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An Unseen Angel
c/o Shadow Mountain Publishing
P.O. Box 30178, Salt Lake City, Utah 84130-0178
9781629722795 $14.99 pbk / $12.10 Kindle amazon.com
Synopsis: As the mother of one of the children who died at Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, Alissa Parker had her world shattered by a mass murderer's rampage. She was left to make sense of her daughter's life and death and to rebuild, seeking a deeply spiritual path to carry on with her life and find new meaning and purpose.
As a co-founder of SafeandSoundSchools.org, a touring national advocacy group that helps people take action to make schools safer, Alissa has talked to hundreds of parents around the country about her ordeal and how she was able to endure the unspeakable horror of Sandy Hook.
An Unseen Angel takes readers though Alissa's complete journey, chronicling the moment-by-moment account of the day that began with every parent's worst nightmare: hearing, "There's been a shooting at your child's school." It follows her faith-filled spiritual path to coping, healing, forgiving, and eventually feeling gratitude for the life and love of her daughter Emilie. She describes a bond of love between a mother and daughter that is so profound it transcends the physical body and touches Alissa and the people who loved Emilie who feel her presence every day. And she articulates her deep Christian faith, which guided the answers to Alissa's gut-wrenching, post-tragedy questioning.
Critique: How is a parent to cope with horrific tragedy? In An Unseen Angel, author Alissa Parker, who lost her daughter Emilie in the Sandy Hook Elementary mass shooting, shares how her Christian faith was pivotal to learning how to accept, forgive, and find peace. "I began crying as I realized that Jesus in fact had been with her the day she died. He had been with her in one way or another her whole life. I knew that Jesus was with my Emile." A handful of black-and-white photographs illustrate his poignant and profound testimony. (Alissa Parker is also a national advocate and lecturer for school safety through her non-partisan charity organization, SafeandSoundSchools.org). It should be noted for personal reading lists that An Unseen Angel is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.10).
Ella: A Stepmum's Tale
J. L. Higgs
c/o Hay House, Inc.
PO Box 5100, Carlsbad, CA 92018-5100
9781504303699 $21.95 pbk / $3.99 Kindle amazon.com
Synopsis: Celebrity TV Reporter Sylvia Stark is determined to find a real investigative news story instead of the fluff she usually covers. She discovers just what she's searching for in the most unlikely person: Cinderella's evil stepmother, Charlotte Johansson Baker. Sylvia decides it's time this infamous old crone tells her side of the story, since everyone knows all about Cinderella.
Since the story broke twenty years earlier, Cinderella has become society's image of female perfection. She is the lowly, downtrodden young maiden who suffers the injustice of others with grace, never getting angry - always beautiful and yet also dignified. She embodies the ideal values of goodness and ultimate virtue, as well as finding true love.
However, what if all that's just a bunch of bull? After talking to the cursed stepmother, Sylvia's world is turned upside-down. Then, she and her cameraman are kidnapped and rescued by - who else? - Humpty Dumpty. Sylvia is now more determined than ever to find out the truth of what's really going on in the magical land where fairy tales began.
Critique: Blending elements of fairytale storybooks and the modern-day world, Ella: A Stepmum's Tale is written with vivacious charm and a witty sense of humor. Is the "wicked stepmother" really all that wicked? And if not, then what other nursery rhyme parables should be taken with a grain of salt, or even a whole saltshaker? Ella: A Stepmum's Tale is uniquely charming and highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that Ella: A Stepmum's tale is also available in a Kindle edition ($3.99).
1940 Lawrence Road, Havertown, PA 19083
9781910742341, $15.99, PB, 180pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Vinny's Wilderness" by Janet Shepperson opens with a divorced teacher returning to her home in south Belfast, where she discovers that her dearly loved, overgrown garden has been bulldozed and unceremoniously dumped in a skip outside her house. What follows are her vivid memories of the previous four months, when she tutored Denzil, a lively, personable young boy.
More interested in the outdoors than engaging in the learning essential to successfully pass the 'eleven-plus' exams required to get him into second-level education, Denzil struggles against the constraints and expectations within his rigid family home. As he begins to emerge from his shell, playing with Vinny's daughter in their chaotic garden, Vinny and Denzil's mother discover a shared past, and tentatively pick up their friendship after a split during their own time working towards the eleven-plus exams.
Critique: An extraordinary and consistently compelling read from cover to cover, "Vinny's Wilderness" is highly recommended and clearly showcases author Janet Shepperson's genuine gift for originality and storytelling. While enthusiastically recommended, especially for community library Contemporary General Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Vinny's Wilderness" is also available in a Kindle format ($14.99).
Chinese Holistic Medicine in Your Daily Life
Steven Cardoza, MS, LAc
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN 55125
9780738749303, $24.99, PB, 432pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Steven Cardoza is a nationally certified and licensed Chinese medical physician who has practiced for over eighteen years. He holds a master of science degree in traditional Chinese medicine, is a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist, and is certified in Wu taiji and many styles of qigong. In "Chinese Holistic Medicine in Your Daily Life: Combine Acupressure, Herbal Remedies & Qigong for Integrated Natural Healing" he draws upon his many years of research, experience, and expertise to write an informed and informative compendium providing non-specialist general readers with an effective self-care approach for treating specific ailments and enhancing wellness. "Chinese Holistic Medicine in Your Daily Life" presents the foundational concepts of Chinese medicine and shows how to integrate acupressure, herbalism, Qigong, diet, and lifestyle so that anyone can achieve optimal health outcomes. The ancient wisdom and practical techniques in this guide will help prevent the onset of disease, improving day-to-day wellness, and promote longevity. A Chinese medical physician, Cardoza provides integrated healing prescriptions for dozens of common conditions, including: Pain; Insomnia; Arthritis; Common Cold; Headache; Poor Memory; Angina; Impotence; Motion Sickness; Asthma; Flu; Menstrual Disorders; Abscesses; Hemorrhoids; Dry Skin; Hepatitis; Allergies; Fatigue; Bronchitis; Morning Sickness; Hernia; Poor Appetite; Prostatitis; Eczema; High Blood Pressure; Nausea; Hives, and more.
Critique: Chinese Holistic Medicine in Your Daily Life is an excellent, user-friendly resource. While very highly recommended for family, community, and academic library Health/Medicine collections in general, and Alternative Medicine supplemental studies lists in particular, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Chinese Holistic Medicine in Your Daily Life" is also available in a Kindle format ($14.74).
Just Like You Said It Would Be
C. K. Kelly Martin
CreateSpace/Amazon Digital Services
1542749468 $11.95 print / $5.99 ebook
When seventeen-year-old Amira's parents sent her from Canada to live with relatives Dublin for the summer while they re-considered their relationship, they didn't expect that she would fall in love - but, she did. And when they called her back home, it was to discover that she had not only grown up immensely through a complicated relationship, but now had to deal with loss once again, ripped away from someone in the same way she'd been pulled from her home.
Most young adult romances center around the evolution of the dream and not upon its aftermath, particularly when separation and long distances are involved. But one of the pleasures of Just Like You Said It Would Be lies in its precise words and images of that aftermath, and how the protagonist moves on from there: "Fighting in the street with him, jealous, bitter, and sad. Us curled up together, skin to skin in my aunt and uncle's shed, breathing each other in like we could never get close enough. The intent way he'd listen, his face a mystery to me. The way he'd look at me, his electric blue eyes making me feel restless, dizzy, and full of ache. I wanted to know every thought running through his mind, unlock him for good and learn all his secrets. Maybe none of that sounds earth-shattering, but it was to me. His voice. His fingers on the guitar. His perfect wrists. The intensity with which he loved music, as though it was something sacred. Every time he walked into a room he made it feel like a more interesting place. What could be bigger than that? And what do you do when you don't have that anymore and the memory of it has to be enough?"
Few writers follow the push and pull of a young relationship as deftly as C. K. Kelly Martin; especially the angst and uncertainty that brings jealousy and anger along with fiery passion. Whether it's unreasonable or unfair feelings or those which are logical, ordered, and rational, Just Like You Said It Would Be features a whirlwind of change as Amira faces friendships under siege, bad influences and social pressures, parents separated and reunited, and emotional distance and connections between friends and loved ones.
The story's ability to pull readers into this maelstrom of emotion and have it all make sense from Amira's perspective as she faces choices and surprises rests firmly on a first-person voice that carefully considers these bombshells and their different options: "It's funny the way you can still laugh when you're unhappy deep down. Darragh folded his hands beneath his head then and lay down next to me. I turned on my side, touching my History of Ireland necklace and telling myself I couldn't be in love with him because it was too soon."
Mature teens who want a realistic, absorbing story of a girl's uncertain moves from adolescence to adulthood will find much to like, here. How does one recover from the absence of the love of one's life? Just Like You Said It Would Be follows this process though a riveting set of emotional ups and downs and revelations that will keep readers wondering about the outcome till the end. It's highly recommended for teens on the cusp of adult relationships themselves who would learn much from Amira's evolution.
The Wisdom of Wildflowers
Resource Publications, a division of Wipf and Stock
199 West 8th Ave, Suite 3, Eugene OR 97401
9781532603167 $18.98 pbk
9781532603174 $9.99 Kindle amazon.com
Heather Robbins lived on a Canadian cattle ranch for over twenty-five years, and recorded her observations of wildflowers and the life lessons connected to them. The result is The Wisdom of Wildflowers, a combination of wildflower insights, positive philosophy, and psychological self-help highly recommended for women who seek wisdom from nature's beauty.
Why women, in particular? Because this audience will be more attuned to listening to the gentle, flower-specific details here. The book consists of chapters arranged with a type of wildflower, and women will likely be more open to passages that are lyrical, inspirational, and speak to female lives and experiences.
Take the chapter on 'Golden Bean', for one example. After describing the plant's unique qualities and appearance, the discussion neatly segues into a broader consideration of the lesson the Golden Bean wildflower holds for approaches to life: "The plants stand together, spilling their bright sun-kissed colors over the entire landscape. Each flower consists of a cluster of crescent-shaped blossoms that appear to be made of raw yellow silk. Leaves are long, pale-green ovals that linger languidly on the sides of robust stems. The effect of all these Golden Beans together is spectacular. Their community is rich because of all who inhabit there.
As important as it is to be unique, to stay true to ourselves, and to have alone time, it is also important to maintain a healthy social life. As social creatures, we are compelled to have a relationship with our fellow human beings. Maintaining a connection with others while not being consumed by all the hustle and bustle of life, requires that we walk a delicate and sometimes tricky path. We must decide, without compromising our individuality, what level of interaction will enable us to contribute to society."
This message - along with the others - requires affection for lyrical description, an interest in colorful plant drawings (which are crafted by the author and visually introduce each chapter), and even more importantly, the ability to appreciate both poetic, botanical observation and a deeper inspection of life.
Women who are interested in crafting their own life perspectives to embrace God, family, community and strength will find The Wisdom of Wildflowers a lovely synthesis of all facets, and won't waste time wishing the book held more botanical facts and less wisdom - this isn't its purpose. Its intent is to invite using the beauty of nature and then gently pair that splendor with a deeper spiritual and philosophical perspective about life - and in this, Heather Robbins more than succeeds.
Women will find these admonitions about life will guide their own courses through it, offering much food for thought that often is only reached through trial and error: "Sometimes we have to step back and let people find their own way, and not get caught up in their drama. We may feel the need to put in our two cents, and say or do things to help our family mem-bers live a better life. That's a good thing if our input is welcome, but if it's not, then we need to back off. Our family members have their own journeys to attend to, just as we have ours, and if we want them to respect us and our space, we must also respect theirs."
Readers interested in the wildflowers of the Canadian prairie and their connections to life lessons will find The Wisdom of Wildflowers a beautiful production, especially worthy of gift-giving with its encouraging messages and vibrant visual flower drawings.
Soldiers' Stories: A Collection of WWII Memoirs
Compiled by The Miller Family
9781606451625 $29.99 pbk
9781606451762 $34.99 hc
So many, many histories, biographies and autobiographies have been written about World War II over the decades that one might wonder about the need for yet another, yet a number of factors differentiate Soldiers' Stories: A Collection of WWII Memoirs from others on the market, making it a recommended pick for military history collections and anyone interested in a different approach to the war's experiences.
For one thing, it includes not just vividly-penned memories, but photos and illustrations throughout - and it's a family production: the writers, editors, and the illustrator are all members of the Miller family and held the shared goal of immortalizing their veteran father (Myron H. Miller was a sergeant in the 83rd Infantry Division) and his achievements alongside those of other WWII fighters.
Aside from this unusual cooperative family effort, it should be noted that most illustrated World War II histories are geared to a younger audience. As this book proves, that's a shame; because visuals can be just as powerful as written memories, and Soldiers' Stories succeeds in bringing both to the forefront in an invigorating, inspirational read designed to capture not just battle history, but the hearts, minds, and intimate reflections of soldiers in the field.
In a second notable contrast to other approaches, this is achieved through not just one soldier's story and experience, but in a compilation designed to capture a wide range of soldier perspectives and experiences. This successfully creates a much more diverse set of wartime insights than any single biography or autobiography could achieve.
The families of vets of World War II have participated in this effort, but the collection campaign was made all the more challenging by the fact that so many of these vets didn't like to speak about their military experiences, creating a special challenge in producing this book.
Furthermore, the Millers weren't content to conduct research via phone and internet or limit their focus to U.S. vets alone: "Our journey took us to Omaha Beach, Sainteny, St. Malo, the Ardennes, Luxembourg, the Hurtgen Forest, Remagen, and other places. We saw the beaches, the hedgerows, the city streets, and the towering forests that had been the scenes of terrible suffering and fighting over seventy years ago. We experienced first hand the grateful memories of French, Belgians, and Germans who were there then and the appreciation of a new generation for what those soldiers did to free Europe of tyranny."
Between the international nature of their venture, the all-encompassing drive to gather a wide range of WWII experiences, and the gorgeous color and vintage illustrations packed throughout, it's no wonder that Soldiers' Stories won the 2017 Ella Dickey Literacy Award for historical preservation through literature; or that among the plethora of World War II history books, it's an eye-catching standout that takes military history and personalizes it to an extent few other books in the genre can compete with.
Very, very highly recommended as a 'must have' acquisition for any library or individual professing any interest in World War II experiences and their lasting impact on individual lives and the world.
Why They Stay: Sex Scandals, Deals, and Hidden Agendas of Nine Political Wives
P.O. Box 1520, Huntington, NY 11743
It's about time that a book such as Why They Stay should appear to comment on the wives of politicians and why they remain in place despite reports of infidelity and bad behaviors. Not only does this apply to the highest political offices past and present, but its message and analysis will reach many a marriage where friends may wonder about the reasons why a wife stays in the home after misconduct is uncovered.
This is not to say that the two environments (political and personal) are identical and hold the same commitments and conundrums - far from it. As Why They Stay points out, political pressures and purposes are similar to traditional marriages in some aspects and far different in others. It's a gamble to stay in a situation where one's partner may or may not be exonerated from political charges, for example; and public perception and fallout that falls on a spouse from these actions differs between political figures and personal lives.
The nine political women chosen for close examination in this book range from Eleanor and FDR and Jackie and JFK to Southern belle/Harvard educated Silda Wall's relationship with Eliot Spitzer.
