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 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 Yelena’s brutal. 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”

COVER-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 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, you’ll want to be able to practice 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 has has 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 team mates. 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, how to play the game, and building up 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”

FreetoGoodHome

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 quite nice to have writing at my fingertips that is clear and precise. 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 plot-line 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

Stone Patrick “The Fallen Body”

The Fallen Body

The Fallen Body is a good, cozy mystery with a legal sidebar to enhance our enjoyment. First-time author Stone Patrick offers-up some small-town Texas flavor, but leaves us hanging occasionally on fairly important things, like the disappearance of someone very close to the protagonist, Taylour Dixxon.

Dixxon is a lawyer with her own small firm in Fallen County, Texas. She handles most things head-on, at work and even at home, where she rolls up her shirt sleeves and takes a chain saw to several offending branches while contemplating her first murder case, involving new acquaintance Sarah Baines. Sarah’s husband has been murdered, and she is arrested at Dixxon’s home, which helps introduce the dashing Texas Ranger who will help solve the case.

Stone’s writing is direct, if not occasionally verbose, and the reader is treated to plenty of dialogue between the characters. The mystery presented takes Dixxon around Texas and then to Newark, New Jersey where she is caught in a very compromising situation by Federal Agents.

After explaining to them who she is, Dixxon is given some very damaging news about her client. To which she replies “I need to clear my head. Do you know any nice beaches where I can just become an anonymous tourist, without a care in the world except whether to sleep on the beach or get a nice massage?” This is obviously one tough cookie,  and one very questionable Federal Agent, who lets her walk away from the crime scene. Interesting.

Four Stars

Characters: 14  Honesty: 16  Originality: 15  Plot and Pacing: 14  Storytelling: 14

CHOPS Review total on a scale of 100: 73 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

Dikombi Gite “Sex, Lies, and a Charter School”

Sex, Lies - Book Cover

The author of Sex, Lies, and a Charter School, Dikombi Gite, has a mission to his writing. He presents his work as a novel, although he alludes to changing the names of characters “to protect the innocent ad the guilty.” Once we gain entry to his world there are no punches pulled and there is no failure to communicate. The charter school highlighted is fraught with restless, uninspired students, teachers and parents. The administration’s financial accounting (used to justify tax dollars spent) is shoddy at best, criminal at worst, and the protagonist, Jacoby White,  watches his dream of teaching and helping the children of his community spiral out of control in less than one year.

Gite is educated and articulate as he provides a narrative through is his character, Jacoby White. We are introduced to the frustrations and fear presented to first year teachers and the confusion and mismanagement presented to students who attend one specific charter school in the Houston, Texas area. Are the issues presented a scathing indictment of our charter school system, our government’s management of the schools, or our society as a whole? Probably all three, unfortunately.

Sex, Lies and a Charter School is worth reading if you believe our school system is fine, your tax dollars are being used wisely, and our children have every chance of gaining the American dream we all want our children to achieve. If you don’t believe those things, well, you are a realist or you’ve already read this book.

Four Stars

Characters: 15  Honesty: 18  Originality: 17  Plot and Pacing: 14  Storytelling: 14

CHOPS Review total on a scale of 100: 78 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

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