Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Reviewing: "Jake's Burn" by Randy Rawls

For Arthur Conan Edwards it all began in this, the first novel of a very enjoyable series. Released in 2004 by the now very defunct Quiet Storm Publishing, this novel relates his first case and a tragedy that serves to haunt the series.

Both Arthur Conan Edwards, known to one and all as Ace, and Jake Adams grew up in Cisco, Texas. Cisco, located in Eastland County somewhere around halfway between Abilene and Fort Worth, was and is your typical Texas small town. Despite very different backgrounds, Jake and Ace became friends. That friendship endured despite Jake becoming rich and Ace eventually becoming first a Dallas police officer and later a private investigator. Occasionally Jake has steered work Ace's way, often by way of a 3am phone call, but nothing like this.

Jake used to have a rather nice home in Cisco but his ex wife Sheila got the place in the divorce. A divorce that wasn't as expensive as it could have been because Jake found out some dirt on Sheila during the divorce. Now, according to Jake, the house is nothing more than a pile of smoldering wreckage, Sheila is missing (no doubt sleeping somewhere with the stud of the month) and Jake wants Ace to investigate the arson. Considering Jake is willing to pay fifteen hundred a day plus expenses Ace is willing to come take a look. But, Ace and his investigative skills are not wanted by the folks of the local fire department. Jake talked way too much about Ace and how great he is and they are annoyed before he even drives in to meet with them. So is the local law who heard the stories. So too is just about everyone around including a killer, determined to make this Ace's last visit back home.

A weird case, charred bodies, a romance and plenty of action and suspense make this first book in this series a highly entertaining read. The legend of the watch cats, Sweeper and Striker, begins here as do numerous relationships that continue throughout the series. The same folksy story telling style that Randy Rawls uses later in the series, as well as in person is evident here. So too is his sense of humor and quick wit as well as thoughtful reflection. It might be a hard book to find but the read is well worth it.

Jake's Burn: Arson in Cisco
Randy Rawls
Quiet Storm Publishing
ISBN# 0-9749608-1-0
Large Trade Paperback
262 Pages

Review copy provided by the author quite awhile back in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

Monday, December 29, 2008

Dealing With The Pain

As a frequent knee pain sufferer who doesn't want surgery, I am always on the lookout at my local library for new books on the subject. When I saw this one in the New Arrivals section, I grabbed it and took it home. Written by a surgeon, this informative and easy to use book covers the treatment and reconstruction regarding the knee and the hip. Broken into four parts, this book teaches the reader general info regarding joints and surgical options as well as the procedures and expected results.

The sixty-seven paged Part One is composed of chapters covering the hip. Through various drawings and illustrations, the basic functionality of the hip is explained before delving into various issues. Topics regarding non surgical as well as surgical treatments are covered along with short chapters regarding home exercises and life after hip replacement.

Part Two is nearly sixty pages and covers the knee in detail. After opening with an explanation of the knee and how it is supposed to work; the section covers the various problems and treatments. Non surgical as well as surgical options up to and including total knee replacement is covered along with home exercises and life after knee replacement sections.

That leads into Part Three which is a general knowledge section titled "Before & After Joint Replacement Surgery." This nearly sixty paged section covers everything from initial diagnosis, to contemplating surgery, to having surgery, to what you will experience the month after surgery. This is a good section regardless of what surgical procedure you or a loved one may have because a lot of the info here crosses over into other areas.

Part 4 covers what happens when the surgeon has to go in and do it again either due to the failure of the replaced joint or bone loss around the joint. This eight page section also covers surgery needed from infection and other issues.

This is followed by several useful appendices regarding resources, office checklists, information on the author's practice, etc. Also included is a glossary of medical terms and an index.

This 216 page book is well written and easy to understand. That coupled with its numerous diagrams, illustrations, and x-rays make it a book well worth reading. The illustrations and x-rays clearly show both normal situations and situations that required treatment for the patient. The book lays out clearly what can happen in a variety of situations and what most likely will be the result. But the book is also a must read not just for the information regarding surgical procedures as it imparts a lot of information for preventive care. This is a book you will want to have in your library – especially when that twinge or ache just won't go away.

Hip And Knee Surgery: A Patient's Guide to Hip Replacement, Hip Resurfacing, Knee Replacement, &Knee Arthroscopy
Robert Edward Kennon, MD
January 2008
ISBN# 978-1-4357-0732-0

Review copy provided by the Plano, Texas Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Reviewing: "New Ideas for Today's Knitting" by Jean Leinhauser and Rita Weiss

According to the authors in the introduction: "Today's Knitter is looking for glamorous – even daring – projects, and that is what we asked our designers to create for us. These edgy designs use the same knit and purl stitches we've always used, but oh what a different look these designers have achieved."

They go on to write in the introduction that innovation is the concept of the book. They note that many of the designs are alluring and can be worn by only the most daring. They aren't kidding which becomes rapidly evident. Having established this isn't your grandmother's knitting pattern book; it opens with a "Mellow Yellow Faux Fur Coat." Along with pictures of a model wearing the coat in various ways, the authors give detailed directions on making it over the next six pages. They also include adjustments for medium and large sizes.

A sexy black dress layout begins on pages 12 and follows the same general format. The dress is a short one that ends just a little bit below the waist. Fringe is attached and that hangs to just about the ankle on the model. Like the fur coat, there isn't any explanation of the size of the model so one doesn't know which version is being depicted. Crisscross straps make up the open back of the dress and prove again this isn't your grandmother's knitting book. Chances are it isn't your Mom's either.

This same format continues with the "Softly Scalloped Nightie," the "Teeny Weeny Bikini" depicted in red, "The Summer Holiday" top which is also depicted in red, the "Cabled Tube Top" and all the other designs and instructions. In all there are 23 designs in this book with many covering four to six pages of model pictures and detailed instructions. In each case, there isn't any explanation of the actual size of the model or the garment being shown.

At the back of the book there are a list of abbreviations and symbols under the heading of "general directions." Considering the complexity of the outfits including this very basic info was a bit of a surprise. The general directions go on to define common knitting terms before leading into a one page index. At the front of the book there is a list of companies with their complete links that supplied the yarn for these designs if you are unable to purchase yarn locally.

I originally saw this book on the New Arrivals shelf at my local library and grabbed it for my wife. She knits, crochets, and does a number of other craft things and sells the results through her own business as well as donating some of the finished products to local charaties. Since she has been doing this sort of thing for over twenty years, I know she knows what she is doing in the craft world. I thought it might be a book she was interested in. She wasn't.

Beyond the fact that she wasn't seeing anything new or special design wise, my wife's biggest criticism of the book was that one needed to look like a model to wear many of the designs. While she felt they were possible to make, she felt that one had to be supremely confident in one's body, to pull any of these looks off. She felt the introduction understated the situation regarding the issue. Many of the designs show a lot of skin and she made a point of mentioning that to me along with other comments about the suitability of many of the designs.

I wisely kept any possible comment to myself. Having read the book, I agree with her assement. One would need to be supremely confident in one's own body to wear many of these designs. While that is noted in the introduction, there is nothing like seeing some of the models and what they are wearing.

Unlike the cookbooks where I do try out recipes, I won't be doing so with these designs. Therefore, those who read and rate reviews strictly based on hands on experience by the author of the review will no doubt feel compelled to criticize the review.

All I can say is that occasionally, along with being able to keep my mouth shut, I am aware of my limitations.

New Ideas for Today's Knitting
Jean Leinhauser and Rita Weiss
Sterling Publishing Co, Inc.
ISBN# 1-4027-2307-5
128 Pages

Review copy provided by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Reviewing: "Rough Weather" by Robert B. Parker

This latest one in the series opens, as many do, with Spenser gazing out his office window at the women passing below on Berkeley Street. Middle of September finds the women starting to display the fall fashions, the Red Sox out of contention, and the sky grayish but not overcast. His musings are interrupted by Ms. Heidi Bradshaw who would like to hire him.

She has a home off the coast on Tashtego Island. She wants to hire Spenser to be there for an event in late October and isn't at all specific as to why she wants Spenser around. "I want you to be the man I can turn to if I need something." (Page 9) As long as he can bring Susan, longtime girlfriend, Spenser is agreeable and takes the job.