In each case there is a 'White Queen Quotient' assigned, rating each incident and following the scripted behaviors similar to all the political individuals in this book.
Social observation and political and psychological insights blend as the author reconciles her perception of 'why they stayed' ("Perhaps this sort of marriage, at the top echelons of Washington and international society, was made from different rules than I had agreed to when I married. Fidelity, honesty - perhaps these were quaint ideas better suited to less ambitious people. When one had the heights of the free world practically in one's grasp, maybe the bargain at the altar became more pragmatic.") with deeper thoughts about the consequences of behaviors and the political, legal, social and family ramifications of allegations and actions.
It's more than a recap of events, but follows the aftermath of these behaviors on family and associates as well, making Why They Stay a powerful survey of lessons learned, gathered by a columnist who covered politicians for decades and so holds the ideal combination of professional political journalist and inquirer into the kinds of arrangements these women had to grapple with and make in order to survive.
It's a gripping production especially recommended for any interested in women's issues and political scandals and their aftermath.
Native American Action Stories
Alvin R. Brown
9781519435774 $19.99 paperback $3.99 Kindle ($0.00 with Kindle Unlimited)
Kindle: Native American Action Stories
Website: Home - Native American Action Stories
Native American Action Stories: Exciting Events in Nine Different Tribes appears in its third revised edition and broadly defines 'events' as moving beyond military confrontations and into areas of competition, hunting, village attacks and more. It also embraces and rewrites the history of tribes across North and Central America, which makes for a satisfyingly different contrast of tribes, history, and actions. This different approach features a fine re-definition of Native actions and life challenges and is especially user-friendly for its intended adolescent audience with its larger font style and an accessible, inviting format.
This author's note highlights the unique approach of these stories: "Fight-to-the-death forest ambushes by Northeastern natives in the dense forests; athletic games--similar to lacrosse--so physically demanding that natives of the Southeast referred to these contests as "Little Brother of War"; Eskimos stalking large polar bears near the frigid Arctic Circle; Aztec sacrificial combat held in the capital of their kingdom--all of these actions were experienced by certain groups in different parts of the Americas."
All this said, readers who expect battle scenarios may be surprised to find the depth of history presented in these stories, which includes plenty of political background and discussions of intertribal relationships and how these were affected by the arrival of the white man: "Among the first Indians with whom the French traded were the Algonquins and the Hurons. As a result, these two large tribes--located in what is mainly Canadian territory-- became powerful and benefited greatly from their European ally. In the present New York State area lived a group of five tribes broadly called Iroquois who, although possessing the same language and culture, had no real bonds of cooperation. The only thing they could agree upon was their archenemy--the hated Algonquins--was growing richer and stronger through French backing."
These nonfiction reader notes accompany each story and add to the tales of tribal encounters and experiences, making this collection of interest far beyond its intended juvenile readership.
Anyone who wants a lively, well-rounded survey of Native American history will find Native American Action Stories a fine pick that doesn't sacrifice historical fact for the sake of action, but combines both in a vivid, memorable series of tales highly recommended for all ages.
CLASSICS: Why and How We Can Encourage Children To Read Them
Fiza Pathan Publishing (OPC) Private Limited
CLASSICS: Why And How We Can Encourage Children To Read Them asks a very basic question: why should children read books deemed 'timeless'? Fiza Pathan provides many answers to this question - and they are not limited to benefits to children, either.
There are many reasons for reading classics. Being time-tested and well-written, they improve language skills and they stimulate the imagination. Their descriptive powers are considerable, and many hold moral and ethical lessons for all ages. Moreover, they often provide surprising and ongoing insights into current events and general knowledge: an asset the teacher author discovered when one of her students was called upon to take an impromptu quiz on the subject and succeeded, crediting his reading of classic literature for addressing thought-provoking questions.
These ranged from a question on which group of people in an English court give a verdict (answer: a jury - from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland) to the word for the study of languages (linguistics - from Pygmalion) and the definition of someone who hoards money without spending it (a 'miser', from A Christmas Carol).
But this is simply one of the many educational benefits to be gained from reading the classics, and as Fiza Pathan explains these benefits, she also addresses the different challenges of reading classic literature for different age groups, provides discussions of where to locate these books and how to define a 'classic', and contrasts the pros and cons of abridged versus unabridged versions.
With its wealth of information that ranges from book clubs for young people to notes about obstacles to reading and comprehension and the myriad benefits of classics, CLASSICS: Why And How We Can Encourage Children To Read Them is a treasure trove of insights highly recommended for teachers and adults who want to pass on the legacy of classic reading to kids.
The Man in Cell 13
$10.96 pbk / $3.99 Kindle amazon.com
Soren Davidson is an inmate in Cell 13. He's been arrested, served time, and is facing the life changes resulting from his incarceration: "All at once, the iron doors snapped shut; and Soren, the paragon of success, unaccustomed to physical confinement but nonetheless mentally tough and tenacious, was shut out from the fortunate life he had doggedly built for himself. Now, the floodgate of uncertainty was the anxiety of being released a felon, the onslaught of societies perception of felons, the dread of having to go back home to his mama, and the despair of low confidence in himself. The waters that swept through those gates deluged Soren."
This vivid portrait may sound like the end of the story; but in The Man in Cell 13, it's just the opener to a tale that begins after years in prison and moves forward, following Soren back into the free world.
But, is it really free? What could be the future of a young man whose parents "added nothing nor took nothing from life," which left him to his own devices to make his way in the world, learn from his mistakes, and eventually wind up newly out of prison with nowhere to go?
Soren is right to worry about his choices and options as a newly-released felon: he is not as thrilled about the prospect of being released as he thought he'd be, and his mantra of "promise and hope" guides him into unexpected situations in unexpected ways throughout the story.
The Man in Cell 13 offers no cut-and-dried or cliched approaches. It would have been easy to paint Soren's parents as monsters - but they were ordinary folk, even if they did lack in the affection department. It would have been simple to have Soren's experiences reflect a downward spiral - but there are high points as well as low points in his life; and all are equally well depicted.
Vivid passages follow his various revelations about life and its meaning, even when solid connections fade: "He was in despair, and had to reach deep down within himself. His life seemed to unravel at this unsettling news about his mother: she was all that he had left. He realized that he was about to lose the rock of stability for last forty years. Somehow, he had to endure. Then suddenly, in flash, a bold idea struck him and he turned inward. He remembered Francis of Assisi, Paul of Tarsus, and St. Ignatius. The defeat and humiliation which stalked him made him see that life was precarious and material things fleeting, and that life meant the most when a person was willing to sacrifice everything for a cause bigger than their narrow interests. The solidarity with those giants made him feel a little better. What's was an expensive condo and luxury car compared to setting a good example? At least the good example could last generations, as opposed to a pile of metal on rubber."
Self-sacrifice, emotional and spiritual devastation, renewed faith, love, and financial entanglements in the business world all affect and chart Soren's course through life as readers follow his steps to prison and beyond
The result is a powerful story that is gripping and insightful: a story of love in the face of injustice and of the aftermath of what is ultimately a selfless decision involving much sacrifice and promise. Readers of novels about social issues and individual choice will find The Man in Cell 13 thought-provoking and intriguing as its protagonist makes headway in his life and forms his personal philosophy about it.
The Hunger Saint
Olivia Kate Cerrone
The Hunger Saint recounts a young man forced into a life of back-breaking work in the Sicilian sulfur mines to support his family, is set in post-World War II times, and provides close inspection of child labor laws and experiences both in that country and around the world through its focus on Ntoni's experiences.
As it is based on the oral histories of former miners who still reside in modern Sicily as well as years of historical research, this novella's impact and authority provides a much more pointed piece than fiction alone could have achieved, basing its action and experiences on facts that should be more widely known than they are.
The novella is introduced with a succinct roundup of historical fact ("Sulfur was once considered one of the world's premier energy sources. The sulfur mining industry in Sicily lasted for hundreds of years until its demise in the 1980s. Severe poverty and unenforced labor laws led countless Sicilian families to put their children (some as young as six years old) to work in the sulfur mines, where they experienced horrific working conditions. These children were known as the carusi.") which are key to understanding the events which are described in the story line, but the real draw of The Hunger Saint lies in its ability to vividly depict Ntoni's harsh world and its realities: "Ntoni crouched along the wall, his body sore. His eyes brimmed. Before him rested the small prayer card of Saint Calogero. He shot a hand over the Hunger Saint, then pushed himself up and made the sign of the cross. He brought the saint to his lips before fitting the card back into the folds of his loincloth. His sulfur rocks lay scattered in the surrounding pools of gray light. The thought of recovering them all was exhausting. But to do otherwise would mean a beating..."
Italian culture, religion, relationships between miners and society and their family interactions, and gruesome cave-ins and daily challenges to life itself all intersect in a powerful series of descriptions that personalize issues of dangerous working conditions and challenging lifestyles.
All events really happened, and are all backed by well-researched historical fact ("It is estimated that thousands of people over several generations became victims of the soccorso morto system. Although the Italian government passed legislation in 1886 restricting children under the age of nine from working in mines, quarries, and factories, these labor laws were not strictly enforced, especially in more rural and impoverished areas of Sicily, allowing abusive conditions to continue for decades more.").
The result is a powerful survey that brings to life and personalizes the plight of child laborers and their experiences, highly recommended for any who enjoy historical novels in general and, particularly, those who look for cultural insights and social messages in fiction readings.
9780692745649 $4.99 http://a.co/5pGT5pb
Faete, Book 1 of the 'Blood Moon' series, offers a feisty young protagonist who should be concerned with filling out college applications, but who instead uncovers family secrets, a Celtic book of magic, and faces the consequences from dabbling in something dangerous. Add a twist of romance to this paranormal mystery and you have a genre-busting read that has, as its protagonist, a 'halfling' that fits neatly in no particular world, but deftly crosses into many with a strength few can equal.
Several elements translate to this uncommon power; one being the feisty character of seventeen-year-old Renny, whose offer to close her mother's bookstore one evening leads to all kinds of problems, including opening a long-closed gate between two very different worlds.
But the story doesn't open on a teen's mundane life or in a bookstore, but in a boggy field in 19th Century Scotland, where spitfire Caitlin Brody sets the stage for what will affect several worlds by participating in a pagan ritual that portends dire consequences for both the mortal and faery kingdoms she straddles.
Fast forward to present-day Wisconsin, where a girl who comes "from a long line of seanachies" discovers that a Celtic bookstore holds a particular book of magic that is a powerful portal to something she never should have encountered. Like many teens, she feels herself teetering on the cusp of greatness yet stuck, at the same time: "My eighteenth birthday was approaching and my life felt like one giant Groundhog Day." The book she uncovers tempts her with not only the promise of magic, but the possibility of change - but it's not the kind of change she ever would have wished upon herself or those around her, and as events swirl into a deadly nightmare begun under a Blood Moon, so readers are swept into an epic romance and paranormal confrontation that is replete with forests, rituals, Celtic lore, dark forces, and love.
As Renny uncovers the truth of what she's inadvertently done, the second powerful feature of Faete comes to light: its ability to spark a series of connections between otherworldly events and influences and very human affairs.
Take love, for example. There are warnings galore ("It's every bit as dangerous to close your heart off as it is to open it to love."), but none of them can alter the relentless turn of events as Renny finds herself in trouble and locked in a battle between her head and heart.
And this leads to the third major reason why Faete is a standout: its focus on choices, consequences, and their impact on everyone around her creates many thought-provoking scenes teens will reflect on as they become completely absorbed in Renny's dilemmas and the many challenges to her life. Can she set aside her infatuation with Keegan? And what about Tristan - what will these decisions cost her? And what do long-buried family secrets have to do with this process?
Evocative, compelling, and rich in setting, psychology, and supernatural flavors, this romance/paranormal tale will appeal not just to mature teens on their own cusps of new adulthood and its challenges, but to many an adult who will appreciate the warm blend of action, supernatural forces, and love wrapped in a compelling story of how a spell half-spoken in jest come alive with deadly powers.
Mystery and Misadventure: A Reunion
$2.99 Kindle amazon.com
Mystery and Misadventure: A Reunion is a delightful throwback to the Alfred Hitchcock-style "Stories not for the Nervous" series, the ironies of Twilight Zone, and the oddities of short story horror thriller collections of the past, and joins several others in M.D. Hall's evolving theme collections with yet more macabre tales.
As does its predecessors, A Reunion excels in twisting tales that insert a sense of horror into everyday events and ordinary people's lives.
Take the opening 'The Long Drop', for example. In 1792, judge Sir Henry McClelland's chance encounter with a strange little old man who stops his carriage ride (and his heart, with only a glance) changes the course of his courtroom proceedings and his life. The judge's secret penchant for suffering takes an unexpected turn after a hanging and a desperate woman move him from judge to accused in the most heinous fashion.
Then there's the couple who step into a world where normal rules don't exist, only to find their perceptions and lives challenged and transformed, in 'Awakening', where buried secrets come to life in dreams and an old man presents the choice of ignoring these fantasies or walking out of the world.
The joy of these reads lies in their ability to spin yarns that seem linear in approach, but which take a big turn in an opposite direction nearly every time, surprising readers and promoting them to think about unfamiliar consequences of character actions and choices.
Short story readers who appreciates the macabre or the tale that excels in irony and oddity will relish yet another satisfyingly powerful addition to the Mystery and Misadventure series: A Reunion.
The Infidel Next Door
9781542647809 $TBA www.amazon.com
The Infidel Next Door opens with an arranged marriage between a sick orphan girl and a shy boy; but it quickly evolves to embrace more than two lost souls finding each other; because between them there are deeply abiding secrets that keep each at arm's length even as they learn that neither can hide or keep secrets about their past.
Replete with Hindu gods, temples, local politics and religious perspectives, and a young boy who serves as both a miracle and a reminder of life's fragility, The Infidel Next Door weaves through Indian culture and perspectives as if in a delicate dance, each step precisely described and compellingly intriguing.
When a temple is built next to a Muslim mosque, creating forces that confront one another on many levels, the story really earns its laurels as characters so carefully crafted earlier in the tale begin to comprehend the magnitude of the changes in their world and what it means to their choices and lives: "Remember what I taught you about infidels? It is Allah's will that your fight begins on your doorstep." "I will cast terror in their hearts as it is commanded in the book," Anwar said. "It is a priest and he has a son who are coming next door. They won't be a match for you." "I will convert him to Islam and if he doesn't obey, I will drive them away from Kashmir." Haji chacha looked him in the eye. In a steady low pitched voice he said, "Inshallah, you are fortunate. You no longer have to imagine an enemy. He will come right next door to you. Your struggle will be unique in the annals of jihad." "Why chacha?"Anwar asked. "Because a warrior comes alive through knowing that his enemy is big, real and more dangerous than he thought him to be."
