Sunday, July 31, 2011

Wife in Hospital

Finally home tonight after spending 13 hours in the ER with Sandi. It appears she has had a "minor stroke." They finally have her blood pressure stabilized and have stopped her throwing up from her head pain. They have her headache pain level down a bit as they have her heavily sedated this evening.

Some tests were done today with more expected in the morning. Their major focus today was trying to get her stabilized as any movement of her body caused massive blood pressure spikes and body tremors along with some other issues. Thankfully, the blindness in her right eye that came on suddenly this morning seems to have passed as her vision came back this afternoon. At about the same time, she regained movement in her right hand.

Because of my own cardiac issues and the fact I fell in the middle of the ER scaring the heck out of everyone, I was  kicked out and told to go home and rest.

I didn't argue since they had her stabilized.


Friday, July 29, 2011

FFB Review: "It Isn't Easy being Johnny Style" by Patrick K. Jassoy

Every High School has a bully—at least one that makes life hard on everyone else while the teaching staff never notices a thing. Often it is High School where the deviant mind first shows up and begins to explore the nature of evil and its seductive power. Unchecked then, it isn’t surprising when that same deviant mind makes the papers years later as a result of criminal activity often horrific and appalling. 

In the here and now, Johnny Style is a private detective, lonely and broke on New Year’s Eve. When turned down by the right lady for the right now, Style begins to head back to his office for no real reason other than he has nothing else to do. After a couple of encounters with various people along the way, he finds an old friend by the name of Jimmy C. on the stoop in front of his office building. Jimmy C. has been savagely beaten with his lips sewed shut and is very near death. Style manages to cut his lips apart and Jimmy C. tells him that Santana Santiago did it over a drug debt before passing away in his arms.

This isn’t the first time Santiago has killed someone close to Style. Johnny Style and Santana Santiago have clashed since High School when Style, new to the area and the school, inadvertently got into Santiago’s way. When Style began dating Anita, Santiago’s girlfriend, it made things personal and something never man has ever gotten over. What should have been over by graduation instead has turned into a sort of blood feud with Santiago taking his growing rage and need for vengeance out on Style’s friends. Style hasn’t been able to stop him and finally, Santiago seems ready to finish the game, once and for all.

Written in the stylistic style of the old pulp fiction novels, this 165-page read was very fast and very good. While I, as a reader, am not a fan of the use of flashbacks, the nearly 100 page continuous flashback in this novel works and works well. By doing so and in such great detail, the author not only provides a foundation for this book as to how it all began for Style but for the planned series as a whole.

With such a cast of unique characters as well as a strong, complex protagonist, this book is well worth reading. Assuming the author lives up to the potential and unique style of his voice, this should be the start of a very enjoyable series.

It Isn’t Easy Being Johnny Style 

Patrick K. Jassoy
March 2003
ISBN # 1-59113-152-9
Large Trade Paperback 

176 Pages

Material supplied by the author at the time in exchange for my objective review. Sadly, since the above review was written in 2003, it seems that the author has not published another book.

Patti Abbott was unavailable today to collect links, so for the complete list of books for Friday's Forgotten Books surf over to Todd Mason's always excellent blog, Sweet Freedom.

Kevin R. Tipple (c)2011

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bill Crider's Pop Culture Magazine: Today's Sizzling Summer Read: Dying Memories

I have long thought that the prolific Michael Bracken is some sort of writing robot sent from the future. The man is a machine generating stuff constantly and selling left and right. Apparently, Dave Zeltserman is one of those too. I have not read this one. However, I suspect it is guilty of being very good.

Bill Crider's Pop Culture Magazine: Today's Sizzling Summer Read: Dying Memories: "Top Suspense Group: Today's Sizzling Summer Read: Dying Memories : 'Dying Memories opens with a woman shooting a man to death on a crowded s..."

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Update on Medicaid

By letter dated 07/20 that arrived here yesterday, we have been denied for Medicaid. The generic form letter says that the denial is based on our failure to provide the requested information. Since we did provide ALL requested information, some of it for the fourth time, their stated reason for denial makes no sense at all.

Obviously we will be appealing this decision. But, that will take time and is not a fast process. This was disastrous news.

