Time Off for Good Behavior by Lani Diane Rich

Time Off for Good Behavior

by Lani Diane Rich

Book Reviewed by Nancy Eaton

It all starts when Wanda Lane was testifying for a case involving the Hastings Gas and Electric Company. They were responsible for the explosion three years ago that destroyed Whittle Advertising. At the same time, the explosion nearly killed Wanda.  Click Here to Purchase.

After a heated exchange with the defense attorney, whom Wanda called pencil face, she pulled back to take a swing at him. He did not see her swing coming as he turned to look at other Hasting Gas and Electric guys. The witness stand railing gave out and slammed Wanda’s head to the floor. She ended up in the hospital with a concussion and some swelling of the brain.

This was only one of Wanda’s problems. She kept getting calls from her ex-husband. He wanted her to forgive him – other times he would threaten to kill her. Wanda’s parents haven’t spoken to her in years. On top of all this, she lost her job. She is also “hearing” music as a result of her fall.

What can she do? She decides the only answer is to start over.  Does she succeed?

A very well-written book with characters that I really liked.  I would recommend this book.



Saw the Forest

Saw the Forest by Patrick McConnell

Book 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. Purchase Here.

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.

Next, we meet Maryanne Whipple. She presents an intensely sympathetic character, and at age 24, she is attractive, and intelligent, but also scarred both physically and mentally. Additionally, having been recently released from service in the military, Maryanne bears a hard set life as she lives life from a wheelchair scarred from war and challenged with a mostly missing right leg and a damaged left, which makes finding a direction in life an uncertainty. And although she is somewhat shell shocked, albeit traumatized, she also harbors an empathetic nature as well as a brave heart.

As a matter of fact, each ensuing chapter adds further depth to the story with the addition of new characters, each being an intriguing inclusion to the story, adding another thread to the web of life especially when they intersect with the more prominent characters. Also meanwhile, an undercurrent of mystery flows throughout the story as machinations of characters and events occur via the receipt of mysterious emails coming to nun sister Alana Orrick, the context of which is often peculiar but also leads to life altering illumination.

All in all, I absolutely enjoyed Saw the Forest, by author Patrick L. McConnell. I am definitely a fan, especially after having read his previous work, The Gene Rasp. In particular, I find his style of writing, welcoming, entertaining and proficiently literate. He provides plenty of interesting action, characters, settings, and storylines. Additionally, his adept storytelling abilities escort you on a literary journey that is not only easily appealing, intricately detailed, and filled with intriguing personas, but also captures the imagination by virtue of the refreshing insertion of science fiction/fact-based elements. I definitely recommend this as well his other work as they are well worth the read and would make great movies.

Guess Who

Guess Who by Nesly Clerge and Joyce L. Shafer

Book Reviewed by Timea Barabas

Guess Who by Nesly Clerge and Joyce L. Shafer is a sultry romance story nicely wrapped in a cop thriller. A pleasant read for these cozy winter nights.    Purchase Here.

In the center of all stands Tessa, a woman with a tumultuous past and full of contradictions. She becomes entangled with a chain of bank robberies. After her intuition unexpectedly kicks in upon reading a newspaper article about the crimes, she decides to fully immerse herself in the case to help untangle its mysteries. But the task she set out for herself is not easy. Her first major obstacle proves to be the main detective working the case, Max Walker. He seems impervious to her intention and explanations, hanging up on Tessa’s numerous calls. So, what is a girl to do? Get on the next flight to New York, of course, and make the detective listen.

While the pretense of the plot would label the novel as a thriller, the bank robberies and law enforcement setting serve more as the backdrop for romance. In the hectic city of New York, and in the even bigger turmoil of her personal life, Tessa finds herself the object of desire for many potential suitors. Although she tries to maintain her focus on the job she went there to do, the temptations prove to be overwhelming; especially when it comes to detective Walker, who is playing an intense and frustrating game of push and pull. But to what end?

Guess Who is quite a departure in literary genre for Nesly Clerge who has previously focused on sci-fi to critical acclaim while, Joyce L. Shafer has switched gears from editing to writing. The end result of their collaboration is undoubtedly an intriguing work. They take the reader for a suspenseful ride down the streets of New York. What makes the read particularly gripping is that chapters alternate the narrative perspective. Thus the reader moves to and fro between different viewpoints hoping to figure out what is what. It plays quite a trick on the mind.

