“Dam Witherston” by Betty Jean Craige


Betty Jean Craige
Black Opal Books (2017)
ISBN 9781626945982
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer for Reader Views (6/17)

“Dam Witherston” by Betty Jean Craige revolves around the blackmail of the Mayor of Witherston and prominent attorneys, by an unknown woman whose relative was attacked forty years ago when all were teens. The Mayor and several of his cronies want to create a lake on top of sacred Cherokee burial grounds, the theory being that it will bring more tourists, jobs, and money into the economy. This leads to anger, threats, revenge, and murder.

The author starts the book with several snippets from the local small-town newspaper referencing what was happening in town and during the investigation. I would have suggested she only provide a few to support her idea of what a small town is like, but this went on throughout the book and distracted my reading. The actual story once you got to it, was fast-paced and full of action. I found the influx of various characters in the beginning a bit overwhelming and often thought, “What is this person’s role in the plot?”

I found several characters well developed and many will be able to relate to them. Detective Mev Arroyo’s character is very intriguing, and one can sense her fairness and resolve to investigate all the facts before making any determination, regardless of her relationship with the suspects. To be honest, I had a hard time determining the purpose of spending so much time on the characters who were the Detective’s 16-year-old twin sons. The Mayor and attorneys are your typical arrogant, money hungry individuals who instill in readers a love-hate relationship. Detailed descriptions of this small town reminded me of where I grew up; everyone knows your business and gossip runs amok.

I was glad to see that Craige addressed some Cherokee history, and the battle Indians still fight today. I laughed when the town decided to take DNA tests to see what their heritage was.

Overall, I found “Dam Witherston” by Betty Jean Craige to be an interesting mystery/thriller, once I got through all the random conversations, and characters. Fans of mystery/thriller will enjoy the investigative aspects and the action packed drama.

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“Heaven Is a Gay Bar” by Bryan Foreman


Bryan Foreman
BForeman Books (2017)
ISBN 9780692880111
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer for Reader Views (6/17)

Article first published as Book Review: ‘Heaven Is a Gay Bar’ by Bryan Foreman on Blogcritics.

In “Heaven Is a Gay Bar,” author Bryan Foreman takes us on a journey with a 30-year-old single, overweight recluse named Benjamin Oldman. Ben or “B” works for his father at his construction company, lives in a small apartment, has no social life to speak of, and wants to be a famous writer.

Ben’s co-workers invite him to go out to several nightclubs hoping he will gain confidence and social skills. However, their trip proves that Ben is an outsider as he notices people around him are looking his way and laughing. Several bars and drinks later, his so-called friends take him to Club H, a popular gay bar. Ben is in total shock at what he sees, yet at the same time feels he fits right in with the misfits. Ben and his friends swear they are straight, but they love the excitement, strangeness, and mood. Little does Ben know that there is more to Club H than meets the eye. Several women approach him and flatter him to no end. “Finally, I am being sought out, so I mustn’t be such a misfit.”

His friends Matt and Sean seek out different thrills in the form of drugs. As time goes on, more clubs and drugs become their downfall. Matt and Sean shift their attitude about being straight, and Benjamin falls in love with a younger woman who chooses to use him. Nightly partying, drugs and out-of-control behavior becomes an issue for his job, parents, and misfit friends.

I found the story to be interesting and descriptive. The author writes of his experiences in the nineties when many of his friends passed away from AIDS. I like that Foreman was able to show what goes on in the mind of those who seem to get thrills of at the expense of others. One thing of note is there are so many characters and action presented at once that it was a bit hard to keep track of everything. This does however, smooth out as the story progresses.

The author’s writing is very expressive. Foreman provides excellent descriptions of the club scenes, eloquently illustrates the feelings of those who feel out of place in society, and graphically displays the impact of drugs on one’s behavior. As I was reading, I was reminded of the first transgender club I went to in college. Like Ben’s experience, I was in awe, and his writing took me back to that place in time.

Overall, I found “Heaven Is a Gay Bar” by Bryan Foreman to be an entertaining read. It is a fun, unique, and provocative semi-autobiographical story, sure to delight and engage.

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Interview with J. Stewart Willis, Author of “Gestation Seven”


Gestation Seven

J. Stewart Willis
Xlibris (2017)
ISBN 9781543410150
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (06/17)

Article first published as Interview: J. Stewart Willis, Author of ‘Gestation Seven’ on Blogcritics.

