August 2019 Review Issue
Jeffrey W. Tenney
Whistle Creek Press
978-0-9796333-1-7 $2.99 Kindle
Kimberling Bridge is a post-apocalyptic thriller centered on an old man and a young girl who find their disparate lives entwined after an EMP event quickly decimates civilization.
Survival is no longer to be taken for granted, and William has discovered power in both his gun and a revised worldview which avoids predictions of the future and accepts the challenges of daily living.
With temporary refuges falling to gangs and drifters, it doesn't take much to persuade William that there's as much danger in staying in one place as in joining his new fourteen-year-old friend to help her reunite with a missing relative.
Many novels and sci-fi explorations of EMP events focus on the survival struggle, but Kimberling Bridge takes a different approach in also considering revised relationships, bridges across age ranges, and the idea of disaster providing the side benefit of being an equalizer for those who survive: "If what had happened was what he now believed it was, then there would be nothing, no one, capable of stopping the chaos. Political leaders would disappear overnight, probably meeting up with their CEO buddies in some remote but comfortable ocean island, with all the wealth and other goodies their jets could carry. The seven billion other people in the world would be on their own, to live as long as they could off what a ruined economy and all means of production had left for them. The ticking clock had started on the species. Old as he was, he was as young as everyone else, at that point."
William's journey is more than physical. As he examines his motives and new future possibilities, readers receive an engrossing story that excels in the depiction of his mental adjustments: "Could be I just like the feel of making this journey more than the idea of it. A purpose. A sense of control, instead of just waiting around for something lethal to drop down on me. Who knows, maybe the idea does make sense, if it turns out to be the best thing for the girl.”
It's these moments of reflection and change that power Kimberling Bridge and place it a notch above competing EMP survival stories, making for a highly recommended story that bridges generations, purposes, and hearts and minds.
$20 softcover: 978-1-927032-83-1
$30 hardcover w/dust jacket: 978-1-927032-84-8
2030 is a year when not just the planet but the human race teeters on the brink of disaster. A microcosm of this disaster lies in a Midwest university setting where students face a climate change-induced pandemic, political special interests, and choices that hold implications far beyond the campus.
The young characters in Late-K Lunacy are post-carbon legacies of the human race who must adapt not only to environmental disaster, but to the inheritance of a different kind of responsibility than their predecessors ever faced. At the heart of these decisions and their ongoing impact is a struggle for survival on many levels, spiced with the roar of ecological systems stretched to their max.
As events unfold, it's quickly evident that Late-K Lunacy adopts a setting, culture, and inspection that deviate from the norm in many different ways, adding a layer of intrigue stemming from wonderfully complex characterization and special interests: "From her bra, Greta pulled out a small bit of paper torn from a spiral notebook. The jagged edge, for some reason, caught my eye. Obsessively, I wished my fairy godmother would bring me scissors to straighten that edge. Greta handed over the still warm paper. Scanning it quickly, I said, “Thanks. This could really help.” Then my mind melted into a chaotic mess: This can’t be real. My life is boring and stupid. Am I becoming a spy? Will this get me into deep shit? How can students possibly stop anything? What about the faculty? What if I end up in jail? Kicked out of school? Should I tell Samantha? Wow, how exciting is this?"
As much as Late-K Lunacy is a tale of disaster, it's also one of hope, winding many scientific concepts into its story and allowing general-interest readers access to some important insights: "... complex systems have properties we can neither foresee nor understand simply by reducing our analysis to their individual components. We call this emergence and it is a serious headache for conventional science, acclimated as it is to reductionism. I was trained in conventional science and use it every day in my research and teaching. But blind reliance on specialized scientists, who often do not communicate across disciplines, cannot alone grapple with the world of complex systems, a world of uncertainty and infinite numbers of ‘unknown unknowns’. Viewing the world as a mosaic of complex social-ecological systems enables us to think about their resilience through time and across space. Resilience is a crucially important concept to the understanding of how complex adaptive systems persist and perhaps how we humans can imagine for ourselves a humbler role."
As protests, confrontation, and the risks of Late-K become evident, environmental triggers are assessed that translate to both local efforts and broader perspectives and impacts. This juxtaposition of personal and political objectives against the backdrop of problem-solving on different levels adds a satisfying complexity to a story line which virtually romps through and skirts the edge of more than one kind of disaster story.
Cli-fi readers will thus find Late-K Lunacy poses a different kind of disaster scenario. It's one more multifaceted than most, focusing on not just disaster and survival, but entwined ecological systems both natural and human, and how they function together to create or thwart life as we know it.
Added into this mix are observations of values transmitted to future generations: "We adults had long ceased trying to explain to the children what a household in the earlier part of the century had taken for granted. Rummaging through abandoned houses for useful items, we found it futile to explicate the functions of every derelict, rusty, moldy, or cracked gadget dug out of the dust...When it came to taking things for granted in this era, what we believed to be true and what we strived to teach the children was this: the clean water flowing from the community tap (the pump connected to a seesaw assembled by Boss), the next meal on the table (and the next and next), birdsong in spring, bullfrog croaks and cougar roars on star-studded summer nights, the warmth of hearthside in mid-winter and firewood from nearby forests creating that warmth, the gifts of insects and birds who pollinated our crops and flowers..."
Late-K Lunacy comes from an author who is Ted Bernard, professor emeritus at Ohio University, and is an exquisite example of a well-balanced ecosystem unto itself. It's highly recommended for genre readers looking for something more than slightly different, which ends with the bang of a brave new world's evolution in many different ways.
The Lesser Witness
Eye of the Needle Press/False Bay Books
9781548464905 $11.99 Paper/$2.99 ebook
The Lesser Witness opens The Eschatos Chronicles with a literal bang, as a desert is destroyed by an apocalyptic comet and events in 2025 move beyond Chile to impact the rest of the world.
It's chance or a miracle that Croy Justice is not killed, not only on the day of disaster, but in the period that follows as she finds her boat is the only refuge against the killing spree happening on land.
The Lesser Witness changes perspectives from the third person to the first and back again, and chapter headings don't clarify the identity of the observer. This may initially create some confusion, but it quickly becomes evident, over a series of ensuing chapters, that Croy is the main protagonist viewing the ruins of the world from a unique perspective.
As she moves between survival efforts and love possibilities and faces evil threats, readers receive a story that holds religious overtones from confrontations between good and evil, Biblical names such as Obadiah, and references to the value of the Bible in this strange new world. However, the main story is about survival against all odds, Croy's desperate longing for the chaos and confrontations to be over, and her observation that survival is just a "game of cat and mouse". It's one that she must learn to participate in if she's to live in a much-changed world.
The Lesser Witness is apocalyptic survival writing at its best. Through Croy's eyes, the focus is not just on the disaster that caused this ecocatastrophe, but the resulting impact on human survival and interactions. In this, Susan Wingate shines, creating a chronicle that equates belief with hope and the savagery of man with the possibilities of redemption.
The religious and psychological components may feel surprising to some, in a book replete with violent confrontations and struggle, but one of the pleasures of The Lesser Witness lies in its multifaceted examination. More so than competing apocalyptic survival stories, it includes the spiritual component to Croy's survival efforts which lends an extra dimension to the story and successfully rounds out the focus on fighting and living.
Readers seeking an apocalyptic endtime tale flavored by Christian components will find The Lesser Witness a solid, engrossing story set in the not-too-distant future which pits a girl's survival and belief system against all odds.
Climate change is all too real in this near-future story. Attempts to thwart disaster have only accelerated the problem, global cooling is now a reality, and U.S. geography has been vastly altered by flooding. Chicago, Milwaukee, Cleveland, Detroit, Toronto, etcetera, are all gone—flooded out. Four individual refugees who have relocated to The Zone, one of the coldest new cities, face personal disasters against the backdrop of a broader catastrophic set of decisions.
Readers who choose Monkey Man for its "cli-fi" definition and who anticipate the standard apocalyptic setting will quickly discover that this tale is anything but predictable.
Where other cli-fi disaster novels are focused on overall revised environments, Monkey Man adds individual perspective and pursuits back into the bigger picture. Thus, there are characters intent on chasing ex-spouses and stolen money; an ex-military man battling the human relocation results of climate change; and enhanced beings who, outside of the military, make their own choices and impact the world with their special skills.
These individual concerns coalesce to connect
personal struggles with broader questions, often linking atmosphere in
both a physical and ethereal manner: "The early snow of the
oncoming blizzard was falling steadily as Java walked up the steep
sidewalks of the Central Hillside. The anger that had been all
encompassing when he attacked the men at Marlene’s had dissipated. It
was all part of the stages of one of Java’s PTSD sprees. The anger, the
rage, the fever in his brain would simmer up to a boil. He would try to
tamp it down with drugs and alcohol. This would delay the eventual
blow-out, but not prevent it. It would add to the severity of it, by
prolonging its eventuality."
M.S. Snow's ability to juxtapose personal struggle with environmental and political observations is part of what gives Monkey Man such a poignant and powerful overtone: "Dolores got a sense of the grand scope of The Zone by looking out that window. With the worst of the storm over, a fleet of 1,000-footers were waiting, deep out away from the choked ice of the harbor. They were anchored in ice-free “lakes” that were formed by having their own set of underwater bubblers and tugs to keep the areas around their hulls ice free. She could see the many ice-trails that led to countless docks lining both sides of the harbor. Each with its own lake boat tied up and in the process of loading or unloading. Coal, grain, taconite, cement, sand, cargo, and countless other bulk and container-ed products came and went through the port of The Zone. From this height she could see the many, zippered rail lines that led into various rail yards and out to each dock. So much in such a compacted area. No wonder The Zone was number three and growing. No wonder they could “shit less,” she thought using their own vulgar language, about other cities. They had their own fish to fry aplenty."
The result is cli-fi on steroids: a survey that takes a popular genre, adds in the drama of four disparate characters' revised lives, and pits them against physical and psychic storms set to further change their worlds.
It's a story that will appeal to readers of cli-fi, newcomers who like engrossing novels about change and social issues, and general-interest fiction readers who simply enjoy rollicking good reads set against the ruins of a pivot point in human history.
Robbin and the American Oz Maker
Del Sol Press
978-0999842546 $11.99 Paper/$2.99 Kindle
Piper Robbin and the American Oz Maker is an intriguing blend of fantasy and sci-fi loosely based on the Wizard of Oz original, but moves far from these roots into the territory of apocalyptic fantasy and speculative fiction.
Piper Robbin is the ancient daughter of the Earth's greatest sorcerer inventor, Edison Godfellow, and faces a dangerous magical alien entity's attempts to destroy the human race with "The Witch Queen of Oz".
The seven Oz-like city worlds designed to protect everyone from this alien force are failing, and Piper is charged with protecting the human race as she struggles with a legacy handed down through generations.
The first thing to note is Warwick Gleeson's voice: it's simply exquisite. It's at once ribald, penetrating, gritty and original, bringing Piper's story to life right from the start: "People think just because you’re a great magical being of some kind you have it easy. Nothing could be more wrong. Your hopes and dreams are often spit on, your happiness ruined, your friends killed, and you lose sleep at night worrying about shit just like everyone else. And besides obligations you really don’t want, you face mega-dangerous freaks way too often because you’re expected to, you know, cause you’re the official bad ass. By the Brooklyn gods! Really? You crawl in pain and heave up your insides for starters, die in lots of ways, and after all that trouble, sometimes you don’t come back."
