THE BONES OF ODIN by David Leadbetter [The “Matt Drake” Series]

Making a realistic and reasonable action story out of an incredulous plot takes a very deft hand. David Leadbetter has done this in spades with “The Bone of Odin.” The action is everything you want with none of the usual tangents into boring descriptions of weaponry – people shoot with guns, cut with knives and rappel with (okay, fairly fancy) ropes. He brings together a cast of characters who each have distinct and separate but well-defined personalities and none of them are larger than life or superhuman. Quite the contrary. They come with foibles, fears, worries, families and all the rest of the baggage that adheres to humanity.

If you want a fun, exciting, well-written book to hold you enthralled for several hours and make you forget everything else going on in your life – just for a little while – this is the book.

I can’t wait to start on the next Matt Drake adventure.

Hats off to David Leadbetter!


BE NOW BUDDY WHAT by Dan Spencer


Using the premise of a man who fell to earth with no identity, no clothes and no injuries, Dan Spencer highlights the foibles of our society as the man’s story becomes well-known throughout the world. He is examined by “experts,” interrogated by the government, subjected to every medical test known to man, and everything shows he is a completely healthy, normal human male, with no brain injury to cause his amnesia, but he is finally allowed to go his own way, since no one can find any reason to hold him. Told through the initially skeptical, cynical view of a small-town reporter who befriends this strange person (who becomes known as “Buddy What” through a humorous set of misunderstandings), the story is the journey of an innocent trying to get a message across to the people of the world that life can be simpler and better than it is for most, if each person chooses to look at life as philosophers have been suggesting for untold ages: live in the now. Of course, that is an over-simplification, as Buddy What has any number of ideas on how to help people be happier and has a peculiar, almost “homespun” way of articulating his ideas. This causes no end of ludicrous groups (of the tin-foil-hat-wearing variety) to form around single, mostly misunderstood, aphorisms publicized by the relentless press presence surrounding Buddy.

Buddy What is not a preacher or a prophet; he is not trying to cash in on his notoriety or exploit his unique situation. Buddy is a man who has no idea where he came from, what his name is, how he ended up falling through the atmosphere to land in Minot, North Dakota, but he feels he has a message to share with the human race. Our intrepid reporter feels he must take Buddy under his wing to prevent the usual cast of characters from exploiting Buddy for their own personal gain — which, of course, many attempt. Buddy learns of the unique phenomenon called “a cult of personality” and assiduously tries to avoid becoming the subject of one, to no avail. He becomes an internet sensation immediately and the more he tries to get people to see him as he is, the more they see in him what they expect — expectations that are doomed to be unrealized. Typically, people hear what they want to hear, believe what they want to believe, expect miracles on demand, but Buddy refuses to be pigeon-holed. He and the reporter travel the country, meeting people in their homes who have invited Buddy to have conversations with them and their friends… as long as that is possible which, of course, is not long enough.

Even though written with a certain amount of tongue-in-cheek humor, there is a great deal of Valentine Michael Smith in Buddy and his story. “Be Now, Buddy What” is definitely worth reading since it manages to illuminate our more venal tendencies without demonizing any particular group, but also suggests we are all capable of being more than we realize if we pay attention to how we think and reflect on ourselves.

BEYOND SANCTUARY by Janet Morris [First of The Sacred Band “Beyond” novels]

Beyond Sanctuary was the first authorized novel spinoff from the “Thieves’ World(r)” series in the mid-1980s. This is an absolutely beautiful Author’s Cut release with some new material and revisions the author had wanted to make for a couple of decades, and a gorgeous new cover! This represents the first new release in the “Beyond” series – Beyond the Veil and Beyond Wizardwall will also be released over the next year or so.  Beyond Sanctuary begins the “Beyond” series with Tempus and the Sacred Band leaving Sanctuary to travel to Tyse, join with allies from the earlier war in which Tempus helped overthrow the ruler of Ranke, and then assault the mages ruling from Wizardwall who hold three countries hostage to their powers. There is great action involved and viewpoints from both the Sacred Band and the mages and witches, making this a truly riveting book you do not want to put down. The ethos of the Sacred Band is explored and described on a basic level, and some of the continuing characters in the Sacred Band stories begin to come into their own. An excellent read with more to come!