From caste systems to secrets surrounding births, defiance and difficult love relationships, and the challenges of children to either follow in or divert from the paths of tradition, The Infidel Next Door is alive with thought-provoking insights throughout, cemented by characters who struggle on many levels: "Aditya, you are like those distant mountain peaks. They look beautiful but one can't live there. I want to remember you as someone who liberated me." "That is not love, Zeba." "Every woman, Aditya, falls in love with the man who teaches her to live. He then should live in her memory otherwise their relationship loses meaning." "Zeba, this will be a living death for us." "I know that. I have to be loyal to my husband inspite of thoughts of you that are there in every corner of my mind." Tara came near and said to Zeba, "The light in your room has been switched on." ... She decided not to open the curtains and look outside again and closed the light. That was her past. There comes a time in everyone's life when they have to close the curtains of the past. "I will give myself a chance, to my marriage, to this relationship with Salim," she said, as she switched off the lights. It was better she stayed in the darkness."
From gods destroyed and traditions that clash to miracles and murders, The Infidel Next Door weaves a tight story of social, spiritual and psychological changes which are tinged with disaster and discovery at every turn.
One needn't be familiar with Indian society, Muslim or Hindu religions, or even with regional Indian social and political forces in order to appreciate this compelling story, which draws together disparate lives and cross purposes in an engrossing saga that's hard to put down and especially recommended for any Westerner who would better understand the subtler nuances of Indian society.
S. T. Sanchez
Sunwalker is a fantasy novel recommended for readers who want surprises - and the first surprise takes place in a birthing room, where Elaine produces a child not quite acceptable in the eyes of her doctor. Oh, the girl looks human at first glance - but she's not quite there. There are the telltale features that indicate the child is a monster. And Elaine isn't giving her new baby milk...but something else.
Readers fairly quickly come up to speed on a fact that Elaine's doctor (and brother-in-law) can't accept; but this is just the opener in a story that offers a very different take on the usual vampire scenario.
This is a future ninety years ahead of ours: a world where vampires have overrun the West Coast, where nuclear bombs have made it a wasteland, yet failed to control their proliferation; and where the world completely changed when vampires emerged from hiding.
It's a strange new land where vampires are genetically connected to the human race (and likely have evolved because of human activities), and where a rare gene shared between Elaine and Dylan dictate that their spawn will be different.
And it's in this country in which Elaine, Lilly, Dylan, and Tread journey carefully through a host of dangers and changes that bring with them many new choices which even the vampire-born Lilly acknowledges are difficult for her: "Craving blood, not sleeping, the speed, the strength. Sometimes it's still a little overwhelming to me and I was born this way. I mean I'm sure it would have been easier to get used to had I been able to use all my abilities freely since birth. But I don't know. Not to mention you'd never be able to go out into sunlight again. That one I don't have to deal with, but I would imagine it's difficult to accept."
Soulless, evil monsters, the promise and pain of eternal life, and a dangerous game with the acquisition of a city as its prize - these facets are woven into a vampire saga that will engross anyone who likes a blend of fantasy and horror wrapped into the bigger picture of a world gone wild.
9781537636627 $16.99 http://a.co/7MJSG15
Six cells built into stone walls keeping children imprisoned, a bookstore owner kidnapped and locked away, an old woman who wears purple and harbors a deep secret, and an investigator who experiences waves of super-sensory perceptions as she investigates disappearances ... These seemingly-disparate elements wind together in a story that keeps flitting the image of a witch through its pages and settings, ultimately leading readers to wonder about the identity of the real witch, or whether there are multiple definitions involved. This approach lends to a surreal work that crosses a detective story with a work of subtle horror and provides a mercurial, changing plot replete with a host of characters and almost surreal encounters.
These stories coalesce during the course of a murder investigation that at times seems a survey of evidence of witchcraft and at other times looks at the world from the victims' perspectives, whether they be a young woman who thinks she may be able to use her hereto-hidden extraordinary powers to escape her capture or an old woman who knows too much.
Where other books might take the supernatural elements and run with them, creating a paranormal story alone, in this case the witch figure and her powers are carefully woven into the real world so that the supernatural elements are but a tinge of flavor added to the overall mystery mix - a facet that could dismay those who had anticipated a fantasy or a story replete with spooky events and witchcraft.
But, it's the subtlety of the witch figure and how its presence touches and changes lives without overriding the story line that makes Witch a standout among others; and while readers seeking a story steeped in the supernatural might chafe at Jill Benson's light touch in this area in comparison to other books containing 'witch' in their title, this same audience - especially those with an affinity for mysteries and detective investigations - will come to realize that, here, the broader definition and applications of 'witch' create a more thought-provoking story than most.
As events progress, Witch moves beyond the familiar 'old crone' initially presented in the first chapter to explore the diverse elements of power which move in Lucy, Nita, and other characters who hold less physical or obvious connections to the occult figurehead. From considerations of the possibility of group hallucinations and mental illness to visions of a witch who brings light and illusions, missing children who struggle to survive and escape, and five kids who pay for a glaring error, this is a powerful read that holds many characters, subplots, and inter-connections, and which takes the witch character and theme and moves it from the familiar to the extraordinary.
One might think the prerequisite to enjoying this piece would be an affinity for supernatural fiction or fantasy; but such is not the case. It's the mystery reader seeking deeper investigations of the psyche and the interactions between past and present, hidden abilities and everyday life, and individuals who find their own powers and purposes in life through adversity who will find Witch a compelling and satisfyingly complex detective investigation with a supernatural overlay that continually moves in unexpected directions.
The Bone War of McCurtain County
9780983355151 $16.95 http://a.co/4iooHMX
The Bone War of McCurtain County: A True Tale of Two Men's Quest for Treasure, Truth, and Justice is an extraordinary biography and true-life adventure story that began, oddly enough, with a visit to a small Oklahoma rock shop during a vacation, where the proprietor's extraordinary story immersed Russell Ferrell's son in the strange tale of a paleontological "bone war" fought over dinosaur remains and land rights in the unlikely setting of Oklahoma.
The war began when an Arkansas hillbilly and a Choctaw Indian stumbled upon, unearthed, and claimed a fossil prize from a waste-holding pit. The battle that followed would immerse corporate, scientific, and political interests in an unprecedented conflict over rights, ownership, and scientific advancement that even boiled over into religious concerns.
One of the delights of The Bone War of McCurtain County lies in the presentation of this vivid story, which embraces hoaxes, dreams, legal processes, scientific revelations, and a buried treasure that changed the lives of all who touched it. It's not easy incorporating the drama of a thriller or an Indiana Jones adventure style into a nonfiction piece that winds through many special interests with a solid attention to not taking the easy way out and which steps solidly on the toes of politicians, lawyers, and scientists who became immersed in a whirlwind of questions about ownership and rights.
Even more exceptional is the careful detailing of the clash of cultures sparked by the extraordinary discovery: "The two homespun Okies ostensibly clashed with the two academicians - culturally, regionally, educationally, occupationally, socially, and economically. There was an unmistakable divergence between their backgrounds. This became even more apparent the longer the two blue-collar workers sat across the table from the two white-collared scholars, and their interaction noted by curious burger-devouring patrons sitting nearby. There was an unbridgeable difference between their hardscrabble world, and Langston's refined, scholarly sphere."
The attention to this detail and insights are such that this book holds even more important implications on other levels for a country divided by class, culture, and politics: "Lawyers were seen as part of that exclusively rich "green zone" (not botanical green, but dollar green) of the American landscape. This was a particularly vivid perception for disgruntled working stiffs who couldn't afford their services.
Detached legal elitists perched on piles of cash and plush corporate nostrums have delusively presumed that everything was on par with John Q. Public; however, in reality, things were not as idyllic out in the hinterland as they imagined. There was a groundswell of disillusionment and outright contempt for the profession and system. To many people looking inward at the system from an outside vantage point, the system looked broken and hopelessly corrupt."
Under a different hand, the Indiana Jones-style drama could have translated into a one-dimensional production; but the delight of The Bone War of McCurtain County is that so many levels are covered in depth and detail - and yet, the flavor of an adventure story is retained throughout. The Bone War of McCurtain County is very, very highly recommended as a top read across genres, from general-interest readers to those who regularly pursue histories in scientific, political, and social circles.
The Stuff of Life
9781532009563 (sc) $13.99
9781532009587 (hc) $23.99
9781532009570 (e) $ 3.99 http://a.co/6tLKg4F
A reader might not expect the philosophical perspective represented in The Stuff of Life because its author is a banker and business advisor, and works by such professionals are generally less ethereal and tend to reflect linear thinking processes. Higher-level questions of what makes for a life well lived, how to move into a spiritually awakened state of mind, and employing meditation and other devices to enter into an awakened state and counter the effects of the Internet Age are typically subjects that stem from new age sources; not from the business world.
Therefore, it's especially refreshing to see such a perspective wound into essays that cross genres in their pursuit of excellence in an anthology of thoughts and reflections considering the basic elements that make life meaningful.
At many different points, Asif Zaidi's background lends to some intriguing and different introductions to his topics: "Recently I attended a leadership training program for executives. This intense five-day program featured lectures from top executives and leadership gurus like Marshall Goldsmith, Thomas J. Delong, Robert Steven Kaplan, and Jim Loehr. While it was useful, I was amused to see how man's age-old love for wisdom and quest for knowledge of how best to live have been distilled into skills for success in the corporate world."
Having a foundation that lies more in this business milieu than in liberal arts and spiritual thinking adds a depth and practicality that many similar-sounding coverages eschew. Add psychological insights and you have a survey that is rich in scope and considerations: "We can only keep our unhappiness alive by giving it time. Remove time and compulsive thinking from unhappy feelings and they die. They cannot survive without a dwelling place inside us, which we must never allow them in any form whatsoever. We only have to truly want them to die. This also transforms our outer life, our relationships, and so on."
The most satisfied readers of The Stuff of Life will be those seeking a wide-ranging set of essays that analyze the human condition and its social, spiritual and moral concerns. As Zaidi draws connections between human philosophy and religion and the pursuit of happiness, he includes discussions of many notable individuals who have contributed thoughts and approaches to life and whose works have added value to overall considerations of life's meaning.
The result is a thought-provoking series of discussions that may seem to wander in their scope and presentation, but which ultimately involve readers in analyzing the collective human efforts that lead to a good life well-lived, highly recommended for spiritual and social issues thinkers who would consider connections between philosophy, history, psychology, and the world's greater purposes.
Death on Canvas
Mary Ann Cherry
9781523829118 $14.95 http://a.co/geJV1yW
Death on Canvas opens Volume 1 in the Jessie O'Bourne Art Mysteries series with a puzzler that begins with a landscape artist's absent-minded inclusion of a strip of turquoise in her painting. When Jessie investigates the source of this odd splash of color in an otherwise-pastoral scene, she discovers a dying Native American girl who whispers that her assailant is a cop.
In the next breath Death on Canvas assumes an eerie blend of murder mystery and art piece as the scene unfolds and a series of brush strokes and attacks ties a missing masterpiece into a murder that pulls Jessie even further into a vivid mix of good, evil, and danger.
How could this contemporary story have its roots in rural Montana in 1918, where a Native American boy and would-be warrior faces a murdering woman who poses as a schoolteacher, placing him in a position of defending a flock of kids? The plot becomes complex and engrossing as the present-day Jessie pieces together interconnected scenes of the past and faces a cruel legacy that seems to belie her artistic perspective of modern-day Montana.
Readers who anticipate a one-dimensional "whodunit" piece will be pleased to note that there's nothing singular or predictable in Death on Canvas, which includes much artistic insight throughout the course of an uncommon murder investigation.
What makes the scenario unusual is Jessie's evolving connection between present-day murder and the unsolved past murder of her aunt, her concurrent evolving quest for missing art masterpieces and a killer, and her slow evolution from artist to investigator.
There's a plethora of possibilities both in the perp and in the motive, and Jessie's route is as complex as her evolving role in what follows. Connections between past and present are cemented through the use of alternating chapters, and though a few might find this constant movement too busy, the effect is to create a series of scenarios that illustrate cause and effect and the long-term results of decisions made long ago.
Many of the characters 'go way back' in their relationships - further than they, even, might think - and so the progressive build-up of Death on Canvas is perfectly in keeping with the evolution of these relationships and their deeper meanings.
"You're helping me find the paintings - not trying to solve Amber's attack" warns Jessie's new secret partner, but her new Norwegian cop partner doesn't seem to realize that the two are intrinsically entwined, or that in order to solve one mystery, the other must be addressed.
Death on Canvas is no light romp. Readers receive a healthy dose of philosophy, romance, artistic concerns, and a host of possible perps so dizzying in scope that Jessie and her partner (and sometimes the reader) find themselves scrambling for answers.
While mystery readers will be the primary audience for this story, a secondary readership of artists who want involving fiction based upon an aspiring artist's descent into a perplexing art mystery will also find much to enjoy in Death on Canvas's swirl of personalities, color, and artistic and social conundrums within its rich palate of possibilities.
Bindi and the Bodhi Tree
9780997881011 $14.95 http://a.co/2h7QQE0
Bindi and the Bodhi Tree tells of a cat who lives in a special home, a spiritual ashram in Ha'waii, and offers many thought-provoking insights to young picture book readers who have a good grasp of the written word and who are given a basic introduction to meditation, chanting, reincarnation, mantras, and more - all this through a cat's eyes.
Bindi's 'father' is a human who one day becomes stuck in a Bodhi tree, and learns a lesson from it. That's not the only lesson imparted here, as Bindi's life and those of his 'parents' are entwined with spiritual growth and reflections.
Adult assistance with the concepts presented in this book will be useful, as some concepts both require clarification and invite further discussion. 'Mantra' and 'bindi', for just two examples, are words that are not completely explained or explored in this book, but are perfect fodder for adult/child discussion, and there are also concepts here that invite further dialogue: "Ramakrishna didn't like me at first because he thought I was scrawny and ugly. That was over seven years ago and he was much more shallow back then than he is now." Parental assistance will be required to completely explore the idea of 'shallow' and how it applies to one-dimensional perceptions of life. Other ideas, such as those of 'selfless service' and the notion of Bindi's ability to grasp Japanese, also invite further discourse about ethereal, spiritual notions, ethical and moral perspectives about life, and cat habits in general.
The Ha'waiian themes and drawings are filled with color, flowers, and fun devices for attracting young reader attention - especially those who hold a prior affection for cats. These lovely drawings by Mae Porter provide simple yet fun embellishments to Bindi's story, which includes several examples of guided meditation and yoga that can be used by adults to introduce children to these ideas.
Bindi and the Bodhi Tree is not designed to be a "read it yourself" story: because its subject and nature, it's an interactive process best served alongside an adult's attention to explaining and exploring the Eastern philosophy basics and concepts within, and is highly recommended as a gentle, animal-centered introduction to the basics (and concepts) of Eastern philosophy.
Rites of Azathoth
9781944703202 $19.95 pbk / $3.99 Kindle http://a.co/hDaYnxq
Rites of Azathoth is a horror story of madness, the occult, and psychological warfare. It swirls around a previously-retired FBI profiler who finds herself way over her head when she realizes that capturing her target rests on her ability to not just understand him, but immerse herself in his insanity.
Diana hates the political world of DC with its hypocrisy and lies. But what does this life have to do with an ancient Tablet of Destinies artifact? Diana, Carter, Norris, and others become involved in ancient rituals, long-buried (but, apparently, only sleeping) horrors, and a dangerous blend of delusional beliefs and supernatural danger which blend a deadly chase with a psychopath's vision of horror.
