Back on Track

New reviews coming soon! I'll be importing my work from the past two years, but in the meantime,
I'm reclaiming my small place on the web.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Fantasy Review

The Legacy of Ogma
by Ethan Rappaport
ISBN-10: 1419632957
Review by Heather Froeschl

Oh to go adventuring! I've always been a fan of the classic Dungeons & Dragons game, the great Tolkien, and all things magical. Reading E.A. Rappaport's book, "The Legacy of Ogma," was a delightful trip into fantasyland.

Wizards and apprentices, a beautiful thief, a rugged giant of a man, and other kindred spirits are destined to fulfill a fate together that leads them through enchanted forests, crazy desert-like conditions, into underwater hideaways and on to the challenges of a lifetime. The beautiful Halia "happens upon" a mystical glass orb and sets out to discover its abilities and history. Along the way she discovers that it is not the only one of its kind. With the quest under way, a wizard and his two apprentices join in the search for answers. Another wizard is on a similar quest, the company he keeps a bit more influential in the war department. All will come together as the plot unfolds and the mystery of the orbs is revealed. In a classic battle of good versus evil, the book leads readers through a fantastical ride.

"The Legacy of Ogma" is a wonderful example of fantasy. The traditional roles of wizard, thief, strong man, battle hero, good and evil, are all represented in quality fashion. That this is the first in a trilogy of books is good news to fans of adventure. The book is well written and planned out; the characters true to form and full of likeability. I enjoyed the trip into a magical world and trust others will as well.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Fiction Review

A Promise for Destiny
by Leonard Moody
ISBN-10: 1598002333
Review by Heather Froeschl

We think we are content in our own little world, and then boom, fate kicks us in the pants. Rather, fate tickles our hearts and inspires our minds by introducing new souls into our lives. In Leonard Moody's novel, "A Promise for Destiny," one man's world is turned upside down, or rather, opened wide to possibilities.

Lucas Ambler is a nature guide in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. He likes to be alone and is most comfortable in the deepest embrace of nature. Bringing his guests on guided tours helps him to earn a respectable dollar, though he could live off of an inheritance from his parents. His past relationship with his parents was anything but warm and fuzzy but his grandparents, the original owners of the cabin he now lives in, were loving and caring role models. Gram and Pop would be proud of who Lucas has turned out to be.

Fate steps in as a young girl runs out into the road in front of Lucas' truck one day. Fearing the worst, he is relieved to find that she is only scared and scraped up. Taking her to the cabin might not have been the best idea but this young woman is mature beyond her years and sees more than most people do in a lifetime. She seems to be somewhat psychic and has much to share with Lucas and the others in her life, if only they will listen. It is only the beginning when Barb says that she felt as if she were coming home as they entered the cabin. Within the next few days Lucas meets Barb's two sisters, and his future. Will he be able to hold onto his peaceful existence? Will he find an even greater peace? Just how far will Lucas go to keep a promise?

This wonderful, soul-touching book is a pure delight to read. It offers suspense, mystery and romance but also life lessons, appreciation for the natural world, and a reminder of the important things in life. It is a well written, exquisitely done work of art. The characters speak to you, the setting calls to you, the author reaches out to you. I absolutely loved reading "A Promise for Destiny," and highly recommend it.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Fiction Review

Once Is Never Enough
by Margie Gosa Shivers
ISBN-10: 0974406627
Review by Heather Froeschl

Sometimes when we make our plans for life, fate steps in and changes everything. This can be a good thing though, resulting in more positive circumstances than we would have imagined. In Margie Gosa Shivers' novel, "Once is Never Enough," readers experience the results of fate's influence.

Homicide Detective Lester Miller has put his all into his work for 14 years. He's yearned to be a father but can't quite get down the husband role, having divorced twice. 40 seems to be the year for changes though and he's decided to leave Chicago for a gig with the FBI. First though, he has resolved to help out an old friend, owner of a once-highly successful private investigations company. Taking a few cases on pro-bono is nothing he wouldn't do, but when those cases turn out to involve people he knows, things get interesting. Investigating the supposed suicide death of the friend of his ex-lover leads to more connections than Lester feels comfortable with. The plot thickens. Will Lester uncover the truth? Will he reconnect with the love of his life? Will he ever have children?