All in all, there is some spicy language and imagery within the pages of the book which does not make it an appropriate read for all ages. Also, if you are familiarized with the work of Nesly Clerge, Guess Who is not something that one might necessarily expect, but it does reveal a new dimension of the author.

Acts of Faith

Acts of Faith: Part I of the Inquisition Trilogy by Martin Elsant

Reviewed by Ray Palen

The British Jewish historian Cecil Roth, who was educated at Oxford, wrote a book that was of special interest to author Martin Elsant. The book was entitled History Of the Marranos and of the many figures covered in it was one Diego Lopes of Pinancos in Coimbra, Portugal. Ironically, Mr. Elsant is a former radiologist living in Jerusalem and Mr. Roth died in Jerusalem in the year 1970.  Purchase Here.

While much of ACTS OF FAITH is dedicated to the descendants of Diego Lopes, Martin Elsant includes two quotes prior to his Author’s Notes from different sources. One in particular I found quite interesting: “Folded under the dark wing of the Inquisition…the influence of an eye that never slumbered, of an unseen arm ever raised to strike. How could there be freedom of thought, where there was no freedom of utterance? Or freedom of utterance, where it was as dangerous to say too little as too much? Freedom cannot go along with fear.” – William H. Prescott, The Age of Phillip II and the Supremacy of the Spanish Empire, 1858.

It is easy to pick up a history book or click on Wikipedia to find out about Diego Lopes. I prefer, whenever possible, to read historical fiction — an infusion of actual history within the opportunities that allow for creativity when re-examining historical events. I believe that this is what Martin Elsant is doing with ACTS OF FAITH, retelling historical events during one of the most difficult times in human and religious history — The Inquisitions — in such a way that it feels as if the reader is enjoying a book of fiction, filled with all the expected plot twists and turns.

The story we are following involves Maria, the daughter of Diego Lopes, and a young man whom she is quite fond of, Aristedes or ‘Ari’ Coelho. Ari had a difficult life, having to watch his parents succumb to the Black Plague when he was only twelve years of age. His Aunt and Uncle already had six children and were unable to take on another so Ari ended up spending his ‘orphan’ time living with the village priest, Father Affonso. It was perhaps this experience at such an impressionable part of his life that led Ari to join the Seminary as soon as he was old enough to.

When and Ari and Maria met she was immediately fond of him. He enjoys having biblical discussions with her, beginning with an explanation as to why the bible was not just meant for kind-hearted souls such as hers but also for sinners like himself. Regrettably, it was The Inquisitions that brought about a short falling-out period for Ari and Maria. One of Diego Lopes’s servants, Pedro, is taken by one of the Inquisition Familiars. Being a servant with no political influence, Pedro was unable to fight against the planted evidence used to imprison him. Pedro soon becomes one of the many victims of The Inquisition when he is tortured to death. Maria finds Ari and they have a heated discussion over this matter — heated only because Maria asked Ari if the Inquisitors who tortured Pedro to death were sinners and he indicated that, while they may have made unintentional mistakes in the case of Pedro, they did not sin.

Part of Ari’s seminary training included a tour of the torture chambers used by the Inquisitors. It is but the first thing that begins to slowly change his feelings about the entire Inquisition process. The Bishop, having been privy to Ari’s slight change in attitude, sits him down for a good talk. It is during this talk that Ari’s mind is made up — what the Inquisitors are doing in the name of God is nothing but absolute, unadulterated evil. The question was, how does he fight it from the precarious position he is in?

Ari learns of people being tortured just because of their contrary religious beliefs — like those of the Jewish faith celebrating the ritual of fasting during the high holy day of Yom Kippur. Ari knew that it was not just one evil Church leader but an entirely evil system that needed to be stopped. The trouble was that the Inquisition Familiars in Portugal were trying hard to emulate those from Spain — and the Spanish Inquisitions were no Monty Python sketch but one of the most deadly events in European history. The story takes a big turn when Ari’s old friend Maria finds him and tells him that her father, Diego, has been arrested as part of The Inquisition. She begs him for help, but as much as he would like to, Ari realizes there is little he can do.

