Friday, May 30, 2014

Diane Daniels Manning's Almost Perfect is..."Almost Perfect" in My Opinion...

Diane Daniels Manning is the Co-founder
and director of The New School in the Heights
a therapeutic school in Houston, Texas, which
helps children with social-emotional challenges,
She is the former Chair of the Department of
Education at Tulane and a practicing child
psychoanalyst. She learned the inner workings
of dog shows by writing an oral history of a
lifetime President of the Poodle Club of
America. Her writing awards include the
Faulkner-Wisdom Novella Prize and the
WIFT Short Script Competition.
Almost Perfect is a book that can be read by a variety of people and will be affected in quite different ways. It definitely is suitable for anybody at the grade school level who is able to begin enjoying comprehensive novels. As we know, that varies from child to child. In fact that is very well recognized in the school which is part of the story. Many young children will find it a fun book about a boy and his two special dogs and be thrilled how the story proceeds... But that's only the surface story...

For myself, I found Bess as the character I watched. She's just at the point that she thinks it is time to give up her business and retire...but a young boy came into her life and along the way thereafter, she was forced to confront and fact many issues...

For dog lovers, handlers, owners and those involved with show dogs, I consider this as a must-read fun novel that you won't want to miss.  I was fortunate to have a cat judge in my extended family so I'm quite acquainted with the rigors of the shows on those that work them, as well as for owners and the animals themselves... The author has done an excellent job, in my opinion, of revealing not only the actual shows, but the feelings, jealousies, and hopes and dreams of all those who find they want to strive to recognize their loved animals in this way...

I think the most important part, however, may be about the purpose of the school and those special children who attend... There will be several spotlighted so I'll stop now and just mention that it's an outstanding YA novel for quite a number of reasons...

As many know, when I find this type of book in my hands, I want to know the academic credentials on the author...What you will read in this terrific, realistic, yet simple novel [for many] is what many will recommend due to its encouragement and discussion of hard work and goal-setting. Kudos on this fine book in that regard. But, there is much more expertise than is available to astute readers if specifically looking for it and/or just recognize it as the underlying reasons behind each of the characters...  Therefore the author's credentials are being highlighted right at the beginning. This review may be longer than the norm as well so that I can try to spotlight different issues that may be important to potential readers...  In many ways, I point out that this book is "Almost Perfect"...
Benny Neusner sat on the front porch of the New Hope
School shivering in the cole December air. His shrink,
Dr. Kate, would say he was angry because his mother
was late again. The stupid divorce judge said he could
see her every Wednesday after school and every other
weekend, but what good was that when a mother was as
busy as his? Sometimes he didn't see her for weeks at
a stretch. The rest of the time he had to live with his dad
and, worse yet, his stepmother Sonya.

Benny lived with his father as decided by the court.

That day when his mother was late, he heard something.
It sounded like something crying.

Benny had always wanted a dog but his father refused to 
allow it. Still, when he heard the crying, he just had to see 
what was going on somewhere in that big house.

When Benny met Bess that day, his world was also turned
upside down.

Of course, Benny meeting McCreery might have been just
as important!  When the boy and dog met, they immediately
became friends. And since Bess was closing the business, he
wanted to buy McCreery. But, McCreery had been with Bess
since he had been born  and naturally were closer. 

Benny had ADHD. In fact, all the children at his school
were special-needs children. Each were treated
independently based upon his or her special needs.


Hypothermia. The newspaper saved him so far, but we've got
to get more warmth into him. She nodded. Her fingers were
tingling with cold after holding the puppy only a few seconds.
She glanced around the room for a solution. There was only
one. She opened her flannel shirt and tucked the icy body
For answer, she slumped down on the floor, her back resting
against the whelping box. The shallow rise and fall of the
puppy's chest fell into rhythm with hers...
Automatically, she rubbed her forefinger gently across the
crown of his head.

While Benny and Bess were becoming acquainted, Benny
had a new friend at school!

Steffie was new to the school, having been moved 
from school
 to school. Her mother thought she had 
a specific type of 
autism and kept reacting to Steffie based 
upon how she was
being described in a medical dictionary.
Steffie was acting out, just to make an impression on her
mother and Benny seemed to be the one person to whom she
could be open. Benny was beginning to see girls as friends!

Benny's shrink who works at the school is an excellent role 
model and has just the right thing to say to students. But
when Benny begins matchmaking for her to connect with
Bess's son, there are personal feelings she has to deal with 
for herself.

As you can see, I could continue to talk about this book--about 
Bess's twin sister for instance...The characters are wonderful
and, like I said, also contribute a personal issue for readers.
So in many ways, this book is indeed for all ages!

