February 2015 Review Issue
Beneath the Badge
Missing Niche Publishing
Plenty of books have been written about law enforcement - usually they come from the perspective of cops on the beat who either explore their daily lives or expose the social, political, and legal aspects of being a police officer.
Less common is coverage of an officer's family experiences, told from the perspective of that family: such is the contribution of Karen Solomon with Hearts Beneath the Badge, which takes what is undercover and brings it above ground by celebrating the daily experiences of law enforcement professionals.
Karen Solomon is married to a cop, and having lived with these behind-the-scenes stories of heroism, she decided to publish this book as a counterstrike against the more popular process of decrying police force violence.
Hearts Beneath the Badge seeks to balance this public outcry by pointing out the good achieved by police officers, gathering stories of what commonly happens on a daily basis. She interviewed police officers on her lunch hour and although her marriage to a cop was part of the impetus for her book, she actually held a long-standing respect for the profession and was motivated to produce this book in response to an especially tough year (publicity-wise) for law enforcement.
In a world where every policeman's failure is publicly condemned and more common successes are hardly mentioned, it's important that Hearts Beneath the Badge win acclaim.
Its chapters celebrate good decisions, heroic acts, and moreover, a sense of ethics and morality that go beyond the job description.
Society holds police offers to different values than other workers, often creating isolation in the process: "Most people get up and go to a work, grab some coffee, talk to the people in the cubicles next to them, and some even goof off while they are at work. The career of a police officer isn’t as easy. They are often alone, when they take a coffee break the public sees them as wasting taxpayers’ money…"
Their lives, experiences, and choices here take the form of biographical vignettes. Each chapter tells of how a man or woman became involved in law enforcement, how this affected their families and lives, and how their decisions on the job changed other lives.
The premise is simple: "…law enforcement is a deeply personal profession and the lives and emotions of the officers are on the line every day. In their effort to serve the public, they put their own physical and emotional safety at risk time and again." The stories are not. They are complex, thought-provoking reads that should especially be pursued by those who place all police officers in the same basket of criticism. It returns the humanity to the profession and, in so doing, creates a powerful collection of stories that should be used to counter any generalities about the profession.Hearts Beneath the Badge
House on Sunset
Amazon Digital Services
978-0692278284 ASIN: B00NEN6RNY
$9.99 for paperback $2.99 for eBook
eBook available only through Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/
Paperback available through:
Barnes & Noble: http://www.
At first glance The House on Sunset sounds like a novel of some kind (perhaps a horror story?), but in fact it is a memoir, and be forewarned - it opens with the author being brutalized in a savage act of domestic violence; so those who have suffered similar fates and who don't need a vivid reminder of such common occurrences should perhaps look elsewhere for their insights.
Or not: because this is ultimately a memoir of survival; and in order to get to the survival piece, the sources of violence and victim reactions to it must be addressed.
There is no sugar-coating here, either in the descriptions of the author's experiences or in the assessment of survivor mentality as being one where "Survivors are cut from the same string; a strong, fully-committed and unwavering devotion to people who steal our hearts. As we unravel, we calculate how much more we can take. We'll never have an answer to that question, but we know we'll keep saying one more try."
The author searches for courage, paints a complete picture of her family relationships and the precedents that led to her become involved with a violent personality, and the coping mechanisms that led to her acceptance of a slowly-evolving violent atmosphere, from guilt to justifying violence.
The situation evolves slowly, like boiling a frog. It moves from a few inappropriate responses and actions that slowly beat down the author's ego and self-respect to therapy sessions, struggles with denial, and counseling that included anger management on Mike's part and what was perceived to be an inability to confront problems on the author's part.
These insights are especially enlightening because in most circumstances of domestic violence, therapy is either a suggestion or a mandate (or rejected completely), and the ways it both helps and hinders is of particular interest … and usually not presented in memoirs that focus on the acts of violence, survival and escape.
How, exactly, does a survivor/victim achieve 'normal'? The author is a teacher, and her insights into how she lives her life, does her job, and copes with ongoing nightmares and the recovery process does more than document her life: it offers guidelines and approaches for others in the same boat, making it a vivid and constructive account of a downward slide into domestic violence and an upward reach for recovery.The House on Sunset
T. R. Robinson
CreateSpace, Amazon, and Smashwords
CreateSpace POD: ISBN 13: 978-1500478278 $9.68
Smashwords: ISBN13: 978-1311711786 $3.99
Kindle ASIN: B00MH7FJ6Y $6.76
Most lives cannot be said to be extraordinary - and, indeed, T.R. Robinson did not consider her life to be such until she began learning about the lives of others and realized that in the bigger world picture, her life is, indeed, extraordinary.
