Rainbow Gardens: Some Wars Never End

rainbow-gardens-book-coverRainbow Gardens by James Malone is more than a World War II epic, it’s a mixture of historical fiction, fantasy and social remembrance of things  that went right, and things that went wrong in the past. And, just as our service men and women made a commitment to defend our country, readers must make a commitment to the size of this novel: 614 pages.

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t likely to be a book you struggle through, it’s just a whopper. Had the author split the book into two parts, most readers would have been happy to purchase the second half after finishing the first.

Personally, I was surprised by the content after seeing just the cover. I don’t read the blurbs and notes by the author, I just start reading, so imagine my surprise when the story starts with a troll named Franco who is struggling through the New Mexico desert trying to make it back to his cave. Hmmm.

So, if you think this is all about war and destruction, think again. The story is much larger than that. This is life, the world of the early 1900’s, where it when wrong, where we could learn from mistakes to make it right. It’s about people, beliefs, attitudes, prejudices – and the foolishness of man as seen through the troll’s eyes – and those who would set the tone and attitudes of the future.

I can’t help but think that many readers of fantasy and science fiction might pass this book by, viewing the book as just a World War II story. That’s a pity.


Characters: 17 Honesty: 17 Originality: 20 Plot and Pacing: 16 Storytelling: 16

CHOPS Review total on a scale of 100: 86 Points

Star grading: up to 19 points = 1 star, 20-39 points = 2 stars, 40-59 points = 3 starts, 60-79 points = 4 stars, 80-100 points= 5 stars

Joey Costa’s Law


Henry Simpson’s sixth Joey Costa novel is a revelation. Mostly because this fast-paced novel takes us back fifteen years to a time when Joey was finishing college, well before his exploits got us hooked on the character and forced us to turn the pages as quickly as possible!

The best part of this work is seeing the character development of Joey Costa.He’s still getting his feet wet, hasn’t hit his stride, but the clues to his life are there to glean from the pages.

Joey is lingering between college and law school and literally bounces into a job at a Hollywood nightclub. A not very safe club with many colorful Hollywood characters including drug dealers, bikers, pretty dancers, hookers, and of course his employers, the Carbone family. They aren’t connected; they are the connection.

There are many characters, so they aren’t always as developed as one might want, but the main characters are, and therefore you get Joey, the prequel, and we now know him well!


Characters: 17 Honesty: 17 Originality: 18 Plot and Pacing: 17 Storytelling: 17

CHOPS Review total on a scale of 100: 86 Points

Star grading: up to 19 points = 1 star, 20-39 points = 2 stars, 40-59 points = 3 starts, 60-79 points = 4 stars, 80-100 points= 5 stars


Matthew Milam II “The Jesus Command”

The Jesus Command - cover

On any given Sunday, church-goers can listen to sermons on what the bible says and how to interpret its passages, and for readers, Matthew Milam II offers his interpretation of just what Jesus left us through his teachings.Matthew Milam II is a deacon serving on the pastoral staff of South Side Gospel Church and is the founder of Hands of God Ministries and his book The Jesus Command is an examination of the underlying basis for Discipleship and the starting point for Christian living.

“Love one another, as I have loved you; …By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples…” (John 13:34-35 NIV). That’s the basis of Milam’s model for individual study of The New Testament. He starts with the words Jesus left with the 11 men of His inner circle after the departure of Judas, explaining that “Jesus didn’t mince words” with his disciples, he gave them powerful, specific commands, but even to this day, some followers have difficulty understanding His words.

What Milam gives us is a condensed look at passages of the bible, how they affect us all in our day to day lives, and how our ability to live peacefully with one another could literally change the world. The Jesus Command is well-written and laid out for the reader, providing guidance, inspiration and much to ponder as we gather more insight into His words.

For people who have never read the bible, Milam’s bible companion is an excellent start, giving readers an understanding of what Jesus was saying to his disciples and what they left mankind to try and grasp in our own lives.

Four Stars

Anne Kelleher “Protecting Donald Trump”

Protecting Donald Trump Cover shot

Anne Kelleher has a new release in her Celebrity Supernatural group called Protecting Donald Trump. It’s a strange mixture of teen-angst and supernatural fun, although the main character, Yelena, is actually a 23-year old woman. Kind of.

As with Kelleher’s other Celebrity Supernatural book, this novella isn’t really all about Donald Trump, any more than Walking with Elvis is about Elvis Presley. Kelleher just kind of conjures them up in each story. But this one is different from the rest. Perhaps because of Yelena’s brutality. She’s stinky and sloppy and strangely vulnerable for someone who thinks constantly of hunting rabbits and squirrels in Central Park. And not with a gun. You see, Elena has a little issue with Lycanthropy, and being a werewolf isn’t what she wanted to be when she grew up. Silly girl.

Although Elena is annoyingly brash and her speech is peppered with profanity, you do accept her for what she is: one of the biggest misfits in a whole town of misfits. And, the harsh characterization of her very words draws us to want more from this woman-child-wolf. What we get is a hard-boiled type of ‘40’s detective hired to stop an attack on The Donald. Weird.

Kelleher, meanwhile, gets top grades for characterization and telling us immediately and intensely, just how tough life is as a funny, satirical woman scratching fleas. Alright, there are no fleas, but this chick has got issues! End game – this is a good read. You’ll be sorry later if you miss it.

