Sunday, December 31, 2017

Welcome!




Image result for welcome matWe are glad you stopped by!

The purpose of this site is to Review self-published and small-press published books. If a book is reviewed here, you can expect the quality and content to be sufficient for human consumption (at least ours, your mileage might vary), or know the reason why not. We will post clearly in our review the general quality, the amount of violence, language, sexual and spiritual content.

Please note that we usually receive a digital copy of the books on this site, for the sake of an honest review. Check out the About page for more info!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Review: The Wager: A Romantic Comedy as Christian Allegory by Mike Brister

The Wager: A Romantic Comedy as Christian Allegory


31579062Sarah Morgan Leigh Dumont is rich, successful and famous. Matthew Ezra Shepherd is none of those things. Sarah, raised in Connecticut, is the oldest child in a prominent family. Matt, raised in Mississippi, is the youngest child in a farming family. Sarah is a winner in life’s lottery and has a home in Malibu. Matt, a former Marine, is putting the pieces of his life back together and would be homeless except for a 160 year old farmhouse that has no running water. Sarah is driven, focused, difficult, and intimidating. Matt is friendly and kind and smiles easily. Sarah is full of herself. Matt is full of mischief. 

They meet under false pretenses in New Orleans, the city built on false pretenses. She sees him only as the object of a wager; he sees her as an object to be avoided—and yet. 

What happens when love is uninvited, inconvenient, and demanding? When it keeps you up at night and distracts you during the day. When it counsels unreason, folly, and ruin. When it can breach any locked door, scale any high wall, or whisper above any noise. Fortunately, when it happens to someone else, it can be very funny. 

Seventy-five percent (75%) of the royalties from the sale of each book will go to But God Ministries and/or the Haiti Goat Project for the purchase of goats for the people of Haiti. Buy a book and help buy a goat. Buy one or be one. 

“Please buy this man’s book. It is a good book.” Pastor Mathurin Merystal, Thoman, Haiti. 

My Take:
Sarah Morgan Leigh Dumont has it all. Beauty, fame, wealth, power. Matthew Ezra Shepherd has none of these things. Sarah is the oldest child in a filthy rich family from Connecticut. Matt is the youngest child in a dirt poor family from Mississippi. Raised in the lap of luxury, a die-hard pacifist, Sarah has a home in Malibu. Matt is an ex-Marine, a soldier who has killed for his country, a vet with PTSD trying to put his life back together. Left scarred inside and out, he would be homeless except for a 160-year-old farmhouse with no running water.

Sarah is driven, focused, intimidating, full of herself. Matt is friendly, kind, with a quick smile, full of mischief.

They meet under false pretenses in New Orleans, the city built on false pretenses. She sees him only as the object of a wager; he sees her as an object to be avoided—and yet. You couldn't find two people more opposite, yet love scales any wall, breaches any barricade, crosses any divide.  

Content:


Drug Content:
PG - Alcohol is mentioned rather often. Matt is a dangerous alcoholic, and the sheriff will arrest anyone who gives him any. 

Violence:
PG - There is a description of some of the conflict in war. A bar fight sends three men to the hospital. A character is knifed, and a purse snatcher is nearly beaten to death. 

Language:
G - A couple mild expletives.

Adult Content:
PG-13 - This is a romance. There's no sex, though it's sought after, and plotted. A woman ends up naked in a bathroom, underwear and its lack is discussed. There's a bit of kissing. Women discuss men's finer attributes, there are a few oblique references to anatomy.

Christian content:
Scripture is used in a few places. Faith is evident throughout, and the sovereign guiding hand of Providence is exposed. Spiritual battles are evident, and prayer is a common practice. Spiritual issues are covered well. Faith, atheism, mission work, the gospel, the power of God's Word, the importance of fighting for what's right. This is a faith-filled hilarious romance.