From the War for Utopia to atmospheric descriptions of Piper’s favorite restaurant in this Oz-enhanced world ("The air smelled of orange blossoms, breezy and cool, and on either side, diners found themselves enthralled by massive eternal views of the New Manhattan Oz looking like the best of any tall-spired, blazingly lit, dusk-hued science fiction super city that Piper had ever seen in a movie or on a book cover—not to mention the streams of flying cars. Zero-grav fountains levitated shimmering water in huge arcs over the heads of patrons; and a huge tele-glass set in a far wall allowed them to view sweeping vistas of the Martian canyon, Valles Marineris, at twilight.”), readers seeking truly original fantasy writings which excel in unique descriptions, characters, and a sense of futuristic place will find this story far more enlightening and lovely than most.
As Piper joins the refugees from the “Martian Oz nightmare”, everything changes in her world. Some things will never be the same.
One of them is the reader, who may initially wonder at this strange blend of Oz-based legend and fantasy and alien invasion story; but the surprise here is how easily this takes place under Warwick Gleeson's hand, and how compelling is the blend of military operations and Piper's personal mission "Still thundering as they fell, Piper’s western assault wave utilized their wings to perform a massive swooping maneuver, veering to an arc that flattened out above the San Bernardino suburbs. She ordered half her units to dive to 500 feet, the other half to 100 feet. The top half layered itself into three firing lines, one atop the other, and chose targets ten to twenty miles ahead. Once done, a moving wall of hellish sound and shell softened the streets and strip malls while the lower half of the wave followed up like a slashing tsunami. Unknown to everyone else though, including her father, Piper was also on a mercy mission. If possible, I’m going to find and save Murray’s sister and family. I got the unlucky bastard killed for no good reason. I owe it to him."
Piper Robbin and the American Oz Maker lives up to the ideal of a refreshingly unique fantasy that incorporates many Oz legends and elements, yet takes them a step further into futuristic encounters and survival struggles.
Readers who are more than lightly familiar with the Oz literature and who love fantasy, alien encounters, and stories of powerful female leaders and military might will find Piper Robbin and the American Oz Maker a gripping, absorbing read that's hard to put down, packed with imaginative, unexpected twists and turns.
Audacity of Destiny
Chuks Ikebie Ndukwe
The Audacity of Destiny: Thoughts On Life When The Inner-Power Leads The Way is an autobiography about facing adversity, accepting life changes, and even embracing failure's opportunity to change course into success, and is recommended reading for readers of inspirational life stories.
Chuks Ikebie Ndukwe ties his life to the basic pursuits and goals of success, from forming early character and strengths based on a combination of family teachings and life experience to understanding the impact of his choices on learning and practices.
Ndukwe views destiny as a preordained path that is each individual's mission to uncover, rather like a puzzle all in pieces that must be linked together over the course of a lifetime with the goal of leaving a 'footprint' of one's self on future generations.
Ndukwe's story of his life journey has a specific objective beyond chronicling events: to chart the progression and evolution of "...the awesome Irresistible inner-power or the inner-guide we all have inside of us."
This translates to a survey that nicely juxtaposes personal experience with broader inspections of life purpose, blending philosophical and spiritual insights into a bigger picture.
It should be noted that minor grammatical errors and awkward sentence structure at times detract from Ndukwe's story and its effective delivery. However, biography and autobiography readers interested in how life tragedy and opportunity coalesce to create an upward trajectory of meaning might overlook these scattered errors, and will find The Audacity of Destiny a compelling autobiographical exploration of the roots and realities of achievement, destiny, and motivation.
Kiss Me, Swami
Kathalynn Turner Davis with Genevieve Joy
Silver Falcon Press
978-1-7338407-0-5 (paperback) $18.00
978-1-7338407-1-2 (ebook) $8.99
Kiss Me, Swami: The Spiritual Education of a Beauty Queen is a motivational self-help memoir highly recommended for anyone involved in spiritual growth, and focuses on a former beauty queen turned acclaimed actress who eventually went back to school for her social worker's degree and embarked on a very different venture in her life.
Kathalynn Turner Davis once made 'wishes on the stars' and dreamed of fame and fortune. Her heart's desires were granted, but the later quest she undertook for spiritual and psychological growth moved her far from her Christian upbringing as she became attracted to "...the bliss and simplicity of Eastern philosophies."
Davis never intended to sojourn to India, much less live in an ashram and encounter a memorable swami. But her spiritual enlightenment transformed her heart's desires and changed her life approach as well as her goals, and this process is nicely detailed in a memoir that traverses not just her own growth, but the process of confronting the unexpected in life as she slowly moved from a focus on relationships to finding higher ground.
Readers might expect a story of India and these ashram years, but Kiss Me, Swami's concentration on evolving spiritual reflections and awareness is what sets it apart from similar-sounding books, capturing moments of insight and growth: "Some people believe that spiritual work will protect them against hard times and challenges. Others believe that challenges are a test for your spiritual growth. I don’t think that the universe tests. With every challenge there is an opportunity for growth. Spiritual work does not guarantee that your life will be smooth and without challenges, and it doesn’t stop the process. Sometimes bad things happen. Being on a spiritual path gives you tools to help you cope with and even overcome what comes your way."
Her immersion in the culture of the 1960s and 70s in Hollywood to New York City also adds some intriguing insights into the times from an insider's perspective.
The revelations Davis reveals about the presence of a magical swami or all-encompassing truth power a memoir that is both steeped in her life experience and a spiritual journey that eventually comes full circle. Readers on their own quests for meaning will find her experiences enlightening, accessible, and educational.
A Matter of Faith
Chuks I. Ndukwe
978-0-9990705-7-4 (Paperback) $9.99
A Matter of Faith: How Faith Saved Me From Homelessness is a faith-based memoir that explores how religion proved the ultimate salvation not just for Chuks I. Ndukwe's soul, but for his life, as well, as he careened through twists and turns to uncover his ultimate destiny.
He survived the Nigerian-Biafra war; but emotional scars remained, and he was simply living for the moment without regard to ultimate purpose, anxious to begin his new married life in the United States, studying computer science.
He was on the fast track to success until the stock market crashed and layoffs forced him into dire circumstances in which he lost his life savings, his wife and kids, and everything he'd worked for.
It should be noted that the process of redefining his faith-based life is nicely wound into the general autobiography. Many details are provided about his life and its progression. This focus on Ndukwe's course is a reminder that A Matter of Faith is about how the author reconnected with his overall purpose: of necessity, autobiographical depth is a part of exploring this journey.
Readers who like autobiographical pieces that traverse personal, business, and religious growth alike will appreciate the focus of Ndukwe's story, about reconnecting with God in a different way.
Milk and Honey Land
Author Academy Elite
Paperback: 978-1-64085-647-9 $15.99
Hardcover: 978-1-64085-648-6 $26.99
Ebook: 978-1-64085-649-3 $ 9.99
Milk and Honey Land: A Story of Grief, Grace, and Goats opens with a crash: the reflections of a narrator who observes that: "When planes drop from the sky, they head straight for me. I think them premonitions. Souvenirs even."
As J.M. Huxley's story moves into spiritual realms, readers receive a combination of autobiography and reflection on life's purpose that winds through puzzling life encounters, joyful moments, revelations, and friendship and adversity alike.
The first strength to note about Milk and Honey Land is its candid approach to events of the past, which broach subjects even Huxley's siblings refused to discuss decades later: "It will be nearly thirty years before I look at the photos I’ve taken of the inside of my father’s house. It will be nearly thirty years before I talk about what happened there. And when I begin to write then, I will initially leave all of this out of my own story, the one I will write for my children. Until God reminds me to include it, and even then, it won’t be something I will want to do."
The second standout is the most obvious: a spiritual, reflective thread that runs through the stories and Huxley's life, connecting them in ways that draw life lessons from events to teach readers about values, changing ways, and the consequences of individual decisions and social trends: "As I load everyone back into the van for the ride home, I’m thinking about the variety of people who have recognized the grit and determination of the past enough to validate it in the present. A generation that includes an elderly woman willing to operate a museum out of her home, and more who cared enough about their history to share what comprises the contents of the rustic collection we’d seen. Few people care anymore, either for their history or how it affects their future. Few realize, it seems, that the past can be sustenance in the present too. That what is done here on planet earth matters for all time."
Huxley's ability to connect the dots between reflections on life and concurrent spiritual milestones is cemented and equaled only by her ability to craft captivating portraits of these transitional moments: "And with every passing moment, every receding day, more and more of my heart is lost to this Promised Land that has captivated me, this place that has caused me to think and see and feel differently, this slice of earth where angels are called and the Spirit of God rests. Glimpses of the past and future spark reaction in me to know more. And do more."
Religious thinkers interested in a memoir that moves beyond individual experience and into connections between past and present and spiritual growth will find Milk and Honey Land: A Story of Grief, Grace, and Goats lively, inspiring, reflective, and always rooted in an appreciation of life, God, and the unexpected courses both can take as adversity and joy evolve.
Milk and Honey Land is very highly recommended as an exceptionally vivid story of spiritual growth and life lessons, and will appeal to Christian readers, philosophical thinkers, and spiritual learners alike.
978-1-60381-782-0 (Trade Paper) $16.95
978-1-60381-781-3 (ebook) $ 5.95
Book 6 of the Dreamwalker series blends another satisfying Maggie Toussaint mystery with paranormal overtones as speaker for the dead psychic Baxley Powell once again faces the Suitcase Killer, who has moved from the big city to her own small town.
One refreshing difference between Dreamed It and other mysteries is that Baxley is more of a psychic than an investigator. Murder mysteries are not really her forte—her focus is on dreamwalks that take her to other realms.
Her attention is also captured in a budding, insistent romance that is at once desirable and distracting as Baxley finds Native American Deputy Sam Mayes both a sympathetic, powerful partner and a problem when she assumes the role of a crime consultant.
Readers are immediately immersed in the dreamwalk atmosphere as Baxley awakens from a psychic journey which she's taken with her boyfriend, but experiences rare amnesia about the encounters she's had on the Other Side.
She's experienced at crossing into the spirit realm. Now she needs to come up to speed quickly on both matters of the heart and how to survive a deadly killer who has transported himself into her world.
This continuing saga of Baxley's psychic and psychological growth benefits from the added murder mystery overlay, which develops intrigue and action as an excellent adjunct to the focus on her evolution. Baxley isn't always comfortable with her new situation, or the politics of her role in the investigation: "I mentally groaned as I polished off the last of the chocolate bar. The fall from superstar to worker bee in a matter of seconds felt meteoric, but truthfully it was another day at the office. I was the sheriff ’s new app. Instead of point and click, I’d become point and sniff."
As they get on track and move closer to catching a serial killer, Baxley and Mayes stumble upon the angst of a parent whose child has become caught up in a deadly plot, family wounds which have festered rather than healed over time, and motivations warped by dangerous thinking. Their choices reach into their dreamwalking world with purposes that change their relationship and reveal the deadly consequences of a rogue dreamwalk experience.
Toussaint's ability to craft growing, exquisite tension from interpersonal relationships, revelations, and the fine line between the Other Side and waking events enhances another story that is hard to put down. Dreamed It will attract and please both mystery readers and those seeking a walk on the wild side of paranormal abilities. It's a tense, outstanding whodunit that will keep readers involved on both an emotional and an investigative level, right up to the story's riveting conclusion.
