Book Lover Resources, Advice for Writers and Publishers
|Home / MBR
Table of Contents
9781909154551 $TBA www.amazon.com
Slovakian author Zuzana Karasova presents Miscalculated Feelings, an original novel about desire, longing, and the depths of the human psyche. A 29-year-old British photographer travels from London to a mysterious city named after the legendary, vanished land of Atlantis. Wandering the halls of the Memory Museum, he stumbles across the wax model of a beautiful and wealthy woman. Captivated by the image, he is driven to find the woman that the model was based on, despite speculations that she died long ago. He searches relentlessly for her; the person he eventually discovers is aging and agoraphobic, yet holds him virtually spellbound. Allusions to art, religion, mythology, and the history of Slovakia's capital of Bratislava add a dynamic flair to this powerful and erudite modern-day fable. Highly recommended.
Bad Doggy Productions
9780989748308 $15.99 www.elfarris.com
I Run: A Novel is an original story about a woman forced to confront the evils she has tried to flee all her life. When suburbanite Sally Lane Brookman survives being hit by a Metro bus, she confronts a difficult road to physical recovery... and realizes that all her life has been a retreat from her tormented past. She has reached a turning point where must work through her memories of addiction, abuse, mental illness, instead of pushing them away, or letting them gradually destroy her from the inside out. Powerful and profound, I Run is unforgettable from cover to cover.
Insula - Island of Hope
Ventis and John Plume, editors
305 Vineyard Town Center, Suite 302
Morgan Hill, CA 95037
9781618633835 $22.95 www.bookstandpublishing.com
Authors Ventis and John Plume each spent four years of their lives in Insula; they have compiled their stories and the stories of many others in Insula - Island of Hope: The Compelling True Stories of Latvian Refugees During and After World War II. Insula was one of multiple camps housing Latvian refugees, located deep in the Bavarian Alps. A wealth of vintage black-and-white photographs, personal testimonies, family correspondence, and much more gives a historic picture of what it was like to struggle for survival amid the horrors of war, live in Insula, and make the transition to peacetime. "One of the camp occupations is worth a special mention. We had our own police force that provided us with security. I do not remember any criminal activity in the camp, but it felt good to know that we were guarded by our own people." Insula - Island of Hope is an invaluable and at times quite personal record of the war's impact on ordinary people, and is highly recommended especially for Latvian and World War II history shelves.
The Sager Group
9780988178564 $14.00 www.amazon.com
High Tolerance: A Novel of Sex, Race, Celebrity, Murder... and Marijuana lives up to its subtitle with non-stop vice and vicarious thrills! Set during the Writer's Guild strike of January 2008, when Hollywood was starved for television entertainment, a sudden burst of shocking, salacious, and attention-grabbing round-the-clock programming rakes in viewers' eyeballs like never before. At the center of the showbiz maelstrom are a superstarlet, a billionaire hip-hop artist, and a television writer/producer desperate to pay the bills, all connected by sex, murder, video, and a secret subscription list for designer marijuana! Each new revelation tops the last in this wild frenzy of a saga about the dark side of popular entertainment, gripping to the final page.
The Act of Murder
9781494492663 $12.95 www.amazon.com
The Act of Murder is Book 3 of 'The World of Murder' series, and continues to explore the partnership and investigative skills of Detectives O'Roarke and Garcia, who once again have a healthy list of suspects to choose from in a murder case: this one revolving around a much-hated Hollywood director.
Now, one might expect that it's better to have too many possibilities than not enough; but as with their past cases, the detectives find this isn't true. The theater world is simply packed with suspects who not only have good motives for murder, but more than enough resources to pull it off.
It's up to O'Roarke and Garcia to eliminate suspects and motives, and The Act of Murder is all about this process and its results. As with previous investigations in 'The World of Murder' titles, readers are also in the dark about the perp's identity, and are given just as many clues as the detectives on who the murderer could be. And also in keeping with the approach and progress of previous books, problem-solving and sleuthing skills are as much the focus as character development.
This approach keeps readers interested, capturing attention first through probing the emotionally-charged personality of an abusive director and then by offering a series of clues that embrace the essence of a murder mystery puzzle along with insights into motivations on all sides. Director Ruben DiMaggio isn't just any Broadway success; he's "...the most feared and beloved director in the past three decades. He was a tyrant towards actors, stage managers, producers, and terrorized set designers, sound men, and lighting technicians." In his relentless quest for success Ruben tolerates neither fools nor failure: a quality that nearly destroys anyone involved in his productions.
Of course crack detectives O'Rourke and Garcia would be chosen to oversee such a high-profile case; and of course by the time the death is labeled a homicide, any possible evidence has long been trampled during the opening night show.
As chapters progress, murder mystery fans are drawn into an ever-complex, changing story that holds not just too many perps, but many twists and turns of plot; especially when an attempted suicide reveals even more dubious connections: "...Why wouldn't she do it? That son of a bitch made her whole life a nightmare. Loved her one minute, abused her the next...for years. Left her, came back, left her again...." By this time Dirk was ranting. "He was a cruel, narcissistic bastard and he wouldn't let her go. And the topping on the cake was that he was my father. I swear to God, if he wasn't already burning in hell, I'd kill him myself!""
It's a convoluted web of intrigue that emerges as The Act of Murder becomes darker and darker and the investigators draw ever closer to a deadly truth that may in fact wind up fingering the wrong perp.
Can love and murder exist side by side? Can relationships turn deadly with little warning? And can irrefutable evidence be turned under court inspection? The story marches deftly to a gripping, unpredictable courtroom conclusion, involving murder mystery fans every step of the way and creating directions that change at a moment's notice in a winning recommendation for even the most seasoned murder mystery fan.
John P. Talbot
$15.29 paperback $3.99 Kindle
Capital Felony is for any mystery and thriller reader who enjoys courtroom dramas and intrigue and centers on Attorney Mike Krajec, who specializes in handling petty criminal activity. These cases are a snap for him and he's used to their progression; so when a capital felony case is referred to him by his friend, he's reluctant to take go outside his comfort zone to take on a challenge.
Despite his reservations Krajec becomes involved in a case that theoretically should be open-and-shut, but which becomes complicated when an uncooperative client claims he's innocent despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary. Add Krajec's encounters with a tough prosecutor who more than knows her craft and with a series of murders that immerses him ever more in unknown territory and you have a powerful read with its foundation in contrasting personalities who each understand (...or think they do...) very different courtroom processes.
From attorneys to clients, judges, and jurors, Capital Felony is alive with courtroom processes and encounters that are realistic and engrossing. This isn't casual mystery material with a little courtroom drama thrown in: it's a courtroom drama with complexity as its backdrop. Attorney Mike Krajec is not a criminal investigator and has even less experience with this latest case: you could say he's more than in over his head.
But something keeps driving him to ask questions, to persevere, and to keep probing beyond apparent evidence to arrive at the truth - and the more he persists, the more murders and dangers emerge. As he slowly reveals the truth surrounding his client's involvements he also slowly comes to realize his own life may be in danger, and accepts the fact that with knowledge comes threats to his career and his world.
Yes, the police's job is to investigate and the attorney's job is to either prosecute or provide innocence. But somewhere in these clearly defined parameters Mike has come lost (perhaps even trapped), and in order for him to find a way out he'll have to overstep his experience and court decorum and solve the crime himself.
Fans of courtroom procedures and dramas will find much to like in Capital Felony: it keeps readers guessing to the end, it involves confrontations and accusations between attorneys and professionals, and it reveals layer upon layer of games, facades, and lies which muddle and complicate the truth almost to the end. These features will prove especially satisfying to avid readers of John Grisham's works and other courtroom dramas; even those who can often predict the ending well in advance of a plot's conclusion.
In this case, there's far more going on than a simple courtroom drama or mystery, and there are many twists of plot to keep readers guessing to the novel's action-packed, satisfying conclusion.
Lewis Allen Lambert
Black Rose Writing
Justice Served tells about different kinds of criminals: not petty thieves, but elite criminals who operate in international and high circles of society, and who are anything but underground or hidden. All this is revealed through the eyes and experience of Jake Keller, a middle-aged New Yorker traumatized by the events of 9/11 which opened his eyes to the presence and evil of those who evade the law.
Jake's five-year mission doesn't involve identifying the master minds of 9/11 or how they carried out their operation: it delves deeper into the issues of justice and law (why these differ at times) and it involves Jake's study of law and philosophy as he attempts to understand why some elite classes of criminals go unpunished though they operate in plain sight.
As he comes to believe that certain classes of elite, known criminals operate outside the justice system, Jake's personal values turn into a quest to bring a deeper fairness to a world inundated by this elite criminal activity.
From the first chapter of the story, Justice Served takes on a life of its own as it portrays one man's decisions on how he can personally bring change and justice to an unjust world. It's all about identifying one's core values and then feeling empowered to do something about them, and it takes the fifth anniversary of 9/11 for Jake to understand his role in the matter.
As his anger mounts based on what he observes and perceives at a variety of injustices - some patriotic in origin (such as the unwillingness of some immigrants to learn English and assimilate), others involving new definitions of what justice "...is and is not", Jake finds his life transformed by vision, purpose, and newfound perceptions of what he can personally do about injustice. To this end, he becomes a citizen assassin obsessed with serving ultimate justice around the world.
As he accepts assignments that involve elite criminal targets from his unidentified employer (who lets him decide which he will pursue), Jake finds his double life ever more intrudes into his personal world, which has changed to include uncertain romance. Can he continue to keep his love in the dark about his real passions in life, and can he continue to prove an effective carrier of justice when his purposes become divided?
Jake's involvement in meting out justice actually is just a stopgap approach to keeping his emotions under control. As he moves from an effective assassin to a semi-retired citizen, he finds his world growing more complex; not less. As he finds his love interest threatened, he comes to realize that his pursuit of justice may only be an illusion masking deeper personal concerns.
From a terrorist plot where Jake is the pivotal figure to threats to his personal happiness and future, Justice Served is about all kinds of justice, all facets of winning and losing, and about how personal lives become entwined with international social and political change.
In the end Justice Served covers much more than the legal concept of 'legal': it probes personal ethics, morals and values and how they play out not only in one's life, but in the wider world. The character of Jake is one of 'everyman' concerned with modern global challenges and readers will find this a powerful story of how Jake not only makes his way in the world, but finds rationales for his choices and actions in changing it.
Superior reading for those who want more than a story of international intrigue: one holding depth, integrity and internal, as well as external investigations of worldviews and ideals of responsibility.
The Hidden Light: Exploring the Biblical Creation Story and Its Wisdom for Today
Andrew D. Kaplan, PhD
East Rock Books
9780991331901, $14.95 paperback, $4.99 ebook
The Hidden Light: Exploring the Biblical Creation Story and Its Wisdom for Today focuses on the creation story in Genesis, and provides Biblical students, scholars and readers with an in-depth examination of the Bible's opening chapter.
Now, many a book has examined the Creation story's evolution, interpretation, and origins; and not a few have included consideration of what this story means to today's spiritual readers. What differentiates The Hidden Light from others is its focus on how the Genesis story offers layer upon layer of hidden connotations, and how a study of the original Hebrew text provides many of these deeper meanings.
With this perspective in mind, a 'day by day' approach to the Genesis creation saga reveals this deeper Hebrew story. According to Dr. Kaplan, one can either choose to read and analyze the surface meanings of Genesis, or get 'down and dirty' with deeper layers of understanding: "...if we are not satisfied to merely view the surface and are willing to plunge below to explore its depths, we find an intricate world abounding with life we scarcely could have imagined...(sic) Such is the difference between casually reading the biblical creation story in a modern language (such as English) versus probing it in depth with the original Hebrew, using some of the greatest commentators as our guides."
And so begins the real story of Genesis: a revelation, here, of a 'hidden light' that goes much further than any casual reading could reveal.
First off, it's important to note that commentators are used (and liberally cited) to reveal these insights. These commentators come primarily from Jewish sources but also include others from different traditions around the world. Their identities and backgrounds are discussed in appendixes that provide plenty of detail.
Secondly, the author's own original insights are identified by the word 'consider'. This allows readers to quickly separate commentary by others from the author's own analysis. Verses from scripture traditions are set in italics for quick identification while a chronological order to verses and context allows for a neat, easy and smooth-flowing series of references. Chapters conclude with a 'questions to ponder' section for further reflection.
Lest one believe that The Hidden Light's analysis is scholarly and dry, let it be mentioned that analytical text is broken up with color sidebars of information and color photos. These techniques make for an inviting format and visually appealing layout that offer both information and relief for non-scholar readers who want a coverage that is both specific and accessible.
From the beginning there is close inspection of how the Creation is achieved: "Look closely, and you will notice that after the first day, God does not "create" anything in the truest sense of the word. Creatures are "brought forth" or assigned their place: On the third day, vegetation is brought forth - not created. On the fourth day, when Scripture describes the sun and the moon, it does not state they are actually created on this day - but rather they are assigned their function."
This approach considers language, choices in representing creation, and concurrent possibilities inherent in Genesis that go beyond mere recitation of verse. Traditional viewpoints that have arisen around the Creation myth are thus presented in the context of how much they rely on interpretation and analysis of subject, context, and spiritual beliefs.
Common misperceptions (and misinterpretations by analysts) compliment deeper insights into how the methods of the Creation embedded within them perspectives on the Earth's ecology and mankind's place within it: "God made everything in heaven and on earth during the first day, so that the earth was already implanted with what it needed. For this reason, God could simply say on the third day: "Let the earth bring forth vegetation, herb yielding seed, and fruit trees." This divinity implanted in the earth has inspired many to utilize the natural world as a source of prayer..."
Accompanying stories that hold important lessons (such as that of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, who told his story of a hidden treasure inherent in man's journey to discover God) pepper spiritual references and insights on the Genesis saga, always relating events in the Creation to contemporary interpretations and concerns.
The result is a powerful study that will reach any Christian reader with a meaty consideration of authoritative studies on Creation, concluding with the seventh day, when "...one remembers the eternal."
Most in-depth, heavily researched spiritual studies are dry. Anticipate a lively discussion in The Hidden Light that takes the form of dialogue, parables, and new interpretations of relationships between Biblical lessons and events and modern-day living. Yes, it's packed with footed references and scholarship: but imbedded within these studies are meaningful and compelling perspectives any Bible student will find relevant and persuasive, linking Creation events to present times.
Hot Minnesota Sex Death
M. R. Nesheim
M. R. Nesheim via Bookbaby
Don't expect your typical murder mystery setting or characters with Hot Minnesota Sex Death: this is a horse of another color, is set in the utopian town of Nede, and revolves around town leaders who die during a sexually challenging act, sparking the interest and investigation of son Inger, whose inquiry into his parents' death leads him on a strange path indeed.
Hot Minnesota Sex Death features a convoluted plot with many unpredictable protagonists and twists to it; not your conventional linear creation. From a book purported to be the bible of true love to a replacement town leader who is accepted by the town primarily because they believe he's the reincarnation of their former beloved chief, Hot Minnesota Sex Death documents a town in sexual chaos and solutions that may be found in metaphysical worlds.
First thing to note: descriptions are vivid and poetic, packed with content and unusual links between emotions, physical sex and environment: "Breath escaped mouths symbiotically mingling with particles in the air that caught the sensual energy and reached out to other particles, stroking their minute features and swaying passionately in front of large, moist lips. Fingertips cut through the swirling pools of microcosmic intimacy..."
One wouldn't expect a metaphysical theme to overlap a sexual fantasy theme but - surprise - it does! Hot Minnesota Sex Death is all about energy monsters, consuming passions, and forces that overtake the town and vie for control; all this encased in vivid imagery that never ceases to amaze: "The walls breathed with life as the Adonis watched the pulse of the town race across the screen. The pulse grew wild and erratic and he drank it in, letting the energy surge through him. The pulsing and beating fluctuated, creating the heat and energy that Mucus craved. He delighted in the unchecked emotion as any strong emotion had the fleeting power to warm his core. He despised the Nedians, relying on their emotions for his warmth. His pleasure doubled knowing that in order for the townsfolk to reach such high levels of emotion they had to be manipulated into degrading their own souls."
It's also about mob mentality and the forces that unite to create direction in group dynamics: "The mob turned in Oddmund's direction and stopped fighting with one another, turning their attention to him. He's the one that caused the storm. He's the one that duped us, led us down the wrong path. Get him! They advanced on him, anger dripping from their lips."
Fans of Christopher Moore's zany sense of humor and focus on communities beset upon by myriads of natural and supernatural forces will find Hot Minnesota Sex Death an appealing blend of mystery, sexual fantasy, and intrigue that ultimately questions the meaning of being human.
If it's out-of-the-box thinking and writing that is desired in fiction and fantasy, one could do no better than to choose Hot Minnesota Sex Death: it radiates a quirky energy that keeps readers involved and guessing to the end.
Solid Oil pairs a cast of unlikely characters in an international plot that centers on oil, rainforests, the rare commodity lithium, a female U.S. president who works with a secret agent to make her hidden agenda come true, and more. With all these precious elements interacting, it's inevitable: an explosion of complicated subplots and plots that draw in readers with seemingly simple beginnings that turn into macrame paths of twisted intentions and interactions.
Against the backdrop of murder and corruption are hearts of steel, and central to all the subplots is agent and chess player Andrei Kutuzov, whose interactions with the rich and corrupt have yet to change his own intentions in a dangerous game.
Solid Oil holds about every element of intrigue you could hope for in a thriller, from the threat of a futuristic weapon to romance, an international resource, high-level concerns about bringing criminals to justice, and much more.
At each step new characters enter the picture, slowly building a cast of believable individuals, each powered by their own motivations and (often) their own greed. From wider issues of government involvements and justice to mob actions and love lost to the lure of political office and power, Solid Oil at first seems a tangled mire of emotions and political intent.
But as Andrei Kutuzov's mission solidifies, so does the purpose of his love; and she rises to become an unexpected major force in the world, reflecting sweeping changes that will carry her to greater heights than either could imagine.
Solid Oil is political thriller writing at its best. At stake in a game being played with chess-like precision in the world arena is the future not just of major nations like Australia, but countries looking poverty in the eye. The playing field may encompass the entire globe, but the story centers on a developing nation where women are just starting to realize their power, and where one woman in particular (Andrei's love) will fuel revolutionary changes.
Any reader of international intrigue will find Solid Oil contains all the elements of a fast-paced winner, assembling a breathtaking diversity of protagonists and intentions and winding its way to an unexpected, gripping conclusion.
On the Inside
ASIN: B00H7RG8Q4 $2.99
On the Inside centers upon the experiences of Kristen, newly sentenced to seventeen years in prison for white collar crime (grand theft, convicted in the first degree), separated from her family, and experiencing 'life on the inside' for the first time.
Kristen's experiences are initially relayed through the unexpected observations of one Lakeisha, a mail scanner for the women's prison who becomes drawn into Kristen's life through letters exchanged between Kristen and her estranged family. This perspective opens deftly and easily, but with a bang: "Reaching for a stack of incoming mail, Lakeisha spotted a greeting card, obvious because of its telltale shape and colorful envelope. She opened it and the song "Happy Birthday" began playing. A brief smile formed on her face, then she let out a sigh. She picked up her letter opener and then, with the skill of an artisan, pried the musical device out of the back of the card without ruining its cheerful appearance...She felt awful defacing the gift, but it was procedure. Inmates with nothing but time on their hands were notorious for taking little things like batteries and wiring and turning them into something dangerous."
It would have been all to easy to make Kristen the focal point in narrating her world; but by using various protagonists to describe and add perspective on Kristen's experiences, the prison life depicted in On the Inside rises to a whole new level of understanding. And so any reader who has read fictional 'prison narratives' before is in for a real treat, here: a novel that seeks to reveal the inner psychological complexities involved in prison life and interactions; not just surface experiences.
Lakeisha's secret involvement in prisoner lives (a voyeuristic approach involving special appreciation for certain prisoners' situations through the correspondence she must preview as part of her job) creates a smooth vehicle whereby readers also achieve both a sense of distance and intimacy from the story line.
As readers come to feel the bitterness of a husband and children whose lives have been ruined by Kristen's choices, they also gain a sense of the 'why' leading to these choices, their rippling impact, and the prospects of a forty-five-year-old woman looking at facing much of her remaining years in prison.
Very quickly the question arises: so where does Kristen go from here? At this point she has alienated all her loved ones, destroyed lives, and has little prospect of making restitution or changing her destiny. Herein lies the meat of On the Inside, which begins at this lowest point in Kristen's experiences and moves deftly forward to reveal the possibilities inherent even in a prison setting.
For Kristen's only three years into her term and wonders what is left to live for - and how she can possibly survive another decade in prison alienated from everything she knows and loves.
There's a saying that 'what doesn't kill you makes you stronger' and it certainly applies here: emotionally deserted and imprisoned without hope, Kristen must find a way to make connections under the most hopeless of circumstances. How she does this the focus of a powerful novel that uses emotional connection to keep readers involved and reading.
In some ways Kristen's life at rock-bottom mirrors places every human has visited at one point or another. Guilty of her crimes, she must find a way to live with them, forge new relationships, make restitution, and discover new ways of thinking that depart from the boozing and lies of her past.
Ironically, it turns out that the isolation of prison provides the perfect place for meditation and change - and even for testing these new patterns of interacting with the world. As Kristen slowly evolves through her relationships with others, so she forges her possibilities that will eventually change her relationships outside of the prison walls.
On the Inside is compassionate, moving, revealing, and a strong odyssey of one woman's changes. Its use of various protagonists to observe and comment on these changes is exquisite, making this far more complex than your usual prison novel. As Kristen comes to know murderers, chefs, and other women who also made poor choices, she comes to realize that change and forgiveness happens in the most unexpected of circumstances - and that even the kind-hearted can wind up in prison from choices made when they perceived no other course of action. And as Kristen comes to know a variety of protagonists and their own struggles, so the reader is introduced to different lives lead within the prison walls.
All this is cemented by the ongoing thread of Lakeisha's observations: a powerful vehicle for exploring multiple lives.
In the end On the Inside isn't just about Kristen: it's about a group of female prisoners who all struggle with the results of their choices and the rest of their lives. Vivid, intense, emotionally charged and yet absolutely realistic, it's ultimately a story of hope ("There was a difference between hoping for a second chance at life and actually getting one. And that tiny distinction made all the difference in the world.") - and that is, perhaps, On the Inside's greatest strength of all.
Bless Israel; Be Blessed
Ulung Awng Ja
Tate Publishing and Enterprises, LLC
9781629024301 $13.99 www.tatepublishing.com
Bless Israel; Be Blessed isn't a spiritual read for the faint-hearted: it's a studious examination of scripture, it comes from the Senior Pastor of Myanmar Philadelphia Pentecostal Church, and it's a narrowed focus upon the biblical story of Jacob and Esau and how it gave birth to the country known as Israel.
There have been many misconceptions about Jacob's story, and so Pastor Ulung Awng Ja's survey is designed to pinpoint these misconceptions and correction them through a deeper examination of Biblical text and intention.
Discussions throughout provide specific connections between God's intentions and how it's expressed in the Bible: "In His election that God has chosen us to inherent in the kingdom of heaven, we must be of Him who calls. The Bible states clearly the way of what His calling is and the way of how to experience it. Though Esau was worthy of taking the right to be a child of God, Esau was rejected when he asked for his birthright from his father. At present, people should understand why Esau fell from his birthright. Though Esau was worthy of holding the firstborn blessing by the grace of God, he received God's hatred....(sic) Having foreseen that he would sell despicably his birthright to Jacob when he would come of age, God said that he hated him before he had yet been born."
Again: analysis is specific and detailed: not for those looking for general, light Biblical reading, but for in-depth Scripture analysis of Jacob and Esau and their ongoing meaning to modern Israel and the world at large.
From what makes the qualities of a 'mild person' to God's involvements in birthright, godly lady Rebekah's decisions around her family and faith, and how and why god loves "...every Christian who is a mild person and an obedient person, like Jacob", this study offers contrasts between human endeavors and God's will, discusses predetermination and choice, and connects all these discussions within a survey of Israel's birth and evolutionary process.
Most of all, this is a reflection on firstborn birthright and how all Christians can make this their achievable goal.
There's a lot going on in Bless Israel; Be Blessed and at first glance one might believe it's a series of dissimilar threads leading in different directions; but by cementing the discussion with Biblical references in general and centering it around the story of Jacob in particular, Bless Israel; Be Blessed succeeds in creating a foundation for its revelations where scholarly readers can easily assimilate the qualities of God's covenants with man and its ultimate purposes.
Any Christian reader looking for specific, close inspection of Scripture will find Bless Israel; Be Blessed to be a revealing text packed sources for much spiritual reflection.
The Top of the Bottom of the World
Mao Yilei was the team doctor for the Inland Detachment of the 25th China National Antarctic Research Expedition: during this time he kept a diary of his participation in the effort to establish a permanent research station at the highest point of Antarctica, and The Top of the Bottom of the World gathers these entries into a unique, engrossing story that will thrill and involve readers interested in stories of true adventure and exploration.
Expect an account filled with hardship, despair, reflections on life and death, and the challenge of providing medical services under nearly impossible conditions. Also expect a narrative charged with the thrill of adventure - and loaded with personal insights. Color photos of team members and short biographies not only introduce the participants, but impart a personal feel that text alone could not achieve.
From Yilei's initial preparations for and excitement over going to Antarctica to his reflections on its possibilities and how the team was assembled, journal entries are vivid, precise, and revealing: "The formidable task of building a station on the ice sheet determined the special nature of the Inland Detachment. The team was made up of people from all over China from all walks of life. There were professionals from the Chinese Arctic and Antarctic Administration, ice sheet meteorologists, reporters, doctors, a cook, and also twelve workers from the Baosteel Corporation (called "China's greatest migrant workers" in the media). The team members belonged to different organizations, and there was no absolute leader. In the harsh environment of the interior, team cooperation would be especially important."
Again, color photos peppered throughout capture everything from the heaving ship's journey through 'the Westerlies' (with its enormous waves) to a myriad of colorful flags indicating a temporary airfield camp for the international project. It's this additional visual emphasis that supports and enlivens written text, adding a dimension of reality and excitement that brings the journal entries to life.
As for the journal content itself, passages impart a 'you are there' feel, describing environment, impressions and emotions traversing it, and special tests unique to Antarctica: "After this camp, we entered the "30 kilometers of torment." Sure enough, not long thereafter, snow mounds of varying sizes started appearing on the surface. On the way back, we were more in the mood to take a closer look. The snow mounds looked like they had been skillfully carved by years of snow being blown into mounds of all shapes and sizes that glistened like crystal in the sunlight. They really were magnificent, and it was tragic that they were associated in any way with the word torment. If transportation weren't an issue, this place might become a popular tourist destination."
It's unusual to find an account about Antarctica that comes from the perspective of both a physician and an expert mountaineer: Yilei's observations of his team's navigation over one of the world's most difficult terrains are precise and revealing and reflect his dual background: "We talked about all sorts of things as we drove, ranging from life stories to philosophical viewpoints, from work and love to studying abroad. We each expressed our own views and didn't feel lonely at all... But we did most of our talking in the morning, and after refueling and setting out again at noon, both of us would sit there for a long time and gaze off into the distance in silence. Most of the time, I kept thinking about things back in China, like friends, family, colleagues, and everything we did together, and I replayed these scenes in my mind like movies. ... I had never had such ample and peaceful time to patiently think and remember. In the infinite wilderness, I often thought that I had figured everything out and everything seemed familiar, and it was as if I had figured out the meaning of life."
