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The Mystery of the Trinity
Richard Gid Powers
A Caravel Book
c/o Pleasure Boat Studio
201 West 89 Street, New York, NY 10024
No ISBN, $TBA, www.pleasureboatstudio.com
Elaine G. McGillicuddy, Reviewer
There is something for everyone in this book. Correctly dubbed a "religious thriller, this novel is, nevertheless, no ordinary religious thriller; readers are offered too rich a fare for that. Its author, a historian, has knowledge in a wide variety of fields. Besides being an expert on conspiracies (the subject of his books), his expertise branches out to include: Church politics, Catholic doctrine, liturgy, mysticism, science, spirituality, and surely more.
The fast pace plot centers around Ann Grayce, an heiress' quest to solve the mystery behind the murder of Archbishop Romero. It's one action-packed adventure after another, as Ann and her small band of friends - which includes Patricia, an ex-communicated nun and a former priest - embark on planes to Mt. Athos in Greece, Paris, San Salvador, New York and New Orleans. Ann's mission to reform the Catholic Church through a traditionalist, conservative (fictitious) movement called Faith of Our Fathers is another driving theme that yields fruit at the end.
Powers' mention of past and contemporary real life people and, for example, an organization like the controversial right-leaning Opus Dei, makes the novel especially interesting. Progressives, at the other end of the wide "catholic" tent that is Catholicism, are included too, like - Garry Wills, and liberal newspaper, National Catholic Reporter's Tom Fox and Joe Feuerherd - and Teilhard de Chardin. But also stars like Tom Cruise and George Clooney, and scientists like Stephen Hawking, Thales, the Father of Modern Science, the American astronomer, astrophysicist and cosmologist, Carl Sagan, and Freeman Dyson, a theoretical physicist and mathematician. So are the popes mentioned, including Francis. Emeritus Pope Benedict is quoted more than once in this book, and, as several flattering comments manifest, fares well in this novel.
Some real life events and persons are referred to fictitiously as well. For example, the character, Patricia, represents Sr. Margaret McBride who in 2009 was excommunicated by the Vatican for approving an induced abortion to save the life of a woman suffering from pulmonary hypertension.
The novel's contemporaneity makes one smile. We read expressions like "as smooth as the rollout of Obamacare," and the following line is a giveaway that the author is having fun: "Mark Zuckerberg had assured Ann that the same pictures and translation would be streamed live on the Council App that Facebook had upgraded for her." Neither has Krista Tippit and her "On Being program on NPR been left out.
Good humor and playfulness make this novel entertaining, and the break-neck speed of its style matches some of its outrageous stories. For example, in this yarn, Robert d'Aubuisson, Founder of the far right ARENA party who was believed to be responsible for Romero's death, becomes Patricia's lover, and the father of this former nun's son. Even though we're in the middle of El Salvador's civil war, a fabricated story like this lightens the tragedy.
Packed with interesting information, this book is not only educational, it's sophisticated, even erudite. While in Greece, at "the soul of Eastern Orthodoxy, Mount Athos," Ann's son, Joe, having earlier spent a summer at the monastery, gives us readers and our travelers from the West, such a detailed lesson in east-west church history, that at first, it seemed to me, overdone: "Enough information already!" I wanted to object. But then, noticing how interestingly the long dialogic explanations were handled, in a breezy kind of way, I realized I was listening to a skilled, favorite New York history professor in action.
Scholarship is evidenced everywhere, for example, in theological speculation: "Was the Trinity actually an opening for a religious idea of science, and did that make the Incarnation the starting point for a reconciliation of science and religion?" We are introduced to, or enriched by, information on the thinking of cultural linguists: "we don't use language . . . Language uses us. . .. . gives us the words and the relationships between the words, the grammar, that let us make sense out of experience."
So this novel is clearly cerebral, abounding in flights of abstract thinking. Yet Powers is more than capable of handling the love stories and in painting poetic scenes like this one in Central Park at the end of Book One: "Above the trees a grid of golden lights on the wall of skyscrapers rose to meet the stars." He also creates delicious irony: The erotic scene in Cardinal Ryan's bedroom is introduced by his mentioning that Bach's B-minor Mass was starting up like thunder: "'Kyrie'" - "Lord have mercy."
While church politics, the conspiracy, and action involved in solving the murder mystery interested me the least, the author's fascination with spirituality and science, expressed best by Jack, is the part of the book with which I most identified. I found myself copying gems like this one, related to that theme: "Every human dreams of flying - it is part of our spiritual nature - but only science will let us fly. Our minds, not our wings, let us fulfill that dream. But our dreams come from our spiritual life." I appreciated Jack's humility: "he felt staggered as he contemplated what he didn't know. . . . Had science become an escape for him, not from uncertainty, but from the mystery of life?" And also his nuanced, compassionate view: "We are all mixtures of good and evil."
I propose this is also a provocative novel, deliberately provocative, likely - to make us think. (There no question, the novelist thinks!) If, in regards to viewpoints - liberal vis-a-vis, or versus, conservative, there is an overall preference in this novel for one or the other, I found it ambiguous, or even confusing, in a few places.
The ambiguity, as I see it, is expressed in Ann's own words wherein she refers to herself as a woman "trying to snatch a two-thousand-year-old institution back from the men who have been running it all those years: the popes, cardinals, bishops, priests. Not running, ruining it. And to build the movement on something as dead as Latin."
I wouldn't argue with her first point about the male dominated Roman Catholic Church, but, coming from a leader of a "Faith of Our Fathers" movement, it sounds puzzling, because in real life, conservatives tend to almost fawn over the papacy. Witness their distress in reaction to some of Pope Francis' statements.
This is a novel, however, so the surprising twists I'm referring to don't have to correspond to reality. That's why I'm calling it a provocative novel. Perhaps it's only proving, in the reactions of even a decidedly progressive person like me, that nothing is clear cut. For example, as one who misses the Gregorian chant of my past convent days, I can understand, and even share, nostalgia for some Latin. I would like some of it included in the vernacular liturgies at special times - like the ancient Exsultet at the Easter Vigil, and on Christmas Eve - the proclamation of Christ's birth, known as the Roman Martyrology.
In response to the following opinion, expressed by Ann, I first said to myself - "Outrageous!": "Vatican II has turned the Mass into something that keeps us from changing our lives. That is almost as bad as the clergy's sex crimes. And maybe the one comes from another. If they had a Mass that could change their lives, how could they rape children?" But perhaps Ann was using hyperbole to make a point.
Ann's other opinion here is one which drew an equally strong reaction from me: "The feeling of being connected to the past through traditional liturgies is why I am cool to the idea of women priests. As soon as a woman replaces the man at the altar, you shift from faithful recreation of the ancient patterns to inventing something new. . . . we might as well throw in the towel and practice witchcraft. Which is actually what some of these 'WomenPriests' seem to be doing."
My argument with this view is that it seems so wedded to tradition, it's making an idol of it. If tradition is clung to in a rigid way, it calcifies. Science itself has shown us a universe (or multiverses?) ever evolving. In a manner similar to creation as ongoing, for progressives in the Catholic Church - revelation also is ongoing, not static. Ann's or the overall view expressed in this novel, seems to relegate revelation to past tradition alone. So it's a provocative novel all right - proposing reform by doing without the papacy, yet nixing the idea of women priests.
In Rome, a telling mosaic graces the walls of the Church of St. Praxedes. Beneath her image one can read "Theodora" And her title is Episcopa, the feminine version of the male noun Episcopos, which literally means over (epi-) seer (-scopos). It's what we translate into English as "bishop." So we have here, a Bishop Theodora. I would ask: What about that tradition?
I would also propose, however, and admire Powers' imaginative flights which provide important insights, such as that in the last chapter where, during a Mass, a male priest recites the words of consecration, while a woman recites the words of the "Epiklesis" used in the Greek Orthodox Church. Giving prominence to the "Epiklesis" is something current progressive theologians espouse. Fantasies like this could help us imagine a new kind of church.
The extended metaphor used in chapter seven is worth the price of the book. Peter took his friends to the Lincoln Center to experience Stravinsky's "Agon" with the choreography by George Balanchine. At a restaurant later, he invited them to "think about how something like 'Agon' works. It doesn't explain itself. It just is." Peter had left the priesthood, he said because, Like "Agon," the Latin Mass "worked." His having to explain what had been translated, did not.
Since I'm almost getting "converted," by the proposal to bring back the Latin Mass, my inclination is to quote this entire pregnant paragraph:
"The old liturgy was as mysterious and meaningful as that ballet. 'Agon' is an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible . . . call it Grace, but you can also use the words 'Logic,' 'Order,' 'Connection.' Those dancers shed their individual identities, and became the rhythms of life, basic humanity, the logic and the order of reality. And when we see that, it connects us all, connects everything, we become part of the same being. A wise rabbi once said, 'the act explains the meaning of the act.' Great art cannot be explained. It is destroyed by explanation. And ancient ceremonies are destroyed by explanation. If they are explained, they die in front of you. Unexplained, mysterious, they live. Explained, they die. Left alone, they lead you back to the elemental."
The 'Agon' metaphor is alluded to, more than a few times, such as when the group is in Greece, standing before the archaic torso of Appolo. It's Ann who brings it up: "When a sculpture like this, or 'Agon,' or science, or religion, takes us deep inside ourselves, it makes us want to change ourselves and the world. Some call it Grace; it comes from God, but you never know when it is going to come, or how."
The Epilogue is equally brilliant. Speaking to Ann, Jack is reflecting: "The experience of God is like a quantum state. If we use instruments to translate a quantum state from the microscopic to the macroscopic level by measuring it, we have changed it. And if I think about my experience of God, I am going to lose it. And I don't want to lose it. . . ..All science and religion give are notations . . .We really understand only the notations. We feel the experiences."
Then, the conversation between them turns "lovey," after which, because Ann brings him up, Jack talks about "Pope Emeritus" Benedict's playing golf and quotes him making a bawdy remark. "Jack. Did you make any of that up?". . . to which Jack answers on the last page, "Let me think. Let me think."
The more I delved into this novel, the more I appreciated it.
Burning Uncle Tom's Cabin
Bright Sons Media LLC
9781497375581, $TBA pbk.
B00KZW2YA2, $3.99 Kindle www.amazon.com
Emanuel Carpenter, Reviewer
The enslavement of Africans in America is an atrocity that should never be forgotten. Think about it. Can you imagine being owned by another human being? What if your wife was raped by your owner? Imagine if your kids were sold and you never saw them again. Most of these very issues are the subject matter in Carl Waters novel "Burning Uncle Tom's Cabin."
In the book, George is a slave and brilliant inventor. His intelligence gives him unprecedented freedom. His owner, Harris, rents him out to a factory owner who gives him his own room, allows him to visit his family on the weekend, and treats him more like a colleague than a piece of property. When the tyrant slave owner gets word of George's freedom and success, he puts an end to it and makes him work in the field.
Without the freedom, George can no longer see his wife and child. To top it all off, Harris demands that George forget about his wife Eliza and marry another slave so that they can give him lots of slave babies.
To make matters worse, his wife and child have problems of their own since their owner has come upon hard times and needs to sell them to an unsavory man who has some very uncouth plans for each of them.
When George and his family put their plan to escape to Canada in action, the nail-biting adventure of running and hiding from slave catchers begins. Will George and his family find freedom in Canada? Or will they be caught a forced back into slavery in Kentucky?
"Burning Uncle Tom's Cabin" is a likable book. The characters are memorable. The plot is engaging. And the writing is pretty good. Although the book is rather predictable and could use a stronger edit, the overall execution is a success. Read "Burning Uncle Tom's Cabin" and share it with those who take for granted the freedoms they enjoy.
Sons of the Dawn: A Basque Odyssey
PO Box 371, Oakdale, CA. 95361
9780989291767, $15.95, 320 pp, www.amazon.com
Novelist Gerald Haslam, on the back cover of Sons of the Dawn: A Basque Odyssey described Hank Nuwer's novel as a page-turner, which is fitting in that I sat down for six hours and did not stop reading. What more could you want from a novel than to be unable to put it down?
What immediately struck me was the core similarity in the Basque social life of 1897 and society in modern times today. It also gives us a comparison for immigrant life now in the 21st century that leads to some startling conclusions about how newcomers get treated as undesirables.
Life in the new world is not always easy for the Basque, referred to pejoratively as Black Bascos by police and some Western buckaroos alike. Nuwer's theme about the politics of exclusion repeats itself often in the book. The Basques back then, like immigrant Mexicans today, often are resented by other Americans. On the other hand, through the actions and dialogue of the book's heroes, teenage immigrants Anton and Nicky Ibarra, the reader sees the similarities of all people from ancient and modern times with rituals such as burial rites and the love of athletics.
The story begins in Guernica, Spain, at a time when Spanish soldiers hunted the Basque country in search of young men to serve as conscripts for the approaching war with the United States. Anton, Nicky and their guardian, a kindly Monsignor who adopted the boys after witnessing their parents die in an avalanche, have traveled to Guernica from the village of St. Mammes by ox cart so that Anton can compete in a revered Basque tradition, a stonelifting competition in which competitors often lift boulders of 500 pounds or more.
While on the surface Anton's stone lifting competition seems foreign to most American readers, his humble demeanor during an athletic competition is something familiar to all classes and cultures. Also familiar is his unpretentious demeanor in front of Clarisse Millex, his adolescent crush. Anton competes against a wealthy landowner named Bernard and his brother Henry, a man mountain who resents the fact that he is the younger twin and thus ineligible to inherit his father's vast lands. Bernard suffers a serious sprain and while Anton helps him up, Henry places pebbles in the boots that Anton had left under a bench.
When the competition ends with Anton losing to the cheater Henry, the Monsignor manages to hide Anton and Nicky from Spanish soldiers invading Guernica. Anton says farewell to his beloved Clarisse and they promise to write. However, the girl's churlish father makes it clear that his own choice of husband is the wealthy brute Bernard. In time the Spanish invade St. Mammes, and the brothers escape to their cave hideout behind the rectory where they keep food and art supplies for Anton's pleasure.
Aware that the window of opportunity for his boys will close in America once war breaks out, the Monsignor smuggles the boys to a ship departing from France to Ellis Island by way of England. He has a stepbrother named Raoul living in Idaho on a sheep ranch, and the rancher has agreed to pay the boys' passage in exchange for two years of servitude as herders.
Another topic that really struck me was the social/historical conscience of this novel. Nicky and Anton's, and to a lesser extent Henry's, immigrant experience depicted how grueling life was for the poor newcomers, and yet how hopeful they were of finding a better life Out West. Adventurous Nicky wants his own ranch, and Anton's dream is to become an artist.
The heroes of this novel did not have it easy, but they had jobs, a little money, and spoke their language and English. Returning to the theme of unity and stretching it generationally (a very Basque-like perspective on the social matter) how does our treatment of immigrants today compare to over a century ago? Would this book have even been possible today should two boys facing conscription in a war-torn country seek asylum in the United States?
After some misadventures at Ellis Island, the brothers arrive at a New York train station. There, they are robbed before boarding. They are forced to snatch crumbs and pretzels off a table to survive. A wealthy, burly Idaho cattle rancher interrupts a card game to accost Nicky. Anton picks Sinclair off the ground by his neck, thereby creating a mortal enemy for the brothers.
The boys arrive in Idaho, and are greeted by Raoul's camptender Tubal Buscal, an old man who knows all about the sheep business. Tubal takes the boys to a mercantile store in Hailey, as well as to a revered Basque tradition, a Basque hotel where one can get a room, meal and forwarded mail.
In Sons of the Dawn, Nuwer also handles Yellow Journalism as an evil in the infamous time of the Spanish-American war when publishers clamored for war. It is Tubal who explains to the brothers how journalism then worked. "The reporters work for publishers who tell them what to write. Too many reporters are like sheep, they have no minds of their own."
If you traded Tubal Busca's name for Noam Chomsky's and threw his criticism on an editorial page I would not have thought twice. This, of course, is not to slander the profession, as there is certainly great work being done, especially from a younger generation of multimedia stars, but I've experienced, firsthand, sources reluctant to speak to the media with the pre-conceived notions that they are merely submitting a quote to an already developed story to establish some sort of pseudo-legitimacy.
All of this said, these things I like are merely layers to the core book itself, an American historical Western full of excitement and adventure. But unlike many cookie cutter westerns, Sons has a feeling of legitimacy and authenticity that I can personally best relate to Upton Sinclair's Southern California in the novel Oil! The level of detail in the herding lives on the Ibarra brothers is so thorough and polished that I feel like I have a 50/50 shot at selling my belongings and raising sheep next spring. On the other hand, I appreciated the brevity with which Nuwer treated the Ibarra boys' social lives, particularly Nicky's budding romance with Martina, the daughter of Raoul. I felt attached to the brothers without every becoming bored, which I most certainly cannot say for Oil! and the hundreds of pages that Upton Sinclair devoted to pre-teen protagonist Bunny and his social experiences.
On top of this, the novel really brings out out the inner-workings of the lives of these men and women such as their politics, and loneliness herding sheep, and what it was like to be from Spain during the war with Cuba. The Social Scientist in me loved the creation of the Basque Wool Growers Association to battle Faro Sinclair and his ilk. It was the author's attention to the little details like this that led me to devote my day to getting lost in turn-of-the-century Idaho. Social unity resonates throughout the entirety of this book, not just the for the Basque people, but for all walks of life, especially demonstrated in the bonds that help Nicky purchase a ranch with the help of Anton and Raoul. In nearly every chapter I was struck by the kinship and trust among the Ibarras and Tubal that were formed through the trials of life on the often treacherous Idaho trails.
With a book that has the Odyssey in the title I couldn't help but to look for the Odyssian road signs as I read through, and I was not disappointed. Anton plays a wonderful Odysseus, forever just but scorned and a wanderer, constantly longing for his Penelope (Clarisse). Sinclair made a fantastic Poseidon, an antagonist in a broad black Stetson. From The Caves in St. Mammes (Hades), to the wandering winds of New York City, and to the fight with the Hydra (Western rattlesnake) that left a young lamb motherless, the Ibarra boys' journey is integral to their character development. There was even a short conversation between Anton and Tubal about the importance of a herder reading the land like a captain reads the sea.
I should mention that this novel has comic scenes and humorous repartee by Anton, Nicky and Tubal. In particular, the Ibarra brothers teasing one-liners juxtaposed throughout the novel were biting and true-to-life.
Finally, I appreciated how the author handled Anton's return to Ithaca (more on this in a moment). The first hint at this comes with Clarisse's letter from Spain regarding her husband Bernard's 's death at war In time, Bernard's family resents Clarisse, and she too heads to Idaho for a job at the Basque hotel. Near the end of the novel, Anton's spirit soars at getting his second chance to win his Penelope, who still loves him. I was looking forward to seeing how he would return to Guernica, literally as a shepherd rather than using that occupation as a disguise a la Odysseus, and I was then a little confused to find Penelope coming to her Odysseus in the setting of Xara's Hotel. The initial reaction left me feeling a little cheated, as a glorious and triumphant return to St. Mammes was something I really want for Anton by this time, especially after he has finally bested Henry in the stone lift and defeated Sinclair through a most clever ruse that puts Poseidon behind bars for several murders and attempted murders of Henry and Tubal.
But as I gave it more thought I think it does the story, and true love in this instance, much more justice than what was a slightly (I mean it's hard to judge an ancient Greek author too much on progressive social thought) sexist original tale. Penelope, as originally told, spends her days doing god knows what with her suitors while her husband fights a god to return to her. In this tale Clarisse undergoes an Odyssey of her own to be reunited with Anton, which I believe to be a much more satisfying end, even without Anton getting to rub it in the faces of everyone in the old country.
However, as I had mentioned, in the appendix, Anton and Clarisse do return to Ithaca-Spain where they take care of the aging monsignor, and the onetime herder finds success as a book and magazine illustrator.
However, the timing of their return is bad. Anton and now-wealthy landowner Henry are present in a village market the day in 1937 that German bombers strafed and burned the town of Guernica.
Anton's heroic end was exactly what I would have wanted had I created his character. He lived his life well, had a loving family and friends. In the end, he died as he lived, a hero who refused to back down even in the face of the evil dictators Hitler and Franco.
Hank Nuwer is a veteran journalist and professor at Franklin College in Indiana known as an expert on bullying and hazing. Therefore, it is no surprise that those two specialties of his get addressed in Sons of The Dawn.
In summery, it was a wonderful novel from an author who has written 26 books. I look forward to reading his next endeavor.
On the Edge of Wishing
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9781475964417, $13.95, www.amazon.com
Jaclyn M. Bartz, Reviewer
We had the pleasure to review Danette Key's YA novel, On the Edge of Wishing. This story is about the challenges a family faces when dealing with a problematic child. Maddy is a 14 year old teenager who is very unappreciative of life. She is disobedient, disrespectful, and selfish. She gets in trouble at school on a regular basis and treats her siblings unkindly.
As a result of her bad behavior, her father, Peter--a soccer coach--can no longer stand being around her and wishes she was someone else. Her mother, Becca, is an overwhelmed mother of three who retreats to community service in order to escape the problems with her daughter. And Maddy's two younger siblings do not understand why she is so mean to them.
Unexpected help arrives from the other side to mend this broken family. Mary Ellen is a soul with an important task. She possesses Maddy's body and intervenes with this family's challenges. Soon, Maddy starts acting strange. She seems nicer and more loving. Peter takes notice of her weird behavior, but he is happy that she is becoming more of the ideal daughter he had wished for. There is only one problem: Mary Ellen wants to stay as Maddy, and she is willing to do what she can to make that happen.
Danette Key is professional writer and proof-reader. She also writes poetry and posts it to her website. On the Edge of Wishing is her debut novel. One interesting fact about Danette: In her free time, she loves to make quilts for her family. (Info borrowed from danettekey.com)
This story is well-crafted from the beginning to the end. From excellent character development to the interesting plot points, On the Edge of Wishing has it all. This story's moderate pace is engaging and keeps the reader's interest throughout. In addition, it features several great messages for more than just the young adult readers this book is directed toward. I would highly recommend this book for anyone looking for a story with a deeper meaning that not only entertains, but teaches kindness, patience, and appreciation.
The Kidney Sellers: A Journey of Discovery in Iran
Carolina Academic Press
700 Kent St, Durham NC 27701
Kevin Peter, Reviewer
"If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject" - Ayn Rand
People who dream to see a better future, not just for themselves, but for everyone in their community work tirelessly to do the right thing in life. Changing the world always starts with a small and a simple act, usually done on a daily basis. The step by step process involves changing our habits, beliefs, and roles we have within our society, and by also becoming conscious of the consequences of our everyday action. This must also lead to understanding emotions better, not just of our own but also of the people around us. Passionate people with big hearts and an even bigger vision for the little home we all call planet earth often undertake such personal journeys that change the course of the fate of all mankind.
Dr Sigrid Fry-Revere's nonfiction book 'The Kidney Sellers: A Journey of Discovery in Iran' is a systematic study of people and culture told within the backdrop of the kidney donor shortage in the U.S to a seemingly trouble free Iran in the same regard. Set in the format of a quasi adventure story and part documentary style, this research rich book primarily focuses on Iran and the Iranian medical culture that seems to have overcome the problem of kidney shortage for transplants through compensated organ donation. The Kidney Sellers is an exploration into the underbelly of it all, where the author looks at the ethics of compensating for organ donation; from exploitation to the numerous number of lives it has managed to save. Sigrid Fry-Revere tries to find answer to the question why patients are dying in U.S for a lack of kidneys while there is actually a waiting list of people willing to donate in Iran.
This scholarly work began as a quest to find solutions to the U.S. organ shortage, as there are over 100,000 Americans who need organ transplants at any given time. When Dr. Sigrid learns that Iran is supposed to have a waiting list of donors, she flies out there to research the ethics and even functionality of compensated kidney transplants. She finds out that there are some strict guidelines laid out when it comes to organ transplant in Iran plus a combination of recipient monetary donation and government help which ensures that the donor gets the best medical treatment post surgery. All this has contributed to Iran solving the kidney shortage problem to almost a full extent. Comparatively in America the congressional law preventing compensated kidney transfers and a preference to cadaver organ donation to live donation has all contributed to a pitiable condition for the patients who suffer waiting for the kidney, as the demand keeps outrunning the supply of cadaver kidneys. It has also given way to a parallel black market for kidneys, but this has often ended up exploiting the patients than helping them. Sigrid through her work wants to tell people that a good idea is a good idea no matter where it originated from and sometimes overcoming hasty emotional responses or predisposed judgement calls is necessary to see the bigger and possibly the brighter picture.
Early on in an understated but pivotal moment in the book the author describes meeting Steve, a friend of a friend currently on dialysis and also on the waiting list for kidney transplant. Description of the author's meeting with Steve presents itself as the perfect start to the rest of the book. It grabs hold of you by the cuff of your collar and shocks you into attention with the absolute reality of the human element in the entire issue. Sigrid Fry-Revere comes across as very worldly wise, perhaps due to all the travel to different parts of the world and being introduced to different cultures as a child and also perhaps because of the early start to discussions on ethics with her parents, all of which seem to have helped her prepare better and undertake this journey which has been nothing short of an epic one in its preparation, build up and execution.
It's not often you pick up a book that doesn't have a detective, a vampire or pretty young things as its 'heroes' and yet compels you to read it cover to cover in one sitting. There are a large number of human interest stories that reveal themselves in light of the interviews that Sigrid conducts, which are both staggering and heart warming at the same time. Sigrid's Iranian adventure has this very subtle undercurrent of humour element to it, especially in the beginning when she's acclimatizing to the foreign environment, which is very original and helps in establishing this instant connection to the author's pursuits.
A couple of subtle gems that you will in this book are the chapter numbers which are also shown in Farsi numerals and the use of image of a lotus flower as a typographic symbol for section breaks all somehow lead more authenticity and helps establish the mood, since most of the book does deal with Iran. It would be tough for anyone with a mature and functioning conscience reading the book not to feel the gravity of the situation and feel this compelling urge to do something, a positive step in the right direction, to contribute to solving this crisis.
Stolen Dreams (Cassie Scot #4)
Twilight Times Books
P O Box 3340. Kingsport TN 37664
9781606192818, $17.95, trade paperback
Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance
I can't believe this is the last book in the Cassie Scot new adult paranormal mystery series! I really have enjoyed this series a lot.
If you're new to the series, I advise you to pick up the books in order:
Cassie Scot: ParaNormal Detective
Secrets and Lies (Cassie Scot #2)
Mind Games (Cassie Scot #3)
Stolen Dreams (Cassie Scot #4)
In this the final installment, talented author Christine Amsden brings the infamous Scot vs. Blackwood family feud to a close, but not without filling her story with enough intrigue, mystery, twists and surprises to keep you thinking about the characters for a long time.
