Book Review: My Children, His Victims by Ica Iova

26 01 2013

Some books are hard to read because the gravity of their subjects is so weighty. Some books are difficult to read because the characters are so raw and vivid, that all heartaches that the characters feel resonate in your breast. Some books are hard to read because they make you realize a horrible truth about human nature. Ica Iova’s book, My Children, His Victims, is a hard book to read for all of these reasons.

I was very happy to review this book when Ms. Iova asked me to a few months after her author interview. It is a great book: well written, unbelievably real, and a story of triumph. But when I sat down to re-read it, I almost couldn’t. I didn’t know if I could travel with Johanna as her beautiful marriage turns to open hostility and then divorce from her husband Louis. I didn’t know if I could re-read the painful details of how Louis bitterly and cruelly fought for custody of his children and how he attempted to turn their impressionable young minds against their mother. It is hard to watch Johanna’s life be destroyed and not be able to do anything to help her succeed.

What is most heartbreaking is how scenarios just like this happen every day. We have all seen a friend destroyed by divorce and embittered by the slow, capricious ways of divorce court. We have seen someone have to rise like a phoenix from the ashes of their past life and forge ahead. Some never do get the strength to move on and start a better life. I think what is truly remarkable about this book is that Johanna’s happily ever after is not a guarantee. In this book, art does imitate life; we are sated at the end: Johanna does get custody of her children but it is a long road. She makes mistakes, she is railroaded by the court, her children are put in jeopardy, and her children won’t love her with as much innocence as before the divorce.

My Children, His Victims hopes to illuminate people about Hostile Aggressive Parenting which is a serious form of child abuse that can occur during custody battles. Hostile Aggressive Parenting (HAP) is defined as: A general pattern of behavior, manipulation, actions or decision-making of a person (usually a parent or guardian) that either directly or indirectly. Hostile-Aggressive Parenting is most apparent in child-custody disputes and is used most often as a tool to align the child with one of the parents during litigation over custody or control of the child.  Hostile-aggressive parents will use the child as a weapon against the other spouse and family members. Hostile-Aggressive Parenting is considered by many health care and legal experts unhealthy, anti-social, abusive behavior which is emotionally damaging and contrary interest of a child. At the end of My Children, His Victims is an appendix which explains HAP more completely and explains what to do if you observe the symptoms of HAP.

My Children, His Victims is a lyrical novel that hopes to educate readers about a serious issue. Reading this book will be difficult but rewarding. I highly recommend reading this book (with some tissues) and learning more about HAP.

To buy this book go to

Read the interview with Ica Iova about My Children, His Victims and her other books here:


The Dreamer Genome by Steve S. Grant: A Book Review

19 01 2013

Science fiction fans! I found us an author to fill the void left behind by Arthur C. Clarke and Carl Sagan, and his name? Steve S. Grant. Mr. Grant has written a brilliant novel entitled The Dreamer Genome which begins in 2020, after a scientist conducts genetic manipulations, in secret, to give human fetuses the ability to survive long periods of hibernation. In other words, he splices genetic material from bears and humans to create a prototype for cryogenic life.

When the clandestine lab is destroyed to avoid discovery, test subjects are scattered and the reader watches these boys grow up and gets to monitor their changes. All of the boys live fantastic lives but genetic failure claim the lives of many. The reader and the scientist who created these boys learn which genetic manipulations worked and which have not. As the boys grow up, some of them, resent the corporate greed that rules them and fight to live an ordinary live, even with extraordinary genes. The reader sees the struggle of a few young men try to be individuals who have their own hopes and dreams fight against their pre-programmed purpose. They do not want to be guinea pigs who must give up everything to further scientific research into cryogenics but many of them cannot escape their fate.It is even more difficult to escape when the man who you have known as your father a scientist who created you for observation.

Love, hate, and genetic destiny are major themes in this book and they are explored from a variety of points of view. The Dreamer Genome presents some very realistic potraits of human beings. There are villains who love and heroes who hate. The multiplicity of the ethical issues that surround human experimentation and the scientists who work on such experiments are portrayed with depth and feeling. This is a book that will make you think long after the book is closed.

