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Angie Mangino Looks at Books

Book Reviews

The Dish Dog

By Peter Davidson


Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 5 stars

In Chapter One, Harley Ross, a busboy at Dominique's of New York receives this notice.


“Dear Mr. Ross,

ALERT: We recommend that you buy McClintok Mining (MCMG) common stock within two days of receiving this investment letter. Sell your shares when the price makes a significant price increase, expected within four days of your receiving this letter.

Mail your $5,000 fee to Emerald Investment Strategies, P.O. Box 1497, United States Postal Service, 185 Clinton Street, New York, NY 10002.

Remember, if you do not submit your fee within two days, you will not receive another investment letter.

Happy Investing.

And remember, Loose Lips Sink Ships.”


The thirty-one-year-old man sends his check.


In Chapter Two an unnamed man goes to Box 1497, discreetly takes the envelopes, and proceeds to the library on Houston Street.

“He found a table in the back of the library where nobody was seated within twenty feet of him. He pulled the envelopes from his pocket, all addressed to Emerald Investment Strategies. He put a pair of cloth gloves on his hands and withdrew a small penknife from his jacket pocket. He sliced open the envelopes; there were eleven of them and each contained a check for $5,000. He methodically checked off the names of the payors on his checklist. Everyone had paid.”


The subsequent chapter introduces Dr. Kimberly King, known as K.K. by her preference.


Further into the book readers follow her path into the FBI, to her assignment of this case, and throughout her investigation.

Insider trading involves access to confidential information that gives an illegal advantage when trading stocks.

  • How is Emerald Investment Strategies getting the information for their newsletters?

  • Who are the eleven sending them $5000 each to have this advantage?

  • How will K.K. investigate?

  • Will she be able to root out Emerald Investment Strategies and put an end to the insider trading scheme?


The author created relatable characters with enough mystery involved to keep the well told story moving along at a nice pace.

The dialogue realistically furthers the narrative.

The clues are there for the reader with a satisfying twist at the ending.


Angie Mangino currently works as a freelance journalist and book reviewer, as well as author of

17th Century Tottenville History Comes Alive, first in a series of Tottenville History books.

man draped with US flag with soaring eagle on book cover of Shout the Battle Cry of Freedom

Shout the Battle Cry of Freedom

By K.M. Breakey


Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 4 stars

This reviewer feels it important to first share the author’s statements at the end about this book before the review itself.

The concern is that some readers may misconstrue the message of this work of fiction as a depiction of the majority of Americans and as a call to violence before getting to the end, if at all, to read the note.

In the note to the reader at the end the author writes:

“When you write reality-based fiction you’re taking a gamble – cause reality takes discontinuous jumps.”

“I do not advocate violence. I never set out to write a book about insurrection, I simply went where the characters took me. You might call this novel a cautionary tale. An alternate future to spur discussion and debate.”

The Canadian author shares this description about this fiction built on the news on his website.

“My latest novel, Shout the Battle Cry of Freedom, takes readers on an inside tour of America’s decline – COVID insanity, violent crime, open borders, descending Dystopia. However, a new leader emerges – a patriot who’s ready to die fighting for freedom. Is it too late to save the once-mighty nation?”

At the beginning of the novel readers meet Thomas Baker.

If the idea of an All-American millennial boy from the South, first a quarterback, then a member of Congress aligned with former President Trump until he believes Trump didn’t go far enough appeals, readers will relate to him.

If the idea that the problems in America don’t fall into the conspiracy theories held by Thomas Baker, he will anger readers.

That’s the gamble since the main character will come across as either a hero or a traitor.


The story goes on with the introduction of other characters, full of a rehash of media news and conspiracy to support a sharp divide in America.

What part in the divide does the media and politicians propel by using the fear and uncertainty people feel to inflame the division?

It took a while for the real story to get underway, but when readers continue, the action picks up the pace. The author’s use of dialogue realistically brings the characters to life. Readers become invested in following what drives Tom Baker whether agreeing with him or not.

To the protagonist Tom Baker the American Dream is no more. To get it back he goes to extremes, willing to die and to kill to do so.

Is this the answer for America? Or is this a warning?

