Uncommon Review

Reviews of self-published, small press, and non-traditional books.

Book Review: A Warrant for Mrs. Lincoln April 15, 2009

warrantlincolnA Warrant for Mrs. Lincoln

By Nancy Schleifer

Local to ?

Xlibris, 978-1-4257-2845-8, $21.99

2007, 275 pages, paperback







A Warrant for Mrs. Lincoln is an elegantly-written, historical novel set in the state of Illinois.  A fictional character by the name of Helen serves as the narrator; describing her life as it intertwines with Mary Lincoln’s after Abraham’s death and into her elderly years in the late 19th century.   Young Helen (a witness to the President’s assassination) grows up in an oppressive family.  Taken in by her uncle as a teenager, she develops an interest in writing for a legal newspaper and attending law school–all in a time when women could not yet vote.  Between advocating and working, Helen finds time to develop a romance that only stabilizes after a life-time of separation. 


Reflecting on her youth (including her survival of the Great Chicago Fire), Helen tells the story of how Mary Lincoln’s son, Robert, brings his mother into court and accuses her of insanity.  Mrs. Lincoln’s life is described as she endures a rigged trial and subsequent confinement in a sub-standard mental facility.  Helen and her legal friends work to uncover injustice and to convince the public that Mrs. Lincoln’s only problems stem from grief and the inability to handle her finances; eventually helping to free the former First Lady.


A Warrant for Mrs. Lincoln, while including some fictional characters and situations, is filled with historical figures (politicians, suffrage advocates, prominent families, etc…) and actual events.  The author was careful to include an educational explanation of the story and list of references.  Being an attorney, she was able to accurately portray the legal aspects.  Professional and well-written, this book presents Mary Lincoln’s later years from both her perspective and the public’s view, while focusing on women’s rights in the late 19th/early 20th century.  The added drama of Helen and her life/romance was an excellent touch to keep the reader’s attention.  I found A Warrant for Mrs. Lincoln informative, interesting, and a pleasure to read.  Five stars.


Charyl Miller Pingleton–April 14, 2009


Book Review: Saving Katie February 4, 2009

Filed under: Fiction — Charyl Miller Pingleton @ 12:57 am
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katieSaving Katie

By Jessica Baughman

Local to Ohio

PublishAmerica, 2007, paperback

1-60441-865-6, 101 pages








In a small town, an angst-ridden teenage girl struggles with her frequently absent mother, a flaky sister and her equally flaky boyfriend, and high school life in general.  When she makes an unlikely friend of her literature teacher, she discovers the woman is hiding a secret past life. 


While volunteering at the local nursing home, the girl realizes an eccentric old lady is her teacher’s grandmother.  Coherent only part of the time, the patient divulges that her granddaughter is involved in a dangerous love triangle.


When things start to get out of control, the teenager risks her life to help her mentor.  Eventually, both find the love for which they have been longing.


Saving Katie is a quick and easy read for young adults.  Parents need not worry that it contains graphic or vulgar language.  In fact, the book includes a great deal of references to literature and the characters are intelligently-portrayed.  Saving Katie is a delightful novella packed with angst, action, and romance.  Four stars.


Charyl Miller Pingleton–February 3, 2009


Book Review: The Gift that Heals January 11, 2009

healgiftThe Gift that Heals: Stories of Hope, Renewal, and Transformation through

  Organ and Tissue Donation

By: Reg Green

Local to ?

AuthorHouse, $15.00, paperback

978-1-4343-5069-5, 2007, 184 pages






The Gift that Heals is a joint publication between the author, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), and the Nicholas Green Foundation.  Born out of the tragic story of the author’s young son and his murder and subsequent organ donation–The Gift that Heals is a book of life-changing organ/tissue donation experiences.  The narratives of organ donors and recipients range from babies to the elderly, and people of all classes and races spanning the world (including interracial donation); proving the point that no matter what we believe, how we act, or what we look like on the outside, we are essentially all the same on the inside.


