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Rites of Passage at $100,000 to $1 Million+, new edition
c/o Cardinal Publishers Group (dist.)
2402 North Shadeland Ave., Suite A
Indianapolis, IN 46219
0942785339 $27.95 www.cardinalpub.com
Now in a newly revised edition, Rites of Passage at $100,000 to $1 Million+ is an insider's guide to pursuing a high-paying executive career. Chapters address how to handle personal contacts, networking, skillful letter and resume writing, contract negotiation, how to creatively deal with the web, and how to prepare for interviews or meeting recruiters. "'Let me buy you lunch.' Here's the #1 loathsome line, that makes every retainer recruiter cringe. Lunch is too much time, when you're not part of a current search... 'Let me buy you lunch' also has an insulting twang. Is the recruiter so hard up socially and financially that he can be manipulated with a free lunch?" Filled with practical, savvy, no-nonsense advice accessible to readers of all backgrounds, Rites of Passage at $100,000 to $1 Million+ is a "must-read" for anyone interested in top-level management (and compensation)!
Losing in Gainesville
Curbside Splendor Publishing
9781940430317 $15.95 www.curbsidesplendor.com
What does it truly mean to succeed on one's own terms? Set in mid-1990's Florida, Losing in Gainesville is a novel about coming to terms with alleged failure, and redefining success. In a culture driven by the relentless demand to earn more wealth and status, what happens to those left behind? A gritty cast of slackers, burn-outs, starving artists and lost dreamers all struggle to get through each day, even as their youth, their career ambitions, and the connection to their own children slips through their fingers. Can any of their wayward lives be saved... or does their collective rat racetrack need to be redefined? Vivid, realistic, and unforgettable, Losing in Gainesville is highly recommended.
M. John Lubetkin
9781618639264 $19.95 pbk
Also available as a harcover ($29.95) or Nook ebook ($9.95), Custer's Gold is a suspenseful work of historical fiction. In 1873, the famous George Armstrong Custer has a reunion with his old West Point friend and Confederate foe, Tom Rosser. Rosser has discovered the secret location of a cache of stolen gold, but the thief who originally plundered the riches is looking to secure them at any cost! An action-packed, larger-than-life western thriller, Custer's Gold brims with excitement to very end.
Regal Crest Enterprises, LLC
229 Sheridan Loop, Belton, Texas 76513
9781619291966 $12.95 www.regalcrest.biz
Christmas Crush is a lesbian romance novella set during the Christmas season. Two women, Jasmine and Darcy, run competing Christmas tree businesses on opposite corners of the same block. Jasmine is struggling to keep her impoverished family afloat and send her little sister to college; Darcy is trying to raise money for her charity, SleepSafe Youth, designed to give homeless kids a safe place to sleep. Jasmine and Darcy's heated competition strikes a spark, which blossoms into fiery love. A celebration of the spirit of giving as well as a hot romance, Christmas Crush is a choice pick.
Atlantis Pyramids Floods: Did Noah's Flood Destroy Atlantis and Damage the Pyramids?
9781312612624 $10.98 www.lulu.com/spotlight/dennisbrooks
The premise of Atlantis Pyramids Floods (a condensed version of the author's Atlantis: Ten Tribes of the Americas) is simple: people have been searching for Atlantis ever since Plato's original reference, and have been searching for evidence of the Great Flood since its first Biblical appearance.
But what if the two events are connected? What if the Flood was prompted by a cataclysmic event that also took out Atlantis? What if that same flood damaged other relics in the area, so that the evidence of both disasters is staring us right in the eyes?
So many speculations about Atlantis and the Great Flood rest on new age thinking; but to place Atlantis Pyramids Floods entirely in the realm of speculative thinking would be to do it a grave disservice, for this book uses archaeological evidence as its foundation and focuses on that evidence.
Chapter after chapter maintain that Atlantis is not a myth, they focus on the bigger picture in telling the story of its rise and fall, and they provide solid scientific evidence charting not just the popular stories of Atlantis culture and the Flood, but how a cataclysmic event affected the whole of the Egyptian area, why Atlantis was actually Egypt's oldest colony, why the new information presented here changes views of both events, and how they dovetail.
It's in the latter approach, which involves putting together pieces of what initially seems an unconnected puzzle, where Dennis Brooks shines. Chapters point out high water marks that remain in Egypt today, use the work of well-known archaeologist Robert Ballard to provide contentions of what really happened, and link the words of Plato to actual observations of evidence that can easily be seen today.
From old writings to new technology (such as Google Maps), past and present blend in Brooks' efforts to pair the works of well-known ancient writers with the works of respected contemporary scientists and thinkers from Ballard to Brasseur de Bourbourg, who translated much of the histories of the ancient Americas.
Most Atlantis discussions begin with a few 'scientific' facts (largely unsubstantiated) and then move rapidly into a realm that can only be described as speculative fiction. Not so with Brooks, who remains firmly rooted in evidence and facts, and who attends to weaving his theory around what is known; not venturing into the dangerous arena of what can't be proven.
While new age readers who already have a 'belief' in place about Atlantis will be the most likely readers of this work, no audience should expect that it will be a simplistic presentation. Brooks packs his book with authoritative references, quotes, and footnotes and even provides a section of extra study references for those who would move beyond his title.
While new age readers who are commonly attracted to Atlantis accounts will be the most likely audience for Atlantis Pyramids Floods, it's more than evident that the buck shouldn't stop here: scientists researching Atlantis will find that this book is a research-based discussion that takes original stories and pairs them with solid science; and amidst the plethora of Atlantis fantasies, that's really saying something!
Aquarius Rising: In the Tears of God
Double Dragon Publishing
$5.99 USD ebook; $16.99 USD paperback
Amazon - http://www.amazon.com/Aquarius-Rising-ebook/dp/B00CFP88H0
Barnes and Noble -http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/?ean=9781771150903
Apple iBookstore -http://itunes.apple.com/US/book/isbn9781771150903
Lulu (paperback) - http://www.lulu.com/content/paperback-book/aquarius-rising/13822724
It's usually not proper to open a book review with a discussion of its cover art, but this case is an exception: a sea-green cover showing a submerged and battered NYPD police car and a large Poseidon-like crown floating overhead draws readers in like no print blurb ever could. That's what you want from cover art - and this is what's lacking in most opening acts, which should ideally begin with a captivating cover attraction.
This mention aside, what awaits in Aquarius Rising: In the Tears of God is actually Book 1 of a projected trilogy - so be forewarned. The setting is the future, when global warming has resulted in the strangest of human adaptations: human-dolphin hybrids ('Aquarians') who built reef cities when human cities drowned under the world's rising waters.
This world is facing a new threat from an enemy with an invisible destructive weapon who leaves no survivors and no apparent purpose for his bloodbath. Only the half-human, half-Aquarian Ocypode the Atavism knows why this is happening - and only he and his companions have any hopes of stopping it.
In a world where adaptation has saved some semblance of humanity, is another major shift required to return humanity to its roots? One scientist thinks so - and he'll do anything to thwart the virus that mutated humanity and changed the world.
Sci-fi and thriller readers can anticipate gripping action set against the backdrop of a world that isn't quite done changing, quasi-humans that aren't quite ready to give up their last vestiges of humanity, and Aquarian survivors who struggle to keep their new world alive.
The reef colonies and their inhabitants are well done, logical, and realistically portrayed as events progress and a loner faces one of the biggest challenges of his life. Especially notable is Brian Burt's care in developing the lives and routines of those immersed (shall we say) in this world. The mark of a great story is always its ability to involve readers in its world, and Aquarius Rising achieves this through scenarios that are both believable and moving: "He didn't want to join his parents. He didn't want to see the way their gaze shifted between his eyes and his deformities, to hear the strain in their voices when they told him how proud they were. Atavisms were emotional exiles from birth: marooned in that genetic limbo between Human and Aquarian, possessing traits of both species. Doomed to be less than either."
Without a sense of purpose, realism, and believability, the entire premise could fail, lost in a sea of description that neither compels nor involves. Aquarius Rising gives close attention to detail, and this is one of its strengths; one that marries the mystery and struggle with insights on how genetic manipulation has created a strange new world, revealing facets of this world: "The jungle of giant kelp stretched from Clatskanie to Juno. No one knew who had created it. Some blamed the Guardians; others claimed that Aquarian biosculptors had crafted it without Human intervention. All agreed on the reason. Urchins and other kelp-eaters had spread through the original forest like a pestilence, chewing through the holdfasts that secured the plants to the seafloor, decimating the rich ecosystem they supported. Someone had decided to give the kelp a new weapon against its enemies: electrogenesis."
As the Redeemers plot and Ocypode becomes lost in the Electric Forest and a world that doesn't track time the same way, all seems lost. And as reef after reef falls to the enemy, exquisitely-wrought descriptions keep pumping up the imagery and action with a solid saga that reveals experiences on all sides of the struggle: "Edmund Bryce stared at his wallscreen as Juno Reef shrieked and shuddered and calcified before his eyes. The sight of another Aquarian colony turned to stone by his invisible army should have filled him with satisfaction. This time, he felt nothing. Drained. Hollow. A man-sized cinder with the rage burned out of it, leaving only smoke and ash."
There are surprisingly few sci-fi novels that delve into possible water worlds of the future, in comparison to those that journey into outer space. Arthur C. Clarke and a handful of others come to mind - but even though Dolphin Island comes close, Aquarius Rising is a beast of another color. Its greater attention to building characters, exploring the motivations of a destructive mind and scientists who have 'saved' humanity by mutating it, and providing a thriller genre overlay that keeps readers involved and guessing actually places it a cut above Dolphin Island and its classic waterworld contemporaries.
Readers who enjoy a hefty dose of psychological drama in their science fiction stories will be the best audience for Aquarius Rising, which creates a believable, absorbing world spiced by the motivations and madness of all its characters.
The Loves and Tribulations of Detective Stephen Carlton
It's relatively rare that a single-line title pretty much sums up the story line; but such is the case with The Loves and Tribulations of Detective Stephen Carlton, the saga of a detective who encounters not one but many loves in his life, and who finds himself on a whirlwind path of romance that ultimately leads him in the wrong direction. The story line is as much about his position and the various reasons why one love and then another don't work as it is about his constant pendulum-like swings between love, loss, and devotion to his job as a New Brunswick constable.
After several thwarted relationships that leave him with three boys, he becomes as immersed in work as ever - but life is about to hand him romance connected with his job when he's charged with hunting down Livia, a fugitive charged with murder who has escaped to Venezuela.
The path towards a staid life is thus interrupted as Stephen finds himself on a journey far beyond his usual police work, making connections he wouldn't have believed would sync with his ideals and morals in life. As he explains his life to Livia, bonds are created which seem to further fly in the face of what he has held important in the past: "Later on, I took them flying with me. Parenting was a rewarding job. I was a warm father, but strict where the law was concerned. I wanted to raise law-abiding citizens. I drilled into them they have to obey the law, even when they disagree with it."
Now, laws of romance and laws of the land are two very different things. One has logic and rules; the other often rejects them. One comes from the heart; the other from a series of imposed sanctions and objectives that stem from an interest in control and social order more than the processes of emotion.
So Stephen finds his blossoming relationship with Livia more than he would ever have anticipated, and when Stephen enters a situation where Livia must care for him, true purposes and personalities evolve.
It should be noted that your typical romance reader who anticipates light passion will find The Loves and Tribulations of Detective Stephen Carlton something different: it combines elements of thriller and detective worlds into its overall focus on love, and it creates a complexity between romance and ethics that is a delightful dance between emotion and moral insight.
Yes, there's a crime/mystery to be solved - but deeply embedded within the process of detective work is an attention to personal feeling that is not usually evident in mystery/detective sagas.
Yes, there's romance - but Stephen's attitude towards his job and its importance underlies all his approaches to love, and it takes a major mind shift to accept a potential pairing with a wanted criminal.
It would have been all too easy to create a steamy love situation between the two characters and have passion drive their connections, but Rene Natan doesn't take the easy way out. Her story is as much about tribulation as it is about love, after all, and as Stephen probes Livia's background and comes to understand her logic and rationale, he discovers in her not only a possible partner, but the key to a mystery that has shadowed her life.
Solving this mystery may mean, however, that he loses her for good - for her own good, as well as his motivations for solving crimes.
And this is the heart of the story, which is an unusual, powerful blend of romance and detective work that is recommended for readers who enjoy works in both genres.
The Queen of Steel and Fire
Only occasionally does a book's cover art deserve a mention; typically a book proves more (or less) than its cover art, and the art itself isn't that captivating. Not so with Steven South's The Queen of Steel and Fire, whose cover art of a young woman with striking green eyes, a silver space-type suit, fiery hair and a bat-handled sword does more than support both title and content. It all lies in attention to detail, and no piece of Rebecca Weaver's vivid artwork is wasted as she provides what is truly a fitting preface to an equally passionate fantasy.
All the trappings of formula fantasy are present: a young teen forced to the throne too early after the murder of the king, there to become her kingdom's first female ruler; a close-held secret threatened with exposure; and the inevitable specter of a kingdom about to be immersed in war.
These elements have been done to the point of being overcooked and predictable - but what makes The Queen of Steel and Fire a standout not just in cover art but in content is its ability to take a typical-sounding story and make it extraordinarily compelling through a combination of superior characterization and a believable, fast-paced plot.
We open, for example, on the king's death, with his willful daughter convinced that the cause of his demise isn't a weak heart; but something more sinister.
One surprise to note is the prevalence of strong, 'take charge' female protagonists in The Queen of Steel and Fire. It's not just the newly-crowned Claire who is charged with leadership, either: it's also her trusted Crown Guard companion, who must step up to the plate and meet Claire's headlong charge into palace politics, threats and danger.
To complicate matters, Claire's brother teeters on the edge of insanity, there's other competition for the crown that could usurp her position on the throne, and deadly enemies are chomping at the borders, preparing for an unprecedented attack. What more could go wrong?
In addition to its other attributes as a fast-paced fantasy especially strong in female protagonists, The Queen of Steel and Fire can best be described as 'crossover fantasy' in that it will appeal equally to advanced teen as well as adult fantasy readers. And in a genre where male power still rules, it's refreshing to find not just one strong female depicted as a blossoming leader, but those in supporting roles around her.
'Crossover' means that while its protagonist is young, its story line is not - and that lends it the rare ability to equally satisfy both audiences. Many fantasy/sci-fi titles which attempt such really appeal to one group or another - either the protagonist's coming-of-age becomes mired in youthful concerns, or their adult duties belay their age. It's a fine dance between the two to create a story where the protagonist holds some of both worlds, and The Queen of Steel and Fire deftly achieves this through a series of precise steps that skirt around the common pitfalls of YA-attempting-to-be-adult reads.
Yes, here be dragons. Expect vivid descriptions of place that support strong characterization ("The city was noisy and crowded, with a bustling grittiness to it. Ox carts rattled across the cobblestones, and brawny Hynbarrans, all clad in simple roughspun, jostled through the streets. After twisting through a maze of narrow lanes, and climbing the hills that seemed to sprout around every corner, they finally reached the palace. It stood alone on an island, surrounded by a pool of dark water.").
All the trappings of formula fantasy are present; but thankfully, most are unrealized - for within 'formula' lies ennui and rote presentation. The Queen of Steel and Fire is anything but: like the dragons it includes, it breathes fire: the passion of youth, of a determination to rise to the occasion, and of a search for justice and safety.
Add vivid cover art and a text that doesn't lag behind and you have what really makes a solid fantasy read: the story of how a youth rises to the occasion to not only assume her rightful heritage, but make a positive effect on her world, growing immensely in the process. And, that's a story well worth reading!
The Deer Effect
Eye of the Needle Press
ASIN: B00MRPKZ2O $3.99
With a title like The Deer Effect, somehow the reader anticipates a story about hunting - but this couldn't be further from the truth. And billed with the catch-all 'novel' phrase, it's uncertain (from either title or cover) what to expect - which is, plain and simple, NOT a hunting saga or 'Deliverance' type of tale, but a story of murder and grief.
The protagonist finds his dead wife's body next to the carcass of a fawn, and the rest of the story assumes 'whodunnit' proportions as Rod embarks on a quest to find her killer and uncover the truth.
Death is the draw here; but unlike many a murder mystery, it isn't the end-all focus but an introduction that involves a wide cast of characters in an investigation that leads to some unexpected conclusions.
Ultimately everyone is challenged with coming to terms with Hannah's death, no matter what caused it; from hubby Rod to the family dog. As grief winds through the story and changes lives, and reflections on afterlife and meaning come to the forefront, it becomes even more difficult to 'type' this novel.
It doesn't follow the usual course of a murder mystery because there's heavy emphasis on grief, the process of recovery, and a nefarious spirit's involvement in matters (yes, there's even a ghost...)
It doesn't follow the usual progression of events that would lead into a psychological novel about grieving because there's an element of mystery surrounding the death, which requires close investigation from different angles until, at last, an unexpected truth comes out.
And The Deer Effect doesn't provide the predictability of a story that uses a singular literary device to achieve its purposes: the fact that the protagonist becomes unwittingly involved in a search for justice while simultaneously fielding messages from his dead wife makes it a contrast in not only realities, but perception.
The only 'constants' in such an exploration lie in setting and place: readers footpad through psychological woods that hold more than a touch of emotional insight in them: "...the death of a family member had a way of lobotomizing a person's soul." Such an arena holds a fine line between sanity and insanity; between drowning in loss and rising to find new meaning in life - and a better understanding of possible afterlives.
Wingate's writing style is evocative and compelling: "This one moment, feeling these purest of pure emotions, was worth more to me at that second than any length of a lifetime in heaven. That's what I believed then, and that's why I touched Bobby again. It felt like static electricity when I laid my hands on my dog. And that became my future memory. The one I could always reach for."
Connections between people, pets, and life's circumstances unfold like an origami crane with exquisite details laid bare until at last the entire pattern is on the table - and the originally-anticipated plot is erased.
Forget about hunting, deer, and woods survival. Enter a world where grief serves as the catalyst for change and where death opens the door to other worlds.
Such is the world of Rod and those around him - all changed by Hannah's death, each looking for answers, and all wound up a satisfying story that is haunting until its final resolution.
Digital Master - Dbunk the Myth of Enterprise Digital Maturity
The digital culture is fast, it's furious, and it's unforgiving; especially to those who lag behind: and by 'lag' I mean by as little as months.
It holds great potentials and great cautions, it holds the potential to create a fairer, more equal global community, and it requires of its users (especially those involved in business) a strategic vision that demands innovation and flexibility.
Digital Master is a business guide that takes this culture and its requirements and applies them in a manner different from most linear assessments of either culture or business pursuits, blending the two perspectives to consider not just the changing environments and rapidity of digital pursuits, but how new strategic vision and problem-solving capabilities may evolve from a digital emphasis on traditional processes.
It's almost a makeover of the business environment, is based not on one person's assessments but on numerous professional digital debates and crowd-sourced input, and is designed to appeal not just to managers (too many business titles focus just on this audience when addressing strategic change) but to the business organization as a whole, digital professionals, and others who would take digital mindsets and use them as self-improvement tools.
From what traits constitute a high-performance culture in the digital business world to the impact of big data and social media on business communities, chapters discuss such diverse topics as 'knowledge management' approaches, how audiences perceive value, how to consider cause and effect over traditional prioritizing, and more.
At each step of the discussion, contrast is made between traditional approaches and new business models, offering the opportunity to not just contrast and analyze digital approaches, but construct new short- and long-term avenues for digital success using the unique power of the digital environment.
The primary attribute of Digital Master is its ability to appeal to all level of business reader. Most such books on the topic narrow the focus to a specific segment of business pursuit (commonly, marketing or branding) or a specific audience (typically managers or entrepreneurs). It's rare to see a book that seeks and promotes inclusion at all business levels and is directed not just to leaders, but to workers.
The digital culture is fast, it's furious, and it's unforgiving - and part of this unforgiving nature lies in a tendency to direct information to certain audiences while leaving others in the dark. I found Digital Master to be accessible to any interested in innovative approaches, business models, and collaborative ventures - and in a culture and time when business can be exclusive and self-limiting, this is a unique approach, indeed.
John W. Mefford
9780990344025 $3.99 http://www.johnwmefford.com
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00MAYAHAM?*Version*=1&*entries*=0
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wicked-greed-john-w-mefford/1119986258?ean=2940046055597
Wicked Greed is Book Three of the 'Greed Series' (the prior books have not been seen by this reviewer), so newcomers who pick up Wicked are coming in mid-series. Normally that would be a red flag: it's usually difficult to enter a book mid-series without the background setup that allows a clear transition into the latest developments. Not so with Wicked, which holds its own independent story that ties in with (but doesn't lean on) its predecessors for strength.
A sick, twisted psychopath sends some wrenching emails to news media across the South, catching the attention of reporter Michael, who wonders if it's just sick musing or a warning of things to come. The answer lies in a series of twisted murders indicating that the promise was only too real.
How can a serial killer's motivations become linked to hijacking and politics? How can Michael's growing love be threatened by events within his job? And will his courses of action threaten everything he holds dear in his life?
The focus here is on greed and manipulation at its highest levels, on psychological illness at its most deadly incarnation, and on what motivates one man to kill and another to heal. It's at once a thriller, a murder mystery, and a novel of psychological complexity: add a healthy dose of wrenching soul-searching and it's evident that the story line is not for the faint of heart.
This is not to say that it's unduly violent: John W. Mefford wields his wicked and good characters alike with professional precision, and as reporter Michael hones all his investigative skills to track down the very few clues dangling in a closed case with virtually no evidence, he finds himself on a fox hunt (so to speak) that reels him into danger like a fish on a line.
It's a wide net that needs to be cast, as is usual with a murder (but in this case, the net expands to a country of some one million people - not your usual local case), and as Michael finds himself transfixed and transformed by the search and its many dead ends, he slowly comes to realize what greed and wickedness truly are.
Now, Wicked Greed holds many strengths: its characters have the ability to hone sensual images for good or bad, its heroes can in fact be murderers themselves, and its social and law enforcement struggles are often linked to business and political interests. For some readers anticipating the simple story of a serial killer and a reporter's investigations, this net may be cast too widely for the simpler plot they were anticipating.
But those well seasoned on the complexity of the thriller genre will easily find devices used here, in the course of solving a mystery, that cross genres and incorporate the best of many worlds. And so you have the elements of a mystery/detective story opening the book, capturing its prey (the reader), then reeling in the catch with a serial killer's motivations, spicing struggle with outside elements that bring in wider and wider world connections, ultimately blending a reporter's personal and professional journey with larger conflicts.
And, after all - in a genre replete with too-easy wins, predictable story lines, and works that catch and release too quickly, it's the bigger picture of world-changing events that is the ultimate draw, and the greatest strength, of Wicked Greed. And, it's a pleasure to say that this series addition requires absolutely no prior familiarity from its new readers to stand well alone, on its on merits.
W & B Publishers
Publisher's website: http://a-argusbooks.com/home.htm
Author's website: http://mindsonshelves.com
Harry Monmouth is in retirement due to his wife Alex's serious illness, and is involved in a desperate struggle to save her life; so what outside influence could possibly change his decision to lay low and help her? Only one that could affect not only their chosen home of New Hope, but the world beyond.
One of the delights of Lucifer's Promise is that it begins like a Big Bang of intrigue, opening with the singular challenge of a couple facing a possibly-fatal illness but rapidly expanding outward to embrace an equally deadly force that could affect mankind itself.
As events move from Harry's home to his community and beyond, readers are drawn into a story line that's far more than its opening concerns about a town sports player's questionable activities and accusations of corruption.
If this were all that was involved in Lucifer's Promise, it'd become another of your predictable investigative mysteries - thankfully, it's not.
For in this case 'Lucifer' is right up the hill, and his plots and foray into genetic engineering holds startling ramifications for everything Harry holds dear in life.
Scenes move between narrow portraits of sports and individual lives to this bigger picture, with first-person observations of Harry cementing all the action as he becomes unwillingly drawn away from his wife's situation and into an even deadlier scenario. And because Alex's own survival depends in part on genetic engineering, this fine line between good and evil is not a clear call for Harry to make.
This is one of the devices that gives Lucifer's Promise such an intriguing twist: the protagonist/hero himself relies on the very thing that could save or destroy lives - and so there are no clear answers, no clear evils, and no singular path towards redemption.
As the story progresses, the college becomes entwined in the political and ethical concerns of the School of Human Enrichment, which brings both promise and danger to New Hope's college and community.
The scientific possibilities of thinking beyond the genetic box are presented in a series of encounters that slowly involves Harry beyond the usual scenarios: "We believe one person can re-live the memories of another person. It's what I call temporary gene substitution." He fell into huckster mode. "Think of that. You could experience the Battle of Hastings in the mind of William the Conqueror. I could walk on the moon. All we need is the right DNA." As the promise, potential, and future use of genetic manipulation is explored, Harry comes to realize its dangers as well as its promises.
And, that's the crux of the story: is Lucifer's Promise about evil, or good? Is it about manipulation or unethical or moral principles? Ramifications of the scientist's work even reach into the areas of privacy and civil rights: "The idea, of course, was monstrous. Whatever prophylactic use it might have, gene substitution was just another term for mind reading. It would allow anyone to snoop into another person's life, the ultimate surveillance tool. All that was required, as Ender said, was the right DNA."
But the best is yet to come: murder, payback, litigation, miracle cures and their consequences ... all these embroil Harry and Alex in a truly dangerous game where nobody is the victor and everyone faces the fires of transformation.
Alex's serious illness is about to move from the personal to the political and beyond - and Harry may be helpless to stop events from unfolding and enveloping his carefully-constructed world.
Lucifer's Promise isn't a mystery or detective story per say, though plenty of elements of the thriller genre are embedded in the plot and fans of genetic or medical mystery reads, in particular, will be delighted with the way this investigation goes: "We've set ourselves apart from a world we still have to live in. The world will survive. I'm not sure we will." She stopped. "Steiner said he could create life. What comes after that?"
It's not so much the mystery that holds attention, as these larger observations of how mankind is manipulating his environment, whether for good or evil - and how ordinary individuals such as Harry and Alex react to the possibilities and dangers of this manipulation.
Fans of Robin Cook, Michael Crichton, and the like will thus find plenty to admire in Lucifer's Promise, which successfully crosses genres. Adventure, mystery, and higher-level thinking: it doesn't get better than this, for a reader who looks for more than mere entertainment.
Murder Mystery Press
9780984782543 (paperback) $14.95
9780984782567 (hardback) $16.95
9780984782550 (ebook) $2.99
Once again: striking covers are not usually noted in the context of a review because, let's face it, cover art may sell a book; but it's usually all too lacking in an e-book production. Not so with A.J. Harris, whose simple two-word title is enhanced by a vivid cover portraying a church in the background, a beautiful woman's sideways look at the camera, and what looks to be a priest carrying a cross in one hand while his head is buried in the palm of the other.
Add vivid colors, sharp presentation, and the ability to provide an uncluttered image supporting just two words of the title and you already have a draw. Now, for the meat of the matter: the story and its presentation.
Set in 1951 California, Revenge Revancha is about wealth, a Mexican-style adobe mansion overseen by a middle-aged Mexican matron, a series of murders surrounding famous artworks, and a ward who is fingered as prime suspect.
If it sounds like there are so many characters that the story line could become confusing, that is not actually the case, here. Where other authors might fail, A.J. Harris succeeds in deftly creating portraits of each character's unique attributes which makes them memorable and sets them apart from one another.
One way this is done is by creating atmosphere, which is just one of the methods Harris uses to enhance scenes and action: "Rabino's home took on the welcoming warmth of the Friday evening Sabbath with the fragrances of freshly-baked challah, chicken soup and beef brisket. The dining room table was decorated with Rachel Rabino's Belgian linen, fine silverware, and English china reserved for the once-a-week dinner. A pair of polished brass candlesticks that had been in the Rabino family for over a century awaited Rachel's lighting after she put on her prayer shawl."
It should be noted that this kind of description is exactly where many murder mysteries fail; but it's the very act of creating ambiance that lends the characters three dimensions instead of two and reinforces not only surroundings, but motivations and backgrounds.
As for the murder itself, it moves from a singular event to one which embraces the incentives of an assassin, the compromises of a seasoned detective who finds himself falling in love with a possible perp, and the complications of romance which rears its not-so-ugly head even in the face of life-threatening danger.
There's also much history involved as part of this background build-up: California, Spain, the Spanish Civil War, and the protagonists' heritage. Once again: key to recalling events (and making sense of them) is the story's sense of place and history. Harris takes the time to build up both where others would gloss over with a few hasty paragraphs on the way to focusing on the mystery piece - and this results in a satisfying depth and involvement on the reader's part as events slowly come to make sense against the backdrop of past, present, and future.
As family connections as well as background are explored, readers are treated to characters that come alive - including their motivations for making and keeping secrets: "Gruenwald continued, "The colonel confided in me alone; he trusted no one else. His secrets weigh heavy on my heart. He made me take an oath of silence, but now that he's gone, I can tell you his sordid secrets."
At some places romance seems the last thing that will come to fruition as scenarios of death emerge and winding puzzles come undone with some unexpected revelations.
Without imparting spoilers, suffice it to say that in the end, nobody is safe from being considered a suspect; and the real murderer's motivations and identity will change worlds.
Revenge Revancha is the kind of murder mystery that stands out from typical genre approaches. It takes the time to build mood, character, and background, it pops attention with a colorful, eye-catching cover that wastes nothing in its attention to detail, and it provides a fast-paced plot that sends strings of intrigue in all directions, then deftly reels them in.
In conclusion, it's the perfect murder mystery for those who appreciate depth and intrigue over easier 'whodunnits' holding one-dimensional characters and settings.
ECHO's Revenge: Book 2, The Other Side
AAA Reality Games Publishing
9780983726470 $2.99 www.EchoHunt.com
Young adult science fiction or fantasy is not a new genre; but to see an adult thriller format entering into the picture and merging with science fiction: now, that's a different approach - and one deftly cultivated in Book 2 of Echo's Revenge, The Other Side (which is Part 1 of a projected five-part subseries).
The striking cover art must be mentioned first: a sort of bug-shaped mask inside which human-looking eyes peer out. This and the complex series title alerts readers that the young adult audience intended is that of the mature young adult scifi reader; not those lacking the ability to read into quasi-adult circles. Speaking of which - let's not forget the adult scifi/thriller enthusiast, either: so much goes on here that any who enjoy either genre will find this fast-paced and involving.
First of all, it IS possible to set an instantly-riveting, attention-grabbing scenario with just a few pen strokes, as evidenced by a two-sentence introduction that refers to the material within being from " ...files hacked from ECHO-7...this report may vary from earlier reports of the ECHO-7 catastrophe."
Talk about becoming 'hooked': now the reader wants to pursue details of this 'catastrophe', a fitting lead-in to a thriller that rests on the ECHO revenge game series and draws in its players with the story of a game gone awry.
Now, some of the details and plot were set forth previously in Book One, ECHO's Revenge (not seen by this reviewer); but one of the strengths here is that no prior familiarity is required for this sequel to prove instantly accessible and absorbing.
As to its audience: readers should ideally be video gamers (or somewhat knowledgeable thereof), and of course should be readers, too. The story is satisfyingly complex and winding and action fast-paced so that anyone used to the quick twists of a video game will find it a solid read.
ECHO-7 has its own independence and its own purposes. That much becomes clear to one player when he finds that a game assumes too much reality and contains the ability to not just draw him in, but trap him in its world.
The potential of a game that can enter and circumvent reality itself is both fearful and awesome, as its creators soon find out; and as ECHO-7 (predictably) gets loose, like Frankenstein it evolves to become a greater monster than its creators could have imagined, unrestrained by the playing field that was its birthplace.
ECHO-7 follows no rules and adopts all the trappings of a dangerous demon: it can morph, it can change its structure, it can interact with and destroy worlds, and it is machine code come to life in its most deadly form.
Under such conditions ECHO is no longer the realm of the teenage gamer, but a force to be reckoned with even in the worlds of non-gamers.
Under such conditions, worst fears are recognized, hunting and survival games come to life, and Luca and other players can no longer laugh at what they are afraid of, or shut off and quit the game.
The AAA Reality Games design team thought they could shut off ECHO-7. They thought they created the rules and they believed they were in control. So does the reader. As events unfold and ECHO develops the ability to dictate, spy on its human creators, and move beyond its programming, shades of Colossus are created - only with higher-tech descriptions, more vivid gaming-oriented action, and a course that leads ECHO on a hunt through a game of its own making.
To limit such a production to young adults would be a shame: any sci-fi reader of any age who's interested in computer takeovers, video gaming, and alternate reality will love The Other Side for its vivid, fast-paced, realistic thriller plot. It's sci-fi thriller writing at its very best, and follows the evolution of an artificial intelligence predator and self-programmed intelligence with many satisfying twists and turns of plot.
9781622172085 $TBA www.PeterGilboy.com
Novels don't usually open with the perp's unerring perspective as police converge on him, arresting him and demanding to know what happened to 'the girl' while informing him of his right to remain silent (...and these conflicting instructions are why the protagonist laughs at the irony - a move which is, naturally, misunderstood by the cops).
