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Able Greenspan's Bookshelf
Red Zone: Cuba and the Battle Against Ebola in West Africa
9781604881141, $17.00, PB, 272pp
Synopsis: In 2014 three West African countries were hit by the largest epidemic on record of the deadly Ebola virus. In response to an international call for help, Cuba's revolutionary socialist government provided what was needed most -- and what no other country even tried to deliver.
In a matter of weeks, more than 250 volunteer Cuban doctors, nurses, technicians, and public health specialists were on the ground providing hands-on care to thousands of desperately ill human beings and their traumatized families and communities.
By mid-2015 the Ebola epidemic in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea had been virtually eradicated. The discipline, courage, sense of humor, and pride of these Cuban volunteers rings throughout the firsthand accounts recorded here. Their actions showed the world the kind of men and women only a deep-going socialist revolution can produce.
Critique: A story that was suppressed and largely unknown by Americans, "Red Zone: Cuba and the Battle Against Ebola in West Africa" showcases one of the benefits of the Cuban government and people have shared with other nations in the world during a threatened pandemic and debunks (after decades of demeaning propaganda about socialized medicine) the image most Americans hold of Cuba's accomplishments in the field of medicine and humanitarian outreach. An inherently interesting read, especially in this current era of a Covid-19 pandemic and the Trump administrations dismal record with respect to it, "Red Zone: Cuba and the Battle Against Ebola in West Africa" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to personal reading lists, as well as community, college, and university library collections.
A Passion For Israel: Adventures of a Sar-El Volunteer
c/o Storch 255 Central Ave #B-206, Lawrence, NY 11559
9789657023242, $29.95, HC, 488pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: What would motivate a successful corporate lawyer to trade in his comfortable life in America for three weeks every year to volunteer for manual labor on Israeli military bases? Mark Werner (the son of a Holocaust survivor) is an ardent Zionist seeking a personal way to show support for Israel.
Sar-el is an organization that enables thousands of volunteers from all over the world to work in a civilian capacity on Israeli military bases, freeing up IDF soldiers for more serious duties.
"A Passion For Israel: Adventures of a Sar-El Volunteer" is based on journals the Mark kept during 14 Sar-el stints from 2006 to 2019. In them Mark describes working through a desert sandstorm, dealing with a scorpion in his bunk, taking refuge in a bomb shelter during a Palestinian missile attack, and more. Through simple activities from packing kitbags and medical supplies for the soldiers to filling sandbags and assembling tank antennas the volunteers work hard to make their contributions to the defense of Israel.
The camaraderie that develops between volunteers and soldiers as they work side by side is their greatest reward. The story of an enriching volunteer experience is like no other, "A Passion for Israel" also provides a kind of roadmap for others to show their support for the unique Jewish state.
Critique: An inherently fascinating, deftly written, exceptionally well presented, and impressively informative memoir that blends Israeli military history and elements of Israel travel, "A Passion For Israel: Adventures of a Sar-El Volunteer" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to community and academic library collections. It should be note for personal reading lists that "A Passion For Israel" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.49).
Editorial Note: Currently the President of Volunteers for Israel, the organization that enables him and other Americans to serve as civilian volunteers on Israeli military bases, Mark Werner is now a retired attorney in Raleigh, North Carolina, where he lives with his wife Arlene. A graduate of Haverford College and the University of Pennsylvania Law School, he served as Chief Legal Officer of GlaxoSmithKline (North America) prior to his retirement. Mark has volunteered on Israeli military bases for each of the past 18 years with no plans to stop. He is the author of a previous book describing his first four volunteer experiences, "Army Fatigues: Joining Israel s Army of International Volunteers" (Devora Publishing). He also edited his father s wartime memoir, "Fighting Back: A Memoir of Jewish Resistance in World War II" by Harold Werner (Columbia University Press).
Diane Donovan's Bookshelf
ADD and Zombies
Wes Crenshaw, PhD ABPP
Kelsey Daugherty, DNP PMHNP-BC
Family Psychological Press
9780985283384, $25.99 Hardcover
9781733462372, $16.99 Paperback
$10.99, Kindle eBook
A licensed psychologist and board-certified nurse practitioner specializing in psychiatric medication management create ADD and Zombies: Fearless Medication Management for ADD and ADHD. The subject addresses one of the biggest issues in ADD and ADHD management: juggling meds so that they are more effective when paired with therapy.
The authors of this approach have two advantages over others who have tried to address the many issues of ADD and ADHD drug management. They are clinicians who work daily in this area and so are in a better professional and personal position to make specific recommendations rather than generalities, and they have experienced firsthand exactly how the medical profession commonly fails to treat ADD.
ADD and Zombies thus holds two goals: to help consumers become better educated about medical options and effects, and to encourage better doctor-patient relationships by delineating the medical community's response to a diagnosis.
As chapters discuss ADD testing and evaluation methods, case histories illustrate what can go wrong in the process of diagnosis and treatment, clinical effects on patients in psychological programs, and step-by-step explorations of better paths to better lives, as in this example of a teen's treatment: "...rather than try and help Tressa feel better, we changed our focus to helping her do better, accepting the uncomfortable and painful feelings and thoughts her symptoms brought, "defusing" them from her behavior and helping her to choose how she wanted to respond."
From conditions that can easily be mistaken for ADD to specific steps caregivers and families can take to assure better interactions between themselves and busy professionals, ADD and Zombies is especially strong on self-help admonitions that guide family and friends through the quagmire of determining how to make a difference: "The answer to just about any ADD treatment problem is found in this, our most cherished clinical value: the person writing the scripts must talk regularly to your therapist who must talk regularly to you. Unfortunately, the lack of trained prescribers in integrative outpatient settings is the problem to that solution, because few psychiatrists, PMHNP, and PCPs practice with therapists or even have a working relationship with one. Below, we've listed the five most common business models in order of most to least integrative."
The practical advice ranges from dealing with insurance snafus and requirements and finding ways around coverage obstacles to the side effects of specific drugs and common problems of over-usage: "ADD clients who misuse their meds will eventually need more supply than one prescriber can provide, particularly if they're out chasing tolerance. Even if they overstate their need, that tolerance only grows, eventually eating up the overage. This leads some people to seek a second prescriber, repeating the same intake they've already done at the first office, and ending up with a second prescription for a drug they often claim to have "been on in the past" without mentioning that "the past" was nine o'clock that morning. Such folks will go to great lengths and take great risks to acquire a bunch of stimulants."
Advice is specific, clinically based on experience and best practices, incorporates real-world dilemmas, and offers many solutions.
ADD and Zombies is the one book that should be at the top of the reading list for any caregiver of (or those diagnosed with) ADD and ADHD. Its blend of clinical observations, case histories, and candid assessments of what goes wrong and right in the medical and psychiatric communities creates a very specific, practical, essential guide that will make all the difference between frustration and successful, informed treatment.
Very, very highly recommended.
Anna M. Elias
9781944109097, $18.95 Paper/$8.99 ebook
The Vessels follows four broken strangers who volunteer to become human 'vessels' to receive and carry a spiritual host to Earth in a last-ditch effort to save the planet from humankind.
Mumbai orphan Sanjay's receipt of the Spirit is narrated both from his viewpoint and that of the new entity inhabiting his body. This creates an intriguing juxtaposition of souls that contrasts living ambition with the newfound body and emotions of the dead, who are called back to perform one last duty before facing eternity.
But what happens when a spirit comes back that doesn't deserve a second chance? When a former serial killer returns for a spree, this threatens an already-dubious mission that needs to complete in seven days to avert disaster, adding a nearly-impossible timeline to events.
As the spirits return to their homes to encounter those who are grieving loss and suffering from guilt and hatred, their mission becomes even more complicated, blending the wider issue of humanity's survival with questions of personal redemption. All but one, who feels no such compunction to effect positive change.
The Vessels is an engrossing, compelling saga about a special brand of death. It's about time travel in an unusual sense, opportunities for transition, and what people are willing to sacrifice for enlightenment.
Most of all, it's about renewed connections and threats. These elements keep the story fast-paced, emotionally compelling, and hard to put down.
Think of a blend of murder mystery, spiritual travelogue, and thought-provoking thriller packed with intense moments paired with personal revelations.
The juxtaposition of bigger-picture thinking and the personal entanglements of Spirit and host are beautifully portrayed and, despite a complex-sounding scenario, easy to absorb. Perhaps this is because the swift action is both physical and emotional, connecting disparate peoples, past and present experience, and objectives by both human host and spirit.
The result is an outstanding, gripping story that keeps readers guessing and involved up to a decisive ending which rewards with an added dash of spiritual inspiration.
The Heavy Side
Take a Silicon Valley programmer and match him with a Mexican drug cartel. Now add a couple in crisis, the issue of addiction in America, and international intrigue into the mix for a vivid thriller made all the more engrossing by its narrator, programmer Vik Singh's girlfriend, who harbors special interests of her own in The Heavy Side.
The first thing to note about this plot and its approach is that Ben Rogers cultivates an enchanting voice in his female first-person narrator. This drives the story line and creates a compelling story: "I know now that there was a young Hispanic man on the hillside above the cottage, watching through binoculars as Vik, a young Indian man, oblivious, did pushups on his Persian rug. I know about the man on the hillside because Los told me when I was his hostage. I know about the Persian rug because Vik told me how he always tapped out his reps with his nose against one of the trees in the rug's pattern. The tree had an extra leaf compared to the other trees, and this was an intentional flaw: we Persians know that weavers cannot create perfection, only God can. Vik told me he did not know whether there was a God, only that there was a Steve Wozniak, who'd designed every circuit and authored every line of code in the original Apple II computer, and to this day not a single bug found in any of it. But what if perfection isn't divine? What if bugs are?"
Remi's lyrical voice captures atmosphere, personalities, politics, and philosophical observations in a manner that is evocative and thought-provoking. All this lends to a story line that is more than just nonstop action and confrontation, already the hallmarks of an engrossing thriller read.
Rogers additionally cultivates a haunting inspection of life itself. This is one of the factors that keeps The Heavy Side a literary production, as well, as Remi observes the incongruities of American life and values.
Rogers doesn't use quote marks for his dialogues. This standard form would have clarified points of discussion, and an editor would have gone through the story and added this punctuation. That observation aside, it's fairly easy to understand who is talking to whom. Technically, the absence of quote marks in dialogue is a snafu, but for practical purposes, paragraphs adequately delineate who is speaking.
The point of view shifts between Vik's experiences (narrated in the third person) and Remi's first person observations. As various kinds of confrontations and struggles divide the two, readers receive a vivid saga of strife that changes both individuals and their dreams and relationship: "...implicit in the distance I felt from our former lives was a heartbreaking reality: we were no longer ourselves. How could we be?"
As politics, special interests, romance, and relationships change, Ben Rogers creates a tense thriller that is supported by interpersonal connections, creating a read that is hard to put down.
The Heavy Side is very, very highly recommended for thriller readers looking for something compellingly, refreshingly different.
Resolutions: A Family in Stories
Resolutions: A Family in Stories is a collection of separate yet interlinked short stories about different family members who largely share the same narrator/observer (Molly May) and revolves around protagonist and mother of four Jasmine and her connections in a small Ohio community. Resolutions opens with Jasmine's fairly unique ailment and connects this with her evolving quest to change her life's trajectory and her relationships.
At first glance, Resolutions would seem to be about her process of transformation and family interactions alone, but it's actually much more. Under the guise of a literary production that involves a quest for freedom as observed and narrated by participants and observers in this life, Resolutions assumes an astute blend of self-analysis and outside inspection that is compellingly revealing and psychologically intense: "Today, I am a single mother of four, and I am full of rage. I imagine the faceless monster in front of me represents everything holding me back. I am standing wide-legged and steady, my arms straight and strong. The manageable world awaits; I know it does. I focus on it, this manageable world, and position my finger above the center of the trigger. Humming the theme music from Jeopardy, I press rapidly and with all the strength I can manage, cursing my delicate hands. Weak hands from repetitive motion. They ache with the vibrations that follow each shot, the squeeze and release. The world buckles beneath me, and I exhale."
As Jasmine confronts her inner demons and her ability to change her life and reactions, readers are treated to a series of stories that contrast her focus with those of her children Myron, Joey, Molly May, and Allie. Each cultivates their own unique vision of their mother. Each perspective is given an evocative, descriptive voice that captures relationships and reactions to them: "I shrug, tracing the roof of my mouth with my tongue where tiny scratches remain from the tough bread. I get hot chills when I'm uncomfortable, and right now I am shaking from the contradictions in my body."
As the stories build upon one another, they expand the perceptions and thoughts about Jasmine's world. This approach opens up the discussion to incorporate Midwest community perspectives, refuting stereotypes about their relationships and viewpoints of life and providing astute, literary observations that linger in the mind long after their presentation.
Any reader looking for discussions of family life, Midwestern values, and evolving parental roles will relish the interlaced delicacy of Resolutions, which blends psychological and social analysis with equal talent.
Those Who Hunger
B083C26CWM, $5.99 Kindle
Those Who Hunger is presented as an 'Amish vampire novel', a designation which attracts interest before the story even begins, as these facets are usually not thrown together.
In rural Pennsylvania, a child is mauled to death. The Amish community knows the truth of his murder, but when a second killing attracts the attention of the FBI, close-held community secrets begin to unfold into frightening discoveries.
Vampire horror stories and coming of age sagas usually don't include cultural and social inspections, but Owen Banner's story does a superb job of exploring Amish community traditions, perceptions, and responses to pressures both within and outside their circles. This injects a quiet aura of adventure into the story that is satisfyingly revealing beyond its underlying horror theme: "The past was past, but a conference still was held to determine whether the Schwartzes would have a place among them. Longing for forgiveness and acceptance themselves, the community agreed to allow the Schwartzes to buy a plot of land near the Graber's farm that would suit the size of their family. They had settled into the home and worked hard to adjust to the plain life of the Amish. Mina now wore a cap, dress and apron she had stitched all herself. She sewed her son's pants and shirts as well, and her husband's. Holland, himself, had changed. He wore a beard and a hat to go with his suspenders. He was a less hurried man than he had been when he'd first arrived, and he'd found he had a knack with a hammer."
Banner takes the time to build a slowly-simmering story, the hallmark of good writing, winding social and psychological discovery into a vampire tale that takes daily life experiences and character concerns to a different level of emotional exploration as the characters interact and learn from one another: "How do you live without faith?" Hadassah replied. "I have faith. I just know where I stand with God." "Where is that?" "Outside the gate." Hadassah looked into her lap. "And Nathaniel?" "It's smoke and mirrors to him," Yves said. "Not real," he explained when he saw her searching for the meaning of the words. "How lonely," Hadassah said."
As themes of miscarriages, marked children, fear, and Amish community values come together, Those Who Hunger becomes a complex page-turner containing many satisfying facets and revelations.
The result is a tale hard to put down, unexpected in its twists and turns, and full-bodied in its probe of Amish beliefs, community, and the horror that overlays and changes everything.
While vampire story readers will be the most logical audience for this compelling saga, Those Who Hunger is also highly recommended for readers of suspense, thriller, and intrigue who like their supernatural horror presented on a literary plate of detail and insight beyond violence and threats.