The deaths of the donors cover everything from strokes to car accidents (and even suicide).  Yet, not all donation comes from death.  Many of the featured stories are those of individuals known as “living donors” (for example, an entire family where each of the members has donated a kidney, called the “One Kidney Club”).  The diseases and disabilities that call for organ donation are just as varied.  Some are born with afflictions such as cystic fibrosis; others suffer from blindness or organ failure due to various illnesses.  Accidents, war-related injuries, and attacks can leave a person in need of organ replacement; as well, burn victims may need tissue donations.  The Gift that Heals covers all types of these real-life situations.


Not all stories are from the families’ point-of-view.  The author mixes in a few narratives from medical and transporting personnel and employees of organizations that coordinate donation.  The running theme of these individuals is the ability of people to mentally accept donation.  Many families, even through intense grief, are immediately open to the concept and want to save other patients’ lives.  Yet others, due to religious beliefs, anger, or just plain fear refuse to consider organ/tissue donation. 


Perhaps the best part of The Gift that Heals are the physical and emotional experiences of those involved.  Families of the donors and recipients many times form bonds and friendships.  While some recipients do experience failure and death, a great deal go on to live fruitful lives–some even achieving amazing feats; from an Olympic medalist and a marathoner who runs alongside the deceased donor’s father to a state beauty queen and a record-setting mountain-climber.  The Gift that Heals is full of incredible stories that are heart-touching, and at times beautifully-ironic–making one recognize the Hand of God in many of these situations.


The author makes sure to mention several of the organizations responsible for handling donations and he gives the reader information on organ/tissue donation and how to become a donor.  The Gift that Heals is an inspiring and eye-opening book.  I give it five stars.


Charyl Miller Pingleton–January 11, 2009


Book Review: Columbus Ghosts II December 23, 2008

Filed under: Non-Fiction — Charyl Miller Pingleton @ 8:25 pm
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colghostsColumbus Ghosts II: More Central Ohio Haunts

By: Robin Smith

Local to Columbus, Ohio

Emuses, 2003, paperback

0-9723153-1-4, $13.95, 95 pages







If ghosts fascinate you (especially if you live in Ohio), Columbus Ghosts II will most certainly interest you.  The author opens her book by describing how she obtained her stories and her opinion on their validity.  She includes a wide range of tales, from businesses and schools to private homes.  Featured are:


-The famous Resch Poltergeist

-Parents that still haunt the Neff family home.

-Activity at the Little Theatre Off Broadway.

-The ghost of a professor in her former home.

-Capt. Dukeman, a fireman who haunts Engine House 16/the Central Ohio Fire Museum.

-Delaware’s Strand Theatre and paranormal activity.

-Sightings of Lincoln’s funerary ghost train.

-A ghost family killed in a fire in a home on Hilltop (My favorite story of the book, in which the medium asks the ghosts to go to the Light and the ghost mother hesitantly replies, “the light hurt my children.”–confusing the fire that killed them with the Light of God).

-Activity at the Hilliard Davidson High School–including an old farmhouse on the property and a former teacher’s ghost.

-Greenlawn Cemetery and the Snook murder.

-Hiram Perkin’s Observatory.

-Legends behind John Robinson and the Stone Castle.

-“Mini” ghost stories involving James Thurber, Sally and Anton Brunner, Swamp Road Sally, Dr. Orton and the prehistoric man in Orton Hall at O.S.U.


Columbus Ghosts II is not just another ordinary compilation of paranormal stories.  The author’s words are poetical and sometimes reflective.  She includes a plethora of maps, photographs, and book and website recommendations.  All sources are listed, as well as information on visiting the public sites mentioned in the book.  For added interest, history references of the Columbus area are included.  Columbus Ghosts II will surely entertain any fan of the supernatural.  Five stars.


