Author Archives: ccmal

Virtual Vice by Jason M. Kays

yes(a) cover

Virtual Vice
Author: Jason M. Kays
Publisher: BookSurge

Reviewed by: Cheryl Malandrinos

Explosive and edgy, Virtual Vice by Jason M. Kays takes the reader on a journey into the bowels of the murky and deadly dark side of Internet venture capitalism.

Attorney Ian McKenzie’s life takes a decided turn when he is introduced to the charismatic, but dangerous, Scott White. Hired by White to represent his interests in Metropoleis Media, a cutting edge Internet startup, Ian is soon drawn into the personal trials and tribulations of White’s life. Leaving a trail of violence and abuse wherever he has been, White’s quick descent into paranoia and mental illness finds Ian searching for a way out and a way to collect the ever mounting outstanding attorney fees that White owes him. Caught in the middle of the Feds, La Cosa Nostra and the Cali Cartel, Ian is trapped in a fatal game of corporate winner-take-all. How will he ever extract himself? And at what cost?

If you like wild rides, Virtual Vice is for you. Beginning with Ian McKenzie discovering his client naked and teetering on the edge of the veranda outside his hotel room, you’re certain from the get go that this is no ordinary story.

Soon after meeting Ian, Scott White and some of his abnormal associates, the reader journeys through part of White’s past and how Ian met and came to be hired by White before the book moves through in a mostly chronological format.

The author’s love of music and his experience as an intellectual property attorney in information technology and entertainment law are clear from the onset, and it is his well-developed, complex characters that readers will appreciate the most. White’s total deterioration that garners him some unwanted attention from past associates, Clarice Westwater’s greed and ability to manipulate and Pastor Petey’s feigned piousness, come alive within the pages of this book.

Virtual Vice gives a glimpse not only into the world of Internet venture capitalism, but also the music industry and Ponzi schemes, as White’s long history of bilking investors and running across state lines is outlined.

Based upon true events, Virtual Vice is considered creative non-fiction, and therefore, the narrative carries the bulk of the story. This made it a little hard to get into at first. I am so glad I stuck with it, though, because the storyline is not only timely, it is riveting once it gets going and you’ll find yourself turning page after page up to the explosive and satisfying conclusion.

A timely, attention grabbing story is what you’ll find in Virtual Vice by Jason M. Kays.

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Filed under Creative non-fiction

Is Your Ghost Holy?: Eight Principles for Evaluating Your Walk in the Spirit

Is Your Ghost Holy cover

Is Your Ghost Holy?: Eight Principles for Evaluating Your Walk in the Spirit
Author: Shay Bills
Publisher: Saint Paul Press 

Reviewed by:  Cheryl Malandrinos 


Not every inspirational book is going to touch your heart or even make you think.  But Is Your Ghost Holy? by Shay Bills does that and more.  In this slender book full of powerful and moving words, the reader is given eight principles to help her evaluate her walk in the Spirit.  The Principles of Truth, Life and Death, Faith, Love, Change, the Baptism of the Holy Ghost, Blasphemy against the Holy Ghost and the Power of the Holy Ghost come together for an inspiring and empowering read.

The author’s experience as a speaker, teacher and motivator truly shines in Is Your Ghost Holy?  Her conversational style and touching words will leave you thinking long after you close the cover on this book.  But I recommend that you never truly close this book, but leave it on your nightstand so that you can refer to it often, using it perhaps as a devotional on a regular basis. 

Certain chapters may speak to you more than others.  I found the seventh principle extremely helpful, especially considering some of the events I still hold onto from my past.  In “The Principle of Blasphemy Against the Holy Ghost”, Bills discusses how unforgiveness in the Christian walk keeps many stagnant in Christ.  She explores the dangerous place that the state of unforgiveness is.  With a firm grasp on Scripture, she discusses how easy it can be to notice unChristian behavior in others, but not in ourselves.  And she fully explains what blasphemy against the Holy Ghost truly is.

Learn how to take the road less traveled and stand firm on the Word.  Is Your Ghost Holy? by Shay Bills will show you how.

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Filed under Christian nonfiction, Inspirational, Non-Fiction

Miss L’eau


Miss L’eau
Author: T. Katz
Publisher: Windstorm Creative, Inc.

Reviewed by: Cheryl Malandrinos


Miss L’eau by T. Katz is a delightful chapter book with an excellent message. 

