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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 14, Number 9 September 2015 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

Cowper's Bookshelf Donovan's Bookshelf Dunford's Bookshelf
Greenspan's Bookshelf Helen's Bookshelf Klausner's Bookshelf
Laurel's Bookshelf Lorraine's Bookshelf Micah's Bookshelf
Richard's Bookshelf Shelley's Bookshelf Shirley's Bookshelf
Taylor's Bookshelf Vogel's Bookshelf  

Cowper's Bookshelf

Serving Students with Special Needs
Tom E. C. Smith
711 - 3rd Avenue, Floor 8, New York, NY 10017-9209
9780415736084, $39.95, 235pp,

Synopsis: "Serving Students with Special Needs: A Practical Guide for Administrators" is specifically intended to provide school administrators with essential knowledge about the requirements for special education services, as well as practical steps to ensure legal compliance and appropriate services for students with special needs. Each individual chapter includes basic information followed by specific suggestions or steps. This brief, easily applied, and highly practical guide covers: Instruction, including differentiated instruction and universal design for learning; Assessment, including accommodations and modifications and response to intervention (RTI); Developing multi-tiered systems of support (MTSS); Student progress monitoring and using large data sets to inform decision making; Mediation, due process hearings, and litigation; Systems management and positive behavioral intervention supports (PBIS). Various scenarios are presented along with suggested responses and solutions. "Serving Students with Special Needs" has been specifically developed to provide administrators with practical suggestions to quickly and effectively implement appropriate special education practices.

Critique: Exceptionally informed and informative, "Serving Students with Special Needs: A Practical Guide for Administrators" is an ideal and comprehensive instructional guide that is remarkably 'user friendly' in organization and presentation, making it vary highly recommended for academic library reference collections and as a School Administration curriculum textbook. An invaluable read for anyone charged with administrative responsibilities for special needs education programs preschool through highschool, it should be noted that "Serving Students with Special Needs: A Practical Guide for Administrators" is also available in a Kindle edition ($37.95).

The Best Boy in the United States Of America
Ron Wolfson
Jewish Lights Publishing
PO Box 237, Woodstock, VT 05091
9781580238380, $19.99, 176pp,

Synopsis: "The Best Boy in the United States of America: A Memoir of Blessings and Kisses" by Ron Wolfson is replete with powerful life lessons in a funny and moving portrait of family, community and spiritual discovery in America. Hilarious and heartfelt, Ron Wolfson's inspiring autobiography is filled with stories of growing up in a warm family, encountering colorful characters like the merchants of Omaha and the famous Warren Buffett, navigating adolescence and learning never to underestimate his mother. With easygoing Midwestern humor and profound poignancy, Ron's "true stories" of family and community in the United States of America will resonate with anyone seeking to shape stronger families, create compelling communities and live their best life, a life of joy and laughter, meaning and purpose, and, yes, blessings and kisses.

Critique: Impressively well written, organized and presented, "The Best Boy in the United States of America: A Memoir of Blessings and Kisses" is absorbing and entertaining from beginning to end. Very highly recommended for community library American Biography collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Best Boy in the United States of America" is also available in a Kindle edition ($15.67).

The Naked Voice
Chloe Goodchild
North Atlantic Books
2526 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berkeley, CA 94704
9781583948774, $19.95, 304pp,

Synopsis: Both science and spirituality agree that every particle of matter, every phenomenon we experience, is a form of resonance or vibration. The human voice is quite literally a mouthpiece of this truth; there is no form of expression more personal, more tied to our identities, than our voices. With simple inspirational exercises, "The Naked Voice: Transform Your Life through the Power of Sound" gives readers the tools to guide them in a process of sound healing and soul communication that is guaranteed to open the heart and restore forgiveness, compassion, and interconnectedness between individuals and in their communities. At the heart of every human journey exists the longing to feel at home in one's self and in the world. In a unique response to meet this longing, "The Naked Voice" takes the reader on a compelling adventure of self-discovery and creative fulfillment through a direct experience of their own authentic voice -- the voice of their personal authority, the song of their soul. Going beyond traditional vocal training guides, "The Naked Voice" will appeal to anyone wishing to encounter themselves at a primal level through the medium of the voice.

Critique: Over the last three decades, Chloe Goodchild has established a worldwide platform as a voice pioneer, sound visionary, international singer-performer, and recording artist. In ""The Naked Voice: Transform Your Life through the Power of Sound" she draws upon those many years of experience and expertise to deftly write, organized and present a thoroughly 'user friendly' instructional guide that is very highly recommended for personal, community, and academic library Self-Help/Self-Improvement reference collections and supplemental studies lists. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Naked Voice" is also available in a Kindle edition ($9.99).

Mary Cowper

Donovan's Bookshelf

Beneath the Bridge of Murder
Trisha Sugarek
Writer at Play
9781503099135 $TBA

Beneath the Bridge of Murder (Book 6 in the 'World of Murder' series) just goes to prove several things: that a series of murder mysteries can each successfully hone very different settings, characters, and circumstances that join neatly together under a universal theme; and that an ability to build tight, unpredictable characters is possible across a number of series titles, if the author is as skilled as Trisha Sugarek.

This mystery opens on the seedier side of life, with a homeless man who approaches an affluent couple on the streets of New York and a Civilian Militia Company member who rescues them from his unwanted attentions.

A prelude to the story then changes in the first chapter, which presents a closer inspection of homeless life under a bridge; a setting which quickly evolves to a senseless murder that's tied to the prologue.

Enter detectives O'Roarke and Garcia (prior fans will recall them from the earlier books): cops called upon to investigate the murder of a homeless man. So far, nothing new or surprising here ... that evolves later, as the two find that a missing man was beloved, that the encampment is filled with personalities and motivations, and that what seems a simple death is actually something far more complicated.

Beneath the Bridge of Murder uses many of the satisfying devices of Trisha Sugarek's previous murder mysteries: solid characters, twisting stories, motivations that are anything but cut-and-dried, and a plot that, here, involves vigilante purposes and homeless issues.

From a military man's flashbacks and ability to escape the fate of other homeless individuals to an organization run with military-style precision and relentless in its purposes and its insistence that its own members toe the line (even when that line crosses into ethical conflict) Beneath the Bridge of Murder is a powerful mystery that creates many disparate threads at first, but succeeds in weaving them together with the story of detectives O'Rorke and Garcia's personal lives and concerns.

The series just keeps evolving and, cemented by these detectives' personalities and approaches, keeps on getting better and better. It's not easy creating book after book that both stand alone and interact well as a series. The 'World of Murder' series does just that, and its latest addition is a winning recommendation for both newcomers and prior Sugarek fans.

Developing Minds: An American Ghost Story
Jonathan LaPoma
Laughing Fire Press
9780967492292 $17.95

Developing Minds: An American Ghost Story follows a group of recent college grads through their first year of teaching at dysfunctional urban public schools - especially 24-year-old Luke, a would-be writer who finds that his creativity and passion for the written word are crushed by daily teaching disputes which are far from what he anticipated in the job.

The worst challenges in a career often take the form of a competition before one is even aware that a contest is taking place. Such is the case with Luke, who finds it a daily struggle to be a high school teacher in a process that is stifling his creativity and his real dreams.

Therein lies the crux of the issue: how to make a living while still being an artist, without crushing the very thing that lends meaning to life?

Unexpectedly, as the year moves on, Luke begins to see outside of his artistic focus a little more, to observe the roots of discontent in his young students' lives. The more he makes connections between their neglect and abuse and their actions, the more he is called upon to confront his own dark past.

Unlike most stories about public school teachers, there's more of an attention to realistic interactions, here. Luke isn't a savior: he's a young adult on the cusp of adulthood trying to find meaning in his own life. The students aren't inherently evil beings: they are confused and coming of age in a turbulent world and culture influenced by social and physiological changes alike.

Luke's own struggles with drugs and mental illness, his interactions with inner city urban youth, and his growing angst are reinforced by events and interactions that are realistically, pointedly portrayed without the usual over-dramatization seen in most stories of teachers and students: "I hoped they bought that I was sick. I hoped they couldn't see the panic in my eyes. I hoped they didn't realize that even the slightest of resistance would have sent me screaming through the door and doing snow angels under the GW sign out front. I hoped they'd for once just be kind to me. Why was that so difficult? Compassion. And as that bell rang, my wish had been answered. For whatever reason that day, there were no "She can do whatever she wants"s or "This is stupid"s. They opened their books and got to work."

Sometimes brilliance lies not in the overly dramatic, but in the ability to pick subtle interactions and inject gentle insights about their nature. Sometimes the meat of a title lies not in fire and flames, but in simmering passion. Such is the nature of the coming-of-age experiences depicted in Developing Minds, which offers a multi-faceted exploration of growth, maturity, and eventual transformation on the parts of all involved.

The Boy Who Walked A Way
Nancy Janes
4900 LaCross Rd.
North Charleston, SC 29406
9781479139071 Kindle: $1.99 Paperback: $10.50 Audible: $17.46

The Boy Who Walked A Way is set in 2162, where violence has left a young boy alone and embroiled in a war. His life is about to be changed, however, by an invisible benefactor who offers him a path away from the violence and adversity that dominate his world - and so Jal embarks on a journey that leads him to new experiences, new friendships, and a sense of salvation in a world gone mad.

The notion of a peaceful kingdom existing amid the confusion and chaos of war is not a new one. What is refreshingly different in The Boy Who Walked A Way is the emergence of a gentle fantasy that begins with the trappings of a war-encrusted science fiction read but quickly develops into much more.

As Jal finds a way out of his crazed life, his journey of self-discovery involves a spiritual quest as well, offering young adult readers the vision and promise of a peaceful world even if one's surroundings are otherwise.

Under Janes' hand, daily encounters include new lessons on life within a lyrical, inspirational account that blends an allegory with humor and a host of characters, different perspectives, and some unexpected twists.

In one sense The Boy Who Walked A Way attempts quite a few messages and approaches, which may prove challenging to linear readers unused to underlying messages and spiritual concepts embedded into a fantasy setting. It all succeeds well, and ultimately reveals God's ability to protect and change not just Jal's life, but the wider world. Middle school readers and up will appreciate the quest, Jal's struggles, and ultimately, a lyrical sense of purpose in life.

Making It Home
Suzanne W. Roche
Oak Lei Press
9780996148467 $10.99

Many 'timeslip' novels assume the similar formats begun so many years ago and presented by so many great authors: children stumble into the past, learn to cope with that era's atmosphere, and search for a way back home. And given its title, one would expect a similar approach from Roche in Making It Home - but hers is quite a different presentation and offers far more than most fantasy 'timeslip' stories by incorporating a focus on realistic historical events.

Take the opener, for example: "It's the turn of the twentieth century, and change is in the air - and over land and on the seas. Railroad tracks are being laid across countries like never before, and steam locomotives are taking people farther than they ever imagined. Steamships are replacing all the old sailing ships, and ocean travel is faster and more common now. You could say the modern world is chugging (or sailing) along at a brisk speed."

This provides a lively, specific foundation for the first chapter ('Max unlocks the past by mistake, and the children end up in 1892') and allows for a true appreciation of historical setting before opening with the character of teen Peregrine, who loves her grandfather's unusual antique shop: "Inside, relics from around the world hung from and overflowed every inch of floor and wall space. A heavy smell - some combination of furniture polish, mothballs, and musty leather - kept everyone but the most serious antique collectors away."

This quote is provided as just one example of how Suzanne W. Roche succeeds in creating atmosphere, drawing young readers into her story and injecting it with attention to real, lively historical events throughout: a strength that creates a particularly powerful atmosphere in Making It Home.

Vintage black and white and color illustrations throughout capture the times well - as in 'Roof with a View', which holds an intriguing shot of a small rooftop crowded with people and the caption "People often slept on rooftops on hot summer nights."

Where other timeslip stories might provide a one-dimensional focus on the protagonists and their efforts, Making It Home excels in juxtaposing fiction with historical facts, neatly interchanging experience with atmosphere to bring both to life.

Add an appendix of 'History in the Making', keys to reproducing antique games and recipes, and notes about 1900s life and you have a marvelous, unique story line that succeeds in marrying a fictional story to nonfiction reality: something rare in the world of not just 'timeslip' sagas, but middle school fiction in general. The result is a top recommendation for any who want to bring history alive for young readers.

Paul D. Marks
Timeless Skies Publishing
Trade Paperback (Distributed through IngramSpark and CreateSpace):
9780991473557, Trim size: 5.5 X 8.5, $10.95
Kindle Edition: 9780991473540, $2.99
EPub Edition: 9780991473564, $2.99

Zach Turner is home from Afghanistan and the horrors of war; but getting away from conflict just isn't on his horizon. While all he wishes to do is forget the past, it's right on his tail in the form of a speeding red Camero operated by a former best friend who accuses Zach of betrayal and treachery.

In a chase scene typical of the classic detective/noir thriller style, Zach races through L.A. with a hapless girlfriend at his side: "At some point we'd have to cut inland. Checked the rearview, hoping we'd lost them. Clear. If we were lucky maybe they crashed and burned. Yeah, it's not good to wish that on people, especially your friends. I was brought up right. But what the hell, I'd just come from a fucking war zone. And now I felt like I'd never left it."

And that's just the opening salvo in a nonstop staccato action noir fiction story that, in less than two hundred pages, packs in a mystery/thriller that can't be beat.

From the dry, dusty L.A. basin atmosphere to the perceptions of a wounded veteran whose combat doesn't end with service, events of the war return to haunt Zach's life at home.

It's not easy to capture and build atmosphere while crafting a complex noir plot using a limited number of words; but what might take other writers hundreds more pages to spin, Paul D. Marks creates with just a few deft swipes of his pen: "We strolled - yes strolled, it just seems like the right word - down the rough-hewn planks of the Santa Monica Pier. Ocean waves crashing a few yards away. And just like everything in L.A., the pier was the star of movies and TV, The Sting and Forrest Gump, Iron Man and even Hannah Montana. We bought smoothies and walked to the end of the pier, past Bubba Gump Shrimp with its fake fish shanty look. Leave it to Hollywood to turn a make-believe soldier's dream into a reality."

A superior writer can create believable protagonists, settings, and inject a smoky, fast-paced mystery into everything using a minimum of words to describe and capture experiences. Vortex lives up to its name, quickly creating a maelstrom of action and purpose to draw readers into a whirlpool of intrigue and mystery centered on a believable protagonist and his dilemmas.

Noir detective readers looking for a short work that is immediately gripping and well-written will find the perfect item of choice in Vortex, but be forewarned: once picked up, it's nearly impossible to put down before the end.

Don't Call Me Kit Kat
K. J. Farnham
4900 LaCross Rd.
North Charleston, SC 29406
9781500850333 $13.95 (paperback) $2.99 (Kindle)

Don't Call Me Kit Kat offers many predictable elements in its middle school story, and at first seems unremarkable. Katie is at an age where appearances and associations really matter. She's conflicted at school (with its cliques, betrayals and angst) and at home (where her parents are divorcing), and Katie feels that her world is coming apart, leaving her powerless to effect any real change.

The subject may open with an approach similar to other middle school stories; but then its special strengths shine as strongly as its characters, because Katie's personality immerses readers not just in the events surrounding her life, but in her responses to them - and that makes for a compelling read that's hard to put down.

Each predictable facet is offset by an unpredictable series of revelations as Katie navigates the many obstacles that limit her happiness and ability to feel fulfilled. Readers will thrill with her successes, draw breath as she heads pell-mell into a dangerous choice, and will relate to many of her emotions as she interacts with her world: "...what am I going through, exactly? Even I can't explain it very well. I just felt how I felt and feel how I feel now. Sometimes I don't even know how I feel anymore, because my mind has gotten so used to focusing on gorging myself and then getting rid of it all. Whatever feelings I happen to be ignoring at the time included."

In effect, Katie embarks on a journey down a dangerous rabbit hole to another world and back again. It's the journey, and her growth and revelations about places where she has choices and power in her life, that make Don't Call Me Kit Kat such a compelling read, recommended for middle school grade readers also struggling with issues of fitting in and standing apart from the crowd.

The Maven Trap
Billy McCoy
No Publisher, ISBN, $TBA

Prepublication Manuscript: ETA Fall 2015

The Maven Trap's first-person saga begins delicately, with a young boy's over-dependence on his mother and his father's sudden and confusing demise; after which his beloved mother "metamorphosed into a brutal stranger." The power and passion of this story line is excellent.

The Maven Trap may begin with a bang, but it concludes Lionel's childhood experiences of abuse, religion, and uncertain family relationships fairly quickly and moves into the adult realm of thwarted social encounters, a goal of becoming a scholar and author, and a series of mishaps that lead the damaged narrator to struggle with social interactions and professional goals alike.

To Lionel, everyone seems crazy and unsupportive; from his mother to his property manager and a series of girlfriends who each have their own issues and reasons for being unable to navigate their own worlds; much less his.

As he searches for things and people of value in his life, recurring themes of religion, abuse, insanity and instability seem to mark his every move, leading Lionel in and out of scenarios where goals are hard to set or achieve and where support is nearly non-existent. Used to structures under which he not only chafes but struggles to survive, Lionel is faced with re-creating his adult world using few tools.

The Maven Trap relates a host of encounters and traps experienced by the hapless Lionel; not the least of which include experiments with Buddhism, attempts to live a life with less material needs, and an ongoing search for a life partner and romance. At each step Lionel grows - and with each encounter he finds meaning in his choices, his influence, his world and his possible futures.

Against the dual backdrops of Mobile, Alabama and Minneapolis, the story of a man at odds with his world and life makes for an involving saga of self-discovery and enlightenment, spiced with the gritty feel of everyday realities and life and infused with a feeling of quiet desperation. It's recommended for novel readers who enjoy a blend of self-examination and changing perspectives on crime, punishment, redemption, religion: the saga of a quietly desperate individual searching for transformation, forgiveness, and something more from life.

Letter from Alabama: The Inspiring True Story of Strangers Who Saved a Child and Changed a Family Forever
David L. Workman
David L. Workman, Publisher

Letter from Alabama is a powerful memoir of the author's life, and documents what happened when, as an infant, his mother dies and his father later abandons him at a young age, leaving him with an Alabama woman who, desperate to find any relatives, takes a big leap of faith in mailing a letter to a newspaper in a distant state asking for help in locating the family.

The leap paid off, relatives emerged, and thus little David's life was diverted from its dangerous trajectory into a life where half-brothers and other family stepped in to raise him.

More than just an autobiography of survival, Letter from Alabama offers up family history and a social history of the 20th century, blends in insights into family connections and the process of accepting and rearing a wayward child, and maintains a steady combination of historical review juxtaposed with personal revelation in the course of considering blended families, broken homes, and choices.

Make no mistake: all this is relayed in the context of a family history; so readers who want the history without the intimacy should look elsewhere. Letter from Alabama is a study in miracles and circumstance: as much as it adds intriguing elements about small-town color, it's ultimately about how a young boy emerges from uncertain roots to become a successful man. Readers interested in blended family interactions and a successful emergence from a broken home situation will relish Workman's vivid writing and experiences.

Gift of the Blood God - Drawn
Sydney Whyte
Amazon Digital Services
9780473319960 $2.99 Kindle

Gift of the Blood God - Drawn is Book One of the 'Faelings Doom' series, and is recommended for readers who like their romances juxtaposed with a bit of paranormal mystery, fantasy, and tension.

In a world where magic lingers, adult twins Melory and Lorrie deftly navigate their lives and careers - until a storm drives them into another world where their experiences, talents, and prowess don't match well with the new challenges that surround them.

Before one is even a chapter into Gift of the Blood God, graphic sexual scenes and experiences are presented: it should be cautioned that readers should not be younger teens; but preferably young adults and adults, who will find the inclusion of candid sexual events an unusual (but intriguing) addition to the plot.

This audience will find the scenes of sex and swearing are not overdone, but add a compelling and realistic feel when presented in the wider context of very real characters facing the demands of the unknown. References to sexual encounters with other creatures are clearly described and intriguing: "Never mind the old tales; never mind the myths that the Priesthood of Ancient times could call the Faeling forth; summon them as shadow creatures from their incarceration in stones of the earth... who in their right mind would want to do that anyway, sucked on by a creature that weren't even human. It was disgusting!"

But sex and swearing is by no means what Gift of the Blood God is all about; these are just devices within the greater saga of twins trapped in another world where romance and death, revenge and intimacy, and love and danger are too closely related for comfort.

Move a cast of well-drawn characters into this backdrop and the ultimate result is a story line that is satisfyingly unpredictable and set in a world that is well developed, with protagonists that include priestesses and gods struggling with the sexual ties that bind.

Shards of Reality
Alex Siegel
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
ASIN: B010H402M4 $2.99

Shards of Reality is Book 4 in the 'Seams of Reality' series, represents the final book in the saga, and features a group of watchful sorcerers who look out for humanity in an uncertain alliance with the human race. Somewhat predictably, humanity is leery of their superpowers (especially after a mess was made of things earlier) and questions the notion that these paranormal forces are being used for good purposes: thus the sorcerers are being tracked and watched by the FBI and others.

