A Mountain Man’s Redemption by Christi Corbett

A Mountain Man’s Redemption by Christi Corbett
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Historical
Length: Short Story (129 Pages)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Myrtle

Eighteen years ago, Philip Grant—overcome with regret for what he couldn’t foresee and memories of what he couldn’t prevent—abandoned all to live the solitary life of a fur trapper. Years spent roaming ridgelines and riverbanks in Montana Territory left his body weary and his confidence weak, so he decides to turn in his last bundle of furs and await the inevitable in a cabin. Alone.

Then a body-shaped lump wrapped in a quilt changes everything.

Philip discovers a battered woman and her infant son, on the run from a ruthless abuser with a penchant for whiskey. Seventy miles of snow-covered mountain peaks and windswept flatlands stand between them and safety—the woman’s aunt’s house.

Can Philip trust in his newfound faith to lead the way?

A fur-trapper who lives on his own in the Montana wilderness during the winter of 1886 is best served when he has only himself to worry about for survival, but when Philip Grant comes across an unexpected duo in need of help, he must decide whether to put his own life on the line to save them, or walk away.

Philip has had a good haul for a fur-trapper this season, but he soon finds himself with only ten days left to get his furs to the nearest fort, more than eighty miles away. It will be a difficult journey, which must be made quickly. But before long, he finds himself challenged with more than just time and distance. The reader will learn that Philip has his own demons in life to battle, but none more urgent that Hannah whom he discovers battered and beaten and clutching a baby in the middle of a harsh winter. Slowly and out of necessity, Hannah begins to explain the circumstances that have driven her, literally, out into the snow without proper gear for herself or her baby. With Philip’s continued prompting, the young mother confides in the fur-trapper, telling a heartbreaking story of abuse by her husband.

Wife abuse is not your average storyline in a historic novel, but maybe we should see it more often. The story is built upon a strong faith, and is historically accurate. It shows us that what we believe to be a modern problem is not at all. The reader gets a vastly different perspective in this well-written story.

This is a quick read, which is what brings me to my only criticism of the story. In the story’s beginning, Philip discovers a quilt in the snow-covered woods, and although we already know he is behind schedule and has an urgent need to get to Fort Matiley before it closes, which involves crossing “the most rugged mountain peaks in Montana,” he moves far too slowly. He spends too much time deciding whether to find out what’s inside the mysterious quilt. There were a few other points in the story where I felt things needed to move more quickly, given the urgency, too. With that said, this story was nearly flawless in its delivery.

If you’re looking for historical fiction, or a story with a 1880s flare, and the theme of a battered woman won’t deter you, then this is a story worth your time.

Fishbowl by Bradley Somer

Fishbowl by Bradley Somer
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (304 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 stars
Reviewed by Cholla

A goldfish named Ian is falling from the 27th-floor balcony on which his fishbowl sits. He’s longed for adventure, so when the opportunity arises, he escapes from his bowl, clears the balcony railing and finds himself airborne. Plummeting toward the street below, Ian witnesses the lives of the Seville on Roxy residents.

There’s the handsome grad student, his girlfriend, and his mistress; the construction worker who feels trapped by a secret; the building’s super who feels invisible and alone; the pregnant woman on bed rest who craves a forbidden ice cream sandwich; the shut-in for whom dirty talk, and quiche, are a way of life; and home-schooled Herman, a boy who thinks he can travel through time. Though they share time and space, they have something even more important in common: each faces a decision that will affect the course of their lives. Within the walls of the Seville are stories of love, new life, and death, of facing the ugly truth of who one has been and the beautiful truth of who one can become.

Sometimes taking a risk is the only way to move forward with our lives. As Ian the goldfish knows, “An entire life devoted to a fishbowl will make one die an old fish with not one adventure had.”

Ian is a goldfish. A goldfish that is falling from the twenty-seventh floor balcony of the Seville on Roxy apartment complex. Now, Ian is a modern goldfish without any of the hang-ups of his contemporary aquatic friends like, say, Troy the snail. So, as Ian falls from the top floor of the Seville, the things he observes aren’t any shock to him, nor are they of much concern, either. But for the rest of us? It’s a little more intriguing than a passing goldfish could ever dream.

