FLASH POINTS_FCFlash Points by David Hagberg is his latest exciting thriller in his very popular series featuring retired CIA assassin, Kirk McGarvey, and it just might be his best one yet! McGarvey, or Mac, is retired, but that doesn’t mean he’s totally out of the game. An enemy from his recent past, Kamal al-Daran (Tower Down, reviewed elsewhere at this site), resurfaces and a man posing as one of Mac’s students, Antonio Gomez, plants a bomb in McGarvey’s car to take him out of the game, permanently. Killing Mac is a necessary first step in a plan that involves many important government officials around the world. Want to WIN a hardback copy of this hyper-intense, exciting, page-turning thriller? Entering the giveaway is easy! Just follow the directions that are after this review, be a resident of the United States or Canada, 18 or older, and leave a brief comment mentioning your name, and the state or province you live in! If you are selected the winner, I will need to get your snail mail address to have the publisher, Tor/Forge, send you the book. That’s most of the rules, in a nutshell — the dates that the contest will run are below, and a few other pertinent details! UPDATE: Due to a lack of people entering to win a hardback copy of this terrific thriller, there was not a winner chosen for this giveaway.

The basic premise of Flash Points is that there are places all around the world, flash points, where dangerous situations can blow up and result in terrorist actions, civil wars, assassinations, and other deadly scenarios, including the use of nuclear weapons. North Korea, Iran, China, Russia, Chile, Pakistan and other countries mentioned in Hagberg’s realistic novel can be triggered into becoming flash points. A common denominator among many of these countries, and some political and military leaders even in the United States, is that they want to see the new president either assassinated or disgraced badly enough that he will be forced resign. The president in Hagberg’s novel holds similar views that Donald Trump has, including wanting to build a border wall between the United States and Mexico.

Kamal has come out of deep cover because he’s been hired by a mysterious group of individuals who want him to first make sure that Mac is killed, and then, they want him to set off large explosions in three different locales in the United States, simultaneously. Their plan involves destabilizing the country’s government and creating disorder and chaos, and they need Mac out of the way for that all to happen.

The bomb meant to kill McGarvey doesn’t succeed in ensuring his death, but he is horribly injured in the blast. Gomez was only able to place the bomb beneath the car’s passenger side, and Mac, getting one of his premonitions, decides to get out of his car just as the bomb explodes. One of legs has to be partially amputated, and he suffers other injuries, but he survives the blast.

The official word is that he was killed. If the knowledge that he lived through the explosion is revealed, Kamal or somebody else might try to finish the job, once and for all.

That is just the beginning of the intricate plot Hagberg weaves in Flash Points. It is a thriller that I highly recommend, and it can be enjoyed as a stand-alone novel, as well.

To win a hardback copy of Flash Points, all you have to do is leave a comment below, non-Spam related, say why you’d like to win, and mention your name, age, and the state or province where you live, as mentioned, above. One winner will be selected at random. The giveaway will run from today, Tuesday, April 24, to Friday, May 11 at midnight CT. If the person selected as the winner does not respond and send me his/her snail mail address within 5 day, by the end of May 16, a new winner will be chosen. Good luck!


By: Douglas R. Cobb




ManuscriptMurder Murder, She Wrote: Manuscript for Murder is New York Times best-selling author Jon Land’s second entry into the highly popular Murder, She Wrote series after he took over the reins  from Donald Bain with the justly well-reviewed A Date with Murder. With Land’s second novel he instills more action into the plot than any other previous novel in the series that has come before. Jessica Fletcher finds herself embroiled in trying to uncover the mystery of who is behind the murders of anyone who has come into contact with the unpublished manuscript of a page-turning potboiler of a novel.

The mystery novelist discovers that the carefully guarded secrets behind why everyone connected with the manuscript of an anonymous unpublished author winds up dead extend all the way to the White House. Fletcher has a bigger stake than usual in the final outcome, as solving the mystery might end up even saving her own life.

Jon Land skillfully interweaves how Jessica Fletcher first comes into contact with the manuscript, titled The Affair, with her growing suspicions that her long-time publisher, Lane Barfield, has been skimming royalty profits from her mysteries andthose of several other authors he represents. Fletcher initially hates the very idea that her publisher might be involved in something so corrupt. However,  she begins to consider that the possibility might have a basis in reality when an author who has fallen on hard times, Thomas Rudd, who has brought his suspicions to her that Barfield has been stealing from him, is murdered and his death is made to look like an accident or suicide.

