Sunday, February 28, 2010

Lor Mandela – Destruction From Twins by L. Carroll

Lor Mandela – Destruction From Twins by L. Carroll captured my interest even before I opened the book. The front cover features a beautiful young woman with piercing blue eyes and a rupturing planet. The back cover text describes a dying alien world, a prophetic riddle, and a “Child of Balance” who may or may not be a teenager from Earth. Immediately, I sensed I was holding an epic, entertaining read in my hands. I can tell you that Lor Mandela did not disappoint.

In Part One on Lor Mandela, twin sisters position themselves to take power as the Vritesse (the matriarchal leader of the Trysta race) after their mother dies. Soon it is discovered that Lor Mandela is dying and will be destroyed. The soul of the planet appoints a “Child of Balance” named Audril Borloc, who must solve the prophetic riddle known as the Advantiere to save the planet. Shortly after her fourth birthday, Audril disappears during an attack on Mandela castle. Several Lor Mandelan spies travel to Earth in search of Audril.

In Part Two we meet our heroine, Maggie Baker, a bored but typical sixteen-year old living in Glenhill, Iowa. Small town life has Maggie longing to ease the boredom, even swimming nude in the local pond. Little does she know that her wish will soon be granted with a grand adventure beyond her wildest imagination. Maggie, despite the age difference, possesses an uncanny resemblance to Audril, including the blue eyes and black hair which are traits exclusive to the ruling Borloc family on Lor Mandela.

Author L. Carroll has created an entire universe with loveable creatures, horrible monsters, and mysterious magic, effectively keeping readers of all ages captivated from cover to cover. Carroll gradually builds the momentum over the first 300 pages. Then she throws us onto a rollercoaster of twists and turns in the closing chapters as two great armies clash with a dying planet as the background. Just when you’re able to catch your breath, the author hits you with a whopper of an ending, effectively setting up the sequel.

I would like to have seen Maggie appearing sooner in the story, as younger readers will quickly bond with the strong yet vulnerable protagonist. However, there is plenty going on throughout to keep less experienced readers turning the pages. Maggie’s time to shine is in the second half of the book and shine she does.

The conclusion of the Harry Potter series has left a largely unfilled gap in the fantasy/young adult genre. A gap, I believe, L. Carroll’s Lor Mandela Trilogy will fill quite nicely. I highly recommend Lor Mandela and rate it as a Must Read for fans of this genre.

Now Available

Lor Mandela at

By William R. Potter for Reader’s Choice Reviews

Friday, February 26, 2010

Bullets and Bandages by Robert J. Saniscalchi

A young man volunteers for the army and then ships off for service to Vietnam in 1968. He has heard all the stories about the Nam and he is scared. However, he can’t possibly comprehend the nightmare that awaits him until he begins to live it. He survives countless horrors in combat only to discover that the biggest struggle may be found at home when he returns to civilian life after his tour is over. Bullets and Bandages is the fictionalised true story of author Robert J. Saniscalchi’s brother’s experiences in the Vietnam War.

We meet our protagonist, nineteen-year-old Robert Marrino from New Jersey. Rob takes extra training in boot camp and becomes an army field medic. Soon Rob is on a plane heading to a country he knows little about to fight in a war that does not threaten his homeland. He takes a level of comfort in prayer, as his hands shake in fear of his first mission. He learns combat survival skills in the jungle from an experienced platoon sergeant, and forms a close friendship with Corporal Clarence Green. His squad mates die one after another in an endless string of battles. Rob turns increasingly to his faith as he begins to doubt he will make it home to his family. Meeting a beautiful young nurse at the base and beginning a relationship shows Rob that something good can exist in a place of so much ugliness, pain, and despair.

Veterans of the Vietnam War have been writing about their experiences for more than four decades. Each story reveals a little more of the secrets that so many of the survivors have kept bottled inside for so long. Army medics have been often described as unarmed non-combatants. Not “Doc.” Rob was involved in every firefight his squad took part in; gunning down enemy troops one minute and then saving his injured buddies the next.

I’m not sure a writer who has not experienced war can truly capture the damage done to the body, mind, and soul of the combat soldier; however, Saniscalchi does a great job of telling his brother’s story. He shines a fresh light on the heroic work of the field medic. He dedicates his novel to all American veterans of past wars, and to the ones still fighting for freedom and democracy. I recommend Bullets and Bandages to readers who wish to gain a better perspective on the Vietnam War and for those who enjoy a good thriller.

Bullets and Bandages

Robert J. Saniscalchi

American Book Publishing; Revised edition (March 1, 2007)


By William Potter for Reader’s Choice Reviews.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Merryll Manning: The Health Farm Murders by John Howard Reid

Miami Police Sergeant Merryll Manning is on vacation at a health farm in Australia after answering an ad that promises a return to health and happiness. Just what he needed, or so he thought. Merryll's hopes for rest and relaxation are quickly dashed when a fellow guest is found dead.