Readers who are objective enough to read with an open mind, and willing to differentiate between fact and opinion, will understand better what’s at risk.

man walking on path through tunnel on book cover of Nine North

Nine North

By Art Smukler


Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 5 stars

“Two years and one day after Nelson Bennett died, he rose from the dead.”

What a powerful way to immerse readers into the story!

The author goes on to introduce Jake.

“… ‘Nelson!’ Jake yelled. ‘Nelson!’ The man was about fifty feet away – close enough for Jake to clearly make out his features; far enough to provoke enough doubt to make Jake wonder if he was hallucinating. There was no way Jake could ever forget or mistake Nelson’s face. It was the face of his older brother, his only brother and only sibling.

The man turned, stared straight at Jake, his blue eyes locking onto Jake’s blue eyes. Abruptly, he glanced over his shoulder, a startled look transforming his gaunt, clean-shaven face, and he placed his index finger in front of his lips. Then he pivoted, and like a snowflake landing on a hot windshield, melted away.”

As readers learn of Jake Bennett’s life in the present with insights into his brother, Jake’s writing aspirations, his job as a waiter, and his tangled relationship with Gina Carton, the story engages them.

They next meet Dr. Todd Horowitz, senior psychiatric resident at New County Medical Center. Learning some of his back story and relationship with his fiancé Tanya Roth, efficiently develops the setting for the intersection of their lives beginning with Jake’s confinement in Nine North.

An intriguing faster pace rapidly develops with intrigue and danger that navigates psychiatry in action, the Hassidic Judaism community, and the financial world seamlessly.

The dialogue is authentic, with characters both believable and endearing, which makes it easy for readers to care about them throughout the story to its satisfying conclusion. The last chapter further rewards readers with a glimpse into the lives of the four protagonists seven years later.

Nine North is a book that will stay with readers after their enjoyable journey with it.

picnic table with red and white checkered cloth with red dart, yellow dart, and various colored cups on book cover of Lawn Darts & Lemonade: Tackling the '80s

Lawn Darts & Lemonade

By Steven Manchester


Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 5 stars

In this sequel to Bread Bags and Bullies, which was set during school winter break of 1984 during a late Nor’easter in New England, readers will again enjoy the antics of the three brothers now during the summer of 1984.

The author shares why he wrote this follow-up novel.

“In twenty-five years of writing fiction, I’ve never written a sequel—until now. At my core, I am a storyteller, and there are times when a story requires a bit more real estate than a single novel. Lawn Darts & Lemonade is one of those stories.

With many more lessons to learn—and fears to overcome—Wally, Herbie, and Cockroach step into the unforgettable summer of 1984.

Within each comical passage and every heartfelt scene, Lawn Darts & Lemonade is a tribute to my greatest heroes—my mother and father—who believed it was their job to raise me and my siblings. Thankfully, they took their job very seriously and worked hard at it.

My siblings and I are eternally grateful to them both.

Enjoy the stroll down memory lane,”

~Steve Manchester

Chapter one begins in the present day with the now grown men grieving the death of their father. As a close-knit family with their mother, they celebrate the man’s life through the sharing of their family memories.

“‘To be loved this much by so many people…’ I paused to compose myself. ‘…now that’s what I call a successful life.’ I’d been reduced to an eight-year-old again, feeling lost—even orphaned. Losing my dad was wreaking havoc on my inner child, making me feel panicked. Failing miserably at concealing this, I raised my glass and was immediately joined by my mom, my wife and children, my siblings, nieces, and nephews: the family my mother and father had created.

I pictured my dad’s smiling face. ‘I did this,’ Pop used to say, referring to our family. As a dad myself, I now understood the incredible pride that the old man carried with him. Family is the whole shebang, he’d say. Everything else is a distant second.’”

It’s May 1984 in chapter two, beginning the story of that summer. As readers engulf themselves in much simpler times, getting to step back in time to relive the summer with the boys.

“It was the last day of school, Friday, May 25, 1984. Winter had melted into spring and, although most days felt like they went on forever, spring was finally giving way to summer. The black rubber boots, lined with bread bags, had long been tossed into the closet, along with our green snorkel coats.”

The well-done dialogue allows listening in on the boys. Realistic descriptions recreate their experiences evoking the sights of them dodging lawn darts in the back yard and summer excursions in the neighborhood to the taste of watered-down Country Time lemonade mix, the “healthier” drink from their Kool-Aid during the rest of the year.

