December 2018 Review Issue
Stone Owl Press
978-0-9971397-8-5 $12.99 Print / $4.99 Ebook
Readers of Assassin Prince will be quick to discover that P.G. Badzey has created a complex, absorbing atmosphere driven as much by differences between its inhabitants as by connections between all who live in it. It should be noted that Assassin Prince is not a casual, light read. Those familiar with the previous Grey Riders novels will recognize the use of maps and an extensive glossary to define identities and connections; these should ideally be consulted both at the onset and at various points in the tale, to make for a smoother read. There are many characters, and the complex setting, a strong point of the overall story, is not one to be hastily absorbed.
In this fourth installment, the characters from the first three books are faced with a trio of challenges: 1) Eric Indidarc’s quest to bring his parents to justice for their role as leaders of an assassin’s guild (hence the title) 2) the Riders’ search for their missing gnome companion, Hlerv, who absconded with an evil enchanted helm of teleportation and 3) the infiltration of evil-occupied lands by the Alenar sisters to rescue the royal descendants of ancient kingdoms. Fans of the previous novels will recognize many returning characters within a darker story line that still retains the wonder, inventiveness and magic of the originals.
Badzey draws all three seemingly disparate plot lines to a satisfying conclusion by the end of the book, using them to point to a sinister plot by the shadowy Ja’al cult for world domination. He also winds romantic threads through various sub-plots, including a budding relationship between one of the Riders and a kidnapped heiress. Vengeance, a power play struggle, and forces which collide, coalesce, and break apart under special interests create a complex story that is fast-paced and thoroughly engrossing. The novel ends with a note of tragedy not readily evident in the first three books, but a light of hope remains and the cliff-hanger ending whets the reader’s appetite for more to come in later sequels.
From evil forces and various races inhabiting the planet Damora (the setting for the Grey Riders novels) to Damora's history and the magical elements which inject life into the story line, readers seeking a complex fantasy replete with magic, battles, and a myriad of involving characters will find Assassin Prince a compelling saga that adds another piece of satisfying action to Badzey's world-building series.
The fact that it stands strongly alone will make it of special interest to fantasy and sci-fi readers who look for stories complete under one cover.Assassin Prince
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978-1-939118-29-5 (Print) $16.95
978-1-939118-30-1 (Kindle) $2.99
Imagine being dead drunk and stumbling into what appears to be a winged fairy. Obviously a drunken delusion, right? Now take that encounter and lead it to a revelation that creatures of myth are actually real (vampires, fairies, trolls and more) and that they may have extraterrestrial origins.
That's the foundation of this fantasy, which goes beyond a drunk's inadvertent discovery of the blurred boundaries between legend and truth. But where other stories might let this discovery take top billing, Dennis Meredith goes a step further in outlining how and why these creatures are on the planet, and the real nature of their combined threat.
Mythicals thus has its roots in fantasy, but takes the next step into thriller territory as journalist Jack March finds himself perhaps the sole hurdle against the purposeful extinction of humanity in the name of the greater good of other creatures inhabiting the planet.
The story line is satisfyingly unexpected, yet just as compelling in its creative logical approach to a dilemma posed not just by the existence of mythical creatures, but by their origins and ultimate purpose on the planet.
Sci-fi and fairytale formats join forces with these thriller elements to make for a fast-paced and involving mystery that begins with Jack's close encounter, explores his slow realization that his encounter was not a drunken fantasy, but actually real, and leads to truths that only Jack can reveal to a skeptical world much in need of salvation.
As Jack's parents enter the picture with yet another secret that will influence whether he should shock the world with his newfound discovery, readers receive satisfying twists of the story line that pit Jack against not just 'mythicals' and malicious purposes; but his own family.
The blend of ongoing surprises, intrigue, fantasy, and moral and ethical dilemmas keeps Mythicals a superior read that excels in consistent revelations and insights, creating a masterful intersection between an investigative and a fantasy piece that will delight readers looking for creative, compelling stories that quickly move beyond the usual fantasy approaches.
As Jack uncovers real magic and purpose in his life, so readers uncover a fast-paced, satisfyingly original story that excels in world-expanding paradigms and circumstances right up to its unexpected conclusion.
Mythicals is very highly recommended for its original, creative approach to fantasy and one reporter's ultimate dilemma.Mythicals
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The Stone of Wisdom
Dancing Horse Press
The Stone of Wisdom is the fourth book in the Centaur Chronicles series and continues the saga of Carling and her companions, who seek protection from the evil Heilodius Centaurs who stalk them. They have fled for home and have already fought and won a deadly battle with one band of Centaurs, but their encounters become even more dangerous when other roving bands try to end their lives.
In keeping with Evans' past books, a quest for another powerful stone is involved in an effort to complete a Silver Breastplate, and a wizard re-enters the picture to offer much-needed magical assistance. Despite the nature of their quest and many friends (both good Centaurs and other fairy-world beings), Carling once again finds herself at a disadvantage and must summon every ounce of courage and resources to locate the Stone of Wisdom while preserving her life and those of her loyal companions.
Foe Xanbar attempts to defend his rule from a threat by teen Duende Carling and her efforts to become the Queen of Crystonia, but the real question is what will happen when Carling's breastplate is complete and she enters the next phase of her mission: to take the throne and rule Crystonia. Events and confrontations are fast-paced and firmly rooted in a fantasy world replete with all manner of mystical friends and enemies.
The result is a powerful quest story best appreciated by prior fans of the 'Stones' series (likely to be young adult readers, but which also should include quite a few adults who like Tolkien-like settings and epic sagas). These audiences receive clashes, confrontations, the story of a plucky girl's courage in facing down formidable adversaries, and a consideration of the kind of loyalty that leads others to make supreme sacrifices supporting her ultimate goals.
Action-packed, riveting, and steeped in the atmosphere so carefully built in prior books in the series, The Stone of Wisdom is a fine conclusion to a sweeping epic fantasy that offers some unexpected twists and turns as Carling finally comes into her powers.The Stone of Wisdom
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Hefner: Empire of Skin
Darwin Porter & Danforth Prince
Blood Moon Productions
Playboy's Hugh Hefner: Empire of Skin offers an approach to understanding Playboy icon Hefner that goes beyond the empire he built to consider his lasting impact on sexuality in America, delving into his approaches to entertainment and male privilege (among many other considerations of his life and influence).
Readers must throw out any preconceived notions about what a Hefner biography would look like in order to consider the multifaceted approach of Playboy's Hugh Hefner: Empire of Skin because it toes the line between a gossip piece and a broader inspection of Hefner's authority.