And I didn't even talk about what happened at the dog shows! 

What makes it "almost perfect"? Well how about a surprise 
far from what we expected... LOL  Ya Got to Check It Out!


Bess Rutledge is a 70-year-old owner of a Standard Poodles breeding, training, and showing business that has become well-known for champion show winners.
Umpawaug Kennels, Elizabeth Rutledge, Breeder/Owner
 She has come to the age when she must do some serious thinking about keeping her business. And at the beginning of the story has decided to close, turning over the last of her business to her former top rival in town. Her dog McCreery has been mated recently and Bess retains right of first choice which she was also going to give up...

Until she meets Benny and her whole world turns upside down.

Benny is a student at a neighbor school [Note tnny hat the author identifies this school at the ending of the book, so I am using actual pictures if available...]

They hadn't asked him where he wanted to live! There had been a lot of changes since he married Sonya, including his having to attend this school. He loved his mother very much and missed her, He forgave her though because of how much she had to least until he was older and started to learn better...
On that day, though, when Benny came to find out what    the crying was, he learned that puppies were being born and Bess ultimately offered one of the new puppies.  But along the way, there were many hurt feelings, anger and discussions.
Breaker, however, joined
the family...

Benny flopped onto his bed and stared up at the ceiling certain for he was the

most miserable boy in Fairfield County.
His mother was late picking him up
for their weekend together; he
hadn't seen his friend Steffie all
week. and Sonya had taken away his
game player just because he said he
had emptied the dishwasher when
what he meant was that he was
about to get around to it...

Handlers at Dog Show

Benny and Bess's son soon became friends, having the same issue to discuss...I've already given a clue!

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Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Very Cool Novel Jaffa Resonance, by Patrick Delaney Uses Sound and Vibrations to Help Find Secrets! Top 10 Favorite!

CatalĂ : Volto Santo, catedral de Lucca.
CatalĂ : Volto Santo, cathedral de Lucca. 
Seven centuries after commemoration to the sea, the Volto Santo revealed its sacred presence off the coast of Tuscany. The holy relic drifted out of a thick sea fog aboard an unmanned sailing ship. Shifting winds held the vessel offshore, declining every attempt to board her. Finally, with divine guidane, the Bishop of Lucca was able to gain the deck of the ship, and there redicvoer the Volto Santo. At least, that is the legend.

The Jaffa Resonance
By Patrick Delaney

Dr. Patrick Delaney is a neurologist and clinical professor of neurosciences--what better way to introduce us to his world than by having one of the lead characters who begins to experience a change around him...What was happening? He was attending Dr. Richard Donovan who had befriended him when Sean Casey had first come to work there. He stopped himself from remembering and brought himself back to the task--"the twinkle that had been Donovan just wasn't there." Casey knew that his friend was no longer in this body. He recognized that odds were against him regaining consciousness...

Casey remained silent in the room. The weight of the ophthalmoscope and reflex hammer in his pocket were a familiar tug at his lab coat. YThe bell of his stethoscope hung snuggle against his shirt. The state of the art ICU bed beeped as it electronically adjusted the pressure contours of the mattress. The ventilator hissed rhythmically across the roo. Telemetry hummed. The blood pressure cuff inflated automatically.
Then it was happening again: the electrical currents around him subtly altered. Sounds and vibrations began to coalesce. Casey's own respirations and pulse synchronized with the rhythms of the ventilator and other life support. The tone without music wasstruck. The pulsating sensation from earlier in the desert returned. Casey was alone in the room, everything vibrating and alive. Then the room expanded offering too clear contours. Yet the closeness remained. It continued for several minutes. He savored it, tuning in his own body.
Cool air fromC the outside corridor brought him back into the familiar bustle of the ICU...


His very essence was here. Nicodemus marveled
at the craftsmanship that had rendered such a
faithful likeness. He gazed at the face of the man
he had known so well, and whom he missed so
greatly. Placing the chalice of his blood within
the wooden carving had been a masterful touch.
An insightful tribute to my friend Jesus, he
thought. And now it was to be hidden within the
sight of thousands, yet wholly

There are just a few ancient history scenes to back up the story regarding the origin of Volto Santo off the coast of Tuscany and then later at the time of Christ's Crucifixion when Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea took responsibility of the body taken from the cross and moved to the burial site.

Although that is not the thrust of the novel, it did clearly state that, for me, I knew little about that time. I recognize that holy books hold much of the story, but there are many small issues that would never come to light without research and expertise of those who have followed up and documented things that happened. Invariably, many of us are met with amazement--and then more questions. But the presentation of background for this treasure hunt was both intriguing and meaningful to any who look to the past for building their lives... Notice in particular the time frames covered in the Prologue.