Final analysis:
Like Rooster Cogburn and the Lady, or Crocodile Dundee, the interactions between the leading man and lady are what makes this book outshine most romances I've ever read, or viewed on the silver screen, for that matter. The conversations these two polar opposites have are hilarious, no subject is taboo, and for the most part the reader has to interpret the conversation. It would make an outstanding  film, an entertaining romantic Christian comedy. Well written, hilarious, thought provoking, fast-paced. North meets South in a clash of cultures, with sparks flying everywhere! Five Stars!

About the Author:
Mike BristerMike Brister was born in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1952. His father worked for the Illinois Central Railroad and in 1955 was transferred to New Orleans, Louisiana. This began a lifelong relationship with one of the most unique cities in the world. Eventually, the family would return to Jackson. 

Mike received degrees in mathematics and spent his working career as a consulting actuary. Now retired, he has written his first novel. He has made numerous trips to Haiti and plans more. The hope is that the novel is a fun read and allows for the purchase of goats for families in Haiti. Seventy-five percent (75%) of all book royalties will go to But God Ministries and/or Haiti Goat Project.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Review: Paris in Oakland by Eliza Q. Hemenway

Paris in Oakland

29519845

Follow Katherine and her mother, Eliza, as they navigate a medical nightmare seeking treatment for Katherine's Lyme disease. Never imagining an illness could be controversial, Katherine and her mother find themselves caught in the middle of a deeply divided medical community. This proves to be dangerous medicine, leaving young Katherine bedridden, in constant pain and ultimately fighting for her life in the pediatric intensive care unit.

From the pen of documentary filmmaker Eliza Hemenway, Paris in Oakland not only exposes the injustices of Lyme disease, but is also a story of faith and a compelling read for anyone suffering sickness or caught in circumstances beyond their control. If you are seeking inspiration, healing or hope, Paris in Oakland is the book for you.

My Take:
When Katherine began complaining of her legs hurting, strange rashes, and  frequent headaches, no one but her mother seemed to believe there was anything wrong. The varying ailments plaguing Katherine seemed unrelated, but they were puzzling, and none of the medical doctors her mother Eliza brought her to could identify the problem. Katherine and her mother became victims of a deep divide in the medical community on the existence and treatment of Lyme Disease.

As the disease continues to ravage and debilitate Katherine, leaving her bedridden and in constant pain, her mother navigates a frightening and depressing maze of roadblocks, rejections, and denial of service for her condition. Eventually this brings Katherine to the edge of death in an intensive care unit, where doctors are still denying there is a problem.

In this true story, documentary filmmaker Eliza Hemenway exposes the ravages of Lyme Disease, its struggle for recognition and available treatment in the medical community, and the unwavering faith of a mother championing the cause of her daughter against unimaginable odds. It is a chronicle of suffering, of political bureaucracy and abuse, but also a poignant record of hope in a very dark place.

And there are some places where only God can shine light.



Content:
This is a non-fiction account, but it reads like a novel, and I need to record the content.

Drug Content:
G - Other than antibiotics and herbal remedies, I don't believe there was anything in the story, not even drinking.    

Violence:
PG - The ravages of the disease was the most obvious source of violence in this story. Also in view was the abuse of doctors who refused to treat or acknowledge Lyme disease. The violence done throughout most of this book was emotional.

Language:
G - Squeaky clean.

Adult Content:
G - Clean.

Christian content:
Throughout, scripture is quoted where appropriate. The mother and her daughter find that their faith community seems to be almost the only support group they can rely on. God's provision and guiding hand is exposed and God is credited for the miracles He performs in arranging circumstances to meet Eliza and Katherine's needs, physical, emotional, and spiritual.

Final analysis:
The story encapsulated in Paris in Oakland needed to be told. Just because symptoms do not lead to a predictable diagnosis, does not mean the symptoms don't exist, that they are psychosomatic. There are many people with debilitating diseases that need a relative, a friend, to champion their cause, and this book would give them and their champions hope.

I have known several people, including a close relative, suffering from Lyme Disease. One friend nearly died from it. It can be very debilitating, and this work gives me a better perspective of the pain, suffering, and risk the disease brought into their lives.