Aside from those obvious horror elements, Rites of Azathoth contains many unexpected facets that keep it from being easily typecast in any one genre. Horror readers will find it contains a healthy degree of winding investigative intrigue as Diana and Norris desperately search for an elusive perp. Detective fiction fans will discover a heavier touch on the supernatural than many competing novels offer. Readers of psychological intrigue will find more than enough darkness to keep them awake at night.
Occult rituals, a secret society working to re-awaken evil into the world, and forces that eventually pit Diana against the very agency she once revered make for an engrossing story filled with unexpected twists.
Its ability to toe the line between a horror and an investigative thriller piece sets Rites of Azathoth apart in many ways and makes it a special recommendation for readers of horror and detective fiction who want vivid reads that straddle the line between both genres.
The Waterfall Traveler
Carpe Noctem Publishing
9780998612904 $24.99 hc
9780998612928 $13.95 pbk
9780998612911 $3.99 ebook https://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XCXP2FB
Book One of this young adult fantasy introduces its tale with a map showing an island off the shore of a land mass which includes such intriguing images as a castle at Sea Dragon's Point and a mountain range called Funeral Mountains. This provides a visual sense of the landscape and adds an element of intrigue right from the start. Enhancing the sense of adventure is a prologue that features a goddess, her brother Death, and her sister Fate, who together weave a new world.
But this sense of magic and intrigue received an immediate, satisfying twist when protagonist Ri awakens to a dilemma which also forges a solid sense of place in just a few sentences: "No, no, no! How could I have slept so soundly while Samuel wan-dered out of our home? I swung my cottage's door open and bolted outside. The morning sun peeked over the mountains and cast soft light onto my cliff-top village."
Ri's adoptive father Samuel is ill. He suffers from incurable hallucinations, and she has to watch his every move while solidly rejecting the notion that he can't be healed. But she's stymied in her goal of helping him until she meets two strangers in the forest who have their own agendas, and faces a choice that could either cure Samuel or imprison her in another realm.
The Waterfall Traveler combines an epic quest with a caring girl's coming of age and offers much to young adult fantasy readers. Perhaps its greatest strength lies in its ability to craft a tale with very realistic goals and concerns as Ri faces dangerous plots and counters many plans with her own: "Was he seriously rambling about a backup plan in case a guard captured - or killed - him? Every part of me was shaking. "No." I shoved him and the amulet away."
It's always pleasing to see determination, grit, and personal struggle cementing an action-packed story, and The Waterfall Traveler provides these elements and more, never neglecting personal psychology in favor of adventure. Ri is continually challenged and meets these dangers head-on; but always with very real fears behind her bravado, and this is just one element that lends authenticity to the action: "My hands trembled, grasping my dagger - a pitiful weapon against such a monstrous beast. It was mere luck that I had even stabbed the creature in the first place. I was going to die. I was never going to see Samuel, Bryce, or home again. If only I had a powerful blade like Baxter's and the strength to use it. But I didn't, and I was alone. "Pull yourself together," I told myself. "There's a way out of this. Think."
As her relationships and choices drive the story, young adult (and many an adult) readers will find Ri's determination and rationales powerful driving forces to the story line ("He clomped into the stream and I was forced to follow. "Is Bryce out here too?" "Of course not! He's too ill." I dug my heels into the soft sand at the water's bottom. "Stop treating me like a child!" He had reverted into the cold officer who had humiliated me the night we met. How dare he think this type of behavior was appropriate? "Dammit, Baxter," I yelled, squirming. "Let go.") which lends it a flavor that makes it thoroughly engrossing and hard to put down. Can't wait for Book Two!
The Rise of Nazil
P.O. Box 2586 McDonough, GA 30253
9780692518892 $18.50; ebook: $3.95
No watchman has looked upon the crypts of the Guardians for two hundred years, and no Guardian has been activated in all that time - but the rise of an ancient threat has prompted the awakening of an ancient defense, and The Rise of Nazil opens with this awakening, this threat, and a powerful review of oaths once sworn and new obstacles to world peace.
Fantasy readers may be used to epic battles and confrontations, but it should be noted that even the most seasoned reader of such sagas will find an unusually complex, well-detailed plot to this story, which covers numerous characters, special interests, lost connections between generations, and challenges to long-established beliefs.
From slaves and political alliances, romance and war, and the presence of ethereal Guardians who promise hope and promote faith in a time of conflict to the ongoing contrast and struggles between love, personal interests, and the greater good of the wider world, Pentanimir and others face choices and consequences not always of their making as they watch the Nazil threaten everything they have known and built.
Where other authors might create black-and-white delineations between good and evil forces, Aaron-Michael Hall adds much food for thought on all sides, introducing sets of circumstances which are neither cut and dried nor clear. Fast-paced action and drama is tempered by the moral, psychological and spiritual dilemmas of many of the characters, while layers of angst, lust, and confrontation make for a story that may dismay some with its explicit sexuality and violence, at points, but which will delight readers who want all kinds of perspectives and approaches under one cover.
Many epic fantasies eschew such undercurrents in favor of acceptably clean focuses on action, politics, and light romance; but one of the strengths of this story is its different and overt inclusion of all kinds of forces at work in the kingdom.
Readers who like epic reads who aren't put off by graphic descriptions of violence in the course of an action-filled story line will find The Rise of Nazil a gritty, absorbing tale that winds the lives of its characters into the reader's mind until the story becomes gripping, passionate, and hard to put down.
Diane C. Donovan, Senior Reviewer
Donovan's Literary Services
So Long for Now
Jerry L. Rogers
University of Oklahoma Press
2800 Venture Drive, Norman, OK 73069
9780806156323 $29.95 hc / $26.95 Kindle amazon.com
Synopsis: Elden Duane Rogers died on March 19, 1945, one of the eight hundred who perished on the aircraft carrier USS Franklin that day. It was his nineteenth birthday.
Write home often, the navy told sailors like Elden, thinking it would keep up morale among sailors and those waiting for them stateside. But they were told not to write anything about where they were, where they had been, where they were going, what they were doing, or even what the weather was like. Spies were presumed everywhere, and loose lips could sink ships. Before a sailor's letter could be sealed and sent, a censor read it and with a razor blade cut out words that told too much.
So Long for Now reconstructs the lost world of a sailor's daily life in World War II, piecing together letters from Elden's family in Vega, Texas, and from his girlfriend, the untold stories behind Elden's own letters, and the context of the war itself. Historian Jerry L. Rogers delves past censored letters limited to small talk and local gossip to conjure the danger, excitement, boredom, and sacrifices that sailors in the Pacific theater endured. He follows Elden from enlistment in the navy through every battle the USS Franklin saw. Flight deck crashes, kamikaze hits, and tensions and alliances aboard ship all built to the unprecedented chaos and casualties of the Japanese air attack on March 19.
Critique: Enhanced with extensive notes, a bibliography, and an index, So Long for Now transports the reader into the life of Elden Duane Rogers, a World War II sailor. Elden's correspondence is meticulously compiled and reconstructed by his brother, Jerry L. Rogers, who was six years old when Elden was reported missing in action. Placing Elden's writings in full context of both biographical and military information, So Long for Now is unforgettable and highly recommended. It should be noted for personal reading lists that So Long for Now is also available in a Kindle edition ($26.95).
Navigating a Life
John Herron and Mary Ann Wynkoops
University of Missouri-Kansas City
University House, Room 224, 5100 Rockhill Road, Kansas City, MO 64110-2446
9780933532182 $19.95 amazon.com
Synopsis: Navigating a Life: Henry Bloch in World War II by John Herron and Mary Ann Wynkoop explores how Henry Bloch's wartime experiences molded his character decisively, preparing him to later launch H&R Block, one of the postwar era's major entrepreneurial success stories. As a bomber navigator who defied the odds by surviving dangerous missions over some of Germany's most heavily guarded targets, Bloch learned how to face down fear. In his training before and after combat, especially at the Harvard Business School's Statistical Control Program for military personnel, Bloch further learned how to apply the newest scientific breakthroughs in decision making.
Navigating a Life recounts Bloch's service in the U.S. Army Air Force's Ninety-fifth Bomb Group, but readers also glimpse Bloch's life in Kansas City and Michigan before he was called to duty and after the war. Illustrated with personal and historical images, this book shows the challenges that fliers like Bloch faced and why so many lost their lives. Navigating a Life shows how one man finds resilience amid overwhelming challenges.
Critique: Navigating a Life: Henry Bloch in World War II is a biography of American businessman Henry Bloch (b. 1922) that especially focuses upon his service in U.S. Army Air Force, including the dangerous missions he survived, and the cooperative and critical thinking skills he learned in order to survive. Today, Henry Bloch is best known for co-founding the tax preparation company H&R Block along with his brother Richard Bloch. Navigating a Life offers insight into the terrifying wartime era and immense pressures that Henry survived, including the challenge of learning how to work as a group with his Horham crew without any prior experience. Navigating a Life is fascinating, inspirational, and highly recommended for both public library collections and personal reading lists.
The Death of Kings
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399563454 $27.00 hc / $13.99 Kindle amazon.com
Synopsis: In the fifth novel in the critically acclaimed John Madden series, the former Scotland Yard detective returns in a gripping post-World War II mystery that will delight fans of Philip Kerr.
On a hot summer day in 1938, a beautiful actress is murdered on the grand Kent estate of Sir Jack Jessup, close friend of the Prince of Wales. The arrest of an ex-convict and his subsequent confession swiftly bring the case to a close, but in 1949, the reappearance of a jade necklace raises questions about the murder. Was the man convicted and executed the decade before truly guilty?
Though happily retired from the police force, John Madden is persuaded to investigate the case afresh. In a story of honor and justice that takes Madden through the idyllic English countryside, post-war streets of London, and into the criminal underworld of the Chinese Triads, The Death of Kings is an atmospheric and captivating police procedural.
Critique: A period piece that brings post-World War II Great Britain to life, The Death of Kings is a gritty, suspenseful work of intrigue and concealed skulduggery. Connoisseurs of murder mysteries in general and the Inspector Madden series in particular will find The Death of Kings a cover-to-cover "must-read"! It should be noted for personal browsing that The Death of Kings is also available in a Kindle edition ($13.99).
The Impossible Fortress
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781501144417, $26.00, www.amazon.com
Vanna White in Playboy? Yes, it happened a long time ago and the author takes readers back to when she appeared in the magazine with several teenage boys who are obsessed with getting a copy of the publication. They can't buy it because they are underage but they are determined to get a copy anyway they can. That is only a portion of this wonderful story that takes us back to a time long ago. "The Impossible Fortress" has the feel of the film "Stand By Me" conveying the innocence of teens beginning to grow up. "The Impossible Fortress" is filled with memorable characters who the reader hopes will succeed in the mission to get the periodical they want to view and whatever else they are trying to accomplish.
A Ghostly Reunion
c/o Harper Collins Publishers
195 Broadway New York, New York 10007
9780062466952, $15.99 www.amazon.com
Emma Lee is back in a new fun thriller in "A Ghostly Reunion." This time there is a reunion of her high school class. One woman she could not stand then, is back and just as nasty to her as before. It turns out someone murdered miss nasty and she goes to of all people Emma Lee who is able to see dead people and help them bring their killer to justice. Emma Lee has to decide whether she should get involved or stay out of it. Emma Lee decides to get involved and helps with her boyfriend Sherriff Henry Ross. Here again are several characters that add to the laughter as the story unfolds. The Ghostly series is a lot of fun to read and "A Ghostly Reunion" is another great laugh out loud mystery.
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
978101986455, $16.00, www.amazon.com
Suspense novels are supposed to keep readers turning pages until the very end, and "Home" by Harlan Coben does exactly that. It begins in England where possibly two kidnapped boys have been spotted 10 years later. A person related to the family is on the case to investigate, to see if they are the boys are who he is looking for. 'Home' is a tightly drawn multi layered thriller that races along with many twists and turns that make the story a page turner. "Home is a standalone nail biter that shows why Coben is a master story teller.
The Roanoke Girls
Crown Publishing Group
c/o Random House
9781101906668, $25.00, www.amazon.com
Amy Engel who has usually written books for YA readers enters the world of adult novels with "The Roanoke Girls" Engel shows she is able to work in the adult universe with a very dark tale of hidden secrets that spans generations of women. In the words of one of them "Roanoke girls never last long around here, in the end, we either run or we die." The unfolding story is told thru many different levels and has the feel of a gothic tale that has a final satisfying conclusion. "The Roanoke Girls" is a first class impressive foray into a different type of genre for the author. I hope to see more novels form Amy Engel in the future.
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
9780553393484, $9.99 www.amazon.com
Grisham has always told an excellent legal thriller but in "Rogue Lawyer" the main character is unlike any Grisham has ever written. Sebastian Rudd works from a customized bullet proof van because the office he used to have was destroyed. He has to deal with an ex wife who gives him fits on child custody while he is trying to continue his law practice with some of the most unorthodox cases he has ever tried. Readers have come to expect an excellent story of the legal professional and "Rogue Lawyer" overwhelmingly delivers the goods in a first class suspenseful story
What Lurks Beneath
Kensington Publishing Corp
119 West 40th Street, New York, NY 10018
97860786038633, $10.99, www.amazon.com
Something is in the ocean having a feeding frenzy in "What Lurks Beneath" No; it is not a great white shark but something just as sinister. This time it can do many other things as it moves thru the oceans while several humans are trying to find out what the creature is and understand it before it becomes a menace. Like his book "Below" Lockwood brilliantly telling the page turning story in this suspenseful novel that will scare people about the ocean the same way "Jaws" did.
Fast & Loose
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399574191, $28.00, www.amazon.com
Stone Barrington is taking some relax time on his boat off the coast of Maine when someone crashes into it sending it to the bottom of the ocean is only the beginning of "Fast & Loose" As the novel unfolds Stone learns of several people who want him dead while continuing to practice law. Woods has always told a good story and "Fast & Loose" adds to the legacy of Stone Barrington in another fast paced thriller that is so much fun to read.
Little Green Men Attack!
Edited by Robin Wayne Bailey & Bryan Thomas Schmidt
Baen Publishing Enterprises
P.O. Box 1403, Riverdale, NY 10471
9781476782133, $16.00, www, amazon.com
Science Fiction has always had stories of aliens and humans in contact with each other. Now Robin Wayne Bailey & Bryan Thomas Schmidt have chosen some of the greatest short story writers who show why they are at the top of the list to enjoy. Some of the authors are Robret Silverberg, James Gunn, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Judy Lynn Nye and Mike Resnick to name a few. Many of the tales are comical while others will make readers think while all are new stories just for this collection. "Little Green Men Attack!" has a catchy title and wonderful authors to make a great gathering of short fiction guaranteed to please
Portraits of Courage A Commander in Chief's Tribute To Americas Warriors
George W. Bush
Crown Publishing Group
c/o Random House
97804189767, $35.00, www.amazon.com
George W. Bush continues to amaze people after his presidency, with so many different talents. "Portraits of Courage" is a shining example of two of them. Begun back with his book "41" where he opened the book with a portrait he painted of his father George Herbert Bush, W now expands that talent with new art work while he tells the story of each wounded soldier he depicts. It is his tribute to the injured military personnel of the different branches of the armed forces. He also tells how family members have been there to support them all the way. There are also so many stories of how golf helped them get thru to work their ways back to being functioning human beings again while some re-enlisted into either another branch, or to the one they had originally been a part of. All are remarkable stories of how they refused to let the negatives rule their lives while "Portraits of Courage" is the showing of love from a former commander in chief to the men and women who have served under him. "Portraits of Courage" illustrates why we should all be proud of what all the men and women do for us while serving in uniform.
