Retired with a Kindle. I can finally catch up on all the reading I haven't done for the last 25-30 years! And I have a new grandson, who is the cutest baby boy ever born, so I am definitely enjoying retirement.
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Smashwords book reviews by Lee Ashford
- Restless Highways
on March 26, 2012
Restless Highways is a short book of short stories. Like most short story compilations, some of the stories are more detailed (or just plain better) than some of the others. However, I do agree with many of the other reviewers that this would be a great campfire story book! One critical comment: I used to love going to garage sales; now, I may never go to another one as long as I live! At least, not unless there are a lot of other folks around! That was my favorite story in the book, and it's worth getting just for that one, in my opinion.
- Within the Walls of Westfield - A Diary of Madness
on Nov. 05, 2012
The title of this book showed up on my Kindle as "Case #357597", rather than the title shown above. Regardless of what you call it, it was a very compelling story, written in the manner of a diary, or perhaps a doctor's notes from a series of interviews he held with a mentally disturbed patient. There are a number of assumptions you are drawn to make about this patient, although the book neither confirms nor deflects those assumptions. After the conclusion of the book, one is left with more questions than answers, and can't help but hope there will be a sequel to answer those questions. The only conclusion I could draw from this short story is that it was an intriguing concept, and well worth reading. I recommend it highly for fans of the bizarre.
- The Scientific Method: A Horror Tale
on Dec. 12, 2012
This is a great, fun little horror story with a good mix of humor. Erwin, an arrogant, unpopular but intelligent student, is over-confident that he will win the Science Fair as he has the past few years. However, this time he's in for a surprise.
Principal Lubbitz declares that Erwin failed to strictly follow the scientific method for his project, and subsequently disqualifies him. Not one to take public humiliation well, Erwin grabs a wooden box from his display. With an over-dramatic flair, he pulls the lid from the box, and...
Panic breaks out. Students run screaming from the auditorium. Some fall while fleeing, and are trampled by their classmates. Even Principal Lubbitz seems impotent to restore order.
So what was in the box? Why did everybody panic? Why did Erwin just stand, laughing maniacally?
This is one of dozens of short stories written by this author. She has a good grasp of her genre, and writes very entertaining stories for the middle grade to high school age groups. Her stories can provide a relaxing diversion for adults, too.
I recommend reading this short story, along with any of the others penned by this author. Enjoy!
- The Complete Monster Exchange Program
on Dec. 25, 2012
I reviewed this book some months ago, but neglected to post a review here on Smashwords. So here I go!
This is an anthology of short, vaguely connected stories about a high school which has a "Monster Exchange Program" in lieu of a "Foreign Exchange Student Program". All the monsters are mostly benign, and well liked by the "normal" students. Each story in this collection is about a specific monster interacting in some manner typical of an average stereo-typical high school student. Most of the stories include several laugh out loud circumstances, while being patently absurd at the same time.
I really enjoyed this collection. The more of it I read, the more I liked it. The style of humor takes a little getting used to, probably because as 'grown-ups' we no longer participate in, or even stumble across situations like these, and we have to get over being adults before we can let down our hair and admit that we find humor in such puerile stunts.
I actually downloaded these stories individually, as they were available for free. The first one I read didn't really strike me as particularly funny, but it was enough to get me to download another, and another, etc. Each reading struck me as being funnier than its preceding story, but I honestly think that was a reflection of my own mental slide to more puerile days. Once they were assembled as a complete book, several additional, previously unavailable tales were included, making it necessary for me to download the collection.
This book should be enjoyed by just about everybody who doesn't take himself too seriously. That's a real shame, too, because the people who take themselves too seriously are really the people who SHOULD read it, and lighten up a bit!
I give this the full five stars, for originality, and for daring to go where "normal" adults would fear to tread. Plus, it was really funny.
- Prudence & the Indelibly Edible Holiday Gift: A Short Horror Story
on Jan. 06, 2013
I received a free copy of this book from the author, through LibraryThings; an honest review was requested.