The Dreamer Genome tells us that to live forever, things will be sacrificed: hopes and dreams; morals and sometimes even men.

Find more about Steve S. Grant here:

Or buy The Dreamer Genome here:

Volunteers for Literacy by Gretchen Elhassani: A Book Review

12 01 2013

When I agreed to review Volunteers for Literacy by Gretchen Elhassani I assumed it was going to be a non-fiction book hoping to enlighten the readers about the plight of illiteracy in America. I was excited to review the book because helping illiterate people become literate is something very near, and dear to my heart. Imagine my surprise when I opened the kindle file and the cover was of a dangerous man with red eyes glaring over a stack of burning books. I checked to make sure I opened the right file and then checked it again. Volunteers for Literacy wasn’t a dry pamphlet but a thriller.

Despite its prim name, Volunteers for Literacy is exactly what a thriller should be: sensationalistic, fast paced, and violent. It is like a Clint Eastwood movie, sometimes the plot is implausible and a little too convenient but it is entertaining as hell.

The book starts out with Amanda Smith a single parent working at the local fast food joint to pay the bills and support her little girl, Jesse. Amanda works hard at the Burby-Q and looks out for her colleagues. She also wants a better life and a better job which she can’t achieve because she can’t read. Amanda’s compassion for her coworkers and her desire to learn to read set the whole book in motion. When Amanda’s co-worker, Sara goes missing, Amanda is compelled to find her. Amanda looks for Sara at the local library where Sara sometimes hangs out. While she is there Amanda learns about an adult education class which tutors illiterate people. Amanda signs up for the tutoring and goes home without any more information about Sara.

The reader finds out that Sara has been kidnapped because her boyfriend blabbed to her about a bank robbery he is involved in and the crew leader doesn’t like any loose ends. The bank robbery goes awry and the robbers are forced to take refuge in the public library- where Amanda is being tutored- and she recognizes the robbers as clients at the Burby-Q the day that Sara went missing. Amanda decides that in order to get out of the library and to help Sara, she has to befriend the bank robbers and help them escape so they can lead her to where Sara is being held hostage. Amanda befriends a homeless man, who is also ex-military and the head librarian in her quest to outwit the bank robbers.

Sounds a little crazy, right? Reading through Volunteers for Literacy I felt myself struggling deal with how implausible the whole thing would be. I am not sure that the theme of helping illiterate people melds well with a thriller about bank robbing murderers. What was most shocking is that in the end everything turned out all right. Amanda got to go to college; Sara is rescued by Amanda and is sent home safe and sound. The military man, Joe, sobers up and the head librarian tricked the bank robbers and made off with all the money without the police (or anybody else) looking for the loot. Volunteers for Literacy is a violent book and to end it like a Brady Bunch script seemed a too pat. That isn’t to say that I wasn’t happy with the ending. Everybody likes it when the hero’s win and the bad guys are punished but it wasn’t believable.

In the end though, I ate Volunteers for Literacy up like cotton candy. It was a lighthearted and fun read akin to a good episode of Law and Order. If you need a good beach read or airplane book- strap yourself in with Volunteers for Literacy and have a killer time.

If you want to buy Volunteers for Literacy go to or Barnes and Noble.

You can find out more about Gretchen Elhassani and her books on Goodreads or on her blog:

A Day with the Animals at Upland Hills Farm: A Book Review

5 01 2013

Nathan Perkins or ‘Farmer Nate’ as he is more affectionately nicknamed has written a children’s book: A Day with the Animals at Upland Hills Farm, which hopes to teach children about farm yard animals and promote Upland Hills Farm in Oxford, Michigan. It seems like a nice idea on paper but this book has a lot of issues. Foremost is the utter lack of plot. Children’s books, even picture books for babies, need to have a plot. A simple story where children went around the farm yard and asked questions would have sufficed. This reads as a random assortment of facts which are poorly organized and even more poorly written. Writing a children’s book does not mean that there can be poor grammar, missing commas and in the end I blame WestBow Press for not properly editing this book. They should have guided Nathan Perkins and his fellow collaborators in producing a better book. At $13.95 it has little chance of selling when many better children’s books can be bought cheaper.

