August 2015 Independent Press Profiles
a 21st Century Executive: Breaking Away from the Pack
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100
West Conshohocken, PA 19428-2713
9781495800825 $12.95 www.buybooksontheweb.com
Become a 21st Century Executive: Breaking Away from the Pack provides a guide directed to both new and experienced middle managers, and offers advice to help these workers survive in the modern workplace.
More than just a review of office or corporate practices (like so many titles already provide), Become a 21st Century Executive is actually a program designed to help executives assess strengths, weaknesses, and how to determine whether there's opportunity to succeed in an existing corporate structure, or whether it's time to look for a better business match.
Chapters address the specifics of managing for better effectiveness, understanding what typically goes wrong in business interactions, and how to better approach budgeting (among many other topics ranging from locating mentors to understanding the power of value propositions). The result is a game plan for achievement and advancement, recommended for managers who would move onward as well as upward.
More Dollars for Your Dog Training Business
John D. Visconti, CPDT-KA
9781617811593 $19.95 www.dogwise.com
Fetch More Dollars for Your Dog Training Business offers strategies for starting and building a dog training business; but this isn't a cookbook of building such a business as much as a guide applying business sales concepts and marketing techniques to the specific demands of dog trainers.
Where most books on dog-oriented businesses focus on setup and customer handling, Fetch focuses on opportunities for promoting an existing business.
Where others would detail dog training options, this shows how to apply sales wisdom to the larger goal of getting more business. And where other books would reveal how to develop dog training techniques, Fetch focuses on the process of transmitting the reward and value of such a business to potential customers.
Any who either contemplate setting up a dog training business or who already have one and need more sales insights to gain more customers will find Fetch a delightful consideration of the key components of effective selling as they specifically apply to this kind of pursuit.
Four Intelligences of the Business Mind
The Four Intelligences of the Business Mind: How to Rewire Your Brain and Your Business for Success at first glance looks like just another (slim) guide to building business success, similar to so many others on the market; but it holds some key differences that sets it apart from competitors. One of these is a focus on research-based strategies supported by psychology, neuroscience, and business analytics.
The advice comes from a strategic business technology advisor who narrows her focus to four different kinds of intelligence that executives need to know about: financial, customer, data, and mastermind intelligence.
Readers are directed to 'retrain' their perspectives and to apply new thinking skills to an organizational structure for maximum benefit. No light treatment, this includes analysis, decision-making changes, and insights into transformational intelligence processes: all approaches that are necessary to effectively compete in today's business atmosphere.
Not for the casual business 'how-to' reader, The Four Intelligences of the Business Mind is recommended for managers and executives who would absorb a different way of thinking about business pursuits and the course to success.
Stilettos to the Stock Exchange
Apparel Insiders LLC
9780692374863 $24.99 www.tinaaldatz.com
From Stilettos to the Stock Exchange: Inside the Life of a Serial Entrepreneur blends autobiography with business savvy in pairing the author's growth and struggles after a freak accident with stories of encounters with corporate American business that, surprisingly, led to her own independence and her career as a 'serial entrepreneur'.
Tina's family gave her a belief system which would lend to these pursuits, instilling within her the belief that she was smart, pretty, and held superior talents. This gave her the confidence to set her goals high and to face adversity with a tenacity that too few women can readily duplicate or translate into business circles.
The fact that Aldatz created a multi-million dollar designer shoe accessory company (Foot Petals Inc.) and turned adversity into a venture that would inspire a wildly successful product and brand makes for vivid reading in and of itself. When paired with discussions of core values, transforming bad situations into good opportunities, and with further insights into the fashion industry as a whole, the result is a vivid and engrossing saga that goes beyond one woman's life story to delve into the realms of business success, challenges, and failure; making for a top recommendation for women involved in business pursuits.
Klash: An Allegory
Terry R. Barber
9780990941347 $9.95 www.terrybarber.tv
From the looks of its cover, Kulture Klash: An Allegory would seem to belong in a military history or graphic novel collection, as it depicts three cartoon warriors standing steadfast on a battleground, ready to face potential adversaries - but readers who eschew the book thinking that it's a work of fantasy will miss not only the point about the allegory, but the value in a comparison between the battlefield and the prospect of a hostile takeover in the corporate workplace.
Lessons for business leaders take the lively, readable form of Emperor King Klash, who faces the Bad Guys in the Office and works with the innovative thinkers that represent the Good Guys in the office, with an impending battle between forces promising disaster to all sides involved.
A hostile takeover is approaching - and the major issues faced by corporations and their leaders are discussed in the course of presenting players whose goals are fluid, whose changes are clear, and whose principles and approaches to business must involve collaboration and unification if there's any chance of surviving the business threat.
Business readers seeking a light, easy way to understand what's involved in a hostile takeover, its processes, and how to meet the challenge will find this allegory form particularly accessible, easily absorbed, and delightfully revealing.
The Computer Corner
Managing Data Using Excel
Managing Data Using Excel: Organizing, Summarizing and Visualizing Scientific Data joins others in the 'Research Skills' series and is a top recommendation for any who would use their Excel spreadsheet skills to organize and share scientific data, standing out from the crowd of more general 'how to use Excel' handbooks to address the specific needs of the scientific community.
There are basics here, from how to build a dataset handling variables and notes to summarizing data using averages, creating visual displays with graphs and pivot charts, and using these tables to fine-tune results and displays that export well into datasets and summaries scientists can share.
Exercises are provided to reinforce concepts, while tips and notes compliment the educational process by pointing out common Excel challenges. Plenty of tables and charts pepper the discussions while an index makes it easy to use this is a reference for at-a-glance information.
Plenty of general Excel handbooks document how to create datasets and apply calculations, but the specific focus on scientific data manipulation provided here makes it a top recommendation over any general tutorial.Managing Data Using Excel
Art of Natural Cheesemaking
The Art of Natural Cheesemaking at first glance seems to provide little not already available in other books on the subject; but this survey is different in a number of ways: it comes from an organic farmer and goat herder who practices a traditional, natural way of cheese making, and it provides readers with basic instructions on how to translate these skills into various classes of cheeses.
From finding good sources for raw milk and maintaining cultures to making a homemade cheese press and avoiding the usual chemical sterilization approach, The Art of Natural Cheesemaking offers something different - a method of returning to basics - and includes a political stance against big dairy interests with a critical eye to considering the failings of standard industrial and artisan methods alike. From ethical animal rennet to home-grown cultures, this approach is evident in every step of the Asher's cheese-making process - which is why it is billed as 'natural'.