Thus, Tears of Innocence is as much about this unusual life and her survival and blossoming as it is about her encounters in the world, and is created as the first part of a projected three-book autobiographical trilogy.
The first thing to know about Tears of Innocence is that it isn't just about the author's world, but that of her ancestors as well. As the last surviving member of her branch of her family, there was nobody else to capture these memories and histories - and so she does so here, in an introduction that begins with a child abandoned in the snow and a daughter sent away from home when her mother falls ill.
At the age of five, the author's life ends. At that age she moves from a warm, loving home to uncertain circumstances, a 'found' baby brother is adopted out, never to be seen again, and because in her time there was no understanding that children held a place in the grieving process, she was pushed aside, ignored, and left to come to her own terms with her mother's death.
But that's only the beginning of her story - and the tip of the emotional iceberg, as she moves from her mother's death to a new life.
While this autobiography is steeped in family relationships, it's also about war, politics, and daily lives changed by struggle. Perhaps this is one of the facets that leads Tears of Innocence to be so striking: the juxtaposition of inner strife with equally-challenging wider world changes: "We have difficulty finding sufficient food. Bread used to be our staple diet but the German habit of flooding a country with currency means a loaf now costs thousands. They’ve also commandeered virtually every other product. The soup you’ve just enjoyed was made from a combination of potato peelings, discarded by the enemy, and stinging nettles.”
It should be noted that some editing would contribute to smoother reading of this narrative, as minor grammatical errors pepper the story line ("I could’ve easily run into my captors arms."). That said, the narrative flows relatively smoothly and involves readers in the growing horrors of Nazi occupation, inhuman actions, and observations the author will never forget.
And now, neither will the reader.
Tears of Innocence is the perfect example of an autobiography that connects personal strife to wider world events. It's written with passion, it's presented with a 'you are there' feel, and it offers not just one life-changing experience, but a series of slings and arrows that the author survives.
The ongoing violence and struggles of her life seem nonstop at times, and serve to illustrate not only her own survival tactics and ability to adjust to adversity, but the changes society has experienced in relation to perceiving and understanding the nature of violence both at home and in communities: "You’ve a lot of bruises.” “Oh I keep falling or missing my step and walking into doors. Must be my pregnant state.” I don’t think they believe me. But what can they do? My husband has full rights over me. Society had been very different then."
It covers the author's childhood and first part of her adult life, and it actually offers hope, as she was ultimately able to gain freedom from the disparate negative forces and patterns of her world. The battles she fights, the constant threats to her life, and the family interactions against the backdrop of war are personal and vivid, and will appeal to any who look to accounts of strength and survival against all odds.Tears of Innocence
Publication date: February 26th, 2015
At first glance, Traveling the Two-Lane: A Memoir and Travelogue appears to be your ordinary approach to a road trip; but there are several different facets to the story that set it well apart from your usual "I rented a motorhome and toured America" account.
In the first place, Marilyn Berman was not only sixty-three when she began her journey, but she grew up gay in a world that largely condemned gays as being mentally ill, at best. That's why she chose to hide, never told her parents the truth, and lived a closeted life, always placing her dreams and truths on the back burner of life.
In some ways Traveling the Two-Lane is about the 'flame on' that happens when she leaves the familiar to journey out into the world, contemplating her life, her self, and her heritage. In other ways it's a slow simmer of experience that doesn't quite come to a boil, but is changed by every road she chooses and every alternate path she takes.
Because it so neatly straddles the line between travelogue and personal memoir, those who look for a 'travel' book to serve as a model for their own road trip may be disappointed. Yes, it's filled with experience; and some of that can readily serve as guidelines for those who use such books to create 'what to do/what not to do' lists - but others who seek just an armchair read will find themselves involved in much more, here - so be forewarned.
Traveling the Two-Lane isn't a simple road trip filled with close encounters and other cultures: it's a self-reflective work that considers the vastness of the wider world, the significance of one's life against this backdrop, and, especially, the difficulty of living a secret life as a closeted gay women, isolated even from one's otherwise-close family.
The juxtaposition of past and present in Traveling the Two-Lane is clearly differentiated by italicized text and allows readers to easily follow Berman's dual journey through past and present as the experiences of her road trip lead her on concurrent explorations of her choices and life.