James and David like their teacher, Miss L’eau.  She’s a lot like the other teachers at their school, yet, there’s something different about her too.  And she has the most amazing eyes.  One day, James seeks shelter from a storm in the boys’ secret hiding place by the old lighthouse.   James thinks he sees something, but certainly that can’t really be what he saw.  Suddenly Miss L’eau is more mysterious than ever.  The boys are determined to figure out her secret.  They don’t know, however, how much that secret will change their lives..and perhaps, the world.

In this exciting and fun short chapter book, the story focuses on two young boys and their teacher.  While there are other characters popping in from time to time, in true chapter book format the number of characters is limited, allowing young readers to easily grasp everything that is going on.

The mystery surrounding Miss L’eau and why she is in Grant Harbor keeps readers turning the pages.  In a short amount of time, James and David go from giving little consideration to the ocean that they have lived next to all their lives, to strong proponents of protecting the ocean and marine life. 

The soothing cover art works well with the topic of the book, a mixture of darker and paler oceanic blues; though I have to admit that the one big eye in the middle of the cover creeps me out.  Perhaps an animated version of an eye or a smaller picture of two eyes might have made it less jarring.

Miss L’eau will show young readers how easy and fun it can be to take care of the world around them and to encourage others to do the same.

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Filed under Children's Books

Chemical Cowboys: : The DEA’s Secret Mission to Hunt Down a Notorious Ecstasy Kingpin


Chemical Cowboys: The DEA’s Secret Mission to Hunt Down a Notorious Ecstasy Kingpin
Author: Lisa Sweetingham
Publisher: Ballantine Books

Rating:  + half
Reviewed by:  Gary Mack


Two chapters into Lisa Sweetingham’s narrative, Chemical Cowboys, it’s clear that the former Columbia School of Journalism student’s strength is in how to sniff out sources, chronicle historical fact, and disseminate information important to the case. Her work is exhaustingly detailed, well documented, and credible in every sense from the perspective of an investigative reporter.

Where Ms. Sweetingham’s work falls flat is in her ability to tell a compelling story through a minimum of characters. Her sweeping approach on the DEA’s struggle with “kiddie dope”, the Ecstasy Wars of the 90’s, skips around haphazardly, introducing so many agents, drug lords, Israeli mobsters, mules and grifters, she clogs up your information pipe line to where you are overwhelmed and disinterested. You sort of just want to stop and clean up the mess.

Non-fiction must move along like fiction. Stories are usually easy to follow when you know whom the good guys and bad guys are. In this instance, it’s clear the agents Germanowski and Gagne are the two protagonists we want to follow. Certainly we understand there were other players during their tenure but it’s the G-boys we want more of, want to know, want to be with in their daily struggles against the antagonistic, Oded “The Fat Man” Tuito.

The basis of the story lies amongst these 3 players yet we drift in and out of their lives as we struggle mightily through the introductions and background of one character after another. In many cases, even with the most minor of players, you can bet on two to three paragraphs of family history, criminal history, and who’s the subjects favorite teacher from his or her eighth grade Junior High School class. Though I hyperbolize, it’s all too much.


In the expose’s most grotesque moment, Sweetingham finds it necessary, even though it’s complete conjecture, to let us know that one of the Club Kids, the heroin induced Michael Alig, may have swallowed the testicles of his murdered roommate. This revelation hardly adds to the story and is only mentioned so the author can be provocative.

It’s a real shame. Sweetingham had a great opportunity to open our eyes on a part of the drug war still unknown to us. If she would have fashioned Germanowski and Gagne to their undercover brethren, “Popeye” Doyle and “Cloudy” Russo, she would have created a more stirring and memorable account. In my opinion, Chemical Cowboys is a disappointment. The pace is swift, yet the over stuffed content drugs you up as a reader with information and forces you to struggle turning the pages. Three-quarters in you are fighting the story and you’re tempted to jump chapters just so you can get it all over with.


Next time around, let’s hope the talented and well schooled Lisa Sweetingham decides to do much more – with much, much less.

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Filed under Thriller, True Crime

Learning Disabilities: Understanding the Problem and Managing the Challenges


Learning Disabilities: Understanding the Problem and Managing the Challenges
Author: Etta K. Brown
Publisher: Langdon Street Press 

Reviewed by:  Cheryl Malandrinos 

If you suspect your child has a learning disability or if an educator has suggested your child has a learning disability you’ll want to pick up a copy of Learning Disabilities: Understanding the Problem and Managing the Challenges by Etta K. Brown.

A certified special education teacher, school social worker, school psychologist and Licensed Education Psychologist, Brown puts her twenty years of experience to excellent use in putting together a helpful and informative guide for parents who need to understand learning disabilities and the environmental influences that impact a child’s ability to learn.

