The Prophet Song

Prophet Song by Paul Lynch

Reviewed by Teri Takle

Families can be complicated. For Eilish Stack, having a full-time job as a scientist, and having a husband, four children, and an aging father is often overwhelming, but she feels competent in her abilities.  Purhase Here.

Her husband works as a trade unionist and frequently faces opposition, even from the government.

The characterization is phenomenal.   The reader becomes Eilish as she struggles to keep her family and their everyday life together while she questions what is happening around her.
The structural aspect of Prophet Song is disturbing. There are no paragraphs and no quotation marks. This style abnormality becomes troubling to read, but it perfectly parallels what is happening in Eilish’s life. She is trying to save her family because she has to choose what is most important for her family..

The purpose of any novel is to teach the reader another perspective, another insight. Prophet Song unquestionably deserved the Booker Prize last year. The writing is clear and vivid, placing the reader in the protagonist’s shoes. You feel like you are Eilish and wonder what is best for you and your family.

Prophet Song is dystopian fiction at its best.   You think, almost become haunted by the characters’ circumstances, wondering how you would act if this happened to you.

Paul Lynch is an Irish author who has won numerous prizes worldwide for his previous novels.
His choice of setting Prophet Song in Ireland is brilliant.

Some of my favorite bits of wisdom from this book are, “…seeing that out of terror comes pity and out of pity comes love and out of love the world can be redeemed again,” along with ” the fury of some god incarnate in the mouth of the prophet raging at the wickedness that will be cast out of sight, and the prophet sings not of the end of the world but of what has been done and what will be done and what is being done to some but not others, that the world is always ending over and over again in one place but not another and that the end of the world is always a local event…”
Prophet Song is disturbing, a must-read, a haunting tale that leaves the reader reevaluating what is essential in their life and what becomes their breaking point. What will you do?

What is a Family

What is a Family by Cassandra Hames (Author) Nila Aye (Illustrator)

Reviewed by Nancy Eaton

What is a Family points out the importance of the bond that families share even though each one looks different. The book emphasizes that friends can be considered part of your family. Many topics are covered such as support, adventure, laughter, helping each other, encouragement to lift your spirits, and bravery. What is a Family is an excellent book to read aloud to your little children.

The book cover really caught my eye! The cover is padded with board pages that make it perfect and strong even if little ones tug on them. It’s filled with animal families and a text that rhymes. The illustrations are colorful, bright and very cute. I loved the quote in the book that states “Remember love’s your lighthouse and your family is your sail”. That says it all! This book is a terrific gift for many occasions including baby showers, holidays, etc. because it stresses unconditional love and how a family is “love”.  This book is recommended for ages 1-5.  Purchase Here.

What is a Family is part of the Love You Always series. This series now consists of 11 books.

Broken Chord

Broken Chord by Alice A. Jackson

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Alice A. Jackson’s Broken Chord: A Music Row Mystery, offers a compelling collaboration of love betrayal, passion, intrigue, and murder set in Nashville’s famous Music Row.  Purchase Here.

Captivating from the outset, we meet relatable protagonist, the beautiful but middle aged-beleaguered, Sarah Ann Boswell. She finds herself beset by the throes of a middle of her life crisis, when not only does she turn fifty years old, loses her husband to unfaithfulness and divorce, and feels largely ignored by her children, as well as finding herself unceremoniously fired from her job. At a loss for direction or self-esteem, Sarah Ann does the unthinkable and tries to take her own life; nevertheless, she survives with the staunch love and support of her longtime friends, her prayer group.

While hospitalized Sarah Ann meets godsend, the savvy, smart and talented, Jill Edgerton, who offers her the promise of a renewed life with an offer to join Edgerton Group, her Nashville based talent management firm. Accepting the offer, Sarah Ann embarks on a new and happier journey through life and into the alluringly lucrative world of the country music business. They strike country music gold with the advent of newly discovered artist Jared Parson. Although he’s handsome, talented, and virile he also seems to harbor a secretive side. Besides turning out to be a cash cow for Edgerton group, Jared also starts to cause a divide between partners Sarah Ann and Jill, as an illicit relationship forms between him and Jill. Moreover, events take a turn for the twisted and mysterious when Jill Edgerton is found murdered, leading to an investigation focusing on multiple, possible suspects including Sarah Ann.