It should also be mentioned that this is no light piece. Over five hundred pages of facts about Hefner are culled from some 50 years of research from a former bureau chief and entertainment reporter at the Miami Herald. Playboy's Hugh Hefner contains a satisfying blend of factual reporting and discussions of affairs, Playboy politics, and Hefner's psyche, motivations, influences, and ambitions.
Readers who want to learn more about either Hefner or the Playboy empire's evolution, and who like their facts couched in a gossipy tone of drama to create compelling insights and reading, will relish Playboy's Hugh Hefner, and won't consider its length to be daunting.
Black and white photos of people, places, and memorabilia abound, complimenting and breaking up text and providing a fine visual embellishment to interviews and Hefner's own perceptions of himself ("Whether it was true or not, Hugh Hefner liked to fancy himself "The Father of the Sexual Revolution" that swept across America in the 1960s, particularly in the latter years of that tumultuous decade.").
The result is spicy, revealing, fact-based, and compelling: the kind of reveal read that appears weighty and daunting, but proves to be accessible, involving, and hard to put down. Playboy's Hugh Hefner is highly recommended reading for anyone who would learn more about Hefner, his world, and his times.Playboy's Hugh Hefner: Empire of Skin
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Matti is a feisty commando woman whose own mother was killed in the course of an undercover mission, leaving her beloved daughter to be raised by others. She follows in her birth mother's footsteps in working on foreign missions, facing terrorists, torturers, and adversaries and cultivating relationships with strong peers who also operate under the radar, but she's also managed to shield her husband and children from her demanding career as a secret operative.
What could possibly go wrong in her latest mission? Plenty; because it not only involves dangerous confrontations overseas, but comes full circle to attack her personal life and everything she loves.
The central force in AESOP lies in Matti's personality and spunky perspective take the world, and in her take-charge attitude and training which not only allow her to survive, but to consistently confront the forces against her. It's refreshing to see a female protagonist take the reins with independent thinking, proactive engagement, and confrontations that demand higher-level thinking.
Matti is a formidable spy, enemy, operative, and individual whose dual identity as a wife and mother is constantly tested by her assignments.
From chance encounters and the nature of 'defining moments' that change her course in life to her creative problem-solving skills and determination to not just survive, but thrive, Matti's character is the driving force to a story of espionage, intrigue, and adventure that will capture reader interest and keep readers engaged right up to a vigorous, explosive conclusion.
Plenty of thrillers attempt to create spunky female protagonists; but AESOP excels in its gritty, first-person observational style. It will especially delight thriller audiences who like their action nonstop and their characters not just intelligent, but self-determined, driven, and sometimes edgy in their relationships with loved ones, superiors, peers, and the world.
AESOP is highly recommended and is head and shoulders above most thrillers featuring female operatives facing high-level threats and physical and mental challenges.AESOP
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A Knife's Edge
978-1946664426 $19.95 Paper/.99 Kindle
A Knife's Edge is a powerful Ronan McCullough thriller revolving around a drug cartel's operations in Charleston. Ronan's investigations take a more personal turn when the body of his colleague is found in a burning car, leading him to probe her life.
Ronan's personal life is just as complicated as the case he's investigating: he's trying to support his boyfriend Ty, an emergency room nurse, in different ways; he is immersed in not one but a number of murders; and he's enraged at Ty for some of his choices.
Eliot Parker takes time to expand Ty's role and perspective, adding an extra dimension of interpersonal interaction to the story that flushes out its action and intrigue and keeps events personal and compelling. Ty's nursing instincts become an integral part of the investigation, much to Ronan's chagrin, and add to the story line as Ty navigates a complex series of deaths that move beyond emergency room efforts and into the realm of criminal investigation.
As Ronan becomes more immersed in a killer's cover-up, Ty struggles with not being able to save the victims who pile up during the course of events. The cat-and-mouse game that emerges affects them all, toying with their emotions, professions, and relationships.
One of the most compelling aspects of A Knife's Edge is its attention to building interpersonal connections between characters, then using them to support the evolving intrigue embedded in a stand-alone police procedural thriller. Readers become involved not just in a 'whodunnit' crime story; but in the relationship between Ronan, Ty, and others in their circle of friends and professional associates.
Hearts and careers are on the line as Ronan edges ever closer to a startling medical truth that could change all their lives.
Exquisite tension, well-developed characters who are as solid in their personal lives as in their professional objectives, and an attention to nicely-paced detail make A Knife's Edge a winning read that's highly recommended not just for fans of police procedurals and mysteries, but for those who like a good medical mystery spiced with psychological depth.A Knife's Edge
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The Preacher's First
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9967002-0-7 $14.99
E-book ISBN: 978-0-9967002-1-4 $ 4.99
The Preacher's First Murder is the first book in the Pastor Matt Hayden series, and is the alter ego of a policeman forced to enter the Witness Protection Program to revise his identity and save his family. In his newfound identity as a Texas pastor newly out of seminary school, Matt anticipates a semi-retired pastoral life. The goal is to stay out of trouble; but he seems destined for the fast track as the small town he relocates to faces a murder and a controlling daughter's grip.
Forced to blend the dual personas of a quiet pastor and the investigative prowess of his alter ego, Matt receives heart-wrenching lessons in crime, small-town politics and personalities ("Elsbeth wanted her son to use the service as a campaign stop."), and theological challenges ("Every one of those sermons had followed the gospel for the day to the letter. Every one of them would have made his seminary instructors proud. They’d been theologically truthful. Scripturally sound. And, very possibly, blatantly boring.").
Because The Preacher's First Murder is firmly rooted in Matt's new identity, it offers an intriguing contrast between his investigative skills and his theological dilemmas, which at times clash in the arena of bigger picture thinking and small town interactions.
From violent threats during bar brawls where the residents handle their own problems without police intervention to changing times, duties, and approaches in Wilks, generational ties and history come to light as Matt toes a delicate line between a pastor's spiritual world and a policeman's gritty scuffle with death and murder.
This dichotomy challenges perceptions of home, safety, good and bad memories, and present-day issues often cleverly defied by those not quite in socially accepted circles: "She could stand living in a town where people thought she was something she wasn’t. She’d done that all of her life and snubbed her nose at them all. Heck, she’d even named her bowling team “The Hellraisers” so that the Lutheran Church would be forced to put a bad word in their bulletin every time the church team played hers...She couldn’t stand living in a town where someone had hated enough to kill her mamma. She wasn’t sure she could live with that fact without becoming an animal herself."
As Matt's probe of close-held small-town secrets endangers his newfound persona and his perception of his revised role in life, events circle around not just his choices but upon individuals challenged by not just the murder, but the town's evolving new identity. A possibility of romance imparts an additional spicy flavor to the plot.
Readers seeking a murder mystery that works on many levels, from investigative skills to different levels of interrogation and suspicion, will relish Matt's special dilemmas as he faces an overwhelming weight of responsibility as events unfold to reveal a deadly twist.
