“The Moment Between” by Gareth Frank

TheMomentBetweenTHE MOMENT BETWEEN

Gareth Frank
Three Women Press (2018)
ISBN 9781732294202
Reviewed by Jennifer Wilson for Reader Views (9/18)

“The Moment Between” by Gareth Frank is a book I could not put down. I read it in line at the grocery store, in the bathtub, while walking the dog. My social media friends thought I had dropped off the face of the earth. I lost some serious sleep telling myself, “Just one more chapter”.

Dr. Hackett Metzger (even the name is interesting!) is an average, everyday brain surgeon mourning the death of the love of his life. Part of him is ready and willing to move on and find companionship, but then there are his feelings of guilt at the thought. Having been married to my best friend for 21 years, it was very easy for me to empathize with his feelings at the loss of his wife. He has a successful practice and a wealth of medical accomplishments, but his heart still has a hole that only a loving spouse can fill.

When he is asked to back a study on “near death” experiences, his first instinct is to scoff at the very idea of something as unscientific as the beckoning of a bright white light at the end of a long tunnel. A lifelong skeptic, he has no doubt the study is a waste of time. But, his love for his friends outweighs his love of reputation, so he agrees. This decision proves invaluable and ultimately plays a huge role in his future.

As he struggles to move forward after losing his beloved, he encounters rejection, depression, and a wealth of other emotions before finding “the one”. Sarah has also lost a spouse and is raising her teenage son alone. As if this isn’t hard enough, the young man has seemingly, uncontrollable epilepsy. Sarah’s son Aaron has been seeing Dr. Metzger for a while now, and Hackett finds everything he has been missing in Sarah, much to the disgust of his closest friends. There is just something about Sarah that isn’t right. But, as they say, love is blind, and Hackett jumps in with both feet and no life preserver.

Love story? Mystery? Yes, and so much more. The reader is shown from the very beginning of the story the true nature of its characters. But Dr. Metzger isn’t privy to that information. It struck me that as it is written, we aren’t the ones trying to figure out who the “bad guy” is, we find ourselves talking to the pages, urging the characters to be careful and watch out. However, the openness of the author does not in any way take away from the suspense in this book. There are still a lot of unknowns that will keep you enthralled. Frank’s written representation of the near-death experiences and their subsequent residual effects on the people who have had them is absolutely astounding.

In “The Moment Between” by Gareth Frank, I found that sometimes bad things happen to good people, sometimes bad people get what they deserve, and sometimes you have to go through a whole lot of heartache just to see that happiness was always within your grasp. It’s amazing what we could see if we would open our hearts instead of our eyes.

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“A Cottonwood Stand” by Chuck Redman

ACottonwoodStandA COTTONWOOD STAND: A NOVEL OF NEBRASKA

Chuck Redman
Sunstone Press (2018)
ISBN 9781632932204
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer for Reader Views (9/18)

“A Cottonwood Stand” by Nebraska native Chuck Redman is quite the unusual read. The story revolves around Lark, a young Sioux woman who rebels against tribal tradition to search for her adopted sister, and Janet Hinderson who runs a local newspaper and takes on a meatpacking plant that will destroy the character of her small town and the fabric of a well-tuned community.

I found the unique dialogue used by the author to be quite entertaining in that it was like storytelling passed down through generations. The narrator, left nameless, utilizes a somewhat country, down-to-earth language to describe various scenarios between the local townspeople and the issue at hand, which is whether or not they should let the meatpacking plant build in their town. A good example is describing pictures on the editor Hinderson’s wall: “Some are black’n white, some are color, but all of ‘em are pictures of a feller having his picture took with other folks.” I will say that it took me some time to adjust to this narrative with this unfamiliar dialect.

When narrating about Lark, the author just jumps in without any warning to readers. One example comes to mind at the beginning where Janet is typing fast and furious about her thoughts on the zoning petition and council motion. The very next paragraph starts the narration on the Sioux Indians and Chief Rain Bear getting a new wife. This is not without cause however, and once readers get used to this format, they will see the coincidence of each narrative.

