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California Bookwatch

Volume 16, Number 8 August 2021 Home | CALBW Index

Table of Contents

Reviewer's Choice Writing/Publishing Shelf Psychology Shelf
Health/Medicine Shelf General Fiction Shelf Historical Fiction Shelf
Mystery/Suspense Shelf Fantasy/SciFi Shelf  

Reviewer's Choice

I Named My Dog Pushkin
Margarita Gokun Silver
9781800195356, $9.99

I Named My Dog Pushkin: Notes from a Soviet Girl on Becoming an American Woman combines a memoir with literary essays and humor in a format that captures immigrant experiences with an eye to exploring ironies and challenges alike. Margarita's one objective in fleeing the Soviet Union in the 1980s was to become fully American and leave her Soviet past behind. And so she changed her name, learned about dating and American culture, and yet found herself still exhibiting old patterns of approaches to life even as she tried to reject her parents' upbringing. She rejects initial plans of going to medical school seven months after they arrive in America, questioning her own trajectory and the freedom of choice that is the promise in this new land. In so doing, she rebels against the stricter form of Soviet parenting that no longer applies in their new world.

Her parents' confusion and dismay, her deviation from her engineering student background in Moscow, the truths surrounding their ticket to "everything better," and her ultimate decisions on how to manage a very different life makes for thoroughly engrossing reading. The boundaries of cultural experiences between the Soviet Union and America are nicely explored in a story that is hilarious and thought-provoking as Margarita comes of age in a new land, identifying with being a woman and an immigrant, yet aspiring for a life beyond and within her "Russianness." Any immigrant (and many who want to learn more about this process of adaptation to American ways) will find I Named My Dog Pushkin a fine way of understanding the special challenges of the immigrant experience in general and those who move here from the Soviet Union in particular.

The Writing/Publishing Shelf

Write a Poem, Save Your Life
Meredith Heller
New World Library
14 Pamaron Way, Novato CA 94949
9781608687480, $16.95

Write a Poem, Save Your Life: A Guide for Teens, Teachers, and Writers of All Ages equates poetry production with personal growth efforts as it surveys how to move through life using literary expression in general and poetry in particular to heal and understand basic life issues. Writing poems is a cathartic experience that can encourage self-inspection, new revelations, and discussions that support self image and positive life approaches. Yet, most discourses about poetry writing approach it from a purely literary and style level and omit examples of the invitation process whereby writing leads to growth and new insights. The exercises and admonitions in this book are powerful paths to self-examination and realization which will prove cathartic and positive to readers who would do more than compose literary works and verses that impact others.

The Psychology Shelf

CBT Workbook
Tara Wilson
Vox Publishing House
B096PH1PF8, $5.99 Kindle

CBT Workbook actually incorporates three books under one cover, providing workbooks for kids, teens, and adults. These are packed with self-help strategies designed to reach each age group with specific exercises and approaches supporting behavioral therapy. For those not in the know, CBT stands for cognitive behavioral therapy, a psychological approach used to address a wide range of problems. Children can benefit from this therapy as much as adults. This is covered in an introductory workbook that blends theory with applied exercises pertinent to such conditions as ADHD, eating disorders, and various problems children often experience.

The workbook is structured in such a way that adults working with kids can help children work through various life challenges using mindfulness and anger management. Adults receive an overview of each issue, along with clear instructions on how their participation with the child can impart better strategies for overcoming life obstacles. Parents are advised to move slowly to assure that the child is fully engaged in the process, in order for it to be successful. This form of talk therapy requires interaction on both sides, and Tara Wilson emphasizes how thoughts and emotions can influence behaviors. The goals and sessions need to be agreed upon and understood by all participants.

Therapists will also find CBT can work hand in hand with other therapies, offering daily applications that support a child's life encounters and experiences. From battling eating disorders by adopting an eating inventory of habits and foods and linking these to thoughts and perceptions to relaxation techniques and more considered approaches to daily living, kids are taught how to better cope and adapt at an early age. Teens, in contrast, receive special instruction that builds on their common issues, from phobias and sleep problems to grief, anger, sexual issues, and suicidal thoughts. While these exercises can help, they are often best applied hand in hand with professional therapies.