Does the truth really set you free, or does it introduce more complications? Murder mystery fans who look for more than a simple 'whodunnit' plot will find The Preacher's First Murder takes a convoluted, satisfyingly complex path as it follows Matt's conundrums, possibilities, choices, and the difficult task of settling into not just a new town, but a new identity challenged by past and present events and future promises.The Preacher's First Murder
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Anne and Louis
978-0-9847906-8-5 (pbk) $14.95
978-0-9847906-9-2 (ebook) $2.99
Anne and Louis: Passion and Politics in Early Renaissance France: The First Years of Anne of Brittany's Marriage to Louis XII will delight readers of historical fiction who want their dramas firmly rooted in facts. This audience—especially those who enjoyed the first book in the Anne of Brittany series—will find a compelling continuation of the saga in this story of Anne, the Duchess of Brittany, who has a country to run even as her lover Louis has a controversial annulment to pursue in order to fulfill his romance with Anne.
Even more complicated are the politics which dictate their romance and relationship. This is an overlay which creates seemingly insurmountable controversies between the couple and their individual political circles, and is deftly explained by Rozsa Gaston, whose saga assumes no previous knowledge of Anne of Brittany, Louis XII, or French history and politics. This makes the tale accessible to both history buffs and those with only a mild familiarity with the era.
At age 21, Anne was both a widow and the ruler of a kingdom, as committed to maintaining Brittany's independence from France as she was in seeing her relationship with Louis become a bond between their countries. Their struggles in 16th-century Europe on the cusp of the Renaissance era come to life as Anne finds herself caught between love and country.
Chapters don't just build the characters and explore the issues between Anne and Louis, but also probe their world. Thus, the romances and relationships between others are also presented within the context of the social mores of their times ("When he looked up, Charlotte of Naples and Aragon was floating toward him in the full glory of her youth and serene beauty. He felt himself in the presence of a goddess. One day such a glorious creature would grow into a woman like his mother or the duchess Anne. For such a woman, an offer of marriage must follow a kiss. But first, a kiss. Her father would kill her; her mother would roll over in her grave. She had allowed him to take her hand.").
Rozsa Gaston presents a rich, multifaceted universe through the eyes of a number of characters who interact with their world, which she spices with vivid descriptions to bring the setting to life through the eyes, experiences, and thoughts of many: "Anne of Brittany turned her back on her high-spirited charges to climb the final steps to the summit. At the top the flat marshy countryside spread out before her. In the late morning sunlight the bay of Mont-St.-Michel shimmered in the distance like a beckoning jewel. Beyond the bay was the Mor Breizh, also known as the Channel, the body of water over which Brittany’s settlers had traveled from the British Isles. She drank in the view as her lungs filled with fresh sea air."
Adding to the feel of the story are lovely color artworks and images of the times, which pepper a saga that brings to life Anne's concerns, her people, her romance, and her conundrums. From her distrust of Italian politics and her appetite for luxury to the impact of her relationship with Louis, yet another powerful strength of this story is its astute assessment of how the personalities of each affected their choices and political perceptions: "Her Louis was too nice a man to be entering into agreements with wily Italians seeking to take advantage of his innate decency. She would protect her husband’s interests while this sharp second secretary remained among them. Louis’ step sounded on the stairs above and all eyes turned. As Anne gazed at her husband’s beneficent expression and handsome yet careworn face, her heart hurt. She knew behind her, the shrewd young Florentine would be sizing him up and determining sooner rather than later that France’s king could be easily manipulated on the Italian peninsula."
All this means that the story about a changing society as the Renaissance gets started is given a personal touch that brings the entire era to life through Anne's eyes and the experiences of those who interact with her.
The result is a powerfully-written saga that requires only an interest in a compelling love story and its historical background to prove satisfying, revealing, educational, and hard to put down, all in one. Quite simply, Anne and Louis is a masterpiece that paints an extraordinary vision of its times, capturing the facets of a social and political milieu with historical accuracy and vibrant emotional resonance.Anne and Louis
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The Book Fix
Black Rose Writing, Castroville, TX.
The Book Fix is a story of two librarians and their battle against censorship and prejudice. As Adam and Olivia find their world changed in a post-2016 whirlwind of social and political conflicts, they emerge from their comfort zones to address new opportunities and challenges.
He's already an idealist who loves classical music and wants to improve lives. She's already an experienced activist raised in Chicago, savvy about the process. And the public library milieu that serves as a backdrop to these connected lives is anything but a refuge for the introverted: it's a melting pot of cultural connections and political information that provides lifelines to those without the knowledge to fight back.
This emphasis on political savvy and knowledge's link to activism and life choices is emphasized throughout the course of evolving relationships not just with each another, but with society as a whole. As Olivia says, "Day after day, my father saw people in the old Chicago neighborhoods, in the ‘hoods that had gone bad, people who couldn’t begin to imagine how to get out, how to save their lives, their children’s lives, who to find to talk to, what to ask, what might be out there for them. They didn’t know enough to know what they didn’t know.”
The Book Fix is not just a story of two individuals facing transformation, but of a community's involvement in issues of censorship, homophobia, and workplace and community-wide liberties.
Readers anticipating a story of librarians in love or involved in bookish pursuits receive many surprises in The Book Fix because it's not just a story of books and their role in the community, but of changing lives affected by prejudice and repression.
All the characters grow from their original beliefs and perceptions, and all face risks and consequences of their decisions which affect not just their roles in life, but their relationships with each other and their community. This story can serve as a parable for modern America: an account of very different individuals joined by their passion for not just books and the inner workings of the library board, but the liberties they promise.
Fiction readers seeking a cut above the usual book topic will find The Book Fix especially strong in social insight while staying true to the characters' evolving personalities, beliefs, and interpersonal relationships.The Book Fix
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A Child is a Piece of
Lance Crossley, Publisher
978-1386835714 $3.99 Kindle
A Child is a Piece of Paper focuses on Canada's treatment of its indigenous peoples. It presents the issues through the eyes and experiences of Wanisin, who moves from a natural life on the reservation, filled with outdoors experiences and habits that support his native roots, to a brutal indoctrination process at a Catholic-run "Indian" residential school where he is physically and psychologically molested and forced to adopt a culture not his own.
Dresden Lake's focus is on crushing his Indian spirit and soul, and they accomplish this so completely that "Wally" loses his identity, confidence, and roots, and faces adult responsibilities without the grounding that his cultural origins would have provided. His process of regaining these roots and confronting the abuses of a system determined to crush his Indian heritage makes for a gripping, wrenching read that encourages readers to consider the processes and impact of cultural clashes, genocide, and survival. The message deeply embedded in this process is clearly presented: "...the world is generous. It will give you many, many signs, many, many chances to find your way home. The thing is not to lose hope."