If only I had this book in my possession when I began the difficult process of having my daughter assessed, I would not only have done things differently, I would have been a better advocate for my child. I didn’t know the majority of the information found in the book, which is why I believe that every parent with a child who has been recommended for an assessment needs to read it before taking any step in that direction.

In addition to the impact that diet and sleep have on brain function, the author discusses developmental readiness and how immature development may affect classroom performance. She spends time on the subject of retention and why it isn’t always the best solution. This book also covers how parenting, emotional trauma and toxic metals can affect development.

After getting an understanding of learning disabilities and environmental influences that impact a child’s ability to learn, Brown moves on to a history of Special Education and provides an in-depth look at the entire process of determining eligibility, tests and testing, and the Individualized Education Plan (IEP). She is a strong proponent of parents acting as advocates for their children.

The last section of the book shares signs and symptoms of learning disabilities and accomodations and modifications that can be made at home and school to provide the best enviroment for your child’s learning based upon the disability she is trying to manage.

Learning Disabilities will empower parents to take an active role in their child’s education and provide them with the tools to be the best advocates for their child.

I highly recommend Learning Disabilities by Etta K. Brown. Every school should have multiple copies on hand to assist parents with the process.


Filed under Non-Fiction

The Crypto-Capers in The Case of the Missing Sock

Crypto-Capers cover pic 001The Crypto-Capers in The Case of The Missing Sock
Author: Renée Hand
Publisher: North Star Press of St. Cloud, Inc.

Reviewed by:  Cheryl Malandrinos 

What do you get when you cross an accident prone computer genius, an expert puzzle solver, a flamboyant grandmother who loves knitting–even though she’s terrible at it, and a young detective who can solve crimes that stump senior members of Scotland Yard?

A great new interactive mystery series that your children will love!

Sibling detectives Max and Mia Holmes reside on Baker Street in London. Along with their Granny Nellie Holmes and their technology wizard best friend, Morris, they make up the Crypto-Capers.

In Book 1 of this series, The Case of the Missing Sock, the Crypto-Capers travel to Florida, where Mr. Delacomb hires them to locate a stolen antique sock with a specially made pair of Prada sunglasses tucked inside. With new suspects popping up everywhere they turn, the Crypto-Capers must use Max’s great skills at reasoning and deduction, Mia’s ability to solve puzzles, and Morris’s penchant for technology, to help them solve the crime. And just in case you think Granny has wandered off for no good reason, you’ll discover her wanderings are usually very productive.

Before I say anything else, I have to tell you that my daughters–ages 7 and 5–are already bugging me to get done reviewing these books so that they can have them. I have both Book 1 and Book 2 – The Case of the Red Rock Canyon, and Granny is definitely a favorite character based upon the cover art from Book 2. My girls are starting to make up their own stories without having even read these; so illustrator Alla Dubrovich deserves a huge nod for creating attention-grabbing covers.

The Case of the Missing Sock actually opens in London, with Max in the middle of something good. I don’t want to destroy the surprise, so I won’t say much more on that, but Hand wastes no time in getting right to the action.

Then we get to meet the rest of the team and get some backstory on the family. The backstory is trickled in between the current day happenings, so it doesn’t have a chance to take over the storyline or distract the reader. Hand does an excellent job of sharing just the right amount of detail to make the reader feel like he is experiencing everything along with the Crypto-Capers, while not overloading him with unnecessary junk that weighs the story down.

What I enjoyed most about this book and the plans for other books in the series, is that it gives readers, especially reluctant ones, a reason to pick up a book. By having the reader decipher cryptograms along with the team, The Case of the Missing Sock becomes more than just a book; it becomes an interactive adventure.

The Crypto-Capers by Renee Hand is one series of children’s books that I plan to keep an eye on!


Filed under Children's Books, Mystery

How to Win a Pitch

howtopitch cover

How to Win A Pitch: The Five Fundamentals That Will Distinguish You From the Competition
Author: Joey Asher
Publisher: Persuasive Speaker Press

Reviewed by:  Gary Mack


PRESENT A SOLUTION. That’s the main theme of the book. After breezing through the chapters reinforcing the theme, I thought of how I might apply the author’s advice. 

Being involved in a soccer club, a perplexing situation arose when a rogue coach of ours decided he wanted to take our team to a competing club. With the parents torn between their allegiance to the club and their desire to remain on a winning team, a meeting was set to discuss the matter between all parties. At the meeting, the club, along with its new coach, would pitch the parents on the advantages of staying, while the old coach would attempt to lure them away. 