Novels don't often use a police invitation to spill 'what happened' as the opening salvo in a story of deadly consequences and challenging decisions. Most of all, they rarely hold the capacity to prove uniquely gripping, in just a few paragraphs of first-person observation ("But if I had
told them the truth, they would have thought it an invention, or that I was simply deranged. I imagine them now spinning their own bleak versions of what happened to Madeleine, as if it can be summed up quickly like one of Grimm's Tales.")
But, such is the nature of Madeleine's Kiss, which defies the common label of 'thriller' or 'mystery' but takes both elements to an entirely new level in a production that displays the rare capacity to be riveting and eye-opening in its very first chapter, when other novels are busy setting the scene and creating psyches.
What really happened to Madeleine? The reader's about to find out - and there's not a wasted line in the entire process: "But what happened to Madeleine is too terrible and too wonderful. Even the Brothers Grimm would not have risked putting it to the page."
The 'terrible wonderful' aspect builds and builds. From the start, the protagonist offers a series of emotionally-charged observations that takes the form of his own description of an avalanche of circumstance: "If this was a children's story, I could say that it began at some indefinite time in the past, an unspecified day and month and year. Once upon a time. But it was on a Wednesday morning in April just last year. Yet every loss has its roots somewhere even further in the past, like a hard-packed snowball gathering mass as it descends a snowy and treacherous incline. Until. Until the avalanche, of course."
At first there's the crystal-clear day, the snow of setting, character, and events laid out before the viewer, sparkling and fresh. But from the beginning there are more than light rumblings of warning that this won't be your usual thriller or mystery read: the precise (yet ominous) observations of the first-person narrator make that clear.
One of the devices Peter Gilboy wields with effectiveness and precision is that of contrasting reality with perception. Thus, a witness stand testimony is the perfect platform for contrasting what really happened with what was perceived - and misinterpreted: "The eye sees, but the mind interprets. It didn't happen like that at all. I walked with Madeleine to my car and opened the door for her. For some reason, she slipped right then. I stopped her from falling, caught her as she fell backward toward me. After she was in the car, I had to push the door hard. It's an older Ford Taurus and the door sticks, both of them actually. I always have to slam or push hard. That's what the so-called witness saw."
Allegations, accusations, misunderstood events and re-enacted possibilities: all these are the ultimate elements of intrigue all too often ineffectively wielded in the interests of linear plots and characterization. Madeleine's Kiss, however, stands outside of these approaches: events are narrated with a surgeon's precision as the landslide of incredulous events threatens, looms and begins to fall - silently at first, then with a rocket's roar and speed.
It's hard to do this plot justice without revealing too much. And (especially with this work) 'spoilers' would ruin the author's intention to have the avalanche work its powers in an evolutionary pattern until an unsuspecting reader turns to find it full in-face, with nowhere to go.
This reviewer loves a good surprise. And nothing has surprised more than the revelations of Madeleine's Kiss. For more, you'll just have to put skis on and hit the slopes. Its attention to character, detail, and twists of psyche virtually guarantee that thriller and mystery readers can't be disappointed.
9780993764622 $15.00 Paperback
ASIN: B00POSPGYS $4.99 ebook
One of the most beautiful forests in the world is also the most deadly, harboring a reputation for suicides that indicates that more than trees is growing deep in the Japanese woods of Aokigahara. You'd think that would be the last place where a thwarted group of mountain-climbers would choose to camp; but in fact when one of their members is found hung in a tree come morning, the group decides that further investigation is required.
And so the predictable (up to this point) horror of the "suicide forest" unfolds. At this point, everything changes and what seems a conventional horror story turns into something more satisfying, with twists and turns of plot that keep readers guessing.
It's ironic that the story begins with a decision not to hike Mount Fuji because weather conditions might make it too dangerous when, in fact, there's a greater danger lurking at tamer elevations.
It's ironic that members of a private teaching company would find themselves absorbing life-or-death lessons at the hands of a force greater than their belief system. And, it's Jeremy Bates's use of the first person to explore these scenarios of horror that successfully, completely involves readers in events as they unfold. Through Ethan's eyes the forest and its possibilities come to life, and through his investigations the horrible truth evolves.
Now, many horror accounts use the same kind of formula writing: unsuspecting (or curious) victims poke at a known danger until, one by one, they succumb to some dark magic, or a monster. If you're expecting that kind of breezy horror, move on: Suicide Forest isn't like that. It's about heroes and about atrocities committed in the name of heroism.
It's about legacies and impacts of decisions, and it's about a reign of terror that has its possible roots in the supernatural (or, does it?)
Most of all, it's ultimately about love - and about nightmares that keep victims screaming long beyond the event (or any revelations about its realities.) It's about reclaiming power and wielding it. Expect scenes sometimes gory and startling - this is no light read.
Suicide Forest takes all the elements of horror - gore and bloodshed, psychological ties that bind, and a group of fairly normal individuals who themselves absorb some of the horror they confront - and turns it around so that, in the end, one doesn't quite know where the true horror lies.
It's difficult to dance around premise and outcome without revealing spoilers, in this case. Suffice it to say that Suicide Forest takes any preconceived notions of 'horror' and turns them on end.
And, ultimately, that's what the seasoned horror enthusiast really looks for in a good horror story: something that seems to lead in a predictable direction, than takes the concepts of 'good' and 'evil' and adds an unpredictable twist.
The Woman in Black
Savina Thompson is on a mission of investigation... that's why she's reluctantly impersonating a call girl: to help a detective solve a mystery that has kept his investigation at arm's length. But her mission is about to become a lot more complicated; not only because a new speech emulation program is enabling her to pull off the switch so far, but because she is also becoming more involved in the detective's already-complicated personal life.
And this is the tip of the iceberg: Savina's participation in Operation Woman in Black also pulls her into a love relationship with a man she's supposed to be keeping at bay - and as a woman who enjoys her freedom, that alone is proving a challenge.
As a series of traps are set - and sprung, by a too-clever adversary who almost seems to read minds and whose inside connections thwart police operations at every turn - Savina's ability to pull off her call girl alter-ego Clara becomes increasingly challenging, drawing her into a deadly game replete with many characters, many possibilities, and conflicting alter egos.
Conrad struggles with casting a net that constantly shows up empty and lacking, while Savina and Denis find themselves on the wrong side of a confrontation that can only end badly.
On the face of it, The Woman in Black is a mystery. It's also a thriller and a novel of psychological suspense, as each protagonist has lot to win - and a lot to lose - in a complex game that is revealed in bits and pieces, chapter by chapter.
Like a good game of chess, moves and countermoves result in each side holding key pieces - but not the ability to make the winning move that will definitively end the standoff.
And that's what makes The Woman in Black so compelling: in the end, it's all about the standoff. The unpredictability is what counts - and what makes this story such a winner. It's rare for a seasoned mystery/detective reader to say one can't quite see it coming until the end - but it's the case here, and the winning gambit that makes The Woman in Black more than a cut-and-dried case of investigation, romance, or crime.
Michele Lynn Seigfried
9781502455710 $12.99 Kindle $3.99 Nook $3.99
Murder and amateur sleuthing is a mainstay of the mystery genre; but less common is the inclusion of humor, a device that sets Community Affairs apart from the majority of 'look-alike' titles and which provides a satisfying diversion from the usually-too-serious job of sleuthing.
The story opens with a first-person reflection on the protagonist's kidnapping, then segues quickly to two weeks earlier, when events began to build. So far, nothing extraordinary. But this isn't just a story of a murder and kidnapping: ultimately it's about feuding neighbors, differing viewpoints, and a motivation that leads to not just murder, but mayhem.
Bonnie is taking an oath of office, and it's time to celebrate her big promotion: an event almost stymied by new neighbors who are moving in and arguing with each other. As Bonnie comes to believe her new neighbor is unstable, she also makes some connections between Lemon Face (as she's impulsively named the woman) and a missing local - and it's then that push really comes to shove in a battle of neighbors turned deadly.
As Bonnie discovers more connections between Lemon Face (a.k.a. neighbor Lyla) and Polly, the wars escalate as each woman sees in the other an enemy able to destroy her happiness.
Now, the humor that permeates the plot isn't your slapstick affair: it surrounds the give-and-take of protagonists and is deftly portrayed in conversations, more often than not: "He answered on the second ring. "Speak to me." "That's a rude way to answer your phone." "Well, well, well, if it isn't the whore who lives next door." "And I'm talking to the prick who was hit with the Entenmann's stick." "What's that supposed to mean?" "It means you're cruel and overweight. It also means you're not too bright, being that I had to explain it to you." "Hey. That wasn't nice."
There are also little comments that provide whimsical and fun moments in an otherwise-serious sequence of events: "Not long afterwards, I heard the fine dining arrive - bread and water through a doggie door."
The well-rounded blend of tongue-in-cheek humor, observation, and amateur sleuthing involves neighbors, murderers, and hospital personnel alike in a journey that is anything but ordinary.
Unlike many a murder mystery protagonist, Bonnie doesn't aspire to gumshoe crime-solving: she's already a busy mother with a career, a loving husband, and a lot going on in her world. She simply falls into the role of investigator - but, what a role it is!
Community Affairs is aptly named because many members of the community engage and interact in the course of ordinary and illicit affairs and their potential impact.
Nobody knows who the killer is. And Bonnie is about to break the case wide open - if she survives.
It's detective writing at its best: adding a dash of humor to the mix to create not just comic relief, but the personality and whimsy lacking in most stories of amateur sleuths. And that's what makes Community Affairs not just a standout, but a top recommendation.
Boots on the Ground
David D. Tracey
No ISBN, $TBA
Boots on the Ground begins in Afghanistan, where a group of soldiers daily face combat and death. In their lives there are life-threatening attacks and honors - but most of all, there's a camaraderie that only emerges in the direst of situations that are born in challenge and strife and evolve to become the closest of life-long bonds.
But Boots isn't about Afghanistan so much as it's about the aftermath of returning home and facing a different kind of combat - one that tests these relationships years later, when a new life-threatening challenge is presented that pits two allies against one another in a new arena of adversity.
Though the preface sets the tone for an Afghanistan influence, the bulk of the story is set on U.S. soil, where these 'boots' have come to rest. (Well, perhaps not 'rest'; because in returning home lies a whole new set of complexities and confrontations.)
First of all, don't expect the characters or their concerns to be staid or predictable. There's not just ex-military involved, here: there's a busy call girl, a bar, and a developing 'fight club' with impossible odds that involves protagonists in a truly dangerous game that is ultimately as dangerous as Afghanistan.
There are plots and subplots, confrontations and dangers, and there's sex and the motivation for finishing a book; one which can be traced back to wartime angst ("Skip doesn't mention the two other reasons he has for wanting to finish the book himself - the two innocent worshipers he mistakenly killed in Afghanistan...").
When you have a fast-paced story that embraces elements of ex-military recovery, financial pursuits, motivations for corruption and redemption, and a variety of life-threatening forces at work, you have a story that is packed with diverse elements and approaches to life which are represented by different protagonists and their viewpoints and influences.
In the end Boots on the Ground is about moving full-circle to get out of the woods of not just danger, but moral corruption. It's about fighting to stay alive even on one's native soil, and about turning the forces of evil into something good.
It's complex, it's changing, and it's unpredictable: exactly what readers seek in a good novel - and recommended for those who don't want their novels falling neatly into too-predictable formula writing.
Red Star Diary of 1916
Rena Corey and Bill Noxon
Bygone Era Books, Ltd.
9781941072189 $14.95 paperback/$4.99 e-book
What does a diary from 1916 have to do with present-day events? Plenty; especially if it's written by a high school student during a period where the world is entering war (the first world war, that is!)
Red Star Diary of 1916 was found by Rena Corey in a flea market in 1993 - but the story didn't stop there. It was a bit of luck that its buyer specialized in antiquarian documents and took a shine to Bill Noxon's story, using the few clues it contained to track down its author. Her discovery of Bill Noxon's life apart from his diary adds to his teenage reflections to create a complete picture and involving account of his life and changing world.
Unlike most histories of World War I, Red Star Diary of 1916 doesn't come from a journalist, a military fighter their family, or anyone associated with media, politics, or society. It's from a comparative outsider who evolves from his concerns of daily living and his move from city to the country to take in the wider, evolving world.
Just as Bill stands at the threshold of change, so does the world; and as he begins to embrace the idea of this wider world, so readers follow the evolution of World War I events and impact with a far greater personal perspective than most accounts of the times can offer.
If you've read a lot of World War I history, you know that it's a fairly singular subject. Most approaches concentrate on historical events and don't capture daily life in a diary format; and most come from adults, not from teen observers. And Red Star Diary of 1916's maker was deceased - so Rena Corey's first task was to recreate his words and life as he would have, creating a factual, textual documentary and avoiding the usual tendency to produce chapters in favor of the more personal approach of the diary's original format. Quotes from Bill's diary are thus interspersed with Corey's words to round out and tell the entire story, and her additions appear in italics to clearly differentiate her voice from his unedited reflections.
Add a wealth of period illustrations (photos, handbills, postcards, maps, advertising, and more) and you have a unique presentation powered by the unusual collaborative efforts of a young boy's words and an antiquarian document enthusiast's attention to recreating vivid history from a single youth's diary: "...there was a fellow giving out the "Call" a Socialist paper in opposition to military training. It made my blood boil & I felt disposed to beat up a couple of them. That's all that was discussed in school. Socialism. Nearly all Jews belonged to it. I had an argument with one Jew who thought he knew everything about it."
Vivid, immediate, and personal: very few other stories of World War I hold the intimacy and perspective of Red Star Diary of 1916, making it a standout recommendation not only for readers of the subject, but those interested in the process of re-creating history from original writings and antiquarian works.
Rules for the Perpetual Diet
9781620156261, $15.95 pbk / $3.99 ebook
It's not a diet plan per say and it has little to do with nonfiction but Rules for the Perpetual Diet is a novel covering ten days in the life of a diet-obsessed twenty-something woman who perpetually struggles with weight gain and loss. Sound familiar? Well, don't get too comfortable: the familiar is about to be turned upside down as Amy's opening line snags attention: "Kat is dead. I am not. What I am is hungry. And majorly pissed off..."
In a few lines Burns has captured what all too few novels manage to grab: reader attention. And that attention continues as Amy plans a trip to France in an effort to avoid thinking about food (really??) and finds herself in a new world both strange and familiar at the same time.
Rules for the Perpetual Diet is replete with humor: "I had thrown the tea and the muffin into the trash can and now - how is it possible to want food at such a time? - I could eat a cow, an elephant, a house, the planet."
It's also replete with the culture of France, the agonies and connections of family and relationships, and one feisty woman's interactions with life: "If I were here with William I wouldn't have got my purse stolen. I wouldn't have barfed up my breakfast in the street in front of the Cafe de la Poste. I wouldn't have been stalked by the Sacre-Coeur biker jacket guy. But I wouldn't have met Margaret either. I wouldn't be sitting here, inside a real French apartment, the guest of a real Parisian resident, digesting oysters and slugging back Montrachet in the middle of the day."
As readers move through the story, one surprising facet is uncovered: its ability to subtly but insistently insert the elements of a diet plan and insights into self-image, motivation, and food obsession within the course of a winning story of Amy's struggles.
Threads of humor make for wry observations and fun moments that take serious encounters and turn them on end: "...news flash - you can't lock self-storage lockers from the inside. This is probably the first thing that people who try to live in them learn. I experimented with jamming the mechanism with a toothbrush but it didn't seem secure, and neither did a shoe, and neither did a two-pound sack of elbow macaroni, so I ended up moving the entire collection of boxes. Then I sat down and waited for morning, staring at my protective wall of food. I will donate it all to some worthy charity soon. Or, better yet, throw it out. Why should people who need to take charity have to eat crap?"
The story is about food and obsession - but it's also about Amy's discovery of her self outside of food, love, and life's slings and arrows. It's about her breakthroughs of what she needs in life and what she needs to lose - physically and figuratively. And, ultimately, it's about baggage and change. Woven within the story of her personal revelations is - yes - insights on diets, how they work, and why they don't.
Any female reader struggling to understand rules of engagement and dieting will welcome this unusual blend of a fictional story, a feisty, believable protagonist's journeys, and the underlying purpose and realities of dieting and weight loss that all combine to make for a fun, vigorous read.
My Year in Oman
Matthew D. Heines
9780990879305 $15.99 www.heinessight.com
My Year in Oman: An American Experience in Arabia During the War on Terror should be read by any who have an interest in Middle East culture and affairs in general, and terrorism and education in particular. It's that important, and comes from the perspective of an American teacher, ex-paratrooper and writer who taught in the U.S. before challenging himself by accepting a teaching job in Oman.
One of the delights here is Matthew Heines' exploration of his own pre-conceived notions about what Oman will be like, in contrast with its reality. Not only does the country little resemble his imagination, but his experience there is something he couldn't have prepared for. (In fact, before he left for his new job, he couldn't even definitively identify Oman on the map!)
How many teachers would travel to a land they didn't know in pursuit of money and a challenging new position? How many would rent their own cars at a strange airport in the middle of the night and head off into what looks like a desert when they are stranded at the airport? And how many would fall in love with a beautiful Indian girl while on a two-week vacation, only to run into the secrecy that often permeates Indian society and relationships?
Layers of intricacy and cultural encounters come to life in a story that is far more than a travelogue. In fact, readers who come to My Year in Oman might be disappointed in its lack of 'fluff': there are no insights on where to stay, what to eat, what to do. This is autobiography and cultural inspection at its best and, as such, is a recommendation not so much for the armchair traveler as it is for those passionate about other cultures, other worlds, and thinking outside the box of the familiar travel or work pursuit.
Matthew Heines had many choices in his career. He chose to accept something different - and then, to share these insights in a powerful book that moves beyond autobiography into the realm of truly experiencing life and all of its swings.
Heines writes that "Humans have occupied Oman for the last ten thousand years. Archaeologists have uncovered settlements near Muscat that date back at least that far."
Given that this culture is ancient and its position in the region is central, it's a no-brainer that My Year in Oman should be considered for any reader interested in Middle Eastern culture and peoples.
Any who pick up the book expecting an entertaining travelogue will be in for a treat: it's so much more, and packs in the depth and attention to detail that doesn't just entertain: it educates. And, after all, that's where Matthew Heines's passion really lies.
Another Year in Oman
Matthew D. Heines
9780990879312 $11.99 www.heinessight.com
Another Year in Oman: Between Iraq and a hard Place is the second of a three-book series that describes the author's life in the Middle East and once again offers a powerful perspective, continuing the saga begun by Heines' venture into Oman post-9/11.
At this point the U.S. is about to invade Iraq, and Heines is the only American in the region - so he's viewed with undue suspicion and faces the additional challenges of being involved in a clandestine relationship with an Arab woman and struggling with a very different culture.
Like My Year in Oman, this book is neither 'fish nor fowl' - it's not a travelogue; so don't anticipate that direction. Neither is it strict autobiography: there's a lot of cultural observation and history that would be lacking in a more egocentric production and it's this cultural interaction that forms the backbone of Heines' experience and story.
It's about Muslim faith, cultural values, the interaction of Arab countries with the rest of the world, and how Heines' decision to live in Arabia succeeds in changing not only his life, but those around him.
Expect more details about Omani culture than were provided in the first book, expect more rich viewpoints of male and female lives and how they are changed by Muslim faith and politics, and most of all, anticipate a deepening romance set against the backdrop of protests and heightening tensions in the Middle East.
Most accounts of the region come from relative outsiders. Even reporters who have extensively traveled throughout the Middle East and who have more in-depth background in the region's political turbulence don't have the personal associations that Matthew Heines develops in the course of working and developing a love relationship in Oman.
Another Year is about adventure and romance - but more importantly, it's about one average American's understanding of the underlying forces that drive Muslim culture and heritage, offering a rare opportunity for understanding based not on so much on history or politics as upon personal interactions.
And that's a rare perspective, indeed - especially in a post-9/11 world which too easily equates 'terrorism' with 'Muslim' and negates individual matters of the heart.
Killing Time in Saudi Arabia: An American Experience
Matthew D. Heines
9780990879374 $18.99 www.heinessight.com
Now, Killing Time in Saudi Arabia demonstrates perfectly the reason why some books written as a trilogy should be viewed as 'one', read in order, considered as a unit, and stronger as part of a package production. For without the background provided in My Year in Oman and Another Year in Oman (which documents the author's experiences from 2001-2003) this third book would not feel nearly as rich and fulfilling in background, setting and sentiment as it covers eighteen months of life from 2004-2005, when some of the heaviest fighting of the War on Terror occurred - right under the author's nose.
In Killing Time in Saudi Arabia Heines has left Oman and taken a job as an English teacher, training national guard officers for the Saudi Arabian military. Amidst the backdrop of educational progress are the uncertainties and threats of war: gunfire erupting and changing lives, drives through the streets of Riyadh, reflections on life, death, and independence ("...I had become a person who was somewhat in control of his situation...I suddenly realized that the act of buying a car had changed in one night, my entire Saudi Arabian experience.")
New reports of gunfire, killings, and terror are a very effective conclusion to every chapter, documenting daily life in the Middle East and placing the author's experiences within the context of a wider world's troubles and a culture's psychology and wonders.
This isn't just about serious life-threatening moments, as readers might expect: there is much humor to be found in cultural misunderstandings - as when Heines believes he has contracted to tour a camel farm and gets something far different: "The worst thing I thought could happen was a terror attack. I had been concerned about being killed when I should have been concerned about being embarrassed and humiliated. "I did everything I could to make it clear that we wanted to see a camel farm," I explained. "I must have asked him three different times...Wouldn't you just assume that a camel farm would include camels?" It's one thing to fail to arrange to see camels. It's quite another to bring a group of eager tourists along for the ride: a group interested in the trappings of culture, not the culture itself: "With few exceptions, most of the group was not interested in Saudi culture at all, which made my appearance in Saudi clothes just one more bizarre detail in an increasingly bizarre story."
Against the backdrop of love, war, tourism and teaching, the gaps between West and Middle East are highlighted. Under Heines' deft hand these cultural interactions and misunderstandings come to life and ultimately serve to provide a better understanding not only of Middle East atmosphere and culture, but of the psychology and perspectives of ordinary people living in a very different world.
A series of misadventures and ironies emerges; even more so than in the two Oman books - which is unexpected, because by Book Three readers would anticipate that Heines has likely penetrated the Middle Eastern veil and is settling in. Nothing could be further from the truth: he's now in a different region and his understanding is still uncertain, his grasp of politics and peoples still tenuous, and his experiences greatly different than in the comparatively isolated medieval town atmosphere of Oman, with its very different world.
Again, humor is embedded in every chapter; so if you don't want quirky observations and tongue-in-cheek wry remarks, look elsewhere ... though that would be a shame, because this approach is what lends all three books a personal, interactive, intimate perspective lacking in most other accounts of the Middle East: "...except for the threat of a large-scale attack by a battalion of terrorists, car combings, or random acts of terror, I had little to fear."
Another difference between these books and other Middle East accounts is that Heines always seeks to think - and act - outside the box. Thus, he often arranges for expeditions beyond his teaching objective and his comfort zone: "...we made plans for yet another expedition into the far reaches of Saudi Arabia with the Riyadh Rovers. With no map, and no GPS, all I knew six days later, was that we were somewhere in the north, near Kuwait."
His expeditions, as with his teaching goals, are all about breaking through these boundaries of comfort, and bring readers along for the bone-rattling jeep rides and cultural encounters introduced by romance and experience alike.
Some might fault Heines for including romance in every book. Some might look for more background history, or more cultural insight, or even more teaching encounters (if the reader intends on teaching abroad and is seeking pointers) - but that's not the objective of this trilogy.
Its purpose is to profile the author's cultural encounters and his immersion in foreign lands and perspectives, and it's here that this trilogy shines.
It's life in the middle of war, life in the middle of cultural incongruities, and most of all, it's about reaching out of one's familiarities to grasp for more. Individually each book in the set stands alone as an engrossing saga. Taken together, they form the nexus of a cultural investigation not undertaken in your usual Middle East books written by commentators, observers, and military personnel.
Any who would truly understand the region and its psyche would do well to enjoy the combination of rollicking adventure and cultural insights that permeate all three stories, defying the usual labels of 'travelogue', 'teacher's experience', 'romance' or 'social analysis' to embrace elements of all four approaches.
The Alcatraz Rose
9781502797031 $15.95 www.anthonyeglin.com
The Alcatraz Rose joins others in the Lawrence Kingston mystery series (prior books not seen by this reviewer), and opens with an unusual move: a thirteen-year-old begs Lawrence Kingston to investigate her mother's disappearance eight years ago (which seems connected with her botany business) and the clues Lawrence unearths seem to lead to an extinct rose rediscovered growing on Alcatraz Island some 5,000 miles from its last known location.
And so the mystery surrounds not just murder, but history and botany - and that's one of the unexpected flavors that sets The Alcatraz Rose apart from your standard 'whodunnit' genre read.
Another surprise is its atmosphere; for fans of England will find the country's ambiance steeped into every page: thick, delicious, and milky like a good English tea. There are deliciously-described meals and clues unearthed over breakfast. There are clues hidden in books, tendrils of uncertain associations that lead to further mysteries, and an attention to building character and setting which lends to reader connections with protagonists and concern about their outcome.
And, after all, isn't this the ultimate purpose of a good mystery: to not just keep readers at arms-length with entertainment, but to immerse and involve them in the fiber and atmosphere of the adventure?
A rare rose, a child's plea, and a 'cold' case resurrected, all against the backdrop of England's culture and atmosphere - what's not to like?
The casual mystery will simply puzzle and entertain. The superior production will take the time to create a setting and protagonists that are compelling. Such is the nature of The Alcatraz Rose - and the reason why its twists and turns of plot stand apart from the ordinary genre approach.
The Best Kind
9781926689807 $18.95 www.drcpublishingnl.com
The Best Kind is women's fiction and is set in Newfoundland, an area the author knows well, having grown up in a small fishing village on the Burin Peninsula. From the very first paragraph it's evident that this story circles around strong women, faith, and family ties: "My grandmother has lived her entire life following every rule and regulation that the fellows behind the scenes at the Vatican make up as they go...On this dirty old Newfoundland morning, she's worried she has fooled something up along the way, which is about as likely as the sun beating down here in Hurt Cove for ten days straight is."
Part of what 'shines' in this novel (and perhaps the device that earns its billing as a 'women's fiction' piece) is its descriptions of connections between females: "A lot of people can rhyme off the Bible word for word, but not many live it like Nan does, waking every day intent on being and doing good. Though the Catholic guilt and fear drilled into me since before my baby teeth came in are firmly rooted to my core (despite my legendary attempts over the years to dislodge them), I'm mad enough this day to curse at Him, consequences be damned."
Reflections on society, religion, and family are the threads that explain and connect - and the same ones that draw in readers with a tight, compelling story of generations living out torment and passing wisdom to the next.
Time fluctuates between the present and grandmother Hannah's life experiences, with stories documenting hard times, people scraping by, and curses and cures: "One time, Daddy had to bring me in his dory down to Bay of Bottoms to see this woman with cures. It was on account of this whooshing noise I kept hearing in me head. When it roared so loud I used to get right dizzy. Come to find out it was the worst kind of infection in me ear. It was like I didn't know if I was coming or going with the pain and the queer old feeling it give me. That's exactly what I feels like now."
Two very different voices are satisfyingly written with attention to dialect and the observational experience that clearly separates these two contrasting lives, even if the chapter headings didn't cement this effort by placing dates and names so that there's no possibility of readers becoming confused.
All these facets entwine in a survey that probes connected experiences with men and romance: "You often hears tell of people saying that in times they walks around in a fog. It's going handy on to three weeks since me and Billy got married and I can't even face the fog that's after coming down over me, little alone up and walk around in it. Instead of waking up from a nightmare in the mornings, I leaves a dream world to come to hell on earth. Every single night I dreams that it's me and Roland that got married and is waiting to welcome into the world the dear little life taking root inside me. For the first few seconds I'm awake, the warm, blissful feelings from the dreams is right there just the same as if they was part of me real life. Then, in no time, the brutal ugliness of what I've been done pretty near murders me in the bed."
Turning forty brings with it connections, revelations, and shared family history. It offers opportunities for redemption on several fronts and it also affords a chance for confessing pain, shame, fright, and anguish.
In the end, what makes The Best Kind a compelling women's novel isn't the emotion: it's the juxtaposition of generations of women who each find their own paths amongst men, belief, and obligation.
The ending is inevitable: it's the journey involved in getting there that is the real story; told with the back-and-forth swing of past and present time and an ability to reconcile decisions and pain with newfound positive momentum towards a better future.
Add the Newfoundland dialect, culture, and touch and you have a work of 'women's fiction' that's truly a standout because of these disparate ties and because the voices involved speak from a woman's perspective.
The Car Seller's Guide, 2014
9780990874027 Amazon Digital, $4.99
The Car Seller's Guide provides useful information and breaks it down into a series of steps that any car owner can readily understand. Everything from determining how to set a price that will help sell the car quickly, to what repairs to make prior to the sale, to disclosure requirements, to advertising a vehicle, and how to handle paperwork involved in a vehicle transfer.
The Car Seller's Guide provides a quick, simple process explained in a clear set of step-by-step instructions. The book takes all the basics and breaks them down so that even novices used to car dealers will find it easy to consider all the options, from the pros and cons of trading in one's car to DIY selling.
Take the used car marketplace, for example. A chapter is devoted to analyzing car buyers and how they make purchases, and considers the influence of alternative buying methods (such as auctions and dealers) on the private seller. Another example is vehicle value: more chapters explore how a vehicle's value is perceived, how to take car pricing guides with a grain of salt, and how to handle the test drive and buyer concerns.
If all this sounds like weighty reading, it could be - but it's not in The Car Seller's Guide. Information is clearly communicated in checklists and bulleted sidebars that condense details and offer eye-catching pause for thought. There is also analysis of the multiple criteria applied by buyers in making a decision is critical information for sellers who want to market their car appropriately. There are even chapters on handling dealer transactions, if the owner prefers not to list and sell to an individual. It's all here and provided in a format that's easy to read, easy to absorb, and easy to use.
For actionable plans and resources, The Car Seller's Guide's at-a-glance format can't be beat, and is highly recommended for anyone interested in selling their car, SUV or truck.
The Motherless Child Project
Janie McQueen and Robin Kar
Burning Sage Publishing House
9780981611440 $14.95 www.themotherlesschildproject.com
The Motherless Child Project presents a powerful story told from a teen's perspective and tells of teen Emily, who has grown up without her mother and is long used this absence in her life. But it takes a school project, which she tailors around her experience of being motherless, to really bring her feelings to the forefront, and her journey is the subject of a story investigating why her mother left.
Motherless children have been the subject of many a book (including many a teen novel): so what makes McQueen and Kar's story different?
Does Emily want a life that's a big lie? Emily's not sure where she's headed when she undertakes her journey; but one thing is certain: she's driven by the absence of her mother as much as by other influences in her life, and can no longer ignore that gaping hole in her world.
Much of her life up to the point this story begins has been one of comfortable ignorance. Now she's venturing into the realm of investigation and filling in the blanks and, more so than other books on the topic of motherless children, The Motherless Child Project documents this process of discovery and what it does to a child's psyche and self-image.
Chapters flow smoothly as Emily progresses, bringing readers along for an Olympic effort as revelations are made, emotions assessed, and realities contrasted with belief and illusion. Long raised on a "steady diet of lies", Emily is ready to confront the facts; and within that process lays transformation.
Another satisfying aspect of this novel is its focus on how one girl's journey creates a new, interconnected community: for Emily's Motherless Project isn't a singular study: it's one that embraces the experiences of all motherless children - and one that will change all their lives; not just hers.
It's satisfying seeing one girl's angst and journey connecting a community together. It's unusual to find the outline of this community (and how it evolves) so smartly portrayed in the course of following a teen's other concerns, from relationships to music. And, it's about how one song can change a life, redirect it, and hone in on one's hidden feelings.
All this is carefully orchestrated, like a minuet of emotions and characters: "Right now it was tempting to wish I'd gone to our church on the morning I went with Macy and heard "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child." But I had heard it, and now I had to make good with Dad. He hadn't challenged me about the baby clothes thing. I was definitely swinging back and forth with the new and disturbing information I was finding."
In the end everything Emily hold dear will be called into question: family, safety, friendship, and the very reason for living.
To say that The Motherless Child Project is a book about change and self-discovery would be doing it an injustice: it's so much more. Through Emily's eyes the entire process of transformation is displayed, analyzed, and revealed, with all its aches and pains. Through her actions readers are treated to insights on responsibility, community connections, and, ultimately, the lasting impact of decisions.
Any teen reader looking for a powerful, compelling story - especially those who are motherless themselves, whatever the reason - will find The Motherless Child Project a powerful saga worthy of attention and acclaim.
The Tale of the Wulks
9780989419802 $15.99 http://fremontbooks.com
Fifty chapters in three parts shows that The Tale of the Wulks is no casual affair, but a powerfully complex creation as it provides a story of evil let loose on the world and the efforts of humans and magical forces to thwart it. But that's not the remarkable thing about this saga: what is truly notable is that this detailed, winding story was written by a teenager with autism, and its hero, Rilk Wulk, is a fifteen-year-old with autism himself.
He is on the side of good forces as they battle evil; and in Green's scenario, autism is actually one of his assets as he uses his special abilities and perceptions to best advantage.