Urgent Launch: Continuing to Save our Species
9780996385565, $12.00 PB, $9.99 Kindle
Urgent Launch: Continuing to Save our Species
Urgent State: One Route to Saving our Species
Urgent Launch compliments the prior science fiction tale Urgent State, continuing the story of a project revolving around citizens who form a self-sustaining community on the Wind River Indian Reservation which includes underground accommodations for scientists researching solutions to mankind's biggest problems.
While the public understands and accepts this mission, business interests are determined to exploit the fruits of their findings. Urgent's growth, overseers, discoveries, and purpose are challenged by not only these special interest forces, but the underlying social, political, and psychological conflicts within the group itself.
Should mankind's possible salvation be tuned to profit? Does a change of heart hold impossible costs for individuals and communities alike? And can Urgent's mission continue when it's under attack not just from outside, but within?
Larry Pratt crafts an absorbing, compelling saga that needs no prior introduction to prove accessible. Political insights into social values and business interests are nicely drawn from politician viewpoints and contrast with the information the mission develops, Descriptions of forces of revision and change that sweep society are well done, and both individual and broader concerns are narrated from different characters' viewpoints, from Harold's involvement in adult visions derived from childhood dreams to wider-ranging decisions and their impacts: "Harold Knight and Junior, as they used to call Edward, had passed by this overlook on that horseback ride they took when plotting and dreaming what the village might someday become. It was now obvious they were not very big dreamers. He remembered the reservoir as it was and thought today's deeper version was much more useful."
In following these visions, scientific research studies, and social and political experiments to fruition, Pratt provides a positive spin on impending disaster. He challenges his characters to not just survive, but revamp their vision of human activity and choices and their effects on planetary systems as a whole.
A sense of haste overlays these paths and choices, fostered by impending disaster. This makes for a fast-paced story that examines the basic dreams of humanity that affect survival and climate change.
These visionaries are tasked with not only saving mankind, but challenging its deepest perceptions of itself and its place in the world: "The work we are doing with that shield has always been a race against man's mindset. We can't mistakenly change the earth-friendly momentum of that group-think back towards complacency."
The result is another absorbing read about perhaps the greatest human experiment on Earth: an attempt to not just save humanity, but revise its deepest dreams and intentions on a scale embraces physical and psychological revolutions.
Readers of cli-fi science fiction and social change will relish the struggles each character makes on different sides of the equation. Urgent Launch is both a satisfying compliment to the prior book and a stand-alone story that tackles a deeper threat to humanity's survival than physical challenges alone. It's absorbing, compelling, and sometimes hits a bit close to reality, these days.
Urgent Launch is highly recommended for survival and sci-fi readers looking for deeper inspections of underlying social motivation and change.
The Faerie Princess
9798643886259, $9.99 Paper/$3.99 Kindle
The Faerie Princess is Book 1 in The Faerie Court series and will appeal to readers of fantasy romance. This audience will enjoy a fine dark fantasy in which a girl's attraction to the woods results in her kidnapping to another world.
Marika never imagined that her childhood dreams would lead to her destiny as a princess in another world, or having to choose between the world she grew up in and another life entirely.
She also realizes that, in order to get back home, she needs her kidnapper's help. As she absorbs the politics, strange environment, and her new role in the 'Fae' world, Marika faces a prophecy, alluring chemistry between herself and the strange boy who has lured her to another realm, and the responsibility of an infant who enters her life just as unexpectedly as her new role.
As Marika seeks solutions to the challenges of her new life, contemplates which world she'll live in, and juggles romance with new abilities and an odd inheritance, she begins to learn about magic and her powers, facing a malicious force that would change everything.
The Faerie Princess features a spirited, determined protagonist who approaches her world and changed circumstances with empathy and the determination to uncover her destiny and heart's desires.
As the world of the Faerie court comes to life, she has some difficult decisions to make about not only both worlds, but her place within each.
Monica Williams does an excellent job of capturing Marika's process of growth and discovery. This dark fantasy is recommended for mature teen through adult readers, offering a self-exploration and adventure that is pointed, revealing, and hard to put down.
The Rocky Orchard
9781937484828, $5.95 Kindle
The Rocky Orchard tells of Mazie, who has returned home to the family farm to make peace with her life. Driven by Barbara Monier's lyrical language, Mazie's first-person story of her foray into past, present, and future is compelling from the start: "I want to capture the expression on your face and put it in a jar. I want to carry the jar around with me like precious fireflies from a summer night. I have never seen you so relaxed, so contented. As if you know what I'm thinking, you reach for my hand and you kiss it. I am staring at you and you know that I am staring at you, and I tear up and you laugh. You kiss my hand again. You have that shy-but-formidable look, the one you had on our first date, our real first date. The look that makes your one dimple sing out."
The timeline shifts between these worlds, with each chapter heading giving readers proper perspective. Mazie befriends the elderly woman Lula and, through her, begins to both share and assess her life.
These reflections of her past move from crises and parent/child interactions where she wished time would stop ("I said nothing. I couldn't think of what to say. I felt as if there was nothing inside of me. Nothing at all. Not a thought, not a feeling, not a word. And I wanted to keep it that way. And keeping it that way depended on me staying right where I was, right on the porch, on the swing. Maybe forever.") to the fate involved in contemporary connections forged by chance and need: "I may not be able to see the elderly woman when she comes walking through the orchard today. Or, the woman may well decide to bypass the orchard altogether, as she would not be able to see the treacherous rocks endangering her path. In this kind of fog, people and things appear out of nowhere, without hint or warning, when they come close enough to emerge from the fog's grip. They disappear just as fast. It's strange. I just met the old woman - if you can even call that a "meeting" - and I feel like I don't want to miss her if she takes her walk today."
While on its surface The Rocky Orchard is about an evolving friendship and connection, it's also about navigating the ethereal changes of life and accepting randomness, impermanence, and obstacles and decisions that have lasting impact on the future.
Mazie's ability to recall this past and consider this future make for quiet revelations that center around her quest for healing from her past and the mystery of what Mazie seeks from this farm of yesteryear, as well as her relationship with Lulu.
Her home feels both safe, and strange and foreign. As Mazie considers birth, evolution, death, and rebirth in a different way, readers are drawn to her story and its quiet power. Those interested in introspective pieces that follow a 'magnificent life' filled with love, danger and darkness, and a terrifying truth that must be faced by one who "notices everything" and, on some level, never forgets, will find The Rocky Orchard a powerful literary work.
With its compelling language, quiet secrets, and evolutionary process, Mazie's story will draw and haunt her audience up to its surprising conclusion, which leaves readers thinking long after the final lines are read.
Luke E. Fellows
9798639785795, $11.99 Paper/$4.19 Kindle
Snatch 2&20 opens with a bang, juxtaposing the narrator's earliest memory of getting his diaper changed with the present-day fact that this memory is coming to light after a deadly crash as he awakens from a coma, paralyzed.
This introduction needs no additional lure to prove compelling as Giles Goodenough, a successful Wall Street analyst (thanks to his father's intervention), comes to realize the fraud and evil surrounding him in the world. As he juggles hedge funds, fraud, waste, and greed, Giles faces challenges to his business-oriented views of life's values: "The worst thing that could happen would be for me to lose conviction in any company whose stock was going up, or worse still, to gain conviction in a company whose stock was going down...They say that price is all that matters, and I made that my mantra."
As his "flair for melodramatic self-pity" and uncertain relationship and fear of his successful father, Andrew Roman Goodenough IV, permeates his life and work environment, readers are drawn into the drama, psychology, and business challenges of Wall Street. These are made all the more powerful because author Luke E. Fellows is himself a "recovering hedge fund manager," and injects the realities of the job and its milieu into Giles's story.
One could almost say this is autobiography fictionalized, as many of the protagonist's obstacles, challenges, and life perceptions are mirrored in the author's world.
As intrigue and danger enter the picture, readers interested in business fiction, satire, and dark comedy will find both a fun and pointed read that crosses genres in juxtaposing mystery, moral inspection, psychological growth, and danger into its story.
Luke E. Fellows excels at carefully crafting these elements into a tale that follows risk assessments, choices, models for success and disaster, and the disparate encounters of a businessman who embarks on a journey that promises miracles and a revolutionary approach for the human race.
Complex, witty, dramatic, thought-provoking, and filled with business and social inspection, Snatch 2&20 will appeal to readers who like stories rooted in a business environment, but with wider-reaching inspections and subplots that move from the logical to the unexpected, commenting on materialistic goals and the promises and dangers surrounding The Peach and a hedge fund manager who faces its allure and dangers.
Snatch 2&20 is engrossing, unexpected, and hard to put down, even as it's difficult to easily categorize.
Soul Song Press LLC
Moonblood tells of young immortal Ariadne, who resides in the Eves compound, but resists the idea that she can't explore the outside world. When she sneaks out anyway and finds herself unable to return, stuck in a world of mortals who pursue her, she stumbles upon the Adams, the immortal sons of her sisters, and uncovers a dangerous plan among them that threatens not just her world, but her immortality.
Ari has always been a rebel who defies her rigid destiny: "We were forbidden to go there alone at night, so that's where I longed to be." This quality serves her well as she hones defiance and survival skills, growing to accept a very different reality about the world from which she's largely been sequestered.
T.W. Fendley creates a vivid scenario with a world of Eves controlled by Matrons, populated by Adams and Cains, and forces which are far more threatening than any admonition to remain confined at home.
Ari's encounters with Margie and others outside who present her with their own discoveries about the world ("I never believed suneaters existed, and that's where I was wrong. Suneaters do exist. They're not the evil superhumans the Arm of the Lord and Con Squad fear, but they are different from us.") also change her perspective about her role in this life and the interactions between mutants, immortals, humans, and a host of creatures in between. Everything Ari knows has come through 'official' channels, but her real education lies in absorbing these unofficial, much more difficult lessons about the strange realities of her world.
T.W. Fendley captures the nuances of this life by exploring changing perspectives between Ari, Blair, and others. As each character lends a different viewpoint and perception, the story expands to embrace lessons in strategy, choice, and values.
The characterization is excellent, but what is truly exquisite about Moonblood is the attention to detail in building a society loosely based on religious figures, but steeped in dystopian scenes that young adult and adult readers alike will find engrossingly different and often surprising.
Fans of dystopian fiction looking for something refreshingly original and truly different in the society-building/destruction theme will find Moonblood a standout.
Paul W. Papa
R. J. "Gill" Gillilan
9781734405705, $9.99, Ebook
9781734405729, $18.95, Paperback
Desert Dust: One Man's Passion to Uncover the True Story Behind an Iconic American Photograph is a riveting, true work of American investigative history that begins in 1945, when a Wyoming newspaper published an article about a wrangler who had a photographer capture the roundup of wild horses via airplane, and a rare wild palomino in particular.
Fast forward forty years, when a daughter's question to her father about that now-iconic photo sent co-author Gill Gillilan on a journey to chart the ramifications of its publication, from the bitter battle that emerged between photographer Verne Wood and wrangler Frank "Wild Horse" Robbins over copyright, which struggled through the courts, to the lasting impact of that image on wild animal and horse management choices and systems.
Over 150 photos (besides the primary shot that sparked this conflict) accompany a description steeped in images of Wyoming frontier experiences, from oilfield camps and auctions to stock shows, journeys across Wyoming in search of history and the truth, and details about justice and struggle.
One appeal of Desert Dust is that it takes the proper time to describe these frontier environments, reading with the description and drama of fiction to draw readers in, even if they have little prior familiarity with Wyoming: "Nestled in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, Laramie had seen snow in both June and July and more than once had to cancel Fourth of July celebrations because of it. If it wasn't snowing, it was windy. Not breezy, windy. The kind that blows young children and animals off doorsteps. If there was one place in the world where Mother Nature took out all her fury, it was Wyoming, and Laramie in particular. But today was not one of those days. Today the sun was shining, the sky was blue, and the wind was a mild twenty miles per hour. It would probably change by noon."
From interviews with those who captured wild mustangs in the Red Desert and other locales to the author's own musings about various report perspectives, the story is vividly narrated and filled with personal, legal, and social insights as the investigation evolves: "It seemed the reporter was either unaware that Frank Robbins had started using wild mustangs in his rodeos long before Roy, or chose to leave that information out of his article. Either way, Roy was claiming credit for ideas, at least some of which were not his own. Of course, there was the chance that Roy credited Frank for those ideas, but the reporter simply chose to leave it out of the article, since Roy, not Frank, was the subject of the piece."
Black and white photos and vintage images abound, from rodeo photos from the Frank Robbins Collection and others to reports, publications, and images of horses and corrals. These, combined with vivid written description, do an outstanding job of capturing the milieu of past and present Wyoming.
Using his investigative skills, Gill compiled an impressive array of materials from diverse archives and resources to put together a fine piece of Wyoming experience that otherwise would have been lost.
Readers interested in Wyoming history, conservation, legal issues surrounding land and wildlife management, and a thoroughly engrossing exploration of a forgotten horse and the conflict surrounding him will find Desert Dust an investigative journey into American history that lingers in the mind long after the story's conclusion.
Dark Descent Into Desire
J. J. Sorel
9798638851774, $14.99 Paper/$2.99 Kindle
Dark Descent Into Desire follows Penelope Green's sojourn into the dark side as her affair with the suave and usually cynical, often selfish Blake Sinclair causes her to lose her virginity and her freedom. On Blake's part, Penelope represents a lure that syncs with his need to both control others and keep his past a secret.
Both clash in the arena of obsession and danger in a story that probes danger, secrets, passion, and moral and ethical challenges on both sides.
The first note is that J. J. Sorel pulls no punches in her steamy romance. Readers looking for casual descriptions and light romance should look elsewhere, because Dark Descent Into Desire is graphic in its language, sexuality, and descriptions of psychological obsessions on both sides, and is definitely not 'politically correct'. This is a powerful story firmly rooted in the decadent mindsets of characters who have particular perspectives on life, love, and the world, and its dialogue and encounters capture this perfectly: "What about that happily-ever-after scenario? Don't you want one of those?" "I don't believe in those. I've yet to witness a happy marriage. It's a life sentence where two individuals trap each other out of fear of loneliness only they end up lonely anyway." He grimaced. "You make it sound so fucking grim. Don't you think it's nice, the idea of a baby bouncing on one's knee and a hot little wife baking a cake in a skimpy maid's outfit?" I laughed. "How inappropriate and nineteenth century."
Typically, stories focus on one person's addiction and a couple's involvement in recovery, but in this story, both Penelope and Blake are addicted in different, complimentary ways. This makes their evolving connections even more dangerous as they feed upon one another and head in an even darker direction.
From a mother's death from an overdose of heroin to growing threats, to Penelope's safety both from Blake's choices and within his own circles, the story becomes one of survival on many levels. Both characters join, separate, and reconnect in a dangerous dance. J. J. Sorel excels at charting this progression, both of the influences on Blake and Penny and the psychological traumas and tendencies that lead them to repeat familiar patterns even when these no longer serve their original purpose.
Sometimes, nothing changes. Sometimes everything changes. Sorel's ability to dip in and out of the perspectives of each and the "bad habits worn like a badge of honor" between them creates a steamy and thought-provoking blend unusual in an action romance environment.
