A Hot Shot of a Book!

The Friendship Stones

Length: 244 pages

Author: Alan Black & Bernice Knight

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Publication Date: November 5th, 2013

Rating: 4 Stars

I have spent my entire life living in Kansas. God’s country as we call it, the prairie. I consider myself fortunate to live in the in the Kansas City metro area, just a hop, skip and a jump from the Ozarks. There is a big rivalry between Kansas and Missouri. The rivalry dates back to the Civil War. Now it plays out in basketball and football, the University of Kansas vs. the University of Missouri. What I find most interesting living in Kansas City is crossing the border into Missouri you can see a visual difference in the terrain. That “Ozarky feel”.

Alan Black & Bernice Knight captured that feel in “The Friendship Stones”. Though the tale takes place in 1920 I can tell you geographically nothing has changed. This is a story of 12-year-old LillieBeth Hazkit. LillieBeth is at that awkward age of innocence but forced to grow up quickly. Her father is only home on weekends as his job takes him away from the two ladies of his life. LillieBeth’s fascination with being a good Christian and growing up in God’s eyes is reflected in her everyday thought process. She decides to friend an older recluse whether he wants it or not and her persistence shows her stubborn side. On one of these journeys to Fletcher Hoffman’s land she is attacked and her Christian beliefs are challenge. The evil of others conflicts with her love of the Christian faith and she has to manage dealing with this on her own.

Alan Black is a good storyteller. I struggled with the first 30 pages trying to find the direction of the story. The story is told in 1920 sign of the times language. Fortunately for me there is a glossary in the back. As I continued with this sweet 12-year-old Christians view of the world Black throws this girl into the realm of reality dealing with factors that this lovely young lady should never have to be exposed to. Does her strong will win out in the end? It is worth your time to find out. I started out as reluctant on this book but found myself wanting more. Fortunately for me, there are more series to this story.

You can purchase this book here!

Is Your Hero a Saint?

The Hockey Saint

Length: 150 pages

Author: Howard Shapiro

Illustrated by: Marica Inoue

Publisher: Animal Media Group

Publication Date: 10/14/14

Rating: 5 Stars

I must admit football is my favorite sport. No, I mean American football. Unfortunately National Football League has been under the spotlight for the wrong reasons. Its sad that a few bad apples can reflect poorly on a league that has over 2,000 players but that is the world we live in. Professional athletes are held to a higher standard because they serve as role models whether they want to or not. What does this have to do with books? It has everything to do with The Hockey Saint.

Tom Leonard is a college sophomore with a lot on his mind. Personal tragedy rocks his world and hockey becomes his escape. He is a very talented player and proves himself to the coach and the team. One evening Tom meets his hockey hero Jeremiah Jacobson and Jeremiah takes Tom under his wing. This friendship blossoms and Tom realizes you can’t always believe what you hear in the press. After seeing first hand that his idol is charitable, Tom finds that idols aren’t perfect.

Critically acclaimed author Howard Shapiro has put another great ensemble together for this graphic novel. The Hockey Saint is illustrated by Marica Inoue, colored by Andres Mossa of “Spiderman” & “Deadpool” works and featuring a cover drawn by Neil Googe of “Batman & Judge Dredd works. Shapiro marries illustration and text to tell a great story that teens and adults can relate to.

I have not been a big fan of the graphic novel but The Hockey Saint changed that. This story was thoughtful and quite cleverly written. The dialog was believable and as I found myself so absorbed into this story I felt somewhat like a voyeur. I truly enjoyed this book and look forward to reading many more Howard Shapiro books.

You can purchase this book here.

A Roller Coaster Ride in This Children’s Book

Goat and the Terror Birds

Length: 35 pages

Author: PJ Gilbers

Illustrated by: Nicolas Longprez

Publisher:  Isabella Willow Publishing

Publication Date: 9/1/14

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

When my children were young, they used to watch the same videotapes over and over. Yes, I’m dating myself.   Toy Story was a favorite of theirs. I could not understand why they insisted on watching it over and over. Why watch it again when they could recite the movie from heart. Then I thought about it and realized why not reinforce a great message?

Goat and the Terror Birds is quite an escape. I thought reading a children’s book would be a cakewalk. I was mistaken! I read this book, put it down and reread the story. There are a lot of working parts to this tale.

Mac, dealing with his mother’s recent death has moved in with his Aunt Maddy and his cousin. Aunt Maddy is a loving and caring person happy to take Mac in but is struggling to make ends meet. Mac’s father is off exploring Africa in search of the “Terror Birds” believing it is his destiny to discover these elusive creatures and earn his way back to see his son.

While Mac is settling into his new environment a neighbor comes over. The neighbor just happens to be a Sir William, a goat. Sir William comes to their house and destroys the kitchen fixing them a sweet snack. Mac is horrified knowing his aunt will be home any minute, but lickity split just like that, the Sir William cleans the kitchen until it sparkles. Dr. Seuss’s Cat in The Hat comes to mind.

Sir William comes from a long line of goats that pride themselves on helping the less fortunate. Every time a crisis comes up, Sir William is there to help in very creative ways and fills in as a surrogate father to Mac.

There is a lot going on in this story. A young child dealing with a parents death, a father how is not around when a child needs him most, a young boy getting used to his new surroundings while being bullied from the neighborhood villain. Are you scared yet? You shouldn’t be. PJ Gilbers does a great job of showing strength in here characters. She shows that children are resilient and you walk away feeling good from this heartwarming story. This is one of many forthcoming adventures of Sir William and I can’t wait to hear more.