The Healer's Daughters
The Healer's Daughters is a thriller set in Turkey, where archaeologist �zlem Boroğlu and her daughter Elif face not just archaeological discoveries, but the pressing influence of political forces with vested interests in the outcome of their work.
As terrorists and corrupt officials influence their actions and threaten their lives, �zlem finds herself more than the protector of healer Galen’s ruins. She becomes the pawn in a larger game that threatens her entire family.
Added into the mix of intrigue and confrontation are historical flashbacks to Galen's time, Elif's own pursuit of art that reflects her worship of the Goddess, and an investigation into grave robberies by Tuğ�e Iskan, who is also moving closer to a truth that holds much wider consequences than local trouble.
The Healer's Daughters is replete with insights on Turkish culture. The characters all have Turkish roots and identities that may initially stymie Westerners unused to these names, but which lend to the authenticity of the background and events being described.
The process of archaeological investigations that lead to a treasure hunt is nicely described ("Galen’s reference to the scent of pine led Boroğlu out of the Kaikos Valley into the hills rising to Kapıkaya, and poor little Mehmet’s possession of the Hadrian Aureus confirmed that she is on the right track. And now, she has these two specific sites. She even gave Serkan the detailed geological map of the valley around Pergamon that she had painstakingly made. Let the Hamits dither around on their extensive land holdings in the valley. They, especially Mustafa, the overeducated, pompous son, have no real understanding of archeology and no chance of finding Galen’s treasure on their own.") and tension builds on many levels, creating a complex, believable, and logically arranged sequence of events that keep readers on their toes.
With its powerful blend of Turkish cultural explorations, international intrigue, a treasure hunt, historical references, and characters who hold their own special interests close to their hearts, The Healer's Daughters is an exceptional thriller that proves hard to put down.
Hotel Insomnia: Stories
Alaric Cabiling Ltd.
ASIN: B07RYD68SG $0.99
Think Alfred Hitchcock and some of his best collections, such as Stories Not for the Nervous, when pursuing Hotel Insomnia: Stories, because the combination of dark observation and intrigue in Alaric Cabiling's five tales is much like Hitchcock's award-winning style, which is a difficult one to emulate.
Hotel Insomnia excels in stories that invite readers to redefine their perceptions of life's inherent tragedy and cruelty, creating scenes that feel familiar at first, only to evolve into circumstances which move a step beyond the norm.
Take the opener, 'The Iconoclast', for one example. Alfred, who has spent a lifetime pursuing happiness, has, in the end, ended his life in a dingy room with a bottle of whiskey and a gun. How he arrived at that dark place is explored in a short story that explains how he might have led a secret life.
How has an affair, a charge of treason, and an error in judgment led to this outcome? The short story's surprising conclusion offers much food for thought.
Similarly well-done is 'Sudden Death', which follows broken-hearted Jacob's walk into danger when he takes a wrong turn and confronts unexpected loss.
Each story is succinct, hard-hitting, and reflective.
Readers who enjoy stories of psychological suspense will find the engrossing stories in Hotel Insomnia linger in the mind long after the initial read.
Paperback: 978-1-61153-317-0 $15.99
ebook: 978-1-61153-318-7 $ 7.99
Ordering links: Amazon: https://www.amazon.
Barnes & Noble: https://www.
The Ransom is the fourth book in the Nicole Graves mystery series and tells of a new PI who expected her first professional case to revolve around legal work for corporate clients. Everything changes when the son of her client is killed trying to protect his wife from a home invasion/kidnapping.
Soon someone dear to Nicole is taken, and a ransom demand arrives for the exact amount of her recent inheritance. The perps seem to know her every move.
As she investigates prior crimes and adds insight into her own situation, the case she’s working for her firm and researches her own dilemma, Nicole uncovers more than she'd bargained for in unlikely places—a derelict cabin in one of L.A.’s canyons, an abandoned mansion on Mulholland Drive, and creepy old courtyard apartments in Hollywood. The mystery includes descriptive passages that add to the suspense: "She realized it would be easy to break the web apart with her flashlight, but she hesitated. From her study of spiders, she knew that the brown recluse, the country’s most venomous arachnid, was a Southern California native that hung out in dark basements. There was good reason to think that the creator of this giant web might well be a brown recluse. She wasn’t going to touch the web unless she could figure out a way protect herself from a spider bite. Stepping back, she used the flashlight to see what else was under there."
This is just one example of how Nancy Boyarsky crafts an atmospheric series of encounters that not only lead to discoveries, but adeptly capture a sense of place and purpose. Nicole's dogged ability to get to the bottom of matters, even if the route lies through either physically and psychologically challenging circumstances, creates a tense, satisfying thriller atmosphere.
When the kidnappers fail to show up at the first drops as instructed, she faces quandaries in trying to figure out how they could have known about the traps set for them. Have they tapped her covert communications with the police, or hacked into her bank account?
When a terrifying threat arrives at her door, Nicole realizes she has to go it alone, no matter what the danger.
The Ransom winds through not only a crime story, but the protagonist's psychological makeup and ability to remain savvy and sly against all odds. The book is told from two viewpoint characters, Nicole and her sister, Stephanie, and this adds an extra dimension to the explorations and mystery.
Another notable pleasure for newcomers is that this book stands nicely alone without relying on other titles in the series, yet is a fitting expansion of Nicole's character and challenges to her new profession, for prior fans.
All this makes The Ransom a highly recommended choice for mystery readers seeking not just sleuthing stories, but psychological depth and insights. It's a superb compendium of atmospheric encounters that make for an engrossing, moving story cemented by strong characterization and a plot designed to keep even seasoned mystery readers on their toes.
Revenge Served Cold
978-1-912601-93-6 $13.99 Paper/$4.99 Kindle
Readers of romantic thrillers will find Revenge Served Cold a hotbed of passion and murder revolving around Andrea, who has loved two men for most of her life. Her pursuits of both have involved them in a triad that leads to marriage, divorce, remarriage, and the two men becoming both friends and enemies in pursuit of the same goal.
Years of entanglements and uncertainty lead to deadly games that are increasingly desperate, conducted on all sides with a mesmerizing horror overtone that evolves from untoward actions and unexpected results.
An excerpt from the soon-to-be-murdered Andrea opens the story with just enough intrigue to keep readers engaged ("I remember the look of utter disbelief on my fianc�'s face when he realized he'd been tossed, fully clothed, into the swimming pool. And I recall thinking, as Max and Robby picked me up and carried me off bodily to their car, that I should at least appear to be outraged, to scream in anger and make it look as though I were trying to break free. But I did nothing; partly because I was totally mesmerized, even flattered, by the sheer audacity of what they had done, partly because I was very young with little sense of propriety, and partly because I loved them both."), but the meat of the tale is narrated using shifting perspectives between the three lovers and those who are investigating events that stem from their strange relationship.
These changing perspectives, clearly delineated by chapter headings, offer multifaceted observations that a more singular narrative style could not have achieved, contributing complexity and depth to a story line that slowly reveals the logic, romances, psychological entanglements, and different perspectives of all involved.
By now it should be evident that Revenge Served Cold is not your usual romance or murder mystery, but a delightful romp through psyches and motivations. It adds unexpected dashes of humor into conversations and revelations and considers the consequences of thwarted love and a focus on evening the score and playing field.
Revenge Served Cold is highly recommended reading for thriller and romantic suspense audiences who will find its special blend of humor, psychology, and intrigue just the ticket for a warm read on a cold night.
Sacred Vines: A Finger Lakes Wine Mystery
Print: 978-0-9979601-2-9 $16.99
Ebook: 978-0-9979601-3-6 $ 2.99
Sacred Vines will appeal to readers of detective or cozy mystery stories, and adds a dash of culinary background to the intrigue to further expand its audience as it explores the aftermath of a crash and death in New York's Finger Lakes wine country.
When the dead victim of the crash shows up alive and identifies the body in her car, events slide towards the bizarre for the detective investigating the strange case, as well as a fellow investigator who finds himself drawn into increasingly bizarre circumstances involving a winery, a monastery, and a murderer.
Sacred Vines builds tension nicely and flushes out its characters' special attributes and interests with an attention to detail to provide insights on not just murderers and law enforcement efforts, but individual abilities and interactions: "Dudley wondered how people could understand him when they couldn’t understand themselves. There were layers of sensory activity in an average person that others couldn’t comprehend. With someone diagnosed with autism, there was too much going on like a rush hour traffic jam on the highway. He felt his senses were stronger, perhaps like a superhero, at pivotal moments such as this. His sense of smell was one. He could smell gas and the burning of metal and rubber."
From probes of the connections between a hardworking winery girl and a missing son to Dudley's growing suspicions that ghosts may be real and they're running out of time, Don Stevens builds fine tension and characters that keep cozy mystery readers involved to the end.
Steeped in the Finger Lakes atmosphere and in the special interests of characters who all harbor secrets and suspicions, Sacred Vines is a satisfying mystery that will appeal to a wide audience of genre fans.
Spiral Into Darkness
Black Rose Writing
978-1-68433-209-0 $21.81 Paper/$6.99 Kindle
There's a murderer on the loose: one with a special brand of pathological killing, which occurs seemingly at random. The killer? A determined, intelligent, methodical citizen who blends perfectly into society: the very opposite picture of a killer—and that is what makes him so deadly and effective.
There are no clues as to his identity, and no insights on who will be his next victim. Chapters open with profiles of his previous victims. Vincent O’Laughlin is the youngest partner in a law firm and has dreams of making a name for himself in New York, when he's mowed down. Shirley Bodencamp is a school principal who loves her job and wants to be the best wife and middle-school principal she can be. She is murdered point-blank by a perp who delivers the same message before he kills: that she should "never have done it." 'It' remains undefined for each victim, and is the last message they'll hear.
Jamie Graff is up for promotion to a position he doesn't really want: Chief of Detectives. It comes with politics, paperwork, and approaches that he fears will hinder his top-notch investigative skills, and it also comes as a new serial killer emerges on the scene which demands every ounce of resources and savvy he can muster.
Joseph Lewis excels in building more than just a 'whodunnit' mystery. His is a novel of psychological suspense that weaves a 'cat-and-mouse' game into the equation of dealing with a killer who is much cleverer than anyone he's run up against in his career as a detective.
Readers receive changing but clear perspectives from both sides of the table as investigator and perp dance around each other in an increasingly dangerous interplay. It's a dance where playing it safe does not pay off; one which comes to involve some unexpected targets in the form of children; and one in which Jamie's career and possibly his life is on the line.
Tension builds in an excellent, methodical manner as Lewis creates a scenario that rests firmly on not just the actions of all involved, but their psychological foundations. It should be noted that Spiral Into Darkness includes sex between males along with some unexpected twists that detective story readers may not see coming. All these developments are tastefully presented, and integral to the evolving bigger picture.
The result is a powerfully written work of psychological fiction that is highly recommended not just for mystery and police procedural readers, but for those who appreciate literary works well grounded in strong characters, plot development, and emotional tension.
Great buildup, great insights, great reading!
John Manis holds a threatening secret close to his heart. Marilyn Dupree is rich and also dangerously challenged. It's a formula for disaster when the paths of their hearts collide in To Hell with Johnny Manic which, ironically, begins with the end of money and madness.