Sorel's story of two characters who seem to be unlikely candidates for "happily ever after" is unexpected, compelling, and traces the quiet evolution of each individual as well as their relationship.
Readers seeking steamy adventures that are ribald, rowdy, and raw with passion and purpose will find Dark Descent Into Desire takes the rudiments of cynical introspection and turns it on end into something different. The satisfying evolution of the story into a true romance adds a fine twist to the outcome of these disparate personalities.
Sorel's ability to portray these two strong individuals' changing perspectives and insights represents a passionate exploration that will linger in the mind not just for its sexy passages and focus, but for the unexpected journey that swirls around Blake and Penelope. Its recommended reading for those looking for erotic tales finely tuned with unexpected elements of suspense and intrigue.
Jesse Sings: Searching for Family
9780999564011, $10.95 Paper/$2.99 Kindle
Jesse Sings: Searching for Family is the first book in the 'Searching for Family' series focusing on eight-year-old Jesse and his mother, who move to a small Ohio town to flee an abusive situation. Instead of finding relief from a dangerous father, Jesse is bullied by a popular boy in school and threatened with foster care by a social worker who means well, but isn't actually syncing with Jesse's own desires for his family.
When everyone around him feels dysfunctional and dangerous, how can Jesse feel safe, much less cultivate the supportive family atmosphere he longs for?
Jesse narrates his own story as he moves through changing worlds and confrontations in 1950s Midwest America. This imparts a personal touch to his saga that draws readers in with observations that are innocent, astute, and calculatingly compelling: "I wanted to tell him that it wasn't her fault, that that he'd gambled away his pay, but then I'd just be making him mad. It was at this moment that I was suddenly aware of how fractured my family was, with brothers living one place, a sister living on Grandpa Hall's farm, Mom in the hospital and Dad and me about to become homeless."
These realizations of life's realities, troubles, and approaches to handling them permeate Jesse's story and observations. His struggles with the legacy of a fractured family lends realistic elements to his choices in this story, which moves from a coming-of-age tale to one that assesses the fundamental values of family connections.
Readers are treated to a tale that moves between Jesse's relationships with an astute eye to dialogue that reveals his conundrums as he faces the complicated interactions of adults and peers around him: "What would I do if you were gone? Dad can't take care of me. Where do you think I'd go? Here, with a mean grandma?"
When he finds a friend in a fatherless peer, he embarks on a different kind of journey that promises revelations, realizations, and new options.
Victor Hess excels in capturing both the small-town atmosphere of Sabina, Ohio's daily life and the evolving emotions of a young man who attempts to revise his world and influence adults around him, who don't always make decisions in his best interests.
Jesse's character is nicely developed and there's even a touch of intrigue added into the mix to bring his varied circumstances and challenges to life.
Elementary to middle-grade readers will come to care about relish Jesse's resilience and determination, and will find this first story a moving introduction that sets the stage for more journeys, neatly posing another dilemma in which Jesse gets what he wants, but at a price.
The Clock Tower Treasure
9781732215580, $15.99 Paper/$4.99 Kindle
Book 2 in Jesse's 'Searching for Family' series presents a new story that dovetails nicely with the introductory book, but adds even more elements of intrigue and suspense to its tale. This approach will satisfy middle grade readers who want an expanded vision of Jesse's pursuits, life, and growing interactions with the world around him. The book picks up at the point where Jesse's future changed in Jesse Sings.
Jesse has only lived in Sabina for a year and has just begun to put his life together when upheaval threatens again. His mother is determined to become less dependent upon his unpredictable father's child support payments, and has made decisions to move on. But Jesse is not sure he really wants to let go, especially since he's built the beginnings of a new life after much initial struggle.
As marriage, disappointment, broken and revised family connections, and small life challenges emerge, such as finding an appropriate Father's Day card for one who is less than predictable, Jesse finds new ways of accepting changes and redefining his life and expectations of family ties.
At the heart of both these Jesse books is this process of revision, contrasting ideals with reality not just in Jesse's life, but the family structures of his peers.
The past can't be changed, but as his mother brings a disparate group of broken siblings together for the first time and embarks on her own journey to change everything, Jesse and his reader receive invaluable lessons on change and confronting myths and realities both within his community and on a broader perspective.
The contrast between Jesse and Lynn's perceptions of family ties and their meaning is particularly well done, as is the threat of polio's life-changing effects on both community and individual lives.
Jesse's involvement in the mystery of a hidden treasure and the clues he unearths in a courthouse clock tower and Biblical verses are nicely juxtaposed with the adjustments and achievements he experiences in his own life.
How he handles both results in an engrossing story that builds upon Jesse Sings, yet moves in a different direction as Jesse absorbs the lessons of history and heritage during a treasure hunt that promises even more options for positive change.
The stalwart, determined character of Jesse and his struggles that range from economic to spiritual and social crafts a full-faceted story offering more realistic elements and depth than most sagas about family developments and changing times.
Middle grade readers will be thoroughly immersed in Jesse's objectives, perceptions, and changes. They will find this second book in the series even more compelling than the first, as Jesse makes the most of what is handed to him and continues his growth momentum.
The Aspen Grove
9781734330519, $14.95 Paper/$2.99 Kindle
The Aspen Grove centers on an Irish immigrant family in 1883 Colorado, and provides a Western theme with a cultural twist as it inspects the lives of Daniel O'Neal, his wife and daughter, and their hired hands who live on a cattle ranch.
Their world and habits seem set until catastrophe strikes and changes both the family and everything around it.
Readers with a prior affection for Western themes will find this story more multifaceted than most, offering a satisfyingly complex series of events that draw together opposing forces in Civil War history, an effort to bring justice to a grieving family, and the lingering effects of the war's political and social changes on the nation.
This flavor alone sets The Aspen Grove apart from more singular Western productions, but Jane Fulkerson also adds other elements, such as extensive family history, cultural references to immigrant Irish experiences, and discussions of community ties into a classic story of confronting adversity.
Under another hand, so many subplots under one cover might have proved challenging for readers of Westerns to absorb. Too many Western genre reads are both predictable and light on background history.
Fulkerson's incorporation of all these themes into a story that is fueled by a range of issues, from jurisdictions that limit the pursuit of justice to a love of family, sense of responsibility, and characters' ability to creatively confront danger, makes for a gripping story that holds a number of surprises as it evolves.
The result is a literary and historical Western that holds more elements of realistic background than most. The Aspen Grove is a tale that is gripping, educational, and replete in psychological, social, and political inspection. It will delight literary Western genre readers seeking something different.
The Poe Consequence
Black Opal Books
9781644372685, $15.99 Paper/$3.99 Kindle
Think occult horror, then add more than the usual dash of suspense and thriller components into the mix to understand the special attraction of The Poe Consequence, which follows the violent clashes between two rival gangs changed by a third force neither can control.
As the bonds between brothers and friends are tested by the threat of an ominous future that defies optimism and connections, readers become immersed in an occult thriller that unravels the strings of social connections, conflict, and the fine line between good and evil.
Keith Steinbaum takes the atmosphere and spooky intrigue of Edgar Allan Poe and ramps it up a notch, linking supernatural events and encounters with some of the same predictive, growing horror devices that Poe employs in his works, connecting them with Poe's writings in an unusual, compelling fashion.
Gang members aren't the only ones facing challenges from this murder spree. As investigators probe the circumstances of the deaths to arrive at uncommon relationships connecting them, Steinbaum creates a satisfying juxtaposition between the processes of the law and those of gang interactions.
He also captures the atmosphere of the Latino community and members who struggle with each other and forces beyond their comprehension, whether they lie in social or in supernatural realms.
The focus on gang interactions with a supernatural thriller twist to their encounters creates an exceptional occult suspense story that will leave readers on pins and needles, anticipating many outcomes that hold a satisfying twist.
The blend of excellent characterization, a perfect capture of community concerns and social issues, a series of deadly crimes that involve both sides of the law, and a supernatural mystery makes for a satisfyingly engrossing tale that's hard to put down and packed with all the elements that contribute to a superior thriller.
With its social, cultural, investigative and occult themes, The Poe Consequence is highly recommended reading for supernatural thriller readers looking for a read more literary and complex than most in its genre.
Sacred Landscapes of the Soul
9781948018814, $37.00, Hardcover
9781948018845, $TBA, Softcover
Things feel as though they are falling apart for people around the world, which is why Sacred Landscapes of the Soul deserves a spot on any inspirational reading list. It offers a breath of spiritual fresh air to anyone looking for uplifting, soulful connections to the Divine no matter what religion they are coming from, focusing on a journey towards healing, peace, and resolution that provides many thought-provoking reflections in a time of exceptional turmoil.
Take 'Landscape of Immobility' under 'Terrain of Confinement', for example. Karen Brailsford's words are lyrical, compelling, uplifting reminders of daily life's joys as well as its challenges: "TO EVERYTHING THERE IS A SEASON, and a rhyme and a reason. The quiet storms are as valuable as the tempestuous cyclones, and there are hallelujahs in the hurricanes. Yes, praise the sun but in the same breath, welcome the dark nights of the soul with amens. There is grace and beauty and healing in all of it."
Even as this section speaks about confronting fears and overcoming obstacles, it also draws connections between love, spirituality, and interpersonal connections, encouraging readers to gently move forward from adversity with an underlying faith that "God is everywhere."
Never are these words so heartfelt or needed as today. Much as things are changing, Brailsford reminds her readers that it's a new season in life, and as much a time for spiritual enlightenment and opportunity as for transformation: "It is time to exit the lion's den. There are no more creatures to wrestle. All that needs to be slain is you - in the spirit. It is time to synthesize the music inside of you. Let the grace notes float into the atmosphere, resound like the music of the spheres. Yes, it is time to walk on water for you are the Christ. Your very life beckons."
Because these messages are embedded in an overall spiritual coating of trust, faith, and revitalized purpose, they will appeal across religions and beyond Christian faith.
The result is a rare set of admonitions linked to modern living which offers an inspirational, heartfelt path for reconnecting to God and love by expanding one's boundaries even though life may feel newly limiting and difficult.
The timing is perfect for this uplifting set of instructions on how to align and realign with the Divine no matter the circumstances of the world. Sacred Landscapes of the Soul is highly recommended for spiritual readers who would use these words of wisdom to change and redirect their lives.
Situation Normal A.F.U.
Oscar R. Nordstrom
North Stream Publishing
9780998310954, $19.95 Softcover
Situation Normal A.F.U.: A Flatfooted Soldier Tells All is a Vietnam era army experience that appears long after most such memoirs have been published. Readers might initially wonder at the need for yet another military memoir about these times, but Oscar R. Nordstrom wasn't drafted. He enlisted. This difference in attitude and perspective is one of the strong points in Situation Normal A.F.U, which represents situations from an enlisted man's viewpoint.
Another difference lies in a sense of irony and humor as stories trace situations within the military while training for the battlefield, lending an unexpected flavor to the events. Nordstrom's humor often translates military challenges and experiences into a wry, satirical look at the Army's impact on its soldiers: "There was another interesting thing I discovered about standing all the time. I heard somewhere that the horse and giraffe are the only animals that can sleep standing up. If that's true, I should be in the Guinness Book of Records, as I'm living proof that, given enough incentive, humans can do the same. Moreover, given the damage basic training did to my already flat feet, I believe the Army should recognize that the pain and suffering, and resultant damage to the psyche, as a service-related disability."
Nordstrom completes his thoughts on the subject by opining: "My aversion to standing for any length of time had another unintended, but positive, consequence; I found an occupation doing paperwork that also required an ability to dictate business letters, which doesn't hurt if you want to be a writer . . . Thus, in a world searching for answers, I can recommend that everyone cultivate the arts of standing in line and sleep deprivation. Doing so will prepare them for any eventuality, from writing a novel to repelling an invasion."
As Nordstrom navigates fate, changing duties, and Academy training regimens, readers receive a review of daily routines, military politics, his own choices and decisions that are made for survival and prosperity, and original methods of either beating or working with the system: "Wanting to get ahead of the curve, I spent our meager savings from the month prior to the start of the four week course on a spare set of boots, new fatigues, skivvies, and other articles that went into our wall and footlockers. Once I assembled all these mirror reflecting boots and shoes and carefully pressed and folded articles, I never disturbed them the entire time I was at the (NCO) Academy. Instead, I lived out of laundry bags which contained my clean clothes. Rather than gaming the system, I looked upon it as the strategic planning necessary for a future leader of men, like taking advantage of the terrain, or exploiting your enemy's weaknesses. So, while other less prepared soldiers were busy spit shining the shoes they scuffed up during the day, I spent my time studying things like how to harass the troops (just kidding), fundamentals of leadership, radio communications, reading maps and using compasses (called orienting)." And despite nearly being kicked out of the Academy for fighting (a recurrent problem), Nordstrom managed to graduate with honors.
Contrasts between changing technology and Army approaches past and present are injected into discussions which will prove particularly revealing and thought-provoking to modern military participants, as well as those who have never served. For example, while explaining why GPS has virtually replaced the need for the survey training Nordstrom received, he manages to keep the reader's attention by explaining how it is possible to be in two places at the same time!
Competing military memoirs provide action-packed battle scenarios and perspectives from a draftee's viewpoint, but Situation Normal A.F.U.'s focus on military processes within the service and the approaches Nordstrom took to be successful both personally and professionally make for engrossing reading even for civilians who may have never seen an Army base or served in any branch of the military. While some may criticize the lack of social commentary on the horrors of war, this approach is quite refreshing.
Nordstrom's ability to appeal to such a wide audience is part of what places Situation Normal A.F.U above most other military memoirs. Combined with an astute attention to detail about these changing processes and his methods of adapting to his role and responsibilities, and while Situation Normal A.F.U will appeal primarily to military participants and their families, it holds the rare ability to move outside the ranks to educate and even entertain civilian populations.
This audience, who may be relatively unfamiliar with military protocols and experience, will welcome the opportunity learn from one who relates incidents, accidents, ironies and interpersonal relationships, with his tongue planted firmly in his cheek. Black and white photos also capture the military experience. Situation Normal A.F.U. is thus highly recommended for a much wider audience than those who commonly pursue military memoirs.
The Missing Driscoll
Vegas Publisher, LLC
9780996843768, $14.99 Paper/$3.99 ebook
Penny Wells is the museum curator at The Driscoll Museum, where her grandmother, artist Maud Driscoll, has her art on display. In The Missing Driscoll, Penny is invited to Paris to curate a Driscoll show of works from her museum, only to discover that one of the paintings is a forgery. But she personally supervised every step of the painting's preparation and shipping. How could a thief have gotten under the radar to make the swap on her watch?
As events progress, readers are treated to a globe-trotting art forgery case that involves Penny on a personal and professional level alike as her reputation is tarnished and she is forced to investigate the truth when a suspicious insurance adjustor suspects her of criminal activity.
It's refreshing to see an emphasis on the motivation for a non-sleuth to take up the reins to become an investigator. Penny had no inclination of developing her nose for trouble before these events and faces big challenges in pursuing the truth because her interests lie not in PI work, but in art.
She's a thirty-year-old unmarried woman whose passion, until now, has been relatively singular, but she also harbors strong family ties that are equally tested by tragedy and love. These family connections are also wound into the story and follow her footsteps as the insurance adjustor has an accident and police become involved and questioning, as well.