The author, as he has done before, has a writing style that brings the boys’ adventures alive, told from the perspective of a father now with sons of his own.

While it’s a wonderful continuation of their story, the author shows his talent as a storyteller in making this an enticing stand-alone novel on its own. Readers new to the story will have an enjoyable read that will be satisfying, but this reviewer anticipates they will want to go back to the original story, too.

dragon and presidential seal on book cover of 28th Amendment

28th Amendment

By Stefan Vucak


Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 5 stars

“‘Talk to me, XO,’ Captain Vasily Bandera growled, his steely eyes fixed on the radar masts of the Chinese Type 052D Luyang III guided-missile destroyer and its heavier Type 055 Renhai-class consort heaving themselves over the horizon, bearing down on him on a reciprocal course.”

With this start thrusting readers into the action on the South China Sea, the stage is set for the struggle between China and the United States. China President Zhou Yedong and U.S. President Samuel Walters are set firm against each other.

“According to White House statements, the 7th Fleet continues to exercise its right of free passage through these waters, daring China to do something about it.

The Chinese president had done something about it by sending hundreds of armed trawlers, part of China’s Maritime Militia, to fish in Exclusive Economic Zones of all South China Sea countries in blatant disregard of numerous protests.”

Will this lead to war?

President Walters takes a stand on this, as well as introducing the 28th Constitutional Amendment to set Congressional term limits. With the proposed Amendment elections for all of Congress will coincide with the four-year election of president. Rather than constant campaigning, the Congress will have to act for the benefit of the citizens.

Additionally, Walters urges the Supreme Court to reverse its 2010 decision to restrict the influence of Big Money and Super PACs in the nation’s political process and to stop kickbacks overseas he wanted the Justice Department to unbendingly implement the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Will the secretive Omicron Group succeed in the assassination of this president who is challenging their comfortable status quo?

This political novel brings readers into the underbelly of corporate and political greed, international economic and military conflicts, and assassins, keeping them intrigued along the way to the satisfying conclusion.

shadows of people by wood fence overlooking trees on book cover of Crossing the Lines

Crossing the Lines

Stories by Tony Press


Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 5 stars

Readers get to enjoy this collection of thirty-three stories published in Boston Literary Magazine, SFWP Quarterly, Toasted Cheese, and twenty other publications. Different titles and different versions were in some of their appearances, but the heart of the stories remain. Length of each story varies, using just the right number of words to convey its message.

“After the Whistle,” the shortest, is only three paragraphs, but the impact will stay a long time.

“Quickly he was the sole missing worker, and then he was found.”

“At Last,” the longest, needed eleven pages to fully experience the storm while driving back from Spring Green to Madison, the stop at Barneveld, until his return to the road. Much is told in his reflections, with even more told through his interactions at Barneveld.

“He’d only gone to Spring Green and the Frank Lloyd Wright thing to please his mother. She’d made him promise that if he got within 100 miles of it, he must go, for her. Among the many mysteries that made up his mom, her fascination for Wright and his designs was high on the list. She otherwise had no interest in architecture, worked as a beautician, and lived in a nondescript Fresno home. But she had asked, and he had gone.”

The size of the rest of the stories varies between these two, with the order of the works chosen to give a balanced picture of the events. Dialogue is realistic, adding to a sense of being there with genuine people.

Readers will enjoy this journey, experiencing different people, events, and experiences that will stay with them after crossing the lines. Through the author’s compassionate view of humanity, in our differences we discover our sameness.

Man with briefcase overlooking the city on book cover of Identity Crisis

Identity Crisis

By T K Kanwar


Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 5 stars

In the Prologue Yuri Alexandrovich Bezmenov’s letter immerses readers into where this book is headed. Readers who jump ahead immediately to Chapter One without reading will miss a key thought to consider in their reading.

Chapter One begins in Toronto on August 18, 2025, where readers meet Sam Dhillon at the High Park subway station.

“The Toronto Transit Commission had struggled to keep up with the city’s explosive population growth for decades, but in recent years things had gotten much worse. Air-conditioning was non-existent and the crowding during morning rush hour was so bad that he would usually have to wait for two full trains to pass before he could squeeze on board. How long before they bring out those big sticks to push people inside?”