In order to properly understand where the narrator arrived at this point, it's important to note that this is a murder mystery; not a story of illicit love. As such, it is steeped in psychological revelation and insight: "I had a new group of best friends every night. I’d treat them to a fifteen-hundred-dollar dinner and make sure they were all charmed by the smooth, attentive, flattering, and charismatic John Manis. Everybody loved John Manis, and no one gave a damn about Tom Gantry. That bugged me too. Tom Gantry was lonely as hell, the invisible heart of a seemingly charmed life, all by himself in a world no one could see or understand. Just like Manis’s old man."
This is no light whodunit, but a complex psychological piece that pits the efforts of Detective Lou Eisenfall to solve not just a crime, but the roots of a relationship that descends into madness.
With each step, Andrew Diamond cultivates an engrossingly dark vision of a protagonist whose alter ego takes over in many different ways: "This was the urgency, the compulsion that had earned me my nickname at the gambling tables. The calm, well-dressed guy who arrived with a smile was John Manis. Everybody’s friend. The frantic one throwing the dice and dramatically promising the crowd he’d win this time was Johnny Manic. The real John Manis, who by now was long gone, was the guy who’d written all those addictive games that kept people glued to their phones, stacking colored jewels, running through mazes, and abusing barnyard animals. He’d sold out at age twenty-seven to a big gaming company and then posted an online manifesto denouncing the evils of the technology that had made him rich."
As Johnny cultivates a relationship with Marilyn that involves snooping into the roots of her wealth and her husband's life, a dangerous game evolves that leads readers into the heart and mind of a murderer.
Many crime stories are told from the investigator's perspective, or from the third person observations of all involved. Diamond's use of the first person offers a rare glimpse into the evolution of a killer and the dark thoughts that drive him, allowing readers access to truths that surface throughout the course of a compelling story.
At times, this first-person perspective becomes confusing. Chapter titles might have clarified these changing perspectives for readers who might wonder who is doing the story-telling.
That said, the build-up of psychological suspense and the evolution of evil is truly compelling, and a winning strength in a story that goes in unexpected directions, from affair to murder to gambling table and beyond.
Fans of Raymond Chandler and his ilk will appreciate how To Hell with Johnny Manic follows two characters into the depths of a hell created by ambition, angst, and a life battered and twisted by continual disappointments.
To Hell with Johnny Manic is very highly recommended for crime readers who like their stories introspective, brooding, and psychologically astute.
All Man's Land
D. László Conhaim
Broken Arrow Press
A fictional tribute to renaissance man Paul Robeson, All Man's Land is a solid literary work inspired by this noted singer, activist, athlete, and more. From the Robeson model, D. László Conhaim creates the character of Benjamin Neill, a black frontier singing cowboy who rides into town to change lives and form an unlikely friendship.
The exploration of a black-Jewish relationship in frontier times would seem challenge enough, but Conhaim blends this reality-based novel with a striking consideration of the overall prejudices and sentiments of the times, injecting fictional drama and embellishments into a kind of memoir that is absorbing and enlightening on many levels.
Neill's original ride into town and confrontation in a saloon changes into something much more purposeful as he faces and fosters not only social changes, but challenges to rustic frontier culture in the form of horseless carriages, an unanticipated black pilgrimage, and even women's rights.
Neill is a spiritual man who isn't content with his place in this changing world, and who aims to be part of what changes it. As Conhaim paints a portrait of David, a young man who prompts Neill to examine his own prejudices and purposes, readers receive a solid blend of frontier conflict and the evolution of challenging relationships: "David summoned up even more courage. “Marshal,” he said, “you ain’t taking their side without first letting Sally explain hers?” Unable to elicit a response, he added, “That’s real disappointing. Don’t look to me like any of these gentlemen is worth the sacrifice of your principles. But mine’s a biased eye.”
One strength in Conhaim's story undoubtedly lies in its evolutionary process, because his manuscript sat forgotten for thirty years until he resurrected and revised All Man's Land for publication. Perhaps this lends to an even more powerful retrospective piece, for having aged gracefully in the years since its original incarnation.
All Man's Land returns to a world that has largely moved away from Western popular fiction and memories of Paul Robeson, but it lives on as a tribute to this powerful individual and resurrects a sense of his multifaceted talents while providing a social commentary on America's early years.
As Neill wields the Jewish Kaddish and guns alike, readers will delight in a story that is far more intellectual than the typical Western entertainment. All Man's Land weaves a powerful story of how times change, and how one man's purpose becomes an inspiring message for new generations.
Replete with powerful messages for modern times, All Man's Land drives its story with a blend of social inspection, historical precedent, and cultural insights. Readers of literary fiction will find it earns a place in any collection. It emphasizes a broader perspective than most Westerns do, as Neill becomes a crusader for social justice and racial equality in an era when both concepts are challenging and controversial.
New Heights Publishing
978-0-9969981-5-4 $4.99 Kindle
Destined adds another book to the Oaktown Girls series which is set in Oakland, California and revolves around a lesbian car garage owner and the circles she moves in.
Lizzie is set to move in with Kate until ICE threatens to deport the Irish lass and Kate's forced to seek sanctuary in a church, where a maintenance person gives her unwanted attention.
There's also a romantic subplot simmering in the background as SFPD undercover cop Frankie falls in love with psychic Sally, but struggles to understand a belief system and method that doesn't jive with her view of the world and crime-solving strategies.
The first thing to note is that both stories move concurrently through the chapters and include individual struggles with life circumstances and psychological growth.
Frankie must learn to let go of fears and stop micromanaging others around her. Her perspective of the world, supported by her career of choice, has reinforced a rigidity that spills into her personal life and thwarts her ability to express love or believe in anything but cold, hard facts: "...in her work she spent her days following up on people’s worst instincts, and suspecting everyone of everything. This was the life of an undercover cop. She seldom, if ever, got to spend time with people who were just plain good. The other officers in her squad were mostly decent-hearted people. But the perps were…well, perps. You basically spent your days suspecting people of things."
Lizzy faces daily fears that her blossoming love for Kate will be cut short by losing her ("Lizzy’s worst fear was that Immigration and Customs Enforcement would suddenly show up at the garage, where Kate had been unofficially working part-time for several months. They’d pull out their handcuffs, and that would be that. Kate would be gone and their tender, beautiful, steadily improving relationship would basically be over."), while Sally's dream of finding legitimate employment causes a rift in her relationship with Frankie and her prospects for the future.
In each case, destiny steps in to change dreams, trajectories, and futures, at once thwarting romantic inclinations and leading characters onto new paths that hold both challenges and better possibilities.
From issues of safety and unconditional love to career moves and community interactions, Destined captures not just the interactions and heart of Oakland's lesbian community, but the interpersonal challenges and growth opportunities all relationships afford.
As the characters face their demons and grow, readers receive a compelling saga of hope, dreams, reflection, and renewal which deftly captures the California lesbian community's individual pursuits and spirit in a manner achieved by few other writers.
California and lesbian readers will find Destined is thought-provoking, involving reading that considers the avenues of romance and personal growth alike, offering many insights as it traverses the roads of strong, determined women and their romantic connections to each other.
Destined is very highly recommended as a revealing probe of love, entrapment, growth, and new possibilities.
The Dung Beetles of Liberia
Daniel V. Meier, Jr.
978-1-945448-37-9 (p) $16.95
978-1-945448-38-6 (e) $ 7.99
When death strikes unexpectedly, it can change everything. This is what Ken Verrier discovers in The Dung Beetles of Liberia: A Novel Based on True Events. When his brother dies, he drops out of college and leaves town for the most remote place he can think of, far from anything he's ever experienced—Liberia, where he accepts a new job as a transport pilot.
The story literally opens with a bang as Ken struggles to bring his small plane to a rocky landing, waiting nuns squealing in the microphone in his ear while his stomach churns with the dysentery which is so common to white people visiting Africa.
The dung beetles also appear in this opening salvo of action to lend further atmosphere to a story that offers up a unique, intriguing, action-filled voice right from the start: "I saw the airstrip through a parting of the clouds—and I dove for it. I flew the airplane straight onto the runway with a couple of hard bounces, pulled it to a dusty stop, and set the parking brake. Leaving the engine idling with the prop turning over slowly, I bailed out of the cabin. I ran to the bush, which was mostly grass and weeds about chest high, and, with only moments to spare, relieved myself. While this relief was occurring, I heard the distinctive wuush, wuush, wuush of dung beetles crawling through the grass. I had been told that they could hear a mouse break wind from five miles away and could follow the scent. With my pants around my ankles and the sun beating down on my head, I started a little hippy hop, hippy hop movement to keep away from them. And here came the good sisters in their Land Rover. “Oh, Mr. Pilot! Mr. Pilot, Mr. Pilot! Where are you?”
This introduction captures only a fraction of the action which ensues as readers are treated to a story that is steeped in the culture, politics, ironies, and worlds of Africa. It's one that lingers in the mind with many thought-provoking, changing scenarios: "Koto,” Andre said, “this is Boss Ken. He is one of our new pilots and he is also a mechanic from the United States.” Koto looked unfazed. “He will be the boss. You do what he says.” Had we been in a maintenance shop in the US, this kind of speech and introduction would have caused instant resentment and led to numerous labor conflicts. Koto, however, smiled his near toothless smile, nodded his head in agreement, and said, “Yes boss, I unnastan. He know sheenery. He know sheenery mo dan me.”
As stark contrasts between Liberia and the USA permeate an engrossing story of adventure, revelation, change, and coming to terms with many kinds of obstacles, readers will be thoroughly engrossed in a story that reveals 1960s Liberia's social and political disparity between wealth and poverty. These are the very topics the protagonist of this story knew too little about before his sojourn.
This element of discovery as seen through an American's eyes creates a novel that is especially compelling in its contrasts between the very wealthy and the very poor in Liberian society. Descriptions are exact and atmospheric: "We followed other arriving guests across the parking area and along the newly laid walkways into the new Executive Mansion. Inside, we were directed to a large, central room, which I assumed was the main ballroom. It had been finished in imitation of the French Rococo style, but without the elegance or refinement. Several crystal chandeliers hung from the high, rounded ceiling. Guards dressed in uniforms that looked similar to what might have been worn by Napoleon’s generals were stationed at doorways and along the walls. The sound of a string quartet playing chamber music echoed from the marble walls. An elaborate bar with several bartenders was at the far end of the room, and to the side was a lavish display of European and Liberian delicacies. There was an actual roasted boar with an apple in its mouth."
While leisure readers seeking an adventure read replete with international atmosphere will be the most likely audience for The Dung Beetles of Liberia, they will find educational and revealing the very real social insights and messages embedded into Ken's story of discovery. These features make the novel equally highly recommended for those who like their stories replete with social messages and, especially, insights into Africa in general and Liberian politics and history in particular.
The blend of fictional action and nonfiction social inspection are simply exquisite strengths that set this story apart from many other fictional pieces set in Africa.
Evening in the Yellow Wood
978-1-945502-98-9 $16.95 Paper/$4.99 Kindle
Justine Cook's father was Zen, hip, and cool. Cool enough to counter a more conservative, uptight mother. Cool enough to abandon his family when she was twelve years old, leaving behind only a note to confirm his deliberate actions: "I can’t tell you why I had to leave or if I’ll ever be able to come back."
Evening in the Yellow Wood opens with the mystery of his departure, but continues to explore the impact of this event on Justine's life ten years later, when she stumbles upon his picture in a newspaper and embarks on a journey away from her home in Southern Michigan to the small town of Lantern Creek.