Her pride in her museum role and her family heritage follow her throughout her experiences and inquiries. As Penny becomes convinced that Tennent was somehow involved, she curates new exhibits and waits for him to slip up somehow, even as she's drawn into the bigger mystery of Nazi history, art forgeries, and an evolving threat to her career and everything she loves.
The Missing Driscoll excels in strong characterization and a mystery that avoids predictability and reaches for the bigger picture in the art world, following Penny's journey through singular interests into a wider-reaching set of concerns that involves the global art community.
Its mystery is well done, intriguing, driven by several tragedies and personal ambition on all sides, and tinged with the promise of a romance Penny doesn't acknowledge or see coming. The question of not only whether she can find the missing Driscoll painting but what happens when she does fuels a family-connected story that keeps readers engaged on more than one level.
Mystery enthusiasts who enjoy the art world and intrigue alike will find The Missing Driscoll an intriguing, well-crafted story with an international focus combined with many elements of the cozy mystery genre.
The 12 Labors of Nick
The 12 Labors of Nick is Book I of the Mythos Trilogy and provides young adult readers with the engaging story of Nikolaos Chironopolous, a Greek boy who faces bullying, prejudice, and the juxtaposition of a strange world which intersects with his own in unexpected ways.
Aside from the bullying, Nick harbors a fond affection for other elements of his life, from horses to Downs syndrome children. Even though these other passions are cause for further bullying, Nick sets aside angst and pursues his passions anyway: "He had come to love the musty smell of horses; their sweet, hay-scented breath; the way they put their head on his shoulder like a comforting friend. Though they each weighed more than a ton, Nick wasn't afraid, even when squeezed, as he was, into a stall with two of them. To him, they seemed more human than people, without the power of speech to insult and hurt him. Of course, Nick thought, he'd even been bullied over his love of horses: since this was "for girls," he'd been called "fag" and "gay" more times than he could remember."
But his life, Greek heritage, and real connections to the world aren't as they appear, even though an early key lies in a strange singing woman who suddenly appears, rescues him from more bullying, then vanishes. This leads to further clues that even his parents know that he is truly different from the norm, connected to a world very different from the one he operates in.
When the truth comes out, Nick discovers his own parents are involved in something far stranger than he could ever have imagined.
The fantasy elements in The 12 Labors of Nick appear early and grow along with Nick's perceptions of and reactions to the world of Mythos. When he encounters Medusa, renames her Helen, and embarks on a journey with her, teens will welcome the combination of fantasy elements, mythology, and the pragmatic personality of Nick who, used to being bullied and maligned, is surprisingly able to take charge of new realities and find his place in them.
From encounters with gods and mermen and many of the legends of Greek mythology to the different realities of a world where such beings exist, fantasy readers interested in stories with mythological connections will welcome the juxtaposition of modern and ancient that follows Nick through revised worlds and new challenges.
The action is nicely paced, characterization well done, and his personal discoveries about his father, heritage, and visions are injected into a story that holds a satisfying gallop to its pace without being overly action-packed. This allows young adults to easily absorb the mythological references and Nick's reactions to his changing world.
The 12 Labors of Nick concludes by tying up many loose ends, but ends his quest with an open door portending new books in the series. Young adults seeking an adventure story that is nicely tempered with personal challenge, new worlds, and newfound achievements will relish this story's evolution, unexpected twists, and outstanding reinterpretations of Greek culture and mythology.
Crystal Lake Publishing
Belle Vue is an epic horror thriller spanning centuries of adversity and angst as it documents a betrayal and vengeance that lives on far past its original roots.
Belle Vue was a Victorian lunatic asylum that, in its modern new incarnation, has become a posh apartment complex that attracts history student Alex Palmer's girlfriend Claire Ryan.
Alex's penchant for history hadn't included assessments of old-time asylums, but as he delves into the building's past, he uncovers a gold mine of facts about insane asylums and their deadly incarnations: "The amount of material he found on the history of Victorian asylums had surprised him. He was amazed at the speed at which these institutions had sprung up in almost every town. Not only in Britain but America too, followed by other parts of the empire such as Canada, Australia, and India. Like medical mass hysteria. Nothing prepared him for the tales of how the mentally ill were treated in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Even in the twentieth century, when he'd supposed medicine and the treatment of the insane had evolved well beyond the unacceptable practices of earlier times, the horrific photographs and articles vividly showed this hadn't been the case."
This real-life history permeates a ghost story that quietly evolves a sense of horror and mystery, drawing readers into both history and evolving events with a strong blend of characterization, intrigue, and suspense.
C.S. Alleyne excels at crafting a dark and deadly atmosphere and force that moves from past into present, introducing threats that the modern-day characters can barely believe, much less cope with.
As Alex pays the ultimate price for ignorance and investigation and finds his own moral grounds shaky as a result, readers embark on a journey that is filled with surprising, satisfyingly creepy twists as Alex faces cruelty, the truth, and underlying challenges to his assumptions about life and interpersonal relationships: "Alex accepted he would never figure out women, even if he lived to be a hundred."
Any of these facets, on their own, would be enough to prove tantalizing and involving, but add in the historical backdrop and attention to detail to a solid timeline of events for a horror tale that moves between past and present in a centuries-old mystery that keeps Alex and readers guessing and involved to the end.
Belle Vue is classic supernatural mystery horror. It's highly recommended for audiences who eschew the usual formula production in favor of a work that is more multifaceted and satisfying on emotional, historical, and philosophical levels alike.
The Accidental Spy
c/o Lilliput Press
ISBN: TBA, $TBA
The Accidental Spy is Christian adventure fiction that revolves around ordinary man Phil Shepherd, who sets off on a fun sailboat trip in Florida, only to find himself involved in waters far outside his sailing abilities. He's not suited for navigating international treachery, affairs, espionage, or being shipwrecked, and finds himself forced to survive not only physically but spiritually and morally.
Rescued from his boating accident, Phil finds himself encountering an odd host of characters, from submarine navigator Ace, who is secretly up to no good in American waters, preparing for an attack nobody sees coming, to his encounter with a net that both saves and threatens him.
Christian sentiments mean that Phil is in constant connection with God as he uncertainly navigates these treacherous waters and faces a series of political confrontations that challenge his worldview, his abilities, and his relationship with his higher power and his country alike.
From a church prayer chain's influence on events to how Phil chooses to use the information he gains from the sailor on his unexpected journey, readers are treated to a fast-paced story of intrigue and interpersonal connections that is always tempered by references and connections to God.
Christian readers looking for a fast-paced adventure and thriller rooted in religious examples of God's presence in changing lives will find The Accidental Spy a lively and thought-provoking story.
From its nautical references such as drift nets, subs, and sailing to its strong spiritual connections, Tom Rattery creates the kind of adventure that Christians will appreciate, punctuating the actions of an ordinary believer with references to his strong connections to God: "Thank you, thank you, thank you, Lord! You have really provided, as you say you will. I feel isolated again, especially without the satellite phone, but I know I?m not alone. You are with me. I have no idea what else is in store today, but I trust You to protect me."
The result is a clean, action-packed read filled with unexpected twists and turns connected to individual pursuits of God and courage. Christian adventure story enthusiasts are in for a treat with The Accidental Spy's unique nautical, spiritual, and political brand of thriller.
The Girl Who Was Me Is Gone
The Girl Who Was Me Is Gone is set in 1649 Ireland, when Cromwell's army decimated the country. In Dublin, heiress Nora's vision of an adventurous future is changed by both the army and plague, which forces her to flee for her life.
When Nora dreamed of adventure, she didn't realize that it might involve leaving everything familiar, with little hope of return. On board a frigate headed for America, Nora and her friend experience revelations and battles that challenge their concepts of life and her heritage before they even touch American soil.
As Nora and Anne become captives, enslaved and then separated in the new world, she is introduced to Jamestown in the English colony of Virginia, encounters Indians who seem friendly but come with their own warning, and struggles to regain something she'd taken for granted all her life - her freedom.
Aided by Billy and a few others, Nora fulfills her dreams in an unexpected manner, regaining not only the freedoms she once took for granted, but a new place in this strange land.
The Girl Who Was Me Is Gone excels in a blend of historical narrative and adventure that probes not just the life, but the culture and perceptions of a feisty young Irish girl determined to survive against all odds.
The confrontations are often unexpected, and the story blends suspense and romance in a balanced, appealing manner as the world is reassessed through Nora's newly-opened eyes.
The contrasts between 1600s Ireland and America are nicely done, while strong characterization keeps the plot fast-paced and involving. Readers who choose The Girl Who Was Me Is Gone for its transformative title's promise won't be disappointed. This is an involving, solid historical novel that is filled with adventure and realistic scenarios, and proves hard to put down.
Back on Bonaire: Rediscovering Diver's Paradise as a Father
9798633748215, $15.99 Paper/$4.99 Kindle
Back on Bonaire: Rediscovering Diver's Paradise as a Father will appeal to readers interested in Caribbean island travel and ecology as it explores the island of Bonaire, identified as 'Diver's Paradise' on license plates.
Author Andrew Jalbert first visited the island in the early 1990s and kept returning to the region over the next twenty-five years. When he became a father in his 40s, his new role added a duty that challenged some of his prior experiences of the island and his place in it.
Back on Bonaire is about more than rediscovering paradise. It's about accepting a revised place in life as a parent, bringing the island's attractions to new life apart from the carefree adventure travel focus of a married couple with no children.
It follows other changing worlds, as well, as it surveys the scuba diving environment, the ecology and culture of the islands, natural history affected by human endeavors, and changing perceptions of the Bonaire that Andrew Jalbert had become accustomed to.
Descriptions include dives, ecological threats and changes, the efforts and contributions of pioneering conservationists, and experiences unique to Bonaire: "Bonaire is an island of contrasts, of abrupt boundaries and sharp transitions. It's a place where you come upon things suddenly."
As Jalbert traverses his world, contrasts past and present environments, and considers its changes and revised opportunities and threats, readers are introduced to an island where various forces operate. Jalbert is changed by his experiences there as much as this island paradise is changed by those who visit it.
Whether it's a diver's paradise, changing social values, lessons applicable to parenting and training divers, or facing fears and becoming fearless, Back on Bonaire documents a journey of personal, ecological, and cultural change. It is a highly recommended, thoroughly engrossing piece for a range of readers, from prospective parents concerned about their formerly carefree lives and how to integrate a child's needs into this world to divers and tourists interested in the unique experience that is Bonaire.
The Unexpected Adventures of Remi
B07XDSD49J, $1.99 Kindle
The Unexpected Adventures of Remi will appeal to elementary-grade readers in grades 4-6 who will appreciate this blend of lovely color drawings and in-depth details about Remi, a little fox terrier who tires of humans' obsession with technology and who leads an animal revolution to rescue her humans from its allure.
When she leaves the pet store which has been her home, she revels in the thought that she'll have a family to love, at last. The family relationship isn't quite what she'd envisioned, however, as she's been purchased as a gift for young Mia, who still mourns the loss of a prior dog and resents the fact that Remi is a look-alike replacement. Besides, Mia claims that technology has changed her needs: "Pets don't interest me anymore. I have a ton of Snapchat friends to attend to."
But is it really technology, or is Mia hiding her grief and resisting the urge to move on with a new relationship? It's clearly up to Remi to solve this problem, and so she embarks on a mission, involves other pets in her newfound goals, and faces this technology beast with a tenacity that creates an unusual, fun pet story kids will relish.
Shweta Roy's ability to intersect a dog's viewpoint with the experiences of humans and other animals creates a sense of community, understanding, and insight that elevates this story beyond the usual pet and child adventure. There are many serious considerations couched within Remi's drive to find love and a family, and these are part of what makes this story feel so compellingly different.
Whether they are obsessed with technology or dogs, kids will find this tale revealing, compelling, and thought-provoking. The Unexpected Adventures of Remi is the perfect item of choice for a leisure read, juxtaposing a strong personality with a lesson about choice, life, and love.
Our Bodies Stay Home, Our Imaginations Run Free
Lora L. Hyler
HenschelHAUS Publishing, Inc.
Adults seeking a COVID explanatory book for kids ages 6-12 now have an outstanding presentation that outlines the positive potentials of this new world in Our Bodies Stay Home, Our Imaginations Run Free.
The story opens with 2nd-grader Maya realizing that today is a different day: "As she wiped the sleep from her eyes, she knew deep down something was different. It wasn't a school day. She wouldn't see her lunch lady. She wouldn't get to bring her favorite art creation for Show and Tell. And worst of all, she would miss seeing all her friends and her favorite teacher. She wanted to get back to second grade."
As the story documents the changes brought about by COVID-19 from a child's viewpoint, adults and young readers receive not just a survey of newfound limitations and quarantine challenges, but answers on how to live a meaningful revised life under vastly different conditions.
These are universal questions all ages now ask. Having them tailored to younger readers in Our Bodies Stay Home, Our Imaginations Run Free in no way precludes its relevant message for older readers and read-aloud parents working with younger audiences, as well.
As the story evolves, Lora L. Hyler is careful to document the realities of the new situation and the emotional turmoil it evokes: "As her mom rounded the corner into the kitchen, Maya burst into tears. "Why can't things be like they were before the coronavirus? No school. No play dates. No building legos with friends. No pizza parties or bowling. No visiting grandma and grandpa at their house. Everything is different!"
Hyler weaves virus facts, safety measures, and psychological and social issues into Maya's story, which promotes family and community togetherness and adaptation under revised circumstances.
Black and white drawings by Ian Wade illustrate these changes and capture the underlying possibility of happiness as Maya takes walks, practices safety measures, and learns how to cultivate a resilient feel of positive approaches to much-changed situations.
The result is a combination of fictional exploration and nonfiction discussions of virus safety measures, health, and social concern. It's a delightful, important acquisition for any adult working with the young, who seeks a clear, uplifting book that accepts the dangers and emotional challenges of the current COVID situation while presenting alternatives for living in this revised world.
Very highly recommended for its blend of realistic assessments and uplifting viewpoints.
Freefall: A Divine Comedy
Lily Iona MacKenzie
When four female old friends join together on a four-day reunion to celebrate their long-time friendship, they didn't expect long-held secrets to emerge, nor a new mystery that engrosses and challenges them. But that's what they get when a hike and meeting in Whistler, British Columbia juxtaposes the threat of death and new intimacy with the long-held perceptions that forces each 60-year-old to re-examine her life, choices, and friendships.
Powered by the ambitious dreams of installation artist Tillie Bloom, the women find themselves undertaking a journey of self-discovery normally relegated to teens entering adulthood. At this stage in their lives, they didn't expect to continue experiencing the world in new ways. Nor did they anticipate making choices that would change themselves and their perceptions of one another.
Lily Iona MacKenzie flushes out her characters by moving between past and present, allowing readers to contrast their lives, changing personalities, and reactions to life. Her attention to details both within each character and between them helps define their motivations, influences, and interrelationships both with each other and with life.
It's unusual to receive an 'adventure' focus in a story about older women, but Lily Iona MacKenzie does a fine job of embedding the feel of a coming-of-age novel with characters who are old enough to know more about life, but not too staid to accept that further changes may be in order for them.