Throughout the story there are storms and wonders, friendships and loves lost and regained, and a sense of inner and outer examination that succeed in melding memoir and travelogue into a smooth, continuous journey. From serendipity to truths perceived from a self-centered driver's seat, Berman's life unwinds in a dance between men, women, and illusions exposed.
Perhaps the latter facet is the greatest strength here: not just the stories of road trips and unexpected encounters; not just the glacier beauty of Canada or the icy reality that personal happiness is often dependent on the attitudes of others; but the truths that can only come to light during a trip that doesn't just explore, but embraces the unfamiliar.
Illusion. Philosophy. The meaning of one's personal life and choices. This is what Traveling the Two-Lane is ultimately about. Yes, it's a travelogue - but to bill it as such would be to do it a disservice and disappoint those looking for singular road trip adventure and blueprints for 'how I did it'. It's really so much more, and readers looking for the added value of social observation blended with personal experience will surely find it here.
Traveling the Two-Lane
108 Tips on Business, Travel and Culture in China details a Hong Kong-born immigrant's some sixty years of dealing with the Chinese in the U.S. and in China: an experience narrated in a wry observational tone of voice that comes from one very active in the Chinese community in Hawaii.
It would have been all too easy to produce this book from an outsider's perspective: the fact that it comes from a business insider who interacts not only with the Chinese in his local community, but with those on the mainland and in China, makes his experience and approach an exceptional read for any who seek to understand Chinese-American business and cultural relations. And, it should also be noted that the book is specific to mainland China insights - not necessarily to Chinese in Taiwan or Hong Kong. It's a very specific focus on a very specific set of attitudes and mindsets that therefore will prove a gold mine of information for readers just beginning to deal with China itself.
Chapters reveal key customs and traditions in a progressive survey that opens with an introductory history and probe of Chinese cultural development before moving to the heart of matters: Chinese beliefs, various forms of communication (both verbal and non-verbal), and doing business in and traveling through China.
One wouldn't anticipate black and white cartoons throughout, supporting this effort, but the approach offers a combination of comic relief and reinforcement of written word and provides a delightful embellishment that differentiates 108 Tips on Business, Travel and Culture in China from dry cultural inspections. The cartoons are not without their own reinforcing lessons, either: take the first one - it jokes about feng shui, but its caption points out that "…you should not keep a broom in the room of a sick or dying person because the broom will sweep away the life of that person."
There are pointed observations Westerners get to absorb in a series of lessons that depict the author's insights into the culture - and are best learned before serious business relationships between Chinese and 'outsiders' get underway: "Unless you are born with two Chinese parents, you will always be a foreigner in the eyes of the Chinese. People may try to integrate into Chinese society, but they will always be singled out as a foreigner….Last year, I told one of my Chinese friends that I am writing a book on China. Although he knew that I was born and raised in Hong Kong and can read and write Chinese, his first words were “but you are not Chinese.” A foreigner will always be a foreigner in the eyes of the Chinese. Tip #14 Being a foreigner has an advantage. You are not expected to understand the intricacies of Chinese etiquette and you will be readily forgiven for any lapses."
The juxtaposition of cartoon lessons, personal insights, and tips relating to Chinese relationships around the world make for a surprisingly easy read - surprising because even though some of these topics are touched upon or discussed in more technical books, most are dry deliberations that proffer such stilted analysis that a non-technical reader is hard pressed to truly absorb their meaning.
Not so in 108 Tips on Business, Travel and Culture in China: its delight lies in a very accessible style and approach that opens up China's psychology and history to lay readers and lends it a life and vibrancy that no analytical approach could duplicate.
It goes without saying that the prerequisite for enjoying (and employing) the lessons of this book is an intention of dealing with the Chinese on more than a casual level. Those planning a serious business or personal relationship with mainland China's peoples simply must have this book. It's that unique, that accessible, and that highly recommended!
108 Tips on Business, Travel and Culture in China
Intergalactic kidnappers usually aren't interested in construction workers - or are they? In Pax Titanus, aliens have abducted the son of a construction worker with the intention of entering him in the SkullCrushFest, a fighting tournament which involves murdering one's opponents.
There are several problems with their choice, however: the son's father is determined to rescue him, and the aptly-named Titanus holds a special ability to increase any body part in size or length … he's ten feet tall and has war hammers, and a mean disposition. (Who wouldn't, when facing a threat to their son?)
But Pax Titanus is anything but a singular story of warring aliens and conflict: it's replete with impossibilities, humor, and risqué description. Yes, the latter is there - so be prepared for shockingly graphic sexual descriptions and unexpected encounters wrapped in the guise of a rescue operation and a series of alien confrontations.