Late October comes quickly and on the appointed day Dr. Susan Silverman, looking ravishing as always, and Spenser arrive at the island. Pearl the wonder dog had to be left back home and that is probably just as well. Everything is under tight control as it should be considering the monies under Heidi Bradshaw's control and her expensive tastes. After all, her only daughter is getting married. So things have to be perfect. But, Ms. Bradshaw can't control the fact that a hurricane is coming closer by the hour and the weather is worsening. She also can’t control the fact that multiple murders, a kidnapping, and the return of the notorious "Gray Man" will disrupt the wedding.

This latest Spenser plows absolutely no new ground in terms of character development, the characters themselves or plot. Entertaining enough as a story, the book dusts off numerous old associates that have made this journey many times before. The novel also dusts off many an old conversation between Spenser and Susan about what makes him different that the "Gray Man" or Hawk or several other returning characters. It also reaches a conclusion that is utterly predictable and as such borders on the clichéd. The minimalist prose continues so chapters are short, descriptions lacking, and the novel has a feel of a short story padded to novel length.

And yet, this is Spenser. One can't help overlooking the numerous weaknesses in the book simply because Spenser is an old favorite. As such, it is hard to be critical because it would be nice to be Spenser for a day. And if Susan Silverman was around, the night would be pretty good too.

Take it for what it is which is simplistic reliable entertainment that pleasantly diverts one's attention from the real world. Considering how most things are these days in the real world, that kind of mindless fun reading is a good thing. Especially since the Steven Seagall movies are so bad lately.

Rough Weather: A Spenser Novel
Robert B. Parker
Thorndike Press
ISBN# 1-4104-0841-8
Hardback—Large Print Version
329 Pages

Review copy provided by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

"By The Light Of The Moon"

The Carpathian Shadows Volume 2
Print or E-Book

Friday, December 26, 2008

Cool News

My anthology as well as the earlier book in the series are both at Target.

Of course, like every book at the Target online, the order is actually filled by Amazon. But, still, it is cool to be listed there.


Monday, December 22, 2008

This Might Explain It--Another Personality Test

Your Personality Is Like Cocaine

You're dynamic, brilliant, and alluring to those who don't know you.

Hyper and full of energy, you're usually the last one to leave a party.

Sometimes your sharp mind gets the better of you... you're a bit paranoid!

At your best: You're confident, euphoric, and feel like you're on top of the world.

What people like about being around you: You're intense and overpowering.

What people dislike about being around you: You can be arrogant... and a bit of a jerk.

How addicted people get to you: Incredibly addictive. And hanging around with you isn't cheap!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Reviewing: "Winning Can Be Murder" by Bill Crider

It is no stretch to say football is the game and religion of Texas. Outsiders just don't understand how important football is to the people of Texas. Especially the people who live in small towns. The signs out the town's edge may get faded and rusted but for the people that lived in that town, the glorious championship just happened yesterday. Or, the heartbreaking loss for that matter.

Sheriff Dan Rhodes understands that concept and he remembers his glory on the football field that passed quickly. While he does lament that a little, he has moved on unlike many who hit their peak in High School and nothing was as good since. Trapped in the past of their youth they just can't help themselves. Now as Sheriff the fact that Clearview High is very close to a state championship games just means a lot more work. The last time they got close was 1949 and a lot has changed over the years. Rhodes isn't a kid growing up listing to his Dad talk about the blowout loss. Now he is a sheriff of a small department that will have to work crowd control at tonight's playoff game, fights at clubs in town, minor's drinking and a host of other issues. If the team wins again and they advance further into the playoffs, they will all have to do it all over again next weekend.

What Sheriff Rhodes didn't expect was a near riot at the game over a late hit. Emotions ran high and it took a lot to get both teams back to playing the game. He also didn't expect to see an assistant coach for Clearview High take a swing at the head coach. And he certainly didn't expect there to be a murder after the game.

But all that and plenty more happened in short order. Long before the body is cold Rhodes has the whole county pushing him to get the case solved. After all, a man is dead but the team has a state championship to win. The team doesn't need the distraction of having to wait for the killer of their assistant football coach to be caught. Football is the main priority for nearly every one and Rhodes isn't happy about that either.

Or the fact that Rapper is back in town and as low down mean as ever.

Eighth in a very good series this novel takes readers back to the East Texas countryside and Blacklin County, Texas. The county seat is Clearview, which is a small town. However, all the ills of the big city are present and others unique to country living which means Rhodes always has plenty to do with or without backup. Comfortably married to Ivy, despite her dietary choices which have kind of ruined food, Rhodes is a man that doesn't cave to outside pressures or uses new fangled technology to investigate cases.

Instead, he travels around the county asking lots of questions. Somebody sooner or later makes a mistake, the secret is out, and Rhodes catches them in a lie. One thing leads to another and behind all the dirt and worries about the latest scandal, Rhodes figures out the murder and arrests him or her. That same formula is at work here and makes for a mighty good read.

Those looking for graphic violence, gratuitous sex, or name dropping of expensive items won't find it here. Instead, one finds a simple and honest lawman, one that has his roots in the Texas of yesterday, taking care of business one step at a time.

Winning Can Be Murder: A Sheriff Dan Rhodes Mystery
Bill Crider
Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press
ISBN# 0-312-14072-X
216 Pages

Review copy provided by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Tis the season for "Jingle's Christmas" by Randy Rawls

With over 350 books in my pile to be read and reviewed, I lost all semblance of control a long time ago. Now I just try to avoid looking at the mess, the fully loaded shelves in place, and walk softly so as not to disturb the slumbering beast. That means the stacks get bigger and bigger despite my best efforts. That also means that occasionally something happens in the space time reading continuum and a book comes spitting out of the beast. Such is the case here.

Published back in 2004 by the now very dead Quiet Storm Publishing it features Arthur Conan Edwards, (Ace) Private Investigator in a case perfect for the season. Ace normally drinks Killians, documents cheating spouses, and occasionally works something more interesting like arson, blackmail, kidnapping, etc. His latest case kept him up late and he isn't thrilled when the phone rings at 3 a.m. The fact that the caller is Jake doesn’t improve his mood. But, Jake gets him the occasional high paying client and he needs one these days.

Jake tells him about a meeting he setup for Ace the next day before quickly hanging up and turning on his voice mail. That means Ace can't ask any questions and that is annoying as well. Morning comes way too fast and soon he is at and all too soon he is at MeMaw's café in North Dallas awaiting his mystery client. The meeting spot isn't much, Ace's mood isn't much better, and the client is nowhere to be found. That is, until suddenly he is there. The fact that the client can't be more than 2 ft tall probably explains why Ace didn't see him walk inside even though he was looking or notice him earlier. Or how he vanished so fast.

But, it doesn’t explain how he knew where Ace lived. Or what happened when he was a kid. Ace, 42 and a ten year veteran of the Dallas P. D. before getting out because he was so fed up with the politics, has seen a lot of things over the years. But, he had never met an elf before, let alone Santa's Chief Elf for North Texas operations. Toys are missing and the clock is ticking and the Elf needs help before the big guy finds out.

If you can accept the premise, this is a very funny book. Ace, much like his creator Randy Rawls, is a blast and full of entertainment. Sweeper and Striker, his opinionated cats, are back and in rare form as are a number of recurring characters from the series. There are quite a few thugs, occasionally amusing in their own right, as well as complexities to the case and a very overeager client who wants to help in everyway possible.

The result is a read that works on all levels and provides a fun time perfect for the season.

Jingle's Christmas
Randy Rawls
Quiet Storm Publishing
ISBN# 0-9758571-6-9
Large Trade Paperback
195 Pages

Review copy provided quite some time ago by the author in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Chasing the "Rabbit In The Moon"

The secret of longevity has been a puzzle that has a haunted scientists. While life spans have elongated due to better healthcare and nutrition as societies have evolved, scientists have long searched for the secret key to increase life spans even more. The search for the magical exlir has been unsuccessful.

Until now.

Dr. Ni-Fu Cheng has found the secret. He has created a potion that can easily double the human lifespan while also improving the overall health of the test subjects. Working at the Xian Institute, Dr. Ni-Fu Cheng isn't sure that he should go public with his knowledge. A "guest" of the Chinese government, he isn't going to be freed until he tells his secret. The elderly leaders of the government, desperate to retain power, have concocted a plan.