Last but not least, Nicolas Longprez’s illustrations really bring this text to life.  Coupled with Gilber’s story telling this book is a great start to a series.

You can purchase this book here.

Little Visits of Horror

Terror Train

Length: 246 pages

Author: Multiple

Publisher: James Ward Kirk

Editor: Krista Clark Grabowski & A Henry Keene

Publication Date: 6/12/14

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I am a big fan of the short story. As a matter of fact, I’ve written a few. Perhaps my love for the short story began when I was a little boy, my mother used to read to me at night. The book was “Little Visits With God” by Allen Hart Jahsmann and Martin R. Simon. Little Visits With God was published in 1957 and in short story form took a Leave It To Beaver approach to teaching young children how to handle different situations in a moral and Christian way. I’m sure my mother’s hope was that reading this book to me every evening would ensure that I would grow up to be a nice young man. I still have this book.

“Terror Train” is not “Little Visits with God”. I love the horror genre. The more terrifying, sordid and disturbing the better. This anthology is packed with horror stories and poems from over 30 authors. And yes, they all take place around trains. The eeriness of the book begins with a poem by Roger Cowin, and then eases into a great story by award winning author, Charie D. La Marr, which reminds me of a Twilight Zone gone wrong. Other authors include William F. Nolan an Edgar Allen Poe Award winner and author of Logan’s Run among other titles.

With collaboration such as this, there are many different styles of writing for you to appreciate or perhaps not appreciate. One such title “Steele Deliverance” by Michael Thomas-Knight starts out setting the scene for the story and it seems as if he had his thesaurus out writing adjective after adjective. Once the dialogue kicked in, I was absorbed into the story but it took awhile to get absorbed.

This book was an enjoyable read. Some times we need little visits of horror. I suggest that you purchase it and set it right next to your night table. If you have trouble sleeping, pick it up and read a story or two… as long as you can sleep with the light on.

Purchase this book here

Marrow Will Affect You to the Core


Length: 16 pages

Author: Sabne Raznik

Publisher: Self-published by the author

Publication Date: 9/11/13

Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


I would like to preface by saying this is not the type of book I would usually consider reviewing but boy I’m glad I did. Marrow is a self-published book by poet, writer and artist Sabne Raznik. The book is dedicated to a specific young man that did not survive his cancer. It is also dedicated to all children with cancer, those who survived, those who did not. The proceeds of the book go to St. Jude’s Hospital to fund research for cures of childhood cancer. One can tell right away this book is personal to Raznik.


The 3 stories in Marrow are written in poetic verse. This brings quite a challenge to the author to tell a story with limited words but Raznik is an artist. The first story “Mrs. Albuninah” is the longest of the poems. It puts two women from different cultures in one hospital hallway sharing the same human emotions. Communication between the two is not easy but Raznik reminds us that worry and sadness are universal. As I continued to read, I could almost smell the disinfectant of the hospital. The picture is so beautifully drawn through words; I was carried away as if I were looking down the hospital hallway watching this unfold. Did I mention Raznik was an artist? Good writing stirs emotion and emotion is concentrated in these 15 pages.


I feel compelled to point something out. Because of the cause in which this book was written, I was reluctant to read the poems. This book bounced around in my book bag for 2 weeks before I was brave enough to read it. I was afraid of being the guy that gives 1 star to the “cancer book”. Across the room in my office is a mirror. I was lucky enough to catch my expression when I finished “Marrow”. It reminds me what I tell my dogs, “Close your mouth or you’ll attract flies!” The best things come in small packages.

Purchase this book here

Tita, A Charming Read



Length: 312 pages

Author: Marie Houzelle

Publisher: Summertime Publications Inc.

Publication Date: 9/15/14

Rating: 4 of 5 Stars

Tita is seven, and she wonders what’s wrong with her. Devout, yet curious, her fierce originality threatens to make her an outcast from the only world she knows- that of 1950’s southern France. As her small wine producing town vibrates to age-old rituals on the verge of slipping away, Tita finds refuge- and a future- in books.

Though Tita is only seven years old, she is smart beyond her years. She comes across as your typical child, picky about what she eats and she doesn’t like her teacher but her grasp of right and wrong shows she has an old soul. Tita lives in a rural town with her mother, father and siblings. The sense of family is strong in this story as even grandmother and stepsiblings arise from the parent’s complicated pasts. The reader can feel the strong love Tita has for her parents but struggles to understand her fathers business decisions and her mothers personal decisions. When Tita feels unhappy or upset, she escapes into books. The stories she loves the most are advanced coming of age characters that she feels she can relate to even at her young age.

Marie Houzelle does and excellent job writing in the narrative of a child. You get the feeling that the author lived this character. If you are looking for cute child perspectives in serious situations as Claire Cameron’s “The Bear” or Emma Donoghue’s “Room” you won’t find it here. Tita has a charming yet mature quality that kept me wanting to finish reading her story. I was concerned that the setting of the story in southern France in the 1950’s might be hard for me to follow. I found that this is not the case. The story deals with issues that are timeless and could be set anywhere. This story gave me hope for the children of our future. I hope there are many “Titas” in the world.

Reviewed by John Lee