Monthly Archives: October 2007

The Madhatter’s Guide to Chocolate

The Madhatter’s Guide to Chocolate Author: Rhett Devane
Publisher: Rapid Press
Reviewed by: Cheryl C. Malandrinos

What do you get when you combine a small town in Florida with a mental institution on its main drag, some truly memorable characters, and a bunch of scrumptious southern recipes whose main ingredient is chocolate?

One amazing book, which you must read!

Hattie Davis ran away from her hometown of Chattahoochee as fast as she could, leaving behind the memories of life in a small town, a difficult relationship with her brother, and an annoying ex-boyfriend.

But when Hattie returns to Chattahoochee for her mother’s funeral, she finds her childhood friend, Jake Witherspoon has returned and made his home there. The memoir of an old family friend and Jake’s idea of a great new business make Hattie and Jake partners, but neither one of them understands how dangerous their venture might be.

Jake’s flamboyant homosexuality makes him the target of a hate crime. He is kidnapped and brutually beaten by two teenage boys with a secret. And once that secret is revealed, no one in Chattahoochee will ever be the same.

And amazingly for Hattie, Chattahoochee becomes the place where she finds love and the one corner of earth she can finally call home.

The Madhatter’s Guide to Chocolate is a touching and at times shocking tale of a small town’s revival. Rhett DeVane’s characters could easily be your next door neighbor, your favorite aunt, or the sibling you never quite got along with. DeVane wove these memorable characters together with an amazing plot and some down home recipes to create a novel which will leave you inspired by how much good can come from something bad.

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Author: Timothy Carter
Publisher: FLUX, an imprint of Llewellyn Publications
Reviewed by: Cheryl C. Malandrinos

EPOCH by Timothy Carter is one of the funniest books I’ve read in years. And I knew it would be, just by its back cover blurb–which takes the Biblical Book of Revelation and tells you that the apocalypse isn’t playing out the way it is written.

At fourteen years old, Vincent Drear is already living a hellish life. Thanks to his parents, his brother Max, and their dedication to the Holy Triumvirate, Vincent spends his days saving souls and protesting movies about boy wizards. Problem is, Vincent isn’t buying what the Triumvirate is selling these days and he ends up locked in the family’s basement chapel for punishment a lot of the time.

While at his school’s science fair, Vincent spots an elf who tells him the Triumvirate are right about one thing: the end of the world is coming–and it’s coming in 48 hours!

The elf elicits Vincent’s help to save the world from being eaten alive by hungry demons as soon as the epoch ends. To do this, Vincent must find the Portal Sites, which everyone can use to escape from the demons. But the Portal Sites are going to close soon and anyone left behind becomes demon food. Vincent’s next problem, the demons are after him; the elves jam a bug up his nose which forces him to do everything they tell him to–like beat up his best friend, Big Tom–or risk excruciating pain; the elves and the pixies are both trying to find the Portal Sites, but they hate one another; and Vincent has to try and avoid Barnaby, the school bully, who loves using Vincent as a punching bag, while trying to figure out if Barnaby’s father’s company, the Alphega Corporation is involved in any of this.

Vincent is in a race against time as one obstacle after another wastes precious moments that could save the lives of everyone that Vincent holds dear.

EPOCH by Timothy Carter provides a unique outlook on the End Times, and does it with a heavy dose of humor. His characters are funny and sarcastic, but in the end most of them are trying to do the right thing–save lives (whether that be their own or others.) Vincent is a truly sympathtic character who is at the mercy of his parents’ and brother’s beliefs in the Triumvirate, and Carter does an excellent job of portaying–with humor–what a belief system taken to extreme measures can do. It is Vincent’s decision to do whatever it takes to save people’s lives–including going against his family’s beliefs–which makes him stand out…and he does it at great cost.

This book could have used some minor editing, but the story captured me so deeply that almost nothing could pull me away. Carter knows what he’s doing when it comes to writing for the teen market.

EPOCH by Timothy Carter will find its place among other fictional works about the End Times, and it will stand out because Carter dared to be funny about it.

