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Reviews Written by
betty l. dravis "BETTY DRAVIS, author/reviewer" (Silicon Valley, CA)

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Red Hot Lies
Red Hot Lies
by Laura Caldwell
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
26 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

4.0 out of 5 stars "Red Hot" is strong, smart, sassy, and sexy!, July 25 2010
What would you do if you're about to be married and are having second thoughts? And how would you react if your wealthy mentor and biggest client is murdered and your fiance is accused of absconding with thirty million dollars in real estate bonds and implicated in the murder? And what if he can't be located?

Well, those are some of the problems faced by Izzy McNeil, our main protagonist in Red Hot Lies. Izzy is a hotshot Chicago attorney who has been through numerous threatening trials in her life, so she comes up fighting. You can count on that! A red-head whom Sam nicknames "Red Hot," Izzy is strong, smart, sassy and sexy, but to solve this mystery she has to go above and beyond anything she's ever experienced.

Izzy is devastated at the loss of her friend and mentor and puzzled by Sam's disappearance. She's determined to find Sam and solve the mystery, and that's when her troubles escalate. Someone breaks into her apartment, the authorities follow her...not to mention a mysterious stalker.

When she starts investigating and everything leads to her charming fiance, Sam Hollings, taking the money, Izzy begins to doubt that she really knew him. Could she be so wrong about someone that close to her? Why is the FBI following her? Who is stalking her? Who broke into her apartment? And how does Sam's ex-girlfriend fit into the picture?

You'll learn all the answers in this fast-paced contemporary thriller that has more frightening twists and turns than the road to perdition. The author, Laura Caldwell, is a former trial lawyer who is adept at solving mysteries. Her pacing is excellent and she switches between voices with dexterity. Another plus is that I really like Izzy and was rooting for Sam's innocence. In other words, Caldwell makes you feel for her characters...

After such a heady chase--I read way past my bedtime--the ending was a bit of a letdown, making me scream for a sequel. I can't wait to read the next book in this series, but am deducting one point for the ending. All in all, it's still a great book and I recommend it highly.

Reviewed by Betty Dravis, July 25, 2010
Author of "Dream Reachers" (co-author Chase Von) and other books

Blood Work (Bilingual)
Blood Work (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Clint Eastwood
Price: CDN$ 7.99
5 used & new from CDN$ 3.97

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A thriller acted, directed and produced by my favorite actor!, July 22 2010
This review is from: Blood Work (Bilingual) (DVD)
Tonight was Clint Eastwood night in the Dravis household...again. Just can't get enough of that guy!

In Blood Work, Eastwood plays a retired, aging FBI profiler who recently had a heart transplant. Although not completely well, he's tough, gruff and smart as a whip. When his heart donor's grieving sister (Wanda De Jesus) asks him to find her dead sibling's killer, he feels obligated to do it even if it puts his health at risk.

This is a gritty, no-nonsense role and Eastwood is superb as Terry McCaleb. Jeff Daniels, who plays Eastwood's neighbor and younger sidekick, is well cast, also. Brian Helgeland, "L.A. Confidential" Oscar-winner, wrote a sharp, sensible script that is pure Eastwood all the way. "Blood Work" is adapted from a novel by Michael Connelly.

Some people may chuckle at a brief love scene between Eastwood and De Jesus, but I think he will always be a sensual man, so had no problems with that. It was a realistic portrayal... But I did giggle when his real-life wife, Dina Ruiz, popped up in a scene with microphone in hand, trying to get a quote from Eastwood's character, Terry McCaleb. That was a cameo role at its best. :-)

Eastwood is my favorite all-time actor, no matter what his age. The man has stamina and great box-office appeal at 72 or 22!

Blood Work is an exciting thriller with edge-of-your-seat pacing, great action and an excellent cast. I highly recommend it.

