#Book #Review: THE MUTE BUTTON by Linda S. Amstutz

There’s a certain political figurehead, who shall remain nameless, but who never fails to make the evening news reports. When he begins bragging, I either put my hands over my ears or grab the remote to press “mute”. I can’t stand the sound of this man’s voice. 

Well Susan Strickland, protagonist of The Mute Button by Linda S. Amstutz suddenly develops an unwanted and upsetting deafness toward all men’s voices, including that of her dear husband. Now just try to imagine not hearing anything your hubby says. Bliss right? Well not really as Amstutz proves in the delightfully funny, but rather poignant social commentary she affords readers of The Mute Button. Female readers, especially, will be amused by Susan’s “selective hearing” when it comes to men.  But, on a more serious note, they will also find themselves agreeing big time with the reasons Susan has developed this problem. 

Trying to help Susan cope with this situation which is negatively affecting her marriage and her daughter, Lauren, are the other three ladies who belong to Susan’s monthly lunch club, all of whom are named Susan. Cute! But as the story quickly unfolds, through these other Susans, readers get even more insight into why women might choose to selectively listen to men. 

As I laughed my way through this wonderful book, a recent memory popped into my head: I remember seeing my own dear hubby, on more than one occasion, clasp his hands over his ears when I was going on and on about something I felt he needed to do. He shouted: “Okay enough already!” No wonder my husband is about 85% deaf. Or does he too have selective deafness? 

Linda S. Amstutz has only a handful of 5-star reviews of this book on Amazon. She deserves fifty! Amstutz has been writing humor for 25 years. Her essays have been republished several times and she has a good collection of books that I, for one, would love to read. Incidentally, it's not just  the concept and themes behind The Mute Button that makes this book so deserving of your time: Amstutz' style is easy-going, with lots of dialogue and no wasted words or time. 


Have I found a new favorite author? You bet! Highly recommended when your spirit needs a lift and a laugh.

#Book Review: ESCAPE from VIETNAM


Reading a novel like Escape from Vietnam by Howard Cohen is so much more than enjoying an intricate, riveting plot and engaging with realistic and touching characters. It’s an opportunity for enlightenment, not just about the horrors experienced by both soldiers and those they tried to help during the Vietnam war, but about what it is like to live under communist rule. And it is that last factor that propels the action in Escape from Vietnam and leaves readers grateful they don’t live there, even today. 

The key characters, the beautiful Vietnamese woman, Lan, and James, a green beret, became lovers during the Vietnam war. The war separates them, each eventually marrying someone in their own country. Now, in 2018, after years of non-communication between them, Lan tracks down James in North Carolina and asks for his help. James obliges, flies to Vietnam and what he learns shocks him. Lan, and members of her family, desperately need James’ help to escape unscrupulous and cruel members of the powerful Communist party. Aided by Lan’s trusted servants, James follow Lan’s plans that involve two separate escapes. The chances of success seem more unlikely with each turn of the page and readers are breathless wondering what will happen next. 


It’s interesting that while Lan and James are the main characters, some of the minor characters, like Chang, are impossible to forget too. There are so many characters who touch you with their loyalty and strength, and others who make you shudder with their cruelty. The depictions of torture used to extract information makes one cringe. Escape from Vietnam will engage reader interest from start to finish. 

Recommended and unforgettable reading. 

#Book Review: TYPO SQUAD

In the dedication of Typo Squad (yes, some of us do read dedications and introductions), Stephen Lomer tells us this crazily brilliant book of his is dedicated to proofreaders and copy editors. He needs to add book reviewers to that list ie… all of us tasked with the job of rating books and trying to explain why we just couldn’t give this or that masterpiece 5 or even 4 stars because of the grammar, punctuation, spelling, incorrect word usage and above all, typos! 

In a kind of “Men in Black” scenario, the Typo Squad is on the lookout for typos in books, papers, even store signs. The members of the Typo Squad are particularly sensitive to typos and spotting them causes the members to react strangely. Some vomit; others swear; one even has orgasms! The protagonist, Richard Shonnary, falls into drunken stupors. If you’re beginning to sense this book is humorous, you’re right. It would probably have Howie Mandell’s hand reaching for the golden buzzer. 

Lomer writes Typo Squad as it were a mystery. Shonnary is summoned back from retirement after typos start appearing in droves, probably thanks to the current reliance on auto-corrects that don’t correct, our obsession with texting, and the fact that teachers stopped teaching grammar decades ago. In fact, dare I suggest that many of today's teachers wouldn't recognize bad grammar if it hit them between the eyes? There, I've finally said it.

Shonnary and his team set out to find the villain causing all the chaos, and because I don’t want to spoil your enjoyment of this escapade, I’m refraining from sharing some of the punny names of Shonnary’s assistants. You see, figuring out what they mean is half the fun of reading this book!