And this is, really, the biggest draw in these stories, the characters, especially Cassie and Evan. Cassie has been such a likable protagonist throughout the series, smart and strong and opinionated, yet caring and warm-hearted. Evan - yes, arrogant, condescending and overprotective Evan - has also been the perfect hero. They were school sweethearts...until Evan's father stole her powers from her and gave them to Evan, thus starting a conflict between them that brought them to the depths of despair, especially for Cassie.
There are many subplots in this book, but the main problem happens when Cassie's father is killed and she and her family think that Evan's dad is the one responsible. The primary storyline has to do with finding out if this is true or not and, if not, then who, in fact, is responsible.
There are many surprises in Stolen Dreams, and I enjoyed all of them. Fans of romance will especially enjoy the focus on Cassie and Evan's relationship. I loved the ending. In sum, this was a wonderful series, and the author delivered a satisfying closure. I wonder what she will come up next? I'm certainly going to be on the lookout for her future books.
Scott Spotson and Sue Publicover
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781492354789, $13.53 pbk. / $2.99 Kindle, www.amazon.com
Michael Thal, Reviewer
Patricia Fowler, a slender 27-year-old marketing executive for Clearwell, is on track for an upper management position until Paul Blast takes a sudden romantic interest in her. Soon Patricia has weird hallucinations and is threatened by real fists and kicks.
Scott Spotson and Sue Publicover have created a delicious love triangle between Patricia, Paul, and Paul's wife, Wendy. To figure out why her life is spiraling out of control, Patricia hires a private investigator to make sense of it all. But soon the FBI gets involves because Patricia may have connections to the recent disappearance of the Hope Diamond.
With a descriptive writing style that delves into the inward thoughts of his characters, Spotson and Publicover have the talent of turning a magical fantasy into a plausible reality as we get to know Patricia, Paul and Wendy. I highly recommend Delusional for a fun read.
Phoning Home Essays
Jacob M. Appel
University of South Carolina Press
718 Devine Street, Columbia, SC 29208
161117371X, $24.95, hc / $12.39 Kindle www.amazon.com
Molly Martin, Reviewer
Jacob M. Appel's Phoning Home Essays is a tome of 177 pages. The work, dedicated to Rosalie, is an assemblage of stimulating fleeting singular essays vis-a-vis multidimensional concerns running the gamut from witty to stirring.
Appel's initial composition Phoning Home centers upon episodes during the writer's seventh summer a time in which his family was beleaguered with the attentions of a crank call artist. The touching chronicle, Two Cats, Fat and Thin, describing how the loss of two small, rubber cats, Fat and Thin given to the author by a much-loved aunt, grandaunt, affected not only his childhood, but served to shape a cynicism lingering well into adulthood.
At times probing, unassuming, and even penetrating, Appel on occasion divulges some of the most reserved characteristics of his life. With issues centered on childhood anguish to introduction of his maternal grandfather, and a transitory happenstance with a man who was not his grandfather. Appel tells us of the predicament experienced by much of his family in prewar and war time Europe when many of the family perished besides he tells us of his grandparents 65 year marriage.
We read of the abrupt, unpredicted expiration of another grandfather, plus Appel reveals that his grandaunt's green Jell-O was a weapon of torture and he explains something of Alzheimer and what it meant in 1932 and why he decided to be tested for the inclination for the condition.
Essay titles range from Mr. Odd and Mr. Even, The Man Who Was Not my Grandfather, Caesura - Antwerp, 1938, Sudden Death - A Eulogy, An Absence of Jell-O, She Loves Me Not, Opting Out, Charming and Devoted, Livery, Our Incredible Shrinking Discourse, Divided Expectations. And there is more.
Appel shares that his essays collected for this publication have previously appeared in a number of periodicals. Subject matter for these often humorous, always provocative compositions show-case the writer's New York City childhood, his at times whimsical family, his Jewish culture, life in general and more.
I found Phoning Home Essays to be a highly understandable publication filled with something for every reader. The tales portray the writer's inimitable voice, his is a merging of nostalgia and insights, mitigated through his education including degrees in ethics, law and medicine. Appel is a man who questions, learns and seeks more answers. His compassion rooted in his profession, physician, is tempered by his barrister ethicist's persistent searching for answers, reasons and solutions.
I enjoyed the read, Phoning Home Essays is a work for the home library, the English teacher or professor's reading list, and for anyone who enjoys a collection of quick reads in an easy to tuck into brief case or carry bag for quick reading while waiting for the train to pass, the kid to be finished in the dentist's chair or anytime a few minutes for reading appears.
Happy to recommend.
I was sent an ARC for review.
New York City's Jacob M. Appel whose work has been nominated for Best American Short Stories, Best American Non-required Reading, Best American Essays, the O. Henry Award, and the Pushcart Prize anthology on many occasions, is a physician, attorney, and bioethicist whose resume includes novels, short fiction collection and some 200+ published stories. As a contributor to many publications Appel writes about the interconnection of law and medicine.
c/o Crown Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
9780804137140, $24.00, www.amazon.com
Rachel Cordasco, Reviewer
At just under 300 pages, BLACK MOON is like a fast-moving train glimpsed through a window. (Sorry if that sounds strange, but I find it helpful to think visually about a book I've just finished).
Let me explain. Imagine glancing out of a window at night and seeing a train rushing by, but you can't see either end of it. You hear it and see the flashing lights, and you know that it's moving, but that's all the information you have. Your first question might be, "How long is this train?" or "Where is it going?"
This is BLACK MOON, a story about an insomnia epidemic and the people who are caught up in it- searching for loved ones, wishing for sleep, sleeping in secret, looking to science for answers. No beginning, and no end.
That's right- we are given no explanation for how and why the epidemic began; however, one character does muse on this particular topic for a couple of pages: "Maybe it was the toxic dust from fallen towers...Maybe it was some ancient spore released by the melting ice...Maybe it was the rewiring of our minds..." But there is ultimately no answer.
And there is no solution; at least, not for the long-term. Between these two poles wander characters in various stages of the sickness, including one man who seems completely immune. All around him, the people who have stopped sleeping go insane, wandering around confusedly, throwing things out of windows, mumbling to themselves, violently attacking anyone they find sleeping.
The one oasis of sleep left within the realm of the story is a Sleep Research Center at a California university. After some trial-and-error, the doctors devise a way of jump-starting a part of the brain that controls sleep. Unfortunately, the dreaming part is left out, and as one of the doctors warns, it is the dreaming that makes us human and keeps us human. Without dreams, we melt back into our ancient origins and everything we've invented and created will disappear.
The one element that gives this book its particular and unique brand of creepiness is the scrambled language spoken by the sleepless. Calhoun masterfully constructs near-meaningless sentences that sound like prophecies from an oracle. This is supposedly how someone would speak if they stopped sleeping, and for some reason it made my skin crawl (in a good way).
Ironically, I stayed up late and woke up early just to read this book, because it was that good, that haunting. Go read it.
Book Review: A Model Murder
9780954623326 $TBA print / $3.99 Kindle
available in all Ebook formats
Marlan Warren, Reviewer
Genre: Crime fiction
In law firms, nobody can hear you scream...
He told me he was used to getting what he wanted... --A Model Murder, Celia Conrad
What do law firms and men's "hostess" clubs have in common? If your first thought is "alpha males," you're already on board with A Model Murder. Conrad draws disturbing, often painfully entertaining, parallels between these two worlds where Neanderthals still roam the Earth, and a resistant female might get a bop on the head or worse.
A Model Murder is a fast-paced suspense mystery, full of twists and turns, following in the tradition of Nicci French and Sue Grafton.
Alicia Allen is a London-based Anglo-Italian lawyer on the verge of her 30th birthday whose experience of Death has been limited to sorting estate issues...until her beautiful Australian neighbor and wannabe model, Tammy, turns up raped and murdered before she can collect her first paycheck from the job she wants to quit in a sleazy men's club.
British author Conrad has painted a loving portrait of the multi-cultural melting pot that is London and her down-to-earth heroine who has no superpowers of intuition and deduction, but is quite simply a good neighbor who will stop at nothing until a wrong is made right.
Lack of police progress propels Alicia towards finding Tammy's murderer herself. The Shakespearean character of Portia (Merchant of Venice) is mentioned, and indeed Alicia does resemble that legendary defense attorney. Her "quality of mercy is not strained" as she single-mindedly focuses on solving this horrible murder. Using her honed skills of observation and detail-awareness, she finds clues even in opera. Breaking and entering to gather evidence? No problem.
When Alicia coincidentally finds herself in a life-threatening work situation from a mad-dog senior partner, the link between sociopaths who legally run law firms and take unfair advantage of women "underlings" and the sociopaths who run illegal prostitution rackets solidifies.
Of course the crazier and nastier the law firm environment, the more fun. Conrad also makes the fair point that women in both arenas can also harass their female coworkers. All the better to keep readers guessing whodunit!
Red herrings swim among Alicia's true friends who are the mainstay of her life. Will that Robert Redford-type lawyer who wows the ladies at her office be The One or is he somehow responsible for Tammy's untimely demise?
Will Alicia pick the true-blue "best friend" who shares her Italian heritage or the office lover-boy who makes her knees weak while he quotes Shakespeare? That Conrad keeps all these balls in the air until the story's breathtaking and very scary conclusion is a testament to her marvelous instincts as a storyteller extraordinaire.
Women make this plot twirl on its axis; so there has to be food. I found myself wanting Pringles (Alicia's one addiction), pizza, salad nicoise, pasta primavera, and high tea with succulent scones throughout the adventure. Not necessarily in that order.
Full disclosure: I toiled in law firms for years as a secretary, and I had a friend who worked in a pole-dancing club in Los Angeles. So this harrowing, occasionally satirical, murder mystery hit a nerve and my funny bone at the same time.
PS to American Readers: Keep your English to English Dictionary handy! Alicia eats chips from a tube and then rides on one...but I just have to love a language and a country where women can be "well upholstered."
I am eagerly looking forward to reading the other two books in this Alicia Allen Investigates Trilogy: A Wilful Murder (Book 2) and Murder in Hand (Book 3).
The Grieving Parent's Book of Hope: How to Survive the Loss of Your Child
Bolivar, MO 65613
9780963003188, $20.95 (paperback), Page count: 131
9780963003164, $23.95 (hardcover); 9780963003171, $6.95 (e-book)
Carol Anderson, Reviewer
The US Review of Books
"It's your loss and your grief. We each have to grieve at our own pace, even if that pace is different from what our friends would expect or like."
[In] a book about one woman's loss and her grieving experience, we are exposed not only to the author's feelings about the death of her daughter, but to the ways of coping that she utilized to carry her through the threshold of her sorrow. In the introduction of this story of trauma and love, the author relates the horror of her daughter's death. The book is then divided into ten chapters related to surviving various life issues related to death, such as denial and shock, depression, guilt, anger, and suffering. It offers numerous ways to cope with life changes, ways of engaging in meaningful activities, and affirming reality. It offers resources for support through websites and a bibliography that further provides valuable information. It is also written towards those of Christian belief.
Easy-to-read, with helpful coping techniques, the book offers a heart-felt look into grief from the viewpoint of a parent who survives her child. In the natural order of life, parents are not supposed to outlive their children which makes grieving such loss even more difficult. The author's openness in discussing her trauma and the ways to guide other parents through such pain, is nicely written and makes it easy to relate.
Wish You Weren't
9781494766825, $7.95 (PB), $2.99 (Kindle), 138pp, www.amazon.com
Erik Weibel, Reviewer
This Kid Reviews Books
Marten couldn't believe it. A wish he made on a star actually came true - and he feels awful about it. He wished that his little brother, Aldrin, wasn't there. While at a museum, Aldrin just... Faded away. Marten and his best friend, Paul, meet a strange man named Tör, who says that he will help them get Aldrin back. Using watches that can control time, Tör, Marten, and Paul go through time, trying to undo what happened. When Tör's star he comes from starts to die, and signs of Aldrin start disappearing, it's up to Marten and Paul to stop Aldrin from disappearing forever.
This was a very good time travel book. Ms. Petersen's plot has no holes and her description of the story puts the reader right in the middle of it. I like books like this - a little bit of magic, a little bit of time travel, a lot of adventure. It was a great read. I like Ms. Petersen's writing style. She gets into the mind of an 11 (almost 12!) boy very easily. Marten is a great character and, speaking as a 12 year old boy, he acts very realistically. I understand why he does everything he does. I also like Tör - he is mysterious and I love the idea of him being in charge of making sure the wishes made on his star come true. The book was appropriate for all ages. I think a lot of kids (and adults) will love this story.
I give this book five out of five bookworms!
Edges of Truth: The Mary Weaver Story
Deb Brammer with Steve Brennecke
Box 1415, Invercargill 9840, New Zealand
9781491070710; $13.95; 356 pages, www.amazon.com
Mamta Madhavan, Reviewer
Edges of Truth: The Mary Weaver Story by Deb Brammer is the moving story of a woman who is accused of murder. Melissa Mathes is eleven months old and she dies while under the care of Mary Weaver, the caregiver. The autopsy reveals how the baby had internal bleeding inside the skull, due to a week-old fracture. The blame falls on Mary for shaking and slamming the baby. A group of doctors believe that the child died of abuse and others believe the evidence did not point towards Mary. Steve Brennecke, a lawyer and Mary's friend, steps in to fight her case. The murder conviction and the fight to prove that she is innocent make it a heart-warming story.
Though a biography, the book is like a fiction which makes it a good read. The story is believable and it brings into the spotlight the risks faced by caregivers. The story is frightening. This is a story that can instill fear in the mind of all caregivers because it is something that can happen to any one of us. Her friend Steve, who is convinced that Mary is innocent, fights her case which stretches over four years. The murder trial, the assumptions and the testimonies of the people make the book exciting as well as intriguing. The book takes you through painful moments, sorrow, joy and many other emotions. Mary's faith in God and her belief that God's presence and grace is available to everyone is also part of the story and gives it a feeling of hope and healing.
The Secret To Healing Cancer
Dr. Tien-Sheng Hsu
New Awareness Network, Inc.
9780984928507, $15.95 (PB), $7.97 (Kindle), www.amazon.com
Bonnie Cehovet, Reviewer
I am incredibly impressed with Dr. Hsu's work, with his sense of heart, and his depth of wisdom. This book could very well be entitled "The Secret To Healing Cancer: A Chinese Psychiatrist and Family Doctor Presents His Amazing Method For Curing Cancer Through Psychological And Spiritual Growth", and leave it right there. Healing in Dr. Hsu's world is a psycho-spiritual healing, based on Jane Robert's channeled Seth material. Originally a family physician, Dr. Hsu chose to study psychiatry in order to better understand how the human psyche affects the physical body. He is a well-respected medical doctor and psychiatrist residing and working in Taiwan, and is the founder of a Holistic Clinic in Taipei which treats cancer, other physical and mental illnesses.
Dr. Hsu has written several books, but this is the first one to be translated from the original Mandarin Chinese into English. Both the translation, and the writing itself, is exemplary. Very clear, very easy to follow. The basic thought here is that all illness is a reflection of inner problems which disrupt the immune system that governs out natural state. In his work, Dr. Hsu takes his patients back in their lives, to determine where unresolved issues, emotional blocks, repressed emotions, negative patterns of thought, or unhealthy behavior has presented itself in the patient's life.
The case studies presented are from among Dr. Hsu's patients, reflecting their Eastern background and culture. This is very easily translated into the issues/expectations faced by those from the Western culture, meaning that the information presented here is applicable to all people, from all backgrounds. The bottom line - the process of healing is all about helping people to access their emotional self, understand what is holding up the flow of energy in their life, healing their psyche, and releasing the body's powerful innate ability to heal and recuperate...
Dr. Hsu addresses issues such as staying in the present moment, because the power to make immediate change lies in the present. In addressing cancer itself, Dr. Hsu views it not only as a medical illness, but as a turning point for a new life. Once the reason is determined for the pathological change in the individual's genes, it can then be addressed, which will bring the gene back to its natural state. And that reason is psychological in origin, not physical (medical). The turning point to a new life is in teaching individuals to change their lives for the better. It is a matter of thought, not diet or exercise, or medical treatment. One of the biggest messages in this book ... we are master of our own destiny.
At the end of each chapter is a checklist so that individuals can take a look at their own lives with integrity. These checklists include: "A Checklist For People Living With Cancer: The Onset Of Disease", "A Checklist For People Living With Cancer: Learning To Trust", "A Checklist For People Living With Cancer", "A Checklist For People Who Have Breast Or Cervical Cancer: On Love and Sex", "A Self-Healing Practice For People Living With Cancer: The Release Of Negative Emotions", "A Self-Healing Practice For People Living With Cancer: 12 Examples Of Making Oneself Happy", "A Self-Healing Practice For People Living With Cancer: Healthful Eating", "A Healing Practice For People Living With Cancer: Change The Past From The Power In The Present Moment", "A Checklist For People Living With Cancer: See the Positive Meaning Of Cancer", "A Checklist For People Living With Cancer: Regarding Emotion", "A Self-Healing Practice For People Living With Cancer: Affirming Your Self-Worth", "A Self-Healing Practice For People Approaching Passing On: A Psychological Self-Reconstruction During Palliative Care".
Other tidbits include "The Three Great Rules Of Body, Mind, and Spirit", "An Exercise To Get In Touch With Your Feeling Tone", "The Quality Of A Healer Is Much More Important Than The Words He Says".
At the end of the book is an appendix containing true stories of patients that Dr. Hsu has worked with.
I found this book to be very empowering, and feel that it would be so for healers, counselors, and patients of all types...
After the Parch
Strategic Book Publishing and Agency
9781628574531, $14.95 pbk. / $6.99 Kindle www.amazon.com
Paul A. Henning
"In Sheldon Greene's latest page-turner, the California of just 60 years hence is a mess. The landscape and social fabric he describes are torn by the aftermath of disasters both natural - drought, earthquakes - and man-made - short-sighted resource management, corporate greed, and citizens' fear and acquiescence to that greed. Given the current state of extreme drought, land mismanagement, and growing imbalance of power and wealth, this dystopian future hardly stretches credulity. In fact, it seems all too likely.
Naturally, then, many of the reviews and even the book's own back-cover blurb concentrate on this aspect of the story, and while it does provide a disturbing and thought-provoking context, it's the characters and their transformational journeys that make After the Parch such a compelling read.
There's Bran, a sheltered eighteen-year-old shepherd sent from his idyllic enclave in the forest / isolationist cult on a cross-country quest to save his village and his way of life. Along the way, his eyes are opened, his innocence lost, and he returns to his home a wiser, less naive adult.
Ephus, a feral child from the enclave who's intensely loyal to Bran, accompanies him on his trip. Ephus' survival skills and "street smarts" (if one may use that term in a land largely devoid of streets) come in handy on more than one occasion.
On their first bus ride they meet Jonah, magician, con man, thief and healer, who abandons and rejoins the others when it suits his needs.
The three are joined by Nikanor, an itinerant musician who seems to know his way around and has friends - and enemies - everywhere. Nikanor, it turns out, has a secret agenda that both helps and endangers his companions.
The final member of this traveling band is June, a lovely and intelligent young woman the others help to escape a prison-like compound where the plants - and the people - are "pruned to perfection."
During their intertwining adventures, the characters grow, change, alter their perspectives and agendas, and ultimately achieve their goals - ending up better people in an ever-so-slightly better world. Despite the bleak setting, After the Parch is ultimately a hopeful and life-affirming novel."
Plain View Press
3800 N. Lamar, Suite 730-260, Austin, TX 78756
9781891386435, $15.95, 260pp, http://plainviewpress.net
Nancy King's novel, "Changing Spaces", breaks your heart and then mends it, making it stronger and more resilient than ever. Laura, a 60-year-old woman faces a divorce requested by her husband of 40 years. She decides her life needs to change and bolts from her predictable black-and-white life in the Midwest to a colorful, magical one in Santa Fe. Here she finds three new amazing friends, community, and discovers her self, the one she had forgotten. Wonderfully crafted, the characters walk off the page and they are so real you expect them to be knocking on your door with the latest news and wisdom. This book is great for reading groups, particularly for women in transition. It includes many of the issues women face, at any age, with dignity, humor, and empowerment. I can hardly wait to see the movie version!
Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer East
2246 Sixth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710-2219
9781627780360, $16.95 (PB), $9.99 (Kindle), 288pp, www.amazon.com
I first became acquainted with Benjamin Law's writing in the pages of frankie magazine several years ago and he has since become one of my favourite Australian writers. So when a copy of Gaysia: Adventures in the Queer Eastturned up at the Booktopia office I acted like a deranged fangirl and declared that I must - MUST! - review this book. And, unsurprisingly, my instincts were proven right. This book is an illuminating exploration of an issue that does not normally get a mention in discussions of Australia's engagement with Asia, and Law provides some valuable insights into the nations he visits.
In Gaysia Law becomes our enthusiastic guide to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) experience in seven countries: Indonesia, Thailand, China, Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar and India. In each chapter Law generally focuses on one or two specific examples from the country at hand (for example, gay conversion therapies in Malaysia or a beauty pageant for transsexual women in Thailand), and uses this to explore the wider issues of gay acceptance in that country. This approach works well as Law is able to gain great insights from the people he interviews, and this makes for a very warm and engaging work. To his credit, Law does recognise that his approach does not encompass the totality of LGBT experience and he cannot provide a sweeping analysis of homosexuality in Asia. The work does not suffer because of this; the greatest strength of the book is its focus on personal stories as this provides an opportunity to engage with people who, for the most part, would have otherwise remained invisible to us.
Each nation Law takes us to throws up a different set of issues, and he makes clear the ways in which the social, cultural and political norms of a particular country influence the ways in which queer sexualities are perceived and experienced. For example, Law discovers that gay personalities are everywhere on Japanese television, but are expected to behave in a way which essentially renders them as figures of entertainment; they are drag queens with wicked senses of humour, or super-camp gay men with biting social critiques (basically think of the campest gay stereotype that you can, add a vat of glitter, and you've got what Law is describing here). While the visibility of certain types of queer identities is positive in that it at least shows a superficial acceptance of homosexuality, the absence of others, particularly lesbians, hints at a deeper lack of acceptance or understanding of LGBT issues in Japanese society.
In stark contrast to Japan is Myanmar, a country struggling with an exorbitantly high HIV infection rate for gay men (where they are 42 times more likely to contact HIV than their counterparts in any other country) and woefully inadequate resources to cope with the crisis. Further, the grinding poverty, lack of education and geographic isolation prevalent among Myanmar's citizens means that many may never gain access to the life-saving drugs they need. The contrast between Japan and Myanmar not only demonstrates the varying challenges that people of different backgrounds in Asia face; it also gives the reader a valuable insight into the society and culture of each nation.
For me, Gaysia did not only provide a fascinating insight into the experiences of LGBT people in Asia, but into the broader social and cultural structures of each country. In the chapter on Malaysia, for example, Law provides a sense of the multiplicity of religions, their regional concentrations and the roles they play in Malaysian society. This ability to ground each chapter in a broader context really strengthens the work and provides yet another reason why this book is so valuable. Law recognises that in each country deeply ingrained historical, cultural and political factors influence the ways in which queer sexualities are regarded, as exemplified by gays and lesbians marrying each other to stave off parental pressure in China or the existence of a 'third sex' in Thailand. Law demonstrates the unique circumstances, and difficulties, that each nation's gay population faces in their struggle to find a place in their societies.
Gaysia is an absolutely fascinating book, and I have gained so much from reading it. There are many heartbreaking stories of familial rejection, of hiding identity and, overwhelmingly, of feeling invisible. Yet there are also stories of resilience, happiness and love. Gaysia is a book with human experience at its core, and these stories are wonderfully brought to life through Law's vivid documentation of his quest through the queer heart of Asia.
The Rise of the Reluctant Innovator
Ken Banks, editor
London Publishing Partnership
9781907994180 $19.99 pbk / $9.09 Kindle www.amazon.com
The Rise of the Reluctant Innovator is an anthology of ten true stories of people who created extraordinary social innovations - largely by chance! Though each individual did not consciously set out to solve a problem, their work and discoveries ultimately helped make the world a better place. The overall message? Perhaps fulfilling one's own potential is best achieved by devoting oneself wholly to one's passions - social innovation may not spring from business models and theory, but rather individuals pursuing their dreams. From Priti Radhakrishnan's story of becoming involved in activism to defend India's proactive patent laws (which, unlike those of many other nations, are written expressly to keep down the costs of lifesaving drugs), to Joel Selanikio's work to help worldwide charity, disease control, and relief efforts save money and get more accurate data to work with by transitioning from paper forms to PDAs, The Rise of the Reluctant Innovator is filled with uplifting, inspiring stories and hope for a better tomorrow. Highly recommended.
The Grand Junction
3101 Hillsborough Street
Raleigh, NC 27607-5436
9781483411989 $13.99 pbk.
9781483411996 $4.99 ebook www.lulu.com
The Grand Junction is a novel with a wry twist on the concept of "like father, like son". In the years after World War II, "bird of passage" Tommaso "Thomas" Caruso vanishes. His wife sends their equally free-spirited (to put it in the kindest possible light) son in search of him. But even as the son's ventures on his quest (when he's not sidetracked by three girlfriends), he learns that more and more other people are also looking for Thomas: wives, the FBI, the CIA, and the mob! An increasingly convoluted journey that becomes more and more fantastic the further it progresses - involving everything from Walt Disney and Joe Bonnano to atomic bombs and the Roswell UFO - The Grand Junction is uproariously conniving to the very end. Highly recommended.
Willis M. Buhle
The Apostle: Destiny
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781499230802, $19.99, print
B00KHXU80W, $9.99 ebook, www.amazon.com
Fairwillow seems to be a quiet, peaceful town but under the double moons of Dawn and Vera it is quietly, slowly erupting from within. The heart of it all is Sath and Elle Eden. They have three children Raios, Mercy and Dield. The known witch of Fairwillow, Famora, spoke a prophecy of destiny over Raios before he was born and has been a troubled child ever since.
With a strike of a mighty pen Hiler has created a unique fantasy that is filled with mystery, suspense and intrigue as he whisks his readers to another time and place that you'll never want to leave. I love the development of the relationships within the storyline gathered around Sath the farmer, a mighty man within his community and beyond. Sath the friend as the development of friendship grows with Orick the carpenter. Sath the kind, loving husband and the changes that relationship brings. Than Sath the father and how he struggles with his oldest son Raios. I love the character developments that grow at a pleasing pace and the raw deep emotion of the storyline. Especially unique as there is no main character but the Eden family as a whole evolves to become the main characters. There are so many underlying lessons to learn that one doesn't want to miss a thing.