CBT therapy can help teens identify and change flawed self-perceptions, while therapists can use it to help pinpoint unhealthy thought patterns, suppositions, and habits. Teens receive instruction on new ways of thinking about and approaching life obstacles, learning the difference between unhealthy patterns and healthier, more effective options. The inviting invitations are designed either for teen involvement alone or adult/teen interactions. Adults will find the workbook portion directed to them assumes a basic understanding of mindfulness and awareness, building on this familiarity to offer practices that address common mental health struggles in maturity.

It should be noted that, no matter what the age, each of these workbooks requires commitment, time, and effort. They aren't designed for quick or short-term solutions, but to be lasting life approaches that teach the habits and patterns of best mental health practices to all ages. Having all three books under one cover assures the broadest applications no matter what age group is consulting this workbook. Its guide to techniques proven to work and its inviting participatory workbook structure lends to a CBT survey that ideally will reach a very wide audience - and which should be on the shelves of any mental health or self-help collection.

The Health/Medicine Shelf

For Generations
Mary Earhart, LM
Independently Published
B002NGO30M, $2.99 Kindle

Readers of natural healing, addiction literature, and midwifery will find all three topics coalesce in For Generations, written by a Licensed Midwife and Public Health Nurse in Southern California. This audience receives a book of wisdom that focuses on drug-addicted pregnant women and their stories of managing both pregnancy and their lives. Case histories supplement medical information often unexplored in mainstream books about pregnancy or addiction, narrowing the focus to a topic that too rarely receives much in-depth coverage. These incorporate client to midwife perspectives alike, offering a fine juxtaposition of experiences from both sides of the birth. From interactions with pediatricians to prenatal decisions and challenging births, For Generations provides eye-opening scenarios, thought-provoking insights, and a pleasing, inviting format that welcomes all levels of readers. The blend of practical advice, psychological and physiological insights, and a midwife's perception of the challenges of managing birth and addictive processes makes for a healing approach recommended for mothers, the medical community, and fellow midwives alike.

The General Fiction Shelf

John Alvah Barnes, Jr.
Alvah Arts
9781735094748, $4.99 ebook; $16.99 paperback

Fiction readers will find Rollover's story of a newly disabled medic's revised purpose in life to be compelling. It embraces not only the recovery process of a man who loses use of his legs in an accident, but his challenges facing the PTSD which emerges when he seemingly is on the road to a newly purposeful life (becoming a docent at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum). More so than most stories about disability and recovery, Rollover embraces a broader spectrum of concerns in the process. It highlights and emphasizes that physical recovery and renewed purposes aren't just the only challenges facing those whose lives are traumatized and vastly changed.

This (and the fact that Jay Barlow isn't alienated from but is helped by a loving wife and adult children) sets his story apart from others...but readers receive an added surprise when Jay links the museum's holdings to an experience he'd had in the distant past. Was his encounter a timeslip event, a real connection, or fantasy? Jay explores all these possibilities as he becomes more intensely involved in the history of 1918. The experiences were new to him, yet all too real...but his wife thinks it's part of the trauma he suffered. Therapist Frank Turnbull also tries to help him.

Is Jay suffering from the delusion that he's been transporting himself to World War I and dogfighting in a vintage aircraft from the era? Or is this a key to a full recovery and a more meaningful life and understanding of past and present traumas? Readers who choose Rollover will find the story's embrace of PTSD, history, recovery processes, and challenging new realities is thought-provoking and engrossing. It's impossible to tell what road Jay and his family will take during this long process, and there are many unexpected twists to the tale (including a surprise conclusion) that provide delightful moments of inspection.

Will his reawakening enable him to leave the past behind? Can his relationship with Debbie also be revitalized during his process of rediscovery? Jay asks many of the questions those recovering from traumatic injury face on a daily basis. His experiences, while delving into the fantastic, embrace the entirety of this process in a satisfying manner that holds compelling lessons, while entertaining and educating readers about World War I. The multifaceted approach of this historical, psychological fiction story will attract those who seek stories that are unpredictable and delightfully involving on different levels. Fans of traditional timeslip sagas will be especially intrigued and delighted by the juxtaposition of reality and possibility that this story embraces.