Chapter Two goes back to October 24, 1992, when Sam felt connected to his city leading into Chapter Three when readers meet Jennifer Moore, a 19-year-old Freshman at New York University in New York City on September 17, 2018. The background of the two main characters is now set up well for readers to rejoin Sam in Chapter Four in 2025. Later readers will rejoin Jennifer.

The author established these transitions excellently. Readers will seamlessly follow the story, anxious to know more about both of them when reading. Racial and cultural issues blend into the fabric of both of their experiences and readers have much to ponder keeping open to the ideas presented.

Both Sam and Jennifer are believable characters that readers will care about. Excellent dialogue enhances the story with a plot that will have readers involved in the happenings in their lives.

After the story concludes a return to the prologue for a rereading of Yuri Alexandrovich Bezmenov’s letter seems appropriate, bringing the story full circle. The author gave readers much to consider in the subset of this compelling story set in Canada and the United States.

fighter jet over clouds on book cover of F/X-26

FX 26

By Steven Vucak


Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 4 stars

At the beginning readers meet Ogdan Kostan.

“A former Air Force major, he had what other men called command presence. With his tall, trim frame, he dominated everybody around him, expecting deference and usually getting it. He did not have to work at it. That’s how he was: driven, ambitious, and ruthless. Only the survivors ruled. The rest followed in his jet wash. During his abridged career as an advanced fighter test pilot, they’d taught him well how to survive… at every level. To him, a customer was simply a bag of money, and a competitor someone to destroy because they took money he felt rightfully belonged to him. …He held high hopes for his F/ X-26 Wasp sixth generation fighter concept prototype.”

His ambition brings readers into the inner world of his civilian aviation business Rebus Aviation, and his interactions with the Air Force, the US Department of Defense at the Pentagon, the Secretary of State, and the US Congress, as week as with his employees and competition.

The cutthroat industry, with sabotage, bribes, disloyalty, and fierce competition, governs the initial chapters, making getting to know or like Ogdan Kostan difficult. This complicated world of his at first provides readers only a one-sided look at the man.

For readers interested in the process to produce such a prototype, they will find the details.

For readers interested in sabotage and competition, they will have their appetite satisfied.

For readers interested in the government workings to attain fighter planes, they will find an inside look.

For readers more interested in people, rather than specifications, antagonism, or politics, the beginning is a bit slow moving, but some patient reading further into the book will provide what they seek. They will get to know more of the enigma that is Ogdan Kostan, along with the people in his work and private life.

dad cutout with family on it on book cover of Dad - a novel

Dad: A Novel

By Steven Manchester


Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 5 stars

Chapter one introduces readers to Oliver Earle.

How in the hell did I ever end up here? Oliver wondered for the umpteenth time. Recently, it had become his pathetic mantra.”

Readers meet his son Jonah after he picks him up from school.

“On the way home, Jonah asked, ‘Dad, were you all freaked out because you were a few minutes late?”

Oliver looked in the rearview mirror and offered a partial shrug.

The little guy chuckled. ‘You worry too much.’

‘I’m your dad. That’s my job,’ Oliver told him, thinking and you have no idea just how much. He looked back at his son again and grinned. But you will someday.’”

Readers learn of Oliver’s wife, Ginny, and their daughter Layla.

Chapter two begins introducing Robert Earle, Oliver’s father, completing readers’ entry into Oliver’s family dynamics.

“I woke up one morning and realized, I’m 72 years old, Robert thought. Now how in the hell did that happen? Although I’m retired, I …

‘Are you still with me, Dad?’ Ginny asked, yanking him from his daydream.”

Readers see Jonah’s perspective as a first-year college student in chapter three.

How in the hell am I supposed to know where to go from here, Jonah wondered, if I have no idea where I am?

The author’s use of similar type musings in the first three chapters is an excellent interconnection of the three men: father, son, and grandson.

Readers connect to the three quickly, drawn into their similarities while alert to their differences.

The men in this family will make you laugh, cry, and most importantly feel both the bond and the disconnect experienced by most fathers and sons.

This book grabs readers immediately, connects with them, and will be one they will not want to put down.