If you are going to read Typo Squad, and I do recommend it, keep an open mind and prepare to laugh. It is certainly a clever concept and Lomer carries it off beautifully. Since the book is based on the angst some of us feel when we’re reading and keep hitting typos and grammar problems, I had to giggle when I spotted an incorrect use of “lie” and “lay”.  And Stephen, you must forgive me for the shriek I let out when I read these sentences containing one of the worst abominations of grammar ever: 

“Chicago was yanked roughly off of him and dragged backward”

“He pulled the straightjacket off of Dick and helped him to his feet.”

Please send out an APB to the Typo Squad immediately. We need that abomination eradicated NOW!


In summary, Typo Squad is witty, unique and grammar nerds will love it. So let your hair down and enjoy!

#BookReview: EVO by Diane May

What an amazing mix of the believable and unbelieveable, the possible and impossible Diane May has blended into this, her debut novel, EVO. This crime fiction story Is an impressive beginning to May’s writing career. 

Evo is 574 pages of suspenseful reading which might just keep you up late if you read at bedtime. Picture, if you dare, a dark figure who has an augmented ability to hypnotize people to death…their own. Is he real? Yes…and he’s also angry, full of revenge and he has several doctors on his hit list for their participation in turning him into that real life monster. 

With bodies piling up in Verona, Italy, the police are going crazy trying to find this deadly hypnotist. But an even more deadly situation is about to be unleashed, not just on Verona but the entire world. A mysterious virologist, known only as “Doc” has perfected a vaccine that can turn ordinary, healthy human beings into something akin to super humans, both physically and mentally. Such super-humans will enjoy longer than normal lifespans. Just think for a moment of the ramifications of a world where millions of people live a century or two longer than we do now? How will our already over-populated planet sustain all those lives? The simplest solution, of course, would be to have the same vaccine eliminate unhealthy, undesirable humans. Talk about a sinister plot! 

That is a very limited synopsis of what takes place in EVO…but for a simple reason: you just have to read this book! It’s spell-binding! Diane May’s characters are realistic, so much so we feel every emotion experienced by the lovely and gifted, Maya, her ex-boyfriend, Alex, and even the legendary detective, Livio Marchiori as both Alex and Livio try to find not just the Hypnotist, but the madmen behind the vaccine before they, and half the world is possibly wiped out. The tension mounts and runs at an all-time high until almost the last page. Trust me, you won’t be able to put this one down. 


May’s background working as an interpreter in criminal law cases along with her knowledge of weapons, discipline and military life, coupled with the research she has done for Evo give this novel authenticity. If EVO is any indication, crime fiction fans are about to discover a fresh, very creative and gifted author in Diane May. She is already working on her second book, Till Death Do Us Part. Can’t wait to read it Diane!

#Book #Review: EMBRACING THE WILD IN YOUR DOG



If I could give "Embracing the Wild in your Dog" by Bryan Bailey, ten stars in every category, I would. Never before have I read a non-fiction book that enlightens, disturbs and  inspires all at once, and leaves me wondering if I even took a breath from the time I opened the book. 

As I read the last page and checked Bryan Bailey's biography, I let out an audible sigh. If the sigh could speak, it would say brilliant and breath-taking. 

"Embracing the Wild in your Dog" is both of those. It is also a memoir and an instructional book. But its premise and its concepts may not be embraced or welcomed by all who cannot think of that little fluffy puppy in their laps as a wolf. But he is...at least instinctively, and Bryan Bailey makes sure you know that by the time you're finished reading. 

As soon as I'd read the first few chapters, I began looking at my little Shorkie, Duffy, through a different lens. I realized that when he first took a light nip of my grand-daughter's lip and our gut reaction was to yell at Duffy for his bad behaviour while we wiped away her tears, that Duffy's reaction to having his neck grabbed in a hug constituted a threat and he was merely issuing a warning...as his now very distant forebears, the wolves would have done. I have now learned that no amount of breeding these "fur covered humans on four legs" is going to breed out the wolf in him. As an Indian chief explained to the author's mentor, "Because a dog carries a wolf inside of him, he also carries the wolf’s prints. The wolf goes with him everywhere he goes." Sadly, today's dog owners live in denial of this truth. As a result, children and adults are being bitten and dogs are being euthanized, while vet bills and law suits drain bank accounts because we dog lovers don't want to acknowledge the wolf in our dogs. 

"Embracing the Wild in your Dog" by Bryan Bailey is also the story of a boy growing up in the harsh Alaskan climate and learning about survival from a soldier who had learned the same from studying wolves. At one point, this soldier took an accidentally self-inflicted bullet to his neck while the two were trekking in the frozen north. Weak and bleeding profusely, he continued the journey because the wolves had taught him that to lie down was to die. Yes, this book is all about being tough and that adage: "When the going gets tough, the tough get going".

When Bailey shares stories like this or others about what happens in nature when animals face possible death, "Embracing the Wild in your Dog" becomes far more than just instructional: it is the beautifully moving memoir of a young man and his mentor. At times, readers may find themselves arguing, even outraged by Bailey's stance on how to raise and enjoy your beloved dogs, but I guarantee that after reading this book, you will never look at your dog again in the same way. The next time little Bella is being a "naughty doggie" you will find yourself  questioning whether it is Bella, or you, who needs to be disciplined. 