Fletcher obtains the original manuscript of An Affair from Barfield and she soon finds out the reason why her publisher believes it has the potential to be a huge best-seller when she begins reading it. It is not the type of book Fletcher would generally read, and it is full of improbable scenarios involving the president’s daughter and the attempts of the male protagonist to save her life.

Still, Fletcher can’t stop reading it. When she learns that other authors who have also read it have been mysteriously dying, their deaths made to look like accidents or suicides, like Rudd’s, Fletcher desperately tries to find clues in the manuscript as to why somebody wants all traces of the manuscript and anyone who has read it eliminated.

Two of the men who have been hired to take part in eliminating everyone who has read The Affair even attempt to burn down Fletcher’s house, with her in it. Besides her own life being in danger, Fletcher’s ties with the First Lady, resulting in a personal meeting with the president, indicate to her that whatever secrets are in The Affair are matters of national security.

Murder, She Wrote: Manuscript for Murder by Jon Land will delight and entrance fans of the Murder, She Wrote series of mysteries. Land’s second suspenseful and action-packed novel in the series is a Must Read for fans of Jessica Fletcher and it is a book that also can serve as a stand-alone novel. I highly recommend that you check out Murder, She Wrote: Manuscript for Murder today!

By: Douglas R. Cobb

1stForever1st and Forever (Post Hill Press) by Bob Casciola and Jon Land is a very interesting and compelling nonfiction read that any fan of football who is also concerned about the future of the sport will want to check out and add to his/her reading list. In a series of chapters focusing on some of the football players and others associated with the game, the two authors offer up compelling reasons why football is so important and vital to fans of the game. The book showcases the inner character of several men who have played college and professional football, and coaches, and the chapters go into how the game of football has enriched their lives and been a positive influence on them.

Casciola also details in 1st and Forever why, and how, football has been a positive influence in his own life, through a series of inspiring tales. The book does not shy away from getting into various issues that have plagued the sport, like the high incidence of concussions and the negative affects that concussions have had on football and football players. However, Casciola, with the help of his fellow author, New York Times best-selling thriller author Jon Land, lay out a case in this Must Read book why football should be saved, and how the future of football can be as bright as its past.

With a Forward by Hall of Famer Archie Manning and and Afterward by coach Bobby Bowden, 1st and Forever, subtitled “Making the Case for the Future of Football,” never fails to hold the interest of readers. The book contains anecdotes and quotes by people like the coach of Marshall University, Jack Lengyel, about how football teaches “life skills,” and “the importance of hard work,” as well as providing “opportunities for the future.”

One of the chapters included in 1st and Forever  is “I Would Do It All Over Again,” about the illustrious football player Reggie Williams, who suffered his share of injuries and concussions. Despite that, though, as the title of the chapter suggests, Williams argues that the benefits he got out of having played football outweighs any of the negatives he has also experienced.

One of the many aspects that I liked about reading 1st and Forever is that it goes into many personal details about the lives of famous football players and coaches, and how football has enriched their lives. But, the book does not sugar coat the fact that players can suffer potentially career-ending injuries and brain damage caused by concussions. To preserve the game and help ensure the safety of the athletes who play football, changes are probably necessary; but, if these changes help to make the game even better and safer, it is worth it so that football will continue to be the much-loved game that it is now.

1st and Forever is a nonfiction book I strongly recommend to any fans of football and also to the parents of children who are participating in the sport, or who would like to take part in it when they get old enough to play the game. Bob Casciola and Jon Land have written an absolute gem of a book with 1st and Forever, detailing through chapters about Hall of Fame football players and coaches the case for why football is a sport that deserves to be preserved and to continue being a positive influence on the lives of those who play the game, are coaches, or who are fans or football.

By: Douglas R. Cobb

DATEWITHMURDER Murder She Wrote: A Date with Murder is New York Times best-selling author, Jon Land’s, first addition to the highly popular Murder She Wrote series of mystery novels. Land, perhaps best known for his exciting, page-turning thrillers like the ones in his Texas Ranger Caitlin Strong series, shows off the vast range of his talent by also writing an extremely engrossing, though more sedate, “cozy mystery.”