Casey had been pulled in to the search by Alexis, his friend's sister. When Jose had disappeared, she did what he had told her to do...find his friend, Casey. But as soon as Casey saw Alexis, he had the beginning of a personal reason for helping her...I'll not mention anything further except when you read the last part of the book, I'm not sure I know what happened--is it a setup for a sequel or...

The two contacted the school where Jose was doing his research and found out more about it...then decided the best thing to do was to go where he had last been seen...
But there was a dangerous man they would encounter and who probably was the man who had murdered her brother.. He was known as "Flame in His Face--Guerrero" and he had been identified in a brief note that they found in Jose's apartment...Drugs were only the commercial side of his activities...

Through the vibrations, Casey was able to lead them to the Curandera, the medicine woman, and some of what they told them was that:

"Long ago, the god Itzamana placed the Chiruwi plant in the Earth to make our planet peaceful and good. Itzamana protected and nurtured the plant, as a gift to the first people of the Earth. Just as the people needed the Chiruwi for continued peace and harmonty, the plant as the early sign of the god needed the worship and love of the people...But when the people became consumed with other desires and ambitions, they became less attentive to the gift of the Chiruwi plant. This angered Itzamana..."

But then she told Casey personally, "You brother, are cause and effect...for you know that what you seek cannot be found with logic. You hesitate to search for a vision that is beyond reason. Only by immersing yourself, by plunging into the unknown, will you find what you seek." 

Much was told to them but they still needed to proceed...for Alexis had seen a vision that drove her to discover if it were true!

By the time they had left the Yucatan Peninsula, Guerrero and a number of his men, had followed Casey and then drowned, not being able to escape...

More and more involved, including Jose's professor, were in danger as they got closer and closer. Fortunately, additional help had revealed itself instead of just following them! Good thing because they were headed to Jaffa Harbor to try to review it historically and identify "what went where" at that time...

This has to be added to my top ten for this year... the combination of ancient treasure with the concurrent details of the hunt, plus the background taking us to the time Jesus lived and died was exciting... But add to that a mysterious "vibration" that can only be heard by a few... Whew! So much just has to be followed to get the whole story...else the ending is just too boring! LOL I'm being optimistic and looking forward to seeing more of Patrick Delaney! If you enjoyed the Librarian series, with a mystical, fascinating touch...check this one for sure!


Patrick Delaney, M.D. is a neurologist and clinical professor of neurosciences at the University of California, San Diego. He is actively engaged in teaching medical students and physicians from around the world. The son of a philosopher, he enjoyed a rambunctious childhood with ten brothers and sisters. He now lives in San Diego, California with his wife Tracy. The Jaffa Resonance is his first fiction novel.

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Monday, May 26, 2014

Wall of Names by Guy Graybill in Whimsy and Wry-- We Mourn Them...

Wall of Names

Most walls are built to separate;
But, this wall's built to bind,
It brings together fallen souls
With loved ones left behind...

This wall will span the ocean's waves.
This wall will span the years;
And, though, it sheds the pounding rains,
It will absorb the tears.

One Man sees others place bouquets
And hears them softly cry,
While making tracings of the names,
His son was one to die.

His son, they said, stepped on a mine
That lay beneath the ground;
But, no remains were gathered then
And none were ever found.

They never sent a body bag,
No 'welcome' could occur.
He held a dismal service; but,
With nothing to inter.

He prays...and hopes to capture, here,
By copying the name,
The spirit of the loved one lost,
That he might hold and frame.

So he will trace the chiseled name,
Upon the sheet it's pressed.
And, if he's caught the troubled soul,
He'll take it home to rest.

And when, someday, we put aside
All campaigns, great and small, 
We'll know the world has finally learned...
The message of our wall.


Friday, May 23, 2014

Linda Castillo Presents The Dead Will Tell - Direct From Amish Country

     Watching the scene apprehensively, Belinda Harrington approaches me. "What's going on? Did someone shoot my Dad?"

I give her a hard look, noticing the boat-size purse at her side, the bulky jacket, and I realize she has plenty of places in which to secret a weapon. I don't think she shot her father or wrapped a rope around his neck and strung him up. But I learned a long time ago that taking things at face value is never a good idea when there's a dead body involved.
"We believe your father may have sustained a gunshot wound shortly before his death," I tell her.
"What? But...oh my God. He was hanging. Who would do such a thing.
Mrs. Harrington, does your father own a handgun?"
"I think so."
"Do you know what kind?"
"It's big and black." She shrugs. "I don't know anything about guns."...
Do you mind if I take a quick look in your purse?"