US flag heart, Italy flag heart, joined by red ribbon on book cover of Broken Bloodline

Broken Bloodline

By John J. Jagemann


Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 5 stars

The story begins with readers meeting the narrator in the summer of 1969.

“My name is Pasquale (Patsy) Scallaci. I grew up in Belmont, a tough Italian neighborhood in the Bronx, one of the five boroughs comprising New York City. I lived with my grandparents, Pasquale and Natala and my father, Vincenzo, on Arthur Avenue and 187th Street, the heart of ‘Little Italy.’”

Readers follow this 18-year-old young man as he shares not only his family’s history dating back to 1893, but shares feel of the history in the nation as experienced by them. Well done transitions between the history and the events currently happening keep readers engaged without any confusion.

Interspersed references to the mafia, the police, Roosevelt High School, Fordham University, Loew’s Paradise theater, or the singer Dion’s beginnings on Belmont Avenue now copied by scores of young men holding their own singing sessions on the corner makes the depiction of this Bronx neighborhood come alive as it rings so very authentically.

Upstate New York provides Patsy with a welcome relief from the streets of the Bronx.

“I could not believe my rapture as I sat on Johnny’s porch drinking a cold one, breathing in the fresh Adirondack mountain air.”

Yet it is here where the mystery takes place that he needs to unravel to know the full story of his familial bloodline.

Readers will not be disappointed as this mystery and history interact.

boy holding hands with female robot going to bedroom on book cover of Captain Arnold

Captain Arnold

By Arthur M. Doweyko


Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 4 stars

This collection of 17 stories presents to readers a variety to catch their fancy. Not limited to a central theme, each story offers a distinct stand-alone experience, one or more of which will speak to you. Here’s a taste of three of the stories.

Captain Arnold and the Zantharian Invasion, published in 2020 in ANKH Magazine, Cherry House is the first offering in the collection. A handicapped eight-year-old boy escapes ridicule with his connection to his robot nanny.

“‘That's quite alright. Accidents happen. Now, go to your bathroom. Nina will see to you and help you clean up.’

It was a mantra Arnold heard almost every day, and it invariably ended the same way. Nina, Model N for Nanny, would give him a lecture, or a wash in the tub, or both. She held his hand as they toddled out of the dining room.”

Further along readers meet Apple in “Guardian Angel,” published in 2011 in Christmas Angels.

“Applegate Bogdanski was born in the Aldershot military camp in England in 1947…. In 1951, the Bogdanskis moved to New Jersey, where Apple, as he is known to his friends, began his schooling at Saint James in Newark. …

‘Do you remember what we went over in yesterday’s Catechism lesson?’

Apple thought back, his mind suddenly blank. After a moment, his face lit up.

“Yes. It was about guardian angels, and how each of us has one to look after us.”

“And what is it they look after, exactly?”

The pointer moved a little closer.

Adam knew that the correct answer was that they looked after each child’s spiritual welfare. But today there was a different answer.

‘I think my guardian angel saved my life this morning,’ he said in a whisper.”

The collection concludes with “Five Reasons to Wonder,” a Writer’s Digest Essay Award winner in 2019 which delves into the meaning of our existence.

“The Ohio paper, The Morrisonville Times, June 11, 1891, featured a small column describing 'Gold Chain Found Inside Coal.' Mrs. S. W. Culp shoveled coal into her kitchen stove when a large lump broke and out fell a gold chain. The coal came from the Pennsylvania era, which suggested that it could have been over one hundred million years old.

Welcome to the thin line between what we know and what we don't.”

Each unique tale will challenge the reader with different characters, settings, tones, and perspectives. Some will resonate with them more strongly than others, but all will make them stop after each one to ponder the message portrayed.

black and white book cover of The Lonely Vampire with woman vampire with bright red bloody lips

The Lonely Vampire

By Ann Greyson


Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 4 stars

The prologue gives readers the back story. It is 1578 in Gheorgheni, Romania.

“A GRAY MIST lingered over the horizon of the rural town in the Szekely Land in eastern Transylvania. The light was changing in the sky. At first glance, it was a peaceful-looking scene. But the sounds of low moaning traveling through the air evoked something else — menacing, threatening. Because these spooky sounds were not coming from the grazing sheep in the yards of the farmhouses.”