We also were informed yesterday that the reprocessing of claims has now been done and the figure for us to come up with for her surgery is $1700. An impossible figure. Especially when we don’t yet have the rent money due August 1.

I truly have no idea what we are going to do.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

New Review at Tangent Online

My review of Albedo One #39 under the Print/Bi-Annual category is now up at Tangent Online.  Albedo One is a print science fiction, fantasy, and horror magazine published 2 to 3 times a year. It is published in Dublin, Ireland. My review is opposite in tone from Caroline E. Willis the other assigned reviewer for the 2010 copyright dated magazine.

Also at Tangent Online are my recent reviews of the June issue of Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine, Fantasy Magazine #50, and the May edition of Strange Horizons.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Review: "Breaking Silence" by Linda Castillo

Third in this series, Breaking Silence by Linda Castillo, is quite possibly the most disturbing book to date.  Police Chief Kate Burkholder is hard at work trying to stop a series of attacks against the Amish while solving a complex murder case.

At first, what happened that cold December morning at the Slabaugh farm appeared to be an accident. The 5:00 a.m. phone call signaled something bad had happened before Chief Kate Burkholder was told of the family nightmare.  Three unconscious adults were down in the manure pit inside the hog barn on the Slabaugh farm.  Since the family is Amish and therefore does not have modern conveniences like electricity and phones, one of the kids had to get help from Bishop Troyer who relayed the emergency situation to the local police. Burkholder and others arrive on scene and pull the others from the manure pit, but they are far too late.  Methane gas is a deadly killer and it just took way too long to get them out alive. Initial investigation appears that one adult slipped in during the cleaning process and the others died during the attempted rescue.

That is until the autopsy finds that Mr. Solomon Slabaugh was struck in the back of the head by a blunt object. The blow cracked his skull leaving a round impression and caused damage of a serious nature. It absolutely could not have happened by a fall to the sloped concrete apron of the manure pit. That and other signs make it clear that he was murdered. How his wife and another family relative wound up in the pit is unknown but at last one murder has occurred.  The only good news out of this family tragedy is there is a brother of the father who can take the kids ranging in ages of 10 to 17 into his home.

The bad news is that Amish is no longer of the Amish faith and was banished several years ago.  This sets up a cultural clash between the local Amish who want to take over caring for the children as is their duty and custom and the children’s estranged Uncle who considers the children family and soley his responsibility. Neither side is going to give in and that means the already hard feelings between both sides are only going to get worse. The children, three boys and a girl have their own issues and Kate feels incredibly drawn to the teenage girl who reminds Kate so much of her own troubled past.

If that isn’t enough, somebody is harassing the local Amish and things are getting worse as the attacks escalate. Reports are stretchy and the Amish certainly don’t want to talk about it and outright refuse to say a word most of the time. But, visible damage to animals, equipment and people tell the tale.  Evidence of fire bombings, mutilated sheep, as well as other attacks brings in agent John Tomasetti from the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation. He recently requested reassignment to the small state office in Richfield so that he could conceivable see Kate more often as that office handles her area. Their relationship, if they call it that, is still very unsettled and it has to take a backseat to what is happening. Sent in to assist with investigating and stopping the hate crimes, Burkholder and Tomasetti struggle to understand whether or not what happened at the Slabaugh farm is part of the violent hate attacks.

Eventually the twin storylines get solved in this very disturbing tale.  It is impossible to explain why this one is so dark and disturbing without ruining a huge section of the primary storyline.  A primary storyline that once again finds Kate gradually unraveling under the strain of the current cases as well as background events covered in the first two books.

Those events are covered again in this book in detail making it imperative that this series be read in order starting with Sworn to Silence.

Depending on what the reader is comfortable with or not, readers are warned that this book has disturbing and somewhat graphic descriptions in it that could offend some readers. These books are hard edged, almost noir style in nature, and are occasionally rather graphic. That certainly is the case here.

This good book and series is not a cozy style type read where everything happens offstage.  If you prefer your books dark and complex, your major characters flawed and realistic, and your reads fast paced and suspenseful this one is the one of for you.  Building on a solid foundation, Texas author Linda Castillo has worked her magic yet again in another mighty good book. Breaking Silence might just be the best in the series.