It's evident from the story's depth, consistency and details that Green has read a lot of Tolkien and other epic writers and has not only absorbed these tales, but put them to good use. But in addition to the usual fantasy trappings of dwarfs and elves are the lesser-known brethren of magical beings, the Wulks, who are indigenous to the U.S., hold no surnames, and live as one clan.
Forced to evacuate their California stronghold, the Wulks go into hiding, establish a new, isolated village, and seek peace and tranquility for their world. Their refusal to accept otherwise will become the force that, in 2014, will come to a head under the leadership of popular Rilk, who claims members of both worlds as his close friends.
Rilk's visions and abilities are pivot points in his life, and the plot unfolds from his autistic perceptions, which lend understanding and provide an extra element of depth to the tale: "It seemed unjust to strike down an enemy when his only fault was his involuntary ignorance. As an autistic, Rilk did not have it in his heart to do violence to those who had borne him no threat. Autism causes people to be more sensitive toward the important things in life. Morality was of the utmost importance, and the idea of killing in cold blood was unthinkable."
It's these (many) moments of awareness and perception that make The Tale of the Wulks stand out (and apart) from the typical teen adventure or fantasy: "You were born a Wulk, and a Wulk you will stay. Everyone has his or her place in the universe. Your place is to defeat the Dark Lord of Maldon. Sometimes, the greatest heroes are among the innocents they defend. The police save the cities, the armies save the nations, and you shall save all of mankind. The forces are at work; time is moving. Every man is entitled to a peaceful life, and every deed that he does is only a chapter in his great story."
From politics and war to emotional and physical challenges and pulls towards darkness, The Tale of the Wulks is always spiced with insights - and as time moves in and out of 'normal' for Rilk, his steady focus on friendships, peace, and virtue will prove his greatest strength.
The Tale of the Wulks would be an epic adventure even without the added insights from an autistic teen's perspective. By including them, the story shines.
Diane Donovan, Senior Reviewer
The Glass City: Toledo and The Industry That Built It
Barbara L. Floyd
University of Michigan Press
839 Greene Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48104-3209
9780472119455, $50.00, 272pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The headline, "Where Glass is King," emblazoned Toledo newspapers in early 1888, before factories in the Ohio city had even produced their first piece of glass. After years of struggling to find an industrial base, Toledo had attracted Edward Drummond Libbey and his struggling New England Glass Company to the shores of the Maumee River, and many felt Toledo's potential as "The Future Great City of the World" would at last be realized. The move was successful (though not on the level some boosters envisioned) and since 1888, Toledo glass factories have employed thousands of workers who created the city's middle class and developed technical innovations that impacted the glass industry worldwide. But as has occurred in other cities dominated by single industries (from Detroit to Pittsburgh to Youngstown) changes to the industry it built have had a devastating impact on Toledo. Today, 45 percent of all glass is manufactured in China. Well-researched yet accessible, "The Glass City: Toledo and The Industry That Built It" explores how the economic, cultural, and social development of the Glass City intertwined with its namesake industry and examines Toledo's efforts to reinvent itself amidst the Midwest's declining manufacturing sector.
Critique: A superbly written, organized and presented work of seminal and original scholarship, "The Glass City: Toledo and The Industry That Built It" is highly recommended for both academia and non-specialist general readers with an interest in the history and development of Toledo, Ohio. Enhanced with the inclusion of twenty-two pages of Notes, a four page Bibliography, and a comprehensive Index, "The Glass City: Toledo and The Industry That Built It" is a strongly recommended addition to academic library American History collections. It should be noted that "The Glass City: Toledo and The Industry That Built It" is also available in a Kindle edition ($50.00).
Landscapes of War and Memory
University of Alberta Press
Ring House 2, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, T6G 2E1
9781772120004, $49.95, 600pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Since 1977, a new generation of Canadian writers and artists has been mapping the cultural landscapes formed by the memories of war we have inherited, and also the ones we are expected to forget. Challenging, even painful, the art and literature in Sherrill Grace's definitive study, "Landscapes of War and Memory: The Two World Wars in Canadian Literature and the Arts, 1977 to 2007", build causeways into history, connecting us to trials and traumas many Canadians have never known but that haunt society in subtle and compelling ways. A contemporary scholar of the period under examination, Sherrill Grace (Professor of English, University of British Columbia), exemplifies her role as witness, investing the text with personal, often lyrical, responses as a way of enacting this crucial memory work. "Landscapes of War and Memory: The Two World Wars in Canadian Literature and the Arts, 1977 to 2007" comprehensive study is intended for Canadians, scholars, and students interested in literature, theatre, and art relating to memories of the world wars.
Critique: An extraordinary and seminal work of truly impressive and seminal scholarship, "Landscapes of War and Memory: The Two World Wars in Canadian Literature and the Arts, 1977 to 2007" is enhanced with forty-six pages of Notes, a thirty-eight page Bibliography, a four page roster of Permissions, and a comprehensive Index. "Landscapes of War and Memory: The Two World Wars in Canadian Literature and the Arts, 1977 to 2007" is especially recommended for academic library Canadian History reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.
Haiwang Yuan, Awang Kunga, Bo Li
PO Box 1911, Santa Barbara, CA 93116-1911
9781610694704, $40.00, 185pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Most Westerners are unlikely to travel to the mountainous region of East Asia and experience the Tibetan people and their culture directly. The collaborative work of Haiwang Yuan, Awang Kunga, and Bo Li, "Tibetan Folktales" provides a way to experience and learn about the Tibetan people and their culture through carefully selected Tibetan folktales that provide readers with a unique glimpse into Tibet through the window of folklore. Providing a unique resource that can serve both as a storytime aid for educators who work with primary school students and a valuable reference for Eastern folklorists, "Tibetan Folktales" is comprised of more than 30 traditional Tibetan stories that give readers a taste of the land, people, culture, history, religion, and psyche of this remote country. The tales are gathered from contemporary Tibetan storytellers and translated from written sources to represent the rich oral and written literary tradition of Tibet's culture. In addition, "Tibetan Folktales" supplies tutorials for Tibetan crafts and games, a sample of recipes, and photographs and illustrations that create a multidimensional experience of Tibetan culture.
Critique: Nicely illustrated with line drawings, black-and-white photos, and full color photography, "Tibetan Folktales" is the latest addition to Libraries Unlimited's outstanding 'World Folklore Series'. Deftly organized into three major sections (Tibet, An Overview; Food, Crafts, and Games; The Tales), "Tibetan Folktales" is enhanced with two appendices (Motifs and Tale Sources; List of Common Expressions in Tibetan and English), eight pages of Notes; an eight page Glossary; and a comprehensive Index. As entertaining as it is informed and informative, "Tibetan Folktales" is very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections. It should be noted that "Tibetan Folktales" is also available in a Kindle edition ($32.00).
Bats, Balls, and Hollywood Stars
Educator's International Press
9781891928468, $34.95, 126pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Only one big league baseball club, the LA Dodgers, had an annual Hollywood Stars Night exhibition game. Over the years, other major league and minor league teams have produced their own celebrity ball games from time to time, with varying levels of success. Nonetheless, no other ball clubs, majors or minors, had been able to successfully sustain their celebrity game event over a period of years such as the LA Dodgers have. And, no other team (major league, minor league, and most prominently in recent years, MLB's All Star Game celebrity event) had been able to consistently deliver the impressive rosters of motion picture, TV, and live entertainment celebrities who suited up year after year at Dodgers Stadium for Hollywood Stars Night. "Bats, Balls, and Hollywood Stars: Hollywood's Love Affair with Baseball" includes some of the stories and backstage tales that made Hollywood Stars Night a Los Angeles Dodgers tradition for nearly 60 years. Filled with nostalgic memories captured in words and photographs, "Bats, Balls, and Hollywood Stars: Hollywood's Love Affair with Baseball" brings baseball and celebrity together and commemorates a Hollywood twist to our national pastime.
Critique: Expertly written and impressively researched, "Bats, Balls, and Hollywood Stars: Hollywood's Love Affair with Baseball" will have immense appeal for baseball enthusiasts in general, and LA Dodger fans in particular. Profusely illustrated throughout with black-and-white period photography, "Bats, Balls, and Hollywood Stars: Hollywood's Love Affair with Baseball" is enhanced with the inclusion of a list of the 'Most Notable Celebrities by Decade' and 'Hollywood Stars Night 1964-2003'. "Bats, Balls, and Hollywood Stars: Hollywood's Love Affair with Baseball" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to community library American History and Sports History collections.
Polynesian Navigation And The Discovery Of New Zealand
9781877514159, $32.95, 128pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The Polynesian navigator Kupe is credited with the discovery of the land his expedition named Aotearoa, country of the long white cloud. How did he and the many voyagers that followed find their way without modern navigational techniques through perilous seas in wooden canoes? By examining myth, star charts and contemporary Polynesian seafaring, Jeff Evans traces the methods by which the early explorers made their epic voyages in Part One of "Polynesian Navigation And The Discovery Of New Zealand". The second part of "Polynesian Navigation And The Discovery Of New Zealand" travels with Maori canoe expert Matahi Brightwell and navigator Frances Cowan aboard the traditional canoe Hawaiki-nui following age-old navigational techniques (with no modern aids) on its historic voyage from Tahiti down to New Zealand. Richly illustrated with photos, maps and drawings, "Polynesian Navigation And The Discovery Of New Zealand" is an essential guide to one of the world's great stories of discovery.
Critique: Exceptionally well written and illustrated with occasional black-and-white period photography, "Polynesian Navigation And The Discovery Of New Zealand" is as informed and informative as it is 'reader friendly' and thoughtfully engaging. Enhanced with four maps, a two page bibliography, and a useful index, "Polynesian Navigation And The Discovery Of New Zealand" is an ideal and ardently recommended addition to academic library collections and New Zealand History supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted that "Polynesian Navigation And The Discovery Of New Zealand" is also available in a Kindle edition ($14.99).
Control The Controller
Free Association Books
c/o International Specialized Book Services
920 Northeast 58th Avenue, Suite 300, Portland, OR, 97213
9781853432262, $27.50, 192pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Control the Controller: Understanding and Resolving Video Game Addiction" looks at how gaming and addiction have come together so rapidly in recent years. Mobile-based gaming and free-to-play games have revolutionized the gaming world. But, what are the implications of this? How does it affect the current thinking on addiction? "Control The Controller" addresses gamers, their families, mental health professionals, and game developers in this thorough and fascinating discussion of the nature of video game addiction. Many questions are answered, including how we can recognize a gaming addiction, what causes it, and what we can do to return an addict to healthy behavior. A step-by-step process for this is outlined, making "Control The Controller" an invaluable title for all who are affected by video game addiction and all those who encounter it.
Critique: In "Control the Controller: Understanding and Resolving Video Game Addiction", counselor and psychotherapist Ciaran O'Connor draws upon years of experience and expertise in working with gamers and games designers to cogently address one of the growing social issues of the modern digital world -- the use and abuse of computer gaming. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, and enhanced with the inclusion of a six page Bibliography, "Control the Controller: Understanding and Resolving Video Game Addiction" is a strongly recommended addition to professional and academic library collections. Informed and informative reading for anyone having to deal with video game addictions, it should be noted that "Control the Controller: Understanding and Resolving Video Game Addiction" is also available in a Kindle edition ($21.91).
The Lyons Press
246 Goose Lane, Guilford, CT 06437
9780762793037, $26.95, 304pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: World-class beaches, fragrant frangipani, swaying palms, and hula girls. Most folks think of Hawaii as a vacation destination. Mob-style executions, drug smuggling, and vicious gang warfare are seldom part of the postcard image. Yet, Hawaii was once home to not only Aloha spirit, but also a ruthless, homegrown mafia underworld. From 1960 to 1980, Hawaiian gangsters grew rich off a robust trade in drugs, gambling, and prostitution that followed in the wake of Hawaii's tourist boom. Thus, by 1980 (the year Charles Marsland was elected Honolulu's top prosecutor) the honeymoon island paradise was also plagued by violence, corruption and organized crime. The zeal that Marsland brought to his crusade against the Hawaiian underworld was relentless, self-destructive, and very personal. Five years earlier, Marsland's son had been gunned down. His efforts to bring his son's killers to justice (and indeed, eradicate the entire organized criminal element in Hawaii) make for an extraordinary tale that culminates with intense courtroom drama. Jason Ryan's vigorously reported chronicle of brazen gangsters, brutal murders, and a father's quest for vengeance is set against an unlikely backdrop of seductive tropical beauty.
Critique: This is a case of where real life is better than any fiction. Inherently fascinating, expertly written, organized and presented, "Hell-Bent: One Man's Crusade to Crush the Hawaiian Mob" is a terrific read and a "must" for anyone with an interest in the history of organized crime in America. Enhanced with the inclusion of five pages of Sources, twenty-two pages of Notes, and a thirteen page Index, "Hell-Bent: One Man's Crusade to Crush the Hawaiian Mob" is an extraordinary and highly recommended addition to community and community library American Biography and American Organized Crime reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted that "Hell-Bent: One Man's Crusade to Crush the Hawaiian Mob" is also available in a Kindle edition ($14.99).
I Am A Part Of All That I Have Met
H. Burke Nicholson, Jr. & Mary Juliet Nicholson
Mercer University Press
1400 Coleman Avenue, Macon, GA 31207-0001
9780881464719, $25.00, 205pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Burke Nicholson was many things: Son of the South. Golfer. Scottish Baron. World traveller. Philanthropist. Husband. Father. However, he played one role that defined him more and informed the other aspects of his life differently than all of the others: visionary Coca-Cola executive. The chronicle of his life is in large part a firsthand account of Coca-Cola's development into the globally recognized brand it is today. He experienced this evolution as one of the pioneers on the international side of the business. The history of Coca-Cola cannot be told without him, just as his life cannot be recounted without the soft drink. The two are profoundly intertwined. Having started out in his late teens working on Coca-Cola delivery trucks in London while he waited for sessions at the London School of Economics to begin, he rose through the ranks to ultimately become chairman of Coca-Cola Europe. During his long and storied career, he had opportunities of which most "Buckhead Boys" could only dream from negotiating behind the Iron Curtain to having an audience with the Queen. Although his memoir is perhaps ostensibly an historical narrative and a tale of engagement on the battlefield of business, it is also a great love story, the relation of a lifelong romance.
Critique: "I Am a Part of All That I Have Met: The Memoirs of Burke Nicholson of Balvenie" is an inherently fascinating read. Informed and informative, this candid and detailed account of a remarkable life lived out in remarkable times is superbly written, organized, and presented. Very highly recommended reading. Simply stated, "I Am a Part of All That I Have Met: The Memoirs of Burke Nicholson of Balvenie" should be a part of every community and academic library American Biography collection.
After the Holocaust the Bells Still Ring
c/o Lambda Publishers
527 Empire Boulevard, Brooklyn, New York 11225
9789655241624, $19.95, 128pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "After the Holocaust the Bells Still Ring" offers a fascinating portrait of mother and child who miraculously survive two concentration camps, then, after the war, battle demons of the past, including societal rejection, disbelief, and invalidation as they struggle to reenter the world of the living. "After the Holocaust the Bells Still Ring" is the story of how one newly takes on the world, having lived in the midst of corpses strewn about in the scores of thousands, and how one can possibly resume life in the aftermath of such experiences. It is the story of the child who decides, upon growing up, that the only career that makes sense for him in light of these years of horror is to become someone sensitive to the deepest flaws of humanity, a teacher of God's role in history amidst the traditions that attempt to understand it -- and to become a rabbi. As is often the case with Holocaust memoirs, readers will not emerge unscathed from this searing work.
Critique: Ably written by Jospeh Polak, a distinguished, Boston-based rabbi and academic, "After the Holocaust the Bells Still Ring" is candid, articulate, brutally honest, and ultimately uplifting. Informative and engaging from beginning to end, "After the Holocaust the Bells Still Ring" is strongly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library Holocaust Studies, Judaic Studies, and 20th Century Biography collections.
c/o Dufour Editions, Inc.
PO Box 7, Chester Springs, PA 19425-0007
9781847718327, $18.00, 247pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Set in medieval Wales in the final years of the reign of Prince Llewelyn, the Last Welsh Prince, our heroine Beth finds herself at the heart of the political intrigue and in-fighting at Llewelyn's court. The prince has many enemies, not just the formidable and ruthless King Edward I of England, but also his own brother Dafydd and no one is to be trusted. Beth, an astute and beautiful young woman, finds that out to her cost. It seems that love, the quest for power, and betrayal go hand in hand in 13th-century Wales as she lurches from one bad liaison to another.
Critique: A superbly crafted historical novel with impressive attention to detail from beginning to end, "Llywelyn" is a impressively entertaining novel of the first order and demonstrates author John Huges as a master of the storytelling arts. Very highly recommended for historical novel enthusiasts, "Llywelyn" is certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Historical Fiction collections.
When Saint Frances Saved The Church
Jon M. Sweeney
Ave Maria Press
PO Box 428, Notre Dame, IN 46556
9781594714863, $22.00, 192pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In "When Saint Francis Saved the Church: How a Converted Medieval Troubadour Created a Spiritual Vision for the Ages", historian Jon Sweeney presents an intriguing portrait of St. Francis of Assisi beyond the readily familiar stories and images. Sweeney reveals how the saint became a hinge in the history of the Christian faith and shows how in just fourteen years (from 1205 to 1219) the unconventional and stumbling wisdom of a converted troubadour changed the Church. Sweeney outlines Francis's revolutionary approach to friendship, "the other" (people at the margins), poverty, spirituality, care (for people, creatures, and the natural world), and death. "When Saint Frances Saved The Church" is a vibrant book presenting the unsullied life and message of Francis in its essential details, offering a sweeping, informative, remarkable look at how Francis and his movement quite literally saved the Christian faith -- and continues to offer a spiritual vision with contemporary relevance.
Critique: An impressive work of theological and historical scholarship, "When Saint Francis Saved the Church: How a Converted Medieval Troubadour Created a Spiritual Vision for the Ages" is exceptionally well written, deftly organized, and accessibly presented. Very highly recommended to the attention of non-specialist general readers with an interest in the life and influence of St. Francis of Assisi, "When Saint Francis Saved the Church: How a Converted Medieval Troubadour Created a Spiritual Vision for the Ages" is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.49), as an audio book CD ($23.89), and as an audio book download ($17.95).
Blackmail, My Love
2246 Sixth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710-2219
9781627780643, $16.95, 232pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Josie O'Conner travels to San Francisco in 1951 to locate her gay brother, a private dick investigating a blackmail ring targeting lesbians and gay men. Jimmy's friends claim that just before he disappeared he became a rat, informing the cops on the bar community. Josie adopts Jimmy's trousers and wingtips, battling to clear his name, halt the blackmailers, and exact justice for the many queer corpses. Along the way she rubs shoulders with a sultry chanteuse running a dyke tavern called Pandora's Box, gets intimate with a red-headed madam operating a brothel from the Police Personnel Department, and conspires with the star of Finocchio's, a dive so disreputable it's off limits to servicemen - so every man in uniform pays a visit.
Critique: A superbly crafted mystery replete with unexpected twists and surprising turns, "Blackmail, My Love" is author Katie Gilmartin's debut novelist and clearly documents her has having an extraordinary talent for creating memorable characters and embedding them into a deftly woven story that holds the reader's total attention from beginning to end. Also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99) "Blackmail, My Love" is a solid entertainment from beginning to end that is enthusiastically recommended for mature readers.
Sad Dad: An Exploration of Postnatal Depression in Fathers
Free Association Books
c/o International Specialized Book Services
920 Northeast 58th Avenue, Suite 300, Portland, OR, 97213
9781853432309, $19.99, 158pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Taking in many different perspectives, "Sad Dad: An Exploration of Postnatal Depression in Fathers" sheds light on the many aspects of postnatal depression in fathers - an unknown subject to many people. It includes a review of recent studies and research in this area, investigating the reasons behind male postnatal depression and how this can effect family relationships. It also examines the social and psychoanalytic factors which go some way to explaining why men experience this depression as well as women. In "Sad Dad: An Exploration of Postnatal Depression in Fathers", author Olivia Spencer talks with Michel Odent, a renowned obstetrician, writer, and birth expert. Odent's controversial view that men should not be present at childbirth, and that their presence may indeed be a trigger for depression, are central to his discussion. Spencer also talks with Adam Jukes, a psychoanalyst with a wealth of experience in working with violent and angry men. Jukes gives fascinating insights into male behavior, explaining that we simply don't give men the resources they need to deal with a new baby. "Sad Dad: An Exploration of Postnatal Depression in Fathers" opens up a discussion of diagnosis and treatment through personal stories from both men and women affected by a father's postnatal depression. It will increase awareness of this under-discussed subject and will challenge preconceptions.
Critique: A seminal work on a heretofore largely neglected but critically important subject, "Sad Dad: An Exploration of Postnatal Depression in Fathers" is very highly recommended reading, especially for anyone having to deal professionally or personally with fatherhood based depression. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented so as to be easily accessible for academic and the non-specialist general reader alike, "Sad Dad: An Exploration of Postnatal Depression in Fathers" should be a part of both community and academic library Parenting Studies collections.
A Historical and Legal Study of Sovereignty in the Canadian North: Volume 1: Terrestrial Sovereignty
Gordon W. Smith, author
P. Whitney Lackenbauer, editor
University of Calgary Press
2500 University Drive, N.W., Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2N 1N4
9781552387207, $45.95, 600pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Gordon W. Smith's 1952 dissertation from Columbia University on "The Historical and Legal Background of Canada's Arctic Claims" remains a foundational work on the topic, as does his 1966 chapter "Sovereignty in the North: The Canadian Aspect of an International Problem," in R. St. J. Macdonald's The Arctic Frontier. This work is the first in a project to edit and publish Smith's unpublished opus - a manuscript on "A Historical and Legal Study of Sovereignty in the Canadian North and Related Law of the Sea Problems." Written over three decades (yet incomplete at the time of his death in 2000), this work may well be the most comprehensive study on the nature and importance of the Canadian North in existence. Volume 1: Terrestrial Sovereignty provides the most comprehensive documentation yet available on the post-Confederation history of Canadian sovereignty in the north.
Critique: A work of painstaking scholarship, "A Historical and Legal Study of Sovereignty in the Canadian North: Volume 1: Terrestrial Sovereignty" is a seminal work covering Canadian terrestrial sovereignty from 1870 to 1939 and is part of the University of Calgary Press 'Northern Lights' series. Enhanced with eighty-eight pages of Notes, a ten page Bibliography, four pages of Additional Readings, and a comprehensive Index, "A Historical and Legal Study of Sovereignty in the Canadian North: Volume 1: Terrestrial Sovereignty" is a seminal contribution to Canadian history and highly recommended for academic library collections.
The Creature: Forgotten Prometheus
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781502710666, $7.99, 194pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The unexpected discovery of a frozen corpse at the North Pole brings back a giant, hideous, and mysterious creature from the past to present-day California. When the awful thing unexpectedly reawakens from its icy grave it begins a new life in our world. "The Creature: Forgotten Prometheus" tells an exciting, knuckle biting story of this reawakened creature's introduction into a contemporary world. "The Creature: Forgotten Prometheus" deftly explores a modern response to a pseudo human-being. Science is fascinated, greed is motivated, and yet fundamental human traits such as kindness and disgust flow through the story. Are we any better than we were 200 years ago? What benefits has science brought to our social interactions? Who are we, and what differences are we willing to accept? "The Creature: Forgotten Prometheus" is an imaginative, scary, fascinating story which raises difficult to answer questions about the very core of what it is to be human.
Critique: Impressively complex and as entertaining as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking, "The Creature: Forgotten Prometheus" documents author David Millett as an extraordinary literary talent who will leave his readers looking eagerly toward his next novel. Very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections, it should be noted that "The Creature: Forgotten Prometheus" is also available in a Kindle edition ($7.99).
The Occupy Movement Explained
Open Court Publishing Company
70 East Lake Street, Suite 800, Chicago, IL 60601
9780812698558, $21.95, 288pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Debunking a number of prominent myths and misunderstandings concerning the protest movement against corporate greed and corruption popularly called as the Occupy Movement, author Nicholas Smaligo shows how the movement arose out of radical currents that have been active below the media's radar since the 1970s. Occupiers are not all the same, and "The Occupy Movement Explained" reviews some of the debates and changes within the movement. The occupations began under a slogan that conjured up a naive sense of unity with the slogan - "We Are the 99%!" It did not take very long for that sense of unity to give way to an appreciation of just how socially, economically, and ideologically fragmented American society is. For some, this was an excuse to return to their cynicism; for others, it was an invitation to lose their illusions and begin to see the world from the viewpoint of political activists. "The Occupy Movement Explained" describes this process of education and the lessons learned about "the 99%," the police, direct democracy, political demands, and the intimately related questions of social change, violence, and property.
Critique: An impressively researched and deftly written analytical history, "The Occupy Movement Explained" is as informed and informative as it is thoughtful and thought-provoking. Very highly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as academic and community library Social Issues reference collections, it should be noted that "The Occupy Movement Explained" is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.49).
The Somme Chronicles
Zebra Press / Random House Struik
9781770226760, $20.00, 240pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: This is the story of South African soldiers during the 1916 Somme offensive, which took place between the Allied forces and the Germans along the Somme River in France and was one of the bloodiest conflicts of the First World War, resulting in over a million deaths in six months. In July 1916, the men of the 1st South African Infantry Brigade were involved in recapturing the village of Lingueval and clearing Delville Wood of enemy soldiers, but they suffered extreme casualties. After six days of fighting, of the Brigade's 3433 soldiers, only 750 were left standing. The rest were dead or wounded. "The Somme Chronicles" tells the stories of the men of the Brigade via their letters, diaries, and interviews that the author conducted with survivors many years ago. Not much has been written about South Africans during World War I. Surprisingly, it is a relatively untapped period of military history. Of special interest is "The Somme Chronicles" coverage of the iconic battle of Delville Wood, the most famous event involving South Africans during the war.
Critique: An impressive military history that is showcases the role played by South African military forces in a key battle of World War I, "The Somme Chronicles" is truly extraordinary and very highly recommended for personal, community, and academic library 20th Century Military History reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted that "The Somme Chronicles" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
The Chopper: The Real Story
Die Gestalten Verlag GmbH & Co. KG
Mariannenstr 9-10, 10999 Berlin, Germany
9783899555240, $65.00, 256pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In "The Chopper: The Real Story", leading motorcycle journalist and vintage motorcycle expert Paul d'Orleans tells the chopper's true story, from its origins to its renaissance today. With its well-informed texts and showcase of historical and contemporary photographs, it finally gives the chopper the respectful attention it deserves. The Great Depression, 1960s youth culture, folk art, the conservative press, old-school revivals, down to the motorcycle gangs of today, the chopper plays a part in all of these.
Critique: A chopper is a type of motorcycle that is either modified from an original motorcycle design ("chopped") or built from scratch to have a unique hand-crafted appearance. Some of the characteristic features of choppers are long front ends with extended forks often coupled with an increased rake angle, hardtail frames (frames without rear suspension), very tall "ape hanger" or very short "drag" handlebars, lengthened or stretched frames, and larger than stock front wheels. The "sissy bar", a set of tubes that connect the rear fender with the frame, and which are often extended several feet high, is a signature feature on many choppers. Choppers typically are stripped down and have had many parts found on stock bikes "chopped" - that is cut down or modified to be smaller, or removed altogether. Parts often removed include the front fender, turn signals, one or more mirrors, speedometers and gauges, electric starters, batteries, chain guards, and various covers. Two anachronistic front suspension systems, the girder fork and the springer fork, are often used on choppers, to further differentiate them from the telescopic forks found on almost all modern production bikes. Profusely illustrated throughout, "The Chopper: The Real Story" is exceptionally well written, organized and presented. Enhanced with a six page Glossary, and a two page Index, "The Chopper: The Real Story" will prove to be a welcome and enduringly popular addition to personal, community, and academic library collections.
A Legacy In Firearms
Richard C. Rattenbury
University of Oklahoma Press
2800 Venture Drive, Norman, OK 73069
9780806144771, $59.95, 244pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The history of American firearms is inseparable from the history of the United States, for firearms have played crucial roles in the nation's founding, westward expansion, and industrial, economic, and cultural development. This history unfolds in compelling words and images in "A Legacy in Arms: American Firearm Manufacture, Design, and Artistry, 1800 - 1900", seminal work that draws upon the collections of the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City to trace the business and art of gun making from the early national period to the turn of the twentieth century. With more than 200 images (almost all in full color) "A Legacy in Arms" not only documents the inspiration and innovation of arms makers from individual artisans to mass producers, but also describes the development of decorative expression in the gun maker's art. In an account both entertaining and enlightening, firearms historian and expert Richard C. Rattenbury details the development of commercial arms making, from the genesis of the Kentucky rifle to the arms of such iconic manufacturers as Colt, Remington, Smith & Wesson, Sharps, Marlin, and Winchester. Into this narrative he weaves the particulars of design evolution and the impact of mass production via the "American System." The accompanying photographs and illustrations stand as eloquent testimony to the range and richness of the gun maker's craft -- and its rightful place in the story of American industry and culture.
Critique: Profusely and beautifully illustrated throughout, "A Legacy in Arms: American Firearm Manufacture, Design, and Artistry, 1800 - 1900" is an impressive history that is exceptionally well written, organized and presented. The most recent addition to the outstanding University of Oklahoma Press 'The Western Legacies Series', "A Legacy in Arms: American Firearm Manufacture, Design, and Artistry, 1800 - 1900" is published in cooperation with the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum. Enhanced with the inclusion of eight pages of Notes, a six page Bibliography, and a nine page Index, "A Legacy in Arms: American Firearm Manufacture, Design, and Artistry, 1800 - 1900" is a very highly recommended and extraordinary addition to personal, community, and academic library collections.
Terrance Talks Travel: A Pocket Guide to South Africa
PO Box 4881, Greensboro, NC 27404
9780996065016, $12.95, 116pp, www.safaripublishing.net
Synopsis: Terrance Zepke has traveled extensively to Africa, especially South Africa. In "Terrance Talks Travel: A Pocket Guide to South Africa" she shares insider information about what visitors must know and see and do. She discusses everything from shark cage diving to where to find the best brunch in Cape Town; 100 different hiking paths up to the top of Table Mountain; a little known underground tour of Cape Town; reveals that Kruger National Park is the size of the country of Israel; it pays to be very careful of baboons at Cape Point. All of this and more is included in this handy reference, as well as a sample itinerary, packing tips, advice on the best time to go, rail travel options, and special interest activities, such as kloofing and elephant back safaris.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Terrance Talks Travel: A Pocket Guide to South Africa" is as informed and informative as it is thoroughly 'user friendly' and very highly recommended for creating an itinerary while visiting South Africa whether for business or for pleasure. It should be noted that "Terrance Talks Travel: A Pocket Guide to South Africa" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99). Also enthusiastically recommended is the author's companion guide "Terrance Talks Travel: A Pocket Guide to African Safaris" (9780996065023, $9.95).
The Power Of Play
Dorothy Stoltz, Marisa Conner, James Bradberry
American Library Association
50 East Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611
9780838912553, $55.00, 224pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Don't simply accommodate families with young children, draw them in and make the library a family destination! "The Power of Play: Designing Early Learning Spaces" is hands-on guide wherein early childhood specialist Marisa Conner, architectural designer James Bradberry, and outreach librarian Dorothy Stoltz take the reader step-by-step through the process of designing an early learning space that fits any space limitations and budget. With a strong focus on making play spaces welcoming for parents, caregivers, and children while reducing stress for library staff, the authors. "The Power of Play: Designing Early Learning Spaces" uses current research to explain the importance of play in regard to early literacy and learning; shows how underutilized spaces of any size can be transformed into play spaces, with planning secrets for small, mid-size, and large play environments; offers tips for reinventing reading nooks as playscapes that encourage fun and play; present models of successful early learning spaces from across the country, with illustrations and floor plans; suggests ways to motivate adults to help young children develop a sense of discovery, energizing adults and children alike to pursue the lifelong enjoyment of learning; includes sample guidelines, surveys, and plans to help you adapt your play spaces to the needs of your community; presents a vendor list, tips for cleaning toys, worksheets, and other tools for pulling it all together, from engaging library staff and community partners to hiring architects and contractors. With the help of "The Power of Play: Designing Early Learning Spaces", even the most novice of librarians can transform neglected spaces into joyful places that help parents inspire their children to learn.
Critique: ""The Power of Play: Designing Early Learning Spaces" is deftly organized and presented in three major sections: The Magic Behind the Design; Play-and-Learn Destinations; Mindful Planning and Creative Design. Thoroughly 'user friendly', ""The Power of Play: Designing Early Learning Spaces" is enhanced with the inclusion of twelve appendices and a comprehensive index. Offering a wealth of practical ideas and novel approaches, ""The Power of Play: Designing Early Learning Spaces" is strongly recommended reading for anyone having responsibility for promoting a community library as a family-friendly resource.
