“The Hunter: Awakening” by Nicholas Arriaza


Nicholas Arriaza
Rio Dulce Books (2017)
ISBN 9780998793306
Reviewed by Susan Violante for Reader Views (04/17)

Article first published as Book Review: ‘The Hunter: Awakening’ by Nicholas Arriaza on Blogcritics.

Author Nicholas Arriaza makes an impressive entry into the literary world of horror and suspense with his debut novel, “The Hunter: Awakening,” Volume 1 in ‘The Hunter Saga.’

Set in Los Angeles, “The Hunter: Awakening” is a multilevel story about family, betrayal, and the battle of good versus evil. From a tomb hidden deep in the California hillside, a fierce creature steals a large leather-bound ancient volume. In its haste to deliver the book to its new master, the beast fails to secure the entryway to the tomb, and a young hiker stumbles upon the elaborate cave, unintentionally awakening a fearful being set to rest in the tomb over two hundred years ago.

Meanwhile, a young and pregnant neurosurgeon, Melisa Castro, enjoys a rare day off lounging by her poolside when a man suddenly falls from a cliff directly into her backyard. Melisa is compelled to help the man who is emaciated and has no memory of who or where he is. A vampire looking for the awakened being, and a power struggle with the family of Melisa’s fiancé Chris, adds to the drama. Chris is not who or what he appears to be either, and hasn’t been that forthcoming with his fiancé. He just can’t seem to find the right time to tell Melisa she is carrying a werewolf’s baby.

Wow, I was totally captivated with this story. Nicholas Arriaza does a remarkable job with his debut novel, crafting a thrilling, fast-paced journey, and taking readers through layers and layers of blood-chilling entertainment. The story is very well written, offering a stimulating fresh take on werewolves, vampires, and theology. The world he built successfully intertwines historical backdrops with modern times, displaying clear and genuine visions easily imagined by the reader.

Topping the robust settings, the characters are the leading attractions in the story. So well developed, I had no trouble connecting with each of the main characters. Arriaza brings his characters to life, displaying their quirks and mannerisms with complexity, detail, and richly designed personalities. I particularly enjoyed making the comparisons between Melisa’s family and Chris’s family. Two dramatically different families and upbringings, they vividly show the author’s ability to create unique and individual characters that draw the reader in, investing them in whatever happens next.

Overall I found “The Hunter: Awakening” to be an engaging book that I highly recommend to fans of horror, vampires, werewolves and fantasy. Well-written and suspenseful, the unexpected plot twists and dramatic ending set the pace for a successful series. I look forward to the next installment in ‘The Hunter Saga’ by Nicholas Arriaza.

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“A Daughter of the Enemy of the People” by Valery Dunaevsky


Valery Dunaevsky
Xlibris (2015)
ISBN 9781503574892
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer for Reader Views (7/16)

Valery Dunaevsky’s book, “A Daughter of the Enemy of the People” is dedicated to his mother and serves as a legacy to his family members. This book revolves around the 1930s, during which time Stalin collected and killed many innocent people, as they were considered “enemies.”

Throughout the book the author describes in great detail the atrocities these people endured, including some of his own family members. Written through the eyes of a Russian Jewish family man, the author provides great historical facts, as well as documents and pictures to support his memoir. Readers will find that even though individuals endured the worst of conditions, they still retained their optimism and hope.

This is not a book one can just breeze through. Filled with numerous historical facts and detailed descriptions of several family members, it is a slow book to read. Individuals who love to read historical information and facts will love it.

The book starts with the arrest of the author’s grandfather on his mother’s side, and moves through WWII from 1941-1945, to the time that his mother and other family members began their journey of emigration. Dunaevsky and his wife came to the United States in 1979, and his mother arrived in 1982 at the age of 62. Interestingly enough, even though his mother was excited about coming to the United States, she was still hesitant. Leaving her homeland meant leaving friends, family, and the “comfort zone” of knowing what to expect, regardless of the hardships she endured. Initially as with many immigrants, adjustments take time, however with English language classes, and slow methodical steps, she was able to adjust extremely well, and became a valuable asset to new immigrants.

Overall “A Daughter of the Enemy of the People” by Valery Dunaevsky is a good read and certainly gives an abundant picture of life during the Stalin years. It is written well and full of detailed facts and documentation.

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“Glorious Times” by Tom Benjey


Tom Benjey
Tuxedo Press (2016)
ISBN 9781936161485
Reviewed by David K. McDonnell for Reader Views (12/16)

“Glorious Times” by Tom Benjey is an exhaustive family history, delving back to the 17th Century and the first Craigheads to Pennsylvania. It follows many generations of the Craighead family through the late 20th Century. As a family history, “Glorious Times” is extremely well done and thoroughly researched. Public records, interviews with family members, letters, memoirs, and numerous publications are sourced, and make the book very credible.