“Prudence & the Indelibly Edible Holiday Gift” by Amanda Lawrence Auverigne is another fine example of this author’s talent for turning an entirely “normal” short story into a ghastly horror with just a few sentences of “twist” at the end. In this tale Prudence relates a typical family gathering at Christmas time. She describes the opening of presents, the excessive consumption of foodstuffs, the imbibing of adult beverages from a box, the ubiquitous gossipy aunt with an opinion about everything, and the puerile uncle who believes the correct answer to any comment is a loud belch. In other words, the “every family” Christmas gathering.
Amanda has written quite a number of short stories. I’ve only read a couple others, but they were also nice little short stories that turned to horror at the end. I have a few more of her stories yet to read; I hope they will follow this same format, because that little jolt of the sudden incongruous conclusion really gets the old heart pumping! If you enjoy having your horror thrust upon you with little or no warning, this is one story you will enjoy. I suspect this is also one author you will come to enjoy, if she continues to follow this format as I expect she will. I’m going out on a limb to say I will recommend anything written by Amanda Lawrence Auverigne.
- Arlo's Epiphany
on Jan. 07, 2013
I received a free copy of this book from the author, through LibraryThings; an honest review was requested.
“Arlo’s Epiphany” by Jane Oldaker is a cute story in a series of stories, in which various domesticated animals are, in fact, secret agents for The Agency. They work together covertly, communicating with one another. Their objective is to maintain peace and sanctity of hearth and home.
Arlo is one of the more successful covert operatives who begins to doubt his continued effectiveness, due to having come out on the short end of a confrontation with McTavish, an overweight bully of a Tom cat. In short, Arlo was bitten on the tail.
Mahoney was another operative who – although he spent much of his time sleeping on his back – was himself an ex-alley cat who could make short work of McTavish any time he felt like it. Unfortunately, Agency regulations frowned on engaging non-combatants in any kind of retributive action.
Working in strict secrecy, Mahoney hatched a plan with many of the other animal agents to take McTavish down a couple notches. Chickens, dogs, cats, sparrows, ponies, rodents and others all wanted in on the action, in defense of Arlo’s injured pride… and injured tail. But any covert action against a non-combatant being strictly forbidden, it was necessary to maintain total secrecy, even keeping Arlo in the dark.
In the end, the operation worked flawlessly. McTavish got his comeuppance, Arlo was avenged, and Mahoney was finally able to strike fear into the cold, black heart of McTavish. But again, agency rules required that Arlo never be told of the action in his defense. Looking back at the title of this story, you will be correct in presuming Arlo did figure it out eventually.
This whole tale of the tail was a cute, entertaining and imaginative piece of fiction, suitable for pre-readers through middle graders or even older. I am quite a bit older, yet I am looking forward to reading more about the covert operations of The Agency and its operatives. I recommend that you do the same.
- A Pair of Creepy Shorts
on March 13, 2013
"A Pair of Creepy Shorts" by Cal Noble is rather aptly named. The two tales included, are "Review", about a young woman contemplating suicide; and "Uncollected Temptation", about a man down on his luck who unknowingly makes a deal with the devil, but is looking for a way to get out of his end of the bargain.
Of the two, I think the first story is the creepier. The second one is almost humorous by comparison. But both make for a quick read, and are entertaining. I recommend this as one of those "short" reads to have on hand for when you're stuck waiting in line somewhere, or waiting for the nurse to call your name at your doctor's office.