Readers meet Ileana Vladislava, a vampire, as Claymor, a werewolf, takes part in the massacre of the vampires in the area. After destroying the vampires, however, he “caught the scent of vampire in the air near the forest,’ upset that one had escaped him.

Chapter one brings readers to 2017 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England meeting Myrna Ivester and her friend and roommate Siobhan Mulcahy, leading into the rest of the story with Ileana, that escaped vampire, today at Wightwick Hall. Lonely, but still surviving, she keeps herself hidden from Claymor while annoyed by a prying neighbor. Lorraine and Arthur Krag, the neighbors, provide the right touch of comedy as well as the tension added to Ileana’s safety with Lorraine’s snooping.

A chance encounter at the library between Ileana and Myrna has Ileana tempted to risk everything for Myrna after being alone and isolated for over 400 years.

Readers will connect with Ileana and Myrna in this fast-moving folklore horror style novel feeling their needs, fears, and search for happiness.

Gold etched tree and accent scrolls on book cover of The Watcher Book One: Knight of Light

Knight of Light

By Deirdra Eden


Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 5 stars

As the first book of The Watchers Series, this tale begins by bringing readers into England in the year 1270.

While the publisher suggestion for the book is for those 9-12 years, this fantasy will draw in not only young readers, but those young in heart who enjoy a fairy tale that includes adventure, danger, emotional connection, a young girl’s search for self-discovery, and just the right amount of young romance and humor to balance the scary parts.

“Flames spewed in waves of red heat from the windows. Hot ash floated into the sky like smoldering snow. Screams from the children inside the burning cottage pierced the darkness.

‘We’ve got to help them!’ I shouted and covered my ears to muffle the agonizing pleas of the trapped children. Surfacing memories haunted me of the fire that killed my parents three years earlier.”

Auriella, a young orphan girl, runs into the flames to save the children, but is then repaid by a Shadow Lord, disguised as a nobleman, accusing her of being a witch. He stirs the villagers by declaring that she had survived the fire in the village that had killed her parents, and now has run into the fire and come out unburned.

“Fear surged through my body and the instinct for survival took over. I kicked up the burning rubble at my feet and showered him with hot embers. He released his grip just long enough for me to twist free. I raced toward the edge of the village, sprinting over sharp rocks and

twigs, ignoring the pain on my bare feet.

Heavy footfalls pounded behind me. I glanced over my shoulder. A group of men from the village chased after me, including the abomination who had disguised himself as a nobleman.”

Readers are immediately plunged into this story, fearful with Auriella, rooting for her success in this battle of good vs evil. 

The author’s excellent descriptions and characterizations of the young girl, as well as of the other characters in the book, will hold readers throughout to a satisfying ending, while enticing them into continuing their connection with Auriella in the subsequent books of the series.

father and son walking holding hands on farm on book cover of Generational Lessons from Dad

Generational Lessons from Dad

By Brian Baleno


Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 3 stars

The first chapter of this personal family history begins with a cell phone ringing while the author Brian is on a business trip in Chicago.

“To this day, I cannot recall who phoned me that July morning.

I know it was either my younger brother Michael or my mother. The only recollection I have is hearing the news that my dad had a stroke and was being rushed to a hospital in Pittsburgh.”

Both he, who was 27 at the time, and his brother Michael, the second oldest, in Seneca Falls learned of the stroke by phone. The rest of the family, spanning in age from 9 to 21 years, included Steve and Kim, who were in college, and Katie and Matty who were living at home in

Pittsburg with Mom and Dad.

“The perspective of those at Baleno family home in Pittsburgh was very different. They were living at home. They experienced Dad’s stroke and subsequent seizure firsthand.”

In this chapter readers meet Tony Baleno from the perspective of his children at the time when his stroke caused the uncovering of a tumor that required brain surgery.

In subsequent chapters the author shares the family history throughout the generations, complete with old photographs to punctuate the story. The author tells the history by recounting the lives of the family members, beginning with his grandparents, to his parents’ story, to his generation, adding piece by piece the lessons they passed on. Hard work and commitment to family define this Italian American family.

“Transferring these lessons from one generation to the next, Dad has combined the core principles of work ethic, education, and discipline with values such as humility and ethics.”

