Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Micaela Morris in Jo’s Heaven and Other Stories by John Howard Reid

Micaela Morris in Jo’s Heaven and Other Stories John Howard Reid (September 2, 2007)
Reader’s Choice Rating 5 Stars

Micaela Morris in Jo’s Heaven and Other Stories is a rare treat for those who enjoy their fiction short. Fifteen examples of fine fiction, several are first prize writing competition winners, and all are written by author John Howard Reid. The book covers a wide range of genres from romance to fantasy, thrillers, satire, and even science fiction, and of course Mr. Reid’s own brand of quirky humor. Many of the selections feature a spirited character named Micaela Morris, and most are set in Kawbury, Kentucky.

A look at seven of my favorites.

In the title story, Jo’s Heaven, we meet recurring heroine Micaela Morris. Micaela always dreamed of making the 117 mile drive to Jo’s Heaven. She gazed at the sign post on the walk from school every day and imagined a magical, wondrous place. At eighteen, she made the trek herself in time to grant a dying man’s last wish.

Raymond Wright was a poet. Wright and Wrong is set soon after his mother’s passing. Raymond may have ended up with the shorter end of his mother’s estate but his dealings with his sisters and brother inspired some of his most celebrated poems.

Fan-Fan is a white rabbit as well as a short that won a $500 first prize in the 2002 Southern Cross Literary Competition. She’s no ordinary bunny with the run of her home except the computer room, where she enjoys a nibble of the electrical wires.

Changing Times takes the reader to Hedley’s Creek, Australia. The parents of the narrator debate the necessity of an electric stove over the ancient wood burner the mother works on every day to cook for the family. This is a charming tale of how simple technology could bring serious change during the time of the Great Depression.

Micaela returns in Grand Illusions for a bit of sleuthing at the Kawbury Country Club when a club member is assaulted and Micaela is among the suspects. The book’s largest selection was a contest-winning screenplay before being offered here in story form.
A futuristic departure from the mainly present day set selections is the science fiction piece Simon the Seer. Simon’s life is threatened while broadcasting his once enormously popular Prophecies of Tomorrow TV program.

Miss Morris makes her final appearance in the closing story, Singing Fool. Micaela, the former country club official, turned P.I. and celebrity bodyguard, tests her vocal chops in a Gilbert and Sullivan Revival.

Micaela Morris in Jo’s Heaven and Other Stories is a perfect coffee break companion. Savour a story a day for three weeks while you enjoy the escape from the grind in these well-crafted, entertaining selections. The collection is strong throughout as the author has a knack for capturing reader interest quickly, holding that interest, and for developing his endearing characters efficiently and with memorable effect. Highly recommended for short fiction enthusiasts.

Reviewed by William Potter for Reader’s Choice Book Reviews

Available at in print and e-book/Kindle

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Lodestone: Book One-The Sea of Storms by Mark Whiteway

Lodestone: Book One-The Sea of Storms Mark Whiteway Publishing (April 12, 2010)
Reader’s Choice Rating 4 Stars.

On a planet known as Kelanni the people live under the cruel thumb of a dictator. The people are enslaved to mine a resource called “Lodestone.” An unlikely band form an uneasy alliance to overthrow their oppressor, free the slaves, and thus save the world. Mystery and magic, adventure and more are all for the taking in Lodestone: Book One-The Sea of Storms by Mark Whiteway.

Kelanni is peppered with constant meteor showers. The meteorites, or lodestones, possess a wide range of powers from being explosive to enabling a person to fly. Ruling Kelanni is “the Prophet.” The Prophet has learned to manipulate the lodestone and, through his highly trained Keltar knights, controls the Kelanni people through violence. Oppressing an entire world takes a great deal of lodestone and thus many Kelanni are taken from their families as slaves to mine the ore. For most Kelanni, this is just the way of things—serve the prophet and live in fear of the Keltar—with the possibility of being enslaved always looming.

Lyall will live this way no longer and along with his endearing friend, Alondo, is set on overthrowing the Prophet. During an attack on a Keltar, Lyall meets a young woman named Shann. Shann has her own reasons for wishing the end of the Prophet’s reign. Lyall teaches Shann his knowledge of lodestone, the source of Keltar’s power, and the two form a tight friendship.