Breaking Silence
Linda Castillo
Minotaur Books (St. Martin’s Publishing Group)
June 2011
ISBN# 978-0-312-37499-0
302 Pages

Material Supplied by the good folks of the Plano, Texas Public Library System.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2011

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Non-Gamer's Gamer's Blog: After These Messages, We'll Be Right Back…

I am having a very bad day after falling down our stairs here at home. I am battered and bruised, in tremendous pain and much worse off than the normal constant pain I have, and thankful that somehow, other than a new sizable dent in the wall, nothing is broken. I have said before I need personal airbags like they had on the Mars Landers. I really could have used them yesterday evening along with a bottle of pain pills.

One of these times I am not going to be so lucky. Considering the fact that, unless a financial miracle happens, we soon will be going to a homeless shelter in Dallas somewhere, stairs are not going to be an issue much longer.

So, I am a bit late in saying something about the wonderful post Glenn Walker did about us on his "The Non Gamer's Blog." Despite his love for the Eagles and all things Philadelphia as well as my feelings about Texas and all things Cowboys, we became freinds years ago. Probably because of a shared love of the written word and a shared very sense of twisted humor. I don't know why I click with certain folks like Milton Burton (get well, buddy), Barry Egrang, Glenn Walker, Earl Staggs and many others I could name and won't. It just happens sometimes. Just like I drive some other folks nuts without doing anything.

Glenn wrote about our plight yesterday and mentioned my son Karl and his Amazon store. Thank you, Glenn. Means a lot.

The Non-Gamer's Gamer's Blog: After These Messages, We'll Be Right Back…: "Writers are a brotherhood. And by brotherhood, I mean brotherhood and sisterhood. I don't want to leave the ladies out by virtue of the wr..."

Friday, July 22, 2011

FFB Review: "MYSTERY RANCH" (1930) by Max Brand ( Reviewed by Barry Ergang)

MYSTERY RANCH  (1930) by Max Brand

Reviewed by Barry Ergang

Having been prospecting in the desert for six months, rugged young John Templar makes his way to the town of Last Luck, intent on spending for a good time some of the gold dust he has accumulated. A good time he must indeed have had, but when he awakens held down by five men sitting on him, he has no memory of what he did or why he's being physically restrained in a jail cell. From a conversation with these townsfolk, he gleans that he went on a drunken spree, in the process managing to wreck a good portion of the town and inflict a substantial amount of damage to its citizens. Oddly enough, they're more matter-of-fact than resentful when reporting to Templar what he's done, seeming almost to admire the spirit of  this brawny youth who is not yet quite twenty-one years old.

Not long afterward, one by one, the three proprietors of the pleasure palaces he tornadoed through visit Templar at the jail, each man offering him a job as a peacekeeper in his establishment, each man offering a bigger salary than the last. Each tells Templar to think it over and give him an answer tomorrow. It's when a fourth man shows up that the sheriff himself is excited for Templar. The man is wealthy and prominent Andrew Condon, owner of the biggest ranch in the area. He asks permission to take Templar for a ride, and the sheriff consents.

Condon seems impressed with the young man, and Templar is impressed with the older man's sprawling ranch. Although he appears to be a very confident, composed man, Condon eventually admits he needs a bodyguard, that someone is trying to kill him. He's willing to pay handsomely for protection. Although not a gunslinger, and with no desire to be one, Templar takes the job.  

Also living in the main house is Condon's nephew Munroe Lister. Studiously attentive to his law books, he's not a namby-pamby.  He makes it clear early on that if Templar speaks sharply to him, as he has already done once, he's prepared to take him on in a fight. And then there's Snyder, an ex-prizefighter who serves as Condon's butler. He and Templar take almost instant dislikes to each other, and their antagonism is a factor through a substantial portion of the novel. But the person who intrigues Templar above all others is the Chinese woman, whom he nicknames "Hong Kong," who cooks and cleans for the household. Is she really Chinese? he wonders. Is she being truthful when she pretends not to understand more than a few words of English? Why is some of her behavior so furtive? Is she or is she not who and what she professes to be?