This first-person account moves a bit slowly in parts due to the telling rather than showing writing style, but it has much to offer. Readers will find the author talking to them to share his family history, rather than witnessing it for themselves, but readers who spend the time to absorb all the author offers from what he has learned, will find inspiration in the telling of it. Our society, especially now, can use the reminder of aspiring to and of practicing the core principles and values the Baleno family history embodies. 

field with wheelbarell  of apples, tray of apples, ladder, & dog on book cover of Murder Comes to Madtree

Murder Comes to Madtree

By Georgann Prochaska


Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 4 stars

“Wedding Invitation

Lena Vincenti and Julian Mueller

Request the honor of your presence

Saturday, October 24, 2014

At 11:00 a.m.

Elizabeth Madtree’s Apple Orchard Resort

(No gifts and no dead bodies, please)”

With this begins the sixth Snoopypuss mystery by the author and Lena’s fifth marriage.

Readers of the previous five mysteries will find the familiar characters of past stories, knowing their past history and interactions adding to the enjoyment of this one.

It’s the day of the wedding at the Elizabeth Madtree Apple Orchard Resort with three people staring up with a solitary police car sitting off to the right of them.

“Julian’s and Lena’s wedding guest checked their watches and cautioned children to stop squirming. A man behind Alice said, ‘You’d think they’ve had enough practice to start the ceremony on time. They’re both in their sixties, for God’s sake. How long are they going to make us wait?’

Alice easily imagined Lena being late to heighten the intensity of her entrance, but Julian, a retired truck driver, liked a schedule. So, what was the delay?”

The ceremony gets under way as a second police car arrives. As it proceeds a third police car comes, followed by an ambulance and another police car. The couple exchange their vows. Two more police cars arrive.

After the wedding ceremony, Elizabeth the owner has solicited Alice Tricklebank’s help to return with Audrey her bloodhound to assist in the murder investigation, additionally offering rooms to Cyril, Sylvie, and Virgil at the resort. Lena, of course, wants to be part of it. From celebrating to investigating Alice and Lena are at it again!

Readers experience this adventure along with Lena and Alice. The mystery plays out with good dialogue and description, accompanied by compassion, and touches of humor.

As a stand-alone story from the rest of the series, however, new readers may not understand the dynamics of the friendship of Lena and Alice, Audrey the slobbering bloodhound, along with the Bottom Ridge posse of Sylvie and Virgil in their eighties, with ninety-year-old Cyril, Virgil’s older brother.

There are some clues from the past, such as Sylvie’s passed note to Alice after the appearance of all the police cars which included: “Hope you’re ready because this Bottom Ridge posse stand ready to sink our teeth into a good murder investigation, again.”

The story later references to them.

“Had it been just the previous Christmas that Sylvie and Virgil had been Alice’s house guest for another wedding. They had weathered her stairs and kept a protective eye on her. Alice studied Virgil. Without his vigilance, she might have died.”

Similar type clues to Lena and Alice’s friendship, and to Audrey performance in previous cases, intersperse the story, but this reviewer recommends reading prior stories to get the full character development and history to relate more closely to familiar characters and to appreciate fully the story set out here. It will make this good cozy mystery even more enjoyable.

Red book cover with gold writing of The Menu

The Menu

By Steven Manchester


Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 5 stars

Chapter one has readers meet Phinneas Michael Reed before he is born through his birth. Not the normal course in a novel, but one that sets the tone of this inspiring story.

“Through the veil of fog, the taller shadow handed the other a thin book and patted him on the shoulder. The gold embossed, burgundy cover was the approximate size of a menu…. Gently and lovingly, God wrapped his arm around Phinn’s shoulder. “This is your life. Order whatever you wish, but keep in mind—whatever you choose to taste, you have to finish,” He told Phinn before sending him into the world.”

In chapter two Phinn is just about to turn 25 when his girlfriend Tina tells him she is pregnant.

“Although the small token was hardly wrapped by a professional hand, Phinn was excited to see Tina’s face when she opened it.

After a long yawn, she peeled off the wrapping paper and stared down at the tiny pair of booties. “Oh Phinn,” Tina said, “they’re…”

He handed her a piece of paper. “This is the real gift,” he said, excitedly. “It’s a poem.” He smiled. “The first one for our child.”

