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review 2017-04-10 16:57
Elvis the Gunslinger - A Review

It’s a Wild West tail tale with a twist – baseball and cricket have not been invented, nary a human to be found, dogs instead of horses and cats rule.

According to the book blurb if you were to cross John Wayne and James Bond you would get Elvis the Gunslinger.  To all appearances he is a gentlecat rancher but the truth is he is a government agent – the best of the best.  After a night spent putting out a mysterious fire in his dog barn and chasing down the feline culprit Elvis’ partner Frank shows up announcing they are leaving on the train ASAP to take on a case.  The son and daughter-in-law of millionaire cat Morris Pusserschmott IV have been kidnapped and Fatscat, the meanest, smelliest outlaw in the west is the prime suspect.  Elvis and Fatscat have history so who better to get to his hideout compound and see that justice is done.
Elvis is a hard drinking, hard loving lawman but that never gets in the way of his clever clue solving skills.  And like any good G-man he always gets his man!
This fun read got off to a bit of a slow start for me.  I found myself rolling my eyes at the beginning – you really need to suspend reality for this book – but soon enough I was caught up in the elaborate kidnapping scheme, the witty repartee between Frank and Elvis, the twists and turns of the case and the very creative characters Mr. Connell has written about. 
I enjoyed the case, the chase and the resolution of the story but one of the dangers when anthropomorphizing cats is walking the fine line between making them too true to their feline nature or giving them too many human qualities.  In this case Mr. Connell leaned a little to the latter.  I was expecting more of a “cat tale”.  This would have been a good read if the characters were human and, granted, replacing them with cats made it imaginative and often humorous but it would have been more fun (for me) with a few more cat-like moments and behaviours.
Overall, once I got used to the cat characters, this was a fun read.  Definitely intended for a late teen to adult audience.  3.5 stars for this one and if pushed would lean towards rounding up to 4 because it was creative and the story picked up in the last half of the book.
* I won this book in a contest by the Purrington Post, so would like to thank them for sending me this book at no charge with no expectation of a review *
ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from his Amazon author page)
The oldest of four children, Romey Connell grew up in a suburban waterfront community in the Baltimore/Annapolis area, and moved with his family to their nearby horse farm at the age of 14.
He graduated from the Auburn University School of Business in 1985 and the Cornell Law School in 1988, whereupon he moved to Atlanta, Georgia.
Romey has been married to his lovely wife, Gretchen (an extremely talented artist and photographer), for fifteen years and they are blessed with two wonderful children, Jerry (13) and Jamie (11). In 2010, after EyeWonder was sold, Romey left the working world for a while, so that he could spend as much time as possible with his family. They live in the Lake Claire neighborhood on the east side of Atlanta. Though spending time with family is foremost these days, Romey’s interests include travel, sports, the outdoors, beer and food, not necessarily in that order. He firmly believes that you should be wary of persons who do not get along well with children or animals. Romey is a fan of nearly all genres of music, although he is partial to those in which the artists actually play instruments, and he considers dancing all night to be the greatest form of recreation.
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review 2016-05-12 18:58
This One's a Nail Biter

THE CALLER by Dan Krzyzkowski

Leslie Calloway’s life did not necessarily follow the path she had anticipated, but all in all it was good.  She felt fortunate so she wanted to give back in some way.  Events in her past made volunteering at 1-800-FRIENDS, a call center for children whose parents are out of the house, a good fit.  It’s a call center set up in the basement of church with outdated phone systems, a standing protocol not to call 911 (there had been some crank call issues in the past) and manned on a totally volunteer basis.  On one particular night, with a major winter storm brewing outside, Leslie wonders how she herself is going to get home to her son and to relieve the babysitter when the phone rings.  Seven-year-old Justin is on the line and he has just told Leslie that there is a man in his basement.
So begins the hours long ordeal for Leslie on one end of the phone and Justin on the other.  Leslie does everything she knows how to do but eventually she decides protocol be damned and calls 911 … the storm must have brought down the lines and no one answers … with her heart pounding she realizes it’s just her and Justin and, despite the storm, she needs to get him out of that house.  As she is trying to save Justin the crisis takes an unexpectedly personal turn and her panic escalates.
At 164 pages this is not an exceptionally long book, but it sure does pack a punch.  Told in Leslie’s first person narrative the reader finds themselves sitting right there in the room as she continuously tries to move Justin to a safer place.  The suspense is nerve-tingling.  If you pick this book up make sure you set aside a block of time because you are going to want to read it from the first page to the last in one sitting.  I know I did.
This story takes place in 1994.  I did not think anything of that until it came to my attention that this was not just a choice by the author to (maybe) explain some of the “dated” phone equipment but due to the fact that this book was first published about ten years ago.  According to some other reviews he has revised the book, tightened up the editing and added some sections possibly fleshing out Leslie’s personal side.  Whatever compelled this revision, it worked.
I’d like to thank Mr. Krzyzkowski for sending me a copy of this book at no charge in the hope that I would post an honest review.
I read library books, previously gently loved books, brand new books where no one has cracked the spine yet and I read on my ereader as well as my tablet so I don’t often speak to the physical attributes of the books I read.  However, I want to add here that for a paperback edition this was a lovely book to hold and read.  The book has nice crisp, white, better than average quality paper with a clean font that made reading this page-turner even more enjoyable.
I am definitely going to check into Mr. Krzyzkowski other book “One Lane Bridge”.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from the book cover)
Dan Krzyzkowski attended Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, where he earned a degree in psychology.  He is the author of the novel One Lane Bridge.

