Evil Shadows by Rick Hallock (Review, Non-Fiction)

Evil Shadows is a true story of the extremes of identity theft that can lead to arrest, prosecution and imprisonment of the victim. It shows how the author’s identity was stolen and how that theft ultimately led to his financial ruin and closure of his successful business enterprise, all the result of actions of federal agents and prosecutors. After an exhaustive investigation, the author lays bare the whole story of how his identity was stolen and how it was used as cover for commission of other crimes. The story tells of his becoming the primary suspect in a worldwide federal investigation for those crimes and how federal authorities leveled their awesome and destructive powers directly at him in their zeal to make an arrest. It details the destruction of his successful publishing company and of how he narrowly avoided being arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. The story concludes with self-help chapters on the subjects of Prevention, Detection and Recovery from identity theft.

Review:

EVIL SHADOWS is more frightening than the scariest suspense thriller you could ever read because it is a true story. Being a victim of identity theft is frightening enough without the added trauma of finding out it is your own government doing the stealing. Who do you turn to? What do you do? Who can you trust?

Rick Hallock had his identity stolen from him and was financially ruined by greedy government agents. We live in the United States and we go about our daily lives with the naive assumption that we are relatively safe. We know the government doesn’t always act in our best interest, but we do not expect them to target our very identity.

My husband is one of the many who are perfectly content living his life without a computer or any other electronic gadget – and no, he’s not old. I, on the other hand, love technology. Never before have his words hit me as seriously as when I was reading this book.

I like to think that I’ve taken as many precautions as I can to protect myself because of the information we put out there everyday through social media, etc., but in reading this book, I have truly been deceiving myself and you, no doubt, are as well. I may have my bank cards and credit cards set with fraud alert and other precautions, but if the government (or anyone) decides to target you, you really have no defense other than your common sense and instincts.

Case in point – (book quote) “In early March the first red flag warning of really bad times ahead appeared and just as quickly vanished. Had I taken the time to consider it then, perhaps I would have realized something foul was happening. In my haste, I blew it off as some kind of mistake or computer glitch. The indicator came while InterNIC was processing a new domain name registration request.”

Rick Hallock was contacted by his credit card company to confirm a charge. He did not recognize the charge and the domain being setup was not authorized by him or his company. The fraud had begun with a simple transaction using his stolen credit card number even though he disputed it. The charge was taken off of his account and he went on with living life. Little did he know that he was being set up, by our government’s employees no less, for identity theft. To quote Rick, “Warnings of identity theft can be just this simple: a routine email message I wrongly interpreted to be an indication of a mistake or computer glitch was in fact the first indication that my identity had been stolen. Coincidences are planned events, and had I simply followed that rule, I would have questioned the event and probably learned of the theft of my identity and fraudulent use of my credit card and, armed with that information, I might have been able to avoid complete destruction of our business and my personal financial ruin.”

I don’t know if I would have explored any further before reading this book. I have had one credit card cancelled and re-issued four times throughout a number of years because of fraudulent charges that the credit card company found and notified me of. I now know that should it happen again, I need to document further, but how many times have we had this happen and not gone further? The charges are removed and we go along our merry way, not questioning the incident other than breathing a sigh of relief and thinking – “wow, glad the company took the charge off of my card.”

There was a second charge which he also handled and had removed, none the wiser at what was happening. A third incident, one the ordinary person would not find odd, “In late May (May 26th, to be exact), a third, less-obvious red flag appeared in the guise of a supposed survey taker who came to the house, knocking uncharacteristically on the front door. Uncharacteristic inasmuch as anyone could see the front porch and entrance to the home were for entertaining and not for primary entry. This message was communicated by there being no walkway covering the substantial distance from the drive to the front porch. The parking area of the drive, however, was adjacent to a side door that served as our primary entry. Other than this survey taker, I couldn’t recall anyone else ever making this mistake.” He goes on to describe an awkward scenario where the survey taker stood sweating in the hot sun rather than come into his office, as well as asking only a few questions.