Wholly entertaining, Broken Chord: A Music Row Mystery turned out to be an enjoyable read that moved as a crescendo does, steadily paced with slow building intensity that culminates into a well-orchestrated conclusion. The story itself was well written. Author Alice A. Jackson writes in a literate, polished, easygoing style, while the overall story keeps you engaged with its setting, plot twists and cast of resonate, fleshed out and likable, characters. I especially liked Sarah Ann, whose honorable personality, struggles and triumphs were easy to commiserate with. Additionally, the character of Jared Parson was also done well; he was a character whose formidable personality made him an engaging personality, albeit it was a “love to hate” connection. This book would make a terrific read for adult fans of mystery reads.


Leave No Choice

Leave No Trace by A.J. Landau (Jon Land and Jeff Ayers)

Reviewed by Russel Ilg

LEAVE NO TRACE, the latest thriller from Jon Land writing under the pseudonym A. J. Landau, is subtitled “A National Parks Thriller” for good reason. The book opens with a domestic terrorist attack on the Statue of Liberty and ramps up from there with more of America’s most iconic parks, monuments and memorials in the crosshairs.  Purchase Here.

If you think that’s all, though, you haven’t read a Jon Land book in a while. He teams here with fellow thriller maven Jeff Ayers who just happens to be an expert on all things National Parks. Adding that bite of reality to a heavy dose of knife-edged action makes this not just a surefire pick for best thriller of 2024, but also the most relevant. See, the bad guys, most notably a white nationalist general, are targeting America’s icons because they intend to burn the country down and rebuild it from scratch. Viewed from that perspective, LEAVE NO TRACE reads like a harbinger of what might truly be in store for the United States if we continue down the road we’re on.

Leading the charge to prevent that is the stalwart team of park service Investigative Services Branch agent Michael Walker and the FBI’s Gina Delgado who’s second-in-command at the FBI’s New York field office. Walker and Delgado cast aside their early jurisdictional squabbles to form a brave and able pair, as determined to stop the carnage as the villains are to murder ten million Americans in the centerpiece of their plan.

The action winds from Liberty Island, to Independence Hall, the Gateway Arch, and Zion National Park, before finally climaxing at Wind Cave National Park. Oh, and there’s also a flashback sequence on Mount Rainier where Michael lost both his wife and left foot in a violent confrontation with serial killers picking victims from park grounds. If you know your thrillers, you’ve probably already figured there’s more to that tragedy than meets the eye, ultimately forming the book’s biggest twist among many.

The fact that Michael has a prosthetic foot renders him the only current disabled hero in thriller fiction today, if memory serves. He’s the ultimate underdog, totally overmatched by the bad guys he’s taking on and yet able to prevail through a combination of guts, guile and knowledge of the rattlesnakes that call Zion National Park home. For her part, Gina serves up a comparable complement of gravitas and grit, especially in a harrowing sequence when she spirits the country’s first female president out of harm’s way and then must continue to protect her alone, since there’s no one left she can fully trust.

LEAVE NO TRACE is a rip-roaring, no-holds-barred thriller of the highest order that mines today’s political climate for a tale that should feel over the top, but instead flashes a bright red warning sign. That helps makes this series debut a stunning, truly terrifying triumph of pitch perfect storytelling, begging to be read in a single sitting. It’s the Super Bowl of thrillers where genre fans come out the biggest winners.

Every Silent Thing

Every Silent Thing by Alan Brenham

Reviewed by Douglas R. Cobb

Every Silent Thing, by author Alan Brenham, is a terrific read for all fans of the mystery genre. It was my first encounter reading anything by Brenham, but I hope it won’t be my last, for I totally enjoyed reading this novel. Now, also knowing that Every Silent Thing is the first of a trilogy of mystery novels featuring the shy and deaf twenty-three-year-old Claire Deveraux, who works as a foreign service officer at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, makes me want to check out the other two books is the series.  Purchase Here.

