Book Reviews: From My Nightstand

By Leslie C. Halpern

Much of my professional work involves reviewing books assigned by someone else for book review sites. So when I select books to review from the towering stack on my nightstand to review for my blog, you can be sure I enjoyed them enough to go to the extra effort. My nightstand includes books from authors I met at conventions, book signings, book fairs, and other events. Sometimes they just arrive without warning in the mail.

The stack is still towering and threatens to topple over at any minute, but of the past several books I’ve read recently from my nightstand, these are my three favorites. Find out more information about each book from by clicking on the highlighted links.

The Bait Man

The Bait Man by DL Havlin. (Paperback) Taylor and Seale Publishing, LLC. 315 pages. 978-1943789450.This mystery-suspense novel takes readers deep into Florida’s snake-filled swamps for an exciting story about Chessie, a brash young woman who works for a small fishing business and her harrowing experiences with her nemesis, Rooster, a vile, foul-mouthed bait man. Told mostly through Chessie’s first-person account, the story pits the former wild child and ex-Marine against the huge, hulking Rooster from their first encounter. After finding teeth and bone in frozen blocks of bait that Rooster provided, Chessie is convinced he’s a murderer and enlists the help of her policeman brother, Reading, to help her discover the truth. With or without police assistance, the strong-willed, thick-headed young woman puts her life in danger on numerous occasions to set a trap for the bait man. Thrilling and suspenseful, this novel reveals its secrets slowly as it reaches a satisfying conclusion.


Journey by Gary Roen. (Paperback) Legacy Publishing. 252 pages. 978-1937952075. This collection of short stories (both science fiction and general fiction) takes readers on journeys into many “what if” scenarios. Although some of the stories are flash fiction at just 66 words, most of the pieces are several pages long. The stories cover themes including revenge, lust, and greed, sometimes set within the publishing industry. Florida and Chicago serve as backdrops, along with some outer space locations. Each story has the element of surprise for the reader when characters behave unexpectedly and plots twist in curious ways. Seven of the short stories focus on the adventures of a hideous human-sized teddy bear named Slotski who has sharp claws and bloody fangs that come in handy when he’s angry. For the most part, however, his mission is to help people who unknowingly need his services. These quirky stories make an interesting and diverse collection.

Beauty Lessons

Beauty Lessons by Terry Godbey. (Paperback) Quercus Review Press. 63 pages. 978-0974307091. This lovely chapbook was an annual book award winner in the Quercus Review Press poetry series a few years ago. Divided into three sections, “Ready or Not,” “Only Child,” and “Hunger,” the book is loosely chronological and traces the author’s childhood (including her first kiss and awakening sexuality) to her adult life. Throughout the years, she often focuses on beauty, as in “My Face at 46” in which she writes: “I’ve seen enough of my mouth / wrinkled as a drawstring purse, / my parade of big teeth, / the two in front tipping forward / like drunks.” Her critical eye looks outward also. From “Produce Man”: “He’ll fuss over vegetables and fruit / only to watch them leave / in the arms of women / who never look at him / among the mangoes and artichokes / and find him appetizing, / this famished man / who feeds us all.” Sensitive, insightful, and accessible, it’s easy to see how this accomplished poet and her delightful collection won first place in the annual contest.

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