One Among Us, by Paige Dearth

I received a Kindle version of One Among Us in a Goodreads giveaway. There was no obligation to review the book.

Like many others who have reviewed this book, I struggled with how to “rate” it. It did hold my attention, because of the brutality of the topic.

There are monsters out there. Monsters like the main perpetrator in this story, who, at the end of the book, was described by his wife as “a man of honor” who “always put his children and his family first. He was a good man who never harmed anyone in his life.”

The author was a victim of child abuse and rape. The stories that she writes reflect the reality of that existence, with a hope of raising awareness that these people exist in our world.

The writing, however, in my opinion is not great. I agree with other reviewers who state the some of the characters are rather flat, emotionally. And there’s this odd foreshadowing that happens at the end of a lot of the chapters. I’ve certainly read worse, so I maintain my three-star status, which, in Goodreads-land, means “liked it.”

Maggie Clarke is abducted from a local mall, at the age of eleven. She is a pretty young girl, and is taken by human sex traffickers. The means of abduction was the clever use of a puppy to entice children outside the mall and draw them away, and forcing them into the back of a van. As I read the abduction scene, I easily visualized the food court of our closest mall, and could see it happening. Maggie had been allowed to go get a piece of pizza without her mother.

What happens to Maggie over the course of the next nine years is unthinkable. While the events in this story may have been exaggerated for impact (I’m not actually sure whether they were or not, to be honest), the truth of the matter is that human sex trafficking is a reality, and there are horrible things happening to children out there.

As to what can be done about it, I’m not sure. But we can be aware, and we can, somehow support efforts to stop it.

Does this story have a happy ending? Some might say yes, but I say, how could it? There is no “happy ending” for a child who was taken from her parents and forced to do things that most of us could not even imagine, for nine years of her life.

This book is not for everyone, and certainly not for young people, I would say. It is brutal; it is horrific. I’m not sure what genre it is supposed to fall into, but I would call it horror. I actually just checked Amazon, and they list it as horror. I agree. So there you go.

TTFN, y’all!


Football Sweetheart, by Tiffany A. White

I ran across Tiffany White a number of years ago, on WordPress. She wrote regularly about TV shows, and she liked some of the same ones that we watched at the time, so I started reading. She would occasionally write about this book she was writing, and when it was announced that it was finished, I bought a Kindle copy.

I finally read it this week. I’m somewhat behind on my Kindle books.

Football Sweetheart, besides being a great kidnapping/murder mystery, is a great look into the subculture that is Texas high school football. Specifically, WEST Texas high school football. Anyone who has seen “Friday Night Lights” knows what I’m talking about. And as someone who also grew up (and still lives) in Texas, albeit not west Texas (some folks say west Texas begins at the edge of Fort Worth, but I’m not convinced), I can assure you that “Friday Night Lights” is most definitely not exaggerated.

I’m probably not part of the target audience for Football Sweetheart, but I liked it, anyway. It begins with a look at the close friendship of four girls, all involved, in one way or another, with the football program at Midland Lee High School. The actual name of the high school is Robert E. Lee. And it is a real school. Aimee is a student trainer on the team, and is present at all practices and games, and even Saturday mornings, after Friday night games. She is our main protagonist.

The main part of the plot begins when her good friend, Ella, disappears. There is, of course, an immediate frenzy of searching, and most people suspect Ella’s recent ex-boyfriend, Bobby, the star quarterback of the team.

Interestingly, Ella is found about midway through the book. Dead or alive? I’ll not say. But that’s not the end of the story, because we still have to figure out “whodunit,” don’t we? In the meantime, another “friend,” newcomer Jeannie, disappears.

There are several suspects, and I thought I had it figured out by the end. In a way, I did, but I had it backwards.

It’s an entertaining story, and I never wanted to put it down when I had to stop reading to either go back to work or get some sleep for the night. I’m not sure Tiffany has completed any more in this series, but this one is definitely worth the read.

TTFN, y’all!

The Monsters Within, by Corvus Winchester

I enjoyed the story in The Monsters Within. It’s a short book, and is relatively fast-paced. It begins with the Holloway family, Travis, Katerine, and Ethan, their grown son, moving to a Victorian-style mansion in a neighborhood of newer homes. They have moved from their home in Los Angeles to try to start fresh. It seems that Katherine believes that Travis had an affair with one of his university students, even though he solidly swears that nothing happened.

