BOOK REVIEW: Darkroom by Joshua Graham

Review by Ryder Islington

I love this story!

 Xandra Carrick and her dad go toViet Nam to scatter her mother’s ashes in the village where she and Xandra’s dad met. Xandra’s dad, Peter, was a photojournalist during the war, and Xandra followed in his footsteps, loving the use of pictures to tell stories.

 There is a deep, dark secret in Peter’s past, one that could get him and his daughter killed. I won’t give away more than that. The story is too good to be spoiled by a review. The truth of the past, plus Xandra’s love for her parents and Peter’s desire to leave the past alone, keep the reader turning pages to learn what was so bad back then, and why it has any importance now. Never mind her arrest for terrorism, murder and an assassination attempt on the American president.

 This is not a book to be missed by those who love thrillers, mysteries, love stories, history, politics, and the supernatural. Mr. Graham has covered it all. I recommend this book for anyone who likes to read mysteries or thrillers. It is filled with suspense, peopled by sympathetic characters, and leads to a very satisfying end for the good guys, as well as the bad.

BOOK REVIEW: Blue Eyes by Jerome Charyn

Review by Ryder Islington

 Mr. Charyn has a distinctive voice and Blue Eyes boasts unique characters, including Shotgun Coen, a blue-eyed, white-skinned Jewish detective who is scorned by fellow bulls, Odile, a porn star, andChino, a half Chinese thug who hates Coen and loves Odile despite her abhorrence of him.

 Set in New York Cityin the seventies, Blue Eyes is ripe with a language so full of local colloquialisms that one sometimes needs a lexicon to understand it. The writing is intense. The story is not.

 I had no sympathy for any of the characters, save one: Jeronimo Guzmann, known as Baby, the simple-minded youngest son of Cesar Guzmann. Cesar, known as Papa, has five sons and runs a ring of pickpockets out of a candy shop. Jeronimo, known as Baby, loves candy, ice cream and long walks, and can easily fall victim to anyone with a modicum of sense. His best friend is detective Coen’s uncle, who loves company in his run-down welfare apartment.

 I trudged through the story and can only appreciate that it is short. I like being taken to unfamiliar places, and love to meet new characters, but I can’t enjoy a story I have to decipher. The few words or phrases that came with any definition also came in parentheses, which threw me off. Mr. Charyn is a skilled writer with a good imagination and I’m sure he has found, and will find devoted fans.

Yahoo! Mail–Yeah Right!

For all of you out there who have had my yahoo email address, I wanted you to know that my account was hijacked. I asked Yahoo! for help and was told that it would cost me $169.00 for them to help me. So, I closed that account and had my computer wiped clean of bugs.

My new email address is

I hope no one else’s computer or email was damaged or hijacked as a result of being in touch with me. I’m not to savvy when it comes to this stuff, so I don’t even know if that’s possible.

I hope everyone enjoys the weekend and returns for a guest post on Monday.

BOOK REVIEW: From The Ashes by due May 15

Review by Ryder Islington

High praise for this fantastic voyage called From The Ashes. Call it a mystery, suspense or thriller, the story keeps moving forward with page turning prose. I was hooked from the prologue. This story is right up there with Hunt For Red October and The Sum Of All Fears. Look out Tom Clancy.

 When Jonathan Rickner’s brother, Michael, dies while working on a research project, cops tell Jonathan that his brother committed suicide. But Jon knows better. He, along with Mara, his brother’s fiancé, must find the truth. What they learn is an unbelievable tale of historical, political, financial intrigue involving World War II, Hitler, John D. Rockefeller, a secret governmental agency called The Division, and Operation Phoenix. It is an incredible story. A scary story, mostly because it is a believable story.

 Jeremy Burns is going to be a force to be reckoned with. I have not seen this kind of writing for a long time. Granted, I have not read every book published in the last decade, but this book is evidence of high caliber writing on the rise from Mr. Burns.

 I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a good mystery, as well as those who love thrillers. Set aside some time for this one. You won’t want to stop reading.

Welcome Guest Blogger: Lisa Orchard

I hope everyone enjoys my guest blogger, Lisa Orchard, today. She has written a great article.