In the end, Antarctica changed Mao Yilei and left a permanent impression on his mind and life. The Top of the Bottom of the World traces not only his adventure, but the making of this impression, and documents the ultimately- successful building of Phase 1 of Kunlun Station on Dome A. Travel changes one's worldview, perspective, and ultimately ones life: "I knew that the vast expanse of the Antarctic ice sheet was slowly receding and that I would be back in Beijing soon, back in my former life of hustle and bustle. Antarctic research work is arduous and risky, but also simple. I needed to make a psychological adjustment and get ready to return to my former life. Clinical surgery is another job with high technical demands and professional risks that involves not only professional knowledge, but also interpersonal relations. I knew that after going to the Antarctic ice sheet, my life would no longer be the same. When I encountered difficulties from then on, I would surely remember Antarctica."
Reading about such a rare adventure has the same effect on armchair readers, making The Top of the Bottom of the World an excellent, 'must read' recommendation.
The Way the World Is
ASIN: B00H0H39JA $5.99
The Way the World Is - Book 2 of the 'Olivia' series - continues the story of teen pioneer Olivia Killion, who - in the first book of the series, Olivia, Mourning - inherited her father's land in Michigan and began farming it, together with a black helper who became more than just her business partner.
As fans of Olivia, Mourning will recall, Olivia is headstrong, feisty, and filled with all the confidence and certainty of a seventeen-year-old who thinks she knows what she's getting into and what the world is all about. In fact nothing could be further from the truth: while her assessment of the realities of black/white relations are spot on and her caution is survival thinking at its best, Olivia simply lacks the experience to make her way through the world without receiving some hard lessons, and The Way the World Is follows this progress and evolution.
Fans of Olivia, Mourning will find this sequel no less engrossing, with its gritty protagonist who is determined to forge her own unique path in life. Fans will also appreciate Olivia's new challenges, which open here with a bang: a pregnant Olivia is about to give birth, with no idea whether her child will be white or black.
It does turn out that the child is Mourning's baby - and with that comes a host of new tests - though Olivia is actually thrilled that her baby comes from her gentle, kind friend and not from the white monster who raped her.
As she contemplates her child's future Olivia must make decisions based on what is best for both of them - and is forced to realize that in a prejudiced world there is no way that the dark-skinned baby of an unmarried white girl will be accepted for anything but what it is: "But there are dark-skinned white people that aren't colored. Arabs. What about Egyptians? Don't they have dark skin?" "Maybe a dark-skinned Egyptian ain't exactly colored, but he sure ain't white and ain't gonna be asked to tea in any parlors in Five Rocks. You can't pass this baby. Not in this world. Don't even think about it. You'd only break your heart trying. And his."
Olivia dreams that Mourning will eventually come back and raise his son safely; but now it's time for a new life for them both. Olivia once again must rebuild her destiny and take charge, making hard decisions and hoping they will benefit everyone.
Though she never abandons her search for the loved ones who have vanished, her new life in Detroit comes with friends and healing and offers an unexpected opportunity to do good by helping fugitive slaves escape across the river. This is something she never would have contemplated, were it not for her friendship and love for Mourning and their child.
The Way the World Is covers a variety of themes: personal growth, change, destiny, responsibility and, ultimately, the costs of love. As Olivia makes her way in life and chooses the paths she takes from a smorgasbord of choices, she slowly realizes the limitations of her worldviews: "She was glad she had when she entered the tidy little town of Backwoods. Sturdy wooden sidewalks lined both sides of its Main Street, shielding brightly painted houses and stores from the mud in the road. The more she saw of the world, the more Olivia realized what a shabby little town she had grown up in."
And as Olivia grows into a person determined to make a difference in the world, so readers come to appreciate not just the atmosphere and special challenges of her times, but the motivations behind her actions: "His wife is still down south. In slavery. He's saving up his money to go get her." Michelle sucked her front teeth and then held Olivia's gaze and said, "I already know what you're thinking. But you can't buy all the slaves in the south." "I know I can't. But there's not a single reason I can't help buy this one."
Thanks to her relationship with Mourning, Olivia's search for the way she wants to live expands to include saving those pieces of the world she can touch and affect. And thanks to her wider-ranging decisions, she finds her way to an unexpected life, filled with genuine friendships and new possibilities.
In a way Olivia's journey is the route of many in life. She begins with courage and determination and a naivete about the world that is changed by encounters both positive and negative - but she remains steadfast, determined, and strong-willed. When her world (and preconceptions) fall apart, she rebuilds it to be stronger than ever - and with new purpose.
Perhaps the most powerful passage of all sums up in a nutshell what motivates Olivia to keep hope and determination alive, even in the face of despair: "As long as we draw breath, nothing in this life is final."
Some books stand alone and require no prior familiarity with others in their series ... but don't miss Olivia, Mourning. It sets the stage for an ongoing saga rich in detail, history, and perspective. Together, the two books offer a powerful saga that makes for thoroughly engrossing, compelling historical fiction at its best.
Double Happiness: One Man's Tale of Love, Loss, and Wonder on the Long Roads of China isn't your usual account of overseas encounters. For one thing, author Tony Brasunas had never been overseas (nor taught any classes) before he journeyed to China as a teacher. What he did do was grow up on a commune in West Virginia: likely it was this flexibility and difference that contributed to his successful sojourn.
His formative years evoked a 'dragon's fire' of passion for exploration and change: a passion that lasted even after the commune failed and he and his parents parted ways.
The wellspring of this passion is captured and presented from the very start: "...the dragon's fire that I fanned as a young boy was something that I had also lit deep inside me, and an interest in travel, a love of languages, and a curiosity about China that my father, through his secondary role as the school's occasional geography teacher, smoldered in me - and these coals did not die. Math, computer science, and, finally, Chinese drew and held my attention. After my college graduation, I left the United States for the first time. I flew alone to the other side of the planet, and at twenty-two arrived in China with but a few bags and a handful of wild expectations."
Double Happiness is a document of this journey and a delightful sharing of experiences that will appeal to a wide audience from educators to armchair travelers and wanna-be vagabonds.
The first thing to note in Double Happiness is a sense of place, reinforced by imagery and description that effortlessly brings to life the sights, sounds, smells and feel of China: "The first promise of dawn paints a watercolor on Tiananmen Square. An old man dressed in navy blue flows quietly through the circular movements of tai chi; a woman on a bicycle tows a young girl in a red wagon. The canvas of this painting is the broad square stones beneath my feet, stones that murmur nothing about parades or riots, joy or mania, blood, the toes of leaping feet, tears. The moment holds only peace."
While in China, Brasunas quickly discovers he's not just there to teach: he's there to 'uplift the nation'. What he doesn't expect is that the nation will uplift him in turn: teaching him, injecting him with its culture and uniqueness, and transporting an American youth to new vistas of discovery.
Most accounts of China are infused with a tourist's perceptions, an outsider's insights, and too brief a journey to really capture the nuances and cadence of the country. Not so Double Happiness: its pages are steeped in the tea of Chinese life, with history and culture serving as guideposts to new encounters.
Tony Brasunas finds himself continually lost and found in China, riding the dragon of new experience and capturing all his encounters in exquisite detail that never falters from a 'you are there' feel. Keep in mind: this is the China of 1997; while that time period doesn't seem all that far away, we're talking about a world without email, smartphones, online blogs or other facets of today's world-wide connections.
As such, Tony Brasunas relies on approaches of his own devising more than a traveler to China today likely would, even bravely learning how to teach with no prior teaching background.
Double Happiness is more than an adventure saga or a story of achieving educator status in a foreign country. It's a narrative of cultural encounters, of opening up to other worlds, and of being resourceful and flexible under unfamiliar circumstances. This flexibility, for Tony Brasunas, also includes an ability to appreciate and capture the moment, whether it be in front of a classroom of new students, alone in a region where few speak English, or finding his way on the back roads and rural regions of China. Self-examination is part of the process, as is fear, confusion, and ultimately, discoveries.
Small line maps introduce chapters filled with new impressions, excitement, and insights; proverbs and sayings set the tone for each chapter's contents.
The overall result is delightful: a series of close encounters with the Chinese and their nation and an odyssey of self-discovery that provide lessons from the classrooms and mountains of the country to shape the author's worldview and soul. Most of all, these words capture the essence of a striking journey that moves far beyond the usual travelogue or educator's perspective: "The lessons that I learned in the classrooms and mountains of China remain with me. They are the inspiration for how I create my life today - trusting and grateful, choosing love, curious about every fear, dying every necessary small death, open to the eternal growth around me and within me. I long for every one of us to discover what we truly want, and to create it, to live it, to be what we long for, to do what pleases us most deeply."
Inspirational and striking, Double Happiness is travel writing at its best.
The Dance of the Spirits
ISBN Book: 9780989690928 $12.80
ISBN (eBook): 9780989690911 $2.99
Set during the height of the Korean War, The Dance of the Spirits is an unexpected love story between two committed fighters: one a young US Army lieutenant (Wesley Palm); the other Jasmine Young, a Chinese surgeon with her own ideas of what volunteering for war duty meant. The two meet just as their goals and ideals are crumbling against the realities of military struggles - and herein begins the real saga, with the Korean War serving as a backdrop for cultural and romantic explorations neither participant envisioned.
Now, don't expect a casual story line or easy plot, here: all the horrors of war are graphically portrayed right from the start, with Wesley somehow surviving a relentless surge against his troops. The bleak realities of survival during conflict are graphically portrayed: "But he didn't feel good thinking about how to kill a woman, especially a crying one. Yes, this one was sobbing."
And yet there are moments both candid and nearly comic - as when Jasmine hides for her life, only to feel true horror at seeking shelter in a temple filled with mice.
Along with the backdrop of Korean battles, encounters with different people on all sides, and the involvement of the Chinese in the war are clear explanations of purpose and how the participants came to be in the conflict. Especially striking are the detailed probes of Jasmine's unusual influences: "Studying medicine as a profession and later becoming a female doctor was indeed Jasmine's mother's stubborn whim instead of her own. But it had been instilled in and imposed on Jasmine to take it as her own aspiration. Female doctors were almost never seen in China, but her mother was determined to turn her daughter into one. She drove Jasmine toward this destiny she had set for her. Jasmine's own ambition was much smaller - she only wanted to follow her mother's path, marrying a wealthy, handsome, and debonair man, staying home, being a lady of leisure instead of toiling at work. If there was one thing she wanted that she saw her mother lacking, it was her husband's faithfulness."
It's this attention to detail, motivation and influence that provides the depth of character present throughout The Dance of the Spirits so that when Wesley and Jasmine begin their romantic dance, readers have full knowledge of their underlying expectations and lives - and a better handle on why and how events unfold.
The war zone is strikingly portrayed throughout, echoing the constant threats to Wesley and Jasmine's life: "The nerves in his muscles ached amid the vibration from the terrifying waves of explosion. The whole mountain seemed to be on the verge of crumbling; it appeared his fellow Americans were trying to kill the mountain itself."
While it seems unlikely that anything positive could flourish under such conditions, love does rise above all - slowly, precariously, and through a series of circumstances that continually bring Wesley and Jasmine together against all odds.
Perhaps that's the great strength of The Dance of the Spirits: not only are their encounters striking, but the evolution of their passion is a slow dance that reflects the resilience of the human spirit and its ability to grow, change, and find connections under impossible conditions.
In the end The Dance of the Spirits is much more than a romance or a singular story of war's horrors: it's about the evolution of the human spirit itself; and despite its powerfully unexpected and startling conclusion, it's a recommendation for readers who like to see attention to the slow evolution of vigor and passion in the face of a world overcome by horror.
Connected To Goodness: Manifest Everything You Desire In Business And Life
David Meltzer with Harrison Lebowitz
No ISBN, Price, Publisher, Website
Connected To Goodness: Manifest Everything You Desire In Business And Life opens with the story of an ailing football player who overcomes amazing health challenges to not only participate in a game, but inspires his team to victory. And it opens with a clear message: "By being your best, you are transformed, and you automatically transform others around you. I, myself, experienced a major transformation, and I am here to transform you."
It charts a downward spiral which actually was a necessary part of the author's journey to success, and it pinpoints the formula for a recipe for success that changed his life. There are seven such elements covered in detail here, and they range from understanding value systems and guideposts to clarity to manifesting free will, developing strategies for successful interactions, and setting positive destinations.
Now, plenty of self-help titles offer elements of this program. And plenty offer similar belief systems. What they don't offer - presented so clearly in Connected To Goodness - is a 'unified theory' (so to speak), collecting all these elements and tools under one cover and providing a logical progression that enables anyone to readily absorb the basics of how this approach can fit into their lives.
Chapters follow a step-by-step approach in laying the groundwork and foundation for each method, offering chatty personal insights into what worked for the author and why. What began as a selling system evolved into a lifestyle and led the author on a journey of self-discovery and teaching that continues to this day.
Connected To Goodness isn't just about 'self' improvement either. There's a bigger picture and purpose at work here: "Ultimately, we want to create a legacy where we not only put things out into the universe in a certain way that will come back to us twofold, but also where what we empower creates a similar energy."
Examples of thriving companies that have used these principles, individuals who have enjoyed unprecedented success in turning their lives around, and keys to using knowledge, skill and desire to achieve the discipline to tie this all together make for enlightening, exciting chapters that capture the spark and zest of positive thinking tied to real-world practices.
Connected To Goodness leaves nothing to guesswork, translates philosophy to the routines of daily living, and provides a powerful formula for success that will especially reach business-oriented individuals looking for a more conscious path to achievement.
A must read, any on this path will appreciate having a blend of down-to-earth approaches, real-world examples, and spiritual and philosophical reflection all tied together under one cover -- the 'unified theory of new age thinking'.
Hallways in the Night
Haywood Street Press
ASIN: B00HCLRPPS $3.99
Hallways in the Night is thriller writing quite different from your standard approach, and centers around a baseball star, a stakeout that takes a very different turn when a cop is prompted to pursue a speeding suspect, and a murder that changes lives. It's a recommendation for any who want something different in their mystery/legal thriller reading and it delivers on this promise with a tightly-wound story of suspense and intrigue that will keep even seasoned mystery and legal thriller readers guessing to the end.
One powerful element of Hallways in the Night is its focus on racial encounters that entangle a community and pit cops against blacks. That's what Dave faces when his probe of a serial killer who targets kids becomes entwined with a community's perceptions of the special interests and prejudices of police charged with protecting lives.
And so what evolves from a series of murders and a half-drunk baseball player's demise over a speeding ticket becomes a highly charged trial focusing on civil liberties as much as murder, with marchers and rioters adding tension and further complexity to a volatile situation.
It's this multifaceted perspective on how murder adopts political and social proportions that keeps Hallways in the Night far more than your standard 'whodunnit'. The web of intrigue holds motivations that move into personal realms as a policeman stands trial for a suspect's death and faces accusations that he has overstepped the boundaries of his profession by leaving a stakeout and acting recklessly.
Dave's impulsive decision one fatal night holds the power to not just change his life, but promote the political ambitions of a District Attorney who sees this case as a way of gaining fame and a toehold in Congress.
All this Dave realizes too late, after his love for Atlanta is forever destroyed and after events make their indelible mark on his future. Readers follow Dave's evolution and revelations with bated breath largely because these aren't evident from the beginning, but slowly evolve from the roots of confrontation and deceit.
R.C. O'Leary's story is complex on many levels; but perhaps its most satisfying quality is a continuing element of surprise, with unexpected chains of events and protagonist growth paired with legal and social changes. From the story of how a conscientious cop finds himself backed into a corner to how political ambitions play on circumstance to change lives, Hallways in the Night tackles one of the most basic issues of a public servant's life: balancing ideals with career demands and living with choices necessarily made as an impulse in the process of ensuring survival and safety.
Whether innocent or guilty, the focus here isn't on the serving of justice or its tenuous roots in the legal and criminal justice system, but on how individuals live with, react to and ultimately are changed by their choices and service. In the end it boils down to being "...honest about who you are".
Hallways in the Night thus will attract and satisfy readers looking for more than a light 'whodunit' mystery.
Global House Publishing
ASIN: B00GR4XFPU $1.50
Malicious charts the course of a blackmailer, a cyberpredator, and a clever murderer who eludes police investigation by hiding in the cyberworld and using his clever abilities: that's why it will take an extraordinary cop - and an amazing effort - to bring him down.
So what makes Malicious a special read? For one, it's a cyber-mystery: this means that computers and their hacking is a key part of the story. Secondly, it immerses readers not just in the murderer's modus operandi but in the life of female detective Robyn Tate, who finds herself on the hit list in the course of trying to keep her own dirty little secret from the prying eyes of a cyber-master.
From the novel's first line, the reader is captured: "Nine o'clock in the evening. It's his favourite time of the day because it's when his slaves are most active."
What begins as a hobby for a clever computer hacker able to install a 'RAT' (Remote Administration Tool) on anyone's computer turns into a dangerous game as he not only spies on his victims, but uses their secrets as leverage for blackmail. Webcams commanded by a killer record victims' moves, then become the source of additional income; but when the income stream evolves to include murder, Robyn Tate enters the bigger picture.
Underlying the cat-and-mouse game is a wider issue of internet pornography and addiction. Here is where Robyn can't claim immunity; for she too is addicted and as with the other victims, it's this addiction that is captured and exploited by her predator.
Is Robyn clever enough to both play his game and master the master? That's the real question in a vivid thriller that paces back and forth like a caged lion: tense, gripping and filled with both clever clues and Robyn's own consternation as she tries to keep one of her most deeply-held secrets from those around her while maintaining her professional persona and personal relationship.
There's a lot to enjoy in this mystery: most of all the unpredictable story line. Readers journey with Robyn through her encounters with the perp and consideration of possible identities - and her consternation over how to keep her personal quirks from public view.
In the end it boils down to a basic premise: "...we all have secrets and we all do things we'd rather keep to ourselves. But we forget that in this day and age you can never be sure that someone isn't watching or listening."
Watch and listen from a vivid, voyeuristic perspective when reading Malicious - but not late at night (unless you want to pull an all-nighter): it will draw you in and immerse you until the last page. Without revealing any surprises, suffice it to say that Robyn will find her life transformed in the course of her investigations of not only of the perp, but of her own psyche.
Angels and Ogres
Jody Mitchell Publishing, Inc
ASIN: B00GXHCNCC $5.99
Angels and Ogres: How Do You Walk This Life and Who's On Your Shoulder is neither a fantasy novel (as one might anticipate from the title) nor self-help: it's a blend of autobiography and poetry and uses the life story of the author (who has suffered from major health problems all her life) to explore consistent themes of her experiences.
Now, most poetry titles practically require a degree to understand. The poetic form often confuses and challenges rather than inviting general-interest readers to the table.
Not so with Angels and Ogres: here the poetic structure is an accessible invitation beginning with a smorgasbord of various forms, from free verse to rhyme. Each poem is accompanied by a blank section of 'reflective notes' (lines inviting readers to spontaneously jot down their impressions.) And each poem provides a piece of inspiration, from the rhyming verse 'Cloudy Day' ("Never give in to dismay/Good things can happen on a cloudy day...") to self-assessment ("I am forever proving I am worthy/Always meeting controversy/Why am I singled out?/Each and every time I am kicked about...")
From thought-provoking pieces about coping with life to spiritual insights and inspirational reflections, Angels and Ogres is a gentle reminder of life's uncertainties, of courage, and (most of all) of the hope that can evolve from 'impossible' situations. It's a fine inspirational read; especially recommended for others coping with chronic illness. This group will welcome the author's clear poetic insights on crisis management, life perspective, and even acceptance.
Divine Touch: Forgotten Truth of Unity
No ISBN, $TBA
Divine Touch: Forgotten Truth of Unity offers one simple, clear premise and provides text from the Quran supporting this message: "This book tells you that you can change your life by simple, strong faith."
As such, it begins with promise, certainty, and spiritual fervor and is a recommendation for any who do not believe in chance and who believe there's a purpose in everything; even in the acquisition and reading of Divine Touch.
It may be surprising to note that author Flora D. does not consider herself a "religious person", though her personal love of God is certainly prevalent throughout this blend of autobiography and spiritual reflection. Rather, she feels herself to be an ordinary person with a greater capacity to love (and that includes an intrinsic belief in and love of God.)
There is an acceptance of various religious belief systems, different ways of expressing this love, and the basic questions that unify all seekers. 'Ultimate love' (God) answers these questions in different ways and this is also examined in an accepting manner that embraces all religious tenants where God is the center of that love.
Flora D. explores her own beliefs and provides readers with much food for spiritual reflection of their own, introducing and blending her insights with quotes from both the Bible and Quran. Autobiography here blends with spiritual reflection in a specific manner designed to both explore her perspectives and link them to ways in which readers might find their own spiritual paths: "Through prayer, I ask Him to change my requests, according to His will, and seek His purpose instead of my selfish desires which may otherwise prevail.... The heart radiates goodness, it desires the positive aspects of the human condition. When the heart desires money, it seeks to help, or share it with others. The heart represents a generosity of spirit and it is part of our true character. Contrastingly, when the mind desires money it seeks to satiate its worldly pleasures and personal desires."
Throughout these observations, the focus is on unity: unity between belief and action, between faith and wider applications of love, and between disparate religious that would see differences where in fact similarities are marked.
Supported by spiritual passages throughout, Divine Touch: Forgotten Truth of Unity is recommended reading for seekers who would achieve greater understanding of God's purpose through a process of both self-inspection and insightful passages from Bible and Quran alike.
Sharp Teeth and Bloody Claws
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B00HI64GHM $2.99
The Grey Spear Society's adventures continue with the twelfth installment, Sharp Teeth and Bloody Claws, centering around Marina's second mission as a new commander.
When a half-eaten corpse is discovered in San Francisco, it's only the beginning of a rampage of violence and more bodies. And when it appears that a serial killer is using rats as weapons, Marina and her lover Aaron find themselves up against a mystery that is anything but simple, involving the entire state of California and threatening to spill beyond state borders.
Now, prior Grey Spear fans should be advised: this is the second book to go 'backwards in time' before the events outlined in "Eyes of the World": as such, it fills in characters, history, and actions to add a rich dimension to the entire series. Newcomers beginning with these new additions will receive an even better grounding in the origins and purposes of the Grey Spear members, while old fans will appreciate the added attention to developing the backgrounds of characters such as Marina, who here continues her evolution and experience as a new commander. The fact that Marina still has a lot to learn is driven home by events that will test all her abilities and point out the flaws in her newfound leadership role.
Rat-Man may be after politically sensitive information, but he's also a sadist using his rats for revenge and gruesome torture (shades of 'Willard'!). It's this element of sadism and vengeance that lends an extra dimension of tension to Sharp Teeth and Bloody Claws's story and elevates it beyond an ordinary thriller.
Of course, there's the Grey Spear Society's evolution itself, driving the plot and filling in blanks from previous Society adventures. And adding to the tension is a focus on new Society member Liam, a would-be prize fighter who, surprisingly, meets his match in Marina, whose agility and combat techniques are superhuman.
Liam's role changes as events evolve and soon Marina realizes she has made an impulsive, deadly mistake in her new recruit: one that could endanger her team and all it stands for.
As inquiries lead to a hidden laboratory, rats with implants in their brains, and the involvement of a wealthy man, the plot becomes even more complex and readers find that a host of suspects, from a young thief to a renegade scientist, complicate the bigger picture of the meaning of this latest threat to the world.
As with Alex Siegel's other novels, it's important to understand that the focus is on God's enemies, and on an elite team of super-humans tasked by God to protect humanity against the forces of evil. There are also startling events that make it clear the Society isn't above vengeance and death in the interests of preserving a greater good - and some circumstances that demonstrate how God himself takes an active hand in the Society's efforts.
Despite the religious references throughout, however, Sharp Teeth and Bloody Claws is not a religious thriller per say, and will appeal to any reader interested in complex plots, protagonists, and social and political intrigue. It's unusual to find all these elements under one cover cemented by the labels of 'thriller' and 'adventure story' - but that's the continuing strength of The Grey Spear Society's ongoing adventures: there's a lot to sink your teeth into.
Another strength: the stories are diverse enough (and sufficiently unpredictable) that even avid fans of all the books won't be able to readily guess each book's conclusion. It takes skill to produce a series of books, build plots that interlace each other, and retain this degree of unpredictability.
That Alex Siegel achieves this goal time and again only goes to show that this is an exceptional series indeed; one not easily forgotten, and highly recommendable.
ElsBeth and the Call of the Castle Ghosties
J Bean Palmer and Chris Palmer
Holly Hill Press
ElsBeth and the Call of the Castle Ghosties centers around almost-ten-year-old ElsBeth Amelia Thistle (the youngest witch on Cape Cod) and her journey to integrate her different worlds of science and magic, and is an engaging fantasy recommended for advanced elementary through middle school readers.
A gorgeous, colorful painting of ElsBeth and a moonlit castle across the water invites young readers to enter a plot that represents Book Three of the 'The Cape Cod Witch Series', but which stands well on its own for newcomers.
More than twenty full-color illustrations by Melanie Therrien throughout the saga provide visual embellishment to the story, which opens with a spooky encounter of a castle ghost commanding the youngest of the Thistle clan across the sea to Scotland.
Present-time Cape Cod is the next scene, where the young witch senses an evil danger about to descend on and change her happy world: "...Like her future had become unsettled. Like some danger had just sailed up and dropped anchor in her future. Hardly anyone knew she was a witch -- this was just something that wasn't discussed. A good, nine-year-old witch, granted, but a witch nonetheless. She knew her perceptions were sometimes a little different, and they didn't ask her permission to come in on her. And she definitely didn't always understand them."
As ElsBeth finds herself on a long journey, summoned by ancestral ghosts who need her help, she encounters magic and different kinds of allies in unexpected places along the way. Far from home, she discovers some of her old friends have been conscripted to accompany her - and slowly her two disparate worlds blend.
The very fact that ElsBeth and her friends have all been lifted from everything familiar and transported to someplace outside of all their experiences lends to new perceptions - and this, again, is one of the ongoing strengths of the story: "She was a little worried about Veronica, who was always aware how pretty she was, and didn't seem altogether pleased she might not be the prettiest girl around right now. But that seemed a small worry compared to what they'd been through getting here."
ElsBeth and the Call of the Castle Ghosties isn't a one-dimensional fantasy adventure: readers are treated to a host of sensations and experiences wedded to emotion and reflection; and that's one of its strongest features, keeping it 'real' and inviting: "She wanted to ask the insightful bat if he thought it was OK for her to go on the trip today. But there wasn't time, and he'd probably just say, "Think for yourself." He was always encouraging ElsBeth to think things through on her own. And as much as she wanted to be good at that, she knew thinking about things wasn't her strongest point. She preferred action. She liked to just start ... and then keep going."