As the spokesperson, I used the recommendations in the book. Rather than speak about our many state cup championship victories, myself and the unrivaled history of the club, I chose to focus on providing a solution for the parents. Knowing, at the age of fourteen, the girls were only a couple of years away from receiving offers from colleges, I charged forward and presented a curriculum that brought Division I college coaches in to train and speak to the parents and girls.  Fully understanding the parents’ desire and expectation for hefty scholarships, I raved on about the new progressive training methods we were going to implement – how they mirrored those of the Division I schools. I added that with each girl, we would build a profile of their accomplishments on our web site and then create a scholarship strategy for every player based on her ability and her education needs. 

When I was finished, lo and behold… The parents walked out with the old coach. 

Just teasing.

It actually worked. Joey Asher’s “How To Win A Pitch” has extreme value as an advisory source for those who need to win business for their sake, and the sake of their companies. Written in a simple but sprightly prose, the book is filled with humorous anecdotes, colorful insights and common sense articulations that will strengthen your understanding on how to close a deal. Asher even goes so far as to teach you how to gesture and what your body language means to a prospective buyer.

 “How To Win A Pitch” is a winner from the first sentence to the last. Based on my success with it, I’m turning it over to my wife, who as the Administration Manager of her firm, plans on having all the sales staff give it a read.  We both believe it will benefit the company a great deal.

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Filed under Business, Non-Fiction, Sales and Marketing

No Teachers Left Behind


No Teachers Left Behind
Author: HBF Teacher
Publisher: 2nd Avenue Publishing

Reviewed by: Cheryl Malandrinos


If you want to take a scary and sometimes funny–if it weren’t so real–trip through the day-to-day life of middle school teachers, then pick up a copy of No Teachers Left Behind by Hopeful But Frustrated Teacher (HBF Teacher).

Join Sixth Grade teachers Sandra Wyatt and Marcus Watts, Seventh Grade teachers Sonya Harte and Gail Jenkins, Eighth Grade teacher Angela Williams, and the other teachers, administrators and support staff at fictional Vilyon Middle School for a glimpse into the daily life of teachers in America’s public school system.

Frustrated, by overpaid administrators whose decisions lack common sense and place the “needs” of students ahead of everything else–including necessary discipline and safety issues, the teaching staff at Vilyon Middle School can’t even seem to get support from the support staff. The head custodian expects them to make sure unruly and unmanageable students don’t destroy the bathrooms; while unsupportive parents point to teachers as the problem behind their children’s lack of academic success.

Told through a series of scene excerpts, poems, and email exchanges, No Teachers Left Behind portrays some of the challenges facing American public schools today; and it leaves the reader wondering if these types of things occur in every school district in America.

My opinions on this book are mixed because I approach it both as a parent and as someone who volunteers in local public schools. I’ve watched while budget cuts have left teachers counting the number of photocopies they make each day, while perfectly useable equipment is replaced with newer models. I’ve heard the cries of large class sizes, but have heard stories of teachers not wanting parents in their classrooms.

The administrators are out of touch with reality in this book, and the majority of students and all the parents are portrayed in an unflattering light. Most of the students are more interested in making drug deals, getting their teachers suspended, and getting it on, than performing well academically; and the parents fault the teachers, not themselves, for any problems that arise.

The author’s passion for this subject is evident. While I didn’t think I would care for the format at first, I found it very easy to follow the various email communications and scenes to their shocking and tragic conclusion. The language is a bit crude in places, but mostly appropriate when used. The one thing I didn’t quite understand was the cover art; but I thought the rolling prairie might be symbolic of the less complicated days of educating children in one-room classrooms, before government legislation and mandatory testing dictated how educators taught their students.

No Teachers Left Behind is one of those books that will leave you thinking about the state of things long after you’ve turned the last page.


Filed under contemporary fiction, Fiction, realistic fiction

On My Own Now


On My Own Now:  Straight Talk from the Proverbs for Young Christian Women who Want to Remain Pure, Debt-free and Regret-free
Author: Donna Lee Schillinger
Publisher: The Quilldriver

Reviewed by:  Cheryl C. Malandrinos

Are you concerned over what decisions your daughter might make once she’s out on her own?

Are you a young woman searching for guidance now that you no longer live with your parents?

Are you a pastor seeking to guide young single women in your church?

Do you know a young woman living on her own or soon to be living on her own who would benefit from some Godly guidance?

If you answered yes to any of these, then you’ll want to pick up a copy of On My Own Now: Straight Talk from the Proverbs for Young Christian Women who Want to Remain Pure, Debt-free and Regret-free by Donna Lee Schillinger.