"Once is Never Enough" is a great fast read. The plot flows nicely with chapters head hopping between main characters. Thus the story is told through various points of view, leading the reader to follow exactly what is going on...most of the time. At times it can be a little confusing. In the end though, it all becomes clear. The characters are well developed and plot very well planned. The story touches on crime, mystery, and romance, and makes for a nice combination. A good read indeed.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Fiction Review

Prairie Sunset
by Eric Wilder
ISBN-10: 1411692489
Review by Heather Froeschl

It's never too late to set out after your dreams. John Warren, Sr. in Eric Wilder's book, "Prairie Sunset," makes this discovery in the most life affirming ways possible at his 80+ years. This character reminds us all to go after that Magic Fountain in our minds no matter how old, or young, we are.

John Jr. has some issues with his elderly father and after three years of his not being able to communicate with him (if he ever really was able to), decides that the old man should be put in a nursing home. So on a blustery night, after telling his two grandchildren a fable in thin disguise bedtime story, John Sr. makes a break for it. What he finds is nothing short of adventure.

An all points bulletin is put out for the old man as John Jr. can't risk losing face in his father's running away. Making him out to look like a man of incompetent mind is the only way to avoid embarrassment. John Sr. though, has made a friend and together they're taking a gamble of various degrees. First hitting a bingo hall and later on a horse track, the two find that the old man has some good luck left after all. Will it be enough to keep his heart problems under control or let his heart soar in delight? Will John and Attie find their own Magic Fountain before the police can drag him back home?

This wonderful tale is full of life affirming reminders to reach for the golden ring. The heart touching plot is full of little twists and turns with other minor characters having their own hopes and dreams to strive for. It is a well rounded and satisfying read, packed with precious moments, poignant thoughts to ponder, and valuable lessons for readers.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Fiction Review

Death To Fool Boys Incorporated
by Kenner Bisch
ISBN-10: 1420887114
Review by Heather Froeschl

Has the war on terrorism begun to affect the rest of us in adverse ways? I suppose it depends on your perspective but in Kenner Bisch's novel, "Death to Fool Boys Incorporated," it certainly seems that the danger can possibly come from the home team.

Someone is killing FBI agents at an alarming rate. A serial killer seems intent on wiping out as many agents as possible, even going so far as to attack a training facility in Quantico, Virginia. What does this person have against America's officers? Whatever the reason, the acts of killing are vicious, evil, and downright torture. To top off the terror that is inflicted on FBI agents, a white supremacist group claims that the FBI has used racial discrimination in developing their profile of the killer. The tranquility that things like the Patriot Act are supposed to illicit is seriously missing. Will the killer be brought to justice? Does justice still exist? What does all of this have to do with operations overseas?

Kenner Bisch's first novel has an interesting premise, if not a disturbing one. Throughout the book, a reporter who brings the latest news periodically, in affect reiterates the plot, giving the reader a recap of the previous chapters told through a slightly different perspective. This does help, as some parts of the book feel stunted. The most eloquently written scenes were the graphic acts of murder. I feel the book could use a bit more spit and polish, using a military slang. It is a decent read though and answers to certain issues of today's concern, in fictional form, of course.

Children's/YA Fiction Fantasy Review

by Brandon Mull
ISBN-10: 1416947205
Where have all the fairies gone? To Fablehaven of course! A preserve for magical creatures awaits your visit in Brandon Mull's fantastical, wonderful book, "Fablehaven." Look out J.K. Rowling; the fantasy genre has an outstanding new author to embrace!

"None who enter will leave unchanged" as readers take a look into Fablehaven. 13-year-old Kendra and her 11-year-old brother Seth think they are in for a boring two weeks at their grandparent's home in Connecticut. Their parents are off on a cruise and the huge house comes with a lot of rules. Grandpa offers no good reason to stay out of the woods but he does promise terrible punishment - confinement to the attic playroom - if the children disobey. Naturally this leads Seth to the forest edge and beyond. What waits for him is beyond his comprehension. Kendra meanwhile, takes time to unravel a puzzle Grandpa has given her, involving three keys that go to hidden keyholes in the playroom. This unlocks more than her imagination can allow and leads her to "Drink the milk." The mystery lies in what happens after the milk is consumed...wondrous sights and sounds that previously appeared as nothing more than butterflies.

Adventure and excitement abound as the siblings delve ever deeper into the secrets of Fablehaven. Grandpa has hidden much from them until they have proven that they are the right sort of people for the experience. With wonder around every corner, and under every leaf, this book will entrance readers. "Trespassers will be turned to stone," but the magic that is revealed for those who are welcomed inside is a treasure indeed. Welcome readers, to a trip you will never forget.

