Saturday, February 18, 2017

CARNIVOROUS NIGHTS, by Margaret Mittelbach & Michael Crewdson

Barnes & Noble
I just finished the last few pages of this funtastical book. The artist/illustrator, Alexis Rockman, is the most entertaining and center stage character. I admire how the authors so skillfully keep the narrative picture pointed out and away from themselves. Not once are their names on the printed page. They appear only as pronouns that synchronized so beautifully into a one voice narrative, and superb storytelling.

This book is every bit as good as the blurbs on the book says it is, and that the raving reviews claim it is. What a read!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

HIGH ANXIETY, by Charlotte Hughes


Barnes & Noble
This story is a series of hysterical happenstances that Kate Holly finds herself in during her career as a clinical Psychologist. She reassures her friends and family that her patients are not dangerous or crazy, they just have trouble dealing with their problems. A hard argument to make after nearly being shot when wrestling a gun from Bea, a mother-in-law trying to shoot her daughter-in-law during an anger management session.

And, I see no line drawn between the patients and the friends and family, including Kate Holly, as she herself said, and I quote, "My patients don't know that I can be as neurotic as they are." Kate, besides having OCD, carries an unresolved emotional problem resulting from her father dying when she was ten years old. The unresolved mental anguish from her father, a firefighter, dying in a fire is jeopardizing her marriage to Jay, a firefighter, and the love of her life.  In fact it resulted in their getting a divorce, but not ending their love and commitment to work things out. True love never dies. In fact, the trials and tribulation bring them closer together.

When her best friend and receptionist, Mona, is afflicted with a case of the hives Kate is forced to hire a temporary replacement. This is when Kate is confronted with a truly dangerous psychopath. The humor remains, but the tension mounts, culminating into a great reading experience. The title says it all.

Charlotte Hughes has created such lovable characters in this story. My favorite characters include her house (yes her house) which she named Mad Ethel because she experienced her, Mad Ethel's, mood swings; if in a good mood there would be hot water...       Also, her Mother Dixie, and he Aunt Trixie. Yep, Trixie and Dixie, the Junk Sisters. Dumpster divers. Her mother, Dixie, just couldn't understand why Kate didn't want to follow in her footsteps and take over the family business. And, one last favorite, is Mona's Mother, Willie-Mae, a midwife, homeopathy, baby birthing healer from backwoods Tennessee. Mona lives in a mansion, wears only designer clothes, is rolling in dough, and her mother refuses her daughter's desire to help her out.

You should visit Charlotte Hughes website. 

Thursday, March 10, 2016

SALAMANDER SIX, by Michael A. DiBaggio

I am so glad I was lead to read this short story SALAMANDER SIX, by Michael A. DiBaggio. It gives me a whole other universe to explore. A universe that comes from the creative minds of Micheal and Shell “Presto” DiBaggio, a husband and wife writing team. I love the clean cut writing, and that they provide full explanations of this new universe in the Appendix.
The protagonist, Florian Archambeault, is a fire fighter, owner of a fire fighting company called Marin-Pyronef. His method of airborne fighting enables him to get to the scene faster than land locked methods such as trucks and boats. The Salamander Six is a jumpcraft, command central so to speak, used in concert with raw vacuum drones called LV20 pyronefs that can swarm in close and dowse the fire to make way for the larger airborne fighting vessel. (Way cool!)
The story begins with chaos and mayhem on the island of St. Martin. The island Florian Archambeault was exiled to a decade ago by his nemesis, Commissioner Beaulieu, and that by a lucky turn of events, his nemesis is now evacuating the island because The French Colonial Authority, under Commissioner Beaulieu’s command, had been “abruptly and unceremoniously thrown off” the island. Florian pours himself a glass of Chambord to celebrate but is abruptly interrupted when notified that there is a fire on the 28th floor of the Tour de l’Uniteˋ building, and Commissioner Beaulieu is trapped inside. During all the intense firefighting action, with all the strapping on the “ceramic-and-steel struts of his exo-frame”, and “the hopper banking hard left”, and the “LV20 pyronefs remotely piloted firefighting ‘digs “delivering their flame-suffocating payload with maximum effect”, right in the middle of all that action there is a backstory that fully develops the characters and their relationships, all knit together producing an action packed, wham-bam, huge short story! Whew!!!!!!
After finishing this short story the question is posed “Looking for More?”, and my answer is yes.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