Their plan is to entice his American born granddaughter, Dr. Lili Quan, to come to the Institute. They will orchestrate events and offer her a fellowship so that she leaves her current position and travels to mainland China. Once in China, they will inform her that her grandfather, who she has long thought was dead, is alive. They will give her plausible explanations of why they couldn't tell her until she was in China and then arrange a family reunion. After her family reunion, they will use his grand daughter as leverage against Dr. Ni-Fu Cheng to make him give up the formula. But, the Chinese government is not the only one who wants the secret as there are many players in this game and everyone has a plan leading to cross and double cross and even triple cross.

Set against the backdrop of the seven weeks in 1989 that culminated in the Tianamen square massacre, the novel is both highly political and one person's journey back to her home land. Dr. Quan is Chinese only by genetics at the start of the novel having been born in America and having strongly resisted her heritage every step of the way. It is only through her journey home, both in terms of place as well as meeting her grand father, that she is able to heal her psyche and become at peace with who she is. She is a complex character that evolves significantly throughout the novel and yet is still left with major life questions at the end of the work.

Rich in characters and settings, this novel often moves at a slow pace despite its "thriller" designation. "A novel of suspense" would be more appropriate as the thriller components seem only to be the science, exotic locales, and the involvement of government agencies at home and abroad. It certainly can't refer to the pace which is often little more than glacial. Point of view shifts through the many characters, often for a few paragraphs at a time, further slows the pace of a work that needs some serious streamlining to fit the thriller genre or a major increase in action. It is only the last 70 pages or so, where bodies begin to fall and thereby eliminate some of the "meanwhile, back over here" point shifts that the pace increases dramatically. Even then it doesn't come anywhere near classic Robert Ludlum or David Morrel who have both touched upon the longevity issue from time to time and wrote actual thrillers.

Despite the fact that it is an "Award-Winning Finalist in the Fiction & Literature: Thriller/Adventure category of the National Best Books 2008 Awards," the novel is a good read that could have been better. As it is, the work is an overall interesting read that is filled with complex characters, plenty of intrigue, and numerous exotic locals. One can't help but believe there has to be a movie deal in the works.

Rabbit in the Moon: An International Thriller
Deborah & Joel Shlian
Oceanview Publishing
June 1, 2008
ISBN# 978-1-933515-14-4
376 Pages

This material was provided in ARC form by publicist Maryglenn McCombs in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008
"By The Light Of The Moon"
The Carpathian Shadows Volume 2

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Chat

is now over and it went really well. We talked about the book, the writing process of it as well as writing in general and themes in our works. That and a bunch of other stuff. It was a blast and if you missed it, you missed a really good time.


"By The Light Of The Moon"
The Carpathian Shadows Volume 2
Print or E-book

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Meet the Authors! (Including me)

December 7 at 7pm EST
at the Writer's Chatroom, hosted by Audrey Shaffer
Come meet the authors of The Carpathian Shadow: Volume Two
Released October 31st, 2008.
Doorprize: two e-book copies of The Carpathian Shadows: Volume Two

Come and meet:

Carol Cole is a pediatric physical therapist and has worked for the past twenty-five years in a Virginia school system. Always a voracious reader, Carol began writing six years ago. Her stories have been published in over thirty-five online and print magazines. She has storied in two other anthologies, "By the Chimney With Care" and "Aleatory's Junction" She lives with her husband and twenty-one year old son, in Vienna, Virginia. She can be reached at

Christina Barber is an award-winning author of speculative fiction works noted for their dark tones. When Christina's not scanning dusty old books for interesting tidbits of mythology, she's off writing in her dark fantasy worlds. Encouraged by her fourth grade teacher, Christina has always been captivated by the craft of writing, and recently made the move to full-time writer. Christina's published books include Seely's Pond (Dark Urban Fantasy, March 2008), Ghosts of Southern Crescent, Georgia (Non-Fiction, Summer 2008) and Greystone (2006 Speculative Romance). She has short stories appearing in magazines and anthologies across the writing spectrum. While Christina spent most of her life growing up in the suburbs of New Jersey, she currently resides in Newnan, Georgia with her husband and daughter. She happily shares her home with three dogs, and two cats. To learn more about Christina, visit her website at

Donna Amato is a nurse who works with transplant patients. Her stories have been published in a variety of online and print magazines and two anthologies. She lives with three of her children in Shreveport, Louisiana and is currently working on her first novel. She can be reached at http://luvs2writela,

Kevin Tipple In addition to having been the editor or assistant editor of several different zines, my book reviews appear extensively online and I am the book reviewer for the Texas edition of the newspaper "Senior News." My short fiction has appeared in magazines such as "Lynx Eye," "Starblade," "Show and Tell," and "The Writer's Post Journal" among others and online at such places as "Mouth Full Of Bullets," "Crime And Suspense," "Mysterical-e" and others.

Kristin Johnson is an award-winning short story writer and poet, a produced screenwriter (PIRATES OF GHOST ISLAND) and an animation writer for She is a book reviewer, journalist, novelist and (no pun intended) a ghostwriter. Her story "Quicksand" appeared in the MuseItUpClub anthology Aleatory's Junction.

Lea Schizas is an award-winning author and editor and founder of The Muse Online Writers Conference and The MuseItUp Club, both Writer's Digest top 101 Writing Sites. For more information on Lea Schizas:

Seana Graham's short stories have appeared in a variety of magazines and literary journals, the most recent ones being Ping Pong and Salamander. Her story "The Pirate's True Love" was recently anthologized in The Best of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, and "Marina" was granted the seventh annual Zone 3 fiction award. She has also co-authored a trivia book on Southern California with Lisa Wojna for Blue Bike Press. You can find her at seanagraham.blogsp

All of us involved are looking forward to it and hope you will be there!


Monday, December 01, 2008

Reviewing: "Murder Most Fowl: A Sheriff Dan Rhodes Mystery" by Bill Crider

Progress has come to Blackstone County, Texas. Hack got his computer at the jail. The computer is nice and all that and though he feels vindicated he isn't satisfied. They need televisions in the jail. And he wants cameras for the patrol cars. Considering how many times Sheriff Rhodes has had a physical alteration next to his county car, cameras might be a good thing.

What isn't a good thing in the minds of many is that Wal-Mart has set up right outside Clearview. As has happened across the country in numerous small towns, the arrival of the big chain has destroyed the small downtown area of Clearview. A once thriving downtown is now vacant and virtually empty of any pedestrian traffic. The arrival of the store has caused the closing of most of the Mom and Pop stores as well as driving off some of the smaller chains. Elijah "Lige" Ward used to have a hardware store. These days he chains himself to the front doors of Wal-Mart in protest demanding the store to close.

Of course, Sheriff Rhodes has to go out and deal with that situation. Emus have also come to the county and as a result there are now thefts of Emus instead of cattle. While cattle rustling can be tracked and dealt with, Emu theft is a bit trickier. The old standby, chickens, is still around and still being raised to fight by some on the county. You know with all this going on, there will be another murder and Rhodes will soon be working the case, chasing suspects, and dealing with a host of other issues in the county.

At least it is early June and election season is far off. He's going to lose a few votes by finding out all the dirt on his neighbors. Sheriff Dan Rhodes wouldn't have it any other way. Well, he would like not to get in some many brawls with suspects and he probably would like to be home for dinner on a more regular basis.

Released in 1994, this novel takes readers back to Blackstone County for another adventure in an idyllic setting. The recurring characters, except his daughter, Susan return. Ivy makes a couple of appearances to bounce ideas of as well as to provide dietary comedic life. Marrying Ivy has changed the sheriff in many ways, including his pantry. It also seems to have regulated her to a role less on stage which is too bad because she is interesting and a character worth having around.

Another solidly good outing that keeps the series going and provides an interesting case for the good sheriff. Cozies don't get much better then this and it is a good one.

Murder Most Fowl: A Sheriff Dan Rhodes Mystery
Bill Crider
Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's Press
September 1994
ISBN# 0-312-11387-0
200 Pages

This book was provided by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

"By The Light Of The Moon"
The Carpathian Shadows
Volume 2

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Children's Book Review: "The Tutu Ballet" by Sally O. Lee

This very short children's book tells the tale of Ms. Berry, the ballet teacher, and her four students. The four students are Belinda the Bear, Mirabel the Mouse, Harriet the Hare, and the Fillippo the Fox. Each student has a preferred dance move and they don't want to do anything else. So, after Ms. Berry tried hard to get them to work together and follow instructions, she decides to go with each student's favorite dance steps for their first recital. Each student will do their own thing and trigger the next student until the four have each done their own move. The resulting recital is a huge success. "The audience cheered and it was the best ballet ever." End of book.