Hope is a river that runs through A Child is a Piece of Paper and follows Wanisin as he attempts to heal his crippled body and mind and reconnect to his culture and life's meaning. Readers thus receive much philosophical and psychological strength in a story that flows through Wally's revised experiences and world, offering metaphors for his changed life and all its foundations; even his beloved fishing tradition: "-Wally, we can’t eat that. -Uh? -Not here. It’s toxic. Wally tilts his head, absorbing his friend’s words. The happiness he experienced for that brief moment fades. His grip on the gills loosen as the fish twitches one last time above the nebulous red grave it has prepared for itself."
How does one evolve when all the familiar foundations of experience and connection have been broken? A Child is a Piece of Paper answers this question through succinct, hard-hitting scenes of life experience and changes that follow Wallace/Wanisin through his growth and struggles both with himself and with the Canadian world around him.
Fiction readers seeking enlightenment into the processes of cultural domination and transformation will find A Child is a Piece of Paper an important key to understanding cultural survival and recovery, tailoring a story that is inviting, realistic, and thoroughly engrossing.A Child is a Piece of Paper
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Christmas in Prague
Christmas in Prague is a novella that excerpts the second part of Rick Pryll's full-length The Chimera in Prague, and is a worthy stand-alone holiday story that will engross readers year-round, undoubtedly leading to newcomer interest in Chimera.
The December story opens with the first-person narrator observing that he is utterly alone, whether with or without friends (whom he has distanced). While he longs for "...connection, a sense of wholeness," in fact he has disconnected himself from the possibility of friendships and companionship because he is as dissatisfied with himself as he is with everyone around him.
Saint Nicholas festivities in Europe attract him in even as his inner psyche draws away from life, but something resists his final efforts to disconnect from the world; and so his involvement with the social and physical whirlwinds of holiday Europe is as striking in its potential opportunities as his struggles to take risks over something that "...had to be right, as wrong as it felt."
The contrasts between his world and Karina's, his ability to pretend and to engage (or not), and the narrator's existential crisis and choice to be alone at the most connected time of the year makes for a novella which is succinct, hard-hitting, and complete unto itself.
Even prior fans of the full-length Chimera will find that by taking this second section and making Christmas in Prague a stand-alone production, Pryll successfully crafts a microcosm of inspection and revelation that offers food for thought even prior readers will want to return to for additional flavors.Christmas in Prague
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James Lombardi is a mentally ill boy struggling with demons that he needs to repress, and hopes that basketball and dreams of his team winning the championship will keep them at bay. A coming of age story winds into a passionate struggle with mental illness as James faces both inner demons and new challenges.
The first thing to note about Hammond is its astute and compelling connections between these two worlds. James reflects on his condition in the first person, and the description illustrated his state of mind, right from the first few sentences: "Keep shoveling. Clear the court of snow. You’ll feel better after taking some jump shots—at least, that’s always helped before. When I cleared up to the foul line, I took another sip from my flask, then got back to work. But I slipped on a patch of ice and landed on my back under the rim. God, that rim had once been so red, I could see it in a blizzard. So red, I could hit threes all night. But now it was so gray, fading into the sky above it, I could hardly distinguish it from the clouds. No one was around. Even in winter, you used to be able to catch a game, usually just runnin’ twos or threes, but now it was just me—just me and all the gray. Everyone else had been stamped out. Buried under an avalanche. And the ones who weren’t buried were moving on. One was heading to Amherst College soon. Another to Yale."
This approach not only creates connections between physical and psychological worlds, but offers juxtapositions that give readers pause as they contemplate the ramifications of each observation.
This story is set in Buffalo, New York. Realistic language between Buffalo youths includes a fair degree of foul language and dialogue, but is always realistic and not overdone.
Although mature teens and new adults will be the likely audience for this coming-of-age story, Hammond is really a saga of mental illness, portraying the world through the eyes of a teen whose greatest challenges lie off the court.
Hammond is the kind of novel that lingers in the mind far after its conclusion, creating a story that is both thoughtful and often depressing as James comes to view the world with a jaded, negative perspective ("Don’t be naïve, man. Santa is fake. God is fake. Hammond is fake. So are all your friends. So are all your dreams."). James' search for a higher purpose to his life is fraught with peril, and how he copes with his 'Evil Thoughts' and faces his uncertain future makes for a saga replete with interpersonal interactions, personal revelations, and an overlay of mental illness perspective rare in a coming-of-age story.
Readers who look for compelling sagas of mental illness struggles will find Hammond a revealing standout in the literature which grabs the reader's attention and swings through a life that too often feels stuck. Few stories can capture this gritty and stark existence, and Hammond is reminiscent of the classic I Never Promised You A Rose Garden, with its powerful, introspective view of an evolving (and, sometimes, devolving) young man.Hammond
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The Heiress of Egypt
D. X. Varos, Ltd.
978-1-941072-41-7 $18.95 paperback/ $5.99 ebook
The Heiress of Egypt opens five thousand years ago in Thebes, Egypt, with a priest, a mummification duty, and an ancient, dark power in a stone cylinder received as a gift from the alien Celestials, who arrived in Egypt thousands of years before.
Amasis learns about this closely-held secret gift and its connections to the afterlife, but his lessons on mummification and regional politics soon takes a dangerous turn when the new heir to the throne, Princess Merit, seems destined to change the world in more ways than one.
Only a few months later, rebellion is in the wind, and young Roma comes to realize that his nightmares reflect reality and that he has a role in the world beyond anything he'd dreamed.
From the ambition of Varis to become the new pharaoh, believing Senu and his entire lineage have been destroyed, to the escape and struggles of the latter's daughter, Merit, The Heiress of Egypt presents a vivid world of early Egyptian politics, power plays, priests, and confrontations that makes a successful rebellion's outcome uncertain and unstable.
From miracles, which the subjugated people only see Varis capable of achieving, to a young priest forced to choose between his virginity or his life, the pyramids' connections to the People of the Sky, and the peoples' conviction that somehow Princess Merit would overcome impossible adds to return to claim her father’s crown, The Heiress of Egypt paints a compelling intersection of fiction and fantasy in a saga that's hard to put down.
Readers anticipating either a novel based on history alone or a sci-fi story largely emphasizing aliens, supernatural gifts, or strange occurrences, will find The Heiress of Egypt excels in being neither fish nor fowl. Instead, it successfully blends history and fiction, tosses in sci-fi elements, and adds a dash of romance and thriller into the mix for extra spice.