Thomas Duffy
Independently Published
9798718984675, $10.99 Paper/$6.99 Kindle

Heavenly is a story about finding the purpose in life past death and reincarnation. It tells of middle-aged John, who is killed in 2019 and comes back to life as baby Peter. A relative loner, John was friendly to people and always liked to "move forward and do better" in his job. When he dies, he meets God and receives a "life review" where he learns that he never truly sacrificed anything of value for anyone else. As he learns he's not in Heaven and that his life has been left incomplete on Earth, he receives different ways of measuring success and the chance to redo his life with new opportunities and choices. As he interacts with sister Meredith from his previous life and gains new insights about his impact on this world and in his past life, Peter grows up in many innovative ways, finding a different approach to how he reacts to others.

Thomas Duffy's thought-provoking literary piece will attract philosophical and spiritual readers; especially those able to set aside more traditional visions of God and life's purpose to absorb a story of reincarnation and rediscovery. Duffy is especially adept at pointing out how the second chance God gives John doesn't lead just to Heaven, but to a better place on Earth as he forms new connections and adopts revised purposes to living. Spiritual, emotional, and thought-provoking, Heavenly is a fine novel portraying the journey of one man who has a rare second chance to re-envision himself and change his world.

The Historical Fiction Shelf

In a Grove of Maples
Jenny Knipfer
Independently Published
9781733320276, $14.95

Historical novel readers who choose In a Grove of Maples for its pioneer story will find that this first book in the Sheltering Trees series holds a compelling series of insights that go beyond the usual exploration of a husband and wife's new frontier life in the late 1800s. It's an early immigrant's story - Beryl and Edward Massart have sojourned over a thousand miles from Quebec to Wisconsin to claim land sight unseen, with its promise of maple trees and a new beginning. It's also a love story, because the ties that bind these two embrace romance despite an introductory diary entry that laments the 'tornado of differences' that has driven them apart from their love of one another. The journey has promised much, fulfilling Beryl's dreams of "traveling and living somewhere other than the land she grew up on." It's compelling, as new wife Beryl faces many changes and the unexpected departure of her husband from her life when he accepts a job as a teamster in a logging camp, leaving his pregnant wife alone to tend the animals on their homestead as winter approaches. And it's also religious, because Beryl often turns to God to question His intentions, influence on their lives, and the unexpected courses it has taken.

These new beginnings deeply investigate the psyches of husband and wife, exploring not only the ideals and realities of disparate personalities who face completely new, challenging conditions; but showing how adversity tears them apart, introducing temptations and possible dangerous directions into the young family's new world. Jenny Knipfer excels at probing the roots of these social, spiritual, and psychological influences. She crafts a vision of new beginnings and the possibility of dreams fulfilled - then turns it upside down with many unexpected twists and turns. As Beryl absorbs new truths about life and passes them on to her children, readers receive a warm story about adaptation, survival, and how love operates on many different levels.

Readers of women's fiction and Christian historical romance will find In a Grove of Maples an engrossing story of 19th century rural life that examines matters of heart, ethics, morality, and belief as Beryl faces this new world with few resources other than her faith and love. The tale concludes with an unexpected twist that comes full circle to leave the door open for more.

The Mystery/Suspense Shelf

Project Azalea
J.E. Conery
DartFrog Books
9781953910080, $17.95 Paper/$4.99 Kindle

What do you do when you discover the law firm you've been working for is corrupt, but you can't afford to quit? Project Azalea presents the dilemma faced by single mother and new paralegal Prudence Jean-Batiste when she is forced to face the truth about her employer and her enabling role in the company.

Her youth, her low level of education, and being a black woman in a legal world dominated by white men all hamper her ability to stand up for what is right. In reality, Prudence does not have a lot of options. What she does have is integrity. This leads her to confront impossible situations in her New Orleans milieu.

More so than most suspense stories, J.E. Conery brings to life the social, economic, cultural, and political influences and choices that surround his characters—especially Prudence, his protagonist.

Louisiana and New Orleans come to life under his pen and receive as strong a focus as Prudence and her observations. This incorporates a solid social inspection that embraces a region Conery personally knows intimately.

From the Mafia's past influence on the city to Hurricane Katrina's game-changing devastation, Prudence's life swirls with as much change as the region itself has seen, over the decades.

The Project Azalea of the book's title refers to an ambitious urban gentrification plan reflecting the underlying goal to create: "...beautiful properties in depressed yet desirable areas, constructing an infrastructure for business and diversifying the revenue stream. The scheme would be repeated throughout the city until they either cornered the market, or controlled those who would survive. Police and politicians would be bought along the way to smooth out any obstacles."