Reviewed by Betty Dravis, July 22, 2010
Author of "Dream Reachers" (with Chase Von) and other books

Ghost Orchid
Ghost Orchid
by D. K. Christi
Edition: Paperback
10 used & new from CDN$ 5.47

5.0 out of 5 stars A haunting love story as rare as a ghost orchid, July 22 2010
This review is from: Ghost Orchid (Paperback)
I was always told that you can't judge a book by its cover, but with "Ghost Orchid" you can! The story inside is just as beautiful as the cover. Both are as rare as the ghost orchid on the cover. Author D.K. Christi has woven her knowledge of the Florida Everglades and nature into an exquisite, enchanting love story where a rare ghost orchid plays a magical, pivotal role for all the characters.

The story opens with a lonely, middle-aged woman, Mel, taking her daily walk at the Audubon Society Sanctuary, reminiscing about her lost love and other secrets of her past. Although melancholy, she feels blessed to have experienced a "Great Love" in her life. She longs to see her estranged lover "just once more before she dies" and is happier among the sights and sounds of nature than anywhere else. She's a solitary figure at the sanctuary, but she's a "regular" and is known and well-liked by the staff.

The story switches back and forth between Mel and Neev, a statuesque beauty who quit modeling to study philosophy at Oxford University. Neev loves photography, so eventually decides to pursue that career, a path that takes her to exotic locations around the world. She lands a plum assignment with a famous photographer, Roger Andrew, who is always seeking a rare "find" in nature. Roger is much older than Neev, but he becomes her mentor and best friend and they have a loving relationship.

Although Roger and Neev share many things, she never confides to him about her family life or her reluctance to visit Florida. And Roger doesn't talk much of his ex-wife and son. Roger is passionate in his mission to uncover a "rare find," so when he learns that a ghost orchid is blooming at the Audubon Society Sanctuary, he convinces Neev to accompany him.

For reasons I can't reveal without spoiling the plot, Neev is as passionate in her dislike of her mother as Roger is about his drive to find the elusive flower. Neev was raised by a devoted German couple and always wondered about her father. She longs to know more about him, but harbors little hope for a "love of her own."

Something happens to Mel at the same time the rare orchid is spotted. That's a tragedy, but it creates the magic in this story, bringing the most unlikely people together in the most magical ways.

What happens to Mel? Why has Neev chosen such a solitary, lonely life? What is so unique about this particular ghost orchid? Does it really have mystical powers? Who is the mysterious amateur photographer who becomes Roger's email friend? And how do Roger's Florida relatives fit into the picture?

D.K. Christi answers all those questions in a masterful way, with near-perfect pacing, believable, likable characters--and a little help from a rare ghost orchid.

I highly recommend this haunting, exquisite love story.

ENDNOTE: There are some coincidences that could be considered as contrived by the author, but with a story this well-written and beautiful in its symmetry and uniqueness of plot, who would question that?

Reviewed by Betty Dravis, July 22, 2010
Author of "Dream Reachers" (with Chase Von) and other books

The Happening
The Happening
Offered by Empire DVD
Price: CDN$ 8.95
29 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tension in the air..., July 21 2010
This review is from: The Happening (DVD)
I really liked this movie because it was suspenseful and moved along at a fast clip, but it's definitely not in the same league as The Sixth Sense. That was a gripping movie, filled with eerie, frightening happenings and great acting.

The opening scene of The Happening occurs in Central Park on a bustling, normal day. Two young women are chatting on a bench when suddenly all the others "freeze in their tracks." The girls are puzzled, but before her friend can stop her one girl sticks a sharp object in her throat and commits suicide. Thus begins a rash of suicides, construction workers jumping off girders in unison, police officers pulling their own guns and killing themselves... As the media and bureaucratic professionals try to understand and explain what's happening in the mid-Atlantic Coast states, people are fleeing the cities in droves.

The movie follows one couple, their friend and his daughter as they join with other survivors along the road west... As they strive to stay alive, their band gets smaller and smaller as people die off all around them, all by suicide. It proves to be "something in the air" and as they run for their lives, they learn little by little how to protect themselves. But the neuro-toxins in the wind finally catch up to them and...but this is one of the best scenes and I can't describe it without giving the plot away.