According to the copyright page, the book is "a story about tolerance, patience, creativity, teamwork, and love." As a parent and education professional, I would say it is more a story of how everyone is considered a winner these days no matter what they do. This mentality has infected our school systems where every child gets a sticker of some thing regardless of ability or effort. Such is the case here. Instead of actual learning to follow instructions given by their teacher, Ms. Berry, the children do what they want from start to finish. It is the adult role model, the former prima ballerina, who ends up surrendering to their behavior and letting children do what they want to do. In fact, by coming up with the plan for the recital, the adult has encouraged the independent do what you will behavior to continue in the future. While the age group targeted may not pick upon that message the adults certainly will. Even for a children's book, these characters show no growth at all. The moral of the book seems to be let the kids do what they want and everyone will be happy.

Unfortunately, things don't work that way. Even if one can get by the moral theme, there are other issues with the book. For example, the illustrations are flat with everyone depicted as half smiling regardless of circumstances. There is a woodeness to the depictions that while the figures are colorful, they have no life to them. The poses may change, but there is no change to the characters and they remain uniformly the same throughout the book.

The biggest issue is the typeface. "This book is typeset in 'snowman' created by Sally O. Lee" according to the copyright page. The typeface itself seems to be nothing special and is rather small. The main issue is that the typeface is often set directly on top of the watercolor illustrations, making the unrythmic text virtually unreadable. This is somewhat depicted on the cover with the "story and illustrations by sally o. lee" blending into the illustration and there are stronger examples inside the book itself.

With a text that pushes the do anything and its great agenda, flat illustrations and unreadable typeface in many places throughout the book, I have to caution parents strongly to avoid this self published book. This one doesn't work on many levels and is a real disappointment.

The Tutu Ballet
Story/Illustrations by Sally O. Lee
Booksurge Publishing (self publishing unit of Amazon)
September 2008
36 Pages per publisher

I received this material on behalf of Blogger News Network in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

Friday, November 28, 2008

Reviewing: "Chasing Darkness: An Elvis Cole Novel" by Robert Crias

It was the fire in Laurel Canyon and forced evacuations that led to discovery of the dead man in a house. One Mr. Jones who had a bad foot was found dead apparently from a self inflicted gunshot. Clearly, he had been dead for awhile and maybe the photo album at his feet was the cause. A photo album filled with pictures of seven women at the moment of their deaths at hands of a maniac.

The reclusive Mr. Jones to all his neighbors was actually Lionel Bryd. He had been brought to trial three years ago in the murder of a local prostitute. Hired by his defense attorney, Allan Levy, the World's Greatest Detective Elvis Cole proved that he was miles away at the time Yuonne Bennett died. He simply couldn't have done it.

Yet, her death picture is in his album. Along with six other brutally murdered women. The LAPD Task Force is convinced Bryd was their man all along. They are convinced that Elvis, by getting Bryd cleared, allowed him to kill again. The case is closed, finished and disappearing rapidly and they really don't want to talk to Elvis about any of it.

But, if Bryd did do it, how was he in two places at the same time? While that is the biggest question, there are several more. It just doesn't add up and Elvis isn't going to leave it alone just because members of the task force blame him and tell him to go away.

While he doesn't care about the folks on the task force, he does care about the victims and the fact that he could have made a horrible mistake. If he did, he is responsible. And even if he didn't, he still is responsible. Not only does he hold himself responsible so do the brothers of the latest victim. Wracked with guilt and angst and yet sure he was right, Elvis along with his sidekick Joe Pike, begin to investigate not only the cases but the task force itself. There are connections between the victims and the power elite in both the LAPD and the city and Elvis isn't about to let the real killer get away.

At it's heart, this is an angst novel. The families of the victims are shattered in so many ways. Elvis feels tremendous guilt over his role in events. And while he feels it, demonstrates it and talks about it, it never really comes out and touches the reader.

While this is a perfectly decent novel, this latest novel in the series isn't epic or incredible. The old themes of corruption or at least the possibility of corruption at high levels is trotted out again. So too is the detective full of guilt and sorrow because he might have not only been used as a pawn, but helped a nut job go free. We have seen these themes done many times before with mixed results.

In the end, while not the best book ever in the series, it is a fairly good entry that does little to expand the character. It does however provide a solid vehicle for Elvis to gaze at the hills from his porch and think morose thoughts. That and tell a story that while predictable in many spots, does contain a few surprises, along the way in the hunt for yet another dark evil.

Chasing Darkness: An Elvis Cole Novel
Robert Crais
Simon & Schuster
July 2008
ISBN# 0-7432-8164-0
273 Pages

Review copy provided by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008
"By The Light Of The Moon"
The Carpathian Shadows Volume 2

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Reviewing: "Deerslayer: A Pete Brady Mystery"

This third novel in the series finds Pete Brady really out of his element. It was one thing to work a story back in the day in New Orleans along some bayou and watch for folks. It is another thing to sit in a deer stand as a light rainfalls and wait for some unsuspecting deer to wander by. Brady isn't a hunter, has no ambition to be one, but hunting is a major way of life in Troy, Louisiana.

To be part of the community, something that he has struggled with since taking over the local newspaper known as the "Troy Parish Express" he has to hunt. Pressured by Sheriff Matt Garitty to come hunting on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, this will be his first hunt. As it will be for Matt's teenage son, Scotty. While both have taken the shooting course, Scotty has been taught from a young age the responsibility of gun use as well as he has been shooting at targets the last 3 years.

Then, the unthinkable happens.

Scotty shoots and is convinced he hit a deer that vanished into the underbrush. Instead of the expected downed deer, the three hunters find a dead man. Dwayne Elkins was shot in the face with the round exiting through his skull. All the evidence seems to indicate that Scotty shot and killed him. Something Matt can't believe. As his family rocks under the strain, Matt asks Pete to investigate what happened. Matt knows what his people in the department can do and he knows what Brady can do. Brady has a history of getting results. And for himself as well as his son, Matt has to know.

Released in 1991 this third novel in the Peter Brady series features a man still deeply conflicted with his past as well as his present. Brady is trying to accept that his life has changed and gotten better, but the recrimmation over his past as well as his own paranoia still drive many of his actions. What can be a blessing in some areas can also hinder one tremendously in others. While he is aware of this internal conflict and working on it as best he can, he still damages himself in ways that he seems almost powerless to stop.

Like the other books in the series, this book opens slowly allowing readers to get to know the characters before the crime happens. Once it happens, the case is worked slowly and methodically with little forensic help and lots of shoe leather. Those looking for high tech solutions where every thing is solved in 30 minutes or less won't be happy here.

Instead, this follows the other books in the series in being a character driven read containing a complex mystery. Action is limited as is the humor. Instead the focus is on the people of Troy, LA and their day to day lives. The result is another very good read and one worth searching for.

Deerslayer: A Pete Brady Mystery
M. S. Karl
St. Martin's Press
ISBN# 0-312-06336-9
210 Pages

My sincere thanks to the staff of the Wellesley Free Library in Wellesley, MA who sent this book to the Plano Public Library System to fill my Interlibrary Loan request.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Reviewing: "Hard Trail To Follow" by Elmer Kelton

Andy Pickard loves Bethel and there is no doubt about that. In his late 20's, this former Texas Ranger understands why Bethel won't leave the family farm and her ill mother. He doesn't understand why Farley Brackett, his future brother-in-law hates him so much or why he won't help out. Or why he is constantly on Andy's back about his being held prisoner by the Comanches when he was a kid or all the other things he harasses him with considering all the free labor Andy is doing.

Farley is a hard man and unappreciative. After a brief physical skirmish that neither man won, Andy decides to hit the trail and leave it all behind. Bethel isn't leaving and Andy can't put up with Farley anymore. If he stays, there might be another fight and somebody could get seriously killed or hurt. Andy isn't going to put Bethel through that and since she isn't going to leave, all he can do is head out with an unspecified need to do something else with his life. That decision sends him before lone into a confrontation with bank robbers, the death of a friend, and his putting on the badge of the legendary Texas Rangers once more.