Keris is one of the most skilled Keltar, groomed and trained since childhood to be ruthless in her duties. For some time, she has quietly questioned her beliefs. She is rescued by strange creatures called Chandara after an attack by a giant bird. Through Boxx, a Chandara, Keris learns the true nature of the Prophet and his evil plans. Keris is charged with stopping Lyall and his band of Rebels; instead she joins them in their journey. Together they must cross the Great Barrier of Storms, something never before accomplished. But first they must endure the pursuit of Keltar, countless monsters, dangerous terrain, and mistrust of a former Keltar turned traitor.

Author Mark Whiteway has created a universe with amazing technology, horrible monsters, and fascinating characters. The heroes are well drawn and I immediately bonded with their plight. The scene painting narrative drew me in and I felt as though I was right there battling along with Shann and her friends. There is more than enough conflict and suspense to keep the pages turning. In fact, as I read I was increasingly enthralled—my reading pace increased as I was eager to find out how this one turned out—only to be let down when the book just ended, leaving things up in the air. I understand the author’s need to set up the series; however, the fact that Book One doesn’t stand alone was disappointing.

I recommend Lodestone Book One: The Sea of Storms to readers who enjoy Sci-Fi/Fantasy and are looking for an entertaining, well-crafted new series in the genre.

Available at

Reviewed by William Potter for Reader’s Choice Book Reviews

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Book Review: Travels with Gannon and Wyatt: Botswana by Patti Wheeler and Keith Hemstreet

Travels with Gannon and Wyatt: Botswana Patti Wheeler and Keith Hemstreet
Claim Stake Publishing, LLC (2010)

Come face-to-face with a family of white rhinos, survive a crocodile attack, watch amazed as a herd of Cape buffaloes 500 strong strolls by your tent, all while you attempt to save an injured lioness and her cubs. This is all in a day’s adventure for the Wheeler boys in Travels with Gannon and Wyatt: Botswana by Patti Wheeler and Keith Hemstreet.

Told through the journal entries of fifteen-year-old Gannon and Wyatt Wheeler, this story is geared to 8 to 12-year-old readers and could also be read to and enjoyed by a younger audience. I was impressed by these two young explorers who have a deep respect for the people and culture of Africa, and who make an effort to learn and use the local language. The authors have interspersed factual information about the Kalahari Bushmen and the Okavango Delta, etc.

The Wheelers travel to Maun, Botswana and then on to the Kalahari Desert. At camp they meet their guide, Chocs, and are soon set off on safari. The Wheelers have a frightening meeting with a rhino family as this exciting story begins. At the Bushmen or San People’s village, the boys interact with the villagers and learn how this ancient culture survives without running water or the simplest technology.

Gannon hears from a bushman that a lioness mother of four cubs has been shot by a poacher. Gannon becomes instantly wound up. His commitment to help the lioness is contagious and soon preparations are made to travel to the Delta to find her. The Wheeler parents allow Gannon and Wyatt to travel to the Delta with Chocs and the bushman hunter.

The Okavango Delta is a wondrous and hazardous place with many predators and disease-carrying insects. There is no shortage of peril in close encounters with lions, snakes, crocodiles, and more. The Wheeler boys quickly learn that a careless mistake could cost them their lives. After several close calls, they discover the most dangerous predator of all is an armed man who will stop at nothing to continue his illegal animal parts enterprise.

Authors Wheeler and Hemstreet have done an outstanding job of combining education with page-turning adventure. Gannon and Wyatt are intriguing young men – well spoken and intelligent with a passion for the environment, conservation and wildlife. There is enough suspense and danger to keep even the most fickle reader enthralled. The scenery is so well described that I was immediately drawn in and expecting a herd of wildebeest to charge through my living room. Children today have so many distractions from TV and the Internet. I highly recommend you give your child Travels with Gannon and Wyatt: Botswana and let the world be your son or daughter’s classroom.

My hard copy included a high quality DVD with breathtaking video of the desert and delta, and informative interviews with the boys.