Even though this film had little graphics--simply an eerie wind blowing through the foliage--that, the pace and the music made it tense enough for me. And the good actors made it believable; just normal people with a fair share of problems trying to survive a disaster.

In my opinion, this is definitely not a horror movie; rather, it's a thought-provoking, creepy film that makes me wonder if something like this could really happen. There is a sweet love story between the married main characters that gives a satisfactory ending to the mid-Atlantic happening. And a frightening twist at the very end that gives the viewer further cause to wonder.

Not a masterpiece by any means, but it was very entertaining.

Reviewed by Betty Dravis, May 4, 2010
Author of "Dream Reachers" (with Chase Von) and other books

Jekel Loves Hyde
Jekel Loves Hyde
by Beth Fantaskey
Edition: Hardcover
46 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Dark, delicious teen love story! Contemporary yet classic!, July 21 2010
This review is from: Jekel Loves Hyde (Hardcover)
Beth Fantaskey is an absolutely phenomenal writer. Not only does she have a vivid imagination, but she also has a writing style that is realistically contemporary, yet classic and true to the old Jekyll and Hyde story from which her idea sprang. Her choice of words in some places is sheer beauty...poetry, as some would term it.

Jekel Loves Hyde opens with Jill Jekel feeling alone and isolated at the funeral of her father. Since his murder, her mother has had a nervous breakdown which leaves Jill in an adult role she doesn't want, paying household bills and caring for her mother. In that role there's no one to comfort and guide her, so she is surprised when a gorgeous classmate, Tristen Hyde, suddenly approaches her at the funeral, going so far as to hold her in his arms and kiss her cheek. This has been her only warm source since her father's death, so she is mortified when she breaks down and cries on his shoulder.

But when she sees him again in chemistry class and in school hallways, he has reverted to his old brooding, defiant nature.

Jill has always been an obedient daughter, but after her father's murder when he's accused of company indiscretions and she finds that her college funds have disappeared she's tempted to peek inside a mysterious box in his office. Her mother warns her against opening it.

Jill enlists Tristen's aid in discovering what's in the box because she thinks the contents might be the key to unravel his murder and discover what happened to her college funds. While working together, the teens begin to fall in love. They form a partnership and as the team of Jekel and Hyde, they recreate experiments based on the classic novel, hoping to earn the prize money for Jill's college, but also to save Tristen's sanity and perhaps his life.

Jill and Tristen are descendants of the old Robert Louis Stevenson characters of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Tristen knows this, but Jill is completely in the dark until she witnesses Tristen's dark side in a rather horrifying manner. He slowly opens up to her and tells her some of his dark secrets; she begins to believe his fantastic story.

What is haunting Tristen? What do they find in her father's box? Can the deadly concoction they are working on possibly save Tristen from becoming a monster? Is his father a monster like the original Mr. Hyde? Who killed Jill's father? How does Tristen's father use Jill's mother in his diabolical plot? But most important, why does Jill risk her own life by drinking the formula? Why does this "good girl" become "wild?"

All those questions and more are skillfully answered by this author as she weaves her magic to keep us guessing until the very end. Beth Fantaskey is Beth "Fantastic" to me!

This is listed as a Young Adult book, but I think it will appeal to adults too... It certainly does to me. Five stars and then some! It would make a block-buster horror movie.

ENDNOTE: The love scenes, while skillfully done, may be thought of as "too intense" by some parents, so keep that in mind when purchasing for your teen. But with all the other "stuff" on the market, this is mild by comparison.

Reviewed by Betty Dravis, May 16, 2010
Author of "Dream Reachers" (with Chase Von) and other books

Monterey Pop
Monterey Pop
by Joel Selvin
Edition: Paperback
3 used & new from CDN$ 55.23

5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome photography by the late Jim Marshall, Legendary Rock Photographer!, July 21 2010
This review is from: Monterey Pop (Paperback)
I had the good fortune of speaking with the late, great photographer Jim Marshall in San Francisco during production of one of my books; he was instrumental in our securing permission to use the Rolling Stone magazine cover of Tanya Tucker in Dream Reachers.