Too many fantasies (especially for young adults) focus more on the fantasy setting and adventure than on personal interactions and revelations. What sets apart better writings is an attention to psychological depth, which is more than evident in the passages of reflection and understanding throughout ElsBeth and the Call of the Castle Ghosties.
The other books in the series have not been seen by this reviewer; but if they're anything like this one, they deserve all the acclaim they have already received elsewhere.
Suffice it to say that ElsBeth and the Call of the Castle Ghosties is about as fine a middle school fantasy as you could get: vivid, packed with ghosts and mystery, and yet tempered with an attention to interpersonal depth that is rare and inviting.
Satchel & Sword II: The Caatlach Islands
CreateSpace Independent Publishing
Satchel & Sword I: The Search for The Saluka Stone began this young adult fantasy series with a bang, detailing the life and trials of teen Nevaline Scarcliff, who lives in the militarist, matriarchal territory of Amazonia under the rule of a greedy Queen who forces her army into battle through a bewitched forest against impossible enemies.
But Nevaline discovers her true mission isn't to serve as a mercenary: it's to seek out and confront a dangerous sleeping god set to destroy the world; and her destiny and drive carries her far beyond her opening job as a mercenary fighter.
Satchel & Sword II: The Caatlach Islands continues this epic journey and is recommended for prior fans who already have absorbed the character, setting, and premises of the first book. Teens with this background will readily pick up the second journey, which again uses the author's familiarity with the landscape of Scotland as its foundation. Having achieved one of her initial goals in the first book, Nevaline is well on her way to success: but holding part of a key to resolution is very different than actually winning; a fact she comes to learn in the face of great adversity in The Caatlach Islands.
Having committed not only herself but her friends to this epic quest, Nevaline has second thoughts about bringing danger and possibly death to them all in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Though her friends willingly joined her (and have their own motivations for participating), Nevaline increasingly feels responsible for their lives; especially when facing repeated dangers such as being adrift on a boat in the ocean, running out of food with no hope of rescue.
With full knowledge of the fact that they are heading straight into danger, Nevaline and her cohorts find themselves in another world where "The weather commands presence here. The sun shines with passion, concealing such a face from Amazonia and Hychester." It's a world far from that which Nevaline has known all her life: "Sunlight trickled through Vusevala Island's forest as wings of a thousand yellow sparrows descended slowly towards the ground. The sweet clicking and chirping sounds of the birds, along with blue, red and white colors, created an ambience of concord, hushing the predator and alleviating the prey."
Claudette Marco's ability to capture protagonist observations of their strange new world is one of the strengths of her writing: readers tag along for a 'you are here' experience, experiencing fully this rugged and beautiful landscape through the protagonist's five senses and absorbing all that new world has to offer in the way of both beauty and challenge.
The protagonist of Nevaline is brave (often to the point of foolhardiness) as she confronts a host of people and challenges their purposes during the course of her quest: "Nevaline glared at him. "I assumed the leader of Kinlanders would scoff at the Promulgation of Amazonian Sovereignty, deeming such as woman's gibberish. Instead, you misrepresent the significance of such words to justify criminal deeds." This bravery and self-confidence, though shaken at times by turns of events, will serve her well as she makes her way through a dangerous, alien world with obstacles at every turn.
Even something as mundane as a dinner comes alive under Marco's precise writing: "Determined to claim victory, she grasped the knife and attempted a slice. The knife cut through the green jelly and met the silver plate with a loud clunk. Cairine smiled and used the knife to nudge her prey into the spoon. As the jelly met her tongue, her eyes scrunched and her mouth pursed as it would when tasting rancid cheese for the first time. She picked up the white linen napkin next to her plate and spit the rotted prey into it, then swiftly grasped a goblet and quaffed a few large swigs of water. Nevaline laughed quietly. Her utensils had celebrated an empty victory. The men consumed the jellies as if they had never eaten anything better."
From family ties and revelations to the discovery that what she seeks resides in the least likely place of all, Satchel & Sword II: The Caatlach Islands is epic fantasy writing at its best. Do read the first book: it's also a highly charged saga and provides the necessary foundation for appreciating both the powerful protagonist of Nevaline and the larger purpose of her journey.
The Bullies' Predatory Footprint
Amazon Digital Services
The Bullies' Predatory Footprint tackles the cultural phenomenon of bullying and focuses on the toxic behavior, attitudes and practices, which permeate society as a whole.
Over 200 referenced experts on the topic of bullying contribute to this volume that considers the failures of society and institutions to adequately deal with the phenomenon, identifying some surprising facts (including that there is no official, recognized system of identifying and monitoring bullying) and offering eye-opening analysis of what happens when bullies proliferate social settings from schools to businesses.
While most books on bullying narrow the focus of behaviour to encounters between youths, The Bullies' Predatory Footprint expands the concept into society and institutions, adding a far wider-range of surveys that chart the psychological and detrimental effects of bullying throughout the world.
The opening Chapters describe how bullying can begin at a young age and develop into behaviors that spill into the workplace and interpersonal relationships, affecting vulnerable people on all levels of society from co-workers to the elderly. It's about time that someone identified bullying not as a singular event limited to the schoolyard, but as destructive behavior in itself, that, when left unchecked can encourage a climate and culture of bullying that grows within society and institutions.
At each step of the way The Bullies 'Predatory Footprint provides keys to identifying rules of engagement, and suggestions for resolutions. Lest any claim be made that the book stops at the workplace or with generalities, note that there are sections covering the failures of trade unions ("To date, the lack of any convention to outlaw unwanted behaviour against all people in the workplace reflects badly on the basic principles held by trade union organization to promote fair treatment for all workers."), and discussions on citizen's legal rights, and how to build the notion of accountability into the system.
There are extensive footnotes and a bibliography for further reading that add to the book's authoritative analysis and value as a basic primer on the subject.
The book emphasises the fundamental rights of respect and dignity owed to all people, identifying the need to prevent the predatory nature of bullies on a variety of levels. From cultural shifts and power plays to the different faces of bullying across various communities and occupations, The Bullies' Predatory Footprint goes far beyond most other discussions on the subject and is a top recommendation for anyone interested in understanding the nature, prevalence, and lasting effects of bullying.
Creative Edge Publishing LLC
9781492120469 $12.99 pbk. / $0.99 ebook
Ordering Link: Amazon -
If you're a fan of murder mysteries but eschew the usual genre-formatted adventures that offer too-predictable protagonists and not enough depth, it's time to take a look at Buried Threads: a horse of another color. More than a murder mystery, this mingles a treasure hunt, an international race against time, a dark prophecy, Japanese culture, erotic encounters and a clever killer's modus operandi into a story that just won't quit.
Buried Threads opens with a bang: "Kenji Ota didn't fit the description of a bloodthirsty killer. Upon meeting him, it would be difficult to believe he'd gotten away with murdering at least twenty-five men."
The tension never ends: as new twists pepper the plot, readers will find their expectations and viewpoints enhanced and expanded. As successful owners of a treasure hunting company, Rachel Lyons and Chase Cohen have, over the years, honed routines virtually guaranteeing success; but their latest lead is anything but habitual and as they delve into international affairs in the process of tracking down a shipwreck's precious cargo, they fall under the scrutiny of a seasoned, deadly killer.
Fans of Indiana Jones will find a lot to like here: Rachel and Chase move from adventure to adventure with nary a breather. There's everything from sharks to caves and hidden tombs ... and, of course, a gang is involved, thwarting their investigations at every turn.
Rachel and Chase grow and learn from their cross-cultural encounters in the process of their hunt: even Buddhist enlightenment isn't unheard of in the course of events. Japanese history and ethnicity also lends an extra dimension of cultural understanding to the saga.
Buried Threads is also about broken relationships, healing, and rediscovery: these elements of psychological tension are another unexpected thread running through the thriller format.
There's a healthy dose of romance representing one of the ties of Buried Threads, there's high adventure and much mystery, and there's solid tension in an erotic thriller that just doesn't quit. Seasoned fans of romance, mystery, and thriller writing will find this crossover title successfully blends elements of all three under one cover, creating a powerful piece of soft-core porn that adds an extra dimension to all three genres.
From geishas and Japanese street gangs to women just beginning to realize their inner strength, Buried Threads incorporates it all. It sounds almost too busy; but all these elements come together in a logical, satisfying progression that uses life's slings and arrows, twists and turns to provide an outstanding backdrop to what really matters: love. And without giving away the ending of the story (which will take many a seasoned mystery reader by surprise) suffice it to say that ultimately events come full circle, offering both a conclusion and the seeds of new experiences to come in an earth-shaking epilogue that neatly ties everything together.
Diary of a Dieting Madhouse - The Novel
JPS Publishing Company
Diary of a Dieting Madhouse - The Novel centers around Rowan Faine, who compulsively overeats to compensate for the shambles her life has become when her parents' death in a car accident left her responsible for her unruly younger sister and saddled with a job that offers free food to its employees. Constantly challenged by management issues with her sister and with the attorneys she works for, Rowan thinks she is coping well - until a brash new young attorney throws her off-balance.
Grey Faris and Rowan clash repeatedly, and it doesn't help that she overhears him call her 'fat'. When she embarks on a weight-loss program (by converting to a vegan diet) with the aid of her best friend and coworker Madelyn, the dynamics of her relationship with Grey change; but surprisingly, it's not because of her weight loss alone.
To call Diary of a Dieting Madhouse - The Novel a 'romance' would do it a vast injustice: there's a host of plots and subplots going on that create far more than one-dimensional protagonists or purposes, and romance is only one facet of a comedy of errors that entwines Rowan and her circle.
For one thing, the law firm setting is all too realistic (my sister worked in a law firm for years: the stories related here mirror well how a law firm operates behind the scenes.) Rowan's circle of interests and experiences revolves around her job, which serves as an impetus for change only when a new 'wild card' is introduced to the staff.
For another, the protagonists constantly teach each other. Even adversity breeds admiration, eventually - and for Rowan, the interplay between law firm members is actually a blessing as it keeps her from living a complacent life or becoming overly tied down to her rebellious younger sister's constant tests of power.
Rowan's observations of her world are biting and to the point: "Colin epitomized everything she disliked about lawyers. Disorganized and unwilling to utilize modern technology, he created arbitrary deadlines to make himself appear important. Although not very bright, he was in a position of power." And they reflect her ability to cut through the chase and perceive underlying motivations, attitudes, and personas in those around her.
The point of romance is that the participants teach each other about love, life, and different perspectives. Rowan's playfulness eventually reaches out to Grey and in Hawaii he discovers that perhaps his life hasn't been everything he's wanted: "The time had gone by so quickly. He realized that for the first time in a long time, he was actually having fun. Most of his life had been spent going to school, working or being a parent to his sister. He hadn't had much of a chance to be silly and enjoy himself, no obligations or strings."
For Rowan, it's the revelation that her attitudes toward men in general are changing, sparked by close encounters with one of the feistiest she's met, Grey. When Grey proves himself to be a kind, generous man underneath the aggressive persona, Rowan finally is able to open up to the possibilities of not just the relationship, but the wider world.
From dieting to transformed worldviews under one cover? Surely that takes romance, chutzpah and a unique protagonist who doesn't 'settle' for the mundane.
That is the spark and life of Diary of a Dieting Madhouse, which neatly juxtaposes emails, story lines and memos to sprinkle delight and change throughout its evolving plot. Fans of food, friendships, and love will find this a heart-warming tale of transformation.
The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories: The Complete Gothic Collection
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Editor
When I was in college (decades ago), Charlotte Perkins Gillman's classic was touted as a feminist work and taught as such - but it was the 70s, after all. So it was a surprise and pleasure to receive the reissue of her classic The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories: The Complete Gothic Collection AND to receive an accompanying film companion to the novel. The film was woven from many of the stories in the book (not just the title) and the entire package is presented as both a horror film and as a novel about ambiguity and social change.
Let's begin with the movie: don't expect your contemporary horror story here. While there's a bit of 'blood and guts', that's not the point of this style of horror; so blood only appears on an 'as needed' basis. More on the lines of Shirley Jackson's classic 'Haunting of Hill House', The Yellow Wallpaper movie incorporates subtlety into its gothic horror and slowly presents ghosts that emerge when a couple moves to the country after their daughter's death, only to discover that paranormal events seem to be returning her to their world.
As events transpire, the darkness grows from a few creaking sounds and mysteries to full-out terror as encounters grow more frequent and involve the mourning couple and sister in a growing certainty that here, in a peaceful yet isolated country house of all places, resides a quiet evil that devours its residents.
All this is somehow connected to the yellow wallpaper in the room at the top of the house - and to a rising certainty that something hovers just beyond sight and mind, waiting to feed on those who have experienced loss.
Now turn to the title story and the stories in Gilman's book The Yellow Wallpaper and Other Stories: The Complete Gothic Collection and you'll catch a glimpse of the roots of a movie that incorporated a diverse range of elements from these different stories.
Editor Aric Cushing's introductory essay 'Is 'The Yellow Wallpaper' a Gothic Story?' nails the subject; especially since the original feminist take on Gilman's works often skated over the gothic feel of her works to focus on underlying feminist interpretations alone. While the work spearheaded a women's movement, its other literary elements were largely overlooked and are corrected here, with a penetrating essay analyzing both its social impact and its literary, gothic mechanisms.
The protagonist's slow descent into mental illness as she perceives a figure trapped behind the wallpaper (much as she is) and her imprisonment on many levels is much more at the forefront of the story than the movie, which provides an interesting juxtaposition of meaning and interpretation.
From Gilman's representation of entrapment both socially and spiritually to the identity of the monster and its link to the yellow wallpaper in an abandoned nursery, there are many allusions to loss, isolation, and change that are deftly explored between movie and book forms, creating a complimentary interplay of plots that take a fun house mirror approach to their subjects, examining events from different angles.
Through the movie's eyes and Gilman's eyes the reader thus views different meanings of horror and repression, and their lasting impacts.
The inclusion of Gilman's other little-seen writings, not published in over 100 years, rounds out 'The Yellow Wallpaper' book and provides a deeper perspective through Gilman's poetry, short stories, and a screenplay excerpt adapted by Aric Cushing and Logan Thomas.
There's much to like here - and much to ponder. Don't expect today's light, entertaining horror story. DO expect social and psychological commentary and insights, all subtly wrapped in the cloak of early gothic writing strategies and subtle references that keep the mind thinking and reliving scenes long after movie and book have been absorbed.
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B00DMHG2R $2.99
The Power is a novel about healing, self-importance, and about the dangerous results of a power that can heal others but devastate the healer, and is an engrossing novel recommended for any who like intrigue and ethical thrillers.
Dr. Austin MacLean's already a healer, but when he stumbles on a strange new ability, he doesn't gain the fame and acceptance one might think. Instead, people suspect this ability, attack his purpose, and make his life difficult.
The novel opens with a bang: an indigent Haitian is dead on the operating table, with Dr. MacLean experiencing a strange electrical discharge that renders his defib equipment inoperative and leaves him with an electrical shock injury. The sudden cessation of patient and machinery proves a portent of things to come as the good doctor subsequently discovers his strange, newfound powers and their consequences.
Now, Dr. MacLean is already one of the 'good doctors' who oversees a department losing money on indigent patients: "Not only did his uninsured patients receive "free" health care, but free transportation. Some showed up to the ER carrying their suitcases. "
Don't expect a one-dimensional medical thriller here, though: rounding out the plot with a healthy dose of psychological insight is his unraveling relationship with his young son Peter (who is beginning to distance from his beloved father after divorce limits their time together), his stormy relationship with his ex, and increasing accusations of assault and violence towards others.
Fans of Robin Cook and other powerful medical thriller writers who enjoy more than a touch of supernatural and religious reflection in their readings will find The Power provides a mystery with a twist.
The doctor's newfound power brings the promise of Heaven and the experience of Hell closer together and Dr. MacLean finds the two increasingly difficult to separate as he comes to realize the cost of his gift to not only his own life, but the lives of others.
As Dr. MacLean faces his own health challenges with a body struggling to cope with its new abilities, he also faces attacks from outsiders struggling to understand his powers.
Is the world ready for a lifesaver? If a Christ-like figure began to heal people, would these actions be perceived as miracles or would the healer be condemned?
Dr. MacLean's journey takes him to new realms as he faces choices in how he interacts with the world and accepts himself. Powerful settings, unexpected interactions between the main protagonist and a host of others, the injection of possible romance and revelations ... all this indicates a powerful story. At what cost does a life-saving ability come with the ability to change worlds?
Read The Power and find out.
Curse The Moon: Cold War Rising
Stonewall Publishers, LLC
9780989802574 $15.95 print; $2.99 ebook
Curse The Moon: Cold War Rising centers around a West Point graduate and guerrilla fighter (code named Atcho) who leads revolutionaries at the Bay Pigs during the early days of Castro's Cuba, and opens with his imprisonment and subsequent release, where his political encounters with Moscow and the U.S. become key to his brand of warfare - and to a mystery overshadowing his struggles.
Trained to overthrow Castro and his regime, Atcho seems to hold the upper hand; but Soviet agent Govorov is equally determined not to let this happen, and holds Atcho's young daughter hostage. Now it's a personal as well as a political struggle that tests Archo's limits and commitment.
Curse the Moon is loosely based on the life of Jackson's Cuban-born father-in-law, who fought during the rise of Fidel Castro. The history behind Atcho's struggles is impeccable, weaving facts and insights based on a pivotal point in history and injecting the characters of Atcho, his comrades, and his oppressors with realistic components that personalize the struggle.
A quick overview of the novel's cast of characters, an explanatory prologue of history, and a map of Cuba deftly introduce background and setting, paving the way for a survey steeped in political intrigue and the atmosphere of 1960s Cuba.
It's this attention to the details of atmosphere and setting that contribute to Curse the Moon's realistic, you-are-there feel: "Atcho could still scarcely believe that he was cutting sugarcane by hand with a machete. He had been in the fields many times here at the family plantation in Camaguey, on horseback, racing with his father through the rows of cane, even while field laborers swung their sharp, steel tools during the harvest. Fidel Castro, worried about losing the crop while the country was still in chaos since his coup, had issued an edict that all citizens would go into the fields to help harvest."
Combine this with a dual focus on how personal lives become entwined with political purpose and social change and you have a historical novel packed with not just intrigue and tension, but with the ability to understand social change, the roots of revolution, and how one insider's struggles can affect not just one nation, but the world.
Curse the Moon has it all, packaging its tense thriller in the cloak of understanding motivations both political and personal. Interplays between protagonists assume chess-like proportions as goals change, obstacles rise and fall, and emotions run deep.
It's all about danger, sacrifice, and how even would-be romance bows to the pressure of a covert operator's obligations. In the end the personal moves into political realms and comes full-circle to promise Atcho a life he could barely have imagined at the novel's beginning. The warrior's facade may soften, but can it transform to something more than constant struggle and fighting?
Curse the Moon charts this change and promise and is a powerful read for any who enjoy political intrigue tempered by personal transformation.
Autumn for Dragonflies: First Dance
1492760641 $6.99 pbk.
$0.99 (Kindle) http://www.amazon.com/Autumn-Dragonflies-First-Theresa-Sweet/dp/1492760641/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1389541891&sr=8-1&keywords=1492760641
Autumn for Dragonflies: First Dance is adult romance at its best and a recommendation for genre readers who value strong female protagonists
Mary Lakas is a successful science student at Marsh University when she becomes romantically involved with her first love, a fellow biologist who notes and appreciates her science prowess. That's the first indication that readers are receiving something different in the way of the female character: Mary may be shy about success but she's not afraid to demonstrate her intellectual abilities; and she's not about to 'dumb down' her capabilities to achieve love.
As events unfold, however, Mary doesn't progress down the anticipated course with her biologist friend: tragedy has her turn from science to music for solace, where she finds a grieving music director fills some of the gaps in her life and changes its course.
Predictability is out the door with Autumn for Dragonflies: First Dance: it's all about the ironies and changes life brings to even the most dedicated and set lives, and it's also about remaining open to and choosing from a smorgasbord of many possibilities - and finding out that the main dish is often on an entirely different table.
Now, Mary's involvement in music isn't sudden but has always been a part of her life. Like yin and yang, it balances her inquisitive, scientific, logical mind and offers a different kind of passion and freedom. So it's logical she'd turn from her love of science to the other love in her life - and also logical that she'd uncover very different romantic possibilities within the two disciplines.
There's communication, miscommunication, and evolving connections that are realistic and powerful on all sides: "Wondering at the exchange they just had, James smiled, dismissed their conversation as two people figuring out how to talk to one another, and tossed the cup into the trash."
With the threads of connection begun in music and evolving through shared, different loses, Mary and James begin their dance through realizations of both strengths and experience, and slowly begin to build the kind of connection that leads to deeper meaning for both: ""But I'm not sure if she wants to do music anymore," confessed Ted. "She loves choir, though, and all of us, so she hangs around here." Ted paused again. "I think her hanging around the choir . . . I get the feeling she's still grieving, even if she doesn't know it yet.""
But before true love can evolve, there are departures. Mary dates others, finds different connections and involvements pull her in different directions, and James finds a certain peace comes with Mary's departure from choir, where he can finally learn to lead and can grow into his new position without distraction.
Still, there's something missing for both; and because absence makes the heart grow fonder, it also leads to newfound revelations for each: "Staring at the bare walls surrounding him, James realized that he had retreated from the loss of his wife and baby by immersing himself in the study music and his duties as choir director. And, in Mary's absence, James could better maintain the emotional detachment he had used to deal with Amelia's loss and his son's death. Faced with the decision to call Mary, he found himself loath to give up his newly found retreat."
In the end it boils down to the dance of connections, distance, reconnections, and negotiations between two strong people who not only interact in a professional setting, but build a friendship - and perhaps something more.
It's this give-and-take of relationship-building that keeps Autumn for Dragonflies: First Dance so engrossing, There's no linear plot: the protagonists dance around each other, leave and return, form other connections, and make decisions to come or go.
Without giving away the conclusion, suffice it to say that this is only the opening scene of the dance that constantly evolves throughout this book, creating a far more realistic, multidimensional romance than most genre writing and involving readers in the give-and-take of friendships, passion and personal evolution.
Romance readers seeking more than predictable processes will find Autumn for Dragonflies a satisfyingly complex read, filled with the back-and-forth of strong protagonists testing the waters for the possibilities of a strong relationship.
Harley P. Davidsun's Loony Bin
061587228X $6.00 pbk. / $2.99 Kindle
Harley P. Davidsun's Loony Bin is a zany and fun read set in a fourth grade class and presents an unconventional teacher and his crazy classroom assignments: perfect reading for kids who are typically bored by your usual stories of school.
Teacher Harley P. Davidsun makes his difference evident from the moment students set foot in his classroom: "The HIM was leaning back in the teacher's chair with his black motorcycle boots propped up right in the middle of the teacher's desk. His faded, frayed, torn-up blue jeans looked like they were at least a hundred years old. A long ponytail hung over the back of his sleeveless black t-shirt, and a gold hoop dangled from his left earlobe. Dark sunglasses sat on his crooked nose, and a scraggly beard lay on his bulging belly, almost reaching to his big, silver belt buckle.
The HIM didn't say a word. He just crossed his huge, tattooed arms over his ample belly and sat there eyeballing every kid who passed by his desk."
And lest appearances lie, the teacher's first greeting also indicates that school will be anything but normal this year: "...he grumbled in a sort of grizzly-bear voice wrapped up in a Southern drawl: "Welcome to the fourth grade loony bin."
As Gomez and his best friend Fester come to know their unconventional teacher - and participate in his antics - they discover that it will be the best school year they've ever experienced - and so readers in grades 3-6 will also discover the Loony Bin to be one of the liveliest, most unpredictable reads about school to land on their desks in quite some time.
Mind you, there are lessons taught within the hilarious escapades throughout: ""Here are a couple things, some real gems of wisdom you all oughtta tuck away in your gray matter for safe keepin'. If you eat like a pig, you're gonna look like one. Believe me, too many chocolate fudge sundaes and sittin' in front of the TV like a couch potato will be hazardous to your health.""
And even when Mr. D. is hospitalized and out of commission after an accident, the antics continue (at school and in the hospital), fostered by his unique brand of humor, insights on the world, and an attitude which successfully rubs off on his young students.
Ironically enough, one of his substitute teachers becomes equally zany, even participating when a fart-making contest erupts in the classroom and crescendos with a toilet-paper war pitting boys against girls.
There's absolutely nothing boring - or predictable - about Harley P. Davidsun's Loony Bin: even the most reluctant reader will become immersed in the whimsical exploits of teachers and students, and will find this to be a compelling page-turner.
Toward The Geopolitical Novel
Columbia University Press
61 West 62nd Street, New York, NY 10023-7015
9780231164412, $30.00, 280pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Caren Irr's survey of more than 125 novels outlines the dramatic resurgence of the American political novel in the twenty-first century. She explores the writings of Chris Abani, Susan Choi, Edwidge Danticat, Junot Diaz, Dave Eggers, Jeffrey Eugenides, Aleksandar Hemon, Hari Kunzru, Dinaw Mengestu, Norman Rush, Gary Shteyngart, and others as they rethink stories of migration, the Peace Corps, nationalism and neoliberalism, revolution, and the expatriate experience. Taken together, these innovations define a new literary form: the geopolitical novel. More cosmopolitan and socially critical than domestic realism, the geopolitical novel provides new ways of understanding crucial political concepts to meet the needs of a new century.
Critique: A superb example of original and exceptionally well written literary scholarship, "Toward the Geopolitical Novel: U.S. Fiction in the Twenty-First Century" by Caren Irr (Professor of English, Brandeis University, Waltham, Massachusetts) is an invaluable and very highly recommended contribution to academic library Contemporary Literary Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists. It should be noted that ""Toward the Geopolitical Novel: U.S. Fiction in the Twenty-First Century" is also available in a hardcover edition (9780231164405, $90.00) and a Kindle edition ($16.49) as well.
Take Control of Your Divorce
Judith Margerum, Jerome A. Price, James Windell
PO Box 6016, Atascadero, CA 93423-6016
9781886230972, $18.95, 168 pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Hostile and contentious divorces are not uncommon. But if you ve been separated or divorced for more than a year or two and things haven t gotten better, something is very wrong. If you re not working together in a spirit of cooperation for the good of your children, you have not resolved the emotions following a divorce so you can go about the important job ahead: co-parenting your children! You can change the unproductive communication cycle you and your co-parent may have developed and go from a relationship featuring anger and hostility to one less volatile, more cooperative, and healthier for your children. Children caught up in post-divorce conflict are in considerable danger to suffer physically, emotionally, and behaviorally. The authors intent for "Take Control of Your Divorce" is to help you save your children and yourself from the ravages of anger, hostility, and conflict. They give you specific strategies you can use to resolve, overlook, or put aside the conflicts with your co-parent and get to the crucial task of being good parents.
Critique: Impressively well written collaborative effort from beginning to end, "Take Control of Your Divorce" is practical, insightful, thoughtful, and especially well suited for the non-specialist general reader seeking to ameliorate the inevitable damage that divorce can have upon everyone concerned -- adults as well as children. Of special note is the emphasis on achieving successful co-parenting. Enhanced with the inclusion of a roster of Online Resources, "Take Control of Your Divorce" should be considered essential reading for anyone involved with or contemplating a divorce and would make an invaluable addition to community library collections.