A writer and fisherman, Krzyzkowki lives in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, and works for the U.S. Postal Service.

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review 2016-02-02 19:22
Letters to a Lifer - A Review

LETTERS TO A LIFER “The Boy Never to be Released” by Cindy Sanford

“There is an invisible thread that connects those destined to meet.”
Cindy Sanford owned a gift shop/art co-op.  One fateful day the co-op’s woodcarver, John, approached Cindy with a unique piece of wildlife art painted on a leaf.  Cindy, and the other artists, were astounded not only by the beautiful art but by the artist’s story as well – the artist, Ken, was serving a life sentence with no hope of parole for his involvement in a double homicide.  Ken did not pull the trigger.  Ken was 15 years old.
Cindy had the same thoughts any other person would have by imagining “a bitter, aging convict, with missing teeth, tattoos, and cold soulless eyes”.  She asked herself “How could an evil soul paint something so beautiful?”  Nevertheless, she agreed to sell his art in her store.  When the leaf art began selling better than John’s he stormed out.  Now Cindy had a new problem … how to get the money owed Ken to him in prison.  When she found the contact information Cindy was shocked to realize that Ken was housed in State Correctional Institution Bradford “where they housed the worst of the worst”.  How could anyone there paint these beautiful, intricate works of art?
That was the first of the contradictions Cindy was to face, in what turns out to be long term relationship with this convicted murderer.  “Letters to a Lifer” is Cindy’s journey to understanding, befriending and then unofficially adopting this young man with the painfully troubled past and absolutely no hope for the future.  Starting with reluctant written correspondence, then even more reluctant telephone calls and finally personal visits the reader follows the relationship that she (and her family and friends) develop with Ken.  Her writing interspersed with journal entries in Ken’s words let the reader understand her compassion and eventual maternal love for this young man.  It is not however an easy journey.  Cindy shares with her readers the personal conflict about her feelings for Ken weighed against the pain and loss of the families of the murder victims.  In many ways this book is a journey of questioning and reaffirming her personal faith.
“But he was a lifer convicted of homicide!  I couldn’t escape that.  Every time I felt a shred of warmth toward him, my brain waged war with my heart.  Some innocent person died as a result of his actions.  Was it right for me to care about someone like him?”
Yes, there are a lot of Christian values in this book, but it in no way comes across as preaching nor does it in any way attempt to convert the reader – it is simply a part of Cindy’s morals and how she lives her life.
Ken is a remarkable young man who paints incredible pictures but also exhibits real remorse, shows humanity to fellow prisoners and never asks anyone for special treatment – this is his journey as well as Cindy’s.  Even Cindy admits that Ken may be one of the few exceptions to the rule yet “Letters to a Lifer” did make me ponder – would I want to be defined for the rest of my life by some of the ridiculously stupid things I did when I was 15?  Granted, I never committed murder but I am no longer the person I was so many years ago and neither is Ken.  Therein lies the crux of this book; is justice truly being served by sentencing children, across the board, to life imprisonment with no chance of parole?
The work of organizations such as the “National Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth” is making strides and many states do not mandate automatic terms in the sentencing of juveniles for capital offences (unfortunately Philadelphia does).  As I was reading this book President Obama rescinded mandatory sentencing of juveniles on a national level, but individual states still control their own courts.  The question also remains as to whether the changes, as they occur, will be retroactive? 
This was an excellent book that made me think, sometimes brought me close to tears yet also made me laugh.  I highly recommend this book to anyone as an enjoyable and eye opening read about one woman’s personal journey.  It is so worth reading to get to know Ken.  It is also insightful in understanding some of what goes on inside of the prison system.
I feel this book would appeal to anyone interested in criminal justice, rehabilitation and juvenile offenders.  It is not only the wrongfully convicted/incarcerated that need a voice but also the children growing up behind bars.  It would also be of interest to those who are inspired to find about more about the man who paints such intricate depictions of wildlife onto leaves.
I would like to offer my sincere thanks to the author, Cindy Sanford, for sending me a digital copy of her book to read and review.
Some further notes:
You can read more about Ken’s story on the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange website.
More examples of Ken’s artwork can be found on his Etsy site. 
All proceeds and royalties from the sale of this book are being donated to MIMIC, a charity sponsoring at risk children, a foundation started by ex-offenders.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from her Goodreads author profile)
Cindy Sanford is a "self proclaimed" tough-on-crime advocate whose chance encounter with a juvenile lifer prompted a re-examination of long-held values and beliefs. She is a registered nurse, mother of 3 sons, and the wife of a retired wildlife conservation officer. 
Hear her story in her own words in this short YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hyxW85pmX8) video
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text 2015-11-17 16:34
Take Advantage of the Freebie

