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  • Three Tales of Middle Grade Horror on Jan. 20, 2012

    I loved Three Tales of Middle Grade Horror by Rebecca Besser. The author does a great job of creating stories that would easily appeal to middle grade students while giving them twists that are unexpected and surprising. As an English teacher, one of the best parts of this collection is that the stories are a managable length for students who are still developing their reading skills and might be put off by a long book. Each of the stories has a great surprise and they all have settings that are familiar enough that any middle grade student could easily identify with the characters. I can easily envision students reading these stories around Halloween with the lights turned low and some scary mood music. I highly recommend this collection to those who are reading in the 6th to 8th grade level and want something spooky and exciting that would also inspire them to read more.
  • The Magic of Christmas on Jan. 27, 2012

    What a different take on zombies, not to mention Christmas! The two short stories in Rebecca Besser’s book “The Magic of Christmas” cover the events of two Christmas holidays at the North Pole. First, in the story for which the book is named, Santa and the elves are exposed to something terrible but the magic of Christmas saves them, well some of them anyway. Then, the following year, in the story “The Power of a Gift”, a family visiting Santa experiences a terrible nightmare which again is solved through the magic of Christmas, but with a totally different twist. As the characters figure out how to save themselves, they also discover what makes Christmas really special which makes this a unique and fun take on the holiday without the typical mushy holiday glee. I really enjoyed the stories and love the way the author takes a new look at Christmas, giving the reader a unique way to experience the mystery of Christmas and renew the spirit of the holiday. I think these stories are wonderfully gruesome for teens and adults. Another hit from Rebecca Besser, a Don’t Miss in my book.
  • Dissolute Kinship: A 9/11 Road Trip on March 18, 2012

    While on the surface, Dissolute Kinship: A 9/11 Road Trip is a true story of the author's journey from the Canadian west to New York in the week immediately following the terrorist attacks, the story is about so much more. I am lothe to discuss the particulars of the story because the author, David Antrobus, has written something so hauntingly personal that I believe each reader will experience it in a unique way related directly to how the reader experienced the events themselves. I clearly remember arriving at work and just before I turned off my car hearing something weird about an airplane crash in New York. I experienced that and the sudden loneliness of it all again as I read this story, the loneliness of sitting around one desk at work with my all of my coworkers trying vainly to get video images on the computer. It brought me back to one of the most crystal clear days of my life and made me examine more closely who we are as Americans. That is the true brilliance of this short story. The story is the author's and yet it is the reader's as well. It is a collective history captured in a Jack Kerouac, On the Road style. At the end of the story, the author questions who we are as Americans and our relationship with the world through the eyes of our neighbors to the north. It asks us to look inside while we focus so much on the outside. Brilliantly conceived and executed. I hope the author considers a novel length version. I highy recommend this story with the caveat that it can bring back harsh memories that may be difficult to process.
  • Sick on March 23, 2012

    I have to say this book brought out emotions in me to the point where I laughed, giggled, laughed aloud and finally cried and cried some more. "Sick" is a look back at the last vestiges of the hippie movement in the 80's. When people were still following The Grateful Dead around and being a "deadhead" was a bit of a mystic. The drugs and alcohol flowed freely at the concerts and there wasn't anything you couldn't buy from someone out of the back of their VW Van. Well, there was something you couldn't buy...sobriety. That is the one thing that has to be earned in pain, suffering and determination. This is one woman's journey from her early days growing and selling marijuana to her heroin addiction and her spiral into an abusive relationship. It is painful, sad, frightening in its look into physical and emotional abuse and emotionally draining to read. But it is worth reading. This is not a book that follows the rules of writing. You won't find perfectly constructed sentences and a plot that moves from point A to point B in any kind of a structured line. It is sometimes confusing as people move in and out of the storyline without explanation of any kind. Nor does every character in some way advance the story. Dialogue sometimes runs together without regard for the rules and there are times you do have to go back a bit to figure out who exactly is speaking. It is written in the first person but occasionally slips to the third and once or twice to the second. But still this is worth reading. More than worth is worthy of being read. It is absolutely compelling. I will read this again and recommend it to anyone who wants a story that captivates while telling the truth in a bold and open manner. Jen, thank you for telling us your story.
  • Crank Call on March 24, 2012
    (no rating)
    I'm not sure I can write a review that is shorter than the story. Very cute, funny and quirky miscommunication. What if you called God but got Lucifer? Would you be upset? Nicely writen with good flow and composition. Karen Bryant Doering Parent's Little Black Book of Books
  • Feed on March 29, 2012