Everyone's waiting for the group to make a final mistake that will land them in prison, and some of the strongest political forces in the country want to see sorcery banished, whether or not it's being used for good or evil.

At the heart of this latest conflict is mankind's uncertainty, a top leader that believes in using murder and torture to achieve his aims, and a force that is tasked with staying together as a community while considering fresh starts for all of them.

Siegel deftly sums up the group's key members, history, and purposes in the very first chapter so newcomers to the series won't find themselves lost in what actually is quite a complex blend of paranormal abilities, spiritual overtones, and political interactions. While prior familiarity with the previous books in the series is recommended to flush out protagonists and events, it's not an absolute necessity in order to enjoy the events that follow - and for Book Four of a series, that's a notable achievement.

Sorcery is all about imposing will on the world; but it's also about honing abilities, understanding their place in the world, and considering the elements that constitute true justice. Also be advised that there are spiritual references throughout, which makes this more than a secular thriller/paranormal novel and lends it a depth usually not seen in the genre. Where can the greatest warriors in the universe find a peaceful place to rest? The answer is a surprise.

Connections both telepathic and physical, murders and unexpected journeys, and a final, unexpected twist that will delight even avid followers of the 'Seams of Reality' series makes for a powerful crescendo of action, faith, and struggle that will captivate newcomers and prior fans with something refreshingly different - and, sadly, conclusive of this series.

Hope for Garbage
Alex Tully
Ann Tully Phillips, Publisher
9780692024836 $2.99 Kindle $6.99 Paperback

Trevor McNulty is a seventeen-year-old living with an alcoholic uncle and barely getting by when he meets rich girl Bea, who is pretty, edgy, and just the shining beacon of hope he needs in a life reduced to picking through garbage for survival.

Unfortunately, Bea comes with her own family baggage which, when added to Trevor's woes, prove nearly overwhelming. Can his habit of turning trash into treasure be translated as neatly into relationships and life itself?

At first readers might believe Hope for Garbage to be a predictable story of survival; but it's much more. Within the saga of Trevor's uncertain world and the forces that control and dictate it, is a story of boundaries, rules, dreams, and how the human spirit survives under the direst of conditions.

Trevor has been handed a lot of despair, and even the hope he cultivates for something good turns to an exploration of two very different worlds and their unexpected similarities. As Trevor matures and considers his options, readers are right there with him; and by the time he hits the wall, Alex Tully's detail-oriented focus has immersed the viewer in Trevor's world to the point that his actions, choices, and challenges become personal for readers, as well.

Tully's ability to thoroughly analyze Trevor's reactions and actions invite readers into not just an observational role, but an affection for a teen's struggles: "The look of hurt on her face felt like a punch in Trevor's gut. He had never seen her like that before. He wanted to run to her and tell her it was all a big mistake. But he was frozen, just like in a dream. He kept his eyes on the floor and just prayed the nightmare would be over soon. He just wanted to get the hell out of there."

Tully's ability to build many questions and no easy answers means that Trevor's life and times prove especially realistic, eschewing the possibility of predictability and venturing into the realm of uncertain results. Readers of young adult fiction will find much to relate to as Trevor navigates his life, trying to keep secrets, maintain a positive perspective, and build something different than what he's been raised with.

A Book About a Film
C. W. Schultz
4900 LaCross Rd.
North Charleston, SC 29406
9781508595939 $13.40 / 8.68 Brit. pounds / 11.82 Euro

A Book About a Film actually isn't exactly a book about a film - not if you're expecting a nonfiction exploration of how a production is created, and not if you're looking for any insights on independent filmmaking. It's actually a true-life thriller that revolves around a film's production, though, and it novelizes the lost/incomplete/controversial film 'The Cornfield People' while considering its gripping story of life, death, and everything that lies between.

We're not talking a big film, here: few people have had access to or watched the movie - which means the majority of readers of A Book About a Film will find themselves on equal footing, new to the subject under discussion. While many maintain the film actually doesn't exist, its status as a cult classic implies otherwise.

The story that revolves around this film's rumors and mystery is vivid, taking readers away from the reality of The Cornfield People's possibilities and into a world of secret societies, ulterior forces, tangled webs, and complex twists that at times adds a wry touch of irony to the discussion.

No light pursuit, the read includes: acronyms, cinematic terminology, quasi-terrorism, debates about life and death, and a narrative surrounding the evolution of an urban legend. Money, an intriguing story, the Periodic Table of Elements, production analysis and director choices: all these are wound into a saga that is heavily footnoted and researched.

There's nothing simple about 'The Cornfield People' (even some of the actors have no clue of its intentions) - and nothing easy about reading through its evolution in A Book About a Film, but readers interested in cult classic film mysteries in general and this hidden gem in particular will find C. W. Schultz's narrative to be complex, gripping, and ultimately hard to put down - even if you've never seen or heard about 'The Cornfield People' before.

MYTHOS And COSMOS: Mind and Meaning in the Oral Age
John Knight Lundwall, PhD
No ISBN, Publisher, Price

Pre-Publication manuscript: ETA Fall 2015

There are some philosophical and 'new age' books intended for the general-interest reader that are suitable for skimming and easy reflection; and then there are writings such as MYTHOS And COSMOS: Mind and Meaning in the Oral Age which are directed to those interested in more of a historical, analytical approach. Designed to challenge popular thinking rather than placate the unexamined mind, MYTHOS And COSMOS makes an unusual case for the early intellectual prowess of ancient man.

If this sounds like another new age read on ancient civilization superpowers, think again: chapters focus on why scientific process has presented ancient man either as a mindless primate or an alien-inspired genius, instead considering how the process of evolution indicates that early man likely had many of modern man's strengths. Gaps in recorded information aren't due to alien intervention or nonexistent skills so much as the ravages of time on recorded signs of intelligence.

MYTHOS And COSMOS represents the work of a scholar with a life-long commitment to examining ancient myth more closely. He completed his doctorate in comparative myth studies; then applied it to his continuing education. Jungian psychology, he maintains, lends a more accurate thought; that "...our conception of history is often the product of the ego" - and with this in mind, he selects and tackles points in history that have remained incongruous over the centuries.

From what constitutes a 'literate person' and his observations, recordings and psyche to the evolution of cosmological thinking, how narratives often cross the boundary from historical fact into mythos, and how knowledge is fragmented and distorted over time, MYTHOS And COSMOS surveys a range of evidence - written, oral, and artifacts alike - to reveal the assumptions underlying broken, fragmented evidence.

In the process of piecing together possibilities, Dr. Lundwall does more than recreate history: he considers the processes, influences, and politics involved in assigning direction and meaning to ancient data.

Are ancient thinkers primitives? Does modern technology provide the illusion of intelligence through comparative analytical processes? And are the foundations by which we compare and assign judgments uncertain, in and of themselves? These questions and more are contained in a scholarly yet accessible examination of historical, archaeological, and psychological evidence ancient and modern, recommended for readers seeking history, science, psychology and philosophy all wrapped up in a quest for what truly constitutes the realities of ancient cultures, considering how modern investigators organize and analyze historical record as well as the evolution of the processes and patterns leading to understanding.

Emma's Dilemma
Molly McCluskey-Shipman
Goldminds Publishing!emmas-dilemma/cctx

Prepublication Manuscript: ETA Fall 2015

Emma's Dilemma provides a simple story for ages 3-9, telling of a young school girl's dilemma over a school-assigned family tree project.

As she contemplates some fantastic solutions to her problem, Emma begins to get a real sense of what the project is actually all about - and an idea of how to handle it by applying some, simple out-of-the-box thinking.

A semi-rhyme structure juxtaposes colorful drawings with pages containing no words, breaking up the usual picture (or early chapter) book structure. Young readers receive all the possibilities in Emma's mind, from monkeys and spaceships to royalty: but no matter how much she muses, she still faces a predicament.

The answer to her problems lies not in a fertile imagination alone; but in the application of healthy dose of reality: a process that will delight young readers with good fantasy but, in the end, brings it all home - including vocabulary material, discussion questions, a Chinese symbolism game, and more.

BetterNot! And the Tale of Bratsville - Teaching Morals and Manners
Gene Del Vecchio
BetterNot! Enterprises, LLC
9780692471050, $15.99 Hardcover, $9.99 Paper, $5.99 ebook

BetterNot! And the Tale of Bratsville opens unexpectedly, in a "small town with deep swamps all around...a strange, eerie place..." : the perfect introduction to invite kids ages 4-8 to embark on a journey that pairs a rollicking rhyme with the tale of a town where the kids are just out of control.

Roderick Fong's drawings add a realistic but fun touch to accompany the story of a town gone wild ... as indicated by its name, Bratsville.

Neither threats nor punishment works with these kids: what will? Perhaps a touch of magic is needed!

Teaching basic morals and manners in a picture book is quite a trick if the end result is to be entertaining and thought-provoking to truly reach kids. The tendency in many picture books which attempt this goal is a preachy tone: but not here.

Under Del Vecchio's hand the town comes to life, the dilemmas of frustrated parents are neatly charted, and the solution lies in an unexpected route involving one BetterNot. It's a challenge to take this message in a new direction; but BetterNot! And the Tale of Bratsville succeeds by using a powerful blend of color illustration and written word that deftly hones in on unacceptable behaviors and extraordinary solutions. Parents using this for read-aloud will be equally delighted by the story's fresh, vivid approach which features many unexpected moments that makes it a top, highly recommended read!

At the Death
Alex Phakos
Hampshire United Publishing
9780996120609 $8.99 Kindle

At first glance one would think that a soccer-oriented book about playing the game would require of its readers a prior affection for soccer; but in actuality At the Death is so much more, embracing spirituality, coming of age, and the game of life itself - and because of all this, At the Death is recommended not just for avid soccer fans, but for any who would absorb a saga of striving, success and failure, not only in this life, but in the afterlife as well.

First of all, there are strong young players who have more on their minds and in their hearts than soccer: "If her teen years had taught her anything, it was most roadblocks were only temporary, as long as you never gave up on your dreams. That belief defined her as an overachiever, in everything she did."

Secondly, perspectives and motives on how to live life come not just from players of soccer, but from those who interact with the game in other ways: "He failed, he felt it deeply, he learned from it, and he grew. That's why I coach."

Third (and perhaps best), At the Death takes all this, wraps the trappings of soccer in a series of life lessons, and cultivates an approach that, is both solidly based in the game and embraces the wider perspectives of life well-lived and death well-received.

All this is couched in vivid game plays that soccer fans will find true to the sport and its competitive challenges, bringing the game to life and the strategies and plays of soccer from field to reader attention.

The goal? It's elusive and challenging as players navigate the fields of their lives, intersect with opposing forces, and find themselves on quite a different playing field in the afterlife where unfair advantage and uncertain competition brings with it new rules and requirements: "Your intimate thoughts and all of your actions are known to many."

"Yeah, but it's different if you don't know that anyone else knows," Brady said. "There are advantages to being dumb and happy."

If life is about how the game is played and how new, changing rules are absorbed, then At the Death reflects this. As its protagonists consider their options in confronting, as a team, Heaven itself, individual abilities merge into a group perspective that is invitingly philosophical and reflective, moving far beyond the sport to embrace the elements central to human growth and evolution.

While readers who hold an affinity for the sport will delight in the vivid descriptions of soccer moves and shots on goal, those anticipating 'just a soccer novel' will be rewarded with so much more. Its value is much broader, examining life's purpose by following the inspirational motivation of eleven team members who ultimately impart a love of the sport, a reason for its importance, and lessons on how to win in more ways than one way, combining a soccer narrative with spiritual encounters as an intersection with life itself.

Lis Lucassen
Storm Publishers
9789492098108, $0.99 Kindle

Dan and Lynn are two young adults who meet at a resort, are feeling overpowered by the heat of their environments and the passion of their individual pain, and find in each other a companion to share their worlds: but only if they can trust enough to reveal their common experiences and let go of some of the angst.

By switching between third-person perspectives on Dan and Lynn, readers are privy to not just their secrets, but their emotional courses: a good approach to understanding each protagonist's innermost feelings.

It should be warned that action is slow to build: readers anticipating an instant understanding of events and a quick delivery system may be disappointed. There are hints along the way ("He hated the oppressive feeling, but not nearly as much as he hated the other things. The whispers of sympathy, or the way people seemed to tiptoe around him when dealing with him.") that Lucassen takes time to develop his story - and that's one of the strengths of Heat.

Where other novels would 'cut to the chase' in quick urgency to immerse readers in emotional secrets, Heat takes its time bringing out and building its protagonists. Where other young adult readers would simmer in an action-packed read unrelated to life's actual progress, Heat attends to building scenarios and situations to achieve more depth than most. And where other stories of love would take a near-instant attraction and build individual personalities around it, Heat first focuses on building the bridges of emotional understanding.

While this might translate to a lot more description and a slower pace than most, Heat is to be commended for an approach that succeeds in creating a scenario that supports two damaged individuals and the healing process that goes on between them, creating a powerful read recommended for those who don't need nonstop staccato action to appreciate the realities of life, love, and everything in between. Heat eventually delivers its passion in a logical fashion that truly evolves from what has gone on before: "You're like a passenger trapped in your own life, headed for a future that others built for you. You're not at the helm. You're not holding the wheel. Someone else is. And no matter how loud you scream that you want to get out, or you want to take the exit, no one is listening."

Love Letters and Other Passages of Darkness
R. J. Erbacher
Infinity Publishing
1094 New DeHaven St. Suite 100
West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
9781495803154 $19.95

Goodreads link:

Love Letters and Other Passages of Darkness is short story writing at its strongest, and will appeal to readers who require diverse plots, compelling and sometimes eerie experiences, and strong characters from their short story formats.

The unifying theme is simple: each protagonist is charged with facing a dark force in his life and reacting to or overcoming it. In some cases this means submission; in some cases dominance - and in others, it's a twist of the story that leads readers in a satisfyingly unexpected direction entirely.

In this process there are no other familiar guideposts or unifying approaches: one may just as easily experience a medieval castle as a fantasy world, or step into a haunted house from a shopping mall, for example. The changing landscapes are just one of the delights of a collection that succeeds in keeping its readers on their toes and poised for action.

Take the introductory 'Love of the Black Lady', for one example. Alan is standing alone on a balcony in the Virgin Islands viewing what may prove his last extraordinary sunset. What does one do, knowing it's the last day? A last supper? A final romantic fling? A review of the processes that have led to his alienation from the world so empty that there is nobody left to say "I'm sorry" to for his choice and untimely demise?

In this case the darkness stems from his own soul and a life lived without purpose, in relative isolation from his surroundings. Everything seems to lead up to this moment - until an unexpected, surreal lover takes charge.

From a king tired of his responsibilities to his people to spirit wisdom, a beautiful forest of confusion, and revenge in the workplace; these are dark, brooding pieces that incorporate violence both physical and mental and take readers to the outer limits of pain and pleasure.

Short story readers who appreciate slow build-ups, diverse themes and settings, and engrossing stories will find Love Letters and Other Passages of Darkness a powerful collection worthy of attention.

Mo(u)rning Joy
Kalan Chapman Lloyd
Lloyd Words
9781312935280 print, $13.99
9781312935273 ebook, $4.99

Be forewarned: Mo(u)rning Joy: A Memoir is about death: specifically, a baby's death and a mother's mourning process. Any who anticipate this to be other than an emotionally wrenching saga should look elsewhere, because Kalan Chapman Lloyd doesn't sugarcoat anything and, as a result, readers become immersed in her saga of pregnancy, the death of her unborn baby, and its aftermath.

Many memoirs have been written about losing a child: what places Mo(u)rning Joy more than a cut above the rest is an attention to one simple story and how to keep going in the face of tragedy. With a key admonition from a friend inspiring her to this goal ("I don't want this to define our family: this tragedy."), Lloyd found a way to move through mourning - and so will the reader following her saga.

Like all pregnant mothers, Lloyd had a birth plan that did not involve a baby who had been dead inside her for at least two weeks before labor was induced. Striking, pointed insights throughout capture each moment of the experience as though it were part of the 'now': "Our dream, our expectation, our hopes that we'd wrapped into a tiny little person too small to even be able to live up to all those plans, was gone."

From handling pity to lacking memories that would have made their child more 'real' and better-formed, Lloyd tackles the highs and lows of mourning with an immediacy and skill that brings readers not just into her life, but into her mind and emotions. Faith, pain, and everything in between are charged with heady experience, growing wisdom, and not a few obstacles along the journey. The result is a vivid, candid, and hard-hitting story speaking to the heart of pain and re-living life, recommended for those who have loved and lost and mothers who never even got the chance to hold their child.

William The Conqueror vs King Harold
Jesse Lee Vint
Wolf's Eye Books
9781507524138 $14.50 Paper $5.99 Kindle

It should first be mentioned that William The Conquerer Vs King Harold began as a screenplay and only converted to novel form after the screenplay lost its investors - but maybe that's a good thing; because the story line in novel form is a vivid read entwined with concepts that would have proven difficult to fully translate into film. It's these facets that make for a novel that is everything historical fiction should be (and too often is not): gripping, replete with psychological as well as historical insights, and perfectly tuned to the reader's emotions, tweaking them like a guitar string through the course of events.

All begins with a shipwreck and evolves from there, with knights struggling with issues of honor, supporting characters questioning the schemes of their lives and their place in the world, and outside events affecting them all.

As with any historical novel, the real 'meat' lies not so much in accurate historical background (although this is important, and William the Conqueror vs. King Harold holds plenty of facts to support its action), but in protagonist choices in reacting to events. Where others might fail - especially in capturing the subtler nuances of the Dark Ages' times and culture - William the Conqueror vs. King Harold succeeds in depicting the roots of concepts of courage and bravery against the human backdrop of choices influencing how life is lived.

It's this human element, often difficult to capture in historical novels or screen reproductions (the latter of which often center more on action and light characterization than probing underlying currents of influence and emotion), that sets this story apart from competing Dark Ages accounts and makes it a vivid, engrossing read, recommended for fans of historical fiction and those who only lightly touch upon the genre or know relatively little about the times.

The Fall of Icarus
N.R. Bates
NR Bates Publishing
9780993190575 (epub) $1.50
9780993190582 (print) $6.99

The Fall of Icarus offers three interlinked short stories sharing the locale, flavor, and focus of Paris and tells of falls, flights, and endurance in the lives of three very different individuals. All this is done in a production well below a hundred pages: an amazing achievement, given that so much is imparted using so little space.

In 'The Elevator', Ianos becomes trapped in a shabby, tiny old French elevator and when the doors finally open, something magical changes his life and introduces him to a Paris of loss and possibility. How many times will he embark on that journey? A surreal saga captures reader interest.

'The Fall of Icarus' is also about flights: this one injecting the allegory of a mythical son who ignored direction and traveled too close to the sun into the life of one who chose to "...follow a middle way - not too bright, not too foolish, and not too confident. I succumbed, and I did not excel in any way. Perhaps without realizing it, I followed this path as a means of real escape and not the imagining of escape by taking flight."

It, too, is replete with the possibilities introduced by the unexpected experience which defies preset notions and logic.

'The Girl' features a protagonist even more lost (she can't remember her own name, but she is immersed in recording the stories and words of others - to the point of lacking of her own life). Can an unexpected tale introduce her to new choices and experiences?

All three stories excel in a sense of wonder and feature delightful twists and contemplative scenarios all immersed in Parisian atmosphere and powerfully surreal moments. Readers with a special affinity for the short story format who want to see atmosphere and psychology works flavored with a tinge of the eerie will delight in these well-done literary pieces.

Elizabeth's War
D.L. Finn
9780996258210, $8.91 print
9780996258203, $2.99 ebook
Library of Congress Control Number: 2015911423

Elizabeth's War is set on a farm during World War I and tells of how the war affects Elizabeth at home when her father and brother are sent off to battle. Advanced elementary to early middle school readers will find it a short (but pointed) saga of home life during the war from an eleven-year-old's first-person impressions, which immediately presents a tragedy when the retiring Elizabeth doesn't respond to her brother's pleas for help.

How can a girl not used to taking charge, and unable to handle emergencies, be an effective replacement for an authoritative leader on a farm? The story moves beyond portraying World War I's affects on those left behind to investigate the psychological profiles, challenges, and changes brought about by a world's transformation.

Elizabeth goes through the usual childhood experiences, from chicken pox to an evolving, more mature relationship with her mother and older sister. As the world heats up and suffrage movements, romance, and newfound dreams change her family, Elizabeth must accept a new place not only in her own previously-comfortable surroundings, but in a wider changing world; and much as her family is fighting the war abroad, so she struggles with a less defined war right at home.

Her realizations and growth power a compelling read highly recommended for girls in grades 4-6.

Beneath The Greater Sky
Andrew Voelker
Privately Published
9780989802406 $3.99

Beneath The Greater Sky provides a gripping, intriguing story on more than one level not because its protagonist has lost a child, but because all events are told from a would-be father's perspective, and because they move neatly from personal tragedy to more challenging experiences.