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Infinite Space, Infinite God

Infinite Space, Infinite God

Edited by:  Karina and Robert Fabian 

Publisher: Twilight Times Books
Reviewed by: Cheryl C. Malandrinos

To travel where no one else has gone before might be the appeal to regular readers of science-fiction. I’m not one of those. I prefer to focus on all the drama that resides right here on earth. So, when I decided to purchase a copy of Infinite Space, Infinite God, the 2007 EPPIE award-winning Catholic science-fiction anthology edited by Karina and Robert Fabian, it had more to do with my curiosity over how they would mesh the Catholic Church into science fiction than with my burning desire to read it. And I have to admit, I approached the task of reading it with a hint of trepidation. What if I got to page 3 and couldn’t go any further? Could a book of this nature appeal to a reader whose only experience with science-fiction is the television shows Star Trek and Star Trek the Next Generation?The answer is a resounding, YES!Never before have I regretted the end of a story as much as I did after I finished each of the fifteen stories included in Infinite Space, Infinite God. Each story drew me in with the depth of its characters, uniqueness of its plot, and its powerful endings. I never knew what to except in the next story, but I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed.Infinite Space, Infinite God opens up with The Harvest by Lori Z. Scott. A smart choice since it is one of the most thought-provoking stories. Dr. Barry Martinez joins the Moon Project Base, living amongst a mix of humans and HuNomes–genetically altered people stemming from the Human Genome project. While HuNome #17 longs to be free of her oppressors, the Catholic Church debates whether the HuNomes have souls–making the harvesting of their organs and birthing of new HuNomes unethical. Dr. Martinez’s exposure to the HuNomes he does his best to avoid leave him with some questions too. It it those questions that put him in danger and the answers which allow him to find his true calling.

Our Daily Bread by Robert and Karina Fabian finds Deacon Ray McHenry struggling to decide if he will continue his work at the Blair Mining Station or return to earth and his wife, Connie. When the supply of eucharistic hosts is lost, Deacon Ray must do everything in is power to help his congregation accept the loss of the most important symbol of the Last Supper. Attempts to secure a new supply are unsuccessful, but suddenly new hosts keep appearing. Is it a miracle? Is it the work of a good samaritan? And will Deacon Ray ever be able to leave the Blair Mining Station after the curiosity over the duplicating hosts increases the size of the congregation?

Ken Pick and Alan Loewen collaborate on an intriguing tale filled with mystery and suspense. Mask of the Ferret brings together a variety of humans and lifeforms on the Free Trader Coventry–a freight runner bound for Alorya. Its passengers include Father Eric Heidler, a human woman and her daughter, a Selkie, and a construct named Jill Noir. Unbeknownest to the Captain and her crew, someone has snuck an ancient artifact onboard Coventry and he/she/it is being tracked by an agent of the Order of St. Dismas, who is posing as a passenger. As the artifact slowly destroys the minds of the Coventry’s crew and passengers, it is up to Father Eric to find a way to help all of them, including the one passenger who has put them all at risk.

In August, when I interviewed Karina during the Infinite Space, Infinite God Virtual Book Tour, I asked her why such diverse stories worked in this anthology. She sited the talented writers, their different approaches to science-fiction, and their varied science-fiction styles.

While I have to agree, I would also say that another reason Infinite Space, Infinite God is winning awards and garnering fabulous reviews, is that all the stories are about more than the Catholic Church and outer space. When broken down to their barest bones, these stories are all about people–their relationships with one another, how their beliefs affect their personal and professional relationships, and the impact that faith has on believers and non-believers alike.

I highly recommend Infinite Space, Infinite God to all my readers. You don’t have to be a Catholic or a lover of science-fiction to enjoy these stories; you just have to be a living, breathing person who struggles and appreciates their place in the world.

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You Are More Than Enough, Every Woman’s Guide to Purpose, Passion & Power

You Are More Than Enough, Every Woman’s Guide to Purpose, Passion & Power 

Author: Judi Moreo
Publisher: Stephens Press, LLC
Reviewed by: Cheryl C. Malandrinos

Phenomenal! Outstanding! Fascinating! You Are More Than Enough Every Woman’s Guide to Purpose, Passion & Power by Judi Moreo is the one book that every woman must read!