Add color photos throughout, recipes, step-by-step discussions, identification of both necessary and unnecessary equipment (such as the thermometer, which, surprisingly, isn't a requirement), and a lively approach and you have a well-rounded blend of techniques and recipes perfect for those who would adopt an organic approach to cheese making.
YoMiz The Book
9780990439219 $19.99 www.yomizthebook.com
Yo Miz! combines the tone of a memoir with serious (and, at times, unexpectedly comic) observations from an unconventional teacher who moves from her home school to teach at 25 Manhattan public high schools in one year, and charts not only Rose's growth as an educator in this environment, but the nature and temperament of her students.
First, think To Sir With Love - but grittier, with more social and political specifics on the teaching structure and school system as a whole.
Next, add a narrowed focus on the New York City school system - but with an eye to detailing student encounters, presenting wry and fun (as well as critical) observations of the learning process, and providing insights on exactly where education fails.
Put all this in a diary-style first-person memoir, pack in anecdotes that bring specific student/teacher interactions to life, learn about students who 'don't fit in' with the usual structured teaching approach, and stir. The result is a powerful saga that’s a top recommendation for any who would understand not just the New York City system, but exactly where it fails and why; all related through the experience of teacher Elizabeth Rose and her sojourn through twenty-five institutions in one single, crazy school year.
Tunde Alaofin, PhD.
9781618636171 $24.95 www.bookstandpublishing.com
Despite the fact that some twenty-two million Americans were misdiagnosed last year alone (resulting in over 100,000 deaths as a direct result), surprisingly few health books discuss the nature and dangers of medical misdiagnosis.
While Life Savers: How the Use of Medical Diagnostic Software, As a Second Opinion to Your Doctor's Diagnosis, Can Save Your Life is certainly not the first book on the subject, it does offer a different approach in calling for more patient involvement in the diagnostic process.
Chapters discuss new technologies and how patients can understand and interact with them, narrowing the specific focus to diagnostic software and how it can be used in conjunction with medical devices to help patients become more engaged participants in their healthcare choices.
Life Savers isn't for the patient who would turn power and control entirely over to their physician; but for those who view a patient/doctor relationship as a collaborative effort - and who will find Life Savers a perfect place to strengthen this approach, starting with understanding the pros and cons of medical diagnostic software results.
Charles T. Chase, MD
One would think that, over the course of some thirty years in medicine, a doctor would have many inspiring stories to tell; but few have the time or inclination to put pen to paper unless stories revolving around medical breakthroughs or health advice is concerned.
It's refreshing to see in The Doctor's Stories the more human side of medicine, which counters the clinical or cynical approaches of so many accounts and offers firsthand, inspiring stories of medical successes and testimonies to the human spirit.
Within these pages are patient accounts (thirty of them) embracing themes of pathos, compassion and, ultimately, triumph. Each story documents a struggle yielding extraordinary results, and each offers a lesson or inspirational point. The tales contrast Dr. Chase's feelings and impressions with the patient's experience, creating a satisfying, unusual collaborative feel.
The result is a remarkably wide-ranging, positive account recommended as a leisure read of true-life stories of medical challenges and achievements from a physician's perspective.
Lesia Stockall Cartelli
9780990430735 $19.95 www.lesiacartelli.com
Heart of Fire: An Intimate Journey of Pain, Love, and Healing is an intimate autobiography about a very painful subject: the author's early childhood accident (which led to burns covering half of her body and face) and the recovery and scars that brought valuable lessons along with pain in the years after.
Lesia not only lived to recover; she used those lessons to found Angel Faces, an international nonprofit group that creates support services for adolescents and young women who have severe burn and trauma injuries. Her Heart of Fire offers an important message: that in order to heal from such trauma, one must first embrace it and create something positive from your pain.
Through heartfelt lessons and inspirational accounts of success comes an important message designed for anyone who has endured a loss or trauma: a message that uses first-person accounts from Cartelli's life to examine the process of healing, recovery, and creating newfound purpose from life's slings and arrows. Readers of autobiography, inspirational pieces, and especially accounts of health challenges will find Heart of Fire a powerful story.
Book Architecture, LLC
One Richmond Square, Suite 112K
Providence, RI 02906
9780986420405 $18.00 www.BookArchitecture.com
Book Architecture: How to Plot and Outline Without Using a Formula comes from the founder and principal of a company by the same name: a poet and essayist who has taught writing workshops across the country, and who developed a process to help writers move through the process of crafting numerous drafts for publishable success.
The basics of crafting a story (from creating plots, characters and outlines to understanding structure) may sound like a theme common to any writer's guide; but Horwitz's focus narrows to design and the building blocks of scene, series and theme, and discusses common writer's devices (repetition, the lesser-known device of series creation, and troubleshooting) without the usual focus on formula solutions.
With his approach, any writing can be tweaked, fine-tuned or fixed - and so Book Architecture succeeds where many others fail: by providing an approach peppered with case history writing examples and insights into points where themes, series and scenes typically fail or succeed. Would-be writers should not remain ignorant of this process or Book Architecture's solutions.
It's All About the Journey
with King Kong
Travels with King Kong: Overland Across Africa doesn't tell of a great ape, but of a journey undertaken in an old British Army bus dubbed 'King Kong': a broken-down but reliable mode of transport which took a group of disparate travelers overland through the Sahara and other African regions for some seven months.
This story takes the form of a personal memoir that Henderson narrates as he reveals a journey that ultimately challenged his politics, his beliefs, and his life.
One doesn't expect small color photos to liberally pepper a travelogue; but the presence of numerous photos throughout, with each page holding some eight snapshots, greatly enhances the stories and lends visuals and color to vivid encounters along a route that stretched from Morocco to Mombasa.
While numerous accounts tell of travels in Africa, few hold the variety of this, only a small number focus on long overland, cross-continental journeys, and hardly any incorporate a sense of cultural and changing perspectives using a vivid "you-are-there" diary-type format, making Travels with King Kong a standout armchair journey that at-home readers will find compelling and revealing.
Mysteries and Thrillers
Gold in the Coffins
Dominic Certo, KSJ and Len Harac, Ph.D.