Finding her father—or herself—is not the end of the story, as Justine searches for the magic that suddenly left her life, only to find, instead, very different dilemmas that go far beyond the reunion and answers she'd envisioned for ten years.
At twenty-two years of age, she must confront many things, including her choice to stop believing in magic and the new evidence she uncovers that magic might really exist (albeit in a form she'd never imagined), and that her own family is involved in something powerful and threatening.
One doesn't expect the search for a possible serial killer to emerge from what at first seems a typical teenage story of family breakup, but one of the pleasures of Evening in the Yellow Wood lies in its ability to interest new adults in themes which demand maturity and adult perceptions.
Justine's evolving life as a new adult in search of truths about her father and, ultimately, her heritage and legacy creates an engrossing, involving story. Characters are well done, the transition from childhood perceptions to adult interests is nicely presented, and the story line offers unexpected changes that are both logical and engrossing.
In addition, Laura Kemp closes many of her first-person chapters with a cliffhanger moment designed to keep readers on the edge of their seats.
Evening in the Yellow Wood is an excellent title recommended for new adults, who will find the story much more than another focus on abandonment and family issues.
9781072842477 ebook: $6.99; print: $11.95
Jerkwater is set in Wisconsin and focuses on a battle over Native American fishing rights. At stake are not only livelihoods and survival, but a heritage that connects and bridges gaps within the community itself.
It would have been simple to craft a linear production from this premise, but Jamie Zerndt creates three viewpoints from different town members who have their own perspectives and stakes in outcomes, using them as focal points to explore different perceptions about an issue which divides rather than unifies the small town.
He also approaches questions from the experiences of three generations: a young antisocial Ojibwa woman; her 64-year-old bereaved, drunk neighbor; and the neighbor's son, who harbors his own grief and resentments.
Zerndt does a fine job of inserting references to the roots of prejudice and perceptions both within the tribe and by outsiders: "Can I ask why he's getting hurt at school? Is it because he's Native American?" "No," Shawna said, pushing back the hair from her face and looking at Kay. "It's because he's an Indian."
Everyone around them bends in the wind, absorbing the backlash of prejudice, grief, violence, and depression. From how friends become family or are alienated by disability and life circumstances to choices made to leave or stay in Mercer, and their lasting consequences, Jerkwater is about the evolution of both individuals and groups under pressure.
Its ability to capture the depression and rebellion of a group of Native Americans using succinct, hard, hitting questions and interactions ("How much more will you let them take from us?") creates an engrossing read that is much more than a story of political pressure and infighting, but one of cultural heritage and emotions under stress.
Readers who enjoy novels of Native American issues and interactions will find Jerkwater a compelling exploration of the river of emotions and angst that simmers under the surface of a seemingly-placid community until events pressure it to explode. The writing is just like its events: seemingly placid and calm, but embedded with an urgency and insight that slowly percolates to the surface to create a story that is both satisfyingly unpredictable and astutely observational.
978-1622532254 $14.95 Paper/$4.99 Kindle
Moon Path is historical novel writing at its best, and moves between the points of view of Samuel, who is sent from Poland to an arctic Soviet Gulag before World War II, and his brother Aron, who leaves Poland for Palestine.
Parted by circumstances which would seem to indicate their ongoing separation, the two brothers struggle to find each other against impossible conditions as war looms in 1942 and the Jewish refugees in Palestine face the threat of a Nazi invasion.
The first most notable feature of Steven Greenberg's story is that it's a literary achievement powerful in atmospheric backgrounds and compelling descriptions designed to keep readers immersed, as in the story's compelling opener: "My hands... I saw these most vividly. I looked down at them in wonder as it happened. Because they weren’t really my hands. They were not the hands I’d brought from Vilnius, and certainly not those I’d had in Warsaw. The dirt on these hands had colonized the depths of the ragged fingernails, had swarmed into the vein-ringed chasms of the chapped skin. These hands were calloused, sickly, rough. My hands were familiar with the cool obsidian of a fountain pen, with the warmth of coffee shop porcelain. They knew the silkiness of Danuta’s inner thigh much better than splinter-infested shovel handles, dented tin cups, and sweat-slick cervical tissue. For these hands, I discovered with horror, were locked tight around a human neck."
As Samuel loses his brother and reflects on Aron's meaning to his life past, present and future, readers are treated to a powerful survey of not just political and social change, but the strife that rips one Jewish family apart. Indeed, there are many partings along the way; but none seem as permanent as the latest, challenging Samuel to reassess his relationship with his sibling as well as the possibilities and desirability of reunion against all odds.
Over their lifetimes, both have "acquired and inflicted deep wounds." But pursuit of new family ties isn't the only topic driving this powerful story; for Samuel has other concerns that are equally potent: "Surely, now I could say it out loud. Surely, now I could finally say the word I’d barely allowed myself to speak since Chelyabinsk. Now I could say aloud this word that carried such power, promise, and passion—without being afraid that it would curse the shrinking distance. For this word had propelled me from the frozen wasteland of the Pechora River, over 5,000 kilometers of rail, road, track, ice, blood and sea. This word had pursued me down every moon path, tickled my mind, and blown gently into my ears every time I closed my eyes."
The promise and allure of these new connections will keep his life moving towards impossible goals under equally challenging situations in Moon Path, a story that creates an outward trajectory from prison and death towards life and new possibilities, relentlessly driving for resolution and reconnection despite everything.
Readers of literary works that survey dreams, realities, and the process of rebuilding lives when everything falls apart will relish the astute observations, strong characters, and survival tactics of these individuals, who face obstacles with courage, fortitude, and determination.
Moon Path should be on the shelves of any collection strong in Jewish literature or World War II history.
My Christmas Darling
Bramble House Books
Large print: 978-1-7332261-4-1 $16.99
Regular print: 978-1-7332261-1-0 $16.99
ebook: 978-1-7332261-0-3 $ 2.99
If it's a heart-rendering, romantic holiday story that is desired to mirror the Christmas spirit, then My Christmas Darling is truly a winner. It weaves a seasonal festival atmosphere into a delightful love story about acceptance, forgiveness, mistakes, and redemption.
Anyone who has ever made a huge mistake while pursuing a dream will be able to identify with book editor Lucy Carpenter, who faces a double dilemma between mounting medical bills from her mother's illness and the opportunity to see her little Christmas novel achieve fame—even if it is in a way that challenges both company rules and her personal ethics.
At the same time, William Harcourt, a company bigwig with Scrooge-like personality, sees this little gem of a Christmas story as an opportunity to redeem himself in his critical father's eyes and propel his company to new heights.
Neither expected romance to evolve from their efforts, and neither was prepared to handle the emotional, ethical, and career-challenging conundrums that stem from an unexpected relationship after they had both been wounded from past love.
From its very first, inviting sentences, My Christmas Darling leads readers into a world of hope: "There it was. Her liberation in a manila envelope. Finally." Readers will come to believe in the power of positive thinking, individual effort, and unusual connections, but before the story is done, this path winds through blossoming relationships and changed perspectives as lessons are learned, all the way to a happy ending on a snowy Christmas morning.
Part of the Christmas spirit and holiday magic lies not just in having that special gift show up in a holiday stocking or gift box, but in pursing one's dreams, only to find them in unexpected places. Both Lucy and William are determined to achieve their goals against all odds, no matter what; but the choices they make and the consequences these bring hold unforeseen possibilities that change everything for them.
The best Christmas stories come packaged not in
glittering paper and bright ribbons, but in the promise of redemption
and reward from the basis of love. Both Lucy and William need to grow,
and they do so in a roundabout way that leads My Christmas
Darling readers on a journey of genuine promises and
There is likely going to be no better, more uplifting contemporary Christmas novel for the 2019 season than My Christmas Darling. Readers who enjoy characters with a rich compendium of growth-inducing circumstances and difficult decisions will find it just the recipe for cozying up on a cold winter's day, and warming the heart at Christmas.
One Man's Rubbish
Peter H. Christopher
One Man's Rubbish opens with a clash between army soldiers in Havana and Harry, who has knowingly placed himself in a precarious position by visiting the local dump outside of town to fulfill one of his passions: locating treasures in other people's trash.
Harry's passion for garbage has spilled from U.S. borders to international destinations: "By flying to Cuba, he’d gambled that a communist dump in the middle of the Caribbean would reveal items of interest that he wouldn’t find back home...He’d figured that a colossal mountain of refuse situated on the outskirts of the old Spanish city might reveal some unusual junk that he wouldn’t be able to find in the States. Something different. Perhaps a discarded chandelier that in better days used to hang in an ambassador’s office before Castro seized all the consulates during the revolution, or at the very least a few broken pieces of blue-and-yellow colonial pottery."
Peter H. Christopher does a fine job of succinctly describing the nature and progress of Harry's passion, which segues into a story that evolves beyond a fixation with rubbish to explore archaeological treasure hunting efforts and Harry's journey from a trash fanatic to becoming a historical researcher.
As Harry journeys from his passion for junk to a mystery that involves attempted murder, secret projects, and clever women, One Man's Rubbish offers many unexpected twists that keep readers on their toes and engaged in a story that moves from Cuba to Athens, Cairo, London, Naples and Troy in an intriguing quest for answers.
It's hard to neatly peg One Man's Rubbish. At once a thriller, a fictional exploration of a singular passion's evolutionary process, and a saga of adventure, suffice it to say that it will cross genres to appeal to fans of action stories, historical fiction, psychological evolution, and political intrigue. It's a rollicking good tale that's hard to put down, filled with many surprises.
E.J. is used to running into and out of trouble. An encounter with a familiar-looking, older boy at one of her father's Hollywood parties when she is only ten becomes a portent for her future connections with Reilly Donner as well as her own involvement in Hollywood drama which, somehow, is the one thing she can't easily escape.
As Run Away, Lizzy moves from a childhood encounter with Reilly to a more serious conundrum years later, Elizabeth J. Sparrow paints an engrossing portrait of an unlikely relationship between a flamboyant cowboy star and a young girl on the cusp of adulthood: "He stared at the several bulging pockets as well as the scruffy red cowboy boots and the Paul Bunyan sized flannel shirt over the hint of a thermal undershirt. But his discerning eye also saw a luxuriant pile of dark auburn curls, doe eyes, an un-California pallor, and most enticing of all, a rosy cherub mouth. She was too young for him but so adorably addled, he couldn’t resist teasing her. “What do you call this look? Retro hippie ragamuffin or the farmer in the dell’s scarecrow waif?” He wanted to take her by the hand and run to Neiman Marcus for an urgent makeover. She scowled and sprinted away."
Spiced with the background of film shoots, flirting, romance, breaking points, and a circus parade of stars and quandaries, Run Away, Lizzy is a study in ambition and love that keeps making unexpected turns as Lizzy and Reilly skirt the edges of a relationship and Lizzy is confronted by Reilly over the elusive, tidal dance she's created in their lives.
Whether it's a film studio or a ranch setting, Elizabeth J. Sparrow is adept at not just portraying interpersonal evolution, but the background atmosphere and scenes that bring the story to life: "Reilly flitted from the kitchen to the dining room, proud of his most recent production. He wore one of Ana’s flower print aprons over his bare chest and jeans. “Lizzy, come and get it,” he shouted from the hallway, then dashed back to the kitchen for her hot chocolate. She entered the room at a zombie’s crawl and blinked at all there was to take in. A fragrant heap of lilacs spilled from Ana’s favorite mixing bowl. The damask cloth from the night before had been brushed clean of crumbs, and a single place setting was laid with two of everything but just one plate."