- Creeper; A Short Horror Story
on April 10, 2013
“Creeper, A Short Horror Story” by Bran Glitz begins with a wealthy young man showing early signs of mental instability, or even insanity. His morning newspaper carried a story about a woman who was murdered not far from where he lives. Throughout the story, and throughout his day, this young man experiences a series of bizarre, frightening hallucinations: he keeps seeing a scary looking man, whom he believes must be the killer. At one point he even saw some kind of wizard – a man in a long robe, carrying a magic wand – walking down the street. On his drive home he sees the “murderer” frequently, walking or standing, holding a bag with a human-sized ‘something’ in it. Arriving at his home, he sees the “murderer” on his front porch! Really freaking by now, he sneaks around to the back of his house, enters through an unlocked window, and goes to bed. He turns on the television, and the “murderer” appears on it, walking slowly toward him, carrying his bag of body parts! Then his doorbell rings. Throughout the evening his doorbell rings and rings and rings, eventually tapering off to nothing. I must stop here, or this review will completely spoil the story for you. Suffice it to say, this was one bizarre piece of writing, with an ending that will absolutely take you totally by surprise! Take a few moments and read this short. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.
NOTE: I would only give this 4 stars, but the "star" feature was locked at 5 stars. Just so you know.
- After: First Light
on June 04, 2013
EXCEPTIONAL story! Scott Nicholson is the consummate professional, and his pre-writing research is incredibly intense and comprehensive. His writing is flawless and impeccable. Or, to put it another way, this is a good story; you really should read it. You will never again look at jets flying overhead the same way.
Besides, how can you beat this price?
- Quests of Shadowind: Sky Shifter
on Aug. 09, 2013
“Quests of Shadowind: Sky Shifter” by L.A. Miller is Book #1 in a new, tantalizing and enchanting young adult science fiction series. Book #2 is called “The Grounding Stone” and Book #3 is “Veil”. I cannot wait to get my hands on those next two books, because “Shadowind” is the most mesmerizing YA series it has ever been my pleasure to read.
In “Sky Shifter”, an entire neighborhood of young teens and pre-teens wakes one morning to find themselves in a strange place – both the houses and the geographic setting – with all the adults missing. Early in the story, one of the teens mentioned it was his twentieth birthday, but no sooner had he said it than a gigantic mechanical spider approached from out of nowhere and “beamed” him aboard!
Logan and his younger sister, Mindy, were the only two who actually saw the giant spider, and not everyone believed them. Consequently, the neighborhood was quickly split into two factions.
Renowned bully, Kyle, commanded one faction, ruling by use of fear. Kyle had always disliked Logan, so the stage was set for a showdown between the two, owing to the lack of adult supervision or intervention.
In conceiving Shadowind, L.A. Miller has blazed a trail into virgin territory. Shadowind exists inside a computer. All the characters, buildings, events, etc., are various sub-routines developed by a software designer.
Logan, quite by accident the first time, is able to enter his computer, where he finds himself in the middle of a war game. Without a clue what to do or how to do it, he finds that he is “Captain Action”, with a Sargent Pagel awaiting his command. In short order he loses the game, and is “rejected and ejected” by the computer.
Completely baffled, he finds himself back sitting at his computer desk. After a few more trips into the computer, during which Logan learns a little more each time, Logan suddenly discovered Mindy has joined him inside. Sadly, Kyle has chosen that moment to sneak up behind Logan’s friends, who are gathered around the computer watching him.
Kyle breaks the interface device that allowed Logan to enter and exit the computer, effectively trapping him inside without hope of returning home. But, alas, Logan has learned the Staff of the Sky Shifter is hidden somewhere in the virtual world, and it is his mission to locate it before the evil Spirit Being, a computer virus, finds it, or the entire world of Shadowind will be destroyed.
Even as the evil virus spreads, more and more sub-routines are failing. With Mindy to help him, along with a virtual police officer, “Danby the Manby”, Logan needs to find the Staff in order to locate his missing parents.
This story is captivating, fascinating, enchanting, original, fresh, and all sorts of other good adjectives. I repeat: “Sky Shifter” is THE BEST young adult sci-fi series beginning that I have ever encountered. Move over everybody… there’s a new Sheriff in town.
- Two-Fisted Tweets
on Aug. 09, 2013
"Two-Fisted Tweets" by James Hutchings is VERY brief. If not for its brevity, I would have awarded it more stars, because there are some exceptional gems in here. Sadly, Hutchings put the very best one (in my opinion) as the first one in the book, so it was kind of downhill from there.