While i confess I have never really been a fan of the TV series, Murder She Wrote, that is likely, in large part, because I never gave it much of a chance, generally preferring to watch either TV series that feature more comedy or more action. However, I love reading mysteries featuring characters similar to Jessica Fletcher, the author and erstwhile sleuth who is the female protagonist of both the TV series and the mystery series, Murder She Wrote, like the terrific mysteries written by the late, great Dame Agatha Christie.

It struck me as I read Jon Land’s first effort in the Murder She Wrote series, A Date with Murder, that it is somewhat like an updated version of Christie’s mysteries featuring her famous character, Miss Marple. Land took over the late author Donald Bain’s mantle when he agreed to continue the Murder She Wrote series, and he seamlessly continues where Bain left off, bringing back to life in the pages of A Date with Murder not only Jessica Fletcher, but other beloved residents of Cabot Cove, the quaint New England town where Fletcher calls home, like Barbara “Babs” and Hal Wirth, Sheriff Mort Metzger and Dr. Seth Hazlitt.

Murder She Wrote: A Date with Murder opens with the annual Labor Day outdoors gala hosted by the Wirths. It’s a well-attended event, with Jessica Fletcher, a friend of Babs, there as one of the many guests. She has a terrific time, even playing horseshoes, proving by getting a ringer at the end of the game she is a woman who has a fun-loving and competitive nature.

When Hal Wirth dies at the gala, of an apparent heart attack at only 47 years of age, Fletcher suspects that Hal’s death might not be as clear-cut as it seems. There are ways to kill somebody that can make it seem to medical professionals like the person died from natural causes, like a heart attack. Fletcher, having researched the methods in the course of writing her mysteries, knows that sometimes even an autopsy will not show what really caused a person’s heart attack.

Without revealing too many spoilers, Fletcher learns that Hal Wirth had relatively quickly gone from being a very wealthy man to having his bank accounts drained and being in desperate financial straits, unknown to his wife and daughter, who is attending college. Jessica Fletcher believes that there must be a connection between his financial difficulties and his death.

In Murder She Wrote: A Date with Murder, Jon Land weaves what could be the most entertaining addition to the Murder She Wrote series yet. Fletcher has to try to puzzle out not only who would have a motive to murder Hal Wirth, but also, who would want to kill his disgruntled ex-business partner, Eugene Labine, who makes an appearance in Cabot Cove, masquerading to Fletcher as Wirth’s lawyer. I highly recommend A Date with Murder to everybody who is a fan of The Murder She Wrote TV series and mystery novels based on them, and to anybody who loves reading exceptionally well-written  mystery novels!

By: Douglas R. Cobb

9780765381873_FC Dangerous To Know by Renee Patrick is the author’s second mystery in her series featuring Lilian Frost, social secretary to the stars, and the newly named head of paramount Pictures’wardrobe department, Edith Head. Set in December 1938, right before the start of World War II, this entertaining page-turning sequel to Design For Dying again finds first-person narrator, Frost, embroiled in the heady atmosphere Los Angeles and Hollywood, as she plans social parties and events for her employer, the retired industrialist, Addison Rice. At the prompting of the glamorous actress, Marlene Dietrich, Frost puts the clues together and solves the mystery behind the disappearance and murder of the piano player and composer, Jens Lohse, in this intriguing and well-researched novel by Renee Patrick. People who love reading historic mysteries featuring some of Hollywood’s biggest names of the era, like George Burns and Jack Benny, will want to add Dangerous To Know to their reading lists and will want to check out this brilliantly written novel.

Readers of Dangerous To Know will find themselves transported in time back to the time of Hollywood classic movies, and a time when Hitler was emerging on the world scene. Dietrich already has developed a strong dislike of Hitler, and she even mentions she would like to have the chance to kill him. She is worried when Lohse seemingly disappears, though the police believe he likely went over into Mexico to to clear up immigration problems.