It was with great sadness I learned of his passing in March, so I wrote a memorial about Jim for the Dames of Dialogue blog. I shared some intimate stories about him that were passed on to me by actress Jenny McShane who knew Jim personally.

I knew of him through his awesome photography that captured rock-and-roll legends, including the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, Mamas and the Papas and many work and in repose. I'm impressed that Marshall was the only photographer granted backstage access at what turned out to be the final Beatles concert at San Francisco's Candlestick Park in 1966. Good timing and his rapport with musicians also helped him catch Johnny Cash memorably "flipping the bird" at a 1969 performance at San Quentin Prison.

I had always wanted to acquire a copy of Monterey Pop by this legendary "Godfather of Rock Photography," so I finally did it in his memory; better late than never. The photos in this book were taken at the famous Monterey Pop Festival, of course. Those photos and his ones from Woodstock will always be my favorites. I'm glad Marshall got around to presenting his works in book format, making them accessible to more people.

When scanning the photos and reading the interesting, descrptive text by author Joel Selvin, I'm sure you'll find your favorite musician in the mix. Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix have always been two of my favorites. Since the cover isn't depicted on Amazon, I must tell you it's a famous photo of Hendrix, crouching onstage, singing his heart out ... Incredible!

I recommend all of Marshall's photography books, including Trust: Photographs of Jim Marshall (Omnibus Press) which has a fabulous photo of Janis Jopin on the cover. His latest book is Match Prints. Ironically, he was in New York at a celebration to promote this latest book when he passed away. This brilliant new work is in collaboration with celebrity photographer Timothy White. Jim also has an online gallery of his works; a browse through that is an education in itself.

Monterey Pop is a must for all rock fans; simply leafing through this book is like a stroll down memory lane. Thank you, Jim Marshall for preserving the history of the rock movement. Rest in peace...

Review by Betty Dravis, May 17, 2010
Author of "Dream Reachers" (with Chase Von) and other books

Storm Chaser
Storm Chaser
by Chris Platt
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.95
28 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Vivid portrayal of Nevada ranch life! A wholesome reading adventure!, July 21 2010
This review is from: Storm Chaser (Hardcover)
If you and your children like wholesome, girl-and-her-horse stories, you will love Storm Chaser. Author Chris Platt brings ranch life, family loyalty, and the breath-taking scenery of the rich Nevada deserts and mountains vividly to life in this heart-warming story.

The story opens with thirteen-year-old Jessica Warner's father, brother Duncan and their young breeders, Gator and Wyatt, herding some wild quarter horses into a pen. It's summer and Jess plans to spend her time helping on the ranch, hoping her father will allow her to train the horses this year. Although she loves her faithful horse Rusty, the vet has said Rusty is getting too old to ride, so when she spots a beautiful wild Paint filly in the new group, she sets her mind on her. Against her father's advice, the young girl secretly names her Storm Chaser.

For economic reasons, Jess knows that the family needs to sell all the horses after they're trained, but she can't help dreaming of flying across the range astride Chase. And then a raging summer storm puts the horses and the ranch in further peril when lightning starts a barn fire.

Mr. Warner has always resisted offers from travel agents to turn their ranch into a vacation spot...a dude ranch, but after the fire the family must consider this alternative. Jessica and her mother have always favored the idea because they think it would be fun and Jess could use more companionship from girls her own age. Her best friend is Marybeth, but she's three years younger.

It warms my heart the way the neighbors pitch in to help each other when things go wrong. There's also a hint of "puppy love" in the shy looks that pass between Wyatt and Jess.

What happens during the fire to put Duncan's and Rusty's lives in danger? How does Mr. Warner react when Duncan allows Jess to help train Storm Chaser? How do the first group of "vacationers" fit in? What happens when a rich, city girl sets her cap for Duncan and Storm Chaser too? What does Jess learn about friendship when she caters to the city girl and neglects Marybeth for a time?