The plot of "Fablehaven" is fast paced, precise and perfect. It is a truly captivating tale. The characters instantly turn into children the readers know, if not, in fact, themselves. Seeing yourself in the pages of a book as magical as this one is a precious gift. The descriptive writing will put you deep into a cave, escaping an ogress, and just as easily into a beautiful garden rich with flowers and fairies. A return visit to "Fablehaven" will be on the wish list of every reader. This is a terrific book and I see great things in store for Brandon Mull.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Fiction Review

Beyond Peleliu
by Peter D Baird
ISBN-10: 1893660125
Review by Heather Froeschl

Who feels the consequences of our choices? Certainly not just ourselves, but our children, grandchildren, friends, acquaintances, co-workers and those that could have been all of those things to us. These consequences sometimes beg to be acknowledged, but mostly they become a part of us and everyone involved, for better or for worse. In Peter Baird's novel, "Beyond Peleliu," readers become aware of the influences that four generations have on one another and those that surround their lives.

Tom McQuade lost his parents early in his life but the influence they had on him was nearly insurmountable. His drive to become a doctor, a surgeon, became his purpose. He fulfilled that purpose and excelled. World War II took him away from his young wife, a Christian Scientist, magician, and dedicated mother to their son David. The island of Peleliu took away a part of his being and purpose. The decisions he made in the throes of war would affect his life but it was the influence of his own decision that influenced the lives of those around him in ways he could never have imagined.

When Tom returns to civilian life and for the next fifty years, all whom he loves are affected by his decision. Will David be able to break the cycle? This book is about finding one's self, admitting to your mistakes, growing and learning from life. It's about a war, a deadly childhood disease, politics, law, physicians, and faith. It is about the interactions we crave, those we regret, and those that never got to be.

This novel is captivating, personally touching and thought provoking, and very well written. The plot is tight and obviously well thought out. The characters are alive, with beating hearts and busy minds, drinking problems and human desires. I could not put it down and suspect that every reader will feel the same. I certainly hope so.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Fiction Review

The Sun By Night, a novel
by Benjamin Kwakye
ISBN-10: 1592213502
Review by Heather Froeschl

Do we really ever know the depths of our interactions with those around us? How deeply do we affect the lives of our acquaintances, neighbors, co-workers, or our prostitutes? In Benjamin Kwakye's novel, "The Sun by Night," that influence is examined in great detail though never quite face to face. The subtleties of human interactions are told from multiple points of view.

The life of a prostitute surely isn't easy but the reasons behind the action is often much more difficult to bear. This affects the mind in interesting ways as one main character explains in the most unique fashion I have witnessed in a novel. When her friend is murdered she becomes very wary and takes precautions to guard her own life. Her double life is in jeopardy though and she must constantly be cautious of revealing too much. The circle of characters and stories expands as her ex-husband tells his own tale, as well as those of everyone around him - he is a reporter after all. His words get him thrown in jail as the government is under a coup and political change is running rampant. Politicians and priests get involved in the story, the rich and the poor alike, the young children and the elder parents. All have a portion of the story to tell and it all comes together during the trial for the second prostitute murder victim.

This book is unique and intriguing, passionately told and a little confusing. I very much enjoyed unraveling the tale as it was spelled out in front of me. The examination of the human factor is very well done; the description of political unrest in Africa perfectly executed. Watch for more from this award-winning author!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Fiction Review

The Somnambulist
by Kirk A Ryan
ISBN-10: 0595381367
Review by Heather Froeschl

As if the nightmares of war were not enough, "The Somnambulist" goes into something even worse. Author Kirk Ryan delves deeply into the horrors of war, internment camps, and evil regime, and then pushes further into the depths of the mind, the lure of power, the magic of vengeance.

Wehrmacht Captain Martin Schumann is only trying to survive his assignment but he can feel a presence, something calls to him in the peasant village nearby. Something is seeking revenge. Martin's dead daughter is haunting his dreams, in reality warning him of the danger that lurks. He finds that he has been sleepwalking, and in the midst of war and winter in Russia, this is definitely not a good thing. Perhaps, he is being led in his sleep by his daughter. But why then are others in his company experiencing similar things? There is a magical presence in the camp that will not let certain soldiers rest.

SS Colonel Wexel is trying to harness an evil power. His efforts to contain the opposing power, a young Russian witch hiding in the village, have thus far failed. She is being helped and he intends to put a stop to that. His rewards will be great, in his mind...the knowledge of the Atom Bomb would be in Nazi hands. The dragon has promised him this. What power can stop him? The witch is the latest in a series of eight Valkeries who have battled evil. Will she prevail and avenge the deaths of her family, of her country?