Charyl Miller Pingleton–December 23, 2008


Book Review: With a Little Faith December 14, 2008

faithWith a Little Faith

By Jude Stringfellow

Local to Oklahoma

XLibris, 2006, paperback

1-4257-0064-0, $21.99, 168 pages







With a Little Faith is one woman’s story of faith told in three parts.  First she describes her family life, especially her three children (all now teenage and older).  She relates some experiences from her youth and continues onto adulthood, including her presence in downtown Oklahoma City at the time that the Murrah Building was bombed.  The author (an English professor) explains that due to an abusive ex-husband, an irresponsible lawyer, a vengeful judge, and some judgmental teachers, she temporarily lost custody of her kids to unfit parents–causing the family to experience overwhelming tests of faith.  Eventually rescuing her children (with the help of a determined female lawyer), the author lives through numerous hardships and difficulties in writing her book.  With all her adversity, she states, “[w]ith faith I find there is a constant need to renew communication with God.  Why talk to Him only when you need something desperately?  I wouldn’t want my own children to ring me up on the phone only to beg me for something, or to blame me for what was [sic] going on in their lives.”


In part two, the author tells how she acquired her dog, aptly named “Faith.”  Most likely you have seen Faith on a TV talk show or the News.  Nearly killed by her mother, she was born without her front legs.  Saved by the author’s son, the family taught the little dog to be mobile by walking/hopping upright on her hind legs.  This amazing canine doesn’t seem to realize that she’s anything but normal.  From the handi-capped to veterans of Iraq, she has brought hope and joy to hundreds of thousands. 


Part three has the author coming to the realization that she has to “let go and let God.”  While she continues to experience hardship (including being fired from her job because of her dog’s publicity), the author feels certain that her faith will continue to pull her through.


This lyrically-written book at times has a style reminiscent of Erma Bombeck.  The author is witty, but the reader will occasionally pick up angry tones.  There is a sense that the author is (understandably) using the book to vent bitterness.  However, she is still able to impart solid spiritual lessons in trusting God through her heart-rending experiences.  I was a bit turned-off by the fact that she included a disclaimer at the beginning of the book stating that some stories may be false.  Indeed, I did find some of the incidents almost unbelievable.  Yet, if even half of what she described about her custody battle is true (realizing that we only have one side of the story), those involved–the ex-husband and new wife, the judge, the original lawyer, the teachers, etc…–should be utterly ashamed of themselves.


While the book can become a little unfocused at times (perhaps it should have been written solely about her or solely about her dog), the author’s writing is engaging and you can’t help but feel sympathy for her situation.  I have a feeling God gave the author this dog, Faith, to help her learn a spiritual lesson.  This is definitely the book for anyone finding their faith faltering due to difficulty in life.  I enjoyed that the author included pictures of the dog and her children.  Dog-lover or not, Faith’s innocent eyes and determination will melt your heart.   I give the book a rating of four stars.


Charyl Miller Pingleton–December 14, 2008


Book Review: A Spark in the Dark December 5, 2008

Filed under: Non-Fiction — Charyl Miller Pingleton @ 7:58 pm
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sparkA Spark in the Dark

By Joyce B. Carter

Local to ?

PublishAmerica,  2005, $16.95

1-4241-1228-1, paperback, 85 pages







The Christian faith contains words that even many Christians either don’t understand or use appropriately.  A Spark in the Dark explains some of the most important terms used by the faithful.  Among these:


God’s will, forgiveness, humbleness/humility, gentleness, meekness, mercy, compassion, coddling, encouragement, patience, longsuffering, forbearance, review, submission, authority, influence, witness, conviction and condemnation, abundant life, commitment, covenant, worship, grace, joy, holy, peace, glory, and the anointed.


Not only does the author provide definitions (both using original Hebrew meanings and American dictionaries), but she provides spiritual advice for each topic.  For example, she states, “…darkness is the absence of light.  Had there been one tiny spark in that cave, the darkness would have been totally destroyed.” 


About mercy, “[m]ercy is the intellectual choice to show compassion and kindness where judgment is due.” 


About being a witness, “[y]ou can’t be an effective witness if you portray yourself as always happy and unmoved by life.  It is not reality and tends to make you unapproachable.”