It's one thing for a man to face the death of his unborn child and the dissolution of his marriage and decide to undertake a journey as a kind of memorial to what was and what could have been. It's another to turn that journey itself into an unexpected saga not just of loss, divorce, and recovery; but of the uncertain world of frontier justice and another loss that he is accused of bringing about.

As Ryan's world changes from a Chicago suburb to Wyoming, readers will quickly come to realize it poses not just a novel of personal experience but a mystery, as well; all fueled by powerful character development that is just one of the hallmarks that make Beneath The Greater Sky a superior read.

Because Ryan's thoughts and emotions are at the forefront of the story, readers will find it easy to enter, quick to read, and thoroughly engrossing. Because different and unexpected elements are added to the tale of mourning and survival, the account adopts a three-dimensional quality that is satisfying and effective. And because it includes many of the elements of danger and action that thrillers utilize to best advantage, it's a well-rounded and powerful creation designed to appeal not just to men or women attracted to stories of recovery, but to a broader audience looking for a good, solid blend of mystery, adventure, a dash of romance, and much self-discovery.

Linked Through Time
Jessica Tornese
Solstice Publishing
614 Wal-mart Drive, Suite #209, Farmington, Mo. 63640
1477570799 $10.99 print / $1.99 Kindle

Ordering link:

Just what a teen always wants: a summer spent in prison! At least, that's what the protagonist feels in the opening of Linked Through Time, a debut novel in a series centered around fifteen-year-old Kate, adding to her ongoing time-travel experiences (other books in the series not seen by this reviewer) when a summer to be spent with grandparents in rural cow country Minnesota turns into an ordeal.

Kate wakes up in the past - 1960, to be specific - living the life of the aunt she resembles but has never met. Now it's more than living at her grandparents' house without computer or cell; it's living a life of poverty in the countryside, struggling with romance and the confusing results of her time traveling, and facing her new life with a terrible knowledge of the future: that her aunt drowned that same summer.

As events unfold, Kate discovers that not everything is known or predictable, and she faces some dilemmas about how - or if - she can (or should) change the past to get back to the world she was so set on rejecting.

Timeslip young adult books have been around for many decades now. New variations on the theme thus tend to assume a 'formula' feel - but Jessica Tornese's focus on more than just time-travel events, including the moral and social questions they bring up, sets her books apart from most past and present stories on the theme.

Kate's dilemma comes to life, both her worlds feel realistic and engrossing, and her powerful desire to return home is reminiscent of Dorothy's newfound appreciation of what 'home' actually comprises in The Wizard of Oz.

As with any timeslip story, it's the author's ability to bring events of the past to life and juxtapose them with present-day concerns that makes for a compelling read: Linked Through Time packs in these qualities. It should be mentioned that, given that this book is part of a series, it ends with questions and possibilities. Readers looking for a neat wind-up conclusion won't find a cliffhanger here, exactly - but Tornese does leave the door wide open for more - and that's a welcome approach for those who love Linked Through Time!

Into the Hidden Valley
Stuart Blackburn
Bygone Era Books, Ltd.
9781941072257 $17.95 pbk / $4.99 ebook

Open in India, 1910, where son Charles is reading a tombstone about his father's untimely death in an earthquake. It is only upon his father's demise that Charles realizes the role this civil servant played in Indian political affairs, and the dangerous legacy he's inherited as a son of British descent struggling with his country's worsening relationship with India.

As historical novels go, Into the Hidden Valley is a gem: it takes a relatively remote portion of India and uses it as a microcosm of social, historical, and political observation, creating a valley as replete with secrets as the life that left it.

And as Charles peels away these layers of mystery one by one, he comes to realize that his father, who is viewed as something of a hero because of his ability to crush Indian rebellion, is actually something more; revealed in a notebook left with his legacy.

Readers move into George's life thereafter, from the time he left England for good as a hermit set adrift from all roots to become an ICS officer, to his increasing involvement in punitive expeditions and uprisings quashed by British enforcement efforts and the Government of India.

From containment and control of frontier Tibetan borders to his responsibility in caring for his child, all facets of George's life are explored in a series of revelations that will change son Charles' world. Charles then embarks on a journey following his father's footsteps to meet a man who may well be old and gone, now - and as he follows the route his father has taken, Charles comes to realize just how foreign a world his father had traveled: "In a hidden valley halfway to Tibet, he was an uninvited visitor among people wearing tattoos and red-cane belts, half-naked and speaking a language of which he knew nothing."

Stuart Blackburn does an outstanding job of pairing the history of Indian, British and Tibetan relationships with the personal story of a son's discoveries about his father's hidden life.

Which of his father's expeditions are his true successes? Decades of deception, cover-up, and acquiescence shake Charles' image of his father and negate the posthumous honors he receives. This powerful saga of British/Indian relationships as seen through the eyes, decisions, and choices of one British clerk makes for a riveting story that's hard to put down, bringing Indian and Tibetan history and culture to life. Historical novel enthusiasts will find it a solid, gripping chronicle.

With New Eyes: The Power of Perspective
Heidi Siefkas
1760 East River Road, Suite 145, Tucson, Arizona 85718
9781627872607, $15.95 pbk
9781627872614 $9.99 Kindle

Heidi Siefkas opens her memoir by throwing herself out of a plane. It's her first parachute jump and she approaches it with an uncommon fearlessness that leads her tandem partner to believe she's done it before; but in comparison to the year prior (during which she recovered from a broken neck and got a divorce), this free fall seems nothing. And that's the opening draw of With New Eyes, an autobiography which is (using Siefkas' own words in describing her first parachute jump) 'simply awesome'.

Against the backdrop of tragedy, new life is born. Before her free flight into change, the author was happily married; juggling home with an active career and physically fit lifestyle, and seemed to have everything. The balls of health, marriage and career were perfectly juggled. Then came the freak accident, traumatic injury, and recovery already detailed in her prior When All Balls Drop, and life changed in an instant.

With New Eyes picks up where that account left off, but new readers needn't have prior familiarity with the story in order to begin here. It's recommended for a seamless continuation, while prior fans will find much more depth and insight about the post-disaster recovery and newfound attitude that Siefkas cultivates as a result of her life-changing experiences.

In some ways this makes With New Eyes the stronger read for newcomers, who will readily absorb the processes of reinventing oneself. Within this process lies transformation, hard lessons, new perspectives, and newfound openness to experiences. Called back to her childhood home as part of this pilgrimage of self-discovery, Siefkas delves into the dating scene, naming her dates for her experiences ('Mr. Got Away', 'Mr. Con Man') and offering insights revolving around trying not only new relationships and men, but new experiences. Each one broadens her horizons and changes her perspective.

With New Eyes is recommended for readers of inspirational autobiography and memoirs who want insights into the process of self-discovery and creating a new life. Feisty and thought-provoking, it's a saga that starts from the point of losing everything and rebuilds a life, taking its readers along for an exhilarating ride in the process!

My Ship Has Sails
Margie Mack
4900 LaCross Rd.
North Charleston, SC 29406
9781514172209 $14.95

My Ship Has Sails continues an autobiography begun in Through the Woods, is especially recommended for prior readers (who will gain a deeper set of insights into Mack's early years), and begins with a young girl who moves from a quiet rural life with her grandparents to an uncertain new world living in Chicago with busy entertainer parents who are away most nights.

It was a move that was to bring her into adolescence in the big city with parents who were nearly strangers to her - and a move that would shape the rest of her life.

But My Ship Has Sails isn't so much about the destination as it is about the journey, and it recounts the surging culture of 1960s America and its effects on her coming of age with the precision and immediacy of one whose love of music changed her life. Mack's gift as a wordsmith and musician shine in passages that capture the subtler nuances of both worlds: "They say that music is the strongest form of magic, that it is the language of the soul bringing people who would ordinarily be at odds into unison. That is what happened to us that night. There was no color, no status, no age. Just human beings having the gift of pleasure, which human nature cannot do without, showing us that where words leave off, the music begins."

From a supportive stepfather and parents who instilled in her the forces that would define and direct her life to the re-emergence of a biological father who would challenge her perceptions, Mack's ability to bring readers along for a rollicking ride through her youth and its defining moments makes for a sparkling, vivid autobiography that recreates not only her world, but that of coming of age in the 1960s: a time of great change and promise. Against such a backdrop, even the nature of 'family' is closely examined and ultimately transformed, making My Ship Has Sails a top recommendation for any who would enter another's life and understand it's most intimate, defining moments.

The Goddess Embraced
Deborah L. Davitt
Amazon Digital Services
9780986091612 $5.99 Kindle

The Valkyrie set this series in motion with a hard-hitting fantasy involving the modern Roman empire, a sorceress, murders of gods and mortals alike, and a plot that stretched through time to pit human people against the powers of the gods.

The Goddess Denied continued the saga.

And now, there's The Goddess Embraced - a fiery saga of gods at war with one another, humans serving as collateral damage, and a struggle to avert the end of the world. With a large cast of characters, plenty of prior history, and a powerful story that picks up ten years after the last book ended, fantasy readers are in for an action-packed treat.

From powerful spirit-children and curses to the unexpected specter of Loki trying to avert Ragnarok (an event he's long awaited), The Goddess Embraced presents another satisfyingly complex and winding tale that is hard to put down, replete with mystery, romance, and fantasy.

From musings about individual powers and roles in what is destined to come ("Your sister sees a deterministic future, shaped by Apollo of Delphi's memories. The fact that she does not remember seeing me, may mean that Apollo will never know that I exist once more. I am thus an outlying factor in all my own calculations.") to mad godlings, the entwining of powers, bodies, and spirits, and the flow of memories between beings, the story is supercharged with constant contact and change - and, therefore, is fluid in its approach to drama.

While newcomers may want to pursue the prior books to more easily absorb characters, atmosphere, and history, those with such a background will find The Goddess Embraced represents a powerful fantasy that uses Norse runes and other symbols to differentiate between the constantly-evolving points of view.

Complex? Yes: casual readers need not apply. Accessible, satisfying, and thoroughly engrossing? Absolutely! Fantasy readers who like their stories wide-ranging, their protagonists numerous, and their fantasy worlds gripping and realistic will find The Goddess Embraced the perfect read.

Instant Mystic
Gail Gray Helm
Morning Glory Press
9780996443005, $2.99 Kindle

It's fiction - but, it's delicious fiction. How else can one describe chapter headings that assume the form of foods - Mango Lassi, Red Licorice, Crunchy PB&J, and more? And for those who equate food with angst, there's always 'Bad Egg' or 'Flaming Hot Cheetos'. What can it all mean? Take a big bite from Chapter One, to begin.

In just a few paragraphs, readers receive the sense that food is magical, even for a protagonist who suffers from finding only dubious leftover takeout in his fridge: "He walked to his kitchen, opened his small old refrigerator and looked pensively inside, hoping a delicious breakfast might just await him. No such luck. Instead he grabbed a white paper carton seeping orange stains and wolfed down baingan barta leftover from Sunday night in Little India. The curried eggplant was slimy and unctuous. He should have thrown it out in this morning's trash instead of making a garbage can of his stomach. Too late. He gulped down some mango lassi and hoped that the magical compensatory live yogurt cultures might kill whatever weird stuff was growing in the eggplant."

At first the story that evolves from this sensual food feast seems to indicate this will be a short story collection with each chapter centered around a different protagonist; but in fact Instant Mystic's charm lies in its ability to create a host of characters and then weave their lives together.

Dev has a flair for learning foreign languages. Lupe's Cafe, his destination, also attracts another artist: Adrianna's not a wordsmith, but a painter. Jay (in the next chapter), in contrast, is a fashionista who dresses in sharkskin, accepts translated documents from his friend Dev, and is a smuggler and a dandy. And Tara is making something from her former home, 'Gypsy Tart', and weeping for her past, present and future: "Tara punctured the tin of evaporated milk and poured it over the dark muscavado sugar. She began to whip them together and to weep. She wept for herself and the harder she beat the mixture the harder she cried."

Amnesia. Kidnapping. The illusions of food, cross-cultural encounters, possible holy men, and holy hell. Love explored as a malady and as a promise. Food smells and culture permeate chapters that take all these loose ends and a disparate cast of characters and wind up their actions, interactions, beliefs, and symbols into a multi-faceted read not for the casual novel reader, but for those who like to think about interplays between personalities, belief systems, and cultures.

Readers who enjoy quasi-spiritual stories with a healthy dose of ethnic foods and discovery (paired with some thriller-type action that challenges protagonists and keeps them ever-changing) will find in Instant Mystic a delicious recipe for engagement and involvement. The food and cross-cultural themes that power much of the action and encounters is simply delightful, making it a top recommendation for readers who enjoy ethnic foods and varied, unpredictable interactions.

Gravity Games
John R. Matsui
Poison Pine Books
101 Wortley Road, London Ontario Canada N6C 3P1
9780993754838, $14.95 pbk
9780993754814, $4.95 Kindle
Ordering link:

The first thing to note about Gravity Games: A Nathan Sherlock Foodie Thriller is its attention to descriptive detail, which takes the finer music of depth and tunes it to a new level recommended not for mystery readers who want quick and casual descriptions, but for those who appreciate detail: "For an instant, Nathan tried to ignore it, wanted to ignore it. A couple dozen steps, a mere twist of a filigreed brass door knob and wave after wave of the airborne emissaries of Norwegian Tilsit, cabbage rolls, and thin merlot will muddle the nasal topography. But it won't mask the memory, the piercing stench, nor his duty. Nathan detected not only murder, but very recent murder, perhaps murder in progress."

Can Nathan smell not only food, but murder? And what does this special ability hold for new circumstances that tweak not just his olfactory senses, but his ability to solve crimes? Readers are about to find out; in the process learning of one investigator's strange ability and how it led him to a life of crime problem-solving that operates on a different level than most detectives: "By literally smelling death, his life intersected with police starting at age 14. On his way home from school, his nose detected, and he dutifully reported, a woman's death."

Delightfully different in its approach, even Nathan's nose for trouble is challenged in Gravity Games, which winds science into the mix and invites mystery fans to investigate realms that usually lie outside the typical genre read.

It would have been all too possible for such a talent to turn one's life upside down, but Nathan has a formula for keeping his personal world on track, and it's never failed him before - until now. He's a famous food and wine personality and his skills in this arena compliment his other unique abilities. Everything is about to change, all spiced with an unexpected dose of humor throughout ("Agent Cheeseburger was about to make another point when a striking blonde stepped from behind his broad back.") to provide a comic relief not usually seen in murder mysteries.

As far as the case itself, suffice it to say that one scientist's discovery could change the world; so when he's kidnapped, Nathan is tapped to use his special skills to save him. Terrorism and food usually don't mix; but here they are explored in exquisite passages that keep readers guessing and involved. The hallmark of a solid mystery read is its ability to captivate even the most avid of genre readers: Gravity Games doesn't just involve; it immerses readers in the finer details of the story.

Highly recommended for any mystery fan who also happens to cultivate an affection for food and special problem-solving abilities.

Alycia Christine
Purple Thorn Press
3514 Bobtown Road, #203, Garland, TX 75043
9781941588284, $15.99 pbk (release date: September 25, 2015, no pre-order available)
9781941588277, $3.99 Kindle (release date: September 25, 2015, pre-order available now)
9781941588291, $3.99 Smashwords (release date: December 24, 2015, pre-order available now)

Skinshifter is Book One of the Sylvan Cycle series, and explores a magical metamorphosis centered around the re-emergence of previously-defeated Asheken deadwalkers who return to power with vengeance in mind seeking to not just vanquish the enemy who once conquered them, but to enslave them.

Thus werecat Katja faces the sudden destruction of her clan and an effort that represents a struggle against everything she knows in her world - including her well-kept secret of being a 'skinshifter'. Katja has lived with her siblings since their parents died, so she's known no other life and no other home. All this changes as she's thrust into the world with no family support systems, forced to personally refute the notion that skinshifters in her world are a curse. Ironically, her abilities are one thing that may save the world.

Fantasy readers will need to cultivate several things to appreciate this book's focus and direction: an affinity for third-person, limited point-of-view storytelling and an ability to accept an intelligent animal's world, replete with werewolves, humans, mages, elves, and more. The fantasy is well drawn and those familiar with genre reads will have no trouble readily accepting and absorbing a scenario in which dream premonitions and friendships between trolls and intelligent animals (among other encounters) are not just possible, but common.

Action is well done, tension is wonderfully detailed and maintained throughout, and fantasy readers will find in Katja an appealing, believable character whose quest and concerns drive a story line that is vivid, accessible, and involving; making it a special recommendation for readers of animal-based fantasy worlds where anything is possible.

Numbers! Take the Dog Out
Lynne Dempsey
Lynne Dempsey, Publisher
9780989787536 $9.75 paperback

Addition and subtraction are the foundation skills covered in a simple introductory reader illustrated by Mandy Newham-Cobb which encourages kids to count from 0-10 and back down again. A very simple animal-illustrated format pairs the numbers and their addition and subtraction capabilities with a friendly chase scene involving hats, bones, animals and humans.

As Coco and her friends count from zero to ten and back, young readers will enjoy an easy adventure that begins simply, with one animal, and then gets busier and more action-oriented as each number is introduced.

The book is vibrant with color, satisfyingly simple as an introduction for young readers just learning numbers, and includes plenty of 'action scenes' lending to parental read-aloud and easy reader learning (including dog bones scattered in each picture for kids to easily find - and count!).

Colors! Take the Dog Out!
Lynne Dempsey
Lynne Dempsey, Publisher
ASIN: B00VVT72DW $1.99 Kindle $9.99 Paper

Colors! Take the Dog Out! also receives Mandy Newham-Cobb's vibrant drawings, which lend interest to a simple survey of nine basic colors using the same 'search for the dog bone' additions that made the companion Numbers title so engaging.

A little dog, Coco, asks: "Do you like colors?" and introduces a young girl picking colorful flowers (and grass!) with a host of her friends. Each alternating panel includes the color's name - and when things move beyond flowers, some delightfully unexpected moments are introduced. Boys like baseball and girls prefer flowers ... or, do they?

Adventure follows, dog bones are cleverly sprinkled throughout for kids to find, and very young readers will appreciate the progression of a story that takes a few unexpected (but simple) turns and holds the ability to both educate and delight.

Steel, Blood & Fire
Allan Batchelder
4900 LaCross Rd.
North Charleston, SC 29406
ASIN: B00AW53RMQ $3.99 Kindle
9781491091753 $17.29 Paper

Steel, Blood & Fire represents Book One of a series which is recommended for readers seeking an ongoing saga spread out over several (forthcoming) books. Those with an appreciation for stories that include satisfyingly complicated protagonists, action and confrontation and high drama in a dilemma faced by a notoriously great warrior who loses his abilities just when his skills are most needed by the world will find the story a gem.

What would such a warrior do, when confronted by a simmering disaster that only his recently-lost powers can prevent? How far would such a fighter go to regain his abilities? As a soldier used to winning by sword and violence, Tarmun considers transforming his very being through an unholy alliance with a sorceress, if that's what it takes to return to the fighting field.

Besides the surprising series mention, one thing to note about Steel, Blood & Fire is that it lives up to its title: its fantasy is tightly wound up in battles, blood, and confrontations which use action to its best advantage and hones motivation until it's an unpredictable and fine art.

It should be forewarned that there are gruesome scenes right from the start, juxtaposed with many unexpected moments that keep the action both soaked in blood and intriguing even to the most seasoned fantasy or warrior saga reader.

What other fantasy would include gigolos, autistic characters, and supernatural terrors alike? Because Steel, Blood & Fire takes its time (as it should) to build up complex, believable, and engrossing characters, it needs more books: a requirement that will delight fans of the epic fantasy/supernatural chronicle, who will appreciate the story's unexpected twists, thoroughly-developed characters, and engrossing dilemmas.

Am I The Killer?
Dan Petrosini
Dan Petrosini, Publisher
9781515004622 $2.99

Plenty of 'whodunnit' mysteries revolve around locating the perp. The majority of them feature the investigator's viewpoint and readers either know the identity of the killer or follow the leader in uncovering it.

True to its intriguing title, however, Am I The Killer? offers a different perspective: one in which the first-person protagonist admits he could be the killer - but really doesn't know if he's guilty or not. Thus begins a yarn of not just discovery but self-discovery as an ex-soldier with memory issues faces the possibility that he could have beaten to death a guy he never liked.

Peter's always tried to do the right thing, but life has dealt him some hard blows; and it seems that no matter how much he tries, his choices just lead to trouble. Now he's in the biggest trouble of all - and this saga begins with his arrest and works backward and forward in recounting the circumstances that led to and from this point. The big question is: what's he going to do now?

The answer involves a quest to remember; one which moves through drug treatments, memory tests, and Peter's dreams and revelations to lend clues about who he really is: "Vinny trudged up the stairs just when Billy Wyatt got slammed on the head. Was I dreaming or in another trance? This time the episode was really vivid. Details of Wyatt's house were exactly as they were. It felt so real that I began to panic. It couldn't be a dream, could it? Holy shit, was it really me who hit him? I struggled to pull off my sweat-soaked shirt, and I hit the ground with a thud."