Space opera has largely waned in the face of the integration of science fiction with mystery and horror genres - and that's a shame. The giddy romps through intergalactic nether regions have largely succumbed to serious writings and predictable formulas and it's safe to say that for the most part, the genre as a whole has become overly unsurprising.
Perhaps that's the great strength of Pax Titanus: prepare to be surprised, shocked, and challenged; because there's little predictable here and much of its description and action is designed to 'shock and awe' beyond the usual approach of linear plots and ordinary heroes.
It's physical and emotional comedy at its best, with a huge dose of risqué and ribald humor thrown in (prudes, look elsewhere: dialogue and interaction can be easily deemed blatant and crude, depending on your mindset.)
It's nonstop action at its least predictable, tossing in scenes and changes with the staccato blaze of guns firing and nightmares evolving.
The Roman flavor, complete with gladiators, codpieces, and strange names, is juxtaposed with unlikely futuristic scenarios involving ninja corpses, reanimated dangers, schmucks with laser swords, and doubts that arise between father and son.
And, yes, some of the humor can be said to be downright juvenile in feel; as with jokes about body parts and sex.
But, that's good space opera for you: the best works inject nonstop humor into the action and revolve around overly dramatic (yet engaging) characters who can face the choice of being dead or becoming the greatest warrior in the universe.
It's a hilarious romp, all right: not recommended for the serious hard science fiction reader used to predictability, but especially applauded for its ability to weave together a bizarre plot and disparate elements to ultimately create a heady mixture of an insane parody blended with interstellar supernova action.
Prepare to be boarded, because Pax Titanus grabs you by the neck, hauls you in, and in a mere 104 pages, creates an unforgettably hilarious universe replete with high-octane action and a satisfying juxtaposition of insane characters and purposes.Pax Titanus
It's nice to note that 'Book One' of a projected series is displayed right on its cover, leaving no doubts that readers who enjoy Rise of the Dragons can expect more. All that's left is to determine whether a read of the first in this series is satisfying enough to move on to the other books - and that's what this review is all about.
Rise of the Dragons features some fairly common devices in fantasy these days: dragons (of course), a feisty female protagonist (once an exception, now more of a norm), a quest, and a coming of age story set against the backdrop of a desperate mission.
If you take these elements of formula fantasy genre writing and apply them here, outwardly the result sounds much like many other books. But the real test of a work that is different lies in what the author does with the characters, setting, and plot: how characterization is handled, how struggles are depicted, and - most importantly - how much a reader can relate to the various conflicts and influences of the protagonists.
Herein lies the opportunity for riches - and Rise of the Dragons succeeds in incorporating depth and an intriguing twist into a plot which could otherwise all too easily have been considered a too-predictible approach.
Now, many fantasies paint pictures of other worlds. The better ones immerse readers in those worlds - as Rise of the Dragons does from the start. It's difficult to paint an environment rich enough to actually feel the crunch of snow beneath one's feet, the unusual landscape of 'purple pine trees', and the efforts of a girl who 'never fit in' to accept not the domestic duties expected of girls, but the warrior powers she's inherited from her father Morgan Rice. But the saga succeeds - right from the start - in creating this all-important scene, juxtaposing Kyra's strengths and interests with the physical environment and social influences around her.
Immersion: it's what a superior fantasy is all about - and this feel is evident in a story that begins, as it should, with one protagonist's struggles and moves neatly into a wider circle of knights, dragons, magic and monsters, and destiny.
The inclusion of a second teen protagonist, Alec, serves to strengthen the plot and provides a satisfying juxtaposition of different interests to compliment a story line that is filled with action and a dose of intrigue.
All the trappings of high fantasy are here, from soldiers and battles to confrontations with self as characters decide whether grief will lead them to take on the attitudes and approaches of their enemies, or lead to higher-level thinking and responses.
It's easy to create formula writing that's predictable. Moving from one-dimension to three-dimensional thinking, however, takes attention to detail and streamlining characters, settings, and purposes in such a way that readers feel involved in the story and its outcome; not distanced in the role of the dispassionate observer.
