

Reviewed by Russell Ilg

Strong As SteelThe tenth time is clearly the charm for the in dominatable Jon Land whose decennial effort in his Caitlin Strong series, Strong as Steel, cements his Texas Ranger’s status as the best female protagonist in thriller fiction today and maybe ever.

The high-octane plot features the classic thriller staple of a long buried, and of course deadly, secret being unearthed, this time from the Texas desert. Caitlin’s father Jim Strong, apparently, was somehow involved in burying three shipping crates there twenty-five years before as part of a case he was working on. Indeed, a particular staple of this series is the seamless intermixing of the past and the present, with Caitlin picking up on a trail left by one of her ancestors. It was William Faulkner who said, “The past isn’t dead, it’s not even past.” Well, nothing describes Strong as Steel better than that, with “dead” being the operative word.

But Caitlin isn’t the only one on the trail of the contents of those three crates; far from it, in fact. Hot on their trail, and hers, is Molinari, an especially maniacal head of an especially fanatical band of religious zealots out to safeguard a two-thousand-year-old secret at all costs. Being once set ablaze by his enemies has left Molinari almost literally faceless and he has long pursued his quest with a degree of violence and rage befitting the grotesque he’s become.

Dirty Science: How Unscientific Methods Are Blocking Our Cultural Advancement by Bob Gebelein

Reviewed by Nancy Eaton

Dirty ScienceBob Gebelein begins by stating “This book needs to be written.” “The story needs to be told.” You will discover why he makes this statement as you read this book.

I’m only going to mention a few subjects in this book because I don’t want to give too much away for the readers.

The author begins many of the chapters with a question. “Have you been ridiculed by members of the scientific establishment because of your psychic beliefs?” So, just think about this statement. Many of us have experienced spiritual believes and psychic experiences. What happens when you express these beliefs and experiences to other people? Do they look at you like you are some kind of quack? It doesn’t even have to be someone with a scientific background. These beliefs are ground into our minds because, as the author states, “science has tapped into a human psychological need for authorities who are people who know all the answers”. These scientists believe there is no reality beyond the physical. Therefore, people who express an interest in subjects like clairvoyance, the power of prayer, reincarnation, etc. are dismissed as mentally incompetent. We all know that there is much more to clairvoyance, reincarnation, etc. The author states that he had a dream about his grandmother’s death one hour before he received the telegram. I, also, had an experience similar to this when my father was very ill. I came to the hospital to visit him and he told me that he had a lot of visitors that day. When I asked him who came to visit, every person he named was dead. I knew right then and there that he was getting closer to death. I’m sure many of us have had experiences like this whether it pertained to death, a miracle that happened because of prayer, or how about the times we have gone to a certain place and felt like we have been there before? How about the times when we first met a person and could swear we knew this person before? Could this possibly be anything to do with reincarnation?

The Better Sister: A Novel by Alafair Burke

Reviewed by Vickie Dailey

I really enjoyed reading this book. I’ve long since enjoyed her father’s mystery novels and Alafair measures up.

We first meet the younger sister Chloe who has the splashy life working for a popular magazine. Chloe is now married to Adam and they have a stepson Ethan; however, nothing is as it seems – the happy marriage is not so happy and the son is not a happy teen.

The Summons by John Grisham

Reviewed by Allen Hott

This, without a doubt, is one of Grisham’s best books! A very well written story of Ray Atlee who is summoned to come back to his father’s home in Clanton Mississippi. His father, Judge Rueben Atlee, is one of the most well-known and highly regarded chancellors in the state. Although he and his two sons, Ray and Forrest, have never been very close the boys have always respected and responded to their father’s wishes. He has sent each of them a very official summons telling them what day and what time they are to be at the old homestead for a meeting.

Ray knows that his father is dying of cancer and fears that this may be the last meeting they will have. What he doesn’t know is what he finds out when he arrives. He goes into the house to find his father asleep (he thinks) on a couch so rather than wake him Ray sits outside on a porch for a bit. Finally when he does go in he touches his father’s hand and realizes that he is already dead! There doesn’t seem to be any criminal type cause of death. He has been taken away by the cancer and it occurred while he waited on his sons to arrive.

As has been somewhat typical for some time however Forrest doesn’t show up and Ray begins to look around the house to see if anything unusual is or has happened since his last visit. As it turns out, in one of the storage closets Ray finds among other things a cardboard box and when he opens it to see what is inside he finds stacks of hundred dollar bills. By a quick overview and observation it appears each box has over a hundred thousand dollars in it. And there are at least twenty of these green storage boxes in the closet! Where did this come from?