So you think you babysit monsters?
Leslie S. Susskind
Good Manners Kids Stuff Press
9780985703202, $8.99, 190pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Help! The little boy I'm babysitting just turned into a monster!" When you're 13, life can be tough enough just trying to fit in. But when little Michael Roper turns into a monster before her eyes, Mackenzie Abercrombie realizes that her regular, every-day life is over. From now on, fitting in could be almost impossible! That's because Mackenzie's family is made up of a 2,000+ year-old line of Magic Minders. All of the kids she's babysat for the past year are baby monsters (or Magic Ones, as they like to be called) in disguise. It's up to her to keep them safe from the local humans and to keep the local humans safe from them. Her neighborhood's Ground Hog's Day Festival is just around the corner and a cute new boy named Ben has joined her class. Mackenzie has enough to worry about without being responsible for the neighborhood monster population! But in just two weeks, facing social annihilation, the Earth threatening to split apart, and world domination in the works, it becomes perfectly clear that an Undercover Magic Minder is just what the neighborhood monster - and mortal - population needs. Most importantly, how does Ben, the new boy, fit in ... and is he keeping a secret from her?
Critique: The first in a series of novels for middle school age readers (The Abercrombie Family Business: Totally True, Tir Griffin Stories), author Leslie S. Susskind presents an impressive set of storytelling skills in "So you think you babysit monsters?". A wonderfully entertaining read from cover to cover, "So you think you babysit monsters?" is very highly recommended for young readers and will prove an enduringly popular addition to school and community libraries. It should be noted that "So you think you babysit monsters?" is also available in a Kindle edition ($2.99).
The Blind Masseuse
c/o University of Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe Street, Third Floor, Madison, WI 53711-2059
9780299295707, $24.95, 192 pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Through personal journeys both interior and across the globe, Alden Jones investigates what motivates us to travel abroad in search of the unfamiliar. By way of explorations to Costa Rica, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Cuba, Burma, Cambodia, Egypt, and around the world on a ship, Jones chronicles her experience as a young American traveler while pondering her role as an outsider in the cultures she temporarily inhabits. Her wanderlust fuels a strong, high-adventure story and, much in the vein of classic travel literature, Jones's picaresque tale of personal evolution informs her own transitions, rites of passage, and understandings of her place as a citizen of the world. With sharp insight and stylish prose, Jones asks: Is there a right or wrong way to travel? "The Blind Masseuse" concludes that there is, but that it's not always black and white.
Critique: Author Alden Jones demonstrates a genuinely consistent storytelling talent in the pages of "The Blind Masseuse". As insightful and thoughtful as it is informative and entertaining, "The Blind Masseuse" is a highly recommended read for armchair travelers and would make an enduringly popular addition to community library Travel and American Memoir collections. It should be noted that "The Blind Masseuse" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.39).
China Books & Periodicals, Inc.
360 Swift Avenue, Suite 48, South San Francisco, CA 94080
9780835100465, $22.95, 330 pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Excess Baggage" chronicles two Chinese sisters, one raised in China during the desolate Cultural Revolution; the other in Japan during the freewheeling years of bubble capitalism. They reunite as adults in Tokyo in the early 1990s and their family history soon catches up with them. Zhang Peiyin, the forgotten sister left behind in China, is hell-bent on making up for lost time after growing up with little more than political slogans and has abandoned her children to join her family in Japan, imagining riches, fame, and comfort. She instead receives a wary welcome from her estranged parents and insecure, competitive younger sister, Vivian, who not-so-secretly wants to drive her back to China. As the sisters circle warily, their distrust grows, fueled by family lies and secrets. Ultimately each must confront a fundamental question: what s the meaning of home when your roots aren t secure?
Critique: Karen Ma's debut novel, "Excess Baggage", clearly documents her as a writer with a solid set of storytelling skills, a distinctive knack for character creation, and an impressive ability to capture her reader's total attention from beginning to end. Original, entertaining, and a simply terrific read, "Excess Baggage" is very highly recommended and would make an enduringly popular addition to community library contemporary fiction collections. It should be noted that "Excess Baggage" is also available in a Kindle edition ($14.11).
Browsing Nature's Aisles
Wendy Brown & Eric Brown
New Society Publishers
Box 189, Gabriola Island, BC, Canada, V0R 1X0
9780865717503, $17.95, 224 pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Wild foods are the ideal solution to bridging the gap between what you are able to produce to feed yourself and what your family needs to survive. "Browsing Nature's Aisles: A Year of Foraging for Wild Food in the Suburbs" is the story of one suburban family's adventures in wild foraging. As part of their commitment to self-reliance and resiliency, Wendy and Eric Brown decided to spend a year incorporating wild foods as a regular part of their diet. The experience fundamentally changed their definition of food. Not only did they learn about specific flora and fauna, but they also had to learn how to prepare them in ways that would be both aesthetically appealing and palatable. "Browsing Nature's Aisles: A Year of Foraging for Wild Food in the Suburbs" is a solid source information on collecting, preparing, and preserving easily identifiable wild edibles found in most suburban landscapes, this unique and inspiring guide is a must-read for anyone who wants to enhance their family's food security by availing themselves of the cornucopia on their doorstep.
Critique: Informed, informative, and above all, 'user friendly', "Browsing Nature's Aisles: A Year of Foraging for Wild Food in the Suburbs" should be considered fundamental reading for anyone seeking to reduce their dependence upon 'outsourcing' their food needs to the corporations that stock the shelves of local grocery stores and supermarkets. Of special note is the chapter devoted to getting started as forger. Enhanced with an extensive bibliography and a useful index, "Browsing Nature's Aisles: A Year of Foraging for Wild Food in the Suburbs" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library 'Sustainable Living' collections. It should be noted that "Browsing Nature's Aisles: A Year of Foraging for Wild Food in the Suburbs" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
For All of Us, One Today
25 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108-2892
9780807033807, $15.00, 120 pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet's Journey" is a fluid, poetic story anchored by Richard Blanco's experiences as the inaugural poet in 2013, and beyond. In this brief and evocative narrative, he shares for the first time his journey as a Latino immigrant and openly gay man discovering a new, emotional understanding of what it means to be an American. He tells the story of the call from the White House committee and all the exhilaration and upheaval of the days that followed. He reveals the inspiration and challenges behind the creation of the inaugural poem, "One Today," as well as two other poems commissioned for the occasion ("Mother Country" and "What We Know of Country"), published here for the first time ever, alongside translations of all three of those poems into his native Spanish. Finally, Blanco reflects on his life-changing role as a public voice since the inauguration, his spiritual embrace of Americans everywhere, and his vision for poetry's new role in our nation's consciousness. Like the inaugural poem itself, "For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet's Journey" speaks to what makes this country and its people great, marking a historic moment of hope and promise in our evolving American landscape.
Critique: Richard Blanco (born February 15, 1968) is an American poet, public speaker, author and civil engineer. The fifth poet to read at an inauguration, he was the inaugural poet for Barack Obama's second inauguration. He is the first immigrant, the first Latino, the first openly gay person and the youngest person to be the U.S. inaugural poet. Simply stated, his work is outstanding and his appointment fully justified. Enthusiastically recommended for community and academic library collections, "For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet's Journey" is an informative and inherently fascinating read from beginning to end. It should be noted that "For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet's Journey" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
God for Us
Greg Pennoyer & Gregory Wolfe, editors
PO Box 1568, Orleans, MA 02653
9781612613796, $29.99, 220pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "God For Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Lent and Easter" features reflections by Scott Cairns, Kathleen Norris, Richard Rohr, Ronald Rolheiser, OMI, James Schaap, Luci Shaw, Beth Bevis, and Lauren F. Winner. By delving deeply into the Christian tradition they reveal what one theologian has called the "bright sadness" of Lent - that it is not about becoming lost in feelings of brokenness, but about cleansing the palate so that we can taste life more fully. Lent and Easter reveal the God who is for us in all of life - for our liberation, for our healing, for our wholeness. Lent and Easter remind us that even in death there can be found resurrection.
Critique: Enhanced throughout with beautifully reproduced, full color artwork, "God For Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Lent and Easter" is an impressive compilation of Christian meditations and prayers for Lent through Easter and is as inspired and inspiring, as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. Simply stated, "God For Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Lent and Easter" is very highly recommended for personal, family, church, community, and academic library Christian Studies collections and supplemental reading lists.
Skating On Thick Ice
Richard K. Tobin
Biographical Publishing Company
95 Sycamore Drive, Prospect, CT 06712-1493
1929882963, $12.00, 122 pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Set in an imaginary Cape Breton Crossroads, west of Baddeck and east of the Waycobah Mi'kmaq Reserve. "Skating On Thick Ice" involves four children, one the hero, another one the heavy, and a brother and sister of Indian descent. A lot of the story revolves around hockey, a competitive sport no matter what age. Also there is a lioness, now on the loose, having escaped from a circus, and a beautiful circus dog. Also, bigotry against Indians is touched thoroughly enough for young people to see the problems the Indian nation went through years ago with racial biases and prejudices. The young hero is partially disabled but still works on improving his hockey game as much as he possibly can. The lioness, when it escapes, makes its presence felt and is of concern to local farmers who have livestock on their farms. The parents of young people in the Barrach area, an imaginary settlement near Mabou, Baddeck and Whycocomagh, in west central Cape Breton Island, fear for their children. They just don't want the kids to go much further than their front door rather than take a chance on being mauled. Order is gradually restored and the hockey team becomes strong and Barrach is left in even better shape than when the story started.
Critique: Deftly written from beginning to end, "Skating On Thick Ice" is as compelling a read as it is entertaining and will have a strong appeal for young readers ages 8 to 12. "Skating On Thick Ice" clearly documents author Richard Tobin's imaginative abilities as a storyteller and leave his reader's looking hopefully toward more novels like his debut effort here. "Skating On Thick Ice" is very highly recommended for school and community library collections.
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250037947, $7.99, www.amazon.com
Lovers Dr. Asher and Nurse Edie leave blizzard wracked County Hospital where they work at the secret Y4 ward for paranormal patients on the Maraschino cruise ship bound for Hawaii. However, besides seasickness in which she rejects meds due to her pregnancy, Edie feels overwhelmed standing on the sixth deck looking out on the vast ocean while Asher wants to spend the two weeks naked in their cabin.
However, soon after departure, Asher recognizes evil from his less savory days. He explains to Edie that the malevolence hired him to steal synthetic blood, which he did for a fee that he cashed but turned the rogue in to the Consortium. Edie says even bad guys need R&R. Soon afterward, people on board become ill with some dying and some going insane. Asher believes his former employer is behind the disaster while Edie concludes patient zero is an Old Testament monster.
The fourth Edie Spence paranormal is an exciting thriller that starts slow but accelerates into hyperspeed once the pandemic erupts. The change of venue from the Y4 ward to the ship brings freshness but also leaves behind in the States the strange patients and odd staff who made the previous entries (see Moonshifted, Nightshifted and Shapeshifted) unique. Still the exciting storyline engages the readers as series fans will appreciate this taut tale and its shocking finish.
The Greatest Lover Ever
St. Martin's Press
At the Duke of Montford's ball, an irate Earl of Beckenham shows his fiancee Lady Georgiana Black her hair given to him by taunting libertine Lord Pearce who claimed this as his token of affection prize. He believes her claims that she has no idea how this miscreant got her hair, but Montford and Georgiana's father agree that with her reputation for eccentric behavior she needs to rusticate in Gloucestshire while the Earl has business with Pearce. Georgie begs him not to duel or she will end their engagement. Montford reacts by saying her father is now responsible for her well-being.
Six years later, twenty-four years old Georgiana is on the shelf rejecting any interest in her while soon to come into a large inheritance. She also ferociously protects her younger sister Violet hoping her sibling will avoid her missteps. When she learns that Violet attends a scandalous masquerade gala, Georgiana follows her. There she meets Beckenham who recognizes her in spite of her mask though this is their first encounter since they ended their betrothal. Though both remain attracted to each other, she refuses his advances while Pearce has plans to destroy Beckenham through his adversary's love for Georgie.
The second Westruther Regency romance (see London's Last True Scoundrel) is an engaging historical starring two stubborn protagonists whose relationship collapsed due to a lack of communication and an adversary who plays their obstinacy like a puppeteer. Fans will enjoy the rematch as Christina Brooke provides a wonderful second chance at love if the heroes can learn to first trust one another.
St. Martin's Press
"Dark Craving." In Dreagan, Scotland Green Dragon King Hal knows first-hand that the curse prevents any of the monarchs from falling in love; so he wonders why his heart soars ever since he met visiting American Cassie Hunter through her missing brother Dan's Great Dane Duke.
"Night's Awakening." Red Dragon King Guy is a powerful warrior until he meets the mortal PureGens executive Elena Griffith a Londoner in a cave in the Highlands; she has him thinking seditious thoughts fueled by desire.
"Dawn's Desire." Blue Dragon King Banan accepted the curse as a sad reality until he meets PureGens secretary "Plain" Jane Holden.
"Passion's Claim." Banan and Guy have found love, but each feels the curse remains but modified as they consider breaking their own hearts by releasing their respective beloveds Jane and Elena to return to a normal mortal life.
This enjoyable "Dark Kings" romantic fantasy collection contains three reprints and a new follow-up tale ("Passion's Claim"). Each entry is exciting and well written, but in the anthology format the thematic repetitiveness of the stories is obvious and a major thread as to whom the enemy is dangling hopefully for near future tales.
Just Like Heaven
St. Martin's Press
The death of their beloved grandmother shook her six grandchildren. While one of them never left Sweetland, Maryland, the other five come from different parts of the country to attend her funeral and adhere to her wishes, which left each of them an equal share in her B&B and with a dog to care for (see Homecoming).
Prosecutor Preston Cantrell places a local ad for someone to adopt his Labrador puppy Coco so he can return to Baltimore. Heaven Montgomery arrives wanting the pup. After interrogating her, Preston takes her to meet Coco only she and the Lab fall into a pond. Preston delays his return to Baltimore to get to know Heaven better. She in turn thinks he is arrogant. Still the research chemist needs Coco as part of her recovery from a lab explosion that left two of associates dead and her suffering from PTSD. As Preston and Heaven fall in love with each other and with Coco, an adversary kidnaps the scientist and her canine.
The second Sweetland romance is an engaging contemporary starring two likable protagonists and a precocious dog who at times steals the show from the adults. The suspense subplot comes across as undeveloped; while the relationships between the lead pair and respectively with their canine fun to follow though unlikely either would place their careers on hold for a stranger even without factoring in that Heaven remains emotionally troubled.
Twilight With The Infamous Earl
St. Martin's Press
In 1826 Lord Chillingsworth, Frost, muses that he is the last man standing single among the seven Lord of Vice friends who were confirmed bachelors just six years ago. In 1821 Emily Cavell's sister Lucy died in her arms after committing suicide due to Frost. Now she tries to rescue young Katie from a brute who turns out to be her stepfather when the aristocrat she loathes intervenes over her objection though he kindly insures the girl is properly taking care of.
As Emily and Frost become better acquainted while falling in love, she begins to doubt her late sister's death bed accusation that he ruined her. Confessing to him what she never told her parents or younger brother, Emily and Frost investigate what happened that led to Lucy killing herself.
The final Lords of Vice historical romance (see Dusk With A Dangerous Duke) is a delightful late Regency as the previous leads return for the end game. In spite of falling in love Frost's roguish charm remains consistent with the same haughty naughtiness (though redirected) that he displayed throughout the series. On the other hand, Emily does not seem real as she too abruptly changes from hatred to love in a beat of the heart.
The Tenth Circle
345 Hudson Street Suite 6C New York, NY 10014
9781480414792, $16.99, www.openroadmedia.com
Black ops Blaine McCracken and Johnny Wareagle return home after successfully destroying an underground nuclear facility in Iran. However, in the States, Reverend Jeremiah Rule sprouts hatred attacks on Islam that he calls evil and blames it for everything wrong in the world. Raging with fire and brimstone, Rule encourages his supporters to take action against these wicked Muslim monsters protected by the duplicitous sinful American government.
An affluent secret cabal supports the Reverend in his fiery loathing; but is ignorant as to his plans to deploy a special weapon of mass destruction used in the late sixteenth century on Roanoke Island and in 1872 on the Mary Celeste. Blaine, Johnny and others have no time to rest on their Iranian laurels as they must prevent the Rev. from devastating the globe with his WMD.
The latest exhilarating faster than light Blaine McCracken black ops thriller (see Pandora's Temple) uses the premise of a WMD as the cause behind the two famous historical mass disappearances. Over the top of Fenway's Green Monster (to the delight of us fans including we Yankee rooters), readers will appreciate the efforts of Blaine and company to keep Rule from changing America and the world into a hellish Tenth Circle.
James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
Vision / Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, 16th Floor, New York, NY 10017
9781455525157, $10.00, www.amazon.com
Biologist Jackson Oz observes a growing trend in which male animals from a wide variety of species become aggressive attackers of humans. He develops the Human-Animal Conflict (HAC) hypothesis in which he ponders whether the underlying cause that has changed the behavior of even docile pets into violent aggressors could be some form of modern day technology sending out "signals".
He heads to Africa to test his HAC theory, but upon arrival male lions charge at his vehicle with him inside. Barely escaping, Oz rescues ecologist Chloe Tousignant from dozens of attacking alligators. The two scientists try to warn the world, but leaders choose self-preservation proclaiming Oz to be a nutcase with a wacko concept. As Oz and Chloe continue their research, he modifies his theory to include animals working as a cohesive assault unit propelled by industrialization; concluding with mankind will become the hunted if radical changes don't occur now.
After a slow unnecessary early interlude in the sack and throughout too much explanation rather than action, the environmental premise with its deniers makes for an engaging save mankind in spite of itself thriller. Oz comes across as brilliant but fickle while Chloe is never developed beyond being an adulating sexual sidekick for the hero to love and rescue. Overall Zoo is an entertaining tale that could have been a great cautionary parable.
The Fifth Assassin
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, 16th Floor, New York, NY 10017
9780446553988, $10.00, www.amazon.com
National Archives archivist Beecher White became part of the Culper Ring, established by George Washington to protect the presidency, after he and his high school crush Clementine Hadrian got involved with a GW artifact (see The Inner Circle). Recently the unknown Knight has assassinated church dignitaries by copying presidential murders.
Beecher investigates the serial killings. His findings leads him to an improbable hypothesis that he and historians would have believed impossible not too long ago; the archivist concludes the four successful POTUS assassins amongst the over twenty attempts seem to have "worked" together. Additionally, Beecher assumes the current religious murders are practice for the mysterious masked wearing Knight to target the current office holder; though the archivist believes the death of the malevolent president is not necessarily a bad thing.
The second Beecher White tale (see The Inner Circle) is an exhilarating conspiratorial thriller that uses real presidential history as a critical backdrop. Although there are too many jumping in and out of subplots (especially distracting is the hero's childhood flashbacks), readers will appreciate the adventures of the activist archivist attempting to prevent the fascinating (in a macabre way) deranged Fifth Assassin from succeeding.
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Avenue, 16th Floor, New York, NY 10017
9781455526970, $8.00, www.amazon.com
Reaver was once the battle angel Yenrieth, but his less than heavenly roguish actions led to memories of his past eradicated from almost everyone including himself and his offspring the Horsemen. Still considered a loose cannon lunatic by the craziest berserker battle angels, Reaver will risk anything even disobeying the Archangels or losing his wings on a mission he believes is heavenly. His self-assigned quest is to enter where angels dare not go: hell to abduct Satan's greatest capture.
Harvester became a Fallen when she sacrificed her wings to go undercover in hell. However, after a millennium in Satan's chamber of horrors working against the prince of evil, she has been exposed as an enemy agent who will spend eternity tormented with a craving for angelic blood. Reaver enters the evil domain knowing he will remain inside Satan's torture chamber forever, but his gut tells him to take a chance on rescuing Harvester, although both remains ignorant to the bigger crisis than escape from hell.
The latest Lords of Deliverance (see Lethal Rider and Rogue Rider) is a great ultra-dark romantic fantasy filled with action as the rogue Reaver is "... willing to march (head dive more descriptive) into Hell for a heavenly cause" (The Impossible Dream). However what makes this entry superb is the transformation of Harvester during the overarching plot of the last few thrillers; that change also makes it imperative for newbies to read the earlier novels to better understand the courage of this doomed volunteer. Series fans of Larissa Ione's dark Demonica realm will relish this strong stark saga.
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9781455599226, $8.00, www.amazon.com
In Denver, uber-reticent Pierson Mattress and Bed sale clerk Mara Hanover rates from a distance her neighbor Detective Mitch Lawson as a 10.5. Though wildly attracted to him, thirtyish Mara knows nothing will come of it as she considers herself no better than an inflated 2.5 with her rotten Iowa childhood mooring her with the belief no one would ever desire her; even her one relationship with a 6.5 ended when he sought a 9.5. Mara settles for dreams that the Law Man would shower her with love.
A leaky faucet sends Mara next door for help, but Mitch walking up the stairs offers to look at it. Mara reacts like an idiot but thanks him for fixing the leak and pays him back with her barbeque chicken pizza, but becomes heartbroken when he cannot make it because of a 9.75. Mitch takes Mara to pick up her single dad cousin Bill's runaway children, scornful nine year old Billy and fearful six years old Billie, whose respective moms deserted them. To her sputtering shock, Mitch pushes his way into Mara World.
The third Dream Man romance (see Mystery Man and Wild Man) is a fabulous contemporary summed up by the title character when he concludes that his beloved cannot accept him being nice to her while turning into a spitfire when he is nasty towards her. Though the traumatized kids and a narcotics mystery enhance the deep storyline, Mara with her negative self-esteem brings freshness as a unique lead female to an engaging tale.
Happily Ever After
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9781455549924, $8.00, www.amazon.com
"ADDICTED TO LOVE". Jilted for the second time, frustrated Rachael Henderson disfigures the Valentine, Texas billboard as happily ever after is a fairytale. Her first crush Iraq War veteran turned town Sheriff Brody Carlton arrests her for defacing public property. The court gives Rachel community service; while she sentences herself to set up an Internet site for Romanceaholics Anonymous so they can save each other from the addicted destruction of romanticism. The townsfolk are irate; at least the Austen crowd and those who sell the concept of romance in Valentine; although some cynics toast their new heroine. Brody, who lost a leg in Iraq, thinks the woman he is falling in love with is overreacting to the rejections; as he believes she has not found the right groom until now.
"ALL OF ME". Struggling to cope with the death of his wife Aimee two years ago, architect Tucker Manning leaves for his self- imposed exile to Salvation, Colorado. He hopes to grieve in peace at the lake house his father-in-law Blake gave him. Houston attorney Jillian Samuels arrives to find Tucker there. She insists the lake house is hers as her beloved mentor Blake meant for her to inherit the Salvation home. Jillian and Tuck reach an agreement to co-share the house for now until they can come up with a more suitable arrangement. Both are stunned by the attraction each feels from the first encounter. Whereas Tuck feels betrayal of his beloved Aimee; Jillian takes a chance on love if he allows her.
This reprint of two charming Wedding Veil Wishes tales are amusing lighthearted fun with strong protagonists though All Of Me also contains plenty of pathos.
c/o St. Martin's Publishing Group
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312656041, $25.99, www.amazon.com
Former Beijing investigator Shan Tao Yun learned the hard way about being too diligent when pursuing corruption at the highest levels of the government; his reward was exile to a Tibetan gulag. Still in Tibet, which he love due to the people, Shan works alongside unregistered Buddhist monks as a government irrigation and sewer inspector.
Unofficially he thrives on protecting the Tibetans from their Chinese overlords like keeping unregistered Monk Jamyang safe from an egregious bounty hunter. To his horror Shan watches his close friend Lokesh shoots and kills Jamyang. They go to honor Jamyang by adhering to his wishes to treat every shrine as the last shrine. However Shan observes Public Security Bureau and People's Armed Police at the site of a ruined convent. Unable to resist though he knows the consequences of his folly, Shan makes commentary on the homicide "scenes" of two mutilated males that he believes are Chinese and a shot in the chest Buddhist nun were posed together with her at their feet far from the site of their deaths. Shan knows he must solve the case before the PAP's "green apes" viciously punish everyone in the nearby village turned into a prison camp.
The seventh super Shan mystery (see Lord of Death and Prayer of the Dragon) continues to show the oppression of the Tibetan people especially when it comes to justice. Encouraged by PSB Lieutenant Meng, Shan returns to his previous occupation as he investigates the homicides but aware he must be careful with how he does so or face the reeducation wrath of Governor Colonel Tan. Readers will appreciate the protagonist's latest albeit unofficial case.
Zane Presents: Little White Lies
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781593095185, $15.00, www.amazon.com
In Brooklyn, seventeen year old African-American Melvin is the star of his high school basketball team. He knows his future is in hoops so he avoids the neighborhood illicit action though the pressure on his succeeding is immense. However, after a particular bad stretch with a terrible court performance, his father's condemnation and his girlfriend using him, depressed Melvin, ignoring his gut telling him not to go, attends a party.
At the party Melvin awakens from being drugged only to find blood all over him and the police accusing him of leading a gang raping of two white girls. Though he knows he did not commit the heinous assault, the police him keep hungry, frightened and depressed while his public defender fails him until Melvin cracks and confesses to the delight of the media and politician Representative Crudele whose daughter was one of the victims. In prison with no hope of getting out, Melvin tries suicide, but survives. As years pass with Melvin still behind bars, Rose the reporter looks into the case and finds major holes.
With a nod to Morris' The Thin Blue Line, Cole Riley condemns American justice being color blind especially towards urban poor African-Americans. The tense storyline is at its best when Melvin as a victim loses when he goes up against the media-government complex and when the plot focuses on his hopeless feelings while incarcerated. Though the ending seems unlikely, readers will appreciate this profound look at being an impoverish Black facing a system that assumes his race and social class classify him with a presumption of guilt who (without assets) must prove his innocence beyond a reasonable doubt.
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778315841, $14.95, www.amazon.com
Working at the Virginia FBI Behavior Analysis Unit, profiler Evelyn Baine became a Fed after what happened to her BFF as a child. Her cold demeanor turns off her peers, local law enforcement and victim's family members, but she is one of the best at solving cases so is in demand.
Evelyn currently leads the investigation into the Bakersville Burier serial killer who buries his female victims in the nearby woods leaving only their heads exposed. However, this brilliant murderer knows Evelyn pursues him and has plans to greet her with a special gravesite.
The first Evelyn Baine police procedural is an entertaining serial killer tale due in part to the unlikable unique heroine who's colder than the tundra (think of a more clinical matter of fact than the early TV version of Kathy Reich's Bones). There is too much explicatory telling instead of active showing and the culprit needed either more time or no time as his brief interludes feel intrusive rather than macabre fascinating. Still, fans will enjoy this cat and mouse thriller as the antagonist plans to show the protagonist who the cat and trapped mouse are.
The In-Between Hour
Barbara Claypole White
In his apartment on Central Park West, bestselling author Will Shepard grieves the accidental death of his beloved son Freddie. Unable to write or sleep, Will also poorly deals with his father Jacob who keeps asking him to have Freddie call him as the octogenarian's Alzheimer has wiped out the memory of his grandson's death. Will constantly lies to his dad that Freddie will call him soon.