Subject Access to Information: An Interdisciplinary Approach
PO Box 1911, Santa Barbara, CA 93116-1911
9781610695770, $60.00, 180pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Subject Access to Information: An Interdisciplinary Approach" provides a useful analysis of the intersection of information organization and technology. "Subject Access to Information: An Interdisciplinary Approach" encompasses both current and potential methods of organizing information by subject. It examines traditional approaches as they are used in the online environment and explores computer science approaches, such as ontologies and automated tools for subject information organization. Entries review the advantages and disadvantages of the two approaches, showcase their applications today, and project what those applications may be in the future. Content ranges from background on the importance of information organization in general to the importance of information organization by subject in particular. Traditional and modern knowledge-organization systems are covered, as are technological standards, selected topics in automated tools, and interdisciplinary research and cooperation.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented in five major sections (Organizing Information by Subject; Knowledge Organization Systems; Technological Standards; Automated Tools for Subject Information Organization: Selected Topics; Perspectives for the Future), "Subject Access to Information: An Interdisciplinary Approach" is a valuable instructional guide that is enhanced with the inclusion of chapter summaries, reviews, glossaries, and references. Very highly recommended for Library Science reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists, it should also be noted that "Subject Access to Information: An Interdisciplinary Approach" is available in a Kindle edition ($48.00) as well.
Publishing: A Writer's Memoir
175 Fifth Avenue, Suite 315, New York, NY 10010
9781620408247, $25.00, 224pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Publishing: A Writer's Memoir" is a personal story of Gail Godwin's hunger to be published, the pursuit of that goal, and then the long haul that turned out to be forty-five years as a published writer and all that goes with it. A student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1958, Godwin met with Knopf scouts who came to campus every spring in search of new talent. Though her five pages of Windy Peaks were turned down and the novel never completed, she would go on to publish two story collections and fourteen novels, three of which were National Book Award finalists, five of which were New York Times bestsellers.
"Publishing: A Writer's Memoir" reflects on the influence of her mother's writing hopes and accomplishments, and recalls Godwin's experiences with teachers Kurt Vonnegut and Robert Coover at the Iowa Writers' Workshop; with John Hawkins, her literary agent for five decades; with John Irving and other luminaries; and with her editors and publishers. Recollecting her long and storied career, Godwin maps the publishing industry over the last fifty years, a time of great upheaval and ingenuity. Her eloquent memoir is illuminated by Frances Halsband's evocative black-and-white line drawings throughout. There have been memoirs about writing and memoirs about being an editor, but there is no other book quite like "Publishing: A Writer's Memoir" for aspiring writers and book lovers everywhere.
Critique: An inherently fascinating read that is an informative as it is entertaining, "Publishing: A Writer's Memoir" is very highly recommended reading for anyone who has ever aspired to become and/or actually succeeded in becoming a published author. An unexpected and welcome perspective on how the publishing industry itself has evolved over the past half-decade is enormously worth while. With "Publishing: A Writer's Memoir", Gail Godwin proves herself to be as adept at writing an autobiography as she has been in every other aspect of her writing and editorial career. Also available in a Kindle edition ($14.49), "Publishing: A Writer's Memoir" is very highly recommended for personal and community library collections.
Tales from the Denver Broncos Sideline
c/o Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018
9781613217245, $19.95, 224pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Tales from the Denver Broncos Sideline: A Collection of the Greatest Broncos Stories Ever Told" captures the memorable moments, colorful characters, outstanding players, and championship seasons that are part of the Broncos' storied history. Beginning with the franchise's origins as a charter member of the American Football League in 1960, Andrew Mason takes the reader on a journey that includes a decade of Bronco futility, the AFL-NFL merger, and the team's first-ever playoff appearance in 1977, when they went all the way to the Super Bowl. Since then, the Denver Broncos have become one of the NFL's most consistent and successful franchises, with just six losing seasons in the last thirty-five years.
Mason mines the team's rich history for stories that are revealing, moving, and often hilarious. Examples from the first ten years are "the worst uniforms ever," the arrival of Lou Saban and Floyd Little, and the story of "Marlin the Magician." The 70s brought John Ralston, the 3-4 Orange Crush defense, the Miracle of '77, and wild man Lyle Alzado. John Elway took the Broncos through the 80s and 90s, "The Drive," five Super Bowls, two championships, and "the greatest walk off ever." Fans are treated to the "ups, downs, and frowns" of Jay Cutler, the Tebow "miracles," and the second coming of Peyton Manning.
"In Tales from the Denver Broncos Sideline" also gives readers the stories of the low points that tested Broncos fans' allegiance, the incredible highs that followed, and everything in between.
Critique: In "Tales from the Denver Broncos Sideline: A Collection of the Greatest Broncos Stories Ever Told", Andrew Mason draws upon his many years of experience and expertise covering the Denver Broncos and other NFL teams, including writing for the official website of the Denver Broncos, to compile and present true stories from six decades of Denver Broncos history. The result is a fascinating and informative read from first page to last. A "must" for the legions of Denver Broncos fans, "Tales from the Denver Broncos Sideline: A Collection of the Greatest Broncos Stories Ever Told" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
The Devil In Montmartre
80 Broad Street, 5th Floor, New York, NY 10004
9781605986470, $25.95, 352pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Amid the hustle and bustle of the Paris 1889 Universal Exposition, workers discover the mutilated corpse of a popular model and Moulin Rouge Can-Can dancer in a Montmartre sewer. Hysterical rumors swirl that Jack the Ripper has crossed the Channel, and Inspector Achille Lefebvre enters the Parisian underworld to track down the brutal killer. His suspects are the artist Toulouse-Lautrec; Jojo, an acrobat at the Circus Fernando, and Sir Henry Collingwood, a mysterious English gynecologist and amateur artist. Pioneering the as-yet-untried system of fingerprint detection and using cutting edge forensics, including crime scene photography, anthropometry, pathology, laboratory analysis, Achille attempts to separate the innocent from the guilty. But he must work quickly before the "Paris Ripper" strikes again.
Critique: A superbly crafted mystery from first page to last, "The Devil In Montmartre" is a splendid mystery wherein author Gary Indbinder has paid expert attention to even the smallest of historical details of the era. A solid entertainment filled with unexpect plot twists and surprising turns, "The Devil In Montmartre" is truly extraordinary and very highly recommended to the attention of mystery/suspense enthusiasts. Certain to be an enduringly popular attention to community library collections, it should be noted that "The Devil In Montmartre" is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.99).
Life In Prison
Tilbury House, Publishers
103 Brunswick Avenue, Gardiner, ME 04345
9780884484127, $24.95, 287pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: After 13 years of struggle, and despite several modest recording and publishing deals in the United Kingdom, Australia, and The United States, Robert Reilly found himself broke and on the edge of despair. The specter of success in the music business had become a monster about to ruin his marriage and turn him into the sort of father who never saw his children. Something had to change, or something was going to break beyond repair. A chance conversation with a neighbor led him to apply, somewhat halfheartedly, for a job at the county prison. Although he hated the thought of a "real job," a regular salary of $40,000 with benefits and paid time off seemed like a small fortune. "Amazingly, I somehow got hired. So, in an effort to do the right thing and put my family first, I left the madness of the music industry and entered the insanity of the U. S. prison system." In this gripping nonfiction account, Robert Reilly provides a look inside America's prison system unlike any other, and the way it affects not only the prisoners themselves, but also the corrections officers and their families.
Critique: There have been a great many books written about prison life from the perspective of the inmates, but scarcely any available to the public from the point of view of a prison guard. Informed and informative, this is Robert Reilly's personal story told with a degree of candor that will grip the reader's total attention from beginning to end. All the more surprising because this is author Robert Reilly's debut as a writer. Extraordinarily well written, "Life in Prison: Eight Hours at a Time" is strongly recommended for both community and academic library Criminology and Biography collections. Especially commended to the attention of non-specialist general readers with an interest in the penal system, it should be noted that "Life in Prison: Eight Hours at a Time" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
The Chimera Sanction
Andre K. Baby
Robert Hale (London)
c/o Trafalgar Square Publishing
PO Box 257, Howe Hill Road, North Pomfret, VT 05033
9780719813047, $24.95, 224pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Pope Clement XXI is kidnapped, and the Curia, the Swiss Guard, and the Italian police are overwhelmed. Thierry Dulac from Interpol is called in, but he, too, is thwarted at every turn. His investigations hint at secrets held for centuries, revenge, and omerta in the arcane, twisting corridors of the Vatican itself. It seems the pontiff too has been less than open. From the shadowy world of the Vatican to the bustling Parisian boulevards, from the charms of the Florentine piazzas, to the searing bleakness of Libya's Great Sand Sea Desert, Dulac fights to prise open the plot which could cause havoc and disbelief among the billions of Catholics across the globe and bring the pontiff back to safety.
Critique: "The Chimera Sanction" is an exceptionally well written thriller that denotes novelist Andre K. Baby as a master storyteller of truly impressive skill. With expertly crafted characters deftly embedded in a riveting and complex story, "The Chimera Sanction" is solid entertainment from beginning to end. Highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections, "The Chimera Sanction" is the stuff from which block buster movies are made! It should be noted that "The Chimera Sanction" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
Our Daily Poison
The New Press
38 Green Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10013
9781595589095, $28.95, 480pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Over the last thirty years, Americans have seen an increase in rates of cancer, neurodegenerative disease, reproductive disorders, and diabetes, particularly in developed countries. At the same time, since the end of World War II approximately 100,000 synthetic chemical molecules have invaded our environment - and our food chain. "Our Daily Poison: From Pesticides to Packaging, How Chemicals Have Contaminated the Food Chain and Are Making Us Sick", investigates the links between these two concerning trends, revealing how corporate interests and our ignorance about these invisible poisons may be costing Americans their very lives. The result of a rigorous two-year-long investigation that took author, researcher, and documentary film maker Marie-Monique Robin across three continents (North America, Europe, and Asia), "Our Daily Poison: From Pesticides to Packaging, How Chemicals Have Contaminated the Food Chain and Are Making Us Sick" documents the many ways in which we encounter a shocking array of chemicals in our everyday lives ranging from the pesticides that blanket our crops to the additives and plastics that contaminate our food -- and their effects on our bodies over time. Gathering as evidence scientific studies, testimonies of international regulatory agencies, and interviews with farm workers suffering from acute chronic poisoning, "Our Daily Poison: From Pesticides to Packaging, How Chemicals Have Contaminated the Food Chain and Are Making Us Sick" makes a compelling case for outrage and action.
Critique: An impressively researched, profusely documented, and articulate expose of one of the major and pervasive health hazards to the health and well-being of virtually everyone, "Our Daily Poison: From Pesticides to Packaging, How Chemicals Have Contaminated the Food Chain and Are Making Us Sick" is ably translated into English by Allison Schein and lara Vergnaud, should be considered a critically important addition to both community and academic library collections. Deftly organized into four major sections (Pesticides are Poisons; Science and industry: Manufacturing Doubt; Regulation at Industry's Beck and Call; The Shocking Scandal of Endocrine Disruptors", "Our Daily Poison: From Pesticides to Packaging, How Chemicals Have Contaminated the Food Chain and Are Making Us Sick" puts a spotlight on corporate corruption. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Our Daily Poison: From Pesticides to Packaging, How Chemicals Have Contaminated the Food Chain and Are Making Us Sick" is especially recommended for non-specialist general readers with an interest in public health and the corrosive influence of corporate wealth on governmental policy making. It should be noted that "Our Daily Poison: From Pesticides to Packaging, How Chemicals Have Contaminated the Food Chain and Are Making Us Sick" is also available in an eTextbook edition ($15.99).
The Blinding Walk
K. M. Ross
c/o Dufour Editions, Inc.
PO Box 7, Chester Springs, PA 19425-0007
9781904130628, $35.00, 520pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In the aftermath of an unforeseen and tragic turn of events, young Mel Seuchar strides along Longniddry Beach outside Edinburgh, trying to make sense of it all. What really happened? How did it come to this? He pictures himself and his friend Yehune; he reflects on their flight from New Zealand, the long and eventful journey which took them across Asia all the way to Europe; and he thinks about Mairi, the young woman they met on their travels and then followed to Edinburgh ... Still the story refuses to come into focus. Until in a moment of wild insight, the threads connect, the story builds itself again, and the stage is set for an absorbing, bewildering and deeply touching narrative - the narrative of "The Blinding Walk".
Critique: An epic novel of skillfully crafted and memorable characters deftly interwoven into a complex and engaging story that holds the reader's rapt attention from beginning to end. Exceptionally well written, "The Blinding Walk" documents K. M. Ross as an author of considerable and evident talent as a master storyteller. Simply stated, "The Blinding Walk" is very highly recommended for both personal reading lists and community library General Fiction collections. It should be noted that "The Blinding Walk is also available in a paperback edition (9781904130796, $25.00).
Cobbold and Kin
The Boydell Press
c/o Boydell & Brewer Inc
668 Mount Hope Avenue, Rochester, NY 14620-2731
9781843839545, $45.00, 283pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The Cobbold family, its roots firmly planted in East Anglia, is most commonly associated with the brewing industry and with Ipswich Town Football Club. This, however, is only a small part of the story. Over the centuries, the Cobbolds and their kin have turned their hand to almost every imaginable field of endeavour. "Cobbold and Kin: Life Stories from an East Anglian Family" is a richly-illustrated book relating to the lives of thirty-two of the family's most interesting and colorful characters across eight broad subjects: from industry and agriculture to faith, from the arts to empire, from public service to scientific enquiry, and from sport to military service. Not all bear the name Cobbold but all are related to the family. Drawing on the archive of the Cobbold Family History Trust, "Cobbold and Kin: Life Stories from an East Anglian Family" reveals not only the extraordinary breadth of the family's interests but also its geographical reach. It is not merely a collection of life stories from Suffolk and East Anglia but ventures to five continents and remote regions of the world. Seldom could a more diverse cast of characters have been assembled in the pages of one book and each biography is set against its own historical canvas. Together, they encompass almost every aspect of the human condition - some tell of triumph over adversity, some are heartbreakingly tragic, others downright improbable.
Critique: A masterpiece of painstaking research, "Cobbold and Kin: Life Stories from an East Anglian Family" is as informed and informative as it is exceptionally well written, organized, illustrated and presented. Enhanced with a ten page bibliograph (Sources and Further Reading), and a comprehensive index, "Cobbold and Kin: Life Stories from an East Anglian Family" is very highly recommended for community and academic library collections. It should be noted that "Cobbold and Kin: Life Stories from an East Anglian Family" is also available in a Kindle edition ($28.79).
From the Mouth of God
Sinclair B. Ferguson
Banner of Truth
PO Box 621, Carlisle, PA 17013
9781848712423, $15.00, 224pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Why should we believe -- as Jesus did - that it is 'the mouth of God'? When did it come into existence? Is it inerrant?
What do we need to learn in order to understand it better? How does its teaching change our lives? In 'From the Mouth of God', Sinclair B Ferguson (Professor of Systematic Theology, Redeemer Seminary, Dallas, Texas) answers these and other important questions about trusting, reading, and applying the Bible.
Critique: Insightful, informative, and thoroughly 'reader friendly', "From the Mouth of God" is deftly organized into three major sections: Trusting the Bible; Reading the Bible; Applying the Bible. Enhanced with the inclusion John Murray on 'The Guidance of the Holy Spirit'; John Newton on 'Divine Guidance'; a two page Bibliography for Further Reading; and a twelve page Bible Reading Plan, "From the Mouth of God" is an extraordinary and highly recommended instructional guide for all students of the Bible regardless of their denominational affiliation.
The Saints Are Coming
PO Box 6015, New London, CT 06320
9781627850124, $19.95, 296pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "The Saints Are Coming: A Rebel Priest, a Daring Woman and Their Years of Living Dangerously" is the gripping, true story of a parish community set in one of the most violent places on earth: the Anapra barrio in Juarez, Mexico. Kevin Mullins, a rowdy Australian priest, and his housekeeper Rayna risk everything to build a parish while dealing with murderous drug cartels, oppressive poverty, powerful cults, roving street gangs, and crooked government officials. As homes burn, people disappear, and bodies are discovered, Father Kevin and Rayna battle to keep their parishioners alive while transforming the community into a force against evil. The page-turning, thought-provoking narrative is told with unflinching honesty by author and journalist Greg Jordan. Perfect for parish reading groups, "The Saints Are Coming: A Rebel Priest, a Daring Woman and Their Years of Living Dangerously" is an illuminating tale of spiritual resistance, and the church s mission in a dangerous and complex world. A supplemental reading guide included.
Critique: A riveting read that will hold the readers total attention from first page to last, "The Saints Are Coming: A Rebel Priest, a Daring Woman and Their Years of Living Dangerously" is ultimately a story of Christian endurance amidst a corrupt and dangerous world. Informed and informative, thoughtful and thought-provoking, inspired and inspiring, "The Saints Are Coming: A Rebel Priest, a Daring Woman and Their Years of Living Dangerously" is very highly recommended for personal and community library collections. It should be noted that "The Saints Are Coming: A Rebel Priest, a Daring Woman and Their Years of Living Dangerously" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
Treasury of Joy and Inspiration
Reader's Digest Editorial Staff
Reader's Digest Trade Publishing
44 South Broadway, White Plains, NY 10601
9781621451426, $17.99, 320pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Compiled by the editorial staff of the Reader's Digest, "Treasury of Joy and Inspiration: 90 years of Uplifting Storytelling" is filled from cover to cover with essays and true tales that illuminate and uplift the spirt of the reader and which are written by some of America's most famous authors and leaders, these great reads illuminate and uplift. Author James Michener recounts the mysterious present from a neighbor that changed the course of his life; award-winning playwright Neil Simon witnesses his mother experience a moment of pure happiness; Pulitzer Prize winner Alex Haley shares why he broke down in tears when he first visited the offices of a famous newspaper; President Dwight D. Eisenhower urges all American students to complete their college education; novelist Susan Shreve recalls the fierce love that motivated her mother to reach out to famous shoe designer Salvatore Ferragamo for help. Organized around timeless themes - joy, miracles, giving, gratitude, holidays, healing and heroes -- these stories will make readers laugh, cry, cheer, sigh, and renew their faith as they enjoy the powerful impact of a well-told tale.
Critique: Inspired and inspiring, "Treasury of Joy and Inspiration: 90 years of Uplifting Storytelling" truly lives up to the promise of its title and is a compendium of writings by the famous and the not-so-famous, but of which each and every one is a singular delight, a comfort, an inspiration to read -- again, and again, and again. "Treasury of Joy and Inspiration: 90 years of Uplifting Storytelling" is enthusiastically recommended for personal and community library collections.
A Walk on Broken Glass
Gloria M. Allan
Granville Island Publishing
212 - 1656 Duranleau Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada, V6H 3S4
9781926991290, $24.95, 256pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Elisabeth, Empress of Austria and Hungary, was the acknowledged beauty of her society. At 16, she married the Emperor Franz Joseph. He adored her. Her subjects loved her and she was deeply loved by several men. This was only the surface of her life. Like Diana, Princess of Wales, Elisabeth was a troubled woman. She was a free spirit trapped in a repressive society, a woman ahead of, and out of step, with her time. Living in a shallow and jealous court society, greedy for position and power, Elisabeth s strength of character, her determination, her skill as a horsewoman and love of travel allowed her to endure her life and gave her freedom from her domineering mother-in-law. Through all her troubles, Elisabeth remained true to herself, to her husband and to what she believed would be her place in history.
Critique: "A Walk on Broken Glass" is a beautifully crafted novel marked by a true flair for language, an ability to craft memorable characters, and weave an intricate plot that engages and holds the reader's total attention from beginning to end. Clearly, author Gloria M. Allan manifests a consistently impressive storytelling talent with her novel "A Walk On Broken Glass". Very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections, it should be noted that "A Walk On Broken Glass" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).
The Love That Made Mother Teresa
Sophia Institute Press
PO Box 5284, Manchester, NH 03108
9781622822003, $14.95, 144pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The countless sweet photos of her smiling at babies showed Mother Teresa to be a single-minded advocate for the poor. But she was a woman with a will whose strength has been matched by few souls in history. Mother Teresa broke death's stranglehold on the poor of Calcutta, and she showed us how to conquer the sin and darkness in what she called the slums of the hearts of modern man. Part biography and part spiritual reading, "The Love That Made Mother Teresa" by David Scott bring to light little-known stories from Mother Teresa's life that will help you to grow in your love of God. You will learn her approach to reading Scripture, what enabled her to persevere through agonizing nights, and the remarkable -- some would say mystical -- events that led her to start the Missionaries of Charity. In considering Mother Teresa, her private visions, and her secret sufferings, David Scott has discovered scores of early episodes and chance encounters that point to later, larger meanings. These remarkable patterns, he suggests, show that Mother Teresa's life was choreographed from above, as if a divine script had been written for her from before her birth.
Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Love That Made Mother Teresa" is an impressive testament to an equally impressive life. A 'must read' for anyone with an interest in the life and accomplishments of one of the best known and influential Catholic nuns of the 20th century. It should be noted that ""The Love That Made Mother Teresa" is also available in a Kindle edition ($6.99).
A Rushing Mighty Wind
c/o Lion Hudson plc
Wilkinson House, Jordan Hill Road, Oxford OX2 8DR, United Kingdom
978085721555, $14.99, 192pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In September 2012, Angus Buchan (author of the best-selling "Faith Like Potatoes"), was invited to speak at the Feast of Tabernacles, one of the oldest festivals in Jewish history, which today is celebrated in Israel's Ein Gedi desert. There he and his hearers experienced a moving of the Holy Spirit that was widely reported around the world and that impacted his life dramatically. He recounts the facts of that day in "A Rushing Mighty Wind", but then goes on to draw parallels with the first revival in Acts as well as past and present revivals to teach important truths about the Holy Spirit that can dynamically shape our lives today. He also addresses that while revival will bring desperately needed transformation to our cities and nations, it will also stretch and challenge us personally, in ways that we may not anticipate. "A Rushing Mighty Wind" will amaze and inspire the reader to discover a fresh hunger for God's presence and a newfound passion for the Holy Spirit.
Critique: An extraordinary and unique story, "A Rushing Mighty Wind" is exceptionally well written and will hold the reader's attention from beginning to end. Informed, informative, thoughtful, thought-provoking, inspired and inspiring, "A Rushing Mighty Wind" is very highly recommended reading for all members of the Christian community regardless of their denominational affiliation. It should be noted that "A Rushing Mighty Wind" is also available in a Kindle edition ($5.99).
Herald Of The Flame
Ad Stellae Books
9780692293768, $16.50, www.adstellaebooks.com
He was Terry Radner from top secret Maclairn where, unlike the rest of humanity on other planets, mental powers are encouraged; on Ciencia he became a freedom fighter, prisoner, and escapee Terry Rivera, but crashed his ship to protect his homeland from terrorists. Elders saved his life; gave him a new identity as Terry Steward; provided him with a starship he calls Estel to recognize what he fostered on Ciencia; and a mission to help spread support for mind skills in order to save mankind. He knows he can never go home and misses his wife and the tweener son he never met, but embraces his role.
Captain Steward returns to Ciencia to ask his beloved Allison Willard and pilot Jon Darrow to join him. Gwen the engineer also becomes part of the crew. As the quartet begin their impossible Quixote quest, Steward makes a dangerous announcement to the people of Ciencia; while, assaults on those with mental abilities everywhere intensifies. The Captain of the Estel becomes public enemy number one hunted by hired guns by those in charge who reject these skills as an abomination, but conceal from the manipulated masses their fear of losing power.
The second Hidden Flame science fiction is a terrific timely futuristic thriller as deniers in charge persecute those with abilities they fear leading to equality and subsequent loss of power. The pace starts more leisurely than the first entry (see Stewards of the Flame) and the previous series Rising Flame (see Promise of the Flame and Defender of the Flame), but once in space readers will want to fly with stalked Captain "Terry and (his) Pirates" (cartoonist Milton Caniff).
The Black Stiletto: Endings & Beginnings
595 Bay Isles Road, 120-G, Longboat Key, FL 34228
9781608091034, $26.95, www.amazon.com
Martin Talbot tells his daughter Gina about the daring five years of escapades of her maternal grandmother Judy Cooper starting in 1958. Like him, Gina is excited over her grandma leaving Texas for NYC where she became the Black Stiletto masked vigilante. After reading the first three diaries, Gina starts the fourth (see The Black Stiletto: Secrets & Lies) in which Judy left for Los Angeles with the love of her life Leo Kelly. Martin begins the fifth and what appears to be the last diary. The pair will do what it takes to keep their one time superhero relative safe from those with a five decade plus grudge.
In 1962 pregnant Judy cannot believe her former lover Leo the mobster and his psycho sister Christina framed the Black Stiletto for crimes they committed. Limited physically as she carries her baby, Judy shrewdly tries to fight back using brains not brawn; but is forced to leave Southern California for Texas to make her last stand.
The Fifth Black Stiletto Diary is a great ending to a tremendous series as all the major threads are deftly and logically completed. Once again, Raymond Benson makes it seem as if Judy wrote her latest diary over fifty years ago. Rotating subplots (and points of view), the gripping storyline provides readers with wonderful Endings & Beginnings.
One to Go
595 Bay Isles Road, 120-G, Longboat Key, FL 34228
9781608091355, $26.95, www.amazon.com
DC lawyer Tom Booker drives on the Arlington Memorial Bridge while also texting. Not focused on the road, Tom crashes into a minivan driven by his sister-in-law Rosie Battaglia and his seven-year-old daughter Janie and her friends inside. To his helpless horror, Tom observes Rosie's vehicle on the verge of falling into the Potomac below.
A couple approaches Tom with a deal to save his child. They will turn back the clock to before his neglect occurred but he must murder someone every two weeks to pay the "soul exchange" debt for each one saved in the minivan. The desperate father accepts their terms; but when he finds himself driving on the Arlington Memorial Bridge with no accident, Tom assumes he suffered a strange nightmarish fugue moment. His reality alters when two weeks later a text arrives informing him that Rosie has been viciously killed and one of the kids will follow if he fails to live up to the terms of the contract.
One To Go is an absorbing Faustian thriller as the father finds himself in a moral quandary between saving his daughter at the cost of killing innocents. Although the climax disappointingly impacts Tom's responsibility and accountability, Mike Pace authors an interesting ethical question of how far will a papa (or mama) grizzly go to save a beloved cub.
M. E. May
M&B Literary Creations
9781500411121, $14.95, www.memay-mysteries.com
In Indianapolis, Doug watches and waits in horror as a local Wiccan coven praises the Goddess on Sabbath Samhain. When they leave, he abducts the last Wiccan to depart while thanking the heavens for his opportunity to save the soul of this devil worshipper. Doug explains to his frightened victim Sasha that he is an angel who must do the Lord's work using any means to cleanse the evil out of her. When he completes God's work, he etches "Forgiven" in olde English on her corpse.
Zach and April find the location where the "witches" recently performed their rite. April trips over Sasha's body before Zach, thinking human sacrifice, calls 911. Police Detectives Chennelle Kendall and Erica Barnes lead the investigation into the homicide of the tortured Wiccan. They find numerous suspects, but most people of interest belong to the deeply pious Avenging Angels Evangelical Church flock whose goal is ending the devil worshipping Wiccan coven. More torture murders follow from an avenging angel claiming his divine mission from God is saving souls.
The fourth Circle City police procedural starring different lead cops (see Ensconced, Inconspicuous and Perfidy) is a gripping murder mystery even with readers knowing the identity of the deranged serial killer from the start. The keys to the engaging investigation are the beliefs backed up by strong convictions of the Wiccan coven and Avenging Angels Evangelical Church congregation seem real; as does the psychopath's contention that he is God's messenger purging evil from sinners.
A Billion Ways To Die
The Permanent Press
4170 Noyac Road, Sag Harbor, NY 11963
9781579623630, $29.00, www.amazon.com
Not fully recovered from his head injury suffered when his late wife's enemies killed her and left him for dead in their Connecticut home (see Dead Anyway), Arthur Cathcart feels safe in his new identity especially after they took care of their foes (see Cries of the Lost). Arthur and his girlfriend psychologist Natsumi Fitzgerald enjoy sailing his ship Detour on the Caribbean. However, his contention that it is over proves false when hired guns invade his sailboat, demanding he turn over the missing billion. He insists he knows nothing about the lost loot.
Warned to find it or else, Arthur and Natsumi conclude they must go home to face criminal charges involving stealing money and murder. Though the FBI and mobsters make the pair toxic with their wanted dead or alive pursuit, Arthur's sister Evelyn who faked his death (see Dead Anyway) and ex-Fed Shelly Gross assist the beleaguered couple; while Cathcart shows once again his uncanny adaptability skill under pressure.
The third Cathcart amateur sleuth is an action-packed cat and mouse thriller in which who readers believe are the felines and rodents change during the storyline. Fans will root for agile Arthur and nimble Natsumi; as the awesome lovers take the fight in person and on line to the enemy.
The Wrong Man
Felony & Mayhem
174 W 4th St., Suite #261, New York, NY 10014
9781937384838, $14.95, www.amazon.com
In 1950, Merthyr Tydfil, Wales police send a telegram to Metropolitan Police that John Davies confessed to killing his wife Muriel after she miscarried and giving away his infant daughter Judy to Norman Backhouse in London. Although he wants nothing to do with this case that echoes the murder of his wife Jenny and their unborn child several years ago, London Detective Inspector Ted Stratton and Sergeant Ballard head to the address provided by Davies. The two cops search the drain in front of 10 Paradise Street where Davies said he disposed of her body but find nothing as it takes a team of four strong cops to remove the lid. Supported by his spouse Edna, Norman tells them that John said his wife and baby were in Bristol and that the couple fought so much they wondered if he was a bit mental and dim-witted.
Davies changes his confession to claiming Backhouse killed his wife during a failed backroom abortion. Taken to London, when the bodies of his wife and daughter are found, Davies admits to murdering both. However, instead of case solved, Stratton senses something is not right with this air-tight capital case in which his guts scream The Wrong Man heads to the gallows.
Based on a true murder, the third Ted Stratton British police procedural and first post WWII novel (see The Empty Death and The Innocent Spy) is a terrific historical psychological crime drama. The clever opening telegram as a prime communication between police in Wales and London sets the time as does the way evidence is found and handled. Although an unnecessary romance with Diana Calthrop feels forced, Laura Wilson provides a fabulous Cold War mystery.
The Brothers' Keepers
9780991401734, $14.99, www.ridgeroute.com
At four in the morning from Switzerland, upset BBC war correspondent Jeff Madison calls his archeologist mom Grace who is in Brussels. He tells her someone fired a shot that just missed his wife Becca, a former M16 operative, and that he cannot locate his sister Maggie who is in Paris before heading to Marseilles to attend a water conference. When Grace fails to make contact with her daughter, she calls her husband Mark who is in Colorado.
Though the attack on Becca and the vanishing of Maggie probably are unrelated harrowing incidents; Mark, Grace, Jeff and Becca rendezvous in Paris; as none of them want to take a chance otherwise. Also meeting them in France is Grace's former teaching assistant and current acting director of the Kinneret dig in Israel, Cliff, who wants to marry Maggie. As they search for missing Maggie, each Madison turns to God praying for her safe return, but hesitant to rely solely on the Lord.
The second Parched inspirational family drama (See When Camels Fly) is a rousing thriller in which the females are very competent in their abilities to take charge and the smart males let them. With a fully-developed lead family and a solid support cast, sub-genre fans will appreciate the Madison inspiring tour of Europe and to a lesser amount the Holy Land.
Proof of Angels
Mary Curran Hackett
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780062279958, $14.99, www.amazon.com
In Los Angeles, firefighter Sean Magee is trapped with no way out of a three-story blaze. He hears his nephew Colm's voice encouraging him to go back because there is always a way. Praying to God for the first time in years, Sean promises to return as a better person if saved. An angel escorts him to a third story window. Reluctantly he performs a leap of faith. Surviving but with his back and legs busted up, Sean awakens weeks later in a hospital. As he slowly recovers, Sean knows he will never work a fire again.
From his L.A. hospital bed, he calls New York to talk to his friend Dr. Gaspar Basu who married Sean's sister Cathleen when they teamed up to save Colm, and have had two babies with a third on the way since. Gaspar rushes to Los Angeles where Sean shows him his list of those he hurt to include God, mom, Cathleen and Gaspar crossed out, and Colm and Chiara with no line through them. Sean plans to fulfill his pledge to God by fixing what he broke and left broken. Physical therapist Tom Smith helps Sean recover so that the patient can go to Florence, Italy to atone for what he did to Chiara Montanari.
This is an entertaining inspirational drama starring a broken man physically and spiritually who struggles to regain his faith, his family and his forever love although he does not believe he deserves God, Cathleen (and Colm) or Chiara's forgiveness. Even though the storyline turns too mushy, fans will feel inspired by Mary Curran Hackett's pleasant Proof of Angels (and ... Heaven) redemption tale.
c/o Penguin Group (USA)
375 Hudson Street, 4th floor, New York, NY 10014
9780425260876, $25.95, www.amazon.com
In 11,256 C.E., most people are thrilled when a nine millennium old beginning of the space age relic is found; as much of them went missing when places like the Florida Peninsular fell beneath the sea. When charismatic dawn of the space age archeologist (sans degree) Garnett Baylee recently died, he left behind an incomplete enigma in his home tied to the twentieth century mythological Apollo baby steps.