If you are tired of just making it in this world; if you have ever desired to achieve success; if you have ever wanted to feel good about yourself every day of your life, then you have to read this book.

Motivational speaker and life coach, Judi Moreo, has put together an amazing self-help book for women that can change their lives. Filled with motivational quotes, powerful affirmations, easy to follow exercises, and a tremendous amount of sound advice, You Are More Than Enough gives women the power to make the changes they have always wanted to make, but were too afraid to try. In this book, Moreo shows readers how they can choose their future by ridding themselves of negative feelings, fear of failure, and self-doubt.

I’ve never put much stock in self-help books. A few weeks before Moreo’s book arrived in my mailbox, a friend asked me if I could recommend any good self-help books for women and I scoffed at her. I don’t read that drivel.

But Judi Moreo has made a believer out of me. Within just a few weeks, I can already see the positive changes taking place in my life. By reciting daily affirmations and performing the exercises found after each chapter, I have a much happier view of my life, I am confident I have what it takes to be successful, and the way I see the world has changed dramatically.

If you could only afford to buy one book this year, it should be You Are More Than Enough Every Woman’s Guide to Power, Passion and Purpose. The power to change your life is in your hands. Let Judi Moreo be the one to show you how to make it happen.

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Judgment Fire

Judgment Fire

Author: Marilyn Meredith
Publisher: Mundania Press, LLC

Reviewed by: Cheryl C. Malandrinos

Mystery, murder, and mayhem–you’ll find it all in Marilyn Meredith’s latest installment in the Tempe Crabtree mystery series, Judgment Fire.

Deputy Tempe Crabtree continues to watch over the residents of Bear Creek and expand her knowledge of her Yanduchi Indian heritage. The warning of a shaman leaves Tempe with more questions than answers. Used to the dangerous situations her job constantly puts her in, Tempe pushes aside Dorothea’s warning. But when a battered wife is murdered, and Tempe begins to receive threatening phone messages as she tries to uncover the killer, Tempe is drawn once again to the shaman and her Yanduchi heritage to try and make sense of the flashes of her past which keep appearing in her mind.

Tempe feverishly works to eliminate suspects, but the list of possible killers continues to grow; the newly uncovered facts and unrest amongst Jackie’s neighbors–some who may have wanted her or her husband dead–force Tempe to consider every possible suspect. And as the threatening phone calls increase, Tempe’s family is scared for her safety.

And when it’s all over, Tempe discovers how much the past can influence the present.

With Judgment Fire, Marilyn Meredith pulled me into the story in such a way that I must own the rest of the books in this fascinating series. I wasn’t just reading the story; I was part of it. I drove in Tempe’s Blazer as she traveled along the road and spotted Dorothea in her vehicle off to the side; I was inside Dorothea’s burning van, gripping the steering wheel; I was part of Tempe’s and Dorothea’s conversations.

What a powerful talent it takes to make a reader so much a part of what is happening in a work of fiction.

As suspects were added to the list, then eliminated, and then added back to the list, each twist and turn left me eager for more. Meredith added just enough backstory to allow me to get to know Tempe, without adding so much that faithful readers of the Tempe Crabtree mystery series would be flipping through pages to get back to the present day’s action.

Gripping, suspense-filled, and character driven, Judgment Fire by Marilyn Meredith should be on every mystery reader’s wish list.

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Harry’s Piano

 Harry’s Piano

Author: Susan Sukman McCray
Publisher: Self-published
Reviewed by: Cheryl C. Malandrinos

Little did anyone know when five-year-old Harry asked to take piano lessons, where it would lead. Harry’s Piano is the charming tale of the young life of Academy Award-winning composer, Harry Sukman, written by his daughter, Susan Sukman McCray.

From Harry’s humble birth in Chicago to his moving to California and conducting his first concert, Harry’s Piano will touch the hearts of children everywhere.