It also sets him on the trail of an escaped outlaw across Southeastern and South Central Texas. Times are changing with the Indians on the reservations for years now, land and pastures fenced, and the telegraph spreading the latest news far and wide. Posses still ride and a fugitive can still make good on the escape but the telegraph spreads the news of the manhunt faster than the fugitive can travel. For both any Pickard as well as the fugitive known as Cordell, the chase is a long one full of twists and turns as well as a journey of self awareness as much as anything.

Author Elmer Kelton is considered by many to be the premier writer of western literature. Known for his authentic settings, realistic characters and concise prose he is a winner of Seven Spur Awards from the Western Writers of America as well as many others. The native Texan, who has authored more then fifty novel, is a legend and an author known to work the shades of gray. His characters wear neither black or white hats, but gray ones of varying shades as they go about their hard struggles in novels that don't romanticize the way it was for most people.

Such is the case here where the lawman and the outlaw could easily be nearly the same man. As the chase wears on, the reader shifts back and forth between both characters as well as a few others, in ways that not only bring the novel to life but illustrate truths that still very much hold true today. Portrayed by many as simpler times, they weren't. They were just different, but contained many of the same struggles that most face today. Author Elmer Kelton illustrates that point along with a few others worth reading in this engaging western.

Hard Trail To Follow
Elmer Kelton
Tom Doherty Associates/ A Forge Book
287 Pages

Review copy provided by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

"By The Light Of The Moon"The Carpathian Shadows Volume 2

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Reviewing: "Booked for a Hanging: A Sheriff Dan Rhodes Mystery" by Bill Crider

As this sixth book in the series opens, the merry month of March has come to Blacklin County, Texas. Computers have come as well as Hack finally has one. Dispatcher for the small department, Hack has been pushing for a computer and all that one can do for years. Getting sued does have at least one advantage as the County Commissioners have increased the budget of the sheriff's department.

The computer is one of several items that the County Commissioners finally allowed to be purchased. While Hack is absolutely giddy over it, Rhodes isn't impressed. Rhodes doesn't think much of computers as he prefers to investigate the old fashioned way by asking a lot of questions. He gets his chance when a man stumbles into the office out of the dark and windy night. The man is Hal Brame, a book dealer out of Houston. He says he was out in Obert to meet with Simon Graham. He couldn't find Graham, but something weird was going on out there at the abandoned college.

Years ago, Simon bought the land and buildings with great plans for restoration. Unfortunately, he hasn't done much since and lives pretty much by himself out there though there are a couple of neighbors nearby. Brame convinces Sheriff Rhodes to drive out and take a look around. While Sheriff Rhodes doesn't find any sign of what Brame says he saw, he does find a very dead Simon Graham hanging from a rafter on the third floor of one of the buildings. What initially appears to be a suicide is soon determined to be a murder with quite a cast of suspects.

Showing the same down home folksy style as other novels in the series, this book released in 1992 does not disappoint. While Susan, Sheriff Rhodes daughter who is a school teacher in the Dallas suburb of Richardson, does not appear and isn't mentioned, almost all of the other usual recurring characters make another appearance. Rather surprisingly, the recent marriage of Ivy and Dan is hardly referred to at all and Ivy only makes a couple of appearances as a sounding board to discuss the various cases. One hopes this is not a trend in the series as Ivy brings an interesting angle to things by her presence.

Instead of what was expected given the recent nuptials, this novel is primarily all about Sheriff Rhodes and how he works cases. Those who prefer by the book police procedurals my become annoyed as Rhodes frequently still goes into situations without backup and neglects to report his locations via the radio. Inadvertently, by doing so, astute readers who have been paying attention through the series can easily predict when mayhem involving the Sheriff will happen.

Despite that fact, author Bill Crider still manages to put a couple of twists in this story that are guaranteed to surprise a lot of readers. Along the way he tells another engaging tale of the people and life in Blacklin County, Texas. So, put your feet up and sit a spell because this to is a good one.

Booked for a Hanging: A Sheriff Dan Rhodes Mystery
Bill Crider
Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's Press
ISBN# 0-312-08149-9
202 Pages

Review copy provided by the good folks of the Plano Public Library System in Plano, Texas.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Reviewing: "Conspiracy of Silence" by Martha Powers

Clare Prentice has had quite a rough time for the last couple of years. In the aftermath of her Mother's death, she soon is in the Doctor's office nervously awaiting the results of a needle biopsy and other tests. Her mother, Rose, died of breast cancer and Clare is terrified that she has it as well. Clare can't move forward with her engagement until she knows her health status. The fact she is cancer free is a relief. Then the Doctor drops a bombshell.

Her mother was not her biological mother.

Within weeks, Clare learns there are no records of her adoption and that everything she has always believed was a lie. Her only clue leads her to the idyllic town of Grand Rapids, Minnesota. For the folks there, she is in town to interview a very reclusive local author. For Clare, she is on the hunt to find out her own family history. A history tied into a sensational murder case. And for a murderer, Clare back home is a problem to be dealt with as quickly as possible.

What follows is a complex and deeply layered tale that captivates the reader. Clare is both incredibly determined to find out her past no matter where the trail leads and incredibly vulnerable to the pain of such knowledge. She soon bonds with the reader in a unique way that makes the book come totally alive in every sense of the word.

The main storyline involves the murder and the family legacy. At the same time, two secondary storylines are interwoven into the main one. One involves Clare and her interview assignment. The other, the beginnings of a romance between Clare and one other character. Therefore, the novel contains both a fascinating decades old mystery and her search for the truth involving the crime as well as the beginnings of a romance.

Much like the legendary Phoenix who arose again from the charred ashes, Clare has been badly charred and yet flies again. Her flight is weak at first, but, as she slowly moves on from the burning lies of her past and fits the pieces of various puzzles together, she comes to find out that she can succeed.

This is, simply put, one of the best books I have read this year. It wouldn't have been something I ordinarily would have picked up. It also isn't being done the justice it deserves by this review. All I can say is … Read it. You won't regret it.

Conspiracy of Silence
Martha Powers
Oceanview Publishing
ISBN# 978-1-933515-18-2
325 Pages

Review copy provided by publicist Maryglenn McCombs in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Reviewing: "Lie Down With The Devil" by Linda Barnes

The latest in the series finds Carolotta estranged from nearly everyone and not by her choice. Sam Gianelli is on the run somewhere overseas and can't come home because of federal trouble in Vegas. He is refusing all help or contact and with things involving the feds, she isn't going to get much help from those she remains in contact with the Boston, PD.

Then there is the matter of Paolina. Like Carolotta who is dealing with flashbacks, Paolina is not dealing well with her recent kidnapping and forced travel to Cartagena, Columbia. A blood bath ensued and in the chaos, Paolina saw her father die. She came home and shortly there after began harming herself. Placed in treatment, she is refusing to see Carlotta.

Alcohol isn't helping Carlotta so Roz, her tenant assistant and just about everything else, decides it is time for Carolotta to work a case. Carolotta wasn't ready but her private investigator business is in shambles. At least working a case will keep her somewhat occupied and give her some sense of normalcy.

Jessica Franklin wants to know if her fiancé is stepping out on her. Instead of just asking him she wants to do things differently. All she wants is for Carlotta to follow the guy and see where he goes and who he meets if anyone. She doesn't want him investigated, just followed. Jessica is supposed to get married in less then 2 weeks and is clearly feeling the pressure. But, according to the note that says he will be cheating on her while she is gone the next night, she could have a good reason to be worried.

Carolotta takes the case and soon discovers everything she believed, both professional and personal, is nothing more than a lie.

The latest is the series is a complex mystery as well as a novel where the emotional psyche of the characters is of huge importance. The deep inner feelings and things that drive us to do certain acts, self destructive or otherwise, fuel this novel. Whether it is alcoholism and other acts in Carlotta's case, cutting done by Paolina, or Sam's notorious sexual escapades, the psyche and why these things happen are huge factors in the book.

So too is a case where Carolotta, who certainly isn't on her game initially, is constantly manipulated by everyone. Nothing is as it seems and friendships are strained and stressed in ways readers have not seen before.

At 292 pages this latest book in an overall very good series is a really good novel. From a reader's stand point, stressed characters always make for good reading and there are a lot of very stressed characters in this novel full of twists and double dealing right to the last page. Simply put, this is one of her best books in years and one you should definitely read.