Pilot Chase Kolpath flies antiquities dealer Alex Benedict to Earth to investigate Baylee's last find, but make no progress on locating the rest of Apollo. Unable to be in two places at the same time, Alex places their search on temporary hold though the antiquarian fears the delay will prove costly and realizes his beloved father-figure Uncle Gabe Benedict will lecture him for risking an opportunity. Instead the pair leaves to meet the interstellar vessel Capella, which disappeared eleven years ago with over two thousand passengers and crew on board including Alex's Uncle Gabe. Aware of three other lost ships recovered near Sanusar, but also knowing they have a short time before the Capella vanishes again; the Sanusar Recovery Force, Alex and Chase attempt to save those on-board.
The seventh Benedict-Kolpath science fiction mystery is a fabulous far futuristic thriller though the adventures seem somewhat muted compared with the lead duo's previous escapades (see Firebird and The Devil's Eye). The two subplots engage readers in different ways. The Floridian space age artifacts and whole state being under the ocean serve as a climate warning through an historiographical archeological looking back over nine millennia (mindful of the movie The Virgin President - Fillard Millmore); while the Capella return is a thrilling space time-warp rescue mission.
3A Exmouth House, Pine Street, London, England, EC1R 0JH
Meryl Zegarek Public Relations
9781846689079, $14.95, www.amazon.com
In 1967, Le Monde reporter Juliette Blanc researches the 1913-14 filming of Petite Mort at Pathe studios in Paris. Before even the director could see the movie in its entirety, the studio burned to the ground with everything including the silent film destroyed. However, a housewife in Vincennes cleaning out her basement recently found a copy of Petit Mort but someone mysteriously deleted a critical sequence from the middle.
Juliette interviews the silent movie's star Adele Roux; who, in that same fatal year after the film was completed but never released before being lost to the inferno; was embroiled in a notorious homicide trial. Adele explains special effects creative genius Andre Durand hired her as a seamstress; but also tells the journalist about her affairs as a naive teenager with him and his beautiful but volatile wife Terpsichore the actress.
Petit Mort is a fascinating metafictional drama that uses a 1967 find of a lost movie to tell the story of what happened in 1913-14 and the backstory of the triangle (similar technique to that used by Raymond Benson in The Black Stiletto thrillers). Although there are too many subplots and at times an overwhelming Cecil B. DeMille-size cast especially in the past, readers will enjoy this interesting look at the birth of the French film industry.
Knot In My Backyard
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
119 West 40th Street, Floor 21, New York, NY 10018-2522
9780758292070, $7.99, www.amazon.com
In Encino, California, the affluent Joshua Beaumont School built a night baseball stadium that angers residents of the neighborhood due to noise, traffic, garbage and destroying the scenic view of the San Fernando Valley. One of the upset locals, quilter Martha Rose takes a walk until she stumbles upon the battered corpse of the school's baseball coach Dax Martin. As she calls her boyfriend LAPD homicide detective Arlo Beavers, she muses two corpses in four months though this time she is without her quilting BFFs Lucy and Birdie (see Forget Me Knot).
Because of his relationship with Martha Rose, Dax's Beaumont alumni partner Kaplan leads the official investigation. His only suspect is another neighbor Ed Pappas who had a recent fistfight with the coach. Believing Ed is being set up to take the fall because of his inquiry into the stadium deal; Martha ignores Arlo's warning to stay out of the case. Instead she makes dangerous inquiries that place herself and Arlo's dog in harm's way; but also meets Ed's biker friend aptly called Crusher by everyone except Martha Rose who greets him as Yoshi.
The second Quilting Mystery is a fun whodunit that deftly stitches peril and humor into a cohesive tale. Putting aside the improbability of the heroine's lunacy to investigate even if Ed is a helpful neighbor, this is a pleasant amateur sleuth.
Chorus Lines, Caviar, and Corpses (A Happy Hoofers Mystery)
In their fifties, believing they needed exercise and loving tap dancing; Perfect Bride magazine Travel Editor Tina Powell, community theater director Janice Rogers, therapist Pat Keeler, housewife Mary Louise Temple and documentarian Gini Miller formed the Happy Hoofers. The YouTube video of the five fierce friends forever became popular and soon afterward they were hired to dance on a cruise ship sailing from Moscow to St. Petersburg.
The crew of misfits leaves a lot to be desired, but none worse than British chef Kenneth Allgood. While the fearsome five hoof the Volga, his food is atrocious and he becomes angry when someone tells him so. Allgood warns Gini to shut up or else and accosts Tina, but passenger Barry Sheldon intervenes. Soon afterward, the police fish Allgood's corpse out of the river though his death improved the meals considerably. When a passenger vanishes, the Happy Hoofers agree they need to stay near each to insure sailing the Volga is not their final curtain call.
The Happy Hoofer's opening act is a fine friendship drama starring five affable females; who have each other's back when it matters. The mystery acts more as a support plot to the appealing storyline's focus on the boomer buddies cruising Russia.
By Cook or By Crook
Cookbook publicist Val Deniston left New York for Bayport on Chesapeake Bay to reside with her grandfather following a car accident in which she suffers from amnesia as to what happened. She manages the Cool Down Cafe and has begun authoring a cookbook instead of publicity on someone else's writings.
When she gives Nadia a ride home from the exercise club, the passenger asks her to meet with her in a couple days to discuss a catering gig. Upon reaching Nadia's home, they find a wooden tennis racket on fire. Two days later, Val arrives for the appointment only to find Nadia dead. The prime suspect is Val's cousin Monique whose husband was cheating on her with the victim. Knowing her BFF relative would not murder anyone; Val investigates bringing danger to her and her grandfather.
The first Five-Ingredient Mystery is a charming culinary cozy because of a caring heroine, warm family members and five as the magic number (ingredients in recipes and suspects in the investigation). This is a pleasant amateur sleuth.
Secrets of a Thousand Beauties
Years before she or her fiance were conceived, Spring Swallow was engaged to the son of her mom's BFF if one had a boy and the other a girl. As she turns seventeen, her mother and her future mother-in-law enforce the zhifu weihun ancient marital tradition though Spring Shallow finds that ghastly as her soon to be husband died before he was born.
On the day she is to "exchange" vows with her "ghost", a horrified Spring Swallow runs away. Martinet Aunty Peony finds her and employs her along aside other females with depressing backgrounds at her Su-style embroidery shop. Spring Swallow struggles to adjust to the strict rules enforced even much more than usual to insure they complete a Peking order in six months. When she can she mountain climbs where she falls in love with Shen Feng; and learns what she can about her "mentor" including Aunty was a royal embroiderer before the Revolution two decades earlier. When she loses her position, Spring Swallow obtains work at an embroidery store and soon marries the owner's son. When she suffers a miscarriage losing Shen's baby, her irate husband's family tosses Spring Swallow out. Missionaries give her a home and a priest his love.
Though there are too much happening to the heroine especially several fortunate and tragic events in a short period, this is an entertaining 1930s Chinese drama due to an energetic lead who "The record shows (she) took the blows and did it (her) way" (My Way by Frank Sinatra). Filled with captivating insight like the zhifu weihun ghost marriage, Mingmei Yip authors another delightful historical (see The Nine Fold Heaven and Peach Blossom Pavilion).
The Accidental Countess
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250042088, $7.99, www.amazon.com
Captain Julian Swift and Cassandra Monroe have exchanged notes as he served in the combat zone while she remained at the home-front. They begin to fall in love, but with the Napoleonic War seemingly over, Julian returns to England engaged to Cass's cousin Penelope, who does not want to marry the second son soldier.
To delay meeting her fiance, Penelope pretends to be attending a house party hosted by Countess Patience Bunbury. Aware that her relative made up Patience, Cass masquerades as the hostess so that she can spend quality time with her beloved. Julian arrives at the gala to inform Penelope he adores someone else, but when he meets "Patience", he feels fickle to fall in love again.
The second pleasant Playful Brides Regency (see The Unexpected Duchess) is a lighthearted zany romance as the relationships between the fascinating lead "quartet" make for a wild frolic. The subgenre audience will relish the enchanting machinations of the not-so Accidental Countess and her real persona competing for the love of Julian while her cousin sets the stage.
Mike Grinti and Rachel Grinti
c/o Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781616149789, $18.00, www.amazon.com
On the Five-and-One Islands, raised by her Bardo tribe family's thirst for power, Jala expects to one day become a queen. When Kayet King Azi selects her as his mate, Jala believes her destiny has been fulfilled, but to her surprise her ambitious kin objects to their marriage. Seeing an opportunity to replace his nephew as the ruler, Azi's Uncle Lord Inas encourages dissent.
The islander in-fighting ends with the arrival of a magically powered armada from the mainland; filled with the sorcery-driven insane seeking revenge against the Bardo tribe for their magical marauding. Meanwhile the Fire Mountain sorcerer warns Jala of dire consequences. The new Queen concludes that the islanders must put aside their petty squabbles for power or face fate's death. However her husband, his uncle and her family fear leading the counterattack, which, encouraged by her BFF Marjani, leaves her to fill the void.
This tremendous gender-bending coming of age fantasy enthralls readers with Jala maturing rather quickly while Azi lags behind his spouse. The sorcery elements like reef-built raiding ships and the invasion fleet are remarkably refreshing and enhance Team Grinti's exhilarating saga.
A Certain Retribution: A Merrick McKnight Novel
P.O. Box 35038, Panama City, FL 32412
9781888146455, $16.99, www.pulpwoodpress.com
Merrick McKnight lost his journalist position at a Florida Panhandle newspaper due to downsizing, and his wife and child due to a car accident. Living in Wewathitchka, Florida he runs into Reggie Summers at the Tiki Grill; she attended Wewa High School like he did. Though attracted to each other, Reggie doubts a reporter like Merrick would want a too big country-fried trashy single mom raising a teenage football player. At Tucks, Merrick and Reggie intervene when Deputy Donnie Ray threatens Dahl Rogers. As Rogers flees the scene, Reggie tasers nasty Donnie Ray.
Not long afterward Gulf County Sheriff Robin Wilson asks Merrick questions re Dahl, who was killed soon after his last call to Merrick though the reporter failed to answer his phone. Insisting his innocence though the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigates him and his department for alleged wrongdoings, Wilson wants Merrick to cover the inquiry offering full access. At the same time, using the nuts test Reggie checks on whether Donnie Ray killed his former sheriff department's peer. Soon someone kills more cops.
As Prison Chaplain John Jordan (see Blood Sacrifice) and WWII detective Jimmy "Soldier" Riley Series (see The Big Hello) take respites, the second McKnight Panhandle mystery (see Thunder Beach) is a twisting dark investigative thriller. Adding fun to the mix is Michael Lister entering the Corner Cafe. Although the sex distracts from the grim inquiries, the gender role switching enhances an overall exhilarating regional whodunit.
Memories Of Flames
Armand Cabasson, authior
Isabel Reid, translator
59 Ebury Street, London, England, SW1W ONZ
Meryl Zegarek Public Relations
9781906040840, $15.95, www.gallicbooks.com
In March 1814, less than seventy thousand French troops anxiously wait for the much larger allied armies coming from the east to invade Paris; while the English already have taken Bordeaux and Italy appears ready to fall. The Emperor's brother Joseph Bonaparte fears Paris will burn, but adding to his gloomy outlook is the assassination in his home of key military genius, sexagenarian Colonel Berle with burn marks on the corpse. Aware of Lieutenant Colonel Quentin Margont's deft handling of a sensitive matter for the Emperor's stepson Prince Eugene de Beauharnais (see The Officer's Prey), Joseph and "The Limping Devil" Talleyrand order him to investigate discreetly Berle's murder.
Based on paid information provided by Swords of the King member Charles de Varencourt to Joseph, the Emperor's brother insists Margont join these fiercely dedicated Royalists masquerading as Chevalier Quentin de Lange. Though Margont expects to die, he is offered no choice besides going undercover inside a fanatical group who vehemently believe the end justifies the means even if thousands of innocent French must die. As Margont struggles to be accepted by the suspicious Royalists in spite of de Varencourt's sponsorship, a second homicide similar to that of Berle occurs.
The third Napoleonic Murders (see Wolf Hunt) is a great historical mystery due mostly to the profound look at the mental state of the French troops knowing what most likely will happen to them and the Royalists rationalizing they save France from worse destruction. Conflicted Margont is fantastic as he fears capture yet needs justice.
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778316756, $14.95, www.amazon.com
Mari barely survived her harrowing Pennsylvania childhood but the conditions she grew up in still haunt her in her marriage to Ryan and her parenting of their two children, (eight year old Ethan and fifteen year old Kendra); as she believes her only role in life is to help her family. For instance, traumatized Mari obsesses about insuring the refrigerator is fully stocked and makes home-made meals for them, while also hording food in concealed locations throughout the house.
With the malpractice lawsuit brought against him by Annette Sommer's husband ruining him and already on probation, Ryan worries about money and how to hide the truth from Mari. Feeling ashamed, Ryan would do anything for his wife since he knows her first eight years of life were so below the poverty line that few could understand. Financially desperate he insists the family go back to the home where Mari suffered as a little girl until his dad Leon rescued her; Kendra pities her mom who always acquiesces. Entering for the first time in years the house of her horrors, Mari goes under the kitchen table where she hid many times as a little girl. Now memories buried for years begin to surface.
Lovely Wild is an intriguing leisurely-paced character study based on the concept that "... in every adult there dwells the child that was ..." (The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly). The present crisis is handled well while primarily serving as the mechanism to what happened to Mari in grandma's house. Although the climax is too neat for the dark revelations of Mari's early childhood, Megan Hart provides a strong thought-provoking drama.
The King: The Original Sinners The White Years
In New York, Kingsley Edge reflects back on his life in which he knows he has been successful in every endeavor he undertook except one. That lone failure has left him despondent and always wondering what he could have done different to keep the love of his life Søren with him.
He travels to England where he surprises Zach and Grace Easton with a visit. They introduce him to their child Fionn who Grace had with King's beloved. King tells Grace how he and Søren forged their relationship at school, his time in the Foreign Legion but mostly about the creation of the Eighth Circle thanks to Father Søren's support while facing Reverend Fuller, a fire and brimstone preacher, and his equally caustic flock.
The second Original Sinners The White Years (see The Saint) tells the enthralling back story of how King built his BDSM kingdom. Well-written, series fans will enjoy the early relationship between Søren and King, and the later one that led to the Eighth Circle. Additionally, we also learn about the past of several Red Years (see The Mistress, The Angel, The Prince and The Siren) support players. Although Fuller is too stereotyped, this is a delightful erotica.
Despite their harrowing childhood memories of their sibling's abduction and father's desertion (see Shattered Secrets), anthropologist Kathryn and social worker Charlene Lockwood returns to Cold Creek, Ohio to attend their youngest sister Tess' wedding to Sheriff Gabe McCord. Tess stuns an upset Kate with news she invited their father who abandoned them during the crisis and his second family to the ceremony with her dad giving her away.
While in town, Kate hopes to study the nearby Adena burial sites; but Gabe's best man Grant Mason says no to her request to conduct a dig at the Mason Mound on his family property. However, Grant takes Kate to see his friend Paul Kettering to help with her project. When they arrive at Paul's studio, they find him dead; his skull smashed in by a tree trunk carving. With McCord on his honeymoon, Deputy Sheriff Jace Miller leads the investigation, but feels over his head; so Grant and Kate assist him. Though she feels he conceals something from her, Grant and Kate fall in love, but he fears his secret will destroy their relationship.
The second Cold Creek Lockwood romantic suspense is an interesting whodunit enhanced by a tremendous glimpse into the prehistoric Adena people whose mounds are all over the Ohio Valley. The cast is solid especially when the focus is on either the homicide or the Adena, while the well-written polite family estrangement slows down the plot. Readers will look forward to Char's tale wondering whether it will occur in the Buckeye State or the Land of Enchantment where she works.
The Heart Of Christmas
In Whiskey Creek, thirtyish Eve Harmon manages her family-owned Little Mary's B&B. However, as Christmas arrives, she feels depressed because her love life for the most part remains celibate since Ted Dixon dumped her (see Take Me Home For Christmas); while she desperately wants a family.
She is astonished to find a naked stranger in her bed with their disheveled clothing providing Eve with an explanation as to what happened there but not what occurred before they shared her sheet. Rex McCready (see Bulletproof trilogy) knows he must leave unsatisfied with just a one night stand; but keeps delaying his departure as he needs Eve. Still he realizes he cannot have forever with her though he craves this because she deserves someone without his ugly baggage. As they fall in love, his dark past becomes known but Eve is hurt that her beloved failed to tell her before it became known.
The latest Whiskey Creek romance (see Come Home To Me) is a charming contemporary Christmas tale due to the beguiling lead couple who apparently has no future together, but thrives on their one day at a time relationship. Though Eve's obsession re biological clock and family can be distracting, readers will root for this couple to make it. An added bonus is resolution of the Little Mary icy cold case.
The Fragile World
Paula Treick DeBoard
The call from Ohio devastated the Kaufman family of Sacramento. The oldest child, Oberlin College freshman Daniel the musical prodigy, died in a hit and run. Over the next few years, Daniel's parents and his then tweener younger sister Olivia cannot get past their grief. Daniel's father Curtis, a high school teacher, wants revenge on his son's killer. His furniture restorer wife Kathleen initially tried to save her family with counseling, but finally conceded it as a lost cause when they refused to go; and eventually abandoned her husband and other child by moving to Omaha. Having lost her innocence Olivia has become obsessive compulsive with a need to list in her Fear Journal every crazy frightening thought that nukes her brain.
Curtis leans that Daniel's killer Saenz is free. Irate, he takes Olivia on a drive through Omaha to Ohio that the teen thought was an effort to begin resuscitating their relationship that died with Daniel's death. Instead Curtis has a secret agenda to make things right for his hurting family and himself.
Mostly rotating viewpoint between father and daughter, this is a tense family drama that has readers anticipating the hostile confrontation while the miles shrink between California and Ohio. The on the road support cast is stereotyped though also enables readers to better understand the grief; while the debilitating hit and run impact on two families keeps the audience absorbed with expectations as to what will happen in Ohio.
The Lodge On Holly Road
In Seattle, when his wife Faith passed away last year on Christmas Eve, James Claussen lost the Yuletide spirit; which is made worse as he plays Santa for parents to take pictures of their kids sitting on his knee. After today's ten hours of torture ends, he plans to escape to a cold beer before seeing his two adult children. Instead, abetted by the elves, his kindergarten teacher daughter Brooke kidnaps him still in his Claus costume for a family holiday in Icicle Falls with his son Microsoft Systems Analyst Dylan meeting them at the Icicle Creek Lodge with his dad's clothes which he forget to get.
At Style Savings, single mom (from different fathers) of seven year old Carlos who wants a dog and younger Lalla who wants a grandma, Missy Monroe deals with an ungrateful customer followed by a lecherous one. After ending her shift, she takes her kids to the Icicle Creek Lodge so they can enjoy the holidays before tightening up on spending again.
When James and Missy meet, they are attracted to one another. However, the widower feels guilty that he betrays his late wife made worse by Brooke's objection; and the hair stylist fears taking a chance on a relationship even with Santa after a run of Mr. Wrongs.
The latest Life in Icicle Falls' family drama (see The Tea Shop On Lavender Lane, The Cottage On Juniper Ridge and Merry Ex-Mas) is a warm Washington State holiday romance. The engaging ensemble cast brings joy to readers; as even Santa finds love confusingly complex.
'Tis The Season
"Under the Christmas Tree." Hairstylist Annie stops to admire a Virgin River Christmas tree only to find eight newborn puppies underneath it. Obviously abandoned, Annie brings the canines to the town's vet Nathaniel.
"Midnight Confessions." One year ago on New Year's Eve, Sunny's fiance Glen jilted her. Though she wants to celebrate this New Year's Eve alone at home, her Uncle Nathanial and his fiancee Annie insist she accompany them to Jack's Bar. UCLA Orthopedic resident Drew Foley and Sunny meet at the bar; whereas she rejects his attempts to get to know each other, he refuses to quit trying.
"Backward Glance." In Durango five years have passed since John last saw his beloved Leigh, but every time he drives passed her mom Jess' house he looks to see if she is visiting. Jess tells John she has a bad ticker but is not seeing the doctor. Worried about her mom's health, Leigh, accompanied by her four year old twins (Mitch and Ty), returns home. When John and Leigh meet, they have a fight over who was at fault; as they reconcile another argument may destroy their love.
The first two tales are warm reprints of Virgin River novellas though the leads of Midnight Confessions seem unlikely to overcome their respective failed relationships as the prime icon etched in their respective brains. Backward Glance is a pre-Virgin River second chance but with an overused premise.
A Country Christmas
"Buffalo Valley". Vaughn leaves the Army to return to civilian life in Seattle where he starts a job in the New Year. However, over the holidays Vaughn visits his family in Grand Forks, North Dakota. While in town, the veteran introduces himself to elderly pharmacist Hassie; Vaughn's parents named him after her son who died in Nam. At the pharmacy, Vaughn and trainee Carrie meet and quickly fall in love. However, he has an ethics dilemma when he learns his Washington State employer plans to build a superstore that will destroy the mom and pop shops in Buffalo Valley.
"Return to Promise". The schism in their marriage started when Cal hid from his wife Jane that he signed up to participate in the Promise, Texas Labor Day Rodeo bull-riding event. The next incident begins when Jane's mother calls to inform them that her father is ill. Jane, accompanied by her three-year-old son and eighteen-month-old daughter, travels to her California home while Cal stays behind. The third mess occurs when Nicole makes a bold bid to catch geographical bachelor Cal's interests. With Jane in California and Cal in Texas, their relationship appears dead.
Buffalo Valley is a reprint that returns readers to the Dakota trilogy on an interesting journey to a Shangri-La threatened by "progress". Return to Promise is a reprint of a Heart Of Texas family drama starring protagonists who substantiates that men and women occupy different galaxies not just planets or states.
Former Navy combat nurse 1st Lieutenant Skylar Pascal still suffers nightmares from when the Black Hawk she flew on an emergency flight crashed in Afghanistan and the Taliban captured her. Once she was freed, she left the military, but the torture at the hands of the enemy traumatized her so she knows she cannot return to civilian duty as an ER nurse like she once planned. Instead she accepts a position as a wildlife rescue assistant on the Elk Horn Ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Her new boss veteran Grayson McCoy runs the wildlife rescue mission. Like Sky, the former Navy SEAL struggles with PTSD from his war experience. Recognizing the signs of a fellow tormented soul, Gray resolutely plans to help Sky heal though he has not moved on from his traumatization. As they fall in love, both finds solace with one another; but an unknown adversary has a different concept re Sky's health.
Character-driven, the sixth electrifying Wyoming romantic suspense (see The Loner and High Country Rebel) is the strongest yet of a very deep series. Lindsay McKenna provides readers with harrowing descriptions of the crippling impact of PTSD on a person and their loved ones. This powerful drama enables the audience to witness extremely disturbing flashbacks, and crippling anxiety and panic attacks that leave a person unable to function and overwhelmed with dark exit strategy thoughts as the only escape from their mental hell. Love and patience from caring people is not easy to provide but is a critical lifeline.
Widow Tuesday Eastwood emotionally struggled for five years with her paralyzing grief after her husband died, but found her footing when she settled in Hood River, Oregon where her BFF Natalie the librarian lives. Residing nearby at the Sweet Hollow Ranch, rock star Ezra Hurley became a heroin addict but now is clean and vows to stay that way though he tests his resolve with his first Sweet Hollow Band tour since before rehab.
Tuesday and Ezra met through her BFF Natalie the librarian and his brother Paddy also a rocker-rancher being an entry (see The Best Kind of Trouble). Attracted to each other each fears a commitment for different reasons, but simply cannot pretend their growing desire does not exist.
The second Hurley Boys Beaver State romance is an enjoyable second chance at life starring two scarred protagonists who must overcome their emotional issues if they are to forge a permanent relationship built on love. Both leads are three-dimensional although the depth of their respective emotional tsuris each confronts is a two-edged sword with astonishing layers that makes them feel incredibly real but also slows down the storyline.
Eagle's Last Stand
At the Brickhouse Tavern, his five Navaho foster brothers and their families welcome home former undercover FBI agent Rick Cloud. Working part-time as the event's coordinator at her uncle Frank's tavern while going to school, Kim Nelson also greets Rick. Attracted to each other, he especially appreciates she ignores his scar to look into his eyes as they chat. When suddenly the party smells a gas leak, they try to leave; but find the door jammed. Noticing a cut gas line in the kitchen, Rick lifts the unconscious half-owner Frank and with everyone else escapes the trap just before the tavern explodes.
One of the brothers, Hartley, New Mexico Detective Preston Bowman leads the inquiry. Thinking he was the target though not by the cartel he infiltrated, Rick wonders if the disappearance of their mentor Hosteen Silver the medicine man is the link to the deliberate attempt to kill him by someone who could not care less about murdering numerous innocents. As Kim leads Rick to a message left for him on a Copper Canyon wall by Hosteen, he will do anything to keep safe the woman he loves safe from a predator wanting him eliminated before he reads the note.
The sixth Copper Canyon romantic suspense is an excellent final novel in a quality series that showcases the talent of Aimee Thurlo, who passed away in February. Paying homage to the late author, fans will appreciate this exciting thriller that ties up the major threads of the previous tales (see Undercover Warrior, Power of the Raven, Winter Hawk's Legend, Falcon's Run and Secrets of the Lynx).
Deliverance At Cardwell Ranch
B. J. Daniels
Freezing his butt in Montana, Texas Deputy Sheriff Austin Cardwell hates he promised his siblings and his cousin Dana Cardwell Savage (see Crime Scene at Cardwell Ranch) he would spend Christmas with them to celebrate the grand opening of their Texas Boys Barbecue. Used to Houston traffic and no snow, he drives to his destination while a blizzard makes the roads hazardous. When he comes across an overturned car, Austin stops to help anyone stranded; only a crazed woman assaults him with a tire iron. Stopping the attack, Austin asks her name and noticing a child's car seat in her car asks where her baby is. She cannot recall her name; insists she has no infant; and that is not her car. Her watch says Gilliam, but her driver's license lists her as Rebecca Stewart, but she insists she is not Rebecca.
Highway patrol arrives and takes her to a hospital in Bozeman. Her husband Marc Stewart arrives to take his wife home; Austin observes how terrorized she is of him. Though having doubts and challenging Marc's claim, Austin leaves for the Cardwell Ranch feeling foolish for getting involved in a domestic dispute; yet the inconsistences haunt him. As a family favor, Dana's law enforcement husband Hud chats with Marc who shows him a picture of him with his wife holding their baby and her sister Gillian Cooper. Still unable to let go of the woman's terrorized expression, Austin investigates.
The third Texas Cardwell Cousins romantic suspense (see Wedding At Cardwell Ranch and Rescue At Cardwell Ranch) is an action-packed taut thriller with a solid lead triangle. Series fans will appreciate Big Sky Country takes Austin.
A Last Chance Christmas
Vicki Lewis Thompson
Ben Radcliffe drives the icy roads from Sheridan to Jackson Hole to deliver a custom made saddle that Jack Chance commissioned as a family birthday present to his mom Sarah on her seventieth birthday. At the Last Chance Ranch, Jack loves Ben's artistry, which relieves the tense artisan as this is his biggest commission.
Also staying at the spread, Chance relative Molly Gallagher the genealogist works on a family tree. When she and Ben meet, each feels a powerful uncomfortable attraction. As they fall in love, the reclusive Ben revises his opinion about family being undesirable hemorrhoid creators since the loving rowdy Chance clan embraced him as one of them and Molly wants him.
The fourteenth Sons of Chance (see Riding Home, Riding Hard and Riding High) Wyoming ranch romance is a pleasing tale as two professionals with polar opposite views of family fall in love. Although understandable as apparently this is the last entry, the Chance horde at times overwhelms the romantic storyline. Still Vicki Lewis Thompson provides her appreciative audience with a nice Christmas present.
Wild Holiday Nights
Samantha Hunter, Meg Maguire and Debbi Rawlins
"Holiday Rush" by Samantha Hunter. In New York's Chelsea neighborhood, performance baker creative genius Calla Michaels is tired of the days leading to Christmas as she fills orders. Related to cops and a firefighter back in Texas; Calla reacts smartly when a robber enters her establishment. Her brother Nathan's friend police officer Gideon Stone arrives to keep her safe even as he struggles to control his desire.
"Playing Games" by Meg Maguire. Due to the weather, Carrie Baxter's flight from Sacramento to Portland on Christmas Eve is cancelled. Unable to get a rental, Daniel Barber offers to share his vehicle with her since they both need to be in Grafton, Oregon by morning. She cringes with the thought of hours in a contained isolated car with the man she secretly craves.
"All Night Long" by Debbi Rawlins. Paralegal Carly Watts is a grouch because her first vacation in three years is on hold as she works the Emerson case documents in Manhattan instead of being home for Christmas in Pittsburgh. Equity partner Ryan Dunn gives her a chance to make it home when he sends her to Chicago to obtain Jack Carrington's signature authorizing the sale of his grandfather's company. As he wants more time to consider what he wants to do with the family firm, Carly wants more time to get to know Jack.
These are three cheerful Christmas contemporaries starring likeable leads.
Behind Closed Doors...
Six years ago, twentyish Jack Devlin left his abusive father Gerry and the teenager he loved Cleo Honeywell to become a renowned photographer. He comes home for the first time since he fled to attend his father's funeral, but arrives hours after the burial. Cleo, who cherished Gerry after her dad abandoned her to run away with his wife, accuses Jack of not caring for anyone except his model of the moment. He conceals that he no .longer does models but instead goes to hot spots and that he left a Rome hospital against the advice of his doctor to bury his estranged dad.
As Cleo inherits everything from Gerry, she hates still being in love with the second man to abandon her. Jack knows he also still loves Cleo, but like he did when his drunken father's fists reminded him she was too young for him, he plans to leave if he can just get Goldilocks to stop haunting his two heads.
This is a fun second chance starring two people with relationship phobia after what his mom and her dad did to their families. Most intriguing is the 180 degree relativity belief re his dad; who Jack recalls as a violent drunk and Cleo remembers raised her after her father left. Although the animosity before the coming together takes too long, Anne Oliver writes an appealing romance.
Fired By Her Fling
In London Flash FM radio DJ Tallulah Lazenby avoided the advances her arrogant philandering boss Jeremy "Jez" Whatley-Hume the station manager until in a weak moment she slept with him. When Tallulah informed him there will be no encores; Jez punished her because no woman says no to him. He removed her from the Breakfast Show and replaced her with Darla on the Drivetime Show.
Tallulah files a sexual harassment complaint with the Edinburgh station owner Tristan Bamfield. He knows Jez as the son of a family friend whose father demands Tristan fire the DJ. At the hotel bar, Tristan and Louise meet and have sex that rocks both their worlds. However, after she leaves, he realizes Louise lied as she is Tallulah. The next morning, they both lose their composure leading to Tristan firing Tallulah. Next he meets with arrogant Jez and decides something is not right; while rejecting a lawsuit, Lula considers a job in Melbourne. Tristan digs into the books and fires embezzling Jez, but also needs Tallulah to take over the Breakfast Show. As she negotiates her new contract, they begin to fall in love; but neither handles commitment very well after the role models of their parents.
This is a lighthearted radio romance between an executive and his top DJ; who share in common love and relationship-phobia. Fired by Her Fling is a pleasurable British contemporary.
Christmas on 4th Street
After military tours in Iraq and Afghanistan where he provided emergency field combat medicine, while healing from a war injury Dr. Gabriel Boylan arrives in Fool's Gold, California for a short visit with his family who he has not seen in well over a decade. Former Los Angeles attorney turned The Christmas Attic store owner Noelle Perkins arrives at the home of Gabriel's twin Gideon (see Two of a Kind) to take Webster the puppy for a walk. When she sees half-naked Gabriel inside, Noelle bravely attacks with an umbrella while Webster playfully watches. However, she grows faints suddenly at the sight of his blood that she drew.
Attracted to each other, both have faced troubles. Gabriel offers to help Noelle at her suddenly understaffed shop at the height of the season. As they fall in love, Noelle wishes for a Christmas miracle in which he stays with her because he loves her; while confused Gabriel wants to be with her, but fears to do so having witnessed close friends die in an instant.
The second Fool's Gold holiday romance (see A Fool's Gold Christmas) is a pleasant contemporary starring a charming couple carrying plenty of baggage that seemingly prevents a long-term relationship. Series fans will cherish spending Christmas in Fool's Gold where family, friends and love light up the holidays.
In Jacobsville Sara Brandon runs into her taunting enemy Wofford "Wolf" Patterson at the drugstore. Speaking Farsi, she curses and threatens to shoot him before heading to her brother's home in nearby Comanche Wells, Texas. A victim of her late stepfather's abuse as a young girl and her mother's subsequent accusatory abandonment, Sara is a recluse who distrusts all males except her older protective brother Gabriel, but also misses her BFF Michelle Godfrey (see Texas Born).
Wolf, like Sara, enjoys attending the opera in Houston, playing on-line war games and distrusts the opposite sex after his relationship with psychopathic Ysera who apparently is freed in Buenos Aires and seeking revenge. As Sara and Wolf run the battlegrounds and dungeons of World of Warcraft together, neither knows the real identity of their partner. They fall in love though aware of the risk of bringing a cyberspace relationship to the real world; but not as much as having Ysera invade the States.