Witch hunts, police seizures, closed cases, open hearts... as events swirl around Peter's struggle to discover himself, readers are treated to a vivid series of insights surrounding evidence and puzzles.

"Sometimes you solve a case but never know what actually happened." The juxtaposition of Peter's first-person world with a third-person investigator's efforts creates a satisfyingly multi-faceted, well-rounded story that grabs readers from the first few paragraphs and doesn't let go until its unexpected end. Readers of detective fiction will find the psychological depth and detail of Am I The Killer? simply sterling.

Dandelion Angel
C.B. Calico
4th Floor Press
139 25th Avenue NW, Calgary, Alberta T2M 2A4, Canada
eISBN (Kindle, mobi): 9781897530665
eISBN (Kobo, epub): 9781897530672 $6.99 CAD / $5.42 USD

On the face of it, Dandelion Angel tells of undiagnosed borderline personality disorder in mothers and the legacy this hands down to their daughters who know nothing of psychological interpretation but much about the impossibility of pleasing a demanding parent. In choosing this approach Dandelion Angel hits far closer to home than most stories in which families seem to quickly understand the intricacies of psychology, focusing on the heart of a mysterious, unpredictable family structure that hands down far more than love for generations to contemplate.

Ute, one of the mothers featured in the novel, is impossible to please: she is a 'hermit' whose heart is ruled by fear, with an uncommon ability to tolerate pain but hold it in places where pain usually releases.

In describing her world and her daughter Caren's own legacy, Calico's words are exquisitely sharp and precise in their vivid vision: "Every year, she hoped to recapture the intense excitement she used to feel as a girl; and every year, she was disappointed again, because Christmas seemed all about shopping after work, in overcrowded stores, with irritable sales clerks and too many hurried customers; and with endless, tedious preparation; and long hours of travel along busy, and sometimes icy, highways. She hadn't really felt anything in a long time. There was no connection to this beautiful house, which should have felt like her home, or to the tasteful decorations that she had busied herself with for days, or even to Tom, who was peacefully sleeping next door. She was alone. And there, suddenly, she felt like a child again - completely isolated, as if living under a thick glass dome, forever watching the world outside without being a part of it. She had carried this feeling with her all her life, and no move, no promotion, no amount of money or luxury, could take it away."

As readers follow generations who inherit Ute's legacy, they will find the descriptions of family dynamics exquisitely wrought and pointed: "...she had meticulously planned the Andalusia trip, and - as usual - paid a fortune to please her mother. How could Ute be so cruel? And why did Caren try so hard? He had fallen in love with her because of her intelligence, her incredible sharpness. She could talk about anything; she was highly articulate and opinionated, could argue so convincingly and forcefully she'd win any debate, any case in court. And yet, here she was, at her parents' home - a dependent, frightened child desperate for her mother's approval."

Mothers and daughters. Achievements and failures to communicate. A biography project that threatens much and promises newfound insights. Traumatic memories from war, repressed until they are discounted. All these facets weave a powerful saga that holds out the promise of new blossoms, spring, revival, and how good people emerge from traumatic situations.

Any novel reader who wants a story of women's family connections replete in psychological depth that successfully shows (rather than telling) will find that Dandelion Angel eschews the usual distance of third-person observation by drawing key connections between its protagonists. Can knowing and understanding pain alleviate its force? Dandelion Angel offers many compelling insights that create much food for thought in a vivid psychological examination with an uncanny ability to hit close to home - and the heart.

Lily's Story
Don Gutteridge
Bev Editions
9780991679898 $9.99 Kindle
9781770843882 $32.95 paperback

In Moore Township, Ontario Canada, in 1845, Lily is a pioneer girl whose mother hates Indians, and who faces a world rapidly changing from that of a frontier town to something much more; something that will force her to take her family's survival skills to a new level.

Plenty of novels have been written about frontier days and frontier gals; but Lily's Story is different: it doesn't just tell her story; it immerses readers in the sights, sounds, and sentiments of her times: "Many nights, curled in the straw of her loft, she heard the drumbeats come across the tree-tops from miles away and settle into their clearing as if they had been aimed there. They were not like her heartbeat, back and forth, nor like the sprightly songs Mama sang in her other language when she was "feeling better" and sitting before her spinning wheel in the bright sun of the garden she had helped to clear. It was a pounding, repetitive music that set her heart ajar, that made her dream of strange creatures who preferred breathing in the dark, that made her long to know what words would be sung to such cadence, what dances would find their feet in such grooved frenzies."

There's a big difference between a novel that describes events and one that plunges its reader into its setting and world. Gutteridge holds the ability to bring this strange frontier world to life as readers absorb Lily's interests, fascination with the unknown, and reactions to how her parents settle the land. These feelings are precisely captured in succinct, hard-hitting descriptions ("Lil's bones rang like tuning forks.") filled with insights on the moments and seconds of Lily's experiences of her world.

Readers expecting staccato action and momentous events will find plenty of tense moments and unexpected twists; but it's really Lily's observations and psyche that fuel a story more notable for its intimate descriptions than for unfettered drama. Gutteridge's ability to keep Lily's character vivid and her experiences as fast-paced as the romance and cultural and technological changes that drive her world, makes for exquisite reading: "Underneath the camouflage she was sure she could hear the water still moving, its voice faint, tinsel, palimsest - like a dolphin's song from a distant sea. She heard the weasel's ermine belly dragging at the burrow's edge, felt his ferret's glare on her heart. Then he was gone, scrambling underground, his ears picking up the same sound that made Lily leap straight up and freeze."

A solid historical novel will impart this sense along with facts that depict bygone times and worlds. Lily's long life and many experiences take her from frontier times to the birth of a new village, a new home, and a new world. That she carries readers along for a heady ride through politics, sleigh rides, train rides, and the advent of World War I makes for a compelling read hard to put down and especially recommended for readers who want more than 'show and tell', but a vivid saga that brings a woman's many years and transitions to life against the backdrop of astounding changes.

I Thought He Would Be in Jail
Captain Steve Taylor
Stevetaylorbooks, Publisher
9780578163666 $12.99 pbk / $4.99 digital

Few authors can craft an autobiography from a single comment; but Captain Steve Taylor holds such an ability as he tells of the origin of his book's name: "The book title is a remark made by a surprised classmate of my older sister when he discovered I had become an international airline captain: "I thought he would be in jail."

Like his prior, hilarious Wheels Up, readers are thus off and running into a zany coming-of-age story that winds its way through the 1950s and 60s to explore the author's family influences which emphasized he could do anything, despite an unassuming early proclivity to not exceed expectations. More so than most, Taylor is able to capture these early encouragements that so often mean the difference between an expectation of failure or success: "Some would say I was spoiled, and they are probably right, but until I began to be tempered by the reality of the outside world I enjoyed the power, the confidence, and the invincibility this created. I woke up in the morning with a huge plus on my ledger, and after doing much bad throughout the day, I still went to bed with a plus."

As Taylor evolves, his family evolves along with him, accepting the inevitability of changes and moving along a trajectory that is amazingly flexible and well-reasoned: "The best thing that happened to me, other than my new job, was the final failure of the farm as our family livelihood. Dad decided it was too small and poorly equipped to make the income we needed. He took a job working as a fuel oil deliveryman in the daytime while operating the projection booth at night in the Mt. Pleasant theater. Now our farm became just my playground - no more picking beans, no more working on the tractor all day, and no more feeding thousands of chickens. All I had to do was make money at my summer movie job, take care of my show animals, milk the cow, and play."

By incorporating this sense of ongoing changes, positive responses to them, and a sense of satisfaction at each adjustment, Taylor succeeds in doing what few autobiographies achieve: nailing down the origins of work ethic, a positive attitude, and ultimately, satisfaction in life: "I loved my job, and it taught me that the priorities I placed on the components of work greatly affected the benefits. I determined that the more skill brought to a job and the more fun I had doing it, the more pay and respect it produced."

It's a combination of luck, the ability to forecast and ride with change, and a feeling of mischief and fun that makes I Thought He Would Be in Jail a satisfying read; not quite as shocking in its moments of risque behavior as in Wheels Up, but just as satisfying.

Readers of autobiography, coming-of-age stories, and particularly, of Taylor's prior Wheels Up (about his airline mishaps and hijinks) will find this story offers many insights into his family, background, friendships, and a rich family heritage which has made him the Captain he is today.

The Everywhere House
Sherry Lincoln
Goldminds Publishing, LLC.
1050 Glenbrook Way, Suite 480, Hendersonville, TN 37075
9781930584325 $TBA

The author's childhood home was next to the town library: a fortuitous circumstance because, over the years, she could view her house every time she went to the library. When she observed construction going on she presumed the house was being remodeled, only to find it was being torn apart to make way for the library's expansion.

Imagine her surprise when she discovered that almost every piece of the house's structure would be repurposed by Habitat for Humanity and, upon visiting them and finding pieces of her past in their habitat ReStore, she'd embark on a trip down memory lane to relive her fondest memories of growing up in the 50s and 60s.

From her parents' move to the house they would come to call home to how various house parts evoke philosophical reflections, as in a memory of torn screens ("...there are times in our lives when a "screen" is torn and something we care about simply vanishes through it. Sometimes the very best thing we can do is just let it go and hope that it finds a good place...Screens are a kind of shield, aren't they? They are designed, in part, to keep what should be inside, inside, and what should be outside, outside."), the everywhere house is firmly rooted in autobiography but, like the author's house, expands this concept outwardly.

In creating a memorial for her bygone house, Sherry Lincoln has move past the typical boundaries of autobiographical writing to provide something different than either a 'this old house' survey or a story of her childhood; it's an examination of roots, ties, and what happens when a house is 'deconstructed' and moves away from these root bound plots.

In taking Thomas Wolfe's famous concept of 'You Can't Go Home Again' to another level, The Everywhere House is a recommendation for anyone whose memories and dreams are no longer bound to a sense of place and continuity, and will appeal to a wide audience from autobiography readers to those whose fond recollections of the past lie directly in the present path of progress.

Aquarius Rising Book 2: Blood Tide
Brian Burt
Double Dragon Publishing
P.O. Box 54016, 1-5762 Highway 7 East, Markham Ontario L3P 7Y4 Canada
eBook (MSRP): $5.99 Paperback (MSRP): $16.99


Barnes & Noble:
Apple iBooks:
Double Dragon Publishing site:

Book Two of the 'Aquarius Rising' trilogy shows that in a truly superior trilogy, the second book may hold an ability to stand alone but ideally will be chosen after the first is digested, only because the characters, setting, and crisis so exquisitely portrayed in In the Tears of God are smoothly continued here, with such a background.

Here the ruined reef cities of Book One are being rebuilt in the aftermath of the deadly Medusa Plague that threatened to turn all creatures to stone, and the grief felt by the survivors has taken a deadly turn as insanity threatens Megalops, whose wife and daughter have become statues in a grim Aquarian memorial to the victims of Medusa.

With any deliberate act of destruction there arises the potential for revenge and further chaos - and so a retaliatory virus aimed at the humans who nearly destroyed their world promises a massive devastation in return. In such a scenario, adaptation embraces not just survival but the impetus for revenge and so it appears that reef and human worlds alike are poised for a final blow that will make the rise of the oceans seem like an inconvenience in comparison.

Protagonists from Book One are rapidly re-introduced here in an approach that will especially, immediately engross prior readers with familiar characters. From the strategy of using a civil war to an opponent's advantage to psychic battles for control, the characters in Blood Tide are facing some of their greatest challenges to survival yet - from one of their own.

Readers should anticipate a heady combination of action and intrigue based on the events of Book One, in a post-apocalyptic setting that questions heroes, leaders, and a looming war between Mother Earth and Mother Ocean. Based in a world that's survived climate change, the impact of loneliness, life-or-death decision-making processes, and the effects of ongoing conflict illustrate the very different challenges of handling interactions between two worlds almost inhabiting the same body of Earth, making Blood Tide a top recommendation for readers who like 'climate change' dystopian stories with more than a dose of philosophical reflection paired with nonstop crisis mode style action.

The Secrets Of Yashire
Diamante Lavendar
4900 LaCross Rd.
North Charleston, SC 29406
9781493783762 $6.99

The Secrets of Yashire: Emerging from the Shadows at first seems like another young adult fantasy genre read - until you realize that the action takes place in the protagonist's mind. Brianna is a sixteen-year-old with an adult's perspective on life and who is challenged with a life out of control and an effort to reign in the destructive impulses of her world.

She seems the least likely person to fall into a fantasy realm that tests her with tasks that include bringing unconditional love back into a kingdom - but this is what evolves in an unexpected journey that slowly moves readers from her relationships and special challenges to something more: a higher purpose, if you will.

Psychological insights peppered throughout provide clues to Brianna's state of mind ("Why the hell do I do this crap? I keep getting myself into more and more trouble. I need to stop doing this. I'm starting to hate myself.") as they set the stage for her philosophical, psychological and spiritual journey.

If the 'meat' of a young adult piece lies in its ability to realistically and engrossingly chart the move of a young adult to adult, then The Secrets of Yashire achieves this goal and more. As Brianna moves into higher-level thought processes, so readers follow and note her evolutionary process. One might expect complexity from this approach; but in fact The Secrets of Yashire is an easy read which will appeal to young adult fantasy readers; but delivers more than expected with philosophical and spiritual messages embedded into its events.

Don't expect a fast pace, here: Lavendar takes time to build up protagonist and setting and while some may chafe at the lack of staccato action, used to reads that gloss over depth in favor of entertainment, the fact is that the attention to relationships and growth is every bit as important as the fantasy that unwinds. Pre-teens and young adults alike who don't need a rushed pace will find it a compelling saga of a teen's journey through both inner and outer worlds that concludes not with a neat or trite wrap-up, but with further possibilities.

Diane C. Donovan, Senior Reviewer
Donovan's Literary Services

Dunford's Bookshelf

The Science of Open Spaces
Charles G. Curtin
Island Press
2000 M St NW Suite 650, Washington, DC 20036
9781597269933, $40.00, 272pp,

Synopsis: From the days of the American Frontier, the term "open spaces" has evoked a vision of unspoiled landscapes stretching endlessly toward the horizon, of nature operating on its own terms without significant human interference. Ever since, government agencies, academia, and conservation organizations have promoted policies that treat large, complex systems with a one-size-fits-all mentality that fails to account for equally complex social dimensions of humans on the landscape. This is wrong, argues landscape ecologist and researcher Charles Curtin (Senior Fellow, Center for natural Resources and Environmental Policy, University of Montana). We need a science-based approach that tells us how to think about our large landscapes and open spaces at temporally and spatially appropriate scales in a way that allows local landowners and other stakeholders a say in their futures. "The Science of Open Spaces: Theory and Practice for Conserving Large, Complex Systems" turns conventional conservation paradigms on their heads, proposing that in thinking about complex natural systems, whether the arid spaces of the southwestern United States or open seas shared by multiple nations, we must go back to "first principles" (fundamental physical laws of the universe) and build innovative conservation from the ground up based on theory and backed up by practical experience. "The Science of Open Spaces" walks us through such foundational science concepts as thermodynamics, ecology, sociology, and resilience theory, applying them to real-world examples from years he has spent designing large-scale, place-based collaborative research programs in the United States and around the world. Compelling for not only theorists and students, but also practitioners, agency personnel, and lay readers, "The Science of Open Spaces" offers a thoughtful and radical departure from business-as-usual management of Earth's dwindling wide-open spaces.

Critique: A seminal work of extraordinary and impressive scholarship, "The Science of Open Spaces: Theory and Practice for Conserving Large, Complex Systems" is a deftly written and compelling read, making it a significant and very highly recommended addition to personal, professional, NGO, community, governmental, and academic library Environmental Studies reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted that "The Science of Open Spaces" is also available in a Kindle edition ($31.19).

Diary of a Jackwagon
Tim Hawkins
Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9780718006297, $16.99, 224pp,

Synopsis: Tim Hawkins is a comedian and a YouTube sensation. With "Diary of a Jackwagon", Hawkins now turns his hand to writing. Best known for his song parodies and riffs on yoga pants and homeschooling, "Diary of a Jackwagon" shares his perspective on life in the 21st century. Tim's topics are as wide-ranging as his stand-up comedy including marital communications ("Marriage needs a challenge flag, like in pro football"), worship music ("Pick the right key, because I'm not Barry White and I'm not a Bee Gee"), and food ("Eating a Krispy Kreme donut is like eating a baby angel"). "Diary of a Jackwagon" reveals a witty and relatable voice reminding readers that for life's many difficulties, laughter is always the best medicine - when there aren't any pills left.

Critique: A thoroughly engaging, entertaining, and occasionally thought-provoking read, "Diary of a Jackwagon" is very highly recommended and certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "Diary of a Jackwagon" is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.99) and in an MP3 audio book format ($13.99).

Michael Dunford

Greenspan's Bookshelf

A Winsome Murder
James Devita
Terrace Books
c/o University of Wisconsin Press
1930 Monroe Street, Third Floor, Madison, WI 53711-2059
9780299304409, $26.95, 196pp,

Synopsis: A grisly murder in a pastoral Wisconsin town, Winsome Bay, proves to be only the opening act in a twisting, darkening series of gruesome deaths. "A Winsome Murder" is an addictive, adult thriller that takes us from Chicago's underbelly to the Wisconsin woods. In this fast-paced novel we meet a gorgeous waitress with a haunted past, an author juggling a failing career and motherhood, and a hard-bitten detective with unexpected inspiration from William Shakespeare's bloodiest plays -- and nobody escapes the nightmare created by a psychotic killer of women.

Critique: Acclaimed already for his young adult fiction, actor/director/playwright James DeVita now debuts his first adult novel with "A Winsome Murder". Impressively well written, this is a page-turner of a read from beginning to end, making it very highly recommended and certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library Mystery/Suspense collections. For personal reading lists it should be noted that "A Winsome Murder" is also available in a Kindle edition ($8.99).

Odysseus: The Oath
Valerio Massimo Manfredi
The Overlook Press
141 Wooster Street, New York, NY 10012
9781468309218, $26.95, 384pp,

Synopsis: As a young boy in Ithaca, Odysseus listens in wonder to his grandfather Autolykos, a man feared by many across the land as a ruthless fighter. He learns of his heritage and a lifelong passion is sparked: to become an adventurer and warrior. In Mycenae, he meets King Eurystheus and learns the terrible story of Hercules -- the man with god-like strength who slaughtered his family and punished by the King to undertake impossible tasks to earn absolution. But is Eurystheus the man he says he is? When a child comes to Odysseus in the middle of the night, with another, very disturbing, version of what happened that fateful night, Odysseus embarks on the first of his extraordinary quests and so begins the epic story of Odysseus, the first of two volumes: an adventure of love, war, courage and heroism, weaving from a small rocky island in Greece, to the mighty fall of Troy.

Critique: An extraordinary historical novel with great attention to detail, "Odysseus: The Oath" by Valerio Massimo Manfredi (an archeologist and scholar of the ancient world) is a deftly written, compelling and entertaining read from beginning to end. Very highly recommended for both community and academic library Historical Fiction collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Odysseus: The Oath" is also available in a paperback edition (9781468311044, $16.95) and in a Kindle format ($16.44).

Able Greenspan

Helen's Bookshelf

Hope: A Myth Reawakened
Lillian Moats
Three Arts Press
1100 Maple Avenue, Downers Grove, IL 60515-4818
9780966957655, $12.95, 96pp,

Synopsis: Springing from ancient Greek mythology, "Hope: A Myth Reawakened" invites the reader on a journey that is both epic in scope and deeply intimate in the questions it prompts us to ask ourselves about the nature of hope in a fragile world. Both a love story and a modern philosophical investigation, even the essential question of who is narrating the story draws the reader in. We take this journey on the wings of allegorical figures Hope and Despair, as we see through their eyes millennia of human love and loss, and confront today's pressing and personal questions. The rhythms of "Hope: A Myth Reawakened" propel us through this timeless allegory, in which we meet characters wholly familiar to us, yet encounter them in ourselves as if for the first time. Full of suspense and insight, "Hope: A Myth Reawakened" will speak to readers who think about a world in crisis, about the meaning of life and death, and who seek authentic hope in an age of denial.

Critique: Impressively well written, organized and presented, "Hope: A Myth Reawakened" is a compelling and absorbing read from beginning to end. Very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Hope: A Myth Reawakened" is also available in a Kindle edition ($4.95).

Sensing Mr. Right Guy
Leagan E. Kasper
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781515316732, $12.99, 118pp,

Synopsis: "Sensing Mr. Right Guy is the Ultimate Dating Guide for Women" allowing glimpses into the hidden traits of a man's personality by observing his features and demeanor. It's a serious dating guide that's as insightful as it is entertaining, revealing the secret games men play to pick up women or trick them, and tips of what features in men to watch out for and what to look for, with a certainty of 99.9% of finding your Mr. Right Guy, to enjoy a harmonious and long lasting relationship. "Sensing Mr. Right Guy" is for women of all ages and a perfect mixture between keen perception and rip-tickling humor.