However, the lovely, intelligent and diligent Frost discovers that Lohse, or something that the composer possesses, is a man that has attracted the attention of many people who wants what he has, and want him dead. Suspected Nazis in Hollywood appear to have taken an unusual interest in Lohse, along with a very wealthy and very shady owner of an offshore gambling ship who has made his fortune selling alcohol illegally during Prohibition, a man who “invites” Frost to his ship and asks her to find and bring him whatever she might find that Lohse once possessed. He doesn’t tell her outright what he is interested in, but wants her to use her own initiative.

Lohse, Frost learns, might have also been having an affair with a married woman, the wife of Lohse’s mentor, Felix Auerbach. When Frost discovers Lohse’s body, in the Pacific Palisades, at a secluded house owned by the Auerbacks, it looks as if Lohse might have committed suicide by jumping to his death. However, his death is, instead, ruled to have been a murder, instead. Lohse was killed and likely was then thrown over the side of the house’s balcony.

In Dangerous To Know, George Burns and Jack Benny also find themselves caught up in an international smuggling ring and are facing criminal charges. Dietrich believes that agents of the Third Reich are responsible for the legal problems that the two comedians are experiencing. Lilian Frost finds herself investigating  not only the murder of Lohse, but also the smuggling operation that could potentially destroy the careers of Burns and Benny. Without revealing any further “spoilers,” I will say that I was thoroughly engrossed in reading Renee Patrick’s Dangerous To Know, and it’s a mystery I highly recommend!

By: Douglas R. Cobb

Assassin’s Price by L.E. Modesitt, Jr. is the latest and eleventh novel in his bestselling Imager Portfolio series. Like all the other books in the series, Assassin’s Price is set in a world where magic is the literal realization of the imagination. Rex Lorien is back, though six years older than he was in the last book of the series, Treachery’s Tools from 2016. In this novel, more focus is on his eldest son, Charyn, and his attempts to learn more about Solidar and the economics of it, in order to better be prepared one day to take over from his father as the ruler. You can WIN a hardback copy of this page-turning, adventure-filled addition to the series if you are a resident of the United States of Canada and leave a non-Spam related comment below, saying what your name is and where you live, the state or province, to verify that you are eligible to enter! You also must be 18 years or older, and a few other rules are below. Daily entries are allowed.

While Charyn is eager to find out as much as possible about the economics and inner workings of Solidar’s government, his father, Rex Lorien, just keeps telling him things like that there is plenty of time to learn all of that. Caryn is tired of waiting, and he decides to take a stronger interest in Solidar, by educating himself with the help of the factors and craft masters of the land, as well as his father’s advisors. But, he wants to do it without attracting his father’s attention, though he knows that sooner or later, he will find out. Charyn just hopes by the time that happens, his father will understand why he acted behind his back, and that he won’t be too angry at him.

The efforts of Charyn to go behind the scenes, and behind his father’s back, to gain knowledge so he can one day be a worthy ruler of Solidar, sets up the plot and the action that follows. Solidar’s shipping is being disrupted by Jarolian privateers, something that Charyn cannot tolerate. When the privateers destroy ships containing much-needed goods, the prices of said goods are driven up.

A complication in the plot of Assassin’s Price is that an attempt is made on the life of Charyn’s younger brother, and notes that threaten Charyn and his entire family follow. Acts of violence against the rex and his family prompts swift action to be taken to prevent any loss of life or further violence to continue. One of the actions taken is to build more ships, to strengthen Solidar’s might and ability to conduct commerce.

L.E. Modesitt, Jr., has often been hailed as a master of world-building, and he showcases that talent yet again with Assassin’s Price. He also delivers characters that are three-dimensional that his legions of fans have come to know and love, and plots that are full of political intrigue. For the chance to win a hardback copy of Assassin’s Price, besides following the rules above, anyone who enters must not be related to myself, and also you must be prepared to provide your full name and snail mail address if you are the one randomly chosen as the winner. You can provide the requested information through a FB or Twitter message or via email, if you prefer not to reveal it at this website. The giveaway will run from Monday, Nov. 13, 2017, to Friday, Nov. 24, 2017, at midnight CT. The potential winner will then have five days to respond and provide me with his/her mailing information by midnight Wed. Nov. 22, 2017, so I can give it to the publisher of Assassin’s Price, Tor/Forge, who will mail out the hardback copy to the winner. If the person chosen does not provide the information within the five day period, a new winner will be selected. Good luck!