The stakes in this story were very high, the conflict palpable, the struggle fierce. The characters, as this is a true story, were starkly real, their doubt and faith, anger and love, were well-depicted. The story was gripping. That having been said, the pace had moments where it flagged like the failing daughter. The timeline was not chronological and the time jumps a bit disorienting. I found it a bit difficult keeping track of whether I was in the present or past. So, good story, relatable, timely and needed. Four Stars!


About the Author:

Eliza Q. Hemenway

ELIZA HEMENWAY has a M.A. in media studies, and has worked in photography, film and radio, directed the documentary film Uncommon Knowledge, and was the founder and director of the Sebastopol Documentary Film Festival. She has served as a judge on numerous film festivals and was an independent-film reviewer for KRCB-FM, National Public Radio. For updates on her current creative non-fiction projects, visit her website at www.hemenwayproductions.com.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Review: Profit Yourself Healthy by David Fuller

Profit Yourself Healthy


31703193Does Your Business Need to Make More Profit?
You started your business because you wanted to live the dream. The dream that included a balanced healthy life where you worked less and made more money than you would working for someone else. Like many business owners that dream probably faded somewhere along the way between then and now. Like many business owners you might be more stressed as you work longer hours for less pay.
This book is for you if you answer yes to any of these questions.
Are you drawing on your line of credit to pay your bills?
Do you have up to 50 employees and stress over payroll?
Do you have sales up to $5 Million dollars but think that you might never afford to retire?
Are you working too much for too little pay?
Are you fighting with your spouse over household bills?
Do you wonder why you ever got into business for yourself?
Do you envy people that have a “real job” paying “real money”?
Is the stress of your business affecting your health?
Would you like to worry less and earn more?
If yes is your answer to any of these the problem is simple. Your Business Needs to Make More Profits!! Make Healthy Profits is a book that will put you and your business on the right track to earning more money and reducing your stress levels.
This book will
-Give you strategies to make your business more profitable and successful
-Help you identify pricing tactics that will increase your profits
-Show you new ways of looking at business so you can actually make money
-Help you read your financial statements so you can use them
-Provide you with ways to find clarity about what the biggest issues are facing your business
-Identify the drivers that create real dollar values in your business for your future
If you want your business to Make Healthy Profits that you can live on, retire with, and share with your family and community, start reading today and get your business working! Every page will challenge you and give you ideas that you can put to use in your own business starting today!

My Take:
Profit Yourself Healthy is an in-depth look at small business issues that lead to cash hemorrhaging, lost customers, profitability issues, and eventual closing of the doors. It's no secret that money issues in small business promote ulcers, stress related heart attacks and strokes, high blood pressure, and many other physical ailments.

Correcting business management and cash flow issues in your business can be a huge step forward in reducing the risk of many of these killers. With anecdotal stories and real world help backed by mounds of research, Dave Fuller leverages several decades of real world success in helping small business owners turn flagging businesses around in this must-read for entrepreneurs everywhere.


Content:
Even though this is non-fiction, figured I'd better put a bit about the content in here.

Drug Content:
PG - The only place i recall drinking occurring is in a recommendation to remove alcoholic beverages from expense accounts.   

Violence:
PG - There's a true story in here about an encounter with a bear in the middle of the night, when one of the campers gets mauled and shot in the confusion.

Language:
G - Squeaky clean.

Adult Content:
G - Clean.

Christian content:
Nada. Not that it's needed in a non-fiction anyway. One of the positive messages placed in here, which is relatively faith based but generic, is that being altruistic, helping others, is a positive move that usually improves your attitude and outlook.

Final analysis:
David has constructed a solid self-help manual here for any small business owner to take their investment from concept, through planning, marketing, funding, staffing, managing, and eventually, retiring. All stages in the life cycle of a small business are covered, and every problem conceivable is covered in depth.