The only drawback with the book is its limited appeal. To members of the Craighead family, and to their friends, the book is very appealing and a keepsake for generations to come. For anyone else, the book has little to offer. This is despite the fact that the Craigheads are very fascinating people, rich in history and innovation. The early generations were primarily merchants and Presbyterian ministers, and well educated, particularly for the era. And, virtually all of them had an affinity for nature and the outdoors.

The most fascinating of the bunch were twins Frank Jr. and John, and their younger sister Jean, born in the second decade of the 20th Century. The twins were Eagle scouts, achieved multiple academic honors, captured and trained Cooper’s Hawks while in their teens, traveled around the world while undergraduate students, and captured and planted transmitters on grizzly bears. They published a falconry book while still students, as well as National Geographic articles.

The twins were also physical fitness and outdoor nuts. The navy put their skills to work during World War II, when they created a curriculum for survival training, which included wrestling, judo, obstacle course training, topographical map and compass reading, and other survival techniques. They even wrote a short text for the course–“How to Survive on Land and Sea.”

Jean was as smart and energetic as her brothers. She left graduate school after Pearl Harbor and became a reporter at a small newspaper. The War Labor Board controlled salaries at the time, based upon perceived importance to the war effort, and didn’t take seriously a request for a pay raise by nuclear physicists. Puzzled by this, Jean interviewed physicists and studied scientific journals, and wrote an article on how the bombardment of uranium isotopes could release the power of the atom and destroy Berlin. Government officials were not amused at how uncomfortably close she was to describing the top-secret Manhattan Project. Decades later, Jean wrote the young adult adventure novel “My Side of the Mountain,” which won literary awards and was subsequently adapted into a movie.

“Glorious Times” by Tom Benjey doesn’t bring us inside the minds or hearts of anyone within the Craighead family, and it is difficult to connect emotionally with the family members. It does chronicle quite well the events that shaped the lives of many generations and, in this respect, it is perhaps a roadmap usable by others on how a family history should be written.

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“My Mother Called Me Unni” by Dr. Venugopal K. Menon


Dr. Venugopal K. Menon
Outskirts Press (2016)
ISBN 9781478761716
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer for Reader Views (6/16)

Dr. Venugopal K. Menon is a native of Colonial British India and is the eldest of seven children. He wrote “My Mother Called Me Unni” to honor his mother who, at the age of 62 came to the United States, and to provide a legacy for his children and grandchildren.

The author writes with passion and love as he describes his family and life in India prior to migrating to the United States. His book provides a wealth of information about life in India and how he viewed the impact his family had on him. However, there was so much information (historical), that it was hard to read at some points. The historical facts were sometimes overwhelming and the book had to be put down in order to process it all. There were several terms the author used that this reviewer didn’t understand and had to look up.

The author uses many historical documents, pictures, and poems throughout the book that will have readers reflecting on their own family, the meaning of life, and what we want our loved ones to remember.

Dr. Menon reflects the good and bad times in his life and is very inspiring in his writing. He is a well-respected member of the community and the medical field. When his mother migrated to the US at the age of 62, she adjusted well and became very active in her community and in the lives of others.

This reviewer found “My Mother Called Me Unni” by Dr. Venugopal K. Menon to be well written, and full of humor, compassion, and love. It is hard to even begin to write about this book, one really has to read it slowly, and do some thinking and reflection on one’s feelings about who they are, how they love, and how they see life.

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“Alexandria” Book Two of ‘The Sword of Agrippa’ series by Gregory Ness


Gregory Ness
Gregory Ness (2017)
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (04/17)

Article first published as Book Review: ‘Alexandria’ by Gregory Ness – Book Two of ‘The Sword of Agrippa’ on Blogcritics.

“Alexandria” is the second book in The Sword of Agrippa series by Gregory Ness. In this gripping dystopian sci-fi adventure, readers will come away from the experience reflective upon the possibility of living past lives and how those past lives could potentially impact science, discovery, and the very existence of a future.

The story begins in ancient Rome with the discovery of a long-lost temple, by Julius Caesar, Marcus Agrippa, and Cleopatra, along with her sister, Samia. Marcus and Samia are sealed in the temple overnight to study the findings of the magnificent artifacts. While there, the two enter into a spiritual ritual bonding them together for eternity.

Then it’s on to Prague, where scientist Roy Swenson has been exiled after his experimental research was shut down in the U.S. Roy is currently conducting dream sequence viewings in hopes of revealing the secrets of dark energy. He must be getting close because opposing forces are going to great lengths to keep this research suppressed.