The result is an engrossing tale that offers many twists and turns through its increasingly fantastical story line right up to its call for action to support Merit as she struggles to regain her rightful heritage and the throne. A cliffhanger in its final pages sets the stage for more, and it should be advised at this point that The Heiress of Egypt represents Book 1 in a series.
If the other books are as vivid as The Heiress of Egypt, readers are in for an enthralling treat.The Heiress of Egypt
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Another Page Publishing
Jon is over six hundred years old and thinks he's seen everything in his long life; but now something is happening that defies anything he's ever observed or heard of: stars are vanishing at the edges of humanity's spread across the universe. A second challenge is posed by another immortal who seeks to undo what Jon and human society have built over hundreds of years.
The story opens with an intriguing bang ("Jon sat across from his best friend of six hundred years, devastated that he had to kill him.") and builds scene after scene of compelling action, from Jon's own manipulation of possibilities and events in an attempt to direct the course of humanity's progress and choices to what humans will do for the opportunity to live forever.
These moral and ethical conundrums power the story line, which is made equally strong with elements of thriller intrigue and hard science.
When Jon's interrogation ends badly and directs him to the planet Jangali in search of a mysterious organism, he encounters crippled Saiph and his people, who live a spiritual life that faces unwelcome changes when the lights go out.
From Saiph's battles with drones and bots to the ability to purchase immortality on Earth, Jon is writing a story not just of lost stars; but about lost people, purposes, and love.
All these facets coalesce into a vivid read cemented by strong characters, diverse perspectives and purposes, and a scientific phenomenon that threatens to change everything.
What is the cost of containing technological potential and social possibilities for the sake of preserving lives and dreams? Lost Stars not only presents a powerful saga of worlds colliding and changed by human error and decisions, but it packs an additional gut punch with its insights into love, relationships, and connections that keep readers thinking long after the story's unexpected, gripping conclusion.Lost Stars
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To Squeeze a Prairie
Dog: An American Novel
978-0-9997173-8-7 $15.99 paper/$3.99 ebook
Book Website: https://www.scottsemegran.com/
Amazon - https://www.amazon.com/dp/
Barnes & Noble - https://www.barnesandnoble.
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Kobo - https://www.kobo.com/us/en/
Google Play Books - https://play.google.com/store/
Smashwords - https://www.smashwords.com/
IndieBound - https://www.indiebound.org/
J. D. Wiswall is the newest clerk in a pool of state government workers. He learns of competition among peers for a $10,000 prize for developing a cost-saving program to improve the government's budget and their own lives. Their developing team is on track to win, but when J.D.'s bumbling alcoholic supervisor accidentally stumbles on a multimillion-dollar cost-savings suggestion, problems begin.
Governor Bennett is a politician who will stop at nothing to stoke his ego; even if it means throwing the personal lives and quirks of his clerks into the public eye. When a snoopy reporter threatens the clerks' ability to claim a prize that will change their lives, sparks erupt in this quirky, fun spoof about ambition, success, dirty little secrets, and social and political oddballs.
The book's title, To Squeeze a Prairie Dog, already indicates that the tale will be extraordinary, and readers will quickly realize that the multifaceted account isn't just a romp through political ambition and smarmy individuals. It's about a group of oddballs with ambitions to move beyond their set financial, social, and career courses to achieve greater goals, and it pairs a healthy dose of wry humor and insights with a realistic story of interactions between very different colleagues who are thrown together to evolve to something greater than their clerical roles.
Satire and comedic observation are juxtaposed with acts of connection in a story that excels in portraying not just great ambitions, but small acts of kindness: "I wish there was something more I could do to bring joy to all of us besides cookin’,” she said. Seeing smiles on her coworkers’ faces did bring her immense joy."
From creative brainstorming over the grand prize to the things everyone feels compelled to do to get ahead, To Squeeze a Prairie Dog isn't just about sacrifice and ambition, but about the costs of success and the challenges of remaining creatively quirky in a world replete with economic, social and political challenges and goal-seekers.
Fun, ironic acronyms and jokes illustrate real efforts to bond, support one another, and survive against secrets and revelations about how the world really operates. To Squeeze a Prairie Dog paints a rollicking story that careens through the office structure to delve into the motivations, lives, and connections between ordinary individuals.
Readers seeking an uplifting, fun story of fortune, friendship, and fame will find To Squeeze a Prairie Dog juxtaposes a range of viewpoints and ironic situations designed to leave readers both entertained and thoughtful. This tale comes full-circle to provide a satisfying spoof on political ambitions while commenting on personal achievement and ideals of success.To Squeeze a Prairie Dog: An American Novel
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Yesterday's Love is a romance story of marriage gone awry and tells of Yasmine and Jonas, whose mutual admiration, love, and support has not only fostered an affectionate relationship leading to marriage, but has encouraged career aspirations on both sides over a period of years.
But 'happily ever after' takes a turn, here, as Yasmine comes to realize that even though they both have experienced success, Jonas and his career goals have always been the priority. Now, when push comes to shove, he moves to international success, and Yasmine discovers that after years of what she's perceived as mutual support, she's being left high and dry and alone as he flies away towards the big golden ring of success, leaving her increasingly alone.
Yesterday's Love focuses on the process of growth as it reveals ways in which Yasmine was blinded and blindsided, her growing realization of differences between her perceptions and reality, and Jonas and his differing viewpoints.
One notable difference between Yesterday's Love and the usual romance is that the female's point of view isn't the only one in the limelight. Jessica Stevens-Eddy provides Jonas' experiences as well, and the two opposing perspectives power a story more capable, than most, of revealing points of contention, disparity, and difference: "Jonas stepped out of the car and slammed his door. He’d planned to be sensitive. He wanted to be kind. Fighting was not what he wanted, and for all of his efforts, she wouldn’t even let him touch her. How cruel, he thought to himself as he walked slowly around the car to open her door. It’d been five days since he held her last. Five days since she’d said she loved him back. Five days since he’d broken her heart and he hadn’t had a good night’s rest since. He knew he didn’t deserve one either."
Playful moments and connections between the two waver between loving and adversarial even as distance separates them and introduces her ideas and conflicts about the loss of a daughter, conflicted family relationships, and the bad timing of golden opportunities, and realizations of faults and feelings ("She’d never had to deal with those tough days without him right by her side but now, thanks to his ambitious departure that March, she had. What was worse was that she hadn’t said a peep about it. Jonas knew that her lack of addressing their issues meant that a storm of sorts could be waiting when he finally did come home. With just two months left on his assignment, he’d promised to make it back to her by their anniversary at the beginning of September.").
Should the couple strive to put things back the way they were before; or has their love changed forever?