Proactive activities are given throughout, that lead the reader through each stage of development, implementation, and management of their business. Powerful anecdotal stories begin each chapter, each one a flashback through Dave's own life, but applied to the issue at hand. Each chapter ends with holistic and medical assistance with various ailments that can arise from the stress of managing a small business. Filled with helpful subjects like stopping the bleeding, setting realistic goals, measuring your business's true potential, how to leverage proper advertising, cutting costs, increasing margin, the power of existing customer base, measuring your lifeblood via timely reports, positioning your company to sell, and developing a good exit strategy, this book can be a powerful tool to help a small businessman in the lifecycle of his business. Tools like Six Sigma, Lean Manufacturing, and Just in Time, are discussed, as well as their benefits.

To get perspective, I've had over 25 years working in IT in midrange and large corporations in many manufacturing fields, and many of the ideas embedded in this book I've seen implemented in large businesses with great success. I found Profit Yourself Healthy concise, informative, a good tool that belongs in every small business owner's toolbox. Five Stars!

About the Author:
Dave Fuller has an entrepreneurial drive that has helped him start and run successful small businesses for over three decades. When not involved running his own businesses, Dave engages with other small business owners as a business coach to help them achieve profitability, success, and balance in their lives. His expertise is backed by a Master's Degree in Business Administration but it is based on his real world experiences of building his own businesses from the ground up. He has co-founded several grassroots organizations and run successful campaigns for better quality air and water. Dave has a proven ability for developing strategies that work for businesses and a track record of success with his clients.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Review: Alfred Arnold's Great Adventure of No Direction Whatsoever by Phoenix Ward

Alfred Arnold's Great Adventure of No Direction Whatsoever (The Alfred Arnold Saga #1)


27244880Alfred Arnold, reader. Reader, Alfred Arnold. Although he is the hero of our story and has no knowledge of you, I would like you to get to know him. He is an eccentric man who finds himself in the fantastic and bizarre world of Serdame. With no memory of his arrival, he undertakes the first ever expedition in the land with the help of the retired knight Sir Procrastination and the curious Lavandra.

My Take:
Alfred Arnold is a reclusive writer trapped in his burning house. His life's work was a fantasy land called Serdame. While attempting to save his precious full color hand-drawn map of the fantasy world from the engulfing flames, he is transported into the world he created, with a serious case of amnesia.

With little memory of the world he came from, plagued by debilitating panic attacks, and threatened by the denizens of outlandish creatures and characters he created, Alfred Arnold undertakes a journey with the help of the retired knight Sir Procrastination to restore his memory and learn who he truly is.

Content:

Drug Content:
PG - Some drinking occurs. A magical brew is imbibed which gives all the effects of being drunk without actually 'being' drunk, or suffering the aftereffects.  

Violence:
PG - Much of the violence in this book is mild, nothing graphic. A zombie has its leg ripped off to use as a torch. 

Language:
G - There are two mild curse words in the entire book. No F-bombs.

Adult Content:
PG - Other than one incident of two men fighting madly over a sponge that appears to be a female object of 'lust', the book is very clean.

Christian content:
Nada. One cult in the book worships some deity and appears to have a practice of human sacrifice. None of which is described or occurs onstage. Some life lessons are apparent in the plot. For instance, Sir Procrastination is a personification of laziness and procrastination. The village of Villedge appears to be a lesson in isolationism, something the recluse Alfred Arnold deals with. A possessed glowing sponge appears to be a personification of lust. Revenge, greed, denial, all play a part in this odd tale.

Final analysis:
At the beginning I thought this would be a Christian allegory similar to John Bunyan's 'Pilgrim's Progress', or perhaps a crass and humorous ride like Hitchhiker's Guide, but it ended up more like Through the Looking Glass. The bizarre collection of creatures and characters in the tale, from Sir Procrastination to the Singing Zombie Chorus, seemed to lead me to believe there were allegories and personifications everywhere. But if so, many were lost on me. The world building in this book was excellent, sort of a mashup of Hitchhiker's Guide, Through the Looking Glass, and Gulliver's Travels. The characters, especially the main character, showed significant character arcs, and were likable, but not tremendously realistic.