“The survey-taker’s visit, I would later learn, coincided with Agent Johnson’s sworn affirmation that, ‘on May 26, 2000, at approximately 12:30 pm, SSA Johnson surveyed the 194…’The guy who visited us that day was a survey-taker, of sorts. But it would be years before I learned his true motives were to survey and case our home and my office in preparation for an attack. While I had heard of ruses of this sort, never had I considered that a federal agent would actually pull a “Rockford Files” stunt like this. This event was yet another red flag of warning and foreboding and another missed opportunity.”

In the book, the reader will learn how a search and seizure warrant was procured by concealing pertinent information from the judge and then hampering the author’s ability to prove his innocence by sealing the court documents. It is scary to realize and read in black and white that our government can find and use any and all our personal information however they chose to, even ruining our lives in the process. Because, who is the government? The government is made up of many, many unscrupulous human beings who think nothing of ruining another human’s life. And, we have almost no recourse.

There is a huge amount of information from the investigation the author did on his own. The cover-up that the author found is frightening and could happen to anyone. The book is well-worth reading and there is information in the back on how to handle identity theft.

I recommend reading the book. I am giving the book 5 stars. I did find that parts of the book could have been combined, perhaps condensed, but the story is well documented and easy to read and follow.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase on Amazon: Evil Shadows

My Morning Exercise Debacle

I call it my daily exercise routine but perhaps I should refer to it as my daily comedy routine. Leslie Sansone and I have a daily date; only difference is, she is exercising and I am just trying not to injure myself while attempting to follow her. If she only knew the revenue she was missing out on by not offering a DVD that is simply a warm-up – well, let’s just say, there would be one on the market tomorrow!

     After three months I have that warm up down pact! Okay – almost. Some days even that is just too fast a pace for me to follow. Now picture this (of course, your mind may not let you): We’re walking, little steps now, just warming up. Now, we’re gonna do side to side steps. We’ll start with the right leg. What? Which is my right again? Oh yeah, my left hand makes an L and I write with my right hand. I’m doing it! Just like her. Whoops! I’m off a leg. OK, back on track. Now, let’s take those legs a little farther out and let’s do small lunges. Excuse me, Leslie; this is me we’re talking about. You want me, Lucille Ball‘s protege, to do lunges. Oh! That’s easy. I can do it. I’m doing it. Hey! I’ve got the hang of it. Oh, now she wants to walk again. I can do that; walk, walk, walk. Oh goodness, now she wants me to do kickbacks. I don’t do kickbacks. I’m an honest person. Whoops! There goes the ottoman halfway across the room. Wow! Look at the scratch  on the wood floor. Back to a walk now, I’m getting the hang of it. Right, left, right, left. Does it really matter if I’m on the wrong foot? Whew! I made it through the warm-up. I am doing good. Now it’s time for the real stuff!

     Ok. We’re picking up the pace. We’re walking, and walking, and walking. Wow! We are going to hold weights as we walk. Cool. (She really has no idea who she’s dealing with.) Now she wants me to raise my arms straight up and down as we walk. Up, down, up, down, up… Ouch! What was that?! I hit the fan! Utoh – now it’s missin’ a blade or two or three. That’s alright; less in my way (I’m sure my husband won’t mind – he says the fan makes him cold – guarantee that won’t be happening anymore.) Up, down, up, down. That works for me. The fan has the same pace as I do with those missing blades; back to walking.
     We’ve done our mile. My favorite time again; cool down.  Warm up, cool down. I think I just caught on to that phrase. Small steps now; walk, walk, walk. Small kicks now; kick, kick, kick. We’re cooling down. Now we plant our feet wide – not too wide – and do mini squats (now tell me, are there any other kind?) Turn to the left (right?) and stretch the calf muscles by balancing yourself with your hands on your thigh. Does she have any idea who she’s talking to? I grab a couple of chairs and put one under each arm. OK – I’m stretching. I’m cool. Lean further into the stretch she says. Whoops! I don’t think I’m supposed to be on the floor; another scratch.