Right from the first page of Every Silent Thing, before I knew anything about the book, I felt myself drawn into the rapidly unfolding plot by the author’s style of writing. Deveraux witnesses an apparent murderer enter a women’s restroom at the Louvre, just before a woman does the same. When the man leaves a few minutes later, he locks eyes with Deveraux. Claire looks away, briefly, and the man melts into the crowd.

So, of course, what does Deveraux do, but let her curiosity get the better of her. She wonders about the woman who had entered the restroom but hadn’t yet come out of it. Upon entering the restroom, Claire sees a woman bleeding to death on the tiled floor.

For readers who dislike reading about any potential spoilers, don’t worry. I’ll try to limit them, but here are a few, so fair warning:

1.) Claire Deveraux is one of a set of triplets. Her two siblings are Megan and Boyd.
2.) Every Silent Thing contains a lot of knowledge about Europe in it and also great chase scenes.
3.) Claire’s identical appearance to her sister results in cases of mistaken identity.

The murder of the woman is tied into an international crime cartel. I enjoyed reading about how Claire Deveraux deals with the situation she finds herself in.  Another spoiler: Megan’s ex-boyfriend, Randy, gets killed after getting into a dispute over stolen diamonds. Randy’s death prompts Megan to flee to Paris.

Oh, yeah — one further spoiler: Their brother, Boyd, gets kidnapped by these nasty cartel members, who think that Megan somehow has the stolen diamonds. These are just a few examples of some of the other plot intricacies author Alan Brenham weaves into this fine novel. I highly recommend that if you love reading terrific mysteries, check out Brenham’s book, Every Silent Thing. If you haven’t read Every Silent Thing yet, add it to your reading lists today!


Neon Lights and Plane Tickets

Neon Lights and Plane Tickets: Sci-Fi Poetic Prose Collection by Eli Alemán

Reviewed by Lisa Brown-Gilbert

Spanning an eclectic variety of subjects, while featuring polished stanzas teeming with free verse and deeply insightful mentations, Neon Lights and Plane Tickets by artist, scientist, and author Eli Alemán artfully merges the poetic and the fantastical in this collection of creative prose narratives. For Eli Alemán this is her first published work.  Purchase Here.

At the outset of reading, there is instant connection to author Eli Alemán’s poetry. It is tantalizing to the imagination. Populated with creatively fluent passages which draw the mind into often sinister and imaginative, otherworldly scenes, that shrewdly guide readers through a cultivated series of universal wonderlands brimming with themes of horror, science-fiction as well as the dystopian.

Moreover, this journey through the heart and mind of author Eli Alemán not only exceeds the bounds of imagination with inventive science fiction within poetic verses but also uncommonly delves into the common topics like Love, Humanity, Food, and Music, with works such as, Cosmic Love Theory: Infinite Cosmic Ballet, Food Gourmet Escapades, Bloodied Veil, Acrid Skies, Visceral Cries, Melodious Rhapsody and Matchmaker Cloud just to name a few. In total there are many more as well, as the book houses a collection of over 60 poems. It offers a lot to choose from with each poem as quality as the last.

Altogether I thoroughly enjoyed Neon Lights and Plane Tickets, by Eli Alemán.   It was easy to connect with this plentiful and diverse sharing of free-flowing verses, which offered engaging, detailed imagery fueled by fantastically drawn stanzas. In fact, author Aleman’s writing is so effective that I was often left with a residue of vivid, intelligent as well as enlightening imprinting from its unforgettable passages, which did very well to hold my attention rapt. While the entire collection of poetry flowed well, was well written, and kept me entertained and attentive to the worlds built through the author’s passages, there were several that stayed with me long after I finished reading.   Some are: Sheen, Phantasmagoric Reverie, Monstrous Genesis, Touchscreen, Grimly Ever After: Forevermore Elixir, Empires of Thought, and Celestial Bodies.

 Overall, while the titles alone were enough to pique my curiosity, it was the entirely distinctive nature of the poems that left me reeling with the memorable stunning vision of worlds never before experienced. This is a poetry collection that is definitely worthy of adding to the personal library of any fan of well written, uniquely posed poetic works, as it does well to leave a lasting literary impression.