Yesterday's Love is an exceptional read about a long-time couple who endures newfound challenges. It is especially recommended for romance and relationship readers who prefer their stories to hold psychological depth, insights, characters who grow both individually and as a couple, and an uplifting conclusion with a resolution that fully embraces individuality as well as love's opportunities for growth and change.Yesterday's Love
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Patricia Wilkinson and Jacqueline Frischknecht, PhD
Sandra Jonas Publishing
Brain Stages: How to Raise Smart, Confident Kids and Have Fun Doing It is for parents, teachers, and anyone working with children who have more invested in their interactions than scholarly instruction alone. There's been much new research and many studies in brain physiology and learning processes, and Brain Stages offers more than a casual inspection of how these studies apply to specific pursuits with kids.
Other books from education publishers address combinations of brain research and childhood education protocols, but Brain Stages goes the extra mile by linking these studies with not just educational pursuits; but with the goals of building confidence and character at an early age.
Chapters covering grades K-5 pair discussions of physiological and psychological changes at each grade level with lessons on academics, social traits, identification of what is outside the norm, and tasks designed to help create self-sufficient, thinking kids.
Take grade 4, for one example. In a section on school lunches, parents are advised to not just encourage kids to pack their own, but are told how to monitor the results, keeping in mind changing nutritional needs specific to that grade level: "Beware that fourth-graders seem to crave soda, cookies, candy, pizza, fries, and chips even more than other kids in the elementary grades. Those simple carbohydrates spike energy levels and then drop kids into lethargy—not to mention they pack on weight and have little nutrition. By age 9 or 10, your child is perfectly capable of packing his own healthy lunch. Not only is this a good task to develop responsibility, but assembling nutritious lunches gets kids in the habit of making good food choices out in the real world. You’ll have to supervise for the first few weeks to make sure your child includes water and enough food to get through the day. After that, you’ll want to periodically check the box or bag for water and nutrients needed to focus and think."
The seamless integration of science, health, socialization, and routines designed to foster independence and critical thinking at different stages of maturity, as well as the unexpectedly lively set of examples and instructions, makes for a straightforward approach that adults will find easy to apply to a child's overall development.
From the importance of physical fitness and unsupervised playtime to what needs change from year to year for optimal health and thinking, Brain Stages creates a logical progression of changing attitudes, perspectives, and approaches to fostering a healthy child based on his natural growth and development.
It's not unusual to have instructions specific to all these goals, but the strong point of Brain Stages is its ability to pair games and activities and a nurturing focus with the latest insights on best practices for healthy progressive development.
No educator, parent, or childcare professional should be without this specific early childhood guide, which offers an invaluable, accessible resource for brain-based learning from a veteran teacher's perspective. Brain Stages is very especially recommended for its specific programs, age-appropriate observations and applications, and for creating a structure that will make it easy for adults to craft a road map to success.Brain Stages
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Firsts: Coming of Age
Stories by People with Disabilities
Belo Miguel Cipriani
978-1-7323127-0-8 (Trade Paperback) $15.95
ISBN: 978-1-7323127-1-5 (eBook) $ 3.99
Publisher website: www.olebbooks.com
Firsts: Coming of Age Stories by People with Disabilities blends the memoir of author Belo Miguel Cipriani with a wider-ranging collection of coming-of-age stories about people with disabilities. When Cipriani was twenty-seven and newly blind, he searched futilely for such stories, seeking connections and assurances that he was not alone in his experiences.
What he uncovered was limited, and not necessarily what he needed to hear: "In fiction, I often found the physical limitations of a character were used as the primary source of their villainy. Men and women were painted to be pure evil as a result of a missing limb or sense. Even worse, though, was to see people, whose body showed some diversity in biology, be simply shown as charity cases. In the world of memoir, the reading options for disability stories were limited. In fact, they were almost non-existent. Many books that were labeled as disability stories, turned out to be about people, who were told, after a tragedy, that they would never walk, see, or speak again, beat all odds and miraculously get their abilities back. Thus, the protagonist ends up not having to live with their condition—an option not available to most people with disabilities."
His aim in gathering
these writings involved eschewing popular misconceptions about the
community, to capture their real struggles and experiences and to
series of more realistic stories that portray disabled folk as neither
nor villains; but as real people. In the course of his search for
true to life, Cipriani honed his own identity as a writer and
found himself on a mission to gather and get these stories into the
Firsts thus represents both a self-growth odyssey and a collection of storytellers who have their own life-affirming stories to relate.
Because Cipriani found that there is relatively little discussion in literature of the rites of passage of people with disabilities, he narrowed his topic to a specific area, selecting essays from eleven authors who reveal their own special challenges, successes, and failures.
From Nigel David Kelly's 'Dark Cloud', which explores a physically fit individual's struggle with initial hearing loss that leads to a much bigger issue and the problems experienced by those who are disabled by conditions invisible to others, to Kimberly Gerry-Tucker's 'Firsts in Art', which follows an autistic child's unique journey into art, perception, and self-awareness, each story outlines a different process of growth, change, and empowerment which cover not just different lives and diagnoses of disability, but the growth of powerful tools of adjustment for daily living.
Readers anticipating 'coming of age' as it usually refers to teenagers will find that, in this case, the stories embrace blossoming at different ages, through different strategies and experiences.
The result is an anthology that should be considered a foundation pick for any collection strong in disability literature and personal stories of growth.Firsts: Coming of Age Stories by People with Disabilities
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The Yankee Way: The
Blueprint that Created America
Courant Publishing, LLC
With all the rhetoric surrounding making America great again and its past, present, and future possibilities, it's important to note that many answers about its history and potentials lie in The Yankee Way: The Blueprint that Created America.
Readers of both American history and political issues would do well to refresh their memories and re-examine historic events using The Yankee Way as a blueprint for tracing America's journey. It presents the unusual argument that the wellspring of America's values, strengths, and success lie not so much in founding documents, principles, or aggressive expansion behaviors as in the basic ethnic traits of Yankees who developed moral and ethical principles that were passed from the early New England Puritans to their descendents.
These foundation belief systems, more so than documents or actions, formed the basis of America's devotion to order, conduct, and family values, creating an environment that led to the real 'greatness' of America's vision and its social strength.
The Yankee Way blends a cultural and ethnic group inspection and analysis with broader considerations of this group's impact on America's formation and history, tracing Yankee and American evolution from early to modern times.
As chapters reveal a scenario of developing beliefs and decision-making based on this cultural group's foundations, they also evolve a warning about how the hallmarks of the 'Yankee Way' (thrift, ingenuity, civic virtue, determination and work ethic; all of which receive their own separate chapters of close inspection) are eroding in modern times, holding dangerous consequences for future generations of Americans.
The Yankee Way affords readers a powerful grasp on the origins of some of this nation's most basic tenants, a newfound understanding of their evolution, and a thought-provoking appreciation of why these values are threatened, today.
