Absolute Book Reviews

Book Reviews by Dr. Carol Michaels

I have been in the publishing industry for more than two decades at every level. I started as a journalist with a very small newspaper where I got my hands wet and my elbows dirty. From there, I found my way to the editorial staff of a larger newspaper. Finally, I landed my dream job – editor for a publishing company. Needless to say over the last several decades I have read my fair share of books and articles.

After I retired, eight months ago, I began offering book reviews to tap into my expertise. I have a PhD in English Literature and know the ins and outs of a book review.  I hope you enjoy my reviews and fall in love with the books I cover enough to purchase them.  As I have only just begun this part of my life’s journey, I will not be posting past reviews of books I have done over the years, but instead desire to focus on new books and indie authors. If you are an author and desire a book review, please submit your request on the page Submit Book For Review. Happy reading!

Best regards,

Dr. Carol Michaels

Absolute Author Book Reviews

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Review by Dr. Carol Michaels: 5 of 5 Stars

51o14mSRy6L._SX336_BO1,204,203,200_I’m not sure what I was expecting when I picked out The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood to read on a vacation cruise, but I was in for a huge shock as I began to read the opening chapter as the book unveils the theme of subjugation in a futuristic town in New England. I have no question that Margaret Atwood is a prolific writer. She creates an interesting setting complete with characters who seem to come alive right from the pages. The pictures of the city of Gilead is pure genius and her character’s emotions have you enthralled. As a reader, you can really get into the inner soul of each character and you are transported into another world other than your normal life as you buy into the tale. The Handmaid’s Tale is a provocative, dystopian story set in the near future where an extremist Christian religion has crumbled the existing United States of America and taken over the entire political and social culture. In this society, men dominate and rule with an iron fist. The women are a controlled population caught in a web somewhere between a cult, Puritanism and sex trafficking in a slavery type of way depending on their tier level in society all outwardly marked by the simple clothing in which they are assigned, blue for spouses, grey for Martha’s and red for the handmaids. A woman in this society is lucky if she is the wife of one of the political leaders and at the lower levels are servants or as in the case of our protagonist is forced into a life of rape for procreation. The Gilead women are not allowed to speak their own mind, own land and are considered property. As for the reader, Atwood’s literary point of view which includes her style, the inner and outer dialogue of her characters and plots and subplots, are remarkable and in my opinion the author is one of the best novelists in modern times. This book is a page turner.

The Keystroke Killer: Transcendence by Dr. Melissa Caudle

Rating by Dr. Carol Michaels: 5 of 5 Stars

by now

front I 1Whenever I read a novel by an author making their debut, I get nervous for them. Most debuts are greeted to mixed reviews simply because the novelist hasn’t mastered the writing skills to hook a reader. This isn’t the case for first-time novelist Dr. Melissa Caudle. Her novel, The Keystroke Killer: Transcendence is a masterful piece of literature that other first-time novelists should purchase to learn from as she sets the standard and readers should purchase because it is that well-written and masterful.

Set in New Orleans, LA 2058, Caudle transports her readers into the underbelly of political corruption through the eyes of a grief-stricken private detective after his sister was murdered by a serial killer. Okay, sounds like a plot you’ve read thousands of times. But wait! It’s not as Caudle brilliantly weaves in and out of characters who are all tied together, they just don’t know it. Every character carried their own style, persona and dialogue which is a true strength for this book. Needless to say, it is character driven. I found it particularly amazing that Caudle not one time used any dialogue tags throughout the entire four hundred plus pages. What that told me is she is a prolific writer who commands her character’s thoughts and actions to engage her readers. Surprisingly with no dialogue tags anywhere, I never not knew who was speaking as Caudle was exceptionally crafty in creating authenticity to her characters. What a relief when I wasn’t bogged down by all the pesky, he said, she said tags; you will be too as the words seemingly engage a reader. Caudle’s words flow in a natural and meaningful pace and progresses from one event to another that makes sense. Her ability to connect everyone and every place is simply masterful in this tale of twisted deception.