It's all too easy to use action-packed adventure to overcome a lack of protagonist development, but Rise of the Dragons avoids this common trap and takes the higher road of involvement - and that's what makes this series opener a recommended winner for any who enjoy epic fantasy writing fueled by powerful, believable young adult protagonists.Rise of the Dragons
from Little Lump: Night of the Undead Snow Monkeys
Amazon Digital Services
It must be said that Jeff Folschinsky's opening paragraphs for his writings are nothing but compelling: readers who like more than a light dose of humor injected into their sci-fi/horror won't just feel compelled to continue - they'll be grabbed by the collar and pulled in, as in the second 'Tales from Little Lump' collection, Night of the Undead Snow Monkeys: "I have to admit, Japanese snow monkeys are the most adorable things that I ever did lay my eyes on. It's too bad that I had to start blowing them apart with my late husband's, God rest his soul, 12-gauge Remington pump action shotgun; but what else are you supposed to do once they've turned undead?"
It's a dilemma, indeed - and one which comes to life in a story of undead, cute but dangerous snow monkeys that plague the small town of Little Lump and create havoc for its residents.
Readers of the original Tales will know that aliens who came in peace were gunned down by an over-enthusiastic small Texas town's determination to prevent invasion at all costs. But no prior familiarity is required for this continuation of the horror theme as the Texas shoot-em-up approach is applied to a greater horror in the form of undead cuties.
Gertie and Cousin Tommy are back, ammunition is running low, and tempers are high. Gertie tells the tale and minces no words in the process - which in itself is simply hilarious: "Cousin Tommy, in this day and age, what self-respecting Texan walks outside their front door without carrying a weapon?" "Never had any use for one until now," he replied, while decapitating a monkey with his garden hoe. Isn't that the way of things? People always think, oh, guns, yuck. But all of a sudden undead Japanese snow monkeys show up, and then everyone is whistling an entirely different tune."
From a hot and heavy domino game where outsiders threatened by zombie monkeys are denied entrance to safety ("No, we're not letting him in. We're already playing with six people.") to the question of why Japanese snow monkeys have appeared in Texas in the first place, Night of the Undead Snow Monkeys is simply uproarious from beginning to end.
And while, yes, this book is technically a stand-alone and requires little prior familiarity with its predecessor, newcomers will want to turn to the original Tales; because it's there that protagonists and town makeup are given more background and history (plus, it's equally side-splitting, to boot.)
If you're looking for serious zombie apocalypse tales - look elsewhere. Night of the Undead Snow Monkeys requires that its readers have a funny bone in place - and then it tickles and tweaks it until the result is uproaring laughter: something very few horror books can claim to offer.
So go ahead - open the door, aim your weapon, and get ready to party with Night of the Undead Snow Monkeys. It promises a night you won't forget, and is very highly recommended as a standout read.Tales from Little Lump: Night of the Undead Snow Monkeys
Michelle B. Assor
Snaygill: Slithery Temptations comes from an unusual combination of the author's appreciation for snakes and her interest in fantasy. It should also be mentioned that this is Book One of a projected snake-oriented fantasy trilogy and - without injecting spoilers about the series - that readers should anticipate that the natural history of snakes woven into the plot will be a slippery slope in and of itself.
Slithery Temptations is anything
but predictable, is set in a reptile-driven kingdom, and offers up some
snake's-eye viewpoints: "His
failed to convince the forked tongues of a rebellious few, however.
“Does the king truly believe we are renewed and our sins forgiven every time we recite the anthem or shed our skins?
An ally agreed. “No matter how hard we try, temptation is hard to resist. We are forever cursed to writhe on our bellies, despite our newfound freedom in this land.”
There's an undercurrent of unexpected humor running through Snaygill: unexpected because one doesn't ordinarily anticipate that a fantasy story about a snake kingdom's struggles will contain any kind of tongue-in-cheek observational irony.
This is evident not only in the opening chapter, but in progressive events: "Hmmm, so a wimpy water dweller seems to underestimate my immense powers,” remarked Armstrong superciliously. “What’s more, you appear to be ignorant about the food chain. You should educate yourself by researching my eating habits. You will realize that I am partial to the fish and frogs in these local waters, so you might consider sharing your catch with me. I consume much more than you do, especially when I’m angry.”
Anticipate a story replete with royalty and irony, magic and sinister games, and a prince's school that teaches the finer arts of deception and mystery.
The setting is more complex than your usual fantasy, taking place not in a human kingdom and not in your usual furred animal realm, but in the cold slithery world of the snake. It thus takes time to build a story line that is filled with witches, family connections, quests, and a world where hibernation cycles are as much a part of life as the quest for food.
It's truly a pleasure to see something different in the realm of both fantasy and creature-driven works. The world of fluffy bunnies has definitely been overdone, while the pursuits of slithery serpents is usually limited to realms of evil forces, so having an alternative approach in Snaygill provides refreshingly different.