Lie Down With the Devil: A Carlotta Carlyle Novel
Linda Barnes
St. Martin's Minotaur
August 2008
292 Pages

Review copy provided by the good folks of the Plano Public Library System in Plano, Texas.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

Friday, November 07, 2008

EVENT: Writers' Guild of Texas: November Meeting

Please forward to all writers and writing groups--

Mark the third Monday of every month for the Writers' Guild of Texas meeting.

Monday, 17 November 2008
7-8:30 p.m.
Topic: Ever Dream of Giving Up Your Day Job and Becoming a Novelist?
Speaker: Rachel Caine

Richardson Public Library
900 Civic Center Dr.
Richardson TX 75080
Basement Room

How many times have you heard (or even said!), "Someday, I'll quit my job and write a novel." Well ... it's not quite that simple, unless you've inherited a Mack truck full of cash from your Aunt Tillie. Come learn how to:

Stop waiting for the world to "give you time to write,"

Organize your writing, and your life, to support your goals,

Be realistic about what writing will do for your checkbook,

And maybe, eventually, live the dream and support yourself on your writing!

Rachel Caine, author of more than 25 books, has been there, done that, and is doing it every day. Come hear how a successful professional lives and works. She will also tell us all about her day job as a real-life corporate executive.

Early Bird calendar: All WGT events are free and open to the public. For more information on the sponsoring organization, go to

Monday, 15 December 2008, regular meeting: Christmas Party and Read In. WGT All Stars are at it again!

Monday, 19 January 2009, regular meeting: DeAnn Holcomb, journalist/published author

Monday, 16 February 2009, regular meeting: Karen Harrington, Plano author. A Year in the Life of a Debut Author

Monday, 16 March 2009 , regular meeting: Barry Shlachter. Savory House Press, Great Texas Line Press

Saturday, 28 March 2009, Workshop: Tony Eldridge. Guerilla Marketing

Monday, 20 April 2009, regular meeting: Neal McAfee, Author, Poet, Speaker (will talk on book signings)

Remember, Writers' Guild of Texas events are free and open to the public. Also, check out WGT's website: The Writers' Guild of Texas is a nonprofit professional organization whose primary purpose is to provide a forum for information, support and sharing among writers, to help members improve and market their writing skills, and to promote the interests of writers and the writing community.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Reviewing: "Dying In a Winter Wonderland" Compiled and Edited by Tony Burton

In the interests of full disclosure, in addition to providing the occasional exclusive book review to Tony Burton for his CrimeandSuspense zine, I also submitted to this anthology. Again this year, one of my darkly twisted stories didn't make the cut. What did are cozy style stories that thematically often involve helping children and the less fortunate have a brighter holiday season.

Austin S. Camacho and his signature character "Hannibal" kick off the anthology with "A Mom for Christmas." Margarita is a little girl who only wants her mom to come home but the bad men at the club she works at won't let her. She sent her daughter to Hannibal to ask for help.

"The Alternate Plan" by Allan Ansorge involves two crooks who plan on taking the pot from a sidewalk Santa. Recently released early from prision and with nothing else to do but watch their target they soon realize that others are looking to score as well.

New Year's visits to the home of Gerritt van Wiesal and his wife are customary in "A Merry Slay Ride" by M. E. Kemp. But, normally a sleigh doesn't arrive with a dead body in it.

The traditions of Hanukah form the background of several stories in this anthology and are present here in "On the Sixth Night of Hanukah" by Helen Schwartz. Just after Christmas, a local police officer is helping provide security at a local temple. Open to the homeless, the temple has been vandalized by graphetti and the culprit could be anyone.

"Something Extra for Christmas" by Radine Trees Nehring recounts a simple trip to the mall that soon becomes a climatic life changing experience for all involved.

Frequent contributor Garry R. Hoffman's story "Gracie's Gift from the East" follows. In this story, a stranded woman is befriended by three men to the ultimate benefit of many more.

Turning the tables on people is also a part of the storyline in "Happy Holiday's Times Three" by Peg Merring. Executing the plan is the key to this crime caper.

Editor Tony Burton makes his appearance through the story "Taking Her Medicine." An unrepentant drunk driver keeps trying to be the life of the party and there are consequences for that act.

Marley is definitely dead in "A Christmas Carole" by Janice Alonso. Who did it and why are the questions.

Terrie Farley Moran works on the "Nick" angle in her story, "Just Call Me Nick" as do several other authors in this anthology. Santa pulls up at a local gas station driving a very old car. With reports of an evil Santa robbing gas stations, this Santa is not a reassuring sight.

"The Longest Night" by S. M. Harding provides New Mexico as a setting and the family is gathering. The family maybe in New Mexico but the traditions of the homeland of Scotland continue strong.

First you take the money then you roll the body downhill in "In the Nick of Time" by Gayle Bartos-Pool. Then you try to get away with the crime.

Concluding the anthology is "Team Player" by Marian Allen. Sometimes bringing in the well paid mercenary is not the best thing to do to pump up sales.

Contributor bios in alphabetical order fill the last pages showcasing where the involved author's work has appeared elsewhere. This year's forward is written by Stevenne Averback aka "Dr.Toy" and briefly mentions the history of the program. As in past years, the authors have donated their stories to this effort. After production costs and expenses, proceeds from the sale of this anthology will be donated to the United States Marine Corps Reserve "Toys for Tots" program.

Thirteen stories that are cozy in nature with the occasional twist make up this year's collection. All the tales are interesting and safe to read for nearly any age group because there is nothing here that pushes boundaries in any way. That makes the book a wonderful and entertaining gift for young and old alike and one you can feel comfortable giving to any reader.

Dying In a Winter Wonderland: An Anthology of Winter Holiday Crime Stories to Benefit the Toys for Tots
Compiled and Edited by Tony Burton
Wolfmont Press
ISBN# 978-1-60364-005-3

Review copy provided by Tony Burton in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Carpathian Shadows, Volume 2 Is Now Out!

As Publisher Rob Preece of BOOKSFORABUCK noted in the comments here yesterday, the anthology Carpathian Shadows, Volume 2 is now out. The book features stories from Donna Amato, Christina Barber, Carol A. Cole, Seanna Graham, Kristin Johnson, and myself. Like Volume 1 also available from this publisher, all the stories work from the same basic idea.

Deep in the heart of the Carpathian Mountains, in Transylvania, lies a castle. This castle was once home to a nobleman who, it is claimed, warred with the church, bound his servants with a curse of silence, and ruled his lands with a grip of iron. Fortunately for modern-day visitors, Lord John Erdely has been dead for centuries and his castle now a haven for tourists. Or so, at least, is the claim.

Each visitor to a local hotel receives a fancy invitation--they're invited on a free tour and paranormal investigation. When a freak storm hits, forcing the visitors to overnight in Lord Erdely's castle, the tourists learn that Erdely's power is not limited merely to ancient fairy tales.

How each author twists the idea is where the various tales come in. I hope you take a look at
and order your copy today. The intro price is $1.00 and will increase to the still very affordable regular price of $3.99 on November 30th.

The book will also soon be available in print as well.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Almost Here!


Contact: Lea Schizas

Carpathian Mountains, ancient castle, and unexpected overnight lodging creates havoc for some foreigners.

Carpathian Shadows: Volume Two follows the haunting aura of Lord Erdely from the Carpathian Mountains in Transylvania, Romania, and his mysterious castle.

Lord John Erdely lived in the 17th century and date of death never confirmed since no body has ever been found. It is rumored he dealt in black magic to suppress the ongoing collaboration of the churches to bring a unified religion to all people, a Greek Catholic practice.

Enter the present time…

All visitors staying in Cornifu Hotel are surprised with a mystery invitation for a one-day excursion to Erdely Castle. Befuddled but amused at the same time, they accept, unaware of the events to follow.

Six prolific writers offer you six haunting tales:

A Visitor From the Past by Carol A. Cole

Divine Curse by Kristin Johnson

By the Light Of the Moon… by Kevin R. Tipple

Thicker Than Stone by Christina Barber

The Scholar by Seana Graham

Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil by Donna Amato

Carpathian Shadows: Volume Two launching on Halloween Night – October 31st, 2008.