I did enjoy the pictures that are photographs of actual animals instead of cartoon pigs and sheep. I wish they had been better quality or were printed on glossy paper. For such a high price the printing could be so much better. What I find disheartening is that Upland Hills Farm is a great place. You can take your kids to see all sorts of animals and in the summer they run a fantastic day camp. In the fall it is a fun place to go on a hayride and visit during the harvest festival. Upland Hills Farm is a great venue for you to get married or to take kids on a school trip. The people are friendly, knowledgeable and love educating people about living on a farm. Would I buy this book? No. Will I visit Upland Farms again? Absolutely! I encourage everyone to get of the house and spend the day enjoying the beauty of Upland Hills Farm.

Upland Hills Farm is located at:

481 Lake George Road

Oxford, MI 48370

To plan your visit to the farm call (248)-628-1611 or visit their website

The Valley Walker by T.W. Dittmer: A Book Review

29 12 2012

I applaud first time author T. W. Dittmer on his debut novel The Valley Walker on achieving what every writer dreams about: writing a great story with the potential for unfettered commercial success. Very few books are new, exciting, or fresh and The Valley Walker delivers a story that has never been told before. It is not a remake of an old idea. It is not trying to be original it is original. Like most original ideas it is hard to categorize but I will do my best.

The story centers upon Teri Altro a member of a special drug task force that has been set up in Lansing, Michigan after the deaths of several college students from heroin overdoses. The task force is supposed to find out where the drugs are coming from and stop more shipments. Ms. Altro is targeted by Laotian drug hit men and they attempt to assassinate her in a pharmacy. She is saved by an unassuming man with strange dragon tattoos which hold incredible power. John Walker Michaels saves Teri Altro to send a message to the powerful kingpins behind the drug trafficking: your power will come to an end.

What started as an attempt to stop the proliferation of drug trafficking soon spirals into a much more sinister and mystical tale that spans decades. John Walker Michaels, ex-army and potential spook, has been fighting against these powerful kingpins since the Vietnam War when their greed caused the genocide of thousands of Hmong in Laos. Greed, power, and violence are what John Walker Michaels and Teri Altro fights and replace with love, family and history.

Helping John Walker Michaels is his great dragon Za who gives him the ability to travel in time and space. The great dragon Za has tasked John Walker Michaels with vindicating the lost souls of the Hmong people by exacting justice from the evil people who have brutally killed them. John Walker Michaels is to bring back the evil souls and throw them to The Destroyer.

Teri Altro and the special task force she works for unravel who has been behind a genocide long forgotten and the powerful people are closer to home than they realize.

The book is a fast, mystical, journey that you don’t want to miss.

The Stranger by Chris Martin: Book Review

22 12 2012

Dear Readers,

Charles Henry Editing is reviewing The Stranger, a novella written by Chris Martin. After reading his other novella, The Other Side of Night, I could hardly wait to pick up The Stranger. On the whole, I was not disappointed.

Eight years ago in the small coastal town of Seal Bay, six high school girls were brutally murdered and dumped into the bay by Lance Puckett. His crime shattered the community of Seal Bay. When a stranger with a striking resemblance to Lance Puckett comes to town Dillon Bledsoe goes to the local diner to see if the mysterious stranger really is Lance or a harmless drifter. The stranger reveals himself as Lance Puck but he has come back to find out who killed those girls and framed him for their murders. After taking Dillon hostage it quickly becomes apparent that everyone in the town is hiding something about what happened the night those girls were killed.

The writing in The Stranger is not as strong as in some of his other works. The beginning feels self-conscious as though Chris Martin is constructing an elaborate artifice which might crumble if he forgets something but once the  chase to find the killer began it was hard to put down. I read the entire thing in one sitting. I enjoyed this novella for the plot but I wish some of the periphery characters had been more fully developed. While Lance Puckett and Dillon Bledsoe were clearly drawn and fascinating people some of the other characters who were suspects for the murders were brought up and cast away a little too quickly. I wanted to be led down a few wrong paths a little farther before the real killer was revealed. The revelation of the killer was exciting, hair-raising, and deliciously horrific; the book is worth reading for the ending alone.