Templar has barely settled in on the ranch and begun his duties when Condon's self-possession leaves him, replaced by sheer terror and the certainty that an attempt will be made on his life that evening. He's right, but Templar shoots and kills the assassin. As it turns out, Condon knows the man, Larry Harmon, but won't explain how to Templar. And strangely, despite having almost been murdered, Condon is a completely relaxed man the next day, once again poised and self-assured.

Plenty of action, excitement and mysterious episodes lie ahead, including a couple of brutal murders, before Templar gets to the bottom of it all. To do this, he teams up with his old friend, fellow desert rat and giant of a man Danny O'Shay, who has come into Last Luck "because I love fun more than money." For awhile I thought Mystery Ranch would turn out to be a fairly-clued whodunit with a western setting, and that O'Shay would be the man to solve it. However, it's not that kind of a story, and most experienced mystery readers will have the satisfaction of figuring out the "surprise" revelation well before they reach it. The book nevertheless contains the requisite "sock finish."

Max Brand is the most famous of the pen-names used by the phenomenally prolific (over 500 novels and a comparable number of short stories) Frederick Schiller Faust. Although I've been familiar with the...uh...Brand name since adolescence, this was my first experience with one of his works. It's written in a prose that blends the style of Nineteenth Century fiction with that of Twentieth Century pulp fiction--and, in fact, Mystery Ranch originally ran as a serial in the pulp Western Story Magazine in 1928, and was republished in hardcover in 1930 under the present title in the United States and as Mystery Valley in the United Kingdom.  According to what I've read from several sources over the years, Faust used his real name only for his poetry, for which he wanted to be remembered. But it's the Max Brand material that has survived so far, and one can find the poet in passages like this: "Now in Last Luck there were three palaces among hovels, three noble ships for the eyes of the shipwrecked, three islands of green among the hot sands." (I never said it wasn't hokey by modern standards.) And: "Now with the moon sailing higher, and the gilded rocks standing like so many men in armor, and the loftier mountains removed in shadowed dignity, and the breath of the pines abroad, it seemed to Templar a moment of enchantment, and a place for wild deeds."

A couple of offensive racial epithets make more than a few appearances throughout the story. Whether they reflect Faust's attitude, or whether he was merely recreating the attitude of the period he was writing about, I can't say. But I mention this as a warning to  sensitive readers.

With that caveat in place, I think many a reader will find in Mystery Ranch to be some good old-fashioned entertainment combining two of our most popular genres, the western and the mystery.

Barry Ergang ©2011

Former Managing Editor of Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine and First Senior Editor of Mysterical-E, Derringer winner Barry Ergang's work has appeared in numerous publications, print and electronic. His website is  From a need to reduce clutter, he's selling many of the books he's accumulated over the years.
You can find the titles and cover scans, along with purchasing information, at If you're in need of a good editor, Barry will put his skills to work on your behalf--see

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bill Crider's Pop Culture Magazine: Steve Brewer's Bargain Sale

In case you missed this, (and you should be reading Bill Crider's books and blogs by the way) Steve Brewer is having one heck of a sale. Check it out.

Bill Crider's Pop Culture Magazine: Steve Brewer's Bargain Sale: "Bubba book bargains : 'All the Bubba Mabry mysteries -- seven novels and a novella -- are now on sale as e-books for only 99 cents each . B..."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Update on Us

The update on us is that we still don’t know anything about anything. The insurance folks are still working on reprocessing things so that hopefully Sandi can soon schedule and have surgery. The food stamp folks have not updated us as to the status of our Medicaid claim. I have not heard anything from the Social Security disability folks on my case.

This is why I am again asking for your help. Please donate. We are past due on our utilities, rent is coming due, etc. and we desperately need your help.

Barry Ergang (who is starting an editing business ) has graciously continued his sale offer regarding us. In addition to his own works of fiction up at Smashwords, he is selling books at  Mystery books, general fiction, writer help books, etc. Barry has quite a lot of books that he is seeking to sell. Quite often, what Barry reviews for his posts here come from his books for sale.

