Red Mountain by Dennis E. Yates

Mixed in a cocktail of gritty suspense.

I love a good mystery, and although I usually prefer my fiction realistic, an occasional flight to fantasy can be fun. I was intrigued by the book Red Mountain by Dennis E. Yates, because it mixed both aspects in a cocktail of gritty suspense.

The story begins with the lead character, Robert, just regaining consciousness, as he realizes his home has been invaded, he’s been attacked and that his wife and son have been kidnapped. He tries to bargain with the invaders for his family’s safety, as he slips into a drug-induced oblivion.

Robert awakens, and the story follows his adventures as he struggles to find where his family is being held, and struggles to recover them. In an interesting twist, the author alternates Robert’s modern day, realistic adventures, with the rather surrealistic adventures of characters from the past.

Both stories are gripping, and I found myself racing from chapter to chapter, anxious to find out what happened in each. In fact, I began to find the surrealistic tale from past gripped my attention even more than the realistic story, which came as quite a surprise.

One thing that I noticed about this book is the author’s effective use of dialogue to drive the story forward, particularly in Robert’s story.

I also had to wonder about an encounter Robert had with a seemingly innocent stranger in the last chapter. Did the author leave an opening for a sequel? I hope so! If any of you have read this story, do you think there will be a sequel, or am I reading too much into that slight encounter?

Declutter Your Home Fast by Dale Holmes

Clutter rehab for organized simplicity

Just the other night, I managed to lose my eyeglasses somewhere in either my bathroom, closet, or bedroom. I retraced my steps many times, looked in all the usual spots, plus the trash bin, and just could not find them. Glasses are expensive and I dreaded the idea of buying new ones, or choosing to go without. Seriously, where could they have gone?

As I was attempting to find those misplaced eyeglasses, it struck me that yes, I have a lot of clutter, and that clutter was making it really hard to find anything. I have receipts in my bathroom cupboard from years ago, just in case I decide to return that jar of face cream that was used up in 2008, I guess. The closet has a pile of unmatched socks, just waiting for me to take the time to match them up and put them away. The bedroom was better, very little clutter there, but a few books that I have no immediate plans to read. 


This little exercise in futility got me’s time to clean up the clutter. I turned to eBooks, which I frequently do in times of need, and came across this helpful little number entitled Declutter Your Home Fast by Dale Homes. 


The book reviews some of the reasons people clutter, and the benefits of de-cluttering. It also included ideas for planning your de-cluttering attack, along with space saving ideas. Many of these ideas will be useful for apartment or small home dwellers, so even if you aren’t prone to clutter, these can be helpful. 


So far, I’ve thrown out those old receipts, along with some long expired credit cards. I did choose to go through the socks this morning and match up two to wear from the pile, so slowly, the clutter is being reduced. 


And my glasses? Yes, I did eventually find between the blankets on the bed.

The God’s Wife by Lynn Voedisch

A spiritual connection between several millennia.

A change in seasons is always a magical time, filled with promise of what might be. That is especially true as the rather somber days of late fall in Minneapolis transition to the holidays, which are, of course, imbued with a sense of fantasy. 

So, with the changing of seasons from fall to winter seasons, I looked for a book that would mirror that sense of fantasy, and I found The God’s Wife by Lynn Voedisch. The book follows the lives of two women, one exalted by birth, and the other by talent.


Neferet was an ancient Egyptian princess, and Rebecca was a modern ballet dancer. Although these two women lived several millennia apart, they held a spiritual connection that is hinted at throughout the story, and fully explained only at the very end.  


I enjoyed the way the story contrasted the lives and influences of these two women. I especially enjoyed reading about the life and religious practices of the Egyptian princess. Some of the writing seemed a little unpolished to me, with an occasional awkward phrase. I also thought more could have been done with the character of one particular villain in the ballet dancer’s life, but it may be merely that the story did not go in the direction I thought it would. 