The Stranger is a fast paced, compelling read. Through out the book the reader is taken on a journey to find the true killer and every time you think you have the plot figured out, you don’t. The emotional stakes never relent which made me have to keep reading. Chris Martin knows how to make you want to catch a killer, even if it is only a fictional one.

I highly recommend The Stranger by Chris Martin and checking out his other works which are available on

You can buy The Stranger here:

Chris Martin also writes a really interesting blog:

Visit his Facebook author page at

The Girls Club: A Book Review

15 12 2012

The Girls Club by Sally Bellerose centers upon three sisters, Marie, Renee, and Cora Rose, teenagers on the cusp of womanhood who are fighting to find their way in the world and out of the projects. Guiding their way is a strong Catholic upbringing and a large, ever-present extended family. As they grow from girls to women each one goes through a painful and beautiful journey where they learn to love themselves and their sisters even if they don’t agree with them. The Girls Club capture truth about sisterhood: you may sometimes hate your sister but you will always love her, even when it is hard.

Each sister is beautifully crafted and interesting to get to know. Marie, the eldest is head strong, belligerent and rebelling against her Catholic faith. She drinks, smokes, and screws around. She is regarded with terror and awe by her peers, teachers, parents, and sisters. A powerful raging force, she is humbled by the news that she is pregnant. After the father of the baby, Fletcher, offers to pay an abortion she turns back to Catholicism for strength and her sisters for support. After Marie’s son Donny is born she is constantly wrestling with trying to do the right thing for Donny while still feeding her wild impulses. Eventually, she finds a stable partner for herself, gives up drugs and alcohol and comes to a tepid peace with Catholicism. Marie is a tour de force, whose journey into womanhood is a brutal, violent, gut wrenching transformation.

The middle sister, Renee, is graceful, beautiful, and serene. She is the type of girl everybody loves and is irritatingly put together. She decides to go to nursing school and get out of the projects. She tries to support her sisters,  she glosses over their flaws, and doesn’t look down them when they make choices that disagree with her world view. Renee presents a portrait of an easy, happy transition into womanhood. Her life is the ideal that most little girls dream about attaining. Renee is simultaneously a woman you want to be and a woman you loathe because she makes everything look effortless. Renee is often the butt of everyone’s jokes for being so virginal and nice. She is also the one that the reader and he sister’s wish they could emulate.

Cora Rose, the youngest sister is the main protagonist of The Girls Club. She is 14 at the beginning of the novel and we follow her journey from a reserved, wayward teen to her mid twenties when she finally accepts and is comfortable with who she is. Central to Cora Rose;s story are three main forces: her budding sexuality, her faith, and her ulcerative colitis (coined The Dreaded Bowel Disease by her sisters). Cora Rose struggles with what it means to be beautiful, her embarrassment over having a The Dreaded Bowel Disease, and with her feelings of sexual attraction toward other girls. Since Cora Rose is not as blunt as Marie, or as serene as Renee she has to find her own path to being self-assured. Unfortunately, after her first love moves away and she is left with a broken heart, Cora Rose tries to bury her shame and fear by having sex with the first boy who seems interested. She becomes pregnant and eventually marries the father of her baby even though she has no real feelings for him. Most of the book describes how she breaks away from her marriage and accepts the challenges of living with ulcerative colitis. As she grows up, she realizes she can’t hide her sexuality and begins going to a lesbian bar called The Girls Club. By the end of the book, Cora Rose has made a tentative peace with her demons; carved out her own identity; learned to love her sisters and not judge her self according to their standards. 

The Girls Club is frustratingly happy read. It captures the angst and heart of what it means to love yourself and love your sisters. It is about finding peace with the darkness in your life.

You can buy The Girls Club:

Connect with Sally Bellerose:

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