The narrative takes us through the lives of a handful of people living at the Seville on Roxy, although it starts and focuses mainly on Connor and his girlfriend, Katie. These two are probably the most mainstream of the group, especially when compared to Claire who works a phone sex line from her apartment, Herman who is homeschooled, and Garth – the construction worker with a secret. Each apartment holds its own story and each story deals with a bit of reality we’d all like to forget or maybe engage with more – life, death, love, mental illness, you name it, it’s at the Seville on Roxy.

I have never so fully enjoyed an entire cast of characters as much I did these. Major props to the author for giving each character a realistic and complete backstory, one that makes you feel invested in that person, even if you only see them once every handful of chapters. Even though Connor is pretty much a hopeless dog, he’s still likable in an odd sort of way, and he’s not always all that easy to like. The author finds a way to point out something good in each character, even when you think there’s nothing of value. Of them all, Garth and Jimenez are probably my favorites, mostly because they’re two people who get overlooked and ignored a lot in their lives.

The concept of this novel was the thing that hooked me. That and the illustration of Ian’s plummet from the top to his eventual resting spot at the bottom that was drawn along the right-hand margin of the book, but this really has nothing to do with the story, it was just an amusing addition to an already amusing novel. Although it was purported to be in the tradition of two books that I had loved, I found Fishbowl to fall more in line with something more Douglas Adams-like than either Garth Stein or Armistead Maupin. Either way, this was one of the most entertaining novels I’ve read all year.

Three Days in Hell by Blair Howard

Three Days in Hell

Three Days in Hell by Blair Howard
Publisher: Self
Genre: Historical
Length: Full (280 pgs)
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Rose

For more than two months, Union General William Rosecrans and his Army of the Cumberland pursued General Braxton Bragg’s Confederate Army of Tennessee from Murfreesboro to Chattanooga. Finally, on September 18, 1863, on the banks of a small river in Northwest Georgia, the two great armies came face to face, and so began three days of hell, including the two bloodiest days of our nation’s Civil War.

Three Days in Hell is a novel, a work of fiction, based on actual historical events. The characters, with one exception, were all real people. The words they speak throughout the story are the author’s, the deeds they did, their success and failures, are their own. Drawing on many years of meticulous research, Blair Howard dramatizes one man’s contribution to the stunning Confederate victory at Chickamauga. Brigadier General Bushrod R. Johnson was the key player for the army in gray.

This is the story of Confederate General Johnson’s three days at Chickamauga, and his grand and glorious charge of more than a mile that smashed through the enemy lines and resulted in a resounding victory for the Confederate cause and an ignominious defeat for General Rosecrans. Even Johnson’s enemies praised what he did that day. Some compared it to Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, but where Pickett failed, Johnson succeeded.

Three Days in Hell, action-packed from start to finish, is the story of Confederate General Bushrod Johnson’s Chickamauga as told through the eyes and words of one of his staff officers, Major Chester Rigby. The author takes you onto the battlefield as no one has done before. He plunges you right into the center of the action, which doesn’t let up until the very end. It’s a story of heroism, desperate deeds, and death and destruction on a scale the likes of which had never been seen before.

This is a gritty, in-your-face, real look at what the Southern soldiers during the Civil War went through during the Battle of Chickamauga, the second-worse battle of the war. Except for the first-person narrator, all of the characters in this book are historic figures. Although the dialogue is, of course, fictional, it is obvious that the author did his homework and studied diaries and letters to get a sense of what the men were thinking and what they truly might have said.

This is not a pretty book, but then war isn’t pretty. For anyone who is interested in Civil War history, this is definitely a book to check out. It gives the reader a real sense of what is going on.

The battle descriptions show a great deal of research as well– but for this reader, those were not the primary draw of the book. The author made the characters come alive and become more than just names in the history book.

Good job!