Gold in the Coffins mixes some unlikely scenarios together - ex-Marines, Wall Street power brokers, business schemes gone awry, whistle blowing and murder - and stirs them all together in a heady, fast-paced saga of revenge, betrayal, big business, and military members who decide to exact their own form of justice: an involving read recommended for any who like their thrillers hot and heavy.
Gold in the Coffins includes plenty of dialogue between characters, blending business, military, political and mystery facets into its story, and it skirts the lines between thriller, detective story, and novel, keeping the ability to attract all three genre readers with a tale that is satisfyingly unpredictable.
While it could be said that the main event takes its time to appear in favor of building characters who at times bog down in some of their dialogue, in actuality this just means that the story is more intricately woven than most, and not for the reader who must have nonstop staccato action.
Those with a special affinity for Marine culture and relationships after service will find Gold in the Coffins particularly inviting.Gold in the Coffins
Live to Air
Jeffrey L. Diamond
River Grove Books/Greenleaf Book Group
P.O. Box 91869
Austin, TX 78709
9781632990310 $15.95 www.rivergrovebooks.com
Live to Air represents something different in the arena of thriller writing in presenting the character of one Ethan Benson, a New York television producer who hates covering crime stories despite his network's preference for them. Assigned to cover a shootout, it's just the kind of work he despises - until unusual circumstances tweak his investigative curiosity and lead him on an unexpected journey.
What makes Live to Air a standout is its puzzle pieces, the fact that its investigator is actually an unwilling participant in events, and its story line, which is thoroughly steeped in New York City culture and areas (a fact that will delight any familiar with the Big Apple's neighborhoods and byways).
Where other thrillers fall short with too much predictability, Live to Air excels in the unexpected. Where others offer only a concern about justice, Live to Air offers the complexity of a family in hiding and a man's struggle with a myriad of personal issues. And where the typical thriller rests upon genre devices, Live to Air poses some satisfying surprises. It's all about changing stories, changing lives, and suspense; all packaged into a gripping saga certain to delight even the most experienced thriller genre reader.Live to Air
30 Cubits Press
Ideally, thriller readers interested in apocalyptic stories should hold prior familiarity with the author's The Noah Option; but the beauty of The Rainbow Option is that this isn't an absolute requirement. The scenario sounds familiar: Americans are being repressed by the government, starvation and gangs have taken over the country and have dissolved social order, and refugees have taken to arks to escape the madness.
Against this backdrop, a botanist and a software genius have a plan to save the world (if they can survive) while the U.S. government infects its citizens with a deadly virus.
While many of the facets of this story have been done before (life-saving arks in a strange new future and a virus perpetuated by authorities), what makes The Rainbow Option a standout is its attention to crafting powerful, realistic protagonists that lead readers to want to know what happens next.
It would seem a simple requirement for this kind of story; but it's one that too often fails in competing dystopian or apocalyptic writings which lose the 'thriller' aspect (or proper character development) in the course of honing a futuristic setting.
The Rainbow Option will delight prior fans of The Noah Option with further details, while newcomers will find its highly charged saga of survival to be compelling and riveting.
Kimberly Amato, Publisher
Two vivid stories about Dr. Jasmine Steele provide riveting, absorbing mysteries to genre fans seeking more than the usual formula writing about a detective's cases.
Jasmine loves her job, dreams of becoming a great writer, and has her life on track when her brother is killed, making her the guardian of her nephew and placing her life in flux.
It takes a series of murders to bring her back from the edge of losing herself completely: a case that places everyone around her in jeopardy and pits her against one of the most clever and dangerous criminals of her career in Steele Resolve (9780986393310, $2.99 Kindle/$6.99 Paperback).
Anticipate a gritty, first-person storytelling approach that succeeds in not just telling a story, but immersing readers in a world replete with danger, psychological insights, and a woman struggling to survive on both personal and professional levels.
Jasmine's story continues in Melting Steele (9780986393334, $3.99 Kindle, $8.99 Paperback), where Jasmine faces a series of clues that lead to technology, murder, and the expanding reach of the Dark Web. In a story delicately woven around obsession, cyber danger, and the meaning of insanity and reality itself, Melting Steele incorporates far more facets than your usual detective story.
Mystery readers with an affinity for psychological depth, a gritty, realistic first-person voice, and twists and turns of plot based on both detective investigations and emotional passion will find both stories stand well alone but are especially vivid and well-developed reads when read together.
Return to the Future, 2350
4302 SW 51st, #121
Amarillo, TX 79109-6159
My Return to the Future, 2350: Our Next Great Civilization Revealed poses a simple question: what if you could visit life on Earth in 2350? If this sounds like science fiction, it isn’t. Author John Schmidt uses this idea as a starting point to discuss divine revelation, to explore a vision of possibilities surrounding a wonderful new approach to civilization’s evolution, and to present the notion that a new day is dawning for mankind.
If it sounds ethereal, it is. If it sounds positive, it is. And if it sounds optimistic and spiritual all in one, consider it as such. This isn’t a recommendation for skeptics or disbelievers, but for readers already open to future possibilities. My Return to the Future, 2350 provides a creative, first-person assessment of what the human future could entail in 300 years.
Novel New Novels
Find Me Again
Janet K. Shawgo
Two Harbors Press
322 1st Avenue North
Minneapolis, MN 55401
9781626526143 $17.95 www.TwoHarborsPress.com
It's rare to come upon Book Three in a series (the first two books were not seen by this reviewer) and find in it a story that is quick to involve, and absorbing without needing prior familiarity with its predecessors; but Find Me Again holds the capability of standing well alone as well as enhancing the overall series, and that's a rare quality, indeed.
Over a hundred years ago two lovers promised to always be together, throughout eternity. So far, nothing new - except that the promise was made during the Civil War, when one lay dying, and fate has led to yet another dying man's wish to join two families together in Find Me Again, the grand finale to the series.
Not having read the others, this reviewer finds Find Me Again a rare dance between generations who share a common purpose and a promise. As romances go, it's far more complex than most, taking the overtones of love and transforming them into a family saga that succeeds in overcoming the effects of war and even terrorism to probe the nature of an uncommon link between ancestors, fate, and death-defying love.
Audiences who like their romances complex and winding will find in this book (and likely the rest of the series) a rare gem.Find Me Again
How to Talk to Rockstars
90 Oteen Church Road
Ashville, NC 28805
9780981575780 $16.00 www.logosophiabooks.com
How to Talk to Rockstars is a novel about uncharted territories: specifically, the territory of a journalist's dream as she hones a career interviewing rock stars while nurturing a secret desire to become more involved in a world she carefully keeps at a professional distance.