Even before they get fully moved into the house, strange things begin to happen. Ethan experiences moments where he feels as though he cannot move, like his legs are bound to the floor. He also cannot speak, and when he looks in a mirror, it’s as though his lips are fused together and can’t even open his mouth. He sees the image of a thin, strange, grey-haired man behind him, as well. But when he turns around, no one is there.

Both Travis and Katherine see images of their dead son, Christian, who drowned at their LA home. As the nightmare continues, all of them continue to see strange things and experience glimpses of a seemingly alternate reality. Or is it? Which “reality” is really real?

We find out at the end of the story, as the plot twist unfolds and the house continues its evil dealings with a new family.

As stated above, I enjoyed the book. However, there are some issues with editing and grammar throughout. There seems to be some confusion over “lay” vs. “lied” in a couple of cases. There is one case of apostrophe abuse, and one case (that I noticed) of the wrong “your” being used (it should have been “you’re”). Then there are a couple of cases of name switching, both using Travis’s name when it should have been Ethan’s. At least that’s the way it would have made more sense.

I see that kind of thing in a lot of ebooks, though, so I’m hoping it’s all just editing stuff. Over all the story was pretty good, and I understand that it is the author’s first book. I hope he writes more, as I like his imagination and story-telling.

TTFN, y’all!

Spiritual Direction, by Henry Nouwen (with Michael J. Christensen and Rebecca J. Laird)

This is a wonderful little book on the topic of spiritual direction. The definition of “spiritual direction,” as provided by the book is “a relationship initiated by a spiritual seeker who finds a mature person of faith willing to pray and respond with wisdom and understanding to his or her questions about how to live spiritually in a world of ambiguity and distraction.”

The chapters of the book all have questions for titles. “Who Will Answer My Questions?” “Where Do I Begin?” “Who Am I?” “Where Have I Been and Where Am I Going?” And so on.

Each chapter begins with parable of sorts, all from different sources. I suppose some people would object to the fact that some of the parables are from different “religions.” Personally, that doesn’t bother me. Why can I not learn from the wisdom of other religions?

The chapters are also broken down into parts: Look Within to the Heart, Look to God in the Book, and Look to Others in Community

This book is the first that I have read of Nouwen’s work, although I have heard about him for many years. I definitely want to read more. There is great spiritual wisdom to be found in his writings. And this book will most definitely be read again, more slowly, perhaps with journaling involved.

I think this is a great volume to read for one, like me, who is on the beginning paths of spiritual direction. One thing it made me realize for certain is that I need spiritual direction. Either that of a more mature believer or a group of people. I’m kind of leaning toward a group that will begin this journey together.

TTFN, y’all!

The Trouble with Twelfth Grave, by Darynda Jones

This is the latest installment in the Charley Davidson series, and, as it turns out, probably the most intense. Things get a little more serious in this volume, even though Charley’s wacky humor pervades the tale.

At the end of the eleventh grave, Reyes had come out of the god glass, but he wasn’t quite himself. In Trouble with Twelfth Grave, Charley has several tasks. First and foremost, she needs to get Reyes back. She also has to find out what his god-form, Rey’azikeen, is looking for. Then, as always, there is a side job, as someone from another dimension has been murdering people.

Of course, Charley is assisted by her usual band of “scoobies,” Cookie, Osh, Rocket, Garrett Swopes, Pari, and others that I’ve probably forgotten.

Once she eventually figures out what Rey’azikeen is looking for, the stakes get much higher. Turns out he’s looking for . . . no, I won’t spoil it.

The tale takes a much unexpected turn at the end, so stick with it. It certainly sets the stage for the thirteenth grave.

I suppose, since is is supposed to be a “review,” I should say whether I enjoyed the book. Well, I stayed up past midnight to finish it last night, so that should say something. Most definitely, I enjoyed it! Even though it tried to make me cry at the end.

Oh, no!! I have just discovered that Summoned to Thirteenth Grave will be the final installment! Why am I not surprised that Darynda Jones would end with thirteen? It will, apparently, release next January. Bring it on, Darynda!!