Kirk Ryan has written a powerful book, rich with vivid descriptions, deep characters, military detail and mystical lore. It is a trip into the minds of men and the struggle of good versus evil. The journey is sometimes confusing; through nightmares and dreamscapes, but in the end the plot is quite clear. This is an outstanding book, which history lovers as well as horror readers will enjoy.

Friday, July 7, 2006

Fiction Review

Electric Honey
by Sam Love
ISBN-10: 141963013X
Review by Heather Froeschl

America sure is a victim of its politics. Every generation is affected in various ways by the one before them and the one that follows, and just as affected by the people in power and those who wish to be. Never was this more apparent in our history than in the turbulent 60's. In Sam Love's novel, "Electric Honey," we see two generations in the midst of controversy and change, and laugh at the craziness of it all.

Peach discovers her mother's journals as she's cleaning out the old house. Now that Peach is a great grandmother, looking back on her college days through her own mother's words turns out to be an eye opening experience. Just reading about her mother's sex life would be shocking enough but Peach discovers more about herself and who she was back then through her look back in time. It was the early days of the Anti-Communist League and Peach's mom worked for the organization. Mom also dated Colonel Billy, the head of the group. The Colonel had some strong ideas about things like God and Country and watch out if you didn't agree with him. Every hippie was a communist and communists were the plague of the world out to brainwash the youth of America.

Some students at Peach's college decided to stir things up a bit, starting with a letter to the college's newspaper editor in which Sidney Bunch refers to the Viet Cong as true freedom fighters. Colonel Billy decides that this is the beginning of an all out war on American values. When the students interrupt a speech the Colonel is making by breaking into the PA system, and again when they drive a peace float, in the name of Sidney Bunch, through the Christmas parade, it is viewed as an attack instead of merely an example of freedom of speech. The Colonel is just itching for a cause to act on his beliefs and when things heat up he even wants to ask the President to begin a true war (never mind that he already has a volunteer army patrolling the beaches watching for Commie subs.).

Just how involved is Peach of all of this? Quite. She's also involved in the wilder side of the 60's - Mardi Gras partying, peaceful rebellion, sex, marijuana, and this sweet substance known as Electric Honey. What she doesn't realize then is how into the moment her own mother is.

This book is a trip in itself. While I shudder to imagine the world that Peach lives in as she finds her mother's journals, a world where evolution is no longer taught in her great granddaughter's school, and the separation of church and state no longer exists, the book clearly demonstrates what a few in power can instigate - reminding us that we should all be more involved in politics rather than sitting idly by. The story is well told through the minds of two women who really aren't all that different after all. An entertaining and interesting read, I highly enjoyed "Electric Honey."

Sunday, July 2, 2006

Fiction Review

Xanthan Gumm
by Robin Reed
ISBN-10: 159113899X
Review by Heather Froeschl

What could creatures in outer space really know about us here on Earth? If they took their information from the various radio waves and television satellite signals bouncing around in the atmosphere, their opinions of us would be rather misconstrued. In Robin Reed's novel, "Xanthan Gumm," this is exactly what has happened, leaving one alien very confused that all of Earth is not really a movie set.

Earth is a forbidden planet but that doesn't really stop visitors from "out there." Xanth has decided that he desperately wants to become a movie star, joining the ranks of E.T. and Chewbacca. Hoping to find the ruler of Earth, Steven Spielberg, Xanth attempts to find Hollywood. Unfortunately, the gravity in Chicago pulls him out of the sky first. Meeting a reporter for a tabloid, Xanth is greeted as an alien in a nonchalant way. Apparently the reporter has met other aliens and isn't all that interested in Xanth's story. Then Xanth meets Al, a homeless man with a passion for the bottle.

Al isn't convinced that Xanth is an alien until a demonstration is given. After that, the two become friends and a mutual learning experience is gained through discovering that some of society's ideas of aliens are actually true if not a little off. It turns out that Vulcans do exist, the creatures in the Aliens movies are really the most mild mannered things in the galaxy, and those large headed extraterrestrials we always seem to describe when relaying an encounter of the third kind are really big pranksters with very nasally laughs.

The culture exchange is very funny and as readers follow Xanth's adventure in trying to get to Hollywood, the story carries on in a most entertaining way. Foiling a robbery, aggravating a military General and his "Commie" suspecting mother to no end, and appearing in a student film are just some of the hijinks Xanth gets into. Every chapter is packed with fun.

This hysterical book is so well done that I can't imagine it not becoming a movie - and wouldn't it be wonderful if Xanth finally found his dream in working with Spielberg? Robin Reed has produced a well thought out, affective plot that is filled with cultural icons, intricate characters, and laugh out loud humor. I loved this book and cannot wait to hear more from this author.