We Are The Dinosaurs
Illustrated by Ben Clanton
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781464635 $17.99, www.amazon.com
Laurie Berkner takes one of her signature songs "We Are The Dinosaurs" and tells the story in a new lavish children's book that is a lot of fun to read. "We Are The Dinosaurs" tells the adventures in one day of several young dinosaurs. They are all likeable characters as they romp around throughout the morning and afternoon before returning home. Ben Clanton's artwork adds to the telling of the story. Readers of all ages will enjoy the artistic combinations in "We Are The Dinosaurs" to tell this charming tale where dinosaurs ruled the world.
A Shattered Circle
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780765383693, $29.99/41.99 CA$, Hardcover, 304 pp.
From the publisher: After an accident leaves New York City judge William Lonergan mentally impaired, his wife, Barbara, who doubles as the judge's confidential secretary, is determined to protect his health, his career, and his reputation. Barbara and Larry Seagle, the judge's law clerk, support Judge Lonergan enough for him to fulfill his judicial duties, keeping his true condition secret. Months pass under this exhausting routine, until suddenly Barbara finds her new way of life under siege. A private investigator needs Judge Lonergan's help in investigating the murder of a well-known lawyer in upstate New York. A bitter litigant files a grievance against the judge with the Judicial Conduct Commission. Driven by loyalty and guilt, court officer Foxx is looking into a decades-old courthouse murder to exonerate a childhood friend who is dying in prison. He hits many dead ends, until he learns that Barbara Lonergan, who worked as a stenographer long before she married the judge, likely has information about the murder victim. After the judge is attacked, Barbara decides they should leave New York City. Arriving at their summer house, Barbara believes that she and the judge are safe. She could not be more wrong.
The opening pages describe the killing of attorney Ken Palmer. The ensuing pages describe the murder of a forensic psychologist, Maxine Rosen, and a former lawyer, Daniel Kaplan, all the fallout of a case which had its origins over two decades earlier. The reader doesn't learn all the facts behind these killings until two-thirds of the way through the novel, when we also discover who is responsible for all three murders. Along the way we are taken through the routines of the criminal courts in Manhattan and those who work there, by a writer who has spent his entire legal career working in the New York State court system. And a fascinating look it is!
Judge Lonergan, now 66 years old, is able to hold onto his seat on the bench, as well as his reputation, solely by virtue of the efforts of his wife and his law clerk, but now all of that, as well as his very life, is threatened by the same killer. How, or if, the latter succeeds will depend on these same devoted souls. And the tense and suspenseful pages will have the reader engrossed until the end.
195 Broadway, NY, NY 10070
9780062429223, $26.99, Hardcover, 334 pp.
From the publisher: If you're loud and proud Floridian Serge A. Storms, how do you follow up on your very own remake of Easy Rider? You shoot your own "episodes" of your favorite classic television show, Route 66! With Coleman riding shotgun, Serge is rolling down the highway of his dreams in a vintage silver Corvette. It doesn't matter that the actual Route 66 doesn't pass through Florida, for Serge discovers that a dozen episodes near the show's end were filmed (really!) in his beloved home state. So for Serge and the always toked and stoked Coleman, the Sunshine State is all the road you need to get your kicks. But their adventure traveling the byways of Florida's underbelly is about to take a detour. Someone is trying to tilt the odds in the state lottery amid a long line of huge jackpots, resulting in more chaos than any hurricane season. Soon every shady character wants in - - crooked bodega owners, drug cartels laundering money, and venture capitalists trying to win one for the mathletes. They're also gambling with their lives, because when Serge and Coleman get hip to this timely (and very lucrative) trip, there's no telling whose number is up next. Throw in Brook Campanella, Serge's old flame, as well as the perpetually star-crossed Reevis Tome, and it's a sure bet that the ever lucky Serge will hit it big.
This is the 20th book in the series, and I have to state right up front that it kept a perpetual smile on my face from page 1. I really needed a break from a spate of books filled with violence, blood and gore, and news cycles that would be difficult to top for their outlandish details of the current political climate. But the author has managed to produce just that! We are told that "there are parts of greater Miami where even crime doesn't pay." The novel jumps around a lot, kinda like Serge and Coleman (his life-long friend, generally "stoned and tipsy"), with Serge driving a "genuine 1964 Corvette Stingray, just like Martin Milner drove in the third season of Route 66. For Serge and Coleman, it's all about Route 66."
The book is filled with recurring scenes such as, e.g., worm-grunting searches [no, I never heard of it before either], and "when the hucksters and hoopla dissipated, a tastefully quaint community accidentally emerged from the fog of failed avarice;" we meet a cable news cameraman named Gunter Klieglyte, and we find "a bicyclist with dangling iguanas, looking in the rearview mirror as officers interviewed Korean saloon workers, an Australian film crew, Marilyn Monroe and JFK, while a man in a camo hat ran through a dozen bodies chasing a small alligator . . . twenty-four-hour pedestrians moving with less verve and direction than zombies . . . sidewalks full of businesspeople on lunch and aimless people on parole... a dead guy hanging from a billboard and another with his head wrapped in scratch-offs."
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which is, as you might have guessed, recommended.
Past Reason Hated
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 1002
9780062431172, $14.99, Paperback, 345 pp.
From the publisher: Chief Inspector Alan Banks knows that secrets can prove fatal, and secrets were the driving force behind Caroline Hartley's life . . . and death. She was brutally stabbed in her own home three days prior to Christmas. Leaving her past behind for a forbidden love affair, she mystified more than a few. And now she is dead. In this season of giving and forgiving, Banks is eager to absolve the innocent of their sins. But that must wait until the dark circle of his investigation finally closes . . . and when a killer makes the next move.
Since she was the only member of the CID on duty that night, newly promoted Detective Constable Susan Gay, on only her second day on the job at the CID at Eastvale Regional Headquarters, finds the challenge quite exciting. A call had come in from a neighbor of the dead woman, who had gone rushing into the street screaming. As the tale proceeds, there are references to the current public image of the force, tarnished by race riots, sex scandals and accusations of high-level corruption. As the investigation unfolds, there are quite a number of suspects among the various friends, family and colleagues of the dead woman, which after a while made it a little difficult to differentiate among them. Banks' erudition in matters of classical music comes in very handy, as a piece of music, playing on an old-fashioned phonograph at the murder scene, becomes a disturbing clue that he feels is very significant as his investigation continues. And then they realize that the dead woman was in a lesbian relationship.
Banks, now 39 years old, had only been promoted to Detective Superintendent only a few weeks ago, is still "learning the ropes," and is always a fascinating protagonist who has come to trust his instincts, as has the reader.
Susan has also been tasked with looking into a series of vandalisms that have taken place in the area, and the author switches p.o.v. from Banks to that of Susan from time to time, making for some very interesting reading. But that's something we have come to expect from Mr. Robinson; this book is as beautifully written as his numerous prior novels. This is the fifth of what is now 22 entries in the series. Although I must admit that I found it a slow read in the early going as the case plods along, the pace soon picks up. I must add that the many wonderfully descriptive sections of the wintry weather that prevails and its effects on driving and walking had me going to my closet for a warm sweater!
The book concludes with an excerpt from the next book in the series to follow this one, "When the Music's Over," and I have no doubt that that entry, as is this one, will be highly recommended.
1385 Broadway, 5th fl., NY, NY 10018
9781632866008, $26.00, Hardcover, 252 pp.
From the publisher: The novel begins with the body of a dead man lying "face up on the grassy riverbank, legs together and ankles crossed, arms spread-eagled above his head with palms upturned and fingers curled, in a grotesque parody of the crucifixion." The victim, Martin Torrey, according to public opinion, is not a victim but instead the lead suspect in an on-going investigation of four brutal rapes and assaults against four women taken place in the span of four months, each ore violent than the last. Tasked with solving the rapes and finding the murderer of Martin Torrey, chief Griffin Kells and detective Robert Ortiz are placed under increasing pressure from the public at large and from an over-ambitious Mayor. As a result, everyone is a suspect. As the story unfolds, readers find themselves in a guessing game trying to deduce who done it? Was it one of the rape victims or was it one of their friends or family member? Told in multiple perspectives, everyone is a suspect. Everyone had opportunity, and everyone had motive, even Martin's widowed wife.
The author of more than eighty novels, this most recent standalone from Mr. Pronzini is right up there with the best of them. The p.o.v. changes from chapter to chapter, e.g., Chapter I of Part I is told in first person by Liane Torrey, the wife and now widow of the murdered man, the next chapter by the police chief Kells (only the 2nd homicide during his seven-year tenure as chief), the next by the politically ambitious Mayor Hugh Delahunt, the next by Ione Spivey, one of the rapist's victims, and on and on - - I must say that each was conspicuously in the believable voice of the speaker, not an easy task!
There had been four assaults in four months, "despite increased police patrols, stepped-up neighborhood watches, public warnings to women not to go out alone at night and to take security precautions when home by themselves. And each one committed without leaving a single solid clue to his identity." The cops obviously have their work cut out for them, their job made that much harder with the firestorm of negative media coverage seeking to oust the chief.
A subplot concerns Robert Ortiz, who admittedly has "no difficulty commanding men, but no aptitude for administrative duties and little for public relations, and I do not suffer fools well," whose Hispanic heritage does not help his "goal is to become a high-ranking detective with the state police or the police department of one of the larger cities."
The multiple p.o.v. chapters include other victims and their spouses, each one entirely true to their characters (as I've already mentioned), and the case becomes dramatically more difficult with another attack, making it rather obvious that the dead man was surely not the man responsible for the first four. The entire tale takes place in just over a week, the suspense rising as the hunt for the attacker/murderer goes on. An excellent addition to this author's oeuvre, it is highly recommended.
Max Allan Collins
Hard Case Crime/Titan Publishing
333 Central Park West, NY, NY 10025
9781783298914, $9.95/12.95 CA$, Paperback, 252 pp.
In UK/CA: ISBN 9780857683151
From the publisher: Now retired and happily married, Quarry turns down a million-dollar contract to assassinate a presidential candidate. It's not the sort of assignment you can just walk away from without consequences - - but coming after Quarry has consequences, too. The longest-running series from Max Allan Collins, author of "Road to Perdition" and the first ever to feature a hitman as the main character, the Quarry novels tell the story of a paid assassin with a rebellious streak and an unlikely taste for justice. Once a Marine sniper, Quarry found a new home stateside with a group of contract killers. But some men aren't made for taking orders - - and when Quarry strikes off, on his own, God help the man on the other side of his nine-millimeter.
Quarry, who thinks of himself as a Vietnam-era relic, looks at himself at this stage of his life thusly: "I was thirty-five. I was getting bored with one-night stands and my own microwave cooking, I wanted some company and she seemed pleasant enough. She talked too much, but most people do. She was beautiful, a terrific cook, and she kept out of my way. What more could I ask?" He's been retired for nearly ten years, having used the name "Quarry" during those years when he was a paid assassin. Written in 1987, the book at times seems prescient: "We are coming into a fascinating election year. The two parties - - depending upon whom they choose as their standard bearers of course - - should be in for a real battle. Think of it: the highest office in the land up for grabs... we could have a true conservative in the White House..." He turns down the offer, despite the big bucks involved. And the situation leaves him deeply unsettled, threatening the life he has come to love, as people such as the ones making this offer don't like to leave any loose ends. Thinking of his wife, he muses "She was a sweet kid. I didn't deserve her, but then who does deserve what they get in this life, good or bad?"
The ensuing tale of killers chasing a killer, who is in turn chasing them, is wonderfully well written. A target is described as a "wealthy paranoid political crackpot who thinks the Soviets are after him." When Quarry is asked "Are you a detective or an assassin," he responds "Necessity has turned me into a little of both." When Quarry enters an upper-middle-class residence, he thinks "It was the home of somebody who used to bowl but now golfs." His writing has been called "classic pulp fiction," but my own take on it is that it is as enjoyable as anything being written contemporaneously.
Police at the Station and They Don't Look Friendly
Seventh Street Books
c/o Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amyherst, NY 14228
9781633882591, $15.95/17.00 CA$, Paperback, 318 pp.
From the publisher: Belfast 1988: A man is found dead, killed with a bolt from a crossbow in front of his house. This is no hunting accident. But uncovering who is responsible for the murder will take Detective Sean Duffy down his most dangerous road yet, a road that leads to a lonely clearing in a high bog where three masked gunmen will force Duffy to dig his own grave. Hunted by forces unknown, threatened by Internal Affairs, and with his relationship on the rocks, Duffy will need all his wits to get out of this investigation in one piece.
Readers were introduced to Duffy when he was 25; now, in March of 1988, he is 38 years old, working out of Carrickfergus CID [a 45-minute drive from Belfast]. As the book opens, he is in what sounds like an untenable position, being forced through a narrow forest trail at 4 AM by at masked gunmen, to be made to dig his own grave. He finds himself thinking "Neither God, nor nature, nor St. Michael the Archangel, the patron saint of policemen, is coming to save me. I have to save me. These men are going to kill me unless I can talk or fight my way out of it." It is no spoiler to state that he does not die in this confrontation, but we jump forward in time to when he has obviously survived, though we're not yet told how. The Troubles of years past are still very much still simmering beneath the surface. Antagonism between Protestants and Catholics is still very much alive; we need go no further than Duffy's marriage to find that out. That being only partly the irritant in that relationship. No less so in the police station itself, we discover.
When a man whose murder the CID is investigating is discovered to have been a drug dealer, the IRA is thought to be behind it. ("In a series of agreements worked out at the very highest levels in the mid-1980s the paramilitaries from all sides had effectively divided up Belfast between themselves for the dealing of hash, heroin, and speed, and the two newest [and most lucrative] drugs in Ireland: ecstasy and crack cocaine.") Duffy again, "for what seemed like the millionth time in my career," had encountered Belfast's code of omerta "that babes must learn at their mother's knee."
Still a heavy user of alcohol and marijuana, Duffy is still an excellent detective, and experienced enough to causer him to check beneath his BMW for bombs before entering the car. The plot created by the author is a fascinating and well-written one, keeping this reader turning pages quickly. In addition, Mr.McKinty drops names such as "Eddie McBain," Columbo, Joni Mitchell, and Ella Fitzgerald, putting a smile on my face as he does so. The writing is frequently poetry itself, and the novel is recommended.
Amazon Digital Services LLC
B00NS3LXPM, $2.99, 274 pages
Midnight Magick is one of the growing number of modern witch mystery stories. This is an adult tale with a touch of mystery, a bit of romance and a dash of suspense. It is a well written solid addition to the genre.
Amber is a Wiccan who is slowly starting to realize she is an actual witch. She is running a bookstore and starting classes at a local college when she reads about two local young women killed. Her talents draw her into the deaths and into the sights of the killer. She struggles with balancing her old boyfriend and new boyfriend, a murder investigation and hiding her growing powers from her Wiccan friends.
