Thursday, July 2, 2015

Review: AWKWARD STAGES by Mark Victor Young

Collected Short Fiction - A girl and boy discover the difference between best friends and just friends. The summer before university is the catalyst for some strange longings. A woman wrestles with a difficult insurance claim which resonates with an event from her past. An aging writer gives a career-spanning interview with an unintended revelation. These and other great characters inhabit this collection of short stories which celebrate all of life’s stages.

My thoughts: Awkward Stages chronicles the growing pains of various characters.

In "Crotch Dogs," a boy recalls romantic feelings for a girl in the midst of a strange dog-crotch-licking theory.

And there may be some "Practical Uses of Voodoo in the Workplace" after all.

For me, these tales were particularly dry and banal. At some point I wondered what the deal was with these people. They were definitely undergoing some "awkward stages" here. A solid effort was evident in the writing, but even that got a little awkward sometimes.

My rating: 2 stars

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Review: MUDDLIN' THROUGH by Steven M. Moore (Book 1)

Mary Jo Melendez is a regular G.I. Jane with all her army and navy experience. Unfortunately, war veterans don't get discounts on rentals and a deep knowledge of special armed forces and military co-ops don't do much on a résumé.

An expert at martial arts (well, of course, she would have to be,) Mary does not succumb to the chauvinistic  customs society (particularly men) imposes. I liked that about her.

A chance to get back into the war zone arrives when Mary's sister gets kidnapped by foreign agents. Well, that just provokes her to go all "Mission Impossible" until she gets framed and sent to prison.

The story took a while to drum up my interest, mostly because of the tedium involving politics, armed forces, and foreign affairs. I kept on reading, hoping it would get better, but it just got more complex. I applaud the use of a strong female protagonist for this so-called "action-packed thriller," but it just didn't really do it for me. Like the title, I was practically "muddlin through" this book.

My rating: 2.5 stars

Review: SILICON SLUMMIN'...AND JUST GETTIN' BY by Steven M. Moore (Book 2)

This time she stays put, compared to the first mystery/thriller/suspense novel involving this ex-USN Master-at-Arms. She's landed a job as security director for a Silicon Valley computer games firm. She's just getting settled into the new job when she discovers she has a stalker. Russian and U.S. agents are after her too. She hires a PI to protect her, and the handsome Italian becomes a romantic interest. She also befriends an autistic boy who helps them thwart Mary Jo's pursuers.

My thoughts: Punchy, sassy, butt-kickin' Mary Jo is back in a whole new mystery, but, unfortunately, story plays out the same way as the first one. And that's a shame because I like this character. If only she would get featured in a more invigorating plot setting.

My rating: 2 stars

Friday, June 26, 2015

Review: MOM ON THE ROAD by Allyson Ochs Primack

"I was never supposed to get old. It was not part of the plan. As a child, I thought that old age was something that only happened to other people." (10)

Before anyone knew it, it happened to Maggie. She got old, and being a mom just made her seem older. Funny thing was that it wasn't how she felt on the inside. "On the outside, I look like a lady, a woman. Someone whom waiters and store clerks call "ma'am." But inside of me lives a little girl who feels like all of this is a big, fat joke." (17) I think most of us feel that way.

As she reminisced about her childhood, the lyrics to Archie Bunker's "Those Were the Days" played in my head. Whatever happened to those days?

"I lived in my own head. My entertainment was my own imagination. I was the most content in my own world." (25)

I loved that Maggie's life revolved around the popular culture of the 70's, 80's, and 90's. In every stage of her life, she could always turn to a TV show or a song to learn from and find enjoyment. But what once made her happy soon scared the living crap out of her when she became a mom. Suddenly the only stars were murderers, rapists, terrorists, and kidnappers. I think she might be right: There is too much information today.

What starts off as an interesting reads eventually turns into a Mom Guide with talk about pregnancy weight, breast-feeding, PTA committees, soccer practice, and on and on. Oy, what a drag! Yeah, I really didn't need to hear so much about the kids. When was she hitting the road already?

"Mom on the Road" doesn't actually take off until one of her kids goes on tour for an acting thing. It's not the "Mom Takes a Break" notion I had originally perceived. So Maggie was basically a Stage Mom.

Witty and relatable for the most part, the story shared some colorful anecdotes about marriage and motherhood, but it wasn't quite what I was expecting. I liked how it started off with the timeline of Maggie's life (childhood, adolescence, college phase, adulthood) and how that all changed when she became a mom. I thought this would be a story of longing and regret, which would perpetuate a series of amusing antics for this 40-year old mom. I mean, Maggie talked so much about being free and never growing old that it seemed she was going to cut loose and run wild. That's the direction I thought we were heading. In actuality, this is just a case of a mom on the road...with kids. I don't really think traveling with kids would be much fun. And that basically deflated the story for me. I'm sure a lot of moms would like it, but, for me, being a single gal and all, it was just okay.

My rating: 3 stars

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Review: MISSING MELISSA by Alretha Thomas

Something is missing in Maddie's life--her twin sister, Melissa. Many have given up the search on the disappearance of a 3-year old, but not Maddie. Nineteen years later, she believes her sister is still alive.

Driven by instinct and on a mission, Maddie re-opens the investigation, recalling any memory and chasing every lead. Will she be able to find her? At first, she didn't have much to go on. She had a dream of her sister stating she wasn't dead and coaxes her to find her? Doubtful. But then again, don't twins have that special bond?

Story had a slow start, but a curiosity urged me to continue, especially when it seemed like the parents may not be entirely truthful. It becomes more and more intriguing as dark secrets are revealed.

Maddie should be focusing on her new job, her new life, her new "normal." “But ‘normal’ is a setting on a washing machine and not what our lives are supposed to be." (98)

While you feel that Maddie putting herself out there in this search is naive and dangerous, you still can't help but admire her bold and fierce tenacity.

Perhaps a little more suspense might've made it more compelling, but, in the end, this story turns into a soulful and engaging read!

My rating: 3.5 stars

Monday, June 22, 2015


This is the story of a man's first kiss--at least, that's what it indicated at first. Because, in the beginning, Mathew Willard stated that he was old enough to vote, drive, and pay bills, but then the story deviates to 6th grade. Was he a man or a boy? So I was a little confused right there.

As you move forward, you realize this is all just a little boy's silly quest to get a girl. The thing is that he turns into a do-or-die situation, like if he didn't get the girl, the world, as we know it, would surely end. Frankly, I found this to be far-fetched.

This is basically the Boys Club's guide to girls--a subject they know little to nothing about. Wet dreams, butthead jokes, and burning crotches--you'll find all this and more throughout the book.

Loaded with juvenile antics and sprinkled with fairly humorous commentary, story is a quick and easy read, rating at a mediocre level. This didn't really tickle my fancy too much, but it's an okay comic-book style childhood story.

My rating: 2.5 stars

Friday, June 19, 2015

Review: KILLER TWIST by C.A. Larmer (Book 1)

Roxy Parker remains a “ghostly presence behind the scenes”—well, she’s a ghostwriter that writes and let’s others take the credit. Eh, it pays the bills.

But she longs to create “something wordy, something original, something she would want to read.” She doesn’t want to write anything boring. Ironic, because that’s how this book starts out.

Then she starts to receive threatening messages urging her to not write the story. But what story and who sent the message? Finally, somebody is found dead. Yay, the mystery!

I like that Roxy is sassy, single, and independent. Overall, the book was languid and subdued. It was a typical “who dunnit” mystery. However, readers will enjoy Roxy’s inquisitive and crafty journalistic instincts. This is a simple, mildly amusing mystery.

My rating: 3 stars