Highly recommended.

STRANDED by Anne Bishop, Anthony Francis and James Alan Gardner

STRANDED by Anne Bishop, Anthony Francis and James Alan Gardner

Three thought-provoking, short stories of young people stranded in some manner in space.  Each story features situations that have to be dealt with by the teens/young adults who have been placed in charge of their lives in various ways, whether intentionally or not.

One is a “city-ship” from earth charged with atoning for the devastation visited on other species by humans, millennia in the past.  This takes the form of carefully seeding other planets with everything needed to establish a balanced ecology from single-celled creatures to large, animals and everything they need to survive, using advanced technology which the people of the ship can no longer create.  Each successive generation is trained to take over these tasks from the previous generation of adults… but technology can’t last forever and all things come to an end.

One is an exploration ship on which the adults and many young people were stricken with a terrible disease and died, leaving a bare few children and teenagers to operate the ship as they grow up and try to figure out how to deal with a closed society, lacking any helpful instructions or ideas, as the ship voyages on, looking for a port where they can find help.

One is the story of a teenage girl who awakens by herself in a medical facility with no idea how she got there or where the rest of the people have gone.  She must find her own way through the facility and try to find help, but encounters an unimaginable reality that she discovers is all too real and she, along with many other sleeping humans, are about to be destroyed by the human race because they are “infected” with an alien plague.

Three very different situations imagined by these excellent writers.  Each story is brilliantly written without condescending to the age group it showcases.  If you know a teenager who thinks “sci-fi” is for old fuddy-duddies, give them “Stranded” and see how the feel after they read it!  I definitely recommend this set of short stories to young adult and other readers who enjoy YA.

I was given a free copy of this work by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.  This will be posted on Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, LibraryThing and my blog at

THIRTY ROOMS TO HIDE IN by Luke Longstreet Sullivan

THIRTY ROOMS TO HIDE IN by Luke Longstreet Sullivan

Luke Sullivan is one of six sons of Dr. Charles Roger Sullivan, who led the Mayo Clinic Orthopedic Surgery section in the 1950s and -60s.  He chronicles the odyssey of his family as Dr. Sullivan descends slowly but surely into the nightmare of alcoholism, dragging his wife, Mary, and their children through the madness and horror.  This is a brutally honest narrative of growing up in the insanity that develops around an alcoholic parent.  The medical community’s “knowledge” of alcoholism then was based on a lack of information, false assumptions and the societal paradigm wherein a husband and father had “most favored status” in family life, both legal and personal.  Among most men of that era, there was a “club” mentality of protecting and covering for all members, accepting their excuses for bad behavior, favoring them in family disputes, discounting wives and other family members words, thus condoning the behavior and facilitating its continuance.

Luke Sullivan illustrates the love and humor in the lives of his siblings and parents, with descriptions of the hilarious antics of the brothers reminiscent of Jean Kerr’s “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies” as they do stupid, dangerous, creative, things in their thirty-room home and on the several acres surrounding it.  He shows how each family member develops in the armed camp atmosphere of their dysfunctional family over the years and how the brothers both bond together and isolate while dealing with their father’s alcoholism.  Some activities were seriously dangerous (!) but they managed to survive their own childhood and become successful, well-adjusted adults.

The real hero was Mary Sullivan who learned to protect and raise her sons in as loving and healthy a way possible, despite the constantly deteriorating personal climate of their lives.  A highly intelligent, erudite woman who maintained her sanity through a lifetime correspondence with her father, her only source of emotional support, Mary strove to protect her children from their father’s verbal/emotional abuse, including  taking all six and going to a motel to spend the night as Dr. Sullivan’s drinking became more out of control.

Luke Sullivan is a true “insider” who not only did exhaustive research about how each person in the family felt and responded to the stress in their lives, but who writes as one who has learned pretty much everything known about the disease of alcoholism.  He writes without bitterness or anger at the cards he and his family were dealt and paints a poignant picture of their struggles and triumphs, with honesty and love, including the description of his father as a brilliant, dedicated, driven man striving to improve knowledge in his field for the betterment of all, who suffered from a devastating disease that ruined his life and destroyed his relationships with family, friends and colleagues.