TTFN, y’all!

Why Not Us? by Leigh Montville

Leigh Montvilled compiled this book after the Red Sox completed their amazing comeback and win in the 2004 ALCS and subsequent World Series championship.

The only negative thing that I have to say about this book is that, at one point, he compared the victory to “stepping out the front door in Stalingrad the morning after the Germans had departed the city limits.” I’m sorry, but there is no trivial sports victory that could compare to the world defeating the Germans. In the face of something like Nazi Germany, all sports victories are meaningless.

That comparison happened early in the book, though, and moving on, this wonderful little book is filled with stories. I wasn’t expecting what I got out of this book at all. I wasn’t sure what to expect. But it is filled with page after page of testimonies of people who were affected by the Red Sox, their 86-year long struggle, and the ultimate victory in the 2004 World Series.

Time after time I was moved to tears by words of dozens of different people. The hardest to read were the people who were remembering lost loved ones who never got to see the Red Sox win. There were a handful who had family members who were actually alive when the last championship was won in 1918.

The Red Sox won eight consecutive games to finish the 2004 playoffs. They did something that had never been done in baseball history, and had only been done twice in all of sports. They came back from a 3-0 deficit to win the ALCS. I remember it well. I remember the morning after the third loss to the Yankees (a 19-8 debacle), thinking, “They aren’t even going to win a game.” I was already thinking about next year.

But then the unbelievable happened. And it all started with a pinch runner and a stolen base. The rest is history. In fact, the World Series was almost anti-climactic as the Sox swept the Cardinals, who were never really even in the game.

Why Not Us? remembers it well for us, with countless stories told by Red Sox fans of all ages. It’s the kind of book you could pick up and read a page or two at any time. It’s a great book for baseball and a great book for baseball fans.

TTFN, y’all!

Eleventh Grave in Moonlight, by Darynda Jones

Another installment in the adventures of Charley Davidson, aka “the reaper,” Eleventh Grave does not disappoint.

At first, I wasn’t sure about it, but as the story unfolded, it held my interest more, and gripped me to the point where I almost couldn’t put it down.

My memory seems to be getting fuzzier with age, so there were things that were being referred to, early in the book, that I couldn’t remember happening in earlier stories. But one thing that Darynda Jones does well is write these books in such a way that you could jump in at any point without being completely lost.

As is her custom, Ms. Jones weaves several plots into one story, which definitely keeps the books entertaining. In this volume, we have Charley and her lovely assistant Cookie looking into a couple who obviously run a fake adoption agency and kidnap children. The main reason for Charley’s interest in this couple (the Fosters) is that they were the ones who kidnapped Reyes (her husband)(also the son of Satan) when he was a child, then sold him to a monster of a man named Earl. These are all things covered in earlier books, of course.

Another reason for the interest is that, totally out of the blue, Shawn Foster, the couple’s “son” appears in her private investigation agency and asks her to look into the case of his “parents,” as he is convinced that they are not really his parents, and that he was adopted. Of course, Charley was already investigating them, which Shawn had also figured out.

Reyes, as it turns out, is not so keen on this idea.

Another plot line in this book involves Cookie’s daughter, Amber, and someone who is stalking her via text messaging. Charley, Cookie, and Ubie (Charley’s Uncle Bob . . . hence the name . . . “U.B.” “Uncle Bob” “Ubie” get it?), cook up a scheme to catch the stalker. They are, of course, successful, but it’s not what it appears to be, as things seldom are. And that’s all I’m going to say about that, because I try not to include spoilers in my reviews.

Both of these plot lines tie into the overarching theme of the entire series, which involves what Charley Davidson really is. This gets more strange and complex with every volume. And weird. Is that the same thing as strange? Perhaps not.

Apparently, The Trouble with Twelfth Grave was also released last year, so I will need to get my hands on it soon, in order to find out what happens in the continuing tale of Charley, Reyes, and Beep. Oh . . . I forgot to mention Beep. That’s the daughter of Charley and Reyes. Her name is officially Elwyn, but Charley calls her Beep. You’ll have to read the books.

TTFN y’all!