Due to Lack of Response, A Winner Was Not Selected in This Giveaway.

Written by: Douglas R. Cobb

Coyote Courage (Rusty Spur Publishing) by the talented Western author, Scott Harris, is a largely first-person, present tense novel that is full of adventure and action. Brock Clemens, the protagonist in Harris’ novel, finds himself wanting to settle down after having roamed about the Colorado Territory, though he has grown accustomed to wandering from town to town, and living on his own, with just the companship of his horse he’s named “Horse,” and pet wolf that Brock has named “Wolf.” You can win a copy of Harris’ novel by simply being a resident of the United States who is 18 or older, and leaving a non-Spam related comment below, including the name of the state you live in. You can enter to win multiple times, daily. A few other simple rules follow, after the rest of my review!

In Coyote Courage, Brock Clemens finds himself low on money, having just a dollar left, and he hankers for a few creature comforts, like a good cigar and a shot of bourbon. To get those things and find a place to lay his head for the night, Clemens decides to go into the small town of Dry Springs and he gets a short-term job at a general store there.

After he’s offered a job, that comes complete with a cigar, five bucks and room and board, Clemens discovers that Dry Springs has fallen under the control of a gang of outlaws who have ordered the shopkeepers, restaurant owners, and the barkeep at the saloon to run a tab for them under the name of a man they say they’re working for. Long story, short, without hopefully divulging any spoilers, Brock faces down three of the outlaws when they come to the store while he’s unloading goods from a wagon, and they leave, without his having fired a shot.

This sets into motion a chain of events. Brock falls for the shopkeeper’s daughter, Sophie, and he befriends a 12-year-old boy, Huck, who runs the livery in town with his dad. Huck tries to stand up to the outlaws, and one quirts his face. Clemens feels he needs to help the town out, and he is quick enough with his guns to deal with the problem, at least, at first.

However, Clemens knows that the townsfolk, though inexperienced with dealing with bullies like the gang of outlaws, need to learn to stand up for themselves, as well. He helps to organize them and hopes for the best, as he goes out to confront the gang. in this exciting novel.

Harris’ characters are well-developed and three-dimensional, and his novel, Coyote Courage, hearkens back to the works of great Western authors like Louis L’Amour. It is evident that Harris also pays homage to Samuel Clemens, otherwise known as Mark Twain, by giving his main character the last name of Clemens, and including two boys, Huck and his friend, Tom. Coyote Courage is a captivating, page-turning Western you will want to read through in one sitting. I highly recommend it to anyone who is a fan of Westerns and tales filled with action and adventure.

All you have to do to enter to possibly be randomly selected and win yourself a paperback copy of Coyote Courage by Scott Harris is follow the rules above and leave a comment in the form, below, though you can also send me the info via a Twitter or Facebook message. The information is just to let me know that you are a resident of the United States, as Mr. Harris will mail out the free paperback copy of Coyote Courage to the winner. This giveaway will run from Thursday, October 26, for approxiamtely two weeks, to Friday, November 10 at midnight, when the winner will be notified via email. The potential winner will have five days after being notified to then send me his/her snail mail address in an email so I can let the author know where to send the free copy of Coyote Courage. If the potential winner doesn’t respond within five days, I will select another winner at random. Friends and family members of mine are not eleigible to enter.

Written By: Douglas R. Cobb

A winner has been chosen at random and has five days to get back to me. Thanks to everyone who entered!


Tales from a Talking Board (Word Horde) is a brilliant collection of 14 short stories by some of today’s greatest authors, centered around the theme of the Ouija board, in its various forms and incarnations, edited by horror author, Ross E. Lockhart. It will officially be available on Oct. 24, just in time for Halloween. It’s an eerie compilation of tales that belongs in the personal libraries and/or Kindles of everyone hwo loves the macabre.

This review of Tales from a Talking Board is based on an ARC I received from Mr. Lockhart, but it is, like all of my reviews, based entirely on what I thought of the quality of the writing. While there was, of course, some of hte short stories I liked better than others, and some that were, in my opinion, better written than others, that’s to be expected with any compilation of any sort. Generally speaking, though, on the whole, I was impressed with the quality of the short stories in Tales from a Talking Board, and if you’re a fan of the genre, as I am, I think that you will also enjoy reading it.