Critique: As informed and informative as it is witty and well written, "Sensing Mr. Right Guy: The Ultimate and Humorous Dating Guide for Women" is as useful a read as it is entertaining for anyone having to deal with the dating scene and looking for that very special someone to be a part of their life. Very highly recommended for community library collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Sensing Mr. Right Guy: The Ultimate and Humorous Dating Guide for Women" is also available in a Kindle edition ($5.99).

Cuisine and Empire
Rachel Laudan
University of California Press
155 Grand Avenue, Suite 400, Oakland, CA 94612 - 3758
9780520266452, $39.95, 488pp,

Synopsis: In "Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History", author and culinary historian Rachel Laudan tells the remarkable story of the rise and fall of the world's great cuisines ranging from the mastery of grain cooking some twenty thousand years ago, down to the present day. Probing beneath the apparent confusion of dozens of cuisines to reveal the underlying simplicity of the culinary family tree, "Cusine and Empire shows how periodic seismic shifts in "culinary philosophy", that is, beliefs about health, the economy, politics, society and the gods, which prompted the construction of new cuisines, a handful of which, chosen as the cuisines of empires, came to dominate the globe. "Cuisine and Empire" also shows how merchants, missionaries, and the military took cuisines over mountains, oceans, deserts, and across political frontiers. Rachel Laudan's innovative narrative treats cuisine, like language, clothing, or architecture, as something constructed by humans. By emphasizing how cooking turns farm products into food and by taking the globe rather than the nation as the stage, she challenges the agrarian, romantic, and nationalistic myths that underlie the contemporary food movement.

Critique: Impressively detailed, extraordinarily well written, deftly organized and presented, "Cuisine and Empire: Cooking in World History" is a seminal work of outstanding scholarship. Remarkably informed and informative, "Cuisine and Empire" is very strongly recommended for personal, community and academic library Culinary History reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted that "Cuisine and History" is also available in a paperback edition (9780520286313, $29.95,) and in a Kindle format ($20.86).

Pucker: A Cookbook for Citrus Lovers
Gwendolyn Richards
Whitecap Books
#210 - 314 West Cordova Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada, V6B 1E8
9781770502277, $29.95, 192pp,

Synopsis: That citrus kiss, that tang, that pucker, it makes some of us swoon. With a culinary cornucopia of recipes compiled by Gwendolyn Richards, "Pucker" is for the citrus lovers amongst us who'd gladly pass over chocolate or caramel for a lemon meringue or key lime pie. But citrus love extends beyond these common favorites, and extends itself to drinks like Lemon Bourbon Sours, Sidecars and Moscow Mules, it touches appetizers like Scallops with Meyer Lemon Beurre Blanc and exotic mains like Citrus-Braised Pork Shoulder Tacos. "Pucker" highlights the flavor of lemons, limes and grapefruits in over 100 recipes from drinks, salads, sides, breakfasts, mains, and desserts. "Pucker:" contains tips on leftover fruits for those recipes that call for a little zest and leave your lemon or lime to linger on waiting for a use. "Pucker" highlights the best tools to get in your kitchen, and contains countless charming stories and helpful hints from an author passionate about citrus.

Critique: With beautifully illustrated recipes ranging from Curry-Lime Lentil Soup with Yogurt and Mango Chutney; Linguine with Tuna and Lemons; Asparagus Salad with Parmesan and Lemon-Dijon Dressing; and Moroccan Stew with Preserved Lemon; to Lime Sugar Cookies; Flourless Chocolate-Lime Cake; Broiled Grape-Fruit; and Citrus-Pickled Onions, ""Pucker: A Cookbook for Citrus Lovers" is unique among cookbooks. As much fun to browse through as it is to plan special treats, drinks, and menus with, "Pucker: A Cookbook for Citrus Lovers" is an extraordinary and highly recommended addition to personal, family, and community library cookbook collections.

Helen Dumont

Klausner's Bookshelf

The Devil's Seal
Peter Tremayne
Minotaur Books
c/o St. Martin's Publishing Group
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250059727, $26.99,

In 671 Ireland, religious leaders are irate over the latest Papal decree of Rule of the Blessed Benedict. They come to Cashel to debate over how to implement and more important ignore the dictate by the Council of Autun. One of the attendees Anglo-Saxon Brother Egric survives a shipwreck that killed his three traveling companions. He claims to be Brother Eadulf's brother who the latter thought died years ago.

Before the divided discussion between the Irish and Anglo-Saxon delegates commences someone slices the throat of Saxon emissary Brother Cerdic; leaving his corpse in a position of prayer. At Cashel, Mumen King Colgu assigns his sister (Eadulf's wife) Sister Fidelma to investigate in hopes of preventing more homicides from occurring. As she makes her inquiries, additional killings happen including Cill Naile steward Sister Dianaimh.

The silver anniversary Mysteries of Ancient Ireland (see Atonement of Blood) is an enjoyable medieval whodunit. The fascinating focus on the various religious leaders' reactions to the Papal decree anchors the novel in time and place. Sister Fidelma's intriguing investigation entertains the faithful, but the climax lacks the vigor of most entries (including this novel) in one of the consistently best historical series.

Lady Be Good
Meredith Duran
Pocket Books
c/o Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781476741376, $7.99,

In London, Viscount Kit Stratton worries about the lunatic threatening his loved ones. This military hero believes Catherine Everleigh, co-owner with her brother Peter of Eveleigh's Auction House, can lure the maniac into the open so that Kit can end the danger to his family.

When Kit catches Everleigh Girl hostess Lilah Marshall stealing letters from her employer, he seizes an opportunity to catch the homicidal enemy. Kit blackmails Lilah into helping him with his crusade. Thus Lilah, who left her crime family kin behind four years ago, travels with her boss to Kit's estate. However, neither Kit nor Lilah expected to fall in love, which makes her the prime target of a psychopath.

The latest Rules for the Reckless Victorian (see Fool Me Twice, That Scandalous Summer and E-novella Your Wicked Heart) is a thrilling romantic suspense filled with tension and a vibrant resilient lead couple. The entertaining relationship hooks the audience as on the surface Lilah is from Venus and Kit from Mars, but readers know before the protagonists how much they actually have in common. The merciless predator brings out the good and fear in the targeted prey as fans of historical novels anticipate High Noon in 1886 England.

Little Pretty Things
Lori Rader-Day
Seventh Street Books
c/o Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781633880047, $15.95,

In Indiana, Juliet Townsend works as a maid at the Mid-Night Inn; a motel one notch above z dive though spiraling towards the lowest classification as only Bargains and Desperate come to this dump. In her late twenties Juliet is a mirror of her work place going nowhere.

To add insult, her high school friend, Maddy Bell checks in at the Mid-Night. Juliet wanted one win against Maddy at track, but her rival kicked her butt every time they raced against each other a decade ago. With the ring, the clothing and the demeanor, Maddy looks like she made the big time while since her dad died Juliet is stuck in loser status. The next day Maddy hangs from the balcony. The police suspect Juliet killed Maddy. Realizing she never even pondered why affluent Maddy stopped here as she is neither a Bargain nor a Desperate, Juliet looks back to their days together as teens and questioning others who knew Maddy in high school in order to understand why and identify the perpetrator.

The soft-boiled captivating whodunit entertains readers especially with a stunning climatic spin. Juliet's reflections of her life's pivotal failures bring freshness to this suspenseful mystery as she ponders what if.

The Chart Of Tomorrows
Chris Willrich
c/o Prometheus Books
59 John Glenn Drive, Amherst, NY 14228-2197
9781633880580, $18.00,

To protect their infant Innocence, Persimmon Gaunt the poet and Image Bone the thief conceal their baby within the Scroll of Years. Now a confused bitter teen who no longer remains hidden, Innocence resides in the Bladed Isles where his incredible magical abilities lead a horde of evil or foolish power-seekers craving manipulating and controlling the youngster.

Bone and Gaunt search for their offspring who loathes them for choosing his alleged destiny over him. At the same time, Snow Pine pursues his missing daughter Joy. The three parents fear for their respective child as the prophecy proclaims these former friends in "exile" Innocence and Joy will fight one another to the death. To save both teens and many more, Bone and Gaunt deploy the dangerous Chart of Tomorrows traveling in time to change the inevitable.

Filled with daring dangerous deeds, the exciting third Gaunt and Bone epic fantasy (see The Scroll of Years and The Silk Map) is a magnificent magical family drama that grips the audience throughout the tremendous trilogy. The three-dimensional cast (including the villains) makes the tale seem real; as Gaunt and Bone learn the hard way where good intentions lead. Chris Willrich's latest saga will be on most subgenre readers' short list as fantasy of the year.

A Chorus of Innocents: A Sir Robert Carey Mystery
P.F. Chisholm
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464204623, $26.95,

In the fall of 1592, Sir Robert Carey and his dedicated aide Land Sergeant Henry Dodd still recover from their ordeal of less than three weeks ago (see An Air of Treason); but no time for R&R. They are in the dangerous borderlands between England and Scotland where feuds and changing allegiances are the norm.

At the same time in Wendron, two men invade a home and kill Minister James Burn before taking turns raping his eight-month pregnant wife Poppy. After they leave her hysterical, crying all the way Poppy rides forty miles to Widdrington Castle seeking help from Lady Elizabeth Widdrington. The two women travel together to Wendron where Elizabeth investigates the homicide-assault that has the border clans raging with accusations at each other with hostilities imminent.

The seventh Sir Robert Carey engrossing Elizabethan mystery (see A Famine of Horses and A Murder of Crows) is made fresh by placing Widdrington as the lead instead of the series star. Her inquiry enables the audience to understand social strata from a female perspective with the rights of women and children in the ooze below the food chain; ironically in an era ruled by a powerful queen at the top of the pyramid. Filled with action and an awesome climax, the intelligent heroine uses her brains to navigate in a male-only world.

Unleashed: A Kate Turner, D.V.M. Mystery
Eileen Brady
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464203961, $25.95,

Owing a fortune in student loans, veterinarian Dr. Kate Turner accepts a temporary position at the Oak Falls Veterinary Hospital in Upstate New York. In spite of her recent involvement in a murder case (see Muzzled), Kate loves her new job and locale.

Kate becomes upset when artist Claire Birnham, the owner of one of her patients Toto the Cairn Terrier, apparently commits suicide. The vet rejects the premise of Claire taking her own life; as she would never orphan her beloved Toto. The police soon find evidence of a homicide that leads to the arrest of Eugene Spragg, Kate's kennel worker. Rebuffing the police premise that slow-minded Eugene killed someone and ignoring the objections and warnings of police officer Luke Gianetti, Kate looks for motives in others within Claire's circle especially who gained from her death.

The second Kate Turner amateur sleuth is a thrilling whodunit occurring in a picturesque Hudson River town. The storyline combines jocularity (no reader will look at a gaggle of geese in the same way) within a murder mystery in which the heroine's retired firefighting grandfather once again adds newness with his investigative suggestions.

The Notting Hill Mystery: British Library Crime Classics
Charles Warren Adams
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464204807, $12.95,

In 1858 London, insurance investigator Ralph Henderson strongly believes Baron R murdered his wife Madame R last year; though proving the clever hypnotist killed her requires slow methodical collection of evidence to overcome the contention of a tragic accident. Her death from drinking acid in her husband's lab while she supposedly was sleep-walking fueled Henderson's suspicion of uxoricide. Henderson feels the motive is greed; as the Baron took out five-5,000 pound each life policies on his mate in different cities between late 1855 and early 1856. Thus the Baron had means, motive and opportunity.

This reprint (to include the original drawings) of one of the first detective stories is an intriguing mid Victorian as the hero struggles to prove his assertion that the husband killed his wife to collect life insurance. The storyline has the serialization problems of repetition, inconsistencies and boring filler to meet a weekly standard (still a problem in the internet age). Although an over the top of Big Ben villain, The Notting Hill Mystery is a period piece for curious historical mystery aficionados.

Hair of the Dog: A Dan Mahoney Mystery
Susan Slater
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464204203, $24.95,

Investigator Dan Mahoney pleads with his client United Life and Casualty for time off to spend with his fiancee Elaine Linden after two difficult New Mexico cases. Instead the firm sends him to Daytona Beach to look into a racetrack fire that killed one man and five greyhounds although UL&C sweetens the pot to allow him to mix business with pleasure. Dan quickly suspects arson, murder and fraud occurred when one of the deceased canines wins a race in Miami.

Meanwhile Elaine becomes a rookie private investigator. Dan's mom hires her to perform a background check into her new boyfriend before she moves to Florida with him. Expecting no major heart stoppers, Elaine is stunned when the man in question appears to have Mafia ties and runs into Sadie who survived the deadly racetrack inferno. Soon Dan's inquiry and those of Elaine and her mentor merge.

The third Dan Mahoney mystery (see Flash Flood and Rollover) contains exhilarating subplots that provide plenty of entertainment until plausibility vanishes when they converge. Still the separate investigations into the deadly fire, greyhounds, adoptions, and behind the scenes at the track bring an appealing vivacity to the storyline.

Death of an Airman: British Library Crime Classics
Christopher St. John Sprigg
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464204821, $12.95,

Visiting England, Australian Bishop of Cootamundra Doctor Edwin Marriott arrives at the Baston Aero Club seeking flying lessons so that when he returns home he can efficiently meet his practitioners spread over a large diocese that takes weeks to traverse with ground transportation. The cheeky manager Sarah "Sally" Sackbut signs him up before introducing the Bishop to his flight instructor George Furnace.

Edwin arrives for his first lesson, but an irritated Sally tells the Bishop that George is in the air flying solo in spite of knowing of the appointment. Suddenly the plane crashes killing George. The official inquiry determines the plane was in excellent shape and the deceased was a great pilot. Thus the conclusion for the death is undecided though suicide seems most likely even though those who knew him insist otherwise. Bishop Marriott helps Scotland Yard Inspector Bray investigate the Death of an Airman.

This is an entertaining late 1930s twisting mystery at a time when tensions on the continent are heating up. The key support cast is underdeveloped but their amusing sauciness somewhat makes up for their two-dimensional characterizations. The wonderful teaming of the Australian Bishop and the British police inspector make for an engaging investigation.

Isolation: A Faye Longchamp Mystery
Mary Anna Evans
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
9781464204043, $26.95,

On Joyeuse Island, Florida Joe Wolf Mantooth worries about the behavior of his archeologist wife, Faye Longchamp-Mantooth who seems very distracted grieving over what she recently lost. Her only focus is digging holes on their property as she neglects everything important like her health and their business; and though he urgently tries to believe otherwise their children (two years old Michael and seventeen years old Amande) and him. He knows their perceptive teen away at camp will soon realize something is not right with mom.

Joe's former convict father Sly arrives at his son's Gulf Coast home. Soon after that Micco County Sheriff and environmental inspector Gerry Steinberg arrives with a team looking into a poisonous leak that poses a health threat. Genealogist Delia Scarsdale, accompanied by Oscar Croft, come to the Mantooth home seeking information on the latter's great-great-grandfather Union soldier Elias Croft and Faye's great-great-grandmother Cally Stanton who allegedly held him prisoner. Meanwhile the murder of bar and grill owner Liz Colton and assaults on other women frighten the residents.

The fantastic ninth Faye Longchamp mystery (see Rituals, Strangers and Plunder) captures series fans throughout; starting with Joe's opening lament. The environmental and murder subplots are top rate, but it is the 1935 Federal Writers' Project to record oral history (in this case a fictional account of the legend of Cally Stanton) that steals the show.

Embracing the Seasons: Memories of a Country Garden
Gunilla Norris
P.O. Box 601, Katonah, NY 10536
9781629190051, $14.95,

At Gunilla Norris' farmhouse, frogs announce in song the arrival of spring. Song birds join nature's choir celebrating the rebirthing of life with Joy to the World (Three Dog Night). Moving forward through the months, the peonies need stakes to support them as they show that spring has given way to summer. Displaying the warmth of this season vines grow, cicadas click and black snakes crawl until the months culminate in a harvest. Fall takes center stage with colorful leaves depicting this quarter that climaxes with Thanksgiving. Finally dark winter brings cold and stormy weather yet also the beauty of the sculptured naked ash trees. Late in the season the thaw begins and wildflowers start to bloom reminding readers that the frogs and birds will sing their song of spring.

Gunilla Norris celebrates life through the cycle of the seasons in this poetic memoir; as the author offers an uplifting look at the joys she found in nature's constant changes at a country garden. Though similar in philosophy and method to Ms. Norris' A Mystic Garden, fans of lyrical meditations will appreciate reflections on Embracing the Seasons and do likewise with our personal fond contemplations (like skiing and sleighing down the hills of the Bronx in the 1960s winters).

Rambles into Sacred Realms: Journeys in Pen & Paint
Krish V. Krishnan
Shanti Arts LLC
193 Hillside Road Brunswick Maine 04011
9781941830925, $48.00,

Rambles into Sacred Realms is a captivating inspirational memoir; as Krish V. Krishnan tells his spiritual global odyssey in "Pen & Paint". Containing unique visions of twelve locales on four continents, Mr. Krishnan "rambles" in paint and sketch, accompanied by explicatory articles. The author-artist captures what he believes is the essence of "Sacred Realms" he visited in Central America, Thailand, India and Egypt, etc. Though the essays enhance the art work, it is the visual "picture is worth a thousand words" that grips the audience who will relish stops in Jordan's Red Desert and Hawaii volcanoes among others on Mr. Krishnan's refreshing world tour. Reader friendly (I enjoyed a chapter a week); perhaps the best examples are the sites familiar to most of us: sketches of Stonehenge with its "Hungry Blackbird" dining nearby and the Temple Mount behind the Eastern Wall in Jerusalem.

Miss Match
Laurelin McGee
St. Martin's Paperbacks
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9781250059185, $7.99,

Fired and unable to obtain a position in her field due to her last employee's horrific blackballing "reference", out of work marketing analyst Andrea Dawson chose between paying the Internet bill and a new suit needed for job interviews. Her baby sister Lacey insists Andy answers a personal ad in the newspaper placed by a man seeking a wife. Though she believes her potential client seeks a pimp, Andy applies and to her surprise businessman Blake Donovan hires her to find him a spouse who meets his required, stringent and specific criteria.

Andy's first reaction to Blake is that he is a heartless Mr. Robot (not the TV series) and his first impression of her is that she is a free spirit lunatic. As she finds him perfect female after female, he keeps rejecting them. Neither wants to face the truth; that the woman he desires as his wife is his matchmaker and the woman he wants as his wife is his matchmaker.

The key to this entertaining screwball comedic romance is Blake who over the course of the plot goes from a person who seemingly never used his heart to a likable Pinball Wizard (The Who). On the other hand irresponsible Andy is a fun protagonist in a sort of Holly Golightly (Truman Capote's Moon River) way. Readers will enjoy this lighthearted farce as the matchmaker makes him a match.

Waiting For The Cool Kind Of Crazy
M.D. Moore
Black Rose Writing
PO Box 1540, Castroville, TX 78009
9781612964706, $17.95,

The police tazes Harmon Burke; who thinks how pathetic that his last meal for defending his bipolar paranoid schizophrenic mother Cece before lockup is peanut butter. Still he faces Washington State three-strikes you're out law for battering the next door neighbors while Cece will return to Rainier Psychiatric Treatment Center. Harmon explains to the cops that the neighbors used a bat while fighting with his mom. Eddy the Port Defiance officer owes fortyish Harmon a favor from years ago. He persuades the other party to drop their complaint; Eddy frees Harmon with a warning: no more get out of jail cards.

At his antiques restorer shop, Harmon waits for a potential renter of his vacant next door property when a fire inspector arrives. Recognizing Reich as nasty classmate Shorty; Harmon quickly realizes he has not changed in stature or personality. Shorty finds violations and includes a fine that will either close the shop or delay Harmon's needed cancer treatment until it is too late. He admonishes Harmon do right by Frank. When the potential lessee arrives; thinking anyone but her Harmon knows why Frank sent his bulldog.

This is an intriguing drama that looks closely at a long time loser trying to do the "right thing". Bewildered Harmon is unsure what he can do for his mom except chasing KGB agents; and aware that helping his new renter angers his influential enemy who will destroy him and his family. The perceptive look at the impact of mental illness on those closest to the person is astonishingly profound though the key support cast (except Cece) still feels underdeveloped. This is a fabulous character study of a drowning man.

Elisha Rex
E.C. Ambrose
Daw Books, Inc.
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756409272, $7.99,

In fourteenth century England, Elisha Barber had been a surgeon who cut hair and treated the wounds of the impoverished. However, the deaths of his brother and his sibling's family led to his pleading guilty to a charge of fratricide and eventually to Brigit the herbalist. She persuaded Elisha that he is an untrained magus who she began mentoring. He eventually killed King Hugh followed by other royal intrigue involving King Alaric and defeating Morag. Abetted by Alaric's recently crowned brother King Thomas, Elisha fakes his death and flees to the Isle of Wight where the watery circumference protects him from enemy mages who want him dead. Only Mordecai knows of his self-exile.