A Spark in the Dark is an excellent resource for new Christians, but may also benefit the more seasoned.  Although there are several key Christian words not mentioned that I would have liked to have seen her include (maybe a second volume?), this book is an informative, yet inspiring read.  I give it four stars.


Charyl Miller Pingleton–December 5, 2008


Book Review: Our Common African Genesis November 27, 2008

africanOur Common African Genesis:  Evidence from Genetics, Linguistics,

Archaeology, Genesis, and Pre-Egyptian History and How Judeo-Christian

Mythology Tried to Erase It

By Larry West

Local to ?

Vantage Press, paperback, 1999

0-533-12815-3, 66 pages, $10.95






Our Common African Genesis is one author’s attempt to explain how today’s major religions have erased all traces of our African origins.  He first discusses the scientific, genetic, and historical evidence of the beginning of humanity in Africa and where the true “Adam” and “Eve” fit into history.  The author then reviews the basics of human migration out of Africa, language development, and the evolution of our species.  The reader is shown how geological events such the Ice Age and flooding may have spawned biblical tales, and how other stories are completely at odds with scientific findings.


Pre-Egyptian history is reviewed and how previous ancient civilizations (such as that of the Cushites, Aryans, Akkadians, Hamites, Hyksos, etc.) affected Egyptian beliefs (including astronomy and astrology) and how those suddenly-developed beliefs subsequently affected the Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths of today; thus concluding that all major religions have an African basis which, through various means, the white races have attempted to hide.  The author quotes from one of his sources, Gerald Massey, “[t]he unbelievable and fantastic in the Bible are precisely those elements that were originally mythical, then made historical.  Revealed religion is but unrevealed mythology.”


Our Common African Genesis contains an index, several cited references, and drawings illustrating the author’s points (though some of the charts he presents are difficult to decipher).  The author (a man of various education and interests) also includes a summary chapter for quick review of his findings.


This book is an interesting read, but is by no means an in-depth examination.  However, it does make for a good introduction to the subject.  While the author takes on an almost militant stance concerning race, he is in fact Caucasian.  He is also openly skeptical, and somewhat hostile, towards organized religion.  Obviously, this is not a book for those content in not knowing the true origin of their religion’s beliefs.  However, for more open-minded individuals this book is a quick and informative read.  Four stars.


Charyl Miller Pingleton–November 27, 2008


Book Review: Snow Valley Heroes November 18, 2008

Filed under: Children's — Charyl Miller Pingleton @ 9:42 pm
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snowvalleySnow Valley Heroes: A Christmas Tale

(Planet of the Dogs, Vol. 3)

By Robert J. McCarty

Illus. by Stella Mustanoja McCarty

Barking Planet Productions, 2008, paperback

978-0-9786928-2-7, 83 pages, $13.45






In the third installment of the children’s series Planet of the Dogs, the reader is taken to Snow Valley near Christmas-time.  Santa, Mrs. Claus, and the Elves are busy getting ready, while nearby tribes are forming caravans to deliver toy supplies to Santa Claus Village. 


The dreaded King of the North and his Royal Guards live in the imposing Ice Castle with scores of reindeer, servants, and their families.  Determined to destroy Christmas, the King has Santa’s most important flying reindeer, Dasher and Dancer–and a supply caravan–kidnapped.  Alarmed by this turn of events, the leaders of the Planet of the Dogs send a group of cold-weather working dogs to Earth to help the humans save Christmas.


With the assistance of the King’s reindeer, and the children of the Ice Castle and Green Valley, the dogs free Dasher and Dancer and take back Santa’s supplies.  At first fearful of the dogs, the King comes to accept them when they rescue him from a frozen death.


Snow Valley Heroes represents the age-old struggle between good and evil, and the fight to save the Spirit of Christmas–told in a format children can comprehend.  My 10-year-old son was excited to see a new Planet of the Dogs book arrive in our mailbox.  So as the Holiday season nears, I find that Snow Valley Heroes would be an excellent gift for grade/middle school children–especially those who love dogs.