Powerful, raw, emotional more in one book than a reader could ever desire. Personally I have to read the next one as a fiction story this is truly amazing but as a series one can only imagine where this could lead. Five stars yes but if I could give ten I would as this is by far one of the best books I've read in a very long time. So whether you are a lover of the genre of fantasy or looking for a unique, outstanding fiction don't miss "The Apostle: Destiny".
Sunrise Where My Heart Is
7580 NW 5th Street #16535 Fort Lauderdale, FL 33318
9781625501530, $10.95, www.amazon.com
Mention WWII and it brings up different feelings to different people, but most all are sentimental. Deborah Little writes of that time through the eyes of letters between her parents while her dad was stationed in Hollandia, New Guinea and Manila, Philippines Island from November, 1944 to December, 1945.
Wonderful and beautifully written, Little allows us a rare glimpse into that time period that history books cannot portray. Painstakingly passionate, we see the heart of her family as letters are sent around the world. The struggles, the highs and lows and simple everyday life are seen through the words of Momma and Daddy Little. Like opening a time capsule, we learn history such as the movies of the time, ration coupons, sending care packages overseas and the Shangri-La crash.
As someone who truly loves history and family, I just couldn't get enough. I loved how Little tried to fill in the background behind the letters as well as her family's history. My grandfather served in WWII, but unfortunately no letters remain written between my grandparents so I thank Deborah for allowing me to see her family's letters so that I may envision what my family history may have been like during that time. I found it very reminiscent of the PBS programs on the various wars as they read letters sent home by soldiers, but this has more passion and heart.
An outstanding portrayal of a part of history that is slowly slipping away as sadly that generation is becoming older and dying away. I highly recommend this book to anyone with a passion for history, family or studying WWII. The history books don't teach about the heart and Deborah does.
Noah: The Real Story
9781936488742; $11.99 paperback; $6.99 Kindle, www.amazon.com
Larry Stone's book - 'Noah: the Real Story' - rides the coattails of this summer's epic 'NOAH' film.
Stone's book is redundant insofar as anybody can get the 'Real Story' of Noah by reading bits and pieces of it that show up here and there in the Old Testament of any Bible. So if you don't have $11.99 for Larry Stone's paperback you can swipe Gideon's Bible from the nearest flophouse, read Genesis: 5 through 10, and you've got nearly all that's 'known' about Noah.
This writer figures that the best reason to buy 'Noah: the Real Story' is that the book is interesting and fun because author Stone doesn't stop at telling the story of Noah and his boat. No! The fun starts when Stone tries to argue that the story could be - probably is - after all it's in the Bible folks! - true.
Stone's argument gets wilder as it progresses. For example, on p. 46, Stone lays a guilt trip on skeptical readers: "It's tempting to say, 'Here are three scenarios. Decide for yourself which is true.' But your deciding which scenario you think is true usually has more to do with your presuppositions than anything else. And your decision probably has very little to do with which scenario actually is true because truth is discovered by inquiry, not elected by a majority vote."
Ironically, then, on p. 64, Stone begs the question himself: "The most detailed study of the ark and its animals is 'Noah's Ark: A Feasibility Study,' by John Woodmorappe . . . who has a masters degree in geology. Woodmorappe's work has been widely accepted by those who believe in a literal Noah and the ark."
Stone's finally gives up his Noah-is-factual argument. He catches himself with his rhetorical pants down on p. 80, where he cannot rationally explain how Noah disposed of all the animal poo.
Yes! It is true.
More entertaining still is Stone's account of people who searched for the Ark, which proves once again that truth is stranger than fiction. The search for Noah's Ark is surely one of the greatest snipe hunts in all of human history. It takes a lot of money to mount an expedition to Mt. Ararat. It takes courage to go there because facts on the ground at Ararat make it a dangerous place. The characters involved, the hoaxes concocted to gull them, everything about Ararat and the Ark connive to show how fools and their money are parted - over and over and over again.
Then there are the folks who build replicas of the Ark. This reader is driven to ask: "How can anyone build a 'replica' of an object no one has ever seen?" Stone tells true stories of restaurants, resort hotels and theme parks built around the myth of Noah's Ark. The stories are appealing in certain ways. One of the Bible theme parks features a 'Ten Plagues of Egypt' ride.
This writer collapsed in a giggling heap when he suddenly had a vision: Yuppie Ma and Yuppie Pa are wild-eyed, harried to desperation. Together, they sprint from the theme park toward the church bus with a herd of brats in hot pursuit. All the brats are bawling and screeching: "We wanna go on the 'Ten Plagues of Egypt' ride!! We wanna go on the 'Ten Plagues of Egypt' ride!!"
By the time I finished "Noah: the Real Story," I realized that Larry Stone and his publisher and the resort owners and all the folks who attempted Mt. Ararat really understand what Noah did with animal poo. If you wanna know, too, read Stone's book.
Darren Aronofsky & Ari Handel, Authors
Niko Henrichon, Illustrator
Image Comics, Inc.
2001 Center St., 6th Floor, Berkeley, CA, 94704
9781607068532, $22.67 hc
EDITOR NOTE 'fitching his pit' -- paragraph 5 -- is NOT a typo
'Noah,' the comic book by Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel, and Niko Henrichton isn't much of a comic book. And 'Noah,' the graphic novel by Darren Aronofsky, Ari Handel, and Niko Henrichton isn't much of a graphic novel, either.
Considering the book is 250, 8-by-11-inch pages of not-very-nifty cartoons across which only 5,931 words are smeared, it doesn't tell much of a story. But then, if you go to the Bible and read Genesis: 5 through 10, 'Noah' isn't much of a story to tell. All of that may explain why my word processor's grammar checker tells me Noah-the-comic was written at the First Grade level (1.28 syllables per word). I also think it's ironic that the 'graphic novel' by Aronofsky and company fails to tell even the little we know about Noah effectively and most of what it does tell is not found in Genesis.
Beyond the fact that Noah-the-comic is written for dummies, the comic version is ridiculously bloated. A cartoonist worthy of epic lore - e.g.: R. Crumb or Gilbert Shelton or (RIP) Spain Rodriguez - might have criticized the 'Noah' comic by drawing the story of a female elephant that gets hugely pregnant. After a two-year gestation period, the beast screams long and hideously in pain-wracked labor and at last gives birth to a tiny, pink, hairless, infant mouse.
I haven't yet seen the Russell Crowe film. I usually make it a point to see Russell Crowe ('L.A. Confidential' ties with 'Chinatown' for my all-time greatest cop movie award.) but I might skip 'Noah.' If I do see 'Noah,' I will do so because I want to see what today's Hollywood does with a Bible story.
The folks who produced my inexpensive, $22 comic book tried to turn 'Noah' into a violent, save-the-planet sob story. I expect Hollywood will do the same, with sword-play, chop-socky, some portentous, wicked lightning and a few earthquakes thrown in for good measure. Certainly Russell Crowe will get ample room to chew the scenery while fitching one or more of his epic pits. That, by itself, might be worth the price of a video rental but certainly would not merit an investment in a theater ticket or a tub of greasy popcorn.
Questions: 1) Did the people who built this awful comic book think for even a moment that if Noah had killed his female relatives, none of us would be here? 2) If 'The Creators' were aware of the fact, why then did they attempt to use that Noah-the-baby-killer device to scare the rest of us? 3) Did those kept in suspense by Noah-the-baby-killer understand that had Noah actually killed his female relatives, none of us would be here? 4) If they did understand, then why were they worried by The Creators' lame-arsed plot device? 5) If God created Heaven and Earth by speaking a word or two, could He not UN-make Heaven and Earth by speaking another word or two? 6) Could God not, then, wave His pinky finger and put a This-Space-to-Let sign in orbit around Sol where Earth and her Moon had formerly been? 7) If God can do those things, why would God fart around with Noah, with Noah's stupid relatives, and with a global flood when He could do the job Himself in seconds?
Just asking, folks.
Deacon Solomon, Reviewer
Legend of Aurora
Ken Farmer and Buck Stienke
Timber Creek Press
9780990438908, $14.95, 344 pp, www.amazon.com
Ken Farmer and Buck Stienke wrote six military thrillers and two historical westerns together, and each wrote a western alone. Each book is engrossing and the development of the plots interesting. Their characters are well-drawn and we can identify with them. This is their first D.U. Bone adventure, a science fiction humorous tale.
The book is called Legend of Aurora because like most of Farmer and Stienke novels, where the authors use historical facts as jump-off points for their dramas, this tale is based on an actual 1897 newspaper report that an alien aircraft crashed in Aurora, Texas. This was about five years before the Wright brothers made their first flight. The remains of one alien was found at the crash site along with some debris made from strange material with writing that can best be described as "hieroglyphic-type etchings." The body was buried in the local cemetery with the inscription on the headstone: NOT OF THIS WORLD.
The novel brings this newspaper report to the twenty-first century and reveals what the Farmer-Stienke imagination uncovers. The co-pilot of the dead alien is stranded on a farm waiting for over a century for her people to come and rescue her. She is unusually small, very friendly, and doesn't want to identify herself as alien. If she were to wear her space suit she would look exactly like what we call the Grays. Her people have an earthly life span of over 400 years.
The protagonist of the tale is Detective D.U. Bone, a large man with an equally large sense of humor and an uncontrollable desire to perform practical jokes, such as filling his boss's beer with salt. "I'm impulse controlled challenged." Whatever his birth name was, his friends, including his captain with whom he goes fishing, think his initials indicate "Damn You Bone!" their reactions to his pranks. But all like him because he is smart and energetic and gets jobs done.
Two unrelated groups are bothering the alien. One is a company that wants her land because of the wealth below ground. She refuses to sell it because if she moved her people would never find her. The company has thugs who are determined to push her or her corpse away from the land. The second group are enemy aliens, the Reptoids, who are at war with the Grays. They are determined to kill her or take her hostage with dangerous sophisticated weapons. Bone and the police force are determined to help her.
The book is filled with humor. There are a host of laugh-out-loud episodes of stupid criminals doing stupid things and being apprehended by the police force. Readers will enjoy this book.
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345545930, $28.00, 418 pp, www.amazon.com
Dean Koontz, best-selling author of over sixty novels, frequently writes tales with "magical realism," as he does here. This genre was used with perfection by many other writers, especially South Americans, and also by Nobel Prize Winners Shmuel Yosef Agnon (1888-1970, winner in 1966) and Gabriel Garcia Marques (1927-2014, winner in 1982).
Magical realism combines facts with fantasy. An example from one of Agnon's stories is a man who was left behind accidently by his companions who were sailing on a ship; they saw him floating on a carpet on the ship's side, not missing the trip and reaching their destination. Another example is seeing a man crossing a bridge; he begins by walking across, but soon he is seen elevated above the ground and floating to the bridge's end. These fantastic descriptions add a dimension to the tale and can cause readers to think how they want to interpret the account. The events can be taken literally, symbolically, allegorically, the mind-set of the individual, or even as reality viewed from a different perspective for various reasons.
Koontz uses it in his novels in two different ways. In some, as in this novel, the "magic realism" only occurs rarely, during certain episodes, although the fantastic element is important to the development of the plot and the meaning of the story. In others, as in the seven Odd Thomas novels, the fantastic occurs frequently, for the main character, Odd Thomas, has the ability to see dead people, sees them often, and is alerted by them to the many interesting events that occur in the tale.
In this novel, Jonah Kirk begins to explore his extraordinary musical talent at age eight and later during the 1960s, during the riots in America against the Vietnam War, when some crooked people used the distractions of the disturbances to steal. Jonah is part of a dysfunctional family, dysfunctional because his father is a lying drunk who abandons his family. His mother, her parents, and his neighbors are unusually nice, with one and possibly two exceptions, a beautiful woman who is living temporarily on the sixth floor, who threatens to kill him, and his landlord who said the apartment owners gave her the apartment rent-free to repair the apartment and who is acting suspiciously. Jonah has a strange friend who has many hang-ups and his sister, both of whom he loves as friends; the brother as a co-artist, a saxophonist, who plays with him as he plays the piano.
Jonah is also very friendly with an upstairs neighbor, a Japanese man, much older than he, who was imprisoned with other Japanese when the United States feared that Japanese-Americans may aid the US enemy Japan. This man lost his mother and sister in a fire during the internment. When suspicions arise that the beautiful woman and superintendent and others are involved in nefarious deeds, this man of Japanese descent is able to call on fellow prior internment Japanese who are now in various strategic positions to aid Jonah and later the FBI in discovering what is happening and why.
The magical realism starts at the beginning of the tale when a beautiful woman greets Jonah as he is sitting outside his apartment house. She knows all about him, although they never met. He calls her Pearl, but she tells him that she is "The City" which assumed human form. Jonah is sad because his father refuses to let him play on a piano and Pearl magically causes one to appear at the neighborhood center and Jonah finds that the woman there wants to teach him to play. Pearl reveals to Jonah about a man and a woman who will impact upon his life, both bad people. One is the beautiful woman from the sixth floor. This woman seems able magically to enter his apartment when it is locked and take his picture while he is asleep, as a warning that if he reveals anything about her, including the strange smell coming from her room, she will kill him. He does not tell his mom, but he does tell his Japanese friend, who organizes his Japanese posse.
The cast of characters in this drama are delightful people, people everyone would enjoy knowing and having in their homes, except, of course the few bad people. Readers will enjoy reading about them and see what they do in this engrossing tale.
Dr. Israel Drazin, Reviewer
The Family of Jesus-Life-Changing Bible Study Series
216 Centerview Dr., Ste. 303, Nashville, TN 37027
9781476707372, $19.99, http://imprints.simonandschuster.biz/howard
Karen Kingsbury, queen of inspirational fiction, enters the nonfiction arena with six fictionalized accounts of Jesus' relatives in The Family of Jesus scheduled to release July 1. She is careful to only take "literary license" with the "possible," she says, otherwise her stories are "anchored in Scripture" and what is known about the life and times of Jesus.
The collection of short stories, written from the perspective of those closest to Jesus, can be read as standalone narratives or used as a Life-changing Bible Study series on the lives of:
"The Protective Stepfather - Joseph"
"The Knowing Uncle - Zechariah"
"The Chosen Cousin - John the Baptist"
"The Faithful Aunt - Elisabeth"
"The Doubting Brother - James"
"The Loving Mother - Mary"
For example, readers join Joseph in the opening story as he works on a small "prayer table" made from select pieces of olive wood he's spent hours polishing "until the grain shone like glass" for his beloved Mary. He could hardly wait to give it to her when their customary year of betrothal was over and they would marry. While he worked Joseph dreamed of the years ahead with a smile on his face, unaware that Mary would soon break his heart with the words, "Joseph...I'm pregnant."
Karen's compelling writing allow readers to feel what it might have been like for John the Baptist to dedicate his life to preparing the way for Jesus. To understand the worry and fear James felt for his older Brothers safety and sanity when Jesus "started telling people He was God." Or the painful problem of infertility Elizabeth and Zechariah suffered that set them apart from their neighbors who had dozens of children. Or the final story, when we see Jesus through the eyes of His mother Mary in the final weeks of his life. Her pain, her suffering, her sorrow and her joy when she understood, Jesus was far more than her Son, he was "her Lord. Her risen Savior."
Karen's poignant stories equip readers to view familiar Bible characters with fresh eyes and understand they were people just like us who lived through extraordinary times and miraculous events. Except for Jesus, who was the Reason for it all.
While the narratives focus on Jesus' relatives and their struggles, the last third of the book contains chapter-by-chapter "Scripture readings and questions for further reflection." The Bible study segment is for individual or group use with chapter-by-chapter study quesitons. If used within a group the "Group Discussion questions" offer guidance, direction and conclude with a "Homework question."
Karen does what she does best, allow readers to view beloved Bible characters with fresh eyes and imagine what life might have been like for them, while her Bible study encourages thought-provoking reflection and spiritual growth. Visit Karen Kingsbury's website for more information.
Do You Want to Be Healed?
2301 Lucien Way, Suite 415, Maitland, FL 32751
9781625099693, $14.99, http://www.xulonpress.com
Tom Mann, former editor and news reporter, penned Do You Want to Be Healed for the emotionally broken and spiritually wounded. It was his own search for inner healing, his personal need for relief from the "why" questions caused by the pain and torment of early child abuse that taught him: "You have to be ready for healing before Jesus will heal you."
He cites the story of a man healed at the pool of Bethesda found in John 5: 1-18. When the angels stirred the waters "at a certain time" the first one in the pool was healed. For thirty-eight years the man was pushed aside until the day Jesus asked him, "Do you want to be made well?"
When he said, "yes," Jesus replied, "Rise, take up your bed and walk."
Tom interpreted the story to mean "healing has a cost" and if he wanted to be healed "he had to be willing to pay the price." He realized his prayers for healing had subtle conditions attached and he wasn't willing to let go of what he calls "his stuff" because he would no longer be "in control" of his life.
His sense of control enabled "drinking...anger... manipulation and defense mechanisms...blaming and emotional abusing," he writes, while the "cost" of healing was honesty, "vulnerability and transparency."
Tom's shares his poignant journey with Jesus to encourage others who feel emotionally wounded. It's only when we give up, accept Christ and form a close, personal relationship with Him that we can say, like Tom did, "I can't do this anymore." That's when Tom learned what faith looks like and why faith requires surrender, trust, obedience and humility - a process that began when Christ became "his personal therapist in 1988."
And that's why he wrote, "Do You Want to Be Healed?" to encourage others to assume the risk and "partner with God," in his easy-to-read, thought-provoking book. I recommend it for anyone who suffers from a sense of "brokenness."
Dancing on the Head of a Pen: The Practice of a Writing Life
12265 Oracle Blvd. Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781400074358, $15.99, www.waterbrookmultnomah.com
Robert Benson is a "writer's writer," as well as a critically acclaimed author with a multiplicity of books on spirituality and life. In his July 15 release, Dancing on the Head of a Pen, he answers one of his most frequently asked questions. "Can you tell me how to write a book?"
In twelve delightful chapters with titles such as, "Dark Marks on a Page," "Go to Your Room," "Six Hundred Words" and "The Jury Box," Benson describes the techniques, disciplines and processes he employs "when he begins to make a book."
He's quick to admit some of the habits and methods he practices are ideas "stolen" from other successful writers. Others he discovered after years of what he describes as "dancing on the head of a pin," reminiscent of the question about the number of angels who can dance on the head of a pin. While some are disciplines he's stumbled across over the years that equip him to be a better writer, able to deliver a clear message.
He says, writing a book is like starting a new "construction project" except the writers tools of the trade are a "pen and a keyboard and paper and ink." Nothing more. Nothing less. When it's time to start a new project he knows it's time for him to pick up his "tools, pull on his boots and go to work."
He writes about procrastination and warns just as "solitude and silence" are a writers best friend, waiting for the muse to show up is a writers worst enemy. Because the muse shows up "in the midst of the dance he does with the fountain pen on the page."
Bensons' wisdom shines through the pages with practical advice on what to write about, your audience, writer's disciplines, word count goals, when to share your work and knowing when the project is finished.
I especially appreciated his lyrical use of words such as:
"Any writer worth his ink stains..."
"Writers pause instead of writers block...""
"Writing in the cracks..."
"The Affliction That Must Not Be Named..."
"To begin a book, I select the jury..."
"Good writing takes time..."
"The value of slow..."
"Dancing on the Head of a Pin," a wise and witty gem, is filled with realistic tips for talented or aspiring writers on the writing life and useful techniques to consider when writing a book. Benson delivers his advice with deceptive ease, humor and skill that mine his many years of writing experience. He hopes his words will give "writers a way to begin."
Sky Zone: The Crittendon Files
David C Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9780781408172, $14.99, www.davidccook.com
Creston Mapes explores the influence of "political correctness," the power of faith and the reality of terrorism in Sky Zone the conclusion to the "Crittendon Files" trilogy. Whether read as part of the fiction series or as a standalone title, the fast-paced opening scenes give tension and suspense new meaning played out with characters readers have come to love.
Jack Crittendon, former ace reporter, now "Mr. Mom," can't find a fulltime job and he and his wife Pamela, pregnant with "Crittendon number three" are at their wits end. Jack conceals the angry telephone calls from creditors and hides the mounting piles of unpaid bills from Pamela. While Pamela doesn't tell Jack her back and feet hurt so much she can't sleep at night because she's on her feet eight hours a day. The frustration of caring for Pamela's dementia challenged mother Margaret only adds to their problems.
Brian Shakespeare, an eccentric survivalist and Jack's best friend works security for EventsPros. Unable to find writing related work Jack finds himself working a part-time minimum wage job with Brian at Columbus, Ohio's twelve-thousand seat arena.
The pair, assigned to controversial presidential candidate, Martin Sterling's security detail can't know the night of October 6 will forever change their lives when their EventsPros supervisor announces, "We've got a national security threat."
Mapes fuses fiction with reality in a story that could be torn from tomorrow's headlines. His compelling portrayal of unemployment, marital stress and the uncertain times we live in is realistic. The terrorist takeover of a large event, their outrageous demands and treatment of terrified hostages is authentic.
Brian's explanations about why he's a survivalist and why he stores extra commodities in case of "food and gas shortages" is realistic, persuasive and a credible part of the story. The arguments concerning America's nonstop "printing of new money" that results in the devaluation of the global benchmark currency, the American dollar is real. As is the "economic collapse" of the United States if China calls in the trillion dollars debt owed by the United States. It's for these reasons Mapes's story resonates with reality.
The story's surprise ending is foreshadowed throughout the book and in some cases too much so, however, only start reading when you have spare hours ahead because you can't stop once you start.
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399164156, $26.95, www.amazon.com
Stone Barrington has a new client who complicates Barrington's life more than ever before in "Standup Guy." The guy's problem involves a great deal of money and he needs advice on what his legal rights are. Stone sends him on his way thinking that is the end of his dealings with the man. But there are other people who think Stone is involved much more than he is. Woods has written another complicated thriller that is filled with many interesting characters and situations.
Mr. Monk is Open for Business
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451240934, $23.95, www.amazon.com
Hy Conrad continues the series with "Mr. Monk is Open for Business." Natalie is trying to get her detective agency off the ground while at the same time dealing with the obsessive compulsive Adrian Monk. Along with Monk and Natalie are Leland and all of the other characters that made the show, and these novels so much fun to watch and read. "Mr. Monk is Open for Business" is a side splitting laugh out loud caper that will have fans of Monk wanting more.
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399164163, $26.95, www.amazon.com
Like "Standup Guy" the last Stone Barrington novel "Carnal Curiosity" moves along on several different storylines including one that involves the first lady of the United States. Another has Stone dealing with a fraudulent security company and the things they were supposed to protect including Stones own home and business. "Carnal Curiosity" is a great addition to the Stone Barrington thrillers.
The Montauk Monster
Kensington Publishing Corp
119 West 40th Street, New York, NY 10018
978075826691, $7.99, www.amazon.com
Bodies are piling up and other people are becoming infected by a virus that many in the medical profession have never dealt with before. Gary Dalton a police officer of the jurisdiction of Suffolk County N.Y. is racing against time to find out what the cause of all the chaos is. He learns there is a top secret U. S. research facility not far from Montauk that for years has been doing covert scientific tests of many different things. So he begins to trace a connection. "The Montauk Monster" is a chilling tale of government testing out of control.
Have a Nice Guilt Trip
Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella
St Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780312640095, $24.99, www.amazon.com
Scottoline and Serritella (who are mother and daughter) are back again in "Have a Nice Guilt Trip" a witty and fun excursion into the lives of both authors. Though the pieces have appeared in other publications they are together for the first time in the same collection. The two authors comment on many subjects ranging from dating and relationships to living alone in a home. The most surprising thing I found with "Have a Nice Guilt Trip" are the many unflattering things Lisa reveals about herself, and I was surprised she would be that honest.
My Journey West Virginia to Korea to W.V.U.
305 Vineyard Town Center, #302, Morgan Hill, CA 95037
9781618635617, $11.95 www.amazon.com
"My Journey West Virginia to Korea to W.V.U". takes place long ago in a country so different from today. The author tells stories of basketball games, other sports, being in high school, tours of duty in the military and after. "My Journey West Virginia to Korea to W.V.U. has a nice flow that takes readers along a sentimental journey of a kinder and gentler world before the Korean War and after.
Middle School: Save Rafe!
James Patterson & Chris Tebbetts
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316322126, $13.99 www.amazon.com
"Middle School: Save Rafe!" begins with Rafe unable to register for the fall semester of school unless he goes through a one week boot camp called "The Program" It is the hope of the principal of the school that he will learn some valuable lessons that will help him stay out of trouble. Adults and kids can read and enjoy the Middle School novels and "Middle School: Save Rafe!" is a great addition to the series.
Middle School Ultimate Showdown
James Patterson & Julia Bergen
Little Brown and Company
c/o Hachette Book Group USA
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316322119, $13.99 www.amazon.com
"Middle School Ultimate Showdown" the 5th book in the series is a little bit different from the previous ones. This time the authors of James Patterson and Julia Bergen have filled the work with commentaries by Rafe and his sister Georgia as well as fun games and activities for kids to do. Also there are many different lessons on how to deal with bullying. "Middle School Ultimate Showdown" is great fun for all ages to enjoy.
Pizza in Pienza
David R. Godine Publisher
PO Box 450, Jeffrey New Hampshire 03452
9781567924596, $17.95 www.amazon.com
Most of us like pizza and "Pizza in Pienza" is the story of where and how pizza began. The author also did the artwork and she traces the different ingredients that make up a pizza pie. She takes readers step by step on how to make a great pizza. Written for kids "Pizza in Pienza" is for all ages to have a deeper appreciation of this very special food that so many of us love.
The Tyger Voyage
Richard Adams & Nicola Bayley
David R. Godine Publisher
PO Box 450, Jeffrey New Hampshire 03452
9781567924916, $15.95 www.amazon.com
When I saw the name Richard Adams I thought is this the same one who wrote "Watership Down?" I wondered because it has been a long time since I had seen anything new from that author. I am pleased to say it is the same writer and like "Watership Down" "The Tyger Voyage" deals with animals with human characteristics who go on a bold quest. This time Adams has geared the story to a younger audience also writing in poetic form instead of prose and there is artwork by Nocola Bayley that further enhances the tale. "The Tyger Voyage" would make a perfect animated movie for all ages.
Peter Pan Must Die
1745 Broadway, NY, NY 10019
9780385348409, $25.00, Hardcover, 448 pp, www.amazon.com
This is the fourth entry in the series featuring retired NYPD detective David Gurney who, according to New York magazine, is "the most successful homicide dick in the history of the Big Apple." Now in his late 40's, he and his second wife, Madeleine, live on an old farmhouse in the rural Catskill Mountains of upstate New York, leaving New York City three years earlier ("the city where they'd both been born, raised, educated, and employed") after 25 years on the job. Dave has agreed to help out his old friend, Jack Hardwick, with whom he has a long and somewhat fraught history: Jack had had a 'forced departure" from the State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation after a difficult case they had worked on together. (Hardwick is described as having "a sharp mind and sound investigative instincts . . . concealed behind a relentless eagerness to offend.")