I just posted my review of "Never Too Late" by David C. Cassidy (NO not THAT David Cassidy) this morning.  I contained a link to get a free starter library of his books, but I had stated I was not sure if it was still available.




I received the lovely comment below from Mr. Cassidy in which he invites anyone to take advantage of the promotion.  I've only read the first short story and, as I mentioned in my review, really enjoyed it.


Hi, Christine! Thank you so much for reading my work, and for taking the time to review it! And I'm really glad you enjoyed the story. I hope your readers will take advantage of the free starter library as well. Thank you again! :)


I have absolutely no investment in this at all other than I love free stuff - especially books. If you want a copy of "Never Too Late" and his other two books here's the link again ...






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review 2015-11-17 13:45
Never Too Late - A Review

NEVER TOO LATE by David C. Cassidy

Scott Fisher is a responsible man.  He works hard and loves his family.  One day he begins to behave in a most unusual manner; buying an expensive car and pricey gifts for his family, planning a family trip without consulting his wife, but what is causing all this impulsiveness?  Why is his wife having such a bad feeling about his recent behaviour?
This short story tells the story of an ordinary family, a loving and happy family, preparing for a weekend camping getaway.  It’s a little late in the camping season, but the weather is still great and that means they have the campground all to themselves.  Canoeing, fishing, a campfire and a night of looking at the stars are the makings of a wonderful day.  But something is definitely wrong!
This is the first piece of work I have read by Mr. Cassidy and I must say I was quite impressed with his story telling.  For a short story the author managed to make me very quickly care for the characters, which led to anxiety whenever I thought something was about to happen.  That was the brilliance in the story telling.  I was reading about an ordinary family going through an ordinary day yet at each turn of the page my imagination started to anticipate the worst.  Why was he acting irrationally?  Was he dying?  Did he win a lottery?  Had he committed a crime?  Was he about to?  What exactly was that noise in the woods?  When the horror element finally hit in the last few pages it caught me completely off guard. 
Well played Mr. Cassidy!  Well played!
Was it one, any or all of the above?  Sorry!  I don’t do spoiler alerts.
I received this book at no charge in an email promotion from the author.  He offered a “Free Starter Library” with no obligation of a review.  I thought this story was so good it deserved both a review and some promotion.  I just received my second book in the library today and am very much looking forward to reading it.  There are a few public library books in the queue ahead of it, but I will definitely get to it.  I don’t know if promotion is still available, but this is the link if you want to check it out. 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from his website)
Award-winning author David C. Cassidy is the twisted mind behind several best-selling novels of horror and suspense, Velvet Rain, The Dark, and Fosgate’s Game. An author, photographer, and graphic designer—and a half-decent juggler—he spends his writing life creating tales of terror where Bad Things Happen To Good People. Raised by wolves, he grew up with a love of nature, music, science, and history, with thrillers and horror novels feeding the dark side of his seriously disturbed imagination. He talks to his characters, talks often, and most times they listen. But the real fun starts when they tell him to take a hike, and they Open That Door anyway. Idiots.
David lives in Ontario, Canada. From Mozart to Vivaldi, classic jazz to classic rock, he feels naked without his iPod. Suffering from MAD—Multiple Activity Disorder—he divides his time between writing and blogging, photography and Photoshop, reading and rollerblading. An avid amateur astronomer, he loves the night sky, chasing the stars with his telescope. Sometimes he eats.
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