To avoid any spoilers, I will not cover any of the short stories in Tales from a Talking Board thoroughly, but i will let you know what they are about, to whet your interest and give you an idea what the tales are about, other than the general theme of the Ouija board and communicating with Satan and/or the dead.

Tales from a Talking Board opens with the tale, “YesNoGoodbye,” by Kristi DeMeester. The female protagonist, Cassandra, 14, asks her friend to join her in a session with her Ouija board. They both have secrets revealed, including her friend’s romantic interest in Cassandra. Oh, and there’s a horrifying demonic creature outside Cassandra’s window, as well.

Moving on from that terrific start, the second tale in Tales from a Talking Board is “The Devil and the Bugle Boys,” by J.M. McDermott. It’s about competition, the kind between high school bands, and it’s about what happens when questions asked a Ouija board get answers that are hard to bare. Comraderie between male teens and a jokingly-made deal with the Devil, one that the Devil takes seriously, makes this a very intriguing and interesting short story.

The third offering in Tales from a Talking Board is Anya Martin’s “WeeGee WeeGee, Tell Me Do.” One of the reasons I really enjoyed reading this tale is because it explores a bit of the history of the Ouija game, and goes back to the days of Vaudeville, when the great singer, Marie Cahill, helped make a song about using the Ouija board into one of the most popular songs in the United States. It’s also about a women who gets abused by her husband and desperately wants to leave him.

That brings me to the fourth short story in the anthology, a mysterious and fascinating tale with elements of science fiction in it called “When The Evil Days Come Not,” by Nathan Carson. It takes place, for the most part, in a very peculiar orphanage, ran by a quasi-religious man who is reportedly over 130 years old, who does not have the best interests of the children at heart. It’s an odd, unique tale that I loved reading, though it is a disturbing one, in some respects–cool stuff!

The fifth short story in Tales from a Talking Board is “Grief,” by Tiffany Scandal, a great author who has a very eye-catching last name, or pseudonym. Parents grieve over the death of their son, who had cancer, and they want to try contacting his spirit with a Ouija board. They find out it wasn’t necessarily the wisest thing for them to do.

Then, the collection’s sixth tale is a funky gem called “Spin the Throttle,” by David James Keaton. It’s an unusual take on the traditional Ouija game and communicating with the dead, or possibly, with Satan. Many unusual items can be used to learn secrets from the Other World, partiers speeding down a road in the back of a truck, in a hot tub, discover.

Tale number seven in Tales from a Talking Board, the halfway mark in the collection, numerically speaking, is “Pins,” by S.P. Miskowski. In it, a woman, Helen, travels with her friend, Barb, to a psychic, who tells Helen that she must hold pins in her hand. This is, to me, another highlight in the anthology, though it’s about communicating with the dead via a psychic, rather than a medium. Helen thinks the psychic is fake, until…well, you’ll just have to read it to find out what Helen finds out!

The eighth short story in this page-turning anthology is one with one of the coolest titles in the collection, “Deep Into the Skin,” though several other cool titles follow. It is written by Matthew M. Bartlett and is a tale narrated by a first-person character who runs a tattoo parlour called Mikey’s Ink Chamber. Mikey’s old mentor gets murdered in a grisly fashion, and an employee fears that maybe a serial killer is on the loose. Three odd-looking people come into Mikey’s shop, and one locks the door behind him. He tells Mikey he wants him to do a job, in return for his life, in this thrilling tale.

I’ll briefly touch on the last few short stories, which are also great fun to read, especially for fans of the occult and horror stories. Short story number nine in Tales from a Talking Board is one with another very cool title, “Burnt Sugar Stench,” by Wendy N. Wagner. It’s another tale told in the first person, and is about Takas, a 20-year-old clairovoyant who is often “on retainer,” both by the cops and by Russian organized crime figures, like “the Raskolnikovs.” She is given the job of locating the kidnapped heiress to the Raskolnikov fortune….Time traveling and saving the world are parts of this terrific tale.