Then Like the Blind Man

Then Like the Blind Man by Freddie Owens

Book reviewed by Douglas R. Cobb

Debut author, Freddie Owens, swings for the fences and hits a home run with his excellent coming-of-age story set primarily in Kentucky, Then Like the Blind Man. When Orbie’s father dies, his life changes forever. His mother, Ruby, finds herself attracted to the smooth-talking, poetic atheist Victor Denalsky, who had been Orbie’s father’s foreman at a steel mill in Detroit. After Orbie’s father dies, Victor courts Orbie’s mother, and eventually marries her. Not wanting to nor desiring to take care of a nine-year-old boy with an attitude, like Orbie, who can’t stand his stepfather, anyway, Ruby and Victor decide to drop Orbie off at Ruby’s parents’ house in Kentucky, with the promise that they’ll come back to get him once they’ve settled in Florida, where Victor supposedly has a job lined up. Orbie’s mother and Victor take with them Orbie’s younger sister, Missy.  Purchase Here.

The novel is told in the first person by Orbie, who, though young, is very insightful for his age. As I read, I was often reminded of another famous novel told from the POV of a child, Scout, To Kill a Mockingbird. The themes are different, but Orbie’s and Scout’s perspectives on African Americans in the 1950′s are significant to understanding both books. Orbie has some bad experiences with some of the black people he comes in contact with early on in the novel, so he calls them the “n,” word at various points in the story.

Through the course of Then Like the Blind Man, Orbie eventually realizes that his grandparents are great people who love him. They may not have attained a high level of school education, but they are wise about farm life and human nature.

They don’t like it that their daughter, Ruby, has developed a prejudice for blacks, nor that she’s passed it on to Orbie. That’s one of the many nice touches I liked about Freddie Owen’s debut novel, that in it, it’s not Orbie’s grandparents who live in Kentucky that exhibit a prejudiced point of view, but it’s learned from experiences Orbie and his family have living in Detroit, in the north. Of course, in reality, unfortunately you can find prejudice in every state to this day; but, the author didn’t go the stereotypical route of having his northern characters expressing an enlightened POV, and his southern ones being all racists.
Owens, a published poet, has infused Then Like the Blind Man with a poetic sensibility that makes his story and characters come to life for the reader. Through Owens, and Orbie’s story, we feel the emotions of being dumped off somewhere he doesn’t want to live, at his grandparents’ house; but, we come to see them as positive, nurturing influences on Orbie’s life. Though Orbie despises the alcoholic Victor, and how his mother has made wrong decisions (to his POV, anyway), Victor is not portrayed as being completely bad. He does show an interest in Orbie at times, like when Orbie expresses his fascination with a scar Victor has on his neck that he got in WWII.

Orbie comes to think that Victor acts nicely towards him only further to ingratiate himself with Ruby, Orbie’s mother. Ruby is the type of woman who thinks she can change the man she loves, to rehabilitate him, and she always holds out a spark of hope for Victor. This is an aspect about her that kind of frustrated me as a reader, and made me want to tell her–if she was real and in front of me–to stop deluding herself and wake up and realize what a jerk Victor is most of the time. But, thinking of a man who has faults as being some sort of “project,” or someone who can be “rehabilitated,” is a trait that some women have, so Ruby’s having this trait brought even more realism to the story.

Besides there being various themes and messages in Then Like the Blind Man, Orbie’s boyhood exuberance, how he relates to his grandparents, his changing point of view about much of what he’d taken for granted; and his adventures are what really makes the novel captivating. Freddie Owens fills the pages of his novel with other very memorable characters, like the humpbacked elderly lady, Bird; Moses Mashbone; Mrs. Profit; and Nealy Harlan. If you’re a fan of novels like The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn and To Kill a Mockingbird, Freddie Owens’s Then Like the Blind Man is s Must Read!


The Bee Sting

The Bee Sting by Paul Murray

Book reviewed by Teri Davis Takle

t’s odd how one event can change your life, your future, and your future family’s lives. It’s simply one thing that could be traumatic, but it becomes the pivot point for everyone. That’s rather terrifying when you think about it.  Purchase Here.

Cass is a high-achieving, attractive student looking forward to attending college in Dublin next year along with her best friend, Elaine. She is apprehensive about her upcoming exams and has found alcohol changes things, including herself.