I love how Ness uses a multidimensional storyline to interweave the history of Egypt during the times of Caesar and Cleopatra, with a disturbing portrait of a dystopian society in the not too distant future of 2025, and takes the reader back and forth between the two worlds. This author clearly has “show vs. tell” down to an art form as he maneuvers the reader through the story with meticulous and crisp writing, imprinting distinct pictures in the mind as the narrative unfolds.

Drawn to the world of long ago and the timeless stories only history can tell, I found I could not get enough of the ancient Egyptian storyline. Cleverly crafted, Ness paints a portrayal of this time period with authentic expression, vivid imagery, and well-developed characters.

History, sci-fi, time travel, romance with a bit of erotica, and lots of action and adventure, “Alexandria” by Gregory Ness, will brilliantly appeal to a wide span of readers. There is truly something for everyone is this fascinating story. An unexpected twist during the research trials adds another layer of possibilities, and the end of book two sets the perfect stage for “Actium,” the next adventure in The Sword of Agrippa series.

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“Murder on the Marsh” by Anne Penketh


Anne Penketh
Joffe Books (2016)
ISBN 9781911021834
Reviewed by Michel Violante for Reader Views (01/17)

“Murder on the Marsh” by Anne Penketh begins when Sam Clayton, a detective from Norfolk Village is at home on his day off trying to get the image of a murdered young boy, whose body was lacking his heart, out of his mind. While relaxing with his guitar, Sam is interrupted by the phone. When he answers, he is informed that a waitress has gone missing in Glaveny, the same village the boy’s body was found. She was reported missing by her neighbor who babysat her son, as she never picked the boy up. The dead waitress, Emma Dawson, was the organizer of the ‘Mother Julian Cult.’ As Clayton continues with the investigation, Dawson’s body is also found in the Marsh. She had been strangled. The storyline is based on Clayton’s investigation along with two other detectives: Neil and Julie. Through their efforts, they not only uncover the murders, they also discover the dark world of the ‘Mother Julian Cult.”

Ann Penketh produced a well-written British mystery, which kept me intrigued and hooked from page one. The characters felt genuine and real. The setting was easy to visualize, as I felt transported to the small Norfolk Village. It was a quick and easy read as the storyline flowed nicely throughout.

In general, I found “Murder on the Marsh” by Anne Penketh to be an awesome mystery that takes place in a colorful British village, and colorful characters as captivating as the plot. I give it Five Stars and recommend it to all mystery and detective story fans! I will definitely follow this author.

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“Breakfast for Alligators: Quests, Showdowns, and Revelations in the Americas” by Darrin DuFord


Darrin DuFord
Tilted Hat Press (2016)
ISBN 9780692664438
Reviewed by Sheri Hoyte for Reader Views (02/17)

In “Breakfast for Alligators: Quests, Showdowns, and Revelations in the Americas,” award winning author, Darrin DuFord shares his excursions across fourteen different countries throughout the Americas.

Full of adventures, exotic cultures, cuisines, and local customs, readers will be easily enamored with DuFord’s engaging storytelling. He writes with marked flair and I found his straightforward approach refreshing, clever, and thoroughly entertaining. I could easily immerse myself in the local landscapes visited from the detailed descriptions of the surroundings, and enjoyed the way he connected with the “locals” during his travels, as though he’s never met a stranger.

Several of the stories in “Breakfast for Alligators” appear in other publications, but as I just recently found DuFord’s work, they were all new and exciting to me. And, while I’m certain the stories more than adequately hold their own as standalone narratives, the arrangement in which the stories appear in this book are such that it’s more like following along with the author as he treks through his travel itinerary, and I took great pleasure in the experience.

I was completely content in my role as an arm-chair traveler. I do not have the daring or spirit to venture too far from home. While I do find trying new things, going to new places and experimenting with new cuisines appealing, the most glamorous trips I ever take are vicariously through the volumes of great works by experienced travelers.

Most inviting to me were the delicacies offered up throughout DuFord’s travels. Most were fascinating to say the least, like cassareep, a sauce made from boiling down toxic raw cassava juice, used in many dishes in Guyana. The grilled guirilas – corn tortillas wrapped in banana leaves and stuffed with fresh cheese (guajada) from Matagalpa sounded warm and comforting. I was enticed by DuFord’s description of “grabbing chunks of rich, on-the-bone meat, from a helping of labba” (27), until further reading described it as being a cat-sized rodent! And this is just a handful of the flavors from his travels!

For an extraordinary adventure and an engaging read, I highly recommend “Breakfast for Alligators” by Darrin DuFord.

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