Numero diez, or ten, in Tales from a Talking Board is yet another tale with a cool and intriguing title, “Worse Than Demons,” by Scott R. Jones. It begins in a rather novel way, as the entire short story is meant to be an interview a reporter from a magazine conducts with a director, Gregory Martens. One of the interesting themes the story explores is if language can be considered to be a “virus.” It’s one of the tales I consider to be a highlight of the anthology.

The eleventh short story in the anthology is another one with an eye-catching title, “The Empress and the Three Swords,” by Amber-Rose Reed. It’s a first-person tale set in London, and in it, an acquaintance of the narrater’s, an actor, takes him to the residence of a woman known as “Gypsy.” It’s a gem of a tale, about the Tarot, a sword given as a gift, and the fate of the Birds, and a future that Gypsy is reluctant to reveal.

“Questions and Answers” by David Templeton is the twelfth short story in Tales from a Talking Board. The characters in this tale, who take a class that’s an introduction to becoming a Spirt Board operator, learn that education continues even in the Afterlife. This short story is another of my faves in the collection, and even includes mention of how Alice Cooper reportedly got his stage name.

The thirteenth short story in the anthology is another one with an intriguing title, “Harpuspicate or Scry,” by Orrin Grey. It’s about a woman attending college and her attachment to a much older professor of Philosophy, who she asks to walk her down the aisle when she gets married. They don’t have a love for each other, but he is influential in her life, and she sometimes spends the night at his house, rather than traveling back to the city she lives with her husband, Gavin.

When the professor dies, the narrator tries to communicate with him through Ouija boards. He gave her a phrase from a poem to memorize, but no matter how hard the narrator tries, she cannot make contact with him…until one day, someone she knows does, through an entirely different way, in this terrific tale.

Finally, the fourteenth tale in Tales from a Talking Board is “May You Live in Interesting Times,” by Nadia Bulkin. In this brilliant short story, a man struggles with his religious beliefs and the desire to contact a dead love interest, and the latter wins out. He throws away his career, and more, trusting in a Ouija board and his dead girlfriend, Alice, more….but, she is not the same, at all.

Fans of horror tales and the macabre will enjoy reading the collection of horror stories that make up Tales from a Talking Board, edited by Ross E. Lockhart. Check it out today, and have pleasant screams! Yeah, it’s a hackneyed phrase, but, oh, well….This a a Must Read for anyone who has every had an interest in the occult or using Ouija boards–get it, or regret it!

Written By: Douglas R. Cobb

Ban This Book (Starscape) by acclaimed author Alan Gratz deals with banned books at a school library, and with the efforts of a young elementary school student to read every book on the list for herself, and start up a lending library so that any of her fellow students can also read the books if they want. The young girl, Amy Anne Ollinger, starts off by desiring to simply want to borrow her favorite book from her school’s library, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, by E.L. Konigsburg.

Amy has read it numerous times before, but loves to reread it over and over again. When she attempts to borrow it this time, however, she finds it has disappeared off of the shelves of the library, and that the mother of one of her classmates, Trey, is planning on talking to the school board to have the book, as well as others, banned from the school library. Amy is determined not to let the banning of books which she thinks her fellow students should have the freedom to read prevent them from having access to the books. For a chance to win a hardback copy of this novel that all book lovers will want to read, just enter this contest by being a resident of Canada or the United States and leaving your name, mention the state or province and city where you live, and follow the few other simple rules below! The last contest I ran was involving winning a hardback copy of the thriller, City of Saviors,(Tor/Forge) by Rachel Howzell Hall. Due to a lack of entries, there was not a winner chosen…it’s so easy to enter these contests, though, so I urge you to enter this one!

At the beginning of Ban This Book, Amy is just an ordinary student, a young lady who loves reading books, and who has several “favorites.” The one she loves the most, however, is the afore-mentioned one, by Konigsberg. Amy has always feared speaking up for herself, and making her opinions known, especially living as she does with her sisters always striving to be the centers of attention. She has always just gone with the flow, wanting to say what her opinions are, but saying something else, instead.