Now let’s get down to our protagonist and antagonist. Other than giving any spoiler alerts, they too are authentic. I found my self becoming a cheering squad for Matthew as he searched for answer surrounding his sister’s unusual disappearance. Considering The Keystroke Killer:Transcendence is a science fiction psychological thriller, I had my doubts how Caudle would be able to merge the two. No worries now as I was not overwhelmed by the science fiction aspect based from Stephen Hawking’s theory of multiple dimensions. The way she crafts the story-line it is a natural and remarkable fit. The novel is just enough science fiction for the sci-fi lovers of the world, but not thrown in a reader’s face. By all accounts it is a psychological thriller and boxing it into only being about a cat-and-mouse game between an investigator and a ruthless serial killer is unfair as Caudle as thought outside the box and given readers something fresh they have never read before.

I found myself hating the antagonist and ideally that’s what you want from a novel. How dare a character be so discriminatively horrible and menacing? I mean that in a positive way because the antagonist is someone you will truly love to hate and when I say you have never read one like this, I mean it. He scared the bejeejies out of me.

As for the setting, Caudle got it right. It is obvious she understands the New Orleans culture and dynamics. I’d hope so since that is where she lives. However, it is beyond that. The choice of her words transports you to the Big Easy, in a futuristic kind of way. I feel compelled to say this book isn’t for everyone because it contains explicit graphic scenes, much like you find in The Handmaid’s Tale, Fifty Shades of Grey and Silence of the Lambs, but need I say this book is stronger and more intent. Caudle serves the reading community correctly when she billed her novel not for the faint of heart and included a warning page in her book. With the twist and turns this chiller psychological thriller is a page turner that will have you sitting on the edge of the seat and you might not want to read it alone at night. I did and I found every sound, creek in my house and even the wind blowing outside my window alarmed me as I thought, is there a serial killer out there? I can’t wait for The Keystroke Killer: Reborn which is part two of this saga. She can’t publish it fast enough for me and that’s the only thing bad I have to say about this novel.

Click the Amazon.com Buy Now Icon to purchase you copy of The Keystroke Killer: Transcendence. Available in paperback and Kindle.

by now

Book Review by Dr. Carol Michaels

Rating by Dr. Carol Michaels: 5 of 5 Stars

So, you want to be a doctoral learner huh? Are you nuts?!: A short story of my difficult journey as an online doctoral learner and some tips on how to help you succeed  by L.A. Davis

book cover jpegHave you pondered to obtain a graduate degree? Do you know the differences between programs and the differences in programs between an online university or a brick and mortar campus? If you answered these two questions with “I’m not sure,” then this book is for you. Dr. L.A. Davis in her book So, you want to be a doctoral learner huh? Are you nuts?!: A short story of my difficult journey as an online doctoral learner and some tips on how to help you succeed provides valuable hindsight for the new doctoral learner or someone miserable in one. I wish I would have read something like this before I earned my PhD. I guess it is true, hindsight is better than foresight.

While reading Dr. Davis’ book it was clear she understood the pain and suffering a doctoral candidate experience throughout the program. The ups and the downs are the same. However, what I liked about this book was her advice on how to take care of your mind, body and spirit. This section is more than a self-help guru section. Rather, this section is replete with solid advice to use through a difficult time. Her self-disclosure is brilliant and reveals her inner soul with the goal of helping others. Her advice is on target and anyone either considering entering a higher learning environment should heed.

I found her style of writing easy to read and far from pompous. The easy conversational manner in which she writes makes a reader feel as if conversing with a friend who has been there done that which makes for a quick and easy read. Her knowledge and experience come forth without ramming information down your throat. It is almost as if you feel like she knows you. It is this way because she knows what you are either going through or will go through.

Another strength of the book is her conversation with you on research and empirical data. Her own struggle with math didn’t stop her from succeeding. Instead, she found away around it and made it work. Her struggle with her major professor is a little different as there was conflict. When I read that part, I reflected on my experience and identified. What a reader can learn from her in this book, is that the conflict is part of the process and it doesn’t have to destroy you. Somehow, I think her experience reflects an unwritten attitude of a dissertation committee – we have to make them suffer. Although she quit and rejoined, her determination to succeed let no one determine her outcome even after suffering a major illness. I think we all can learn something from that.

I recommend this book for anyone considering entering a higher learner program and tap into Dr. Davis’ valuable hindsight.


If you are an author and desire a book review, please submit your request on the page Submit Book For Review. Happy writing!

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