By William Potter for Reader’s Choice Book Reviews.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Paris, Moi and the Gang: A Memoir…of Sorts by Frances Gendlin

Paris, Moi and the Gang: A Memoir…of Sorts Frances Gendlin
Summertime Publications, Incorporated (January 20, 2010)

Paris, Moi and the Gang is part faux memoir, part travel guide, and part romance novel and is absolutely entertaining. Frances Gendlin is a veteran travel author; she writes with a friendly, conversational style that will quickly have you feeling like you and she are old friends.

The story is told from protagonist Frances’ point-of-view as she researches and writes her latest Paris guide. Paris, Moi and the Gang follows an eclectic group of friends affectionately known as the Gang. This group of American Expatriates truly cares about and supports each other through the successes and failures of daily life in “the city of light.” The gang’s number grows and shrinks as members travel abroad or return from stints in the US. There’s Caroline, the historian, who is researching the history of famous Americans who lived in Paris for her own book; and Sandra, the divorced pianist, and a connoisseur of everything Parisienne from the shopping to the men. Men are not left out of this club and we meet the recent widower, wine aficionado and master of high finance, Richard. Paul and Klaus are the self-professed Oldest Queens in Paris. “The boys” have an endearing uncles-niece type relationship with Frances and are never far when needed for advice on men, failed relationships, and the best spots to lunch. The chain-smoking Alice and her husband, the crusty Findlay, who have called Paris home for over 60 years, round out the circle.

Life in Paris appears simple enough; write a little, greet friends with a warm kiss, sit down for great food, wine and conversation at a wonderful locale. However, as Frances often remarks, “everything in Paris is an event.” Gendlin shows how seemingly simple tasks like sorting out a cell phone glitch or having new house keys cut become a prolonged adventure sure to test even the most reserved temper, as customer service is non-existent. This is where the guide portion of the book shines as Gendlin gives helpful hints for dealing with cashiers, repairmen, and shop owners in procedures differing from that in the States. Throughout the book are sidebars containing a wealth of useful hints, history, and advice. From the best cheese, bread, and wine, to a unique recipe for scrambled eggs with truffles, to a full restaurant guide and a helpful look at accents.

Frances has an appreciation for living in Paris and a romance, so to speak, with the city, not that she doesn’t see her fair share of attention from men. She picks her male “projects” and then goes with the flow as events unfold as they may, much like she does everyday.

From this book, I take away a belief that visiting Paris for a few weeks of vacation is like taking a single sip of a fine wine; you get a nice taste but not the full experience. Whether Paris, Moi and the Gang is fiction or memoir, it is an exceptional book with characters and scenery so well written and described that you are captivated from the first chapter and your interest is held until the final pages. Anyone contemplating a move to life in Paris must read this book. Think of it as a test-drive! This book is easy to enjoy; if you add it to your summer reading list, it won’t disappoint.

Highly Recommend by William Potter for Reader’s Choice Book Reviews

Available in print and ebook/kindle at

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Passion Fish by Alison Oburia and Jessica McQuinn

Passion Fish
Alison Oburia and Jessica McQuinn
Omnific Publishing; 1st edition (February 16, 2010)
Readers Choice Rating 5 Stars

Authors Alison Oburia and Jessica McQuinn’s Passion Fish takes us into a world of romance and suspense. Museum curator Eve Carwyn finally leaves her abusive boyfriend, Justin Meadows, to start a new life. The night before going on an important business trip to Boston, her best friends and business colleagues convince her to play a game at the local bar. Passion Fish is a game of chance where a few men are chosen to give Eve the perfect passionate kiss. In the meantime, her ex-boyfriend Justin wants her back, and does everything he can to do so. All her friends, including her sexy neighbor, do their best to protect Eve from her abusive ex.

Will Prentiss is on a business trip in Santa Barbara. While enjoying an evening away from work at the local bar, he is chosen to play Passion Fish and gives Eve the most passionate kiss she ever had. Yet, he never imagined when he first spotted her in the crowd the wonderful connection they had between them. Will wants Eve but he plays it safe, especially when he finds out her ex-boyfriend caused the bruises on her neck.