    The vampire novel in extreme: "Feed" takes you on a journey with Ian as he goes from a quiet middle class life to the realization that he has been made into a vampire. All Ian wanted was an evening with the lovely Penny. A woman who had caught his eye for weeks has noticed him and taken him to her home. Interrupted by her son Ian leaves, not suspecting that a simple evening will change his life permanently. As he becomes ill Penny comes to help him, to explain to him. Finally realizing that life will never be the same Ian throws himself headfirst into his new lifestyle. He begins to like what he has become. Ian, however, is luckier than most. For some reason he has attracted a mentor. Someone who leaves offerings for him. As the years wear on Ian begins to feel more remorse than he expected. He decided to leave the suburbs and move on to the country. But he just can't leave without visiting the city one more time. The city and the woman he has become enamored with. There, on his last night, he meets someone more devilish than he is, someone who will show him who the real monster is. I found this to be a most unusual vampire short story with a very interesting plot and premise. The writing was very tight, crisp and full. No words were wasted but nothing was missing. Each character performed his part in the story to the fullest and moved the plot forward. The first person narrative was the correct form for the story and was done with style and aplomb. The ending was totally unexpected and fit so well. This is one I would recommend to anyone who loves vampire stories, horror, the macabre or just a tight short with an interesting and well thought out twist. The read time on this short story is about 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Disfigured on April 09, 2012

    Mr. Bearup has offered us a collection of varied and interesting short stories in a compilation of about 78 pages. For someone who reads between 14 and 21 books a week, it is unusual for a book to hold me spellbound but this one did. Nothing would have torn me away from this book other than the house being on fire. Taken as an entire compilation, each story offered was fully complete in its own right and several of them beg to be a novel. Even in the shortest story of only a few paragraphs, the characters were realistically drawn and their motivation understood. Mr. Bearup is a master at the “show don’t tell” using his words to paint a canvas that brings his protagonists to life. His stories vary from the sublime to the macabre, bringing the reader with him into the lives of the people he brings to life. This is an author I intend to watch in the future. He has the makings of a master wordsmith. Read time: 1 hour (but I re-read the entire book, so it took 2 hours)
  • She Has No Name on April 24, 2012

    I noticed online that the author was asking for people to read and review her novel. Having a free afternoon I decided I would read and review it. The novel is listed as fiction and written in the first person. The story is one of physical and emotional abuse and may not be suitable for all audiences. It also includes underage drinking, drug abuse and underage sexual situations including rape. Any story of abuse is difficult to read. The very real emotions of the victims are hard to deal with and their stories traumatic. They wrench our hearts and bring emotions to the surface. We want them to leave the situation or be rescued. Unfortunately in this novel the protagonist never elicits that kind of response. Her affect throughout is so flat and without definition it is hard to find her as a person to identify with. Caught in the cycle of abuse going from one bad relationship to another she appears more apathetic than sympathetic. The same is true of her abusers. They never have a defined personality and are more an adjunct to the plot that participants in it. There are also more than a few grammatical, spelling and word use errors that take away from the reading of the story. I have given the novel 3 Stars more for the attempt to bring abuse in to the light of day and stop the cycle than the writing or story line. Karen Bryant Doering, Parent's Little Black Book
  • Fossil on May 04, 2012

    A mansion, thought to be haunted, and witness to many unexplained phenomena and deaths, become the site for a film crew and a seance. Summoning the spirits of the death, the unexplained mystery investigators encounter more than they expected. Much more. Will anyone escape? Funny, quirky and full of interesting twists Fossill will make you think twice about things that go bump in the night. Very imaginatively written by the author, Ms. Lopes, it is a definite must read for those who like their horror ghoulish and fun. At about 18 pages it is a quick easy read perfect for lunch hour or an extended coffee break. Karen Bryant Doering, Parent's Little Black Book
  • Unleashed: Tail One on May 04, 2012