#BOOK #REVIEW: A HEALING SPOT


A Healing Spot by Onta Jean Allen is an enchanting tale, almost as magical as its canine protagonist, a Dalmation who is, of course, named Spot.

Now, let’s face it: those of us who love dogs or have one as a pet knows they are magical. After all, they can turn tears into laughter and at times, be a greater comfort to us than our human friends and family when we are suffering. They have some innate sense that we need them nearby. 

And that’s how it is with Spot. When he is left, as a puppy, on the Jordan family’s steps, Spot immediately knows it’s 8-yeaar-old Emma who has leukemia who needs him most. His positive affect on her is well, magical. But rascal that he is, when he gets lost chasing a rabbit, desperately hungry he is welcomed into Janie’s home. Janie has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair to get around. Just as Spot did with Emma, he enchants Jane’s family. But he hasn’t forgotten Emma and knows he must get back to her. Before he takes off to find his way back home, he leaves one of his spots on Jane’s face. What happens to Jane when she realizes Spot’s gone? It’s magical!

Spot eventually reunites with the Jordan family but along the way, he finds folks who need his spots and makes sure he leaves one with them. He’s a bit like an angel sprinkling magic stardust wherever it can help someone. Once back home with Emma, he has almost no spots left except the unusual red heart spot in his brow. He gives that very special spot to Emma before he leaves again. Why didn’t he stay with Emma? Where did he go?

Read A Healing Spot to learn how not just Spot, but each of us has a healing spot inside us. A beautifully true message in a magical story. 


BOOK REVIEW: THIRTY SECONDS to LIVE



As a long time fan of Steve Freeman's writing, I couldn't wait to get stuck into Thirty Seconds To Live. The funny part about this is I was reading 2 other books when this complimentary copy arrived. I just wanted to take a peek and you can guess what happened next. The other 2 books got put on the back burner as Freeman swept me, literally, into an ocean of action as a low draft jet boat went out of control, smashed into a rock slab and all passengers perished. As he always does, Freeman had me hook, line and sinker. 36 hours later, I closed Thirty Seconds to Live and sighed with satisfaction. Another great Steve Freeman adventure. 

This book is #10 in the Blackwell Series that stars Alton and Mallory Blackwell who are often called in to investigate and help solve particularly complicated cases. In this case, the action starts in New Zealand and ends up sending the Blackwells to Egypt and back to the US to try and piece together just who was the primary target in this opening disaster and of course, who was behind it and why. 

There are so many possibilities but will readers outguess the Mallorys? Freeman keeps readers in suspense and flipping pages as he carefully times his release of clues, in between the Mallorys being shot at time and again. Somehow the assassin is always a step ahead and knows exactly where the Mallorys will be. And that assassin is prepared to pay huge dollars for their demise. Why?


One of the reasons Steve Freeman is a joy to read is a combination of short chapters that unfold quickly because the author is so skilled in using dialogue. Dialogue keeps the action moving and this book is primarily dialogue. Little wonder I couldn't put it down: I always had to read just one more chapter! It's obvious Freeman wants us to enjoy his stories, not labour over them. And because of Freeman's personal background (check his bio) his novels ring with authenticity. 

Thanks Steve for another great read. I look forward to #11 in this series, coming out in 2019

BOOK REVIEW: THE LIES BETWEEN US


Is incest ever okay? The most natural and usual response, is “no way”! But then, a book like The Lies Between Us by Yolanda Olson comes along and gives you pause. In fact, your answer, after reading the story of Gracie and Jori might not be quite what you would have instinctively given. 

If you can hold off making judgement calls for now, enter the strange, broken lives of these two young adults who cling desperately to each other in a world that has hurt each of them terribly, a world so full of lies they cannot function without each other. Gracie’s father is awaiting execution on death row for having killed Gracie’s mother. Gracie hasn’t seen him in a decade, but her memories are of a good man, a good father, one of only 2 men she has ever loved. The other man is Jori who loves her almost to the point of obsession.

With her father’s execution imminent, Gracie decides she must see him. She needs him to tell the truth about the murder. Though he doesn’t want to go, Jori feels compelled to accompany her. And now, as each of them, along with her father, takes turns telling readers what really happened when Jori and Gracie were barely teens, the truth is about as ugly as it gets and we understand why both these kids are so messed up mentally. Yet, in each other’s love, they find sustenance and the strength to survive.

For some readers, the details of Jori and Gracie having sex will be too explicit. Skip those pages if you must. But don’t stop reading the rest of the story because The Lies Between Us is absolutely haunting. The events and the  characters stay with you long after you put the book down. 


It’s easy to see why Yolanda Olson is an award-winning author. Jori, Gracie and her father touch parts of us we didn’t know we had or believed we could condone. Don’t be surprised if, when you’re done, you find yourself rethinking your stance on many social issues, including incest. A touching, riveting story that just might be closer to truth than to fiction!

©Viga Boland, 2018 

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