Dustin Reviews: ‘Rhubarb’ by M.H. Van Keuren

'Rhubarb' by M.H. Van KeurenMartin knows every desolate mile of Eastern Montana’s highways. As a traveling salesman, his only companion is talk radio, especially Beyond Insomnia with Lee Danvers. Its reports of the paranormal keep Martin entertained—and hopeful that there’s more to the universe than selling screws and nails to far-flung, small-town hardware stores.

A bright spot in Martin’s routine is the complimentary breakfast at a motel in Brixton, a junction town well past its sell-by date. But it’s not the watery coffee, day-old pastries, and pre-mixed waffle batter he loves. It’s Cheryl, the housekeeper who sets out the breakfast.

The townsfolk guard Cheryl jealously from the likes of Martin—who, to be fair, has more noble intentions than most. But Cheryl has room for only one man in her life, the ailing stepfather who raised her. As much as Martin dreams of rescuing Cheryl from her minuscule town life in the middle of nowhere, she steadfastly refuses to be in need of rescuing.

Martin’s chance comes when Cheryl’s car breaks down and he stops to give her a ride. To thank him, she bakes him a rhubarb pie, and he works up the courage to ask her out on a date. She agrees—but then she’s gone. Left town for a guy she met on the Internet, or so everyone says.

But Cheryl’s stepfather doesn’t buy it. He blames Martin for her disappearance, sending Martin on a search for the truth. What he uncovers about Cheryl’s family and Brixton’s history is far weirder than anything he’s ever heard on the radio. Especially if it’s true that Cheryl’s salvation lies in discovering a long-lost secret recipe for rhubarb pie—which might just be the best, and the most dangerous, pie in the galaxy.

Rhubarb was a delightfully cute read, a pleasing balance of drama and humor. There was just the right amount of humor to make it a light read, and not feel cartoon-ish. The characters were, well, let’s just say not always who they seemed to be, yet they were interesting and well developed. I have to admit, normally I’m not a big fan of science fiction, but the synopsis was intriguing and I just had to read this book. I’m certainly glad I did. (and I love rhubarb pie)

* the ominous theme music from the television program Twilight Zone
swells in the background *

M.H. Van Keuren's Goodreads Author Page

About the author

M.H. Van Keuren quit a perfectly good job to devote his life to writing science fiction. He’s a former convention center manager, and once upon a time graduated from film school. His first novel Rhubarb was released in April, 2012 .He lives in Billings, Montana, with his wife and two sons.

Find his blog at mhvankeuren.blogspot.com.

Like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/MHVanKeuren

Rhubarb is available at: Amazon


Kindle Length: 360 pages
Publication Date: April 3rd 2012 (first published April 1st 2012)
Language: English

4 out of 5 stars

Per the USA Federal Trade Commission disclosure policy (http://ftc.gov/opa/2009/10/endortest.shtm) governing endorsements and testimonials: the above mentioned book was purchased by this blogger for the sole purpose of reading enjoyment. This blogger was not paid or did not receive money, favors or gifts by the book author, publisher, agent, or anyone promoting or receiving a profit from the above mentioned book. This review was done so voluntarily to share views of the book with other readers and potential readers.


Dustin Reviews: ‘Round Robin – A Love Story of Epic Proportions’ by Joseph Flynn

Round RobinRound Robin Phinney…

She’s 230 pounds of bad attitude. She dishes out sandwiches and insults to the customers at Screaming Mimi’s deli. She takes a dim view of people in general and men in particular.

Her home is her sanctuary. She has an apartment upstairs. Downstairs, she’s created a private park, lushly landscaped, dotted with ponds, furnished with two Chicago Park District benches.

Manfred Welk is what Charles Atlas would have looked like if he’d been serious about lifting weights. A former Olympic powerlifter for East Germany, his ex-wife turned him in for spying.

Brought to Chicago after the fall of the Berlin Wall, he needs a place to live.

When cold weather hits and Robin’s furnace goes out, the plants in her park start to die. Worse, she has no money for repairs — but she does have a small vacant apartment in her basement. Something she might swap for the services of a live-in handyman.

After interviewing a number of prospective fix-it people, Robin finds, to her great horror, the best choice is a giant German with CIA connections. That’s bad enough, but the guy turns out to have a kid, a blue-haired prepubescent brat named Bianca who’s been raised in a brothel.

Robin, Manfred and Bianca all have their demons to cast out. You’ll have a grand time watching as they do.

Round Robin – A Love Story of Epic Proportions was an unexpected story and delightfully told. There is just the right amount of humor to keep the story from becoming too serious. The subject matter (delicate at times) is presented in a no-nonsense manner and is quite believable without being “glossed-over” or frivolous. The characters are well developed and play well off each other. Flynn draws the reader into a journey of discovery, to uncover the source of Robin’s painful secret.