Go for it, Lisa!0

Hello everyone! I’m Lisa Orchard and I’m here to discuss the benefits of reading for not only the young, but also for us more “mature” adults. I want to thank Ryder for being the host on my first stop in my blog tour. I’m a Young Adult author. My book “The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer” was just released in March. Did you know that reading helps in just about every area of intellect? Those students that read for pleasure have higher GPAs, higher intelligence, and more general knowledge than those who don’t. Experts have found that reading in general makes you smarter and keeps you sharp as you age. (I love the sound of that ) Reading also increases vocabulary. In fact reading increases your vocabulary more than talking or direct teaching! Did you know that language in children’s books is likely to be more sophisticated than your average conversation? Reading also improves analytical thinking. In Anne E. Cummings paper she found that readers increase their general knowledge and more importantly they were able to spot patterns quicker. If you can spot patterns quicker your analytical skills get a boost! Not only does reading improve your intellect it also builds self-esteem! Wow! Who knew a book could do so much? And the most exciting part of this—most e-books cost only $2.99! So buy your teen a book today! Just look at it as an investment! Think of all the money that you’ll be saving in future tutor fees and therapy bills! 

This book opens in a small town in Michigan where fifteen-year-old Sarah Cole is stuck spending the summer at her Aunt and Uncle’s with her sister, Lacey. She’s not happy with the situation until she befriends a girl named Jackie. The three girls stumble upon the ruthless murder of a reclusive neighborhood woman. One of the officers investigating the crime believes the girls are responsible for her death. Fearing that this officer will frame them for the murder, the girls organize their own detective squad. They become the Super Spies and start their own fact-finding mission.  The Super Spies can’t understand why anyone would want to murder the “Cat Lady” until they start digging into her past and discover a horrible crime that happened thirty years ago. They uncover a connection between the two crimes and attempt to bring this information to the police, only to be reprimanded for meddling in the inquest. Not only are the girls upset by the admonition, but they also struggle with the fact that their exuberant investigating could provide a legal loophole allowing the killer to go free. To make matters worse, the police don’t even believe them. Frustrated by this turn of events, the Super Spies realize it’s up to them to snare the Cat Lady killer, or die trying…

Thanks, Lisa for coming today and giving us something to think about while we are looking up your book on Amazon. Great cover and wise words all at the same time. Please leave a comment and win a copy of her e-book. “The Super Spies and the Cat Lady Killer”.


Interview: Guest Kathleen Kaska

 We continue from yesterday, when I posted a review of one of Kathleen Kaska’s trivia books, What’s Your Agatha Christie I.Q?  Today, please welcome Kathleen as she and I talk about her writing, and especially, her great trivia books about mystery authors.


In writing these three trivia books, what surprising or amazing facts did you learn about each of your subjects?

Agatha Christie lived in a world of happy-ever-after, until life dealt her some hard knocks.

Alfred Hitchcock lived in a world of manipulation and images, and often dished out hard knocks.

Sherlock Holmes lives, period.

            I also learned that for much of her writing career, especially in the beginning, Agatha Christie considered her craft a hobby more than a profession. She eventually realized she needed to learn the business of writing to conquer some of the professional obstacles she encountered.

With Alfred Hitchcock, I discovered that he was a practical joker, often victimizing and humiliating his leading actors with his antics.

            Arthur Conan Doyle wanted to be remembered for his historical novels rather than for his Sherlock Holmes novels and stories. He was into mysticism and spiritualism and held séances to try to contact his deceased mother.

What gave you the idea to write mystery trivia books?

            When I decided to try my hand at writing, I naturally planned for my first book to be a mystery, but I knew that non-fiction was easier to get published. At the time, trivia books were just becoming popular, and since I had read Agatha Christie’s complete collection, I decided it would be fun to write the Agatha Christie trivia book. I was right. I truly enjoyed rereading each book and story. And being a novice mystery writer, the research gave me a chance to dissect and analyze her writing, which turned out to be a valuable learning tool when I began writing my own mysteries.

How did you come up with the title?

            When the Christie book was first released in 1996, the title was What’s Your Agatha Christie I.Q? The two subsequent trivia books on Hitchcock and Holmes were titled Triviography and Quiz Books. When my new publisher, LL-Publications, reissued all three, we changed the Christie title to match the other two. I like the new word “Triviography,” because my books are not merely trivia books. I also give background information on Christie, Hitchcock, and Conan Doyle. It’s a novel way to learn about what these three creative minds were doing when they were writing and what influenced them.

What would you like your readers to come away with after reading your three trivia books?

            I’d like them to become so enthralled that they purchase countless copies and give them for Christmas gifts. Seriously, in reading the trivia questions and background information, I’m hoping the readers will glean a greater understanding of the motivation of these three creative geniuses. Also, I hope they have fun answering the questions and working the crossword puzzles.

