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The Dark Monk by Oliver Pötzsch

The Dark Monk

Last year, I really enjoyed Pötzsch’s first book in this series, The Hangman’s Daughter. The setting was interesting, Germany in 1660. The characters were different; how many Hangmen have you ever read about? The mystery of the missing children, while a teeny tiny bit formulaic, was full of twists and turns. The whole package left me eager to read the upcoming sequel.

Enter The Dark Monk.

The hangman, Jakob Kuisl, takes a backseat for a majority of this book and lets his daughter, Magdalena and the town doctor Simon take most of the limelight and risk. A priest is found dead;  Simon and Kuisl don’t think that it was natural causes and then they stumble into an ancient crypt under the church. Simon soon thinks he is hot on the trail of the lost treasure of the Templars, Magdalena gets a marriage proposal from a big city hangman before she gets kidnapped, and Jakob has his hands full with Johann Lechner, the town clerk, and a whole mess of bandits.

I don’t think that I would be giving away too much if I mentioned that there is one seriously bad and messed up monk involved. Also, the dead priest has a beautiful wealthy sister that is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery and manages to make Magdalena jealous.

Much like the first book, the time period and characters were interesting, however, the plot was reminiscent of the puzzling quests of Dan Brown. I liked it, but (Yes there is the big BUT) it read really, really slow for me. This baby is 512 pages long and I felt each and every page. It took a good long time to even get the story moving and then the characters seemed a wee bit slow on the uptake.

Did The Dark Monk suffer from the Sophomore curse? I think it did, but it was still nice to see the characters develop and I already have the next book in the series, The Beggar King, on my wishlist. (slated for January 2013)

 The Dark Monk by Oliver Potzsch

  • Paperback: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (June 12, 2012)
  • ISBN-10: 0547807686
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547807683
This book was sent to me by BzzAgent. If you have never heard of it, go check it out. They send you products and you spread the bzz honestly.


Shorts on Saturday



Back for round two in reviewing short books, stories, and even kid’s reads on the weekends.


You Are a Writer

You Are A Writer (So Start Acting Like One) by Jeff Goins

Goins is a pretty good cheerleader in this. The 77 page book is less about writing and more about changing your mindset.

Common sense, yet something that we all need to be reminded of often. The section on building your ‘brand’ was really well done and, thankfully, wasn’t just a series of “you must do’s”.

Writing is all about making a connection and Goins gets that.


Swim by Jennifer Weiner

Confession time. This was the first Weiner book for me.

Double secret confession time.  Nothing in this made me want to run out and read the rest of her work.

This is a prequel of sorts for The Next Best Thing and the version that I read had a the first few chapters of that one included.

Maybe I am too used to action or nonfiction; but I was so meh that I didn’t even read the sampler chapters.









Shorts on Saturday



Since getting a Kindle, I have gotten in the habit of reading short stories, novellas, and a fair amount of books for kids to sort of cleanse my palate in between larger books. Most of them are pretty good, but I can’t see writing a full post review of a short story.

So, here is the idea. I will do mini reviews on Saturday of the Shorts. Will I keep it up? History says no, but have to start somewhere.



For Kids-

Gnit-Wit Gnipper and the Perilous Plague by T.J. Lantz

The little Gnome, Gnipper Tallhat, just can’t seem to catch a break. Every experiment she tries ends up in a disaster and all she really just wants to show people how smart she can be.

Cute story. Great moral. Short read at 42 pages.






For Non-Fiction and Erik Larson Lovers-Psychopath

Psychopath by Katherine Ramsland

Was H. H. Holmes a psychopath? At the time of his dirty deeds, science was still looking for malformations in the brain to find the root of psychopathology. Holmes foiled the plot to let his brain be examined after his execution. Luckily, we don’t need to look at the brain to answer that question anymore.

69 pages. Interesting for armchair Psychologists. Nice way to kill time while waiting for the Devil in the White City to be released.


(If you have a Kindle or Kindle app and would like to borrow either of these, shoot me an note or comment. They are both lendable)




Keeping it short and sweet today while trying this out.








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Hole In His Head


The Only Living Man With A Hole in His Head by Todd Pliss

Phineas Gage changed the world in 1848. Unfortunately, it did take the world a while to notice. Don’t know who Phineas Gage was? You may remember him from that Psychology course you took way back when. While  blasting rock for the railroad in September of ‘48, he blew a tamping iron clean through his head, destroying most of his frontal lobe. Now workplace accidents happen, but what was amazing about this one is that Phineas survived. He lost an eye and he wasn’t quite the same man anymore, everyone said so. Still, he was alive, walking around with part of his brain gone.