Now, as frequent readers of this space know as well as what Barry has posted on the various lists, he is helping me by donating funds to help my family out. As Barry has put it:

“Make a purchase and I'll contribute 20% of the total price of the books to Kevin and his family. Just indicate in your e-mail order that you're doing this for Kevin. If you want me to acknowledge you to him, say so. If you'd prefer to remain anonymous, I can simply let him know that an anonymous buyer contributed whatever the amount is. This way, you help one of our friends and colleagues, and come away with something tangible to show for it.”

I very much appreciate Barry’s offer and am very grateful for his help as well as the support of those who have bought books from Barry and donated funds.  Barry is not the only one to make such an offer.

Ben Leroy owner of Tyrus Books has offered a special incentive. In his words:

“We've got limited editions that I'd donate to the cause. If people put $200 in your account, I'll send them a copy of Delta Blues or By Hook or By Crook ($275/$250 suggested retail). The descriptions are on our website.”

I have read and reviewed Delta Blues here and it is a good one. Have not read “By Hook Or By Cook” (and no it is not in my TBR pile--I did look) but it sounds like a good anthology.

We very much appreciate Barry’s as well as Ben’s continued support.

It remains our intention to someday, somehow, pay everyone back for all they have done for us. I have no idea how short of winning the lottery or my being lucky enough and good enough to be on the NYT bestseller list. But, that remains our intention.

Please help if you can. Please spread the word if you will. We are not being frivolous with the donations and are not begging for the fun of it.  We truly do need your help.

Thank you.


Ed Gorman's blog: Marty Greenberg

A wonderful tribute to Marty Greenberg. Even if you, like me, never met the man this is well worth your time. Gorman's blog: Marty Greenberg

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Reviewing: "Top Five Questions To Ask Your Doctor" by Jim Sutton, RPA-C and Sagar Nigwekar, MD

Written by two doctors, Top Five Questions To Ask Your Doctor: Important questions your doctor wants you to ask about your medical condition is designed to give you the most important questions to ask your doctor regarding a variety of diseases and conditions. Instead of going blank when you hear the term “cancer” or something else, or suddenly thinking of things to ask later in the dead of night, this book is designed to help you stay informed about your condition.

As we all know, a doctor's time is increasingly limited. Those precious minutes with him or her have to be maximized. In the section titled “Tips for Talking to Your Doctor” it stresses the idea that the patient should “set the agenda” and “use your time wisely.” That is followed by suggestions for questions that you should always ask every visit. Examples range from the general “how will I know my treatment is working?” to the more specific “will this medication interact with any other medication I am taking?” There are also several basic questions listed for staying in the hospital and before a surgery or procedure. Those few pages pass quickly and then it is on to the alphabetically listed diseases and conditions.

From what my father-in-law had years ago named “Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm “ on page 10 to Warts (common warts) on page 154 and nearly everything in between the authors cover a number of medical issues that are common as well as rare. In each case, the authors list the top five questions for each topic and additional questions. A topic can be covered in as little as two pages to nearly a dozen. 150 different problems are listed and can range from the very common “Ear Infections” (page 71) and “Tooth Pain” (page 144) to the less common and more complex “Bell’s Palsy” (page 36), “Meningitis” (page 107) and “Vasculitis” (page 198) among others. Each disease or condition also has a multi sentence paragraph introduction explaining what it is before leading into the questions. While some questions are generic in nature and cover a variety of diseases/conditions, others are very specific to the disease or condition.

A five page index brings this very helpful book to a close. Written in regular language devoid of medical jargon by doctors, this book is one of those books that everyone should own. Easy to use and easy to understand, it allows the patient to focus on other things---like getting well.

Top Five Questions To Ask Your Doctor: Important questions your doctor wants you to ask about your medical condition
Jim Sutton, RPA-C
Sagar Nigwekar, MD
Outskirts Press, Inc.
ISBN# 978-1-4327-5826-4

Material supplied by the authors in exchange for my objective review. It is also available on the Kindle for $3.99

Kevin R. Tipple © 2011

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Reviewing: "Shaken: Stories for Japan" edited by Timothy Hallinan

As noted on the cover, this book is “A Collection of Original Fiction for Japan America Society of Southern California's 2011 Japan Relief Fund.”  The authors involved have banded together to create this e-book with all monies raised from sales given to the Japan Relief Fund to aid earthquake relief efforts.  The need remains great in Japan and the aim of this book is to help in some small way while also providing reading pleasure. The book seems to be meeting both goals quite well based on the buzz it has generated.