And, as I peer up from my precarious position on the floor, I see my dog, Sentry, is at the door. From the look on her face, she seems to be wondering if we’ve had an earthquake and no one informed her.  Serves her right for all the times she has hit every pipe under the house in her eagerness to chase the mail truck. Okay, I’m cooled down and stretched out.  The floor has been mopped with sweat and buffed shiny by my not so delicate fall from grace. I think I’ll just watch the rest. Hope I enjoyed the workout, she says. She hopes I’ll come back tomorrow. What the heck. See ya tomorrow Leslie!
     And people complain about exercising……

The New Orleans Saints

New Orleans Saints NFC Championship victory in...
New Orleans Saints NFC Championship victory in the Superdome which will take them to the Superbowl. Right after the winning kick! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I went for my morning walk today and as usual, no one knows what thoughts will be entering my head. This is so true because why on earth would I be thinking of the New Orleans Saints? Decorating, yes. Baking, yes. Organizing, definitely yes. But, the Saints? Go figure that one out. But true to form, this is what came to mind.     

Is it safe to be from Louisiana, more specifically South Louisiana, and not be a diehard New Orleans Saints fan? I was contemplating the validity of this thought and decided that I can dare say it can be quite intimidating at the very least.                

I found one sure-fire way to stop an animated point by point, play-by-play conversation cold in the middle of the church aisle (a Catholic church at that) was to interject an excited statement of my own about the joys of going to a movie or shopping and having the theater and stores all to myself (it’s not that I don’t like people, I just prefer the quiet.)The looks of complete and utter bewilderment I received were worth putting my life in peril.      

At this point, I will stop to thank the Saints for making it to the playoffs. People who would not speak to each other are now holding each other in rapturous conversations. And did I mention the ear-splitting, window-rattling rendition of The Saints Go Marching In that followed the bedazzled priest out the door after mass. Who would have ever thought we’d live to hear a priest include a prayer for a football team and a “GO SAINTS” in his final blessing before joyfully marching down the aisle to the above mentioned song? Not me!     

It almost isn’t safe to attend church if you are not a Saints fan. Who knew there was so much Saints paraphernalia that could be worn, held, walked on, spit on, listened to(you get the picture)? One enters the church these days with much trepidation. Even the prim and proper little old ladies are sporting Saints t-shirts under their jackets while giving out Holy Communion as well as sporting Fleur-de-le earrings in their sagging ear lobes!     

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I am not a fan of the New Orleans Saints; I am just not a fan of football. I, for one, am more than a little happy that football season has come to a close for the year. Fans have finally begun washing  their well-worn lucky t-shirts and are placing their lovingly folded clothing in the drawer for a much-needed break before next year’s season; at which time those Who Dat’s will surely spur up the emotions of South Louisiana once again. 

Reprinted from March 3, 2010

A Slight Change of Plan by Dee Ernst (Review)

Kate Everett is about to begin her “second act.” She’s been a widow for eight years and thinks it might be time to start looking for someone to share her life with again. She quits her high-pressure job for something that will allow her more leisure time. She gets rid of the huge family home and moves into a fabulous condo that’s smaller and easier to manage. She’s pretty much got the rest of her life figured out. All she has to do is sit back, relax, and let the pieces fall into place.

But her real life never gets the memo. First, her son moves back in with her—along with his girlfriend. Her dream job falls through, leaving her unemployed. Her mother, whom she hadn’t spoken to in years, can no longer live alone and has to move into her basement. And her only daughter is planning the smallest and simplest wedding in the history of all weddings, much to Kate’s dismay.

Kate thinks that she and Jake, her former college love who has reemerged on an online dating site, of all places, can build something real, and that maybe her happy ending is in front of her at last. But the arrival of Edward, her daughter’s future father-in-law, presents Kate with an unexpected choice.

It looks like real happiness may require a slight change of plan.

Author:

Dee Ernst was born in Newark, New Jersey, and grew up in Morristown. She attended Marshall University, where she majored in journalism. Several years, career changes, and a few daughters later, she was listening to the Joan Hamburg Show, where a guest made the suggestion that if you want to be happy, you should go back to what you were doing when you were ten and try to make it a career. Since Dee was writing stories when she was ten, she decided to give writing another go. After three novels and many rejection letters, she self-published Better Off Without Him.  It became a success and was optioned by Unique Features for possible development.  Her next book, A Different Kind of Forever, was released in April of 2012. In the spring of 2013, she signed with Montlake Publishing, which re-released Better Off Without Him and launched her third title, A Slight Change of Plan, that fall. Though Dee finds a lot in common with all her heroines, she is happily married and living in New Jersey.