I found the story to be compelling in that if you believe strongly in something you should not sit back and let others run you over. Both female characters are strong and assertive, and they address many of the same social issues but in a different era.

Author Chuck Redman puts a lot of action in this short read, but it was well worth it. If you like unusual narratives, filled with a good plot and funny secondary characters, “A Cottonwood Stand” is the book for you.

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“Babble Magic” by Miguel Lopez de Leon

BabbleMagicBABBLE MAGIC

Miguel Lopez de Leon
BookBaby Publisher (2018)
ISBN 9781543934601
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (08/18)

“Babble Magic” by Miguel Lopez de Leon is an entertaining magical fantasy sure to engage readers of all ages!

Bax is an apprentice to Palim, a grumpy old wizard. Palim practices Babble Magic, which is an area of magic that works with casting spells that allow animals to speak. Palim hasn’t had much success, until one day three animals start speaking to Bax. This trio consists of a grumpy squirrel, a quarrelsome owl, and a fainting rooster. When they gain the power of speech, they also take on more human characteristics, and become fruitarians. With these newfound powers comes the desire to explore outside of the wizard’s cottage. To ensure safety, Bax goes along on the first adventure, and they discover other magical creatures! This includes squirrels with special gifts and a quantuky, which is an unfriendly being which likes to pick on animals that are smaller and weaker, like chickens.

The real adventure takes place when they go with Palim to an annual wizard’s convention. Palim can finally show that he has been successful with the Babble Magic. At the convention, the group notices that magic seems to be off kilter and individuals are acting like they aren’t quite right. When Bax realizes that the source of the problem is in their group, he and his trio have to use whatever powers they have to try to overcome the source of an ancient evil magic.

I loved “Babble Magic.” I wish books like this had been around when I was a kid! It is listed as being third to fourth grade reading level, however, I think that it will be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

The author did a great job of developing the characters, so that they evolve as the story progresses. This includes the old wizard, who one would think would be too old to change. The animals taking on human characteristics make the story a lot of fun to read. I think that there is a valuable lesson about people learning to get along with people who are different from them. That is exactly what the core group had to do.

“Babble Magic” by Miguel Lopez de Leon would be a great reading selection for schools from elementary age to middle school. Parents can also safely read this book to their children without needing to worry about foul language or adult content. I look forward to checking out other books by this author, and I hope he continues writing stories about these characters.

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“The Aunties” by Deborah Boucher”

TheAuntiesTHE AUNTIES

Deborah Boucher
Outskirts Press (2018)
ISBN 9781478728375
Reviewed by Kimberly Luyckx for Reader Views (9/18)

What would any writer do with a box full of diaries that connect back to a time before WWI? In Deborah Boucher’s new novel, “The Aunties,” we get a chance to follow along as the book’s lead character and writer, Deb Meltzer, documents her family’s rich legacy in the hopes of creating the next great American novel.

This story is all about family. The tale begins at a funeral for the last surviving member of a generation of relatives. We understand the importance of the passing of Auntie Rose when it is revealed that Deb’s parents and other aunts and uncles are no longer in the picture. The adventure begins for the generation left behind when a box of diaries is discovered in the aunties’ attic. These family treasures offer information never before revealed along with clues that could finally vindicate the curious story of the family’s rich heritage. But as Deb digs deeper, she discovers the old letters from the aunties contradict one another, making it difficult to determine what is fact and what is fiction.

“The Aunties” stories start in New York City’s early 1900’s and are meticulously developed as they mature and progress – some all the way to Brazil. Despite the time and place, this collection of stories traces a generation of women by a writer and true custodian. This book within a book presents the pieces of a family’s memory in a most interesting manner.