There are moments of philosophical introspection - satisfying contrasts to your usual action-oriented fantasy - that take the time to thoroughly build protagonists and their movements through this slippery world: "Mallicegai soon discovered living alone was not so dreadful after all. A young heart, full of curiosity and determination, a mind thirsty for knowledge, an innate gift of a soulful voice, and the possession of great beauty, were definitely not setbacks. Besides, she was never truly alone. Wherever she slithered, the wind and the water, the sun and the moon trailed her. They too were alone, yet they comforted one another in their solitariness."
In a fantasy where serpents ride in carriages, go to school, and fall in love, Michelle B. Assor takes time to incorporate the very real nature of the snake and its habits, injecting a realistic feel to the story line while staying true to the fantasy scenario of talking, thinking snakes who mimic many of the concerns of humans - such as partaking in wedding rituals.
Under a more casual hand this balance could too easily have fallen apart. But with Assor's ability to balance natural history and fantasy, readers who appreciate both are in for a rare treat.
Snaygill: Slithery Temptations
of the Ages
Matthew D. Heines
Deceptions of the Ages: "Mormons" Freemasons and Extraterrestrials doesn't continue Matthew Heines' previous travelogue/teaching books covering intercultural relationships and discoveries: instead, it analyzes a different kind of relationship between the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, aliens, and Freemasons.
If this approach seems a 'stretch', for some readers - it will be. Deceptions comes from a teacher who takes five thousand years of history and brings a variety of disparate forces together, using a blend of historical texts, philosophical reflections, holy writings, and more to provide factual historical insights into traditional conflicts between science and religion - and he does so with an added measure of humor to make his approach more palpable.
From the incongruities of a secret society that claims the ambiguous situation of not being a 'secret society' so much as a 'society with secrets' to the great dig under the Temple of Solomon, why it happened, and the contrast of various theories about what they found (or didn't find), Heines takes a step-by-step approach in examining various facets of history and its deceptions.
And perhaps that's the most intriguing approach of all: not just the evidence of deceptions and how they evolved over the eons, but why they happened and how their stories were perpetuated and changed over time.
Few new age or historical discussions take the form of closely analyzing the gaps between science, history and religion. Too few pinpoint exactly where and how these gaps occurred, why they widened, and the various controversies that sprung from them, creating in and of themselves new perspectives and even religions and belief systems.
And few such considerations skirt the line between history, new age analysis, and philosophy, incorporating elements of all in a compendium that is, ultimately, greater than any of its individual parts.
Despite Heines' attempts to inject humor and readability into the text, this is by no means a light read. Typical new age readers (the book's most likely audience) will find it dense, packed with historical, philosophical and spiritual references, and filled with evidence that points to the obvious fact that "we are not alone".
An index to its many references and approaches would have made Deceptions of the Ages even more useful for readers who want to cross-reference strings of thought and different historical figures - but would have been a weighty undertaking in a discussion of this magnitude.
Suffice it to say that Deceptions of the Ages offers much food for thought, will find its most enthusiastic readership among new age circles who appreciate wide-ranging discussions pulling together facts from a range of disciplines, making for a powerful, thought-provoking read.Deceptions of the Ages
Barbara Ebel, Publisher
Paperback ISBN-13: 978-0-9911589-5-9
eBook ISBN-13: 978-0-9911589-6-6 $3.99
Danny Tilson's a brain surgeon well versed in the nuances of blood flow in the human brain, but he's just worked on a puzzling surgery - and it's about to get even more puzzling as a cloud of green rain precedes a fully-formed tornado outside the operating theater. Bam! Next, Danny awakens to the knowledge that he's floating in a pulsing red liquid chamber that can only be a patient's heart, and is being shot through an aortic valve on a wild journey (shades of Fantastic Voyage!)
But his roller coaster ride through a human brain soon returns to the tornado scenario - and this time his long-time best friend Casey is a witness to a remarkable event.
As events progress, this third addition to the Danny Tilson medical mystery series won't disappoint either old fans or newcomers who love medical intrigue ala Robin Cook and the best medical writers in the genre. Perhaps that's because it comes from the seasoned hand of a physician who is steeped in the world of medical description and events and whose professional pen thus effortlessly describes such scenarios.
All the nuances of the medical community and its methods of interacting are thus well described, from ethics and lawsuit potentials to a new product that holds a dash more than a caffeine boost.
What begins as a medical mystery soon evolves into a fight for Danny's personal and professional life that involves disparate issues as diverse as weather patterns and unlikely health enthusiast patients facing unique problems: "After you look at the arteriogram and see him, I wonder if you’ll be as perplexed as me. A fifty-one year old health nut with a dried up anterior cerebral artery. What caused that?”