Joseph Flynn

About the author

Joseph Flynn has been published both traditionally — Signet Books, Bantam Books and Variance Publishing — and through his own imprint, Stray Dog Press, Inc. Both major media reviews and reader reviews have praised his work. Booklist said, “Flynn is an excellent storyteller.” The Chicago Tribune said, “Flynn [is] a master of high-octane plotting.” The most repeated reader comment is: Write faster, we want more.

Author web site:http://www.josephflynn.com

Round Robin – A Love Story of Epic Proportions is available at: Amazon


Print Length: 339 pages
Publication Date:
Published December 20, 2010 by Stray Dog Press, Inc.
Language: English
N: 9780098303
ISBN: 098303124X

5 out of 5 stars

Dustin Reviews: ‘Sharks, Jellyfish, and Other Deadly Things’ by Nancy Tesler

Sharks Jellyfish and Other Deadly ThingsHaving survived a philandering mate and ‘murders most foul’ in the nothing-bad-is-supposed-to-happen-here burbs, newly divorced, biofeedback stress-reduction therapist Carrie Carlin heads for the tropics in response to a desperate phone plea from best friend, Meg Reilly. Meg is in Key West to root for her ex-con husband, Kevin, and his brother, Pete, who are participants in the World Cup Championship Powerboat Race.

Meg’s voice, hoarse, cracking. “Carrie, there’s been an–accident.” A long pause, then a whisper. “Pete’s dead, and Kev–they can’t find Kev.”

Assuring worried guy-friend, homicide cop Ted Brodsky, that her plan is only to do lots of hand-holding, some biofeedback relaxation therapy and maybe soak up a little sun in the bargain, Carrie flies to the rescue. According to the news reports, a freak boating accident has killed Pete. Kevin is listed as missing and presumed dead. But not everyone believes Kevin is dead, including Meg, the local homicide cops, and even Ted, but each with a different rationale.

From Ted–“People disappear for all kinds of reasons, Carrie. How much do you really know about Kevin Reilly?” From Detective Hanover— “This isn’t being treated as death due to natural causes anymore. More likely what we got here is a homicide.” From Meg–“Three calls, Carrie. Those calls tell me Kevin is alive!”

So ignoring the warnings from the professionals, Carrie and Meg begin to make inquiries and find themselves caught up in the mob-plagued, glory-seeking world of power-boat racing. As the word spreads among Pete and Kevin’s competitors, some of whose tentacles reach deep into the shark infested waters of the boat racing industry, the women are harassed and targeted by both killer and cops. Suddenly there are ominous phone calls, a menacing homeless man, a wild chase through Key West’s famous old cemetery, a ransacked hotel room…Carrie and Meg elude all pursuers–at least until the shark shows his teeth..

Sharks, Jellyfish, and Other Deadly Things (Carrie Carlin Mystery) was one of those books that you just don’t want to put down. I tried to stay a step or two ahead of the story, by guessing the next plot twist, but I was always wrong. The characters are set up very well. I had my hunch as to who the “bad guy” was, but I was surprisingly mistaken there too. Overall Sharks, Jellyfish, and Other Deadly Things made for some enjoyable reading.

About the author

Born and raised in Massachusetts, Nancy received a BFA from the renowned theater department at Carnegie Mellon University. A career that included off-Broadway, summer stock, TV, films, and a road company tour of some military bases in France, sadly failed to put her name in lights, but did turn out to be excellent training for the writing career that was to come.

After taking a hiatus to raise three children, she began writing for the stage, television and the financial community. Still another career as a biofeedback practitioner helped pay the bills when suddenly single again, and inspired by an overwhelming urge to knock someone off, she created the “Other Deadly Things” mystery series, originally published by Dell, which deals with the murderously wacky world of divorce where biofeedback stress-reduction is the order of the day.

Advises NY Times best-selling author, JANET EVANOVICH, “Don’t miss this stand-out-from-the-crowd cliffhanger with its slightly frazzled, commitment-phobic, in-your-face heroine, who’ll tickle your funnybone as she steals your heart,” and THE CHARLOTTE AUSTIN REVIEW extols, “This is amateur sleuthing at its charming, endearing, laughable and surprising best.” PUBLISHERS WEEKLY called amateur sleuth Carrie Carlin, “a clever, slightly neurotic heroine whose personal life is in disarray, the kind of heroine Susan Isaacs might put in a mystery.”

Like her protagonist, Nancy admits to being a slightly neurotic divorcee who has occasional homicidal thoughts and whose personal life has, from time to time, been in disarray. But there the similarity ends. When she was five she ran screaming from the theater when the witch in Snow White poisoned the apple, and she would never, as does her protagonist, walk into situations where even a cop would fear to tread without backup. Like Thurber’s Walter Mitty, however, she enjoys a rich fantasy life.