The author goes out of his way to bring us up-to-date on what took place in the first two books– including recaps and character layouts–making sure the reader is not lost in the third volume.  Once again, the illustrations in this book are beautifully realistic and the drawn maps really help readers (especially children) visualize the setting.  I give this Christmas treasure a rating of five stars.


Charyl Miller Pingleton–November 18, 2008





Book Review: The Book of Enoch November 16, 2008

bookofenochThe Book of Enoch

Edited by R.H. Charles

Local to ?

The Book Tree, 1917/2006, paperback

978-1-58509-263-5, $11.95, 94 pages







The Book of Enoch (reprinted in this form by R.H. Charles) is an Old Testament/Dead Sea Scroll text predating Christianity.  Banned by Christian council for being “too supernatural,” the canon describes prophet Enoch’s visions and his astral journeys in time.  The themes in this book include:


Archangels, fallen angels (or “Watchers”), evil spirits, prophecies of the coming of Christ, future cities, judgments of various peoples, the secrets of nature, seasons, and astronomy, the Book of Noah, and the Exodus.


Some of my favorite quotes from this book:


In regard to the coming of the Messiah or “Holy Great One”:  “And the Watchers shall quake, and great fear and trembling shall seize them…” (page 9).  As well as, “And sometimes their eyes were opened, and sometimes blinded, till another sheep arose and led them and brought them all back, and their eyes were opened” (page 70).


Perhaps alluding to the “Lightworkers” or “Starseeds” of current generation: “And it shall come to pass in those days that elect and holy children will descend from the high heaven and their seed will become one with the children of men” (page 25).


And finally, God talking to Enoch in response for Enoch’s pleas from the Watchers:  “They should be interceded for you, not you for them” (page 17).


The Book of Enoch contains a mix of straight-forward descriptions, as well as highly-symbolic language.  Some of the subject matter is reminiscent of The Earth Chronicles series by Sitchin.  This is a must-read for any Bible devotee or supernatural/paranormal enthusiast.  Four-and-a-half stars.


Charyl Miller Pingleton–November 16, 2008



Book Review: The Autograph November 12, 2008

Filed under: Fiction — Charyl Miller Pingleton @ 9:06 pm
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autographThe Autograph

By Teresa Howard

Local to Ohio

PublishAmerica, 2003, $24.95

1-59129-961-6, paperback, 195 pages







In the novel The Autograph, three women–lifelong friends–deal with their own issues, while trying to run a record store.  One woman, a widow, struggles with the loss of her soulmate.  Another, obsessed with routine, feels suffocated by her family and overbearing husband; and yet another (the main character), a wild woman with a fear of commitment, attempts to hide the fact that she may have the same cancer that killed her mother.  With the help of Bob the Cat, the main character wrestles with her faith in God and her suspected illness; experiencing odd and sometimes hilarious hallucinations.


With a sense of mortality hanging over their heads, the trio decides to drop their lives and go on a roadtrip to concert-hop Patty Loveless, in search of the country-singer’s autograph.  A series of amusing mishaps on the road causes several brief run-ins with their idol, but prevents them from actually attending the shows.  When the main character begins to succumb to her illness, she is rushed to the hospital, where truth is revealed.  A visit from Patty herself sets the stage for lives beginning to change for the better and issues finally being resolved.


I found The Autograph to be witty and genuinely touching.  The author delves deeply into the main character’s inner life and isn’t afraid to lay out her grievances to God.  While the book’s language definitely isn’t for young ones, most adult women (especially those over-burdened by life) will appreciate this book’s humor, adventurous spirit, and realistic friendships. 


I enjoyed the spiritual aspect the author inserted into the story and the satisfyingly-paranormal way in which she resolved the main character’s emotional dilemma.  Technically, I did find a few problems in respect to narration and spelling, but nothing that takes from the story.  Overall, The Autograph was a fun, yet heart-felt novel.  Four stars.


Charyl Miller Pingleton—November 12, 2008