Book Review: Bad Karma in the Big Easy by D. J. Donaldson

bad karmaI was intrigued by the prospect of reading Bad Karma in the Big Easy by D.J. Donaldson since it deals with post-Katrina New Orleans. My family also survived Katrina, although from about 200 miles away.

The setting of the story is the time immediately following Hurricane Katrina in August, 2005. Chief Medical Examiner Andy Broussard is tired and overworked in the temporary morgue. He is perplexed by the bodies of three women who were found naked in the lower Ninth Ward, the scene of much of Katrina’s destruction. There are unusual similarities – the primary one being that these women were murdered.

Kit Franklin, forensic psychologist, is drawn into the case. There are many unusual twists and turns in this mystery. People are not who they seem to be and the killer surprises everyone.

Although part of a series, Bad Karma in the Big Easy reads just as well as a stand-alone novel. Connections to prior books only bear a brief mention and are not crucial to this story. The book is an enjoyable read, although some of the situations are quite horrifying and reluctantly believable. The characters all have depth and I was sympathetic to both Kit and Andy.

I give Bad Karma 4 stars. It’s a good mystery with a satisfying ending. I highly recommend it.



The More You Read . . .


“The more you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

~ Dr. Seuss –  “I Can Read With My Eyes Shut”

The Disillusioned by D.J. Williams – A Book Review

Two brothers whose paths have diverged come together again after their mother’s suicide. The sons of a powerful evangelistic church leader, they are drawn into a mystery as unique as it is horrifying.

Danny and Sam begin a search for a woman who shares their inheritance. They know nothing about her. However,  all roads lead to the African country of Zambezi. Danny leaves his wife, Brooke, behind in Los Angeles and travels to Africa. When nothing is heard from him, Sam follows and Angela the reporter follows him. What they all learn is a lesson in endurance and trust in God.

The intricacies of religion, politics and child slavery are woven  into a riveting story where death is all too common. The Disillusioned is an excellent book and I highly recommend it, giving it an A.

Book Review – Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back by Todd, Sonja and Colton Burpo

Yes, I know it’s been quite awhile since I posted a review. Sorry.  I have been concentrating heavily on Smoky Mountain Leaf Works, my new craft business (see for more info).  This doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading. I just have focused my life in other areas and haven’t had time for reviewing.

I have been on the waiting list for the Kindle version of Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back by Todd, Sonja & Colton Burpo for several weeks at my local library and it finally arrived. It took me less than three hours to read, both because it was not a long book and because I couldn’t stop reading it until I finished it.

Almost four-year-old Colton Burpo has a life-threatening illness. His pastor dad, Todd, and teacher mom, Sonja, are understandably distraught. Through what they believe is a miracle, Colton is healed. Life can get back to normal.

But, all is not really normal. Colton begins mentioning strange things that he has seen and experienced – in Heaven.  These things are not typical Bible stories and lessons that Colton has learned from his parents and from Sunday School. He describes places and people in Heaven from the Bible in ways he couldn’t possibly know unless he had actually been there.

Todd questions him gently but pointedly. Colton is adamant. Todd and Sonja believe their son visited Heaven when he was so near death. It has changed the way they interact with people and strengthened their faith.

I loved this book and it made a big impression on me. As so many people do, I have doubts and questions about God, Jesus and the Bible. Heaven is for Real has really made me think about my own faith.

All you doubting Thomas’s out there – read it. You’ll be glad you did.

Review: A Porcupine Named Fluffy

Published in 1986 and wonderfully illustrated by Lynn Munsinger, A Porcupine Named Fluffy by Helen Lester is a delightful picture book that will entrance readers and listeners alike.  Fluffy the porcupine is distressed that his appearance doesn’t live up to his name and he tries to become what he is not – fluffy.  He meets a new friend, a rhinoceros named Hippo, with the same problem.  In the end, they are able to laugh at themselves and accept themselves for who they are.

With a great object lesson for children (and many adults!), this is a book that will be read over and over.  The illustrations that accompany the text are adorable.  Read it!  You’ll be glad you did.

Children’s Book Review – How Are You Peeling? Foods With Moods

Cover of "How Are You Peeling? (bkshelf) ...

Cover via Amazon

This enchanting book by Saxton Freymann and Joost Elffers was published in 1999.  It has great simple rhyming text about moods, emotions and facial expressions but the real beauty is in the photos of the produce by Nimkin/Parrinello.  Saxton Freymann has sculpted simple but expressive faces into an assortment of unusually shaped fruits and vegetables in perfect harmony with the words. 

New York City was combed for just the right peppers, potatoes, strawberries, oranges, kiwi, onions, apples, peas, mushrooms, turnips, tomatoes, cantaloupe, peas, lemons, sweet potatoes, squash and radishes to provide canvases for adorable faces.  Black eyed peas are used for eyes and beet juice colors the lips.  The stem ends of the produce are noses.

The New York Times Book Review voted How Are You Peeling? the Best Illustrated Children’s Book.  I still enjoy looking at the book and I no longer teach young children or have a young child.  It makes me smile every time I see it.

Currently reading . . .

How Are You Peeling?  Foods with Moods by Saxton Freymann and Joost Elffers

Jolt: Get the Jump on a World That’s Changing by Phil Cooke

Smoky Mountain Magic by Horace Kephart

The alphabet will never be the same!

 Chicka Chicka Boom Boomby Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault has the rhyme and rhythm to make learning the alphabet fun for all.  Published in 1989, it won the Parents Choice Award in 2003. 

Long after the book first came out and long after I had learned to love it, I heard John Archambault speak at the Sevier County Junior Authors Conference (grades 5-8) in the spring of 2007.  He explained how the book came to be and the science behind the “rhythm.”

In Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, the lower case letters of the alphabet (the “children”) all race (in alphabetical order, of course) to the top of a coconut tree.  Overloaded in the tree, they all fall to the ground.  The capital letters (“parents”) come to the rescue of the wounded.

Simple, brightly colored illustrations by artist Lois Ehlert punctuate the catchy text.  This book is both fun to read aloud and listen to.  It is a must for young children and makes a wonderful gift.

Clumsy Crab Rocks

Clumsy Crab by Ruth Galloway is a wonderful picture book with beautiful illustrations by the author.  The story is fun to read-aloud and to listen to, with catchy alliteration and rhyme. 

Nipper the Crab feels like he doesn’t fit in.  Who hasn’t felt that way before?  Everything he tries to do is wrong.  His huge claws cause all kinds of problems when he plays with his friends.  Finally, Nipper is able to use his claws to help a friend in need and he realizes he is special, after all.

Parents and teachers will enjoy reading this book to young children.  I highly recommend it.  A great lesson in individuality and that everyone has a talent.