The story of this highly personal subject, without blaming or whining about the injustice of it all, is well-written and admirable.  I highly recommend this book to anyone — not just those whose lives have been touched or scarred by alcoholism.  “Thirty Rooms to Hide In” is a testament to the strength of the human spirit to overcome adversity, quietly compelling and inspiring.

I thank the publisher for providing me a free copy in exchange for a review.  I will post it on Amazon, B&N, Goodreads, LibraryThing and my blog at

FAT PROFITS, by Bruce Bradley

FAT PROFITS, by Bruce Bradley

For a first novel, this book is extremely well-written with very well-defined characters.  Even though, as the author points out in his final comments, this is complete fiction, it still describes the mind-set of  corporate upper echelon individuals in a very incisive way. He describes the behavior and attitudes of the higher-ups in the company where his protagonist is employed with absolutely accuracy in the “up or out” corporate environment.

There is well-written, realistic action and a great build-up to the final denouement.  The characters have the attributes and foibles of actual people – no “Mary Sues” in sight.

Even though this is a work of fiction, there is a great deal of actual information contained in the book about how our national food supply is treated by the corporations that provide it and the cutthroat atmosphere of competition between huge, multi-national entities.

I recommend FAT PROFITS  as a good and intense thriller that will actually inform the reader while keeping them entertained with edge-of-your-seat action right up until the very end!

I will post this review on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Library Thing when the book is available for purchase since I don’t believe I can post a review of a book that is not for sale.  I will also publish this review on my blog at

Disclaimer:  I received a review copy of this book free of charge in return for writing a review.

DARKBEAT, by James Solo

DARKBEAT, by James Solo

A professional drummer of some note is dragged from his car and attacked violently by a police officer in a case of mistaken identity.  This is witnessed by his wife and many bystanders.  As a martial arts student, the drummer feels he should have been able to do something to defend himself and develops a severe case of depression over his “emasculation” and becomes impotent with his wife, develops writers block when he desperately needs to be writing lyrics for a new album, and, in general, feels that he has been singled out for humiliation by the universe.

He and his wife go to a resort in Cuba for a winter vacation to see if that will help clear up this debilitating condition.  The drummer is introduced to the practice of Santeria (even though it is illegal and must be practiced in hidden, out-of-the-way locations) by the resort director, and becomes obsessed by the feeling of power he experiences during the rites. After having extensive discussions with the resort director, a psychiatrist who is running this resort because the government says he must, the drummer returns to Canada and studies everything he can find on the subject of Santeria.

The more he learns about Santeria, his obsession with the power he felt during the ceremony increases, and he begins to practice the rites in secret.  He experiences blackouts where he comes to himself in odd places having no idea what he is doing there or what has happened in the time since he was last aware of himself. He also exhibits radical personality shifts from his “normal” self to a violent, unreasoning persona.

As his behavior becomes more and more bizarre and violent, his wife contacts the resort director who has traveled to Toronto for a meeting of psychiatrists from around the world and the man is surprised and concerned that the drummer has become obsessed, even though he is the one who introduced the drummer to Santeria and had many intense, detailed conversation with him while he and his wife were at the resort.

This seemed to be disingenuous and I kept waiting to find out that the resort director was, in fact, a devotee of Santeria but denying his role to the wife for ulterior purposes. Not so.  For some reason he is depicted as genuinely concerned and astonished at the change the drummer’s wife describes of her husband’s behavior.  I found it odd that the writer would portray this character, who was instrumental in introducing the drummer to this voodoo-like religion, even giving him supposedly “sacred” stones used in rites for decades, to be suddenly baffled by the drummer’s continued obsession with Santeria after returning home. Due to his schedule at the convention, he is never able to meet with the wife or the drummer and tragedy results.

With the exception of the jarring note of the inexplicable response from the resort director/psychiatrist, the book is well-written and carries the continually heightening tension of the obsession well through the entire book.  It certainly works as a horror story and even has a surprise disastrous ending! For true horror fans, “DarkBeat” is well worth the price.  They will enjoy figuring out why the book is titled as it is.

Per agreement with the provider, I was given a copy of this book free in exchange for a review.  I will post this review on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, LibraryThing,  Smashwords and on my blog at