What are your current projects?Can you share a little of your current work with us?

            I also write the Sydney Lockhart mystery series. Right now, I’m working on book number four, Murder at the Driskill. The stories are set in historic hotels in the early 1950s. Several readers have paid me an extraordinary compliment by telling me that my characters and writing style remind them of Janet Evanovich and her Stephanie Plum series.

            In September, I have a nonfiction book coming out. This project has been near and dear to my heart for several years. It is a true-life mystery and adventure story about the Audubon ornithologist who worked diligently to save the endangered whooping crane from extinction. The title is The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: Robert Porter Allen’s Odyssey; it is published by University Press of Florida. My goal in writing this book was to make a difference in the world of conservation and to tell Bob Allen’s incredible story.

            And, of course, I’m working on my fourth mystery-triviography book. Except for a few close friends, I’m not giving away the title of this one yet. However, one might pick up a few hints from reading my blog.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

            Time is always a challenge for me. Sometimes I feel like I’m a slave to time. That doesn’t mean I don’t use it wisely or have trouble finding the time to write. I write everyday. The trouble is, I have so many ideas and projects going on, I simply need more hours in a day.

What book are you reading now?

            At least once a year, I pick up a classic. I just finished rereading Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast and now I’m reading Dickens’A Tale of Two Cities. Talk about contrasting styles. After Hemingway’s short sentences and tight prose, I’m finding it difficult to get used to Dickens’ florid style and melodrama. But I will stay with it because I love the story.

What do you do when you’re not writing? What are your hobbies? How do they enhance your writing?

            I shop for shoes. Just kidding. Actually, I love shoe shopping, but I’d be living in a tent if I allowed myself that luxury very often.I love anything outdoors, especially bird watching. The Texas coast is a perfect place to see migratory birds, and I spend a lot of time there. I also enjoyed scuba diving in the Caribbean, but I’ve recently added a new activity to my fun list. I’ve started running half-marathons with my three sisters and my niece. We recently ran the Austin ½ Marathon and the New Orleans ½ Marathon (my youngest sister often runs the full marathon—go figure). Next November, we plan to run the race in Savannah. It’s a great way for us to enjoy a long weekend together. It keeps us from spending too much money shopping, although I must say, the shoe stores in Savannah are alluring.

            I get my best ideas when I’m running, hiking, cycling, or just setting on an observation platform waiting for a bird to fly by. When I exercise, it’s like having a metronome in my head that relaxes me and allows the ideas to flow. This is when I solve plotting problems or simply get the best ideas for my stories.

Thanks for coming, Kathleen. I’m so glad your books are being re-printed and can’t wait to read your mystery novels! And for all of you who want to know more about Kathleen and her writing, you can find her at 

Kathleen Kaska is the author of the award-winning Sydney Lockhart mystery series set in the 1950s. Her first mystery, Murder at the Arlington, won the 2008 Salvo Press Manuscript Contest. This book, along with her second mystery, Murder at the Luther, were selected as bonus-books for the Pulpwood Queen Book Group, the largest book group in the country. Before bringing Sydney into the world of murder and mayhem, Kathleen published three mystery-trivia books: (What’s Your Agatha Christie I.Q.?(newly titled The Agatha Christie Triviography and Quiz Book), The Alfred Hitchcock Triviography and Quiz Book, and The Sherlock Holmes Triviography and Quiz Book. All three books are being reissued in May 2012 by LL-Publications.


BOOK REVIEW: What’s Your Agatha Christie I.Q.? by Kathleen Kaska

Review by Ryder Islington

This is such a fun book! For those of you who are Agatha Christie fans, you’ll really enjoy the quizzes and puzzles. And for mystery writers it’s a great way to learn the basics of writing mysteries through the master mystery writer, Agatha Christie. Ms. Kaska put in a lot of work to make this book fun, interesting and also a great teaching tool. This is a great book for kids as well as adults and for writers as well as readers.

The quizzes include Titles and Plots, Murders, Motives and Victims, Murder Weapons and Victims, First Lines, Last Words,  and quizzes on specific titles from the prolific writer of the mystery genre.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I recommend this book for all lovers of mystery. If you like crossword puzzles, brain exercises, or just the fun of learning facts about one of the foremost authors of the century, pick up a copy of Kathleen Kaska’s What’s Your Agatha Christie I.Q.? 

You can find Kathleen Kaska at where you can read about all of her books, including the newest, The Sherlock Holmes Triviology and Quiz Book.