No thinking American should neglect tracing this blueprint of evolution, because the consequences of not fully understanding the message and history provided in The Yankee Way are dangerous and all too possible. Rather than concluding with despair, Troy Tyson points out a choice and challenge to his readers: "Americans must first recognize the source of their nation’s greatness, and determine whether they will continue down the path that led them to their position as the world’s leading nation, or abandon that path for a new, perhaps more immediately appealing way forward; whether they will throw off the cultural toxins inhaled over the past 50 years, or return zealously to the Yankee Way, sowing its powerful seeds so that future generations of Americans might reap the unparalleled benefits."
The Yankee Way: The Blueprint that Created America is highly recommended not just as a basic read for all Americans, but as a point of debate for high school to college-level American history classes.The Yankee Way: The Blueprint that Created America
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The Adventures of
Fawn: 'Til the Last Snowflake Falls
Al E. Boy
ASIN: B00NRZO920 $3.50 Kindle/$10.99 Paper
'Til the Last Snowflake Falls is the first book in The Adventures of Fawn series, and provides a coming-of-age story about the daughter of Santa's legendary reindeer, Comet and Vixen.
One would anticipate a picture book production (or perhaps a chapter book) from the title and premise of the story; but a little over three hundred pages of text (accompanied by some black and white drawings) places it more in the realm of a post-elementary-level reader. Kids past the chapter book stage who still enjoy whimsical, light-hearted stories of Santa's legacy, as well as adults who look for inspirational, uplifting reads and who are not too 'old' to delve into a book featuring a younger animal protagonist, will appreciate the character of Fawn, who is determined to strike out on her own against her parents' wishes.
Because she can't gain their permission, she begins to sneak out to do dangerous, exciting things on her own. 'Til the Last Snowflake Falls chronicles these mishaps, secrets, white lies, and the world outside of her familiar Santa's Village home.
Fawn rebels not only against her parents' wishes, but against the structure of her protected life: "You see! Even when I try to have a little fun---I don't! My life is as boring as a melting snowball!...Each and every day is exactly the same, Dad. I have no friends! I can‟t go anywhere---and have nothing to do. I hang around all day watching the Forgetful Twins sweeping floors and brushing down the reindeer.”
The contrast between parents who want to shelter their child and a rebellious child's vision of a more interesting world and life beyond the boundaries of these restrictions are presented using clear dialogue and interactions that reinforce the perceptions of not just Fawn, but her parents and those around her.
As a host of characters influence Fawn's journey, from Snowboy/Snowman to a hungry wolf and Doctor Weather, Fawn brings magic and wonder to a world outside of her own, and young readers receive an engaging fantasy filled with animal protagonists.
Discussions of the far-reaching consequences of bridging very different worlds create an engrossing survey: "Doctor, just as Fawn entered my world one day---and changed it forever, you have entered our world today. After this, perhaps your own world won't quite ever be the same again. Will you have to make a choice between the two worlds? Or, can you live with them both?”
It's hard to easily peg the age group of this light-hearted adventure. Kids with good reading skills who can appreciate the black and white drawings peppered throughout a thought-provoking story of changes, adventures, and mature thinking will appreciate 'Til the Last Snowflake Falls, a study in contrasts, development, and the lasting consequences and impact of choices. But Fawn's underlying message of community and spirit in Christmas season and beyond can reach well beyond the children's market, as well.
The philosophical and underlying message of the story is recommended for elementary-grade readers in grades 4-5 who are past the need for color picture embellishments, but still capable of enjoying a whimsical, fun fantasy about Santa's world and small Fawn's determination to make her life more exciting and meaningful; but its real impact will prove inviting to all ages who look for more than another Santa Christmas tale.The Adventures of Fawn: 'Til the Last Snowflake Falls
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Freedom: Crystal Journals 4
G. Rosemary Ludlow
Comwave Publishing House
978-0973687170 $14.95 Paper/$3.99 Kindle
The fourth volume of G. Rosemary Ludlow's Crystal Journals series will reach young readers in grades 5-7 with a thought-provoking fantasy about Susan, who has always taken the concept of freedom for granted until her crystal transports her to a future world of ecological disaster and the resulting economic hardships.
Susan is the Crystal Guardian and she is charged with helping balance injustice in the cultures she enters by helping others.
But this journey is far different than anything she's encountered from the past; for here she enters an entirely alien scenario where everything is foreign, dangerous, and unfamiliar. There are new types of intelligent beings who are more human than some people Susan has met.
Susan encounters a semi-autonomous robotic device charged with protecting the crystal of a murdered Guardian. This results in their friendship towards a common goal. She meets others, too, some seeking freedom and others determined to take it from them. Deadly situations emerge from not just a world but a solar system gone awry. Susan faces greater obstacles in the course of her journey than in previous books.
Readers familiar with the Crystal Journals series will find Freedom an outstanding addition that builds upon Susan's evolutionary process and takes her to the next step. Not only is a whole planet suffering ecological failure, but other worlds are affected.
Can Susan trust children who aren't supposed to be there, but who also want New Hope to survive? The imbalance between those who would destroy it and those who would save it is obvious; but Susan faces a seemingly impossible mission to fix the worst mess ever, bringing a host of kids along for a desperate ride into danger.
Preteens who enjoy fantasies that include moral and ethical conundrums as they embark on missions of salvation and change will find the underlying social and psychological sentiments and growth of the characters in Freedom offers much food for thought within an entertaining structure.
Fans of the prior series titles are in for a treat with this latest adventure, which touches on choices, right and wrong, and the foundations of positive, resourceful thinking.Freedom: Crystal Journals 4
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Lucy's Birthday Party presents a picture book about a very special day in cat Lucy's life: her first birthday. As birthday preparations are being made, Lucy's curiosity lands her in trouble not just one time, but again and again.
How can Addy and Ben plan fun and games when the star of the show always thwarts their efforts?
Kids receive a gentle, fun story of party preparations gone awry, and a family's relationships and responses to potential disasters. Despite Lucy's penchant for trouble, adversity is treated with gentle acceptance and laughter, teaching kids important lessons about identifying and diffusing issues.
The result is a
light-hearted, warm story of a birthday where Lucy's energy and
part of the fun; not part of the problem.
Adults seeking picture book stories about lively interactions and acceptance will relish this tale of Lucy's exciting birthday plans.Lucy's Birthday Party
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Spork (an imprint of Clear Fork Publishing)
Available on Ingram, and:
The Masterpiece is illustrated by Kathi Green Nixon and crafts a simply stunning set of images to capture vivid colors and the efforts involved in painting a landscape masterpiece.
Many children's picture books have covered the art and effort of painting; but few are able to reproduce the vivid colors involved in a step-by-step series of descriptions that are themselves beautiful creations.