This case is much more than just difficult: Hardwick is now a p.i., his first client being a woman who has been convicted of killing her husband - well, convicted of shooting him, at his mother's funeral, following which he died during her trial, with the charges of course being changed to murder. Hardwick's job, with Dave's assistance, is to prove that the woman was framed and that the cop in charge of the investigation, either willfully or negligently, completely mishandled the case, including but not limited to hiding evidence and suborning perjury. Jack tells him that the case has everything: "Horror, hate, gangsters, politics, big money, big lies, and maybe just a little bit of incest." As the case evolves, Dave's propensity for putting himself in life-threatening situations is tested once again.
This is a fascinating mystery, wonderfully well-written, with a unique plot. The villain of the piece is the eponymous little elf himself, but discovering his actual corporeal identity proves a very difficult task. The first reference to the elf comes in Part Two, appropriately headed "Peter Pan," nearly a quarter-way into the book, with nothing more about him until even further on. But as things proceed, the book centers on the monstrous human who bears that nickname, who appears to be a sadistic serial killer. I was hesitant, even fearful, as I reached Part Three (ominously headed "All the Evil in the World), but that quickly changed as I soon found I couldn't turn the pages fast enough. The author explores the question of whether "the patterns we perceive are determined by the stories we want to believe," and states that "In the real world of crime and punishment as in all human endeavors objectivity is an illusion. Survival itself demands that we leap to conclusions." And he makes a very good case.
The three prior novels in this series were all very well received, and I have no doubt that this one will be as well. Despite its length, it is a page-turner, and is highly recommended.
Grand Central Publishing
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9781455527205, $16.00, Paperback, 384 pp, www.amazon.com
This is the story of two families of Greek heritage, intertwined in more ways than one would think possible, over a couple of generations: The Kronon family, and the Giannis family, the latter including Paul Giannis, just over 50 and a state senator now running for mayor, and his identical twin brother, Cass, a former Kindle County cop who as the book opens is about to be released from prison after serving twenty-five years after having confessed to the murder of his then-girlfriend, Dita Kronon, in September of 1982. Needless to say, that event had radically affected each member of both families. Dita was a very volatile young woman, and the romance had been fraught with problems: The twins' mother, Lidia, then 63, had made it known that if the two got married, their father would never speak to him again, as there had been very bad blood between the men for 20 years.
Dita's brother, Hal, a very wealthy businessman, convinced that both brothers were involved in his sister's death, hires Evon Miller, a young woman who is a former FBI agent, and Tim Brodie, now an 81-year-old p.i. and the homicide cop who had handled the original investigation, to thoroughly reexamine all aspects of the murder, something never done once Cass had confessed, and to then convince a judge to reopen the investigation.
Early on, when much of the p.o.v. is generally that of Evon and Tim, the reader's sympathy lies less with their boss, Hal, and more with the twins. The book moves in a leisurely manner, the murder having taken place over twenty-five years ago, and its attempted painstaking reconstruction, over a period of a few months, with the p.o.v. moving from one of the main characters to another in present time. There are forays into the past at pivotal points in the book, perfectly placed for maximum sustained suspense, slowly bringing the reader the truth of what actually transpired on the fateful day. The characters are very well-drawn, the courtroom scenes of course beautifully done, and the investigation and the secrets it uncovers fascinating. The novel is described as a complex web of murder, sex and betrayal - what more can one ask? The author has an undisputed history of well-deserved bestsellers to his credit. He continues to tell a helluva story, and the novel is recommended.
The Sound and the Furry
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781455576670, $16.00, Paperback, 320 pp., www.amazon.com
In the sixth and newest book in the Chet and Bernie Mystery series, our favorite four-legged private investigator, Chet the Dog, and Bernie Little, his partner in the Little Detective Agency, are back on the job: a good thing, considering their cash-flow problems. A hefty retainer convinces Bernie to take on the cases: the brother of a man Bernie has once sent to jail, albeit with no hard feelings, hires Bernie to find his brother, Ralph Boutette, who has completely dropped out of sight.
On the personal side of things, Bernie's exwife is a non-presence in this outing, and his girlfriend, reporter Suzie Sanchez, has taken a job with the Washington Post, so Bernie has nothing but time on his hands. So he leaves the Arizona desert country he calls home and goes to the Big Easy. They find that a longstanding feud between the Boutettes and their sworn enemies, the Robideaus, appears to play a role.
"Chet the Jet," as he thinks of himself (and he is, after all, the narrator) is as usual the perfect foil for Bernie, who Chet often reminds us is "the smartest human in the room," and provides invaluable assistance in tracking down the missing man and finding those responsible for his having gone missing in the first place, last seen on his houseboat just outside of New Orleans.
As with each new entry in this delightful series, The Sound and the Furry is a pleasure to read, and is recommended.
James W. Hall
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250005007, $25.99, Hardcover, 320 pp., www.amazon.com
This book is the latest in the series whose protagonist is Daniel Oliver Thorn, "the man from Key Largo" known simply as Thorn, "a loner by choice," whose well-deserved reputation is that of someone "going off the rails at warp speed." (Although it should be noted that this time out he's probably the most stable person in the book.) The supporting characters returning here are all memorable: Laurence Sugarman, known to all as "Sugar," a private detective and former deputy sheriff with a Norwegian mother and Rastafarian dad and an "outsider by blood" and Thorn's lifelong friend; April Moss, the journalist he met many years ago and with whom he had a very brief, but very intense, history, also known as a one-night stand, making a brief appearance, as well as the son who was a product of that encounter, Flynn Moss, who Thorn barely knew and hadn't seen for over a year.
When Cameron Prince, a huge man Thorn knows only by reputation, is found walking around his property one morning, but is brushed off by the man after he refuses to say who he is or why he's there, Thorn of course does not let it go at that. After he tracks the man down, he discovers that Flynn is involved with Prince and with his group, the local branch of the Earth Liberation Front ("ELF"), which has so far caused millions of dollars in damage, mainly through arson.
This entry in the series introduces (I think for the first time, though I'm not certain) Frank Sheffield, an FBI agent for over 30 years and for the last dozen Special Agent in Charge of the Miami field office, now nearing 60. The protagonists' p.o.v. are juxtaposed from Thorn to Sheffield, with the latter on a mission to discover ELF's next planned target, and Thorn getting involved with the group in order to protect his naive young son. Envisioned is the possibility of a local catastrophe such as Chernobyl or Fukushima when it appears that that target is a nearby Florida nuclear power plant. Suddenly, nearly half way through the book, things take a sharp and unexpected turn. And everything steps up a notch (or two), building up to a rip-roaring denouement. Hall has been called a master of Florida Noir, a reputation only enhanced by this newest entry in the series, which is highly recommended.
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 100225299
Kindle & Nook ebook, $2.99, www.amazon.com
In this, the tenth book in the series featuring CID officers DS Diane Fry and DC Ben Cooper of the Derbyshire Constabulary based in Edendale, the tale opens with Ben trying to rescue an eight-year-old, out on a bank holiday in Dovedale with her family, from drowning in a few inches of water. His efforts, however, are to no avail.
Neither Diane's nor Ben's primary story line deals with any formally assigned case. Ben is dealing with the aftermath of the little girl's death, and his conviction that it may not have been an accident, while Diane's has to do with an equally personal but perhaps more traumatic event: When a hit on the National Database opens an enquiry into the rape years ago in which she was the victim, she must finally try to come to terms with the assault. Diane is granted an indefinite leave of absence so that she can work with the officers working the cold case, and Ben is appointed Acting DS. Ben thinks of himself as "the officer who failed to save Emily Nield's life." He becomes involved with the dead girl's family, and is soon viewed by his colleagues as "a police officer who'd become obsessed and was trying too hard to make a case out of nothing."
As to Diane, she is described by colleagues as "Straight as an arrow . . . always going by the book." This time, not so much. She sees herself as "no different from all the washed-up people everywhere, all the fools who'd ever messed up their lives or destroyed their relationships. Work was safe ground, a place where personal feelings could be put aside, shrugged off with her coat at the door of the office. The trouble was, right now she could feel the safe ground shifting under her feet. She was still as dedicated to the job as she'd ever been. But she had a suspicion the job wasn't quite so loyal to her any more." In the end, both Ben and Diane find that the only one they can completely trust is each other.
Detailed descriptions [almost but only almost to a fault] are provided of the towns and the countryside, bringing the Peak District, among other areas, to life for the reader. The book deals most of all with memories, and the distortion thereof.
For readers familiar with this wonderful series and its protagonists, "Lost River" provides in-depth character studies of both, and makes them that much more human, and both those readers and others only now being introduced to them will look forward to their return. I must admit that a certain ambiguity in the final pages made me question whether or not that will happen; I am sure I am not alone in hoping that they will reappear in Mr. Booth's future novels. This one is, obviously, recommended.
The Thrill of the Haunt
Berkley Prime Crime
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425252390, $7.99, Paperback, 290 pp, www.amazon.com
If you haven't yet read the earlier entries in this terrific series, of which this is number 5, I urge you to correct that as soon as possible! And to catch you up, I take the perhaps dubious liberty of repeating from my review of the last one, "Chance of a Ghost," as follows: Allison Kerby is a single mother in her late thirties who runs a guesthouse in her childhood hometown of Harbor Haven, on the Jersey Shore, inhabited by her and her precocious eleven-year-old daughter, Melissa, as well as Maxie Malone, Alison's resident Internet expert and former interior designer (during the time she was alive), and Paul, an English/Canadian professor turned detective, both of whom have lived there since before their deaths, and, more recently, Allison's father. It would seem that Alison and her daughter, as well as her mother, are the only ones who can see, and hear, the ghosts.
At Paul's urging, about two and a half years ago Allison got a private investigator's license, and as this new book opens, she reluctantly finds herself hired by not one but two people, the first being a woman who wants Allison to follow her husband to obtain proof that he is cheating on her, and the second, with even more reluctance, by a local woman who relationship with Allison is less than friendly, who demands that Allison find out who killed a local homeless man found murdered inside a locked room (shades of Agatha Christie!). In keeping with that theme, Allison ultimately gathers together all the suspects who have been unearthed in one room is hopes of uncovering identity of the killer(s).
What makes this book as outstanding as it is (and it is that!), besides the very real mysteries underlying the plot, is the humor and dry wit of the author, which makes the novel a distinct pleasure to read. Added to the mysteries is the book's more personal aspect, with Allison filled with ambivalence at her budding romance with a man who she has been seeing for a record-setting four months, added to her ambivalence about her detective business, or should I say sideline, with her main source of income coming from the paying clientele at her guesthouse (most definitely NOT a bed-and-breakfast, btw, as Allison makes clear).
In sum, "The Thrill of the Haunt" is an absolutely perfect beach read, and it is recommended.
By Barry Lancet
Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781451691702, $15.99, Paperback, 432 pp, www.amazon.com
The eponymous area of San Francisco is comprises six square blocks and the scene, early in this new novel by Barry Lancet, of a horrendous murder of three adults and three children. (Ultimately one learns that the second man was in fact the bodyguard of the woman, who is the daughter of a wealthy and powerful Japanese mogul.) There are "no fingerprints, no trace evidence, no witnesses" and no clues except for a blood-drenched slip of paper bearing an unreadable kanji, a unique Japanese character.
Jim Brodie, formerly LAPD, is now a 32yearold private detective who is a 6' 1", 190lb. Caucasian with black hair and blue eyes, had lived for the first 17 years of his life in Japan, where he has his office; he also has a shop in San Francisco where he repairs and sells art and antiques, primarily Oriental. (He says of himself that he is "refined on the one hand, brutish on the other," and wonders if he can "make the leap from things people created to things they destroyed.") He is called in as a consultant by the SFPD to assist in the investigation, and is staggered by the enormity of the crime. Brodie is a fascinating protagonist, intent in finding the perpetrators, but equally dedicated to protecting his six-year-old daughter, all the more so after having lost his Japanese wife in a lethal fire which had destroyed their home. The ensuing events put Brodie, his daughter, and all those around him and involved in the chase in great danger as it soon becomes evident that they are looking for a serial killer (or killers).
The novel is obviously very well-researched, beyond the author's own apparent knowledge of Japanese culture, history and martial arts. The plot draws the reader in. I have to admit that in the early pages I thought some of the dialogue a bit overwrought, but that reaction dissipated as I read further. The book is action-filled and suspenseful and surprises, as Brodie digs deeper into a twisting plot whose tentacles reach through parts of Asia, Europe, and the US to find the killers, of whom the description "ruthless" doesn't even come close. A thriller in every sense of the word, the novel is recommended.
How the Light Gets In
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250047274, $15.99, Paperback, 416 pp., www.amazon.com
The newest novel in the Chief Inspector Gamache series is perhaps the finest yet, which is high praise indeed. As the book opens, Gamache, head of homicide at the Surete de Quebec, has become increasingly isolated. Now "on the far side of fifty," after three decades in the department the only one of his original investigators left is Isabel Lacoste, the rest having been either transferred out on their own or moved by Gamache's nemesis, Chief Superintendent Francoeur, the most senior cop in Quebec. But that situation has to take a back seat when he is called by Myrna Landers, the woman who owns the bookstore in the village of Three Pines, concerned when a friend who had just spent a few days there visiting, promising as she left that she would return shortly for the Christmas holidays. The enigmatic woman, Constance Pineault, had not returned, and Myrna, worried about her, asks Gamache to investigate. Therein lie the seeds of the ensuing parallel investigations. The rest of the novel concerns itself with murders and intrigues, both plentiful, going back over decades. Along the way we learn a great deal about lesser-known aspects of Canadian history, some more shameful than one might expect.
Gamache discovers that Constance, 77 years old, was in fact Constance Ouellet, the lone surviving member of quintuplets who had become world-famous upon their birth in the time of the Great Depression. She had for years hidden that identity and lived under her mother's maiden name to avoid the spotlight that had always followed her. (The author admits to having been "inspired" by the real-life Dionne quintuplets, born in that same era many years ago.)
All the residents of the village are present, and the many fans of the series will welcome them: Myrna, a large black woman who had been a practicing psychologist; Ruth Zardo, an eccentric, award-winning poet, and Rosa, her beloved pet duck; Gabri and Olivier, the lovers who run the bistro and the B&B; Clara Morrow, an artist and portraitist; as well as Henri, Gamache's German shepherd. Crucial but present only on the fringes of the tale is JeanGuy Beauvoir, formerly Gamache's second in command and engaged to his daughter but now in the throes of a terrible addiction to painkillers after the life-threatening wounds sustained during the traumatic events which closed the prior book in the series. Suffice it to say that I found myself literally holding my breath in the final pages.
The writing is never less than elegant. This book is going from my hands into those of my granddaughter, a big fan of Ms. Penny's writing and a resident of Montreal from the time she started her college career at McGill University in that city as well as since her graduation, which I know will give her an even deeper appreciation of the book than my own.
As usual, the author from time to time includes snippets of poetry (mostly courtesy of Crazy Ruth), one such giving us the title of the novel: "There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." And the meaning of that couldn't be clearer by the end of this novel, which can only be called simply terrific. And highly recommended. (I should mention, happily, that this author's newest novel, "The Long Way Home," is due out in August from Minotaur.)
The Ways of Evil Men
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616952723, $26.95, Hardcover, 336 pp., www.amazon.com
I must begin by saying that I opened up this book with very mixed emotions. Not because I didn't expect to like the writing - far from it - I have loved each of the books by Mr. Gage, and this was probably the best of them all; but because I knew it would the last by this wonderful writer, who passed away almost exactly a year ago, in July of 2013. I have loved each of his books, and, beyond that, considered him a friend. We had communicated often, about his books and about Brazil, the setting for each of the books in this terrific series, of which this is the seventh entry. I should add that he (and his wife and daughter!) always made sure I didn't run out of Brazilian wish ribbons, to which he alluded in his books, and I have not been without one on my wrist for years.
Federal Police Chief Inspector Mario Silva is called in to investigate two deaths which occur in quick succession. As violent and brutal as these deaths were, what preceded them was infinitely worse: The deaths of thirty-nine of the lone surviving 41 members of the Awana tribe in the Brazilian state of Para, "Brazil's modern-day equivalent of the old American Wild West." One character says "only white men would be evil enough to poison an entire people." It becomes clear that what is involved is nothing short of genocide, and comparably lesser crimes with which Mr. Gage's readers have become familiar, such as corruption, greed and intolerance, are present as well. As Silva says, "Money buys justice in this part of the world." The worst of human failings is brought to stark life in these pages. By its end, the esteem those readers have always had for Silva, his competence and his character, is only heightened.
The book's title is taken from the Bible: "Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men." The evil is made abundantly clear in this terrific book, which is highly recommended. I can only urge that readers who appreciate strongly drawn characters and a well-plotted tale not miss this wonderful, final addition to a much-loved series from a writer who will be sorely missed.
I Can See in the Dark
Translated from the Norwegian by James Anderson
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
222 Berkeley St., Boston, MA 02166
9780544114425, $25.00, Hardcover, 224 pp, www.amazon.com
This is the first of two new standalone novels from the author of the wonderful Inspector Sejer series by this author, and bears many similarities to "The Murder of Harriet Krohn," being published by Houghton Mifflin in November of this year: They can both be described as psychological thrillers, and both feature a man who is at least somewhat disturbed, who each in a fit of rage commits murder. The point of view in each is that of the killer, who to my mind could not be termed a "protagonist." The distinction is that in the present novel, I could find no sympathy for that person.
Riktor has worked as a nurse for over 17 years. Now in his 40's, he works at Lokka Nursing Home, 'looking after' (in his fashion) mostly very aged people almost completely unable to care for themselves in any sense of the term. 'His fashion' being that he frequently flushes their meds down the toilet, switches medications from one patient to another, and finds the mattress a good place into which to empty syringes, among other relatively minor forms of abuse. He lives with pain, sleeps little, describes his life as "barren" and "austere," and it certainly is that. He speaks of his "quirks and fancies, my outbursts and attentions. Within me lurks an evil little devil who occasionally asserts himself. He's impossible to avoid, because sometimes the temptation is too great. I'd never have believed it of Riktor, people would say in all their ignorant innocence, if they knew the truth about me and the things I'm capable of. I can see right through people. I can see what's concealed in their innermost, shadowy recesses. And when it comes to evil, I can believe anything of anybody" and sees himself as being "someone on the outside of everything, a paltry observer of life." And, of course, he can see in the dark.
At nearly the halfway point in the tale, and not long after the murder occurs, a police inspector appears at Riktor's door. Not Inspector Sejer in this instance, but one no less tenacious and capable, and the battle of wits begins. At first, it seems as though the plot has taken an entirely different tangent. But ultimately not quite so much, in the hands of this very capable author. This book may not be for everyone, the early parts are rather depressing, but less so as the book continues. Another character says to Riktor as the book gets nearer to its conclusion, "Right tends to triumph in the end." And the novel as a whole did as well, and is recommended.
Dead to Me
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250038548, $25.99, Hardcover, 392 pp, www.amazon.com
The Manchester Murder Squad put in charge of the investigation into
the killing of Lisa Finn is headed up by DC Janet Scott. Among her team is newly assigned DC Rachel Bailey, just transferred there after five years in uniform, nearly all of them in Sex Crmes. Their boss, DCI Gill Murray, feels Rachel can benefit from training under Scott, who Murray (nicknamed, at least by Rachel, "Godzilla") has known for years, even before she became a cop, dating from the time Gill was called to the scene of a death, from SIDS, of Janet's infant son.
The dead girl's background is a bit unsavory: She had been picked up by the police in the past for shoplifting and "messing with drugs," after a youth spent "in care" when her mother found the burden of child-rearing too great. After the arrest and subsequent release of two men against whom no real evidence can be found, the team is up against a blank wall, but the two female cops are determined to find the killer. A horrific suicide, and an old case which seems to involve some of the people involved, even if somewhat tangentially, in the current one, swiftly come into play. Solid police work, to which is added Rachel's excellent instincts added to (or perhaps despite) the somewhat rash routes she takes to track down the person or persons responsible, over a period of a little over a week's time, add up to a very fine police procedural.
Where this book differs somewhat from the 'usual' procedural is with the author's excellent delineations of the three strong women at the heart of this book. They have very different backgrounds, but many similarities as well, primarily in their dysfunctional relationships and challenging childhoods. None of the three is a stranger to violence and its aftermath, which has brought each to this point in their lives.
The writing is excellent, and the novel is recommended.
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780679643753, $27.00, Hardcover, 349 pp, www.amazon.com
Born in a birthing house in Leningrad on July 5, 1972, Igor Semyonovich (his pre-Gary Russian name) Shteyngart's early years are difficult, as is his relationship with his parents: His mother goes through long periods giving him the silent treatment; his father belittles him and, frequently, beats him. His nickname becomes "Failurchka," or Little Failure. His mother, who looks half Jewish, which, given the place and time, is too Jewish by half, teaches piano at a kindergarten; his father, seven years her senior, is a mechanical engineer."
In 1978 Soviet Jews are finally able to leave for Israel, the US and Canada. And the Shteyngarts soon do. Except for his mother's sister, who was not allowed to emigrate from Russia until after Gorbachev took power (an unbearable separation for his mother). He arrives in the US at seven, poverty-stricken, severely asthmatic, with very bad teeth and "doubly handicapped, living in a world where [he] speaks neither the actual language, English, nor that second and almost just as important language, television" (which they cannot afford).
He knows early on that he wants to be a writer (part of the equation being that he must find a way to 'bridge that gap between being a Russian and being loved"), and begins his first unpublished novel in English in 1982, at ten. A good scholar, his young adult years see him becoming less a "melancholic Austrian" and more of an "alcoholic and doped-up urban gorilla." But don't think for a moment that the book is downbeat. Though certainly poignant, the author displays much of the humor for which he is as well-known as he is for his wonderful writing.
After the family's arrival in the US, he eventually attends a Jewish day school, Solomon Schechter School of Queens, followed by the prestigious Stuyvesant High School in lower Manhattan at 15 and then Oberlin College, from which he graduates in 1995 (with 2/3 of what will be his first novel finished). Of course, he has since published two others, all of which have been very well received. In the 1980's the family spend their summers at a Russian bungalow colony in the Catskill Mountains. He suffers occasional panic attacks, and spends 12 years in four-times-a week psychoanalysis. He is no longer impoverished, nor asthmatic, and his teeth have been fixed. He is and has been very ambivalent about Russia. But by the end, everything comes full circle, and in 1999 he returns to the country of his birth, where he visits almost every other year since. In 2011, at 38, his parents join him. It is his mother's "first visit in 24 years, since her mother died, and my father in thirty-two years, or from the time he left the Soviet Union in 1979. We are coming home. Together."
A thoroughly enjoyable, compelling, ultimately very funny and touching book, and highly recommended.
The Twelve Stones
Smashwords -- electronic
CreateSpace -- paperback
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781490432861, paper, $4.99, www.amazon.com
The Twelve Stones is a light fantasy action/adventure. It is a fun story that you can relax with. But The Twelve Stones isn't a complete book. It is the first section of a much larger story with the final pages not even a real pause in the storyline.
As a child, Alex McCray finds a small stone in a creek bed. The stone gives the owner powers that seem magical. Alex's father is fearful of the stone so he locks it away until his son is old enough to understand what he has found. Twelve years later Alex's father gives him the stone just before he is murdered in front of Alex by the maniacal billionaire Rupert Kline. Kline wants Alex dead and when he finds out about Alex's stone he wants it as well. Kline has no problem killing anyone who gets in his way and using any friend of Alex as leverage to get his stone.
The Twelve Stones is a fun easy reading story. A strong edit and a tightening of the plotline would make it a very good weekend read. But with its abrupt end I would not recommend the book until more of the storyline is finished and the planned sequels have been released.
Stray Dog Press, Inc.
9780983797517 $3.99 ebook
Nailed is a fun story. It has characters that border on fantasy but ones that you wish might exist. It has an action plot that is just too close to fantasy to be completely believed but you still feel you should try. It has a solid detective mystery that is as good as any. What keeps you reading is that you would like to feel these extreme characters and action plot might exist is some nearby alternate reality.
Goldstrike Police Chief Ron Ketchum is one patrol with his friend and Deputy Oliver Gosden when on a scenic drive they find a dead man nailed to a tree. This starts a train of events from bigotry, hate, curses and a killer mountain lion. The resort town of Goldstrike, CA is filled with wealthy and not so wealthy characters who either want the murder solved, gain their own bit of fame or want the killing to continue. Ketchum must navigate this maze of conflicts to solve the murder before he finds himself in trouble of his own.
Nailed is a great weekend story. It is nonstop escapism with just enough reality to let the reader feel they have learned something about themselves. It fits neatly into the detective and action genres. With an ebook price of only $3.99 it is an easy recommendation for anyone needing a day or two break from the dullness of everyday.
S.A. Gorden, Reviewer
Joy M. Giguere
The University of Tennessee Press
110 Conference Center UT, Knoxville, TN 37996
9781621900399, $74.95, 304pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Prior to the nineteenth century, few Americans knew anything more of Egyptian culture than what could be gained from studying the biblical Exodus. Napoleon's invasion of Egypt at the end of the eighteenth century, however, initiated a cultural breakthrough for Americans as representations of Egyptian culture flooded western museums and publications, sparking a growing interest in all things Egyptian that was coined Egyptomania. As Egyptomania swept over the West, a relatively young America began assimilating Egyptian culture into its own national identity, creating a hybrid national heritage that would vastly affect the memorial landscape of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Far more than a study of Egyptian revivalism, "Characteristically American: Memorial Architecture, National Identity, and the Egyptian Revival" examines the Egyptian style of commemoration from the rural cemetery to national obelisks to the Sphinx at Mount Auburn Cemetery. Giguere argues that Americans adopted Egyptian forms of commemoration as readily as other neoclassical styles such as Greek revivalism, noting that the American landscape is littered with monuments that define the Egyptian style's importance to American national identity. Of particular interest is perhaps America's greatest commemorative obelisk: the Washington Monument. Standing at 555 feet high and constructed entirely of stone - making it the tallest obelisk in the world - the Washington Monument represents the pinnacle of Egyptian architecture's influence on America's desire to memorialize its national heroes by employing monumental forms associated with solidity and timelessness. Construction on the monument began in 1848, but controversy over its design, which at one point included a Greek colonnade surrounding the obelisk, and the American Civil War halted construction until 1877. Interestingly, Americans saw the completion of the Washington Monument after the Civil War as a mending of the nation itself, melding Egyptian commemoration with the reconstruction of America.