Twelve-year-old P.J. is running away from home. Life is not good, and an older bully is threatening him.  

Imelda, the mother of Cass and P.J., has problems.   She is the typically born-beautiful wife who expects to be admired by all, completely self-absorbed. Born into an impoverished and dysfunctional family, she fears going backward.   However, keeping her spending under control can be a challenge. Additionally, she feels the burden of keeping up her image to the rest of the town.

Dickie Barnes is in a downward spiral. Can he save his job and his family before bankruptcy?

You would think that Dickie was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, being that he inherited his family’s Volkswagen business.    However, Dickie is changing, his business is in financial trouble, and his priorities are out-of-whack.

The Bee Sting is an epic history of the Barnes family in about 650 pages—each character’s insecurities, the parents’ pasts, and how their emotional baggage affects their children, themselves, and each other. 

The style is a little unusual, omitting commas and ending punctuation. Usually, this is fine, but occasionally, you need to reread the sentences to follow the storyline. 

The story surrounds those who make life happen instead of those who choose the easy path; ambition, lack of opportunity, and chance all play a role in everyone’s life, along with expectations of family, friends, or society. All are influencers along this curved road of life. The importance of dreams and goals, or lacking these, often decides our success or failures.    

The characterization and setting are superb. You know these people and understand their choices in usually taking the easiest path.   You can picture each one along their misadventures. 

The ending troubled me because it did not tie up all the loose threads. I finally realized that someone finally dared to put others before themselves and do the right thing.  

Paul Murray is an Irish author and has also written three more award-winning novels, An Evening of Goodbyes, Skippy Dies, and The Mark and the Void, and additionally wrote the screenplay Metal Heart.   

The Bee Sting is not for everyone, and the issue of homosexuality makes this an adult book.

The Bee Sting was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

Stella and Shell

Stella and Shell by L.S. Lentz

Book reviewed by Teri Davis Takle

Making new friends is always a little scary, especially when moving to a new home.

For Stella, a big dog, there is so much to explore and the nearby river is almost calling to her.  She is an adult dog, but she sometimes cannot help herself by getting into the trash, like a naughty puppy.  Purchase Here.

Moving to a new home is exciting.   What new adventures are waiting?  Who will these adventures be with?  Who will be her playmates?   Who will be her friends?

Stella and Shell is a beautifully illustrated children’s book.  The lush, picturesque settings immediately pull the reader into the story with the simple text in perfect correlation.   It’s easy to relate to the farmhouse, the kitchen, the river, and the surrounding area.

Friendship is the theme and the need to find something in common to build those friendships.   With the challenge Stella has about how to approach new friends and being persistent, many lessons can be learned.

There are numerable teachable lessons in Stella and Shell.  Vocabulary lessons with the words amber, oozes, startled, and fluffy would be appropriate for young children.  With Stella sniffing, patting, and barking the senses could be mentioned along with when to best use those actions.  For everyone, discussions about how to approach new people, as well as dogs, and big dogs could be wonderful life lessons.  Even a little problem-solving could be used with asking how could Stella later make friends with Mr. Fish, Mrs. Owl, and Brother Beaver.   Who could be friends with these other creatures?

Unlikely friendships are essential for everyone.  We all need to respect each other’s natural abilities, strengths, weaknesses, disabilities, and gifts.  There is a need for everyone to learn to make friends and to further develop their friendships.  Who would ever imagine a friendship between a large dog and a turtle who enjoy digging together?

The ideal reader for this book would be for young children with the book being read out loud to them.  However, the audience could easily be extended to older children, especially those with any type of difficulty, disability, or those who have problems making friends.

The author, L.S. Lentz, is an experienced educator who recently moved to a farmhouse in Massachusetts.  Stella is her actual dog and she really created a bizarre friendship with a turtle and the two of them enjoy digging together.  Stella and Shell is her first published children’s book.

Stella and Shell is a delightfully wonderful story for young children, those who enjoy a happy story, and friendship.  We each differ but finding common sharing is the key to building lasting relationships and lifelong friendships.