A satisfying part of Collateral Circulation's approach is a focus not just on an evolving medical thriller, but on physician Danny Tilson's personal life. And as his surgery holds some unexpected results for patient Varg, Danny is forced to make correlations and probes that toe the line between surgery and psychology, linking physical makeup with mental abilities.
It's all about blood flow - and without giving away too much of the twists and turns of this satisfying medical thriller, suffice it to say that readers of Collateral Circulation are invited aboard their own version of Fantastic Voyage as a physician's probe into what seems a rare oddity turns into a medical and legal conundrum that ultimately centers around nutrition and new health fads.
Contemporary and wide-ranging in scope, Collateral Circulation provides yet another powerful Danny Tilson medical mystery/thriller; and while it stands firmly alone and requires no prior introduction to its predecessors in order to prove satisfying, it's safe to say newcomers will want to go back to the other books in the series for further character insights and adventure.Collateral Circulation
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B00RC56VCW $4.99
The first requirement that should be noted for a complete enjoyment of Death by Disputation isn't a familiarity with Book One of the Francis Bacon series (though that certainly will evolve for new readers who enjoy this book) and it isn't even an affinity for the historical mystery genre (although that certainly does help).
It's a willingness to become immersed in a period saga that includes not just attention to historical setting, but details that add historical notes and capture the dialogue and language of the era - something that may frustrate those without such an affinity, but which will delight historical mystery enthusiasts looking for genuine research and attention to well-done, realistic settings which goes a cut above your usual historical mystery genre production.
One of the elements that makes Death by Disputation a 'cut above' lies in its tongue-in-cheek humor and its observational style. A good writer will describe Cambridge, for example. A superior writer will simply immerse the reader in the essence that is Cambridge: "Spring was awakening in Cambridge, and for a mercy, it wasn’t raining. The sky beyond Leeds’s slender figure was a perfect blue. A blackbird on a nearby ledge vigorously declared his melodious philosophy to the breeze. How could anyone destroy himself on such a beautiful March morning?"
The Elizabethan phrases sprinkled throughout demonstrate an attention to detail that is simply exquisite ("…for a mercy…"): it's as though Anna Castle has conducted her research via time machine, personally visiting the era and capturing its sights, smells, and nuances.
But this isn't about historical fiction: it's about a mystery. Here, too, Castle's style shines, delicately eliciting a series of emotional responses from her readers as she weaves a complex web of scenarios and firmly centers them in Elizabethan culture and times. Again: it's as though she lived there - and that's the hallmark of good, solid research rather than off-the-cuff mystery writing: "…the fact the letter had been opened showed that someone was suspicious of him. Why? Because he was relatively new? Because he’d been asking questions about Leeds? He’d been lucky this time. Still, Tom cursed himself for a white-livered, crack-brained, double-dyed fool. He’d have to be more careful henceforward."
As events progress and Tom uncovers more and more clues to a mystery, his involvement with his mentor Francis Bacon reflects a host of petty criminal activities with major implications for 16th century Cambridge culture. From social interactions and romance to succinct, staccato portraits of simple perception ("He rose and stretched and looked around for his hat. He found it in a corner and dusted off bits of hay, taking his time about it, reluctant to leave the warmth of friendship to go back out into the cold of deceit."), Death by Disputation is not so much a pick for those who want a quick, action-packed saga as it is a delight for historical mystery fans who want as much attention to historical detail as to mystery.
It's here that Anna Castle's strength simply shines - more so, even, than in the first book of her series.Death by Disputation
Law of Five
HARP House Publishing
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
978-0692335321 Kindle: $3.99 Print: $11.99
It's usually difficult to come into a mystery mid-series (The Law of Five is Book Three, so settings, characters and plots have been well established in prior books), but this Katie Reed/Redwood Violet novel opens with the discovery of a body in a cornfield, a situation that quickly involves Katie just when media attention is beginning to wind down from her last case.
Katie's work with the San Diego Police Department has more than taken over and changed her life, and she's trying to achieve some distance between her public and private lives - until a phone call from an old friend draws her into an investigation that involves the police department and an acquaintance suspected of murder.
All this is about to change (a somewhat predictable course of events) - but what is less predictable is the method by which the murderer draws in his victims, which in some sense includes Katie, who finds her investigative skills challenged and her interest in keeping professional distance from her work stymied. Having just faced down a terrible truth about her past trauma and its lasting effects on her future dreams, Katie is in no condition to confront a killer … but, she has to.