For more information, click here:

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Reviewing: "Evil At The Root" by Bill Crider

Christmas has come and gone, but there is still a wedding coming. Sheriff Dan Rhodes is finally going to marry Ivy Daniel in just a few days. And he hasn't even thought about where to take her for the honeymoon.

Of course, he has had other things on his mind. For one, he and just about everyone in the department as well in county government is being sued for a million dollars piece. A former inmate has gotten himself a hotshot lawyer and is claiming neglect and bad jailhouse conditions. The neglect charge is ridiculous. The jail is very old and not in the best of shape so the conditions allegation might have some merit before the right jury. The lawsuit will stir up the politicians and Rhodes knows that as sheriff, he will be blamed no matter what he did.

The sheriff also gets blamed for all crime. Especially murder. Weird things have happened before at the Sunny Dale Nursing home, but nothing like this. Somebody stole Lloyd Bobbit's false teeth. Sheriff Rhodes first clue that they were missing was when he met the man on the porch at the home who kept shrieking "ain't got no teef" (p.1) Initially amusing the case quickly becomes deadly as Lloyd Bobbit is silenced once and for all.

This fifth novel in the Sheriff Dan Rhodes series released in hardback back in 1990 is another comfortable read. Rhodes, Ivy, Hank, Lawton and all the rest have become old friends and folks one looks forward to. The mysteries are always complex and not obvious and that certainly is the case here. The action and dialog are always realistic and then there are the traces of humor that bring a chuckle here and there.

Much like what Philip R. Craig did for the Vineyard, author Bill Crider has done for east Texas. There is that same straight story telling style with a cast of recurring characters that are as real as your family and plenty of mystery in each and every book. If you haven't read his work, you are missing a real treat.

Evil At the Root: A Sheriff Dan Rhodes Mystery
Bill Crider
Thomas Dunne/St. Martin's Press
ISBN# 0-312-04314-7
214 Pages

Review copy provided by the good folks of the Plano Public Library System in Plano, Texas.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

Friday, October 24, 2008

Reviewing: "Night Wolf's Song" by E. Floyd Phelps

I first met E. Floyd Phelps at the Hardboiled Heroes and Cozy Cats conference last June in Dallas. It was my second year in attendance and while a number of old friends had talked to me, Mr. Phelps was new to me. Once he found out I was a reviewer and was open to self published authors, he asked if I would review his horror novel. Horror is the one genre I won't read, but, as we talked about the book, it seemed more and more to me that it was possible really a book of suspense. With the understanding that if I found it too gruesome and had to quit, I took a copy home with me.

That was quite a few months ago. Having finally read the book, I do think it is mis-marketed as a horror novel. Instead, I would refer to it more as a novel of suspense. And, overall, it is a pretty good one.

Solita Obregon is on the run from a violent robbery and horrible life in Mexico and trying to get across the border into the Untied States. With little more than a name of a possible contact she heads for the border. She soon joins a group that plans to cross illegally into Texas. Presidio County, in deep southwestern Texas, and the surrounding counties are some of the harshest desert known to humans. The small group will have to deal with brutal desert conditions with little in terms of supplies. They will also have to deal with treachery within the small group.

They will also have to deal with the attacks by a "Nahuala" or werewolf like creature. When the moon is full, the creature roams the harsh Texas desert stalking and killing anything that moves. As the numbers of the group slowly shrink for a variety of reasons, Solita does everything she can to survive.

While this novel does need the assistance of a strong editor primarily in terms of continuity, pacing and word choice, the basic core story is a good one. Author E. Floyd Phelps has created an interesting novel full of strong characters. Characters, both in terms of main and secondary, that are clearly portrayed in all aspects and very much real to the reader.

The history of Texas in something ingrained in every native. That history is a major part of this novel where history and a familial legacy play a major role. Those excursions into history do slow the read somewhat, but at the same time, enhance the read and give depth to the story. A story that has depth and interesting characters and also does meander off onto shifting points of view tangents from time to time that do little to advance the main or secondary plotlines.

Clearly the "Nahuala" or werewolf like creature is the horror aspect of the work. It transforms when the moon is full like all werewolves do. Through its eyes, the reader is brought into the primitive brain as it goes on the hunt. The creature is violent and does frequently attack humans in a savage matter. However, while the attacks could be gruesome, the descriptions are not gratuitous or excessive. In fact, they seem rather tame especially as compared to what many mystery writers will write and describe done by some deranged serial killer.

The result is a good tale though a bit uneven in spots. Despite the various issues noted above, the book is a good one that captures the reader's interest and is well worth the read.

Night Wolf's Song
E. Floyd Phelps
April 2008
ISBN# 978-1-4343-7250-5
Large Trade Paperback
285 Pages

Review copy provided directly by the author in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

Friday, October 17, 2008

Reviewing: "The Hanged Man" by David Skibbins

The bipolar tarot card reader Warren Ritter returns in another installment of this enjoyable series. Warren is trying to change himself and settle down and yet longs for his old life back. A life where he thought he had things under control. Having control of one's own life is an illusion for many if not all as Warren is told early on in this novel.

There are those who seek control or to surrender control in their sexual lives. They become part of the BDSM lifestyle and incorporate the idea of control into their sexual lives. It is a lifestyle far removed from his outdoor tarot reading at the corner of Telegraph and Haste in Berkeley, California and something Warren knows absolutely nothing about.

That changes when his lover and computer expert, Sally McLaughlin, asks for his help. A paraplegic, Sally never asks for help. This time she does because her friend Therese has been arrested for murder. Therese is a professional dominatrix and a client of her has died. The evidence implicates Therese. Sally feels that she owes Theresa in so many ways. Once Vera, Therese's personal live in submissive, tells all to Sally there isn't anyone or anything that is going to stop Sally from proving Therese innocent.

Warren has been involved in three murder cases recently and twice has been the subject of police manhunts because of those murder cases. His initial reaction is to say no and his reaction is certainly understandable. Still, as readers expect, he eventually comes around and offers his help. To do so, he must immerse himself in the lifestyle of BDSM and must receive a crash course in the same from Vera.

Not to be left out, Heather, jumps in with both feet and business attire to work undercover on the case. Sally, Heather and Warren bumble and stumble their way through the undercover assignments with Warren finding out far more about himself than anything else.

Told through the shifting pov of all three characters, the novel chronicles an alternative lifestyle not familiar to many readers and a hunt for a killer. This forth installment of the series tackles a subject with dignity and class that could be controversial for some readers. Various aspects of the life style are discussed in depth and with respect. This is not a book designed to titillate or arouse and the story elements are not gratuitous. Instead, much like secondary characters, this area is explored and explained but never allowed to take over the story.

The BDSM angle is just another point of investigation to work the case and is treated as such in a mature fashion. So too is the main character of Warren Ritter who continues to evolve and change as he attempts to normalize an often chaotic life. Whether he is controlling his daily meds to treat his disease, his emotional reactions to the undercover work, or his control of his natural fleeing response to stress, the character is striving hard to become one again with a world that he tried to distance himself from for so many years.

The result is another good novel in the series. These are not run of the mill characters and this certainly has not been a run of the mill series. In this day of cookie cutter books put out by publishers who often moan that there isn't anything different and then do nothing to encourage diversity in reading material, it is a good thing to read another novel in a series that has been good and different from the beginning.

The Hanged Man: A Tarot Card Mystery
David Skibbins
Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Minotaur
August 2008
ISBN# 0-312-37783-5
240 Pages

Review copy provided directly by the author in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Status Change

This past week marked my change from a substitute to full time employment. Not only will this mean health benefits in the near future, it should also mean some budgetary stability as I will have a set paycheck every month.

Interestingly enough, I have been eagerly welcomed with open arms on a campus I had never subbed at in my three years. It is nice to be wanted and appreciated for what I can do in a classroom and as a staff member. A pleasant change, indeed.


Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Children's Book Review: "Jack And The Box"

"A Toon Book" written by Art Spielgelman is aimed at early readers and tells the story of three rabbits. There is a Mom rabbit, a Dad rabbit and a boy rabbit named Jack. They walk on two feet, live in a house like a human family, dress like a human family and act human in every way including getting a jack in the box type toy for their son.

It pops open the first time and badly scares Jack. Mom and Dad laugh it off and say "what a silly toy" while a clearly shaken Jack thanks them both for their gift.