Her wish comes true when she befriends a musician whose haunting lyrics take her to the brink of personal and professional disaster.
Jude's music offers messages that resonate with her: stories about playing it safe, taking risks, and doing more than filing reports and adhering to duty and routine. Beyond those boundaries lie excitement and "An unpredictable land of adrenaline and adventure. It's the shine of the city as glimpsed from the low-lit suburbs."
More than the city shines, here, in a compelling saga readers will find enlightening, engrossing, and revealing: a synthesis of loneliness and emotion with its source in unexpected life connections.How to Talk to Rockstars
Losing My Religion
Good, solid Nigerian novels are relatively few and far between; but the best of them offer insights into African culture, society, and experience in a way that nonfiction can not, and among that small standout group is Jide Familoni's Losing My Religion, the story of Femi Fatoyinbo, who is born into a polygamous Yoruba family in a small Nigerian village.
Where other African novels would focus on this setting, Familoni chooses to have his protagonist move to Canada and then America. In these countries he discovers the startling, stark contrasts between his upbringing and traditions and those of the Western world.
Facing such an experience, Fatoyinbo's very identity is threatened. What parts of his psyche should be given up, and which should be retained? What approaches lend to integrating with one's new foreign home and its practices, and which constitute jettisoning one's very culture and identity? More than cultural barriers are crossed in the course of his story, a first-person saga of family connections, community, and the voices, songs, and experiences of Nigeria.
There's nothing one-dimensional here: using the novel form to add dramatic embellishments, Familoni incorporates a sense of history, tradition, and place that ultimately captures the underlying currents of African identity, making Losing My Religion a rich presentation and recommended read for those seeking more than a light treatment of Nigerian culture and beliefs.Losing My Religion
My Razzle Dazzle
1663 Liberty Drive
Bloomington, IN 47403
ISBN: 978-1-4917-6411-4 (sc) $19.95
ISBN: 978-1-4917-6413-8 (hc) $29.95
ISBN: 978-1-4917-6412-1 (e) $3.99
My Razzle Dazzle: An Outsider's True Story represents an unusual blend of autobiography injected into a novel format as it tells the first-person story of a young man who develops a passion for roller derby and becomes determined to evolve into a professional Derby skater.
His move to San Francisco, designed to further his career, leads to an unexpected series of growth-inducing experiences as he moves from an isolated Wisconsin farm childhood during the 1960s to a more connected big-city adult life in the 1970s, following his dreams and becoming open to a wider world than he could have imagined.
In some ways My Razzle Dazzle is unexpected. Its dual focus on the protagonist's Derby dreams is often in stark contrast to the narrator's sexual awakening, his encounters with discrimination, and his ability to accept (and even embrace) his homosexual identity. While some readers might comment on the novel's overlap of themes and possibilities, preferring one focus over the other; in reality life is not all that cut-and-dried, either. Human sexuality and coming of age awakenings are all set against the backdrops of wider perspectives, as My Razzle Dazzle so succinctly and deftly portrays.
The ultimate story thus lays not so much in a singular avenue of exploration as in bigger picture thinking about the impact of life choices, obsessions, and interests. Against this backdrop, My Razzle Dazzle shines, offering audiences a multi-faceted saga that rings true to the ebbs and flows of life itself; from the politically charged atmosphere of the anti-Vietnam protests to the protagonist's own confrontation with prejudice, his gay identity, and social change.My Razzle Dazzle
Books of Babel'
Books of Babel'
Two books in the 'Books of Babel' series feature a thriller setting at its best - and somebody might have been reading Larry Niven; for the delightful complexity of the worlds portrayed in Josiah Bancroft's books have only been superseded by the creations of that world-building science fiction master himself.
Book One, Senlin Ascends (978-1482590951, $13.99) blends elements of steampunk into a layered world reminiscent of Niven's Integral Trees as it tells of the Tower of Babel, a small-town schoolteacher who is drawn to the legendary Tower from a guidebook's notes, and his dangerous choice when he selects a visit to the exotic locale for his honeymoon, only to have his young wife vanish in a minute of inattention.
His search for her takes him on a whirlwind of encounters with prisons, various social strata, and political and social forces, ultimately testing his own knowledge of himself and forcing him into roles he hadn't dreamed of undertaking.
Airships, cannons, and confrontations - oh, my! Language is vivid, worlds are satisfyingly complex, and a mild-mannered husband's conundrums quietly build to startling revelations. Senlin Ascends is not for those who wish their action unrelenting and their protagonists forceful; however: Senlin's reticence to accept the vivid challenges of his world is notable as much for its realistic results as for any tendency towards macho, take-charge aggression - and that's refreshing.
Arm of the Sphinx (9781508713654, $14.99) continues the saga of Senlin's struggles and his attempts to rejoin with his wife, and is recommended for prior fans who want further adventures that begin where Senlin Ascends left off.
Here Senlin's life of piracy continues (as does his search), and the place that he once longed to escape from (The Tower of Babel) prove a lure he wants to return to.
He's made many friends and new associations and forged many new paths since Book I, and the protagonists at the helm of his escape and new life in the first book are flushed out in more detail in Arm of the Sphinx, which introduces further intrigue as the mysterious Sphinx adds another complex level to Senlin's journey.
Both books juxtapose nicely, build strong protagonists, and particularly excel in creating in the world of Babel. Once again, it should be mentioned that the main protagonist isn't an aggressive man; but one compelled to move outside himself slowly, in a larger effort to save the one he loves as he navigates a strange land. Readers who appreciate lyrical, compelling writing, slow build-ups, and fantastic insights into social strata will appreciate and relish both books.
Neal Goldstein Books
Fishtown: A Jack Regan/Izzy Ichowitz Novel, in providing a sequel to the previous Murder and Mayhem in Manayunk (not seen by this reviewer), almost seems to open mid-story with its setting, which takes place months after a homicide detective has taken care of two out of three gang killers, leaving one still on the loose and a threat to his family.
Jack has much more on his mind than a killer's dubious threats, however: his wedding to the love of his life is just a few days away, after all. But when chaos erupts, Jack and Izzy must fly to Cuba to oversee the transfer of information in exchange for a government deal with two Mossad agents (identified as terrorists in Guantanamo Bay), immersing them in an international crime scene with wide-ranging ramifications and a familiarity that hits too close to home.