However, Amy finds herself changing and she becomes a stronger person, inside, throughout the course of Ban This Book, as she fights her own battle against censorship. Her father takes her to a local book store where she buys herself a copy of From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and she loans it to her best friend, Rebecca Zimmerman, who also loves the book after she reads it, and is intrigued with the idea of reading something that has been forbidden them. Rebecca has another book that is on the banned list, and she lets Amy read it. That is how the idea that Amy gets of creating a lending library of banned books is born.

In Ban this Book, Amy realizes that starting up the lending library could get her and her friends into trouble, if they get caught; but, she feels it is worth it to take a stand for her love of books and the rights we all have under the First Amendment. For the chance to win a hardback copy of this book, besides following the few simple rules above, you just need to be 18 or older, anda person who is not related to me. The contest will run from Tuesday, October 10, 2017, to Friday, October 20, at midnight. I will then chose a winner at random. The potential winner will have five days to get back to me with his/her snail mail address, just so I can let Starscape, the publishers, know where to send the novel. If I do not hear from the potential winner after five additional days, I will chose a new winner, from the rest of the entries. Multiple entries from the same person are allowed, but Spam-related ones will not count as eligible entries. People can also enter by providing the information I mention here to me via a Twitter or Facebook message or via email. Good luck!

Written By: Douglas R. Cobb

This contest has now ended. Nobody entered, so sadly, nobody was the winner of this excellent novel by Alan Gatz.

Spots by the talented author, Simon Plaster, is his latest satirical novel featuring a small-town reporter, Henrietta, who is from the actual small town of Henryetta, Oklahoma. In Spots, Henrietta travels to Oklahoma City, where the novel is primarily set, to report on the days leading up to a TV awards show in which awards are given to the best actors/actresses in TVCs, or TV commercials, otherwise known as “Spots.” Because of this, other than Henrietta and her mother, Wynona Sue, many recurring characters from Plaster’s other novels in the series are not featured in Spots, but that is more than made up for with his cast of new characters, including ones from famous commercials, like William Shatner, the insurance gal, Flo, and the two guys who currently are in commercials for Sonic.

The plot of Spots revolves around the antics and intrigue associated with the actors and actresses up for awards in Oklahoma City, when the Academy of Television Commercials Arts and Sciences is forced to relocate its annual awards ceremony from Las Vegas to OKC. Henrietta, who is now a reporter for OKC’s Tinseltown SCENE newspaper, wants to get a scoop that she hopes will result in her winning a Pulitzer Prize.

Besides the usual gossip and rumors circulating around, and the rivalries that exist between TVC stars, like one Plaster writes about between Flo and her almost identical sister, Chloe (Clo), who is in commercials for Transgressive Insurance Company, there are rumors brewing about a scheme to murder at least one of the TVC stars—but, which one, Henrietta wonders, might be the first to die? Will it be possibly Flo or Chloe, maybe, or the bald-headed man from insurance commercials who seems to know an awful lot about what people do, or maybe one of the Sonic guys, or even Jimmy Mayhem, Colonel Sanders or William Shatner?

Deano DeBoffo is also one of Spot’s main characters. He’s a famous Hollywood producer/director and he wants to create a docudrama that is basically one long commercial, called “What’s In Your Wallet?” A part of the plot of Spots involves his efforts to convince some of the TVC actors gathered in OKC to sign up with him to be in his planned movie.

Spots is a very entertaining satirical romp poking fun at awards shows and the actors/actresses appearing in some of the most famous TV spots in recent memory. It is probably a novel that would be most enjoyed by Young Adults and older, as Plaster also references many older commercials that many adults will fondly remember, like the Alka Seltzer ones, with catch phrases like, “That’s one spicy meatball!” and “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh, what a relief it is!”

I found the in-fighting between many of the TVC stars to be very amusing, and also whenever Simon Plaster wrote scenes including Jimmy Mayhem. Plaster has written, with Spots, one of his best satirical novels yet. Will the reporting that Henrietta does for OKC Tinseltown SCENE land her the Pulitzer Prize she feels she so richly deserves? Who is behind the rumors and apparent attempts to kill off TVC stars? Check out Spots to find out! It’s an entertaining satirical novel I highly recommend, along with Plaster’s other novels featuring small-town reporter, Henrietta, like Hmmm?, Ticks: A Tail of Climate Change and a Girl, and Hogback!

Written By: Douglas R. Cobb

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