Welcome Guest Blogger Marissa Levin

I hope everyone enjoy’s Marissa’s article. I found it very interesting.   Marissa has a great blog called Sucessful Culture where similar articles can be found.  Just go to and click on BLOG.  Take it away, Marissa! Getting to “I Love What I Do and I’m Great At It.” How much valuable time do you expend on activities that don’t fuel your passion or make you struggle? That’s the question I considered as I listened to David Siteman Garland talk about the activities that fill our time on a daily basis. David was a special guest at an event hosted by one of the most remarkable networking communities in the DC region called Cadre (Connecting Advocates, Deepening Relationships, Exclusively – David currently hosts two shows: RISE: The #1 Show For Mediapreneurs, featuring conversations with web show hosts/bloggers/podcasters/other mediapreneurs, and RISE Fitness, which features conversations with health and fitness rock stars, advice, inspiration, recipes and more. While he is laser-focused now, it wasn’t always the case. David is a self-professed, former yes-aholic. Previously, he never heard an opportunity or idea he didn’t like. The result? Overwhelmed, stressed out, unhappy, out of touch with those that matter, and unable to do any one thing really well. He essentially pressed “Stop.” He started saying no, and stopped worrying about the fallout associated with establishing boundaries. He took an inventory of his activities and his life, and eventually discarded everything that didn’t reflect the core of who he is and who he wants to be. Accomplishing this is a matter of classifying our time into 4 quadrants. There are 4 ways to segment our optional* activities: You love it, and you’re good at it. You love it, but you’re not so good at it. You’re good at it, but you don’t love it. You’re not good at it, and you don’t love it. (*I included “optional” because all of us have to do things we don’t like, whether it’s as mundane as taking the dog to the vet or doing laundry, or something more significant such as handling legal and financial matters. That’s part of life. This column focuses on how we can evaluate where we should put our chosen energy and time, and dispose of or delegate the activities that don’t allow us to tap into our strengths and passions.) For argument’s sake, let’s say you want to start a business. You bring lots of experience, talent, and knowledge to the market and you’re passionate about sharing those gifts with the world. Because you love what you do and you’re great at it, you have no problems getting customers. People want to do business with others that bring lots of experience & credibility, and also love their line of work. After a while, you find that you are spending less and less time fulfilling your passion, and more and more time focused on the management of the business. It’s not as much fun anymore. You’ve moved from “I-love-what-I-do/I’m good-at-what-I-do” to “I-don’t-love-what-I-do/I’m-good-at-what-I-do.” The bloom is starting to fall from the rose. Rather than get sucked into a downward spiral of discontent, this is a great opportunity to honestly assess your passion and your strengths, and make changes to stay in the most favorable category. Options may be to scale back the business rather than grow it, work with just a few key customers, invest in technology that automates key processes, make some hires, or outsource the business management aspects of a growing company. There’s no right answer. What matters is that you make choices that align with the life you want to live. Ignore the skeptics, naysayers, pessimists and move forward. “I love what I do and I’m great at it.” Wouldn’t it be fantastic to make that your daily mantra for everything that fills your time? What can you do to get there… and stay there?

BOOK REVIEW: Love Thy Neighbor by Mark Gilleo

Review by Ryder Islington

 High praise for the plot of Love Thy Neighbor. Clark Hayden is a graduate student who returns home to stay with his mother, Maria, a victim of dementia. Strange things start happening in the neighborhood, including a visit to Maria’s house in the middle of the night by three Middle-Eastern looking men. Enter the FBI. Followed by the DC Police. And the CIA. And then there is the IRS agent who is auditing Maria and her deceased husbands’ taxes for several years.

Mr. Gilleo is very good at planting seeds of information in the beginning that make sense and become important later. The characters and dialogue are strong and real. Overall, the book is good, filled with mystery and believable circumstances of the modern world, feeling so true it gives the reader the willies. This is a fascinating look at our American culture. I hope it doesn’t scare good people so much that they become cynical and suspicious of good, G-d fearing American Muslims.

Now for the unfortunate news. Despite Mr. Gilleo’s talent, his habit of head-hopping with different points-of-view is disruptive. There are several incidences of improper point-of-view construction that allows one character to enter the head of another. Without this problem, I would give the book five stars, and readers who aren’t bothered by this kind of issue will really enjoy it. For me it was as much work as enjoyment. I truly hope Mr. Gilleo finds a good editor who will help him hone his next book into something spectacular.