After a brief message from Douglas G. Erber, President, Japan American Society of Southern California followed by a brief introduction to the book by Editor Timothy Hallinan it is on to the stories. While some are mystery stories and others are fiction, they are all stories of depth featuring complicated characters dealing with heavy burdens. These are not the shallow characters of the latest maga Hollywood style adventure. There are not any lightweight fluff stories in this book either.  It becomes quickly evident to the most casual reader that this is a book of fiction with serious depth and meaning.
The book opens with “Matsushima Bay” written by Adrian McKinty.  The author briefly chronicles a previous trip into the area, near the epicenter of the recent tragic earthquake and what the region means spiritually to so many.  While it is a work of fiction, it reads as nonfiction in the style of a personal and heartfelt narrative.

Naomi Hirahara comes next with “Chirigami” where a resident, Kenbo, of an apartment with very thin walls located somewhere just outside of Tokyo has a new neighbor.  All he knows is that she is a woman and foreigner but she is not British or American.  Times have changed.  Not only does Kenbo have an unattached female neighbor, something unheard of before, but the business he works in is slowly failing.  Thanks to his unknown neighbor, Kenbo’s relationship with others begins to change.

“Gift of the Sea” by Vicki Doudera tells the tale of a daughter of a woman who was destined to die at sea.  The sea was her end but it was also her mother’s beginning in this touching story.

Japan isn’t the only place to suffer major earthquakes that have been devastating. San Francisco has seen its share and serves as setting for “Coolie” by Kelli Stanley. The earthquake has struck, the heart of San Francisco is on fire and Alfred and his rescuer must navigate through the chaos to Golden Gate Park.  Alfred is blinded so he must rely on his rescuer to navigate as well as tell him of the dead horses, the rubble marking collapsed buildings and homes and everything else in this hell on earth this April 18, 1906.

Editor Timothy Hallinan makes his appearance with the powerful story “The Silken Claw.”  It is September 1926 on a movie set where production of a Dr. Zo movie is underway. Shooting of a pivotal scene is underway but the real drama is amongst the cast and crew.

Tom Hickey is 36 and a borderline diabetic in “The Enemy” by Ken Kuhlken.  He owns a supper club and hates what he is doing and the madness of the world. That includes the shocking shooting death of his bartender who was robbed on the way to the bank.  Since Tom Hickey also works as a private investigator he intends to find the shooter one way or another.

It has been four long years and finally Eunice Toyama is back home in San Pedro. Internment has changed her home town as well as Eunice. It is 1946, she is 19, and very ready to do business and take care of debts that are due in “The Emperor’s Truck” by Wendy Hornsby.

Unlike many of the stories in this anthology that are set in the past, Cora Black chose present day Tokyo for her setting with “Mosquito Incense.”  Despite the initial modern day setting, the past is the key point of the story where Tokyo in August means heat, humidity and regret in large amounts in this tale rich with visual details and depth of feeling.

“Dead Time” by Dale Furutani powerfully tells the tale of a man in prison waiting to be executed.  Between 8 and 8:30 every day the warden comes to collect the prisoners to be executed that day.  In Japan the day of the execution is not known to the condemned or the family so each day begins with the mounting terror of not knowing if this is the day you die.  Being forced to contemplate death each day gives one time to think.

Reality is harsh for Miki in “Miki’s 19th Birthday” by Stefan Hammond.  Her daily reality is living in a cardboard nest in a tunnel with several other refugees.  She has semi bonded with two other teen girls in the wake of the earthquake/tsunami.  It’s time to find another empty house and get clean--what they call a “shower Invasion”-- as well as take whatever the trio wants.  The problem is the place they picked isn’t empty.

Brett Battles turns in “The Assignment” a tale where Orlando is supposed to pick up a married Japanese national at the airport in ‘Los Angeles.   It is supposed to be a simple pick up, escort Mrs. Tomita to a certain location, and drop her off job.  But, Mrs. Tomita is not everything she appears to be and has her own agenda.