Descriptions are often thought-provoking and give pause for thought with their edgy, adroit observations: "Tillie watches a snail chomp away at a flower. It reminds her of how priests transform bread and wine into body and blood. She almost gags at the cannibalistic quality of the Eucharist, the communicant's symbolic swallowing of Christ's body. Yet it isn't much different from the cannibalistic nature of art, the artist devouring everything in her path that helps express her vision - and art devouring the artist. Consuming each other."
From a touch of romance to changing perspectives on mortality, Freefall: A Divine Comedy is a refreshing breath of fresh air in the genre of women's literature. It's a read that is especially recommended for older women who will be able to fully appreciate and relate to the sense of transformation, adventure, and interpersonal connections that these four women represent.
No Feign No Gain
Carrie Ann Knox
9780999003220, $3.99, Ebook
The cozy mystery No Feign No Gain is Book 2 in the Sonic Sleuths Series and returns career audiologist Quinn Bailey to another situation where her chosen profession isn't quite in sync with the intrigue that swirls around her. This draws her in against her best intentions with an allure that runs contrary to her career goals.
Graduation is on the horizon, she has a good job lined up, and the last thing on her mind is becoming involved in another investigation. Unfortunately, the first thing on the mind of her best friend, PI Sloan McKenzie, is the next case. It's a case that draws Quinn with a little black box, a terrible realization, and a frighteningly compelling sense of mystery that continues to pose challenges to her everyday lifestyle.
When a coworker vanishes and Quinn and Sloan become suspects, the intrigue gets personal on a level that demands her involvement to clear her name by solving a mystery that has made headlines, propelling them into unwanted fame.
Sloan's feisty personality gets Quinn into trouble on more than one level, but is a refreshing counter to Quinn's more staid inclinations. Carrie Ann Knox provides a fun series of observations about these interactions and different perspectives that lends humor and fun to the story: "My eyes widened as I watched Sloan scan the room, intently searching again. I had followed her to the party, willingly, but was quickly beginning to rethink my participation. Sloan in a revenge scheme sounded truly terrifying."
When Sloan's scheme backfires and her own weapons are used against her, it falls to Quinn to solve the mystery - and save Sloan's life in the process - on her own.
No Feign No Gain cultivates the fine feel of a cozy mystery, exploring the interplays between friends, perps, investigators, and local atmosphere alike. As Quinn perceives a startling truth about Sloan's motivations and relationships, she discovers that her responses to these revelations may affect both her friendship with Sloan and their pursuit of justice.
Surprises, lies, truths, and new revelations keep No Feign No Gain fast-paced, revealing, and hard to put down, building on Quinn's conundrums as she struggles between friendship, career choice, and investigative results. All these take her far from her comfort zone and into an exciting world that both attracts and repels her.
Readers will find the mystery absorbing, fueled by Quinn's first-person observations and subplots that keep the action swift and the characters realistic and attractive to the end. Cozy mystery readers are in for a treat - even newcomers, who need no prior familiarity with the first book in order to quickly absorb Quinn's personality, background, and perspectives.
Dylan's Birthday Present
Victor Dias de Oliveria Santos
9781952451607, $23.99 Hardcover / $9.99 Paper / $2.99 Kindle
Dylan's Birthday Present, Book 1 in the series Little Polyglot Adventures, receives colorful drawings by Eszter Miklos and tells of an American boy whose parents come from other countries and speak different languages. It's Dylan's birthday, and he receives an unusual invitation from his family to have any present he wishes. And Dylan wants a pet.
His Ukrainian mother is shocked. Might he want a crocodile or something exotic? Young readers with good reading skills are introduced to a concept rarely presented in a picture book: the use of footnotes, which define the phrases and responses in the Ukrainian and Portuguese languages his parents speak.
This added value teaches youngsters about first generation immigrant families and their interactions, creating a colorful series of dialogues centered on a child's unusual pet request and why it incorporates his interest in family unity and understanding.
In the course of enjoying his new pet with his neighbor friend, Dylan has an opportunity to explain the concept of a polyglot such as himself, who can speak several languages, and the value of communicating with all kinds of people...even the grumpy ones.
The adventure introduces a pet, a quest, and the interactions which surround it, but the action centers upon friendship and the superpower of communication skills and openness to accepting other cultures.
With its multifaceted educational opportunities couched in the sweet story of a boy's unusual pet and its possibilities for bringing disparate peoples together, Dylan's Birthday Present provides more than just a good leisure read. It's an opportunity adults can employ to teach children the value of languages, understanding, multiculturalism, and the positive aspects of being multilingual. It's available in English as well as in a large number of other languages, including in bilingual editions.
Black Rose Writing
Suicide Squeeze revolves around baseball broadcaster Tom Helmer, who faces an unusual challenge when he travels to El Paso, Texas with the Albuquerque Isotopes team, only to discover a dead body in his luggage...a total stranger.
The local police want to jail and execute him for murder, but Tom is innocent, and he happens to know a retired police detective friend who can help him.
Forced to set aside his broadcasting life and turn into an amateur PI to accompany his more crime-savvy friend into an underworld in an effort to prove his innocence, Tom embarks on a mission that brings him full circle onto the Vegas Strip to investigate who murdered the girl and why he was framed.
Chase was one of Tom's best friends in high school, but now he's about to become his salvation, teaching his friend about a world he's only too used to navigating. As they embark on a journey into the dead girl's past and her connections to the underworld and Tom, dangerous truths emerge which turn the case into more than a strange murder mystery.
Steve Hagood excels at creating unexpected twists and turns of plot as the characters probe a death that leads them onto the turf of the mob and into even more trouble.
Tom has all the contacts, but Chase holds the savvy to connect the dots. As readers follow their interactions and how they learn from one another, they will appreciate a story that is vivid, fast-paced, and filled with surprises.
Suicide Squeeze is especially notable in its particular blend of PI investigative processes and expanding relationships between two men who have taken very different courses in life. It probes the underlying influences of social behaviors, rape and relationships, the sex industry, and an evolving threat to Tom's lifetime career.
The story concludes neatly, but leaves the door open for further Chase adventures. Suicide Squeeze is an involving story of investigative processes and intrigue that will keep readers engaged and guessing to the end.
Kiss at Midnight: A Town Called Forgotten
White Star Press
9781948982184, $15.95 Paper/$3.99 ebook
Kiss at Midnight is the first book in the series 'A Town Called Forgotten' and opens with a journey Hailey Waters makes to this small town in Kansas where she recalls feeling at home. It's a place where she can remake her life, heal from wounds, and both maintain control of her world and hide. It's also a place where she seeks to live up to the town's name by forgetting her past, which unexpectedly occurs before she even hits the town's city limits.
She didn't anticipate that this new life would involve not just new connections, but people such as kindly vet Dylan Morgan, who wants to know about that past. Dylan, also, has returned to this small town to heal from the pain of women who always break his heart with their secrets and ultimate rejection. Hailey, with her amnesia, represents the biggest possibility of heartbreak of all.
Can the two overcome their experiences, and painful perceptions of life to form a lasting bond in a town aptly named for their different notions of setting aside and forgetting their pasts?
Kiss at Midnight is a romance that is as much about finding one's place in the world as it is about an evolving connection between two lonely individuals who each heal from similar kinds of pain.
Rachel Branton takes the time to build each character's background, experiences, and psychological profile. This lends to a story whose strength lies as much in their separate progressions towards healing as in their evolving interpersonal relationship.
She also takes the time to build the small town's atmosphere, building descriptions into the story. This gives life to the tale, moving it beyond any singular focus on the relationship alone: "They sat in silence for a while, feet in the water, enjoying the quiet that was broken only by the occasional call of a bird or the plop of a turtle sliding into the lake. Hailey hadn't realized how very far they'd come on the path. The way the lake was shaped, she couldn't even see the park. One lone boat was out on the water. Nothing more. The beautiful turquoise of the water called to her deceptively.
Before I leave here, I'll have to swim just once, she promised herself. That is, if she ever left."
The evolving conundrums of both characters, their different reasons for rejecting their pasts and attempting to embrace a future without it, and the clash of their personalities and needs as they face unexpected obstacles in their new lives makes for a wholesome, involving romance. This will especially delight women who look for emotionally-driven stories solidified by a solid small-town atmosphere.
Kiss at Midnight is evocative, revealing, and hard to put down. Its realistic dilemmas and character growth powers a story that is compelling and involving.
How to Talk to the "Other Side"
Kevin Wilhelm and Natalie Hoffman
B087ZQ1FPT, $9.95, Ebook
Ordering link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/0578671328
How to Talk to the "Other Side": Finding Common Ground in the Time of Coronavirus, Recession and Climate Change is a call for open communication and common-sense action that arrives at a particularly turbulent period in American history. It offers a much-needed toolkit full of communication strategies that can lead to understanding, unifying a divided country.
How to Talk to the "Other Side" focuses on the process of coming together over some of the greatest challenges facing the world today, including the pandemic, recession, allyship, and climate change. Many books and essays speak of the need for candid conversations, but this book is the first to pinpoint the essence of how to hold such conversations.
For example, the chapter 'The Importance of Allyship' covers a different approach to bridging the communication gap by defending those who are the butt of discriminatory statements and attitudes. Finding a common ground involves identifying common barriers in marginalized communities, developing types of conversations that support empowerment, and acknowledging the power of being an ally for others, assuring that everyone starts the conversation from a position of equity.
Chapters consider not only the underlying issues in bipartisan perspectives, but examine and aim to unite traditionally divergent viewpoints between opposing sides, including Republicans and Democrats, rural and urban dwellers, business versus environmental interests, and more.
More than just a cross-comparison of viewpoints, as one might anticipate, How to Talk to the "Other Side" is about finding common paths and points for discussion while fostering solutions amenable to both sides, which makes sense both socially and economically.
Take, for example, the chapter on 'Big Business versus Environmentalists'. The discussion opens with a historic review of why these interests commonly clash, considers win-win solutions, and even more importantly, surveys underlying issues in critical thinking that need to be amended on both sides: "How can we better collaborate for a better future? How can business leaders begin to see environmentalists as insightful stakeholders who identify future opportunities and grow revenue even during uncertain times? What would it take for environmentalists to see big businesses as important partners for funding conservation/clean energy initiatives and as valuable assets to stabilize our economy, rather than as greedy and power-hungry adversaries?"
The answers to many of these challenges lie in how businesses make adjustments to their products, deliveries, and audiences, from making Zoom sessions free to K-12 schools to how, during the pandemic, "Luxury goods giant LVMH repurposed its French facilities to make hand sanitizer for the government, for free."
The answers to these weighty problems cannot come from one perspective, but from a shared interest in a better future.
In a nutshell, this is the kernel of wisdom contained in How to Talk to the "Other Side" which is too often lacking in the public's natural inclination to seek understanding from a singular approach.
Given the depth and extent of division in America, How to Talk to the "Other Side" and its messages on how to achieve unity could not have appeared at a better time. This book is a top pick for any citizen concerned about the country's momentum offers hope to find common ground and a way forward.
Pandemic Capitalism: From Broken Systems to Basic Incomes
Wicked Problems Collaborative
B0889FJG5J, $3.99 ebook
Pandemic Capitalism: From Broken Systems to Basic Incomes will reach readers who have a special interest in social, political, and economic issues. The book gathers a series of essays that discuss ongoing challenges that have been highlighted by the pandemic, as well as the possibility offered by Universal Basic Incomes. It addresses how such programs might work, and suggests possibilities for social and economic systems that would take better care of the planet and those living on it.
These essays begin with the author conveying the idea of pandemic capitalism - our inescapable economic system - via a personal story that helps the reader view the circumstances from his perspective. They go on to examine our economic systems and interplays, move to discussions of the many systems that already existed on the brink, and concludes with a review of coronavirus-related developments to help contextualize the challenges.
The heart of the story lies in discussions of positive economic paths that acknowledge obstacles to change while analyzing logical courses of action and the pros and cons of various approaches: "Universal basic incomes appear to have a lot to offer in improving the way that society functions, but it's possible that they might do more harm than good. Our social and economic systems are massively complex, emergent phenomena. We need to try lots of experiments and see what we learn. Plenty of potential pitfalls may lie waiting in the road ahead. Thinking through them is essential to crafting the soundest possible plan. Among such pitfalls are (1) the likelihood of rentseeking, (2) the curtailment of welfare programs, and (3) the financialization of basic incomes."
Chris Oestereich does an excellent job of contrasting different economic and social responses to not just pandemic conditions, but modified social environments and goals for prosperity.
Chapters remind readers that the power to effect such changes lies not just in government institutions and decisions, but individual approaches to wealth, health, and life itself: "Most of us don't see ourselves as having a voice in the construction and maintenance of our economic systems. We probably don't even recognize their creation. But the economy is not some sort of natural phenomenon. We continually invent it. Humans make the rules via the laws and regulations, and we further influence it via a multitude of forces, like advocacy, donations, and extortion. Once we recognize that people create our economic systems, we can begin to think about how we might have a hand in them."
It should be cautioned that Pandemic Capitalism is not to be considered a game plan for easy transition. It is a call to action that challenges traditional thinking not just about politics and economics, but viable social systems and those which are detrimental to the planet. Its basic contention is that "...humanity isn't destined to be a laboratory for wickedness." Its core question, "What would the world look like if we enabled people to choose a collaborative orientation, rather than being forced into a competitive one?"
There is nothing simple or singular about this approach, and Pandemic Capitalism thus is, of necessity, a straightforward but demanding contrast between the ideals and practical applications of economic and social change.
The result is a study that questions who will save the economy and society, how, and what revised goals for social, economic and planetary health might look like.
Anyone interested in the social, political, and economic long-term effects of the current pandemic, and the broader challenges it highlighted, needs to take a serious look at Pandemic Capitalism for a thought-provoking discussion of future possibilities. It concludes with an invitation unusual in the face of worldwide disaster: "While the coronavirus pandemic is wreaking havoc, it is affording us something precious - a moment to think. This is something the systems we live in have long robbed us of. We should not waste the opportunity."
Diane C. Donovan, Senior Reviewer
Donovan's Literary Services
Gary Roen's Bookshelf
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group
9780316539425, $29.00 www.amazon.com
"Fair Warning" roars off the page at breakneck pace to the final page. Reporter Jack McEvoy is brought into a murder case as a possible suspect in the murder of a woman he was involved in a one-night stand. He is determined to prove to one of the detectives on the case his innocence. Utilizing his journalistic skills, he delves into the circumstances to find something far more sinister than a simple murder. "Fair Warning" is a rip-roaring thriller delivers gripping suspense all the way through.
You Know You Want This: Cat Person And Other Stories
c/o Simon & Schuster
9781982101640, $16.00, www.amazon.com
"You Know You Want This: Cat Person And Other Stories" is a gem of weird and wonderful tales by a master of the genre. I mention several absolutely outstanding fare for any reader. These should be checked out immediately. "The Boy in the Pool" A woman has a special present for her friend's birthday, "Bad Boy" a husband and wife have a very interesting relationship with a man in their home, "The Night Runner" a new teacher at a school has a strange encounter with his students. There are many others that are just as chilling as those. Short story collections are always fun reading and "You Know You Want This: Cat Person and Other Stories" is perfect chilling excitement
The Light of a Day's Metallic
Defiant Worm Books
9780972939058, $18.95, www.amazon.com
"The Light of a Day's Metallic" is the most unusual work presented to me of this author. Unlike his others that have been light hearted writings "The Light of a Day's Metallic" is a literary masterpiece that is sure to generate a lot of attention. I especially loved a description of our planet. "The Earth is cup of coffee... everyone must drink her" For readers who love novels with symbolism "The Light of a Day's Metallic" is a smorgasbord filled extravaganza that is sure to please.