Lord Robert arrives and is shocked to find the late martyred Elisha alive. He explains to Elisha that King Thomas and Queen Rosalynn vanished. Knowing he must return to London to insure the safe return of the good rulers, Elisha fears the necromantic cabal who want to exploit his skills especially his link to Death. Nevertheless, what frightens him much more is he barely defeated Morag; so believes in his heart he has no chance against this evil's Master and Chaos (and the French) who might reign supreme.

The third Dark Apostle medieval fantasy (see Elisha Magus and Elisha Barber) is an electrifying tale in which the ethical hero prefers to remain in hiding, but believes he must save the king and his country even at the cost of his life. Once again E.C. Ambrose uses fourteenth century England and the French-Papal alliance as a dark backdrop to a taut captivating historical fantasy.

A Murder Of Mages
Marshall Ryan Maresca
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756410278, $7.99

Injured on the job, Maradaine Constabulary at Inemar Inspector First Class Loren Rainey lies near death. Needing to feed and shelter their two children, his wife Satrine arrives at the Inemar Constabulary with forged references to enhance her credentials as a former street rat and ex spy to Captain Cinellan. Reluctantly he introduces her to her partner, Third Class Inspector Minox Welling on a one week trial basis.

No one voluntarily teams with Welling the "Jinx" as horrid occurrences happen to anyone partnering with this Uncircled mage cop, but Satrine has no choice. They investigate the shocking homicide of a Circled mage whose heart was removed and extremities nailed into the ground by spikes containing magic in the neighborhood where Satrine was once a rat. Meanwhile the Circles refuse to cooperate as the mages insist they police their own. A second corpse as hideously murdered as the first is found, but the Circles remain adamantly silent and civilians rejoice with the deaths of each mage even as an internal war of magic threatens to ignite.

The fabulous first Maradaine Constabulary police procedural fantasy occurs in the same realm as the Thorn of Dentonhill. The excellent cast makes for a wonderful whodunit; as Satrine faces sexism for being the first female inspector; while Minox deals with mage-ism prejudice of being the first Uncircled inspector. The people residing in the seedy Maradaine neighborhoods and the Circles reject helping law enforcement as both diverse groups share in common (an extremely rare event) a hatred and distrust of police. With a nod to M.R. Sellars' exciting Rowan Gant paranormal mysteries (see Harm None), Marshall Ryan Maresca authors an exceptional serial killer case.

E.C. Blake
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756409395, $19.95

With her father being the Autarch Master Maskmaker in Aygrima, Mara Holdfast's future seemed predestined as his apprentice. However, at her rite of passage ceremony, the mask her father made for her broke apart marking her as a traitor. Stunned and despondent, Mara is banished from her upper class existence to a deadly short life at a mining camp. Believing Mara is the key to their revolt, the Unmasked rebels rescue her so that she can create masks for them. Though like her father Mara can see and use all the colors, her efforts crumble (see Shadows and Masks); unlike her despotic sire, she fears draining the life forces of others needed to compete her magic.

Distrusting her father to instruct her, a wary Mara turns to the only other known person with their skill level, Lady of Pain and Fire to teach her. As she learns to use her extremely rare talent in the sanctuary of the Lady of Pain and Fire, Prince Chell's army and the Unmasked plot to overthrow the deadly rule of the Autarch.

Targeting young teens and tweeners, the final Masks of Aygrima fantasy is a tremendous climax to an excellent coming of age trilogy. The keys to the anticipated confrontation are the heroine and her teammates and allies suffer setbacks that amplify their already deep fears of failure and death; and doubts about the road taken and more crippling thoughts of the "Road Not Taken" (Robert Frost).

Silent Creed
Alex Kava
G.P. Putnam's Sons
c/o Penguin Group USA
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399170775, $26.95,

In Haywood County, North Carolina, heavy rain leads to a deadly landslide. The precipitation continues hampering efforts to rescue trapped survivors. Lieutenant Colonel Peter Logan contacts K-9 CrimeScents Hannah Washington; specifically requesting her partner rescue dog trainer Ryder Creed to search for forty-five missing and most likely dead people trapped in the avalanche. Logan sends a jet to bring Ryder and his dogs like America's favorite canine Grace to the disaster. Ryder loathes Logan, who was his superior officer in Afghanistan, but besides the business needing the commission there might be people still alive and in need of rescue rather than recovery once the inundation stops.

At the same time Ryder flies to North Carolina, FBI Agent Maggie O'Dell comes to the scene as Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency scientists are among the missing. Having recently worked together (see Breaking Creed) Creed and O'Dell team up when they realize Mother Nature did not kill a recovered corpse; a human committed the homicide.

The second Ryder Creed suspense is a non-stop exhilarating thriller that grips the audience from the moment the protagonist arrives at the deadly avalanche site (after a leisurely paced opening) and never slows down. Filled with twists and two types of mud (the other being flung by Congress) Alex Kava authors a winning drama starring two human heroes, a sneaky vile villain (mindful of X Files' Cancer Man) and show-stealing K9s.

Lone Rider
B.J. Daniels
Harlequin HQN
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373788415, $7.99,

In Big Timber, Montana, worried Emily Calder tells her brother Jace that her boss at the Sarah Hamilton Foundation Bo Hamilton failed to return from a night of camping. Emily says depressed Bo arranged for auditors to look into embezzlement of foundation funds. They were to interview her; but she failed to make the meeting.

Jace prefers to stay far away from the woman who rejected his proposal, but fears something happened to Bo. Though in the minority, he strongly believes she did not take the money nor would deliberately miss the appointment with the auditors especially since she found the discrepancies. In the nearby mountains, fearful Jace learns why Bo missed her session with the auditors she contacted.

The second Montana Hamiltons romantic suspense (see Wild Horses) is an exciting rustic thriller. The lead couple and the villain make for an interesting potentially deadly triangle in which the life-threatening danger rightfully supersedes the romance. Although there are too many subplots started for future entries (in fairness there are six Hamilton siblings and their mom back from the grave after a two plus decade vanishing needing a scorecard), Lone Rider is a wonderful second chance, if they survive, contemporary.

Goddess of Fate
Alexandra Sokoloff
Harlequin Nocturne
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373009480, $5.75

SFPD Detective Luke Mars sleepily wonders why three beautiful women with different hair color are in his bedroom debating what his fate is. The dark and blonde agree on a warrior for Odin's army; but red wants more for him even as he feels a rush of desire towards her. Then the phone wakes him to a dark empty room; the speaker informs him the shipment is going down at Pier 94.
As he drives and thinks of red, he tries to contact Lieutenant Duncan and Pepper but fails. At the pier, he finds armed men about to kill a homeless man who had the misfortune of sleeping there. His intervention gets him shot. Red aka Aurora tries to save the life of a person she has cherished for years. They have 24 hours to solve his homicide and defy his soldierly Fate via the escape of love.

Placing Scandinavian mythology in a 24 (Bauer -like) modern day San Francisco setting, Alexandra Sokoloff authors a fabulous romantic urban fantasy. The lead couple is a delight especially his struggles with his brain's logic vs. his heart's passion, and her heart's desire battling with her brain's dutiful diligence; while her fate sisters add depth to the magical mythos.

Sex, Lies and Designer Shoes
Kimberly Van Meter
Harlequin Blaze
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373798612, $5.50

Billionaire Enzo Abelli begs personal protection specialist Rian Dalton to keep his twenty-something daughter safe from those threatening to harm her if he fails to acquiesce to their demands. Rian says no as he insists protecting CoCo is impossible since she prefers the paparazzi Los Angeles night life. Abelli insists on the best for his beloved wild child. Reluctantly Rian accepts Abelli as a client.

CoCo loathes having a bodyguard; especially a disrespectful hunk. Conversely, making the best of a situation she hates CoCo flirts outrageously with antagonistic Rian. Though he keeps reminding himself to stay professional, Rian cannot resist her lure. They share an incredible evening that astonishes both of them. When the threat becomes real as a killer tries to assassinate CoCo, Rian takes it personally and risks his life to protect the spoiled heiress he loves.

The second Dalton personal protection romance (see The Hottest Ticket In Town for Rian's brother Kane's drama) is a heated enemy combatants' contemporary. The lead couple's early, endless bickering exasperates the audience; but once the viable third party "matchmaking" menace arrives, the storyline turns into a delightful tale.

Kansas City Secrets
Julie Miller
Harlequin Intrigue
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373698493, $5.50

Six years ago someone murdered Richard Bratcher. KCPD focused on the victim's fiancee Rosemary March, who offered no alibi. However, the police failed to prove she killed her abusive fiance although their suspicion remains strong that she got away with murder, which turned her into a detested pariah.

Adding to Rosie's consternation of being the evil outsider is her brother Stephen resides behind bars for murdering a reporter; which he claims to his sister he did to keep her safe. Investigating the Bratcher homicide, KCPD Cold Case Squad Detective Max Krolikowski questions Rosie, but her previous experience with the cops make her uncooperative. When someone sends Rosie threatening notes, she turns to hard boiled Max who wants to believe the woman who got under his skin is a victim not a killer.

The second Precinct: Cold Case (see Kansas City Cover-Up) is a thrilling romantic police procedural starring a tough gruff former Army sergeant and a woman who either got away with murder or is the fall-gal of a clever predator. Although her turning to him seems unlikely, a great final twist climaxes a pleasing fast-paced storyline that focuses more on the case than the attraction. Subgenre fans will appreciate this intrigue and also want to read Julie Miller's The Precinct series (see Crossfire Christmas).

A Cowboy Returns
Kelli Ireland
Harlequin Blaze
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373798629, $5.50

Failing to attend his father's funeral, at the request of his brother Tyson claiming issues in settling the estate, Austin lawyer Eli Covington returns to Tucumcari, New Mexico for the first time in almost a decade and a half. The tiny plane, cattle on the dirt runway, and poor cell service reminds him he does not belong on a ranch because in his mind beef is something you eat not raise a herd.

Making matters worse is the first person he sees is bitter (at him) veterinarian Reagan Armstrong, the woman he left behind when he became "Esquire". Though they are unable to resist a passionate kiss, she reminds him his younger siblings Cade and Tyson need him; besides which to his chagrin her name is Dr. Reagan Matthews. When he runs into Cade, he finds his middle brother even angrier than Reagan, demonstrating his ire with a fist. Though he wants to leave immediately, Eli tries to do the right thing; but fumbles his return engagement with Reagan, his brothers and the neighbors.

The first Covington brother Wild Western Heat is an engaging second and third chance at love starring a fish out of water (mindful of Andrew Bird's WWI song "How ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm after they've seen" Austin) and the vet who owns his heart. Whereas the ranch romance and family drama entertain readers, the overused theme seems too predictable.

The Cowboy's Secret Baby
Karen Rose Smith
Harlequin Special Edition
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373659043, $5.50

In Fawn Grove, California, Marissa Lopez stops at the physical therapy center to talk to her friend Sara Cramer (see Wanted: A Real Family) when she sees Ty Conroy. To most people, Ty is a former bull-rider whose career ended with an injury; but to Marissa he is the father of her baby who is unaware he has a son. Marissa bluntly asks him why he is at the center; he responds knee replacement.

At his family Cozy C Ranch, Jace's Uncle Eli tells him Marissa is a single mom raising her fourteen month old baby. Ty cringe when he realizes conception would be when they hooked up. He visits Marissa who is wearing a T-shirt saying "Jordan's Mommy". Stunned he asks why she failed to inform him; she responds rodeo cowboys cannot be fathers and besides like her dad would resent being forced to marry due to a pregnancy. She further explains she and Jordan have made it due to the Mommy Club (see A Match Made By Baby). Finally he insists, as Jordan's father, spending time with his no longer secret son. As Jordan's parents work on the details, their attraction remains palatable. Soon both conceal from the other they want to become a family of three and counting.

The third Mommy Club family drama displays Karen Rose Smith's immense talent; as the author makes very fresh an overused technique due to a strong lead trio especially the mommy logic, his family particularly doubting Eli, and the club including stars of previous tales. Character-driven, love turns The Cowboy's Secret Baby into no secret anymore as Ty wants to shout to everyone that he is Jordan's daddy.

A Rancher of Her Own
Barbara White Daille
Harlequin American
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373755776, $5.50

International photographer Jane Garland returns home to the family ranch in Cowboy Creek, New Mexico to attend a wedding (see The Cowboy's Little Surprise). Having successfully brought together the bride and groom, Jane's Grandpa Jed decides she is his next matchmaking project. Jed knows the odds are stacked against his going two for two especially when he selects his ranch manager single dad Pete Brannigan as Jane's future husband.

Although attracted to Jane, Pete rejects his heart's desire in order to protect his young children (Rachel and Eric) from being hurt by another career woman who he assumes behaves the same as their career before family mother. Bucking the seemingly minimal probability of success, Jed orchestrates the match between two obstinate people who ignore their love for one another as each accepts the children come before their respective desire.

The second Hitching Post Hotel contemporary is an enjoyable ranch romance starring leads who expect their shaky relationship to fail before it can truly begin; as love is not enough. Grandpa Jed and his young posse bring enchantment to the storyline; as he rejects the Pygmalion Effect proving he is more stubborn than the intended match.

The Millionaire's True Worth
Rebecca Winters
Harlequin Romance
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373743452, $5.99

Chloe begs her friend Raina to be her maid of honor at her Greek wedding, but the Maywood billionaire heiress declines because she fears the paparazzi will ruin her BFF's special day; as she and her family are constant targets. Raina insists she will attend and even stay at Chloe's home when the latter is on her honeymoon.

At the wedding, Raina and millionaire best man Akis Giannopoulos meet and are attracted to each other. He conceals his fortune from the Californian as he distrusts women who he believes covets his fortune. As they forge a relationship, Raina learns the truth about the man she loves before he confesses; she wonders what else the Greek who owns her heart hides from her. Still she is ready to forgive if he gives them a real chance to make it together.

Readers who ignore the Europe financial crisis will appreciate this entertaining contemporary in spite of stubborn Akis causing heartache for the protagonists. Rebecca Winters authors a wonderful twisting romance as love may not be enough for this affluent couple.

How To Seduce a Cavanaugh
Marie Ferrarella
Harlequin Romantic Suspense
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373279258, $5.50

The recurring nightmare and the scar on his chest remind Kane Durant of his childhood trauma when his abusive dad shot and killed his mom and severely wounded him. Thus the Aurora PD detective takes life extremely seriously at all times and prefers to live and work alone. Upbeat Detective Kelly Cavanaugh sees joy in life though she's hard-pressed to tease laconic Kane to say more than three words.

Well aware they are total opposites; Chief of Detectives Brian Cavanaugh assigns his Grand-niece Kelly, whose partner just retired, as Kane's seventh in a record setting short span over the loner's objection. Robbery Captain Collins assigns the new teammates to investigate a series of home invasions. As the misanthrope and Pollyanna work together, she empathizes when she learns the truth re his tragedy; but neither is ready for an attraction between them.

The latest Cavanaugh Justice (see Cavanaugh Fortune) is a brisk, at times amusing, entry due to the fresh lead male and the changing attitude by his partner towards him after she learns what happened to him. The case takes a back seat to the relationship metamorphous as the truth sets both free to fall in love.

A Royal Amnesia Scandal
Jules Bennett
Harlequin Desire
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
97800373734016, $5.25

As he counted down the days until he turned thirty-five, Ilha Beleza Prince Lucas Silva needed to marry to secure his place as heir to the throne. He proposed to his girlfriend Alana who insisted she carried his baby. However when he learned she lied, he ended their engagement and fled to a private island off the Portugal coast with only his personal assistant Kate Barton with him.

Although attracted to each other even before he dated the debutante who betrayed him, Luc adheres to the regal policy of hands off the staff; while Kate accepts the ethical tenet in spite of being in unrequited love with her employer. When he suffers a head trauma that causes amnesia, Luc assumes Kate is his fiancee. Instead of correcting the royal heir, Kate heeds the doctor's admonition to pretend to be his future bride. However, as Luc falls in love with Kate, she fears his reaction towards her and even her parents when his memories return.

Jules Bennett's second royal romance (see What the Prince Wants) is an appealing contemporary starring a dedicated woman in love with her "never after" Prince Charming. Although amnesia is used too frequently, readers will relish this pleasant tale.

His Rebel Heart
Amber Leigh Williams
Harlequin SuperRomance
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373609178, $6.75

After being away for over seven years, James Bracken returns home to Fairhope, Alabama, a town in which he vowed never to come back. His neighbor florist Adrian Carlton is irate and afraid of James being next door. When he left town, James abandoned her and their unborn child. When James meets Adrian's child Kyle, he knows by the age and especially the blue eyes that he is the father and demands time with his son. Instead she tells him to stay away from her and her son as he has no rights.

Filled with regret for what he did to Adrian and Kyle, and the lost opportunity to share a dream with his late dad, James opens up Bracken Mechanics. When he learns that Adrian married abusive Radley, James struggles with not battering the SOB. As James and Adrian realize they remain in love, Kyle comes first; but Radley has other plans for his ex.

Though the theme is not new and Radley the psychopath has no redeeming quality whatsoever, His Rebel Heart is an enjoyable second chance at family drama. Readers will root for the mama bear protecting her cub at risk to herself and the remorseful rebel with a cause to come together.

The Hardest Fight
Amy Vastine
Harlequin Heartwarming
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373367313, $6.50

Two months ago, Chicago cut out funding the Safe Haven women's shelter. This makes it extremely difficult to maintain the service and pay the mortgages on the facility in Logan Square and the office in Lincoln Park. The City Board wants to convert the shelter into luxurious condos.

Prime Developer led by affluent Ms. Clayton sends a retinue to negotiate a deal. Their lawyer is Dylan Hunt; while Open Arms Advocacy Center attorney Lucy Everhart represents Safe Haven. They were an entry at law school as a couple. A healthy competiveness and idealistic advocacy brought them together. However, five years ago Dylan ended his relationship with his Lulu and obviously turned traitor to their cause. Each blames the other for breaking their respective heart, but deep down both craves a second chance that ironically both struggles to conceal.

This is an appealing second chance contemporary starring two fascinating protagonists although uncompromising Lucy foolishly can be a bull in a china shop when finessing the more powerful enemy is needed. The romance of the oldest Everhart "Chicago Sisters" (see The Best-Laid Plans and The Better Man) to the man who left her two years after they graduated law school entertains the Heartwarming audience.

Prisoners Of Tomorrow
James P. Hogan
Baen Books
PO Box 1188, Wake Forest NC 27588
9781476780658, $14.00

"Endgame Enigma." Russia proudly constructs Valentina Tereshkova, an orbiting city space station. However, America remains suspicious of their former Cold War enemy especially when information from reliable sources claims this is a nuclear weapon launch pad. While the world marvel at Russia's success, agent Lew McCain and scientist Dr. Paula Bryce arrive at the Valentina Tereshkova to confirm the claims of Russian duplicity. They are locked in an inescapable prison even as the countdown to a North American nuclear winter begins.

"Voyage from Yesteryear." The colony on Chiron in the Alpha Centauri sector became isolated from the mother planet when WWIII devastated the Earth. Decades later the Earth's three superpowers engage in a space race to renew contact with the descendants of the original Chiron colonists. The Americans arrive first with a dictatorial dogma to impose their belief system on the people of Chiron, who adheres strongly in the belief that everyone has the right to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

These reprints of two 1980s science fictions showcase James P. Hogan's ability to tell enjoyable yet thought-provoking thrillers. Though the casts are one-dimensional stereotypes; Endgame Enigma provides an intriguing look at the Cuban Missile Crisis in planetary orbit and the Prometheus Award winning Voyage from Yesteryear timely focuses on the seemingly human need to impose one's deepest personal beliefs on unwilling others.

The Secret Sister
Brenda Novak
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778317807, $14.95,

Paralleling her ugly divorce, Maisey Lazarow's brother Keith attempted suicide. Thus believing her sibling needs her (and deep down in her soul, she knows she needs him too), Maisey returns home to a place she loathes, Fairham, South Carolina. Her mother, self-anointed city Queen Josephine, fails to meet and greet her; which Maisey is happy with after a decade old riff.

Maisey avoids her 'royal" mom by renting a different home rather than moving back into the family place. Next door is Rafe Romero, who she fell in love with as a teen and still finds him extremely attractive. When Maisey finds old photos of a familiar looking girl; memories begin to surface. Though she adheres to the belief her only sibling is Keith, Maisey and her brother have vague memories of a forgotten sister.

The Secret Sister is a suspenseful family drama starring a fully-developed cast. The well-written romantic subplot between Maisey and Rafe (and his matchmaking preadolescent daughter) intrudes on the mesmerizing mystery; as the search for the missing Secret Sister grips the audience from the first revelation to the climatic resolution.