Faith Hasegawa and the narrator were best friends from Junior High until Faith died at 40 from cancer.  In “Faith’s Secret” by Dianne Emley, the past is the theme in a tale that will strike a chord in many readers that grew up in the seventies. Set in Los Angeles this tale about teen issues works no matter where you grew up.

Working customer service from a cubicle is no fun and it certainly isn’t in “Father Knows Best” by Hank Phillipi Ryan.  A difficult boss has to be dealt with and the options are few.

Blending in the local society is a frequent theme of the stories in this book regardless of where they are set. This is certainly true in “Borrowed Scenery” by Rosemary Harris.  A fixture in the neighborhood block, Goria Madison always knew what was going on.  At least, she thought she did. The quiet neighbor next door is a surprise. 

With a name like Cynthia Goldberg, people didn’t expect her to look the way she did.  Thanks to her American Jew father and her Japanese mother, her heritage is mixed and striking as she walks near the tidal basin in March 1994.  It is almost time for the annual “Cherry Blossoms” in Washington D.C.  The setting is more than symbolic in this powerful tale by Debby Mack where the painful legacy of atomic warfare lives on.

Jerri Westerson pens a tale of forced marriage and much more in “The Noodle Girl.”  Haruka has just turned 13 and has been told she is to marry Masaru-Sama.  She unfortunately came to his attention because of her mom and their noodle/tea cart.  If the food had been bad, she could have been safe from him.  Mom is thrilled with her prospects but Haruka is not.

It has been twenty years since he was back to his village. Now the man has an 11 year old daughter.  Both the man and his daughter are abducted in the chilling story “The Missing” by Jeffrey Siger.  Captured by North Korean soldiers they must do what they have to do to survive while keeping secret exactly who they are.

“Enforcer No. 3” has been given his assignment in this hard hitting tale by Gary Phillips.  Tokyo may be having power problems, the city of Sendai may be heavily damaged, but the Yakuza carry on with normal business.  He has work to do with blade and grenade.

Rebecca has her hands full with three kids in “Dusty” by C. J. West.  But instead of all three to see the temple at Kamakura, Jessica plans instead to go to a friend’s home high in a local apartment building. By doing so, she leaves her younger sister Lisa and baby brother Stephen with Mom for the trip.  Within minutes of her leaving their car and joining up with her friend, the ground starts shaking and seemingly won’t stop threatening everything and everyone.

Watanabe Wataru was born into the right family at the right time.  It may be the 11th century in “The Kamo Horse” by IJ Parker, but nobleman Wataru is doing very well.  If he can win the great Kamo race, he can claim the prize of the Emperor’s new horse.  The emperor has selected him to train and ride the horse in the great race but others think the horse is unlucky and dangerous.  Wataru‘s future in the court hangs in the balance but not because of the obvious in this complex mystery tale that finishes the book.

At the very end of this enjoyable book, there is a small explanation about the Japan American Society of Southern California and their work.  Throughout the book after each story and author bio, there are scattered haiku from the book titled Basho: the Complete Haiku translated by Jane Reichhold and published in 2008. Along with a brief note about the passages cited, there is a brief note about the illustrative work created by cover artist Gar Anthony Haywood.

The result is a complex and imaginative work that spans the wide gulf between American and Japan while telling tales that will resonate with many people. These are not fluff pieces dashed off to meet a word count or loosely address a theme. These characters are complex and deep and allow a glimpse into their lives for a few pages.  This is a book of soul and complexity of depth that just happens to support a good cause.

Shaken: Stories for Japan
Edited by Timothy Hallinan
Japan American Society of Southern California
June 2011
E-Book: Kindle Edition

Material supplied by the editor in exchange for my objective review.