The Rising Place
The Wild Rose Press, Inc
9781509230655, $12.99 www.amazon.com
Every so often a rare novel captures the heart of the reader in many different ways. "The Rising Place is just such a work that never lets go. 75-year-old Emily Hodge's funeral has few people attend. One of those who does appear is the attorney who wrote her will before she died. While collecting her possessions he finds a series of letters she wrote during and after WWII to a man she once was with. The correspondence are much more than just her feelings for her one-time lover but an indictment of the small Mississippi town she resides in. Emily lived her life alone with only one friend a school teacher who is black. Together they formed a long-lasting friendship until the instructor's untimely death due to an upstanding citizen. The small-town mentality comes through as the writing is filled wonderful colorful characters that are deeply etched that keep you reading to the very end. There is also an element of mystery that opens this beautifully told story. "The Rising Place: is timely with all the demonstrations going on in the country today and there is a movie version of "The Rising Place' that is well worth viewing but tells the story a little differently that is not as deep as the novel. Personally, I liked both but found the narrative to be so much more rewarding and memorable.
Heroes: Voices of History
Introduction and Narration by Chris Coad Taylor
9780997564549, $16.99 www.amazon.com
This year marked 76 years since the Allied forces began the reclaiming of Europe that is known as D Day. Unfortunately, in the times we are in, the significance of the Normandy invasion has been cast aside, it would seem, as we saw virtually no coverage by the press, of ceremonies to honor the fallen soldiers. "Heroes: Voices of History" is a celebration of the many men and women who have served this country throughout the years but mostly concentrates on WWII. Like Studs Terkel's "Working" there are oral dialogues Chris Coad Taylor conducted with veterans and their families while she also delves into the world back then, comparing it to now in many different ways. 'Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it." Winston Churchill in a speech to the House of Commons 1948. Churchill' slightly changed the original statement made by George Santayna in 1905, But the implication is clear. By not honoring our military heroes living and deceased to preserve our freedoms is obvious evidence of the course we are on. "Heroes Voices of History" should be required or suggested reading in public schools and colleges throughout the nation to change that path.
Lilacs in Literature
9781734009927, $2.99, www.amazon.com
With the turbulent times we live in the lesson of forgiveness in "The Cloak" is meaningful for all of us to heed. The writing beautifully sets the tone that is a whirlwind tale of a little know biblical fact. Good things come in small doses and this 20-page novel is a prime example. "The Cloak" has several other underlying morals that fill the brief narrative that should be helpful in our everyday lives.
Momma Do You Understand? An Adoption Story
Tiffany Taylor-Jones, author
Chrisay Schram, illustrator
Meadow Road Books
9781798235973, $11.95 www.amazon.com
"Momma Do You Understand?" is a primer for parents to learn to honestly answer children's question on a serious topic. So often fathers and mothers think they are protecting their youngsters but the reality of the matter is they aren't. Through love and understanding the little girl in "Momma Do You Understand?" learns the truth and that she is a member of a family. "Momma Do You Understand?" is a thoughtful educational tool to help parents who are dealing with similar issues.
Simon & Schuster
9781534442169, $17.99, www.amazon.com
"You Matter" came out at a perfect time with the Coronavirus Pandemic and the demonstrations against police brutality. Though this is a kids book it has lots of good soul-searching material that all of us can use every day to get through our lives. When I received "You Matter" I thought of the negatives of Coronavirus Pandemic and how people have searched themselves to ask questions of themselves because they are not used to being confined for so long a period of time. "You Matter" has many different levels that is solid positive reinforcement reinforcing all of us have talents that we have to acknowledge and utilize.
Hurry Up! A Book About Slowing Down
Kate Dopirak, author
Christopher Silas Neal, illustrator
Simon & Schuster
9781534424975, $17.99, www.amazon.com
In our lives today we've become hustle bustle on the go that is one of the messages in "Hurry Up!" From the time the child character wakes up, throughout the day is a whirlwind of activity at breakneck pace. All of a sudden there is a pause that says slow down. "Hurry Up!" is a fun lesson in things we should all do to lead healthier lives in the future.
Jules Vs The Ocean
Simon & Schuster
9781534441682, $17.99, www.amazon.com
"Jules Vs The Ocean" is a delightful tale of what happens when you go to the shore that all of us can reminisce of how it was when we were children. Jules and her family go for a relaxing day at the beach. While there she tries to build sandcastles but there is something that destroys her creations. Part of the fun is also how Jules wants to outsmart her nemesis by building bigger and better constructions. "Jules Vs The Ocean" filled with lavish artwork is for all ages to enjoy.
Helen Dumont's Bookshelf
The Strange Birds of Flannery O'Connor: A Life
Amy Alznauer, author
Ping Zhu, illustrator
Enchanted Lion Books
67 West Street, Studio 317A, Brooklyn, New York, NY 11222
9781592702954, $18.95, HC, 64pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Mary Flannery O'Connor (March 25, 1925 - August 3, 1964) was an American novelist, short story writer and essayist. She wrote two novels and thirty-two short stories, as well as a number of reviews and commentaries.
When she was young, the writer Flannery O'Connor was captivated by the chickens in her yard. She'd watch their wings flap, their beaks peck, and their eyes glint. At age six, her life was forever changed when she and a chicken she had been training to walk forwards and backwards were featured in the Pathe News, and she realized that people want to see what is odd and strange in life.
But while she loved birds of all varieties and kept several species around the house, it was the peacocks that came to dominate her life.
Written by Amy Alznauer with devotional attention to all things odd and illustrated in radiant paint by Ping Zhu, "The Strange Birds of Flannery O'Connor" explores the beginnings of one author's lifelong obsession.
Critique: Charmingly entertaining from cover to cover, "The Strange Birds of Flannery O'Connor: A Life" is an original, extraordinary, large sized (12.5 x 0.5 x 12.5 inches) picture book for children ages 4-8 and an ideal addition to any family, daycare center, preschool, elementary school, and community library collection. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Strange Birds of Flannery O'Connor: A Life" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $18.95).
Unlocking: A Memoir of Family and Art
Nancy L. Pressly
She Writes Press
9781631528620, $16.95, PB, 224pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: While recovering from a near fatal illness, Nancy Pressly discovered a treasure trove of family material stored in her attic. Haunted by images of her grandparents and her parents in their youth, she sets out to create a family narrative before it is lost forever. It takes several more years before she summons the courage to reconstitute a path back to her own past, slowly pulling back the veil of amnesia that has, until now, all but obliterated her memory of her childhood.
"Unlocking: A Memoir of Family and Art" is a sensitive and forgiving meditation on the meaning of family as Pressly unravels family dynamics and life in a small rural town in the 1950s that so profoundly affected her -- then moves forward in time, through to her adulthood.
With an eye attuned to visual detail, she relates how she came into her own as a graduate student in the tumultuous sixties in New York; examines how she assumed the role of caretaker for her family as she negotiated with courage and resilience the many health setbacks, including her own battle with pancreatic cancer, that she and her husband encountered.
Nancy also evokes her interior struggle as a mother as she slowly traverses the barriers of expectations, self-doubt, and evolving norms in the 1980s to embrace a remarkable life as a scholar, champion of contemporary art, and nationally recognized art museum strategic planning consultant.
Full of candor and art-inspired insight, "Unlocking: A Memoir of Family and Art" leaves the reader with a deep appreciation of the power of art and empathy and the value of trying to understand one's life journey.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Unlocking: A Memoir of Family and Art" is an inherently interesting and engaging life story told with an impressive composure and candor. Ultimately inspired and inspiring, "Unlocking: A Memoir of Family and Art" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library Contemporary American Biography collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Unlocking: A Memoir of Family and Art" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.99).
Editorial Note: Nancy L. Pressly, a graduate of Goucher College, received her master's degree in Art History from Columbia University. She began her career at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and subsequently held curatorial positions at the Yale Center for British Art and the San Antonio Museum of Art, where she organized several important exhibitions, most notably the acclaimed Fuseli Circle in Rome: Early Romantic Art of the 1770s. In 1984 she became Assistant Director of the Museum Program at the National Endowment for the Artsin 1992 was a visiting Senior Fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Visual Arts; and in 1993 she founded Nancy L. Pressly & Associates, a nationally recognized consulting firm specializing in strategic planning for art museums. She has authored numerous publications, most recently a a book titled Settling the South Carolina Backcountry. She maintains a web site at: www.nancylpressly.com
John Taylor's Bookshelf
The Granville Hermit
Robert S. Foster
Onion River Press
c/o Distinction Press
9781949066395, $17.99, PB, 304pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: What drives a man to withdraw? What drove a quiet man named Carl L. Morse to choose a life of solitude away from people he knew and grew up with?
By early adulthood Morse had experienced betrayals, leaving only a select few he could trust. Was it the heartless acts of others? Was it lost love? Was it the atrocities of WWI? What was it that altered Carl Morse's attitude toward society and public interaction? He was known as a seer, a horse whisperer, one who could read people, who could intuit what was going to happen...
And yet he retreated from all human contact, gong into the forest he loved, to the creatures he cherished, the place he felt safe, to reappear only twice a year.
Based on the real life of Carl L. Morse of Granville, Vermont, Morse's life became folklore. He lived, he loved, he retreated, he vanished. But for those who new him -- he is not forgotten.
Critique: Robert S. "Butch" Foster, the author of "The Granville Hermit" met Carl Morse as a child. He was fascinated by their encounter, feeling that he, too, shared the gift. In his novel based on a true life character, Morse has created an inherently fascinating, thoughtful and thought-provoking read -- one that will linger in the mind and memory long after the book itself has been finished and set back upon the shelf. "The Granville Hermit" is particularly recommended as an addition to both community and academic library Contemporary Literary Fiction & Folklore collections.
Scholarship Boy: Meditations on Family and Race
Larry I. Palmer
Paul Dry Books
1700 Sansom Street, Suite 700, Philadelphia, PA 19103-5214
9781589881457, $19.95, PB, 300pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In 1958, fourteen-year-old Larry Palmer left his parents and nine siblings at home in St. Louis and boarded a train to attend Phillips Exeter Academy (then an all boys' school) on full scholarship. In "Scholarship Boy: Meditations on Family and Race", Palmer reflects on his experiences as a young black boy growing up far from home, learning to fit into a white world without becoming estranged from his closely-knit family.
Palmer delves back into the early years of his childhood, and at times all the way to his family's past in rural Arkansas before he was born, and brings the reader up to his undergraduate years at Harvard and his father's death while he attended Yale Law School in the 1960s. The ninth of ten children, he writes about the delicate, complex balances within the family and illustrates the ways his sibling relationships shaped him as he was also being molded by his elite education.
Palmer's journey from being the "next-to-the-baby" of his family into adulthood reveals the personal and often hidden costs of cultural migration.
Critique: An inherently absorbing, informative, insightful, and eloquent memoir, "Scholarship Boy: Meditations on Family and Race" is an extraordinary and accomplished contribution to community, college, and university library Civil Rights and 20th Century American Biography collections. Expertly written, organized and presented, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students, academia, civil rights activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Scholarship Boy: Meditations on Family and Race" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.99).
Editorial Note: Larry I. Palmer is Professor of Law Emeritus at Cornell University, where he had spent 27 years as a teacher, scholar, and vice president. He also held appointments at University of Louisville School of Medicine, Georgetown Law Center, University of Virginia, University of Texas at Austin, Rutgers-Camden Law School, Cambridge University, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, Virginia Commonwealth University, and the College of William and Mary. His scholarly writing focused on health policy and bioethics, including two books and a collaboration that produced an educational video on The Tuskegee Study of Syphilis in Negro Men. Since 2015, his essays have appeared in New England Review and VCU Blackbird and been cited as notable essays in Best American Essays.
Mary Cowper's Bookshelf
Clara Colby: The International Suffragist
9780648684800, $19.95, PB, 354pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Clara Colby: The International Suffragist" by John Holliday is the story about a leader in the women's suffrage movement which one hundred years ago, by an amendment to the U.S. Constitution gave American women the right to vote.
Clara Colby was born in England, graduated as valedictorian of the first woman's class at the University of Wisconsin and became a writer, publisher, teacher, public speaker and friend of many leading figures of her day. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the founders of the suffrage movement in America, became Clara Colby's mentors.
Clara's journey is an epic saga of untiring and heroic endeavor, sometimes under the most adverse circumstances, across the United States, and her native England. She suffered great injustice, but she never complained, and her accomplishments contributed significantly to the successful introduction of the Nineteenth Amendment.
Critique: Impressively well written, organized and presented, "Clara Colby: The International Suffragist" is exceptionally informative and a valued addition to the growing body of literature on the Women's Suffrage Movement. While especially and unreservedly recommended for Women's History & Biography collections, as well as curriculum supplemental studies lists, it should be noted for students, academia, women's rights activists, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Clara Colby: The International Suffragist" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $8.95).
Editorial Note: During the research required to write this book, John Holliday discovered that Clara Colby was the granddaughter of his ancestor Walter Medhurst's sister, Clara Medhurst. John decided then that she should be the subject of a biography -- resulting in Clara Colby: The International Suffragist.
Dancing To The Darkest Light
9781733712613, $35.00, HC, 362pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: While a student at Pahlavi University, Soheila Adelipour's peaceful life is shattered by the revolution and dangerous circumstances in 1978. She and her family are forced to flee Iran and leave everything behind.
Soheila gets married, settles in New York. Raises four sons and manages her life and deals with the everyday ups and downs. Her three sisters also establish careers and families of their own, while the apple of the family's eye, her brother, Fariborz, becomes a sought-after neurosurgeon. They are the absolute embodiment of the American dream -- until tragedy strikes.
Soheila is faced by the most heart-wrenching tragedy any parent can face. She thinks she has seen the worst until her brother and sister's battles with life start. She vows to save her brother even if that means facing death herself. She agrees to do the impossible and the 'hero's journey' starts.
"Dancing To The Darkest Light" is a compelling memoir of survival, the true life story of how one sister, daughter and mother finds reason to go on after the most crushing loses imaginable and still sees beauty in life. But it is also a heartwarming family saga and an unforgettable account of faith and not just love, but unconditional love.
Critique: A deftly written and impressively candid memoir that is both heartbreaking and inspiring, "Dancing To The Darkest Light" is one of those books that will linger in the mind and memory of the reader long after it has been finished and set back upon the shelf. While very highly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary Biography collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Dancing To The Darkest Light" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $10.49).
Richard Eyre, author
Linda Eyre, author
Olga Zakharova, illustrator
Bushel & Peck Books
9781952239755, $21.99, PB, 96pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In the pages of "Joy School: 22 Children's Stories to Teach the Joys of Honesty, Family, Your Body, the Earth, Goals, Sharing, Uniqueness, and More!", authors Richard and Linda Eyre teach the very best kind of character-building, freewheeling joy to kids with twenty-two colorfully illustrated stories.