After several weeks in Orange County, California, veterinarian Hannah Linden comes home to Saponi Mountain in North Carolina still seeing her screaming adult child Galen tied to a gurney. Hannah feels hopeless as her son wants to commit suicide.
When the Hawk's Ridge Retirement Community informs Will they plan to toss out Jacob due to his illness compounded by alcoholism, Will comes home to North Carolina where his dad immediately demands to see Freddie. While renting a cabin that he shares with his father from Hannah, Will and the vet forge a friendship out of the tsuris that engulfs both of them. Soon they fall in love, but to Will and Hannah family needs come before their shared desire yet each knows they can rely on the other for needed emotional support.
The fully developed extended cast makes this tale into a powerful family drama that focuses on the impact of the illnesses on loving caretakers; as readers will feel the immense pressure on the lead pair to cope emotionally with what to do for their ailing beloved relatives. Although the romance goes as expected, readers will appreciate the relationship between Will and Hannah with each understanding the demons they both face when it comes to doing right by his dad and her son.
Big Sky Secrets
Linda Lael Miller
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road
Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373778317, $7.99, www.amazon.com
Divorcee Landry Sutton returns home to his Parable, Montana rustic roots to sell his share of Hangman Bend's Ranch to his brother Zane as he plans to live in the city where he became a wealthy executive. At his sibling's Big Sky Wedding, Landry met 200-proof urbanite Widow Ria Manning; who finds everyday rural life harrowing while she runs a flower farm. Landry and Ria were attracted to one another at first sight, but neither acted on their feelings as his ex-wife and his father's abandonment left him a doubter; while her deceased firefighting spouse's cheating and her dysfunctional family left her a skeptic.
When his wandering buffalo trample her flowers and send a frightened Ria into a panic, Landry arrives to take them home. Before leaving with his bison, he challenges her to go with him; she reluctantly takes up his dare. As they double and triple dare each other, Landry and Ria fall in love; but besides their hearts they share exorbitant distrust of people that keeps both from committing to a forever relationship.
The last Parable ranch romance (see Big Sky Summer and Big Sky River) is an entertaining contemporary as love is not enough for the protagonists who must work through their troubled pasts before they fully can connect. Landry's butler Highbridge brings fresh humor to the enjoyable straightforward storyline.
The 8.5 earthquake that devastated San Diego trapped eight months pregnant Penny Sandoval along with convict Owen Jackson. She went into labor and he delivered the baby and kept mother and child safe until help arrived (see Aftershock). Her grateful father Jorge used his political connections to get Owen free and subsequently hired him as a security specialist.
Five years later at the San Diego Convention Center, Jorge is about to become the first Hispanic-American nominated by a major party as their presidential candidate. The honor meant Secret Service so Owen is relegated to babysitting Penny and her child Cruz. However, as Penny is about to introduce her mother to the Republican Party delegates, an alarm goes off. Owen's convict brother Shane paying off a debt to the Aryan Brotherhood and his nastier partner Dirk incapacitate the bodyguard with a taser. They take injured Owen with them as they kidnap the single mom and her son. Driving into the Badlands, they demand two million in ransom delivered by her father. In spite of his sibling being one of the kidnappers, Owen knows they must escape into the barren wilderness if they are to survive as Dirk will never let them go after he completes his hidden agenda mission.
The third Afterfall romantic suspense (See Freefall) is an action-packed over the top of the Sierra's novel that never slows down from the moment the abduction occurs until the final confrontation. Fast-paced throughout, the key to this taut thriller is that survival supersedes love as Owen risks his life to protect the mother and son he cherishes, and Penny likewise to keep Cruz safe. Readers will appreciate the harrowing trek in the Badlands.
A Gentleman 'til Midnight
Katherine Kinloch was an English countess until Barbary pirates took her after Captain James Warre sunk the Merry Sea with her on it leading to her abduction. By the time she finally escaped while pregnant, Countess Katherine no longer existed. Instead she stole a ship and became the successful infamous Corsair Kate, pirate captain of the Possession with a rare mixed crew of Moors and Brits.
In 1767, James' ship goes down near Gibraltar with the rest of his mates dead. Mother of a blind daughter, Kate pulls him out of the sea over the objections of her crew. He recognizes her but she fails to identity him. Each is stunned by the attraction; and soon the pair heads to London where for the sake of her child Katherine claims to be the Countess of Dunscore whose cousin has lived luxuriously as; thanks mostly to James' brother Baron Taggart who stole his sibling's title.
A Gentleman 'til Midnight is a fascinating Georgian romance due to the strong complex lead characters who share a tormented pivotal moment that shaped their lives ever since. In London, Corsair Kate must regress back to helpless Countess Katherine with no power if she is to regain her estate for her daughter; while James must deal with family loyalties that tear him apart. With a strong cast of supporting strong women, fans will enjoy the return of the prodigal aristocrats to English high society.
Two years ago in New Orleans, someone abducted infant Joshua Powers. Ever since his distraught mom Marcie sees her missing baby everywhere while the child's depressed dad Joe, who like his mate blames himself for their baby Gone in an instant, believes his estranged wife has become unhinged. He has not seen his spouse in a year since the last time she claimed she found Joshua.
When Marcie knows again she has seen her Joshua this time in a car, she turns to skeptical Joe with the auto tag rather than the cops because he has access as he works at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Deciding to appease her while proving her wrong again, Joe is shocked when they find Joshua taken by deranged childless Rhoda Sumner who was tender and caring with the child. However, before the bereaving family can become a happy unit again, they learn that Joe is the illegitimate son of affluent Con Delancey; making Joshua the monetary target of Rhoda's odious boyfriend Howard Lelievre.
The latest Delancey Dynasty (see Dirty Little Secrets, Special Forces Father and Star Witness) is an exciting action-packed Bayou suspense due to the powerful key cast. Readers will sympathize with the adult Powers as each separately struggles emotionally with what destroyed their family and surprisingly empathize with mentally ill Rhoda in spite of her snatching "her Joshy" while hoping she gets the help she desperately needs.
Dead by Wednesday
Following the death of her older brother due to gang violence, Carmen Jimenez dedicated her life to helping troubled pregnant teens. Police officer Robert Hanson investigates a serial killer targeting male teens every Wednesday for the past four weeks. He and Carmen met three months ago when she was the maid of honor and he the best man at their respective BFFs' wedding. Their solo dance was heavenly but he wanted more and she was afraid.
A victim of bullies at high school, Carmen's brother Raoul makes a new friend Apollo who helps him deal with his tormenters. Realizing her sibling has changed and concerned that Raoul was turning to the gangs; Carman asks Robert to be a big brother to his sibling. Though his time is limited and he rationalizes that Raoul gives him an inside to teen boys, Hanson knows he agrees because this is his chance for some time with Carmen. When she learns the dark secret her hero fails to tell her, their relationship collapses at a time the killer targets the Jimenez siblings.
This is a strong romantic police procedural that provides a deep look into the subculture of gangs especially the motives including being a bullying victim why so many join the violent lifestyle, and the impact on families by teen pregnancy. Readers will know the identity of the serial killer early on, but not care as Dead by Wednesday needs a warning label to wear seatbelts due to a faster than the speed of light storyline.
My Secret Fantasies
Miranda Cortland loved the Pacific and working at her friend's Melrose Tearoom. When she became a paparazzi favorite as the "Nebraska Backstabber" of the Gutsy Girl reality show that led to vandalism and contact from her sister Nina's odious ex-husband Rick Barrow; Miranda concluded it is time to flee Southern California.
Seeing an ad on Craigslist, she buys land in the Sonoma area from rancher Damien Fraser. Her plans are to open a tearoom and write a steamy romance. Miranda becomes tongue-tied when she meets Damien who soon becomes the star of her novel. Damien detests her TV infamy almost as much as he hates his attraction to the needy woman. As they fall in love, vicious reality arrives in ranch country.
The metafiction of extracts from Miranda's steamy novel brings a delightful freshness to this fun heated Forbidden Fantasies (see No Desire Denied by Cara Summers). Though the invasion of Miranda's past occurs as expected, readers will appreciate the reticent Cornhusker and the loner rancher falling in love in reality and in her fiction.
Texas Outlaws: Jesse
Jesse James Chisholm knows first-hand that the sins of his late famous outlaw father pass on to the child; as his dad robbed banks so the citizens of Lost Gun, Texas assumed he and his brothers inherited his felonious gene. Considered a pariah by most residents, Jesse left town to become a bull riding champion.
He comes home for just about the only person who could bring him back to Lost Gun; the marriage of Pete Gunner who saved him (and his siblings) when he was a teen. The downside of coming home is seeing Gracie Jones, who twelve years ago dumped him. He recalls her being the bad girl equal to his bad boy, but now Gracie is a respectable conservative mayor-elect. Neither desires that their attraction remains stratospheric as love proves very powerful.
The first Chisholm brothers' Texas Outlaws is a heated second chance at love romance starring two fascinating protagonists working on their respective images while dealing with torrid desires. Although the action slows down at times, sub-genre fans will enjoy the son of a bank robber and the newly elected mayor struggling with quenching the inferno that binds them.
Happy New Year, Baby Fortune
Harlequin Special Edition
As she and others celebrate New Year's Eve in Horseback Hollow, Texas, Stacy Fortune Jones feels blessed with her six-month old daughter Piper. She appreciates her family showering her baby with love though there is a spat between her resentful brother Chris and their mom Jeanne due to the latter refusing to accept any money from her sibling James. Stacey has mixed feelings about her ex-fiance Joe who dumped her (to her relief) when she told him she was carrying his child as the rat makes no time for his offspring (to her chagrin).
Lately Stacy finds herself distracted by thoughts of her friend's older brother Colton Foster. Noticing how mature Stacy has become since becoming a single mom, Colton is attracted to her too. However Colton also remains reluctant to pursue his neighbor as he fears the impact on their close friendly family relationships and besides has doubts about raising a child at this time especially since Piper scares him more than a charging bull.
This Fortunes of Texas: Welcome to Horseback Hollow contemporary is an engaging ranch family drama. While there is some family feuding, the romance between the longtime friends is straightforward and sweet with the baby serving as an endearing chaperone.
Everyone's Time To Cook: How To Start A Love Affair With Cooking
Square One Publishers
115 Herricks Road, Garden City Park, NY 11040
9780757003790, $24.95, www.amazon.com
The title accurately describes the premise of this wonderful easy to use cookbook that is divided into two major sections: "Getting Started" and "The Recipes". Though Square One Publishers calls "Getting Started" as "Cooking Class 101; I would differ as this category is a delightful descriptive remedial Cooking Class 099 that uses pictures and easy to understand text with tips to introduce the reluctant novice to the kitchen. "The Recipes" are divided into fourteen categories that are similar to many cookbooks but with the additions of numerous pictures and simple step by step instructions.
My husband learned to cook in a Bronx JHS; my daughter-in-law is a superb chef; I have known my way around a kitchen for over four decades. None of us are ideal candidates to test Robert Blakeslee's underlying principle. So I asked my son, whose resume consists of peanut butter and microwaving compounded by a deep need for overwhelming detail, to make for the four of us a day after Thanksgiving meal. For breakfast, he made from scratch excellent pancakes and so-so coffee (admitting he didn't follow the book by reverting to how he always made coffee). He also baked a tasty pumpkin pie. Though anecdotal, my son said this was an easy to use book in an enabling style that he wishes would be applied to other milieus; and promises us Christmas dinner a la Blakeslee. PS: like all good guests we left him the dishes.
The Doctor And The Dinosaurs
c/o Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781616148614, $18.00, www.amazon.com
In 1885 as John L. Sullivan comes from the east, emaciated dentist Doc Holliday cannot enjoy the boxing festivities since his entire focus in on his next breathe while dying from Consumption at the Leadville Sanitarium. The once deadly shooter's companion Kate Elder has begun auctioning off his dental equipment as he has less than a week left.
While Doc wheezes, Theodore Roosevelt and Apache medicine man Geronimo sign a treaty that allows whites to enter the previously forbidden West. However the ink is not dry on their pact when two bitter rivals Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh arrive in search of dinosaur bones. Neither adversarial paleontologist cares about the fact that where they dig might upset the local population as long as they achieve greater finds than the other. When both desecrate holy burial grounds, irate Comanche medicine men angrily inform Geronimo they will reanimate dinosaurs to dine on these despicable miscreants. Fearing the medicine men may lose control of the dinosaurs leading to unintended consequences of the beasts feasting on their respective tribes, Geronimo offers Holliday a deal he cannot refuse. In return for one year of good health, Doc, using any means necessary, rids the west of these two odious desiccators.
The latest Weird West fantasy (see The Buntline Special) is an enjoyable thriller even with a thin storyline based on the real "Bone Wars" feud between Cope and Marsh. The cast is strong; especially Doc with his graveyard humor adding fun to an engaging clash between the American worship of the manifest destiny of science and the tribes' belief in the cultural heritage of their magic; with dinosaurs (and Doc) uninterested in either human tenet.
Several months have passed since teenage orphan Widdershins and her god Olgun, of whom no one else reveres, fled Davillon. During their journey, the former relatively successful thief and failed ex tavern-keeper learns that the family of her deceased savior Alexandre Delacroix is in trouble from the machinations of a rival house.
Feeling she owes a debt from when she an urchin called Adrienne Sati before and during the time kind Alexandre removed her from the streets; Widdershins decides to protect the Delacroix house. Thus she and the tiny god inside her investigate the insidious plot. The late Alexandre's family distrusts his adopted daughter, which makes her efforts more dangerous to her, Olgun and the Delacroix clan.
This Widdershins thriller (see Thief's Covenant and False Covenant) is an entertaining investigative fantasy due to the schizophrenic-like antics of the protagonist. Though there remains plenty of magic, the fun is with Widdershins' debates with her deity and her (and us) hearing people's casual phoniness and transgressions. Fast-paced with humor from a persistent suitor and satirizing hypocrisy, readers will enjoy Widdershins to the rescue of those who scorn her.
Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781401687618, $15.99, www.amazon.com
In 1868 South Carolina, Charlotte Fraser returns to her ruined family owned Fairhaven with plans to produce rice there just like her late Papa did; though she thinks thankfully without the slaves he used. Charlotte lacks funds so will need a source of income to pay workers, repair the war damaged plantation and purchase equipment. She also has proof of ownership issues especially with the Yankees using the new law to claim the land.
Nicholas Betancourt struggles to find documents that prove he is the legal owner of Willowood Plantation. Charlotte meets Nicholas soaked daughters (nine years old Marie-Clare and six years old Anne Louise), whose rowboat overturned. She cleans them up and feeds the ill-mannered ragamuffins before escorting them to their father. Upset with their disobedience and concerned for their safety as unchaperoned run-arounds, Nicholas hires her to tutor his children. As Charlotte falls in love with the three Betancourt's, they return her feelings. However, Nicholas's search for his ownership proof uncovers secrets about Charlotte's family that devastate her dream.
Inspired by nineteenth century rice farmer Elizabeth Waites Allston Pringle, Carolina Gold is a deep historical romance with the emphasis on Low Country Reconstruction during a time when deeds have vanished, thieving carpetbaggers thrives, and former slaves and slave-owners compete for employment. Character-driven by the lead "family" and containing a strong support cast, fans will relish this insightful tale that focuses on surviving the Civil War's aftermath.
The Sinners' Garden
Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781401687380, $12.99, www.amazon.com
In Benning Township off the thinnest part of Lake Erie, Andy's father abused him. The violence left the teenager with visible scarring on his face and even worse inside his soul. He loathes everyone especially his mom Judi who failed to protect her son from his brutal father. Judi holds herself culpable over how messed up her child has become because she failed to intervene when her husband battered their son. Having done time for a crime, Andy's Uncle Rip also believes he let down his nephew by not confronting the abuser and not being there for the child when he was needed. He vows to rectify his mistake by helping his angry resentful relative heal.
Andy begins hearing strange messages on his iPod that he believes come from God. Meanwhile a "Summer Santa" breaks into homes but does not take anything; instead he drops off gift cards that the occupants desperately can use. Concerned Police Officer Heather Gerisch fails to catch the elusive B&E bandit who breaks the law and she fears sets a bad example with the break-ins even while simultaneously doing good deeds. When a lovely garden mysteriously appears at the closed steel mill, Andy, his mom and uncle believe heaven is sending them the Word that regardless we are his beloved children.
This strong Rust Belt allegory grips the reader with an underlying message of forgiveness and second-chance redemption; summed up by true believer Pastor Welsh telling Andy and readers that even when people desert God, the Lord never leaves anyone. With their hurts, flaws and lack of faith, the protagonists seem genuine especially in a dying town's miraculous resurrection of hope.
PO Box 801, Nashville, TN 37202
9781426752766, $12.99, www.amazon.com
Though there is an odd stipulation that she live in Grey House while restoring the century and a half old Mariner's Compass quilt, textiles conservator Kelly Frost needs the work to prove her competency so she accepts the commission in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Coldly greeting Kelly upon her arrival at the nineteenth century whaling Captain Gray's home is army veteran Tom Silva, the caretaker suffering from PTSD after a haunting incident.
As Kelly restores the quilt, Tom slowly warms up to her. Kelly finds and reads the journal of the Captain's wife Mary, who filled with remorse and guilt, explains her reason for creating the Mariner's Compass quilt. When Tom learns of his family's secrets, he and Kelly feel a connection to the Gray family. Someone wants them gone using seeming accidents to drive the pair out. In spite of his military time and her foster child upbringing, both want to believe a third unknown adversary is behind the events as neither accepts the person they love would harm them.
The latest Quilts of Love inspirational romance (see Aloha Rose by Lisa Carter and The Christmas Quilt by Vannetta Chapman) is an engaging tale due to the reluctant to embrace love lead couple as their initial hardness leaves them unsympathetic; though they grow on us. A twisting mystery and a deep look at mid nineteenth century New Bedford (through the journal) enhances the entertaining storyline.
The Vintage Club
9781938467653, $18.95, www.koehler.com
Reggie Alexander knows he comes a long way from his impoverished life as a DC orphan thanks to affluent Walter and Sherri Trudell who gave him shelter and sustenance from the street violence as one of their "projects". Now married with a wife and son in Rockville, Reggie takes the o-dark commute to his work in Washington as a bureaucrat at the Patent Office.
Reggie's safe family facade collapses when someone murders Walter; as the philanthropist's associates at the Vintage Club believe he killed his savior. Not long afterward, Reggie's wife and son vanish while he goes into hiding to avoid the assaults on him that emotionally take him back to his brutal childhood before the rescue. What Reggie is unaware of is that the Vintage Club members seek the Last Supper wine of immortality and think he killed Walter for it.
This Brownian thriller is an action-packed tale that removes a young man from his heavenly middle class existence and places him in hell with the return of his childhood PTSD; turning Reggie into an unconfident David facing presumptuous billionaire Goliaths. Though transitions are choppy (hazard of first books), fast-paced with fascinating interpretations from the bible, fresh use of customized nanotechnology, insight into patent law, and child trauma haunting the adult; readers will relish this engaging novel.
The Past And Other Lies
Felony & Mayhem
9781937384753, $14.99, www.felonyandmayhem.com
In 1981, sixteen year old Charlotte Denzel quietly takes a chair from the kitchen into her upstairs bedroom with none of her family noticing. On her tippy toes, Charlotte stands on the chair while knotting a school tie around the ceiling light fitting and another around her neck. While Charlotte's younger brother Graham and her parents eat, her older sister Jennifer goes to get her to join them. Jennifer cuts them saving her sibling's life but thinking how to explain the waste of ties to their parents. Later Charlotte denies this happened while Jennifer insists it occurred.
In 1924, the sisters' grandmother Bertha is planning to meet Mr. Ronnie Booth in Hyde Park, but someone told her angry father. She thinks it must be her friend Elsie as her sister Jemima did not know of her rendezvous and Ronnie would not have told anyone. Jemima calms their dad by agreeing to chaperone Bertha. In 1926, Jemima gives birth to Ronnie's baby while raging Bertha seethes over her sibling's betrayal.
In 1945 Caroline goes to visit her boyfriend Clive, but her sister Deirdre tells their mom who follows her. When her mom is trapped in Nazi-bombed rubble, Caroline realizes her dad wants his wife to die.
Focusing primarily on sisterly relationships between three generations from the same family, this brilliant drama comes across as an interrelated thought-provoking tri-story saga. The powerful premise is based on relativity re how each interprets the critical personal events that cleverly keeps the readers shifting who we emphasize with as new interpretation of the facts and lies constantly surface.
Elementary: All-New Tales of the Elemental Masters
Edited by Mercedes Lackey
Daw Books, Inc.
c/o Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756409593, $7.99, www.amazon.com
The second "All-New Tales of the Elemental Masters" collection (see Elemental Magic) contains nineteen very short stories; with most occurring outside of Victorian England. Tanya Huff returns to Nova Scotia (see Elemental Magic's "Tha Thu Ann") in "Arms of the Sea" as Marie struggles with what happened to her and her dad. The "Fire's Daughter" by Elisabeth Waters focuses on "to thine own self be true" (Shakespeare). Diane Paxton leaves "A Song of the Sea" (from the previous compilation) to a "Fire Song". Readers return to Jody Lynn Nye's La Parfumier Rupier (see Elemental Magic's "Air of Mystery") in "Air of Deception". Mercedes Lackey ends the collection with a strong trek "Into The Woods". With a sense of newness caused by the most contributions set outside Victorian England and includes few weak entries, readers will appreciate the latest entertaining Elemental Masters expansive historical fantasy anthology as many of the same writers from the opening act provide fans with a return engagement.
While completing Operation Sherlock A-C Ambassador Jeff Martini was named to fill the vacant New Mexico's 2nd Congressional District seat (see Alien In The House). His wife Kitty Katt-Martini remains the A-C Ambassador, a position they shared.
Protestors spoil breakfast with her daughter Jamie and their friends by a garbage assault on their limo followed by the new leader of Club 51 in her face telling her that the aliens and their human Quislings will soon die. Kitty returns to the Embassy only to learn some Congressional reps want the FBI to launch an inquiry into the events at Gaultier Enterprises and Titan Security. However she has no time to react to that undesirable news as A-C Embassy Security Chief Walter from his training site contacts Kitty with the fact that he and his staff are in trouble. The situation turns further dire when the impossible occurs with the hacking of the highly protected Centaurion files culminating with the destruction of the in-house data. Kitty knows that only the legendary rumored to exist Chernobog the Ultimate could have performed this task.
Although the trademark cultural misunderstandings humor is much less than normal in this darker than usual entry, readers will enjoy the latest Alien science fiction (see Alien Diplomacy). Once again the size of the cast expanded making the need of a Cecil De Mille sized cast scorecard a necessity while the paranormal rescues feel overused. Still series fans will appreciate this exhilarating thriller as Kitty Katt and company face several dangerous attacks.
Shannivar: The Seven-Petaled Shield
Deborah J. Ross
Though heir to the magical Seven-Petaled Shield, Zevaron knows he is man without a country. He loathes Cinath of Gelon who led the violent annexation of Zevaron's kingdom Meklavar. When Zevaron encounters Cinath's niece Danar, the heir to the empire, he agrees to protect her as she and others journey to a meeting of the threatened independents; his motive is not just because he has a debt to her father, but mostly to anger Cinath.
Zevaron and Danar traverse the Azkhantian steppes where the nomadic clans gather to join the opposition to Gelon's brutal expansion. When a late arriving clan arrives with upsetting news of lethal eerie animal behavior and strange new deadly creatures, Zevaron believes he must head to the far north to challenge the evil causing these abominations in spite of the prophecies insisting he will fail. Nomadic warrior Shannivar joins him on his quest.
The second The Seven-Petaled Shield fantasy is an exciting fast-paced thriller as the protagonist and a female warrior encounter dangerous forces. Entertaining in spite of a middle book feel; the storyline is filled with plenty of action and creative threats but no subplot climaxes. Still fans will enjoy Zevaron's latest quest adventures alongside a courageous ally while setting up what looks like will be an incredible finish.
595 Bay Isles Road, 120-G, Longboat Key, FL 34228
9781608090969, $26.95, www.amazon.com
At the filming of a TV episode of Deadline Miami, Moore or Less Investigations Skip Moore and James Lessor work as guards. In the hot Miami sun, over the objections of director Randy Roberts, actor Jason Londell rejects the use a stuntman. He leaps off scaffolding as scripted only to splatter as not scripted to his death.
Jason's upset co-star Ashley Amber claims the late actor loved her and insists his wife Juliana killed him. Ashley hires Moore or Less Investigations to determine whether Juliana murdered her beloved though the sleuths believe the victim died in a horrible accident or a suicide; still she is a paying client, so they take the case. James remains in Miami to monitor the investigation and seek clues amongst the show. Skip and his girlfriend Emily Minard travel to Hollywood with her pretending to be a wannabe hoping that Juliana the agent takes her on as a client. Em proves that besides brains and beauty, she can act as she becomes an overnight star.
The latest Stuff mystery (see Hot Stuff and Too Much Stuff) is an amusing thriller as the two stooges cause separate havoc in Miami and Hollywood with the California setting as the prime locale once they split up. The investigation is fun but thin while fans of the Stuff duo will enjoy their cross America antics and the homage to movies and TV shows.
How Should We Live?: Great Ideas from the Past for Everyday Life
9781933346847, $22.95, www.bluebridge.com
Philosopher Roman Krznaric seeks answers in present and past civilizations as to "how we should live". He breaks down his response into four broad equal yet hierarchal categories (Nurturing Relationships, Making a Living, Discovering the World, and Breaking Conventions) with each containing three supportive elements. "Nurturing Relations" opens with an intriguing look at "Love" starting with the transformation over the centuries of St. Valentine and introducing six underlying themes while exploring the "Great Ideas from the Past ..." like how the ancient Greeks and other cultures dealt with this feeling as compared with contemporary treatment. Likewise Mr. Krznaric does the same with "Family" and "Empathy" as well as the elements in the other three categories.
This is an interesting philosophical look at comparative cultures, past and present. The inclusion of descriptive anecdotal examples adds fascination especially as to how a belief changes over time while also making it easier to understand the various key premises. However, that leaping about between time and place also limits the depth provided to each discussion; as the book is an intriguing but very expansive response to the title question. Hopefully, Mr. Krznaric follows up with deeper treatises (perhaps separate extensive books on each of his four categories) as even his broad brush provides readers with a thought-provoking comparative analysis of how various civilizations lived and what we should consider adopting.
Daughters Of Twilight
Collette Jackson Fink
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432799458, $14.95, www.amazon.com
The earthquake measuring six on the Rector Scale struck Waterloo, Iowa leaves behind a gigantic black tower. The military, the Feds and Biochem personnel take control of the perimeter surrounding the pyramid. Knowing the females inside are hostile after thirty-nine Biochem employees entered and went missing, three coordinated military and special agent teams breach the edifice at the same time using the different openings. The women inside confront and overwhelm Team B led by Agent Dane Coles. When the females snatch his best friend Augie, Dane pursues and catches up to one of the hostiles. She easily defeats him using his knife to rip through his hand, takes a bite on his wound and declares him pure of heart before she vanishes.