As an author, Boucher has a striking flair for words. She is good at creating the imagery necessary for the reader to get a vivid picture of her characters. For instance, she details the grandmother in the painting as having a “meringue of blonde hair that crowns (her) head.” And, in another chapter she describes, “the blue velvet fainting couches and red silk settees were stuffed, so full of batting they resemble the derrieres of the matrons who sat on them.” There were times, however, when I thought that the author’s expert descriptive ability should be utilized to show rather than tell her story. And there is a lot of telling by her main character Deb.

Because this is a story within a story, there are not only transitions in time but there are also plenty of switches between perspectives. Some chapters are in the first person as the writer, Deb, communicates in present time while others are written in the third person as Deb relays the information from her relatives’ past collected from memoirs, scrapbooks and journals. And, the aunties and the grandmother each have their own unique version to tell. It’s interesting to see that even Deb, the writer and protagonist, struggles with these inconsistencies as she debates whether to present her compilation as a biography, memoir or historical fiction. Each time we are brought back into the present it is a treat to see Deb’s progress with the book – an honest peek into how an author processes material and develops her newfound perspective.

In her book, “The Aunties,” Deborah Boucher provides a collection of stories from a past that traces the legacy of a generation of women. As a work of historical fiction, the book reflects on the period of the early 1900s and moves back and forth between it and the contemporary time frame in which Boucher’s main character, Deb, is searching for clues to her family’s heritage. I find “The Aunties” a stimulating and engrossing read. I enjoy a good historical fiction and Deborah Boucher’s book did not disappoint.

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“Adventures of a Rideshare Driver” by Charles Campise

AdventuresOfARideshareDriverADVENTURES OF A RIDESHARE DRIVER

Charles Campise
Outskirts Press (2018)
ISBN 9781478743200
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer for Reader Views (9/18)

“Adventures of a Rideshare Driver” by Charles Campise is an adventure in itself as readers take a journey with Campise while inside his vehicle. I have to say I never really thought about what goes on with passengers or drivers either in a cab or drive sharing and found this to be an eye-opening experience.

Campise retired from the foster care system after forty-four years, holds a double master’s degree in Educational Psychology and Social Work, and self-taught himself Spanish. I imagine those degrees come in handy in his driving job. Throughout this humorous read, he regales readers with stories of his worst fares, to transporting famous individuals, to packing necessities for his passengers.

One of the stories, “Where Can I Get Some Really Good Drugs?” had me rolling on the floor. When passengers ask this question Campise, lets them know that Austin, Texas has a variety of places where one can get what they want 24/7 and at discount prices. Once agreed upon to get some, the author pulls up to an all-night CVS or Walgreen’s. I can only imagine the passenger(s) face at this point.

In the story “My Biggest Benefit from Driving for Rideshare,” the author is often asked how he likes his job, to which he replies, “This is not a job at all” and says when it feels like one he will happily resign. A major benefit is that he can meet so many people from all walks of life and so many countries. The author prides himself in knowing all areas, streets, restaurants and entertainment venues to help his passengers make informed choices. It is his job to be an ambassador of southern hospitality for those who get into his vehicle.

Recently, I had the opportunity to speak to a friend of mine who completed her doctoral program with me, and she said she has been driving for rideshare for about two years. I was stunned as she has a very lucrative private practice, but she said it wasn’t about the money it was the people and the experience of connecting with so many different personalities.

The last section of the author’s journey talks about packing your car with necessities that will make the passenger’s journey more enjoyable. These include bottled water, paper bags, candy, phone chargers and maps.

Having read these short stories, I believe I would love having Charles Campise as my driver as he is entertaining, caring and will ensure you get where you need to be safely. He writes with humor, caring and you can see that even if he got some not so great passengers, it rolls off his back and he carries on.

“Adventures of a Rideshare Driver” is a read I recommend if you want to laugh, be entertained and discover what it is like to be a passenger of Charles Campise.

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“Cursed” by Jeanne Blanchet

CursedCURSED

Jeanne Blanchet
Outskirts Press (2018)
ISBN 9781478747901
Reviewed by Megan Weiss for Reader Views (9/18)

Jeanne Blanchet’s “Cursed” is an epic historical account of Christianity’s strong entrance into Roman culture, and how religion came to be more absolute than the power of even the emperors.