Midnight Magick is an adult contemporary supernatural mystery tale with enough going for it to bring readers back for other books in the Amber Lee Mysteries series. The story fills the niche as a weekend fling or a vacation escape with a touch of fun.
Amazon Digital Services LLC
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
B00S09WMWM, $4.99, 359 pages
First Strike is an old fashioned soldier on the front lines tale dressed up as a Science Fiction. It will appeal to a military reader and to a lesser extent a SF reader. It feels like a war novel from WWII with a near alien enemy.
Second Lieutenant Michael Sheridan has just graduated from the military academy when war breaks out between the earth colonies and the Kurgan empire. The Kurgan's have attacked in a massive strike across the whole frontier. Sheridan is hurriedly dispatched with a small group of replacements to try to shore up the battle lines until the earth forces can be mobilized. They arrive in the middle of a battle. Can they hold out against the odds until relief forces can arrive?
First Strike is a pure military story. The bad guys are impossibly bad. The fighting is so similar to warfare today it is easy to understand. The story is the first in a series of books about the Kurgan war so you can easily find the next story when you are ready. The weakness of First Strike is in the SF portion. Gordon R. Dickson with his Dorsai and other tales brings out space conflict better. First Strike is an easy recommendation for military genre readers with its nearly consistent free pricing.
S.A. Gorden, Senior Reviewer
Be Still!: Departure from Collective Madness
Gordon C. Stewart
Wipf and Stock Publishers
199 West 8th Avenue, Suite 3, Eugene, OR 97401-2960
9781532600678, $43.00, HC, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness" by Gordon C. Stewart (a public theologian and an ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church USA) echoes the call of the Navajo sage and the psalmist who invited their hearers to stop -- "If we keep going this way, we're going to get where we're going" -- and be still -- "Be still, and know. . . ."
Like pictures in a photo album taken from a unique lens, these essays zoom in on singular moments of time where the world is making headlines, drawing attention to the sin of exceptionalism in its national, racial, religious, cultural, and species manifestations. Informed by Japanese Christian theologian Kosuke Koyama, Elie Wiesel, Wendell Berry, and others, Stewart invites the reader to slow down, be still, and depart from "collective madness" before the Navajo sage is right.
Told in the voice familiar to listeners of All Things Considered and Minnesota Public Radio, these poetic essays sometimes feel as familiar as an old family photo album, but the pictures themselves are taken from a thought-provoking angle.
Critique: Informed and informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, inspired and inspiring, "Be Still!: Departure from Collective Madness" is a consistently engaging and impressively memorable read from cover to cover. Thoroughly 'reader friendly' in organization and presentation, "Be Still!: Departure from Collective Madness" is unreservedly recommended and will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community and academic library Religion/Spirituality collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted for seminary students and the general reading public with an interest in the subject that "Be Still!: Departure from Collective Madness" is also available in a paperback edition (9781532600654, $20.98) and in a Kindle format ($9.99).
PO Box 812094, Wellesley MA 02482
9780828326360, $18.00, PB, 232pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Around 1300 AD, the Maritime Republic of Amalfi was one of the more powerful, and first democratic government in Europe. Its ships sailed the Mediterranean Sea, to and from the nations of North Africa and the Middle East to the south, and from Portugal to France and both sides of Italy to the north, and beyond the waters of Turkey. Among other, its merchants imported silk and spices from the East, and exported its own home-made paper.
The Amalfian, Flavio Biondo, perfected the compass which was of critical importance to navigation. Amalfi also instituted The Amalfitan Papers, a code-book on how to govern on national and international waters. With the ballot box, sailors chose their captains, and citizens chose their Presidents.
Then suddenly, Amalfi was destroyed by high rising tsunami waters that caused the mountain to collapse onto the city, destroying it and killing almost all of the people.
In the 21nd Century, with Amalfi having regained some prominence through tourism, Amalfi was to be re-visited by a similar catastrophic event -- this time, man-made when two run-away brothers from Boston took residence in the affluent city: the older, fired from his teaching position due to promiscuity with female students, became a Deacon at the Cathedral; the younger, his unproven scientific experiments having gone viral, becomes the target of foreign governments seeking to attain his secrets at all costs.
Critique: A consistently compelling and deftly crafted novel by an accomplished author with a genuine flair for originality and storytelling, "Amalfi Re-Visited" by Adolph Caso is very highly recommended, especially for community and academic library Literary Fiction collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Amalfi Re-Visited" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).
Written in the Ashes
K. Hollan Van Zandt
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062673688, $14.99, PB, 530pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: After she is abducted from her home in the mountains of Sinai, Hannah is enslaved and taken to Alexandria, where she becomes the property of Alizar, an alchemist and pagan secretly working to preserve his culture. Revered for her beautiful singing voice, the young slave is invited to perform at the city's Great Library, where she becomes friends with the revered mathematician and philosopher, Hypatia, as well as other pagans who curate its magnificent collections. Determined to help them uphold pagan culture and traditions, Hannah embarks on a dangerous quest to unite the fractured pieces of the Emerald Tablet - the last hope to save the pagans and create peace. On this odyssey that leads her to the lost oracles of Delfi and Amun-Ra and to rediscovered ancient cities and rituals, Hannah will experience forbidden loves, painful betrayals, and poignant reunions. But her efforts may be in vain. Returning to Alexandria, Hannah finds a city engulfed in violence, even as her own romantic entanglements come to a head. Now, it's not only her future, but the fate of all Alexandria that is at stake.
Critique: A deftly crafted and absolutely riveting read from cover to cover, "Written in the Ashes" reveals K. Hollan Van Zandt's genuine talent as an original and impressively talented novelist. While very highly recommended, especially for community library Historical Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Written in the Ashes" is also available in a Kindle format ($2.99).
Loyal: 38 Inspiring Tales of Bravery, Heroism, and the Devotion of Dogs
National Geographic Press
101 West 104th Street, Suite 8, New York, NY 10025
9781426217739, $14.95, HC, 160pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Compiled and written by Rebecca Ascher-Walsh, "Loyal: 38 Inspiring Tales of Bravery, Heroism, and the Devotion of Dogs" is volume of heartwarming photographs and touching stories of dedicated working dogs who have gone above and beyond the call of duty and proven themselves as true heroes is special collection of dog stories and photographs features four-legged heroes who have worked side by side with soldiers, searched the wreckage of natural and man-made disasters, changed families' lives through emotional support, and administered aid around the world and at home in the United States. Heart-warming photographs and touching anecdotes bring to life thirty-eight caring canines who have served the people who mean the most to them, from a German Shepherd who leads a blind man on his marathon training mission to a belly rub-loving Sheltie who supports at-risk youth in the classroom.
Critique: Informative, inspiring, compelling, memorable, "Loyal: 38 Inspiring Tales of Bravery, Heroism, and the Devotion of Dogs" is a "must read" for anyone who has a canine companion of their own. While very highly recommended, especially for community library Pets/Wildlife collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Loyal: 38 Inspiring Tales of Bravery, Heroism, and the Devotion of Dogs" is also available in a Kindle format ($9.99).
Blood Too Bright
9780990313946, $17.98, PB, 280pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: One hundred years ago, Bohemian author and editor of the radical Masses magazine, Floyd Dell, began a passionate affair with a newcomer to Greenwich Village - the yet to be discovered "girl poet," Edna St. Vincent Millay. In the years that followed, both Dell and Millay became symbols of early 20th century feminism, rebellion and literary freedom.
A century later, while poring over her grandfather Floyd's papers at Chicago's Newberry Library, Jerri Dell discovered hundreds of handwritten letters and an unpublished memoir about his love affair with Millay. Finding him as outlandish, entertaining and insightful as he was when she knew him fifty years before, she chose to bring him and his poet lover back to life within the pages of "Blood Too Bright: Floyd Dell Remembers Edna St. Vincent Millay".
My candle burns at both ends
It will not last the night*
Critique: An absolutely 'must read' for anyone who has every enjoyed the literary work of Edna Millay, or who has an interest in the original bohemian Village culture and the social norms of the period, "Blood Too Bright: Floyd Dell Remembers Edna St. Vincent Millay" is a consistently engaging, informative, thoughtful, and entertaining read from beginning to end. While unreservedly and enthusiastically recommended for community and academic library Literary Studies collections, it should be noted for the personal reading lists of students and the general reading public with an interest in the subject that "Blood Too Bright" is also available in a Kindle format ($7.99).
Sharon Kaye, author
Jordan Novak, illustrator
Royal Fireworks Press
First Avenue, PO Box 399, Unionville, NY 10988
9780898242928, $30.00, 110pp, www.rfwp.com
Synopsis: Written by Sharon Kaye and illustrated by Jordan Novak, "Question Mark" is less of a textbook and more of a picture book, with mind-opening ideas and activities conveyed through words and images working together. The fifteen chapters comprising "Question Mark" fall into three parts, corresponding to the three central philosophical skills we want children to develop: questioning, doubting, and being certain. These are fundamental skills that have inspired great thinkers throughout the history of civilization to build and transform the intellectual world.
In "Question Mark the focus is on asking questions: on thinking about who we are, about reality, and about certainty. The issue is: Can we know anything for certain? In the story, Mark helps a shadow-rabbit escape from a dog named Dogma, who is trying to eliminate uncertainty once and for all.
Children ages 5 to 9 are encouraged to think about some of the central tenets of Western philosophy. There is a teacher manual filling in the historical and philosophical background with references to Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Hypatia, Descartes, Locke, Hume, Kant, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, Mill, Dewey, Russell, and de Beauvoir. The glory of this beautifully illustrated volume is that it not only makes this intensely intellectual fare easily comprehensible but also actualizes its affective content so that children can feel the emotional importance of the philosophical concerns.
Critique: Informative, entertaining, thoughtful, thought-provoking, and thoroughly 'kid friendly' in both organization and presentation, "Question Mark" is very highly recommended for elementary school and community library collections -- and would be an ideal supplement for home schooling curriculums as well. It should be noted that this is a perfect bound edition of "Question Mark" has the advantage of having a printed spine so that it can be found readily on a shelf in a library or in the classroom.
The Adventures of Blitz and Uncle Drake: The Beginning
Pete Leriget, author
Leah Rowe, illustrator
9781540328809 $7.99 pbk / $2.99 Kindle www.createspace.com 25 pages
"The Adventures of Blitz and Uncle Drake: The Beginning" is the first title in a series of books in the category of Young Reader Transitional Chapter Book. Here are 6 fast moving story chapters with delicate charcoal and white pencil drawing of the two main characters, a couple of unique canine companions named Blitz and Drake. Set on a wild mountain ranch hidden in Idaho, Blitz, a German Short Hair pointer, is chief canine companion to Pete and family, who owned the Idaho farm. Blitz introduces himself in "The Beginning" as a working dog whose job is to take care of things on the farm, keeping the peace among farm critters and others, keeping away the riffraff, and playing. Blitz loved to play and run. "The Beginning" is the story of how Blitz came to meet Drake, a lost stray dog who appeared at their gate one day, weak and badly beaten, barely alive. Blitz checked out the weary, starved and injured stranger, and decided to get his owner, Pete. Pete was astounded to find another German Shorthair dog, in such debilitated condition. The friends cleaned the stranger's wounds gently, bandaged him up and gave him a little food. Blitz was told they must then wait. For what he wondered? Recovery for the poor animal, whom they decided to call Uncle Drake.
Badly injured and abused, the visitor slowly began to recover. Blitz and Pete worked together to nurse him towards health and discover his hidden story. Regaining an animal friend's trust after such a sad history is slow uphill work. But Blitz persisted, waiting and sitting with Drake in a spot in the yard which Drake returned to each day. Pete's and Blitz's kindness to Drake was unbelievable to the injured dog. It took time for him to trust his new friends. It is difficult to believe in kindness from others when you have never experienced it. Blitz and Pete made Drake feel welcome as he slowly mended. Slowly, Blitz and Drake became friends.
The following chapters tell the story of Drake's healing and recovery and acceptance at the farm. Blitz and Drake became fast friends. Drake bravely rescued the three Beaver children from their burning lodge in a daring act of heroism. The Beaver children thanked him and named him "Uncle Drake." Hermit Sam, Drake's former owner and abuser showed up in town one day putting up a Wanted Dead or Alive poster on Drake. Pete knew Drake's former owner was responsible for his condition, and was reluctant to return him to such an owner. Instead he offered Hermit Sam an old tractor sitting on his property in exchange for Drake. thus Drake was adopted in to the farm family with Pete and Blitz, much to their relief.
Drake had one final mission to accomplish at Hermit Sam's farm. Although it was dangerous, Blitz decided to go with him to reclaim something that had belonged to his mother. Beaver John decided to go along to help. The story of the three animal friends helping Drake reclaim the old leash and collar of his mother, Trish is another harrowing adventure chapter. Finally everyone was restored to Pete's farm via a truck ride with store owner friends Herb and Patricia, who encountered Drake, Blitz and John coming back from huckleberry picking. Thoroughly tired out by their adventures, Drake and Blitz rested on the porch together and dreamed about their mighty accomplishment of reclaiming Drake's mother's collar, while Beaver John slipped off to his new lodge home in the stream.
The exciting chapters of "The Adventures of Blitz and Uncle Drake" unfold effortlessly, in a folksy, friendly, ethnic narrative style that will keep young readers glued to the page. Fans of the series will want to read the upcoming titles of the series, which are guaranteed to appeal to discerning readers of all ages.
Travels in North America, 1832 - 1834
Marsha V. Gallagher, editor
University of Oklahoma Press
2800 Venture Drive, Norman, OK 73069
9780806155791, $34.95, HC, 624pp, www.oupress.com
Synopsis: The journals of Prince Maximilian of Wied rank among the most important firsthand sources documenting the early-nineteenth-century American West. Published in their entirety as an annotated three-volume set, the journals present a complete narrative of Maximilian's expedition across the United States, from Boston almost to the headwaters of the Missouri in the Rocky Mountains, and back.
Deftly edited by Marsha V. Gallagher (Director of the Maximilian Journals Project for the Margre H. Durham Center for Western Studies, Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, Nebraska), Travels in North America, 1832 - 1834: A Concise Edition of the Journals of Prince Maximilian of Wied" is a new concise edition and the only modern condensed version of Maximilian's full account, highlights the expedition's most significant encounters and dramatic events.
The German prince and his party arrived in Boston on July 4, 1832. He intended to explore "the natural face of North America", observing and recording firsthand the flora, fauna, and especially the Native peoples of the interior. Accompanying him was the young Swiss artist Karl Bodmer, who would document the journey with sketches and watercolors. Together, the group traveled across the eastern United States and up the Missouri River into present-day Montana, spending the winter of 1833 - 34 at Fort Clark, an important fur-trading post near the Mandan and Hidatsa villages in what is now North Dakota. The expedition returned down river to St. Louis the following spring, having spent more than a year in the Upper Missouri frontier wilderness.
The two explorers experienced the American frontier just before its transformation by settlers, miners, and industry. Featuring nearly fifty color and black-and-white illustrations (including several of Karl Bodmer's best landscapes and portraits) this succinct record of their expedition invites new audiences to experience an enthralling journey across the early American West.