Wyoming Strong is a delightful contemporary starring two wounded warriors falling in love while playing on line gaming. Though the Internet romance brings freshness and Ysera adds tension, the storyline remains somewhat similar to many of Diana Palmer's ranch romances. Still this is a pleasant sequel as the protagonists find love in the dungeons.
Cowboy For Hire
Harlequin American Romance
With a deep need for her dad's approval and representing her family's firm, Carmichael Construction Corporation, Constance Carmichael arrives in Forever, Texas to supervise the building of a hotel. When Constance sees the quality work done to a ranch house, she takes a risk and hires the lead Finn Murphy as foreman of the hotel project.
Constance and Finn are attracted to each other, but the big city easterner and the small town local also share a reluctance to act on their feelings. As their respect and admiration grow while working together on the hotel construction, they begin to fall in love; but she is not a Texas Forever person and he is.
The eleventh return to Forever is a fine contemporary romance that focuses on the middle Murphy brother (see Her Forever Cowboy for his brother Brett's tale; a third sibling to follow as the book twelve lead). The protagonists are a likable pair whose relationship changes from boss-employee to loving equals (with the right steps in between) while the townsfolk and readers joyfully observe.
Her Colton Lawman - The Coltons: Return To Wyoming
Harlequin Romantic Suspense
Dead River Police Chief Flint Colton sees movement in the nearby woods. He assumes the person is either the cold-blooded killer who diner owner Nina Owens saw commit murder; or the thief who stole his cousin's money and their grandma's heirloom ring while jilting her. Instead it is a CDC operative wearing HAZMET garb making sure no one enters or leaves the quarantined Wyoming town.
While searching for a missing child, Flint places protesting Nina under police protective custody. Paranoid due to having had a witness in Cheyenne murdered under his failed oversight; Flint also orders her to move into his home where he can oversee to her safety much better. As they stay near each other, Nina and Flint reluctantly fall in love, but both know rescuing the child and capturing the killer should come before exploring their feelings.
The latest The Coltons: Return To Wyoming (see A Secret Colton Baby by Karen Whiddon) is an engaging police procedural romance starring two affable protagonists residing in an enthralling isolated town in peril from a life-threatening virus and a deadly killer. Readers will appreciate the return of the Coltons as the Thanksgiving Holiday Lockdown (by C.J. Miller) seems imminent.
One Frosty Night
Janice Kay Johnson
In Crescent Creek grandmother Marsha Connelly enters the snowy woods of the Cascades in pursuit of her dog Blarney. When she catches up to her Golden Retriever, Marsha finds the canine hovering over a dead teenage girl. Knowing the internet spotlight shines on them, the townsfolk provide a proper funeral for Jane Doe.
One month after the unidentified female was buried, Charles Bowen died. Four days after his burial, his widow Marian informs their adult daughter Olivia she plans to sell the house and probably the family business. Olivia is confused as she has been over the last few months when her parents' seemingly happy marriage exploded, but unaware why her mom raged and now seems indifferent to their past. Olivia and her high school boyfriend, Crescent Creek HS principal Ben Hovik, chat over what troubles Marian. He also struggles with his distracted stepson Carson Caldwell who lives with him since he divorced the teen's mom. As Ben and Olivia fall in love, she learns that Jane Doe may be her half-sister and angers her boyfriend when she keeps Carson's secret from him.
One Frosty Night is a well-written romantic suspense due to a three-dimensional cast in a serene frosty setting. The Jane Doe subplot is super and the second chance delightful; however, Olivia's reaction to what caused her parental rift seems ho hum muted especially after how upset and angry she was with her mom before learning the truth.
In Bayou LaSiryna, Alabama, except for her sister Lily and their cousin Shelly (see Siren's Secret), Jet Bosarge has always felt like an outsider not belonging to either the human or mermaid species. Always the pariah, she made matters worse for herself when she turned to a purebred nasty human Perry Hammonds who betrayed her before he went to prison.
Shelly warns her Perry is back. While the miscreant demands Jet find and excavate an undersea treasure for his client, drug dealer Sebastian Vargas; procedural-obsessed IRS Agent Landry Fields audits Jet's salvage company and other dealings that lead back to the backstabbing rat. However, the Fed conceals from Jet his real agenda to catch her and her accomplice with salvaging dangerous contraband. Landry never expected to fall in love with a member of a species he assumed only existed in Disney movies; Jet likewise cannot believe she loves another human after her first calamitous encounter; but how will she react when she learns why he is in the Alabama Bayou.
The second delightful Dark Seas romantic suspense urban fantasy is a fun tale because of the protagonists keeping Everest-level secrets from each other while falling in love. Though the villain is a two-dimensional Homo sapiens rodent, Debbie Herbert provides her audience with a fine star-crossed contemporary.
The Lawman's Noelle
Harlequin Special Edition
While riding her horse Driller on her ranch, Noelle Barnes spots a man who looks like he might be dead. She goes to check on him knowing if she cannot wake him, Noelle will need to go get help as he is way too big to lift and cell phones don't work out in this remoteness. Though he is battered with a major lump on his head and injuries elsewhere, Noelle wakes up Evan Calhoun with icy water. While searching for rustlers, he sheepishly admits his horse threw him as he introduces himself as Carson City Sheriff's Office Detective Evan Calhoun. Noelle takes him to her home. When Evan asks to call his office; Noelle stuns him instead by taking him to town; as she does not want his kind on her spread.
Noelle distrusts the law after a cop killed her brother Andy. To her chagrin she hates the detective insisting he owes her so he helps at her ranch. However, as they fall in love, feeling treasonously guilty to her late sibling, Noelle "hates the way (she) doesn't hate (him) ... not even a little bit, not even at all" (10 Things I Hate About You climatic poem).
The latest Men of the West (see Wearing the Rancher's Ring and One Tall, Dusty Cowboy) is an enchanting ranch romance in which hate seems stronger than love. Character-driven by the relationship between the reclusive rancher and the loving lawman, readers will relish this Calhoun drama especially the brilliant way Stella Bagwell has Noelle the hermit learn what a loving family is and more significantly what it means for a cop to face danger.
Vicki Lewis Thompson, Rhonda Nelson, Kira Sinclair, Andrea Laurence
"Naughty or Nice?" by Vicki Lewis Thompson. At Evergreen Industries in Gingerbread, Colorado, CEO Cole informs his siblings that they were hacked by his former college girlfriend Taryn. He flies to Seattle to persuade the woman he loves to join the firm to strengthen security.
"She's A Mean One" by Rhonda Nelson. On a talk show Ethan watches his archenemy Lark telling parents to be honest with their kids that there is no Santa. He counters with allowing children to indulge in a harmless fantasy that leaves a lifetime of warm memories. She may be a female Grinch, but he wants her to be his Grinch.
"His First Noelle" by Kira Sinclair. Although she temporarily replaces her dad as Evergreen security chief while he recovers from surgery, Noelle feels like an outsider as her mom belongs to a different clan. Still in love with Dash who broke her heart; she informs him Kris, suffering from marital problems, wants to use the Corvette instead of a sled. Dash believes Mrs. Claus will leave Kris just like Noelle walked out on him several years ago. They work together to make a convertible fly.
"Silver Belle" by Andrea Laurence. With seven days to Christmas, Belle lost her holiday spirit. Her only joy is her secret (from her older brothers) relationship with Nick, but bittersweet she knows she must fire her beloved and erase his memories.
This is a charming lighthearted holiday romance anthology. The keys are technology and magic blend nicely together; the authors insure the siblings consistently keep their personalities throughout the interrelated collection; and cocoa will never seem the same.
At The Chateau For Christmas
Though their families have been enemies for years, at the request of his grieving grandfather Maurice; Nicholas Valfort travels from Nice to San Francisco to inform Laura Holden Tate that her grandmother Irene, who he adored, died in France. At the Holden Hotels Headquarters where she is financial director, he hopes she is not like her volatile mom and avoids fireworks. When he breaks the news, her reaction shows he just shook her world though she hardly knew her grandmother. Nic also says he brought the body with him per the deceased's request to be buried near family, but turned to her because her mother and aunt wanted nothing to do with Irene or his grandfather. Finally he tells her that her grandmother left her something in the will, but she must come to Nice to learn what it is.
Laura arrives late in Nice after the estate lawyer left on vacation, but surprises Nic with her need to chat with his grieving grandfather. She agrees to stay at Nic's chateau where his grandfather comes to see her immediately. As Nic and Laura compare family stories, they fall in love; but he remains married to Dorine who vanished without a trace a few years ago.
This is an enjoyable contemporary in which love begins to heal three generations of two feuding families. Although the Dorine disappearance is too conveniently resolved, Nic and Laura enable Christmas in Nice to come across tres romantique.
High-Stakes Bachelor (The Prescott Bachelors)
Harlequin Romantic Suspense
Looking at the towering competition for a role in a Jackson Prescott film directed by Adrian Turnow, Anabelle Izzolo has no illusions of getting the part; she instead auditions in hope that the casting director notices and hires her as a stuntwoman, especially for a fight scene. She never expected a tryout against muscular hunk Prescott, Turnow giving her a screenshot, or makeup artist Tyrone saying the camera will adore her. During her trial filming of a fight, she clubs Jackson in the nose; but instead of dismissal, Ana gets the role.
At home, Jackson's Gran wants to meet this Ana but he insists this is work not love. In Serendipity, California where the filming will occur, Ana goes to meet with Jackson at a restaurant to discuss the movie. Instead of focusing on her surroundings, Ana dreams of Jackson; but fails to see her attacker until the assault began. Finding his cell phone number in her bag, San Placido County Hospital calls Jackson. He takes her to his house to heal and keep her safe. As they fall in love to the delight of Gran, he struggles with trust issues and she cannot accept he wants her when he could have any of the leggy big boobs.
The First Prescott Bachelors romance is an enjoyable contemporary starring a down to earth (Gran would have him no other way) doubting Thomas star and a doubting Thomasina wannabe stuntwoman. Although the storyline decelerates in the middle, Cindy Dees authors a pleasant Hollywood tale.
The Boss's Mistletoe Maneuvers
In Manhattan, millionaire Chaz Monroe goes undercover as a new VP at the ad agency he recently bought; as he plans to learn as much about the firm by being an employee rather than the owner. Chaz has one person left to speak with; the top worker in everyone's mind including the Big Four clients Kim McKinley; she probably would be the VP though only twenty-four if Chaz did not temporarily usurp the position.
His exec secretary Alice explains that Kim's only drawback is she refuses to do anything Christmas; his predecessor kept her off of Christmas accounts because he feared losing her to other agencies who would love to have her on board. While he hides his identity, she conceals why she rejects Christmas after what her dad did to her mom and her, his five years old daughter. Though Chaz knows he owes her the truth as to whom he is since he tries to earn Kim's trust to learn the why behind her Yuletide aversion; neither anticipated love would complicate their respective secret.
The Boss's Mistletoe Maneuvers is a lighthearted holiday romance. The lead couple is a nice boardroom pairing of an undercover CEO and the firm's superstar ad exec, whose Christmas phobia reminds me of that of Gremlins' Kate Beringer.
The Cinderella Murder
Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781476763125, $26.99, www.amazon.com
Two decades ago, UCLA student Susan Dempsey skipped her father's sixtieth birthday bash to audition for a role in director Frank Parker's production. She was found strangled to death near the director's home. Because a shoe had fallen off the victim, the media dubbed this The Cinderella Murder.
In the present, Under Suspicion TV producer Laurie Moran wants to do a recreation show on the cold case. Susan's still grieving mom Rosemary agrees as she sees this as an opportunity for her daughter Susan to become known as a victimized person rather than a fairy tale in which everyone has ignored that the ogre won. No one else from Susan's inner circle including her then boyfriend actor Keith Ratner, her college roommates (Madison Meyer and Nicole Melling) or her close friend Dwight Cook want to participate; though their motive for avoidance may have to do with their present elite stature rather than guilt. In spite of a persistent refusal to help from those who knew Susan; Laurie and show attorney Alex Buckley continue their inquiries.
The latest (and first collaboration with Alafair Burke) Under Suspicion (see I've Got You Under My Skin) is a thrilling cold case whodunit as the TV protagonists investigate what happened twenty years ago, but with practically no cooperation from the victim's friends. As readers will try to guess whose lead character seemingly represents which of the two authors, The Cinderella Murder is a super mystery.
A Last Goodbye
Pocket Star eBooks
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781501103698, $1.99, www.amazon.com
Lovers Ali Reynolds and B. Simpson plan quietly to marry on Christmas Eve in Las Vegas. However, when friends crash their nuptials, Ali tries to throw together a last second much more complex reception than what she and B decided to have.
Ali's grandson rescues a miniature dachshund. Believing someone who loves the canine must be despondent, Ali searches for the owner. She soon identifies Bella's owner, elderly Harriet, but cannot locate her. As Ali and B search for Harriet, they learn she was rushed to a hospital six months ago with aphasia while her son coldly shut down her apartment; Ali fears much worse happened.
The tenth Ali Reynolds investigation (see Moving Target and Deadly Stakes) is a sad Christmas e-novella in spite of the wedding finally occurring. The inquiry is very minor compared to previous whodunits yet readers will feel deep empathy for Harriet and Bella.
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781451689563, $7.99, www.amazon.com
Maggie Grady and her widowed Aunt Clara own Pie in the Sky in Durham, North Carolina. The business is booming and both females have boyfriends. Maggie met hers, reporter Ryan Summerour, when he worked on the homicide of her former New York boss (see Plum Deadly); while Aunt Clara's Donald Wickerson is a steady customer.
Ryan writes an expose on Donald suspected of killing several wealthy wives in what seemed like coincidental accidents that enabled him to inherit their money. Clara reads Ryan's article and rejects it as her Donald is sweet and kind and ergo no way a murdering widower. When someone kills Donald in the Pie in the Sky, Maggie knows that DPD will look closely at her beloved aunt as the prime suspect just as they named her when her boss' body was left by the pie shop's back door (see Plum Deadly). With Ryan at her side she investigates the homicide only to seemingly find enough people with revenge motives to fill Cameron Indoor Stadium.
The second Pie Shop mystery is an entertaining culinary cozy with dynamic witty lead sleuths, denier Aunt Clara and several viable suspects filled with rage at the apparent uxoricide serial killer. Team Grant provides the audience with a winning regional investigative whodunit.
Christopher's Diary: Secrets of Foxworth
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781476790589, $7.99, www.amazon.com
In Charlottesville, banker Herm Cromwell hires construction company owner Burt Masterwood to inspect the twice burned down Foxworth Hall; as he has a live one interested in the property. Widower Burt lets his teenage daughter Kristin accompany him to the job site. Elated to see the remains close-up, Kristin knows she is a fourth cousin through her late mom to Malcom "Phantom of the Opera" Foxworth and that allegedly his ancestor kept her four grandchildren locked away in the attic for years until one died and three escaped. The last Foxworth owner abandoned the property after a second inferno; insisting God wanted the evil cursed place razed.
Though her dad kept Kristin from knowing much about her lunatic maternal relatives, she learned a little at school where everyone looks at her as if she possesses the malevolent DNA. Amidst the rubble Kristin finds Christopher's Diary that reveals to her the dark Secrets of Foxworth. Obsessed with the young author, Kristin wonders if she inherited the insanity taint.
This is a fascinating retelling of Flowers in the Attic but instead of Cathy's viewpoint; Christopher takes center stage, sharing the spotlight but more as a supporting player to Kristin. The two subplots are well-written, but the diary disappointingly adds nothing of significance to the original novel. The impact on Kristin (not sure how many generations removed from the incarcerated four kids) brings interest to the Dollanganger drama as she learns why her schoolmates look at her as if she wears a Scarlet Letter (L for Lunatic) on her forehead. Marcus Anthony (Shakespeare's Julius Caesar) sums up this storyline: "...The evil that men (and women) do lives after them..." even several generations later.
A Life Unbroken (The Alex McKay Series)
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781499160819, $14.95, www.amazon.com
In Hadley, California, USDA plant biologist Dr. Alex McKay enjoys her work as the team leader researching hemp and loves her personal life with Ryan Stinson and her dog Abby. A storm breaks a window at her lab so security follows protocol calling her to inspect her facility. Hers is okay, but the high security lab near her is not as a tree smashed into the roof. When she goes over to see what is going on, they tell her to leave. Dr. Mannheim explains to White House Chief of Staff Mitchell Kincaid re Alex's two intrusions.
Agricultural Secretary Grist sends Alex to Columbia; while a plague kills four Hadley residents, others are very ill and CDC stymied on how this deadly ancient virus mutation spreads. Upon arrival in Columbia soldiers snatch Alex and take her to brutal Prision del Perdido off of Venezuela where the only escape is death from the extremely hostile conditions. Unaware of why she was abducted and dumped in this horrendous Island Prison; she struggles to survive.
Starting with a stunning opening in which the beleaguered heroine begins looking at what rendition did to her life, Alex provides the audience with a haunting first-hand account of her odyssey. Her harrowing prison experience feels real and her plant skills freeing her seems possible. Her return to the prison is an unnecessary foolish risk that her sponsor would have prevented rather than encouraged since the second revenge plot requires Alex McKay dead and Alexandra Golindez alive; and a Biological Weapons Lab would have 24/7 security at the facility rather than hiding in plain sight. Still this is a timely, gripping taut thriller.
The Sword Of Michael
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781476736891, $15.00, www.amazon.com
As the dead man he killed twice chases him into a cemetery, Shaman Marius Winter muses the story of his life is in his hands as he holds the sacred power of Christ's rosary beads and the profane worldly Glock. He fires shots into the knees and elbows of the zombie, preventing it from moving before sprinkling holy water on the Dark Force and asking Michael of the Light to cleanse this evil. Marius now knows the Dark Forces are back and he is a prime target probably because of his Depossession success rate
Hell's Dark God Belial sends a sorcerer to destroy Marius starting with possessing the souls of those his adversary loves; like his girlfriend Jolene, Avatar to the Goddess. When Marius learns the fate of Jolene and others he cares about, guided by his triad of spiritual advisors (First In Front medicine man, Tigre the spirit tiger and Burt the spirit raven); he accepts the risks associated with his undertaking to save their souls. Accompanied by his guides, Marius initially must deal with the hellish sorcerer and, if successful, traverse the circles of Hell to confront Belial in the innermost; losing at any point means the Dark possesses his soul.
With a nod to Dante, the first Depossessionist urban fantasy is filled with plenty of action-packed fighting scenes and some religious philosophizing. The storyline is at its best when the plot stays focused on the war, but loses momentum with unnecessary, odd power hungry groups joining the fray. Although the cast, even the hero, is never developed beyond their prime reason for existence, The Sword Of Michael is an entertaining Forces of the Light vs. Minion of The Dark thriller.
1636: The Viennese Waltz
Eric Flint, Paula Goodlett and Gorg Huff
In 1634 in Vienna, the Austro-Hungarian Empire is in trouble from outsiders threatening to invade and from an economic depression eroding from within. This comes at a particular precarious time since His Majesty Ferdinand II is near death and his heir Prince Ferdinand (soon to be HMF III if the empire survives) prefers driving a sports car rather than run a nation, especially a troubled one.
Meanwhile the leaders of the United States of Europe alliance from Sweden and Grantville, West Virginia see a rare opportunity to broker an agreement with one of the Holy Roman Empire states. Thus they plan to send a delegation to Vienna that include auto mechanics and Barbie Consortium financial whiz fifteen year old Haley Fortney, who insists her parents have kidnapped her by sending her to that barbaric backwater. As an assassination is plotted, no one inside of Austro-Hungary is ready for the Barbies waltzing their way to the Danube.
This is an interesting sidebar alternate history that for the most part concentrates on a fascinating but passive economic crisis. The Cecil B. DeMille's size cast of previously secondary and tertiary support players and newbies play key roles; but are difficult to keep track of even with a scorecard. Still the look at early seventeenth century Vienna through the eyes of the transported outsiders (summed up by Haley who feels she is in unfair exile amidst the barbarians) combined with a depression make for a pleasant seventeenth century drama.
S.M. Stirling, David Drake and Eric Flint
The Reformer by S.M. Stirling and David Drake (Whitehall book 7). When the Web crashed, civilization on thousands of planets collapsed with only Bellevue immune. On Hafardine, the fall was so great that centuries afterward no one possesses even a whisper of the ancient past. Filling the power vacuum, the decadent Vanbret regime took control of the world. Student of the Grove Adrian Gellert craves knowledge and understanding until his curiosity leads him to touch an artifact; subsequently making first contact with the minds of Raj Whitehall and Center the Bellevue battle computer. Gellert becomes the rebel leader.
"The Tyrant" by Eric Flint and David Drake (Whitehall book 8). Justicar Demansk fears for Vanbert's future as the affluent aristocracy abuse their power while the bloodthirsty pirates to the north and the barbarous horde to the south threaten the empire. He admires Gellert's star war efforts in the south, but believes the only solution to kill the internal and external cancers are a coup d'etat leading to himself as an iron fist Tyrant.
The omnibus General book 4 reprints the enjoyable Whitehall 7 and 8 science fiction that continues the radical change in series direction started in Whitehall 6 when we left Bellevue for adventures on other planets. Both entries contain overall thrilling military action though with some questionable tactics; while also sharing some of the same cast, but their personalities seem changed although one can rationalize due to combat. Fans who accepted the dramatic switch will want to read these tales while newcomers need to peruse the previous mostly Raj saga first (see Hope Reborn for 1 and 2, Hope Returned for 3 and 4 and Hope Renewed for 5 and 6).
King Of Assassins
Daw Books, Inc.
c/o Penguin Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756408848, $24.95, www.amazon.com
The Gods were disgusted at the damage that the Mage Wars did so they took the magic away from them and turned their backs on the people of Kerith. The Vaelinar Elfin like beings of magic were thrown into Kerith and over the centuries this long life spanned species entrenched their way into the infrastructure of this world. Warrior Queen Lariel rules the land, but trusts no one, not even pregnant Nutmeg who carries her baby.
When invincible Kobrer assassins attack Nutmeg and Rivergrace the goddess-touched Vaelinar, the latter's hybrid lover Sevryn fights to protect the two females with help from injured former warrior turned trader Bregan. In the heat of the battle, Bregan flees, but instead of killing Sevryn the Kobrer abruptly cease fighting; they tell him their client broke the contract and he should seek the King's Assassin. Discussing what happened with Rivergrace, Sevryn considers whether this affront came from outlawed weapons maker Quendius as a first assault by his brutal army or the Queen's traitorous rival ild Fallen the Vaelinar. Changing their assumption from Nutmeg as the target to Sevryn leads to a shocking conclusion that forces him and Rivergrace to flee.
After a six year wait for The Elven Ways Book Three (see The Four Forges and The Dark Ferryman), series fans will relish this exciting entry filled with backstabbing (literally) political intrigue, a heroic lead pair on the run and enemies with agendas to gain or retain power. Loaded with action from the onset, King Of Assassins is a mesmerizing epic fantasy.
The Future Falls
Being tied to the earth like the other Aunties prevents Auntie Catherine from keeping the calamity from occurring. Instead she warns her family that unless stopped an asteroid soon will destroy the earth. Soon afterward NASA affirms Auntie Catherine's doomsday prediction. Her Gale brood knows it is up to them to use their magic to save the planet. However, the top choice as savior Alysha (see The Enchantment Emporium) is unavailable in Calgary; caught in a paradox of carrying the latest seventh son who may not be born if the world ceases to exist. Thus only the rambling Wild Cousins may be able save humanity.
Recently music lover Charlotte Gale, who dances to a different beat, challenged Auntie Catherine over the selkies (see The Wild Ways); but she along with her sidekick Draconian Prince Jack Gale the sorcerer are the only hope. Armed with a guitar and hearing the world's music, Charlie meets bouzouki playing Gary Ehrlich who understands the dinosaur-level extinction event on a mystical level.
The third enchanting Enchantment Emporium urban fantasy is a terrific doomsday thriller in which science enhances the Tanya Huff vision of an earth filled with charming Gale force magic although the climax feels abrupt with an out of the ballpark resolution. Charlie puts everything in perspective; as saving the world seems minor to her compared to rescuing her heart from the shenanigans of the Aunties and her feelings for Jack since she believes in the tenet of the Wild Gales are solo acts. She obviously does not know Jack, who decides to sacrifice himself because he believes in the magic of his beloved's music.
Empire of Dust
Psi-tech telepath Cara Carlinni is on the run from Alphacorp because she is aware her former boss and one time lover Ari van Blaiden will kill her once his goons catch up to her; as he wants no witnesses to the pirate attack he arranged on a colony. Desperate to avoid mind to mind detection and aware of withdrawal torment that will probably kill her anyway, Cara still shut down the implant that the firm financed in exchange for her being their indentured servant.
So far Cara eluded her ruthless pursuers on El Arish and Shalla where an off the grid psi-much suggested she go Station Mirrimar 14, a place with allegedly psi-tech rebels. Not only has she failed to find her peers, Alphacorp arrives. Cara meets Reska Benjamin who agrees to take her with his team of psi-techs to Olyanda to assist with colonization. Adding tension is many of the client Ecolibrians loathes psi-techs and the discovery of mineral deposits places Olyanda on pirate looting list.
The first Psi-Tech science fiction is an action-packed outer space thriller in which the Bedford galaxy seems real. Filled with plenty of escapades mostly on a world that comes across as genuine and starring a beleaguered woman in peril, a haunted hero and a ruthless villain; readers will want to journey to Olyanda where several rivals compete for control.
A Play of Shadow
Julie E. Czerneda
In the unique village of Marrowdell on the vortex of two worlds, truthseer Bannan Larmensu relishes his time with his beloved Jenn Nalynn the turn-born with sei magic. Jenn is scared to enter the magical Verge where she was born at A Turn of Light sunset for fear of causing the convergence and subsequent destruction of the magic and the mortal planes; though she rationally accepts having the love of Bannan enables her to do so without harming others. Perhaps as frightening is the prospect of his sibling Lila rejecting her as unacceptable as a sister-in-law.
With his nephews arriving in Marrowdell, Bannan learns that his brother-in-law went to Channen, Mellynne on a peace mission, but vanished. He also concludes their mom sent them to him to see to their safety, which means Lila searches for her missing mate. Knowing he cannot ignore Lila's plight, Bannan arranges for the kids to remain in the village while he searches for their parents; but to have any chance of success, he needs Jenn's help. Though loathing making this request of her, reluctantly Bannan asks a frightened Jenn to overcome her Verge phobia and accept her magic duality to use her talent to take him into the dangerous realm where dragons and worse reside. Surviving those impossible odds, they would next face hostility in malevolent Mellynne.
The second Night's Edge fantasy is an enjoyable quest thriller occurring mostly in the mystical Verge and dark magical Mellynne starring two fully-developed protagonists who will have the audience saying yes to the Lovin' Spoonful's Do You Believe In Magic? Although the action seems somewhat muted, readers will appreciate touring Czerneda's realm with the truthseer and the turn-born as our guides.
In Manhattan, film director Ted Yee shut down his project after his mother's antics and much worse his sister used cursed fortune cookies attempting to murder those involved in the movie (see The Misfortunate Cookie). Two backers including Chinatown mobster Capuzzo died while a family friend John Chen, whose family owns a Chinese-Italian mortuary, fortunately survived; the Yee & Sons Trading Company store did not as it was destroyed by a fire. Actress Esther Diamond is out of work with the filming ended and her sometimes boyfriend NYPD Detective Connor Lopez is fuming for her breaking into his department car to destroy a fortune cookie.
However, the popular TV crime show The Dirty Thirty hires Esther to return as prostitute Jilly C-Note; which is another reason for Connor to rage at her as the drama depicts police corruption and worse. Strike three with Connor occurs when Esther persuades her superego star to ride with Lopez and his partner Quinn.
Esther is stunned when her three century and a half old sorcerer friend Max Zadok's dog Nelli growls at Quinn. John informs Esther, Max and their associate semi-retired Gambello family hit man Lucky Battistuzzi that soon after a visit by Quinn, Capuzzo left his coffin and walked a few feet before collapsing. Esther and associates seek evidence that Quinn is a mystically dirty cop.
The seventh Esther Diamond lighthearted (except for the Yee family) urban fantasy (see Vamparazzi and Doppelgangster) is an enjoyable paranormal investigation that leads to strike four with Lopez and strike out forever with his mom. Though it behooves the audience to read the previous entry The Misfortunate Cookie; it is unnecessary as Laura Resnick deftly weaves the key points into this entertaining tale.
Never Judge A Lady By Her Cover: The Fourth Rule of Scoundrels
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780062068514, $7.99, www.amazon.com
In 1823 Essex, teenage daughter and sister to dukes, Lady Georgiana Pearson, knows she loves Jonathan. Expecting to elope with him, they have sex before he deserts her. Over the next decade she survived the scandal by turning into mysterious Chase the gentleman owner of London's most popular gambling club The Fallen Angel and sexy madam Anna. However, Georgiana believes her semi-exile from the Ton must end so that her nine years old daughter Caroline can join Polite Society; to do so she needs a titled husband.
At a ball Georgiana and newspaper publisher Duncan West meet after he observes her lose control when one of the guests calls her and her daughter trollops; ironically unknown by him he has conducted business with her via missives with Chase and Anna. Attracted to each other; a feeling neither desires nor plan to act on; he vows to help her find an aristocratic spouse while with Chase's assistance identify a traitor. As they fall in love, both fear their darkest secrets will become known.
The Fourth Rules of Scoundrels is an awesome nineteenth century romance. Smartly done very early in the storyline, the audience will marvel over the shocking revelation of Chase being someone who would not have been listed in the London books, yet seems apropos. Aptly titled, Never Judge A Lady By Her Cover is a fantastic finish to a stupendous series (see No Good Duke Goes Unpunished, One Good Earl Deserves a Lover and A Rogue By Any Other Name).
For Love or Liberty
Jennifer Hudson Taylor
PO Box 801, Nashville, TN 37202
9781426733864, $14.99, www.amazon.com
As the War of 1812 continues, Charlotte Morgan grieves the death of her twin sister Emma Deaton, but only has a few moments left on the Carolina coast. While Emma's widower husband David heads to the Great Lakes, Charlotte follows as her six year old nephew Davie and her one year old niece Ashlyn needs her to take care of them. To her chagrin, David's naval officer brother and her former suitor Conrad plans to be there for his sibling and the kids too. Conrad conceals from his beloved Charlotte his regret over the dumbest thing he ever did when he dumped her making the sea his mistress; though now he hopes for a second chance.
In the Great Lakes region, David's grief overwhelms him with a morbid depression that leads to his ignoring his two children, unstable for military duty and turning to alcohol to numb his emotionally-crushing pain. Conrad and Charlotte agree to an uneasy truce in order to care for the kids and David; while he also tries to gain her forgiveness and regain her love. As the second war of independence heats up in the area, Charlotte prays for the safety of her brother-in-law and her beloved Conrad.
The third MacGregor Legacy (see For Love or Loyalty and For Love or Country) is a wonderful War of 1812 family drama with an incredible somewhat ravaged background. The second chance romance engages the audience with much of the reason being the fighting between the in-laws over what the right things are re the grieving seemingly destructive widower and the older child's struggles.
A Path Made Plain
PO Box 801, Nashville, TN 37202
9781426753657, $14.99, www.amazon.com
In Ohio, with her dream dead, Amish Betsy Yoder struggles to keep her smile glued on her face while serving food to guests at the wedding of widower dad Jacob Miller to Englisher Natalie Bennett (see A Season Of Change). At the reception her mom asks her to stay here, but Betsy cannot wait to return to the Pinecraft area of Sarasota, Florida where she lives in the home of her Aenti Chelle and plans to open up a bakery. Having fled Columbus when the mob gunned down his employer Dish and Spoon restaurateur Mitch Gabryszeski, Jacob's third cousin pastry chef Thaddeus Zook arrives for the farmyard reception on a Harley before heading to Florida.
In Sarasota, Betsy and Thad are attracted to each other. Whereas she is afraid to offer her heart so soon after it was burned, he has doubts about belonging to the Amish world he left almost a decade ago and besides most of his former community do not welcome him back. As he falls in love with Betsy, Thad must leave because what happened in Columbus could occur in Pinecraft to his beloved and other innocent Amish and Mennonites.
Seasons in Pinecraft Book 2 focuses on Betsy who played second fiddle to Natalie in the first drama. Thad is an intriguing lead as a rebel while Betsy feeling fickle remains somewhat confused with what love is. Although the climax feels abrupt, the subgenre audience will relish this Amish romance.
Laura V. Hilton and Cindy Loven
PO Box 801, Nashville, TN 37202
9781426796173, $13.99, www.amazon.com
In the Appalachians at the Heritage Festival, Sara Jane Morgan panics when she loses track of her beloved grandmother Sari who suffers from Alzheimer's. Trying to stay calm during her search for her missing relative proves difficult until she finds her grandma alone with a Neanderthal. His business card states: "starving artist/pay the bills handyman", but Sara Jane tells Sari they need a real repairman. Sari lectures her granddaughter for being rude while Drew Stevenson enjoys the show of the elderly feisty woman tearing into the beautiful snob.