As the twentieth century saw the rise of additional commemorative obelisks, the Egyptian Revival became ensconced in American national identity. Egyptian-style architecture has been used as a form of commemoration in memorials for World War I and II, the civil rights movement, and even as recently as the 9/11 remembrances. Giguere places the Egyptian style in a historical context that demonstrates how Americans actively sought to forge a national identity reminiscent of Egyptian culture that has endured to the present day.
Critique: "Characteristically American: Memorial Architecture, National Identity, and the Egyptian Revival" is an impressive work of seminal scholarship conducted by Joy M. Giguere (Assistant Professor of History, Penn State, York). Deftly organized and presented in six chapters and a coda (The Broken Obelisk), "Characteristically American: Memorial Architecture, National Identity, and the Egyptian Revival" is enhanced with the inclusion of twenty pages of Notes, a sixteen page Bibliography, and a comprehensive Index. An exceptionally informed and informative work which is a very highly recommended addition to academic library American Cultural History reference collections and supplemental reading lists, "Characteristically American: Memorial Architecture, National Identity, and the Egyptian Revival" will prove to be unusually accessible to the non-specialist general reader and would make a popular addition to community library collections as well.
Saddleback Publishing Inc.
3120 Pullman Street, Cosa Mesa, CA 92626-4564
9781622507221, $9.95, 254pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Michael Ellis a typical American boy. A little on the geeky side. A good student. An athlete. But something is not quite right. ""I like you because you're different."" That's what Ashley had said to him. Different is better than being normal. Michael liked different. It was more interesting than following the crowd. But Ashley wasn't different. And she wasn't interested in dating Michael any longer. That's when Michael Ellis became unhinged. With Ashley's rejection, he does something shocking, and finds himself headed to juvenile detention.
Critique: Evan Jocobs novel, "Self Destructed", is an absorbing read that will grip the reader's attention and hold it firmly from beginning to end. Intended for an adolescent and young adult readership, "Self Destructed" is intended for school and community library collections only. Very highly recommended, it should be noted that "Self Destructed" is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.96).
Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth
Perfect Edge Books
John Hunt Publishing Limited
National Book Network (distributor)
4501 Forbes Boulevard, Suite 200, Lanham, MD 20706
9781782796497, $20.95, 231pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: She's a disturbed, quiet girl, but Mina wants to do some good out there. It's just that the world gets in the way. This is Australia in the 1980s, a haven for goths and loners, where a coming-of-age story can only veer into a murder mystery.
Critique: A terrifically entertaining read from beginning to end, "Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth" showcases author Andrez Bergen as an imaginative novelist able to deftly weave a complex storyline embedded with memorable characters and sprinkled with unexpected plot twists, turns, and surprises. Highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collection. It should also be noted that "Depth Charging Ice Planet Goth" is also available in a Kindle edition ($2.99).
Mark Kurlansky & Talia Kurlansky
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781620400272, $29.00, 384pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Once a week in the Kurlansky home, Mark spins a globe and wherever his daughter's finger lands becomes the theme of that Friday night's dinner. Their tradition of 'International Night' has afforded Mark an opportunity to share with his daughter, Talia the recipes, stories, and insights he's collected over more than thirty years of traveling the world writing about food, culture, and history, as well as his charming pen-and-ink drawings, which all appear throughout "International Night: A Father and Daughter Cook Their Way Around the World". Brimming with recipes for fifty-two special meals--appetizers, a main course, side dishes, and dessert for each--one for every week of the year, ". Some are old favorites from Mark's repertoire, and others gleaned from research. Always, they are his own version, drawn from techniques he learned as a professional chef and from many years of talking to chefs, producers, and household cooks around the world. Despite these insights, every recipe is designed to be carried out--easily--by any amateur chef, and they are designed to be completed with the assistance of children.
Critique: A pure pleasure to simply browse through, "International Night: A Father and Daughter Cook Their Way Around the World" is a truly global culinary treasury of recipes for international dishes that will please any palate and satisfy any appetite. Each 'night' offers a complete menu that is thematically appropriate for the country of origin. There are enough of these 'nights' of fine dining to offer a new one each consecutive week of the year. Case in point: Tanzania Night which includes Coconut Soup; Duck; Ugali (a form of white cornmeal); Mango Cashew Pudding; and Mango Orange Juice. A veritable cornucopia of fine dining, "International Night: A Father and Daughter Cook Their Way Around the World" is enthusiastically recommended for personal, family, and community library cookbook collections. It should be noted that "International Night: A Father and Daughter Cook Their Way Around the World" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
The Moon In Your Sky
University of Missouri Press
2910 LeMone Boulevard, Columbia, MO 65201
9780826220301, $19.95, 248pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The Moon in Your Sky: An Immigrant's Journey Home brings to life the remarkable story of Annah Emuge. Growing up in Uganda under the rule of Idi Amin, Annah and her peers faced hardships few of us can imagine, living with the constant threat of soldiers breaking into their homes, raiding and pillaging as they pleased. Annah found strength in her relationship with her mother, Esther, and in her relationship with God. Esther encouraged Annah to educate herself and "go out into the world." Annah's faith led her to James, an evangelical preacher who became her husband. The two left Uganda for the United States when James received a scholarship to study at Ohio University, only to be stranded there with two small children when the Ugandan government collapsed. The loss of his dreams, along with the realities of American life for African immigrants, proved to be more than James could withstand, and he succumbed to alcoholism. How Annah overcame the trials she endured in the land she had thought would hold only promise for her and her family is a riveting story of perseverance that will inspire any reader. Annah's sorrows give depth to the great joys she experiences as she not only survives but triumphs, working to make both of her countries better places.
Critique: A compelling story from beginning to end, "The Moon in Your Sky: An Immigrant's Journey Home" is inspired and inspiring. A candid and engaging account culminating in the triumph of the human spirit over man's inhumanity to his fellow man, "The Moon in Your Sky: An Immigrant's Journey Home" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections.
David J. Langum, Sr.
Texas Tech University Press
PO Box 41037, Lubbock, TX 79409-1037
9780896728745, $34.95, 212pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Mary Bennett Love had a physicality exceeded only by her personality. Six feet tall and over 300 pounds, Love was anything but shackled by the mores of her day. In the 1840s, she moved west from Arkansas via the Oregon Trail. A few years later, she separated from her husband and took her six minor children to Santa Clara, where she acquired a Mexican land grant by forging an adult son's signature. Though illiterate, she knew the law thoroughly and used it to her advantage. No sooner had the American military invaded California than Mary squatted on public lands and engaged in dozens of lawsuits to advance her interests. Her love life was no less tumultuous. Harry Love, her second husband and slayer of Mexican bandit Joaquin Murrieta, died at her bodyguard's hands. Mary Bennett Love is representative of the relationship people had with the law in pre-Gold Rush California. Furthermore, her economic success demonstrates the often self-imposed notions of true womanhood - which Mary ignored, paving the way for future female entrepreneurs.
Critique: An impressive work of meticulous biographical research and definitive scholarship by David J. Langum, Sr. (Research Professor of Law, Samford University Cumberland School of Law, Birmingham, Alabama), "Quite Contrary: The Litigious Life of Mary Bennett Love" is written as smoothly as any historical novel. As entertaining a read as it is informed and informative about an inherently fascinating lady in early California, "Quite Contrary: The Litigious Life of Mary Bennett Love" is very highly recommended for community and academic library Women's Studies, 19th Century American Biography, and 19th Century California History collections.
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
MM Book Publicity
9781464202964, $14.95, 250pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: A bank heist turns sleepy little Wagon Mound, New Mexico, on its ear. It's no straight-forward, "demand all the money at gun-point and hustle out the front door" kind of robbery. It's a sneaky tunneling that probably took months to complete and landed the thieves in a room of safe deposit boxes - not the vault with two million bucks for a ranch sale next door. Was this some mistake, or was the thieves' target the Tiffany-designed sapphire and diamond necklace belonging to eighty-five year old Gertrude Kennedy, a family heirloom from the days of the Titanic? The necklace is insured with United Life and Casualty for half a million. The company sends their ace investigator, Dan Mahoney, a Chicagoan still in New Mexico recuperating from events in Flash Food, and romancing the intrepid Elaine Linden, to the scene of the crime. Delayed when his Jeep overheats, Dan catches a ride and is the hapless passenger in a rollover that kills the driver and lands Dan in Santa Fe's hospital. Dan soon learns the rollover was no accident. Someone wants him kept out of Wagon Mound at any cost. Dan hasn't lived his life looking over his shoulder and he's not starting now. But when Elaine disappears and people close to the case, like the bank's manager, turn up dead, he suspects there's more going on than a robbery. The note slipped under his rented room's door in the dead of night says it all - "it's not what you think".
Critique: Susan Slater is a gifted mystery writer whose Dan Mahoney novels are a guaranteed entertainment for mystery/suspense fans everywhere. "Rollover" is the latest Dan Mahoney mystery thriller and continues to document Salter's truly impressive ability to deftly craft memorable characters into a tightly woven story line of unexpected twists and turns. Very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Mystery Fiction collections, it should be noted that "Rollover" is also available in a hardcover edition (9781464202940, $24.95) and a Kindle edition ($7.19).
124 North Maple Street, Bowling Green, OH 43402
9781496187543, $14.99, 294pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: As a series of misfortunes scatters the Winslow children to different homes, nine-year-old Miriam finds herself in foster care. A college-educated couple, Rick and Deanne Fletcher, are happy to welcome her. But Miriam has never worn new clothes, was not permitted to cut her hair, and believes that children must repent their sins with dramatic displays of remorse, or harm will come to their loved ones. Now she must adapt to a secular lifestyle while struggling not to lose her connection to the past. The Fletchers quickly come to love their "new little girl" with her cheerful energy and unusual ideas. Then they encounter the rest of Miriam's family: Uncle Dan believes he was the subject of an invasive experiment. Sister Rachelle, just released from juvenile detention, harbors many painful secrets. Brother Josh is outraged that the Fletchers disrespect Christian teachings. When his plan to remove Miriam from their home fails, Josh reacts with growing hostility to interference in the Winslow way of life.
Critique: A deftly woven, complex and compelling novel, "Our Orbit" showcases the literary work of an imaginative and skilled author able to craft memorable characters, whose lives and circumstances will hold the reader's total attention from beginning to end. Thought-provoking entertainment, "Our Orbit" by Anesa Miller is wholeheartedly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Contemporary Fiction collections. It should be noted that "Our Orbit" is also available in a Kindle edition ($4.99).
9780692026458, $6.99, 146pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Written by Vijay Mattewada, a physician who has lived and suffered well, "The Contemplator: Practical Philosophy to Keep Your Mind Clear, Body Light, and Spirit Free" is a book comprised of beautiful contemplations to refresh your mind, body, and spirit by making philosophy accessible and useful. Heart-touching and thought-provoking! Contemplation is a lost art, and chances are, you've completely forgotten how to be alone with your thoughts. Philosopher-physician Vijay Mattewada, MD, provides an accessible and relevant gateway to inner peace and clarity with his new book of aphorisms; as well as a soothing tool for slowing down and carving a few moments of quiet and calm out of your day; helps in understanding the importance and life-changing benefits of a moment's pause in reflection-whether it's of nature, the soul, God, a personal burden, or a decision big or small; and ultimately, the goal of deliberation is a better understanding of one's self, one's life, and one's purpose for living.
Critique: Deftly written so as to be completely accessible for the non-specialist general reader, "The Contemplator: Practical Philosophy to Keep Your Mind Clear, Body Light, and Spirit Free" is as thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is inspired and inspiring. Very highly recommended and instructive reading, it should also be noted that "The Contemplator: Practical Philosophy to Keep Your Mind Clear, Body Light, and Spirit Free" is also available in a Kindle edition ($1.99).
6187 Greenhaven Drive
Sacramento, CA 95831
9781495409486, $16.50, 140pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Adam and Sophia are twins. Sophia has wings and Adam doesn't. One day their parents leave. "Don't go into the forest," they said, but Adam did. Adam gave his word, and broke it. Now he is lost and alone, and his voice is gone. Sophia flies overhead and drops a piece of paper. It flutters into the forest. Except for a lock of hair the paper is blank. Immediately, adventures and experiences unfold for Adam, some common, some extraordinary, some unearthly and beautiful. Letters appear on the paper as Adam wakes up to his 'alphabet'. Slowly, painfully, joyously Adam wins his word back.
Critique: "Adam's Alphabet" is the latest children's book by Reg Down and continues to document his impressive storytelling talents. Exceptionally entertaining and original, "Adam's Alphabet" is especially recommended to the attention of young readers ages 7 to 12, and would prove to be an enduringly popular addition to family, school, and community library collections. It should also be noted that "Adam's Alphabet" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.95).
William Joyce, author and illustrator
Christina Ellis, illustrator
Atheneum Books for Young Readers
c/o Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 4th floor, NY, NY 10020
9781442473430, $17.99, www.amazon.com
The unconventional design - with long, skinny pages; the spine located on the short side of the cover; and a binding that requires most pages to be flipped up vertically to be read - are a strong indication, out of the gate, that The Numberlys is going to be a different kind of book.
And, indeed, the unique design goes hand in hand with the unique story, about five friends who transform their gray, dull, exclusively number-driven world, by creating the alphabet. They do this by simply taking some numbers they've grown bored with, breaking them apart and creatively reconnecting the pieces into the A-Z alphabet.
Then, once they figure out how to manipulate the letters to have meaning, the things in their world are no longer identified by long numeric sequences. Instead, they're identified by words like jellybean, pizza and yellow. Suddenly, everyone has a name. The point in the story in which they gain the ability to verbally express themselves,with words that have distinct meaning, is accompanied by a flood of illustrative color.
Preschoolers who are just learning their letters will thrill to identify A,B,C and the rest of the alphabet, on pages that are sometimes contain a random jumble of letters and at other times are more pointedly arranged. Among the best illustrations is one in which is constructed, top-to-bottom, a vertical list of all twenty-six letters. Emerging readers will thrill as, toward the end of the book, letters are used to form words. And, increasingly toward the end, color beautifully bursts off the page.
The five friends, and other people in their community are squat, almost bug-like people. The uniformity in their society has an Orwellian feel. When the friends break out of the mold, not only do letters appear; they appear in Technicolor.
A really fun, different sort of alphabet primer with a gentle message about not settling for the ordinary.
Brother Hugo and the Bear
Katy Beebe, author
S.D. Schindler, illustrator
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers
2140 Oak Industrial Dr. NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505
9780802854070, $17.00, www.amazon.com
Books are better than honey to a bear that prefers the taste of bindings over berries. Creativity abounds in the honey-hued font and other illustrative elements of Brother Hugo and the Bear, about a monk who must confess that a bear has eaten his library book. The lost book contained his abby's only copy of the letters of St. Augustine. To make amends, his superiors order the monk to make a new book by copying, by hand, an edition owned by monks at a different abby. He must travel there, convince them to let him borrow their version, bring it back to his own abby, and copy it. But en route to and fro, what is that snuffling sound on the path behind him? And while he works at the copying for six weeks during lent, he is sure he hears the same snuffing outside his window. But there's more to Brother Hugo and the Bear than a memorable story. Beebe also slips in a fascinating, kid-friendly lesson on ancient print making and book binding. Preparing the pages out of sheepskin, making homemade ink and sewing the pages together are some of the steps in the process. A cheeky ending will bring smiles. Sweet.
Karyn L. Saemann, Reviewer
Ministry and Moonshine
1155 Union Circle, Denton, Texas 76203
9780983591948, $12.95, www.amazon.com
Fred Funk has captured the lifestyle of East Texas in his book, Ministry and Moonshine. He recounts the sometimes funny, sometimes sad and very interesting story of Matt Reynolds and his young wife, Beth, as they begin their life in the Methodist ministry in Pruett, TX. Based loosely on real events, this story will make you laugh, cry (maybe not literally) and hold your breath.
The young couple meet new friends, gossips, moonshiners, adulterers and even a convicted murderer. They discover many hidden secrets in this small East Texas community through the lives of its people. There is even an element of "ghostly" happenings. You will want to read this story, but before you put it down for the last time, have another one of Fred's books waiting next to you at your favorite reading spot.
"Matt and Elizabeth came to the end of a long, exasperating day. They had started their journey that morning with excitement and enthusiasm about the upcoming new chapter in their lives. As they both drifted off into a troubled sleep in the old parsonage they wondered if they had made a terrible mistake."
Fred Funk has written this book from personal experiences. He started out as a Methodist minister in East Texas and later switched careers to accounting and finance. He is an active member and former president of the Denton Noon Kiwanis Club. Now retired, he lives in Aubrey, Texas with his wife, Dana, of fifty plus years. They have two daughters and a son, seven- grandchildren, and one great-grandson.
Harry E. Gilleland
100 Enterprise Way Ste A200, Scotts Valley, CA 95066
9781495983290, $7.59 pbk. / $2.99 Kindle, www.amazon.com
"The best laid plans..." is an often used expression that describes the plot Harry Gilleland's book, Zack's Choice perfectly. Zack plans to marry his high school sweetheart and follow in his parent's footsteps in the legal world. First, though, he decides to take a motorcycle trip through the south. In New Mexico his trip turns into a not-to-be believed adventure. He meets a young hitchhiker who convinces him to help save the world.
"Zack's Harley headed into the late-afternoon sun as he glided across the highway, engulfed by the vastness of the desert southwest when he first saw the hitchhiker. Zack slowed and eased to a stop a few yards from him. Zack removed his helmet, and the two slowly eyed one another, assessing each other's potential threat."
What Bobby, the hitchhiker tells him is unbelievable, but Zack believes it anyway. Following Bobby's directions, Zack's journey takes him to California and then to Europe where he has to flee to stay out of jail. Don't pass up a chance to read this incredulous story. The twists and turns and the subtly humorous dialogue combine to make you want more. Who knows? Maybe Mr. Gilleland will carry on the adventures of Zack. If not, you are left with a very unusual development that will make you wonder if something this fantastic could actually happen. Read it. Then decide.
I always enjoy Mr. Gilleland's books. His imagination and writing style keep me enthralled from beginning to end - and this book is no exception. If this is your first introduction to Harry E. Gilleland, you will definitely want to read his other works.
Harry E. Gilleland, Jr. is an award-winning poet and author of nine published books, four books of his personal poetry and five prose books. He was born in Macon, GA, and has lived in Shreveport, LA since 1975, making him a proud and confirmed Southerner. He spent two long years in London, Canada in the snow, ice, and freezing - and I do mean freezing - cold. He moved back south to thaw out in 1975 and has no plans to ever leave the South again. Dr. Gilleland retired in 2004 after twenty-nine years as a Professor of Microbiology at LSUHSC-S's School of Medicine. Since his retirement, Harry has devoted his efforts full-time to creative writing, both poetry and prose, and to editing.
Timber Creek Publishing
312 North Commerce St, Gainesville, Texas 76240
9780990438939, $15.49 pbk. / $4.49 Kindle www.amazon.com
Doran Ingrham's novel, Dark Secret, his newest Mark Ingram novel, sizzles with more intrigue, excitement and, yes, wit. When Mark Ingram takes on a contract to provide security for wealthy Joris Barnhardt and his family, he has no idea of what will be discovered. What are the secrets unearthed by Mark Ingram and his team? A must read for all readers.
""Here's the deal...I bring in my team. We live on the grounds...all expenses paid. You and your wife will do as we say...when we say.""
Mark assembles his team to protect Barnhardt and his family. They learn a lot about their wealthy employer that is unexpected, but they continue their protection until the end.
In the middle of the adventure and excitement, they also free a couple being held for ransom.
You will be intrigued by this whole adventure from beginning to end. The main plot and sub plots are filled with explosive escapades and humorous dialogue. It keeps your attention all the way to the end.
As a retired librarian, I know that libraries are always looking for books that will hold the attention of the reader. Dark Secrets does just that. I consider Mr. Ingrham to be an author in the same class as Tom Clancy, W.E.B. Griffin and Larry Bond.
Doran Ingrham's former life included the USMC, Risk Management/Close Security Specialist and extensive experience dealing with terrorists. He has appeared in commercials, TV and films. He now lives with his wife in an undisclosed location.
The Phantom Ranger and the Skateboard Gang
James and Livia Reasoner
Painted Pony Books
PO Box 931, Azle, TX 76098-0931
9781494248932, $8.99, www.amazon.com
James and Livia Reasoner, a husband and wife team, wrote a ghostly, riveting young adult novel. They take the reader down an exciting trail of imagination and mystery.
Codi Jackson has lived in a lots of new places because her father frequently changed jobs. She now has a chance to become a part of a group, if there is not another job change in her father's future.
"She fell in with them, heading down the street, listening to their chatter and laughter. She didn't take part any more than she usually did, but she still felt like part of the group for the first time. It was a good feeling."
Codi's history teacher assigns Keith Wright as her partner for a history project about the Texas Rangers. To help with the project, her grandmother sends her a box of artifacts that belonged to her great-great grandfather who had been a real Texas Ranger. What she learns about her ancestors makes the project more and more interesting. She discovers that she was named after her legendary Texas Ranger ancestor, Cody Jackson. Imagine her surprise when she picks up the Ranger's badge and feels the heat it generated. Even more surprising is the appearance of her great-great grandfather's ghost.
After the initial shock wears off, Codi cautiously accepts the presence of the Phantom Ranger. Later they work together to try to solve a crime spree perpetrated by teens on skateboards at the local mall. Read the book to see if they succeed.
Teens will love the independence of the kids in the story and the underlying mystery mixed with some ghostly humor. I think anyone would enjoy this quick, exciting read. Be sure to get it and find out what happens to Codi, Keith and a spectral Texas Ranger.
James and Livia Reasoner have been professional writers for more than 30 years. They write as individuals and as a team. They write in several different genres and have garnered several awards, including the Peacemaker Award, the Private Eye Writers of America award and the America Mystery award collectively. Their websites are www.jamesreasoner.com and www.liviawashburn.com
I Called Myself Cassandra
Lourdes Duque Baron
Baron House Publishing Corporation
c/o Xulon Press
2301 Lucien Way, Suite 415, Maitland, FL 32751
9780990487906 $29.00 pbk / $50.00 hc
I Called Myself Cassandra is a sweeping, true-life memoir about the tumult that marked the author's marriage. Adopting the alter-ego Cassandra, she drifted from her estranged husband into a tangled web of love affairs, seeking to free herself from pain through physical pleasure and hollow validation from other men. But her search was one of smoke and mirrors; with difficulty, she learned that running away, betraying her marriage vows, and living a double life only exacerbated her suffering. Hard life lessons taught her the value of working toward reconciliation with her husband, who was struggling under the weight of his own, tragic burdens. I Called Myself Cassandra is sweeping, passionate, emotional, and unforgettably enlightening.
Raising Children That Other People Like To Be Around
Richard E. Greenberg
New Generation Publishing
c/o Allen Media Strategies (publicity)
9781909740242 $14.99 print / $7.39 Kindle www.amazon.com
Father of four Richard Greenberg presents Raising Children That Other People Like To Be Around, a practical-minded parenting guide drawn directly from life experience. Richard and his wife of thirty-five years JoAnn have distilled five solid basic parenting principles: Set an Example, Make the Rules, Apply the Rules, Respect Yourself, and Teach in All Things. Chapters offer anecdotes, an understanding of human psychology that doesn't require a college education, suggestions for putting parenting principles into practice, and much more. Highly recommended. "By respecting our selves and prioritizing our needs as an adult couple, we teach our child that their needs may be less important than those of others at any particular moment. A failure to do this may lead to the complication of a child who controls your schedule, your emotions, and, essentially, your happiness. Children aren't prepared to wield that much power, and typically, the anxiety they get from having the power causes them to get angry at parents who put them in this position."
American University in Cairo Press
420 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10018-2729
9789774166334, $29.95, 257pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The latter part of the fifteenth century BC saw Egypt's political power reach its zenith, with an empire that stretched from beyond the Euphrates in the north to much of what is now Sudan in the south. The wealth that flowed into Egypt allowed its kings to commission some of the most stupendous temples of all time, some of the greatest dedicated to Amun-Re, King of the Gods. Yet a century later these temples lay derelict, the god's images, names, and titles all erased in an orgy of iconoclasm by Akhenaten, the devotee of a single sun-god. "Amarna Sunrise: Egypt from Golden Age to Age of Heresy" by Egyptologist Aidan Dodson (Senior Research Fellow, Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Bristol) traces the history of Egypt from the death of the great warrior-king Thutmose III to the high point of Akhenaten's reign, when the known world brought gifts to his newly-built capital city of Amarna, in particular looking at the way in which the cult of the sun became increasingly important to even 'orthodox' kings, culminating in the transformation of Akhenaten's father, Amenhotep III, into a solar deity in his own right.
Critique: A masterpiece of meticulous scholarship combined with a superbly organized and presented commentary make's "Amarna Sunrise: Egypt from Golden Age to Age of Heresy" an impressive contribution to the growing library of Egyptology Studies and a 'must' for academic library collections in the subject. Of special note are the maps and illustrations the enhance the text, the inclusion of extensive Notes, a 54 page Bibliography, and a comprehensive index. The accessibility of "Amarna Sunrise: Egypt from Golden Age to Age of Heresy" also renders it as ideal for non-specialist general readers with an interest in ancient Egyptian history.
Slaves In Their Chains
c/o Dufour Editions, Inc.
PO Box 7, Chester Springs, PA 19425-0007
9780946162789, $30.00, 253pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: This first English translation of Theotokis's tragicomic masterpiece "Slaves In Their Chains" (1922) by J. M. Q. Davies is the story of a noble family's descent into poverty, dishonor, suicide, and madness - and a brilliantly entertaining portrayal of fin-de-siecle Corfu. An aging landowner in the clutches of a wily money-lender, his daughter forced to sacrifice her idealistic lover for a crude but wealthy doctor, and her idle brother in thrall to a vindictive mistress, all come dramatically to life in scenes of passionate intensity, with a deftly caricatured supporting cast of bankers, poets, impoverished aristocrats, loose wives, charitable widows, and aspiring politicians.
Critique: An impressive masterpiece of literary fiction that is aptly translated into English and now available to an American readership for the first time, "Slaves In Their Chains" by Kostantine Theotokis (1872-1923) is a memorably exceptional novel and highly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library collections.
Magna Golden West
c/o Ulverscroft Large Print (USA), Inc.
PO Box 1230, West Seneca, NY 14224-1230
9781842629536, $29.99, 254pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The feud between the Rutledges and the Bannings began during the Civil War...And continued bitter and deep-rooted into the 80's when young Bob Rutledge left the bullet-laced Texas Range - for the fresh grasslands of Montana... But the lawless Bannings also sought new graze and followed hot on his trail. When Bob Rutledge raised a 7-wire drift fence to mark his claim, the Bannings challenged him with an army of hired guns... And the ancient feud began afresh - in a range skirmish that exploded into the bloodiest massacre in Montana history!