Asia visits Dane several times after easily kicking his butt asking him for help in rescuing her little sisters and explaining who her and her angel species are; as they were in the Garden of Eden during the fall from grace. As he begins to fall in love with his angel, she knows he is her eternal one. However, the military led by Captain Williams and Biochem led by Raymond Zen demand a capture by their subordinates with Dane's Asia the chosen one.
Daughters Of Twilight is an exciting refreshing angel thriller that connects Genesis with modern day Iowa. Though the climax feels somewhat stretched, the fast-paced storyline will make believers out of readers as the good (Dane and Team A leader Steel), the bad (Biochem and military experimenters) and the ugly (twisted Zen, Team C leader Thorn and Williams) collide over the fate of left behind angels.
Take Over at Midnight
1935 Brookdale Road, #139, Naperville, IL 60563
9781402258190, $7.99, www.amazon.com
Since her personal goal is to become a military helicopter pilot, Chief Warrant Officer Lola LaRue diligently performs her tasks while serving in Afghanistan. When she learns of her assignment to Special Operations Aviation Regiment (SOAR), the CW2 is ecstatic.
As she arrives at SOAR's dumpy home base in Bati, Pakistan, Lola meets her teammates and quickly draws blood which "certifies" her as a Black Adder. Lola and "Crazy" Sergeant Tim Maloney hit it off, while Sergeant Kee treats her with scorn. Though thoughts of Tim constantly intrude, the newcomer concentrates on her dangerous missions in order to prove her worthiness as a female SOAR female pilot to her role model Major Emily Beale. Besides Lola rationalizes that crazy Tim comes from a large loving family and she comes from a whorehouse.
The fourth Night Stalkers military romance (see Wait Until Dark, The Night Is Mine and I Own the Dawn) is a fabulous soaring thriller. Although nicknamed Crazy for a reason, Tim is similar to previous series male heroes in love; while Lola brings freshness with her horrible past impacting her relationships as the child is the adult. Filled with seemingly realistic action especially in the sky, in-fighting politics and a wonderful romance; readers will enjoy this entry.
Timber Wolf Clan hybrid Tatiana knows her incredible veterinary skills come from her Amoveo half that enables her to communicate with animals in a special way. Her married sister Layla (see Untamed) arrives at Tatiana's practice in that unique purebred or married hybrid way to ask the vet to help Prince Richard's poisoned Arabians. Tatiana hates the purebred for murdering their father over mating with their human mother, but reluctantly she agrees to go to the royal's Montana ranch accompanied by her new dog Cass and her assistant Matt.
Full-blooded Tiger Clan member Dominic Trejada the Royal Guardian believes either the Purists or the human Caedo family is behind the horse assault. When he and the vet meet for the first time, each recognizes the other as the costar of their dreams. Neither makes the first move as she detests the purebreds and he has doubts about making it with someone who obviously hates his kind. As they fall in love, he protects her from outside threats while she treats the steeds from the insidious actions of an inside traitor.
The fifth Amoveo Legend (see Undone, Untouched and Unleashed) is an engaging romantic urban fantasy. The entertaining romantic subplot goes as expected with the animal whisperer and the guard passionately fighting their attraction until love overwhelms both of them. To the delight of series fans, Tatiana's veterinary ability and Dominic as a warrior adept make them a formidable team as they search for the betrayer and battle the Purists with the Caedo encouraging the shapeshifter civil war.
In 1839 the Duke of Ghoulston warns Millicent Pantere to accomplice the mission or else she will suffer though she insists she does not belong among the aristocracy attending Queen Victoria's gala having lived her entire life in the London Underground. The were-panther's immunity to aristocratic spells and her affinity with animals make her perfect for the Duke's mission of stealing a magical bracelet from Lady Chatterley.
Lady Chatterley gathers several ball attendees to allow the relic to choose one; which turns out to be the "country girl" Millicent. Several centuries ago Merlin trapped Knight of the Round Table Gareth Solimere inside the bracelet for sleeping with the mage's lover. Gareth believes that only the love of the possessor will free him. He plans to seduce the current wearer Millicent. They enjoy the tryst but she trusts no one or her heart. While falling in love with Millicent, he persuades her to embrace her magic in order to do the right thing; preventing the odious duke and his minion from achieving his real scheme.
The latest Relics of Merlin Victorian romantic fantasy (see Double Enchantment and Enchanting The Lady) is an exhilarating coming of age (actually social strata) historical as the student teaches her mentor what love is all about. Readers will enjoy the chivalrous cursed and his beloved shapeshifter battling evil and their hearts.
Prince of Shadows
Because of his special skills that some claim comes from the darkness, Valin is a loner amongst the Paladin Warriors. He met his dark soul mate Gabriella the succubus-vampire during the rescue of Karissa but he believes he lost her forever (see Deliver Me From Darkness).
However, Valin realizes his grief was wrong when he recognizes his beloved in spite of her disguise. He fears other Paladins will kill his Gabby before he can keep her safe; as she is a vampire albeit unique since she can go out in daylight. Wanting to believe that Gabby is in the Light fighting against demons and her species, Valin goes to join her as she and Aaron the gifted human battle vampires. Instead of welcoming her mate, a dying Gabby flees from Valin as Paladins and Vampires cohabitating is taboo on both sides. Bennett the Paladin tells Valin to forget Gabby as their mission is to ally with the humans and protect the Null. Valin must choose between his heart's desire for his mate and his brain's belief in the better good.
The third Paladin Warriors romantic fantasy (see Deliver Me From Temptation) is an exciting star-crossed thriller starring two wounded warriors; with each struggling between a deep need to remain in the Light but fearing the encroaching Dark taking their respective souls. Character-driven though filled with plenty of action, sub-genre fans will relish this entry as love will either heal this pair or kill them.
Leave Tomorrow Behind
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464202049, $24.95, www.amazon.com
Bucks County, Pennsylvania veterinarian Carla Beaumont insures the safety of the animals at the annual 4-H county fair. Assisting the vet with her endeavor is her friend dairy farmer Stella Crowne who arrives with her fiance Nick, an MS sufferer. Stella hopes the fair will allow her a respite from Nick's pushy sister Miranda demanding to host the wedding of the century for them.
Following a concert starring country-western performer Rikki Raines, Stella watches the female singer and Mr. Gregg argue. Since Stella also exchanged heated words with Gregg over his daughter's animal entries, she commiserates with Raines. Not much later, Stella uncovers Raines' corpse in a pile of manure. Not trusting the police to conduct a thorough investigation especially since their not so subtle inclination is to go after the person who found the body and having solved homicide cases before (see Different Paths); Stella makes inquiries into the murder of the singer.
The latest Crowne amateur sleuth (see The Day Will Come) is an engaging whodunit as eccentric Stella remains an extremely opinionated judge and executioner based on her first impressions. Her snap judgments often lead her into mistaken conclusions and fabulous red herrings for readers. Miranda adds comic relief at the same Stella being Stella (with a nod to Manny) works the case her way.
Covenant with Hell: A Medieval Mystery
Poisoned Pen Press
9781464201950, $24.95, www.amazon.com
In 1277 Prioress Eleanor and Brother Thomas leave Tyndal on a pilgrimage to the shrines of Walsingham Priory. Just after they arrive in East Anglia, Thomas finds the corpse of the prioress of Ryehill Sister Roysia. She obviously fell from the priory's bell tower but in her hand is a piece of torn cloth.
As word spreads that a nun committed suicide and with rumors of King Edward I coming to pray for God to declare his pending invasion of Wales as holy, Prioress Ursell wants to avoid scandal so she quickly states Sister Roysia's death as an accident. However that cloth Roysia grasped leads Thomas and Eleanor to conclude it came from the person who pushed the prioress from the tower as she grabbed on to it to keep from falling. As they investigate, the two pilgrims soon find evidence that an assassin plots to kill the monarch.
The latest Brother Thomas and Prioress Eleanor medieval mystery (see A Killing Season and Sanctity of Hate) is a great historical investigative thriller as late thirteenth century royal (secular) and religious England comes alive. The super inquiry by the protagonists and taut suspense make Covenant with Hell one of the best entries in this strong series.
Poisoned Pen Press
9781464202131, $24.95, www.amazon.com
The long war is finally over with the destruction of Troy although the surviving losers secretly begin construction of a new city. Many like Hector paid the price with their lives; others like Cassandra the seer have become prisoners; and some like weary Odysseus are unable to go home to Ithaca as puppets manipulated by the Gods venture on another quest.
To the victors go the glory thinks elated King of Men Agamemnon as he sails home to Mycenae. However, his years away has led to his wife Queen Clytemnestra seeking comfort with Aegisthus, nephew child murdering Atreus, and not wanting her liege back in her life to take away her power accrued in his absence. One of their daughters Electra sees how much her mother prefers her father go back to war. When Clytemnestra kills Agamemnon, Electra expected the spousal murder and vows to avenge her sire's death; though has an even more powerful reason to assassinate her mother the Queen.
The final Delphic Women Greek mythology (see Cassandra and Medea) is a superb retelling of Electra that brings freshness by the title character having a viable second motive to commit royal murder and a fascinating where are the winners and losers now that the fighting ended. Readers will appreciate this strong rendition (and trilogy) as Kerry Greenwood provides a fabulous mythos.
Death By Misadventure
17762 Summer Rain Road Fayetteville AR 72701
9780989935609, $3.99, www.phoenixupub.com
In 1947, War Widow Alexis J Smith is late for work as a conductor of "Discreet Inquiries because she learned of the blood splattered on two floors of the building where her office is. When she finally arrives, Lexie's secretary Sandy tells her boss that she has a client with apparently plenty of money waiting for her. Mrs. Kate Farraday offers the sleuth a lot of cash to find her missing husband Frank who vanished a year ago with their baby Daisy and a lot more if she kills him. Lexie is taken aback as she failed to recognize Mrs. Farraday until the woman said she is her 1941 Sacramento High School friend Katie O'Toole and Frank is the boy Lexie loved six years ago.
Believing Kate's tale of woe is false and fearing her old buddy will find a gun for hire, Lexie decides to locate Frank in London to warn him of his mad mate's murderous plot. In England, Lexie obtains help from Harry of "The Yard" as she locates Frank at haunted Old Vicarage Inn with Kate trailing the American gumshoe.
This opening act is a terrific historical mystery in which E.E. Smith captures the dreams of high school seniors a few months before Pearl Harbor and life in California and mostly London after WWII ended. Although minor I could not accept Lexie failing to recognize her BFF Katie even with an affluent make-over. Still readers will enjoy spending the 1940s with the heroine as our guide to post-war England, which enhances an excellent investigation made stronger by vivid flashbacks and a stunning twisted motive.
No Dawn For Men
James Lepore and Carlos Davis
9781611880731, $14.95, www.thestoryplant.com
In 1938, with an aura of invincibility Germany deploys its annexation plan. The Nazi leadership expects that Britain, France and eventually the United States will try to thwart their victory march as they did in WWI, but will fail due to their super soldiers.
Britain becomes concerned with rumors that Germany possesses a weapon making their military invincible. To prove this valid or not, they persuade novelist Professor John Ronald Reuel Tolkien to visit Berlin where the Nazis relish his children's tale The Hobbit as the author's homage to the master race. Undercover as a Reuters' field correspondent, agent Ian Fleming uses Tolkien's popularity to learn the truth about this new type of soldier who allegedly can't die.
"No Dawn For Men: A Novel of Ian Fleming, J.R.R. Tolkien, and Nazi Germany" is a great historical that pays homage to Fleming and Tolkien while the two writers (poetic license by me as Fleming is years from his first Bond novel and likewise is Tolkien re the Lord of the Rings trilogy) discovers first-hand Nazi Germany's super soldiers. Action-packed from the onset and never slowing down, fans of the two great authors and readers who appreciate a unique superbly-written 1930s thriller will enjoy this unique tense war drama.
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781451689013, $7.99, www.amazon.com
In downtown Ashland, thirty years old Gin Blanco opens up her Pork Pit with her usual anticipation someone someday will kill her for her activity as the assassin Spider. In what is a quiet day, her lover Owen Grayson notices Gin is more tense than normal. When a delivery man arrives with a box, Gin reacts as she did with the last package courier who lies in the freezer awaiting the disposable talent of head cook Sophia Deveraux. She demands he tell her what is inside the box; but he insists he does not know. Realizing the frightened person sees her as insane restaurant owner Gin Blanco; she relaxes a bit and over tips him before cautiously opening the package after closing the restaurant. Inside are black roses with a card saying "Happy Anniversary".
She tells Owen what the flowers symbolize. Starting when she was thirteen, the previous Pork Pit owner Fletcher Lane taught Gin and his son Finn the art of assassination. When Gin was twenty, she went out on an easy mission that turned ugly. Now her past has returned, but the adversary faces a field tested veteran not a naive rookie.
This Elemental Assassin prequel is a strong entry as readers see the traits of super Spider but also the lack of experience and maturity; as Gin makes enthusiastic rookie mistakes. Action-packed and consistent with other books (see Heart of Venom) in the series that occur later in the heroine's timeline, key players who influenced her life (like her teacher and his son) add depth to the exciting thriller. Fans will appreciate reading about a pivotal moment in the transition of Gin into Spider.
An Unexpected Grace
Kristin von Kreisler
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9780758291943, $15.00, www.amazon.com
In a heavy rain, her BFF Cristina drives Lila to work in downtown San Francisco. In the car, Cristina shows Lila a photo of Grace the abused Golden Retriever who needs a home. Lila refuses to adopt Grace, because twenty-five years ago a dog attacked her leaving her afraid of canines.
They call a canine truce and head to their different floors in the Crockett Building. At Weatherby and Associates Public Relations, Lila begins a typical day until she hears a fellow employee pleading with someone when shots are fired. Rampaging janitor Yuri Makov kills seven people and wounds three including Lila before committing suicide. At San Francisco General, Dr. Lovell tells Lila she was lucky as she received only flesh wounds, but psychologically she cannot get rid of Yuri pointing his gun at her.
After leaving the hospital Cristina takes Lila to her home in Mill Valley where the other roommate Grace frightens her as much as the newcomer scares the dog. Neighbor Adam visits Grace who is elated every time he shows up. As Lila slowly emotionally recovers so does Grace with each soon learning to trust the other; while Adam hopes both heal quickly so they can become a loving trinary star.
An Unexpected Grace is a poignant contemporary due to the mentally wounded lead female and a very wary canine; while the male protagonist's romantic role feels more of a distracting requirement. The moving character driven storyline focuses on the changing relationship between the hurting leads with Adam and to a lesser degree Cristina acting as the connectors between the troubled woman and the anxious dog. Readers will appreciate Lila and Grace helping each other heal.
Fifteen years ago Rachel Mast left her Old Order "Ah-mish" community in Stone Mill, Pennsylvania to go corporate. She proved very successful but never found happiness so she recently quit. Though Rachel understands she can never go back to the Old Order, she returns home with a plan to turn her quaint village into a popular tourist stop by opening the Stone Mill House Bed & Breakfast with an Amish gift shop.
Eight months ago, prominent English businessman Willy O'Day vanished without a trace. Though there is plenty of conjecture, no one except for his twin George seemed to care what happened to him. Rachel's upset cousin Mary rushes into the gift shop needing her help as the body of Willy has been found in her dat Aaron Hostetler's cow pasture, which makes him the prime suspect. Adhering to his faith, Aaron rejects council or defending himself in spite of his concerned niece begging him to do so. Knowing someone must defend Uncle Aaron, Rachel doning traditional garb, investigates the murder.
Plain Murder is an entertaining Amish amateur sleuth in which the focus on the heroine's internal lifestyle schism enhances her inquiry as her relatives will only speak to her about the homicide if she adheres to specific conditions they demand of her. Though there is some sub-genre stereotyping like Rachel's relationship with police officer Evan Parks, fans will enjoy the protagonist's effort to keep her uncle out of prison by uncovering the identity of the killer who buried O'Day in a shallow grave on Aaron's property.
Real As It Gets
Reshonda Tate Billingsley
In the slums of Brooklyn ailing Bev worried about her at risk son Travis so she sends him to live with his wealthy uncle in Miami. At the same time Travis' cousin Maya, the leader of the Miami "It Clique" and TV star of celebrity gossip Rumor Central, sees an image of former Miss Teen Miami Savannah Vanderpool stoned and looking like hell at the S.I. cover reception. Stunned as getting high seems out of character for Savannah, Maya learns the model used K2, a synthetic more powerful than Kush or meth.
At Miami HS which both cousins now attend, Maya objects when Travis begins seeing her BFF Sheridan and warns her ex Bryce to keep his distance. However, Travis worries about his mom's health as she refuses charity from her brother. To pay her enormous medical bills, Travis begins dealing while Maya tries to get him to stop for his sake and because students like the smart Lin Vo have become brain damaged by K2 usage.
Though I have doubts with what happens to Travis after his poor choices, the third Rumor Central teen drama (see You Don't Know Me Like That) is a strong entry that looks deeply into the high school drug problem. In many ways Travis steals the show from his superstar courageous cousin as this exciting tale makes the downside of the drug scene as Real As It Gets.
Staged to Death
Karen Rose Smith
In Kismet, Pennsylvania, thirty-two year old realtor Caprice DeLuca works with wealthy clients staging a for sale home with a theme. Her open house productions are events catered by her sister Nikki.
Her current assignment is turning her friend Roz Winslow's mansion into a Camelot castle. However, Roz's husband Ted refuses to cooperate in ridding the place of clutter like all the swords and daggers in his antiques weapons collection room. During the gala, Caprice observes Ted kissing a woman. Unsure what to do, her indecision becomes meaningless when Caprice and Roz find Ted's corpse with an antique dagger protruding from his back. Realizing the police focus on Roz as the prime person of interest, Caprice looks to prove her friend is innocent; though that may mean identifying the killer.
The first Caprice De Luca mystery is an enjoyable amateur sleuth with a Cecil Demille size cast including the heroine's supportive family; as the queen of family romantic dramas, Karen Rose Smith, brings her upbeat uniqueness to the sub-genre. Character-driven with several suspects and a town that cares, readers will relish Caprice's complex case as the home designer stages her initial investigation.
The Missing Dough
Like many residents of Timber Ridge, North Carolina, A Slice of Delight Pizza Parlor sibling owners Eleanor Swift and Maddy Spencer prepare for the town's annual Founders Day Festival. However, Maddy's ex-husband Grant Whitmore arrives on the day of the popular gala. He claims he came to town to win back his former wife. As if affirming his seriousness of achieving his goal, at the festival Grant assaults Maddy's fiance Bob Lemon.
That same night, someone stabs Grant to death. Police chief Kevin Hurley suspects Bob killed Grant. The sisters refuse to accept Hurley's premise that Bob committed murder so they begin to investigate only to find a horde with motives (including Maddy with two powerful incentives).
The sixth Pizza Lovers amateur sleuth (see Killer Crust and Rest in Pizza) is a delightful regional whodunit as the sisters and readers learn that there are plenty of people with strong reasons to kill Grant. Series fans will enjoy this entry as once again Chris Cavender provides a fabulous Tarheel whodunit.
You Give Good Love
Hope Warren has failed to live up to her given name since she was dumped several years ago during the Holidays and turned into an anorexic. Though she still dreams of owning beachfront property, the depressed African-Bahamian-Canadian believes that is a fantasy as she works six days a week at Thrifty Digital printing on Flatbush Ave in Brooklyn. The print shop's current customer is Odd Duck Limited Greeting Cards president Irish-American Dylan Healy, whose eternal upbeat optimism over the past few years disgusts Hope as much as his lame duck cards. He hopes to one day soon run the Art For Kids' Sake center.
Dylan converts a Hope doodle into a card that becomes his biggest seller. Appreciating Hope's help, Dylan brings her lunch to discuss how to make his cards popular. As Hope and Dylan team up, they fall in love. However, even as she finds her hope for the future, Hope knows she owes her beloved by first getting her act together health-wise.
You Give Good Love is an entertaining interracial romance starring an optimist and a pessimist in a changing relationship. The romance is straightforward but pleasant; while the key to this Brooklyn drama is Hope, motivated by love, finally facing her illnesses.
When freelance author Jaine Austen received the job offer from Joy Amoroso to create a brochure and more for the latter's Beverly Hills-based Dates of Joy matchmaking service, the writer was ecstatic with the upbeat work and the hope of finding happiness by Valentine's Day. However, Jaine quickly becomes disillusioned with her termagant tyrant of a boss as Joy viciously rips her employees, misleads with net photos of "hired guns" (models), and makes empty promises of finding love to clients paying thousands for romance.
When Joy hosts a Valentine's Day singles mixer, someone murders her. Jaine knows she is one of many suspects among clients, workers, family and others. Since she has had success in solving homicides (see Death by Pantyhose and Death of a Neighborhood Witch), she investigates who killed the false Cupid.
The latest Austen investigation is an entertaining clever whodunit with an intriguing mystery somewhat distracted by too much sidebar humor including Jaine's overindulgences. Still series fans will enjoy the heroine's hunt for the truth (and Valentine sweets).
I Take You
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062273413, $14.99, www.amazon.com
In London former model Connie and hedge fund manager Cliff are married. However, they have little in common except both love the good life that his wealth provides and sex. When Cliff becomes paralyzed from a skiing accident, they turn to S&M for release.
Eventually bored with her spouse who she never loved, Connie turns to Mel the Notting Hill gardener for satisfaction that Cliff cannot fully provide her any longer. This heated affair turns to love; while raging Cliff threatens his wife that he will destroy her as he proclaims to Connie he owns her.
Nikki Gemmell's latest look at relationships between a woman and her husband and her extramarital lover (see The Bride Stripped Bare and With My Body) is an engaging erotica that overdoes the twenty-first century retelling of Virginia Woolf's Lady Chatterley's Lover. The storyline focuses on Connie's choice between love and money though readers will know long before the protagonist decides who she eventually selects.
1920: America's Great War
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781451639315, $25.00, www.amazon.com
In 1914 Southern France, the British Expeditionary Force's dejected soldiers sit in mud as their officers surrender to the Germans. Their only solace is the French suffered worse at the Battle of the Marne when their ally's army collapsed in its entirety while these brothers in arms remain defeated but intact. The German western front has become quiet too as the powerful army is devastated the Russians. The Kaiser owns Europe as the world's only superpower.
By 1920 Russia remains embroiled in a long-running terrible civil war and almost all the rest of Europe allied or totally consolidated under German rule. Kaiser Wilhelm II knows the only threat to his dynasty is the United States with its incredibly growing economy. The Germans also know militarily their foe is weak as ailing President Wilson believes in peace so spends little money on an offensive fighting force. Not wanting to risk that a White House successor will prove formidable by using the industrial complex to create a powerful modern day military, the Germans persuade Mexico to join them in a blitzkrieg through California and Texas with plans for their ally to annex what was once their territory.
Though there is similarity to Robert Conroy's 1901, the major differences include changed invasion locale with Mexican support; the motivation to defeat a sleeping giant before it awakens vs. colonization; and the blitzkrieg victory in Europe. Filled with action and real persona like an overbearing Churchill, this fast-paced alternate history uses the Battle of the Marne as the key pivotal moment to change our reality. Although the aftermath of the climactic Battle of California seems abrupt, readers will enjoy Mr. Conroy's exciting tale.
Billionaire Art Thrasher dreams of a manned mission to Mars. He concludes the incompetent government will not undertake the endeavor. Using his business reputation and personal assets as collateral, Art persuades wealthy acquaintances to join him on funding the hundred billion dollar five-year venture.
One year into the project, Thrasher's Mars vision increasingly seems probable. However, there is strong opposition to his program especially the nuclear propulsion power source that opponents claim too dangerous because if something goes wrong during the launch would prove catastrophic. Additionally adversaries sabotage the mission pushing it behind schedule and upsetting the backers.
Ben Bova opens a new science fiction series based on the premise that a Billionaire's Club private business consortium will take on a manned Martian mission. The storyline is at its best explaining the scientific knowledge and theories and on the engineering issues that surface over the five years of development. The saboteurs' subplot feels more like required action filler especially once the underlying reason surfaces and the protagonist seems like a fidgety P.T. Barnum with long legged groupies. Still readers will enjoy Mr. Bova's return to space after he escorted fans on the Grand Tour of the solar system.
The Man-Kzin Wars XIV
Hal Colebatch, et al.
"A Man Named Saul" by Hal Colebatch & Jessica Q. Fox. In 2437, the Judge filled with remorse for what he did years ago allows an ailing Kzin family inside the stockade.
"Heritage" by Matthew Joseph Harrington. At the start of the second Kzin-human war, both sides learned lessons from the first combat even as the Yorktown and the Galaxias are missing.
"The Marmalade Problem" by Hal Colebatch. In Wunderland Marmalade the Kzin orphan lives in abject fear amidst the humans.
"Leftovers" by Matthew Joseph Harrington. Having lived through five wars ARM Marshall Buford meets Protector Ursula wondering whether he will survive this encounter.
"The White Column" by Hal Colebatch. He has been allowed to see the dark future though his next time will be his last session.
"Deadly Knowledge" by Hal Colebatch. In 2419 in Occupied Wunderland, the Kzinti learn of the legendary powerful Moby Dick.
"Lions on the Beach" by Alex Hernandez. Daneel the human travels with his adopted Kzinti kit on the sea.
The latest Man-Kzin Wars anthology contains seven entertaining tales. Five of the entries focus on the complex relationships between the enemy species after the fragile peace occurs with "Lions on the Beach" mindful of the TV show Defiance. The intriguing premise of "The White Column" feels out of place; as does the well-written "Heritage" since it occurs at the onset of the second war.
This enjoyable collection showcases Mercedes Lackey short story skills as most of the compilation is entertaining especially the author's various fantasy series. Part I contains reprints of previously published anthologies ("Fiddler Fair" and "Werehunter"). Part II provides five new Secret World Chronicles.
"Fiddler Fair" (1998). The twelve fantasy entries remain enjoyable with the best adding depth to Lackey's worlds such as the Free Bard title tale and the Spellsingers stories ("Balance" and "Dragon's Teeth") focusing on the changing relationship between Martis and her new bodyguard Lyran. The rest of the fiction are fun entries such as the Sooner who explains "Aliens Ate My Pickup"; the alternate history of what happened to Lawrence of Arabia in "Jihad"; and the healer who sees Cerridwen's Cauldron while the nun looking at the same object proclaims the Holy Grail. The inclusion of the essay "How I Spent My Summer Vacation" seems out of place as the misleading opening act.
"Werehunter" (1999). The highlights are those taking place in one of the series. The two Diana Tregarde investigations ("Satanic, Versus" and "Nightside") are superb while the Mem'sab Harton's "Grey" and "Grey's Ghost" come across as exciting Tregarde-light. The four "SKitty" entries ("SKitty", "A Tail of Two SKitties, SCat" and "A Better Mousetrap") focus on the Brightwing agreement with the Lacu'un. There is also one intriguing Valdemar entry ("Stolen Silver") in which we learn how Alberich became the Heralds' Collegium's weaponsmaster. The rest are engaging but feel more like filler.