The Dead Will Tell:
Murder in Amish Country

By Linda Castillo

This is a Kate Burkholder novel. Although it is the second I've read, I know I would love to follow the series that People magazine calls, Gripping... Indeed, that is just what it is... Perhaps because murder in a religious-based community is so much harder to contemplate???

Kate Burkholder is Amish, but had left the community a long time ago. Still she took a job of protecting them and is able to community with them effectively since she knows the language that many only know. We refer to it as Pennsylvania Dutch. It is the present, but the Prologue provides the first needed flashback to March 8, 1979. That was the day that a tragedy occurred within a family and within the community. The only survivor was Billy Hochstetler, who, in trying to help his mother from being taken away, had run after the car.  They had already killed his father and the children were locked into the cellar. During the time that Billy had heard the car and left, the house caught fire and all the children were also gone.
English: This is my own work, Gila Brand. Phot...
Word around town is that Hoch Yoder has suffered with depression and nightmares for years. The shrinks have
 all sorts of official names for it: survivor's guilt;
post-traumatic stress disorder. But
bottom line was that Hoch Yoder  blamed himself, 
and the guilt affected every facet of his life. 
While most Amish men are married
with children by the age of twenty-five, Hoch didn't marry Hannah until just a few years ago, 
when he was already into his forties.

Billy had been taken into an Amish family and ultimately was adopted, changed his name to Yoder and now ran their business...

As much as a tragedy can be forgotten and people able to move on, it had happened... Until...

The first murder...

Yes, the man found hanging from the tree had actually been murdered...and they soon discovered why...
What's the cause of death?" I ask
"Strangulation due to the compression of the carotid
arteries causing global cerebral ischemia."
I follow the doc to a gurney situated beneath a lamp
that's been pulled down close. A green sheet marred
by several watery stains covers the body. I brace an
instant before Doc Coblentz peels away the sheet.
I steel myself against the sight of the massive
Y-incision cut into Dale Michael's torso. The flesh
is blue gray with a sprinkling of silver hair on a
chest that's sunken and bony. A few inches above
his navel, a neat red role the size of my pinkie
stands out in stark contrast against the pasty skin.
"So he was still alive when he was hanged from
those rafters?" I ask.
"Correct. There was a good bit of bleeding from
both gunshot wounds, which tells me the heart
was still beating when he sustained them."

But each of the following murders had the same telling addition to the body...

Amish country near Arthur, Illinois
The shrinks haven't coined a term for the
emotions a cop experiences later, in the hours
after a high-speed chase or physical encounter
or office-involved shooting. Those hours when
the adrenaline ebbs and the intellect kicks
back in. Most everyone gets the full-body
shakes. Some cops get angry. Some laugh or
joke in an almost giddy manner or act in
some otherwise inappropriate way. I've seen
some cops cry--and not just females--even
the tough veterans who think they're immune.

Obviously the remaining son of the referenced family had to be considered a "person of interest" and though Chief Burkholder came to talk with him, and even verified that his father, as a furniture maker, had also created peg dolls when he had time, she left feeling that Hoch had not been involved in taking revenge. His final words to the Chief were "The men responsible for what happened to my family will be judged not by you or me or even by some Englischer court," he tells me. "They will be judged by God and God alone."
I like her response when she quickly claimed, "Not if I have anything to say about it." My kind of woman doing her job!

And she went on doing just that... Interesting, she is involved with a man who also lost his family in tragedy. The case and what was being investigated, remembered, brought a bitter-sweet touch to their relationship and to the overall story line...

English: Amish couple shopping in Aylmer, Onta...

She felt that she should conduct as many of the interviews as possible with the Amish so that she could provide the best communication. But as she got more and more into what had happened back in '79, she found herself "reeling with the bishop's disturbing revelations..."

There was no way to try to prevent any further murders, since they did not have a link between those who were killed... And even when they discovered the piece that proved the present murders were all related, there wasn't a way to identify any others.  It was through research with older Amish who were around during the mid-70s that a potential group had been named. Even with that, however, those "potentially" involved, such as a local minister, refused to accept protection by indicating knowledge of the 1979 family tragedy.

I believe most readers will feel the same... No matter what had been done, I hadn't a clue who was actually doing the killing although readers are almost brought directly into the spider's web...I was surprised with the actual reality! Kudos to Castillo!

This is suspenseful from the beginning to the end, even while the author has provided an excellent thrilling story of murder to track and investigate along with the Sheriff's staff.  I loved it and highly recommend it to lovers of mystery, suspense and chilling suspense!


Linda Castillo lives in Texas with her husband and is currently at work on her next thriller set in Amish Country and featuring Chief of Police Kate Burkholder. Her first novel in the series, Sworn to Silence, was a New York Times bestseller.

Check out my review of First in Series

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