J. Stewart Willis grew up in Alexandria, Virginia and went to the United States Military Academy, from which he graduated in 1958 and served for twenty-five years in the Army. During that time, he served in Taiwan and later in Vietnam as Signal Officer of the 173rd Airborne Brigade. During his Army career, he attended graduate school at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, earning an MS and PhD in Physics. He served as a Professor of Physics at the United States Military Academy for sixteen years before retiring from the Army in 1983. He next worked for TRW Inc. as a manager working on communications projects and the Department of Energy’s Nuclear Waste Project at Yucca Mountain, Nevada. During this time, he lived in Rappahannock County, Virginia, where he has lived ever since. There he served as the elected mayor of Washington, Virginia (often referred to as “Little Washington”) for nine years. He currently lives in Sperryville, Virginia with Charlie, his greyhound/borzoi cross.


Welcome Stewart, and thank you for being with us today! Why don’t you start by telling our readers a bit about your journey to becoming a published author?

I’ve thought about writing most of my life. I actually started a novel about the Civil War while I was in college, but never got very far. With all that it takes to earn a living and take care of a family, there was never any time for writing. However, ideas about books have constantly rattled around in my head. Now that I am older with fewer responsibilities, I decided I’d better start getting things down on paper while I still have the opportunity.

What is Gestation Seven about?

Gestation Seven is a science/medical thriller. It starts with the discovery of two murdered babies found in a trash dumpster south of the City of Alexandria, Virginia. A young female newspaper reporter comes upon the crime scene on her way home from work and becomes involved with trying to solve the mystery behind the murders. Her sleuthing leads her to three government scientists who had gone rogue and conducted an experiment directed at reducing the human period of gestation from nine months to seven months. The experiment had gone terribly wrong leading one scientist, unbeknown to the others, to murder two of the babies to rid him of the evidence of the failure. Based on early information discovered by the reporter, the Alexandria Police take over the investigation. During the process of discovery, we learn of the impact all this is having on the other two scientists and what happened to a third baby.

What inspired you to write this story?

The idea came from all that is being written in the media about genetic science and research. The rest is my imagination.

Tell us about the main protagonist and antagonist in the book. What motivates them?

The young reporter is motivated by the desire to move ahead in her profession and to be recognized as someone who is capable of covering more than social events. The young scientist, on the other hand, is simply caught up in an experiment that his fellow scientists want to pursue for their own glory and personal interest.

Which character do you relate to most and why?

Probably a combination of the three scientists.

How extensive was the research required for this plotline? Tell us a bit about it.

Not terribly extensive, I read some books on genetics, drove around Alexandria, and used maps on the internet.

What kind of reaction to your writing do you most seek from your reading audience? 

I don’t have any deep, hidden purpose. This is simply a story I’ve told that I hope people will enjoy reading. I’ve tried to incorporate enough discoveries and surprises throughout to keep it interesting to read.

What is a typical day for you as an author? What are your writing practices?

I try to write a couple of hours each afternoon. I am still involved in an antique/gift store in Washington, Virginia that my wife started before her death, although I don’t physically work there on a day-to-day basis, and I spend as much time with my family as I can in Charlottesville and Richmond. I am now well on my way to completing the first draft on my second book, but am finding that the marketing of my first book is more demanding than I would like.

Describe how it felt when you finished writing your story.

Clearly, I was excited. It had all gone more smoothly than I had imagined. The ideas had been developed in my mind over the year sufficiently so that I knew much of it before I started, although I came up with new ideas as I wrote. The second book is taking more effort. The real thrill was having a hardcover book in hand with my name on it.

What can you share with us about your publishing experience?

I see my experience as extremely limited at this time. At my age, I’m impatient. I didn’t want to devote the time and frustration in trying to find an agent or a publisher, so I published myself. The problem with this is that I wrote largely in isolation. My sister told me to keep the chapters short and my daughter read the book and gave me some good advice and editorial comments, but editing novels is not her field. As a result, I’m sure I missed the value a good editor could have provided. Also, self-publishing is clearly not inexpensive. You can spend almost any amount you can imagine. There are all kinds of people out there on the internet who are willing to help for a price. You have to ask yourself how much you are willing to spend to fulfill your own dreams.

What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received, about writing, or about life in general?

As I said, I wrote this largely in isolation. The best part is that my family never laughed at the idea but only encouraged me. Basically, they said to enjoy the process, success or not.

