The first offering in this collection introduces us to Becky, the doll that talks. As a matter of fact, she is the co-narrator of her tragic story, and we hear from her again later in this anthology. (Which is why I recommend more than one reading of this book!) "When Dolls Talk" is a work of tremendous artistry and psychological insight that must be read at a slow pace - savored and contemplated, even - in order to get the underlying meaning of each story. I will not go into the details of each piece here, for to do that would spoil the surprises awaiting the reader. Let's just say this collection is guaranteed to satisfy the fan of really intelligent and well-written horror. And yet, there is more here than your typical horror stories. Case in point is the surprisingly touching "The Old Place," which is my personal favorite. Kudos to author Joel Dennstedt, who should be sought after by every mainstream publishing house in this country. I highly recommend this work, not only for its literary brilliance, but also for its amazing depth.


“Hermit” is an exquisitely written ethereal story about Gabriel, a man who has chosen to eschew society and live a simple life of meditation and study. His only companion is a stray and very independent cat, Nisarga, who he calls “N” for short. Unlike Gabriel, Nisarga is fully involved with the world around him and leads a life that is a counterpoint to Gabriel’s life of non-involvement. Early in this story, we learn the effect of Gabriel’s self-imposed isolation:
“Gabriel felt less real, less involved, less a part of things in the world. He did not feel himself to be a person, but a kind of witnessing awareness only.” And, later, in a flashback to a thrift store purchase of a coffee mug we see a description of Gabriel’s reality: “...a mug he found sitting alone on a discount-store shelf – a ceramic version of himself...”
Yet, that is okay with Gabriel; he doesn’t see that as a negative thing. However, his quiet and predictable world is shaken just a little when the young, whimsical, Theresa, a college student on summer break, enters his life. Theirs is a May-December friendship, a joyous and eye-opening interlude for the reclusive Gabriel and searching Theresa. She is a vivacious person who is fully involved in the world around her, curious as a kitten and as friendly as a puppy. Gabriel finds her fascinating and compelling. He begins to feel long-buried emotions and yearnings, the very foundations of the not-so pretty life he had left behind.
Author Joel R. Dennstedt skillfully takes us inside the head and heart of his protagonist, within which he introduces the reader to spiritual theories and truths that make one stop and think, ponder and digest, and then exclaim, “My gosh! That is SO true!” Especially intriguing is the question presented early in the book, “Who were you before you were born?” How many of us have pondered that? And, yes, that question is answered beautifully later on, and you, the reader, will be thinking about it for years to come!
I highly recommend “Hermit,” not just for the splendid lyricism of author Dennstedt’s narrative, but also for his intimate revelations of the God-given beauty that lay deep within our souls.
Moreover, what the heck, as an added bonus, he shows us a great new way to prepare English muffins.

More Indy Authors

 From roller-skating carhop to English teacher, Gladys H. Ashenfelter takes us with her on her journey through her many jobs over the decades. Laced with humor, historical tidbits, and honesty, "20 Jobs: A Memoir" is a hard-to-put-down read. We see her mature from an insecure and inexperienced teen worker to a successful woman who has fought more than her fair share of battles in life.
As a writer, Gladys brings such descriptiveness to not only the jobs, but the work environments, her family dynamics, and the mores and morals of the times (past and present) that we feel we are walking her path with her. Laced with self-effacing humor and nuggets of self-discovery, she shares her mistakes and failures in addition to her triumphs. There are many laugh out loud moments in her memories, and one can not help but admire her determination to better herself through formal education and the lessons learned through life experience.
"20 Jobs: A Memoir" is a fascinating and delightful read. I highly recommend it not only to the adult reader, but also to teens who are just setting foot in the job market, for it shows the truth of how that first humble low paying service job is a necessary step toward the reward of finding our true path.


This is a disturbing yet touching story about Bobby, a physically abused boy, and the events of one summer that changed the course of his life. Written mostly in Bobby's narrative voice, it is hard to put down.

Author Ronnie L. Richards, himself a survivor of childhood abuse, has utilized his pain and the damage in its wake to craft this unforgettable tale. Yet, don't think this is a happily-ever-after account. It is full of raw honestly, intimately-drawn characters, and ironic humor. His description of the little Oklahoma town and the isolated farmhouse that is home to Bobby and his parents perfectly sets the atmosphere of arid, unrelenting, hopelessness. The parents are reflections of that isolation and hopelessness - the father a raging alcoholic, and the long-suffering mother barely keeping her sanity through all the beatings. Yet, Bobby and his mother are truly the strong ones in this situation, their steadfast love for each other their impetus to persevere, even if it means sacrifice.

I highly recommend "Shadow Comfort."

Very, very good writing style makes this an easy and pleasurable read. "Due for Discard" is full of humor (some really LOL moments!), intriguing characters, and vivid atmosphere. I loved the llamas that shared the ranch with Aimee - a unique alternative to the usual cats and dogs that show up in mystery novels. The protagonist is very likeable, although I was puzzled as to why she was so curious to solve the murder of her boss's wife, since she had only just met the man when she began working for him at the beginning of the book, and really had not developed a close relationship to him. Perhaps Aimee is just one of those nosy types who loves to solve mysteries. Aside from that, I really enjoyed "Due for Discard," and look forward to author Sharon St. George's subsequent books in this series.

"The Tree of Rebels" is an absolute page-turner that kept me reading well beyond my bedtime. As a matter of fact, Chantelle Atkins's brilliant writing, characters, and compelling story line had me doing the "one more chapter" thing into many sunrises. I will not go into describing the plot here, since other reviewers have already done that. This is a very satisfying read with distinct characters who propel the story forward. I am giving this book (the first in a series) my highest recommendation.