Perhaps I should explain a bit more about what this book is. "Two-Fisted Tweets" are short pearls of wisdom (or, conversely, stupidity) that might have been found on the Social Networking site, Twitter. Each of these one-liners would fit within the character limit set by that network. Consequently, there is a lot of white space surrounding each gem, for the sole purpose of adding more pages to the book. All these one-liners could probably be made to fit on two facing pages, but that would greatly detract from the desirability of the book.
As I mentioned above, these are essentially "tweets" which may or may not actually have been found on Twitter. Regardless, they DO comply with the restrictions, so they COULD have been found there.
Some of the tweets are critical of the federal government, which is a pleasure uniquely enjoyed in the USA, due to our Constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression. Others are simple paraphrases of other common remarks, which may insult some while providing laughter to others. However, there are no sacred cows in this short book, so no topic is off limits.
I already opined re: the "best" tweet, because it so absolutely coincides with the absurdity of the position taken by so many politicos engaged in a contemporary hotbed of discussion. Huh? You'll have to read it yourself, because I refuse to give away what I consider the best tweet, and I also refuse to give away my position on the topic. You will know immediately what I'm talking about once you read it.
In spite of its brevity, "Two-Fisted Tweets" is a book many people should have. Reading it will bring you a measure of pleasure. Memorizing a few of the more relevant tweets will give you ammunition that will make you appear wise and all-knowing during your next "discussion" over a case of beer. I strongly recommend it.
However, in an unusual move, I will also recommend to the author, James Hutchings, that he dig a little deeper; I'm certain he could come up with a lot more of these little tidbits of speculative wisdom for his next book! And I do hope there will be a "next book" of two-fisted tweets.
- Death on a Dig
on Aug. 14, 2013
I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.
"Death on a Dig" by Lois Browne is an exciting, pulse-pounding debut novel by an author who will no doubt produce many more exceptional mystery thrillers in her career. What starts out as a woman with two stepdaughters away at college, and a husband who is just "away" and not planning to return, soon careens wildly out of control outside the bathroom at a bar and grill. Approached by the mother of her daughter's former roommate, whom she had met only once before, Gwen Madden quickly finds herself aboard a flight from Canada to Mexico, to search for the woman's missing daughter, Alicia.
Alicia had been hired for the summer to work on an archaeological dig deep in Mexico. The dig was hard, hot, dry work, and the rewards were not always tangible. Rumors of a long-hidden stash of stolen artifacts - Gomez' Cache - seemed to be heard and passed along by virtually everybody, except the Mexican Government and the overseers of the dig itself.
Why, then, did it appear those rumors had picked up sharply after lying dormant for many years? What was the source of a few valuable artifacts that had recently appeared on the black market? More importantly, why is this novel called "Death on a Dig"? That certainly portends trouble to come for Gwen Madden - or somebody!
Lois Browne has spent much of her life writing for a living. That experience and expertise glows throughout "Death on a Dig". From an established novelist, "Death on a Dig" would be considered the quality one would expect. From a debut novelist, the quality of this novel is astonishing.
The story is filled with intrigue, unexpected twists and turns, and a superb collection of intertwined sub-plots. Her characters are believable, her insight to human nature is right on target, and everything seems to play out just as it should, except that you never see it coming. Many stories have a surprise ending. "Death on a Dig" has a surprise beginning, middle, and ending.
I strongly recommend this book for fans of archaeology, mysteries, whodunnits, and just plain good writing. This story is especially appropriate for young readers, from middle grades on up, as it is entirely free of profanity and "adult" situations. If I were in the sixth grade right now, aside from being the oldest in my class, I would just gobble this book right up; it is that captivating. In fact, if you have a reluctant reader in your family, "Death on a Dig" is the sort of story that could turn that unwilling reader into an unstoppable reader.
"Death on a Dig" by Lois Browne is well worth the five stars it has earned.