It should also be pointed out that there is a great deal of social and political history and facts to supplement Prudence's story. Readers who anticipate a personal or first-person experience should be prepared to enjoy many examinations of political influences on the region, which does a fine job of explaining her reactions, growth, and encounters.

More so than most stories about female sleuths and crime, J.E. Conery takes the time to set his characters firmly in the modern world. While this asks of readers a basic interest in historical backdrops and real-world cultural inspection, it rewards with a detailed, in-depth coverage that brings to life a host of characters and special concerns. These range from Theodore LeMoyne Jean-Batiste (Theo) to the sparks that lead Prudence to begin her own investigation into the special interests operating behind the scenes of not just her job, but the city's development and challenges.

Conery is skilled at juxtaposing Prudence's realizations, growth process, and discoveries with the bigger issues affecting the growth, development, and management of New Orleans.

Under his hand, the culture and politics of the city and its corruption and justice systems come to life. More than just another legal thriller, this focus on social evolutionary processes sets Project Azalea apart from most other thrillers or investigative procedural novels. These elements make it especially recommended for readers who enjoy intense, realistic social and historical inspection wound into their detective reading to supplement fictional tension with a taste of real-world local issues.

Safe Harbour
Mike Martin
Ottawa Press and Publishing
9781988437736, $16.95

Safe Harbour may be the 10th addition to the Sgt. Windflower Mystery series, but the pleasure of this and each of the other books is that they all stand alone, contributing to an expanding series without requiring prior familiarity with Sgt. Windflower's investigations or life. Here, Windflower is on a special assignment that brings him to the big city, a very different environment than he's used to. His task is to investigate a slew of missing girls as his wife recovers from a serious car accident and does rehab at the nearby Miller Center.

As Sheila returns to school and Windflower's girls adjust to their new lives in St. Johns, his investigation ramps up as he fits into his new community well aware that his job goes beyond fingering perps. These vignettes focus as much on family developments and community interactions as the whodunit in a string of disappearances, making Safe Harbour a thought-provoking, fast-paced read. Windflower's adjustments to new challenges in his new life are realistically portrayed, his character is astute and clever, and the cat-and-mouse games he plays with the criminal are absorbing.

Mike Martin takes the idea of safety and danger and turns the concepts on end to examine how a transplanted detective uncovers new meaning in his job, family, and interactions within the community. Martin also takes the time to fully describe facets of this evolving life. These offer satisfying breaks from the investigative focus and support a well-rounded vision of Windflower's approaches to home and career alike. Mystery readers looking for a whodunit that extends well beyond perp and his pursuers will find Sgt. Windflower a believable character that simultaneously goes after a normal home life and a safer community. The mystery woven around this home life is very nicely done, containing just the right amount of tension and development to make for an inviting leisure read.

Jack of Spades
David Lucero
Your Book Angel
9781735664859, $14.99

When Jack Ruggero was drafted into the army during World War II in Jack of Spades, he had only one priority: his personal survival. The story opens not with Jack's entry into combat but in 1942 North Africa, where a siege at the Libyan port of Tobruk, a key acquisition for either side which could win the war, is on the verge of either collapse or stalemate.

Rommel, South African Major-General Hendrik Balzazar Klopper, Sergeant-Major Binns, and others introduce the background of this particular battle experience and its strategic and political impact as a savvy poker player becomes caught up in a web of conflict that precedes his entry into the war. Jack's unusual firsthand knowledge makes him a pawn in this game, but he wants more. His approach to strategic planning, his position, and his abilities hold important keys to changing the outcome of events, as Jack finds himself operating behind the scenes in a manner he'd never predicted from his involuntary military duty. Lucero does a fine job of contrasting Rommel's moves and focus with Jack's experiences and struggles. The personal insights and details are part of what makes Jack of Spades more than the dispassionate series of battle encounters that one might expect from the usual World War II piece. This approach sets it apart from others by injecting a level of understanding about the major players in that war, and their motivations and perceptions of the struggle.

World War II novel readers will thus find Jack of Spades a solid study in psychological as well as military and political tension, charting the course of the war through very different perspectives by contrasting characters with very different objectives. Fast-paced, involving, and spiced with the kind of interpersonal insights that make the major players feel human and understandable, Jack of Spades is recommended not so much for those seeking vivid battle scenes, but for readers looking for depth and complexity that creates a standout probe of choices, consequences, and ultimate strategic maneuvering.