Secret World Chronicles. These well-written five tales include WW II prequels ("Valse Triste", "White Bird" and "Sgian Dubh") and two others occurring just after the first novel coauthored respectively with Dennis Lee and Cody Martin.
Full Moon Publishing
9780988868335, $26.00, http://fullmoonpub.com
Several months have passed since Chasen Heights Police Detective Jake Casey died in an explosion. His wife Sam barely functions as she struggles with her grief though she tries her best with their toddler Dillon. She no longer uses her gift to assist the cops on cases by communicating with the dead or touching objects the killer held; nor does she go anywhere with her persistent BFF Jackie.
Since his mom died, six-year-old Nemo lives alone in an abandoned building. He ignores his late mom's warning to never enter the tunnels in the sub-basement. There he encounters a severely abused drugged man locked up like a dangerous convict. The lad brings fresh food and water to the prisoner. When Nemo takes fruit from Sam's mom Abby, her friend Alex Red Cloud pursues the child observing his hideaway. Alex enters the building and finds Nemo's mom dead. He anonymously calls the cops who identify her as addict Coralee Adams shot dead by Jake's gun. Feeling a purpose, Sam sets out to learn what happened to her beloved spouse in his final hours when he went for coffee after losing the coin flip to his partner only instead of returning to the precinct he journeyed alone into death.
This Sam Casey paranormal investigative tale is a fresh entry due to the despairing protagonist behaving hopelessly rather than her usual competent self (see Restless Spirit and When The Dead Speak) as her grief overwhelms her in spite of the efforts from caring family and friends. Although a nepotistic appointed cop adds humorous realism, he feels like a distraction from what we readers (and the heroine) want to know: what happened to Jake and why.
Sing a Song for Me
Beverly Stapaules Kaplan
1663 Liberty Drive, Suite 200
Bloomington, IN 47403-5161
9781491814352, $24.26 paperback, $5.99 Kindle, 506 pages
Beverly Kaplan learned from her parents not to let adversity crush her dreams. She wrote this book and drew the joyful pictures in it while nearly blind, in her 80s. And what an amazing story it is! Set in 1932, during the Depression and Dust Bowl, Kaplan shares her family's experiences in rural Kansas. The stories she shares are true, the locations of Hollenberg KS, Washington KS, and Fairbury NE are genuine, but the names of characters have been changed.
Tom Kostas is an irrepressible immigrant who sings and dances in the traditional Greek way during rare moments of joy or when his family needs a bit of cheer. Tom is outspoken and honest, proud to be an American citizen, a charismatic man who works himself to exhaustion on a daily basis for his wife and children. His wife Agnes is the strong glue that holds her family together with quiet strength and hope for better times ahead. Their four children are a delightful blending of Tom and Agnes. Naney, 16, helps Agnes with her endless labors, yet finds time to dream about the neighbor lad who's courting her. Mink, 11, is deaf but still labors endless hours with her siblings. Bub, 9 and Brer, 7, work alongside their father and neighbor men who try to coax wheat and corn out of soil burnt dry by endless rainless months. (Bub is the author as a child.)
The weary hopelessness of those awful times is palpable as Kaplan brilliantly describes the struggles and joys of their existence. Readers will feel the gritty residue of dust on their sunbaked skin as they labor in the fields from before daylight 'til after dark in 105 degree weather. They'll grieve over neighbors ruined by hopelessness and cruelty and for cattle and chickens destroyed by a tornado. Kaplan's prose brings those grueling times to vibrant life - the bank foreclosures and politics, the grinding poverty and soul sapping labor, the endless clouds of dust blown by howling winds. Some people broke with the strain while others plowed on, battered but determined. The Kostas family is a shining example of the proud, hardworking people who made America great. Despite everything thrown at them by Nature and the Depression, they remained strong and didn't forget how to play and have fun.
I highly recommend this book. If you decide to read it, keep in mind that the woman who created this delightful treat was in her 80s and blind.
Interview with Ron Singer by Laurel Johnson for Midwest Book Review
Ron Singer's work reflects an eclectic mix of genres. To date, he's written a poetic memoir (A Voice for My Grandmother), a collection of three novelettes (The Second Kingdom), a saga (The Rented Pet), a poetry collection that includes many forms (Look to Mountains, Look to Sea), a serial e-thriller (Geistmann), and the new book, a non-fiction collection of narratives based on interviews in Africa (Uhuru Revisited: Interviews with Pro-Democracy Leaders). And a review of his website reveals two librettos that have found their way to operatic production. I'm curious to discover the forces that drive a multi -faceted writer like Ron Singer.
MBR: What personal history accounts for your wide range, and do you follow certain literary models during the creative process?
Singer: Be careful what you ask for: this question invites speculation. I always saw teaching as both a profession and a vocation, but writing as pure vocation: I write for fun. Perhaps the fact that my wife's and my teaching jobs paid the bills left me free to write whatever I want, to play at anything that occurred to me. And now that I'm "retired," I can play harder than ever.
Graduate school training at the University of Chicago may also account for my eclecticism. I studied there in the late 60's-early 70's, when the emphasis was on rhetoric. We were trained to think there is no such thing as good writing, per se, but that the rules for writing and evaluating writing are specific to genres. I think this training has helped me see the bones - the structures-- of a wide variety of modes. It also freed me up as a writer, gave me an imprimatur to try anything and everything.
The Chicago years also pointed me toward the best that had been written, wonderful models. For instance, among comic writing (which I think I do, primarily), I read Chaucer's "Parliament of Fowls," a delightful socio-political allegory built on the conceit of a debat among a variety of birds. Could Chaucer's poem have whetted some dormant interest in chickens, hatching A Voice for My Grandmother?" And "The Parliament..." may even have influenced The Rented Pet, my prose saga about the intersecting lives of two heroic dogs and the humans in their constellation. The theme of The Pet... is sociopolitical: gentrification in Brooklyn during the early 1980's. And my 2007 poem, "Full Moon Reveals All," uses an interaction between the moon and a sleeping cow as a way to comment on human behavior. In fact, "Full Moon" may be an allegory of the classroom.
I've always loved miscellany, from Dante and Hieronymous Bosch to Paradise News, David Lodge's wonderfully silly pastiche about theology and vacations. A Voice for My Grandmother is a pastiche, and, if I can pay attention long enough, it's in the back of my mind to write a pastiche-novel. This may be a way around what I see as one limitation of my writing: I can't stay interested in anyone, including myself, long enough to write 300 pages of fiction or memoir about them.
A Voice is only 2000+ words, and even my "long" fictional works, The Rented Pet (14,000+ words) and "The Parents We Deserve" (11,000+), one of the novelettes in The Second Kingdom, are sustained by the fact that they are episodic group portraits. (Speaking of Dante, one section of "The Parents We Deserve" is set in Dante's "second kingdom," Purgatory, where I have the Devil complaining about real estate.)
My restless temperament may also push me towards miscellany, a sort of creative ADD. And my muses are fickle. If Euterpe disappears (as she often does), Clio or one of the others may turn up for a spot of laptop dancing.
MBR: What are the pros and cons of being this kind of writer? Cross-fertilization? Interference?
Singer: The "pros" are that I almost never suffer writer's block and, I hope, that I keep surprising my readers. And, yes, there is often cross-fertilization, or hybridization, among the genres. For instance, the sojourns I made for my new book, Uhuru Revisited, also produced quite a bit of poetry, fiction, and travel journalism. One of the poems, "Broccoli Rabe," based on a song I semi-heard on the radio in a taxi in Accra, Ghana, caught the fancy of Diane Smith, who published it in Grey Sparrow and later published Look to Mountains, Look to Sea, my book of Maine poems.
I'm not sure how much my work suffers from what you call interference. Sometimes, an early draft of a poem or story is too tendentious, too much like a certain kind of essay or lecture. If I let such a piece sit, or ask my wife to read it, I may be able to re-write it so that the ideas are more successfully embedded in the art. In other words, I may be able to lighten up. Of course, some pieces remain lead balloons.
I especially enjoy writing crazy satire because, in that mode, form and ideas sing easily together -- for me, at least. Three of my favorites are "Goolies," a mockery of Google's online libraries project; "W4," a lampoon of professional wrestling (a lampoon of a lampoon); and "The Actuarialist," a mock-prospectus for a business that lets you make intelligent decisions by accurately predicting your date of death
So far, at least, I have been able to resist the sneaking suspicion that I could become a better writer by sticking to one genre. If publishers and editors stopped accepting my work, this resistance might crumble.
MBR: Your work demonstrates a very strong connection to other arts: music, drama, and the visual arts. You've written librettos, had poems set to music, written at least one play, and published a collection of ekphrastic pieces. How and why did these other arts find their way into your work?
Singer: I grew up with music and have lived with it ever since. I love music, from Mississippi Delta blues to Beethoven, from ... you get the idea. As a boy, I was "given" violin lessons. I hated to practice, but loved the music. When another, more diligent child performed at the music school I went to, I was delighted, especially if it was a beautiful girl.
At thirteen, I made a deal with my parents that I would not abandon the violin if they would also let me start saxophone lessons. They kept their end of the deal, and I became a big-time jazz neophyte and fan. I played until college, when I got busy with other things. Then, much later, my nephew turned out to be a jazz musician, and my son-in-law writes and plays several types of music.
Looking back, the first "poem" I ever wrote was a song. It began, "Spring is here, never fear, flowers will bloom." What can I say? Last summer, I performed under the stars in a State Park amphitheater in Maine. I read my poems, even sang one, accompanied by two young musicians from Appalachia. It was a hoot!
As for art, my father loved art. He studied commercial art, and owned a printing business until the Depression turned him into a salesman. And my wife, Elizabeth Yamin, has been an artist most of her life. I love her work. My ekphrastic writing stems from having flown on her contrails for more than forty years. She comes from a family of artists, and we are friends with many others. Many of our best vacations feature museum crawls and visits to ruins, and our apartment is full of beautiful pictures-- not Picassos or anything, but beautiful.
I used Liz's paintings for the cover of The Rented Pet, and to illustrate poems in Look to Mountains.
MBR: Memorable people and places figure prominently in your work. Tell us why these people and places were important in your life and how they became an integral part of your creative process.
Singer: This is another rich question, but it may imply that I draw characters from life. Of course, the people in my articles and in Uhuru Revisited are real. The dedicatee of Uhuru Revisited, the late Chief Anthony Enahoro, was a leading Nigerian pro-democratic politician whose life included many high offices and several years in jail or in exile. As a twenty-three year old Peace Corps volunteer, I admired this man from afar, through newspaper accounts of Independent Nigeria's troubled early years leading up to the Biafra secession, or civil war. Thirty years later, I learned that Chief Enahoro was in exile in a suburb of Washington, DC. I took the train down, spent eight hours talking with him, and then wrote my first article about Africa. There's more to this story, which I summarize in the Preface to Uhuru Revisited.
Pace interviews like this, I usually don't like writing directly about myself. I could never write one of those long autobiographical pieces about a health crisis or about my boyhood. Frankly, I think that memoirs clutter up the remaining bookstores, crowding out other books. The closest I've come to that kind of writing is A Voice for My Grandmother. Recently, I did write a piece of "creative non-fiction" (whatever that is) about 800 words long, about a prostate procedure I had last summer. But, as the title suggests, "Pissing Places" is more about places than me. Missing are the agonies of six urinary infections and catheterization (although the story may be cathartic.) I had to resubmit the piece to the webzine that's publishing it, The Weekenders, because it initially contained an error about what one sees out of a window in one particular Men's room.
In my fiction, I rarely draw characters directly from life. More often, a character is a composite, including aspects of my disposition and my life, or cut from whole cloth, sometimes stemming from just a glimpse or notion of a person. Once, I saw a well-dressed homeless woman writing in a notebook on the sidewalk near my house. That became the germ of a long story, "Blue." The Rented Pet sprang from snatches of argot I heard from the old-timers on my block in a Brooklyn neighborhood to which we had moved --downward social mobility. Once, a guy explained to me why he had brought a puppy home, to his wife's displeasure: "I had a package on down at the Post." Translation: "I had drunk a six-pack at the VFW Post." For readers interested in more about the origins of The Pet, I wrote "On the Trail of The Rented Pet," a short essay posted on the blog of a former student: statorec.com/registry/on-the-trail-of-the-rented.htm. I also wrote two short poems that preserve that argot, "Motherfuckerless Brooklyn" and "Say What?!"
There is also a second story from those days and that neighborhood. This one is called "A Dream of Trains." Like The Pet, it is often set in subways. An architect recovering from a breakdown designs a dance club with a subway-car motif. Among the guests at the opening are one of the owners of the club, a cocaine-sniffing rich boy who brings along a girlfriend called "Self." That's a very oblique allusion to why I don't write memoirs.
Of my two librettos, Rimshot, the one about rock'n'roll, is a generic invention. The germ of the other one, Deeds, which is about real estate swindles in Maine, was my indignation over a small development of condos that was permitted on a small lane next to a lovely bay in Maine. I've also written poems and two long stories set in Navajoland. The Big Rez, on the Arizona-New Mexico border, draws Liz and me back again and again.
MBR: Your teaching career spans more than four decades. Somehow, you found the time and energy to write while managing a full-time career in education. Now that writing has become your day job, what are your thoughts in retrospect? Did teaching nurture the writing or hamper the process, or vice versa? As a busy teacher, how were you able to create and publish so much work?
Singer: Some of the texts for my classes have become fixed in memory because I taught them so many times. Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop has influenced my work a lot --specifically, the picaresque form and the wonderful sense of a wonderful place (the Arizona-New Mexico border region). And Shakespeare and the Bible (King James version) are in my pores by now, which, I think, gives some of my poems an archaic diction. I also taught Linguistics, which has prompted me to write a few technical articles, such as a Chomskian analysis of a very long sentence from "Paradise Lost" ("Him the almighty hurled headlong ..."). And I've written satires and poems keyed to Linguistics, such as my poem, "Gerunding," published in Word Ways: The Journal of Recreational Linguistics.
I taught so much for so long. Did all that work mean I wrote less, or did it keep my appetite for writing keen? The energy from all those students kept me young, I suppose, even as dealing with the annoying ones made me old.
One class I always taught was Creative Writing. The classes were a mix of would-be writers (some of whose work I shepherded to publication while they were still in secondary school) and students filling up their schedules with something they hoped would be easy and possibly enjoyable. I was conscious that working with so much student writing must have an effect on mine, but I was never exactly sure what the effect was. Sometimes, I would keep up my interest by using the C.W. students as guinea pigs for things I was working on. I might also include my own work among the models I showed them.
As the new century began, it dawned on me that, at 59, my now-or-never point as a writer was fast approaching. In 2003, I had the immense good fortune of being allowed to begin a job-sharing arrangement that left me free to write for eight months a year. I worked like a madman, both at the writing and at actively and trying to get it published. By 2008, my writing career had reached the point where I felt comfortable quitting my day job. (We also had savings.) All told, by now I have now published perhaps 400 pieces in the different genres. Acting as my own agent has been tedious and time-consuming, but the salesman gene --and the results-- have made the task exhilarating. My approach to getting published is a very complex, constantly evolving process.
MBR: Many contemporary writers would call themselves spiritual, but not religious. Does this describe you and impact your work?
Singer: Yes, and yes. But I think "spiritual" is a weasel word, a nice-sounding way to avoid attacks from both sides of the religious divide. In linguistics, there is a term, "marked morpheme." "Atheist" is a marked morpheme, whereas "theist" is the unmarked norm --something like "woman" or "actress,"or when white people talk about "a Black guy" (vs. "a guy," who is assumed to be white). What I really am is something like a polytheist who loves nature (or what's left of it) and believes in New Testament moral values, but doesn't believe in God. I had a wonderful discussion about this with a wonderful nun in Nairobi, who kept expressing her amazement that she and I could see the world so similarly, in some ways, without my believing in Jesus. At one point, after volleying the usual arguments about sex and procreation back and forth, she asked me what gay people actually did with each other. She found the answer funny.
And, yes, my "spirituality" does affect my work, in many ways, including some of which I'm probably unaware. I've written poems with direct biblical allusion, such as "In Early Morning Fog," which is about David and Solomon. And a typological theologian might even see an analogue to The Last Supper in the banquet scene in The Rented Pet. I don't retail orthodox belief; I spin it. I love to play at ritual bending and myth making.
MBR: Your latest book is Uhuru Revisited: Interviews with African Pro-Democratic Leaders. What was the genesis of the book and what process did you use to create this complex mix of background research, networking, travel, interviewing, and synthesis?
Singer: The process was an amazing mix, as you suggest. I spell it out in the Preface to the book, which I hope people will read. As those who wrote the blurbs for the back cover said, the book should be read by anyone who loves good stories, who is interested in Africa, and who wonders what might become of the democratic revolutions sweeping the world today. After all, the shucking off of colonial masters in Africa and elsewhere during the 1950's and1960's was the last wave of global revolution. My book is about the unfinished business of revolutions.
One example of the process by which Uhuru Revisited came into being took place in Nairobi, across the street from the Westgate Mall, where the recent massacre was perpetrated. At the suggestion of a Kenyan fiction writer, Yvonne Owuor, whom I had written about in an earlier essay/review, I was interviewing Sir Mohinder Dhillon. "Sir Mo" is a famous photojournalist and ecological activist. At the end, when he asked who else I was interviewing, I listed the people and added that I wished I could meet the famous Kenyan whistleblower, John Githongo. I had read a very good book about Githongo (Michela Wrong's It's Our Turn to Eat). But, as I told Sir Mo, I had assumed Githongo would be too busy to waste time with me. Sir Mo dialed a number on his mobile and handed me the phone.
"John Githongo speaking." I wound up going with him to an event hosted by his new Kenyan unity movement, then returning to his office for a long interview. An article with photos resulted, plus some major points for my book's chapter on Kenyan journalism. I could not have written Uhuru Revisited without a degree of access unthinkable in the United States or Europe.
MBR: Do you have any new projects in the works?
Singer: I'm busy, as usual, with writing, publishing, self-promotion and readings, the usual round for a writer trying to emerge. Lately, I've taken to writing and publishing formal poems, another Chicago legacy. I've tried a villanelle, a chain poem, a poem in rhyme royale (like "The Parliament..."), and a narrative poem called "July 14th, 2013," which is modeled after Philip Larkin's "The Whitsun Weddings." Larkin's beautiful poem caught my eye because it takes the form of a Keatsian ode, which, in turn, amalgamates the Shakespearian and Italian sonnet.
I also have a special new project. About a month ago, a cousin sent me a 90-minute taped interview with my mother and her sister. It was made in 1997, shortly before my mother died. (Her sister died a few years later.) The tape is gold. The sisters joke, bicker and reminisce in detail about their childhood and preceding events going back to their parents' flight from Russia. I think this tape may turn out to be an almost off-the-rack prequel to A Voice for My Grandmother.
MBR: In answer to my question about teaching, you teased us about how you got all that work published. As we conclude the interview, how about sharing a few trade secrets?
Singer: First, thank you so much, Laurel, for doing this interview, which has given me an exciting opportunity for self-discovery.
Now for the answer: Getting published in today's market requires persistence, method, and flexibility. I've sent some pieces out a hundred times, I confess. But I've learned two important lessons. One is to scrutinize the "About" page of a website and the submission guidelines, and to read at least one or two pieces in the genre of the piece you are thinking of submitting.
The other lesson is to find a method of sending out work that suits your temperament and that won't lead to terminal depression. I have two tricks. One has been to savor compliments, even when they accompany rejections, and to make those editors pay for their kindness by sending them more work to read. The other trick is to send a piece to a new place immediately after you get a rejection.
I'll end with two "war stories." In the 1990's, when I first thought about trying to publish some Maine poems, I had little sense of where to send them. Then, I noticed a few ditties in the local Deer Isle newspaper, and thought of walking into the office with two or three of mine. This idea was ridiculed by some of our painter friends. Publish in the local rag? Why not just use your poems for toilet paper? I think their long experience dealing with unpleasant gallery owners had frozen them into anti-Establishment defenders of "Standards." But since I had no reputation, I had nothing to lose, and I ultimately published about half a dozen in that sweet little paper.
I'll never forget the day I was walking through Stonington, Deer Isle's "big" town, and an old lady spotted me. I can't remember how she could have recognized me, but she came over with a sweet smile and said, "Oh! Aren't you the young man who has been publishing those nice poems in the paper?" Eventually, ultimate vindication followed. I started getting my Maine poems into a Maine magazine, and then, in a small way, they went viral (200 or so published). Then, this summer, came Look to Mountains... and, yes, a reading at the Deer Isle library, followed by an interview in that same newspaper which, the editor told me, is now the oldest surviving business in Stonington.
The other war story is an extreme example of serendipity. I sent a novelette to a publisher who was also a friend, and she hated it, because it made fun of people and things she cherished. I was so upset at the thought of losing her good opinion that I quickly sent her another long story, which I thought would prove I was not a heartless bastard. The next day, she called and said she loved the new story and would like to publish it. Our friendship has endured. I'm not sure what this anecdote proves - maybe, that you have to take the good with the bad in life.
Having said all that, the brave new virtual world offers hugely expanded opportunities for writers to find readers. The trick is to balance ease of acceptance with the prestige of the venue, which means more readers. But when all is said and done, as I'm sure you've already discovered, it is very unlikely that you can make a living from the kind of writing we love.
300 Gems of Irish Music For All Instruments
Grey Larsen, editor/collector
Mel Bay Publications
PO Box 66, Pacific, MO 63069
9780786685585, $29.99, www.melbay.com
"300 Gems of Irish Music For All Instruments" is a widely varied, carefully sampled collection of familiar Irish tunes for traditional Irish instruments, including fiddle, flute, tin whistle, uilleann pipes, harp, button accordion, piano accordion, melodeon, concertina, harmonica, tenor banjo, mandolin, bouzouki, cittern, guitar and hammer dulcimer. Tune types include jigs, reels, hornpipes, slip jigs, hop jigs, polkas, slides, set dances, marches, harp tune and others. Tune sources are indexed and written in treble clef staff standard notation, with the added bonus of recordings of all 300 tunes available for purchase from, www.greylarsen.com either as a set of four audio CDs or a set of downloadable audio files. There are also two companion collections: "150 Gems of Irish Music for Flute" and "150 Gems of Irish Music for Tin Whistle," both also by Grey Larsen. Many helpful notes on Modes and Mode Signatures and A Closer Look at Quarter Notes, Dotted Quarter Notes and Bracketed Eighth Notes" provide added guidance for the student or performer of Irish music. This excellent set of collections contains hours of fascinating Irish tunes for practice and performance by both amateurs and professional musicians.
Hello, Jesus Loves You
Harvelene Sanderson, author
Susan Shorter, illustrator
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781462401208, $7.99, www.amazon.com
"Hello, Jesus Loves You" is a delightful illustrated book that teaches common greeting expressions in Spanish, Chinese, German, French, Italian, Portuguese, Hawaiian and English, along with the certain message that children of all races and nationalities are loved by Jesus. Filled with full page colorful illustrations of boys and girls in all eight or more countries, "Hello, Jesus Loves You" ends its positive message with a picture of a singing choir of children of many nationalities and a globe representation surrounded with children from all countries, captioned "Jesus loves all the children of the world." At the end is a handy vocabulary list of common greeting expressions in all seven languages. Illustrations show children of many nationalities and many skin colors, in their homes around the world and singing and holding hands together. One representation of Jesus appears to be Caucasian. One way to make the message of "Hello, Jesus Loves You" more inclusive might be to show Jesus as represented to be of different ethnicity as well. Otherwise, the overall message of "Hello, Jesus Loves You" is affirmative, positive, and inspirational, ideal for young children.
Tatty, The Lonely Monarch
Dorothy Herron, water color painter/illustrator
9780989306386, $17.50, www.prosepress.biz
Note: Although the name of the author and this reviewer are identical, we are two different people who have never met.
"Tatty, The Lonely Monarch" is a courageous story about a small Monarch butterfly with a tattered wing who falls behind the other Monarch butterflies during a winter migration flight to Mexico. Filled with facts and fascinating information about the life and habits of Monarch butterflies, "Tatty, The Lonely Monarch" is an unusual nature biography written for children ages 4-8. Adorned with stunning detail in sensitively painted water color illustrations of Tatty the butterfly in many natural surroundings, "Tatty, The Lonely Monarch" recounts what happens to the delicate butterfly when she is unable to keep up with her fellow butterflies on their autumnal migration to Mexico. Tatty finds herself in a forest with a Spanish-speaking friend named Charlie Chickadee, who later introduces her to another migratory friend, Hector Hummingbird. Later, in a lovely garden filled with lantana butterfly bush and delicious milkweed, Tatty also encounters bees, a hungry anole lizard and a cat. Tatty tries to follow Hector on his migratory flight to Mexico, but she cannot keep up with him. Tatty later meets many other colored butterflies and helps them rescue a butterfly from being eaten by an anole lizard. Finally the other butterflies help Tatty to migrate to the Gulf instead of to Mexico, a closer destination that is sometimes chosen by monarch butterflies such as Tatty.
In addition to a succession of stunning, accurate, water color illustrations of Tatty and friends among flowers and gardens, there are a list of explanatory color photographs of different animals and plants shown grouped by chapter of mention at the end of the book, with further biographical and botanical information. In addition to accurately presented educational information about butterflies and their habits, "Tatty, The Monarch Butterfly" has a powerful theme message of encouragement to be brave and do your best, even if you are challenged. Further resource books and websites are listed at the back for additional information. "Tatty, The Lonely Monarch" is faultlessly researched and presented nature story with a valuable moral.
The United States And China Since World War II
M.E. Sharpe, Inc.
80 Business Park Drive, Armonk, NY 10504
9780765629906, $29.95, 218pp, www.amazon.com
Written by Georgetown University Professor Chi Wang, the man who oversaw the development of Chinese collection of the U.S. Library of Congress, "The United States and China Since World War II: A Brief History" is a 218 page compendium comprised of ten informed and informative chapters, the first two of which provide an historical background to America's relationship to China from first contact in the 19th century down through the end of World War II. Then Professor Wang addresses the Chinese civil war; the conflict between the U.S. and the Communist state of China; Chinese foreign policy during the era of the Cold War; President Nixon's reestablishment of diplomatic contact with the Chinese government under Mao; Deng Xiapoing and U.S.-China relations; U.S.-China relations under President Ronald Regan; President H. W. Bush's response to the Tiananmen Square incident; President Bill Clinton and the Chinese premier Jian Zemin; President George W. Bush and Hu Jintao; Sin-U.S. relations and China's hosting of the Olympics; and concludes with President Barack Obama's administration and the Chinese government. Of special note is Professor Wang's 'Conclusion' commentary. Very highly recommended for academic library International Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists, it should be noted that "The United States and China Since World War II: A Brief History" is also available in a hardcover edition (9780765629890, $76.75).
Crisis Standards Of Care
Committee on Crisis Standards of Care
The National Academies Press
500 Fifth Street NW, Keck 360, Washington, DC 20001
9780309285520, $49.00, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Disasters and public health emergencies can stress health care systems to the breaking point and disrupt delivery of vital medical services. During such crises, hospitals and long-term care facilities may be without power; trained staff, ambulances, medical supplies and beds could be in short supply; and alternate care facilities may need to be used. Planning for these situations is necessary to provide the best possible health care during a crisis and, if needed, equitably allocate scarce resources.