Hat Trick

Hat Trick by William LeRoy

Book Reviewed by Douglas R. Cobb

Hat Trick is the latest book from the pen of the best-selling author, William LeRoy. It features the down home-style sleuthing of one of LeRoy’s most intriguing main characters, PI Maximo Morgan, in three long short stories. The first tale, “One Shoe Blues,” won the Percy Wilson Society’s prestigious Not the Butler Award, and the other two stories, “Prankenstein Monster” and “Ham for the Holidays,” are also gems of brilliant storytelling, making this collection a captivating and engrossing “hat trick,” indeed. The three tales make this book a Must Read for fans of mysteries, especially those that are laced with a generous helping of humor, cultural references, and the trademark sort of clever wordplay that LeRoy is known for. Like the author’s other novels, Hat Trick is set in Oklahoma, with much of the action taking place in the small backwater town of Henryetta.  Purchase Here.

“One Shoe Blues,” originally published in PWS Periodical II, is my personal favorite of the three Maximo Morgan Mysteries, though I also thoroughly enjoyed reading the other two tales.  It takes its title from the B.B. King song of the same name. Maximo, or “Max,” has a knack for jumping to conclusions and making assumptions, some fairly accurate in a sense, some of which are erroneous. Ah, well — not all of the conclusions reached by other examples of literature’s most famous PIs have been completely accurate, but that’s one of the aspects about Hat Trick and LeRoy’s other books that lend humor to them and make you want to keep turning pages to discover what Max will be up to next. Reading the very cool first story, “One Shoe Blues,” you might even learn a thing or two about shoes and shoe-related expressions. I know that I did.

The other two tales in Hat Trick are also stellar, if you are a fan of clever and humorous mysteries, as I am. The first chapter of “Prankenstein Monster” begins on the Monday after Halloween, on November 1, 2023, and Max is faced with another day at  work at the local Mister Quickie’s copy shop. He is not in the best of moods because the night before, the front door of the house that he shares with his mom got egged. The incident reminds Max of Mike Hammer’s Case of Ghostwritten Graffiti and the quote that Halloween was “a green light for some to engage in perverse passions.”

Max relishes in associating the exploits and lives of literary PIs with his own. The “perverse passions” that lead to three costumed people egging his mother’s (and his) house is what sets off a chain of links that is the plot of “Prankenstein Monster,” a story originally published in the October edition of Private Dickwork Illustrated. This is a great story with many twists and turns to it. Max finds himself trying to solve the mystery of why a “dame” disappears following a Halloween party.  A stranger “smelling of embalming fluid,” who crashes the party adds to the fun of reading “Prankenstein Monster.”

The third tale in Hat Trick is “Ham for the Holidays.” Besides the natural desire that many people have of wanting to be home for the holidays and spending time with friends and family, traditionally also over indulging in all sorts of food, like ham, is another experience that can make holidays special. Max has that “natural desire” in spades. In “Ham for the Holidays,” a story that was “originally commissioned as course material for a 2023 Harvard 4-H Club Symposium on “Homicide and Hunger in Hamlet,” our intrepid flatfoot PI faces some of the issues that Shakespeare’s tragic hero, Hamlet, also faced, like hunger.

In “Ham for the Holidays,” Max can’t help but recalling the hard lesson that another one of his heroes, the literary PI Percy Wilson learned. Sadly, the Latin expression “Cherchez la Femme,” or “Shedunnit,” was often true when it came to the perpetrator of nefarious deeds. Max, like Percy Wilson, is reluctant to consider the possibility that “Sometimes a guy had to walk over burning charcoal and his own mother to wrap-up a case.”

Hearing that his Mom is going to get remarried, Max goes on a “hunger strike.” Mom Morgan enlists the aid of Dr. Stern, to help her “troubled son.” The table is turned when Max, himself, gets accused by guilty the good doctor of “emotional blackmail.”  Everybody’s a suspect in “Ham for the Holidays,” even Max’s own sweet Mom Morgan, and…himself.

Hat Trick by William LeRoy is a treat to read, whether it’s read before, during, or after the upcoming holiday season. The three Maximo Morgan Mysteries included in the book are sure to bring a smile to the faces of everybody who checks out Hat Trick. If you’re someone who loves reading mysteries with plot twists galore that are also laced with a heaping helping of humor, this is definitely the book for you!