As the child becomes an adult and flirting evolves into romance, Run Away, Lizzy takes a few unexpected turns, but primarily returns to a soft romance that follows a girl prone to running who cannot, this time, escape her dreams.
Romance fans will find Run Away, Lizzy a light-hearted romp through a heart that evolves from child to adult, connecting two different individuals who find their purposes in life coalesce through shared honesty in an evolving, unusual relationship.
Magic Penny Press
'Plastics' are attempting to infiltrate human society in insidious ways, and a few astute people aren't having it in Ryan's Robot, which moves between real people and the robots which are replacing them.
There's a lot happening in Ryan's Robot, and no singular robot is at the heart of these events. From the introduction of Eva and her little robotic dog who try to get the residents of a small community used to the benefits of 'plastics' living alongside real people to the motivations of a son and magician who seeks to translate magic to life's challenges, Ryan's Robot takes some unexpected turns.
At times, it almost feels like there is too much going on. Murders, ethical and social issues, a son's changing relationship with his father, a quasi-romance...however, all these elements coalesce in a story that moves briskly but logically between all these facets and more.
Brian Kacica is able to keep all these topics on track as he juggles a myriad of special interests, from corporate to personal, and this keeps the story line flowing and intriguing. The reader never quite knows where it will wind up, and this uncertainty provides a satisfying element of surprise as Ryan's Robot continually challenges its own apparent trajectory and injects many food-for-thought moments to keep readers on their toes.
The result is a read which holds futuristic elements but is not quite sci-fi; crimes which can't quite be identified as such because their victims aren't human; an evolving romantic element which takes an unexpected turn; and even a futuristic time-travel theme that keeps readers guessing about where the story will end up.
Readers who appreciate multifaceted novels that hold no linear path to resolution will find Ryan's Robot a delightfully complex, even whimsical survey of the impact of robotics and special interests in one community, and possibly the world.
The Wild Gypsy of Arbor Hill
Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.
The Wild Gypsy of Arbor Hill is a novella that follows a college student whose family has inherited enough wealth to make life relatively carefree. Unfortunately, Charlie is also an alcoholic with bad grades just coming into enough maturity to attract the ladies. This novella follows his forays into both romance and financial destitution as he makes poor choices and finds himself on a downward spiral.
How do individuals come to fall from privileged positions to the depths of degradation? How can Charlie return to a place of wealth both monetarily and psychologically, when love has played him for a fool and begins to threaten his life?
Ambition, poverty and wealth, keys to learning how (and when) to love and let go, and how to gain life lessons outside of set routines and avenues of success keep Charlie and readers thinking: "...for my second visit to New Hampshire, my Dad brought up the topic of my new survivor’s life, and I would have to keep on pushing the money issue that entire weekend until he agreed to let me into to his high-class wallet. I could easily tell that he wanted me to return to Hartford. I didn’t want to, though. There were no degrees for what I had learned thus far anywhere in the Ivory Tower."
When Charlie feels stuck by his choices and newfound poverty, his life changes yet again.
Harvey Havel does a fine job of painting a picture of a life transformed by experiences outside of privileged circles. Charlie needs to prove to his family that he's found more than one kind of growth pattern and wealth outside of the college trajectory, and his efforts to handle both his own desires and the expectations of his parents make for a fine journey into a sordid world that promises Charlie a different life.
As questions of what he can get away with and what he can't have in life bubble to the surface, readers are treated to a fine coming-of-age saga featuring a candid, determined young man whose possibilities include coming full circle and returning to what he's rejected—albeit with a revised perspective.
Growth, maturity, and love are all chronicled in a novella that is striking for its ability to portray a young man's cloudy ambitions and the events that change him. Fiction readers who enjoy solid coming-of-age stories featuring new adult protagonists will relish Charlie's evolution and his revelations about how to pursue the rest of his life, and how to look back at his choices with newfound, mature perspective.
Bright & Happy Books
Finding Beauty: 170 Ways to Look on the Bright Side presents a mindful way of looking at life, blending spiritual components into psychological inspection and routines to help readers get a handle on the definition of and ways of perceiving and enjoying beauty in daily living.
One might anticipate a complex or complicated set of admonitions, given this subject matter, but Patrick Lindsay provides easy access through a style that offers simple, one-liner ways of perceiving beauty and equally easy explanations of why and how beauty's focus can be found in each element in nature.
For example: one way of finding beauty is in a "...summer's warm breath. Feel the warming energy of the summer breeze, with its promise of better days. Inhale the optimistic air and the changes it foreshadows. Enjoy the sights and sounds of renewal and the kindling of another year. Imagine the joys it will bring."
These reflections are accompanied by quotes from poets and writers to further emphasize the possibilities in each route for locating and enjoying beauty.
While visual embellishment might have been expected as reinforcing examples of such beauty, these written words prove this is not a requirement, allowing readers undistracted attention to envisioning various elements of beauty for themselves.
Finding Beauty is highly recommended reading for anyone looking to uplift heart and mind. It provides a warm series of reflections perfect for cultivating mindfulness, combating depression, and identifying wellsprings of splendor in the world.
Life Together, Girl
Danielle A. Vann
It's rare that a motivational book affords such insights that the reader thinks, "I wish I'd had this book growing up: it's guidance would have saved a lot of time and trouble." But Get Your Life Together, Girl: Imperfect Life Lessons from the Storyteller is such a read. It excels in outlining the exact fallacies and truths about everyday living, including the paths that inadvertently cause people to give up their inner strength and wisdom, charting clear lessons learned from life events with an attention to detail not seen in other motivational writings.
Take, for example, the chapter on 'Breaking the Myth of Fear'. Danielle A. Vann maintains that there is always a choice when confronting adversity, and reinforces this admonition with examples from her own life: "Years ago, I had to make a choice; let fear remain by giving it permission to survive or embrace my circumstances, but not be my circumstances. You already know this to be a solid truth, but it’s worthy of a reminder, you are not always in control. Read that again. Here, let me help you. YOU ARE NOT ALWAYS IN CONTROL of the circumstances, but you are always in control of your response. Life is going to throw some tremendous troubles in your direction. Let it! Everything presented to you and in front of you is either an opportunity or an obstacle. Whose choice is it as to how your most significant moments show up and work within your life? That’s right, it’s yours. When you chose opportunity over the obstacle, it’s called living in growth. Buying into the obstacle is called fear. The actual definition of fear is to have a respectful awe of something. Think about that. Buying into fear means to have a healthy respect for failure. It’s a healthy respect for pain."
Each chapter concludes with an outline of 'Truths Learned Along the Way', while each section builds on concepts to craft a blueprint of actionable choices that readers can use to revise their thought processes and empower their lives.
Seldom is the fine line between autobiographical experience, philosophy, psychology, and motivational life lessons so well done as to provide a balanced mix. Too many motivational books dwell on one area or another, resulting in murky connections or too much focus on a given angle of the empowerment process.
Danielle Vann's book provides a perfect balance between insights, truths, and 'how to' admonitions, tempering these with just the right amount of examples from her own life and growth to help readers understand not only their own paths to freedom and better attitudes, but how these may be achieved.
If only one motivational book were chosen for years of growth and study, it should be Get Your Life Together, Girl: Imperfect Life Lessons from the Storyteller. It weaves an educational, compelling story with life truths that were hard-earned by the author—but the path will be easier for readers because someone has already done the hardest work of all: synthesizing these life experiences into a formula for success.
The Law of Return
The Law of Return is a stage play based on the Jonathan Jay Pollard espionage case of the 1980s, and captures a wild romp through Washington, D.C. politics and intrigue when Pollard, a United States Naval intelligence analyst, is discovered illicitly transporting classified documents to Israel, embarking on a race through D.C. to seek asylum at the Israeli embassy.
The real-life events surrounding this intrigue and these escapades might initially seem unlikely fodder for a stage play and better suited to a spy thriller, but under Martin Blank's hand, this becomes a social, political, and psychological work of stage art that deftly captures not only Pollard's actions and influences, but his times.
From where loyalties really lie to confrontations with polygraph results, revised relationships with commanders ("Commander Harris can be an S.O.B., but he has a good heart. He thinks I’m doing a great job. Keeping U.S. Navy lives safe. Which I am. At the same time, with Rafi, I’m keeping Jewish lives safe. But with Commander Harris, it feels like he’s starting to think of me as the son he never had. And I’m starting to think of him…"), and Pollard's quest to outrun the FBI right into an embassy which questions his purposes, Martin Blank excels in crafting scenarios which are vivid, fast-paced, and perfect for stage production.
As Pollard comes to question his purposes and loyalties, readers receive a vivid character who seemingly achieves his higher purpose, only to realize that his perceptions and intentions might have been manipulated to lead to his betrayal of the things he really loves most in the world.
Vivid, introspective, and well defined, The Law of Return is a stage play that deserves consideration by not just Jewish theatre circles, but any production team interested in a story of how loyalty to family and self becomes divided and counterproductive.
Moments in the
Moments in the Mountains: A Story About the Grand Hotel of Sofar is inspired by true events in the Lebanese village of Sofar, and tells an unusual story from the perspective of a luxurious vintage hotel that forms a friendship with a young boy.
Tom Young provides the lovely full-page color paintings of the hotel and its evolution as author Joe Mussomeli documents the hotel's changes and a boy's maturity from an observer to a guest.
It's hard to easily peg the age group of this 22-page historical fiction picture book. Good reading skills and the maturity to accept the history and premises are certainly required, but while the book's appearance and fine drawings would seem to indicate an elementary-grade audience, the way it is presented, its basis in historical fact, and its detailed reflections of Lebanese culture and village life and the social changes experienced by village and hotel alike would make it of interest to a much older audience.
In addition, Mussomeli's ability to craft a unique perspective, voice, and atmosphere are sterling examples of how a book that appears to be limited in scope actually holds information, lessons, and approaches that considerably expand its initial audience. This passage from Moments in the Mountains is just one of the ethereal descriptions that illustrates this reach: "People that remained began to uproot themselves from my village. One by one they all left. Day by day the village grew lonelier. Soon, almost everyone was gone. Even the man who would always come back, who I would share a nights' sky with, had to go. The people that remained grew hateful and bitter. They carried guns instead of books, and at night, they told their children to be safe instead of telling them bedtime stories. Sofar had changed. Everything had changed."
Evocative, metaphorical, historical, and culturally revealing, Moments in the Mountains is one of those rare books that holds great value beyond a singular audience. As an additional eye-opening note, it comes from a high school student in Connecticut who visits his grandmother in Lebanon and is well familiar with both the real Grand Hotel and the village of Sofar. He pairs his effort with an established artist from Britain who lives in Beirut, who was inspired by the architecture of heritage sites in Lebanon to contribute paintings for this book, many of which were exhibited at Young's Grand Sofar Hotel itself, in 2018.
Moments in the Mountains is a gem in a sea of publications, a true standout, and is very, very highly recommended. It would be a shame to perceive this book as a 'children's book' alone, because adult audiences will gain much from its lovely presentation.
The Day I Died
The Day I Died is a riveting teen dystopian sci-fi story about Oshin Fletcher, who defies an order to leave the safety of the city, only to find she's become a member of the undead society, wracked by disease and decay.