As the prehistoric throwback works on Sari's house, Sara Jane collaborates with her grandma on a ballad quilt in which Drew soon joins them. With Sari matchmaking the recalcitrant pair, each fear commitment to a person and somewhat less to God. Drew has used the trail to overcome his once paralyzing grief and Sara Jane blames herself for what happened to her late parents. With time running out on her mentally, Sari turns to the Lord asking for a miracle.
Swept Away is a delightful inspirational romance with a wonderful lead trio. However, what turn the fascinating storyline from a simple first impressions misunderstanding into an awe-inspiring contemporary are the separate intense reflections by Sara Jane and Drew on the personal impact of deaths and disabling dementia of loved ones.
Risky Undertaking: A Buryin' Barry Mystery
Mark de Castrique
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
MM Book Publicity
9781464203084, $24.95, www.amazon.com
While playing poker in Gainesboro, North Carolina, the three owners of Heaven's Gate Gardens inform full-time funeral director and part-time deputy sheriff Barry Clayton that they bought land to expand the cemetery. However, the construction stops when the remains of Native American bones and artifacts are found.
The three owners fear a major delay will financially cripple their project and subsequently them. Most vocal is Luther Cransford who strongly demands completion. Opposing him as adamantly is Cherokee tribe member Jimmy Panther. When Luther's wife Eurleen dies, Jimmy leads a protest at her funeral that turns into an ugly disrespectful brawl. Not long afterward, someone murders Jimmy and leaves his body on top of Eurleen's gravesite; stirring up the already hostile emotions of between the adversarial sides. As Clayton fears his family may be involved, Boston police officer Kevin Malone arrives in town pursuing a hit man who he believes committed the homicide; while the deputy and Sheriff Tommy Lee Wadkin wonder who hired the outside muscle.
The key to the sensational sixth Buryin' Barry Mystery (see Fatal Undertaking and Dangerous Undertaking) is the deep look at the impact of a Native American casino on the culture and the lifestyle of the surrounding area to include tribal land and beyond. With a fully-developed cast, two astute social issues, a child's abduction and an absorbing whodunit, subgenre fans will relish this puissant police procedural.
Caught Dead: A Rick Van Lam Mystery
Poisoned Pen Press
The Hartford Vietnamese population is stunned with the drive-by shooting homicide of one of the "beautiful Le sisters," Mary Le Vu in the Goodwin Square gang and drug deadly zone. HPD Detective Ardlino believes Mary's murder is just another victim of a-hole gang members who frustratingly never will be caught. Mary's distant relative Hank Nguyen, Grandma the Buddhist and the victim's twin claim she never left her home in Little Saigon or her husband Benny's grocery.
Grandma insists that flabbergasted insurance fraud investigator Rick Van Lam look into Mary's death; which the astonished chosen sleuth says involves a drug dealer with a semi and a posse. As Rick persistently states he is not on a case, he asks questions trying to ascertain why Mary was where she was. A second family murder changes the official premise from Mary being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
This is an excellent Vietnamese-American murder mystery in which the sleuthing provides a fantastic look at the subculture; a glimpse I personally appreciate since I live in a county with a large Vietnamese population. The cast makes this a winner as each person is an enigma wrapped in an epidermal shell.
Deeper Than the Grave: A Tai Randolph Mystery
Poisoned Pen Press
In Atlanta, gun shop owner Tai Randolph's best customers are Civil War reenactors. To ensure her safety after some recent incidents, her boyfriend, former SWAT cop and current security consultant, Trey Seaver has hooked up all sorts of protective measures.
A tornado rips though a historical cemetery on Kennesaw Mountain scattering the remains of a Confederate soldier. Helping with the recovery, Tia finds bones including a skull nearby. However, these do not date back to the 1864 Civil War battle on Kennesaw Mountain, but instead belong to recently murdered Lucius Dufrene. As the police investigate, Tai's late Uncle Dexter, who bequeathed the shop to his niece, is a prime suspect. Refusing to allow the reputation of her uncle to be destroyed especially with Dexter unable defend himself; Tia rushes in with her own inquiry while deliberate Trey has her back.
The fourth Tai Randolph finder mystery (see Blood, Ash, and Bone; The Dangerous Edge of Things and Darker than Any Shadow) strengthens an excellent modern day murder whodunit with Civil War history and pseudo-history. Once again the immovable Tai dives head first into danger while her irresistible force has her "sidekick" trying to perform the impossible keeping her safe.
Die I Will Not: A Regency Mystery
Poisoned Pen Press
In 1813, Penelope Wolfe visits London Daily Intelligencer journalist Dryden Leach to get him to reveal, if he knows who, the identity of pseudonym Collatinus whose letters attack the wastrel Prince and threaten to reveal who was involved in the N.D. murder twenty years ago. Two decades ago, Penelope's father Eustace Sandford wrote treasonous papers using the name Collatinus; when someone murdered his lover Nell Durant, he fled England to avoid arrest for treason and homicide. She knows her dad is not the current author.
Moments before she can plead her case with the reporter, a woman stabs Leach to death. Knowing her husband Jeremy would ridicule her, a desperate Penelope asks barrister Edward Buckler, whom she met when she was Lady Ashe's companion, and Bow Street Runner John Chase to prove her innocence in the present day murder and restore her family's tarnished reputation.
The third Regency mystery (see Rose In The Wheel and Blood for Blood) is a terrific complicated whodunit in which clues to the recent Leach and cold case Durant homicides seemingly lead to political untouchables. The investigation is fun to follow, but it is the tour(s) of early nineteenth century London by the diverse amiable lead trio that armchair readers will want to join.
Go Packers Activity Book
Darla Hall, author/artist
In the Sports Zone LLC
9781941788066 $14.99 www.inthesportszone.com
"Go Packers Activity Book" is filled with fun mazes, puzzles, games, drawing boards, stickers, and Packer -related activities that are fun for all ages. In addition to word searches, connect the dots, and stickers, there are fun history and background notes plus story writing exercises or suggestions, and game strategy plans. There is something in this 48 page book to intrigue every Packer fan, with a wide spread of abilities and skills. A portion of the profit from the sale of the "Go Packers Activity Book" is donated as activity books to children in local hospitals. Here is the perfect holiday gift for excited Packer fans who are eagerly awaiting the next big game!
The Story of Bill and His House on the Hill
Yam Cooper, author/illustrator
PO Box 23031, Penticton, B.C., Canada V2A 8L7
9780993813115 $19.95 www.yamcooper.com
"The Story of Bill and His House on the Hill" is described by the author as "an adult's story for children and a children's story for adults that depicts courage, innovation, and hope, and will hopefully inspire readers for similar action in their own life." Bill and his house on the hill had some very unusual characteristics. The house on the hill made creaks in the rafters, and Bill's hair was grass-green, in fact it was grass, period. People were afraid of Bill's grass hair, they ridiculed him, and the handy men that Bill called to fix the house's rafter creaking all refused to work for him because of his head of grass/hair. This was a serious problem. Also, no one would sell him another house because of his head of grass. "The Story of Bill and His House on the Hill" continues in careful rhyming pentameters, with so many ridiculous parallels and poses that only a fuddy -dud would not try to keep up. Bill advertised for a helpful handyman as follows" WANTED a handyman who is both bald and blind/ or alternatively, has a wide-open mind. (But such a person Bill could not find.)" Onward the (or sideward?) The fable of the failure of xenophobia to transcend culture gaps continues, spiraling in fantastic leaps of imagination and humor. How to communicate with such a handyman is another problem addressed with increasingly creative solutions. Using the code of Morse, a vision of new awareness gradually morphs into the Epilogue: which is titled New Friendship. Avoiding spoilers, be advised, young readers (and old), solutions to the most fantastic of problems is yours to unfold. Ending with a decoding problem of the Code of Morse, and a discussion and activity guide called Beyond the Green Noggin, "The Story of Bill and His House on the Hill" tackles issues of bullying, discrimination, disability and communication, the need for green solutions to all problems, and more. Humor permeates all aspects and pages of "The Story of Bill and His House on the Hill," absolving it from all charges of preaching. Kids will love threading their way through the maze of rhyme, riddles and mime that is this incredible book.
Dirt Simple Harmonica
Phil Duncan, author
Mel Bay Publications
PO Box 66, Pacific, MO 63069
9780786685820 $18.99 www.amazon.com
"Dirt Simple Harmonica" is a practical, compact harmonica instruction manual plus CD, containing audio recordings of 27 well known songs plus added instructional examples. "Dirt Simple Harmonica" is for a 10-hole diatonic harmonica in the key of C, and only requires that the performer be able to breathe in and out, with the added ability to pucker or purse the lips. The type of music featured is American Folk Music, or Americana Music. Aided by clear black and white demonstrative illustrations, easy to understand instructions and tablature, the student is able to begin blowing a single note on middle C and follow simple music notation. The sounds for other holes and positions are added gradually, and the student progresses through different songs such as Scarborough Fair, Joy To the World, Kum Ba Yah, and more. The accompanying CD demonstrates 27 songs plus other instructional examples, and free audio accompaniment is available online at www.melbay.com/30474BCD. "Dirt Simple Harmonica" is a great way to encourage music participation and performance by anyone who is breathing normally, and can enhance life in multiple ways.
Authentic Learning in the Digital Age
1703 North Beauregard Street, Alexandria, VA 22311-1714
9781416619567, $26.95, 198pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Authentic Learning in the Digital Age: Engaging Students Through Inquiry" is an instructive guide on for creating an authentic learning environment one where students ask questions, do research, and explore subjects that fascinate them in today s standards-driven atmosphere. Author Larissa Pahomov offers insightful answers based on her experience as a classroom teacher at the Science Leadership Academy--a public high school in Philadelphia that offers a rigorous college-prep curriculum and boasts a 99 percent graduation rate. Pahomov outlines a framework for learning structured around five core values: inquiry, research, collaboration, presentation, and reflection. For each value, she presents a detailed description of how the value can transform classroom practice and how a digital connection can enhance its application; a step-by-step outline for how to implement the value, with examples from teachers in all subject areas; solutions to possible challenges and roadblocks that teachers may experience; suggestions for how to expand the value beyond the classroom, to school wide practice; anecdotes from students, offering their perspectives on how they experienced the value in the classroom and after graduation. The framework is a guide, not a prescription, and middle and high school teachers (individually or as a team) who can use it to structure whatever content and skills their current school or district requires. "Authentic Learning in the Digital Age: Engaging Students Through Inquiry" also includes suggestions for how to integrate technology into inquiry-based education, but the principles and approaches it describes can be applied successfully even in places without abundant technology.
Critique: Thoroughly 'reader friendly', "Authentic Learning in the Digital Age: Engaging Students Through Inquiry" is exceptionally well written, organized and presented. Enhanced with the inclusion of eight appendices, a list of References, and a five page Index, "Authentic Learning in the Digital Age: Engaging Students Through Inquiry" is very highly recommended for novice classroom instructors and has a great deal of practical valued for even the more experienced teacher. A valued contribution to academic library Educational Studies reference collections, it should be noted that "Authentic Learning in the Digital Age: Engaging Students Through Inquiry" is also available in a Kindle edition ($16.99).
J. M. Moreau
Ohio State University Press
180 Pressey Hall, 1070 Carmack Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1002
9780814212691, $59.95, 288pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Eschatological Subjects: Divine and Literary Judgment in Fourteenth-Century French Poetry" takes an innovative approach to medieval eschatology by examining how poets cast themselves in the scene of judgment as defendants summoned to answer to the Almighty for the sins of their writing. Since medieval Europeans lived in perpetual anxiety of divine judgment, constantly surrounded by reminders in art and literature, author J. M. Moreau shows that this is a natural extension of medieval life. But "Eschatological Subjects" goes even further to demonstrate the largely unrecognized duality of this judge figure: not just God, the judge is also the imperious and imperfect human reader. The simultaneous divine and human judgments in (and of) French poetry reveal much about the ethical stakes of writing vernacular poetry in the later Middle Ages and, most importantly, about the relationships between authors and audiences. Focusing on Guillaume de Deguileville, Guillaume de Machaut, and Jean Froissart (each of whom composed scenes in which they appear on trial before God), "Eschatological Subjects" contributes important new insights on the complex "trial process" of later medieval literature, in which poetic authority and fame depended on the poet's ability to defend himself before a fearful court of reader opinion.
Critique: Eschatology is a part of theology concerned with what are believed to be the final events of history, or the ultimate destiny of humanity. This concept is commonly referred to as the "end of the world" or "end time". The word eschatology arises from the Greek eschatos meaning "last" and -logy meaning "the study of", first used in English around 1550 and is generally defined as the department of theological science concerned with 'the four last things: death, judgment, heaven and hell'. In the context of mysticism, the phrase refers metaphorically to the end of ordinary reality and reunion with the Divine. In many religions it is taught as an existing future event prophesied in sacred texts or folklore. More broadly, eschatology may encompass related concepts such as the Messiah or Messianic Age, the end time, and the end of days. "Eschatological Subjects: Divine and Literary Judgment in Fourteenth-Century French Poetry" is an impressive work of seminal scholarship. Enhanced with the inclusion of a nineteen page Bibliography and a comprehensive Index, "Eschatological Subjects: Divine and Literary Judgment in Fourteenth-Century French Poetry" will prove to be a valued contribution to academic library collections in general, and 14th century French poetry studies supplemental reading lists in particular. It should be noted that "Eschatological Subjects: Divine and Literary Judgment in Fourteenth-Century French Poetry" is also available in a Multimedia CD edition ($14.95).
Joseph Riepiel's Theory of Metric and Tonal Order
John Walter Hill
PO Box 190, Hillsdale, NY 12529
9781576472453, $96.00, 493pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Joseph Riepiel's Theory of Metric and Tonal Order: Phrase and Form" offers a clear and consistent English translation of Riepel s first two volumes, which contain a substantially complete presentation of the first and most influential comprehensive compositional and analytical theory that relates to the major homophonic instrumental forms of the eighteenth century, the symphony, concerto, and sonata. Used in conjunction with the glossary of translated terms, this translation offers new illumination of Riepel s theory, even for native German speakers. The five chapters of commentary demonstrate that Riepel conceived of macrorhythms at the phrase and period level based on the dynamics of implication and realization; that he distilled this theory from his study of works by Benda and the Grauns, their teacher Pisendel, and, to some extent, his teacher Vivaldi; that Leopold Mozart used Riepel s approach to train his young son, Wolfgang; that Koch s theory of symphonic composition is essentially a partial modernization of Riepel s; and that Riepel s theory of analysis amounts to a kind of parsing that does not depend on intention for its validity. Riepel s focus on the Absatz ( comma ) and cadence as segment-defining punctuations simplifies the task of informed listening for the modern student and provides a secure, consistent, and non-essentialist foundation for period-sensitive analysis and criticism.
Critique: Joseph Riepel (22 January 1709 - 23 October 1782) was an Austrian-born German music theorist, composer and violinist. Riepel is known for his theoretical work especially in a novel melody and morphology. Riepels writings form one of the foundations for the theory of composition of the later 18th century. The son of a farmer and innkeeper, Riepel attended the Jesuit College in Steyr and began philosophical studies in Linz and Graz, but distinguished himself early on as a violinist. 1735-1736 he toured the Balkan Peninsula as valet of General Alexander Graf d'Ollone in the 7th Austrian war against the Turks. 1739-1745 he lived in Dresden, where he claims to have regularly frequented Jan Dismas Zelenka and the concertmaster Johann Georg Pisendel had by his own admission and received his first real musical training here. After living in Poland and Vienna, in 1749 he was band master at the court of the Princes of Thurn and Taxis in Regensburg, where he spent the rest of his life and created his theoretical writings and most of his compositions . "Joseph Riepiel's Theory of Metric and Tonal Order: Phrase and Form" is a solid work of truly exceptional scholarship by John Walter Hill and the twentieth volume in the Pendragon Press 'Harmonologica: Studies in Music Theory' series. Enhanced with the inclusion of a six page Bibliography and a comprehensive Index, "Joseph Riepiel's Theory of Metric and Tonal Order: Phrase and Form" would make a valued addition to academic library Musicology reference collections.
My Tale of Woe
Strategic Book Publishing & Rights Agency
9781628575057, $10.95, 42pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: My Tale of Woe is the tell-all true story of an ex-cult member, raped into submission, tortured, and left to fend in a world of craziness. In her own words: "I didn't know what I was getting myself into. Who would have known? It was Planet Hollywood, and I was about to find out how the rat race really was. When I saw the clouds part, I knew he wasn't going to let me live." This is a ruthless tale of cult deceit that comes through the endless mental abilities of the one I can only describe as "the Canadian Charles Manson ".
Critique: Candid, chilling, shocking, "My Tale of Woe" is a clarion warning of the originally seductive appeal and inevitable hazards of cults. Strong reading, the personal experiences of Patricia Hastings is a truly extraordinary account and highly recommended reading -- especially for anyone tempted by the false allure of a cult membership.
Buffalo Girl Cooks Bison
c/o Brindle & Glass Publishing
103 - 1075 Pendergast Street, Victoria, BC, V8V 0A1
9781771510752, $29.95, 276pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Bison are primarily grass-fed as well as hormone and antibiotic free. And their meat is naturally lean and high in protein, iron, and omega-3 essential fatty acids. A compendium of more than one hundred recipes based on buffalo meat, "Buffalo Girl Cooks Bison" compiled by bison rancher Jennifer Bain is the first comprehensive contemporary bison cookbook for a general North American market. Utilizing every cut of bison, the recipes range from Kale Bison Soup; to Maple-Whisky Bison Burgers; to Southwestern Braised Bison Short Ribs; to Pan-Fried Bison Liver with Dijon-Shallot Cream Sauce, and so many more. "Buffalo Girl Cooks Bison" also introduces prominent bison ranchers from all over the United States and Canada who share their rowdy and riotous adventures. They champion "ethical carnivorism": meeting what you eat, caring about how an animal is raised, and being respectful enough to eat every available part.
Critique: Each palate pleasing, appetite satisfying bison meat recipe is thoroughly 'kitchen cook friendly'. A unique and original specialty cookbook, "Buffalo Cooks Bison" will prove to be an enduringly popular addition to personal, professional, family, and community library cookbook collections. It should be noted that "Buffalo Girl Cooks Bison" is also available in a Kindle edition ($13.19).
A Port in Pieces
Saddleback Publishing Inc.
3120 Pullman Street, Cosa Mesa, CA 92626-4564
9781622507757, $9.95, 225pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Brandi falls in love with Austin, TX when she visits and decides to go to college there. Marisa headed to New York to the school of fine arts for modeling, ballet and acting. Shane goes to Washington DC for spring break to intern for her father s friend and decides to go to college there. When she gets to DC, she feels like she s home. The Port City High novels of Shannon Freeman covers a semester and focuses on one of the three main characters., with swirling subplots involving the other girls. These best friends are determined to make the most of high school. And not get swallowed up.
Critique: A truly impressive series that present deftly crafted stories that engage the reader's total attention from beginning to end, the two other volumes include "Listed" (9781622507733, $9.95), "The Accident" (9781622507726, $9.95) and "Traumatized" (9781622507740, $9.95). Very highly recommended for school and community library YA fiction collections, it should be noted that all four of these novels in Shannon Freeman's Port City High trilogy are available in a Library Binding edition ($20.80 each), as well as a Kindle edition ($9.95 each).
The Lady in the Picture and Other Folktales from China
T. Y. Luo, compiler
c/o China Books & Periodicals, Inc.
360 Swift Avenue, Suite 48, South San Francisco, CA 94080
9780835100748, $14.95, 244pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Throughout previous centuries, Chinese people have lovingly created all manner of legends, myths, folk tales, and storeies. Portraying a range of characters from fantastic gods and demons to upright rulers and everyday citizens whose choices would either condemn them to hell or righteous moral glory, these tales were circulated by word of mouth, and their popularity has withstood the vicissitudes of time. "The Lady in the Picture and Other Folktales from China" features a number of such stories that are well known in Chinese culture. In fact, many of them are the first stories many people come across in their childhood. They are the figurative equivalent of "Mother Goose Stories" or "Aesop's Fables" in the West; in which an oft-quoted parable or moral lesson is the centerpiece of the story. These popular Chinese folk tales span both ancient and modern times and deal with a wide range of subjects in both the real world and the world of fantasy. They are waiting to be(re)discovered by a new generation of readers.
Critique: On one level, "The Lady in the Picture and Other Folktales from China" is thoroughly entertaining and would be a popular addition to any community library's Fairytale/Folklore collections. One a deeper level, each story embodies a message that seeks to enhance the reader's moral compass. This English language edition is especially erudite and is to be highly recommended for personal reading lists and academic library Chinese Cultural Studies collections as well.
Ain't No Harm to Kill the Devil
Jeffrey S. Copeland
3600 Labore Road, Suite 1, St. Paul, MN 55110-4144
9781557789136, $19.95, 344pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: One of the most amazing characters in American history was John Fairfield, a member of the Underground Railroad who helped slaves to freedom before the Civil War. His exploits are mentioned by notables such as Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and Levi Coffin (the "President" of the Underground Railroad). All greatly admired him but were shocked by his tactics. Fairfield was the only high-profile abolitionist to charge people for his work. Some assert Fairfield exploited the slaves because he charged relatives in Canada to get their family members to safety, but he used the fees to help concoct elaborate ruses that he used to steal the slaves and help them to freedom.
One time he led nineteen slaves to freedom by pretending to be an undertaker taking the body of a slave across the Ohio River to a slave cemetery on the other side. He had one slave (in an open coffin) pretend to be the deceased-and the other eighteen marched in a funeral procession right through the middle of town in plain sight. The townspeople stepped aside, out of respect for the "deceased," and watched him take all of them across the river to their freedom! Another time he pretended to be a poultry dealer, gaining the respect of all in a town, and then stole their slaves. Still another time he passed himself off as a businessman who needed to build boats to take salt to the South for a very profitable venture. He got many of the leading citizens of that town to invest in his project, and when the boats were finished, he chose a moonless night to get all the slaves to the boats-and had them row to freedom.
Fairfield was seen by some as a scoundrel, a con-man, and a criminal. Others saw him as a very religious man who believed with all his heart that the evils of slavery needed to be wiped out-and he was willing to go to extremes to help with that cause. Fairfield wasn't as violent as, say, John Brown, but he still got the job done.
Critique: A simply fascinating read from first page to last, "Ain't No Harm to Kill the Devil: The Life and Legacy of John Fairfield, Abolitionist for Hire" is a deftly written biography of a remarkable man who lived in perilous times. Author Jeffrey S. Copeland has done an impressive job of research to deftly craft an incredible but true story. Very highly recommended reading, "Ain't No Harm to Kill the Devil: The Life and Legacy of John Fairfield, Abolitionist for Hire" should be a part of every academic library's 19th Century American History, American Civil War, and 19th Century American Biography collections. For personal reading lists, it should be noted that "Ain't No Harm to Kill the Devil: The Life and Legacy of John Fairfield, Abolitionist for Hire" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.95).
Antietam: The Soldiers' Battle
John Michael Priest
White Mane Publishing Company
PO Box 152, Shippenburg, PA 17257
9781572494121, $29.95, 419pp, www.whitemane.com
Synopsis: The Battle of Antietam was not just the bloodiest single day of the war; it was the bloodiest day in the history of the United States Army. Beginning at dawn, the fighting continued for twelve hours between the invading soldiers of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia and George B. McCellan's Army of the Potomac. This high-water mark of the Confederacy's 1862 offensive in the eastern theater of operations ended with both armies exhausted, Lee returning to Virginia and McCellan's reputation ruined. "Antietam: The Soldiers' Battle" is about the individuals who fought in that battle: their combat, heroism, and death. After ten years of researching and writing, the author provides fact-filled drama, capturing the bravery, cowardice, pathos, and humor of the soldiers and civilians caught up in the war. With its 72 detailed maps created especially for this book and its illustrations rarely seen elsewhere, no student of Civil War combat, the enlisted man, or the Civil War in Maryland can afford to miss this study.
Critique: A seminal work of American Civil War scholarship by civil war history and author John Michael Priest, "Antietam: The Soldiers' Battle" is an informed and informative contribution that will be prized by civil war enthusiasts, students, and academia alike. Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "Antietam: The Soldiers' Battle" is an important and highly recommended addition to community and academic library American Civil War reference collections and supplemental studies lists. Also very highly recommended for such reading lists and library collections are John Michael Priests three previous civil war studies: "Before Antietam: The Battle for South Mountain" (9781572494077, $24.95); "Nowhere To Run: The Wilderness, May 4th & 5th, 1864: Volume I" (9780942597745, $29.95); "Victory Without Triumph: The Wilderness, May 6th & 7th, 1864: Volum II" (97815732490093, $34.95).
Reducing Coastal Risk on the East and Gulf Coasts
National Research Council
National Academies Press
500 Fifth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20001
9780309305860, $55.00, 208pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Every year the eastern and gulf coast regions of America are battered by storms, resulting in loss of life and extraordinary property damage. "Reducing Coastal Risk on the East and Gulf Coasts" reviews the coastal risk-reduction strategies and levels of protection that have been used along the United States East and Gulf Coasts to reduce the impacts of coastal flooding associated with storm surges. This report evaluates their effectiveness in terms of economic return, protection of life safety, and minimization of environmental effects. According to this report, the vast majority of the funding for coastal risk-related issues is provided only after a disaster occurs. This report calls for the development of a national vision for coastal risk management that includes a long-term view, regional solutions, and recognition of the full array of economic, social, environmental, and life-safety benefits that come from risk reduction efforts. To support this vision, Reducing Coastal Risk states that a national coastal risk assessment is needed to identify those areas with the greatest risks that are high priorities for risk reduction efforts. The report discusses the implications of expanding the extent and levels of coastal storm surge protection in terms of operation and maintenance costs and the availability of resources. "Reducing Coastal Risk on the East and Gulf Coasts" recommends that benefit-cost analysis, constrained by acceptable risk criteria and other important environmental and social factors, be used as a framework for evaluating national investments in coastal risk reduction. The recommendations of this report will assist engineers, planners and policy makers at national, regional, state, and local levels to move from a nation that is primarily reactive to coastal disasters to one that invests wisely in coastal risk reduction and builds resilience among coastal communities.
Critique: The product of the Committee on U.S. Army Corpos of Engineers Water Resources Science, Engineering, and Planning: Coastal Risk Reduction, "Reducing Coastal Risk on the East and Gulf Coasts" is critically important reading for governmental agencies, environmental protection groups, and municipal policy planners of every seaboard coastal community from New England down to the gulf states. Enhanced with a twenty-four page list of References, as well as three major appendices (Major U.S. Coastal Storms Since 1900; USACE Coastal Storm Damage Reduction Projects; Biographical Sketches of Committee Members), "Reducing Coastal Risk on the East and Gulf Coasts" is also available in a Kindle edition ($33.59).
The Brother's Keepers
978089401734, $14.99, Page 400
Suspense, International Intrigue, Political Ploys, and Romance
NLB Horton's "The Brothers' Keepers" is the second in her Parched series. Archaeologist Grace Madison finds herself in the middle of a sinister plot involving an ancient cuneiform clay tablet, life threatening danger surrounding family members, kidnapping, and the rescue of an old friend.
Horton is an award winning journalist; she incorporates her background in journalism, world travel, and her interest in archaeology with a creative imagination to produce an entertaining, and informative story line. Her command of language, excellent descriptions, memorable dialog, and strong characters make this a memorable reading experience. Her references to architecture, art, and the cuisine of locales from Brussels to France, Germany, and Switzerland add an extra treat for the world class traveler as well as the armchair "wanna be" tourist.
A reader's guide provides thought probing questions for thought and discussion for book clubs, or to stimulate additional enjoyment for reflection for the individual reader. A helpful glossary of terms specific to the story is included for clarification and understanding.
Horton may have been over ambitious by including too much detail for anyone targeted audience. The very strength of her writing style limits the sense of fast moving action, suspense, and intrigue that many readers look for in this genre. However, I laud her for her desire to provide a model for a balance of Christian example without coming across as preachy. I suggest you read the first book in the series "When Camels Fly" to get the full benefit of "The Brothers' Keepers."
A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.
Where Treetops Glisten
Tricia Goyer Cara Putman, and Sarah Sundin
12265 Oracle Boulevard, Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781601426482, $14.99, www.amazon.com
Familiar Christmas Themes of Courage, Faith, and Romance - Mid America during World War II
"Where Treetops Glisten" is a collaboration of a trio of favorite Christmas romance authors Tricia Goyer, Cara Putman, and Sarah Sundin. The book features three much loved Christmas themes that will bring back nostalgic memories of the past for many readers and a new sense of appreciation and understanding of the past by, a new generation, and future generations of readers.
Louise Turner permeated faith, wisdom, and joy. She longed to instill these same virtues in her family at a time of turbulence in a world torn apart by war. These deeply moving stories revolve around the lives of three of the Turner family and illustrate how personal loss, wrong choices, and betrayal can become tools in God's hand for building character, faith and hope.
In Cara Putnam's story "White Christmas" Abigale Turner discovers an unexpected sense of deep peace when she reaches outside her personal inner fears and confusion to help someone else in their time of struggle. Pete Turner's homecoming is a big disappointment for Pete; he is unwelcome in his own hometown. Sarah Sundin tells Pete's story in "I'll Be Home for Christmas." Pete Turner has to prove to the community that his life has changed since the bad choices he made in his youth. Meredith Turner experiences a sense of serious betrayal in Tricia Goyer's "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." To escape heartbreak she turns her life to serving wounded serviceman as a nurse in an Army outpost emergency ward on the German border. An intentional act of forgiveness and trust provide her with an unexpected sense of freedom and fulfillment
The Turner family story takes the reader full circle from Christmas 194l through Christmas 1945 when the whole family is reunited in their hometown, Lafayette, Indiana. Warm nostalgic Christmas reading, with a balance of realism and romantic fantasy. Entertaining, faith building, and a reminder of God's providence.
A review copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.
Richard R. Blake, Senior Reviewer
21 Days In MAUI
Patricia Lee Como
Cover Design and Interior Pages: Annette Wood
Interior Illustrations: Curt Rivadeneira
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781503352537, $14.95, www.amazon.com
As we begin this read we meet a married couple who have chosen to separate. A decision not easily made, as the joining of two souls is not easily broken. Patricia decides to take a trip to MAUI in hopes of settling within her the choice she has made, and the destiny her life is now taking. Her focus is on her inward Spirit, what she needs to release, and what to cleave to survive this transition, and forge forward. We share with her as she tastes the many Spiritual happenings in this beautiful land, and among these free and loving people. People, who have quickly befriended her, and allowed her inside their world. Her description of the land gives you a clear minds view of what she is seeing and experiencing. I really liked that. I could almost smell the flowers and I wanted to allow my Spirit to go to where peace was beckoning her.
As we travel this journey with her, we see Patricia emerge herself in many of the traditions that this culture uses to relax and free the Spirit within. I enjoyed sharing these as well, if only in print. I found it interesting and enlightening. and at times humorous, and always educational. Our author did an outstanding job in pulling you into the moment of these experiences, even the more personal one, that gave me a giggle. .
I really enjoyed this read, and feel it truly came from the heart of the author. I believe her words and actions may well give others the courage and support to take the steps they need to take, if hard decisions in their lives must be made, or they just truly want to live free, and find the dream within themselves. I also liked having the different illustrations throughout the read. I have always felt they help to bring a story life, as they did with this one.
All in all I give this read a high recommendation. This is one that is especially useful to those who are in life changing situations, or who just want to change their lives and are seeking liberty to follow their dreams. It was also very enjoyable to share the culture of another land. I truly believe that the experiences Patricia allowed herself to have, helped to open her Spirit to its true needs and forge forward in search of contentment and peace in her life. Truly, she has found her inner peace, and through her story is reaching out to encourage others to do the same. Well done. Recommended.
When I Grow Up I Want To Be: In The U.S. Army
P.O. Box 1800, Sun Valley, ID 83353-1800
9781939973061, $12.95, 60 Pages, www.wigupublishing.com
I have read and reviewed several of Wigu Publishing books and have found each one to be top of the notch in every way, and this one fit right in. I was particularly interested in reading this as I have lived the Military life. I was not disappointed.
We are taken into a classroom where the assignment is given for the children to do a report on what they want to be when they grow up. We follow, Jake, who after some thought decides he wants to pursue the U.S. Army.
The children must dress up in what they would wear for their job, so we go with Jake and his Dad as they travel to the GI Surplus store. Here Jake sees all the Equipment, Uniforms, Badges, Fighting Equipment, and just about everything a Military person would need. I found this so interesting and quite a learning experience. The illustration brought the story to life, very well done. I have to say I have found all of their books to be top of the line. Always full of interesting learning information done in a captivating way that draws readers into the story, and seals it with top quality illustrations. This book will surely hold your child's attention and fill them with knowledge. Very highly recommended.
Reclaiming the Wild Soul
White Cloud Press
9781940468143, $15.95, 155pgs, www.whitecloudpress.com
I really feel that it is a great time of awakening in many people's lives. We are finally beginning to understand that we, as humans, do not stand alone in this vast and wonderful world we live in. Thankfully, with books coming out, like this one, we are gaining knowledge on how to interact with our vast and wonderful world.