Each individual story in this anthology teaches one of ten essential values that are critical for healthy, happy children: Joy of the Body, Joy of the Earth, Joy of Honesty and Communication, Joy of Sharing and Service, Joy of Goals and Order, Joy of Confidence, Joy of Wonder, Joy of Imagination and Creativity, Joy of Family, and the Joy of Uniqueness.
Critique: Specifically appropriate for the parents, teachers, and caregivers of children ages 3-6, and thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "Joy School: 22 Children's Stories to Teach the Joys of Honesty, Family, Your Body, the Earth, Goals, Sharing, Uniqueness, and More!" is an ideal and unreservedly recommended addition to family, daycare center, preschool, and elementary school collections.
Editorial Note: Richard and Linda Eyre are authors whose values-based books and programs have helped families and relationships for decades. They have appeared on Oprah, Today, and nearly every other major media show. They spend most of their time traveling and speaking to audiences throughout the world on families, parenting, and life-balance (and trying to keep up with their twenty-six grandchildren). The Eyres's vision statement is "Fortify families by celebrating commitment, popularizing parenting, bolstering balance, and validating values."
Another Life Is Possible
Clare Stober, author
Danny Burrows, photographer
Plough Publishing House
9780874863161, $40.00, 320pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The Bruderhof is a Christian movement that was founded in Germany in 1920 by Eberhard Arnold. They have communities in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Paraguay, and Australia. The Bruderhof are believers in baptism, non-violence and peacemaking, full community of goods, the proclamation of the gospel and lifelong faithfulness in marriage.
The Bruderhof is an intentional Christian community as defined by the Fellowship for Intentional Community and one that has stood the test of time, demonstrating that it is possible to create a society where there are no rich or poor, where children and elderly are welcome, where no one lives in isolation. Meet 100 individuals from diverse backgrounds who ventured everything to build a life together where everyone belongs and each can contribute, pooling their income, possessions, talents, and energy.
As the community marks its first 100 years, the people in showcased in the pages of "Another Life Is Possible: Insights from 100 Years of Life Together" tell why they have chosen this radical way of life and share insights gleaned along the way. Their stories represent a cross section of the Bruderhof as an international and intergenerational community.
With photography by British photojournalist Danny Burrows, "Another Life Is Possible: Insights from 100 Years of Life Together " is a celebration of what is possible when people take a leap of faith. It will inspire anyone working to build a more just, peaceful, and sustainable future.
Critique: A full sized coffee-table style volume (8.5 x 1.2 x 11.9 inches), "Another Life Is Possible: Insights from 100 Years of Life Together" a delight to browse through is an impressively informative, beautifully illustrated, inspired and inspiring history that is especially and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library collections.
Micah Andrew's Bookshelf
University of North Texas Press
1155 Union Circle, #311336, Denton, TX 76203-5017
9781574417883, $34.95, HC, 464pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The deputy sheriff or sheriff of a county often is perceived as the lone officer protecting the citizens of a small town. "Country Cop: True Tales from a Texas Deputy Sheriff" is the riveting and personal story of one such deputy sheriff, Barry Goodson, and his experiences with the Parker County Sheriff's office in the 1990s and early 2000s in North Texas. Goodson puts the reader in his patrol car to vicariously share what it is like to be in county law enforcement. He reveals his officer's skills, which include the ability to identify an offender immediately, to assess that offender's immediate intent (apparent or not), and to decide on proper action.
Calls from dispatch ranged from a simple need to clear livestock from the highways to shots fired or a 150 mph high-speed auto chase of drug dealers. More often, drug dealer attacks erupted during a perceived normal traffic stop with the offender suddenly producing a weapon, forcing Goodson to use force to subdue the individual. Even a domestic violence call takes an adverse turn when the battered wife attacks with a pair of scissors.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Country Cop: True Tales from a Texas Deputy Sheriff" is an especially timely, informative, and welcome contribution to our on-going national dialogue over the practices, policies, and reforms of law enforcement. Certain to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to both community and academic library Modern Criminology and Law Enforcement collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Country Cop: True Tales from a Texas Deputy Sheriff" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $27.96).
DIY City: The Collective Power of Small Actions
2000 M St. NW, Suite 650, Washington, DC 20036
9781642830521, $30.00, PB, 184pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Some utopian plans have shaped our cities ranging from England's New Towns and Garden Cities, to the Haussmann plan for Paris and the L'Enfant plan for Washington, DC. But these grand plans are the exception, and seldom turn out as envisioned by the utopian planner. Inviting city neighborhoods are more often works of improvisation on a small scale. This type of bottom-up development gives cities both their character and the ability to respond to sudden change.
Hank Dittmar, who was an urban planner, friend of artists and creatives, sometime rancher, "high priest of town planning" to the Prince of Wales, believed in letting small things happen. Dittmar concluded that big plans were often the problem. Looking at the global cities of the world, he saw a crisis of success, with gentrification and global capital driving up home prices in some cities, while others decayed for lack of investment.
In "DIY City: The Collective Power of Small Actions", Dittmar explains why individual initiative, small-scale business, and small development matter, using lively stories from his own experience and examples from recent history, such as the revival of Camden Lock in London and the nascent rebirth of Detroit. "DIY City" is Dittmar's last original work, and captures the lessons he learned throughout the course of his varied career from transit-oriented development to Lean Urbanism, and that can be replicated to create cities where people can flourish.
"DIY City" is a timely response to the challenges many cities face today, with a short supply of affordable housing, continued gentrification, and offshore investment. Dittmar's answer to this crisis is to make Do-It-Yourself the norm rather than the exception by removing the barriers to small-scale building and local business. The message of "DIY City" can offer hope to anyone who cares about cities.
Critique: An enduringly appreciated and landmark contribution to Urban and Land Use Planning, "DIY City: The Collective Power of Small Actions" should be considered as an essential and core addition to personal, professional, community, governmental, college, and university library collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "DIY City: The Collective Power of Small Actions" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $28.50).
Michael Dunford's Bookshelf
Blow the Lid Off
Robert A. Belle
Simply You Publishing
9789966136145, $14.95, PB, 162pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In "Blow the Lid Off", author Robert Belle take his readers through an awakening journey that will change how they feel about their own creativity.
Creativity isn't limited to the arts -- it's enormously beneficial in science, finance, and all areas of business. With "Blow the Lid Off", readers will learn how to define their comfort zone so that they will know how to bust through it.
Ideas to monetize creativity will ensure a financially secure and emotionally fulfilling future, and
the pathway back to innate skills for personal and professional fulfilment.
The fundamental message of "Blow the Lid Off" is that we are all born creative and so it is time to improve that creativity in a new way. "Blow the Lid Off" is a motivational self-help guide to let imagination, income and self-esteem explode for success!
Critique: Thoroughly 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, "Blow the Lid Off" is an impressive blending of practicality and inspiring motivation. A life-changing, life-enhancing read, "Blow the Lid Off" is an especially and unreservedly recommended addition to both community and academic library Self-Help/Self-Improvement collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Blow the Lid Off" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $7.99).
Editorial Note: Currently residing in Nairobi, Kenya, Robert A. Belle is a transformational speaker, mentor and ACCA Qualified Accountant. He is dedicated to helping people who feel stuck in their life journey to break away from the "norm" and find new paths that reveal their true value. Robert is a winner of the 2019 Advocate of the Year Award (Affiliate) by the ACCA for his work assisting other accountants embrace their creativity and reach new growth potentials both personally and professionally.
Fractus Europa: Stories
Peter Heather, author
Daria Sapenko, author
Eric C. Anderson, author
9780998574288, $24.95, HC, 354pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: An American journalist in Moscow uncovers a startling twist in American/Russian relations. A health care administrator struggles to keep medical services afloat amid a crumbling NHS in post-Brexit England. A Ukrainian soldier struggles to reconcile his pre- and post-war identities.
"Fractus Europa: Stories" is a unique collection of short stories and beautifully rendered maps that takes its readers where academics and think tank philosophers dare not tread. Collaboratively produced by three journalists and experts in regions with geopolitical unrest who have witnessed periods of great upheaval and threats both foreign and domestic, these fictionalized accounts depict the all-too-real failings of ideology and idealism in a Eurozone dystopia that has already arrived.
Critique: An inherently fascinating, thought-provoking and thoroughly entertaining read from first page to last, "Fractus Europa: Stories" will prove to be an immediate and enduringly popular addition to both community and academic library Political Fiction, Dystopian Fiction, and Short Stories Anthologies collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Fractus Europa: Stories" is also readily available in a digital book format, (Kindle, $4.99).
Editorial Note: "Fractus Europa: Stories" is expertly edited by the late Eric C. Anderson, former US Intelligence officer and author of several thrillers including the more recent "New Caliphate" trilogy (Osiris, Anubis, and Horus) and the cyber thriller Byte and co-edited by Adam Dunn, author of the "More" series (Rivers of Gold, The Big Dogs, and Saint Underground) the collection features works by Conrad Zielan, Constantine Bouchagiar, Preston Smith, Peter Galuszka, David J. Doesser, Daria Sapenko, Graham Thomas, Fergal Parkinson, Nick Eaden, and Peter Heather.
Nancy Lorraine's Bookshelf
Sins of the Fathers
J. A. Jance, author
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780062853448, $9.99, PB, 404 pp, www.amazon.com
"Sins of the Fathers" is a recent installment of the popular and successful J. P. Beaumont detective series by crack mystery writer J. A. Jance. Her descriptions of the novel's action in parts of the Seattle area are charged with grit and daily intimate traffic details that only a native navigator can wholly appreciate. Yet her love of the city shines through.
The story finds a 70-something J. P. Beaumont, happily married (to a Chief of Police Mel) for the third time, retired to private detective work, and dealing with such issues of aging as having bilateral knee replacements. A canine companion of the Irish Wolfhound variety named Lucy is his constant companion and fearless protector.
"Sins of the Fathers" is a generation spanning mystery with its roots in actions of a former lifetime, when J. P. struggled with alcohol addiction. When he finds another grandfather at his door carrying a newborn baby, J. P. cannot resist the urge to help untangle the frightening beginnings of tiny Athena Dale's fragile life.
A case of misplaced identity close to home emerges, and J. P. feels honor bound to help pursue the clues to heir end, to seek an identity and heritage for little Athena and her grandfather. In the process, J. P. uses DNA test results to determine the parents and grandparents of Athena and his own close relationship to her drug addicted mother.
"Sins of the Fathers" moves quickly and cleanly through years of troubled relationships, addiction issues, and human greed, even matricide and fratricide. Readers will be glued to the pages and feel their heartstrings tugged when J. P. faces a choice to give Lucy, his beloved Irish wolfhound, to the family of Athena, whom she has adopted as her charge. It is a gift of love and protection for the family who returns to Texas after a long search through West Seattle for the clues of identity and heritage that make this mystery even more gripping.
"Sins of the Fathers" covers multi generational ground with grace, grit, and style, as J. A. Jance's readers have come to expect.
My Pinewood Kitchen: A Southern Culinary Cure
Mee McCormick, author
Health Communications, Inc.
1700 NW 2ND Avenue, Boca Raton, FL 33432
9780757323522, $26.95, 283pp, www.amazon.com
"My Pinewood Kitchen" is an inspiring and healing oriented cookbook with a moving biographical health profile of the author, Mee McCormick, who nearly died from intestinal ulcerations and undiagnosed Crohn's disease before she learned how to cook to heal her own intestine. Mee's journey is riveting, and her discoveries of building herself back to health cover issues such as how to build a better microbiome, the link between gut bacteria and anxiety and depression, prebiotic and probiotic game changers, sugar issues, food allergies, sensitivities, and intolerances and more.
The many full color photographs of Mee and her daughters and husband glow as she forges a new life and approach to gardening, cooking, eating, and living. The recipes that follow are in use at her restaurant, Pinewood Kitchen.
Mee's commitment to cooking and eating for improved gut health has become a beacon for all in search of healthy eating, in restaurants or at home. The recipes come in Part Three and include nearly 200 pages of exciting, gut-healthy, delicious recipes with a focus on a vast variety of organic veggies plus organic, grass-fed beef and other meats.
Part Three begins with Whatcha Need to Know, which contains the Rules of Beans, the Rules of Grains, and Cookin' with Sea Veggies. From there recipes progress to salads soups, main dishes, veggies to make your gut happy, dips, spreads, sauces, and more, farmhouse breakfast favorites, and glorious gluten-free baking and sweet endings.
Just a few examples of these creative, healthy, delicious recipes include: Black Rice Salad with Snap Peas and Ginger-Sesame Vinaigrette, Grilled Peach Salad with Basil Chicken & Peach Cider Honey Dressing, Coconut-Sweet potato- Lentil Soup, Gluten-Free Beer Braised Brisket, Full-On Falafel Burger, Zephyr Squash Ribbons with Almond Salsa Verde, Black-Eyed Pea Croquettes, and Balsamic Butternut Squash with Cranberries, Vegan Mayo, Farm Fresh Egg and Sausage stuffed Bell peppers, and Vegan Chocolate Fudge Brownies with Homemade Strawberry Jam.
There is something for everyone in this amazing healthy cookbook collection. It is an inspiration to read and to explore the culinary concoctions and creations of wonderful foods that are friendly to your innards. Appealing to both those with food intolerance issues and all who wish to eat more mindfully, "My Pinewood Kitchen" is a new staple cookbook that belongs on every conscious food consumer's shelf. It should be noted that "My Pinewood Kitchen" is also readily available in a digital book format (eTextbook, $19.99).
A Dog of Few Words
Mark Snyder, author
Orange Hat Publishing
9781645380924, $12.95, PB, 168pp, www.amazon.com
"A Dog of Few Words" is a tribute by Wisconsin author Mark Snyder to his beloved black dog and morning companion, Abraham. Although Abe is known as a dog of few words, he communicates very well with his beloved master, occasionally even lapsing into brief speech.
Set in a wooded farmstead somewhere in Wisconsin, "A Dog of Few Words" tells exciting tales of canine human companionship during mornings, shop work in the barn, maple sugar seasonal activities, camping and canoeing on the Wisconsin River and vacationing at the River Cabin, and last but not least, meeting, communicating with, and cherishing many wild creatures in these settings .
On many excursions with Abe and his master, the reader will meet Ada, the whistle pig (ground hog to the uninitiated), Stella the starling, and her daughter, Stacy, Sunflower the badger, and more, including baby raccoons and a skunk. All creatures have their own particular outlooks and agendas to communicate.
The wonder of each chapter grows as Abe introduces his master to the language of each species. We learn to appreciate the richness and variety of the creatures who people vast tracts of Wisconsin wilderness along with a few domestic creatures, including heifers and cats.
Together Abe and his master traverse through a year of Wisconsin seasons, meeting new friends in each part of the egg-shaped cycle that is the author's special symbol for a complete year rich in variety, temperature, and friends, furred and feathered particularly.
"A Dog of Few Words" is redolent with adventure, curiosity, humor, and animal wisdom. A great deal of description of multiple outdoor activities is included, some more secretive than others. The author's goal is summed in closing as inviting readers to "enjoy this spectacular creation God has given us."