More so than most stories, Aya Knight's focus on the process of becoming one of the undead is especially engrossing: "It wasn’t easy adapting to my flesh, rotting upon my face. The sun wrapped its fiery heat around me, radiating with an intensity that felt like a cremation chamber. I needed to seek refuge from its blistering rays. Despite the warmth that surrounded me, I didn’t break a sweat. My body was changing into something monstrous."
Oshin confronts both her own concepts and judgments surrounding the contaminated, but changes to her own body, psyche, and lifestyle lead her to enter a realm formerly presented only in nightmares, there to become privy to dark secrets she'd never dreamed of.
In many ways, The Day I Died is a typical story of zombie transformation; but having a first-person perspective wound into a dystopian theme adds extra dimensions to the tale as Oshin considers many new possibilities that emerge from unexpected friendships: "Sudden dizziness spiraled in my head. A wave of pure dread, something screaming within me to listen. A feeling you get when your subconscious is trying to warn you—the sense you generally want to pay attention to. I’d had it before, and now again. It was the sort of intuition I always disregard and later regret. My instinct told me to turn around, to find a way back to the quaint little house I’d first met Bastion and Lace in. I could live out my remaining days there in peace."
Never could she have imagined what is to come—and, neither will the reader. But Oshin is a fighter, and what emerges from revelations and riots is a newfound awareness that will change not only her body and mind, but the world around her.
Aya Knight writes with a powerfully evocative hand that brings to life Oshin's very different world and perspective. Everyone around her has had to adapt in order to survive. Now she stands on the cusp of the great adaptation of all.
Absorbing, revealing, and at once familiar in theme, yet original in its rendition, Oshin's story of transformation is the item of choice for young adult fans of dystopian settings who also hold a fascination for zombies and strong heroines intent on uncovering long-buried truths about family, society, and friendship connections.
Don’t Drink the Pink
Hardcover: 978-1-925810-08-0 $15.99
Paperback: 978-1-925810-09-7 $ 8.99
Kindle: 978-1-925810-10-3 $ 4.99
ePub: 978-1-925810-11-0 $ 4.99
Amazon - https://www.amazon.com/Dont-
Barnes and Noble - https://www.barnesandnoble.
Book Depository - https://www.bookdepository.
Don’t Drink the Pink is illustrated by Lenny Wen and provides a fun children's picture book for ages 3-8 as it tells, in rollicking rhyme, of an inventor grandfather whose box of magic potions causes yearly trouble for a young birthday girl.
As the young narrator experiences fun transformations, always being warned not to drink the pink potion, readers receive a hilarious and imaginative story that follows the child's yearly adventures as she gains superpowers, transforms into magical creatures, and enjoys the fruits of her grandfather's inventive abilities.
When the inevitable day arrives, Madeline discovers the truth behind her wise grandfather's yearly admonition.
Combine a simple counting lesson with a rollicking rhyme about magic and a lesson about loss and you have a powerful, original, compelling story that parents will want to use in various capacities to educate their young charges about life's progression and possibilities.
Very, very highly recommended, Don’t Drink the Pink excels in both illustrative quality and several underlying messages about life and learning.
Goldilocks Private Eye
Goldilocks Private Eye is an excellent read for ages 7-10. It's on par with the fun and serious components of the classic Harriet the Spy, but features more street savvy and a precocious little girl, who takes over her father's failing detective agency when he dies.
Goldilocks faces many adult concerns: looming rent, an enthusiastic orphanage director, and the dangerous streets of Lick Skillet. The only one on her side is her cat Charlotte, and the only skills she brings to the job are her own determination to succeed.
Motivated to stay out of the orphanage and be independent, Goldilocks also faces missing grandparents and the dangerous Black Forest, which is renowned for swallowing up those who venture into its depths, never to be seen again.
From cruel orphanage hit man, Tim the Kid Snatcher, to orphan Henry Wagon Henry's involvement with Goldilocks, the action is fast-paced and fun, spiced by black and white illustrations by Ira Baykovsko.
As Goldlocks is rescued by Patty and befriended by a group of fellow outcasts, she relentlessly pursues both her newfound cases and career and her own goals.
Goldilocks Private Eye offers just the right blend of personal dilemma and investigative conundrums to keep youngsters reading and engaged. The spunky, determined protagonist sets her sights on bigger goals, yet cares for her cat and is determined to survive, and this translates to a story that holds more than a private eye's processes on its radar.
Kids will find this an engrossing story featuring a realistic young heroine who ventures into the world and makes friends, forging a support system and community against all odds. Goldilocks Private Eye is vibrant, original, fun, and highly recommended.
I Am Powerful
Amy F Pilato
Paperback: 978-1-948728-00-3 $9.99
Ebook: 978-1-948728-01-0 $4.99
I Am Powerful is a children's picture book penned by a Yogini mother who provides a gentle dialogue between a child who asks pointed questions and a wise mother who doesn't just produce pat answers, but invites their child to contemplate her own strength and provide her own insights.
A typical simple question thus turns into a set of
philosophical, psychological and spiritual reflections, as in this
(abbreviated) example: "Mommy, will I ever float like a cloud
in the sky?
You may not be able to float in the sky,
but you are as playful and carefree
as the clouds that go by."
Beautiful nature paintings link the parent’s insights to a child's realization of various types of power already within, creating an evocative and ethereal read that mothers can use to not just interact with a child, but build a better awareness of self and strengths.
Any parent seeking ways of using higher-level thinking as an early learning tool will find I Am Powerful offers just the right blend of call-and-response and introspective advice to help adults and children engage on a more meaningful level. It's a highly recommended pick for parents who want to encourage young children in such discussions and thought processes.
Austin and the Paladin
Rod C. Spence
9780999087947 $17.95 Paper/$9.99 Kindle
Jeremy Austin and the Paladin is young adult sci-fi thriller writing at its best: an exceptionally fast-paced story of mystery and magic revolving around technology's drive and dangers. This combination of elements might at first appear better suited to adult audiences, especially given its introductory background details on future biotech promises, citizen watchdog efforts to control it, and secret experiments conducted by corporations determined to turn a profit over either government concerns or citizen objections.
But older teen readers used to the trappings of fantasies and thrillers will find that while Jeremy Austin and the Paladin's complexity edges it into adult circles, its young adult characters make it attractive to ages 15 and up, who will find its range of satisfyingly diverse concerns add appeal to its subplots and confrontations.
There's a Gnome King who cultivates a taste for loyalty and humans; Jeremy's psychic connection to a stallion friend; his dangerous association with 'heretics' in a death camp and Deathwatch soldiers who rule it; Trolls, Knights, and future kings; and a world in chaos.
An ancient being who is an agent of TerraGen, charged with rescuing these wayward teens, is yet another figure in this multifaceted, sweeping epic which demands of its readers an attention to detail and an interest in issues of greed and power. This interest is rewarded with an astute adventure based on conflicting perceptions of very different cultures both human and alien. What is required from the reader in the form of an ability to follow a multifarious story line is more than rewarded by a fast-paced, involving tale that keeps readers on their toes as they follow young Jeremy Austin's struggles, confrontations, and growth.
Jeremy Austin and the Paladin deserves a place in the chronicles of epic fantasies that cross both genres and age groups, reaching well into adult readership even as it outlines an engrossing search for parents, place, and destiny.
The cliffhanger ending portends more in the series. Jeremy Austin and the Paladin provides an excellent follow-up to War Worlds and is accessible to newcomers as well as prior fans of Jeremy Austin's remarkable exploits.
Laila and the Sands of Time
Clear Fork Publishing
Laila and the Sands of Time tells of thirteen-year-old Laila, grieving over her father's death, who goes on a family pilgrimage with her aunt and uncle, where she's transported in time to 7th century Arabia.
In some ways, it's the typical time-travel narrative: once there, Laila is tasked with finding an uncertain path back to her own time even as she becomes immersed in matters intrinsic to that period's concerns (desert life, danger, and saving others around her).
In other ways, Laila and the Sands of Time serves up a more multifaceted story in that she's struggling with her father's death, the legacy of a step-family, and insights about Islam, Mecca, and the cycle of life and death that has already changed her world.
The spiritual and philosophical components are an added bonus that elevate Laila's story above other timeslip reads that focus on adventure alone. As she encounters desert robbers, travelers who come to value her contributions to their nomadic lives, and the consequences of a deception she was forced to make for the sake of saving lives, middle grade readers receive a tale injected with much insight ("...we can't be the same when everything has changed...").
Laila and the Sands of Time is a powerful account that goes beyond entertainment and time travel to reveal insights into Islam, desert peoples, and the broader ramifications of a young girl's personal struggles with loss, death, and life.
It should be in any middle grade collection or reading list where timeslip novels are top picks.
John Arvai III
Light The Lamp Publishing
Paperback: 978-0-9979417-2-2 $ 9.99
Hardcover: 978-0-9979417-4-6 $ 15.99
e-book: 978-0-9979417-8-4 $ 2.99
Neat Freaks enjoys bright, large-size, colorful illustrations by Adam Walker-Parker as it provides picture book readers with a rhyming dilemma: "Toys were left out in a state of disgrace. It looked like an earthquake had shook the whole place."
As the mess is addressed by the mysterious Neat Freaks and the nighttime miracle assumes a 'Night Before Christmas' feel, it becomes known that the Neat Freaks travel through couches seeking messes to clean up. But, are they really cleaning up, or having a bit of play?
As events progress and take quite an unexpected turn, parents who attempt to teach the importance of tidiness will especially find this book's message appealing and unique.
Why clean up?
The answer is provided in a hilarious story of Neat Freaks with an appetite for disaster in a tale highly recommended as a fun adventure with an engaging message.
Prince Dustin and Clara: Secrets of the Black Forest
Daniel Lee Nicholson
Fossil Mountain Publishing
Paper: 978099861913-2 $9.95
Hardcover: 9780998619149 $19.99
Ordering: Ingram Sparks, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and other retail and online booksellers.
Prince Dustin and Clara: Secrets of the Black Forest is Book Two in the Black Forest fantasy series and follows a three-day journey into a magical forest to face a dark wizard's secrets, magical creatures, and Prince Dustin and Clara's own abilities.
The 12-year-old protagonists are no strangers to danger: this was explored in a previous book. But here their adventures and quest expands as they seek to save a kingdom hidden in the Black Forest, an endeavor which forces them to confront wickedness in the trees and armies that blend into the snow.
Clara's ability to set aside worries and danger and live in the moment is one of the facets that sets Prince Dustin and Clara: Secrets of the Black Forest apart from the usual nonstop action fantasy quest story. Clara "walked as if she didn't have a care in the world", and her ability to both confront then set aside worries in the midst of danger is nicely juxtaposed with her capacity to draw upon connections in her former world to understand the fantastic environment she now traverses.
Where other fantasies come riddled with angst, confrontation, and game-changing worries, Clara manages to sail through new experiences with her smile intact. This is not to say that Daniel Lee Nicholson paints too jaunty a picture of Clara's attitude—just that she manages to preserve a sense of positivism that contrasts nicely with the dilemmas she must confront. This is a refreshingly different attitude in a main character, and one which embeds Prince Dustin and Clara: Secrets of the Black Forest with a jaunty "can-do" attitude.