Although three of the five books in the series are set in suburban New Jersey where Nancy raised her family, she now lives in sunny California with her very level-headed significant other and her three rescue cats. Coincidentally (or not) her latest book is a stand-alone romantic suspense.

Nancy is a long time member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and Romance Writers of America.

Visit Nancy on her website at www.nancytesler.com.

Sharks, Jellyfish, and Other Deadly Things is available at: Amazon


Print Length: 210 pages
Publication Date:
Dell Publishing (Print version), Nancy Tesler (eBook); 2 edition (November 16, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN: 9780440224099
Carrie Carlin #2

4 out of 5 stars

Dustin Reviews: Big Jack Is Dead by Harvey Smith

Big Jack Is Dead

Jack Hickman is an antisocial software exec who designs team-building applications in the late 1990’s. Controlled and calculating, his world begins to splinter when he learns – in the middle of a corporate meeting – that his father has committed suicide. Returning home to the Gulf Coast, Jack struggles with a host of unresolved feelings as he buries the man he hated most. Interwoven throughout the novel, chapters set in the 1970s depict Jack as a boy, chronicling his relationships with a storm-tossed mother and a menacing father, living in the shadows of the petrochemical plants scattered along the Gulf Coast. The novel highlights the differences between life in California at the end of the Dot-Com era and life in blue collar Texas during the 1970’s, contrasting Jack as a man and as a child, and showing how the people who bring us into the world shape us forever.

Big Jack is Dead took me back to my own childhood, growing up in a small town in a dysfunctional family. The characters jumped off the pages or I was sucked into the story as I sympathized with the younger Jack. This is not a feel-good read, it’s not a HEA, it’s a story of internal struggle, emotions and questions that may never be resolved in a manner that will suit Jack Jr.

Big Jack is Dead is just one heck-of-a-darn-good-read !!!

Harvey Smith
About the author

BIG JACK IS DEAD is Harvey Smith’s first novel.

Born on the Texas Gulf Coast, Smith spent his early years moving between a handful of Texas cities…Freeport, Angleton, Palestine, and Moulton. After leaving home, he served for six years in the USAF before settling in Austin, TX.

As a videogame designer, Smith has contributed to games such as Deus Ex and Dishonored.

Currently, he resides in Lyon, France.

Big Jack is Dead is available at: Amazon


Print Length: 286 pages
Publication Date: March 31, 2013

Language: English
ISBN: 1482563657

5 out of 5 stars

Dustin Reviews: If It Ain’t Love by Tamara Allen

If It Aint Love by Tamara Allen

In the darkest days of the Great Depression, New York Times reporter Whit Stoddard has lost the heart to do his job and lives a lonely hand-to-mouth existence with little hope of recovery, until he meets Peter, a man in even greater need of new hope.

A Goodreads M/M Romance Member’s Choice Awards Nominee

If It Ain’t Love isn’t a typical M/M Romance (cookie-cutter style) novel with in-your-face sex and shallow characters. Instead, Tamara Allen brings “real” characters to life in a well written feel-good story filled with human compassion. Although the story takes place during the Great Depression, it is written in a manner that the reader could easily mistake it for a contemporary tale. Timeless.

If It Ain’t Love is available at::Smashwords & Amazon



Print Length: 44 pages
Publication Date: August 25th 2011 by Tamara Allen
Language: English

4 out of 5 stars

Running – Running – Running Away

During his high school years, he was like most teens who grew up in small towns, he wanted to move away and pursue a dream far from the confines of a small community. He had a burning desire to get as far away from that town and as soon as he could –  he couldn’t get out fast enough. He wanted to shake the haunting memories and the life that he thought he should have had, but hadn’t had. He wanted out so badly he hadn’t considered where he was running too, just as long as he wasn’t in the shadow of that town.

When the time came, he was gone!

He didn’t look back as he passed the city limits – he didn’t even think twice. He was free at last. But as the months and years passed, he still couldn’t separate himself from his past. He traveled further and further away, yet, he couldn’t get far enough away. He kept running, running away from a past that he didn’t want to claim as his own.

For ten years he ran and was still no further from the past than when he started. Finally giving up, he realized that no matter where he traveled, the past would always be there, stalking and haunting him.

Less than one year ago, I began to write a novel OUTED BY ANGER. Angrily I wrote about a young boy coming out in a small rural Oklahoma town during the 70’s. Hate, bullying, prejudice were the key words in a politically charged theme attacking the establishment. Just this past week, I re-read the first six chapters of the incomplete rough draft. In my reading I was stunned that I was perpetuating the very theme that I was taking a stand against: HATE.

I stepped back and re-examined the very story that has been in my head since I was in high school, now the beginning of a manuscript – a manuscript that turned my stomach. This is not the way I had intended to tell this story.

