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 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

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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 chainsaw 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.

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

Tania Joyce “Propositions”

Propositions - Tania Joyce

Reading involves travel, and if you aren’t from Australia, Propositions, by Tania Joyce, will give you a chance to feel and learn a bit about the “Land Down Under.” The writing isn’t defined by its involvement with the country, but an exotic backdrop always helps. In this romance we are introduced to Nate Somers first, a workaholic British hotelier who lost his wife and child to his inability to be available. We know this man’s character when his young daughter pleads over the phone, “when will I see you, daddy,” and he says, “in a few months.” Which proves money doesn’t buy you any emotional sense.

Propositions heroine, Jessica Mason, has her own ex-lover in the background, and eventually he returns for an encore, but this story centers on Jess and Nate, two budding business associates who dabble in off-hours work together. Jessica knows better, “Like indulging in too much chocolate cake, then feeling guilty, she was riddled with shame. If anyone found out that she’d slept with Nate, especially Alex, they’d be furious. She knew the golden rule not to mix business with pleasure. It always caused problems.”

Of course, everyone knows that rule, but in romance novels, the rule is usually more of a guideline. The plot of the book is leisurely, like going to the bar and hanging with your girlfriend to catch-up on the latest gossip. There’s lots of eating, drinking, and the expected sexy, slow-burn to love-making that the title and book cover promise. There are also the expected twists and bumps in the night (not those) that cause everyone to question their motives and their sanity.

The writing itself is good, usually fluid but occasionally meted out in a staccato fashion. Characters come and go, sometimes only in the usual fashion with some baggage of their own and an occasional idiosyncrasy that delineates them from the plot at hand and the other passengers on this voyage. There is a subtle plot in the background, but this is a book perfect for an evening read or to grab at the bookstore as you surge through the passenger terminal on the way to your air flight. All-in-all, an easy, enjoyable read.

Four Stars

Characters: 16   Honesty: 15   Originality: 15   Plot and Pacing: 14   Storytelling: 17

CHOPS Review total on a scale of 100: 77 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

Emily Kendricks “The Fantasy Maker”

The Fantasy Maker

Reading transports us to another time, another place and another world when the author has the necessary gifts. Fortunately, new author Emily Kendricks does have some straight-forward writing ability. The words don’t come drifting from the page magically, but her intentions are always clear.

In Kendricks’ novel The Fantasy Maker, she lays bare her heroine’s  secret desires for companionship, warmth, and romance, but not until she makes damn sure we don’t have and sympathy for her husband. We get the picture, as the borders of their lives become chipped and frayed. Still, Kendricks saves her full palate of colors for the time that Emma spends with Dante, a young man she meets at a woman’s spa where all her desires can be explored and satisfied. And yes, she’s satisfied, several times.

The exploration is steamy, erotic and charged with passion as Emma not only finds the romantic partner she’s been missing for years in her marriage, but the chemistry is so tight with her new lover. she convinces herself that she’s in love with the well-built and persuasive Dante.

The affair isn’t private, of course, and both Emma and Steve’s life and lifestyle come into question as he embarks on a political career that carries with it a great deal of public scrutiny. As the facts unfold in the press, the novel turns into a sexy crime suspense.

Kendrick’s cast of characters is reasonably drawn and she sprinkles clues like spices to entice the reader to continue enjoying the story and put the pieces together themselves. Near the end, any unanswered questions the readers (or Emma) might have mulled over are spilled like a jar of jellybeans by a bit-player who suddenly gains predominance and feels the need to gloat about his accomplishments, but don’t worry, The Fantasy Maker gives us plenty of fun and fantasy leading up the scene of the crime.

Four Stars

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

CHOPS Review total on a scale of 100: 79 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 Grisham “A Painted House”

12_aPaintedHouse

This isn’t a new novel. Grisham penned this 15-years ago, but his work stands easily against the winds and fortunes of time. That’s the best thing about great literature, it may get bumped to the back of the bus, but the best stories last forever. If you are going to read a good book, a Kindle device is your BFF because it can bring a new companion at a moment’s notice and let you drift away with the melody of the author.

Grisham’s A Painted House is set in the early 1950’s with a backdrop of good weather, good crops, and a good chance that Luke Chandler, all of seven years old, and his family, will make it through another year of farming to put away enough preserves and cash to last the winter.

The arrival of migrant workers turns the story from innocence to agony for Luke, but he’s at an impressionable age. So am I, as I greedily take in every word with a hunger for more. The story is small, the farm is too, and Luke matches it all while still growing into a young adult, and at the same time, this isn’t a young-adult book. It’s a full package. It’s a perfect match of good and evil to suit me and I was devastated when the story ended. Not by the ending, only by the fact that it did end.

The funny thing about this book is that there isn’t much of a plot. There isn’t really a long-winded story, either. This is a complete time capsule. It’s a story about a young man’s life. I won’t give anything else away, but there are scenes and subtle references that prove he took some of that time in his life with him to his 30’s and then transposed them to our lives with the magic of a novel.

If you are looking for a fast-paced, action thriller, this ain’t it. This is a story – beautifully told, about a time I’ve only heard references to, but he blends it well, and there are even baseball events that piqued my interest. What it lacks in pacing and thrills, it makes up for in quality. The writing is wonderful. The ending was slightly disappointing and stunted.

Five Stars

Characters: 20  Honesty: 18  Originality: 16  Plot and Pacing: 18  Storytelling: 19

CHOPS Review total on a scale of 100: 91 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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