Devil by the Tail
Jeanne Matthews
D. X. Varos, Ltd.
9781941072974, $18.95 Paperback, $4.99 ebook

Ned Handish is furious. The Cairo Daily Democrat has sullied his name by printing an article that identifies him as the escaped murderer of his wife...and he didn't commit the crime. When he enters detective Quinn Paschal's office, it's with the intention to hire her to prove his innocence by finding the real killer. This is a job connected to an "orgy of crime" which has been going on for six months, during which time the accused sitting across from her has been at large.

Devil by the Tail, set in 1867 Chicago, moves from the singular murder to a series of social and political encounters as Quinn faces her own sense about the man's innocence ("He had managed to evade the law until now. Why come forward and introduce himself unless he really was innocent?") and works with her partner, Mr. Garnick, on this and another case (helping a lawyer absolve a client who is accused of killing her ex-lover's new bride). As the methods of Pinkerton Detective Agency training dovetail with 1800s Chicago's stormy milieu of political intrigue and criminal activity, readers receive an engrossing story firmly rooted in the city with a backdrop of action and adventure. These cases evolve into much bigger threats around arson and gamblers and murders, and Quinn finds herself threatened as her perseverance reveals new underworld involvements operating on many different levels. During her quest for truth and answers, Quinn finds herself facing criminals and vigilantes who pose equal danger to her efforts.

Jeanne Matthews brings 1800s Chicago to life, winding history into an engrossing story that moves from a Cairo murder to a desperate man's pursuit of a Chicago perp and his confession. She's especially adept at bringing the social and political nuances of this world to life through investigator Quinn's eyes, lacing the story with action and confrontation to keep the pace fast and the intrigue high. As Quinn finds her own professional relationship with her partner challenged by unexpected new priorities, the story becomes one of a woman tasked with finding her way through career and personal challenges on levels that move beyond simply identifying a murderer and bringing him to justice. Readers who enjoy historical settings and a mix of interpersonal relationship and criminal discoveries will find Devil by the Tail excels in crafting an involving set of conundrums that offer no easy answers.

The Grinding Wheel
Marc Rainer
Rukia Publishing US
9780578911854, $16.99 paper/$4.99 ebook

Fans of the Jeff Trask crime books, as well as newcomers to Marc Rainer's special brand of investigative drama, will welcome the latest addition to the series, The Grinding Wheel. The story opens with a young woman strapped to a table, a large mirror above her, with no memory of how she came to be in this position. At this point, it should be mentioned that the setup to the story is a graphic portrait of violence. While it stops short of a blow-by-blow description of the young woman's torture and demise, it leaves little to the imagination.

The next chapter introduces investigator Trask as he faces his latest challenge in the dual cases of a serial shooter and a young woman whose remains mystify the coroner. Parts of her washed up on the shore, while other parts were found in a dumpster by a homeless man. The coroner has determined that she was alive when she was being dismembered - a fact Trask initially tries to put out of his mind, because it's unlikely he'll be assigned to solve the case - only to find that it becomes an intrinsic part of his latest challenges. As indictments and court confrontations, more severed limbs, and new evidence emerge, the investigative process becomes both politicized and personal.

Trask comes to question who the real targets of this murder spree are, and how the victims are connected to each other. The Gannons, a deaf/mute husband and his hearing wife, seem to be at the center of too many possibilities, even though they have a solid alibi for events which occurred during their absence. As Trask and Detective Billy Graham draw closer to a strange discovery, readers receive a satisfying blend of police procedural and courtroom proceedings which build mystery about more than one challenge in Trask's professional world. Once again, Marc Rainer has crafted an exquisite mystery that operates on many different levels, from the involvement of a deaf/mute whose insights could provide unusual perspectives and answers, to the puzzling link between the homicides and drugs. Rainer's ability to slowly build an evolving story filled with surprising twists and the emotional tension of a torturous murderer creates a fast-paced story that creates a number of threads that come together nicely, in the end.

Readers who enjoy investigative stories that embrace not just investigations and motives but the sometimes-mercurial ability of perps to elude justice will find The Grinding Wheel a satisfying read. It's filled with tension and revelations, and is highly recommended for both prior Trask readers and newcomers alike.