Told with the loving hand only a parent’s child could provide, Susan McCray shares every milestone that led to Harry Sukman becoming a successful concert pianist, conductor, and composer. Children will follow Harry as his first piano is lifted through the window into his parents’ third-story apartment in Chicago. They will read about the hours and hours of practice Harry committed himself to and the music professors who helped Harry hone his talents. And children will share in the excitement of Harry’s decision to leave Chicago and move to California, where he meets Mr. Young, who foretells of the future Harry will live.

The illustrations–provided by Karen C. Rhine–are as moving as the story. The book also has a CD with two piano selections composed and played by Harry Sukman.

A timeless story of hard work and determination, Harry’s Piano is a gift that will inspire young people to reach for their dreams.

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Doorman’s Creek

Doorman’s Creek

Author: Lea Schizas

Publisher: eTreasures Publishing
Reviewed by: Cheryl C. Malandrinos

Suspense, action, and betrayal in the most evil of forms, Lea Schizas has packed all this and more into her paranormal thriller, Doorman’s Creek.

Kyle Anderson and his friends, Shawn and Bradley, set out to explore a cave they stumbled upon by Doorman’s Creek. They certainly didn’t expect what they found–a human skeleton and Kyle’s eerie feeling that they are not alone.

Against his parents’ wishes Kyle, Bradley, and Shawn return to the cave to uncover what they think are the remains of one or two girls who disappeared ten years ago. When Kyle is struck with some kind of seizure, Shawn and Bradley pick him up and run for their lives. At the hospital Kyle tells his father, Richard, what happened at the cave and provides information about the visions he saw during his episode of incapacitation. Richard, a detective for the local police force, begins to investigate the unsolved case of the missing girls–which he had worked on ten years ago–and how it might tie into the recent disappearance of another young woman.

After Richard is found lying in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor, Susan seeks to find a reason for his senseless murder and how much her disturbing dreams have to do with what happened; while Kyle, Shawn, and Bradley, try to figure out what Kyle’s visions are telling them about the disapperance of these young women…and if their investigation might have put them in the path of a serial killer.

Doorman’s Creek by Lea Schizas captured me from beginning to end. I literally could not walk away from this story, reading it in one sitting. Lea Schizas did a superb job of keeping the action moving along at a quick pace, making the transitions between chapters smooth and seamless. Schizas drew real characters who I connected with and cared about and whose emotions were so real that I felt my heartbeat racing when they were scared. The backstory was just enough and never dulled the present day action. Schizas created the perfect paranormal thriller.

Suspense-filled, action packed, and full of surprises, Doorman’s Creek by Lea Schizas will draw you in deeply and not let you go.

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The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Short Meditations

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Short Meditations

Author: Dr. Susan Gregg
Publisher: Penguin
Reviewed by: Cheryl C. Malandrinos

If you are looking for a way to improve the quality of your life through quieting the mind, then I have found the book for you. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Short Meditations by Dr. Susan Gregg will help you learn how to quiet your mind and soothe your soul so that you can experience a life full of peace and happiness.

Divided into four parts, this book is not something you read once and put on the shelf. The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Short Meditations is a book you need to keep on the nightstand next to your bed, beside your favorite comfy chair, or anywhere else where you will have a few moments to concentrate on these fabulous and simple guided meditations.

Dr. Gregg begins by telling the reader how the brains works and how he/she can use short meditations to bring about desired changes in his/her life. The next two parts provide step-by-step exercises to ease the reader into the meditations. And the last part of the book shows the reader how to apply the techniques he/she has learned.

Anyone can use The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Short Meditations. You don’t need to have prior experience using mental imagery, but I did find it helpful in allowing me to clear my mind and concentrate on the meditations. This was the first time I ever used guided meditations, and with Dr. Gregg’s book I could focus entirely on what I wanted to change about my life. Included in this book are quotes from many famous people, like Picasso, Martin Luther King, and Albert Einstein, which allow the reader to reflect upon the purpose of the book and inspire him/her to continue along the path to inner peace and happiness.