The story offers intrigue, suspense and a touch of romance, it kept my attention, and now and then, kept me away from tasks that I should have been doing. Overall, I would recommend this book for someone who is looking for a story with a twist.

Build a world class library on the cheap

ebooks: A dust-free option for your classic literature collection

In general, I believe that you get what you pay for, but sometimes, you can get lucky and get tremendous value for nothing. This is so true when it comes to books today. Much of the world’s best literature can be had for nothing, and I’m assiduously attempting to collect the classics and store them on a cloud server. 

Obviously, I’m talking about ebooks, and I realize not everyone prefers that format. It does have many benefits though, and one benefit that I appreciate is being able to read classic literature by simply downloading to an ebook version, with no expense, and no need to even stop by the library. 


I’ll never want for high quality reading material again. As a confirmed book-aholic, it relieves me to know that I have a huge selection of books available, whenever and where ever I take my tablet or smart phone.  


Another benefit of converting to ebooks is that I’ve been able to clear out bookshelf space. I replaced hard copies of my favorites with electronic versions, and I now have fewer books to dust, and more room to store other things. Even better, I feel confident that someone else, who either can’t afford an ebook reader or doesn’t care for them, is able to enjoy the classics that I sold to my local Minneapolis Half Price Books store. 


How do you feel about ebooks? Do you prefer them over traditional paper books? If you like ebooks, do you find yourself collecting classic literature? Why or why not? Please share your thoughts. 

Yoga As Medicine by Timothy McCall

The Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing

Minneapolis is a long way from India, not just geographically, but climate-wise and culturally also. Many Minneapolitans are interested in health; the city has a strong health care industry, and high percentage active people. Many are also interested in exploring other ways of understanding. I think this may account for the strong interest in yoga in this city. 

As someone who’s interested in health and fitness, I’ve been interested in yoga, a popular therapy in India. I’ve taken some yoga classes and training, and I wanted to deepen my study. I learned about a book, Yoga As Medicine: The Yogic Prescription for Health and Healing by Timothy McCall, MD, and bought a copy. 


The book is easy to read, and filled with photographs that illustrate the asana, or poses, that are being presented. It gives general information about using various aspects of yoga as an aid to health and healing. Along with general information, the author provides case studies of people who use yoga to manage a number of specific conditions, such as cancer and obesity. 


The book is written by a medical doctor, and what I found fascinating is Dr. McCall’s hypotheses on why certain types of yoga, and certain poses, are helpful for specific conditions. The ancient yogis developed their practices through careful observation of how breathing and asana affected the body. Western science is catching up, and at times, is able to explain why those activities aid in healing. 


Anyone who teaches yoga may find that this book helps them provide more better instruction to students with health issues. Serious students, whether healthy or not, will likely also find this book fascinating. 


The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber

Is your next job your new business?

In Minneapolis, as is the case in much of the nation, the unemployment rate is higher than it should be. Job hunting can quickly become frustrating and demoralizing. You may wonder what’s the point, and you may be ready to give up.

You might also wonder if it’s time to take another approach. Instead of continuing as a job seeker, you might start considering becoming a job creator. If you have an idea that you are passionate about, and this idea could be built into a small business, becoming an entrepreneur might well be worth considering.

Naturally, you’ll want to explore your idea, and explore what it takes to launch and maintain a successful small business. A book Michael E. Gerber, titled The E-Myth Revisited, can help you in your exploration. 


It’s easy to read, and will help you frame up your business idea so that your new venture can be successful and sustainable. It reviews developing simple systems that can be used by anyone. As an entrepreneur, you don’t want to be only one who can run your business the way you’d like it run; by simplifying and systematizing it, much of the  day-to-day work can be done by employees. This allows you, as the owner, to spend time on larger strategy, and even take the occasional vacation. 


Starting a business is not for everyone, of course. Some people lack life experience, and others may need the stability a traditional job offers. Other people, however, have what it takes. They just need to gain confidence, and find some guidance along the way. If you fall into this category, read The E-Myth Revisited, and decide whether starting a business might be right for you. 