Have You Seen Me?
Alexandrea Weis
Vesuvian Books
9781645480754, $19.95 Hardcover/$8.99 ebook

There's another missing girl at Waverly Prep School in Have You Seen Me?, and the new history teacher is talked into organizing an investigative team by her students. But Aubrey LeRoux didn't know the organization of this team would draw further danger until its members began to hit the dust. Now she's responsible for investigating their deaths, uncovering a dangerous secret in the process that challenges not only her job, but her life.

This murder mystery is best imbibed by mature teen to new adult readers, who will find both the student deaths and the story's problem-solving nature attractive and intriguing. Aubrey's return to the school she once attended, this time as a teacher guiding her own flock of students, is nicely done as she contrasts her past experiences at the school with the chance to create new and different opportunities for her students and herself. As her own underlying angst about her time at Waverly and the disappearance of students in the nineties combines with present-day challenges that eerily mirror these memories, Aubrey finds that her students and she herself have unwittingly become part of the dangerous events that threaten them all.

The progression of this story will interest mature young adults who like stories of prep school politics, atmosphere, and mercurial threats. It stands out in crafting the intrigue surrounding a school that likes to do everything by the book - except when it comes to questioning its own trajectory and underlying motivations for supporting a different explanation of past and present events. Alexandrea Weis excels in probing the psychological undertones of the prep school atmosphere and new teacher Aubrey's return to her past. She also does a fine job of evolving the intrigue that connects students and teachers to an unimaginable truth.

Aubrey feels her students deserve a better break than she got when she was fielding teachers and peers at Waverly during her own formative years. Although she thinks she's now in a position to make a difference, her challenge lies in resolving problems of the past that have their ties to present-day events. As school and local history are probed by the determined team, readers receive an eerie feel of inevitable disaster much in the style of the classic film 'Picnic at Hanging Rock'.

The buildup that leads to the truth about a killer's identity and purposes lends to a fine story that will reach young adult to new adult audiences with a winning exploration of a preparatory school's pressures, politics, and murders. Very nicely done, the story wraps up most threads of the mystery, but leaves the door ajar for another book.

The Fantasy/SciFi Shelf

Kradak the Champion
Shawn Inmon
Independently Published
9798502843959, $14.99 Paper/$2.49 ebook

Kradak the Champion's first appearance is standing atop a mound of bodies; some of which are not quite dead. In his arm is a chubby child he's rescued, who is destined to become a leader. Kardak is not just a hero. He's a warrior.

This image is captured in a film that, in the real world, features Steve, an actor who plays Kradak in a series of B-films. Unfortunately, the film attracts the wrong kind of viewer when Rista and Grint come through a portal from Arkana, view the film portrait of this hero's exploits, and decide that Steve is just the person to save their world. It isn't until they kidnap him and bring him to Arkana, the portal closed behind them, that they discover that Steve is anything but a hero. Still, he'd better be prepared to fill those shoes fast, because bloody conflict is on the way. Shawn Inmon's wry sense of humor is displayed from the start, as movie hero Steve reflects the persona he's been hired to portray, only to discover that the film's fantasy has taken on too much reality for his tastes and experience. As Steve faces a huge two-headed mythological dog in the film, he mutters the lines he thinks should drive the tale.

Another delightful aspect that sets this fantasy adventure apart from other sci-fi genre reads is Inmon's attention to adding contemporary references into the story, from YouTube to Sumo-style wrestling moves, Christina Aguilera's performances, and more. The addition of these references, Steve's struggle to apply the dubious lessons of a heroic fantasy B-grade film to this new world and its reality, and the adventures he faces as he becomes the hero he never really wanted to be makes for a tongue-in-cheek examination of not just mythology and the hero persona, but the tests of an ordinary man thrust into an extraordinary, impossible position. Kradak the Champion is a delightful fantasy that keeps readers reading and laughing as Steve stumbles into his strengths and wonders if the side he is has chosen is right or wrong.