I began at the very beginning of the manuscript and started editing the story. Instead of a narration from the hindsight perspective of an angry man, I turned the voice into that of a confused and naive teen boy. Through the eyes of a teen boy, the story unfolds. My hateful and angry prose were replaced with compassion and sympathy for a boy on a journey through his internal confusion and insecurities. A story of navigation along a rough road of discovery into small town politics and religious prejudice. A tale of a boy with only one objective – to escape the town as soon as he could.

That boy was me.

As I write this story which parallels my own high school experiences, I’m coming face-to-face with my past, the very past I’ve spent my entire life running from. Yet I’m sensing that in writing this tale, it might possibly explain what has eluded me for so very long. What exactly was I running from? Or was I running toward a destination which I had failed to define? A story which began as a coming-of-age story about a young teen boy, may very well become a journey of revelation for the man who is writing it.

A Story Without a Genre – or – If You Write It a Genre Will Come

For months, I did research for my latest novella, Masked Identities. The storyline includes a period story sandwiched within a contemporary story. In other words, I was writing two stories that would ultimately become one.

The interior story of Ambrose and Sebastian takes place in 1890 Victorian London. Mind you, I have never been off the shores of North America and I definitely had not lived in the 19th Century (at least not during this lifetime). To properly tell this story required months of research into Victorian London history. I recreated a large 19th Century map of London which was taped to the wall in front of me along with reproduced photos of clothing styles, buildings, actual newspaper articles, court and police records, birth records (to select from popular names given to infants during the period), along with tons and tons of notes. During my research I discovered actual events, places and even people that made the story seem like it was becoming more than just a work of fiction. Not having written a “period” piece before, I encountered a challenge with phrases and words that sounded too contemporary or too “American”. Luckily, I had come across two comprehensive directories of “1890 Victorian Slang Terms” which was quite beneficial as well as educational. I began incorporating the results of my research into my story. There was a nagging voice constantly chattering in my head: “The story has to be authentic and historically accurate.”

Once the interior story was completed, I finished the contemporary (exterior) story of a troubled relationship between Megan and her boyfriend, Chandler. But, I had two different endings and was undecided of which to use. I flipped a coin and that decided the ending.

The completed story was sent out to Beta Readers for review. The extensive comments were mixed and quite varying. The Beta’s were evenly tied in their comments of how the story should end, although they had no idea I had a second ending which I had not included in the manuscript. During the revision I decided to include both ending, so the story had an alternate ending. I would leave the selection of the ending to the reader.

Then what to do about about Cover Art? I had six mock-ups and was just as undecided on which I liked best, so I put the mock-ups to a vote of my peers on Facebook.

The story was completed and ready for publication. So, exactly how many writing rules had I broken?

(1) The story has both a Contemporary story and a Period story – OK, that’s a genre specific issue.
(2) The interior story is gay themed and the interior story is hetero themed – another problem.
(3) An alternative ending rather than just one ending – can I break any more writing rules?

To publish the story, I had to consider exactly which genre did this story belong? The publishing industry has specific established genres and my story severely crossed over genre lines. Pondering my dilemma, I questioned why in the heck had I written this story in the first place.

I was reminded of an author friend who recently told me that there are two kinds of writers:
(1) The writer who follows all the rules of grammar, punctuation and writes the edit-perfect book.
(2) Then, there is the “story teller” who creates wonderful tales, but does not follow the writing rules, either due to a lack of formal training or just because they are a rebel.

The author friend had classified my writing style in the second category, as a “story teller”. Yes, I can tell you a tale, but don’t ask me to diagram a sentence, or ask me to identify an adverb or a noun, and I’ll put a period or comma wherever I feel like it. And what the **** is a gerund?

I was reminded of Cyril Connolly, who said, “Better to write for yourself and have no public, than to write for the public and have no self.”

Masked Identities was released in digital format on December 4, 2011 and the paperback edition will follow. Maybe no one will read my story, and those that do may not like it. Whatever the case, I will always consider Masked Identities as my alternative fiction that lacked a genre.

Synopsis of Masked Identities

Megan thought she had read every book in her grandfather’s extensive collection of fiction, until stumbling upon an unfamiliar title. Curious, she delves into the book, realizing that her own relationship with her boyfriend of four years parallels the story she is reading of Ambrose and Sebastian. Can a story of love between two men provide the answers to salvage her floundering relationship?

This unusual tale is actually a period story wrapped inside of a contemporary storyline. The interior story includes actual places and events of 1890 Victorian London. One story follows the relationship of two men in Britain, the other story follows Megan and Chandler in upstate New York, USA. Not specifically defined as a romance novella, since this manuscript crosses genre specific lines: gay / hetero, period / contemporary, and even includes an alternate ending. Definitely not the traditional run-of-the-mill read, but a journey into alternative fiction.

Amazon http://www.amazon.com/dp/B006IU902U
Smashwords http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/111086