Ray also finds a newly written will which his father had just written and was laying on the table by his sofa. The will explained everything was to be handled through the courts and then divided between the two sons. Ray was to act as the executor of the estate. The will only mentions about six thousand dollars in the bank and has no mention of the money in the boxes.

Ray is at a loss as to what to do when Forrest finally does arrive. Forrest is a very addicted drug user who has wasted his money, his wife, and his life on drugs. Ray doesn’t mention to him about the boxes as the two sit and discuss how to handle their father’s funeral arrangement. After meeting with Harry Rex Vonner, an attorney and one of the Judge’s closest friends all arrangements are made and both Ray and Forrest go their separate ways just waiting for the funeral itself.

But from that moment on in the story Ray is saddled with not only the secret of the money but questions as to where it came from, who knows about it

if anyone, and what is going to happen to it. Basically Ray is the “unknown” guardian of the stash and he begins moving it around with him wherever he goes and wherever he stays. However, not too long after the funeral strange things begin to happen to Ray. Someone appears to be following him no matter where he is. And then when he does take the money in bags home with him, his home gets broken into. Shortly after he puts it into several storage units someone begins sending him pictures of the storage units!

How this is all grows into a really great story is one of Grisham’s best! The whole tale will keep any and all readers into the book right up to the end. Oh, yeah and even that may leave most of you stunned! It did me!

The Innocent Man: Murder and Injustice in a Small Town by John Grisham

Reviewed by Allen Hott

A somewhat different book for Mr. Grisham. Although it is very involved with the legal world it is a non-fiction book. Grisham had seen some news articles about this unusual case and decided to follow it. And then he turned it into The Innocent Man. From all indications it is definitely a case of an innocent man who gets completely and unfairly tried and convicted by the authorities.

Ron Williamson had been a fairly decent ballplayer in his youth and actually was signed by Oakland Athletics to a minor league contract. Sadly he never had enough talent to hang on in the minors nor make it to the big leagues. He pretty much hung around Ada, Oklahoma and got by. He had many friends and he was always out in public somewhere. Most of his time when he wasn’t working he was hanging out in bars and saloons.

Debt Cleanse: How to Settle Your Unaffordable Debts for Pennies on the Dollar (And Not Pay Some at All) by Jorge P. Newbery (Review #2)

Reviewed by Chris Phillips

According to the author and company that this book is basically an advertisement for, www.debtcleanse.com, Americans have been duped by creditors, credit card companies and other corporate entities into carrying on several self-serving relationships based on long-term or extensive term debt.

Mr. Newbery narrates the story of his problems when an unexpected natural disaster turned his business and enterprises into huge debts. He went from successful to broke and owning $26 million in debt in the matter of a few days following an ice storm. Instead of following the way of many in America, from the poorest to the wealthiest, he did not choose bankruptcy. He made the decision to not pay his debts, any of them.

Redemption (Memory Man series Book 5) by David Baldacci

Reviewed by Allen Hott

RedemptionAmos Decker, he who is long on memory and quick on solving crimes is at it again. This time he has returned to Burlington, Ohio where he used to live. He is there to visit the grave of his wife and of his daughter, who would have been fourteen this day. The two of them were murdered in their home some years ago when Amos worked in that city as a police officer.

While Amos is in the graveyard he is approached by a gentleman that at first is unrecognizable to Amos but then he realizes that it is Meryl Hawkins. Hawkins was put in jail back when Amos lived there. Amos built the case that Hawkins was convicted in and sent to jail for life. He has recently been released due to the fact that he has terminal cancer and the state turned him free to die on the outside. Amos talks with him and Hawkins claims again that he was innocent of the crime.

Running Blind (Jack Reacher) by Lee Child

Reviewed by Allen Hott

Running BlindJack Reacher at his best! Strangely enough it would seem that the traveling crime solver would be finished with his specialty. He just inherited a house from an old commanding officer of his who had taught him most of what Reacher knows about crime solving and living! It also turns out that after all the years they had worked together Reacher is now almost married to the old man’s daughter. But that may come later, who knows?

As usual however this story begins with a typical Reacher maneuver. He had just finished dinner at an Italian restaurant in Manhattan when he noticed two tough looking guys talking in a harsh way with the owner. They made some gestures that appeared to show they planned to do damage to his restaurant if he didn’t respond to them. Reacher talks to the owner and finds out the two are coming back in an hour to get his first payment for “security” from other gangs.