Critique: A terrifically entertaining read from first page to last, "Drift Fence" showcases the writing talents of Walt Coburn, a master of the western genre. "Drift Fence" is a superbly presented western saga that is very highly recommended for fans and will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Large Print fiction collections.
Fishing the Great Lakes of New York
Burford Books, Inc.
101 East State Street, #301, Ithaca, NY 14850
9781580801768, $16.95, 224pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Lakes Erie and Ontario, their tributaries, and the Thousand Islands region of the St. Lawrence River together create the magical flow of New York's north shore and the greatest freshwater fishery on the planet. The region boasts fish as impressive as they are numerous. Thirty-pound Chinook salmon, smallmouths over five pounds, 20-something-pound northern pike, 30-inch walleyes, steelhead, brown trout and lake trout stretching over three feet long, four-foot muskies and trophy landlocked Atlantic salmon are all available in sufficient quantities to make the chances of catching one a reasonable goal on every fishing trip - if you know where, when and how, which is the primary purpose of Spider Rybakk's "Fishing the Great Lakes of New York: A Guide to Lakes Erie and Ontario, their Tributaries, and the Thousand Islands" as Rybaak details everything the local or visiting angler needs to know, from access points, best fishing seasons, tackle tips, target-tailored fishing strategies, and much more, for well over 100 specific spots in this unparalleled freshwater fishing paradise.
Critique: Informed, informative, and very highly recommended as an ideal guide for planning a fishing trip whether for a day trip or a weekend excursion for the whether a native citizen of the area or tourist wanting the most out of a New York fishing expedition. It should be noted that Fishing the Great Lakes of New York: A Guide to Lakes Erie and Ontario, their Tributaries, and the Thousand Islands" is also available in a Kindle edition ($10.49). Another extraordinary title from Burford Books and recommended for anyone contemplating fishing the waters of New York is J. Michael Kelly's "Fishing The Finger Lakes: A Complete Guide to Prime Fishing Locations in Central New York State (9781580801720, PB $16.95, Kindle $10.49, 256pp.)
Wayne D. Overholser
Five Star Books
10 Water Street, Suite 310, Waterville, ME 04901
9781432828516, $25.95, 182pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Clay Roland, marshal of Paiute City, was on the street when the young stranger rode into town. Clay's experience as a lawman told him that a stranger might mean trouble for him. He was in the open -- his badge was visible. However, the stranger ignored him, riding to the livery stable and putting up his horse. The stranger's next stop was Kelly's Bar. Clay went over to the livery to ask if the stranger had stated his business. He had. He was looking for Marshal Clay Roland. Then two shots were heard from Kelly's Bar, and the stranger was dead. Clay learns the stranger had a letter for him, now in the hands of the man who shot the stranger, Blacky Doane. Clay confronts Doane. Clay gets the letter and Doane leaves town. The letter is from a lawyer in Painted Rock, a distant town in the shadow of Skull Mesa. Clay's father has died, leaving him the Bar C Ranch. But there is trouble at Skull Mesa, and Clay should keep his arrival a secret. The letter poses questions to which Clay has no answers, and there is only one thing to do.
Critique: Wayne Overholser is a master of the western genre with his newest title from Five Star Books being "Skull Mesa" where is writes with his usual flair for deftly crafted plot twists, turns and surprises. A solid entertainment from first page to last, "Skull Mesa" is a must for his legions of fans and a very highly recommended addition to community library collections.
Why Government Fails So Often
Peter H. Schuck
Princeton University Press
41 William Street, Princeton, NJ 08540
9780691161624, $27.95, 488pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: From healthcare to workplace conduct, the federal government is taking on ever more responsibility for managing our lives. At the same time, Americans have never been more disaffected with Washington, seeing it as an intrusive, incompetent, wasteful giant. The most alarming consequence of ineffective policies, in addition to unrealized social goals, is the growing threat to the government's democratic legitimacy. Understanding why government fails so often--and how it might become more effective--is an urgent responsibility of citizenship. In "Why Government Fails So Often: And How It Can Do Better", Peter H. Schuck (Simeon E. Baldwin professor of Law emeritus, Yale University) argues that Washington's failures are due not to episodic problems or partisan bickering, but rather to deep structural flaws that undermine every administration, Democratic and Republican. These recurrent weaknesses include unrealistic goals, perverse incentives, poor and distorted information, systemic irrationality, rigidity and lack of credibility, a mediocre bureaucracy, powerful and inescapable markets, and the inherent limits of law. To counteract each of these problems, Professor Schuck proposes numerous achievable reforms, from avoiding moral hazard in student loan, mortgage, and other subsidy programs, to empowering consumers of public services, simplifying programs and testing them for cost-effectiveness, and increasing the use of "big data." "Why Government Fails So Often: And How It Can Do Better" also examines successful policies (including the G.I. Bill, the Voting Rights Act, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and airline deregulation) to highlight the factors that made them work.
Critique: A masterwork of political analysis from beginning to end, "Why Government Fails So Often: And How It Can Do Better" is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. Very highly recommended for academic and community library Political Science collections, "Why Government Fails So Often: And How It Can Do Better" is an impressive work of meticulous scholarship that is so well written and presented that it is equally accessible for political science students and non-specialist general readers with an interest in understanding the mechanics, development, and implementation issues concerning governmental policies on the federal level.
The Best American Newspaper Narratives of 2012
George Getschow, editor
University of North Texas Press
PO Box 311336, Denton, TX 76203-1336
9781574415490, $19.95, 224pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: This anthology collects the ten winners of the 2012 Best American Newspaper Narrative Writing Contest at the Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Conference, which is hosted by the Frank W. Mayborn Graduate Institute of Journalism at the University of North Texas. The contest honors exemplary narrative work and encourages narrative nonfiction storytelling at newspapers across the United States.
Critique: Each entry is skillfully written and ranges from Eli Saslow's 'Life of a Salesman' (The Washington Post); to John Branch's 'The Avalance at Tunnel Creek' (The New York Times); to Louis Hansen's 'The Girl Who Took Down the Gang' (The Virginian-Pilot); to Martin Kuz's 'Soldiers Recount 60-Second Attack That Left Them Reflecting on Life and Death' (Stars and Stripes). Minor masterpieces of journalism all, "The Best American Newspaper Narratives of 2012" is a very highly recommended addition to community and academic library collections, and would make invaluable reading for both journalism students and working journalists alike.
University of West Alabama
Station 22, Livingston, AL 35470
9781604891294, $16.95, 151pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Chalmers Plumb has one goal: to win a national rapids race so he can manufacture and sell his father's canoe design. But reality keeps interfering. His father is murdered on a night run by barbed wire strung across the river and now Chalmers has been searching for clues to the murder, carrying his father's pistol. Then, while practicing a run in his canoe Chalmers saves Livia, a Romanian sculptress, from attempted suicide. She takes this as a sign, moving in with him. Trouble is, the local preacher does not like the fact that this 'foreign woman' starts swimming nude in the river's Baptismal pool and feels he must denounce her as demon seed at a Sunday church meeting. In a tight rural mining community -- this is not good!
Critique: An exceptionally well crafted work of contemporary fiction, "Plumb's Bluff" showcases author Scott Ely as a gifted storyteller with extraordinary talents as a novelist. Entertaining, engaging, and uncommonly well written from beginning to end, "Plumb's Bluff" is very highly recommended for both personal reading lists and community library Contemporary Fiction collections.
Heart of Palms: My Peace Corps Years in Tranquilla
Meredith W. Cornett
The University of Alabama Press
PO Box 870380, Tuscaloosa, AL 35487-0380
9780817318185, $29.95, 176pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Heart of Palms" is a clear-eyed memoir of Meredith W. Cornett's Peace Corps service in the rural Panamanian village of Tranquilla through the eyes of a young American woman trained as a community forester. Panama is the slender isthmus that connects two continents and two oceans. In her memoir, Meredith Cornett transports readers to the remote village of Tranquilla, where dugout canoes are the mainstay of daily transportation, life and nature are permeated by witchcraft, and a restful night's sleep may be disturbed by a raiding phalanx of army ants. Cornett is sent to help counter the rapid deforestation that is destroying the ecosystem and livelihoods of the Panama Canal watershed region. Her first chapters chronicle her arrival and struggles not only with the social issues of language, loneliness, and insecurity, but also with the tragicomic basics of mastering open-fire cookery and intrusions by insects and poisonous snakes. As she grows to understand the region and its people, her keen eye discerns the overwhelming scope of her task. Unable to plant trees faster than they are lost, she writes with moving clarity about her sense of powerlessness. Combating deforestation leads Cornett into an equally fierce battle against her own feelings of fear and isolation. Her journey to Panama becomes a parallel journey into herself. In this way, Heart of Palms is much more than a record of her Peace Corps service; it is also a moving environmental coming-of-age story and nuanced meditation on one village's relationship to nature. When she returns home two years later, Cornett brings with her both skills and experience and a remarkable, newfound sense of confidence and mission.
Critique: The Peace Corps is a volunteer program run by the United States government. The stated mission of the Peace Corps includes providing technical assistance, helping people outside the United States to understand American culture, and helping Americans to understand the cultures of other countries. The work is generally related to social and economic development. Each program participant, a Peace Corps Volunteer, is an American citizen, typically with a college degree, who works abroad for a period of two years after three months of training. "Heart of Palms: My Peace Corps Years in Tranquilla" showcases what the mission of the Peace Corps is all about and illustrates one Peace Corp worker's personal experiences in a deftly written and informative memoir. Written with candor, wit, and descriptive insight, "Heart of Palms: My Peace Corps Years in Tranquilla" is a very highly recommended read and would make an enduringly popular addition to both academic and community library American Biography & Memoir collections. It should also be noted that "Heart of Palms: My Peace Corps Years in Tranquilla" is also available in a Kindle edition ($18.84).
Love and Fury: A Memoir
25 Beacon Street, Boston, MA 02108-2892
9780807044711, $24.95, 224pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Richard Hoffman sometimes felt as though he had two fathers: the real one who raised him and an imaginary version, one he talked to on the phone, and one he talked to in his head. Although Hoffman was always close to the man, his father remained a mystery, shrouded in a perplexing mix of tenderness and rage. When his father receives a terminal cancer diagnosis, Hoffman confronts the depths and limitations of their lifelong struggle to know each other, weighing their differences and coming to understand that their yearning and puzzlement was mutual. With familial relationships at its center, "Love and Fury: A Memoir" draws connections between past and present, from the author's grandfather, a "breaker boy" sent down into the anthracite mines of Pennsylvania at the age of ten, to his young grandson, whose father is among the estimated one million young black men incarcerated today. In a critique of culture and of self, Hoffman grapples with the way we have absorbed and incorporated the compelling imagery of post WWII America and its values, especially regarding class, war, women, race, masculinity, violence, divinity, and wealth.
Critique: Memoir is a literary nonfiction genre. More specifically, it is a collection of memories that an individual writes about moments or events, both public or private that took place in the author's life. The assertions made in the work are understood to be factual. While memoir has historically been defined as a subcategory of autobiography since the late 20th century, the genre is differentiated in form, presenting a narrowed focus. Like most autobiographies, memoirs are written from the first-person point of view. An autobiography tells the story of a life, while memoir tells a story from a life, such as touchstone events and turning points from the author's life. Richard Hoffman's story as related in "Love and Fury: A Memoir", is immensely personal, candid, exceptionally well written, and compelling from beginning to end. Very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library American Biography collections, it should be noted that "Love and Fury: A Memoir" is also available in a Kindle edition ($13.99).
World of Trouble
215 Church Street, Philadelphia PA 19106
9781594746857, $14.95, 320pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: With the doomsday asteroid looming, Detective Hank Palace has found sanctuary in the woods of New England, secure in a well-stocked safe house with other onetime members of the Concord police force. But with time ticking away before the asteroid makes landfall, Hank's safety is only relative, and his only relative - his sister Nico - isn't safe. Soon, it's clear that there's more than one earth-shattering revelation on the horizon, and it's up to Hank to solve the puzzle before time runs out . . . for everyone.
Critique: The third and last volume in the Edgard Award inning 'Last Policeman" trilogy by Ben Winters, "World of Trouble" continues to document author Ben Winters as a master of the mystery/suspense genre. Very highly recommended for personal and community library collections, it should be noted that "World of Trouble" is also available in a Kindle edition. For those to whom "World of Trouble" is their first introduction to this highly acclaimed series, the first two volumes are "The Last Policeman" (9781594746741, PB $14.95, Kindle $8.52, 336pp), and "Countdown City" (9781594746260, PB $14.95, Kindle $9.99, 320pp).
The Splintered Paddle
Five Star Books
10 Water Street, Suite 310, Waterville, ME 04901
MM Book Publicity
9781432828592, $25.95, 303pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Private eye Ava Rome's calling is to protect the defenseless. She takes on the cases of Jenny Mordan, a working girl who is being harassed by a police detective, and Cassie Sands, a teenager who is mixed up with a marijuana grower. Norman Traxler did ten years in San Quentin nurturing his hatred of Ava Rome, the young MP who took him down for assaulting a prostitute. When Traxler, the detective and the grower join forces against her, Ava's calling, protecting the defenseless, becomes a fight for her life.
Critique: Set against the background of Waikiki, Hawaii, Mark Troy's latest Ava Rome detective novel, "The Splintered Paddle", is a solid entertainment from first page to last and again documents author Mark Troy's impressive narrative skills as a mystery thriller novelist able to craft memorable characters and embed them into a deftly woven story of unexpected twists, turns, and surprises. Very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Mystery/Suspense collections, it should be noted that "The Splintered Paddle" is also available in a Kindle edition ($3.19).
Cinco Puntos Press
701 Texas, El Paso, Texas 79901
9781935955719, $15.95, 280pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: A son and his father struggle to hold onto what they think is right. It's mid-1990s; and "cold type" technology, a.k.a. computerized typesetting, wreaks havoc among workers in the newspaper industry. A fabulously wealthy Briton buys the New York City Trib and immediately refuses to negotiate with the truck drivers' union. In solidarity, all the other blue collar unions take to the streets. Jamie Kramer is a reporter for the Trib. His father is a hardcore shop steward (unusual for a Jew in Irish-dominated unions) from the old day of "hot type," but who has become a typographer in a world he doesn't understand. His father expects Jamie not to cross the picket line. It would be an act of supreme disrespect. But that's not so easy for Jamie. His marriage has fallen apart, he desperately needs his paycheck for child support, and he needs to make his own life outside the shadow of his father.
Critique: An impressively crafted original novel that takes on classic themes of generational family issues exacerbated by the recent and continuing history of a changing newspaper industry brought about by the inevitable advances of technology. Harvey Araton is a gifted novelist whose "Cold Type" is a solid entertainment from first page to last. Very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library Contemporary Fiction collections, it should be noted that "Cold Type" is also available in both a hardcover edition (9781935955887, $24.95) and a Kindle edition ($9.99).
Can Science Fix Climate Change?
c/o Blackwell Publishing
350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148
9780745682068, $12.95, 144pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Climate change seems to be an insurmountable problem. Political solutions have so far had little impact. Some scientists are now advocating the so-called 'Plan B', a more direct way of reducing the rate of future warming by reflecting more sunlight back to space, creating a thermostat in the sky. In "Can Science Fix Climate Change: A Case Against Climate Engineering", Mike Hulme (Professor of Climate and Culture, King's College, London, England) argues against this kind of hubristic techno-fix. Drawing upon a distinguished career studying the science, politics and ethics of climate change, Professor Hulme shows why using science to fix the global climate is undesirable, ungovernable and unattainable. Science and technology should instead serve the more pragmatic goals of increasing societal resilience to weather risks, improving regional air quality and driving forward an energy technology transition. Seeking to reset the planet's thermostat is not the answer.
Critique: As informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "Can Science Fix Climate Change: A Case Against Climate Engineering" is an exceptional and highly recommended contribution to the current national discussion of climate change, it's impact, and what can and cannot be done about it. Exceptionally well written and presented, "Can Science Fix Climate Change: A Case Against Climate Engineering" will prove to be of immense interest to students of climatology as well as the non-specialist general reader with an interest in climate change issues. Highly recommended for academic and community library collections, it should be noted that "Can Science Fix Climate Change: A Case Against Climate Engineering" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
Project 9: The Birth of the Air Commandos in World War II
Dennis R. Okerstrom
University of Missouri Press
2910 LeMone Boulevard, Columbia, MO 65201
9780826220271, $29.95, 312pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Project 9: The Birth of the Air Commandos in World War II" is a thoroughly researched narrative of the Allied joint project to invade Burma by air. Beginning with its inception at the Quebec Conference of 1943 and continuing through Operation Thursday until the death of the brilliant British General Orde Wingate in March 1944, less than a month after the successful invasion of Burma, Project 9 details all aspects of this covert mission, including the selection of the American airmen, the procurement of the aircraft, the joint training with British troops, and the dangerous night-time assault behind Japanese lines by glider.
Based on review of hundreds of documents as well as interviews with surviving Air Commandos, this is the history of a colorful, autonomous, and highly effective military unit that included some of the most recognizable names of the era. Tasked by the General of the Army Air Forces, H. H. "Hap" Arnold, to provide air support for British troops under the eccentric Major General Wingate as they operated behind Japanese lines in Burma, the Air Commandos were breaking entirely new ground in operational theory, tactics, and inter-Allied cooperation. Dennis Okerstrom's in-depth research and analysis in "Project 9" shed light on the operations of America's first foray into special military operations, when these heroes led the way for the formation of modern special operations teams such as Delta Force and Seal Team Six.
Critique: "Project 9: The Birth of the Air Commandos in World War II" is an impressive work of meticulous scholarship by Dennis R. Okerstrom (Professor of English, Park University) and an invaluable contribution to the growing body of World War II literature. Informed and informative, deftly written and superbly presented, "Project 9: The Birth of the Air Commandos in World War II" is very highly recommended for personal, academic, and community library Military Studies reference collections and supplemental reading lists.
The Land Between the Lakes
Ronald A. Foresta
The University of Tennessee Press
293 Communications Building, Knoxville, TN 37996-0325
9781572338630, $67.00, 308pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Between Barkley and Kentucky Lakes - two great, artificial bodies of water in western Tennessee and western Kentucky - lies a wooded land that looks from above like the flattened thumb of a green giant. Once a land of marginal farms and small settlements, this 240-square-mile peninsula, known as the Land Between the Lakes, has been a national recreation area for the last half-century. Its rolling, wooded hills and open bottomlands give the place charm but little majesty. The place swallows up its few campgrounds and visitors they attracts, creating a vacuous tranquility. "The Land Between the Lakes: A Geography of the Forgotten Future" explores how this forgotten and bypassed region became a national recreation area. "The Land Between the Lakes: A Geography of the Forgotten Future" uses environmental history to retrieve our old attitudes toward nature, progress, and personal development, as well as retrieving a vision of the future that rallied idealists, intellectuals, and even public officials to its banner.
In the early 1960s, the Tennessee Valley Authority set out to create a great park for posterity at the Land Between the Lakes. The park was to host the vast stretches of leisure that wealthy, secure, and more equal Americans of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries would have at their disposal. It would be a place where such Americans could turn that leisure into happiness, psychic well-being, and strength of character. The TVA cleared the land of its inhabitants to create the park, removing people from their homes and severing their roots, thus effacing the history of the place. It then set about reshaping the land in the image of an anticipated future. But when that future never arrived, managers struggled to fit the place to the America that actually came into being. In the end they failed, leaving the 'Land Between the Lakes' enveloped in a haunting sense of emptiness.
A deft blend of environmental history, geography, politics, and cultural history, "Land Between the Lakes" demonstrates both the idealism of mid-twentieth-century planners and how quickly such idealism can fall out of alignment with the flow of history. In so doing it explores a forgotten vision of the future that was in many ways more appealing than the present that came into being in its place.
Critique: Informed and informative, enhanced with the inclusion of 54 pages of Notes, a list of Sources Cited, a comprehensive index, and a deftly written model of meticulous scholarship from beginning to end, "The Land Between the Lakes: A Geography of the Forgotten Future" by Ronald A. Foresta (Professor of Geography, University of Tennessee - Knoxville) is a masterpiece of environmental research and presentation that should be a part of every academic library collection.
Executing The Supply Chain
Alexandre Oliveira & Anne Gimeno
Pearson FT Press
c/o Pearson Technology Group
801 East 96th Street, #300, Indianapolis, IN 46240-3759
9780133764383, $79.99, 224pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Executing the Supply Chain offers expert guidance on driving maximum business value from modern supply chain process mapping and performance measurement. Pioneering supply chain practitioners Alexandre Oliveira and Anne Gimeno introduce powerful techniques for linking processes to customer and shareholder results, systematically managing risk, and increasing resilience across even the most complex supply chain. Oliviera and Gimeno carefully introduce key process mapping and measurement concepts, thoroughly explain each relevant technique, and present proven applications and best practices from many of the world's best companies. "Executing The Supply Chain" explains how to use process maps to establish more effective controls, manage operations more successfully, and drive profitable change; how to clarify expected results from each process and participant, assign specific responsibilities, strengthen accountability, identify opportunities for improvement, and successfully drive the changes needed; align vision and action throughout the supply chain, thereby delivering far more value to both customers and shareholders; how to go beyond "flows" to create process maps that make your supply network mechanisms 100% visible, and so much more.
Critique: Informed and informative, "Executing the Supply Chain: Modeling Best-in-Class Processes and Performance Indicators" is an ideal instruction guide that is especially recommended to anyone charged with supply chain development, management, and strategy responsibilities. An invaluable addition to corporate, academic, and community library Business Studies reference collections, it should be noted that "Executing the Supply Chain: Modeling Best-in-Class Processes and Performance Indicators" is also available in a Kindle edition ($45.99).
The Overlook Press
141 Wooster Street, New York, NY 10012
9781590207796, $25.95, 320pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Trouble is brewing on the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire. The troops are in a deplorable state, while the corrupt behavior of their senior officers threatens to undermine the army's control of the region. To restore the competence of the men defending a vital fort, two experienced centurions are dispatched to Judea. On their arrival Macro and Cato discover that Bannus, a local tribesman, is fomenting rebellion amongst the followers of Jehoshua, who was crucified in Jerusalem some seventeen years earlier. As the local revolt grows, Rome's longstanding enemy Parthia is poised to invade. Macro and Cato must stamp out corruption in the cohort and restore it to fighting fitness before the Eastern provinces are lost forever.
Critique: The sequel to Simon Scarrow's historical novel "The Blood Crows" (Headbook Book Publishing, 9780755353804, $20.72, HC, 512pp; 9780755399659, $8.48, PB, 512pp; $12.99 Kindle), originally published in the UK as The Eagle in the Sand and available for the first time in the US, "The Zelot" continues the story of legionaries Cato and Macro in a riveting novel enhanced with accurate historical detail deftly interwoven into a superbly crafted story of the Rome Empire. Very highly recommended and entertaining reading, "The Zelot" is also available in a paperback edition (9781468310153, $16.95, 320pp) and a Kindle edition ($12.99).
Blood On The Land
Lindford Western Library
c/o Ulverscroft Large Print (USA), Inc.
PO Box 1230, West Seneca, NY 14224-1230
9781444818840, $20.00, 336pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: 1844. British Army officer Thomas Collins is sent to the fledgling Republic of Texas to meet the legendary President Sam Houston and negotiate terms for the British Empire's involvement in his country. What Thomas finds is a world of subterfuge and danger, and a republic scourged by an implacable and deadly enemy, the Comanche Nation. Collins' desperate fight for survival brings him into contact with Captain Jack Coffee Hays and his Texas Rangers, and ends in a lethal climax aboard a docked paddlewheel steamer.
Critique: With a superbly crafted story that is enhanced by meticulously accurate historical facts such as the types of pistols and the use of shotguns of the era, "Blood On The Land" is a gripping entertainment of the first caliber from beginning to end. Replete with unexpected plot twists and turns throughout, "Blood On The Land" is very highly recommended reading for fans of the western genre, and this large print edition would prove to be an extraordinarily popular addition to any community library collection.
c/o Tor/Forge Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765336927, $26.99, www.amazon.com
In the shining presence and love of God, all your unhappiness shrinks to manageable size or melts away completely. That loving presence appears when you to take in the word of God. Specifically, you ingest it on a small square of paper and a chemical in the ink gets your brain to make you have this religious experience. That chemical is a drug called Numinous, and it's in Daryl Gregory's new novel Afterparty.
Afterparty's main character is a scientist named Lyda Rose. Lyda was part of the team that developed Numinous. They were trying to create a treatment to heal schizophrenia, and they created a substance that destroyed their lives and the lives of many others. The novel opens with Lyda in a mental institution as a result of an overdose of Numinous. She believes the drug has been successfully kept off the streets but then another patient is committed, suffering from the destructive effects of withdrawal from Numinous. Lyda breaks out of the mental hospital in order to find and stop whoever is supplying Numinous. Doing so leads Lyda and the reader through neighborhood drug dealers' homes in Toronto, across the border with cigarette smugglers, and to millionaires' mansions and lofts in New York and the American Southwest. As Lyda picks apart the mystery of who is dealing Numinous, Gregory uses Lyda's memories to reveal the mystery of Numinous's creation and what it did to the lives of Lyda and her fellow scientists.
As in Gregoy's other novels - Raising Stony Mayhall, Pandemonium, and the Devil's Alphabet - the main characters struggle to restore strained or broken relationships while coping with forces beyond their control, including other humans' efforts to hurt other over for petty, short-sighted reasons. While Gregory describes impossible circumstances, he uses those circumstances to describe real human drama. The characters' griefs and loves and rages are believable and compelling. In Afterparty we see more of the parent-child relationship from the parent side this time; in Gregory's other novels and several of his short stories we see that relationship from the adult child's perspective. Having my own kids, but I enjoyed reading characters who are more preoccupied with their kids than their parents.
The world Gregory imagines is interesting in exactly the right way - I kept thinking about various aspects of it, because he showed just enough to advance the plot and to make it tantalizing. There weren't any "get on with it" moments; I always wanted to hear more. In the world of the novel, with the right kind of expensive chemical printer, raw materials, and chemical blue prints, you can make drugs at home. The book doesn't discuss the medical possibilities, focusing instead on recreational chemical use, and the scenario's believable: people will get high in increasingly varied and creative ways. And in social ways.