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Fooling Around With Cinderella by Stacy Juba

Fooling Around With Cinderella by Stacy Juba
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (120 pages)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Orchid

What happens when the glass slippers pinch Cinderella’s toes? When Jaine Andersen proposes a new marketing role to the local amusement park, general manager Dylan Callahan charms her into filling Cinderella’s glass slippers for the summer. Her reign transforms Jaine’s ordinary life into chaos that would bewilder a fairy godmother. Secretly dating her bad boy boss, running wedding errands for her ungrateful sisters, and defending herself from the park’s resident villain means Jaine needs lots more than a comfy pair of shoes to restore order in her kingdom. First in the Storybook Valley series, a blend of sweet romance, chick lit, and fairy tale fun.

Businesswoman Jaine Anderson has a vision for the local Storybook Valley theme park. What she gets is the promise of a marketing job in the future, but for now a job as the theme park’s Cinderella.

At least this gets her away from babysitting her niece on a daily basis, and running round after her other sister who is preparing for her wedding. It doesn’t hurt that Jaine’s boss is absolutely drop dead gorgeous either.

I liked the humor in this story, not just the behind the scenes Cinderella humor, but the snappy replies Jaine gives to Dylan and the way he takes them in his stride. Both have something to be concerned about. Dylan is the new general manager, but his family don’t want him to change anything plus he has a flighty past. Jaine feels she is at the beck and call of her sisters and feels downtrodden, but hasn’t got the strength to say no.

Friends, love interests, and a stepmother who’s not wicked, merely thoughtless. Sisters who are beautiful and definitely not after her man. Then of course there’s Prince Charming. Put this all together and it becomes a fun filled book with romance and of course conflict. A really good read that kept me intrigued until the last page.

Searching For Meaning in Gailana by John H. T. Francis


Searching For Meaning in Gailana by John H. T. Francis
Publisher: Self Published
Genre: Literary Fiction
Length: Short Story (94 pgs)
Rated: 3.5 stars
Review by Rose

Gailana is the central island of the world; Aurganots, Reminos, Hindarassis, Pelanese, and Free People, different societies with different customs and values, live in it. Gailana is old, with a history rich in events and civilisations. The mother island has undergone important changes in recent decades, including a devastating war from which the Aurganots emerged victorious. Following this war, Aurganot has become a country of wealth, technology, and power, dominating all others.

In this modern age, Aurganots value their new found joie de vivre; Pelanese love commerce and business; Reminos are still dedicated to honour and glory in war; Hindarassis continue to care most about their families; and the Free People cherish their freedom above anything else. Among the Free People, a young Levon has set a high and ambitious goal: to seek and find the ultimate meaning of all that humans do. Levon has been on his intellectual quest for years, and the coming days are significant. Paratos, the sage of Gailana, is in the land of the Free People, and Levon is readying to meet him. The young man knows that something life changing will come out from this meeting, only he does not imagine what.

In this fictional first part of The Story in Three Parts, John H.T. Francis tells the story of Levon, a young and sincere soul looking for meaning in a changing world. This short novel will take you on a journey through Gailana, shows you its diversity, and brings you close to many of its human aspects. Events will develop fast on the island, and Levon is about to be in the midst of them.

This author brings us a well thought out treatise on searching for meaning on Gailana, the central island of the world with several different societies living on it. I think it’s more than a coincidence that Gailana is very similar to Gaia, the Greek personification of Earth.

The author takes a look at the role of Story through this small book in three different ways. The first section is about Levon, who is trying to discover the one meaning for everything that people do. In the second portion of the book, the author shares his feeling about Story in in a philosophical way – I have to admit, this was the hardest part of the book for me to grasp my mind around. And, in the final section, we go back to stories and their importance for people.

This book, though short in pages, is long on concept. The idea that all of us are connected by Story and of our perceptions of the world is one to think on and ponder about. I believe it will take more than one reading to fully see everything the author is examining.

Nail It: Breaking into the Black Elite by Shonette Charles

Nail It: Breaking into the Black Elite by Shonette Charles
Publisher: Seamare Press
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Full Length (211 pgs)
Rating: 3 stars
Reviewed by Ginger

Black, educated, and possessing all the right stats, Sahara and Noah Kyle move to North Carolina ready to break into the area’s black bourgeoisie social circle. This is a world governed by black socialites and movers and shakers, who hold membership in the Sphinx, Darlings, The Shield, Belles & Beaus, and the black fraternities and sororities. Being in the right circle could position the Kyles for even greater affluence, but being shut out could be the death knell for more than just their social life.