Five Stars

Characters: 20 Honesty: 18 Originality: 18 Plot and Pacing: 17 Storytelling: 17

CHOPS Review total on a scale of 100: 90 Points

Star grading: up to 19 points = 1 star, 20-39 points = 2 stars, 40-59 points = 3 starts, 60-79 points = 4 stars, 80-100 points= 5 stars

John A Heldt “The Mine”


John A. Heldt is an imaginative writer. He takes us on a visual tour of his character’s surroundings and floods our senses with colorful descriptions. Some of which are important for later reference. I was very intrigued by the main question of the story, which is: what would you do if you found yourself in another place and time, in love, and then found out you were able to return home? Yeah, that’s a toughie.

No author is perfect, and I was frustrated by a few stumbling blocks, such as the beginning of the novel where two college buddies devour their meals, including a pastie and a 24-ounce porterhouse, hit the road for almost an hour, and then synchronize their watches to 11:35am. No, the times don’t match up, unless they entered the steakhouse at 8:00am. Sorry, I can’t let that pass, it irks me. Fortunately for us, Mr. Heldt’s story is easily strong enough to ignore what is actually a minor glitch that probably doesn’t bother anyone but me. And then it gets really good.

Although The Mine starts with college buddies Joel and Adam at a diner, the turn-back-the-clock happens quickly, and Joel finds himself abandoned and alone after exploring an old mine. It takes a while before he realizes everything has changed. He’s gone back 60-years to a time when his cell phone isn’t of much use. Since Joel is fairly bright and fairly sure of himself, he takes no time bemoaning his new fate because he’s always ready for another adventure.

The pacing of the story is just right and you don’t have to wait very long for the next event to capture your interest. Descending into the past brings Joel to a new appreciation for life and love, and those he meets have importance to his future, whether he says buried in the past, or finds a way home. For readers, each person in the book is important and has a character and persona of their own. That’s important for any book and doubly important here.

Five Stars

Characters: 17  Honesty: 16  Originality: 16  Plot and Pacing: 17  Storytelling: 17

CHOPS Review total on a scale of 100: 83 Points

Star grading: up to 19 points = 1 star, 20-39 points = 2 stars, 40-59 points = 3 starts, 60-79 points = 4 stars, 80-100 points= 5 stars

Ron Johnson “True Blackjack”

True Blackjack cover

The whole premise of True Blackjack is that if you take the time to learn the game of 21, you’ll want to be able to exercise your craft “without being detected.” Author Ron Johnson tells a powerful story about the heady craziness that goes with winning thousands of dollars, drinking, doing drugs and feeling totally bullet-proof while becoming a winning blackjack player. His journey from neophyte to expert wasn’t a cakewalk. In fact, it swung radically from mind-numbing to dangerous. That’s the fun part of the book.

The not-as-fun part of the book is his explanation of the many, many intricacies of the game that may or may not appeal to all readers, but are still part of his story. He weaves his own training (on the job, as it were) into the narrative and lets everyone know what he did well, and where he dropped the ball. Yup, he fumbled a lot.

In the final analysis, Johnson spent his life playing a game he loves while avoiding the dreaded words uttered by Pit Bosses: “You can’t play here anymore.” Johnson’s writing is of a somewhat relaxed quality with an enjoyable story that mirrors his training, playing (winning and losing) and his relationships with his teammates. Even if you don’t want to be a professional blackjack player you’ll get a lot out of his adventurers through the casinos of Las Vegas and other places.

And, if you are contemplating the adventure of high-caliber blackjack, this book will give you plenty to grow with, including chapters for beginners on how to play the game, and then following with how to playing basic strategy, card counting, and the best ways to avoid being 86’ed.

Five Stars

Characters: 16  Honesty: 20  Originality: 17  Plot and Pacing: 17  Storytelling: 17

CHOPS Review total on a scale of 100: 87 Points

Star grading: up to 19 points = 1 star, 20-39 points = 2 stars, 40-59 points = 3 starts, 60-79 points = 4 stars, 80-100 points= 5 stars

Anne Kelleher “Free to Good Home”


Anne Kelleher has been writing and publishing for 20-years, but at this point, she has come full circle from the mass market paperback crowd of her first book (Anne Kelleher Bush – Daughter of Prophecy). That novel centered on a dystopian fantasy world with well-defined but complicated rules, rituals, and surroundings. Apparently, she has gone minimalist, and it’s quite refreshing.

Kelleher’s Free to Good Home is a collection of short stories (the book itself is nearly 200 pages). The stories are little tidbits, perfect for snacking on during a spell in the hot tub, or before bed. The writing is crisp and clear, with just enough description and plenty of flavor to keep you interested and turning the pages.

Each story has its own twists and presents the “what-if’s” of Kelleher’s imagination and prey on our own slightly unnerved acceptance of the world around us, and what’s to come. Maybe. Half of the stories are devoted to what she titles Celebrity Supernatural, and it’s nice to read such clear and precise writing. Her stories are well-constructed and fun to read.

There is a drawback to each story, unfortunately. They end. The first, titled as the book, Free to Good Home, takes us to an undetermined time in the future where old age is viewed quite differently than now, or maybe it isn’t. We just don’t talk about it over dinner and drinks.

The story’s plotline is well past the “Now that your days are dwindling to a precious few, spend them with us, at Shuffleboard City.” No. This is a time where adoption is for the aged, not the young. The problem is that I wanted to take the story and run with it. Take it with me. Take it to full-spread and 250 pages, but alas, it ends too quickly, just as our own lives do. Life’s short. Enjoy good writing. Kelleher’s collection of stories in Free to a Good Home is a good investment of your time.

Five Stars

Characters: 16 Honesty: 17 Originality: 19 Plot and Pacing: 17 Storytelling: 18

CHOPS Review total on a scale of 100: 87 Points

Star grading: up to 19 points = 1 star, 20-39 points = 2 stars, 40-59 points = 3 starts, 60-79 points = 4 stars, 80-100 points= 5 stars