    Unleashed: Tail One is downright funny. From the beginning to the end it elicits giggles and grins. A serial murderer is stalking the neighborhood and the police detective is sure he knows who it is. Now only if he could prove it. Of course, if he does prove it, how is he going to catch the perpetrator? This criminal is slick, willy and doesn't stand still long enough to be interrogated. A cat with PTSD, A dog with a nose for mystery, a bumbling detective and a neighbour family under suspicion simply because they aren't suspicious come together in this rollicking story of death and mayhem. Short at only 18 pages this is a fun little adventure you will enjoy and recommend to your friends. Karen Bryant Doering, Parent's Little Black Book
  • Bloodpath on May 04, 2012

    Bloodpath by Lori R. Lopez explores the premise of the Bigfoot. How far would a tribe of legendary creatures go to hide their existence? Boyd Applegate thinks he is okay to drive. After a few too many drinks he decides to drive to his home in a remote area with little traffic. What could be the worst that would happen? He could hit a tree? But this time the worst has happened and Boyd has hit something. It may have felt like a tree, but it wasn't. Left for dead, Boyd has to find out what really happened. Which proves to be a mistake that causes a bloodbath. At about 12 pages, this is a harrowing tale of murder and mayhem. Not for the faint of heart but certainly for those who like their horror bloody and bloodthirsty. Karen Bryant Doering, Parent's Little Black Book
  • Dance Of The Chupacabras on May 05, 2012

    Dance of the Chupacabras? by Lori R. Lopez is not an easy book to read. The author tells you right off the bat that she has no use for rules of writing nor will she be limited by them. There are all capitals used in the middle of sentences, creative word use not to even mention words that are created and odd punctuation. Having said that I have to say that is this book it not only works, it works well. A little slow in the beginning the book slowly draws you into a complex web of creative storytelling. You are part of the story along with the characters. The author stops to talk to you and explain as we go along which gives you the feeling of sitting around the campfire listening to a master storyteller weave a tale. The basic story involves twin brothers who must find a missing young woman. As inept as they are enduring, they traverse a complex world in search of the girl who no ones knows is missing. How they know is part of the mystery and suspense so I am not going to tell you that part. Very uniquely written, dancing with fun and intrigue, this is a sumptuous story. Touching all your senses as you follow the twins on their adventure, this novel will not put you to sleep. If anything it is best to finish it in one sitting or you will find yourself unable to sleep thinking about it. I giggled a lot while reading this story. Not something I do often. Karen Bryant Doering, Parent's Little Black Book
  • This Heart For Hire on May 10, 2012

    Betrayed by his fiance' and half brother, Jake leaves the ranch he and his brother have invested their life savings and the hearts into. Alone, with no other family, he lives a life of secrecy. While he tries to infiltrate a murderous gang of thieves and gunslingers he finds himself the unwilling savior of an innocent young woman. Christina has left the convent she was reared in after the death of her mother to travel back to the Texas ranch she will inherit when she reaches her majority. As she and her brother are caught up in the manipulations of her stepfather, she realizes they must flee or forfeit their lives. Her step-fathers greed for the ranch and all it contains, including Christina, forces them on a clandestine journey to St. Louis. Two weeks into their journey Christina and her brother take rooms above a saloon for a night of rest after nights spent by the campfire. To her horror things take a turn for the worse and she is once again in mortal peril. Jake comes to her rescue and together they must cross the desert in an attempt to escape pursuit. On their journey, Jake loses his memory and they both lose their hearts. The set is Texas in 1870 this is a western period romance that feels current. The characters and situations are presented in a way that draw you into the story without the era or old west locale being in the way of a good story. Setting the story with such a well drawn backdrop enhances the tension and makes room for a broader brush. The secondary characters are well developed. They allow room and movement of the plot while keeping the focus on the story line. I was particularly entranced by James, who brings a unique and occasional welcome comic relief with quirky and fun dialogue and interference. This is a very good romance with an old west setting that will keep you turning the pages. It did for me. Very enjoyable book. Karen Bryant Doering, Parents' Little Black Book
  • Playing With The Bad Boys - A Mia Ferrari Mystery #1 on May 14, 2012