Social drug use stands out in the novel. Drugs here aren't an individual moral or existential dilemma so much as an understandable or at least predictable choice that many people opt for in imperfect circumstances. Often in the novel it seems like the issue is less drugs yes or no and more getting the meds right for people's needs. People in the novel incorporate altered perceptions and behavior into their social lives, or they use drugs to enhance their performance in professional settings, or they take palliative drugs to cope with the symptoms of the ways they have been harmed, all of which seem to arise from social circumstances larger than the characters and out of their control. Often the results of all this drug-taking leads to worse and more out of control circumstances, which leads to greater drug use, whether of the self-medicating over the counter (or around the back in the alley) variety or of the prescription kind.
That all rings true to my experience with people's use of drugs, and of religion. I've known a lot of people who have moved from intense drug use to intense religious devotion, and sometimes back, and often more than once. Those experiences are highly charged; I can still get angry remembering some of them. Knowing how easy it is to get angry and reduce people to their worst behavior, I especially appreciated Gregory empathetic treatment of the users of Numinous, a religion-drug and drug-religion. In awful circumstances, including the ways awful circumstances can echo (or worse, amplify) in our memories long afterward, who wouldn't want what this chemical offers? That's part of what makes it so destructive as well: what if you can't get it anymore? You go from experiencing the physical presence of God and the certainty of divine love to the newly perceptible absence of that presence and love. That loss is hard to cope with. It's a bit like what it might feel like to be Adam and Eve after the expulsion from the Garden of Eden.
Sure that loss feels real, but is really real, if it's all just chemicals and electrical charges in the brain? That question opens onto others. Are our thoughts, emotions, and decisions all just squirts and sparks in gray sponges inside our skulls? Are mental events like falling in love reducible to brain events like neurons firing? Gregory's characters occasionally get into these questions but the novel doesn't try to answer them. The discussions are thought-provoking without being slow or being pseudo-profound. If this makes the novel sound like an abstract concept book, it's not. The book revolves around unraveling mysteries through clues found at the scene of a murder, and finding new mysteries after standoffs and gun battles, punctuated by introspective moments in the form of religious experiences induced by custom-made drugs and parables excerpted from a book that may or may not exist.
Afterparty's a smart, thoughtful book, and it's a page-turner. I got home with my copy at five or six in the evening Saturday, read it in the moments I could grab while cooking dinner and hanging out with my kids, stayed up way too late reading it, then did the same again on Sunday. I went to work Monday tired and with a book hangover, but with no regrets. I didn't eat the paper, opting instead to ingest it with my eyes, but I still found Afterparty to be a mind-altering substance.
Hyperbole and a Half
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020
9781451666175, $17.99, www.amazon.com
Sometimes Allie Brosh hates herself. Sometimes she's selfish and self-obsessed. She writes with startling emotional honesty about both. Equally striking is that she writes about these experiences with surprising humor, as when she describes her resentful trip to the video store to return overdue movies after being too depressed to leave the house. Or when her mother is upset at the revelation that her daughter doesn't want to live anymore and Brosh comforts her by saying "Shhhh, it's okay, life is meaningless anyway... Can I get you some juice or something?"
"Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened" collects material from Brosh's blog of the same name and new material. The book is a mix of personal essays and memoir, illustrated with Brosh's deliberately crude artwork. She depicts herself visually as a hunched pink and white lump with a spike of yellow hair and a twisted smiley face. The art makes the stories funnier - because of the juxtaposition of serious emotional content, cursing, and what look like children's drawings - and makes the stories more relatable - her smiley-faced characters seem more universal for the lack of detail. The artfulness of the art is also easy to overlook: Brosh works in Microsoft Paint. This is a kind of artistic limitation turned into opportunity. Her extensive illustrations are something like assembling a model of the Eiffel Tower out of sea glass.
While some of the piece in the book are quite emotionally heady, others are much more light-hearted. For instance, there is a story about a time when a goose ran in the front door of Brosh's house and chased her and her boyfriend around their couch. They trap the goose in the kitchen and momentarily consider never cooking again. The shift back and forth from lighthearted stories to darker subjects, combined with the deliberately child-like illustrations, helps convey to the reader a sense that everything will ultimately work out, even if the characters can't currently see how. That's especially important in her stories about depression, as she narrates the loss of any sense of possibility and any ability to motivate herself to do even basic daily tasks. The humor helps as well. The laughs serve to sweeten the more bitter elements of the book. I could imagine the depressions stories being important to people experiencing depression, as a reflection of their experiences and a demonstration (as distinct from an argument) that depression can end and things can get better. I could also imagine these stories helping people whose loved ones experience depression, to help them understand the condition and (as Brosh describes with great wit) what not to say to comfort a depression sufferer. Everyone else could just enjoy the fact that the book is very funny. No hyperbole at all -- on a recent family vacation the book had my wife and I bickering over whose turn it was to read the book before bed, reading parts of it to each other, and laughing out loud.
The Puzzle Box
Randy McCharles, et al.
Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy Publishing
P.O. Box 1714, Calgary AB, T2P2L7 Canada
9781770530409, $14.95 print / $4.99 Kindle, www.amazon.com
This book shows that reality is not what we think it is, and the key is a puzzle box.
Professor Albert Mallory has stolen an ancient puzzle box, and plans to sell it to pay gambling debts. The night before the debt comes due, a man named The Chronicler visits Mallory and demands to see the box. From the open box, Mallory watches the stories of four other people who opened the box.
Warlock is a roadie for a rock band. He falls for a woman who really is part of a coven of witches, which he is all set to join. Through the open box comes Satan, who offers a chance to become the band's lead singer, replacing the current lead singer who is in the hospital. Autumn Bailey was sent to Earth to live as a human until her 30th birthday. She actually has a very strong connection to Greek mythology.
Angela Matterly is a video store clerk who likes to wear cats-eye contact lenses. One night, Roger, a fellow employee, gets the box open, and out pops an eight-foot tall djinn named Skip. Angela is offered three wishes, but there is a time limit. She uses one of the wishes, but things turn very bad, so she is able to put things back the way they were. Things get complicated when Angela learns that Ellen, her mother, and Skip, the djinn, already know each other (it's not what you are thinking).
Sam is a comic book artist who meets Lucy at an art show. Their relationship gets hot and heavy, until Lucy's ex-boyfriend interrupts them, carrying a shotgun. After he shoots Lucy, and then himself, things get weird.
These are all first-rate stories (personally, the second pair of stories are a little better than the first pair). They are well-done, and they are nice and weird. The reader will not go wrong with this book.
Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy Publishing
P.O. Box 1714, Calgary AB T2P 2L7 Canada
9781770530263, $15.95 print / $4.99 Kindle, www.amazon.com
This fantasy/romance tale takes place in a very stratified society.
Taya is an icarus, a courier (with metal wings) who can move freely between the social classes in the city of Ondinium. A person's class is tattooed on their forehead; only through reincarnation can a person rise in class.
One day, Taya saves an Exalted (members of the elite class) and her son from what could have been a mid-air disaster. There is a growing terrorism problem in Ondinium; was this their handiwork? Her heroism attracts the attention of Exalted Alister Forlore, a member of the ruling council (he is also very handsome). He also writes computer programs for the Great Engine, the analytical engine that helps to run the city. He has written a program that is supposed to predict a person's most compatible mate. Taya also meets Alister's brother, Christof. He is a sarcastic you-know-what who has renounced his Exalted status and lives in the Ondinium equivalent of the inner city.
Tempting as it is, Taya knows that having any sort of intimate relationship with an Exalted is a really bad idea. A few days later, an aircar in which Alister was supposed to be riding explodes in midair. There is no chance for a definite identification of the dead, but everyone assumes that Alister is dead. It becomes known that someone has been trying to run unauthorized programs in the Great Engine, which is a huge offense, even for an Exalted. Taya and Christof learn, to their shock, that Alister staged his own death, and that his personal-compatibility program is only the beginning of his plans for the people of Ondinium.
I totally enjoyed this book. It's got steampunk, and it's got really good writing that is easy to read. It also has a bit of romance. I am very interested in reading the other parts of this trilogy (whenever they are available).
Vyrkarion: The Talisman of Anor
Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
P.O. Box 1714, Calgary AB T2P 2L7 Canada
9781770530287, $16.95 print / $4.99 Kindle, www.amazon.com
Last of a trilogy, this fantasy tale takes place on a planet with nine different races. For the humans, an ever-present threat is of being enslaved by a race of shape-changing lizard people. There's also an ancient prophecy whose time has come.
While traveling, a young noblewoman named Alanna meets Myrriden, a wizard who is also bearer of Vyrkarion, one of eight living crystals. Myrriden makes Alanna Vyrkarion's new bearer. He had little choice; he was dying at the time. Myrriden tells Alanna that she must be trained in how to handle a living crystal by a famous wizard named Jerevan. (In part 2 of this trilogy, Jerevan was given a very advanced curse by another wizard. It's the sort of curse that can only be lifted by Jerevan becoming an "expert" wizard.) Alanna is very aware of Jerevan's past, so she would rather get her training from anyone else.
Aavik is the leader of the isklarin (the lizard people). He is very aware of Vyrkarion's change in "ownership," and makes plans to get the crystal for himself.
Rhys Cinnac is cousin of the king, and also bearer of Cyrkarion, another of the living crystals. He is most interested in the part of the prophecy which says that the king will die, and a child will be saved. Could the child be Aubrey Cinnac, legitimate heir to the throne? He acts incredibly mature for his age. Can Alanna get over her strong dislike for Jerevan, and let him train her, so Aubrey can stay alive, and help the crystal to show its full power?
This is an excellent novel, and trilogy. The author does a fine job from start to finish, with the storytelling, the society-building, and the wizardry (and other weird stuff). It is very much worth reading.
Del Rey Books
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York NY 10014
9780345539786, $25.00, www.amazon.com
First of a trilogy, this book is all about revolution, and love.
Darrow has spent his entire life as a miner, living underground on Mars. Part of a colony whose job is to mine Helium, all of the miners have been told, for many years, that the surface is uninhabitable. They are helping to build a new human society on Mars. Doubts enter into Darrow's mind after his wife is murdered by the brutal, sadistic government. Recruited by a secret underground group, Darrow learns that, for the past couple of hundred years, the miners have been Really Lied To.
The usual revolt would be crushed within a couple of days, so Darrow is given a different assignment. Months are spent turning him into a member of the elite class, both physically and mentally. He is to infiltrate the elite class, and become one of them. After he has risen to a senior position in the regime, then he will bring it down from the inside.
Along with a couple of dozen other young people, Darrow becomes a student at an institute to decide the next member of the ruling class. Split into several groups, they are each assigned to a castle in a river valley, and told to go from there. What follows is a Hunger Games-style competition, with real casualties, to winnow down the field. Darrow shows real leadership, and plenty of guts. Another student, the son of one of the rulers, is "supposed" to win, but Darrow isn't going to follow along. Does Darrow pull off an unauthorized win? Does he even survive?
This one is a gem of a story. It has everything; a brutal government and dystopian society, growing revolution, young people and some possibilities for romance. It also has an easy to read story. This is very much worth reading.
Paul Lappen, Reviewer
I'm My Own Dog
David Ezra Stein
99 Dover Street, Somerville, MA 02144
9781406358193, $15.99, www.amazon.com
This little bulldog is so completely on his own he doesn't even have a name. He doesn't like to be told what to do. He can throw his own sticks and lick his own face. Being his own dog seems to be working out quite well for him until one day he has an itch he can't scratch. So he lets a guy scratch his back. Of course the guy follows him home, which by the way is not too shabby. What follows is a fun play on role reversal as the dog trains the guy to do the things he likes to do. Along the way he even learns to put up with the guy's annoying habits. Stein's lively ink and watercolor illustrations show the high energy and emotions of one independent little dog with a big heart. "I'm My Own Dog" is definitely a keeper.
A Piece of Cake
Balzar + Bray
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061992643, $16.99, www.amazon.com
It's Little Bird's birthday and Mouse baked a cake. On his way to deliver the cake to Little Bird he meets up with Chicken, Squirrel, Bear, and Cow. Each one offers him a bribe in the form of an odd trade for a piece of cake. Although the items seem rather useless to him, Mouse is far too kind to say "no." Alas, by the time he arrives at Little Bird's house the cake has disappeared. No worries. Clever Little Bird hatches a plan to trade each of the items for the ingredients to make a bigger and better birthday cake, and a birthday party, too. Pham's digitally enhanced cartoon drawings are vibrant and spice up this story with plenty of playfulness. "A Piece of Cake" is the perfect birthday book with a tasty twist.
Peggy Tibbetts, Reviewer
Regine's Book (a teen girl's last words)
Zest Books LLC
35 Stillman Street, Suite121, San Francisco, CA 94107
9781936976010, $9.99, 331 pages, www.amazon.com
Regine, was a seventeen year old girl whose life was filled with all the normal things you would expect of a girl her age. She had a great family and friends, all of whom she loved with all of her heart. She could hardly wait until she was eighteen and graduated from high school. Regine and her friends had already planned to go to the same college.
Regine had not felt good for a few months and her mom took her to the doctor and they took some test. Then Friday the 22nd of August 2008 the doctor called and told Regine's, mom Julianne, that Regine may have a rare form of Leukemia. They wanted her in the hospital where they could do testing right away.
When Regine got home that day she walked in and could see that her mom had been crying and asked her what was wrong? Her mom told her, and her world fell apart. She knew nothing would ever be the same. The girl that walked in the door, was nothing like the girl who would walk out.
Regine began writing in a blog about her life. She posted almost every day. She always received hundreds and even thousands of replies. She also had some good days and got to go to concerts with her best friend Eli Ann. Almost everyone in Norway knew of her and she got back stage passes, hotel accommodations, and even free food.
But as her deadly disease took a spiral she could not answer all of the people who posted on her blog. Regine wanted people to know what it was like living with cancer. She wanted to give people hope, and to teach them to appreciate each day they were alive. You will also read about medical terms and the research that is being done to try and help people. Her parents found a poem she had wrote before she died and I will leave you with it. "My path has only one direction, there are no signs, it's impossible to go to the left or right. It's impossible to turn, I can only go straight ahead, but the road is crooked, it's neither light nor dark in front of me. There's a fog. And no one knows what ....will be found on the other side."
Hamster Island: A Memoir
Twilight Times Books
P.O. Box 3340, Kingsport TN 37664
9781606190685, $17.95, 228 pages, www.amazon.com
I have often said, "How in the world do you rate a book on someone's life story?" Was the spelling and grammar correct? Yes as far as I can tell. Was it a fun and entertaining book? No it was not. Then why did I read the book? My answer is simple. It was real.
The author grew up in a family with a grandma who was a kleptomaniac, a mother who was a religious nut case, a dad who was never home and an older brother and younger sister who were special needs kids. I would say mentally challenge, but others would say they were retarded. In other words... a very dysfunctional family.
I admire the author's honesty throughout this book. She did not make herself out to be the perfect kid. She told it like it was. She did drugs, drank beer and tried to be away from home as much as she could growing up. Which often meant sneaking out of her home, or making up lies about where she was going.
Towards the end of the book I found it to be a little disjointed. I wrote the author about it. She said some things she was not willing to share. I can't blame her as we all have parts of our lives we do not want to share. Unless you are a perfect person. I don't know of one person who is.
After her grandma, mother and father died, she became the caretaker of her siblings. The author fought every agency she could to find a home or hospital to place them in. While we now have more ways to help; we still do not have enough.
B00LN6AQJA, $4.99 Kindle, 62 pages, www.amazon.com
Genre: short stories
A lovely collection of short stories.
This book is a collection of short stories, each possessing different themes, but all written in the style of writing that lovers of John Needham's other books will recognise.
John writes from experience, hindsight and observation. These stories are poignant, reflective, heartrending and celebratory, they will make you laugh, smile, think and reflect.
If you are a fan of fly on the wall stories or memoirs, you will love the way that his pen dips into the past as he captures the essence of life then, and the innocence of bygone days, in the first two of his short stories which are called Awakening and Skeggy Day Out.
Tantalisingly, Baby Blues is a taster for his next novel The One of Us. As two couples explore their thoughts and feelings whilst deciding whether they are going to adopt.
Of course everyone has fallen in love. Dream, Dream, Dream, takes its title from the famous song as one man reflects on life and love in the 50's.
Whilst in the final story a writer shares a little of himself in Another Spring...
Even though two of the stories are modified extracts from the author's novels Convergence and Forebears, the others are new, and I am confident in saying that fans of John's writing will not be disappointed in this new book.
Black Opal Books
9781626941380, $12.49 pbk. / $3.03 ebook, 316 Pages
New Release - A gripping crime thriller written by award winning Author Alan Brenham.
In Temple, Texas, Police Detective Matt Brady, assisted by FBI Special Agent Steve Casani, is investigating the disappearances of five beautiful women. Desperate, with no leads and the number of missing women growing at an alarming pace, Matt is desperate for answers.
Everyone knows that the person we become in life can be affected in a moment, by a word, or circumstance. The paths we take as a result and their consequences are sometimes, only discovered after the passing of time. These life-changing moments or words, for some people are stamped in their mind forever, silently festering and waiting to emerge, bringing back memories, which cloud the present.
This book is even more enjoyable because, whilst writing it, the author has been able to draw from his wealth and variety of personal experience in police and law, among which is his time as a Temple patrol officer and, Assistant General Counsel for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
A brilliantly written compelling thriller, action packed, clever and with twists and turns which are guaranteed to keep the reader guessing until the very end.
Black Horse Publishing
B00LP49BLE, $15.95 pbk. / $4.49 Kindle, 184 Pages, www.amazon.com
Genre: Action Adventure
This book begins way back in the past, and Governor Claiborne of Louisiana's refusal to meet with the pirate Jean Lafitte, denouncing him as a "Hellish Banditti," a decision which was to affect the lives of future generations of both families, and others.
For in 1813, the British had approached Jean Lafitte, asking them to join them in fighting the Americans, they had no idea of what sort of a man he was. He was a pirate, yes, but he was also a mason and lived his life by their codes of honour. Luckily, General Jackson recognised those codes and virtues also, and the rest as they say is history...
The decisions we make in life not only affect us, and the lives of those around us, but their repercussions can be felt, as ripples, far into the future. Eventually though these ripples do start to settle, and so it is, that through chance events and discoveries, the lives of two people, who had previously never met, converge.
The legacies, left to Eddie, and Julianna, bond them as they embark on their exciting and dangerous adventure. Following clues left in the past, they travel to New Orleans on their quest to discover the lost treasure, however, they are not the only ones who know about it, other's want it too, and will do anything to procure it.
This story, for me, it has all the vital ingredients, action, adventure, murder, mystery, and romance. This author's attention to detail has meant that he has also added a lot of fascinating history about New Orleans and the famous pirate Jean Lafitte.
Susan Keefe, Reviewer
Higgledy Piggledy: A Tale of Four Little Pigs
Dr. B. Seymour Rabinovitch with Rebecca S. Treger, authors
Mari Gayatri Stern, illustrator
Ruth A. Rabinovitch, editor
Roxy Ann Press
c/o Christian Book Distributors
140 Summit St., Peabody, MA 01960
9780988747401, $14.95, 42 pages, www.amazon.com
Have you ever felt that you did not fit in with your family or your friends? Have you ever been teased about being different? That is Higgledy Piggledy's problem.
In this happy little pig family, Curly, Twirly, Whirly, and Higgledy Piggledy live a content life baking apple pies, playing with butterflies and taking long naps. The only problem in any of their lives was that sometimes Higgledy Piggledy would be teased by Curly, Twirly, and Whirly. Why? Higgledy Piggledy's name did not rhyme with his brothers. Of course Curly, Twirly, and Whirly rhymed with each other and that made Higgledy Piggledy feel left out with his name that rhymed with itself. Three against one was not a good feeling.
That all was about to change with a new neighbor arrived, a big wolf.
Higgledy Piggledy is a classic fairy story based on a combination of tales from Jewish folklore and the classic tale of The Three Little Pigs. As all children's fairy stories, many of these were told from generation to generation matching the needs and personalities of the tale teller and the audience. It was not unusual for a tale after many tellings to be different from one town to the next evolving as it traveled.
The authors of Higgledy Piggledy add another valuable asset to this tale for the benefit for the adult readers of this book with an explanation of the last names used in the "New World of Opportunity", meaning North America and how the traditional family names were adapted to their new lives as well as their heritage.
Higgledy Piggledy is a delightful family story with illustrations perfectly matching the progression in the story. This version of the story is very family friendly and easy for children of all ages to understand especially with the pictures perfectly parallel to the story.
Dr. B. Seymour Rabinovitch is a retired professor of chemistry at the University of Washington in Seattle, Oregon. His granddaughter, Rebecca Simone Treger is currently studying medical research.
One unusual positive attribute to this book is the quality of the pages. These pages are thicker than an adult book page but thinner than a toddler book making it perfect for little and big hands as well as the glossy finish making it somewhat stain resistant, durable, and long lasting for generations.
Higgledy Piggledy is a thoughtful and insightful version of The Three Little Pigs with lessons of recognizing individuality and belonging.
Sharon Kay Penman
A Marion Wood Book
G. P. Putnam's Sons
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399157851, $28.95, Hardback, 594 pages, www.amazon.com
Legends often distort reality and for King Richard I of England that is certainly true. A king of England who fought his father, spent less than six months in England once he became king, and fought for Christianity during the Crusades. What made him a legend? How could a king who barely visited the country be considered one of the best kings?
Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine had five sons. Naturally, the eldest was expected to succeed as ruler of Britain. William died as a child with Henry dead as an adult, Richard, Geoffrey died in battle, John, and three daughters, for any mother of eight children, having an heir would seem like a simple task. However when the children were fighting with their father, Henry favored John as king while Eleanor expected and assisted with Richard.
Being that Richard was not originally considered to be king, he was granted his mother's inherited land of Aquitaine. However once Richard became king, he was expected to Aquitaine to John since he now possessed Britain.
Lionheart focuses on Richard's time in the Holy Land on the Third Crusade explaining his reasoning for many of the actions which created the legend. The details are so engrossing placing the reader back in 1189 on board a ship traveling to Sicily on the journey to Outremer where you feel the seasickness of those on board, even can visualize the horses on each ship and the multitude of challenges along the way.
Sharon Kay Penman is a spellbinding storyteller who has written many historical novels based on the history of Wales, Eleanor of Aquitaine and her second husband, Henry II, along with their children as well as four mysteries in the same time period. Her extensive research turns the legends of the past into reality.
In Lionheart, Saladin is an unusual character but Sharon Key Penman allows the reader to view him as a person with honor and an in-depth knowledge of people. This is rare in novels of the time period regarding the infidels.
Being that Richard's story is extensive, Lionheart is the first of a two novel set concluding with A King's Ransom which obviously is about when Richard was captured and held for ransom.
All of Penman's novels are rich with historical facts that are written into an intriguing story of the past.
I Want to Do Yoga Too
Carole P. Roman
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781475015584, $9.95, Paperback, 24 pages, www.amazon.com
When Hallie and her mother visit the yoga studio, Hallie is disappointed when her mother leaves her with Robin and other children while she has class. Hallie insists that she can do yoga too.
As Hallie continues to complain, Robin suggests that Hallie pretend to be a tree which is quiet and peaceful. Robin continues to instruct Hallie in creating airplane wings, a butterfly, and the cobra which were all quiet activities.
When her mother returns, Hallie is surprised that this make believe time really was yoga.
The drawings perfectly match Hallie's instruction essentially showing children how to begin basic yoga positions.
I Want to Do Yoga Too is a great way to introduce young children to yoga combining words and pictures into an easy to understand book for all ages. Ideally, this book is appropriate for children up to eight years old and would be perfect for those who are apprehensive about the mysterious word "yoga".
Carole Roman combines her busy life on Long Island being a grandmother and businesswoman after spending years as a social studies teacher.
I Want to Do Yoga Too is a perfect Mommy and Me book making yoga a fun, practical family activity for everyone.
Three Captain No Beard Stories
Carole P. Roman, author
133 Steep Mountain Ct., Livermore, CO 80536
Stuck in the Doldrums: A Lesson in Sharing
9781479182701, $9.99, 36pp
The Treasure of Snake Island
9781482390971, $9.99, 37pp
The Crew Goes Coconuts!
9781492162698, $11.99, 48pp
In Stuck in the Doldrums Captain No Beard, who in real life is a young boy named Alexander is continuing his adventures with Hallie, his cousin and first mate. This adventure maroons them on a desert island with their stuffed animals who miraculously come to life while his bed is transformed into a pirate ship with his bedroom being the ocean.
At first, Captain No Beard has problems sharing the spyglass and then he sees his crew building a sand castle. Being a captain, he feels that he needs to take over the design and the building. When others disagree with him, he becomes frustrated returning to his ship alone.
When the ship is attacked by a giant squid, he realizes that he needs his crew to save the ship. He cannot perform all the duties to save the ship alone. Will his crew members help him in time?
"Red sky at morning, sailors take warning, red sky at night, sailors' delight." This old-time weather saying is the theme for The Treasure of Snake Island. On this adventure, their pirate ship is in the middle of a dangerous storm while at sea, rocking and having problems in the storm. When it finally settles, the crew discovers a treasure map leading them to a buried treasure on Snake Island. What is the treasure? Is snake island infested with snakes?
With a goat joining the crew along with Cayla in The Crew Goes Coconuts!, teasing becomes the focus with a goat named Matie who is blamed for drinking all the juice. Captain No Beard investigates their problems by asking each crew member to state one good and one bad thing about themselves.
Carole P. Roman is a mother, grandmother, former social studies teacher, and author and illustrator of the Captain No Beard series where the children turn a bed into a ship and have a multitude of adventures. There are presently six books in this series. She also has written and illustrated a series of visits to other countries with If You Were Me and Lived In... series and a book about yoga, I Want to do Yoga Too.
Captain No Beard-An Imaginary Tale of a Pirate's Life has been awarded the Kirkus Reviews Best of 2012, the Star of Remarkable Merit, and the Pinnacle Award in 2012.
All of these short novels tell a delightful imaginary story involving Alexander and his cousin, Hallie on their pirate ship learning some basic vocabulary for pirates while also having a life lesson surrounding their latest adventure. The story and the pictures are perfectly parallel with the story so that non-readers can enjoy the tale by the illustrations again after the story is initially read aloud.
Have you ever dreamed of living on a ship in the vast ocean? Captain No Beard books can be enjoyed by the child in every one of us.
The Weight of Blood
Spiegel & Grau
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780912995206, $26.00, Hardcover, 322 pages, www.amazon.com
"You grow up feeling the weight of blood, of family. There's no forsaking kin. But you can't help when kin forsakes you or when stranger has come to be family."
Being a sixteen-year-old, Lucy Dane and wants a job. Currently she is working in her uncle's store doing whatever job he assigns her. Something just doesn't seem quite right to her though.
Added to that is the coincidence of Lucy's mother disappearing years ago. Could her mother have been killed? As she is maturing, she is looking more like her mother and for many people in this small Ozark Mountain town, that is a problem. It seems like the more questions Lucy asks, there are no answers but just more questions as to what happened to Lila.