Flame Tree Road
Shona Patel
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778316657, $14.95

In 1870s East Bengal, India young Biren Roy grieves the death of his father. However, even more shocking to Biren is to observe the pariah treatment by previously loving family towards his mom for the crime of widowhood. He vows to change this insane outcast custom.

Biren goes to England to study law and while there joins the women's suffrage movement. Eventually he returns to India with a goal to fight for women's rights starting with education. Though he feels he climbs Everest in winter and several times is ready to give up on what seems a helpless cause, his beloved Maya keeps him fighting for what each knows is right.

Occurring decades before his descendant's 1940s Teatime for the Firefly drama, idealistic Biren's battle to change the Caste System turns this into an excellent Victorian. His efforts come at a high cost to him and Maya; as community and family ostracize them; but with his beloved's encouraging him, Biren continues "To dream the impossible dream; ... To right the unrightable wrong" (Man of La Mancha - "The Impossible Dream (The Quest)".

A New Hope
Robyn Carr
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778317876, $7.99

Following the SIDS death of her baby Josh and the subsequent collapse of her marriage, grieving Ginger Dysart heeds her father's admonition to move to Thunder Point, Oregon. There her second cousin Ray Anne gives Ginger a room and obtains for her a job at Grace's Florist.

At a Basque wedding between Scott Grant and Peyton Lacoumette, the intoxicated brother of the bride Matt hits on Ginger even after she says she wants to be left alone. When he grabs her boob, she punches the drunken professor. After he sobers up, appalled Matt Lacoumette apologizes to Ginger for his ghastly behavior. As they become friends; he wants more from their relationship, while she still mourns her loss and fears he still desires his former spouse.

The eighth Thunder Point Oregonian romance (see One Wish, The Homecoming and The Promise) focuses on two wounded warriors whose respective pasts hamper their future. Though Matt's marriage breakup details feel forced into the plot, series fans will relish this terrific entry; character-driven by the leads and a deep secondary bench.

The Silenced
Heather Graham
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778317999, $7.99

Lara Mayhew calls her BFF newbie FBI Agent Meg Murray at 2:30 AM to tell her not to worry about her; as she is leaving DC to return home to Richmond. Ignoring Lara's voice mail; Meg worries about her friend for abruptly leaving town in the middle of the night but is also compounding her concern for Lara is her failure to pick up her cell. Meg fears for Lara as her buddy seems to have vanished.

Using his communicating with the dead skill, experienced Krewe of Hunter Agent Matt Bosworth investigates the serial mutilation of women. His inquiry into stopping a deranged killer entangles him with rookie Krewe Agent Murray's search for Lara. They team up unaware that the psychopath targets Meg next.

The latest Krewe of Hunters urban fantasy police procedural (see The Betrayed, The Cursed and The Hexed) is an engaging entry starring two interesting Feds whose respective paranormal abilities seem genuine (wonder about the skills of any offspring). The deranged serial killer seems more like a weak caricature, but the cats and mouse (and dog) hunt makes for a solid Krewe thriller.

The King of Swords
Michael Moorcock
Titan Books
144 Southwark Street, London SE1 OUP, UK
9781783291694, $9.95,

War weary and still with no respite to grieve the deaths of his family and his people from the Mabden massacre and too aware of the loss of fifteen planes to Chaos, Vadhagh Prince Corum knows it is not over. Instead the Eternal Champion realizes the victories by him and his allies on the side of Law against The Queen of the Swords and The Knight of the Swords are preliminaries before the main event. He, his wife Rhalina and their companion Jhary the Conel must confront the enemy leader King of the Swords Mabelode the Faceless on their deadly adversary's turf.

Instead of a direct assault, Mabelode uses subterfuge to defeat his foe. His supporters release a sorcery-created airborne toxin into the Eternal Champion's encampment. This leads to mistrust and rage as friends fight to the death. Desperate Corum accompanied by Rhalina and Jhary enter the conquered planes to confront and kill Mabelode; but the Eternal Champion quickly concludes they cannot succeed without help. Corum recruits other Eternal Champions to join him on a dangerous Hail Mary to save the remaining planes from Chaos and its invincible King of Swords.

The reprint of the third Corum Swords and sorcery fantasy is a terrific climax to an enjoyable trilogy as this Eternal Champion must control his need for vengeance in order to vanquish an unbeatable opponent who unlike his defeated comrades uses cunning rather than direct attacks. Extremely fast-paced from start to finish, this reprint of a British Fantasy Awards for best novel is a fabulous finish.

The Empress Game
Rhonda Mason
Titan Books
144 Southwark Street, London SE1 OUP, UK
9781783295241, $14.95,

The members of the Sakien Empire Ruling Council issue the galactic-wide edict to begin the tournament to fill the empty queen's seat. Power-brokers seek viable candidates that can win yet be manipulated. One group recruits Kayla "Shadow Panthe" Reinumon who earns a living fighting in gory matches on a remote orb. They appear unaware that Kayla was a princess on wyrd Ordoch until a coup killed her entire royal family except her and her brother Corinth. These wannabes also are ignorant that their chosen puppet, like many from her former home, possesses high levels of psi skills; she does not realize that her "owners" orchestrated the assassinations of her family.

Kayla and her supporters share the same output objective, but differ on the outcome as she plans to win but use it to go home. They also deploy cheating methods to insure their victory, but failed to account for their fighter's independence that has them scrambling while she never anticipated any of her employers betraying her.

The opening act of the Empress Game trilogy contains an intriguing heroine who escorts readers through corrupt and literally back-stabbing political and economic systems on various worlds. Although the prime villain seems weak once we meet him especially after a build-up and having a romance feels more a subgenre requirement, space opera fans will relish spending time in Rhonda Mason's fascinating but "wyrd" galactic vision.

The Poisoning Angel
Jean Teule; Melanie Florence, translator
Gallic Books
59 Ebury Street, London, England, SW1W ONZ
9781908313683, $15.95,

As Napoleon runs over the continent; back in Brittany Anne Jegado warns her curious seven year old daughter Helene not to touch the poisonous Thunderflower; the cause of split tongues and other similar ailments. Following that lecture, her mom begins calling her Thunderflower even as she regales her child with tales of Death's obedient servant Ankou, the remover of the dead.

Though still a little girl Helene dedicates her life to Death. She tests the use of poisoning by placing lethal belladonna berries in her sister's soup, but her first attempt fails when her mom intercedes. However, inadvertently Anne also educates her daughter on how to conceal poison in food. Over the next five decades in many different households employed as a cook, Anne leaves behind a trail of dead including her sister who failed to escape her second poisoning.

This dark biographical fiction of a real nineteenth century poisoner grips the audience with a macabre fascination for the increasing professionalism and creativeness of the lead. Filled with witty asides and insights, readers will enjoy Jean Teule's latest; as no author turns real people and historical incidents into wickedly brilliant comedic graveyard dramas better than him (see The Hurlyburly's Husband, The Suicide Shop and Eat Him if You Like).

The Summer Of Good Intentions
Wendy Francis
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781451666427, $15.00,

Summer on Cape Cod has always been a great get together for the Herrington family. However, this year is different as the patriarch Arthur and matriarch Gloria divorced after almost five decades of marriage. Tensions are tropospheric even before the three sisters, accompanied by their husbands/significant other and children, and Arthur arrive at the family cottage. At the last moment, Gloria announces she and her boyfriend will join the gathering.

The oldest offspring supermom Maggie struggles with accepting the end of her parent's marriage and fears empty nest syndrome. Maggie muses that she is not too old to raise a baby though she wonders how Mac would react.

Her younger twin Jess loves her job apparently much more than her husband Tim; as the unhappy couple only talks to each other when it involves their two kids. She owes her spouse the truth, but cannot deal with how he will react.

The youngest Virgie the reporter looks forward to the vacation easing her dangerous levels of stress. She found a man who treats her differently than the previous horde. Her exhaustion lands her into the emergency room where the examination reveals a critical finding.

Since his mate left, Arthur feels lost. He hopes his daughters and grandchildren will lift the fog that has his family fearing he suffers from senility.

Rotating perspective, The Summer Of Good Intentions is a well-written family drama starring a three-dimensional ensemble in which each Herrington faces major issues (though not developed equally). Readers will like the cast who deal poorly with their personal tsuris; but the health crises that begin to reunite the extended family make the coming together a bit too easy on everyone.

The Mountain Story
Lori Lansens
Simon & Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781476786506, $26.00,

On his eighteenth birthday while residing with his aunt in her trailer, an extremely depressed "Wolf" Truly ponders about life's unending cruelty. He thinks about his late mom who died violently when he was a child back in Michigan and his wastrel father who was never there for him. Already contemplating suicide, the severe injury suffered by his BFF Byrd has pushed Wolf over the edge. Wolf takes the tram to Angel's Peak where he plans to leap to his death.

On the tram with Wolf are the three Devine females: matriarch Nola, her daughter Bridget and her granddaughter Vonn. They plan to spread the ashes of Nola's recently deceased husband on the summit. However, they get lost on a cold November night and adding to their fears Nola breaks her leg. No longer contemplating ending it, Wolf and his stranded compatriots struggle to survive a wilderness filled with life threatening peril from the weather, the wild and Nola's injury.

With a strong cast whose desperation and trepidations grow throughout, this is an exciting thriller that grips readers with a sense of urgency compounded by horrific choices needed to be made from the moment the leads get lost on the mountain. Although the flashback technique detracts at times from the mounting suspense, Lori Lansens writes a dramatic terse winner.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Laurel's Bookshelf

Dirty Dozen: An Aston West Collection
T.M. Hunter
Crosshairs Press
9781503200821, 9.95 paperback, 178 pages,

Aston West has been my favorite sci fi hero since T.M. Hunter's first book because he's such a memorable guy. Sometimes reviewers lose track of an author and his or her favorite protagonist. That is not the case with Aston West and author Hunter. A friend sent me a copy of this latest book for my birthday. I don't always review books sent as gifts, but just had to give Aston his due in this case.

The twelve short stories in Dirty Dozen are classic Aston West, our reluctant, idealistic hero. Aston is a man of many diverse strengths and weaknesses. Each aspect of his complicated life and personality is featured here. Aston's two main weaknesses are Vladirian liquor and women. Both cloud his thinking and spark bad decisions. At such times, his steadfast computer companion, Jeanie, scrambles to save his bacon. Jeanie is the one reliable constant in his life so how could Aston survive without her?

One of Aston's strengths is self-preservation. He tries to play it safe and smart but almost always ends up doing just the opposite. Aston doesn't back down. Despite his many frailties, our hero just can't bring himself to knuckle under to anyone or anything. His stubborn idealism and fierce compassion play major parts in several of these short stories. The inhabitants of Aston's universe have the same problems we do on Earth: greedy politicians, cruel governments, and evil people. How Aston and Jeanie work together to overcome each problem is entertaining and sometimes nerve wracking.

These twelve short stories are Aston West personified. If you're already a fan of Hunter's hero, you'll love this book. If you're a sci fi fan who hasn't discovered the Aston West chronicles, I suggest you start with Dirty Dozen.

Let Go Of the Rock!: A New Look At the Dynamics Of Self-Management
Beth Wonson
Dandelion Books
1111 E. Brown Rd. Ste. 230, Mesa AZ 85203
9780986268366, $22.95, CAN $29.00, 170 pages

"Peace is not something to wage, seek or fight for. Peace already exists. Sink into it." Beth Wonson shares that philosophy with humor, compassion, common sense and empathy. After decades as a mother, writer, executive coach, teacher and business consultant, Wonson has experienced first hand the stressors that rob us of our peace. Why do humans treasure the "rocks" that drag us down? What beliefs, behaviors or outlooks keep us from moving forward? In this book, Wonson shares personal examples kindly and gently as she guides readers to a quiet place of contemplation.

How did you get locked into a past that no longer works today? Stuck in a familiar comfort zone with a mind closed to change? Do you feel victimized by toxic people and negative energies? Who is responsible for your burnout, exhaustion, failures? How can you embrace new goals and dreams by letting go of old clutter? Why can't you feel free to play, relax, daydream or be happy? The author answers these questions and more by sharing practical examples and real-world experiences.

What sets this book apart from others of the genre is Beth Wonson's personality and narrative style. She doesn't preach, doesn't approach her topics with negativity or self-importance. The information is offered as if she were a helpful, caring friend exchanging thoughts and experiences. Wonson has lived and worked in the real world and found sensible ways to function within that often chaotic framework. That's what makes Let Go Of the Rock! exceptional. Highly recommended.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Dance Science: Anatomy, Movement Analysis, Conditioning
Gayanne Grossman, author
Timothy Phelps, illustrator
Matthew Wright, photographer
Princeton Book Company Publishers
614 Route 130, Hightstown, NJ 08520
9780871273871 hc $49.95
9780871273888 pb $39.95

"Dance Science: Anatomy, Movement Analysis, Conditioning" is a brilliant, logically presented, dancer's self improvement manual, presented with an informed, specific, biomechanics/anatomy based curriculum for dance advancement and performance. For serious modern and classical dancers who are dedicated to enhancing and developing their art and physical expression through dance to a higher level, this manual is priceless and groundbreaking. Using both black and white dance position photographs and exquisitely drawn anatomical illustrations, plus graphs and halftones, "Dance Science" teaches the nuts and bolts understanding of the biomechanics and anatomy of dance. First the function of bones, collagen, cartilage, ligaments and joints are explained in seven sections on body areas including foot and ankle, knee and patella, hip and pelvis, spine, shoulder and shoulder girdle, and elbow and hand. The second part of the text introduces muscles and movement analysis, through study of muscle reflexes through micro and macroscopic anatomy. This includes areas focusing on foot and leg muscles, knee muscles, hip and trunk muscles, shoulder and scapular muscles, forearm and hand muscles, and breathing. The dance position photographs and the anatomical illustrations are particularly helpful in all these analyses of movement. But perhaps the most explicit part of the manual for a blossoming dancer is in Part Three, The Science of Exercise, Musculoskeletal Assessment, and Conditioning, which capitalize on the background provided in Part One and Part Two. For the dedicated dancer or determined advanced dance student, there is real gold to be mined in these pages, to improve such skills as range of motion, stretch;, strength, endurance, power, coordination, and many more.

A useful introductory explanation states: "Think of your body as a piano, dance science as the piano tuner. A tuned piano is not enough to make music. The basic improvement in physical skills that dance science affords will help you experience increased creative expression because your movement potential will have fewer limits (P. 247)." Part Three begins with a thorough Musculoskeletal Assessment and Conditioning and proceeds to Designing an Efficient and Effective performance Enhancement Program. again using frequent black and white photographs of dance exercise and pose positions along with clear narrative descriptions of the series of different specific exercises. A movement training progression rubric is explained to help design an effective performance enhancement program. The WHO/IFC Movement Treatment Progression moves upwards through three stages or steps: "Step 1: Correct mobility deficits. Step 2: Correct strength and endurance deficits. Step 3: Correct movement coordination deficits (p. 281)." If the program in use is not showing some positive change within 2 -6 weeks, the dancer needs to reassess or redesign the exercise program, with supervision if possible. One basic important principle for dancers in conditioning programs is the idea that if unsuccessful, the program must be reassessed, redesigned, and changed.

It is our understanding that the field of dance science is new. "Dance Science: Anatomy, Movement Analysis, Conditioning" is certainly an invaluable exploration of all that this field of study has to offer to the perfection of the artistry of dance, each dancer's lifelong challenge and performance statement. As a core curricula text for college dancers and other serious dance artists, it is unique. Many other helpful resources are cited within its pages, and it also has a series of appendices that catalogs and lists the bones and bony landmarks of the body for dancers, including leg and foot, leg and thigh, hip and pelvis, spine, shoulder and shoulder girdle, and forearm and hand. This book does not claim to be comprehensive, but instead, hopes to address the use of dance science to better prepare and condition dancers, while discovering and exploring the existing deficits in existing research and knowledge. A final comment in the Afterword is expressive: "The dance science world is developing before our eyes. Perhaps you will find a way to help effect a change through your own teaching, writing, or research (p. 307)."

Wagner, Schumann, and the Lessons of Beethoven's Ninth
Christopher Alan Reynolds, author
University of California Press
155 Grand Avenue, Suite 400, Oakland, CA 94612 - 3758
9780520285569 $65.00

"Wagner, Schumann, and the Lessons of Beethoven's Ninth" is a fascinating new examination of the many faceted impact of Beethoven's groundbreaking composition innovations in his Ninth Symphony upon two genius musical contemporaries, Richard Wagner and Robert Schumann. The complex, mixed relationship between Wagner and Schumann has been perhaps distorted by time and the sometimes inaccurate written memoirs of history, but this book explores the thesis that both Wagner and Schumann's compositional styles were influenced to change " a common direction, toward a style that was both more contrapuntal, more densely motivic, and engaged in processes of motivic/thematic transformation....." What is perhaps fresh and new about this observation is the awareness of a connection between the compositions of Wagner and the mature Schumann. Wagner was, of course, the conductor of the inaugural performance of Beethoven's Ninth, and subsequently showed and claimed much inspiration from the famous composer's tremendous legacy. In fact, Wagner frequently paid verbal and written tribute to Beethoven for his composition of the Ninth symphony, describing it as containing mysteries commanding further exploration, a holder of "the secret of all secrets." Wagner's opera "the Flying Dutchman" is generally thought to be greatly influenced by the composition of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Reynolds introduces the examination of both the music of Wagner and Schumann under the powerful influence of Beethoven's musical composition techniques and more to the point, how these two composers significantly influenced each other in this post-Ninth era. Reynolds refers to composition techniques of contrary motion and the concept of thematic dispersion, both evident in subsequent compositions of Schumann and Wagner. Another composer whose musical understanding of both Beethoven and Wagner is examined and found important is Brahms, a sensitive man whose First Symphony "demonstrates his awareness both of Beethoven's techniques and of Wagner's and Schumann's responses to them (p.15)."

Professor Reynolds illuminates his exciting thesis in seven subsequent chapters, titled: 1. Wagner's Faustian Understanding of Beethoven's Ninth, 2. The Impact of the Ninth on "The Flying Dutchman," 3. Wagner, Thematic Dispersion, and Contrary Motion, 4. Schumann, Thematic Dispersion, and Contrary Motion, 5., Late Schumann, Wagner, and Bach, 6. Brahms's triple Response to the Ninth, and 7. Wagner and Schumann. Professor Reynolds illustrates his case with frequent examples from relevant compositions, as outlined in the five Appendices, Citations of Wagner's Possible Allusions and Influences in "The Flying Dutchman," Contrary Motion Counterpoint in the First Movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, Contrary Motion Counterpoint in :The Flying Dutchman," Contrary Motion Counterpoint in the Fourth Movement of Schumann's Second Symphony, and Contrary Motion Counterpoint in the First Movement of Brahms's First Symphony.

In "Wagner, Schumann, and the Lessons of Beethoven's Ninth," the author carefully examines the interplay and relationship between Wagner and Schumann, giving credence (as did Brahms) to the possibilities that Wagner was in fact significantly influenced by his relationship with Schumann in understanding the legacy of Beethoven's Ninth, and that quite possibly, "they worked it out together (p.169)." The contributions of Reynolds' "Wagner, Schumann, and the Lessons of Beethoven's Ninth" to modern musical scholarship's understanding remain to be tabulated in totality, but the impact is clear and undeniable. It is as though a careful magnifying glass were held to past interactions between two very different composers who arrived at groundbreaking, underlying musical conclusions.

Mel Bay's Modern Guitar Method Grade 1, Expanded Edition
Mel Bay editorial/instructional staff, authors
Mel Bay Publications
PO Box 66, Pacific, MO 63069
9780786688593 $14.99

"Mel Bay's Modern Guitar Method Grade 1" is an excellent, practical spiral-bound instructional manual for beginning guitarists. Beginning with large black and white illustrations showing proper positioning to hold the guitar and pick, describing two methods of tuning the guitar, the rudiments of music, types of notes, rests, and rhythm and time signatures. The manual continues with illustrated examples of notes on the E or first string, notes on the B or second string, notes on the G or third string, notes on the D or fourth string, notes on the A or fifth string and notes on the lower E or sixth string. Exercises and examples and short tunes are included in each section by string. The manual continues with chords, chord studies, scale studies, more instructional songs in simple and advanced versions, chromatic, tempos, major and minor scale and chord studies, rhythm studies, and more. Chord and other reviews are built into the curriculum, and the book is completed with 88 pages of exciting music, amplified by online audio and video instructional offerings. "Mel Bay's Modern Guitar Method Grade 1" teaches elementary guitar for the student age 9-10 or up. Another highly recommended instructional manual is "Mel Bay's Modern Fiddling Method Grade 1 (9780786689422. $19.99)," by Mary Ann Willis, as well as "First Lessons Lap Steel Guitar (9780786687527, $9.99)," by Jay Leach.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Micah's Bookshelf

Urban Villages and Local Identities
Kurt E. Kinbacher
Texas Tech University Press
PO Box 41037, Lubbock, TX 79409-1037
9780896728936, $65.00, 304pp,

Synopsis: "Urban Villages and Local Identities: Germans from Russia, Omaha Indians, and Vietnamese in Lincoln, Nebraska" by Kurt E. Kinbacher (Assistant Professor of History at Chadron State College) examines immigration to the Great Plains by surveying the experiences of three divergent ethnic groups that settled in enclaves in Lincoln, Nebraska, beginning in 1876, 1941, and 1975, respectively. These urban villages served as safe havens that protected new arrivals from a mainstream that often eschewed unfamiliar cultural practices. Lincoln's large Volga German population was last fully discussed in 1918; Omahas are rarely studied as urban people although sixty-five percent of their population lives in cities; and the growing body of work on Vietnamese tends to be conducted by social scientists rather than historians, few of whom contrast Southeast Asian experiences with those of earlier waves of immigration. By focusing on the experiences of three populations over the course of 130 years, "Urban Villages and Local Identities" connects two distinct eras of international border crossing and broadens the field of immigration to include Native Americans. Ultimately, the work yields insights into the complexity, flexibility, and durability of cultural identities among ethnic groups and the urban mainstream in one capital city.