Noah appears to quickly catch his stride, but Sahara struggles navigating this world of pearls, poise, and protocol. The sky’s the limit, but will secrets, lies, and double crossings keep them on the outside of this high power network looking in? Or, when it comes to entering the world of the black elite, do they have what it takes to NAIL IT?

Nail It tells a story of a household very well set on being part of the social elite. Being well educated, having a specific job status, living in a high class neighborhood are only some of the factors that are required to being included in one of these elite social groups. To Noah and Sahara Kyle being included in these specific groups were of high priority.

The book was entertaining but I felt something was missing. It was an okay read but I wanted something more to happen. The book only showed a glimpse of the characters personal and family life. I would have liked to know why being in the social circle was so important to Noah and Sahara. The main focus was on Sahara being invited to the Sphinx Masquerade Ball and all the hoops she had to jump through to make that happen. Sororities do a great deal to raise money for many causes, but the focus on this book was more along the lines of a personal goal. The book portrayed that this status was of high important, so much so that Noah refused his wife relations because one group she associated with didn’t reflect the image that he wanted to be associated with. But when she joined the right group and associated with a group fitting to his liking he was happy. Sahara went to college and was educated but seems her husband didn’t want her to utilize her education. Makes me wonder what was the purpose of obtaining an education if it was only to look good on social applications and to boost about during social gatherings

The writing style is impressive and easy to follow. The author gave a subtly view of what goes on behind social groups and the service these groups provide to communities. The culture of the groups are shown to reflect loyalty and dedication, this is encouraging. Sahara is a woman that had her mind set on obtaining a status and she was set on making that happen. The sisterhood between Sahara and her neighbor Meranda was refreshing that they were strangers but Meranda was willing to help Sahara climb the social ladder. The book showed relationship between women how they can be true and how sadly some women can have alternative motives. The book was predictable but believable as well.

Though this read won’t go down as a favorite of mine it was still informative and an enlighten read.

July Mystery/Suspense Book of the Month Poll Winner ~ Time’s Up by Janey Mack

Time’s Up by Janey Mack
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery
Length: Full Length (356 pgs)
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Aloe

The police academy gave her the boot—and she knows how to use it.
All her life, Maisie McGrane dreamed of following in her father and older brothers’ footsteps and joining the force. But when she’s expelled from the police academy, she’s reduced to taking a job as a meter maid. Now, instead of chasing down perps, she’s booting people’s cars and taking abuse from every lowlife who can’t scrape together enough change to feed the meter.

McGranes weren’t put on this earth to quit, however. When Maisie stumbles across the body of a City Hall staffer with two bullets in his chest, her badge-wielding brothers try to warn her off the case. But with the help of her secret crush, shadowy ex-Army Ranger Hank Bannon, Maisie’s determined to follow the trail of conspiracy no matter where it leads. And that could put her in the crosshairs of a killer—and all she’s packing is a ticket gun.


The Kindness by Polly Samson

The Kindness by Polly Samson
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Genre- Women’s fiction, Contemporary
Length: Full Length (290 pgs)
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Stephanotis

A novel both heartbreaking and hopeful, about love and family, and the major and minor ways we lose people in our lives—from an acclaimed talent.

Julian’s fall begins the moment he sets eyes on Julia, flying a hawk high on a ridge. Julian is an English student, heading toward academia; Julia is married and eight years his senior. And yet, ignoring warnings from family and friends, they each give up all they have to be together. Their new life in London offers immense happiness, especially after their daughter, Mira, is born.

But when Julian’s adored—and remote—boyhood home becomes available, he sets out to re-create a lost paradise for his new family. Once again, he allows love to blind him. Only when Mira becomes dangerously ill does it become impossible for Julia to conceal the explosive secret that she has been keeping.