    When an exclusive international hotel chain hosts a party for the rich and famous, everything must be perfect. The food, the service, the body on the grand piano. Wait, that's not right. That doesn't seem to be on the menu or part of the entertainment. Mia Ferrari is a hotel executive, a frustrated detective and a woman in the midst of a divorce. The daughter of a cop, Mia always wanted to follow in his footsteps. But all is not lost. Mia has a real life murder mystery to solve, or maybe not; the police think it was suicide. Determined to prove them wrong, she enlists the help of her family friend, co-worker and ex-cop. Is she right or does her animosity against the police chief cloud her judgement. As if investigating foul play isn't enough on her plate she has to deal with a temperamental chef, an ex-boyfriend who is the owner of the hotel and his 18 year old son who does IT on a part-time basis. Emotional complications abound. So do drug deals, love affairs, internet intrigue, international criminals, sexy cars and younger men. Mia is a wonderful character who at 48 has a take-no-prisoners attitude. She is witty, gutsy, brave and headstrong. To ease her mind and relax, she cooks. Italian food. For that alone she has my vote for Hotelier of the Year. The writing is tight with good flow and character development. The dialogue moves the plot forward effortlessly without needless narration or explanation. The twists and turns in the story are well done and the clues are inserted with seamless ease. Although the author is Australian and the book is set in Sydney, Australia the novel has been re-edited to American English and vernacular for the U. S. market. Very well edited I might add. Karen Bryant Doering, Parents' Little Black Book
  • Heartbeat on May 24, 2012

    Once again, Ms. Lopez has caught me in her web and drawn me into suspension of disbelief. This time she only took one paragraph to do it. The world has gone mad. The zombies have taken to the streets and are now the majority. But all will be well if only the government would take on the care and feeding of them. After all they are, or were, citizens, aren't they? Into the chasm of neglect come the self described geeks. Zombies have been around their entire lives. There is nothing new here. But feeding them? Now that takes genius. But even the best laid plans can go awry and when your mother is at risk the game changes. I am not going to say anymore since I don't want to ruin the story. Karen Bryant Doering, Parents' Little Black Book
  • The Soul Bearers on May 24, 2012

    Alex, a freelance travel writer, who spends her time moving throughout Australia, has decided to go back to her roots in Sydney. But for Alex Sydney is not an easy place to be. This is not a safe have or reminder of a childhood spent with carefree days. Instead she is now facing the demons of her abuse. When she left, at fifteen, she swore to never return but healing takes a long time and the abuse must be faced head on if healing is to take place. Looking for accommodations she meets Steven and Mathew, a couple who together have come to terms with the pain in their pasts. Both rejected by their families they have found unconditional love for the first time. As they cherish their relationship there are dark clouds on the horizon. But for now they are living in the moment and enjoying what they have built together. Alex is immediately taken with the young men who have given her a room in their home. Steve, the actor, so good looking people turn to stare at him and Matthew, the event planner, who keeps their lives on track with his easy acceptance and mild manner. But even as they begin to trust each other and share their stories, they know the dark clouds will eventually change everything. A warm story of love, heartbreak, grief and healing, The Soul Bearers is one that will stay with the reader. The author, Ms. Massara, uses a light hand while she explores the deepest recesses of the human soul. Never forcing emotion but allowing it to come from within she takes the reader on a journey of discovery. The characters grow within the story, slowly and carefully binding the reader to them. Very well written and smoothly edited this is a book I recommend very highly. For ages 18+ with the warning the subject matter may be controversial to some readers. Karen Bryant Doering, Parents' Little Black Book
  • The Wraith on May 28, 2012