Review:

A SLIGHT CHANGE OF PLAN is such a funny book. Everyone should have a best friend like Cheryl! Past 50 years of age and growing pot in the middle of your roses on the patio? to be discovered by your adult children?

A phrase in the book that perfectly describes life (and the book) is “There’s an old saying – man plans, God laughs. And let me tell you, he has an interesting sense of humor.”  Kate has it all planned. She’s sold the huge house, purchased a condo, and then God laughed!

Suddenly, she has adult children moving back home, she’s beginning to date again, and her ailing mother moves in. Add to that one cooky best friend and the pot starts growing!

A SLIGHT CHANGE OF PLAN is a book about life and what life can throw at you. When Kate comes across her one and only true love, the one who dumped her, on a dating site, she finds that he can still take her breath away, but in the end, is he still the same guy and is the same guy the one she wants to spend the rest of her life with.

Dee Ernst writes a book full of humor and laughter and clearly shows how art imitates life. I have to include a few quotes because they are too good to pass up. I highly recommend the book, especially if you’ve hit the  50 something time period. You will totally appreciate every page of the book.  By the way, I’m giving this book 5 stars. If I were to read books more than once, this would be one of them.

Quotes:

(Talking with an old college roommate after seeing old boyfriend on dating site)

“Kate! Hi!…let me sit and get comfortable…And the kids?” “Jake Windom just waved at me” I blurted. There was a moment’s silence. “From where, honey?” “I signed up for an online dating service,” I explained. “Well, that’s fine. You’ve been alone for a long time. But I still don’t understand. Were you driving in a car and he passed you?…” “He’s on the same dating site. He must have seen my profile. So he expressed an interest. It’s called waving.” She was quite again. The best thing about MaryJo was her patience. She was originally from Atlanta, and always had that slow, Southern way about her. She could never be rushed. “Kate, you know I love you. And I want for you to be happy. That man broke your heart. If there had been any justice in the world, he would have been struck down dead for all the pain he caused you. He is not worthy of your time or energy, not now, not ten years from now. Do not even think about waving back.”

There it was, the worst thing about MaryJo: She really held on to a grudge…”Didn’t you once tell me that you still dreamed about that man?” Ah, yes. The other worst thing about MaryJo: She never forgot a word anyone said. Which tied in perfectly with the whole grudge thing. “He looks exactly the same,” I told her. “Well shit. Not even bald?”…”I’d love to know if he ever married that stupid Penn State bimbo he left you for.” I laughed. “See, if I waved back, I could ask him.” MaryJo did not laugh. “Honey. I am so afraid that if you see him, all that old stuff will come rushing back…The final worst thing about MaryJo: She was one smart, savvy woman.”

Conversation with friend Cheryl (pot growing cohort)

I pulled over…”Where were you last night?” “At Tom’s. What happened?” “Really? Already?” she said “Cheryl? You called me, remember? Like, a million times? What happened?” “Can you come over? I had a little sexual adventure my self last night, and I may never recover.” I turned around and headed toward Cheryl’s.

And, if all of that is not enough, Kate can’t help but goad her daughter’s future mother-in-law every time she calls by pretending not to have caller ID.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Purchase on Amazon: A Slight Change of Plan

Cocktail Cove by Jennifer Saints (Review)

When life shakes you up and pours you over the rocks…

Socialite Nikita Derringer is hiding from the mob because of a deal her ex made with the devil, that she accidentally did her ex in with her designer heels, is… beside the point.
Guilt ridden developer Ben Harding walked away from his lucrative big city job and is searching for redemption in the quiet solitude of his grandfather’s sacred fishing cove. But fate has something else in mind for them at cocktail cove. Throw in sex therapy for the masses, a bear of a dog, the deep end of passion and you’ve got a potent mix guaranteed to ignite your senses and fill your heart with love and laughter.