There's a lot going on in Fishtown, and it's recommended that readers be familiar with Murder and Mayhem in Manayunk to gain the most from this ongoing saga. It's also recommended that this audience hold an affinity for international terrorism and crime-solving in all its complexity; because that's what Fishtown ultimately is: a complex, revealing read that supercharges its mystery with overtones of torture, terrorism, and so much more.
Blank Slate Press
3963 Flora Place
Saint Louis, MO 63110
If the fact that Odin's Child is billed as 'Book One of Odd Tangle-Hair's Saga' doesn't indicate a classic in the works, perhaps the opening chapters will, as they document the trials of a young man (Odd Tangle-Hair) who, in his sixteenth year, unwittingly brings violence and danger to his family by refusing to back down from a family enemy, forcing him to leave his Iceland home on an epic journey at a time when the age of the Vikings is fading.
Don't expect just a nautical adventure in Odin's Child, however: replete with political encounters, religious conflicts, and history, it uses first-person experiences of its young protagonist to explore a world too often dominated by conquest, confrontation, and revenge.
As his journey embraces unexpected friendships, close encounters, and a healthy dose of historical background (which ties everything together), readers are treated to a blend of thriller and nonstop adventure that injects a murder mystery with far more than the usual one-dimensional investigative perspective.
With its gripping exploration of a world changed by bloodshed and exile, Odin's Child makes for a compelling read for mystery, thriller, and historical fiction fans alike, blending all three into a tale that grabs reader attention and holds no easy answers or predictable course. It's the story's engrossing characters, combined with realistic historical setting and unpredictable twists, that make it a powerful opener to what should be an epic series recommended for readers of all genres, if Book One is any indicator of what lies ahead.
North Star Writer's Group
P.O. Box 317
Byron Center, MI 49315
ASIN: B00T708KEM $2.99
Stranglehold is no easy read, but offers a satisfyingly complex saga recommended for fans of thriller and novel stories who want their action fast-paced, their plots socially and politically complex, and their characters well-drawn.
It tells of a small town where the local police, frustrated by restraints on their activities, join with a secret group of neo-professional vigilantes to take the law into their own hands in the interest of keeping the peace. The only problem is: such an arrangement rarely achieves the benefits its creators envision, and the predictable happens as absolute power corrupts absolutely and turns the well-meaning law keepers into a dangerously powerful terrorist group.
It's rare to see such well-developed political and ethical facets in the context of a modern novel; and at first readers might suspect that the story's extra length means that the author's development might be too slow or complex. Not so: Jeffries merely takes the proper time to develop a superior read - something too often missing from faster action stories that skim over underlying complexities in favor of quick and dirty attractors. The result is a finely-written saga that doesn't feel as long as it is, because every word is carefully honed to produce maximum impact.
Tree of Young Dreamers
The Tree of Young Dreamers is written by a Korean War veteran who uses his coming of age during an era where an economic crisis paired with a dangerous war to craft a novel based on a group of teens growing up during the Depression and World War II.
At first glance, it would seem that little new is presented here: a coming-of-age story against the backdrop of war is, after all, not an uncommon theme. What is uncommon are several factors: it's the first book in a projected 'Tree Trilogy' inspired by the author's life, it blends his life experiences and perspectives with actual historical events, and it takes its time to develop its characters rather than dashing them, half-done, against the backdrop of action.
What this means is an unusual complexity more on the level of Catcher in the Rye than most: a rare saga that equally captures an adolescent's viewpoint and experience and marries it seamlessly with the social and political events that surround his life. Fans of coming-of-age sagas and historical fiction will be delighted readers of The Tree of Young Dreamers.
We'll Live Tomorrow is a gripping thriller set in Afghanistan and following Hunter Ames, who is struggling not only with events in Afghanistan and the Taliban, but with his own family history and identity. As much as everything around him is chaotic, so is his inner world, and his search for meaning brings him into contact with another who faces very different personal struggles and a search for meaning.
In many ways, We'll Live Tomorrow is a politically-charged probe of overseas events and their links to American interests. In other ways, it's a personal saga of one aid worker's insights on the challenges of working in a war zone while facing his own demons.
The inclusion of two distinct threads to the story line succeed well in outlining not only the differences between personal and political forces, but the ultimate evil that can stem from uncontrolled forces both internal and external. Readers seeking a combination of political and psychological depth and struggle will relish this multi-faceted story of survival on different levels, with the powerful backdrop of Afghanistan pulling everything together.
Scintillating Science Fiction and Fantasy
3101, 315 Southampton Dr SW
Calgary, Alberta, T2W 2T6
978-1-928021-07-0 $9.99 Kindle
First of all, it's simply not possible to effectively categorize Echo. At once a (mature) young adult read, a romance, a fantasy, and a mystery, it neatly defies an easy identity - and perhaps that's why it poses both a filing challenge and a attraction to a wider audience than would be usual for a simpler genre read.
Intriguing section headings ('Becoming: Karissa & Adregin', 'Falling: Adregin & Iilassa') place the setting in Gaul in 460-467 A.D. in a story that moves through time as the protagonists are doomed by a curse to journey through 1,000 years of turbulent times and experiences on a never-ending quest.
How could a fantasy reader not be drawn in by Echo's compelling opening lines?: "She didn’t remember the moment of her birth. But she did remember—with perfect clarity—the moment of her rebirth. She remembered every detail, to the finest point, of the moment she was reborn; an impossibility in an impossible world..."
How could the story line be any brighter or any more forceful, given its enticingly slow buildup and focus on the effects of a life of time-traveling experience: "It had been a long time since the girl Karissa had cared about anything. A long time since she’d felt a tingle of life inside or outside of her. Or maybe it only seemed like a long time?"
Echo is slow to build character, historical settings, plot, and interactions; and while this may challenge those used to sizzlingly quick interactions, it will delight readers who seek complexity and detail from their reading. Scenes and times shift, relationships change, and the star-crossed lovers are forced to adjust their very psyches as a result, lending a fine, fluid atmosphere to a story that is recommended for mature (read 18 and up) young adults and adult readers alike.
Self-Help and Inspirational
While Collared Cooking: Recipes to Spice Up Your Kitchen … and Your Love Life might sound like it revolves around culinary aspirations, it's actually a thinly described recipe for spicy affairs and comes from an author whose sex life revolves around dominance and submission, and who reveals, here, formulas for success both within the kitchen and the bedroom.