Welcome to the world of a man and his amazing dog Abe, "A Dog of Few Words."
Jamie Killen, author
Red Adept Publishing LLC
9781948051460, $15.99 PB, $6.99 Kindle, 349pp, www.amazon.com
"Red Hail" is a riveting, dual timeline, dark fiction work about strange plague with symptom manifestations in near Galina, Arizona, following an unexplained falling of red hail, with parallel baffling stories of similar reactions between 1960 and the present. Research done by professor Colin Ayres leads him to review the history of the previous outbreak, attributed to mass hysteria at the time.
A complication driving the story is the manifestation of terrifying, mysterious, documented symptoms by Colin's life partner, Alonzo. Time- separated, parallel narratives unspool the complex history of the previous plague events in 1960 while the present trauma is presumably re-enacted. Colin is determined to get to the bottom of the mystery and seek a "cure," or possibly a way to exist more comfortably with the presence or the cause of the plague.
Readers will become quickly caught up in the race to find a cure in this timely novel which oddly fits the current global pandemic background of all readers. "Red Hail" does not promise any easy answers, or quick solutions, but challenges readers to think beyond known parameters. Engaging to the end, "Red Hail" offers well grounded dark science fiction at close to its best, with haunting landscape and natural descriptions of the Southern Arizona area, well known to the author as the land of her origin.
An expert at character development, author Killen promises many additional hours of study in this fascinating field.
Jake Kaminski, author
Page Publishing Inc.
101 Tyrellan Avenue Suite 100 New York, NY 10309
9781684566211, $20.95 PB, $9.99 Kindle
9781684566235, $34.95, HC, 331pp, www.amazon.com
"Shadow Wolves" is a compelling, serial novel about Lakota Sioux tracker Ethan Crowe, experienced Ranger with experience in Bosnia pursuing a Serbian militia group committing genocide in the local populace. Ethan's past experience suits him well to his present challenge, pursuing the mysterious head of a network of powerful Mexican drug and human trafficking cartel known as Zeta.
Called out of retirement, Ethan is asked to choose and direct an elite team of Native American trackers from multiple tribal backgrounds to track and arrest the vicious Zetas in the desert landscape of the Mexican American border, with killing fields on both sides. Crowe forms a remarkable team which includes two fierce Apache women warriors and other battle hardened soldiers of the tribes. They pursue a mysterious figure at the head of the Zeta cartel known only as Yaotl, who claims pure Aztec blood.
Crowe's force becomes known as the Shadow Wolves. True to their name, they will track a blood trail to its conclusion, even if that means a confrontation with deeply secret powers in the United States government agencies.
"Shadow Wolves" ends with a cliff-hanger murder of one of the elite Wolves and a promise of vengeance to follow in the succeeding novel, "Ghostwalker." The realistic writing, the careful descriptions of Native American traits, skills, and bravery traditions, and the demanding pace of action keep reader attention taut to the end.
The author, Jake Kaminski, is well grounded in the background of ethnic cleansing, drug and human sex slave trafficking, and political motivation which form the background canvas of "Shadow Wolves." You won't be able to put this book down, or to wait patiently for the next installment!
Paul Vogel's Bookshelf
9781771834544, $20.00, PR, 236pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: A property harboring a gruesome secret goes up for sale. Two men (perhaps, the wrong men) are shot in plain day light. Nothing is what it seems. And matters do not turn out as anticipated.
De Angelis, an inscrutable northerner, is traveling to a small town perched somewhere in Sicily's hinterland to negotiate a real estate transaction, only to find himself embroiled in a criminal conspiracy. While en route, the train he's on mysteriously breaks down, forcing him to spend the night in a squalid whistle stop. What follows is a web of unsettling events, involving child prostitution and brazen killings, leading to the abrupt demise of his business deal.
But De Angelis is undeterred and intent on discovering what went wrong with his transaction. As he embarks on a reckless sleuthing, an unexpected turn of events sends him into a tailspin. At the heart of it is an alluring blue-eyed girl, Marinella. The chance encounter with the eleven-year-old traps him in a psychological and moral cul-de-sac, leaving him no choice but to confront the type of man he really is.
Critique: As a novelist, Guglielmo D'Izzia is a master of a noir tinged narrative storytelling style for "The Transaction" that reader's will find inherently fascinating and totally engaging. While especially and unreservedly recommended for both community and academic library Contemporary Literary Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Transaction" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $9.95).
Work and Creativity
9781978708976, $90.00 HC, 146pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The Bible highly praises human creativity. In fact, work belongs to Adam's very creation, homo faber in the image of deus faber (Gen. 2:15). Human production is nevertheless seen in the Bible as imbued with an ambiguous value.
In "Work and Creativity: A Philosophical Study from Creation to Postmodernity", by theologian Andre LaCocque reflects on the biblical understanding of labor, juxtaposing texts from the book of Genesis with the conceptions of work of psychoanalysts and philosophers such as Sigmund Freud and Karl Marx, and proposing a dialectical approach to human work and creativity.
Critique: A meticulous and erudite work of original scholarship, "Work and Creativity: A Philosophical Study from Creation to Postmodernity" is an inherently thoughtful and thought-provoking read that will be particularly appreciated and unreservedly recommended for church, seminary, and academic library Christian Theology collections and supplemental curriculum studies lists. It should be noted for the personal reading lists of seminary students, clergy, academia, and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Work and Creativity: A Philosophical Study from Creation to Postmodernity" is also readily available in a digital book format (Kindle, $85.50).
Editorial Note: Andre LaCocque (1927-present) was born in Liège, Belgium. He earned a PhD in Jewish Literature in 1957 and a ThD in Old Testament in 1961, both from the University of Strasbourg (France). He taught in Brussels, at the Faculte Protestante Universitaire de Bruxelles, from 1957 to 1968, after studies and research at the Rabbinic School of Paris, the University of Strasbourg, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem where he visited two separate times -- 1951-53 and 1961-62. From 1969-1999, he taught at the Chicago Theological Seminary where he was Professor of Hebrew Scriptures and Founding Director of the Center of Jewish-Christian Studies. He also taught at Spertus College of Judaica in Chicago from 1969 to 1971. He coauthored "Thinking Biblically" with Paul Ricoeur which was published by University of Chicago Press in 1998.
Paul T. Vogel
Richard Blake's Bookshelf
Outwitting the Devil, the Secrets to Freedom and Success
Annotated By Sharon Lechter
9781640951839, $16.95, 272 pages
Concepts, Contexts, and Challenges
Napoleon Hill's writing style is profound, unique, and powerful with life-changing potential.
I found Sharan Lechter's annotated notes on Napoleon's words in "Outwitting the Devil, the Secrets to Freedom and Success" both vital and insightful in:
Providing background information, the circumstances at the time of Hill's original writing, and today's contemporary audience.
And in helping today's reader interpret of Hill's "Secrets of Success and Freedom."
Note: based on Lechter's suggestion to take one of two views on Hill's conversations with the Devil, I chose to think of them as a parabolic, created to reach and touch the heart."
Personal challenges and take away for me include:
The importance of perseverance
The importance of finding and living out a full and meaningful life
How to learn from my mistakes and failures
The I need to revisit my purpose statement
The life-changing potential of Hill's theosophy for personal success
"Outwitting the Devil" is as vital for today's reader as on the day of the original writing. I want to suggest that you add this book to your reading list today.
A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.
How Rich Asians Think
John C. Shin
Sound Wisdom Books
9781640951235, $27.95, 380 pages
An Adaption of Napoleon Hill's 13 Principles of Success from an Asian Culture
Very early in my career, I was introduced to NapoleonHill's "Think and Grow Rich." Since that time, I have been practicing his principles and read several of his books. I was intrigued and quite curious about the title of John C. Shin's book" How Rich Asians Think."
After reading the preface, I knew I was going to be challenged to reflect on my past accomplishments in light of today's
contemporary culture. Shin's book contains stories of and interviews with successful Asians and American Asians who have been challenged to act on Hill's 13 basic principles of success as well as incorporating principles from the "Asian Mastermind."
I have been energized by re-reading Hill's life-changing principles in light of Shin's updated version. I am at a stage in my life where I am ready to make some life changes.
How Asians Think has given me new insights for implementing my purpose, and to stand behind that purpose until it becomes an all-consuming obsession.
A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.
The King's Way of Life
Bill Johnson with Brandon Walden, authors
Kristen and Kevin Howdeshell, illustrators
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
Inspiration, Confidence, Wise Decisions
"The King's Way of Life" draws from the lessons of Bill Johnson's bestselling book by the same name for adult readers. I am delighted with the concept of adapting a young reader's edition for DestinyKids.
As page by page, I viewed the spectacular artwork and read aloud the story, the metered rhythm of the poetic prose took me back to my own childhood memories and the impact of a well-told story from the Bible on the development of my character.
I became intrigued as I read of the dilemma each of the brothers faced when their father, the King, died, leaving them as heirs to his throne. Each brother followed their own heart to discover the value of making wise choices and the right decisions.
The stunning illustrations and subtle detail created by Kristen & Kevin Howdeshell bring to life the picturesque word pictures written by Bill Johnson and Branden Walden.
"The King's Way of Life" is a challenging book for family devotional reading; a book to be enjoyed over and over again, leading to a lasting impression on your child.
I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.
Level Up - Elevate Your Game & Goals
Alyson Van Hooser
9781640951976, 2020, $15.99, 240 pages
Perspective, Professionalism, Purpose
"Level Up - Elevate Your Game & Crush Your Goals" is written for readers seeking to gain respect, transform the mind, and willing to own the responsibility of "leveling up." The emphasis throughout the book stresses the need to "own" your perspective, your awareness, and your actions.
Each of the fast-moving chapters are filled with humorous stories and thought-provoking motivational mind setting strategies. The format is designed for a fast perusal, a reflective read, or a serious study.
Alyson Van Hooser is a gifted communicator, a professional speaker and trainer (training
leaders), and an example of knowing experientially the disciplines of which she writes. I am already looking forward to Alyson's next book.
The Promise of One
B0853ZMN5W, $4.99, 256 Pages
The Promise - Committed Lifestyle
Jason Hewlett, speaker, entertainer, impressionist, and corporate events headliner. Jason is known for his "clean," "family-friendly" comedy.
"The Promise of One" showcases his determination to succeed while staying true to himself and maintaining his character.
Chapter One begins as Jason is on the verge of meeting his one goal: to become a Las Vegas headliner. He was already becoming well known as one of the top one-man acts in his home state of Utah and was making the right connections.
The day came when Jason was ready to sign a contract with one of Las Vegas's most prominent hoteliers, finalizing plans with professional managers, and producers who would take over every area of his career. Enticing, full of promise and excitement.
Las Vegas Clubs over the years had changed the the emphasis of their shows from family-friendly entertainment to a new norm, "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas." As Jason considered the implications, he recognized the pitfalls of nightly performing, the failed marriages, risk of addictions, and of standing true to his faith.
As a young boy, Jason made a firm resolve, a Promise to himself. Jason turned down the offer, chose to be true to His Promise, and opted to go in a different direction.
In the chapters that follow Jason reveals how he identified who he is, clarified his strengths, and magnified these gifts and talents by embracing and perfecting his art as an entertainer, a family man, a man of integrity, and discover his "Signature Move.
One of Jason's aims in the book is to make the reader stop and think; to question the level of their integrity. I encourage you to follow Jason's suggested exercises, designed to help you to follow.
Applying the Blood - How to Release the Life and Power of Jesus' Sacrifice
Destiny Image Publishers Inc.
9780768452808, $14.99, 178 pages
Redemption, Cleansing, Justification, and Sanctification
Over Derek's 60 years of ministry, he faithfully held to the foundational truths of the cross and the promise of Jesus' promise to return, in his teaching and his writing. "Applying the Blood - How to Release the Life and Power of Jesus' Sacrifice" is a complete explanation of the theological meaning of the blood of the lamb, and the power of Jesus' sacrifice.
The importance of "Applying the Blood" at this point in history cannot be overstated. As Christians, we need to discover, apply, and proclaim the power of the blood, our redemption, and the promise of Christ's return. Prince challenges the reader with a power-packed message, leading to self-examination, and a longing for the return of Jesus.
Over the years, I have read and been blessed by a number of the 80 books published by Derek Prince. Prince's writing is like a beacon, shedding light amid the unsettling confusion and uncertainty in the world.
A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.
No Reserve: Take Ownership and Live YOUR Life without Limitations
9781640951761, $15.99, 170 Pages
Success, Personal Development, a Life of Passion, Purpose, and Determination
Over the last week I have been captivated by Letitia Frye's story. I have jotted down elaborate notes, created action lists; read and reread the eleven strategies for removing the reserve from your life.
I identified with Letitia in many ways; I felt a bonding, a kindred spirit. However, I knew I had to take a hard look at myself and take action. Now that I have thoroughly read the entire book, I have committed myself to take ownership and live my life without limitation; as so passionately presented in "No Reserve."
Letitia's writing is an amazing combination of sharp wit, optimism, tender reserve, and realistic insightful candor. She is a gifted communicator, authentic, open, and absolute. Her message is life changing and motivating.
I found the probing questions throughout the book to be stimulating, sometimes confronting, direct, or self-revealing, but always insightful, and motivating. These questions hold the keys to unlocking a life of passion, purpose, and determination.
"No Reserve" is must reading for anyone seeking for getting more out of life; resulting in personal growth, improved relationships, or career advancement.
I received a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.
Richard R. Blake
Shelley Glodowski's Bookshelf
Chuck Boyer is a native Wisconsinite who found his home in Eugene, Oregon, with his partner, Rachael. They are intrepid travelers, both in and out of the lovely and surprisingly multifaceted State of Oregon. They record their experiences using the mediums of painting, photography, and writing. This is Chuck Boyer's third mystery.
DESERT CRIMES opens with an old Paiute matriarch finding human remains on the desert floor, when receding waters from a river exhumed the body of a young male. Stan Iverson, an ex-Ashton PD officer turned private detective, receives a call from Cassie Numaga, former worker and present friend, to help out with an apparent murder on the reservation where she grew up in the town of Burns in Harney County. The old woman who found the body is Numaga's Auntie Sarah. Before they even begin the investigation, another body is found:
"'Apparently it's much like the first one,' Numaga explained. 'Decomp is extensive. And the scene is water saturated. There's no rush for fresh evidence. Plus the M.E. just got the call so it'll be an hour before she gets there. And besides,' she added, 'Auntie Sarah is anxious to meet you.'"
DESERT CRIMES is a monumental effort on the part of the author. His research is extensive, whether he is describing the geological origins of the high desert, or the history of the Paiute Indian reservation. This is ranch country, and the geographical landscape is stunningly diverse. Mr. Boyer's plot is tight, shockingly imagined, and absolutely believable, even as it raises shivers and hackles in the reader. DESERT CRIMES grabs the reader from the first paragraph, and from that point on one can't put the book down. Characters are carefully fashioned, and their inner and outer dialogue contribute to the overall tenor of the book. In short, this is one finely tuned tale. Boyer uses the ranching industry to imagine a macabre tale of greed, murder, and cruelty. Its ramifications extend to our present cultural climate and remind us that we have to be on constant watch for excesses of the rich.
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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