Critique: A seminal work of outstanding historical scholarship, "Travels in North America, 1832 - 1834" is an extraordinary read from cover to cover. An absolute 'must' for community, college, and university library 19th Century American History collections and supplemental studies lists, it should be noted for students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "Travels in North America, 1832 - 1834" is also available in a Kindle format ($32.95, www.amazon.com).
East Coast: Arctic to Tropic
George F Thompson Publishing
1940 Lawrence Road, Havertown, PA 19083
9781938086441, $65.00, HC, 320pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The East Coast of North America is a wondrous, intriguing, yet threatened coastline. It zigs and zags for more than 5,500 miles and assumes a multifaceted, jigsaw shape from the Arctic Circle and Greenland across the Canadian Maritimes, then southward into Maine, Cape Cod, New York Harbor, the Delaware and Chesapeake Bays, along the Outer Banks to Charleston Harbor and on to Cape Canaveral. It ends at the Dry Tortugas on the western tip of the Florida Keys near the Tropic of Cancer. In "East Coast: Arctic to Tropic", photographer David Freese has once again captured a vast coastal region -- one that presently faces a major peril from the rising sea brought about by global climate change and higher temperatures on land and in the ocean.
There are wonderful surprises revealed in this coffee-table edition of "East Coast: Arctic to Tropic" including the remote regions of Greenland, northern Quebec, Labrador, and Newfoundland which offer breathtaking beauty that many people would not normally associate with the East Coast. As seen from the air, "East Coast: Arctic to Tropic" showcases estuaries, fjords, cities, rivers, bays, wildlife refuges, parks, beaches, and islands that create stunning abstract shapes which also reveal their fragility in the face of the increasing sea-level.
An essay by Simon Winchester provides the informative and captivating tale about the geological underpinnings and climatic history of the Atlantic seaboard, including an ominous view of what lies ahead. While Canadian author Jenna Butler gives a noteworthy commentary on Freese's photographs, as she places the images in context with the expansive North American environment and explains the effects and risks of global warming to the populations of Canada and the United States.
Critique: An inherently fascinating visual browse from cover to cover, this companion volume to David Freese previously photographic work "West Coast: Bering to Baja" (9781938086045, $60,00, HC, 192pp) is enhanced with the inclusion of a color map and 185 color photographs, and a one page essay 'About the Craft'. A unique, thoughtful and thought-provoking photographic compendium, "East Coast: Arctic to Tropic" is certain to be an enduringly popular addition to personal, community, college, and university library. Indeed, it and it's companion volume "West Coast: Bering to Baja" would make excellent library Memorial Fund acquisition choices.
The A Player
Morgan James Publishing
11815 Fountain Way, Suite 300, Newport News, VA 23606-4448
9781630479947, $39.95, HC, 286pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: A chasm exists in the worldwide workplace: CEO's and senior leaders expect better performance from most of their people. Simultaneously, those same employees know they have more to contribute, but are likely unaware of their leaders' true expectations regarding attitudes and results.
"The A Player" is a breakthrough book that addresses how to forge a bridge between this critical gap to produce prosperity for both the company and the employee. When your company wins, as an employee you win.
Rick Crossland, "The A Player" talent expert gives you a private executive coaching lesson on how to be that prized top performer companies covet. A Players are always in high demand. They are not just more productive; they are also happier and work with more purpose, passion, fun and fulfillment in their lives.
Nothing great was ever achieved with average performance and "The A Player" shows how to achieve outstanding A Player performance on both an individual and company-wide level.
Critique: "The A Player: The Definitive Playbook and Guide for Employees and Leaders Who Want to Play and Perform at the Highest Level" is a complete course of insightful, informative, practical, immediately applicable instruction that will benefit anyone working within a corporate structure at any level. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The A Player" is unreservedly recommended for professional, corporate, community, and academic library Business Management collections and supplemental studies lists. For the personal reading lists of business students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the subject that "The A Player" is also available in a paperback edition (9781630479923, $21.95) and in a Kindle format ($9.99).
Authority to Heal: Restoring the Lost Inheritance of God's Healing Power
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768408768, $16.99, 2017, 240 pages
Foundation Evidence and Powerful Testimonies of God's Miracle Healing Power
In his book "Authority to Heal - Restoring the Lost Inheritance of God's Healing Power" Randy Clark demonstrates the relevance of Biblical scholarship, Church history, and the formation of theological conclusions. Clark looks into Scriptures and the history of the Church to establish a Biblical foundation for divine healing, and the continuation of Spiritual gifts and a theology of supernatural empowerment, and the impartation of healing as a birthright available to Christians today.
Examples of miraculous healing in the ministries of Moses, Elijah, Elisha and other O. T. prophets were used as prophetic indicators to point Israel to their coming Messiah. Jesus' healing ministry in the New Testament fulfilled many of these prophecies which also confirm his identity as the Christ, the promised Messiah.
The book is filled with life lessons in walking for faith, understanding spiritual warfare, prayer, and stewardship. Amazing real-life stories are included which testify of authentic, verifiable miracles of healing and deliverance.
Clark is motivated by a heartfelt desire to clear up some of the confusion and misunderstanding, regarding the continuation of spiritual gifts and an expectation of the miraculous. Clark testifies of how his own personal healing experience moved him from academic thinking to recognizing the truth that, "God has always intended the ministry of healing to be a normative part of the life of the Church."
Thoroughly researched and well documented "Authority to Heal" is scholarly, thought provoking and relevant for today; a valuable resource for both clergy and lay Christians. This is a book that will resonate with anyone ready to tap into God's anointing by "Restoring the Lost Inheritance of God's Healing Power."
A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.
The Anointing For Miracles: How to Partner with God's Supernatural Power
R. W. Schambach and Donna J. Schambach
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768410532, $16.99, 220 Pages
A Call for All Christians to Claim God's Anointing and Miracle Working Power
"The Anointing for Miracles - How to Partner with God's Supernatural Power" is made up of awe inspiring testimonies, stirring emotion packed stories of healing, and salvation, and eye witness accounts of redemption, repentance, and restoration. Donna J. Schambach relates firsthand accounts of the message and ministry of her father, evangelist R. W. Schambach.
The book is written with authenticity and simplicity and is filled with eternal lessons learned from the Biblical account of God's supernatural power; as manifest through miraculous acts performed by followers of Jesus, the Christ.
The sixteen fast moving chapters of the book include a balance of teaching and testimony introducing topical themes centered on faith, compassion, authority, obedience, coveting, spiritual perception, consecration, and holiness.
Schambach provides important keys and basic teaching and instruction from the Scriptures to build your faith, uplift your spirit and to inspire you, the reader, to step up and claim a supernatural anointing of the Holy and his empowerment for a healing ministry.
"The Anointing for Miracles" is destined to become a classic. The powerful testimonies of amazing healings and God's provision, miracle after miracle, will linger in your heart, long after you have finished the final "End-Word" written by Evangelist Donna Schambach, a reminder of God's miraculous power available to Christians today.
A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.
Self-Deliverance Made Simple: Keys to Closing Every Door to the Enemy of Your Soul
Dennis and Dr. Jen Clark
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
Finding Freedom and Deliverance through Forgiveness - Taking Personal Responsibility for Our Spiritual Growth
In their book "Self-Deliverance Made Simple" Pastor Dennis Clark and Dr. Jen Clark provide readers with tools to help them understand and receive empowerment, self-deliverance from spiritual bondage and supernatural healing through forgiveness.
Pastors Dennis and Jen Clark work as a team pastoring the Kingdom Life Church in Fort Mill, South Carolina. They are founders of Full Stature Ministries and have developed a systematic proven approach to empower believers for ministering healing, freedom, and deliverance.
It is their desire to clear up confusion regarding God's sovereignty, the continuation of spiritual gifts, and the demonstration of God's power. They envision healing for churches and individuals that will result in well-adjusted families, and healthier churches.
Many readers will resonate with the pointers and "practice exercises" exercises that lead to experiencing peace while waiting on the Lord for His presence. I found the "Practices" on the subjects of forgiveness, gratefulness, healing loneliness, and overcoming fear especially significant.
Dr. Dennis shared his testimony of personal healing and how this has impacted his life and ministry. Dr. Jen told of her training in psychology, the misconception and error and of how through Clark's teaching, she received miraculous deliverance and transformation as she recognized the truth about the seat of our emotions, freedom through forgiveness, and how to tap into the supernatural peace of God.
The Clark's writing is genuinely compassionate; their message holistic and reconciliatory. The book is scripturally based, carefully researched, and well documented.
Self-Deliverance Made Simple "is a source of inspiration and information for readers seeking to "make Jesus Christ" Lord of their life, to experience freedom, and to assume personal responsibility for their spiritual growth.
Richard R. Blake
Taleisin's Tales: Sailing Towards the Southern Cross
Lin and Larry Pardey
L&L Pardey Publications
c/o Paradise Cay Publications (dist.)
PO Box 29, Arcata, CA 95518
9781929214112 $18.95 pbk / $9.95 Kindle amazon.com
Lin and Larry Pardey are famous "cruisers," that is, folks who cruise around the world in their own sailboats. In the Pardey's case, these are boats are lovingly constructed by their own hands. Taleisin is the name of their second cruising vessel, named after a Welsh bard from the pre-Christian era sailor who sang so sweetly that he cast a spell on birds. Taleisin is an outgrowth and upgrade of their first boat, Seraffyn, built larger and stronger in order to handle the Pacific and all of its challenges. The Pardeys intend to sail Taleisin towards the Southern Cross and Polynesia, ending their trip in New Zealand.
"With 2000 miles of California sea trials and easy Baja California cruising behind her, Taleisin could no longer be called a new boat. We'd tested her power as we beat north against 25 and 30-knot winds to revisit thee magic hideaways of the Gulf of California. As we explored the hidden coves we'd prowled around sixteen years before on Seraffyn and raced against new and old friends in the tranquil waters of the Bay of La Paz, we'd found the best leads for our light-air sails."
The Pardeys indeed make it to the Southern Cross, meeting fellow "cruisers" during stops at various islands. They tell tails of sea life, provide gorgeous pictures of ports of call, regale the reader with activities with new and old friends, discuss problems that came up with Taleisin and how they solved them, and extend to the reader the joys of the sailing life, including great feasts with well-loved friends.
The Pardeys regularly contribute articles to sailing magazines, have written nine books, a prequel to Taleisin's Tales, a boat construction book, and several DVD's. Not only do they entertain with compelling descriptions, but they teach other cruisers the pitfalls and solutions to today's sailing challenges. For the non-cruiser, or people who have sailed a few times in their lives, Taleisin's Tales is a wonderful read and a celebration of the human experience, particularly if one has been lucky enough to travel to any of the locations covered by this cruise. An excellent read!
Fountain of Change
Oscar R. Nordstrom
North Stream Publishing
9780998310916, $26.00, HC, 206pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: If Jesus were not the leader of the largest religious group in the world, he would be hailed today as on of the world's greatest social reformer in the recorded history of mankind. In "Fountain of Change: How the Life and Ideas of Jesus Reshaped Our World", Oscar R. Nordstrom takes a secular and historical look at the life and ideas of Jesus and his beliefs about non-Christians, women's rights, politics, and many other fascinating subjects that are as relevant as today's newspaper headlines.
The teachings of Jesus have come down to us in so many memorable sayings. "Fountain of Change" deftly explores numerous examples and their influences on today's world. To name just a few:
Render unto Caesar . . .
A house divided against itself . . .
Those who live by the sword . . .
The truth will set you free
A sign of the times
Sufficient unto the day
The blind leading the blind
Den of thieves
Eat, drink, be merry, and many, many more.
Even most Christians are not aware of the influence that Jesus had upon innumerable notable figures in history. That list includes such diverse individuals as:
Ludwig von Beethoven
J. R. R. Tolkien
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Fred McFeely ("Mr.") Rogers
Critique: Informed and informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, inspired and inspiring, "Fountain of Change: How the Life and Ideas of Jesus Reshaped Our World" is an extraordinary read from cover to cover and very highly recommended to the attention of all members of the Christian community regardless of denominational affiliation. Also available for personal reading lists in a paperback edition (9780998310909, $16.50), "Fountain of Change" will prove to be of immense interest for non-Christian readers with an interest in the subject and an enduringly popular addition to church, seminary, community, and academic library Christian Studies/Christian History collections and supplemental studies lists.
Space Cowboy Odyssey
P.O. Box 7, Neche, ND 58265
9781460288160, $39.99, HC, 204pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Space Cowboy Odyssey: Horse Trek Across America from San Diego to Canada in 1970" by Thor Wier is the story of three young men seeking truth by traveling across America from San Diego to Hope British Columbia by horse. They learned that the horse was the migration of humanity for 1000's of years that seemed to have little affect on their surroundings, but in less than one century they seemed to see a repercussion of events from humanity affecting their surroundings.
This true life adventure transpired for over 3 years of an odyssey of a 2600 mile trek thru the Sierras, Cascades, and along the ocean by horseback in 1970. This was an idea with ambition and will power that showed within these three concepts that anyone can accomplish their goal, dream, or their wildest desire.
"Space Cowboy Odyssey" also demonstrates how we can show room for improvement in the world by alternative changes that may be part of the hope and survival of humanity.
Critique: An exceptionally well written and inherently fascinating read from cover to cover, "Space Cowboy Odyssey: Horse Trek Across America from San Diego to Canada in 1970" is highly recommended, especially for community library collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "Space Cowboy Odyssey" is also available in a paperback edition (9781460288177, $19.99) and in a Kindle format ($2.99).
Sumo for Mixed Martial Arts
PO Box 480, Wolfeboro, NH 03894-0480
9781594394096, $19.95, PB, 192pp, www.amazon.com
"Sumo for Mixed Martial Arts: Winning Clinches, Takedowns, & Tactics" by Andrew Zerling (a black-belt martial artist with over two decades of experience in a variety of styles) is an innovative instruction manual and guide that demonstrates how the study of sumo wrestling techniques can benefit practitioners of modern mixed martial arts (MMA), as well as other grappling arts. Sumo, Japan's ancient martial art, has its own particular variations of MMA-style body locks, throws, and trips, among other techniques.
MMA competitors know their sport grew with the evolution of jujitsu, but many do not realize sumo can be seen as the root of jujitsu. Sumo uses distraction, angles, and leverage to steal an opponent's balance and take him down.
"Sumo for Mixed Martial Arts" focuses on kimarite, or winning moves. Knowledge of these techniques can allow competitors to catch their opponents off guard with unorthodox clinches, takedowns, and tactics. The author places special emphasis on how smaller players can defeat larger adversaries.
Critique: Featuring in-depth demonstrations of 48 sumo kimarite (winning moves) with step-by-step instructions, enhanced with the inclusion of more than 300 photos; presenting case studies of famous rikishi (sumo wrestlers); and providing a discussion of sumo's development, rules, and training, as well as recent changes in sumo techniques, "Sumo for Mixed Martial Arts" is thoroughly martial arts student friendly in organization and presentation. While very highly recommended for community, dojo, and academic library Martial Arts collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Sumo for Mixed Martial Arts" is also available in a Kindle format ($7.99).
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616958022, $15.95, Paperback, 416 pp.
This novel is a lot deeper than those in the prior entries in the Junior Bender series, and shows more of his personality and motivations. But it still includes his wisecracks and signature status as a professional burglar of 20 years standing who has never been caught.