Victim by Catherine Astolfo

Set in Canada, this book will resonate with many Minnesotans

As a long time Minnesotan, I’ve long had an affinity with Canada, our neighbors to the North. In fact, when I was younger, I traveled to Canada freely and I didn’t really consider Canada as a different country. It seemed more like it was a collection of different states to my child’s mind. In that spirit, I consider the book Victim, by Catherine Astolfo, to be almost an honorary Minnesota book. 

This richly textured novel drives its story using a third person perspective of a minor character of Ojibwa heritage, and the first person perspective of the heroine, Emily Taylor, a non-native local high school principal with a secret past. This technique renders both worlds vividly to the reader. 

The story begins with the apparent capture and kidnapping of First Nation hunter by the fabled Walking Bear. The hunter was well-grounded in Ojibwa traditions, yet she had wandered from her culture’s teachings and had become greedy. When the story switched to Emily’s viewpoint, the transition between the two worlds is stark, and to me, Emily’s world seemed somewhat bleak. 


I found the book’s characters to be realistic; their virtues offset by flaws, as is often the case in real life. I also appreciated the sensitive presentation of the First Nations people’s culture; the rich spiritual connections of the Ojibwa teachings contrasted to Emily’s feelings of disconnection because of her past. 


The author makes excellent use of foreshadowing, which creates the tension so desirable in murder mysteries. She also leaves some questions unanswered, and as a reader, I can’t wait to ready more of this series. I found myself caring about the characters, and being very interested in what happened in the past, and what will happen next. 


Out of the Limelight by James Bagworth

A perfect tale for this time of year, when the spirits become restless.

Although I usually enjoy a good murder mystery or thriller, this time of year, I find late 18th century mysteries, especially those in the genre of Edgar Allen Poe, especially attractive. The novel I read this past week, Out of the Limelight by James Bagworth, fits that description. The book begins in October 1879, and with it’s dark Victorian setting, it is a perfect tale for this time of year, when the spirits become restless. 

The story features a varied and eccentric cast of characters, from a humble flower girl with a shocking secret, to a pair of comedians, a beautiful diva and a charming and well-respected doctor. Although the characterizations are a bit stereotypical, the author plays on those stereotypes in an amusing fashion. 


Through this convoluted and fast-paced tale, Mr. Bagworth weaves deft touches of humor along side visions of Gothic horror. Although the story is set in Victorian England, it is far from stodgy, leading me to wonder if the general Victorians were less straight laced than I’d assumed. 


I usually pride myself on being able pick up on subtle cues in the story line to figure out who the murderers are and other plot twists. I was however, occasionally and pleasantly surprised by Out of the Limelight. Too me, this made the story even more difficult to put down; I just had to know who did what!


Have you read this story, and if so, did you enjoy it? Otherwise, are you a fan of Victorian Gothic fiction, especially during the Halloween season? Please share your thoughts. 


Lake Desire by Dav Kaufman

A work of literary fiction, both cozy and profound.

Lake Desire, Minnesota is a quiet, peaceful little town nestled in the northern part of the 32nd state of the Union.

If you are just passing through, or stopping by for a day of fishing, and need a meal, there's the Sportsman's Cafe to sate your appetite.  Just be warned that breakfast is the busiest time there, and if Cherie, the only waitress employed full-time by owner Jack Hanson, gives you the wrong order, cut her some slack since Jack has a habit of ragging on her mercilessly from behind the counter.   

Need gas?  There’s Ernie Brown's gas station to fill your tank at. By the way, Ernie has a "Walk of Fame" inside his station with Polaroid’s of every customer who bought gas there up on it.  If he asks you if you'd like to be on it, why not say yes, because maybe one day you will come by with your kids or grandkids and can proudly point yourself out. 

Just want a beer or some harder type of booze?  There’s the Lunker Lodge, where you can quench your thirst and chat with owner Barney Whitmore. A Korean veteran who is the only man in town who can understand the demons local Vietnam vet Brett Newstead battles every day.