“You wrote a poem?” Slowly—almost reluctantly—she accepted the paper. “Unborn Child,” she read, already choked with emotion.”

Readers journey with Phinn, with whom they easily will connect, from this start to all the events in his life: the good, the bad, the unexpected. They meet the people he meets in his life, watching him experience not only his choices, but the choices made by them. Each choice impacts not only the one making the choice, but additionally those in their lives.

The author’s note shares the purpose in the writing of this story.

“The spiritual journey is a personal one for me; I am not only a believer but a follower. That said, I did not write The Menu to recruit. I penned The Menu to connect, while also sharing my vision of “going home” and how the miracle of death should be no more feared than the blessing of birth.”

And connect is what he so superbly did! No matter one’s beliefs, readers will connect to Phinn and to all that transpires during his life. They will laugh with him and cry with him. They will most likely see something that parallels their own life in at least one thing that happens to Phinn. Phinn’s poems shared in the story beautifully bring this book to an even higher level.

This book is a gift of love from the author that readers will cherish. 

Blue book cover of Autumn Leaves with trees

Autumn Leaves

By Stefan Vucak


Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 4 stars

Readers meet Dr. Dural Sinclair as his plane lands in Melbourne, bringing him home from tow days at “the Australian Clinical Psychology Association symposium in Sydney.” Rather than staying overnight to network in Sydney he chose to come home.

“That would have meant losing half a day by the time he got back. Anyway, he had two patients scheduled for tomorrow morning.

A more compelling reason to be home was getting Lenora’s welcoming embrace and Daniela swarming all over him …”

The story begins calmly sharing his family life and how it began. As the story progresses, however, his perfect life is struck by tragedy after tragedy that challenges him to his very core.

Readers travel his life with him through its various seasons, sometimes angry at his choices, sometimes heartbroken for his pain, but always connected with him hoping for the best. At the conclusion they stand with him at the falling of the autumn leaves.

winged bird on book cover of What Stories are you Living?

What Stories Are You Living?

By Carol S. Pearson


Reviewed by Angie Mangino

Rating: 5 stars

In the preface Betsy Styron of the Myers & Briggs Foundation introduces readers to Pearson and her work.

“When you read this book, and as a result take the Pearson-Marr Archetype Indicator® (PMAI®) instrument, you will be introduced to a variety of characters, each recognizable as someone familiar because you see the same qualities in yourself or someone with whom you are close.”

She continues with sharing the “decades-long relationship” with the author, “an expert in the field.”

The book is designed to best serve readers’ needs with its benefit obtained whether read from cover to cover or jumping around chapters to those that are currently most relevant in one’s life. This reviewer did both and found so much great information both ways.

The author shared many interesting insights.

“When we are in a confusing or beguiling situation, the mind tends to create a story, often connected to something we have seen or heard or read, but that may be dissociated from reality. … As you know, stories can be based on either fact or fiction. It is almost always helpful to determine the difference.”

“The PMAI instrument is designed to focus on the stories that you are living at any given period in your life in order to help you stay current with yourself rather than remain stuck in old self-perceptions that lock you in place and sap the energy right out of you…”

What are the top three archetypes in your life now? Idealist, Realist, Warrior, Caregiver, Seeker, Lover, Revolutionary, Creator, Magician, Sage, Ruler, or Jester?

The author includes a “free PMAI® Core Report as our gift to you, and we recommend to you take it now as you begin to read the book.”

This reviewer did as recommended, finding the assessment to be easy to take and accurate in its report of my current strongest archetypes during the present pandemic. It gave insight into how the three archetypes that are strongest in me now developed in response to the current radical changes in my life. Other archetypes that were strongest before this receded to the archetypes that are now strongest out of necessity. At a time when so much does not make sense in our society, this logical analysis was very helpful and appreciated.

The author concludes illustrating the benefits.

“Letting yourself feel the support of these twelve archetypes and all the people living them in ways that contribute to a better world can help you stay focused on knowing what is yours to do and doing it.”

Readers will benefit from the effort to discover their own personal archetypes by uncovering the stories currently playing out in their own lives.

woman on tree swing on blue book cover of Birthright poems

Birthright: Poems

By Erika Dreifus


Reviewed by Angie Mangino