Lucy's father, Carl spends much of his time working hard to keep a roof over their heads. He does not seem to trust his brother, Crete. Why?
Lucy is assigned the job of cleaning out an abandoned trailer owned by her uncle. In it she finds a necklace which belonged to Cheri, a mentally challenged close friend of her, who also disappeared. What does her uncle know about Cheri? Why did her uncle have the trailer removed and destroyed? Is he hiding something that he does not want her to know? Are there family secrets?
The Weight of Blood is a mystery with the reader wondering if the protagonist should solve the crime or to completely avoid the situation. Doing the right thing does not seem to always bring the right results.
As Lucy gets closer to the truth of the past, the reader walks the path along with her as each small discovery leads to a conclusion that she hopes is wrong.
"Now it ain't my place to tell you what to think of your own family, but you're got to look past what you've always been taught and listen to what you know in your bones to be true."
The characters are realistic in this gripping tale by Laura McHugh who builds her story on her own life growing up in small towns in Iowa and also living in the Ozark Mountain region of Missouri. As the story alternates from Lucy to Lila the perspectives are fascinating as people are viewed through the different lenses. The Weight of Blood is a haunting debut novel.
This is a story that I felt compelled to read after the first chapter but at the same time, fearful of what is unveiled on each page as the story progresses. As Lucy's mother was called "bewitched", The Weight of Blood is a bewitching tale of the cost of truth.
The Bloodletter's Daughter
A Novel of Old Bohemia
Lake Union Publishing
c/o Amazon Digital Publishing
9781612184654, $14.95, Trade Paperback, 490 pages, www.amazon.com
When the true story of insanity by an illegitimate child of a Hapsburg caused his father to lose his crown to his brother, Linda Lafferty retells the tale in a haunting page-tuner, The Bloodletter's Daughter.
The Hapsburg dynasty was legendary as rulers of The Holy Roman Empire, Germany, Sicily, Naples, Spain, Portugal, Hungary-Croatia, Bohemia which became the Czech Republic, and numerous principalities controlling much of Europe.
Whatever power the family possessed also created a situation for scandal. With a male heir being a concern for all rulers in early 1600s, an illegitimate son could be just as valued as one born into royalty. However, no one at that time had any idea about how to handle a mental illness.
King Rudolf II had only one child, Don Julius who was the illegitimate son of his mistress. With his brother, Maximillian threatening a take over, Rudolf felt that it was important for his son to possibly be his heir. However, the spoiled son probably suffered from schizophrenia and threatened the citizens of Vienna.
A priest suggested a possible solution to send the son to Prague and that with the assistance of the doctor, the son could be healed with the priest's guidance. By this time, Rudolf was beginning to feel desperate so he agreed with the condition that the son would not be released of his blood without his father's direct permission.
As the out-of-control man-boy prince entered the Bohemian city of Cesky Krumlov, the entire town was fearful. When a local barber who also was a bloodletter became involved, the prince began to leave world of insanity behind. This was a direct result of the bloodletter's daughter and her influence on the prince.
The story centers on Marketa and her challenges of the time period. Her mother runs a bath house where she is expected to work bathing men and to entice them while her heart is to follow her father's path as a bloodletter releasing the poisons from the body. Unfortunately in this time period, Marketa would never be able to pursue this male profession.
Lafferty bases her tale on the real events smoothly building upon the relationships between Marketa and those surrounding her and turns the facts into a gripping tale. With the smoothness of an experienced storyteller, The Bloodletter's Daughter, this is a tale that inhabits your every thought long after the last page.
Oh, Bury Me Not: A Conan Flagg Mystery
M. K. Wren
Untreed Reads Publishing
Previously Published in 1976
Martha K. Renfroe
e-book, $5.99 Kindle, 192 pages, www.amazon.com
"Desperation makes strange alliances."
Most of us hope to never feel the need to hire a private investigator. If you know someone who has worked as a P. I., would you hire someone you know or a stranger? Who would be the best?
George McFalls has made this decision. His family has been feuding with a neighboring family and he wants it to end. With both families living in the ranching areas of Oregon, cattle is dependent on a plentiful water supply as well as a trained staff. No one has the time or the patience for this feud where cattle is poisoned and fences cut.
George contacts his old-time friend and private investigator, Conan Flagg to hopefully stop the feud. The local law enforcement seems disinterested. George even arranges to fly Conan to the ranch.
However, George is killed when the reservoir was dynamited.
Being Conan spent his childhood is the area, he agrees to stay and attempts to stop the feud, hopefully without anyone else dying.
Conan also quickly learns the there are many secrets which complicate the feud. The sons, the McFalls have been in love with the daughters of the other. Already though, one daughter is dead and with George, that is a one-to-one death on both sides. While questioning is some of the siblings actually have any cares for each other, this Romeo and Juliet does seems a little contrived.
Considering the time when this story was written, "Oh, Bury Me Not" is true to the time period of the 1970s without cellphones and with many people smoking cigarettes. That just the way of the 1970s.
I enjoyed the backwoods conversational dialect even if I questioned whether it was authentic for Oregon in the 1970s. The quaintness and "down home" quality created a warmth surrounding the coldness of some of the characters and their actions.
Oh, Bury Me Not is the third book in the Conan Flagg Mystery series by M. K. Wren whose real name is Martha K. Renfroe with Curiosity Didn't Kill the Cat and A Multitude of Sins being the first books in this series. Of the three books, this one is unquestionably my favorite having a well-organized and logical story sequence.
This cozy series of books featuring bookstore owner, private investigator extraordinaire Conan Flagg are quick reads with well-planned stories from a time not so long ago when life was a little simpler.
It is wonderful that Untreed Reads is allowing readers to discover these hidden gems.
The Eye of God
A Sigma Force Novel
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061785672, $9.99, Paperback, 530 pages, www.amazon.com
A research satellite crashes into a remote area of Mongolia, a comet on a collision path with the east coast of the United States, a package from the Vatican with a skull and a book covered in human skin, what do all of these have in common? James Rollins' newest book, The Eye of God.
With the world possibly ending in the next four days, Sigma Force is catapulted into danger combining Attila the Hun's death to Christianity to a comet wiping out the planet into the fast-paced action adventure of the Sigma Force team in this newest James Rollins' novel.
With characters established in previous novels, this ninth book in the series is riveting and requires the reader to be fairly well-acquainted with Painter Crowe, Vigor, Rachel, Monk, Kat, Seichan, and Gray along with the new members of Jada and Duncan who form this extreme team saving the world yet again.
What makes this novel fascinating is the blend between reality and fiction. Mr. Rollins phenomenally takes a real event or a scientific discovery and twists it into a tale where it is difficult to separate the two. Fortunately, the author's comments at the conclusion of the adventure are necessary for the reader to understand that yes, this story in some form could happen.
In much the same style and theme as Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code, The Eye of God moves at a breath-taking pace bouncing from one character and location to another intermixing reality and fiction into a story of possibilities.
Added to the human element of this story is Rachel's relationship with her uncle who works at The Vatican as well as Seichan's discovery of her mother and the rebuilding of their relationships with a theme throughout the story of to live each day as if it were your last, or in the case of this book, your last four days on the planet.
The blend of technology along with history is a James Rollins' strength that makes his books appealing to readers while both educating and entertaining.
Do not read The Eye of God if you have not read at least two of the previous novels. The characters which are developed in the previous novels are crucial in understanding this Sigma Force adventure.
Unquestionable, The Eye of God is a riveting read.
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616954291, $25.00, Hardcover, 387 pp, www.amazon.com
In an Afterword to his newest book, the author discloses that he was asked by the publisher to write a 30,000word Junior Bender novella, which started out being a tale of a burglary which netted our protagonist some interesting pieces of jewelry. Instead he ended up writing a novel three times as long in which those brooches merely serve as sort of end pieces to an entirely different theme. Junior, a kind of detective to the underworld, is retained by a mastermind criminal to find out who broke into his office and stole a piece of paper. And to recover that list.
The identity of the culprit is obvious to Junior, since he left his "calling card" by leaving everything open. So, Junior heads for his mentor's home only to find Herbie Mott (who not only taught Junior everything he knows about his "profession," but was a surrogate father as well) beaten and dead. It's obvious his attackers were after that same piece of paper, which was a list of intermediaries who served to eventually pass along instructions to a hit man. Thus begins a long trek, as Junior follows the chain in an attempt to discover who was the intended target of the hit.
In reviewing the prior novel in the series, I pointed out that Junior was less amusing than he had been in the first two installments. Unfortunately, I felt that he was even less so in this, the fourth. While "Herbie's Game" is a serious attempt to look at Junior more meaningfully, and we do gain a deeper insight into his personality and character, it is not the Junior we have come to love. Nevertheless, as it stands, it is a novel that keeps one's interest, and it is recommended.
A Possibility of Violence
D. A. Mishani
Translated from the Hebrew by Todd HasakLowy
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062195401, $26.99, Hardcover, 227 pp, www.amazon.com
Reeling from the imperfect investigation in the introductory novel in this series ("Missing File") in which we met the introspective Israeli detective, Avraham Avraham, he is here presented with another confusing case which again tests him. In the debut novel (possible spoiler here), Avi encountered a case in which a young boy was murdered by his parents. And, apparently, in this plot he still rues the fact that he was unable to save the child.
In this novel, the case begins when someone is observed leaving an "explosive" device outside a day care center. Out of this beginning arise tangential investigations, including the deadly assault on the head of the day care and the question of a missing wife of the father of one of the children attending the center who had supposedly left Israel for her native Philippines. In his investigation, Avi wonders if these incidents are related, and he becomes concerned about the safety of the man's two sons.
Once again, the author has demonstrated an ability to write a detective mystery that is completely original not only in its approach, but also in scope. While pursuing a police procedural, the author delves into a myriad of questions and emotions that give rise to deeper insight into the protagonist, as well as into a complex case with many ramifications. And in a side plot involving Avi's on-again-off-again engagement/potential marriage, we gain additional knowledge of his personality and character.
The novel is recommended.
Dick Francis's Refusal
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780425268544, $9.99, Paperback, 432 pp, www.amazon.com
It's been six years since investigator Sid Halley retired, tired of the beatings, pressure and danger. Since then, he has lived a quiet life with his wife and young daughter, earning a living as an investor, trading money instruments and shares. He promised himself and his wife that he would not return to his former profession, but events proved the opposite when the chairman of the racing authority begged him to look into a series of questionable races.
Following a familiar Francis formula, circumstances arise which force Sid to reverse his adamant refusal to undertake such an investigation. The day after his meeting, the chairman is found dead, a possible suicide, but Sid believes really murder. Then a telephone call from a man with a Belfast Irish accent menacingly demands that Sid write a report claiming the races were not suspicious. Thus, the stage is set for the expected scrutiny, danger to Sid, his family and associates, and confrontation with the culprits.
The formula, which has been successful for about four dozen books by the Francises, pere et fils, works like a charm once again. Felix had now written four novels as a coauthor with Dick, and this is the third one on his own. Looking forward with bated breath for the fourth.
William Kent Krueger
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781451645774, $16.00, Paperback, 320 pp, www.amazon.com
Cork O'Connor has encountered some bizarre crimes in the previous 12 novels in the series, but in "Tamarack County" faces a very personal one affecting his family and the home and county in which he lives.
It all begins when the wife of a cantankerous retired judge disappears and her car is found abandoned on a rural road. Then a dog is found brutally decapitated outside the home of his son's girlfriend. Then his son is endangered and Cork begins to see a pattern involving the conviction and long-term sentencing of a possibly innocent man 20 years before, when Cork was merely a beginning deputy, long before he became sheriff of the county (later to retire).
The plot moves forward with a surprise resolution. Missing from this entry in the series are the usual graphic descriptions of the weather and terrain, a trademark of a William Kent Krueger book, except for the continually falling snow and occasional blizzard. The novel is written, as usual with any book from this author, with a degree of smoothness that makes for fast, easy and rewarding reading, and it is recommended.
Spider Woman's Daughter
10 E. 53rd St., NY, NY 10022
9780062270498, $9.99, Paperback, 368 pp, www.amazon.com
Until now, only Felix Francis has prominently authored novels in a series created by his father. Other series, like those of Robert B. Parker, have been authored by writers unrelated to the deceased creators. However, Anne Hillerman now joins Felix in the distinguished company of an offspring continuing a popular series, undertaking to continue the Joe Leaphorn/Jim Cree Navajo mysteries, placing her own stamp on it by fully developing Bernie Manuelito, Jim's wife, as well as a cop.
It is rather strange that the author chooses to begin the story by having Leaphorn, a main character in the series, shot though the temple, the bullet passing through his brain, and thus sidelined. Bernie, as first responder, is taken off the case and placed on leave (although that hardly stops her from nosing around). Cree is put in charge of the Navajo police investigation, while the FBI conducts its own case.
As did Tony Hillerman, his daughter captures much of the landscape and culture of the American Southwest, especially describing in detail Pueblo pottery and rug-weaving. However, much of the flavor of the original series does not get captured in this first effort. Perhaps, as she goes along in future installments, this aspect will improve. There seems to be some repetition and redundancy along the way, which could have been edited out. But the plot is solid, and the book certainly warrants a reading.
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780399161797, $26.95, Hardcover, 384 pp, www.amazon.com
It seems as if, relatively speaking, nothing is normal in the small Mississippi county in which Quinn Colson serves as sheriff. Or perhaps it is more like the proverbial corrupt Huey Long Louisiana with politicians on the take and turning a blind eye to all sorts of shenanigans, including lynching and murder, motorcycle gangs and drugs. All of this (and then some) takes place in this third novel in the series.
Carrying over from the previous entry in the series, Quinn and his chief deputy Lillie are facing possible murder charges for the killing a former sheriff in a shootout that framed the climax of the previous book. That prospect hangs over them as they are confronted with a cold case which arises from the rape of one teenager and the murder of another 37 years before. At the time, a black man believed to be the perpetrator was beaten up and lynched. The rape survivor, now a prominent citizen, told Quinn's uncle, who was sheriff at the time, that the wrong man was killed, since she saw the rapist two weeks later. Now, Quinn and Lillie undertake to find out the truth. This puts Quinn into the uncomfortable position of contacting his long-estranged stuntman father who rode with the motorcycle gang in the period, giving the author the opportunity to insert italicized introductions to succeeding chapters with historical information, providing the basis for current investigations.
Colson is developing into one of the more interesting protagonists. A former ranger with a deep, inherent feeling for honesty and fairness, he exhibits the sense that law and its practical application is necessary to keep order in the unruly town dominated by a shady board of supervisors. Atkins has created a Faulkner-like collection of believable characters populating suspenseful plots, and the novel is recommended.
James Lee Burke
Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781476710792, $27.99, Hardcover, 434 pp, www.amazon.com
At the heart of this superb novel is a chronicle covering one man's life from boyhood in the 1930's to his service during World War II and the years following when he started an oil pipeline business. During each phase of his life he encounters what is the essence of the novel, the evil that men do to each other. As a boy, Weldon Holland had a chance meeting with Bonnie and Clyde, the famous bank robbers. Later, during the Battle of the Bulge, he rescues his sergeant, Hershel Pine, who was buried by a Tiger Panzer in his foxhole beneath a pile of rubbish. The two are then isolated and have to hide from the Nazis, eventually finding a half-dead female survivor of a concentration camp, carrying her miles until they found someplace to hide.
The woman, Rosita, was Jewish, and Weldon fell in love with her, eventually marrying her and bringing her back to Texas, where he and Pine formed their successful partnership, the envy of established oil tycoons who coveted the business and threw everything but the kitchen sink at Weldon and Hershel to force them to sell, including massively attacking Rosita, smearing her name and worse.
The prose is rich and the literary allusions are exquisite. The descriptions of the early postwar era reek not only with nostalgia, but capture the times with deceptive simplicity. Weldon as a character provides an offsetting moralistic tone to the evil surrounding him and Rosita. Mr. Burke has transcended his past efforts by creating a saga worth reading time and again.
The Famous and the Dead
T. Jefferson Parker
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780451468215, $16.00, Paperback, 384 pp, www.amazon.com
This sixth novel in the Charlie Hood series brings it to a conclusion, sort of. A lot of loose ends are wrapped up as the story meanders back and forth, recounting various topics from the illegal flow of guns and drugs along the U.S.-Mexican border to the accompanying cartel violence. And, of course, there is a final confrontation between and among Charlie, Bradley Jones and Mike Finnegan.
The plot, such as it is, follows Charlie's work as an ATF agent working undercover to nab the men who buy and sell the illegal firearms which enable the escalating violence on both sides of the border. Meanwhile, Jones awaits the birth of his son and hopes to recapture the affection of his wife Erin. And Charlie, who knows all of Bradley's secrets, has to decide what to do with this information. And his obsession with Mike Finnegan consumes him and can cost him his love, Beth.
Written with the author's straightforward, but somewhat dry, style, this concluding novel in the series is not a particularly easy or enjoyable read. It is slow, often repetitious, especially when past events are recounted. The characters, of course, have been and continue to be memorable. However, this reader, at least, had to struggle through the 371 pages and was not particularly enthralled by the conclusion. Probably the only reason to recommend the novel would because it brings a noteworthy series to a final end, by an author who is a craftsman.
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Sixth Ave., NY, NY 10020
9781476734217, $25.00, Hardcover, 352 pp, www.amazon.com
A series of murders take place in the Pacific Northwest with the same MO: the victims, mostly young girls, have been raped, tortured and their left hands chopped off. Finally, a task force headed by Captain Edward Shank (who later becomes chief of police) captures a man the call the Butcher, shooting him when he resists arrest.
Now years later, similar murders appear, setting the stage for an eerie story involving Shank, his successful restaurateur grandson, Matthew, and Matt's girlfriend, Samantha ("Sam"), who is in the midst of writing a book on The Butcher and her theory that he killed her mother, despite the fact the her death occurred two years after the death of the supposed killer.
The novel is a thriller of the first order, fast-paced and with lots of clues to keep the reader involved. But these hints don't give away the unforeseen conclusion. One cavil: There are some mushy love scenes which slow down the narrative and can be skipped. Nonetheless, the novel is recommended.
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9780312546892, $9.99, Paperback, 448 pp, www.amazon.com
The Joe Pickett series has always been a favorite of mine. However, this standalone gets off to a slow start, a very slow beginning. The reader has to plow through half the novel, learning about two teenage sisters driving supposedly to their divorced father in Omaha for Thanksgiving. The older sister, Danielle, is an airhead; the younger, Grace, practical and determined. Danielle is driving and decides to go to Helena to visit her boyfriend. And thereby hangs a tale: They break down along the way and a predator long-distance trucker abducts and imprisons them in a dungeon.
At this point, the reader has reached the halfway mark of the story, the plot of which is just about to begin. And the rest is quite obvious. Cody Hoyt, who appeared in a previous book, is a renegade detective who gets fired just as the girls disappear. They were attempting to visit his son, Danielle's boyfriend, so Cody undertakes to find them. When his partner, Cassie, a relative neophyte, doesn't hear from him for several hours, she determines to follow his footsteps.
Joe Pickett quality the novel isn't. It certainly is well written, but tedious and, to some extent repetitious. While the story is somewhat interesting, it is not particularly entertaining or gripping. And certainly not suspenseful.
The Purity of Vengeance
Translated by Martin Aitken
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson St., NY, NY 10014
9780525954019, $26.95, Hardcover, 500 pp, www.amazon.com
It's hard to believe that the western European nation of Denmark, for almost four decades, condemned women deemed to be prostitutes, "pathologically promiscuous," feebleminded, among other "indications of less desirable social attitudes," to an offshore island where they were kept, perhaps mistreated and even sterilized to prevent them from breeding children who might be a "burden" on society. It apparently came to an end in the 1960's, but the plot of this latest Department Q novel is based on this history.
Carl Morck, who heads the department charged with reviewing and solving cold cases, and his assistants, Assad and Rose, undertake such a case, that of a missing woman named Rita, a madam, which leads them to the island of Sprogo, where the women were sent. As they progress in the investigation, they learn more and more about a doctor named Curt Wad, who leads a group known as the Purity Party, which espouses the principles which guided the Sprogo efforts, not unlike the Nazi program of ethnic purification.
The book's title, of course, is a play on Wad's movement, which seemed headed for the political scene and a place in parliament, and a plan of one of his victims who was sent to the island. Once again the Danish mystery writer has created a memorable novel, a mystery combined with deep material that captures the reader's mind.
Blood Is the Sky
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250029256, $14.99, Paperback, 307 pp, www.amazon.com
What are friends for? Well, Alex McKnight demonstrates just that in this novel which takes him and his erstwhile friend, Vinnie Le Blanc, on a stormy adventure way up in the wilds of northern Canada. It starts when Vinnie, with whom Alex has been at odds since an event in the previous novel in the series, asks Alex to help him find his brother, who is days overdue returning home after accompanying a hunting party as their scout at a Canadian lodge.
To complicate matters, Vinnie's brother Tom is on parole and is forbidden to leave the country. So he and Vinnie trade identities. Alex and his friend drive for hours until they reach the lodge, and there is no sign of Tom or the hunting party. But something seems "off," and they begin to scout the area where the group was housed at a lake further north. And thereby hangs a gruesome tale.
The author, known for his vivid descriptions of the Upper Michigan peninsula, shows an equal facility for the vast untamed wilderness of northern Canada. He has written a taut tale filled with danger and violence. And at the end, lays the seeds of Alex's further adventures yet to come. Recommended.
(This is a trade paperback edition of a novel originally published in 2003).
Chilled to the Bone
853 Broadway, NY, NY 10003
9781616953300, $25.95, Hardcover, 320 pp, www.amazon.com
A police procedural is a police procedural, whether it takes place in Brooklyn, Los Angeles or Iceland. And in this, the third novel in the series, Police Sgt. Gunna Gisladottir, gets into a complicated investigation when an elderly retired shipowner is found dead in a hotel room, nude and tied to the four corners of the bedstead. It turns out he had a heart attack, so no murder, but it is followed by a series of similar attacks at various hotels, during which each victim was relieved of cash, and credit and debit cards, which were milked for whatever they were worth. Moreover, the laptop of one of the victims was confiscated, leading to the knotty issues raised during the plodding investigation, including two murders. It seems the laptop contains information embarrassing to the ministry of foreign affairs.
Gunna is unlike many protagonists: A relatively subdued, 'normal' woman, with a home, husband and family, who goes about her business quietly and steadily, snow or ice. The author, who lived in Iceland for ten years before moving back to the UK, writes for a commercial fishing magazine, so he knows the island well and writes about it and its environment with authority.
The novel is recommended.
Saints of the Shadow Bible
c/o Hachette Book Group
237 Park Ave., NY, NY 10017
9780316224550, $26.00, Hardcover, 389 pp, www.amazon.com
When the Cold Case Group in which Rebus has been working is eliminated, he lucks out by being taken back with a spot in CID, albeit with a demotion. Reduced from DI to DS, he now is subordinate to his longtime protege, DI Clarke. Of course, that doesn't stop the old dinosaur from acting like he always has.
Rankin introduces a couple of surprises in this novel, the first being having Malcolm Fox, Rebus's standing nemesis, as a co-investigator working together. It comes about because Fox is performing his last assignment with the Complaints looking at a 30yearold case involving the group known as the Saints of the Shadow Bible because they each swore fidelity to protect each other on a stand-in for the holy book. Rebus had joined the group as a young DC soon after the arrest of a snitch who eventually got off on a murder charge through police mistakes. This was in the Old Days, when anything went and they made their own rules. The Solicitor General recently pushed through a retraction of the double jeopardy rule and was looking to resurrect the murder charge. Rebus volunteers to assist in Fox's efforts and the two learn to trust one another, leading to cooperation in another more recent investigation involving an auto accident and the murder of the Minister of Justice.
As with the rest of the series, Rebus shines and errs, but his character and ability always comes through. The author has no need of our praise, but deserves accolades nonetheless. The complexity of the plot provides Rebus with the chance to out-think everyone, but the surprise is that Fox rises to the occasion as a real CID detective. Highly recommended.
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Ave., NY, NY 10010
9781250042507, $15.99, Paperback, 306 pp, www.amazon.com
What would an Alex McKnight novel be without him getting into all kinds of trouble that has nothing to do with him? It just wouldn't be a novel featuring this protagonist. And this book is no exception to the rule. The sixth novel in the series, it begins where its predecessor, "Let It Burn," left off, with Alex making contact with Natalie Reynaud, the Canadian police officer he met during his wild adventure in the debut novel, "A Cold Day in Paradise." They become romantically involved, beginning with a weekend at a luxury hotel in "the Soo" (Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan). And, naturally, something occurs to spoil the good times. An old man sees them at the hotel, leaving a note in a homburg filled with ice by their hotel room door indicating, "I know who you are." Alex thinks the message is for him and dives right in seeking answers, getting beat up in return by two brothers and their brother-in-law. But the truth lies elsewhere: in the dark history of Natalie's family, setting the stage for a cloud on Alex's blissful state when she shuts down the romance.
Hamilton is known for his stark prose and deep character portrayals, especially of the harsh Upper Peninsula environment. And his descriptions of the snow and cold in this novel are no exception. His approach to Natalie is particularly noteworthy, as she blows hot and cold in her relationship with Alex. It will be interesting to see what develops in forthcoming plots. Will they or won't they progress to a normal relationship, if such a thing could exist in a story in this wonderful series? The novel, of course, is recommended.
(This is a trade paperback edition of a novel originally published in 2004).
The Wrong Quarry
Max Allan Collins
Hard Case Crime
c/o Winterfall LLC
333 CPW, New York, NY 10025
144 Southwark St., London SE1 OUP
9781781162668, $9.95, Paperback, 221 pp, www.amazon.com
This latest Quarry novel shows the killer of assassins has developed a conscience. As a murderer for hire by those targeted by others, he has developed an interesting business. He collects money from intended victims, preventing their deaths by taking out the teams engaged for the purpose. In this latest adventure, he approaches a dance instructor who is accused by the grandfather of a missing teenager of her murder.
Quarry's approach is purely professional. He identifies the first member of the team who arrives merely to observe the target's habits. When he passes the information to the second, the active member of the team, Quarry then removes both as threats. His business model then has him offer, for an additional fee, to end any fear of further activity by ending the sponsor's life so that the "contract" is nullified. And that's when the fun begins.
Along the way, Quarry himself enjoys a lot of extracurricular action, as Max Allan Collins provides all kinds of implicit sex, not to mention violence. The long-running series has a style all its own, told in a voice that reflects Quarry as a thinking man's murderer. The character, and thee novels in the series, are a throwback to pulp fiction of yesteryear and are reminiscent of Mickey Spillane.
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
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