SKELETON PICNIC, by Michael Norman


Chapter One of “SKELETON PICNIC” sets the scene, graphically depicting the evening Rolly and Abby Rogers, respected and established members of the small community of Kanab, Utah, are confronted right after setting up camp and proceeding to the nearby Indian ruins in search of ancient antiquities, illegal booty, a common and accepted practice in their small Mormon community. They are third generation pot hunters who collected anything they could wherever they could find it, and that included human bones, which is why his grandfather referred to these family outings as “skeleton picnics.” What had descended on them? Angry Indian ghost spirits, or evil greedy mortals? Were they killed, or do they live?
Enters J.D. Books, a BLM Law Enforcement Ranger, called upon by the Kane County Sheriff, Charley Sutter, when the Roger’s daughter files a missing person's report on her parents who went camping Friday afternoon, then missed church Sunday morning. Then the plot thickens when Officer Books goes to the Roger’s home to find it burglarized, and their unequaled personal collection of antiquities were gone; stolen. The potential pool of suspects are many since Rolly Roger’s was a history teacher in the small town of Kanab, and had been for years, and gave tours of his collection in his home on school field trips. Officer Books remembers one such field trip he had when he was a young boy and student of Mr. Rogers history class. As Officer Books begins to unravel the mystery he finds suspects spanning from the poorest most unfortunate of Kanab residents to the highest most privileged of the community, and unfortunately, one within his own family.
I love how this mystery was set up nice and neat in the first chapter, and the answers, at least to Rolly and Abby Roger’s mortality, aren’t answered until the last chapter. And, as in all good mystery’s, the twists and turns in between kept me on the edge of my seat. I also like that this is the second book in the J.D. Books Mysteries, and it didn’t matter a hill-of-beans that I hadn’t read the first book titled “ON DEADLY GROUND”.

As is the custom now-w days I checked out his author website at He is not a has been. “SKELETON PICNIC” was published in 2012. He acquired a Master’s degree from Northern Illinois University in 1969. I attribute his ability to so competently describe my part of the country, the southwest United States, to his being a retired journalism professor. If you’re a lover of mysteries you’ll love Michael Norman’s books. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016



It seems odd now, having lived in and around Zane Grey’s old stomping grounds most of my life, that I have never read one of his books until now. I went to high school in Payson, Arizona. I’d visited the Zane Grey cabin a half a dozen times before it fell to ashes in the 1990 Dude fire. It was in the mid-to-late 1960’s, as a waitress at Kohl’s Ranch I’d hear the tourists say “Zane Grey” this, and “Zane Grey” that. His books were for sale in the gift shop there. Trite pulp fiction trash I thought.
Recently, a friend handed me a copy of RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE. I am so happy I read it.

The first couple of chapters were rough going until I was able to catch on to the what I’m going to call vintage verbiage, like on page 21 “lighted a fire on the morrow”, and especially the use of the word descried, used throughout all the pages. I had to look it up.

descry |dəˈskrī|
verb (descries, descrying, descried) [ with obj. ] literary
catch sight of: she descried two figures.
Middle English: perhaps confused with obsolete descry‘describe,’ variant of obsolete descrive (via Old French from Latin describere ‘write down’), which also had the meaning ‘perceive.’

His description of the lay of the land is very detailed and impressive, and accurate to my recollections of that geographical area; the old stomping grounds of my youth.

The story is about Jane Whithersteen who inherited a substantial size ranch and wealth from her father, a Mormon and founder of the small community on the Utah border, a small settlement called Cottonwoods, set in the year 1871. Besides being wealthy Jane was young and beautiful. Her problem is that she loves both the Mormon’s and Gentiles. She tries to be faithful to her upbringing, to the state and legacy bestowed on her by her father. In the end her inner moral compass just couldn’t succumb to the conquer and acquiesce by any means possible, the ends justify the means type of attitude her Mormon clan adopted and subjected her to. Lucky for her, and most appropriate back in the wild west, a “stranger” rode in off the range, named Lassiter, a gunslinger by reputation. He stands by Jane, and when the Mormon’s had stripped her of all she loved and owned, he helped her escape with her life. The ending is a figurative and literal cliffhanger. Now I have to read the sequel, RAINBOW TRAIL, because this is really two love stories wrapped into one. The plot took many twists and developed in multiple threads of stories. Before Lassiter showed up another cowboy gunslinger type had been standing by Jane, a Bern Venters, who rode the range to care for Jane’s livestock. To track and fight rustlers, too. Venters shot the mysterious masked rider that rode with the rustlers only to find out it was a woman. Venters kept her, Bess in a hidden valley paradise wilderness valley and nursed her back to health, ultimately falling in love with her. Jane and Lassiter arrive at the hidden valley paradise on the only two remaining magnificently strong and fast horses Jane had, safe in their escape, Jane gives Venters and Bess these horses for their escape out of the hidden valley that they might survive the horrifying last ride across the purple sage, out run the evil rustlers and reach his home in Illinois where they can get married.
Will Venters and Bess live happily ever after? How long can Jane and Lassiter remain hidden and safe in Surprise Valley, the hidden valley paradise? All I have to say is kudos to Zane Grey! I discounted him all these years. At least this time a friend handed me one of his books I read it, and am so happy I did. Can’t wait to get my copy of RAINBOW TRAIL in the mail.