A Werewolf in Women's Clothing
Courtney Davis
D. X. Varos, Ltd.
9781955065023, $18.95 paperback, $4.99 ebook

A Werewolf in Women's Clothing may sound like it'll be a horror story because werewolves are mentioned in the title - but to call it such would do it a disservice. It's really a thriller, a mystery, and a saga of growth and self exploration that blends supernatural elements into the story of Tiffany's search for her true identity outside of the career she's carved for herself in the clothing industry. It's challenging when the nightmare becomes all too real. It's also difficult to realize that self-control is a requirement that suddenly goes out the window when Tiffany is forced to acknowledge the foundations of her dangerous anger. Maybe she's not really a killer, and her suspicions are all in her imagination?

As Tiffany's world begins to come apart, she comes to realize that old and new assumptions are on the line to conflict with everything she's come to identify as reality. Somehow, she enters a wolf's world, where others with similar abilities exist on the fringes of society. There, she begins to truly evolve a personality and self-confidence that can gain her the kind of mate she deserves. Courtney Davis's creation is not your usual werewolf or supernatural saga, but the story of a woman coming into her alternate powers and identity. Davis does an exceptional job of covering this transformation on many different levels, highlighting the process of self-realization and new interactions with others also in her situation which take Tiffany beyond her comfort zone and into a different kind of life.

The intrigue, the different layers of werewolf society that Tiffany explores, and her efforts to make a place for herself are nicely done, involving readers in a series of dilemmas over who she truly is and where she really belongs. From anger and revenge to kidnapping and survival efforts, A Werewolf in Women's Clothing adds dashes of humor and heated passion to the story that will delight women who enjoy multifaceted reads. If given the opportunity to gain her strictly human life back...would Tiffany leap at the option? A Werewolf in Women's Clothing is a story that works well for readers of intrigue to romance. It will delight readers with its close inspection of a woman who must challenge all her assumptions to survive, including her choices in being a werewolf, bonding to family, and living her life differently.

Baen Books
P.O. Box 1188, Wake Forest, NC 27588

Baen's fine new arrivals are highly recommended picks for sci-fi readers looking for high-octane action.

Larry Correia and John d. Brown's Gun Runner (9781982125165, $25.00) explores a world in which a former war hero turns criminal. Rook's latest smuggling assignment is to steal a mech and deliver it to a hostile, deadly planet. Normally Rook doesn't get involved in planetary affairs, but his background gives him an edgy attitude towards oppressors, and when he observes this on Swindle, he simply must get involved, even if it costs him everything. Those who like solid action and realistic character interactions will find this story compelling.

D.J. Butler and Aaron Michael Ritchey's The Jupiter Knife (9781982125189, $16.00) provides a winning story set in 1934 that marries a Western tale with a dose of supernatural otherworldly influences and magic. Nowhere else does Mormon culture blend so nicely with mystery and fantasy, but here Butler and Ritchey have done another exceptional job as a figure walks the West supported by magical abilities and confronts a conspiracy brewing in a small town. Fans of Western and fantasy will find their intersection powerful in this and their past productions.

Eric Flint, Gorg Huff, and Paula Goodlett's latest Ring of Fire novel, The Macedonian Hazard (9781982125103, $25.00) provides a new addition to the series which will especially appeal to prior fans. Here a cruise ship that has been transported from modern to ancient times must navigate both the changed environment and their revised lives. Against the backdrop of brutal Greek politics and confrontations, Captain Lars Floden and his others try to establish new lives, but become embroiled in competing social, special interests and the impact of the new knowledge they have brought into the past. Alternate history and timeslip enthusiasts receive a history-based treat filled with vivid action. These are all highly recommended library acquisitions and top choice for genre readers looking for something different.

Charles E. Gannon's At the End of the Journey (9781982125226, $25.00) builds on John Ringo's Black Tide Rising series with a vivid story about a senior year cruise gone awry. The teenagers anticipate a summer trip of fun and adventure, but when the world ends in a plague of zombies, Alvaro and his crew must find other survivors who have escaped this world-changing apocalypse. The tension, adventure, and struggles are supercharged with action and a dose of intrigue as Gannon depicts an ongoing struggle to survive a vastly changed world.

Wil McCarthy's Rich Man's Sky (9781982125295, $25.00) pairs military sci-fi with business interests in space as it tells of a space program dominated by the rich and a dangerous project they promote that will affect everyone on Earth with a project that is construed outside the law. Readers who enjoy hard science paired with social issues and political and military confrontation know how rare it is to find this mix in sci-fi. Wil McCarthy's action-packed story brings all these facets to life in an explosive adventure that is unpredictable and hard to put down.

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