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Short Meditations by Dr. Susan Gregg will make you aware that you don’t need to suffer through life, filled with stress over everything that could and does go wrong. Dr. Gregg and this powerful book will help you unlock the window to a brighter and more peaceful future for you, where you can enjoy life to its fullest…the way it was meant to be.

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Cool Kids Ain’t Us

Cool Kids Ain’t Us

Author: Meredith K. Laskow
Publisher: Self-published
Reviewed by: Cheryl C. Malandrinos

Poetry is one of those art forms that can seem so easy, but rarely is. But once you read Meredith Karen Laskow’s Cool Kids Ain’t Us, you’ll be convinced she could write free verse in her sleep.

Emotionally honest, this collection of poems follows the life of a young girl from the age of 15 to age 22. It starts off with a poem titled On Being Left Out, which I read with tears in my eyes. How did this poet know exactly how I felt during those years of my life? Did she gaze into my soul to see the pain I suffered? Her words touched upon emotions I hid from my peers.

Boy on the Beach tells the story of a chance meeting between this young girl and a handsome boy on the beach. It explores the choices we make and the impact they have on our lives in a touching way that seems too sophisticated for one so young. But then, life has made this young woman wise beyond her years.

God and the Bible are mentioned in several of the poems in this collection, but their use is unique and allows the readers to catch a glimpse into how this young girl views her world. My God speaks of how at the age of fifteen she gave herself body, mind, and soul to her God and how she cannot understand why people do not see him the way she does. But it is who her God is, that makes the reader appreciate her predicament even more.

Genesis/Exodus brings about an epiphany to the young girl as she realizes certain truths about the world and the importance of needing to change with the world, but not lose herself.

Cool Kids Ain’t Us is packed with emotions that will relate to many young adults who struggle with the same things now, that this young girl did many years ago. I believe it is also an amazing read for parents who may be searching for ways to remember what it was like for them or their peers during those challenging years when so much change takes place–when young people are seeking independence, but still need the acceptance of their peers and parents to be truly happy.

The most astonishing part of this poetry collection for me was when I found out that Laskow left these poems in their original forms from when she wrote them as a young adult and that the cover art for this book is also her original artwork from 1963.

Cool Kids Ain’t Us by Meredith Laskow has a voice that will resonate with young adults today, tomorrow, and in the future. From teenage pregnancy to drug use, from loneliness to heartache, from the pain of dealing with a less than perfect world to finding your place in it, this poetry collection draws the reader in with its symbolism and substance.

Buy it for your kids or buy it for yourself…but make sure you buy it!

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THE TRUTH, My Secret Diary, I’m Ten, I’m Smart, and I Know Everything

THE TRUTH, My Secret Diary, I’m Ten, I’m Smart, and I Know Everything

Author: Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein

Publisher: LadybugPress; 1 edition
Reviewed by: Cheryl C. Malandrinos

THE TRUTH, My Secret Diary, I’m Ten, I’m Smart and I Know Everything by Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein is the charming tale of one girl’s view of life starting from age ten until right before her twelfth birthday. Told as a series of diary entries, the reader follows this young girl as she falls in love for the first time, deals with troubles at home, attempts to fit in with her peers, and watches her body begin to change.

Woven into these humorous and sometimes angst-filled snippets of life is a powerful message Dr. Holstein calls, THE TRUTH. As young girls we once knew all about our strengths, our talents, and our future potential. But along life’s journey women have forgetten this TRUTH and replaced it with self-doubt, concentrating on where we don’t measure up and putting aside the dreams we once held so dear.

Dr. Holstein helps women rediscover what they’ve lost in less than 100 pages of delightful diary entries from a girl who has yet to be tainted by an adult world. Immature, but wise beyond her years, this girl will wiggle her way into your heart and remind you of what it was like to be so sure of yourself.

The book also includes a set of 18 questions for discussion, making it the perfect read for any book club discussion.

Every woman needs to read THE TRUTH. It will remind you of who you once were, who you always wanted to be, and who you can be once again! And it is such a short an easy read you will want to pick it up over and over to reaffirm what you already know is THE TRUTH!

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