At least not until the current episode.
Something goes wrong in each of the two burglaries Junior undertakes in "King Maybe" and his cunning has to rise to the occasion to keep his record intact. The title is derived from the principal of the second burglary, the head of a Hollywood studio who buys scripts and ideas and then strings the person along with a series of "maybes" when asked if he will produce the property.
The novel is rather lengthy when compared to previous Junior Bender stories, and while the writing is as usual clear and flowing, one can question whether or not it should or could have been shortened. After all, there are at least two other subplots Junior has to address and hopefully conquer: a problem his daughter, Rina, is facing, and his own newly developed love life.
As with all the entries in this series, the novel is recommended.
Murder Never Knocks
Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins
9781783291359, Paperback, 296 pp.
9781783291380, $22.99, Hardcover, 241 pp.
According to the co-author, who inherited several Mickey Spillane unfinished manuscripts, and has slowly been finishing them, he turned his attention to this one which he says was the most complete of all, including the author's final chapter as he had written it. Simply, the novel describes various attempts on Mike Hammer's life, and the reason for these attempts culminates in a final challenge by a successful assassin.
The plot begins with an unlikely security job for Hammer and Velda, his girlfriend/secretary: Babysitting a bridal shower at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York for a beautiful Broadway star during which one of the attempts on his life occurs, with Velda gunning the intruder down. Then a friend, a newsstand operator, is shot while Mike is standing next to him. Was it another attempt on his life or was there some other reason?
Mickey Spillane novels gained popularity decades ago, and Max Allan Collins was a great friend of his and a collaborator. As with previous novels, whether authored by Spillane or co-authored by him with Collins, Murder Never Knocks is fast-paced, full of violence, with some sex, written as only Spillane [or Spillane and Collins] could. It's amazing the number of bullets that fly through these novels, Hammer never missing, the bad guys usually off target. Lots of fun, and recommended.
Off the Grid
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399185489, $9.99, Paperback 400 pp.
9780399176609, $26.95/34.95 CA$, Hardcover
Nate Romanowski has a dream at the start of this, the 16th novel in the Joe Pickett series, an interesting and fearful look at the possibility of a terror attack on the United States. The agreement with authorities which permitted Nate's release from prison restricts his rights and keeps him and Joe separated. However, two supposedly government agents make Nate an offer tough to refuse: go to the Red Desert of Wyoming and find out what someone, another falconer, is up to, in exchange for expunging Nate's record and wiping everything clean.
So Nate goes, and in typical fashion, stays silent, with no contact with his apparent supervisors. After awhile with no news of Nate, Joe is asked by the Governor to travel to the Red Desert and find Nate, who already has worked his way into the group building a dangerous weapon there. Eventually, the two end up in a mess.
The novel raises an interesting question, especially in light of recent news about government spying on civilian communications and the like, raising the spotlight on the Bill of Rights. Certainly the author was prescient long before recent revelations about the CIA and the NSA. An unlikely subject for a game warden, but then Joe has tackled other timely topics: environmental terrorism, animal mutilators, crazed cowboy hitmen, corrupt bureaucrats, homicidal animal rights advocates and violent dysfunctional families, among other political subjects.
Very good reading, and recommended.
War, Spies, and Bobby Sox: Thrilling Tales from the Home Front During WWII
Libby Fischer Hellmann
The Red Herrings Press
9781938733970, $15.95, Paperback, 293 pp.
Two novellas and a short story comprise this book with World War II as its theme. But instead of the European Theater of Operations or the Pacific Theater of Operations, the stories take place on the home front, in fact, in the Midwest, Chicago and environs, involving civilians rather than soldiers or sailors.
The first novella, "The Incidental Spy," is a clever story with a wry twist to conclude it. It tells a tale of a young woman who was sent to the U.S. as a girl from Germany as conditions deteriorated there, eventually marrying a physicist working to split the atom at the University of Chicago. When he is killed by a hit-and-run driver, she is forced to take a job as a secretary in the department and eventually compelled to spy on the work which came to be known as the Manhattan Project.
"P.O.W.," the second novella, is sort of a gruesome love story involving a young farm girl and a Nazi prisoner of war. He seduces her (she gives herself willingly) and attempts to use her, after escaping the POW camp, when she goes to work at a steel plant in Chicago, to spy, in his desire to aid the Fatherland. The short story, "The Day Miriam Hirsch Disappeared," takes place in the years leading up to Pearl Harbor and recounts possible espionage and the disappearance of a beautiful actress from the upscale Lawndale Jewish community of Chicago.
Fast-reading and well told, the three tales are intriguing, smoothly written and enjoyable. Ms. Hellmann, who moved to Chicago 35 years ago, is an award-winning novelist specializing in crime fiction. She has 14 novels and at least 20 short stories to her credit, and "War Spies" only adds to that reputation.
Racing the Devil
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062386211, $26.99, Hardcover, 341 pp.
It all begins on the eve of the Battle of the Somme offensive during WWI when a group of officers gathered in a barn to relax before facing the carnage to come. As they parted, the men agreed to meet in Paris a year after the war's end and race each other to Nice. And so it comes to pass as they come together at the Ritz in 1919. All but one make it to southern France. The lone driver, Standish, is forced off a narrow road, crashes, and ends up in the hospital, his car wrecked and he having sustained multiple injuries and the loss of one hand.
A year later, back in England, a rector driving Standish's auto suffers the same fate, forced off the road and crashing, but less fortunate, since he suffers a broken neck and dies. In investigating the death, Inspector Rutledge determines this was no accident, but a case of murder. The question, of course, to be answered: are the two "accidents" related? As Rutledge plows slowly through his inquiries, further events broaden the investigation until he pieces all the elements together to solve the mystery.
This novel is the 18th in this fine series, one of two (the other features Bess Crawford, who makes a cameo performance in Racing) by the mother-and-son writing team authors. Each series takes place in a historical time period, not only presenting the reader with accurate descriptions of the period (for instance, in this novel, automobiles just making their appearance on the scene) but first-class mysteries as well. Also in this effort are graphic descriptions of the horrors of the trenches in the Great War.
The Steel Kiss
Grand Central Publishing
2337 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9781455536344, $28.00, Hardcover, 496 pp.
9781455536351, $7.99, Paperback, 608 pp.
In UK, Hodder & Stoughton
9781473618497, 18.99 BPS, Hardcover, 496 pp.
9781473618619, 7.99 BPS, Paperback, 640 pp.
The famed [fictional] forensic detective and criminologist, Lincoln Rhyme, retired from the police department, forgoing any activity in analyzing forensic materials in relation to solving criminal cases. He did so when a previous case resulted in the death of the suspect in that case. But it becomes a short-lived retirement when he undertakes to help an attorney in preparing a negligent death suit on behalf of the widow of a man who is swallowed into the gears of an escalator in a Brooklyn shopping mall. Just coincidentally his paramour, Amelia Sachs, was present at the event while chasing a suspect and attempted to save the victim, to no avail. And recommended Rhyme.
Soon, however, the civil and criminal investigations merge, and Rhyme is back in business in criminology as the murders begin mounting, orchestrated by a killer who is able to use common products, like refrigerators and the like equipped with "smart" controllers so he can turn them on or off. causing considerable damage and mayhem. But it isn't as simple as it seems, and the plot soon thickens.
As in other entries in the series the author, through the auspices of his main characters, provides insights into the gathering and analysis of forensic clues and how they help solve cases and apprehend criminals. At the same time, he invents diabolical plots and gives the reader a deep look into how Rhyme, a quadriplegic (in the book a "4quad"), is able to cope with his handicap. In fact, he doubles up in this novel, by introducing a middle-aged female intern well on her way to losing control of her arms and legs.
c/o Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018
9781628727562, $16.99, Paperback, 288 pp.
Sometimes a first novel is born from an author's prior background, reflecting authenticity and deep understanding. Such is the case in this debut novel with a plot more complicated but more meaningful than a simple plot summary can convey. In its utter simplicity, the novel traces the ramifications of a decision taken by four 15-year-old boys, 30 years after the fact.
The book centers on Hutch Van Buren who seems a shoo-in to be elected Ohio's next Attorney General, leading in the polls by about 18 percentage points. Until, that is, it comes to the surface that he and three friends covered up the murder of a retarded youth, allowing a pedophile to be convicted of the crime. After his release from prison, the convict threatens to expose Hutch unless he quashes another charge of molestation.
The novel delves deeply into the psychological impact on Hutch, and looks into various other issues, including corruption, bribery, and the criminal mind. It tests the limits of friendship, and weighs heavily in on the question of whether truth and justice should prevail. This is a worthy book, especially so coming from a first-time novelist. His newest book, "A Welcome Murder," is due out on April 4, 2017, and I can't wait to read it!
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. 1st Ave., Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464205132, $26.95, Hardcover, 266 pp.
The author turns her attention in this entry in the Constable Molly Smith Mystery series to a wrongful conviction controversy in the form of a character named Walter Desmond, who was found guilty of murdering a young woman, and remanded to the penitentiary. After 25 years, an appeal exonerates him based on new evidence and a sloppy police investigation. Upon his release, he decides to return to the little town of Trafalgar, British Columbia, where he encounters considerable resentment.
Complicating his visit, a number of attacks on women occur: on the wife of Police Sergeant John Winters; on Molly's mother, Lucky; and a visiting Dragon Boat team member. Naturally, suspicion falls on Desmond. Meanwhile, the original murder case is reopened, and Winters investigates the cold case with little hope of finding the killer.
The novel demonstrates how the mindset of a largely insulated population works. Most minds are made up; the police said Desmond was guilty and, despite the appeals court saying he is innocent, they still believe him to be guilty. And it also shows the dramatic difference between old-time cops and modern professionals. This is the tenth novel in the series, although Molly plays a small (but crucial) part in it. Winters occupies a central role.
The author has written an interesting take on the subject, especially with regard to the advisability of whether Desmond should, so to speak, return to the scene of the crime to find out why he was picked to be the murderer, or just remain in Vancouver and not face a hostile population.
An excellent series, well-written and always thought-provoking, and recommended.
Rails Across Britain
Pen & Sword Books Ltd.
9781473849136, $44.95, HC, 224pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: David Cable is a well-known and respected transport photographer, who has traveled the world in pursuit of his hobby. In "Rails Across Britain: Thirty Years of Change and Colour" is a collection of full-size color photographs of trains that have operated in Great Britain over the last thirty years. Compiled by a well-regarded author of several successfully published books showing many varying classes of trains throughout the world, this book covers the period from 1986 to the present day.
"Rails Across Britain" brilliantly illustrates the various classes and the huge myriad of color schemes that have been used throughout the years, from the great days of the British Rail to the era of Privatization. The contrast between the cash-strapped British Rail from an almost universal blue and grey color scheme, to the well-funded privatized multi-colored system seen today, is well portrayed in this comprehensive album, in which more than one photo of a class is shown.
"Rails Across Britain" is comprised of an impressive selection of photographs, each of which has been specifically chosen to demonstrate an undeniably wide range of locations from Fort William in Scotland to St Austell in Cornwall, and, of course, in a variety of British weather conditions. The emphasis is, therefore, on the beauty of the train in its surroundings.
Critique: With each full color image accompanied by a succinctly informative caption, "Rails Across Britain" is an extraordinary and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library Railroad History collections in general, and British Railroading History supplemental studies reading lists in particular.
Roald Nasgaard & Gwendolyn Owens
Goose Lane Editions
500 Beverbrook Court, Suite 330, Fredericton, NB, Canada, E3B 5X4
9780864929655, $50.00, HC, 204pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Lawren S. Harris (October 23, 1885 - January 29, 1970) is best known for his iconic landscape paintings that declare a sense of cool Canadian resilience. Yet, in the 1920s, an audacious and more colourful interior world began to emerge in his work, and by 1934, the patriotic landscape painter had taken a seemingly unexpected turn toward a transnational career in abstract painting.
The social, intellectual, and aesthetic milieu of American transcendentalism shaped a movement of abstract art across North America, seen in the paintings of Georgia O'Keeffe, Marsden Hartley, Katherine Dreier, Raymond Jonson, and Lawren Harris. Harris, in particular, made an impact on both sides of the border. Inspired by the ideas of Kandinsky and informed by the writings of Emerson and Whitman, Harris and his contemporaries turned to abstraction to express higher states of consciousness, creating work that was the very embodiment of the modern spirit.
As Harris's career progressed, as he ascended from mountaintops to inner states of mind, he sought greater and more ethereal spiritual heights. This magnificent volume features reproductions of more than 75 paintings by Harris and his contemporaries. Two major essays by Roald Nasgaard and Gwendolyn Owens investigate Lawren Harris's exploration of modernity and the evolution of his work towards a form of abstraction that enthusiastically embraced the energies of the ambient visual culture.
"Higher States: Lawren Harris and His American Contemporaries" accompanies an exhibition organized by the McMichael Canadian Art Collection that will open in February 2017, and travel to the Glenbow Museum in Calgary in October 2017.
Critique: The collaborative project of Roald Nasgaard (Professor Emeritus in Art History at Florida State Universitywho spent fifteen years as the chief curator at the Art Gallery of Ontario) and Gwendolyn Owens (Director of Curatorial Affairs of the Visual Arts Collection of McGill University) "Higher States: Lawren Harris and His American Contemporaries" is an extraordinary, comprehensive, and beautifully illustrated history of a major Canadian painter and unreservedly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Canadian Art History collections and supplemental studies reading lists.
The Trans-Am Era: 1966-1972 in Photographs
David Bull Publishing
9781935007203, $69.95, HC, 224pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: 2016 marked the 50th anniversary of the Trans-Am Sedan championship, or Trans-Am, which held its first event in March 1966. "The Trans-Am Era: 1966-1972 in Photographs" by lifelong automobile and racing enthusiast Daniel Lipetz brings back all the speed, excitement and intrigue of this classic road racing series during its greatest years in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Trans-Am Era: The Golden Years in Photographs, 1966-1972 uses hundreds of photographs along with detailed captions to deliver a year-by-year, race-by-race account of the Trans-Am's first seven seasons. The focus is on the iconic over two-liter pony cars that attracted the most attention from fans and support from Detroit; the Ford Mustangs, Chevrolet Camaros, Pontiac Firebirds, AMC Javelins, and Dodge Challengers that were hot sellers at the time and remain instantly recognizable today. Driving these machines were many of the top names in American motorsport, including technically sophisticate sports-car driver Mark Donohue, Indy 500 winner Parnelli Jones, and all-around driving aces Dan Gurney and Peter Revson.
Along with its abundant images, Trans-Am Era offers detailed captions and season summaries that chronicle the Trans-Am's gradual rise and sudden fall. Author Daniel Lipetz conducted years of research that sheds new light on the series and uncovers previously unknown facts about individual cars, races, and drivers. Of special note is a foreword by legendary driver Parnelli Jones, whose five Trans-Am victories secured the Manufacturers' Championship for Ford in 1970.
Critique: Impressive, comprehensive, informative, and inherently fascinating from cover to cover, "The Trans-Am Era: 1966-1972 in Photographs" is a unique and unreservedly recommended addition to personal, community, and academic library Automotive History collections and supplemental studies reading lists.
Paul T. Vogel
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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