A second kiss from a stranger awakens in Eve a desire she hadn’t felt in a long while, and she wants to find him so he can kiss her again. “Suddenly the crowd roared again. And then Eve felt him. He stood in front of her and touched his hands to her shoulders, caressing them gently, letting his hands run down her arms slowly and back again.”

From the opening scene to the satisfying end, this book is a real page turner filled with sexy love scenes, a good dose of romance, and suspense. Anyone who likes a good thrilling romance, this book is for you. The authors succeed in bringing us into Eve Carwyn’s world and making us want the heroine to find true love with sexy businessman, Will Prentiss. My favorite part of the book is when Will brings Eve out of the rain and back to his apartment. Their physical attraction is obvious. They share a passionate moment. But we can sense Eve isn’t ready to fall in love with him.

The story is well-written. The love scenes are sweet and sexy. Although the story is well told, the switch of points of view can be sometimes distracting. Aside from that, the story flows. Highly recommended.

By Jackie M. Smith for Reader’s Choice Book Reviews

Passion Fish

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Immoral Thoughts and Eternal Poems by Bennett W. McLoughlin

Immoral Thoughts & Eternal Poems Bennett W. McLoughlin
Orphic Press (2010)
200 pages

Immoral Thoughts & Eternal Poems by Bennett W. McLoughlin is a modern poetry collection offering readers a window to the poet’s life experiences. He shows us his pain without evoking pity, his belief in God without preaching, and his triumphs without arrogance. By the end of a book we have a better understanding of who the artist is through his shared hopes and dreams, successes and failures, and most importantly, we see his personal growth.

The book is divided into six parts with 175 titles, each penned between 2001 and 2009. In Part 1: Immoral Thoughts the selections feature rhyme and a younger man questioning his world. In “Heaven” he writes Ever since the age of seven I wondered if on top of clouds existed heaven. In another Part 1 favorite, “Life’s Wardrobe,” the author notes something we all realize as we mature, what I want to change doesn’t, who I don’t expect to does.

“Emptiness and Cheap Thrills”is, for me, one of the strongest selections in the book. It is also the title of Part 2. The poem shows a man ready to cast youth aside and meet new challenges. He writes, enter the realm of possibility, by eliminating the negativity, identifying and overtaking obstacles, actively seeking new opportunities. Serious events are topics in Part 2, such as an apparent suicide in “Still Here.” Then, on the lighter side, he examines the confusion over the inconsistent actions of the opposite sex in “She’s So Mysterious.”

McLoughlin draws on his darker side in writing Part 3: Death of a Poet. In “Tower of Stone” he pens Love is hanging out of reach, as madness comes to touch me, the demons have been unleashed. There is evidence of a man aware of his own mortality in “Death Under Fire” and perhaps considering a need for change in “Diagnostic” where he says, Sinking this ship down and taking with me the good, the bad, and everything else. McLoughlin seems to cast this gloom aside in “Where Does Darkness Go?” where he states, I will sign off on this darkness, until I find a use for it.

In Part 4: Everything In Between, I saw a return to optimism. In “Strange Sky” he says, Under the promise of a new moon, I have nothing to worry about. Other highlights in this part are “11th Hour (Who Knows?),” “Unfulfillment,” “Semolina,” and “This Year’s Model” making Part 4 for me the strongest group of the six.

In Part 5: Somewhere, I found my favorite of the collection, “Dark Tendrils.” This selection shows personal awareness as the author tips his hat to where he finds himself in life. He states, Death, fear and desire don’t inspire urgency. I believe we all would like to come to a point in life where this line becomes true.

In Part Six: Ecstatic Days, the final chapter is another choice selection called “Emily.” For me, the author could be welcoming readers into his world and into his wonderful book when he wrote, we have everything in common-my heart is open so come on in. Immoral Thoughts and Eternal Poems is a journal of McLoughlin’s everyday struggles over almost ten years. The compilation captivates with vibrant description and remarkable imagination. It is impossible not to identify with this diverse work. You’ll laugh, feel a sense of sadness, love, spirituality, loss and more as the author touches on life’s every emotion through his personal evolution.

Highly Recommended. 5 Stars

Available at

Reviewed by William Potter for Reader’s Choice Book Reviews