Author Jennifer Saints:

Under a barrage of nagging by BFF’s, I’ve been told my bio was boring, not at all a reflection of just who I am beneath the surface, which is a compliment…I think. So, what can I tell you about me?
I don’t play video games or watch horror because I can’t take the heat, but give me a kick-ass thriller every minute of every day and I am there. Be prepared for a Hoover Dam meltdown if you’re with me and the movie is sad. So, to avoid disaster, I love romantic comedies.
Never coffee. Always tea. Never beer. Always champagne. There’s more, but hey, gotta save some secrets until after the first date, right?
I grew up in Miami. Went to nursing school in Georgia, where I now reside. I wrote for nine years before I sold a book, which made me a firm believer that a person should NEVER NEVER NEVER GIVE UP ON THEIR DREAMS.
Besides great kids, family, and friends, that perseverance has so far garnered me a USA Today Bestselling tag. I write in a number of genres and have won a number of writing awards, two National Choice Awards, three Maggie Awards, a RT Book Club Reviewer’s Choice Award, the Daphne du Maurier Award, the Marlene Award, and the Golden Heart Award to name most of them. I work with several amazing women in a charity to raise money for a shelter that helps abused and homeless women and children and also contributes to the Angels of East Africa. I’ve revived my nursing career after a long hiatus, and currently work in a surgical clinic.
I write romance because I believe that when you take a human being to the very core of his existence, then you will find that what matters more than anything else is to be loved and to give love.

Review:

This is the first book I’ve read by Jennifer Saints, but I assure you that it won’t be the last. It was laugh out loud funny. It had adventure. It had a clumsy, but terribly mean hitman. It had love and twins and more twins, and love on the rocks, and love…well, love everywhere.

Take two proper British lads studying psychology and insert two American twins with mental telepathy and interesting things began to happen. Add in an overly protective brother, a grandmother, two maidenly aunts, and a dog and you’ve got trouble.

The book is well written, including the sex scenes – which by the way, left this Southern gal reaching for a tall glass of sweet iced tea many times. This writer can write and you won’t want to leave the front porch swing until you’ve devoured every page.

I’m giving Cocktail Cove five stars.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Purchase on Amazon: Cocktail Cove: A Southern Steam Novel (Frankly, My Dear)

Happy Cows – Do they really all come from California?

I just went for my morning walk, okay, late morning walk.  As much as I would like to be a morning person, I just am not; unless, you want to consider taking all of my late night, early morning hours in to count. If I had my druther, the day would begin somewhere around 10 in the morning and run until 2-3 in the morning. Now, that would be a perfect day! I somehow accomplish more in the hours between midnight and 3am than I do any other time. Anywho, getting back to my walk, the weather is cold. Not so cold that a warm jacket, hat and gloves will not take care of the bite. There is something about the crispness of the cold that makes you feel like it is a whole new start to life. Just breathing in the cold air is cleansing.

After my wonderful walk, I came in and did what every other red-bloodied American does, I turned the television on. Happy cows. Now there is a topic worth discussing. How do people know that happy cows come from California? Do they smile differently? My favorite of the Happy Cow commercials is one of the earlier ones. “Do you think cows are pretty?” I suppose it is a favorite because I consists of a few too many pounds myself and somehow find myself commiserating with this happy cow. I simply can’t help asking my husband while spinning around in front of him, “Do you think cows are pretty?”  Is it too much to ask for him to say “yes?”

I do have a couple of other favorite commercials. I could sit all day long and watch Miss Piggy get hit in the head by a 2×4. Deranged I know, but for some strange, unexplainable reason, it makes me laugh out loud. I do try to redeem myself by not laughing when impressionable children are around. The other commercial is a Windex commercial. Two birds ring the doorbell of this poor unsuspecting man who is sunning out by his pool. Meanwhile, they have closed the (you guessed it) freshly Windex’ed (made this word up) patio door and he runs straight into it. Not ONCE, but twice! And yes, I roll on the floor every single time.

Why do some commercials just hit the mark and others don’t? I guess we all have our own sense of humor. So, here’s to Happy Cows (and guess what? They don’t all come from California!)