Christian Princess Serena and a young priest and aspiring Bishop of Rome, Presbyter Theofilus, make up two of the principal characters in the cast. Serena is pampered and used to living a life of luxury.  While her heart is often in the right place, she is easily misguided, however, by material aspirations and the beauty and allure of things, like jewelry.  Presbyter Theofilus started out as a promising young military prospect but turned his sights on the Church when religious traditions in Rome became overrun by Christian teachings and power.  What these two young people learned during their years, as did every other Roman citizen and intruder, was that Christianity’s power was to be stronger than anything else.

“Cursed” starts out strongly and is filled with rich details and obvious research.  The terminology which the author inputs into the story represents long hours of academic study, which help produce an authentic picture of Rome in its final century.  While the details remain strong throughout the novel, the pace staggers a bit as the story progresses.  It seemed that the author’s aspirations for the novel almost became a little too broad.  Whereas the synopsis of the book intimates at the book being about a young woman being evilly cursed by one of the remaining pagan priestesses, or Vestals, of Rome, and about Presbyter Theofilus’s journey to find the antique Palladium, these storylines become a little blurred.

While most of “Cursed” takes place toward the end of the 4th century CE, there are various chapters that almost randomly go back in time 30, 40, or 50 years.  One contains details about the coming of the Goths, while another provides backstory on the current Bishop of Rome.  While the historical details are strong, the context of why these chapters are included in the midst of the main story is lost.  I think the too-broad aspirations and outlook for the plot ended up overshadowing the intended theme and main point of the book, albeit unintentionally.

I am not sure I would consider this a read for the general audience.  The historical and technical terms may make the prose seem a little dense and hard to understand.  I am a history student and an aspiring historian, so the inclusion of the historical facts was perfectly normal, easy to understand, and even exciting to me, but it may pose as a barrier for those who aren’t as historically inclined.

“Cursed” certainly shows a lot of promise as a work of heavily research historical fiction.  The idea for the story is unique and captivating, and the characters are unique enough to make you want to know what happens to them by the end of the book.  In the end, “Cursed” by Jeanne Blanchet is a great example to aspiring writers of how important structure, pacing, and context are in contributing to the overall understanding, execution, and package that is a novel.

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“Take It Back: A Douglas Gage Vigilante Justice Thriller” by D. Ray Thomas

TakeItBackTAKE IT BACK

D. Ray Thomas
Independently Published (2018)
ISBN 9781717730497
Reviewed by Jennifer Wilson for Reader Views (9/18)

“Take It Back: A Douglas Gage Vigilante Justice Thriller” by D. Ray Thomas is the first installment in a series of short stories starring Douglas Gage. Gage is a (mostly) good guy seeking to right some wrongs that are affecting the poorest and most uneducated people of a small, southern town. Gage has a self-depreciating sense of humor throughout. The opening line of the book is great. “I was being held at knifepoint-always at knifepoint. Why, I had no idea. I was a big guy. I could see over the crowds at Walmart. People moved aside as I walked down the street. You’d think I’d warrant being held at gunpoint. But it was always knifepoint. Always.”

This was a very quick read for me. Much shorter than what I might choose as a rule. I had to remind myself that that was the intention and the succinctness of the descriptions are necessary for it to remain as such. I really like the fact that the book mentions names that are familiar to the present time.

Taking its brevity into account, the characters in this story are colorful and fit well with the storyline. Having been raised in rural Arkansas, a couple of these characters had familiar faces in my imagination. The plot twist caught me off guard and the ending was definitely not what I expected!

I recommend “Take It Back: A Douglas Gage Vigilante Justice Thriller” by D. Ray Thomas to anyone who enjoys the action-packed, everyday hero story. This would be excellent for a flight, a day on the beach, or a lazy Saturday. It could easily be read in one sitting.

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