    Written in both poetry and prose author Lori R. Lopez has given us the short tale of a woman who has fallen into the depth of despair. Haunting and emotive we follow the protagonist as she chases and is chased by a mysterious male figure. But he is real or the product of her imagination as she lives her surreal existence in the romance of her poetry counterpoint to her mundane job and social life. Very well done this one will leave you guessing right up to the very end. Or maybe beyond the end? Karen Bryant Doering, Parents' Little Black Book
  • The Other Boyfriend on May 28, 2012

    Sarah is a woman nearing the age of 40. Hoping to have business success and a family of 30 she is beginning to feel a hopeless sense of doom when it comes to her personal future. The man she loves, Jeffrey, lives with another woman and has for 15 years but he tells her over and over that he loves her and will leave his live in girlfriend and business partner soon. Sarah has fallen into the trap so many women do of waiting for the married or involved man to make the break. With her friend Monica she hatches a plot to put a man so charming and devastatingly handsome in front of the dreaded live in girlfriend that she will be unable to resist. But Sarah is caught unaware when she meets the irresistible Mike. Everything she has ever wanted in a man is standing before her. If only she had met him sooner. Confused she finds herself falling in love with the man she meant for someone else. Full of plot turns and fun complications "The Other Boyfriend" is an easy read for a nice afternoon in a favorite chair. As with all Ms. Massara's works it is well written and has an easy flow. The characters are realistic, the dialogue moves the plot forward with ease and the storyline is cleanly delivered. A very good "take along" book or beach read it captures the reader's interest. Karen Bryant Doering, Parents' Little Black Book
  • Like Casablanca on June 01, 2012

    When you are a journalist and need a little extra cash what would be better than contributing to a blog. When the subject of that blog is to be internet dating and your singlehood is getting boring, why not? Setting up the rules and putting her photo and information out there is something Cat Ryan had not expected herself to be doing at this time in her life. Plans of a marriage and children having rushed out the door, along with her cheating ex-boyfriend, Cat thinks she might as well give it a chance. After all, if a girl is careful, follows the safety rules and doesn't set her expectations too high she could find love. Couldn't she? But maybe Cat is looking for love in all the wrong places. Or it could be that she is in the right place but looking at the wrong men. After all, Rick, of Rick's Cafe' has a lot going for him. Single, attractive, financially secure...a man with a plan. While Rick shows interest he is also suspicious of her explanation of why she is meeting so many men for coffee. Sometimes two in the same evening. But is Cat really ready for love or is she still reeling from the announcement of her ex's engagement. Scotty, best friend extroidinare and part time employer, tries to help her get her life and finances back on tract, but he is on the rebound himself. How can he help her make good decisions when he is unable to do so himself. A funny, witty romance with easy to identify with characters and situations, Like Casablanca is a great, light read. The protagonist is compelling and interesting, the dialogue is snappy and the story cute and fun. The reference to the classic film Casablanca sets the story up for romance. You can feel a hint of Morocco and almost smell the spices. Karen Bryant Doering, Parents' Little Black Book
  • Some Thing on June 18, 2012

    I'm not sure, after reading this short story by Lori R. Lopez, that I will ever be able to drink water again. At least not unless I boil it first, or better yet take it to a chem lab to be examined. Our erstwhile protagonist, a man who should be doing his job correctly, has been taking a little less care with his duties than he should. In fact, he has been corrupted by the lure of a quick buck to not report his findings. Unfortunately for him, maybe he should have been more diligent. His lack of consideration to duty may, in fact, be the start of something much bigger. Is the apocalypse right around the corner? In the local water supply maybe. Another good short by Ms. Lopez that will keep you thinking.
  • Ec•o•nom•ics: A Simple Twist on Normalcy on July 16, 2012

    Ms. Kelly has brought us a book on economics that makes sense to those of us who did not study it in school or college. Easy to read and understand, Ms. Kelly presents the theory and practice of economics in a straightforward method taking one small step at a time building knowledge in the same way a building is constructed, one brick at a time. Each chapter builds on the previous chapters leading to an easy understanding of complex principals. For the first time someone has written a book on the subject that people will want to read. This should be required reading in a classroom's across America. Not only does it explain the economy it explains how America works each day and why. Karen Bryant Doering, Parents' Little Black Book