I entered this book with some great expectations. A writer trapped in his own created world was an opportunity to take advantage of his creative genius, as was done in the InkHeart series. The beginning lines and book title gave a strong impression we were chasing an Arthur Dent clone through another inept adventure. An allegory can powerfully communicate life lessons without coming across as preachy, while a political satire,  like Through the Looking Glass, which uses some of the same devices, can expose ills in the powers that be, and galvanize a country to right those wrongs.

In Alfred Arnold's adventure, there were some traits of all of these, which might be a bit problematic as it lost focus trying to do all of them. It began well enough, but lost some steam midway through the journey, and the so-so characters and flagging pace made it difficult to plow through the midpoint. Glad I did continue, though, as it gathered steam on the downhill stretch, giving Alfred Arnold more dimension, and resolution to the main conflict. The story has a decent ending, but definitely left room for a sequel or two, and left some major questions unanswered. Can't help but feel a bit disappointed with a relatively abrupt ending that left too much unanswered. All in all, this was a good read, but will probably require the sequel for a satisfying end. Great World-building, decent plot, likable characters, but some focus and pacing issues. Four Stars!

About the Author:
Phoenix  WardPhoenix Ward is the author of thought-provoking science fiction and dark thrillers. The inventive mind behind A Guardian Angel, Oneironaut, the Alfred Arnold Saga, and the Installed Intelligence series, Phoenix captures the bizarre eccentricities that make reading unique.

When he’s not writing foreboding tales of futures-to-be, Phoenix is an avid gamer. In fact, he is the owner and primary contributor for a video game blog called Ham Goblin Gaming.

Phoenix wears pajama pants under his jeans in the winter and has a ham tattooed on his chest. He draws inspiration from such science fiction legends as Philip K. Dick and Isaac Asimov. He currently resides in Fort Collins, Colorado, USA.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Review: Murder, Curlers, and Cream (Valentine Beaumont #1) by Arlene McFarlane

Murder, Curlers, and Cream (Valentine Beaumont #1)


32706740Valentine Beaumont is a beautician with a problem. Not only has she got a meddling mother, a wacky staff, and a dying business, but now she’s got a dead client who was strangled while awaiting her facial. 

With business the way it is, combing through this mystery may be the only way to save her salon. Until a second murder, an explosion, a kidnapping, death threats, and the hard-nosed Detective Romero complicate things. But Valentine will do anything to untangle the crime. That’s if she can keep her tools of the trade in her bag, keep herself alive, and avoid falling for the tough detective.

In the end, how hard can that be?
 



My Take:
Valentine Beaumont owns a beautician salon in the small town of Reuland Massachusetts, a town where practically nothing happens. That is, if you don't count the dead socialite found in her salon, strangled while awaiting her facial.

What with a new salon down the street trying to steal customers, and her rent coming due, solving the murder may be the only way she can save her salon. Until a second murder, a kidnapping, death threats, a fire bomb, and the handsome and hard-nosed detective, Michael Romero, complicate things. 

Nothing seems to deter Valentine from her quest to solve the murder, that is, if she can stay alive and prevent herself from falling for the tough detective.

Content:



Drug Content:
PG - Some drinking occurs, and one character is shedding a past life in the drug trade. 

Violence:
PG - There are several murders, one by strangulation, one by gunshot. There are a couple stabbings with beauty supplies, and a bloody accident with a straight razor. There are a couple fires, and some eyelashes get singed. Nothing graphic.

Language:
PG - There are a scattering of curse words in the book, no F-bombs.

Adult Content:
PG-13 - There are multiple references to a past incident where the main character defeated a thug by crushing his... um... never mind, in a curling rod. There are several affairs that occur. One girl wears a bikini that is more string than clothing. There are multiple semi-steamy encounters. Several scenes where a man's abs are exposed and admired, one where a female character is wearing a semi-transparent top. Men ogle women, women admire men. One scene where a lady had to take a cold shower to calm down... No sex, not even a passionate kiss. But plenty of interest.