Critique: A seminal work of original scholarship, "Urban Villages and Local Identities: Germans from Russia, Omaha Indians, and Vietnamese in Lincoln, Nebraska" is impressively well written, exceptionally well organized, and deftly presented. This detailed study is very highly recommended for academic library American ethnic immigration reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists. It should be noted that "Urban Villages and Local Identities" is also available in a paperback edition (9780896728943, $39.95).

The Underground Reader
Jeffrey H. Jackson & Robert Francis Saxe, editors
Berghahn Books
20 Jay Street, Suite 512, Brooklyn, NY 11201
9781782387428, $110.00, 231pp,

Synopsis: Every society has rebels, outlaws, troublemakers, and deviants. "The Underground Reader: Sources in the Transatlantic Counterculture" is a collection of primary sources compiled and co-edited by Jeffrey H. Jackson (J. J. McComb Professor of History at Rhodes College) and Robert Francis Saxe (Associate Professor of History at Rhodes College) which takes the reader on a journey through the intellectual and cultural history of the "underground" in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. "The Underground Reader" demonstrates how thinkers in the US and Europe have engaged in an ongoing trans-Atlantic dialogue, inspiring one another to challenge the norms of Western society. Through ideas, artistic expression, and cultural practices, these thinkers radically defied the societies of which they were part. The readings chart the historical evolution of challenges to mainstream values (some of which have themselves eventually become mainstream) from the beginning of the nineteenth century to the present.

Critique: An impressive work of outstanding scholarship, ""The Underground Reader: Sources in the Transatlantic Counterculture" is deftly organized into six major sections: Roots of a Transatlantic Underground; Underground Haunts: Montmartre and Greenwich Village; War and new Generations; Black, Cool, and Hip; Rethinking Gender and Sexuality; Challengers to Conformity. Showcasing 35 particularly influential men and women ranging from Henry David Thoreau; Theodore Dreiser; Sylvia Beach; and Gertrude Stein; to Ralph Ellison, Jack Kerouac; Simone de Beauvoir; and Hunter S. Thompson, "The Underground Reader" is an exceptionally work of seminal scholarship and very highly recommended, especially for personal and academic library Philosophy collections.

Micah Andrew

Richard's Bookshelf

Road to Siran, Erin's Story
Behcet Kaya
Create Space
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781495484643, $ 15.99, 300 pages,

Erin's Search - Sensitive Story of Heritage, Culture, and Uncertainties of the Past

Erin Ozcomert is convinced there is something sinister about her father's apparent suicide during a mysterious visit to his to Siran in northeastern Turkey, ancestral home of the Ozcomert family. Upon her graduation from UCLA in Los Angeles his daughter Erin determines, against the families will, to make a trip to Siran in an effort to learn more about her father's life, her family roots, and Turkish culture and traditions; and to learn the secrets behind the family feuds and what had transpired to cause her father to be forced into a life of exile and guilt after his family in Turkey were killed in a hateful murder rampage.

Through a number of sub plots Kaya introduces the brutal, vengeful nature of Turkish culture as well as the incredible beauty and opulence of the architect, museums, and exhibits. Erin could not resist the exciting drama, romantic nature, and excitement of the night life in Istanbul. She was soon caught up in an addiction to its cutting edge adventure.

Kaya draws on his training, and experience as an actor, as well as his early passion for reading the works of Kurdish writers of his native country, Turkey. Hi characters are multidimensional, sensitive, naive, deceptive, vindictive, and romantic.

I appreciated the inclusion of a dictionary or glossary of Turkish terms introduced throughout the book. These terms combined with the use of Turkish dialog add a unique dimension to the authenticity of the culture, the old world charm of ancient Turkey, the opulence, grandeur, and wealth in contrast to its modern ambience.

Already and award winning author, Behcet Kaya is quickly building up a fan base of loyal readers. His works just keep getting better. I am looking forward to reading a sequel to Erin's story.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Phenomenal Marketing Systems - The 14 Fastest Ways to the Cash in Any Business
Howard Partridge
Sound Wisdom
P. O. Box 310, Shippensburg, Pa 17257
9780768407792, $14.95, 176 pages

The Cutting Edge Difference between Marketing and Phenomenal Marketing

Howard Partridge, exclusive small business coach for Zig Ziglar, Inc. working with hundreds of business owners as trainer and consultant is highly recognized, by his peers and top business leaders, as an expert in small business marketing.

In his book "Phenomenal Marketing Systems" Partridge defines marketing as "everything you do to attract prospects to your business." He provides the reader with guidelines and proven strategies for implementation of a proven marketing system that works.

Partridge titled the first chapter of the book with "The Only Three Ways to Increase Sales. This information is foundational in establishing a successful marketing system. Many of these principles will cross over into important sales strategies as well and will insure the small business owner increased sales, help them determine their perfect target market, and build an incredible reputation.

His concept of experiential marketing includes methods for building business relationships, maximizing referrals, and tracking repeat business. In his "Five-point Marketing-Message" Partridge stresses the importance of promoting your company's reputation, your personal education, your knowledge or special training, and your experience. He also advocates putting an emphasis on your systems: technical and customer service as well as your guarantee. Illustrations from highly successful companies who have applied these principles give credence to their effectiveness.

"Phenomenal Marketing Systems" is packed with surefire ways of increasing cash flow, moving from a marketing system to a phenomenal marketing plan, while maintaining your target client base, increase your sales, and generate new record profit levels.

A complimentary copy of this book was provided for review purposes. The opinions expressed are my own.

Richard R. Blake, Senior Reviewer

Shelley's Bookshelf

The Assassin
Pamela DuMond
4900 LaCross Rd., North Charleston, SC 29406
9781505847611, $12.99 Paperback, $2.99 Kindle,

Pamela DuMond is a writer hailing from Venice, California. She discovered the Erin Brockovich story and was the driving force in selling it as a movie. Pamela has published comedic mysteries, including the Cupcake series, the Annie Graceland Box Set, as well as Young Adult books, Self Help, and Romance novels. She has several books in the works. THE ASSASSIN is Book Two of her Mortal Beloved Series. Book One, The Messenger, has been optioned for TV/movies.

Madeline is a sixteen year old from Chicago, Illinois. She is also a Messenger, which means she time travels (not of her own volition) and carries messages to historical figures. Madeline lost her mother in a car accident, and she suspects her mother is also a Messenger. She met her Mortal Beloved, Samuel, during her first big travel. Samuel is a healer and thus doesn't travel, but is reincarnated in various lives. He doesn't remember Madeline. So when she discovers him in present day Chicago, he is attracted to her and breaks up with his girlfriend. But it is up to Madeline to remind him who he is. She journeys back to Medieval Portugal, hoping to reconnect with Samuel and enlighten him. She has to keep out of the clutches of The Hunter, who is out to murder her. Luckily, she has a guide to help, and she discovers she has a lot to learn about her new universe. Her newest assignment is to "find Inez and warn her that the King plans to kill her."

DuMond weaves a world that expands the idea of time travel into a higher level of consciousness and power. Her historical backgrounds, characters, and high drama are fit for movie and/or television. The reader can't help but be mesmerized by Madeline's world, history, and struggles. She is a heroine of the first magnitude. DuMond is a master at her craft, and her Mortal Beloved series is ripe for greatness.

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

Tharon Ann
Jennifer Brookins
Willow Grave Press
0692239960, $19.95, 275 pgs,

The story its self is quite amazing as well. It is one that takes you into a very colorful world, one of negative and positive energy. I liked that lesson very much. The importance of releasing positive energy, and the benefits of it, is not as well known, or taught, as it should be. This is a story that shows how terrible things that are trying to come our way can be stopped if we learn the positive, and release it against the negative.

The Magic Butterfly and The Flower
A. Curiel, author
Alicia Curiel & Daniel Arroyo, illustrators
Amazon Digital Services
BO135EPHIM, $2.99 Kindle Book, 76pgs,

This is definitely a one of a kind book that I feel would be exciting for your child and will nudge them in the right direction. This book speaks to the heart of a little one. I recommend it. Well done!

To Parts Un-know
John Miller
Taylor and Seale Publishing
$16.95, 378 pgs,

Right off let me say I liked this read, I really liked the characters, and our author did an exceptional job of Character development. Anytime you become intertwined with the characters the read is going to be a good one. We are taken into the world of a British war correspondent who goes to Singapore and from there his life takes on a whole new meaning. We meet several other interesting characters. a French spy, a English aristocrat and others. We travel with this group as they run for their lives trying to survive in a war torn world, while still experiencing the emotions of life.

I liked this read, mainly because of the Character development that attached you to them in a way that you really felt you knew them and cared what happened. The war part was good, but the interaction of the characters with one another and others made the read. I am happy to recommend it to you. It kept my attention and I look forward to the next book. Recommended.

If You Were Me And Lived in China
Carole P. Roman, author
Kelsea Wierenga, illustrator
4900 LaCross Rd.
North Charleston, SC 29406
9781511440844, $9.99, 30 pages,

As always I knew even before opening this read that it would be packed full of information about China told in a way that is both educational and entertaining and I was right. First off the illustrations are top notch bringing every word to life in the minds eye, this book will take you on a journey that you will truly enjoy going. On each page you will learn facts about China, how they live, what names they call their Mom and Dad, what their everyday life is like. It is both entertaining and educational, but don't tell the children that. This author has proven herself over and over again with her series of books. Each one is top notch and very well worth your consideration, you will find that you will also learn along with your child. Story line, excellent, Illustrations, excellent. Recommended to you, it's a winner.

Seduced: The Grooming of America's Teenagers
Opal Singleton
Xulon Press
2301 Lucien Way, Suite 415, Maitland, FL 32751
9781498431064 $14.95, 136 pgs,

You know I have heard about this type of filth going on for years, but I really never knew the whole story, to my shame. This book is one eye opener that is chuck full of information that every woman, every Mom, Grandma, just all of America should have a copy of and should read and reread it from cover to cover. It is the most terrifying, yet informative book that I have read in a very long time.

I am personally ashamed of myself for not knowing how much this is happening. Oh don't get me wrong I know it happens but never to the extent that it does, nor was I aware of the ways these Criminal Beings get their victims. I know most young girls do NOT know this either.

This book is packed with information on how these horrible people get our youth and chain them for life. Or are they even people, too evil to even be called animals these are blood suckers that take the life of those unaware, and this book will show you how they do that.

Reading it will wake you up and, It's time to wake up, spread the word, warn the youth, stick together and battle for those still under their control. This book will help you understand what is happening, as horrible as it is. Get a copy, get another one and pass it along. If it were your loved one they had in captivity what would you do? Please read this book, again, buy a copy and pass it on. Awaken the Mom's and Dad's, Grandma's and family to the danger out there and reach out to bring our love ones home. Excellent read .

Find The Cutes
Celestial Noot
97809914450, $14.99, 23pgs,

This is one colorful and fun read that is for sure. You meet the Cutes, a happy and fun family. You get to join in their life and have fun while doing it. Can you find them in the pictures, can you find objects as well? There is a challenge ahead of you. I have enjoyed this type of a challenge since I was young so this was great fun for me. I wouldn't tell you how many 'things' I could not find, but it was fun trying. I think young people have a quicker eye than us Grandma's. My Granddaughter also loved this book, kept her attention and mine. This book is happy, fun and challenging all in one. I loved it, I think you will as well. Nice job, great read, lots of fun and challenges.

The Muse's Fables: The Fondom of Ufasino Collection
Rachel Nkyete Nyambi
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781478747024, $14.95, 90pgs,

I loved this book, I found the stories to be so interesting and they held my attention through the entire read, which I read in one day. I think it is great to join humans with the animals and plants and life itself because I also think we are all connected. Each story touched on different emotions, but always had a positive finish and that was great. I read the book in one sitting and plan to re-read it again. This is a book that you will love, read over and over again and want to share with others. Yes it is that good. I'm very happy to recommend it. Excellent.

Beyond Belief
Helen Smith
Thomas & Mercer
c/o Amazon Digital Publishing
9781477849729, $14.95, 254 pages,

As we begin this read we find that a famous psychic has had a prediction that someone will drown at the Belief and Beyond conference. Let me say going there in the read was a fun experience in itself. I found it both interesting and entertaining. Our author did a good job making you feel as if you were part of the happenings there. We meet many interesting characters as we travel along in this read. Actually for a mystery some of this book made you giggle and that was nice. Will dear Devil Zenon actually die in this read or will our psychic be able o stop it. This was a mixed read of adventure and fun I enjoyed it, I think you will as well.

The characters are well developed and you are drawn into the story, liking most of them, but also seeing some of them as perhaps a little weird, but that is really what makes the read. A good mystery read, and a top notch ending.

The Amazing Adventures of Ellie The Elephant: Ellie Goes Back To School
Marcia and Ellie Fair
Pacochel Press
9780996363501, $8.99, 311pgs

This is a very well made book both in story and illustrations. Many young ones have great fear about going to school, this amazing read will gently take your child into the school day and show them how many adventures, good times, learning times, and friend making times they will have. It is very well illustrated and written at a level they will easily understand. It has a drawing in effect that will help to keep your child's attention. I liked everything about this book and I think you will as well. Very well done, recommended. Book received for a honest review.

Shirley Priscilla Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray
Robert Schnakenberg
Quirk Books
215 Church Street, Philadelphia PA 19106
9781594748011, $22.95, 272pp,

Synopsis: Bill Murray is the sort of actor who can do Hamlet and Charlie's Angels in the same year. He shuns managers and agents and once agreed to voice the part of Garfield because he mistakenly believed it was a Coen brothers film. Murray's extraordinary career is rich with fascinating anecdotes, contradictions, and mystery, from his early success on Saturday Night Live and the biggest blockbusters of the 1980s (Caddyshack, Stripes, Tootsie, Ghostbusters) to his re-invention as a hipster icon in the early 21st century (in films like Lost in Translation and Moonrise Kingdom). "The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray: A Critical Appreciation of the World's Finest Actor" is part biography, part critical appreciation, part love letter, and all fun. It chronicles every single Murray performance in loving detail, relating all the milestones, yarns, and controversy in the life of this beloved but enigmatic performer. These pages are packed with color film stills and behind-the-scenes photography.

Critique: Exceptionally well written, organized and presented, "The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray: A Critical Appreciation of the World's Finest Actor" is certain to be an enduringly popular addition to community library collections, and is a "must read" for the legions of Bill Murray fans. It should be noted for personal reading lists that "The Big Bad Book of Bill Murray" is also available in a Kindle edition ($12.99).

Hidden Strengths
Milo Sindell & Thuy Sindell
Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.
1333 Broadway, Suite 1000, Oakland CA, 94612
9781626562837, $19.95, 128pp,

Synopsis: In "Hidden Strengths: Unleashing the Crucial Leadership Skills You Already Have", Milo and Thuy Sindell argue that focusing only on your best abilities neglects a vital development opportunity. They show how to identify hidden strengths that can be quickly elevated into full strengths with attention and focus. Working mainly on your strengths can ultimately make you weaker, you need to continually add new skills, not rely on what you're already good at. And while most people assume that means they should try to turn their weaknesses into usable skills, the Sindells say that it takes too much time and effort. It's in the neglected middle skills, neither strengths nor weaknesses, that the most potent development opportunities lie. They're close enough to being strengths that putting your energy there can offer a powerful payoff. Using assessments, exercises, and case studies "Hidden Strengths" help you identify your most promising middle skills and create a plan to turn them into strengths. In today's work environment, not growing and stretching yourself translates into lack of innovation, stagnation, and obsolescence. Relying upon strengths is like relying upon training wheels, that is, at a certain point you need to take them off in order to improve and grow.

Critique: Exceptionally informed and informative, "Hidden Strengths: Unleashing the Crucial Leadership Skills You Already Have" is impressively well written, organized and presented, making it an extraordinarily 'user friendly' instructional self-help reference and guide. Very highly recommended for community and academic library Self-Help/Self-Improvement reference collections, it should be noted for personal reading lists that "Hidden Strengths" is also available in a paperback edition (9781459694606, $21.99) and in a Kindle format ($9.99).

John Taylor

Vogel's Bookshelf

It's A Man's World
Adam Parfrey, edtior
Feral House
PO Box 39910, Los Angeles, CA 90039
9781627310116, $34.95, 320pp,

Synopsis: "It's A Man's World: Men's Adventure Magazines, The Postwar Pulps" is rich collection, filled with interviews, essays, and color reproductions of testosterone-heavy thirty-five-cent magazines with names like Man's Exploits, Rage, and Escape to Adventure (to name a few), illustrates the culture created to help veterans confront the confusion of jobs, girls, and the Cold War on their return from World War II and the Korean War. Contributions from the original men's magazine talent like Bruce Jay Friedman, Mario Puzo, and Mort Kunstler bring the reader inside the offices, showing us how the writers, illustrators, editors, and publishers put together decades of what were then called "armpit slicks." Reproductions of original paintings from Norman Saunders, Kunstler, and Norm Eastman are featured within, and Bill Devine's annotated checklist of the many thousands of adventure magazines is essential for collectors of the genre. The newly expanded paperback edition includes wartime illustrations and advertisements from mass-produced magazines that preview the xenophobia and racist ideas later seen throughout men's adventure magazines of the '50s and '60s.

Critique: A unique and impressively illustrated volume, "It's A Man's World: Men's Adventure Magazines, The Postwar Pulps, Expanded Edition" is an inherently fascinating and informative compendium that through the profuse and superbly produced reproductions of pulp magazine covers gives a clear impression of what the Golden Age of pulp magazine publications offered. A pure pleasure to simply browse through, "It's A Man's World: Men's Adventure Magazines, The Postwar Pulps, Expanded Edition" is also an important and very highly recommended contribution to community and academic library 20th Century American Popular Culture reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Next-Generation DNA Sequencing Informatics
Stuart M. Brown, editor
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press
500 Sunnyside Boulevard, Woodbury NY 11797-2924
9781621821236, $61.00, 402pp,

Synopsis: Next-generation DNA sequencing (NGS) technology has revolutionized biomedical research, making genome and RNA sequencing an affordable and frequently used tool for a wide variety of research applications including variant (mutation) discovery, gene expression, transcription factor analysis, metagenomics, and epigenetics. Bioinformatics methods to support DNA sequencing have become and remain a critical bottleneck for many researchers and organizations wishing to make use of NGS technology. This new edition provides a thorough, plain-language introduction to the necessary informatics methods and tools for analyzing NGS data and provides detailed descriptions of algorithms, strengths and weaknesses of specific tools, pitfalls, and alternative methods. Four new chapters cover experimental design, sample preparation, and quality assessment of NGS data; public databases for DNA sequencing data; de novo transcript assembly; proteogenomics; and emerging sequencing technologies. The remaining chapters from the first edition have been updated with the latest information. This book also provides extensive reference to best-practice bioinformatics methods for NGS applications and tutorials for common workflows. This edition addresses the informatics needs of students, laboratory scientists, and computing specialists who wish to take advantage of the explosion of research opportunities offered by new DNA sequencing technologies.

Critique: DNA sequencing is the process of determining the precise order of nucleotides within a DNA molecule. It includes any method or technology that is used to determine the order of the four bases (adenine, guanine, cytosine, and thymine) in a strand of DNA. The advent of rapid DNA sequencing methods has greatly accelerated biological and medical research and discovery. Now in an newly published second edition, "Next-Generation DNA Sequencing Informatics" is a compilation of seventeen seminal research papers by experts in the field beginning with Stuart M. Brown's 'Introduction to DNA Sequencing', and concluding with 'Cloud-Based Next-Generation Sequencing Informatics' by the team of Konstantinos Krampis, Efstratios Efstathiadis, and Stuart M. Brown. "Next-Generation DNA Sequencing Informatics" is an essential, core addition to professional and academic library DNA Sequencing reference collections and supplemental studies reading lists.

Paul T. Vogel

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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