An affinity for sexual experimentation is thus the first prerequisite for appreciating Collard Cooking, which introduces elements of BDSM activities for novices and blends its philosophy with a sprinkling of culinary recipes for good measure.
From the responsibilities of the 'Dom' personality and the actions of the Submissive to bondage methods, control, sexual stimulation and more, Collard Cooking cooks up a step-by-step formula for those interested in exploring the world of BDSM, and is recommended for a very specific audience with a prior curiosity about how to enter such a world and how to understand its psychological and sexual foundations.
Circle Through Changes,
Challenges and Transitions
9781504328579 $15.99 www.balboapress.com
Coming Full Circle Through Changes, Challenges and Transitions: A Four Quadrant Process for Living the Examined Life may sound like an autobiographical piece; but it represents an actual program of self-assessment and change and its message is simple: the process of perceiving the bigger picture in personal experience lies through a journey of clarifying values, identifying behaviors and modifying them, and understanding what approaches create inner healing.
All this results in the four-quadrant process which is presented here, backed by examples of how people have used this process to solve problems and change their lives.
The prerequisite? An interest in leading an "examined life" and a commitment to making significant changes. Those who approach Coming Full Circle Through Changes, Challenges and Transitions with such a focus will find its tools and perspective enlightening and actionable.
Habits Rich Life
Dr. Randall Bell, PhD
Owners Manual Press
Rich Habits Rich Life: The Power of 'Me We Do Be' Habits, Rituals and Routines gathers research covering the daily habits of a cross-section of successful people, from educators and professionals to full-time mothers, retirees, and even the unemployed and the millionaire. While some of these groups have been studied in narrower scope, the unique focus of Rich Habits Rich Life is on the behaviors that lead to disaster or prosperity. It creates a powerful study that synthesizes some 25 years of the author's behavioral research.
The contention is simple: that all behaviors can be organized into this simple, four-point 'Me We Do Be' system. Within this framework, Dr. Bell targets success circles, formulas for achievement or failure, and his approaches and experiences working with clients and personal connections such as friends and family. This process considers how integrity is developed, how happiness and giving affects success, and how toxic patterns may be detected to thwart the forces that would erode success.
The result is an eye-opener. It is recommended for any inquiring reader who would assess self and surroundings to identify the rituals leading to success.
Sex and Staying Warm
852 Fort Street, #300
Victoria, BC Canada V8W 1H8
9781460235430 $2.99 Kindle $21.99 Paperback
Love, Sex and Staying Warm: Keeping the Flame Alive comes from a licensed marriage and family therapist who focuses on how people can strengthen and support intimate relationships. These can range from newfound love to couples who have been together for a long time, so it offers two kinds of details: keys to jump-starting the passion and interest in a stalled relationship, and insights on how to communicate more effectively and keep the romantic spark alive.
Chapters offer keys to relationship success, juxtaposes case history examples with psychological analysis and insights, and are at their best when surveying the overall root causes of romance's demise.
All that's required to appreciate this book is an openness to change and a willingness to self-examine for better understanding and, ultimately, better approaches: the rest is well detailed in Love, Sex and Staying Warm, a recommendation for any couple seeking keys to better interactions.
9th Street Publishing
154 N. Broadway
Green Bay, WI 54303
While one can say that most autobiography holds inspirational lessons for many a reader; usually it's not quite as evident and powerful as in Thought Shredder: Bringing Out the Bucker in You, a piece that opens with the author's realization of his lifelong emotional distance and its source in his family roots.
The passing of a parent often brings with it profound realizations and changes: in this case, Chris Elliott discovered the course of a lifetime that began with a slap at age five and ended only with his father's death.
It is said that one door opens when another closes: in his case, death set him on a course of new beginnings as he processed his life-long hatred of his father's actions, which ultimately lead to the author's realizations about his own lack of self-esteem and the route to correct his life.
More so than most, Thought Shredder takes apart all the pieces of this process and puts them back together again.
This is no easy read, but an emotional roller coaster of a story that ultimately synthesizes what it means to become a self-realized individual separate from one's family heritage. All this takes time to narrate; so don't be surprised at a story that sometimes takes a while to arrive at its destination and its points.
Life isn't a train and it doesn't always barrel down the track full-force. Sometimes the deepest discoveries require the slower, gentler process of discovery, requiring readers to hone the finer art of patience and a slower form of transportation to arrive at what will ultimately prove a richer destination.
Sizzling Social Issues
Genes, Twisted Truth
Clear River Press
Altered Genes, Twisted Truth: How the Venture to Genetically Engineer Our Food Has Subverted Science, Corrupted Government, and Systematically Deceived the Public is a powerful pick for any collection strong in examining genetically modified foods, special interest scandals, and the bigger social issues pictures involved in both, and charts an astonishing truth: that genetic engineering of food has long involved a systematic process of dangerous, deceptive practices that have reached into scientific and governmental circles with equal impact.
While the story of gene manipulation and its introduction to world food supplies has been covered before, the difference in Altered Genes' approach lies in its survey of the underlying special interest groups and political forces at work in determining not just business interests, but in the very nature of how science is conducted and how programs are rolled out to the public.
The fraudulent practices involved, in this case, embrace the highest levels of political office and many notable individuals along the way, exposing how the FDA became involved in illegal and unethical practices, and revealing an unprecedented erosion of scientific process, social values systems, and checks and balances originally designed to protect public health and safety.
The result is a gripping narrative that shocks and awes on so many levels that it's impossible to identify a narrow audience likely to be interested in the book. Readers of science, politics, health, and business issues: all will find Altered Genes to be eye-opening, lively, and, ultimately, deeply disturbing.
Powerful Picture Book Picks
2 Bear Close Flats
Bear Close, Woodstock
Oxfordshire, OX20 1JX, England
Charlie's Cream Tea comes from a child behavior specialist who provides ages 2-6 with a delightfully rich tale of a happy crocodile who buys too much food for tea, invites some friends to help him eat, and then discovers that his invitation to a select few had become larger than he thought.
While there are only 24 pages to the picture book (with each page holding delightful animal drawings by Jacob and Paul), parental read-aloud assistance will be required for younger children because each page consists of numerous paragraphs of lively, fun description too detailed for younger picture book readers.
That caution aside, the message here is brilliant, reinforcing the ideas of sharing, understanding the difference between greed and generosity, and managing encounters between friends of friends, while adding a subtle lesson on counting that early learners can absorb.