As Clara draws connections between her familiar hometown and the less familiar Black Forest, she is able to overcome inherent fears and a sense that she is in a truly alien environment. She is then is able to use this familiarity to help solve puzzles and choose positive directions.
The result is a fantasy read for advanced elementary to middle graders that cultivates the specter of a resilient protagonist and her sidekick, incorporating the kinds of attitudes and approaches to problem-solving that lead not just to real courage, but a daily appreciation of life's beauty.
Prince Dustin and Clara: Secrets of the Black Forest is highly recommended for young fantasy enthusiasts who look for strong female protagonists, fantastic encounters, and a can-do attitude that prevails as young Clara confronts a strange world that actually proves not too different from her own.
Please Talk to Me?
Nancy Kunhardt Lodge
Will Somebody Please Talk to Me? is a picture book about friendship that operates on a simple level, addressing the need of the narrator just to have someone to talk to.
Beautiful, fun animal drawings illustrate the narrator's conundrum as a host of animals is surveyed, overtures made, and gestures of friendship turned down by the too-busy Princess Fox, Zilly the Zebra, the egg-sitting Lucy Goosey, and more.
In some children's picture book productions the dialogue is the heart of the piece; while in others, illustrations are the main attraction.
Will Somebody Please Talk to Me? stands out from the read-aloud crowd because both elements demonstrating a superior production are present. The fun "will you talk to me?" query is answered by crazy, busy animal rejections and the narrator's concluding remark that each rejection is "silly" because an opportunity has been lost via a simple lack of effort.
Everyone needs a friend to talk to. Preferably, one who is not too busy with chores, squawking, puddle-jumping, and other "more important" activities.
The young narrator is constantly rejected by all kinds of animals. What's a lonely individual to do? One surprising ace-in-the-hole reflects the real nature of friendship and openness in this lovely story.
The premise is simple enough to attract even the very young, the illustrations are lovely paintings which are unique and compellingly artistic, and read-aloud parents looking for books that offer lessons on the basics of both friendship and innovative thinking can offer their young charges a lesson not just about making and seeking friends, but the power of what happens when one says "yes" to opportunities.
Very highly recommended!
Pierre Morin, MD, PhD
Belly Song Press
Big Medicine: Transforming Your Relationship with Your Body, Health, and Community belongs in any health or psychology collection concerned with not just improving health, but healing relationships between healthcare providers, caregivers, and those seeking medical advice.
Dr. Morin sees the body as a process, and explains how both spiritual and psychological insights and choices affect that process commonly defined as 'health'.
By applying process-oriented psychology and the concept of Process Work to the bigger picture of physical and mental health management, readers are empowered to consider an array of influences on health that go beyond the norm, from equations of health to wealth, to how providers can use Big Medicine to connect to patient experiences in a more holistic manner.
Readers may not anticipate the addition of concepts of Space-Time Dreaming, Presence, tribalism and diversity, and how the comfort zone of health "keeps us unconscious", but Big Medicine draws wide-ranging connections that engage and educate, offering much food for thought as it brings together seemingly-disparate concepts.
This perspective comes from a physician specializing in the field of brain injury recovery. Backed by 35 years of experience in both physical and mental health, his authoritative approach will intrigue and educate new age and health readers alike. Big Medicine is highly recommended for the very thing that may receive some initial resistance in traditional circles: its ability to inject community and social issues into the equation of healthcare management and individual health concerns.
Break: Poems on Mental Illness
Adam Levon Brown
Poetic Justice Books & Arts
Adam Levon Brown's Break: Poems on Mental Illness charts the process of a descent into mental illness, from family roots and interactions to the legacy of pain and betrayal turned inward. Each poem is a delicate dance around this heritage, offering momentary flashes of insight and pain that reflect mental states of mind in both health and illness, and each captures poignant emotional changes, as in the introductory poem 'Saltwater': "The worst saltwater/comes from those who say/they love you, because the pure water/you’re expecting, always/turns to whips of sand, laceration/becomes your heart..."
As the collection progresses, readers receive not just an account of mental strife, but family connections and revelations, as represented in a poem to his mother: "I see you within St. Francis’ ghost,/your frail legs carrying/the weight of men/I lean into your gentle arms, to hug you, whispering/about the day Dad left us/I notice your shoulders/have disintegrated/mountains with their waters/of soothing voice..."
Each piece speaks of the fragility of emotions, relationships, life influences, and states of mind. Each poem provides a piece to a puzzle, juxtaposed with each other to support a bigger picture.
Break: Poems on Mental Illness surveys the stigma of mental illness, the experience of being an inpatient, and the realities of a type of depression that progresses beyond familiar everyday experience with a relentlessly crippling vengeance: "The iceberg consumed with a hailstorm/upon its head known as depression/is only scratching its own surface..."
Social observation is wound into these evolving chronicles and completes the full-circle portrait of a breakdown so clearly described that anyone coping with mental illness in self or family will clearly recognize the feelings, rationales, and social and family patterns.
Break is recommended not only for poetry and literary collections, but as a reflective piece for mental patients and their families. (Caution: it's insightful, thought-provoking, and always hard-hitting.)
Glorious Garlic. Enjoy. Feel Good and Live Longer
Valerie Lull, MH
Simple Ways Publications
978-1-7337026-0-7 Paper $15.00
978-1-7337026-1-4 ebook $ 5.99
Other books have been written on the value and culinary attractions of garlic, so why the need for another? Glorious Garlic. Enjoy. Feel Good and Live Longer comes from a Master Herbalist who provides more than a recipe collection or a health survey alone. Her book fills in gaps in garlic information, combining insights from herbal studies with an overall focus on healthy living and herbal applications.
A brief history of garlic's benefits and uses will delight both health readers and trivia fans with its references to garlic's unusual role in human affairs, segueing into health considerations that go beyond extolling virtues to include some important cautions, such as the fact that taking garlic with blood thinner medications can prove toxic (as is consuming large amounts of garlic before surgery or dental work).
Website research links from established government research sources (not 'pop' health websites so popularly cited in competing books) not only back Valerie Lull's contentions, but provide further research-based facts supporting garlic's health benefits and cautions.
Each succinct section includes a recipe, a 'summing up' overview, and a website link for further reading, and each contributes facts to an overall discussion of garlic's properties and applications.
The well-rounded, nicely organized, and easy-on-the-mind discussions make Glorious Garlic. Enjoy. Feel Good and Live Longer a solid recommendation for health and culinary collections alike. It reviews garlic's properties, applications, and importance for an audience which doesn't have to hold prior expertise on the subject.
All that's required is a basic interest in garlic and healthier living, and an interest in a book that provides a solid yet simple review, packed with details average readers can easily apply to their own lives and health concerns.
Osteoporosis & Osteopenia
978-1-7336425-0-7 (paperback) $15.99
978-1-7336425-1-4 (eBook) $ 1.99
Osteoporosis & Osteopenia: Vitamin Therapy for Stronger Bones promotes the idea informed vitamin therapy to combat osteoporosis; but it's not a pop panacea that promotes irresponsible self-medicating, and actually includes warnings about the impact of improper vitamin applications.
It's important to note is that all of Bryant Lusk's contentions are based on authoritative research from such entities as the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and World Health Organization, among others. Perhaps the reason why this is so well-researched is that the process stems from Bryant Lusk's background as a credentialed Safety Inspector and Quality Control Specialist. His detail-oriented approach to the facts cultivates a methodical approach that holds a few surprises for readers anticipating the usual focus on connecting bone health with concerns of the elderly.
Another bonus is Lusk's attention to creating routines that are easy for all ages to follow and implement. The idea is clearly outlined in the book's introduction: "The information offered here provides a path of least resistance to stronger bones and a healthier life. Moreover, the strategy presented will enable you to achieve long-term results with only the smallest investments in your health. Because of my training, I am keenly aware of human factors that lead to the failure of overly burdensome routines. My goal is to share with you a simple approach toward significantly improving bone quality and overall health."
As chapters review the properties and proper applications of each vitamin, cautions and benefits alike are analyzed for an audience of young adult to adult readers. Myths are addressed, and realities are supported by facts. The focus is on adjusting and maintaining a proper balance between the quantity and ratio of vitamins and minerals consumed over a lifetime. Chapters explore this ratio and clarify approaches proven to make a difference in building stronger bones over one's lifetime.
Anyone interested in health maintenance in general and supportive approaches to bone strength in particular will find the very specific insights in Osteoporosis & Osteopenia easy to access and implement, geared to a wide range of age groups.
Osteoporosis & Osteopenia should be in the collections of any health-oriented library as basic primer encouraging daily supplementation routines.
Beat the College Admissions Game with ProjectMerit
9781728668598 $19.99 Paper; $9.99 ebook
Beat the College Admissions Game with ProjectMerit is a different kind of college admissions advice guide that eschews the typical focus on getting into the biggest brand-name college possible to focus on the real goal: finding the college with the best educational fit.
Susan Tatsui-D'Arcy has not only worked in the education field for over thirty years, but was chosen the 2019 California Mother of the Year by the nonprofit American Mothers group, formed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's mother in 1935. Her combined background lends to a focus on student-based learning processes that encourages project-based learning opportunities and merit programs. These are hands-on projects that allow students to demonstrate their aptitude, creativity, and curiosity, measuring their contributions in ways that supersede the typical driven, grade-based approach.
The benefits of this documented formula for success are more than a measure of the ability to memorize or pack in enough activities to impress a college admissions office. It involves helping students commit, focus, develop passion and vision surrounding work, achievements, and long-term goals.
Too many college admission books are directed to aspiring parents rather than engaged students. That's the second major difference of Beat the College Admissions Game. It's directed to college-bound students and offers two key insights about success: believe in something, and cultivate action based on that belief.
The rest, as examples in the book show, falls into place, as far as college choices and admissions. This process and the independence and enthusiasm it encourages among students and their mentors makes Beat the College Admissions Game a highly recommended standout for any college-bound student and collections catering to them. Although it features an alternative that deviates somewhat from the typical approach, it promises to result in a bigger payoff with a focus that goes beyond admissions to delve into the broader subject of building an effective life based on a college's offerings.
Write to Influence, 2nd Edition
Carla D. Bass, Colonel, USAF (Ret)
978-0-9975930-2-0 $24.99 Paper/$9.99 ebook
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.
Want to improve your writing skills? Look no further than the second edition of Write to Influence! The original, published in 2017, is such a gem, so clearly written, and widely endorsed, one might wonder at the need for a revision. The answer lies in its wealth of new information, based on the author’s highly acclaimed workshops.
New here are insightful chapters on grant submissions, the college application essay, elevator speeches, the psychology of knowing your audience, and tips to frame a message. These, of course, are in addition to the chapters on resumes, email, and presentations. Also introduced in this edition is her Baker’s Dozen collection, 13 quick tips each for crafting compelling input for a variety of products, and the Dirty Dozen: Most Common Errors in Professional Writing.
This book charts the course to success with clear examples and exercises, delivered with an acuity that many similarly sounding “how to write” guides don't begin to touch. Her material is anchored in the authoritative experience of a proven, successful author, who instinctively knows how to craft outstanding communications and demonstrates an intrinsic understanding of what makes the written word weak or powerful.
In this second edition of Write to Influence! Carla produced another winning blend of a preeminent how-to guide for impactful messaging and an entertaining reading experience. Professionals in the workplace to students in high school and college, everyone can benefit from this book. Do yourself a favor … if you want to produce sterling results, this is well worth your time and investment!