The case against Diego Lopes is weak, and he is defending himself during the trial. When asked, he indicates that the only reason why he has been called out by the Inquisitors is because he has been accused of Judaizing. Things did not look good for Diego. This was a period in human history where there was not much sympathy for those who were feared. These people were simply eliminated, much in the same way that over 50,000 ‘witches’ were killed in neighboring European countries. While Diego spent months in prison, Maria spoke with Ari in fear that it was just a matter of days before he was executed.

Maria begs Ari to try and help indicating he is her last hope. It is tough for Ari to disappoint her, but there was really nothing he could do that would not find him in the same position as her father. At the same time, Ari finds is difficult to understand her proclamations that Judaism is superior to Christianity — his seminary teaching and upbringing responsible for his stance. Regardless, the latter part of this book is a retelling of the plan made to free Diego and make an escape away from Portugal. Some readers may already know of Diego Lopes’s fate but I will not spoil that here and encourage all to pick up this book from Martin Elsant and settle in for the ride in what represents the first book in the Inquisition Trilogy.

The Dawn of Saudi

The Dawn of Saudi by Homa Pourasgari

Book reviewed by Chris Phillips

Homa Pourasgari has written a romance novel. The girl is in trouble, hiding from pursuers and truly running for her life. The guy is rich, haughty without realizing it, and handsome. This makes for a good romance novel. Purchase Here.

However, Pourasgari takes this common story line and twists it. She keeps surprises popping up throughout the story. Sometimes there are as many as two or three turns in each chapter. Sahar is the main character in the first six chapters. She is a Saudi princess, daughter of a wealthy businessman. She is raised as the pampered princess she is portrayed to be. When the story starts it is her wedding night, and she has apparently committed suicide. The next five chapters recount what led up to that suicide. Several characters are introduced in this section, namely Dawn Parnell and Jason Crawford. In chapter seven, their romance story begins.

Dawn is doing everything she can to be plain and not stand out. She is obviously hiding from the past and doesn’t really want anyone to know. She is not looking for love and just trying to get by. When she goes to work at Jason’s parents’ estate as a housekeeper, the twists begin to come. Dawn was young and foolish once. She married a Saudi businessman believing that she would have a special marriage in a protected compound and still travel all over the world. She didn’t, and now she is hiding from him and the Saudi government.

Jason Crawford is a handsome wealthy businessman. He lives at his parents’ home, but in his own suite, and maintains a healthy social life. He is noted a playboy and not above having an affair with the domestic help of the estate. He is wealthy, handsome, and very unavailable.
How they learn to love each other and deal with Dawn’s problems makes up the plot of the story.
This plot wavers throughout the book. The pace of the book is set with the first chapter, but chapters one through six, Pourasgari, explains the terms and customs of Saudi life as well as trying to move the story along. This technique is very distracting to the point of annoying. Without those details there would only be two chapters instead of six. Instead of defining and explaining as much Pourasgari should have included a glossary in the back.

The story development is very good with solid characters and a good pace. The reader can be glued to their seat compelled to finish a chapter because of such talent. But Pourasgari has an agenda with this book, expressed throughout the book, but concisely explained in the Author’s Notes at the end. There Pourasgari explains the tragic life of Saudi women and children within that kingdom. She advocates political and social pressure on the Arab world to stop violating basic human rights. Pourasgari has some very strong views about religion and government being as intertwined as it is in Saudi Arabia.

These views would be better expressed in another medium since they distract from the book
She advocates intervention to prevent more abuse of women and children within the Middle Eastern Arab World and everywhere those countries have political power. She lambasts the mediocre and often nonexistent protests and policies of the United States and British governments.

Finally, there is a “Reader’s Guide” following the “Author’s Notes” section giving the book a pedagogical feel. The questions are relevant and searching for comprehension; however, will probably be ignored by most Western readers.

This book exposes the terrible conditions many people within Saudi Arabia live under. Anyone that is politically active and concerned about human rights should read the book. It is a worthwhile read for anyone. This reviewer highly recommends it for any private reading list.