In this first introduction to American readers, the acclaimed Polly Samson explores how the yearning for the past can affect joy in the present and the future. The Kindness is a haunting story of love, grief, betrayal, and reconciliation—masterfully plotted and exquisitely rendered.

I’d never read anything by this author before but glad that I chose to review this book. It’s told in current tense, third person with carefully placed flashbacks. The first part of the book focuses on Julian, one of the main characters. The story is told through his eyes. That story is how he met Julia, and fell in love with her. It’s about their life with daughter Mira and Mira’s illness. It also covers his past relationship with Kate, an old school friend. It’s beautifully told and while I don’t want to spoil your enjoyment of the book I can say that all is not what it seems.

The last half of the book is told from Julia’s point of view. It’s sort of her take on the story that’s unfolded during the first part of the book. While it’s not a case of there’s two sides to every story, Ms. Samson did a wonderful job winning you over to both these character’s sides. I felt like they were both flawed in some way and that together they healed one another.

As all good books should, The Kindness is an emotional read. It has lots of twists and turns, especially in the second half. It tugs your heartstrings continually the more you learn about these characters and the truth behind their story. In a way it’s almost upsetting realizing they can’t all have a happy ending.

I’ll definitely be looking for more books by this author. And if you enjoy women’s fiction packed with emotion and told in an original way, I’d recommend putting this one on your to read list.

Witches Protection Program by Michael Phillip Cash

Witches Protection Program by Michael Phillip Cash
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Paranormal
Length: Full Length (216 pgs)
Heat Level: Sweet
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Wes Rockville, a disgraced law enforcement agent, is given one last chance to prove himself and save his career when he’s reassigned to a 232 year old secret government organization. The Witches Protection Program. His first assignment: uncover a billion-dollar Cosmetics company’s diabolical plan of using witchcraft for global domination, while protecting its heiress Morgan Pendragon from her aunt’s evil deeds. Reluctantly paired with veteran witch protector, Alastair Verne, Wes must learn to believe in both witches and himself. Filled with adventure, suspense and a rousing good time, Michael Phillip Cash creates a tongue-in-cheek alternate reality where witches cast spells and wreak havoc in modern day New York City.

Anyone who loved the movie R.I.P.D. might find this novel a rollicking good time because there are some elements that appear in both the movie and this book by Mr. Cash. I had so much fun reading Witches Protection Program that I didn’t stop reading until I was done. What an awesome way to spend an afternoon!

The basic premise is one done before; youngest son tries to measure up to the expectations of a powerful parent and competes and loses to the overachieving elder siblings and the youngest never seems to do anything right. I have a lot of sympathy for Wes, the hero. Not only does he want to succeed and make his family proud, he has to contend with his reading disability. There are so many reasons to like Wes, and very few not to.

The difference is that the powerful parent is actually a good guy. He really does love his son so it was refreshing not to have to deal with that kind of family conflict. As for Wes’ mega-successful older siblings, they never appear on stage – I get the feeling that there is no animosity between them, just a fervent wish on the hero’s part to be successful in his own right. It sounds like he has a great family, and it wasn’t until the very, very end that I found out it’s a family with secrets. Wow, did my mouth hang open upon that realization! Talk about saving that extra fancy firework for the last hurrah in an amazing finale. I can assure you I was grinning from ear to ear.

Even though the majority of this novel is about Wes and his finding his own path and self-actualization, he isn’t the only star. Morgan is the heroine that readers will aptly come to the conclusion of being hapless, much to her aunt’s dismay and annoyance. The aunt is a very twisted soul and yet, in her own perverted way, I think she really does love her niece – she just has an unhealthy way of expressing it. Morgan, it turns out, isn’t as hapless or as helpless as a reader is lead to believe and that bumped up the story another notch on the ‘cool’ scale. However, I too would draw the line at gummy bugs come to life. What a master stroke of devious imagination. Ick!