Need bait, tackle, or some other fishing gear?  Or shot a deer whose head you would like mounted?  Father-and-son duo Arnold and Martin Ravenwood at Ravenwood's Bait Shop and Taxidermy Studio can help you out (If you visit, take a gander at the marker board Martin has up that lists, in one column "Number of days fished" and on the other "Minnesota State Record", which is 978.  Martin plans to achieve that, my friends.

Want to buy a book?  Stella Holmstead's shop Forgotten Memories can take care of that.  Heck, you can even get a tattoo in Lake Desire, because Bear and Earl at Desire Tattoos By Bear and Earl give you one (or another, if your theme song is Weird Al Yankovic’s “Another Tattoo) and by the way, Bear is also an aspiring writer and poet, so don’t let the tattoo shop fool you into thinking he’s just a punk who has grown old.

Then there’s the lake itself, a prime fishing spot when the season is here.  If you are up there casting your line, keep an eye out for the twin brothers Steven and their girlfriend Annie.  They are a young dreamer trio who intend to pursue their dream of leaving a monument behind to mark their existence in this world.  How do you tell which Steven is which?  One is "Stee", the other is "Ven.” And dig that snowmobile they can drive all year long thanks to Stee and Ven’s Yankee ingenuity!

If you run into any trouble in this area, you can go to Sheriff Dwyane Walker for help but cut his new deputy Eddie Brewster a little slack if he seems a bit too eager to prove himself. He is filling some big shoes because Brett Newstead used to be Dwyane's deputy until he lost his job due to the alcohol Brett uses to fight his demons from Vietnam.

All in all, Lake Desire is quite a nice place to stop at if you are coming or going from Two Harbors, Duluth, Branierd, Mille Lacs, or Fargo.  It is no idle paradise, though because one of Lake Desire's most beloved residents, Arnold Ravenwood’s wife Ellen, died three months ago in a tragic boating accident on Desire’s water, leaving not only her friends and family but the entire town with a deep sense of loss.

How will they not only find healing, but rediscover themselves in the process?  And just who is that mysterious woman hanging around town looking on at the daily scene? 

Let Dav Kaufman show you in his marvelous debut novel based on a screenplay he wrote and wishes to film one day.

His style is a superb blend of humanity, compassion, and a keen knowledge of the human soul.  His prose also deftly captures the glorious beauty of northern Minnesota, a beauty I’ve experienced myself several times.

If you are looking for a read both cozy and profound, this is a book for you.


Syndrome by Thomas Hoover

A terrifying, medical thriller

Fall is fast approaching in Minneapolis. I watch the leaves turn colors, drop from the trees, and then shrivel up to die. The seasons serve as a metaphor for the human life span, and if you’re like me, you dread the idea of getting older. If you’re like me, you just might wonder how far you’d go to stay young forever. 

Syndrome by Thomas Hoover is a fascinating medical thriller that explores this issue. The cast of characters includes a young interior designer who has a faulty heart, a medical reporter with complex relationships, a brilliant doctor who is using stem cell research and a megalomaniac business man, who will do anything to stay youthful, even if it means risking others lives. 


Although I’m not a medical professional, so I can’t say for certain, the author’s knowledge of medicine and science seemed authoritative. It added to the book’s ring of authenticity, and I would not be surprised to hear of similar experiments being conducted even now. 


Some of the novel’s dialogue was less successful in my opinion. Some phrases seemed stilted, and the dialogue just did not ring true to the characters’ personalities all the time. 


Regardless of the dialogue’s shortcomings, I enjoyed this book immensely. The plot kept me intrigued; the in depth medical and scientific descriptions added to its realism, while still being understandable by a layperson. The book moved along at a good pace, with plenty of twists and turns to keep my guessing. 


This author has written a number of other books and I plan to pick up another one or two to read. Have you read any of his work? If so, what did you read, and did you enjoy it?