That's a lot to pack into 24 pages! That Hart achieves all this with a delightful, refreshing approach to understanding behavior makes for a superior achievement that stands out from other picture book stories about friendships and behaviors.
Milk, Por Favor!
Publisher: Maria Dismondy Inc.
Dearborn, MI 48125
Chocolate Milk, Por Favor! Celebrating Diversity with Empathy receives warm drawings by Donna Farrell, with 32 pages telling the story of Johnny, who loves school until a new kid (who doesn't speak any English) shows up. Why would Johnny dislike a stranger, and why would he be cruel?
The majority of children's books approach discrimination and bullying from the viewpoint of the victim, so it's refreshing to see an approach that embraces the other side and provides a winning account tackling the roots of why bullying happens.
This isn't to say that Johnny's perspective is supported: far from it. But in the course of revealing a school dilemma, Dismondy advocates compassion and understanding on all sides; and so as Johnny begins to evolve, so does the story line. Nobody has to sacrifice their beliefs, their culture, or their personality - but the end result is a story that encourages kids by using a different (and more personal) approach to diversity in the classroom: one that closely surveys underlying emotions and brings them to the forefront, ready for discussion (and, as an added bonus, discussion questions are included). Kids in grades 2-4 will find this an excellent story.
Azmaira H. Maker, PhD
Aspiring Families Press
12625 High Bluff Drive, Suite 104
San Diego, CA 92130
9780996194105 $14.95 www.AspiringFamiliesPress.com
Family Changes: Explaining Divorce to Children was designed to help parents, family members and professionals guide young children through the confusion of divorce. It comes from a clinical psychologist who uses the picture book format to help adults understand how divorce may be explained to the very young, with the help of this book.
A host of animals are used to reach kids ages 4-8 years old, with a young bunny at the forefront as she struggles with her family's changes and embarks on an emotional roller coaster ride in the process of exploring her new circumstances.
Because there's a good amount of text (for a picture book), this is not recommended for new young readers. It's designed with the adult/child read-together experience in mind, and will benefit both audiences with its colorful, full-page animal character drawings (by Polona Lovsin) paired with a series of questions on why Zoey Bunny's parents are getting divorced, what that means, and how she feels about life in general.
Based on the typical emotional turbulence a child feels from separation or divorce, Family Changes receives high recommendation as the first title that adults should turn to in the effort to explain, explore, and support a child's feelings in the matter, concluding with a list of 'process questions' which adults can use to further enhance the story line's overall approach.
Little Mouse Santi
David Eugene Ray
417 Vallette Street
New Orleans, LA 70114
9780692252253 $15.00 www.confettipark.com
The little mouse Santi has only one desire in life: to be something other than the mouse he was born as. Logic would decree that in order to change one's self, one should practice new habits; and so he makes a huge effort to adopt the characteristics of the animal he so longs to be - which is in stark contrast to the mouse that he actually is.
Early picture book readers receive a gentle, easy reader with an ambitious mouse's determination at its heart, fueled by exquisite and fun color illustrations on every page by Santiago Germano.
Can one change one's very being through determination alone - and what happens when something goes awry? The answer will change Santi’s life and perceptions of what it means (and what it takes) to be a specific kind of animal. The message of finding one’s identity and purpose in life, as well as the irony involved in the process, gives an unexpected twist to a delightful story of a mouse trying to find himself.
22930 Lockness Avenue
Torrance, CA 90501
Four lovely new books are top, recommended picks for picture book readers with good reading skills or parental read-aloud assistance, and provide satisfyingly different topics paired with bright, colorful drawings by Gastón Hauviller.
The first item of note is Jan Eberle Schaberg's The Ant and the Grasshopper (9781564924193, $16.95). If this sounds familiar, that's because it is based on the Aesop fable, but adapts the saga for a younger audience. 28 pages tell of an enchanting woods setting, two friends, and two very different perspectives on life and what winter will bring.
The fine, full-page color embellishments are a delight: the story retains its complexity while appealing to young readers and read-aloud listeners alike (the later audience will want to listen over a period of time, to better absorb the story's concepts).
Kimberly Brown's It's Snowing Gold (9781564924209, $14.95) tells of a little narwhal named Nia who embarks on a journey to celebrate her sixth birthday with her mother. The same age group will relish the gentle saga of animal friendships and parent/child adventure, with the lure of 'snowing gold' (and what that could be) carrying the two (and their readers) outside their familiar world towards a surprising gift.
Tracy Andrews' Chef Aiden and the Corn Maze (9781564924179, $14.95) also provides a family adventure, using simple text and compelling images to capture the story of brothers who love having adventures, despite the uncertainty of their outcomes. But dare they face a ghost in their pursuit of surprise and new experiences? Young wanna-be chefs will also appreciate the cooking surprises in this encouraging story.
Mother Oak by Jodie Amelia (9781564924117, $15.95) excels in nature drawings of birds, forests, and animals as it tells of a mysterious wild world where an ancient Red Oak, (Mother Oak) is facing change. Ecological connections are explorations usually introduced at a much older age; but the joy of Mother Oak is that these connections are easily celebrated in visual and written displays that help kids understand nature, change, and life's progression. Parental read-aloud is recommended for this book's detail, which lends to discussion.
All are warm, revealing, and encouraging picture book reads, recommended for those seeking something different in the way of gentle stories providing inviting lessons about the world.
River Sanctuary Publishing
P.O. Box 1561
Felton, CA 95018
9781935914501 $14.95 www.riversanctuarypublishing.
Upon Your Canvas is recommended for three audiences: readers of poetry and followers of both consciousness-raising and inspirational writing. The collection pairs poems with vivid color paintings by Natosha Keefer throughout as it considers the canvases connecting the written word with the artist.
The object here isn't just to produce eloquent poetry (although that certainly is one result): it's to combine the forces and effects of word and image to produce a transformative experience for readers.
This takes the form of words that ring with power, documenting neo-meditative experiences: "Each breath is evolution,/a peaceful revolution/of our own being./We evolve as we inhale,/exhale…")
The result offers the lyricism of song, the meditative focus of a new awakening experience, and the inspirational perspective of a celebration of the canvas of life, all wrapped up in poetic and visual experiences designed to capture nuggets of insight through artistic collaboration. Even readers unaccustomed to poetry will find Upon Your Canvas accessible, enlightening, and inspirational.