Crisis Standards of Care: A Toolkit for Indicators and Triggers examines indicators and triggers that guide the implementation of crisis standards of care and provides a discussion toolkit to help stakeholders establish indicators and triggers for their own communities. Together, indicators and triggers help guide operational decision making about providing care during public health and medical emergencies and disasters. Indicators and triggers represent the information and actions taken at specific thresholds that guide incident recognition, response, and recovery. This report discusses indicators and triggers for both a slow onset scenario, such as pandemic influenza, and a no-notice scenario, such as an earthquake.
Crisis Standards of Care features discussion toolkits customized to help various stakeholders develop indicators and triggers for their own organizations, agencies, and jurisdictions. The toolkit contains scenarios, key questions, and examples of indicators, triggers, and tactics to help promote discussion. In addition to common elements designed to facilitate integrated planning, the toolkit contains chapters specifically customized for emergency management, public health, emergency medical services, hospital and acute care, and out-of-hospital care.
Critique: An invaluable and impressively presented report, the "Crisis Standards Of Care" should be considered required reading for governmental and health agency policy makers, as well as anyone involved in the private sector health community and health planning issues advocates. "Crisis Standards Of Care" should be added to all academic library Health & Medicine policy issues reference collections. It should be noted that "Crisis Standards Of Care" is also available in a Kindle edition ($30.39).
From Storefront to Monument
Andrea A. Burns
University of Massachusetts Press
PO Box 429, Amherst, MA 01004
9781625340351, $24.95, 240pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Today well over two hundred museums focusing on African American history and culture can be found throughout the United States and Canada. Many of these institutions trace their roots to the 1960s and 1970s, when the struggle for racial equality inspired a movement within the black community to make the history and culture of African America more public.
"From Storefront to Monument: Tracing the Public History of the Black Museum Movement" tells the story of four of these groundbreaking museums: the DuSable Museum of African American History in Chicago (founded in 1961); the International Afro-American Museum in Detroit (1965); the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum in Washington, D.C. (1967); and the African American Museum of Philadelphia (1976). Andrea A. Burns shows how the founders of these institutions, many of whom had ties to the Black Power movement, sought to provide African Americans with a meaningful alternative to the misrepresentation or utter neglect of black history found in standard textbooks and most public history sites. Through the recovery and interpretation of artifacts, documents, and stories drawn from African American experience, they encouraged the embrace of a distinctly black identity and promoted new methods of interaction between the museum and the local community.
Over time, the black museum movement induced mainstream institutions to integrate African American history and culture into their own exhibits and educational programs. This often controversial process has culminated in the creation of a National Museum of African American History and Culture, now scheduled to open in the nation s capital in 2015.
Critique: A work of impressive and seminal scholarship by Andrea A. Burns (Assistant Professor of History, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina), "From Storefront to Monument: Tracing the Public History of the Black Museum Movement" is a valued and important contribution that should be part of every academic library's African-American History reference collection and would make an ideal Black History Month acquisition for community libraries. It should be noted that "From Storefront to Monument: Tracing the Public History of the Black Museum Movement" is also available in a hardcover edition (9781625340344, $80.00).
Laura E. Huggins
Edward Elgar Publishing
9 Dewey Court, Northampton, MA 01060-3815
9781781953969, $110.00, 208 pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In "Environmental Entrepreneurship: Markets Meet the Environment in Unexpected Places" Laura E. Huggins finds path breaking entrepreneurial solutions to difficult environmental challenges in some of the world's poorest areas. The approaches entrepreneurs are taking to these challenges involve establishing property rights and encouraging market exchange. From beehives to barbed wire, these tools are creating positive incentives and promoting both economic development and environmental improvements. The case studies are from the developing world and reveal where the biggest victories for less poverty and more conservation can be won. The pursuit begins by learning from local people solving local problems. "Environmental Entrepreneurship" encourages a broad audience to consider secure property rights and free markets as key ingredients to moving out of poverty and improving environmental quality at the same time. It will appeal to academics and students of environmental studies, environmental economics, environmental policy, as well as international development and business.
Critique: An impressive work of original scholarship (Laura E. Huggins is a Research Fellow at PERC and the Hoover Institutions at Stanford University), "Environmental Entrepreneurship: Markets Meet the Environment in Unexpected Places" is deftly written and will prove of immense interest to both entrepreneurs and corporate executives, as well as environmentalists and conservationists. Of special note are with two of its articles ('Saving wildlife in Kenya and sub-Saharan Africa', Shawn Regan and Terry Anderson; 'Un-American Indian reservations and resource management', Terry Anderson), Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Environmental Entrepreneurship: Markets Meet the Environment in Unexpected Places" is an important and very strongly recommended for academic library reference collections.
The Birth Of Top 40 Radio
Richard W. Fatherly & David T. MacFarland
McFarland & Company
PO Box 611, Jefferson NC 28640
9780786476305, $39.95, 216 pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Top 40" was the preeminent American radio format of the 1950s and 1960s. Although several radio station group owners offered their own versions of the format, the AM stations owned by Todd Storz and his father were acknowledged as the principal developers of Top 40 radio, and the prime movers in making it a nationwide ratings and revenue success. The Storz Stations in St. Louis, Omaha, New Orleans, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Kansas City, Oklahoma City and Miami are profiled in this book, as are various Storz air personalities and executives. A detailed chapter examines the unique "Storz Station sound," revealing the complexity of what detractors portrayed as a simplistic format. Another covers Storz advertising in radio trade magazines, which cemented the company's image as the format's most successful station group and Top 40 as the dominant programming of the day. There 1are extensive quotations from the memoirs of several of the founders of the format.
Critique: Exceptionally well written and informative, "The Birth of Top 40 Radio: The Storz Stations' Revolution of the 1950s and 1960s" will prove to be a fascinating and informative read that is strongly recommended for anyone who grew up listening to Top 40 music stations in their homes, in their cars, or in their favorite drive in restaurants! "The Birth of Top 40 Radio: The Storz Stations' Revolution of the 1950s and 1960s" would prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community and academic library 20th Century Popular Culture Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists. It should be noted that "The Birth of Top 40 Radio: The Storz Stations' Revolution of the 1950s and 1960s" is also available in a Kindle edition ($14.74).
PO Box 180165, Chicago, IL 60618
9781608463305, $22.00, 338 pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: During the first two decades of the twentieth century the ideas of revolutionary syndicalism developed into a major influence within the trade union movement. Committed to destroying capitalism through direct industrial action and revolutionary trade union struggle, the movement raised fundamental questions for activists across the world. Radical Unionism provides an analysis of the dynamics and trajectory of the syndicalist movement in six specific countries: France, Spain, Italy, America, Britain and Ireland, and provides a systematic examination of the relationship between syndicalism and communism.
Critique: Author Ralph Darlington is Professor of Employment Relations at the University of Salford and an expert on the history of the union movement. "Radical Unionism: The Rise and Fall of Revolutionary Syndicalism" is deftly organized into two major sections: 'Dynamics of the Syndicalist Movement' and 'The Transition to Communism'. Of special note are the chapters on Union Bureaucracy and Syndicated-Communist Fusion. Informed, informative, enhanced with an extensive bibliography and a comprehensive index, "Radical Unionism: The Rise and Fall of Revolutionary Syndicalism" is an extraordinary work of seminal scholarship and highly recommended for academic library collections.
Handbook of Strategic Recruitment and Selection: A Systems Approach
Bernard O'Meara & Stanley Petzall
Emerald Publishing Limited
Howard House, Wagon Lane, Bingley, BD16 1WA, UK
9781780528106, $105.95, 300pp., www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Handbook of Strategic Recruitment and Selection: A Systems Approach" is a theory-based text with unique features. While it includes mainstream topics such as interviews, job analysis and question types, it is the first text to introduce topics such as crowd sourcing, social networking, Skype and distance interviewing. The inclusion of theory such as similarity/attraction theory, insider/outsider theory, cultural appreciation, body language and interview types for different levels within organizations assist in differentiating this text. It is up to date and addresses issues such as the role of staffing, recruitment and selection in a knowledge-based society. This text also looks at resume preparation and analysis, and explores the challenges facing international applicants seeking employment in other countries.
Critique: A complete course of study under one cover, "Handbook of Strategic Recruitment and Selection: A Systems Approach" is superbly organized and presented from beginning to end, making it an ideal Business School curriculum text, as well as a kind of operations manual for anyone with a corporate responsibility for recruiting personnel. Enhanced with the an impressive list of bibliographic references, eleven appendices, a glossary of terms, and a comprehensive index, "Handbook of Strategic Recruitment and Selection: A Systems Approach" is a highly recommended and core addition to academic library Business Studies reference collections. It should be noted that "Handbook of Strategic Recruitment and Selection: A Systems Approach" is also available in a Kindle edition ($84.76).
One Game At A Time
3500 Parkdale Avenue, Building 1, #A28
Baltimore, MD 21211
9781849351362, $12.95, 176pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Sports are serious stuff. Football, basketball, tennis, mixed martial arts, and beyond: these are arenas of immense power, with mass appeal, yet far too many of us have abandoned the sporting world as a legitimate site of contestation and innovation. Why? What do we gain by handing over the power of sports to the world of hyper-consumption, militarism, violence, sexism, and homophobia - the worst elements of our culture? As Matt Hern suggests, not a whole lot.
Critique: In "One Game at a Time: Why Sports Matter", author and sports fan Matt Hern persuasively articulates a perspective that underscores the value and importance of an active participation in sports that is both physical and intellectual in nature. His underlying philosophy is applicable to any form of sports whether it is individually based such as with tennis or the martial arts, or is a team effort as with football, basketball, or baseball. As informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "One Game at a Time: Why Sports Matter" is highly recommended reading and would be a valued addition to community library collections. It should be noted that "One Game at a Time: Why Sports Matter" is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.39).
Crecy Publishing Limited
c/o Specialty Press
99 Spring Street, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10012
9780859791755, $18.95, 256 pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Bloody Biscay" is the story of the Luftwaffe s only long range maritime fighter nit V Gruppe/Kampfgeschwader 40 (V/KG 40) and its battles against the RAF, the US Army Air Force (USAAF) and the US Navy (USN) from July 1942 to August 1944 above the Bay of Biscay. Using personal accounts from both German and Allied survivors, Bloody Biscay relates the initial tribulations of the unit, the height of its success in spring and summer 1943, its battles against overwhelming odds and its eventual annihilation over the Normandy beaches in June 1944. "Bloody Biscay" contains comprehensive appendices detailing the unit s commanding officers, known aircrew, all of its known kills matched to Allied losses and its combat losses. It also describes the attack in which the famous British actor Leslie Howard perished and so clarifies the facts surrounding one of the most enduring mysteries of World War II.
Critique: A work of impressive research and enhanced with some 200 period photographs (most of which are from German sources), "Bloody Biscay: The History of V Gruppe/Kampfgeschwader 40" is an informed, informative, and extraordinarily well written and presented contribution to World War II Military Aviation History collections and supplemental reading lists. No military historian or academic library will want to be without a copy of "Bloody Biscay: The History of V Gruppe/Kampfgeschwader 40" in their collection.
The God Watchers
Don Nori, Sr.
Destiny Image Publisher, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
97807684424582014, $14.99, 176 pages
A Fresh Awakening - Pursing the Life and Adventure of a God Watcher
Internationally acclaimed, bestselling author, Don Nori Sr. continues to set the pace for a new generation of Christ followers in his new book "The God Watchers."
Nori describes the reality of an interactive personal relationship with God; experiencing His presence, discerning what He is doing, seeing things from His perspective, and participating in those activities in the power of His spirit. Nori writes with a contagious passion.
After reading just a few of Nori's illustrative experiences I was reminded of many important spiritual lessons and was infused with a sense of excitement and a fresh reawakening of that "first love" experience with Jesus - a childlike faith and the joy of fellowship with Him and His followers. As I continued to read my eyes were also opened to the realization that as an adult there are still lessons I can learn, I need to be open and teachable. Each chapter of "The God Watchers" is filled with challenge, instruction, and new insight into the life changing truth of God's Word.
"The God Watchers" is a book for those seeking God with their whole heart, willing to yield themselves to a new life of spiritual adventure in the realm of the supernatural; daily discovering what is on God's heart.
A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.
Greater than Magic - The Supernatural Power of Faith
Destiny Image, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 15257
9780768442441, $15.99, 184 pages
"Greater than Magic - The Supernatural Power of Faith" challenges the reader to explore the reality of walking in the power of the Holy Spirit. Becky Dvorak combines personal experiences, Biblical teaching, and practical examples from the powerful testimonies of everyday people to illustrate how to walk in the reality of the miraculous, while growing in Christlikeness.
Dvorak is a gifted communicator. She brings fresh insight into the intimacy and fruitfulness that result from a deeper walk with God. Her book is endorsed by Christian ministry leaders as an important resource for equipping the reader to move into a deeper dimension of faith. Each chapter is filled with instruction for establishing a pattern for finding God's plan, purpose, and destiny.
The review questions and reflection at the end of each chapter expand the value of the book. It becomes a valuable resource for use as a guide for individual study or for interactive group study. The practical instruction and hands-on assignments provide the reader with a biblical foundation for walking in the supernatural power of faith.
"Greater than Magic" will be beneficial to readers ready "to launch out into the deep things of the Holy Spirit, to radiate Jesus to the lost," and to live for Him in these prophetic end time days.
A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.
The Secret Power of Covenant - Unleashing God's Protection, Power, and Prosperity in Your Life
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768442472, $15.99, 176 pages
Principles for Tapping into the power of the Covenant
In his book "The Secret Power of Covenant" Kerry Kirkwood provides the reader with practical life-changing applications that can impact every area of life. He begins with the foundational principle of Biblical Covenants, as used in business today, and a comparison of covenant and contract.
Kirkwood's writing is engaging; his personal stories, Biblical illustrations, and the testimonies of contemporary Christians reinforce the precepts presented throughout the text. He writes with profound insight in a reader friendly style. Each chapter follows a pattern of progression; the information and instruction presented builds on the other. The material can also be read as stand-alone chapters for inspiration and reflection.
The chapter titled "Messenger of the Covenant" is especially helpful in getting a grasp on the message and provision of the New Covenant. The chapter also introduces stumbling blocks to experiencing covenant blessings and the refining work of the Holy Spirit in moving "covenant" from a doctrinal belief to a passion written on our heart.
Each chapter ends with a powerful prayer for the reader; for understanding, discernment, and commitment. "The Secret Power of Covenant" is an important book for anyone wanting to move into a lifestyle of experiencing God's plan for Christian living and covenant blessing.
A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.
Love in a Cauldron of Misery - Perspectives on Christian Prison Ministry
Wipf and Stock Publishers
199 W. 8th Avenue, Suite 3, Eugene, Oregon 97401
9781620322727, $21.00, 218 pp, www.amazon.com
A Challenging Approach to Christian Prison Ministry Today
Kirk Blackard expertly combines poignant stories, interviews, and historical background to introduce the reader to a divergence of views, opinions, and perspectives on prison reform, retribution, rehabilitation, and restoration within our country's justice system.
The book is divided into two parts. In part one Blackard traces the historical perspectives from the Colonial days to the recent explosive growth, overcrowding and crisis found in today's prisons. Part two presents four basic Biblical principles for prison ministry based on Jesus: teaching the Gospel by living it, fostering forgiveness, building wholeness, and encouraging restoration.
Through the expressed opinions and observations of lay ministers, inmates, theologians, ethicists, criminologists Blackard interweaves these perceptions as they relate to the myriad of problems faced by prison officials, political pressure, the incarcerated, family members of the inmates, faith based prison organizations, and the individual Christian reaching out in a ministry of love.
"Love in a Cauldron of Misery - Perspectives on Christian Prison Ministry" has opened my eyes to see the potential of the power of Christian love to bring hope, redemption, and restoration to individual men and women condemned to misery behind prison walls. I recommend the book be assigned as required reading for those considering careers in criminal justice and for Christians exploring the opportunity of ministry with state and federal prisons or in local jails.
A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.
Copies of the book are available through the Restorative Justice Bookstore.
Stop Waiting...Start Winning: 10 Essential Principles to Living Your Visions Now
Dr. Teresa Hairston
Destiny Image Publishers, Inc.
P. O. 310, Shippensburg, PA 17257
9780768442465, $ 15.99, 128 Pages
Clearly Defined Principles for Accomplishing Your Personal Vision
In her book "Stop Waiting...Start Winning!" Dr. Teresa Hairston clearly defines ten essential principles for accomplishing your personal vision. Each power packed chapter presents an important principle, supporting scripture, thought provoking power quotes, practical information, valuable instruction, illustrative examples, and model prayers.
The material is systematically organized if four phases and skillfully developed in ten chapters making up the principles of: Positioning, preparation, publishing, perpetuation, process, patience, passion, productivity, and perseverance. I especially enjoyed her use of alliteration, her insights into Biblical studies, and the inspirational and motivational tenor of her writing. Throughout the book Hairston calls attention to the message of the Old Testament prophetical book of Habakkuk, as well as illustrations from other Old and New Testament writers.
Hairston establishes the importance of getting clarity in understanding where you are on the "Vision Continuum" and in the "Vision Model" which are basic concepts to accomplishing your vision. This is a book that "begs" to be read with your favorite highlighter at hand. The "power quotes" are worthy of concentrated study, memorizing, frequent review, and assimilation.
"Stop Waiting...Start Winning" is an important addition to the library of everyone seriously desirous of understanding, plotting, and accomplishing their personal dreams and Vision.
A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.
The Tempest Murders
P. M. Terrell
Drake Valley Press
978193970163, $ 16.95, 272 pages
Creatively Imaginative, Technically Informative, Superbly Entertaining
P. M. Terrell skillfully combines the elements of suspense, intrigue, romance, and the unsettling sense of de JA vu in her book "The Tempest Series." Stories of a tragic series of murders five generations earlier and a lifetime of disturbing nightmares introduce the plot of this fast moving adventure novel.
The suspense builds as Detective Ryan O'Clery matches wits with a serial killer bent on revenge. Hurricane Irene is on a course of destruction moving toward the eastern coast of North Carolina when O'Clery discovers the journal of an uncle describing the Night of the Big Wind in Ireland in 1839 which also includes an account of a series of murders leading to the death of Caitlin O'Conner.
When Cathleen Reilly, who has covered the recent murders of four women in Atlanta arrives on the scene in Lumberton; O'Clery is confronted with the similarities of the current crime scenes with those in Ireland 200 years earlier. Romance, action and suspense escalate as Hurricane Irene ravages the North Carolina coastline.
Terrell's writing is absorbing, brilliant in scope, classic in style, with a hard driving action plot, and unique in the personality development of resilient, believable characters. Readers will appreciate her board insights into police procedure and human nature, and word pictures and descriptions that create vivid visual perceptions of the setting, action, and the climatic uncertainty of the outcome of the fast moving complex plot.
"The Tempest Murders" is destined to become another award winner for this already established internationally acclaimed author.
A complimentary copy of the book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.
Richard R. Blake
A Dark and Stormy Knit
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, N.Y. 10020
9781451644807, $15.00 U.S., $17.00 CAN, www.amazon.com
Anne Canadeo, aka Katherine Spencer, hails from Northport, New York. Her works include the Black Sheep knitting series and the Thomas Kinkade series. She is a knitting aficionado.
Maggie Messina owns and operates a knitting shop in Plum Harbor, and a knitting group called the Black Sheep. But a seeming prank where a knitting group places covers on Plum Harbor's new parking meters begins a bizarre chain of events that includes a dead body found encased in a knit shroud:
"...Then I got to the bedroom door and looked in...Phoebe paused and took a breath. Maggie noticed her chin start to tremble. 'I saw her. On the floor. Wrapped in...it looked like a big afghan. But like patches that don't really match.' Phoebe swallowed hard. 'It looked like her own artwork. Her fiber pieces...or...or some knitting graffiti,' she added quietly."
A Dark and Stormy Knit begins with simple knitting conflicts and eventually works its way around to the local college's faculty. Maggie Messina is the local private citizen who seems to be pulled into every mystery that presents itself. Maggie is a matronly woman who tries to help out her own version of baby sheep who come her way.
A Dark and Stormy Knit is fashioned as a cozy, and there is nothing as cozy as knitting and cats. In that sense, A Dark and Stormy Knit is a good book to settle down with in front of the fire on an arctic winter night.
Death Rides the Zephyr
c/o Daniel & Daniel Publishers
PO Box 2790, McKinleyville, CA 95519
9781564745309, $15.95, www.amazon.com
Janet Dawson's daytime job is at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratories, and in her spare time she has managed to pen ten PI Jeri Howard book, winning the St. Martin's/PWA award alone the way. Her latest, DEATH RIDES THE ZEPHYR is a stand-alone mystery.
It is December 23, 1952, a time when trains carried passengers in style crossing the country. It is a time when The California Zephyr, complete with "The Silver Lady" and her Vista-Domes made a run from Oakland, California to Chicago. Zephyrite Jill McLeod is in charge of making the passenger's comfortable, and she and the author give the reader a bird's eye view of the incredible country through which the powerful train hurtles:
"The Zephyr stopped briefly in Keddie, then continued east past Quincy Junction. Dusk darkened the sky, blurring landmarks as the train curved into the Williams Loop, a complete circle designed to provide the train with a one-percent grade as it continued up the canyon. As the Zephyr gained elevation, it crossed over itself on the trestle. Had it been summer, the passengers might have been able to see the first and last cars, looking as though they were travelling in opposite directions."
Dawson did extensive research to prepare for writing this book, and it could easily be classified as an historical novel. But she throws in a murder, and while the reader is enjoying national sights courtesy of Dawson, seeds for the murder are sown almost unseen until murder erupts. Naturally, Jill McLeod, who has an interesting personal side story relevant to the times, finds herself in the middle of the hunt for a dastardly group intent upon stealing secrets related to nuclear research. Dawson writes a compelling mystery and treats the reader to a part of history that is all but forgotten.
A Christmas Star's Wish
James Jay Gordy
9780615220826, $17.99, 26 pgs, www.amazon.com
This is a heart warming story of a loan little Christmas star. This little star sat on the shelves Christmas after Christmas, but because it was not decorated beautiful, like all the other ornaments were, this little star was never chosen. He would daydream of being part of Christmas, but it never happened, Until one day this little star's life changed forever.
I loved this story, because as silly as this may sound, I've often felt a sadness for products I saw on the shelf week after week. Sigh, what can I say. However, our author turns this into a fairly tale ending of rejoicing that is sure to bring a smile to everyone who takes the time to read this top-notch book. It has exceptional illustrations that truly bring our little star to life, and the story shows how quickly things can change from sadness to joy. I highly recommend it, for young and old. A reminder, there is always hope if we continue to dream. Well done.
Damnation Books L.L.C.
PO Box 3931, Santa Rosa, CA 95402-9998
9781629290386, $20.75, 212 pgs, www.amazon.com
Our main character Randolph Macklin awakens in Malaysia after four long months. His wife is dead and he finds his daughter in a coma. His life is in shreds and that is just the beginning of a battle he never knew he would have to fight..
I found this book to be well written. It has a great storyline with very interesting characters and throw in the mix of mystery, cults, and advanced science and you have a winner. Top that with challenges of choosing what is the right thing to do, as Macklin had to. Do you chose perhaps what is an advance for good for mankind or those you love? Do you chose to have the love of the past returned to you, or someone who deserves to live. Your heart is torn.
In this read you may find yourself asking -could this be done? Is it being done now? What "It" is I will leave for you to find out. The characters are very well defined, taking you from layer to layer in this read . Interesting, and definitely will leave you wondering just how much has man accomplished that we do not know and what might our future hold?
The Shifter's Trail
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
978148700845, $14.95, 343 pgs, www.amazon.com
In the beginning of this adventure we meet some teens who are about to have their lives changed in a way they never expected. We are taken into their school setting in Chicago. Suddenly, while in school, a fireball descends upon the city. This event will change their lives forever.
The teens, after a terrible boating accident, are rescued by the very source of this event, a disabled alien spacecraft, and the ride begins. At first the mystery of where they are and who they are with cloaks them, but soon they find out they have a mission that may well save the world. We are taken with these youth as they begin to help their new alien friends. The author did a good job at bringing you into the world of these teens as they struggle to do what they can to help the aliens, and the world they live in, at times perhaps putting themselves at risk, but their determination to give aid is forthcoming throughout the read.
I did enjoy the story. I liked the characters and feel the author did a good job at character description. Also did very well at describing aliens, their spaceship, and their surroundings. The story moved along at a nice pace and had a good ending. Different in many ways, but will hold your attention. It is a good science fiction read.
1930s Hollywood The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly. Vol 1
Frank N. Brathwaite
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432799304, $12.95, 187 pgs, www.amazon.com
I can look back and remember my parents talking about the many 'stars' that are mentioned in this book. Some I remember as well, by pictures mainly, but remember them or not this was a great book all the way through. I learned so much about the events and the famous people of the era, some things surprised me. My favorite part was on Shirley Temple. I do remember her movies playing on TV and I watched everyone of them. I loved those movies. Our author really gives her a great deal of the book and I enjoyed reading the information. wow the things I didn't know were amazing.
This book gives you a lot of hidden or perhaps forgotten stories and memories of a time that was all its own in so many ways. You know those little hidden secrets, that are not secrets anymore you will get to share. There are other details in this gem of a read, such as how movies were made, how demanding certain stars could be, and some of their more 'interesting' situations. Well, you get the idea. I really loved this book and wish my parents were here to share it with them. I recommend it highly, well done, a great, interesting, entertaining, and information book. Enjoy.
Clinfton K. Meador, M.D.
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
97811491029275, $12.95, 133 pgs, www.amazon.com
You know when I received this book I wasn't quite sure what I would think of it, but once I started the read, I could not put it down.
Author Clinfton K. Meador, M.D. takes us on a journey into many medical mysteries. What you will read in this book are true medical cases where the most surprising happenings or knowledge made a difference in the healing of a patient. Trust me it is amazing.
I really loved this book because I think like everyone of us, there are times when we have had an ailment and the doctor was stumped. Or we have heard of someone who was healed by some strange change of events in one way or another. I don't want to give you any examples because I don't want to disclose the contents of the read. However, this is not boring, but will have you glued till the end. I also feel this book may give other encouragement if you are facing something that your Doctor can't figure out. Great book. Highly recommended.
If You Were Me and Lived In Kenya
Carole P. Roman
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781481979917, $8.99, 30 pgs, www.amazon.com
I love when I receive another book in Ms. Roman's wonderful series of introducing children to cultures around the world. In this excellent book I learned about life in, Kenya. I learned what they call mommy, Mxazi, and daddy, Baba. I saw where they have a wonderful National Reserve where everyone can see elephants, leopards, lions, and rhinoceroses, without fear of them. I learned of different foods that they ate, and games that they play. I also learned about their toys. Wow! What a great learning experience.
This little book is packed full of fun and interesting information about the people of Kenya. The illustrations are wonderful, bold and colorful and definitely help bring the story alive. Great job as always. Recommended.
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
Site design by Williams Writing, Editing &