Available for the first time in North America, this is the second of twelve Merryll Manning books first published in Australia in 1985 by author John Howard Reid. Despite being a sequel, the book reads well as a stand-alone, and there is no need to read the prequel to become accustomed to the character.

Sister Susan's Health Farm is set in fictional Happy Valley, based on Blackheath, in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, Australia. Author Reid introduces a large cast of intriguing characters, each of whom have retreated to the farm for their own unique reasons. His protagonist is no stereotypical detective; Merryll (Merry) Manning is a sophisticated, eccentric policeman rather than the macho, ego-driven cops so common in the mystery genre.

When a retired film exhibitor is found dead and the local police arrive, there is immediate friction between Merryll and police sergeant George Lambert. Lambert's police skills appear limited and Merryll questions the sergeant's ability to solve a homicide. Lambert points the finger of guilt at local thug James "Jimbo" Punter. Merryll suspects the sergeant has a personal bias against Punter and learns Jimbo once had an affair with Lambert's wife.

Another guest is found dead. Merryll turns up clues that put nearly every one of the twelve vacationers, and even the proprietress Susan Delaflore, under suspicion at one time or another in the story. An enormous police manhunt for Punter begins in the vast valley. Meanwhile, the survivors of Sister Susan's farm set out on the final hike of the visit to Pulpit Rock Lookout. The hike is vigorous and dangerous as the author brings all the players together for an epic confrontation, but keeps the reader guessing the true identity of the killer until the final pages.

The author has a knack for scene-painting narrative. His vivid descriptions of the mountain scenery and the simple accommodations of the farm effectively put the reader right in the scene, watching the drama unfold. Mr. Reid has penned a captivating, soft-boiled detective story with a strong main character, a terrific supporting cast, and a plot with twists, turns, and plenty of red herrings. He treats the reader to a tale filled with tension, conflict, and quirky humor. The violence is minimal and there is no foul language.

I highly recommend Merryll Manning: The Health Farm Murders. This is an intelligent, old- fashioned-styled mystery that won't disappoint. Those who love a great whodunit will be hooked. Merryll is a superb hero and this is sure to be an entertaining, enjoyable series.

More "Merry" mysteries please!

John Howard Reid (September 16, 2008)

Reviewed by William Potter for Reader's Choice Reviews

William R. Potter, Basic PLUS Author

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Gone Away Into the Land by Jeffrey B. Allen

The dust jacket text for Gone Away: Into the Land promises an epic fantasy adventure. I can tell you that this is one novel that exceeds expectations. Author Jeffrey B. Allen takes the reader on an adventure that will leave you thinking about the story long after you close the final page.

We meet our protagonist, twelve-year-old John Gerber. John's life is not that of an average pre-teen-not even close. John, his mother Ellie, and his sister Marny live in constant, paralyzing fear of John's father, Daniel. Daniel, or the beast as John calls him, is an extremely volatile man whose rage could explode on his family at any moment-and explode it does. John dreams of ending the beast's reign of terror, of taking his family away before it is too late. The first fifty pages of Part 1 are no fantasy as the author describes in vivid, shocking detail Daniel's unpredictable fury and a horrible example of violent abuse, as the beast leaves John and Ellie beaten and bloodied and kidnaps six-year-old Marny.

With the help of a mysterious taxi driver, John and Ellie begin their search for Marny. This is where the fantasy starts as it is believed that Marny is somewhere in the candy factory where Daniel was employed. Soon John and his mother are aboard a train in an amazing land called ZingZongLand. ZZL is a place that is all about creating the best tasting candy. The leader of the land is called KyaSiftar. The Siftar's main rival is the minister of Southland province named Mengus. Desperate for power, Mengus has his sights set on dominating the land and controlling the new flavor creations. Mengus recruits the beast to aid in his conquest of the Land. He believes that gaining control in the Land is the key to overthrowing the World as well.

Jeffrey B. Allen showcases his considerable imagination and writing talent in creating an entire universe. His lead is a believable, lovable character with which readers young and old will quickly bond. The villains are wonderfully horrible and easy to loathe, without overshadowing the hero. The secondary characters are interesting, fresh and well drawn. The dialogue is crisp and clear and well suited to the vast variety of creatures and peoples. Allen slowly reveals his characters' secrets along the way, keeping the reader captivated throughout. He wastes none of these nearly 500 pages, using suspense and vibrant description to keep the pages turning. He brings all the players together in a David versus Goliath-type showdown for the ages that will have you rooting for John to the end.

Gone Away is building momentum, was recently picked up by a major publisher and was accepted in several school libraries. I believe it will become the next time-tested classic fantasy tale, universally adored and mentioned in the same breath as The Wizard of Oz, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Lord of The Rings. I highly recommend this thought-provoking, entertaining read.

Gone Away Into The Land

Strategic Book Publishing (October 1, 2009)
Gone Away Into The Land
Jeffrey B. Allen

By William R. Potter for Readers' Choice Review

William R. Potter, Basic PLUS Author