Science, Nature & Technology
Search for Gravity Control
9 Priority Business Park
Leicestershire LE8 ORX UK
On the face of it, Greenglow & the Search for Gravity Control is a science book, so one might expect its readers would be limited to members of the scientific community and those with a special affection for physics; but in fact its lively tone and wider-ranging history lends to its attraction to general-interest audiences, as well.
Mankind has long attempted to understand (and, ultimately, harness) the effects of gravity; with limited results. While the scientific understanding portion has expanded, the applications and search for gravity-active devices have not followed suit.
Readers shouldn't expect Greenglow to provide surprising breakthroughs: it's more of a saga of how scientists have sought to control gravity and electromagnetism, and considers the successes, failures, and idealistic visions of those involved in the process of new gravity discoveries.
No light read, of necessity this coverage includes formulas, physics insights, and a healthy blend of hard science and history.Greenglow & the Search for Gravity Control
Ray Bridge Press
It's hard to adequately classify the audience for Marie Antoinette's Watch: perhaps because it's a history piece, a mystery story, and a true-crime account that reads with the rollicking descriptions of a novel as it details a 200-year pursuit of a complicated watch (the 160) worth $40 million in today's dollars. It's no singular story, but a set of interconnected narratives that explore hortology and 18th century engineering in a world that made the watch the most prized high-tech item of its times and ultimately enveloped it in mystery.
Marie Antoinette's Watch is a saga that journeys across continents, embraces royalty and rogues, and probes the history and specifics of the watchmaking industry with equal prowess.
From engineering marvels of the past which are still significant today to the marketing and design of watches and the evolution of competing industries and manufacturers, it's a vivid account highly recommended for a wide audience of general-interest readers.
Man Who Gave Away His Organs
Richard Michael Levine
9781592661046 $18.00 www.caprapress.net
The Man Who Gave Away His Organs: Tales of Love and Obsession at Midlife consists of eight stories and a novella with the common theme of middle-age protagonists who face a crisis point in their lives until something unexpected changes their directions.
There seems to be a lot of this theme going around in the short story/novella format - many assuming eerie or weird fictional overtones - but there's nothing strange about The Man Who Gave Away His Organs, unless you consider the fact that unexpected humor often permeates the stories.
It's hard to toe the line between sinister and funny - something usually gives or fails in the effort - but this collection excels in juxtaposing two disparate approaches for best effect.
Take the title story, for one example. Predictably, Ed decides, at mid-life, to begin giving away his organs one by one. Less predictable (for, where do you go from there?) is the ethical and philosophical challenges that come from letting go of life.
And the humor? It's not only present but is devastatingly creative, underlying many of the tales in this unusual collection.
Sports & Games
Jamaal Wilkes with Edward Reynolds David Jr.
88 STR8 Enterprises
12777 West Jefferson Blvd.
Building D, Suite 300
Los Angeles, CA 90066
Jamaal Wilkes: Memoir of the Original Smooth as Silk is recommended for basketball fan with a prior affection for the sport in general and player Jamaal Wilkes' career in particular, and provides an autobiography as smooth as his plays.
Jamaal is a NCAA and NBA champion who here names the major influences in his life and career, from family to coaches, in the course of documenting his rise to fame and basketball prowess. The focus on his early days in California lends details of particular interest to California readers, but the stories about his championship games, his teams, and his winning streak will attract and delight basketball fans across the country.
From major decisions (such as going to UCLA) to media representations, game politics and processes, and the cumulative influences of major people in his life, Jamaal Wilkes represents memoir writing at its best and will interest high school to adult readers with a vivid account of his life and successes.
Young Adult/Teen Reads
Black Arrow Publishing
10074 W Lake Dr.
Littleton, CO 80127
978-0986184505 $14.99 ($4.99 ebook)
At first glance, Elizabeth's Midnight would seem your ordinary story of an overweight, unhappy teen who resents and lives in suburbia - but take another look, because things are about to radically change when her grandmother suddenly awakens from a coma and drags them both to France on a mission to solve four puzzles to reach a lost prince from another world.
What would a typical teen do if one's grandmother in a nursing home suddenly awoke and posed such a folly? Elizabeth, of course, initially doesn't believe her; especially since her grandmother's proposal involves a series of illegal and dangerous activities, from busting grandma out of the nursing home to obtaining fake identification to travel overseas.
But what is attractive is her grandmother's return to life and her unorthodox, sparkling invitation to adventure: something the shy Beth never longed for nor wanted before … and so begins a lovely blend of coming-of-age story, fantasy, and family relationships. Nothing is cut and dry here; not even Elizabeth's (initially unwilling) involvement and plans to cut and run (but only after she learns more): "Normally she’d go home to read and draw on her back porch, her sacred time alone. Tomorrow she could go back to normal life. But right then, Beth was too close to the truth to stop. On the way to the airport, she’d hear the rest of the story about Prince Phillip, the painted men, and France. Then she’d tell Grandma May she wasn’t going to Paris with her after all."
These three facets are the glue that holds Elizabeth's Midnight together and keeps it from becoming a predictable or standard fantasy. By placing Beth's insecurities and growth into an unusual adventure peppered with equally unpredictable results, Ritchey gives young adults plenty of compelling moments and events to keep them engrossed.
Too many young adult fantasies focus on adventure without the necessary overlay of strong protagonist interactions or family ties. Elizabeth's Midnight embraces both and wraps all in a cloak of magic, making it a strong pick for advanced elementary to middle school grades.Elizabeth's Midnight
Smoke and Mirrors was written for young adult audiences and designed to encourage teens to realize their unique potentials and places in the world, offering a fictional format that begins with Corbin's loss of his mother, which makes him an orphan with no money and no place to go. Max has taken him under his wing and taught him how to use the special magic they both possess; but the story doesn't end here: Max sends Corbin on a mission to locate Max's estranged daughter and bring her back to him.
Lorelei holds rare abilities and the potential to help keep the good mages in the world safe from the forces of evil that would hunt them and limit their effectiveness; but she resists her 'destiny' and it's Corbin's job to not just bring her into the fold, but to lure her with love: something he's adverse to doing.
In some places the story line is unexpected, with satisfying twists; and in other parts the outcomes seem a bit too predictable. Grades 7-9 will find this a complex saga not just about magic and coming of age, but about love and life's purpose: heady topics for teens, especially paired with some spiritual revelations about churches, power sources, and personal choice, but absorbing and compelling, nonetheless.Smoke and Mirrors