What advice can you give aspiring writers of thrillers?

I think, looking back, the development of the characters might require more work. I, basically, just wanted to tell a story. I think that’s the main thing readers want. Philosophy is fine, but tell a story and include some surprises.

What writers have inspired your own work as an author?

I read all kinds of things, but mostly mysteries and historic novels. I read Grisham, Connolly, Baldacci, Kellerman, Lehane, Le Carre, Russo, Patchett, Mantel,  Follett, Bernard Cornwell, and Scandinavian Mysteries.

What can you tell us about your next book?

As I noted earlier, I am well on my way to finishing the first draft of another book. It’s about a tech company bidding on a contract with the involvement and interactions of the players and their wives.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I love to visit and do things with my children and grandchildren.

Where can readers connect with you on social media to learn more about you and your book, Gestation Seven?

My web site is www.jstewartwillis.com. I am on Facebook at J Stewart Willis and LinkedIn at J. Stewart Willis

Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

I would appreciate comments on my book at jstewartwillis7@gmail.com. I’m still interested in learning.

Read review of Gestation Seven
Visit authors website

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“Alcohol Ink Dreamscaping” by June Rollins


June Rollins
CreateSpace (2013)
ISBN 9781490544441
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (09/16)

I’d never actually heard of alcohol ink or dreamscaping, it was the beautiful cover showing the artist’s work that caught my attention. Because “Alcohol Ink Dreamscaping” by June Rollins is a quick reference guide, I immediately was able to catch up on my lack of knowledge. This style of artwork interests me because I get very frustrated when I try to create beautiful works of art and end up messing them up by painting outside the lines. With this style, there are no boundary-setting lines. Mentally I think this is freeing for people who want to create something for relaxation.

I love that “Alcohol Ink Dreamscaping” is organized in a way that introduces the reader to the basics of dreamscaping so that she will immediately know what is involved and whether or not it will be something that she will want to pursue. I definitely discovered an interest and look forward to collecting what I need to get started. I also appreciate that numerous examples of different ways of working with this media are backed up with photographs of the artist’s work. These beautiful examples make it even more motivating for me to get started, but it also helps to have visual explanations for what she is discussing. She also offers photographs of the actual techniques, and I for one, find seeing a real picture to be much more helpful than looking at a diagram. I also appreciate the websites that are cited for supplies and more information. This will enable me to come up with more ideas.

“Alcohol Ink Dreamscaping” by June Rollins is a great resource to give yourself as a gift, if you are exploring ways to develop your artistic side. I also think it would make a great gift for a newly retired individual because it offers a new avenue to explore for leisure time. I plan to get started with this by using paper for the ink, but I hope to be able to move on to tiles so that I can created hinged boxes, such as the author has, to give as personal gifts. They are beautiful and will be something unique to give to someone that has everything. Either way, friends and family will benefit from this book!

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“Road Trip Home – A Baha’i Vision of Hope” by Steven E. Ellis


Steven E. Ellis
First Edition Design Publishing (2016)
ISBN 9781506903262
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (06/17)

“Road Trip Home – A Baha’i Vision of Hope” by Steven E. Ellis is an inspiring and enlightening story about hope in the search for true purpose and the meaning of life.

Tired of the rough, dark winters in Alaska, Grayson decides to move with his family to Oregon. This journey home will be over 3,000 miles and will take about ten days. They will be caravanning with another family. When an eighty-three-year-old Alaskan native named Rose approaches Grayson, he is intrigued with the offer she presents to him. Rose asks that she may ride with him in the truck, so that she can journey down to see her family, who live in the direction that he is heading. She also has a mission to fulfill from a prophecy that dates back to her childhood.

Gifted with a profound spiritual truth to share with others, the only way Rose sees herself being able to do fulfill this mission is through Grayson. She will record their discussions about spirituality, religion, God, faith, politics, and science, and show him how it relates to the Baha’i belief system. These discussions will be material for a book that will enlighten those who read it.

“Road Trip Home” is a beautifully written tribute to the Baha’i belief system. Having been interested in learning about the Baha’i beliefs, I was pleased to be able to have the opportunity to learn about it by reading a book that took me along on a spiritual journey. Reading it in this format gave it so much more meaning. As the character Rose shared her story, Grayson asked questions that most readers would want to ask. This enables the reader to learn through his experience.