Kevin R. Tipple © 2011

Friday, July 15, 2011

FFB Review: "The Ugly Princess" by Elizabeth Burton

Usually for Friday’s Forgotten Books hosted by Patti Abbott at mystery books are the theme. Between Barry and myself, we have covered a lot of mysteries over the years. Some of those Barry has for sale at

Barry asks me to remind you of the following information……“Make a purchase and I'll contribute 20% of the total price of the books to Kevin and his family. Just indicate in your e-mail order that you're doing this for Kevin. If you want me to acknowledge you to him, say so. If you'd prefer to remain anonymous, I can simply let him know that an anonymous buyer contributed whatever the amount is. This way, you help one of our friends and colleagues, and come away with something tangible to show for it.”

A fantastic offer from Barry and I really appreciate Barry continuing to help us like this. Not only has he helped keep this blog going with supplying content and picking up the slack when I am in very bad shape---an all too frequent occurrence---but he has donated money from his sales as well as other money to the effort. I am very grateful to Barry for everything.

I absolutely hate being in this position. We need all the help we can get to pay the rent, buy meds, etc. I’m terrified of being homeless and we truly do need your help. Fridays are supposed to be about fun and the weekend, but I can’t help begging a little bit after about three hours of sleep last night. Back to the point of this post today.

This week I decided to do something a little different. Maybe that was because, after some serious arm twisting the last few weeks by Editor Dave Truesdale,  I have started trying to do a review here and there for Tangent Online again. Or maybe the constant worry about how we are going to pay our rent plus the searing Texas heat has fried what little is left of my brain. Or, maybe, every now and then, it is just good to do something different.

Chalk it up to what you will. By royal decree, it is Friday and I give you Fantasy!

"The truth might never have come to light had the King not gotten drunk at his wedding banquet and choked to death on a pheasant bone."

A funny opening sentence to be sure offered by Elizabeth Burton in The Ugly Princess. Those that know something of me from my reviews here and elsewhere know that I am not a big fan of fantasy. With the exception of Terry Goodkind, most fantasy seems to me to be redundant and boring. Then I received this very enjoyable novel from the author. She has penned a grand tale of palace intrigue and deceit, sinister forces unleashed in a world of fantasy, and more than anything, the power of romance. This novel works across all levels and a fantasy setting only serves in improve the novel as to have done anything else would diminish the work.

Simplifying greatly, King Edrick of Abernal died at the afore mentioned feast. The only reason King Edrick was even having a wedding feast was that the previous Queen, whom he could not divorce because of extreme financial penalties, has finally died. He banished her to the far reaches of the Kingdom years ago and with word of her death, it is time for another political marriage. He must have a son, legitimate, preferably since all the illegitimate children are dead, to take over his Kingly duties someday. Upon word of the Queen's death, plans are quickly made for King Edrick to marry Yolanthe of Nadwich, the young daughter of King Benifaz. Upon meeting King Edrick, she is clearly less than thrilled with the repulsive idea but is powerless to stop it.

As it turns out, she is spared consummating the marriage with King Edrick thanks to his sudden death. The only living heir, known as The Ugly Princess and the spawn of a previous political union is needed to keep the throne in the family. She is rumored to be hideously deformed but since killing her wasn't an option, she has lived for the last twenty years at the far edges of the empire in a keep high in the foothills. There she is attended to by trolls, the only ones who can deal with her vulgar appearance.

Knowing that the ministers of the Royal Court seek to consolidate their power and have her killed, the Royal Champion Sir Christopher Evergild, leaves to bring her back. As the next rightful holder of the throne, he will swear an oath of fealty to her and then return her to the castle and the throne that is rightfully hers. At the same time, Bartrim Ruford, Seneschal of House Rediman is left to deal with King Benifaz's attempt to claim King Edrick's vacant throne as his as well as the political machinations of traitors within the palace walls that seek their own power.

Shifting in viewpoint from Bartrim to Sir Christopher, The Ugly Princess  is an enjoyable tale of palace intrigue where the dark forces may not all be mankind's making. Featuring complex characters, plenty of action and twists, humor and romance, this novel keeps the reader enthralled as it works toward the inevitable confrontations on many different levels. While this review simply does not do the book justice, do not let that deter you from this very good read which appears to be the start of a possible series. 

The Ugly Princess: the Karlathia Chronicles
Elizabeth Burton
Zumaya Publications
ISBN# 978-1894942096
216 Pages

Kevin R. Tipple ©2003, 2011