His doctor, Dr. John Martyn Harlow, spent years trying to get the medical establishment to even believe that Gage had been injured as badly as he was. He spent years trying to get everyone to understand just how little we actually knew about the brain and its functions. Gage’s accident changed his life as well.  This book is just as much his story, maybe even more so than it is Gage’s.

Todd Pliss has made both men’s jump out of the pages in his book. Reading about Gage in textbooks, you were never able to get a bead on the man. Sure, they give you the basics, but by taking the facts and wrapping it up with some nice historical fiction wrapping, both men become human. So deftly done, there were times that I totally lost myself and needed a reminder that the book was indeed historical fiction.

As part of the tour, I asked Todd Pliss a question or two.

1. What was it, besides the obvious, that drew you to Phineas Gage?

I have always been a history buff and possess my teaching credentials in the social
sciences. My mom sent me a newspaper – printed up like an old-time paper from
the 19th Century, with stories included from that time. One of the stories was about
Phineas Gage and the doctor who had treated him, Dr. John Harlow, who had
been ridiculed by his colleagues for his published findings on the case. Like most
people, I was vaguely aware of the case, having learned about it in science class,
but didn’t really know the whole story and the aftermath of the accident. The more
I researched it, the more I was convinced it would make a gripping “based-on-a-
true-story” novel.

2. So much of a historical event isn’t just about the event itself,
but how it changes the outcomes of the participant’s lives. I think
that is what I appreciated about your book, that it was also about Dr.
Harlow and how Phineas changed him. Was highlighting his dealings with
Phineas and how his life turned out in your original plan/outline or did
it grow organically?

Going into detail about Dr. Harlow’s experiences and how having Phineas as a
patient changed him was always part of the plan and what originally helped draw
me to the project. The story was not only about Phineas, who died in 1860, but
how in the aftermath of Phineas’s death, John Harlow was able to find redemption.

There are so many times that we learn the basics of a story, but don’t get to know the people involved. The Only Living Man With A Hole in His Head brings you out of the text book and allows you a pretty good look directly into Gage’s good eye. (couldn’t resist the pun)

Somewhat OT, but this book reminded me of The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin . Both books bring the human factor into their subjects so strongly that you run to see if there are any other books about them.


The Only Living Man With A Hole in His Head by Todd Pliss


  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: S.B. Addison Books (February 21, 2012)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0983868170



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Weekend Craziness – The Zombie Tarot

Zombie Tarot




Don’t know if you have heard the rumor that the Mayans are spreading around. You know, that the world is coming to an end and all that hogwash?

Seriously, who believes the Mayans? And while we are talking about the Mayans, have you ever played basketball with them? Talk about talking the game seriously.  That Mesoamerican Ball will teach you the real meaning of sacrifice.



When it comes to predicting the future, you need to go to more modern technology. No, not the talking toddler in the E*Trade commercials, I mean tarot cards. If you can’t trust the cards, you might want to just go ahead and throw in the towel with the Mayans.

Tarot cards have been around since the mid-fifteenth century, but they have never looked this good. Whoever came up with the idea of mixing fortune telling with the undead was a seriously confused individual, also a very talented one.


Zombie Tarot thelovers


The cards are beautiful and completely creepy at the same time. The colors are softened like vintage ephemera and made from sturdy card stock that can standup to any brain spill you throw at it.


If the Tarot is new to you, don’t fret. Included is a wonderful tiny manual with all of the directions. In no time at all you’ll be predicting who Susie is going to lose her brain, I mean heart,  and just when you and that star-crossed Zombie are going to meet.



okay putting semi-serious hat on now.

I have ZERO experience with tarot cards, but I do love great vintage inspired graphics and some of my best friends are zombies.  (that last part may not be true) I whipped these puppies out and well, let’s just say that either I need glasses or the future looks murky.

No matter, these are going to be great additions to the next party and if you’re not careful there will be brains on the menu.


The Zombie Tarot An Oracle of the Undead—with Deck and Instructions

by Paul Kepple and Stacey Graham

  • Cards: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Quirk Books; Crds/Bklt edition (June 5, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594745692
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594745690


Big thanks to Quirk Books for letting me take control of my future. 



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