Opening with a "deep blue canvas" that progressively adds splashes of pink, streaks of orange, and more, this painter's art is a series of representations of life, from sailboats on the water and a wheelchair-bound boy's play with a dog to animals and people celebrating the day.
A surprise twist to the end identifies the mysterious painter and adds a spiritual component to the masterpiece of life under investigation.
It's rare to see an evocative, beautifully illustrated spiritual survey that reaches across religions to embrace a simple sense of appreciation about the spiritual component of life itself. The Masterpiece is aptly named both for its subject and its own approach, and requires no special religious discipline in order to appeal to all.
The story's eye-popping colors, simple language, and deeper meaning blend in a compelling story that parents can use as a read-aloud and young picture book readers can pursue on their own.
Its message pairs nicely with its artistic brilliance, making it a highly recommended story suitable for religious and secular collections alike.The Masterpiece
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DP Kids Press/DocUmeant Publishing
978-1-9378-0194-6 $14. 99
Degphilip illustrates the picture book Mia's Reflections using bold, large-size, exceptionally color-packed drawings as Ginger Marks tells of ten-year-old Mia, who faces isolation after her parents are killed in a car wreck and she journeys far from home and friends to live with a relative.
She's worried about fitting in as the new kid in school. Having wild, curly red hair makes her feel odd and ugly. As she's staring at her reflection in a mirror, the voice of her mother interjects, and Mia receives a message that shows her just how special she is.
Good reading skills or parental read-aloud assistance will lend to the appreciation of a story that outlines Mia's beautiful qualities, which move beyond physical appearance and document her efforts to help improve the world around her.
As Mia begins to recall how good it makes her feel to help others, she loses her fixation on her appearance and her conviction that her new classmates will automatically judge her.
A number of themes in this easy reader encourage further discussion with adults and among peers. Issues of bullying, personal appearance, worthiness, and life changes all provide a wealth of discussion material. This objective is enhanced at the story's conclusion by a list of parent-teacher resources, from approaches that can be used to help youngsters absorb the messages in Mia's Reflections to puzzles, vocabulary words games, and suggestions for fun activities. There's also a website with more educational resources, color pages, and a Mia paper doll.
Mia's Reflections is much more than an entertaining story. It's an activity guide designed to promote deeper understanding by offering a support system to parents and youngsters. It creates an interactive environment that encourages contemplation, discussion, and understanding, and is very highly recommended for any adult who would help children navigate peer relationships to build self-confidence.Mia's Reflections
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It's been seven years since Thomas last saw his father. He was six years old then, and he's about to turn thirteen, now.
As the story opens, Thomas seems to be an ordinary boy: a studious child who likes doodling, has a close friend, and enjoys martial arts. But on one ordinary day, he runs into a wild-eyed man whose music draws him with a mysterious familiarity he can't quite put his finger on. When the man disappears, Thomas pursues a vanishing promise of magic and enters an antique bookstore. Inside, he discovers an amazing place and a special book that opens the door to another world of possibilities.
He's always been interested in magic—real magic; not new age and fantasy. His father laid that groundwork of interest seven years ago, before his sudden disappearance: "His dad’s last words flashed into his mind, the final fragment before everything changed. “Magic is real, Thomas. No matter what happens, always remember that magic is real.”
Thomas embarks on his own discovery of this magical realm and its meaning in his life, bringing middle grade fantasy readers into a rollicking ride through self-discovery, incredible danger, and a quest that holds vast implications and impacts for not just Thomas's life, but for everyone and everything around him.
Many of the devices employed by J.M. Bergen (a beloved, but missing parent, an unshakable belief in magic, a mysteriously-appearing old bookstore, and a journey into another realm) will be familiar to young fantasy enthusiasts; but this story offers more depth and detail than similar-sounding tales.
For one, Thomas is tasked with employing his studious skills in the course of tracking down clues, which includes internet research and critical thinking: "The reference to magical crystals was too intriguing to ignore. If the book and scroll were connected, and it seemed like they must be, then maybe the crystals Jackman searched for were the same ones the dark stranger gave to Isham. Thomas had a printed copy of the article in his now-bulging backpack and emailed himself the link for good measure. If there were more non-Goth references to The Book of Sorrows on the Internet, Thomas didn’t find them."
Secondly, a blend of treasure hunt, kidnapping challenge, and monster story keeps the plot fast-paced and unpredictable as Thomas enters a vibrant, bizarre, and colorful world and finds himself part of a new team that relies on those with magical abilities to achieve what their talents don't include.
Characterization is strong, several different purposes and encounters keep the story line fast-paced and unpredictable, and kids who enjoy blends of fantasy, treasure hunting, and personal struggle will relish the balance between these themes in Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows.
The result is a captivating story that goes beyond a quest/adventure in a magical realm to follow the progress of a thirteen-year-old just beginning to acknowledge not only his own strengths, but different realities and his place in these worlds.
Middle graders will find Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows a compelling story that offers good psychological depth, exquisite tension, and an adventure tale that proves hard to put down.Thomas Wildus and the Book of Sorrows
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The Well Bred Book
The Upside-Down Gardener offers picture book readers a different kind of gardening story about Dory Oslo, who lives in New York City, hates the winter, and can't wait for warm weather, where people wear brighter colors and smile more.
Her wise mother suggests they add color into their lives by planting a garden: but Dory doesn't see the potential in her inner city home. Instead of a promising plot of land, she observes: "...the trash cans and a few cats in the alley behind their house. And she saw only a small piece of the sun. Dory wondered how a garden could ever grow in this tiny back yard."
Kids with good reading skills and parents who assist them will relish this story of a young gardener who doesn't envision herself as such, especially since she's impatient and thinks the seeds she plants should somehow yield color and bounty immediately.
Dory's never been good at waiting for anything...but then, she's never thought she could grow anything.
As youngsters follow Dory's progression, the story takes an unexpected turn from her frustration with her little plot's lack of progress and color to an urban gardening miracle.
This twist to the tale gives it an added attraction and flavor and makes The Upside-Down Gardener a standout from any other picture book about young gardeners. It creates a sense of mystery and adds a dash of humor as Dory realizes that her impatience may have influenced her own 'upside down' results.
Dory cultivates some wild dreams that grow beyond her garden and into the rest of her life. This, too, makes The Upside-Down Gardener an exceptional read that links the effort to grow plants to a broader discussion of growing new ideas, objectives, and approaches to life.
These elements make The Upside-Down Gardener a top recommendation for elementary-level collections looking for a creative approach to problem-solving that uses gardening as a springboard towards achievement and positive approaches to life itself. It's a highly recommended book that adopts a topic lending to classroom discussion not just about growing plants, but growing new, positive pathways to life itself.The Upside-Down Gardener
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