In addition to the spiritual journey, there are also website links that will connect those interested to more information about the Baha’i Community. There are is also a concise list of 21 Spiritual Principles for Modern Times. This list sums up much of the discussions throughout the book. I highly recommend that people who are interested in the Baha’i Community read “Road Trip Home – A Baha’i Vision of Hope” by Steven E. Ellis. Readers who enjoy reading enlightening books that help them along their spiritual paths will also be pleased at the insight that gained in reading these pages.

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“The Best Homemade Vegan Cheese & Ice Cream Recipes” by Marie Laforet


Marie Laforet
Robert Rose (2016)
ISBN 9780778805434
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (09/16)

To me, giving up cheese and ice cream has been the hardest part of converting to veganism. There are some commercial vegan ice cream options out there that are pretty delicious, but the products tend to be very processed. I’ve also been interested in creating my own vegan cheeses, but a lot of the recipes that I have seen appear to be pretty complicated. “The Best Homemade Vegan Cheese & Ice Cream Recipes” by Marie Laforet, offers colorfully pictured, well-described recipes that make the process appear easy. There is a wonderful variety of choices as well. The cheeses range from the basic options like feta and mozzarella to attractive potluck worthy selections such as a Soft Cheese Log or Oven Baked Almond Cheese Rounds. With this cookbook, I feel like once I learn the basics, I will be able to venture out and come up with my own creations, without accidentally killing anybody!

Then there are the desserts! The ice cream section is definitely not to be viewed while hungry, because you will find yourself drooling, and your stomach growling! In my efforts to avoid processed foods, I’ve been skipping the commercial vegan ice creams and simply grinding up frozen bananas and cocoa powder to make my own “nice cream.” This gets kind of old after a while. Now I can create my own frozen treats such as ice creams, sorbets, and pops. The first one I am going to create is the pistachio ice cream. That has always been my favorite and now I can create it guilt free! The pops are beautiful and would make healthier options for children.

“The Best Vegan Cheese & Ice Cream Recipes” book by Marie Laforet provides me with some excellent choices that will help me grow my culinary skills. Now I can be known for more than just my fantastic vegan, lactose free, and gluten free salads at potlucks. I look forward to doing some experimenting and waiting for reactions. I’ve discovered that when I offer to bring a vegan, lactose free, gluten free dish to a potluck, the hostess is usually relieved that there will be something there to cater to special diets. This approach has helped me avoid the judgmental vegan comments from the guests. With the recipes in this book, I think everybody will appreciate the treats that I bring. This book is highly recommended for vegans, vegetarians, lactose intolerant and gluten free diets.

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“Incision Decisions” by Kaye Newton


Kaye Newton
Linland Press (2017)
ISBN 9780692832547
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer for Reader Views (6/17)

In “Incision Decisions,” author Kaye Newton provides some beneficial information on what to do when one is preparing for surgery. Topics range from finding a qualified surgeon, questions to ask, getting second opinions, and enlisting others to help during the recovery process.

Many of the topics I found were common sense; however, I do know that often information presented is overwhelming, medical terms are unclear, and the whole process is confusing. Newton provides a simple guide to assist the individual, family, and friends.

Several points she makes are crucial in my mind: living wills and medical powers of attorney. Many hospitals require these documents today as well as DRN (do not resuscitate) wishes. Often, even though medical staff might say “simple surgery,” things happen, and you want to have everything in writing. Newton also states, “don’t rely on internet searches” to do your own diagnosing, and if you insist on doing it, go only to verified websites. She provides a list of these sites in the back of the book. Also, if you are currently working, you need to research the type of leave you qualify for, what your health insurance will pay for, and if you meet the criteria for disability leave. From my experience, start the process early; don’t rely on others to handle paperwork as fast as you do.

Depending on the type of surgery and length of recovery, you might want to consider appointing a friend or family member to be the point of contact for food, school and activity pick up for children, visitors, and transportation to and from medical appointments. Recovery occurs faster with less stress. Several detailed charts are included for keeping track of medications, simple make ahead and freeze meals, and suggestions on how to make one’s place of living accident-free.

“Incision Decisions” by Kaye Newton is an easy to read and understand guide; the author provides medical jargon, medical personnel you might meet in the hospital, where to get in-home help and nursing. Overall, this information is beneficial to everyone and an excellent resource to keep on your bookshelf.

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