In this interesting and thought-provoking exploration of the book of Proverbs, Schillinger takes young women along a journey that will help them to make better, safer, and more sound decisions.

The author takes a unique approach to the book of Proverbs by reversing the gender in many of the proverbs from “he” to “she” and Schillinger includes a modern day translation of Proverbs 31:10-29 about the traits of a good woman at the back of the book.

Exploring such topics as how Proverbs applies today, staying pure until marriage, dealing with anger and jealousy, developing good habits, tithing, using passion to make a positive impact, and the importance of not making rash decisions, Schillinger shows how the book of Proverbs can guide young women to be the women they want to be and stay that way.

On My Own Now can easily be used as a daily devotional, each section concluding with a thought for the reader to hold on to, such as “What I can’t have honestly, I simply won’t have.”

Its hip cover and conversational style will attract young women, and Schillinger is careful to get her point across without being overly preachy. There are also word bubbles throughout the book that capture important portions of the text to focus the reader.

I have to admit that the overuse of the exclamation point made it lose its effectiveness for me; but in the hands of a younger woman, that may not be the case. I also found a portion of text where I stopped to ponder the impression a young woman would be left with when reading that passage.

It is found on pages 179 through 181. The chapters in this section deal with friendship, and these particular pages cover depression and finding help when you need it. Schillinger talks about chemical imbalances possibly being a cause of depression and how modern medicine can help if we aren’t too proud to ask. She first suggests creating good eating, sleeping, and exercising habits, and then if that doesn’t make the reader feel better after 21 days she should start taking multivitamins, St. John’s wort, and other supplements recommended by a pharmacist. She then goes on to say that if this works, “don’t stop taking them…vitamins are something our body needs every day for the rest of our lives.”

While the author does make a point to mention that St. John’s wort may interact poorly with some medication and to talk to a healthcare provider if the reader is on any prescription medication, it seems it would be safer and prudent to suggest the reader talk to her healthcare provider or a registered dietician about adding supplements to her diet prior to taking anything.

On My Own Now, is an excellent resource for young women on how to use proverbs to guide their lives. I am going to talk to our pastor about purchasing copies of this book for female high school graduates from our church.

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Filed under Christian nonfiction, Non-Fiction, Self-Help, Teen Non-Fiction, Women's Issues

The Losing Game

the-losing-game-coverThe Losing Game: Why You Can’t Beat Wall Street
Author: T. E. Scott with Stephen Edds
Publisher: Hidden Truth Publishing

Rating:  + half
Reviewed by:  Gary Mack

This is a conspiracy book about Wall Street. Like one of your father’s rants, this book is goes on and on about the minus/sum game of Wall Street investing. Scott asserts early that Wall Street is nothing but a massive scam created merely to pull the hard earned money from the pockets of the common man. With constant references to Vegas, Scott wants you to conclude that Wall Street is nothing but high society’s version of casino gambling.


I can honestly say that by eighth grade, I knew that Wall Street was a place where people with disposable income went to purchase stock in corporations they hoped increased in value. I assumed, like any investment, those involved knew they were taking a risk and for some time after their initial capital investment, they would be in arrears.


As an adult, once I began investing, I was certainly under no illusion that I was going to automatically reap huge windfalls simply for my stock purchases. Like when I borrowed money to start my corporation, it was years later before my loan was paid off and I began to profit from my idea and hard work.


What Mr. Scott forgets is that Wall Street is a nebulous institution. There is no Mafia family running the enterprise, as he would lead you to believe. As in any stage where competition takes place, there are those who play the game at a higher level. To assert that Wall Street was conceived by a group or master race, who like puppeteers, pull the strings that easily rip off on a daily basis the hard earned money of working class people is nonsensical.

On a positive front, for the sake of the newbie investor, Mr. Scott explains how hedging works, details facts about derivatives, and gives a rudimentary assessment of the actual tracking methodology of the Dow Jones Index. The chapters on the meat and guts of how Wall Street works are the unhidden strengths of the book.


Had his book been slanted more toward simply helping out the uncertain investor, I believe Mr. Scott would have had a winner. Instead, The Losing Game comes across too much like your typical conspiracy tale, whereby, a lot of scandalous events or sightings occur right in front of your eyes, yet you, or anyone else but the author, never sees it happening. The constant repetition of the author’s theme unnerves the reader and trips your concentration from focusing on the important subject matter at hand. And that’s a shame. For it’s there that Mr. Scott has a lot of good advice to give to the investing public. 

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Filed under Business, Current Events, Non-Fiction, personal finance