One thing I’m absolutely happy about is the little electrical zings between Wes and Morgan. I don’t know if it will actually turn into a romance but they sure were in ‘serious like’ with each other. I know I am in like with them. J

Secondary characters are absolutely fascinating. Mr. Cash totally hoodwinked me because quite a few are not at all how they are initially portrayed. Only at the right time, when it benefited the story most, did the author whisk away the figurative tablecloth to magically reveal astounding truths, magic and connections. The condensing of the action into a tight well written couple of chapters filled with chases, attacks, magic fights and zooming witches, animated inanimate objects and colorful descriptions just blew me away. I just loved the flow of this novel.

The point of view is mostly told from Wes’ side, but Morgan has her moments as well as her aunt. The head-hopping was kept at a minimum however, so when it did occur, it was valuable and appreciated.

All in all, if you are looking for something different that entertains, amazes, impresses and surprises, Witches Protection Program will give you all that and more. It’s funny, clever, witty and smart. It’s action packed, fast moving and a fun conflict. It would make a great movie and if it stayed true to the book? I’d pay to see it. I enjoyed Witches Protection Program that much.

The Hardest Ride by Gordon Rottman

The Hardest Ride by Gordon Rottman
Publisher: Taliesin Publishing, LLC
Genre: Historical
Length: Full Length (202 pgs)
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Reviewed by Myrtle

The Texas-Mexico border, the winter of 1886—The Great Die Up. A raw rift separates Mexicans and Anglos. A loner cowpoke and a mute Mexican girl fight man and nature to reunite.

Out of work cowpoke Bud Eugen comes across Marta, a mute sixteen-year old Mexican girl whose family has been killed by Indians. Bud reluctantly takes her along, even though he’s never had to accommodate another person in his simple life. He’s unable to find anyone willing to take her. In spite of his prejudices, Bud grows to like the spunky girl (and her excellent cooking).

Eventually, they both find work on a border ranch. Here, the relationship between the girl and the young cowboy hesitantly grows. But banditos raid the ranch, kidnapping the rancher’s daughters and Marta. Bud, with twelve other men, pursue the banditos into the most desolate reaches of Mexico. Ambushes and battles with banditos, Rurales, and traitors are constant, and the brutal weather is as much a threat as the man-made perils. Life and death choices are made at every turn as one side gains the advantage, then the other.

The rancher’s daughters are rescued, and the exhausted party turns back. But Bud presses on alone, against insurmountable odds – determined to fulfill an unspoken promise to Marta.

A real Texas cowpoke rarely needs more than a good horse and a reliable gun while he’s on the job, but a good hot cup of coffee and a pot of frijoles sure has a way of making things more pleasant. So when Bug Eugen finds a mute Mexican girl out alone on the trail, he’s grateful for the grub she can cook, even if she can’t carry on a conversation.

It’s 1886 and Bud has just lost his job and his vaqueros friend and mentor. He’s not to blame. Times are hard and sometimes even the best cowpokes have to move on to the next job. Bud sets off with a “letter of introduction” and the promise of a job at the San Isidro working for Mathew M. Picket. But on his way there, Bud comes across a brutally murdered family who he deems had a bad run in with the “damn injuns.” Soon, he realizes that one member of that poor family managed to escape. He finds Marta, a mute girl of maybe sixteen, who has enough spunk, smarts, and fight left in her to keep any man on his toes. Especially Bud.

An unexpected bond forms between Bud and Marta. He feels responsible for her and she feels indebted to him. No matter how hard Bud tries to find a good home for Marta, it always turns out that she returns to him, usually mad as a hornet that he tried to give her away.

This story was written in first-person and is heavy on narrative, which works well considering Marta can’t speak. However, it was not written in the usual commercial-style of most novels. This story has a flair and a voice all its own. It includes many phonetic spellings, which does give the reader a sense of dialect, but sometimes has too much of it making it a difficult read. And true to the Old West, the story has its gruesome aspects with scenes of scalped and butchered families. In fact, it reads like an old handwritten, historical account. It’s blunt, factual, and realistic. It is not for the faint-of-heart.

If a historically accurate and well-portrayed tale of a cowpoke’s life in 1880s is on your wish list, this novel should definitely be in your hands. But be prepared for prejudicial phrasing – this is as authentic as it comes.