Inside the pages of this book our author gently shares with us how to open our Mind and Spirit to join and receive the treasures nature has for us. She gently shows you how to connect with your Spiritual self, your God, your purpose and find the peace and contentment you have been searching for. Our author takes us to deserts, forests, mountains, and more as she gently guides you to peace. This has not been an easy book to review, for each person will take away from it what their very Soul and Spirit are hungering for. Some things like this, cannot be coined in a single review., I will end by saying, if you are searching for peace, longing for a closeness with God, hungering for fulfillment within yourself, this book is for you. Well done, recommended.
Rev. Jerry Kofi Tutu
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781494867737, $15.99, 202 pgs, www.createspace.com
It was with great interest that I began the reading of this book. Having been in the Ministry for nearly 40 years I wanted to see what Rev. Tutu had to say, and I was not disappointed. His main focus is on meditation and the Word of God, and how we can live the fruitful life that God has promised us. I loved how he gives insight about our Heart and subconscious mind on how they play a major role in our life and quest for fulfillment. Exceptional. He leads you along with clarity, taking time to explain what is important for you to move forward and achieve what you are so longing to do for your Creator. We must always be open to the wisdom that our Lord gives to fellow servants of His. Truly what you will learn in this read will help you spring forward in your personal walk with the Savior. I highly recommend this book if you want to be encouraged and walk deeper in the steps of God. Well done.
1942099010, $10.00, 128pgs, www.devastorpress.com
I will tell you right away that this is not usually the type of book I review but I am glad that I did review this one. First the cover is just way out there, and definitely created great expatiation of, 'okay what am I going to find inside!' Dare I to open this book and actually read it? Onward I marched.
Inside this book we find 11 stories that are sure to raise your hair and keep you glued to the pages. I didn't think that would happen, but it did. I would describe them as 'weird'! My teenage daughter would describe them as "cool!" To be honest with you, the more I read, the more I enjoyed them. I think it is the thought in your mind, 'what is going to happen now,' that brings the entertainment of the read. The wild tales within the pages of this book actually keep you reading with great interest. . I liked 'The Evil Pizza Button the most, and that just can't be good thing. *smile* A really different, fun, off the chart read, and no, you may not hit the pizza button!
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781492913801, $10.00, 90pgs, www.amazon.com
Let me say right off this was a new experience to me to read this type of book, but I have to say that I really enjoyed it. Talk about being on a ride in a read, this book takes you on the roads of weird, sincerer, twisted, hilarious, confusing, meaningful, and just about every aspect that life has to offer. Dana, our main star, walks the trail of her future, where it will end may yet be another adventure, or maybe not. As I said I enjoyed this read, it was different, entertaining, weird, funny, and held my attention. Character development was excellent, and it wasn't easy to do in this story, but it worked. The book held my attention, gave me more than one giggle, even amazed me at times. Very entertaining read
If I Were Me and Lived in Greece
Carole P. Roman
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781497526181, $9.99, 30pgs, www.amazon.com
I am always thrilled to review the outstanding books that author, Carole P. Roman produces. Her series, "If You Were Me," never stops amazing me. So I was very happy to receive her book, "If I Were You and Lived in Greece.
As always, with each one of these books in this series, we are told what to expect if we were to live in Greece. We are shown where that Country is and what our names may be. We also learn what kind of food we would eat, what sort of sports are popular there, what we would do in school, and more. All of this is backed up with great illustrations that definitely help to bring the story alive. Our author has a way of presenting each Country so when you finish the read you actually want to visit to experience firsthand some of their life styles, that is how alive she brings it. Another great job by one great author.
If I Were Me and Lived in Peru
Carole P. Roman
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781499640694, $9.99, 30 pages, www.amazon.com
I have read and reviewed many of Ms. Roman's books in her wonderful series, "If You Were Me And Lived In "." These books take you on a journey to different countries where you learn fun and interesting facts allowing you to get a glimpse of what life would be like if you lived there.
I have found that each book follows a certain format, yet each one is loaded with information and entertainment surrounding that particular Country. In this read we learn about Peru, what it would be like if we were born there? What type of food we would eat, what would our parents possibly have named us, what do Visitors go to see when they come to our Country? and so much more. Each page gives you a wonderful Illustration, definitely helping to bring the story to life. This book, along with all the others in this series, is a outstanding read. It is one that will fill your child, and yourself with knowledge and entertainment. Recommended.
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781480179370, $12.99, 274pgs, www.amazon.com
In this outstanding read by Don Castle, we are taken into the life of ex detective and now Private Investigator, Jake Somers. In this adventure the body of a young woman is found near his office. Of course Jake is drawn to who she is and who killed her. Thus, the story begins. I really liked this read. To me, it was a great crime mystery read. You get to travel along as Jake and his team find different clues and try to piece them together to find out, 'who done it.' As always the investigation is well laid out, dangling hints and clues along the way and it's fun to try and figure out ahead of the read who is doing all the killing and why.
Another aspect of this book, and series from this author that I like, is how he brings his personal life into play. His Mom, his girlfriend, his coworker, and his secretary all help to spice up the read with their different antics. This does not take away from the mystery, but to me definitely brings to light the life of a 'real' Detective trying to do his job, and live his life at the same time. Not always easy. I am happy to recommend this read, I think it is topnotch.
Mary Mary Quite
Busy Bee Publishing
9780990707110, $24.00, 124pgs, www.busybeepublishing.com
Before I even began this read I skimmed through the book and was quite impressed with the colorful illustrations and drawings that I saw. They definitely nudged me along to begin the read, I had to see what tale went along with each one. Yes, that is how alive they were. I was hoping I would not be disappointed with the actual storyline, and I can tell you right off I was not.
This is a book that takes situations that probably 99.99 percent of Wives and Mothers deal with each day, and delivers them in a fashion that not only will you relate, but you will enjoy at least a giggle, if not a good belly laugh. I don't know if that laugh comes because the 'drama' is happening to someone else, or you're just so happy that someone else is experiencing the same horror you have. Either way, the author does a excellent job with each one, giving you a birds eye view of the situation without actually being the one, at this time, living it. Good job.
I liked this book a lot, and yes I could identify with most of it. It will make you smile, laugh out loud, and perhaps sigh, but you may just find yourself picking it up again, when perhaps you are experiencing the same thing. Really a very good read that I am happy to recommend.
The Ice Cream War
9780990742401, $15.00 print / $1.99 Kindle, 259 pgs, www.amazon.com
I love books like this, why? Because they have down to earth characters that you can relate with. Mary owns a ice cream store and is rather side-swiped when her friend Jerry comes back to town and opens one as well. The problem is he gives his ice cream away for free. How can you compete with that?
Mary and Jerry are old friends, and perhaps a little more than that. As the story continues a girls body is found in Jerry's store and he may well be the killer, or is he? Mary doesn't think so and sets out to find the real killer. The question, Who is she and Why was this girl killed? The plot thickens.
I really liked this read, it had great character development, the characters were both likeable, unlikeable, and at times mysterious. I also liked how the whole town became a part of the story, how often does this happen? Our author did a great job at bringing you in the midst of the activity and you will find yourself trying to figure out what is going on and why this young girl was killed, of course along with, who is she, where did she come from, why was she in town, and who is the killer?
This is a murder mystery with style. It has all the ingredients of a mystery, but adds a home spun flare that I found very appealing, that pulled you into the story. I highly recommend this read.
Mary Jo Wisneski Johnston
Illustrated by Malinda Raines
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478722779, $18.95, 35pgs, www.outskirtspress.com
I was very impressed with this read as it touches on living life with all its joys and sadness. Life, death, eternity all play a roll in our lives, be it with other humans, or animals that we treasure so deeply. This is a story of living, not dying, of hope, imagination, caring and joy. It is about a family, not just made up of humans, but made up of lives that are all a part of one another's day, and life. It is about, Babi, a special dog, with special traits, that brings front and center imagination, hope, inspiration, and love to all the animals and humans that this special creature comes in contact with. Babi is the example for all others of forging ahead, open to the tasks, the challenges and the victory to be had. It is a story of love, encouragement, faith, hope and winning. Very moving read, well done. Recommended.
Pluto the Starfish
Bonnie M. Anderson
10940 South Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478730408, $16.95, 27 Pages, www.amazon.com
This delightful tale takes us deep into ocean where we are privileged to meet Pluto the Starfish. Pluto is sad because he sees all the different things each one of his friends can do, that he cannot. Some can breath air, some swim swiftly, but what can he do? In this very tender read a very wise and kind Humpback Whale encourages Pluto and turns his life around. Great illustrations in this book that bring the story to life. The story will help any child or adult who thinks their life has no purpose to see we all have a place of importance. Very warm, caring and educational read. Recommended.
Captain No Beard and the Aurora Borealis
Carole P. Roman
Create Space Publishing
9781496138705, $9.99, 22pgs
We are about to go on another adventure with Captain No Beard and his crew, but something different is taking place, something strange indeed. The crew are very nervous, as our dear Captain tell them he must steal something. Could this be true? And if so, will the crew help him or change his mind? This is a great story that will teach morals to your child in a clear way. It will show them that they will have choices in this world and sometimes even a best friend or an adult can get confused and make a bad choice and they will see it is alright to stand up and say no. This charming story also shows the Captains crew giving the Captain an alterative which brought great happiness to him. Another great tale, one that you and your child will enjoy, and one that I am pleased to recommend.
Shirley Priscilla Johnson
Provocations: Philosophy for Secondary School
Crown House Publishing
6 Trowbridge Drive Suite 5, Bethel, CT 06801
9781845908881, $23.95, 318pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Provocations: Philosophy for Secondary School " is specifically written for teachers in secondary schools, whether they are trained in philosophy for children or just experimenting with the subject. It will help teachers to present ideas and stimulate discussions which both accommodate and engage adolescent appetites. Are human beings flawed? Is murder an act of insanity or just plain thoughtless? Do we need a soul? From the fall of Icarus to the rise of Caesar this practical book draws upon history, philosophy and literature to provoke students to think, question and wonder. Divided into chapters on The World, Self, Society and Others, this resource for secondary school is written to give teachers the means to listen rather than teach and to allow the ideas and thoughts of students to form the centre of the lesson. "Provocations: Philosophy for Secondary School" raises questions on the nature of evil, belief in God, slavery, consumerism, utopia, the limits of freedom, and a whole lot more. With a clear introductory outline on its use both in and out of the classroom, "Provocations: Philosophy for Secondary School " also contains tips and advice to help guide teachers to span the curriculum.
Critique: Informed, informative, thoughtful, thought-provoking, "Provocations: Philosophy for Secondary School" is a deftly written and applicable to history, geography, science, art, English and citizenship as it offers teachers of all subjects the opportunity to introduce a student-centered approach to their lessons. Enhanced with seven appendices and a seven page bibliography (Further Reading) that is topically organized, "Provocations: Philosophy for Secondary School" is a unique and extraordinary work that is a strongly recommended study for all secondary school classroom teachers and curriculum planners. Also available in a Kindle edition ($12.49), "Provocations: Philosophy for Secondary School" will prove to be an enduringly valuable addition to professional and academic library Education Studies and Applied Philosophy reference collection.
A Short History of Virginia City
Ronald M. James & Susan A. James
University of Nevada Press
Mail Stop 0166, Reno, NV, 89557-0166
9780874179477, $21.95, 160pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Founded in 1859, Virginia City quickly became world famous for its extraordinary prosperity. Over the next two decades, the mines of "the Richest City on Earth" yielded millions in gold and silver. The newly wealthy built mansions and churches, opera houses and schools, with furniture, fashions, and entertainment imported from Europe and the Far East. Here young Samuel Clemens, reporting for the Territorial Enterprise in 1863, first called himself Mark Twain. At its height Virginia City was a magnet for immigrants and the world leader in technological innovations in mining. The city's story did not end when the Comstock Lode played out. Beginning in the 1930s, bohemian artists, literati, and tourists were intrigued by this remnant of the Old West. The leader of Manhattan's cafe society, Lucius Beebe, moved here and relaunched the Territorial Enterprise in 1950. Television's most popular western from 1959 to 1973, Bonanza, located its fictional Ponderosa Ranch nearby. In the summer of 1965, a handful of Bay Area musicians, including Big Brother and the Holding Company, performed at the Red Dog Saloon and launched psychedelic rock, part of the inspiration for a defining decade of youth culture. Today it is both a National Historic Landmark District and a living community. Visitors come to enjoy its saloons and restaurants, admire its architecture, and learn from its museums and exhibits.
Critique: The collaborative work of Ronald M. James (Executive Director, Comstock Foundation for History and Culture) and Susan A. James (Scholar-in-Residence, Virginia City Four Ward School Museum), "A Short History of Virginia City" is an expertly written and deftly presented municipal history that Includes an illustrated walking tour describing more than thirty buildings and sites. Informed and informative, "A Short History of Virginia City" is especially recommended as an itinerary planner and guide for anyone visiting this historic community. It should be noted that "A Short History of Virginia City" is also available in a Kindle edition ($13.89).
c/o Pearson Technology Group
801 East 96th Street, #300, Indianapolis, IN 46240-3759
9781292005287, $34.99, 248pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Featuring interviews with Gail Rebuck (CEO of Penguin Random House), Sir John Hegarty (Founder of BBH) and Stuart Murphy (Director of Entertainment Channels at Sky), "The Spark: How to Ignite and Lead Business Creativity" reveals how do you foster a creative culture, nurture new ideas and manage the people when a new idea strikes that has the potential to transform the way you do business. "The Spark" addresses such questions and much more as author Greg Orme unravels the mystique around business creativity and offers 10 practical steps to building an innovative team and becoming an inspiring creative leader.
Critique: Founding CEO of the London Business School's Centre for Crative Business, Greg Orme draws upon his many years of experience and expertise as a consultant and coach helping businesses to achieve transformative results in their operations to craft an thoroughly 'user friendly' instructional guide. Invaluable reading for anyone charged with a responsibility for corporate success in a volatile, ever evolving, increasingly competitive commercial world, "The Spark: How to Ignite and Lead Business Creativity" should be considered mandatory reading. Strongly recommended for professional and academic library Business Studies reference collections and MBA supplemental reading lists, it should be noted that "The Spark: How to Ignite and Lead Business Creativity" is also available in a Kindle edition ($13.79).
The Wisdom of the Beguines
Meryl Zegarek Public Relations
9781933346977, $16.95, 208pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The beguines began to form in various parts of Europe over eight hundred years ago, around the year 1200. Beguines were laywomen (not nuns) and thus did not take solemn vows and did not live in monasteries. The beguines were a phenomenal movement that swept across Europe yet they were never a religious order or a formalized movement. But there were common elements that rendered these women distinctive and familiar, including their common way of life, their unusual business acumen, and their commitment to the poor and marginalized. These women were essentially self-defined, in opposition to the many attempts to control and define them. They lived by themselves or together in so-called 'beguinages', which could be single houses for as few as a handful of beguines or, as in Brugge and Amsterdam, walled-in rows of houses (enclosing a central court with a chapel) where over a thousand beguines might live -- a village of women within a medieval town or city. Each region of Europe has its own beguine stories to tell.
Among the beguines were celebrated spiritual writers and mystics, including Mechthild of Magdeburg, Beatrijs of Nazareth, Hadewijch of Brabant, and Marguerite Porete, who was condemned as a heretic and burned at the stake in Paris in 1310. She was not the only beguine suspected of heresy, and often politics were the driving force behind such charges. Certain clerics defended beguines against charges of heresy, while other women had to go undercover by joining a Benedictine or Cistercian monastery.
Amazingly, many beguine communities survived for a long time despite oppression, wars, the plague, and other human and natural disasters. Beguines lived through - and helped propel - times of great transition and reform. Beguines courageously spoke to power and corruption, never despairing of God's compassion for humanity. They used their business acumen to establish and support ministries that extended education, health care, and other social services to the vulnerable. And they preached and taught of a loving God who desired a relationship with each individual person while calling to reform those who used God's name for personal gain.
Critique: "The Wisdom of the Beguines: The Forgotten Story of a Medieval Women's Movement" by Laura Swan (a member and former prioress of St. Placid Priory, a community of Benedictine women in the Pacific Northwest) is an impressive and extraordinary work of original and seminal scholarship. Exceptionally informed and informative, "The Wisdom of the Beguines: The Forgotten Story of a Medieval Women's Movement" is enhanced with a four page Bibliography and a comprehensive Index, making it ideal and highly recommended for seminary and academic library collections, as well as non-specialist general readers with an interest in Women's History in general, and the beguine movement in particular.
Death by Roses
Vivian R. Probst
Meryl L. Moss Media Relations
9781590791486, $16.95, 320pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: For the first time in nearly thirty years of marriage, Art McElroy Sr. buys his headstrong, disapproving wife a dozen yellow roses. Hours later he discovers her lifeless body seated on the toilet. Mae Rose McElroy's sudden death leaves a void in her family and in the entire Midwestern farming community of Fairview. It's a void Mae Rose will attempt to fill, herself, from the hereafter by meddling directly in earthly affairs.
Mae Rose's meddling leads to her spiritual expulsion from heaven, and she winds up in the body of Mary Lee Broadmoor (Scary Mary), a crusty writer and director of exquisite horror movies. Mary Lee refuses to succumb to stage-4 pancreatic cancer until she gets one final shot at an elusive Oscar. Like Mae Rose, who argues with God for a return to earth, Mary Lee pleads, from her Hollywood deathbed, for more time to complete her work, as her hospice nurse, Gertie Morgan, looks on.
The two women's spirits work together, and Mae Rose provides her host with a new script idea: a love story, based on her life! The script earns Mary Lee her coveted Academy Award, but the movie's release shocks and disturbs Mae Rose's family. They set out to find, and confront, the woman who has somehow co-opted, and publicly revealed, their personal tragedy.
Along the way, new love emerges as the reader meets a caste of crazy, eccentric, but highly memorable characters. Death by Roses suggests that relationships don't end at death, but continue until their ultimate purpose is achieved. The universe has every resource at its disposal to get the job done. It also has an amazing sense of humor
Critique: A superbly crafted and original story, "Death by Roses" is a riveting read and a truly remarkable debut novel for author Vivian R. Probst. "Death by Roses' is solid entertainment from first page to last -- and very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library General Fiction/Romantic Comedy collections.
Christianity in Roman Africa
J. Patout Burns Jr. & Robin M. Jensen
Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
2140 Oak Industrial Drive, NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49505
9780802869319, $55.00, 736pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Using a combination of literary and archeological evidence, "Christianity in Roman Africa: The Development of Its Practices and Beliefs" is an in-depth, profusely illustrated compendium laying out and documenting the development of Christian practices and doctrine in Roman Africa (contemporary Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco ) from the second century through the Arab conquest in the seventh century. Robin Jensen and Patout Burns, in collaboration with Graeme W. Clarke, Susan T. Stevens, William Tabbernee, and Maureen A. Tilley, skillfully reconstruct the rituals and practices of Christians in the ancient buildings and spaces where those practices were performed. Numerous site drawings and color photographs of the archeological remains illuminate the discussions. "Christianity in Roman Africa: The Development of Its Practices and Beliefs" provides valuable new insights into the church fathers Tertullian, Cyprian, and Augustine. Most significantly, it offers a rich, unprecedented look at early Christian life in Roman Africa, including the development of key rituals and practices such as baptism and eucharist, the election and ordination of leaders, marriage, and burial. In exploring these, Christianity in Roman Africa shows how the early African Christians consistently fought to preserve the holiness of the church amid change and challenge.
Critique: A massive work of truly impressive and informative scholarship, "Christianity in Roman Africa: The Development of Its Practices and Beliefs" is superbly organized and presented, making it ideal for both academia and the non-specialist general reader with an interest in the evolution of Christianity from a persecuted minority to the power and privileges of a state religion -- and so much more! Enhanced with a twenty-one page Bibliography, an Index of Persons and Groups, an Index of Places and Monuments, and an Index of Subjects, "Christianity in Roman Africa: The Development of Its Practices and Beliefs" is an essential and very highly recommended addition to seminary, academic, and community library collections.
God, Faith & Identity from the Ashes
Menachem Z. Rosensaft, editor
Jewish Lights Publishing
PO Box 237, Woodstock, VT 05091
9781580238052, $25.00, 352pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: The Holocaust was a genocide in which approximately six million Jews were killed by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. An additional five million non-Jewish victims of Nazi mass murders are included by some historians bringing the total to approximately eleven million. Killings took place throughout Nazi Germany and German-occupied territories during World War II. Compiled and edited by Menachem Z. Rosensaft (who was himself born in the Displaced Persons camp of Bergen-Belsen), "God, Faith & Identity from the Ashes: Reflections of Children and Grandchildren of Holocaust Survivors" is a 352 page compendium in which almost ninety children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors theologians, scholars, spiritual leaders, authors, artists, political and community leaders and media personalities from sixteen countries on six continents reflect on how the memories transmitted to them have affected their lives. These are profoundly personal stories explore faith, identity and legacy in the aftermath of the Holocaust as well as our role in ensuring that future genocides and similar atrocities never happen again.
Critique: A sobering read, informed, informative, thoughtful, and thought-provoking, "God, Faith & Identity from the Ashes" is a truly memorable work and a seminal contribution to the growing library of Holocaust Literature. Very strongly recommended for personal reading lists, as well as community and academic library collections, it should be noted that "God, Faith & Identity from the Ashes" is also available in a Kindle edition ($19.57), as well as a large print edition paperback (ReadHowYouWant, 9781459688322, $39.99).
The Business Of Winning
Kogan Page USA
1518 Walnut Street, Suite 1100, Philadelphia, PA 19102
9780749472726, $17.95, 256pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: In "The Business of Winning: Strategic Success from the Formula One Track to the Boardroom", Mark Gallagher draws upon his many years of experience and expertise in working in Formula One to offer a valuable how-to manual on not just managing, but thriving in a fast-moving, competitive environment. With practical examples from his own experience and accounts of how owners, drivers, teams, technicians and sponsors deal with the full range of management issues faced every day, he covers key business challenges including the need for leadership, the importance of change and the imperative of innovation while managing risk. The "Business of Winning" brings the drama of the Formula 1 business to life in vivid detail with experiences and insights that executives in countless other businesses can both learn from and use for ideas and inspiration.
Critique: Formula One is the highest class of single-seat auto racing that is sanctioned by the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA). The "formula", designated in the name, refers to a set of rules with which all participants' cars must comply. It is a model of efficiency and accomplishment within the context of the automotive racing community. "The Business of Winning: Strategic Success from the Formula One Track to the Boardroom" emphasizes instructions and commentary on branding and image; team building, change management, innovation, and a global communication strategy for corporate success and based upon a Formula One model. Exceptionally well written and presented, "The Business of Winning: Strategic Success from the Formula One Track to the Boardroom" is very highly recommended for personal, professional, corporate, and community library collections.
Found In Alberta
Robert Boschman & Mario Trono, editors
Wilfrid Laurier University Press
Wilfrid Laurier University
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, N2L 3C5
9781554589593, $42.99, 398pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: "Found in Alberta: Environmental Themes for the Anthropocene" is a collection of essays about the natural environment in a province rich in natural resources and aggressive in development goals. This is a casebook on Alberta from which emerges a far wider set of implications for North America and for the biosphere in general. The writers come from an array of disciplinary backgrounds within the environmental humanities. The essays examine the oil/tar sands, climate change, provincial government policy, food production, industry practices, legal frameworks, wilderness spaces, hunting, Indigenous perspectives, and nuclear power. Contributions from an ecocritical perspective provide insight into environmentally themed poetry, photography, and biography. Since the actions of Alberta's industries and government are currently at the heart of a global environmental debate, this collection is valuable to those wishing to understand the natural and commercial forces in play. The editors present an introductory argument that frames these interests inside a call for a rethinking of our assumptions about the natural world and our place within it.
Critique: The Anthropocene is an informal geologic chronological term for the proposed epoch that began when human activities had a significant global impact on the Earth's ecosystems. The term, which appears to have been used by Russian scientists at least as early as the 1960s to refer to the Quaternary - the most recent geological Period, was coined with a different sense in the 1980s by ecologist Eugene F. Stoermer and has been widely popularized by the Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist, Paul Crutzen, who regards the influence of human behavior on the Earth's atmosphere in recent centuries as so significant as to constitute a new geological epoch for its lithosphere. To date, the term has not been adopted as part of the official nomenclature of the geological field of study. Nevertheless is it a useful marker as evident in "Found in Alberta: Environmental Themes for the Anthropocene". Collaboratively compiled by the editorial team of Robert Boschman (Professor of English, Mount Royal University, Calgary) and Mario Trono (Associate Professor of English, Mount Royal University, Calgary) and is comprised of sixteen major academic papers, and is enhanced with the inclusion of a Foreword; a twenty-eight page Introduction; a two-page List of Maps, Figures, and Tables; a six-page listing of Contributors, and a comprehensive Index. Informed and informative, a model of academic scholarship throughout, "Found in Alberta: Environmental Themes for the Anthropocene" is very highly recommended for professional and academic library Canadian Environmental Studies reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.
Decreation: The Last Things Of All Creatures
Paul J. Griffiths
Baylor University Press
One Bear Place, #97363, Waco, TX 76798-7363
9781481302296, $69.95, 408pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Death is not the end - either for humans or for all creatures. But while Christianity has obsessed over the future of humanity, it has neglected the ends for nonhuman animals, inanimate creatures, and angels. "Decreation: The Last Things Of All Creatures" explores how orthodox Christian theology might be developed to include the last things of all creatures. Author Paul J Griffiths (Warren Chair of Catholic Theology, Duke Divinity School) employs traditional and historical Christian theology of the last things to create both a grammar and a lexicon for a new eschatology. Professor Griffiths imagines heaven as an endless, repetitively static, communal, and enfleshed adoration of the triune God in which angels, nonhuman animals, and inanimate objects each find a place. Hell becomes a final and irreversible separation from God (annihilation) sin's true aim and the last success of the sinner. This grammar, Professor Griffiths suggests, gives Christians new ways to think about the redemption of all things, to imagine relationships with nonhuman creatures, and to live in a world devastated by a double fall.
Critique: A consummate work of impressively detailed theological scholarship, "Decreation: The Last Things Of All Creatures" is organized into seven major sections; The Grammar of Last Things; Doctrine about Last Things; Timespace; Angels; Humans; Plants, Animals, Inanimate Creatures; The Last Things in the Devastation. "Decreation: The Last Things Of All Creatures" is enhanced with the inclusion of an eight-page listing of Bibliographic Essays; a sixteen-page Bibliographic List, and a comprehensive Index. Informed, informative, thoughtful, thought-provoking, inspired, and inspiring, "Decreation: The Last Things Of All Creatures" is very highly recommended for personal, seminary, and academic library Christian Studies reference collections. It should be noted that "Decreation: The Last Things Of All Creatures" is also available in a Kindle edition ($55.96).
Dam Projects And The Growth Of American Archaeology
Kimball M. Banks & Jon S. Czaplicki
Left Coast Press
1630 North Main Street, #400
Walnut Creek, CA 94596
9781611321746, $79.00, 318pp, www.LCoastPress.com
Synopsis: The Smithsonian Institution's River Basin Surveys and the Interagency Archeological Salvage Program were the most ambitious archaeological projects ever undertaken in the United States. Administered by the National Park Service from 1945 - 1969, the programs had profound effects (methodological, theoretical, and historical) on American archaeology, many of which are still being felt today. They stimulated the public's interest in heritage preservation, led to the passage of the National Historic Preservation Act, served as the model for rescue archaeology in other countries, and helped launch the "New Archaeology." "Dam Projects And The Growth Of American Archaeology" examines the impacts of these two programs on the development of American archaeology.
Critique: Collaboratively compiled and co-edited by Kimball M. Banks (Metcalf Archaeological Consultants, Inc.) and Jon S. Czaplicki (Bureau of Reclamation), "Dam Projects And The Growth Of American Archaeology" is a compendium of sixteen academic papers focusing on the role and history of American archaeology and dams, reservoirs, river basin surveys, salvage projects, and more. An impressive and informative anthology of detailed research and scholarship, "Dam Projects And The Growth Of American Archaeology" is enhanced with the inclusion of a three-page list of illustrations, forty-two pages of References and a comprehensive Index. "Dam Projects And The Growth Of American Archaeology" is very strongly recommended for professional and academic library Archaeology Studies reference collections in general, and American Archaeological Studies supplemental reading lists in particular. It should be noted that "Dam Projects And The Growth Of American Archaeology" is also available in a Consumer eBook edition (9781611327663, $36.95).
The Boston Raphael
David R. Godine, Publisher
PO Box 450, Jaffrey, NH 03452
9781567925227, $29.95, 224pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: On the eve of its centennial celebrations in December, 1969, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts announced the acquisition of an unknown and uncatalogued painting attributed to Raphael. Boston's coup made headlines around the world. Soon afterward, an Italian art sleuth began investigating the details of the painting's export from Italy, challenging the museum's right to ownership. Simultaneously, experts on both sides of the Atlantic lined up to debate its very authenticity. While these contests played themselves out on the international stage, the crisis deepened within the museum as its charismatic director, Perry T. Rathbone, faced the most challenging crossroads of his thirty-year career. The 'Boston Raphael' was a media sensation in its time, but the full story of the forces that converged on the museum and how they intersected with the challenges of the Sixties is now revealed in full detail by the director's daughter. In her quest for the true story behind this pivotal event in her father's life, Belinda Rathbone digs into the background of the affair as it was reported in the popular press, both questioning the inevitability of its outcome and revealing the power struggle within the museum that led to his resignation. She draws almost entirely from primary source material in various archival collections and over a hundred contemporary and personal interviews. "The Boston Raphael: A Mysterious Painting, an Embattled Museum in an Era of Change, and a Daughter's Search for the Truth" is lavishly illustrated with full-color plates and many previously unpublished photographs.
Critique: A riveting story, "The Boston Raphael: A Mysterious Painting, an Embattled Museum in an Era of Change, and a Daughter's Search for the Truth" is exceptionally well researched, written, organized, illustrated, and presented. Informed and informative, "The Boston Raphael" is enhanced with a two page Bibliography, twenty-eight page of Notes, and a ten-page appendix (Perry T. Rathbone to John Coolidge), an eight-page list of Illustration Credits, and a very useful Index. A fully accessible read for non-specialist general readers with an interest in the evolution of the modern museum into a popular entertainment and cultural events center, "The Boston Raphael" is very highly recommended for personal, community, and academic library collections.
360 Degrees Of Success
Morgan James Publishing
Irwin Zucker PR
9781614489108, $17.95, 150pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: 360 Degrees of Success is an instructional guide that provides the tools and the formulas to create 360 degrees of personal, professional and business success. Readers will learn how to link the four essential ingredients of Money, Relationships, Energy, and Time successfully in just 90-180 days.
Critique: An expertly written, cogently organized, and deftly presented 'how to' self-help, self-improvement guide, "360 Degrees of Success: Money, Relationships, Energy, Time: The 4 Essential Ingredients to Create Personal and Professional Success in Your Life" is highly recommended to the attention of the non-specialist general reader of all ages and backgrounds seeking to significantly improve the quality of their lives and the achievement of their personal and/or professional goals. Informed, informative, thoughtful, thought-provoking, inspired and inspiring, "360 Degrees of Success: Money, Relationships, Energy, Time: The 4 Essential Ingredients to Create Personal and Professional Success in Your Life" is very highly recommended for personal reading lists and community library collections. It should be noted that "360 Degrees of Success: Money, Relationships, Energy, Time: The 4 Essential Ingredients to Create Personal and Professional Success in Your Life" is also available in a hardcover edition (9781614489139, $39.95), a Kindle edition ($7.99), and an audio book download edition ($14.95).
PO Box 65360, Baltimore, MD 21209
Julia Drake Public Relations
9781610881128, $25.00, 385pp, www.amazon.com
Synopsis: Major Penelope Baldwin, accomplished pilot and tactician, could have expected a bright future and stable military career until a dubious flight mission over Al A Zamiyah, Iraq, results in the loss of her left leg, and any opportunity for motherhood. As Penelope struggles in recovery, her mother Evelyn struggles to secure their financial future and cover mounting medical bills. Buying the lies of disingenuous bankers and marketing shills, Evelyn places her savings in the derivatives market, a bubble that (unbeknownst to her) is on the verge of bursting. The collapse will destroy what's left of her finances, along with the investments and pensions of countless citizens. The stage is set for a dedicated warrior, an American heroine, to turn her sights on those greedy, callous men responsible for ripping away her future. Baldwin, along with Tessa Montgomery (Senior Chief USMC), Cynthia Washington (RN MSW), and six other highly competent women, all similarly devastated by the avarice, arrogance, and indifference of America s ruling elite, channel their grief and rage, and their search for justice, to become a finely orchestrated and well-financed band of predators.
Critique: A riveting and entertaining read from first page to last, "Aftershock" clearly attests to the impressive storytelling skills of novelist Joe Lane. Carefully crafted in language, character development, and plot, "Aftershock" is a thoroughly enjoyable roller coaster of a ride filled with unexpected twists and surprising turns, making it very strongly recommended for personal reading lists and community library General Fiction collections. It should be noted that "Aftershock" is also available in a paperback edition (9781610881135, $16.95) and a Kindle edition ($8.79).
Paul T. Vogel
James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
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