Over the next several pages readers see Jack trying to play with the toy and the popup creature coming out at different times scaring as well as pleasing Jack. Jack expresses frustration in several cartoon panels as the toy does not always act in the way Jack expects. This is because his name is Zack and he is a silly toy.

This eventually leads to Zack getting free of his box. Once out he unleashes a friend named Mack who has a pet duck. The large pet duck has lots of little ducks and soon the lamp in Jack's bedroom is broken by the chaos of more and more ducks. It is replaced by Mack; order is restored with everything back in the box. Mom and Dad come to check on Jack after hearing all the noise and Jack explains all that has happened. They all realize Zack is a silly toy and walk off together laughing and leaving the toy on the bedroom floor.

While cleverly done in terms of text and illustrations this book's message is disturbing. Clearly Jack is threatened by the toy and is still scared when he thanks his parents for it. An action that isn't all positive in that it would appear he is doing an obligatory thank you through his heart really isn't into it.

Then readers are treated to not only Jack repeatedly frustrated with his attempts to play with the toy, Zack is drawn almost as a nightmare in most panels. There is a weird cross eyed look to the thing with a wide open mouth full of teeth along with the fact that it frequently leers over Jack in a maniac and threatening manner. It too expresses hostility and frequently refuses requests from Jack before finally unleashing pandemonium at the end of the book. It redeems itself somewhat by replacing what was broken but leaves the reader disturbed and in mind of Pandora's Box.

Like any children's book, whether this book works or not really depends on the child involved. Depending on the child's temperament, this book is clearly not going to be suitable. Parents and caregivers may also be disturbed by the images of Zack and the mixed messages found in the book. While the language is appropriate for the targeted audience, there is no cuteness to the story or text and the illustrations are often not appropriate and are very disturbing.

Therefore, this book should be examined very carefully before purchase.

Jack And The Box
Art Spielgelman
The Little Lit Library (division of Raw Junior, LLC)
October 21, 2008
32 Pages

As a member of the Amazon Vine Program, this book was sent to me in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Children's Book Review: "What's Under The Bed?"

For parents, it is no secret that a basic fear of kids is something lurking under the bed. This basic fear idea has been used by numerous authors of children's books as well as quite a few authors of adult novels. While the author of an adult novel aims to scare readers, the author of a book for children, especially a picture book, seeks to reassure the child. Few do it as well as author and illustrator Joe Fenton does in his book.

Told through rhyming text the book begins with the opening line "Time for bed, Fred!" Fred would rather stay up with Ted, his stuffed bear, but it is time for bed. Once in bed with Ted, Fred soon hears a noise. Ted falls over to the side and then eventually off the bed While Fred looks over the other edge of the bed.

Fred wonders if there could be something under the bed and his imagination runs colorfully wild. "Could it be green? Or maybe it's red? Does it have a very big head?" He imagines several different possibilities and combinations of the possible creature before discovering it is only Ted who had fallen off the bed earlier.

But then, "Is there something on the ground?"

That thought ends the book. A thought that could be interpreted as funny or as scary depending on the child involved.

Like any children's book, one needs to know the child involved before making a recommendation. The illustrations in this book are the main selling point of the book. They could be interpreted by a sensitive child as a bit scary and some adults may not care for them either.

However, this book with its wonderful illustrations and easy rhyming text should appeal to most children and the adults in their lives. Colorful and well done in all aspects that targets readers ages 4 to 8, it would be a welcome addition to the reading arsenal while providing a light hearted look at a basic childhood fear.

What's Under The Bed?
Written/Illustrated by Joe Fenton
Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
September 2008
ISBN# 1416949437
32 Pages

As a member of the Amazon Vine Program, this book was sent to me in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

Monday, September 29, 2008

Reviewing: "The History of Texas Music" by Gary Hartman

Written by Austin resident and founding director of the "Center for Texas Music History at Texas State University" Gary Hartman chronicles the background and history of what he defines as Texas music. He attempts to define what Texas music was and is today. That definition can basically be boiled down to being part of anything and everything out there in music. He then attempts to show how the nature of the sound has changed over time.

To do so, he looks at the history and culture of the American Southwest before looking at various ethnic groups such as Native American, Mexican American, and others that influenced Texas music. Each had a period of strong influence in the sound of Texas music before slipping back and being replaced by a different ethnic group that had risen to prominence. Those ethnic changes relate directly to the changing of culture and history in the Lone Star State and he argues that these changes make Texas music unique.

And while he may have a point, too often that idea is lost because of the heavy commentary full of dates, facts, too few anecdotes, and an immensely dry writing style. Musician as well as a historian, Gary Hartman uses this book to expand on an essay he originally wrote for "The Roots of Texas Music." As such, this book is first and foremost a history book. Clearly the author knows his subject matter from both a personal and a professional standpoint. Still, unfortunately, this book never really comes alive for the reader. Instead, it drones on and on for more than 226 pages with plenty of names, dates, and all the rest, but no human sense of who these people were. The occasional anecdote sheds some light but even then the background is told in a sterile academic style robbing the material of any human component that would relate to most readers.

The text that includes numerous pictures is followed by forty-one pages of notes. The notes, like any research project, are broken down into chapter references. There is also a bibliography of primary and secondary sources stretching twenty-two pages. That is followed by eleven page detailed index.

Despite the author's stated intention in the introduction that this is a book intended for the general public and not just academics, this is a very dry history book. It won't appeal to most readers in the "just the facts" style and tone that it is written in. Instead, this comprehensive book will primarily appeal to those who are mentioned in it, academics, and those who have a deep interest in the subject matter. For those selected groups, this 304 page book is excellent reference material both in text and pictures to further their studies.

The History of Texas Music
Gary Hartman
Texas A&M University Press
ISBN# 1-60344-002-X
304 Pages

Review copy provided by the staff of the Plano Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Reviewing: "Point Surrender" by Anne Carter

On the run from a collapsed relationship, Amy Winslow, heads for her brother, Brian. They have always been close and right now she has no one else to turn to. He lives in San Francisco in a small apartment and works as a member of the Coast Guard. Amy has a lot of decisions to make about the future and needs someone to talk to. Those decisions won't be quick or easy. Brian has news of his own.

Nearby is the lighthouse known as Point Surrender. The Coast Guard is selling it and Brian is going to be the lucky new owner. Brian is enthusiastic even though the over 150 year old lighthouse needs extensive work. Amy would love to share her brothers' enthusiasm, but there is something about the old lighthouse that really unnerves her. She doesn't know why she feels both drawn to it and disturbed by it at the same time.

Amy Winslow isn't the only one with painful secrets and on the run. A vetenarian, Casey McKenna, is on the run as well but he is doing it by sea. He manages to hole his boat the "Fancy Dream" nearby and after some quick action limps into port at Newburg Harbor. The accident happened shortly after he saw a man fling himself off the bluff at the Point Surrender lighthouse. No body was found and the local police don't really believe him. With his boat needing repairs he will be forced to remain in the area and near the mysterious lighthouse.

A lighthouse with a painful legacy of its own. A lighthouse where ghosts seem to appear at different times and seem to draw certain personalities to it. A lighthouse where out of the cold ashes of the past, a new romance could be born. A lighthouse that will bring Casey and Amy together.

Utterly predictable from start to finish without a single surprise twist, this novel still works well as it tells a romantic cozy style mystery tale. Despite the utter predictability throughout the novel, what Anne Carter does very well is to make her characters human and alive for readers. Whether it is the lovely Amy Winslow with an uncertain future and betrayed painfully by her previous lover or the hard edged and handsome Casey McKenna (prefers "Case") who heals animals and is unable to heal himself, these characters and others become living breathing people for the reader.

The mystery contains some supernatural elements which are explained as expected by the end of the novel. Billed as "romantic suspense" by the publisher, the suspense angle is virtually non-existent for those who have read widely in either or both genres. The obviousness of events can't be discussed without ruining the book for readers and as such can't be explained in a review.

However, the romance part of the term "romantic suspense" works very well as the story charts the tumultuous courtship between Casey and Amy. Passion drives this book in terms of the mystery as well as the romance and passion fuels both characters in the way they love as well as the way they live life.

The result is an overall enjoyable novel and a pleasurable read.

Point Surrender
Anne Carter
Echelon Press Publishing
April 2007
ISBN # 1-59080-514-3
Large Trade Paperback
288 Pages

Review copy provided by P. J. Nunn of BreakThrough Promotions in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2008