Chris Platt deftly answers the above questions and more in this well-written, entertaining story. The mood of Storm Chaser is light excitement and it's a smooth, pleasant read. Platt grabbed me from the first with her easy pace and timely introduction of realistic characters.

I learned a lot about horses in this book; this author knows what she's writing about! But she should, since she earned her first gallop license at age sixteen and a few years later became one of Oregon's first female jockeys. Platt now lives on her own ranch and I got a chuckle when I read this in her bio: "Platt lives in Nevada with her husband, six horses, three cats, a parrot and a pot-bellied pig..."

Platt also won a Golden Heart from RWA for her debut novel "Willow King" which is due for republication in September Willow King; her novel Moon Shadow also won an award; and she is also the author of Willow King: Race the Wind (Random House Riders) and many books in the Thoroughbred Ashley series.

Don't miss the author's note at the back of the book, explaining in detail the history of Paint horses. Storm Chaser is a winner and I highly recommend it!

Reviewed by Betty Dravis, May 21, 2010
Author of "Dream Reachers" (with Chase Von) and other books

Think Better: An Innovator's Guide to Productive Thinking
Think Better: An Innovator's Guide to Productive Thinking
by Tim Hurson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 23.49
49 used & new from CDN$ 2.33

5.0 out of 5 stars Practical guide to productive thinking..., July 21 2010
We have all had to learn creative financing to get along in the new millennium, so it's about time someone came along with a creative thinking strategy that works. And Tim Hurson has done just that in Think Better: An Innovator's Guide to Productive Thinking.

Like some reviewers, I was reluctant to get this book because there are so many others on the market. But I did and am very pleased with the results of reading and studying it. I now have a more organized mind, uncluttered with unnecessary trivia, a mind that has learned to focus. And for a writer, focus is the necessary asset to keep churning out copy.

Some reviewers say this book is easy... In some ways it is and in some, it isn't... It's all in one's perspective, I suppose, but I found it took a lot of deep thinking to get through. It's easy to understand Monkey Mind, Gator Brain and Elephant's Tether, even fun at times, but when it comes to "cerebral cortex" and such, the author loses me. But he soon makes himself clear, but with deep thinking on my part, I must admit.

But I did get through it and came out better on the other

In the author's opening words: "This book is about creating the future. It's about a way to see more clearly, think more creatively, and plan more effectively. It's about thinking better, working better and doing better in every area of your life." I'll go for that--and I did! This book delivers what it promises. I wish I had had it when I ran my publishing business, but am glad to have it now. No matter what you do, from writing, managing a small household or a big business, this book can help you.

I also appreciated the wise, humorous quotes and tidbits of information the author scatters throughout this book, such as this quote from humorist Will Rogers: "It's not what you don't know that hurts you. It's what you do know that ain't so."

I treasure the wealth of information in the pages of Think Better: An Innovator's Guide to Productive Thinking. Thanks, Tim Hurson.

And if my assessment isn't enough, you must read the testimonials on the back; all are by successful people from many walks of life.

Reviewed by Betty Dravis, May 25, 2010
Author of "Dream Reachers" (with Chase Von) and other books

The Find
The Find
by James J. Valko
Edition: Paperback
15 used & new from CDN$ 14.51

5.0 out of 5 stars Action Adventure! Sci-Fi! Supernatural! Romance! = One exciting book!, July 21 2010
This review is from: The Find (Paperback)
In his debut novel, James J. Valko proves himself a master storyteller with a vast knowledge of his subject matter. I'm really surprised at how good this book really is; I didn't expect it, so it bowled me over.

When Megan Eastwood and her mentor, Dr. Jensen Reinhardt, are missing from an archeological excavation in the Grand Canyon and the rest of the crew are found murdered, authorities wrongfully blame them for the mass murders. A magazine photographer, Bruce Brackin, pokes holes in the FBI news coverage and decides to seek the truth of the matter for a popular magazine for which he's freelancing.

Eastwood surfaces only to find she's wanted for murder, so she goes into hiding and pursues Brackin to talk him into helping her.