Christian content:
A little bit. Valentine is a church attender. She prays. God doesn't play a major role onstage or off in this one, but her faith seems real enough. Family loyalty, public service, determination, benefit of the doubt, vindication, play major roles in this work.

Final analysis:
Valentine is an incredibly likable semi-ditsy three-dimensional character. She's a brick. Stalwart and faithful to her friends to the end, she is very realistically painted on the canvas of this romantic comedy. I was laughing out loud in many places. The crash-and-burn blind dates, the disastrous incompetent assistant. The settings, action, and drama in the book were so well-done that I felt more like I was watching a movie than reading a novel.

Anyone who's ever gotten a bad haircut, a ruined perm, worked in a salon, or loves mystery or romance would probably enjoy this one. I'd recommend it for older teen to adult. Solid characters, fast-paced, immersive world-building, spicy clean romance. Five Stars!

About the Author:
Arlene McFarlaneArlene McFarlane is the author of the Murder, Curlers series. Previously an aesthetician, hairstylist, and owner of a full-service salon, Arlene now writes full time. When she’s not making up stories, or being a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, cat-mom, or makeover artist, you’ll find her making music on the piano.

Arlene is a member of Romance Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Toronto Romance Writers, SOWG, and the Golden Network. She’s won and placed in over 30 contests, including twice in the Golden Heart and twice in the Daphne du Maurier. 

Arlene lives with her family in Canada.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Review: Memoirs of a Girl Who Loves God by C.L. Wells

Memoirs of a Girl Who Loves God

25759924
At her new school, she makes one single friend, Em, who invites her to volunteer at the local homeless shelter. There, Krystal discovers fellow misfits, including Brandon, a boy from her school. How can Krystal start a new life when the scars of her old one will never fully heal?

My Take:
Some scars just can't stay hidden.

Fourteen-year-old Krystal's life is falling apart. Her parents have split up, and won't talk to each other, except through her. Being caught in the middle is bad enough, but being forced to stay with her unfaithful mom and the adulterous  man that knocked her up is driving her over the edge. She blames her mother for the wreckage of her family, but even more, she blames God.

To cope, she's been cutting herself. No one knows. Not even her best friend Em. When Em gets her to volunteer at the local homeless shelter, she finds purpose and meaning. Brandon, a boy from her school, is getting meals at the shelter while his family struggles, and Krystal vows to keep his secret, even if she knows she can never reveal her own to him.

As Krystal begins to rebuild her life, however, her well-hidden secret is about to blow up in her face.

Content:


Drug Content:
PG - A few characters have drug addictions at the shelter. One character had a serious alcohol problem in his past. 

Violence:
PG - A soldier is wounded, and his comrades are all killed. The main character has a long-standing habit of cutting, and it has left many scars, and draws blood. One person is shot and killed. None of the violence is graphic.  

Language:
G - Squeaky clean.

Adult Content:
PG-13 - Krystal's mother is unfaithful and ends up pregnant. A counselor asks questions about a couple's sex life. Two characters have been raped repeatedly by someone they know, though it's a past wound not on screen.   

Christian content:
This story covers the conversion stories of several characters at the shelter, and God is definitely at work in what appear to be amazing coincidences. God's hand in action is clearly displayed, and characters see answers to prayer. The disappointment that people face when God doesn't answer a prayer with a Yes, is a major topic of this novel.Dealing with grief, loss, and disillusionment, are major topics as well.  

Final analysis:
This was a well-written book that would find shelf space alongside good Christian teen books like the Lilly series. The characters are very real and the struggles they face are common to many teens. Issues like Anorexia and teen suicide are covered, and characters find hope in the midst of tragedy. The plot was well-constructed, the pace steady, the characters true to life. Five Stars!


About the Author:
C.L.  WellsC.L. Wells is a JANE-OF-ALL-TRADES, with a passion for writing and animals. She lives in Kansas with her family, which includes a fat doggie who is not named Toto and a cat who moonlights as an escape artist. Feel free to ask her about the ‘escape artist.’ She plans to write about it someday. She would love hearing from you.