From this exciting beginning, The Find just gets better and better. The author weaves an unbelievable tale of Ancient Wisdom, Quantum Physics and the New World Order into such a well-constructed plot that I suspended my disbelief, taking his tale as absolute truth.

This author is smart! Not only does he know the locale of the Grand Canyon and describe it vividly, he is also almost "geeky" in his knowledge of high technology. He's also great at characterization, dialogue, budding romance...and his pacing is spot on! He grabbed me from page one and never let go.

This mesmerizing book is complex--with so many twists and turns that I kept wondering how the heck Eastwood and Brackin were going to get out of that horrendous situation--but it had a very satisfactory ending. The Find screams for a sequel. I certainly hope James J. Valko writes one.

Meanwhile, he will soon have another book out; this one is a love story titled "Ironwood." I look forward to reading it and anything else Valko writes.

Reviewed by: Betty Dravis, May 31, 2010
Author of "Dream Reachers" (with Chase Von) and other books

Sweeping Up Glass
Sweeping Up Glass
by Carolyn Wall
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 17.00
58 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars This exciting story swept me away..., July 21 2010
This review is from: Sweeping Up Glass (Paperback)
Sweeping Up Glass is a stirring debut novel by a fresh, new voice. With a start like this, I expect author Carolyn Wall to be a strong, prolific literary force in the future.

Though some reviewers found this setting in the brutally segregated Depression-era-Kentucky to be uncomfortable, it wasn't to me. My grandparents and parents were born in Kentucky. My grandparents lived through the Great Depression years there, with my parents escaping the worst of it by moving to Ohio. I was born in Ohio, but heard many stories from that era that remind me of Wall's main character, Olivia Harker Cross.

Olivia is a strong, brave, self-sufficient woman, very much like my late mother and Grannie Sue. I liked and related to her right from the gripping start of this book.

In Sweeping Up Glass, Olivia survives the harshness of the Kentucky mountain life by running a small grocery store which is also her spare living quarters, with sleeping areas partitioned off by makeshift curtains. When her out-of-wedlock grandson Will'm is thrust upon her by her wild daughter, Olivia makes the best of the situation, cares for him and teaches him all her hard-earned survival skills.

To add to the drama of this story, Olivia's crazy mother, who lives out back in a tar-paper shack, stirs the plot, making it twice as hard for her daughter.

Olivia and Will'm love and respect the wolves that roam the hills around her property and are trying to protect them from poachers who kill them for sport, angering these cruel men so that she and the boy become endangered themselves.

It's a hard life with Olivia always scrambling to feed them...always pressed for time and energy as she tries to fight these men by wit and cunning... She must encounter her own mysterious past to save herself and the boy; in so doing, she uncovers ugly secrets about the neighboring trouble-makers that endanger not only herself and the boy but also the impoverished community of blacks who have protected her since the death of her adored father. She comes to grips with past betrayals and earns a second chance at love in an explosive ending where justice is finally served.

As I said above, the strong, narrative voice of the heroine grabbed me right away. The first sentence reads: The long howl of a wolf rolls over me like a toothache. Talk about intriguing openings--Wow!

Truthfully, I need go no further than that one sentence to show the depth of Wall's talent. Anyone can see that that sentence alone speaks volumes: 1) it paints a picture of setting and mood; 2) it makes one wonder what's going on; 3) it grabs the reader; 4) it stirs emotion; and 5) it ends with an appropriate, yet creative simile. This lone sentence speaks more about this author than a volume of praise, but I'll list some of the things I like about her writing, anyway:
* Fresh voice.
* Detailed, accurate description.
* Suspenseful Pacing.
* Realistic dialogue with correct vernacular
* Fleshed-out, believable characters.
* Original, exciting plot with a courageous woman winning against the odds.

I could go on and on, but saying that Wall is a masterful wordsmith should sum it up nicely.

I'm sporting a big, satisfied smile as I give this book five stars!

Reviewed by Betty Dravis, June 6, 2010
Author of "Dream Reachers" (with Chase Von) and other books

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