The emotional piece of Katie's recovery is one of the pieces that makes The Law of Five a winning read: it's steeped in past, present and possible future events and presumes no prior knowledge of Katie's life on the part of a newcomer. Descriptions are vivid and incorporate these personal aspects, deftly weaving them into the overall mystery and providing solid depth and background: "You are not damaged goods, Kate. You’re looking for another reason to keep him in your head. You think if you let him go, really let him go, that you’ll lose Sam too.” Katie stood up and moved towards him. “I don’t know if I’ll ever be whole again. And it doesn’t matter how much you try to protect me from the world, Marshall. You can’t protect me from myself.”
There are three facets to creating a satisfying mystery: strong characterization, interconnected circumstances, and intrigue. Weave all together and provide an attention to detail for each and you have the elements of a superior mystery story, capable of reeling in readers with emotional empathy and wrapping this psychology in a mystery with no foregone conclusions.
From clues that could lead one to question whether one killer or a series of copycats is involved to Katie's probe of her personal and professional lives, readers are carried along on an emotional and investigative roller-coaster.
Chapters cover control, suffering, and (without spoilers) threaten everything Katie holds dear in her life - and readers follow her emotional highs and lows as she draws closer to the truth, then finds its repercussions destroying her world. Katie has spent a lifetime striving to feel safe: it may be time to let loose ties of safety for a greater goal.
That The Law of Five is a gripping psychological investigative mystery drama is largely due to Robin Mahle's attention to creating a protagonist who has survived much, only to find her past haunting her future happiness. The truths that evolve from her pursuit of justice will change everything around her - and readers, too, will be happy to discover this mystery stands well alone and requires no prior reading to prove haunting and involving.The Law of Five
Jeffrey B. Burton
978-1-84982-308-1 $7.99 ebook $14.95 paperback
The world of special investigations often assumes the trappings of a chess game, with precise moves often forecast far in advance by either perpetrator or agent. As the men move across the board, underlying strategy unfolds cautiously, slowly, and often unpredictably; and it's the superior game that seems to lead in one inevitable direction, then twists to provide quite a different perspective.
Special Agent Drew Cady has had it with a job that has him confronting violent felons on a regular basis: he's in recovery physically and emotionally, and the last thing he needs is another challenging case. That's why he's helping his fiancée run a resort while working part-time on an FBI fraud investigation case: far easier pursuits than hunting down felons.
All this is (of course - predictably) about to change when the body of a young woman presents a new mystery, when a faithful colleague stands accused of being a spy, and when Drew finds himself unwittingly and reluctantly being drawn back into the world of high-stakes crime and serial killers.
But that's not all of the story, though it is the crux of matters: Drew's back in touch with a sadistic killer and a master manipulator used to playing the board, and it seems that only Drew's efforts can make a difference between success and failure in an investigation packed with surprising facets.
For one thing, the victims all look alike - they are all "young, thin in stature, mid-to-lengthy dark hair, brown eyes, mid-height or taller, highly attractive" - so there's a definite model to these murders. For another, matters of national security come into play, changing a local murder case into a dogged pursuit that tests love, hate, agent interactions, and, ultimately, loyalty and determination.
It all revolves around a hidden mole code named 'Lynchpin', a set of circumstances that draw Drew ever closer to a shocking revelation, and an increasingly complex federal investigation that make his last challenging case look like a picnic in the park.
In any good thriller it's the twists and turns that make the story. And a mark of the thriller genre in general is the twist of plot. So how does an ordinary thriller evolve to something special in a world where political associations, murders, and undercurrents of passion and perversion are par for the course?
The Lynchpin demonstrates just how exact this process is, creating characters who struggle with games, silence, and what turns out to be the "world's shortest retirement" on Cady's part when a master manipulator pulls the strings and changes his life.
Who is in control? Who is really playing the game? What is behind the murders, and how does a puzzle book come into play?
Head-scratching moments, a dose of political intrigue and departmental conflict, and a world in which the true lynchpin may not be the character sporting the name make The Lynchpin a chess game of high order, and perfect for genre readers who want much more than either standard thrillers or murder mysteries tend to offer.The Lynchpin
Study in Detail
A Study in Detail represents an unusual genre blend of romance, murder mystery and comedy - and it's the latter piece that sets it apart from most other genre crossover titles and lends it a special atmosphere, recommended for romance and mystery readers seeking something refreshingly different.
Quiet outdoorsman Paul fields the demands of his troublesome wife quite well, until Marta goes missing and circumstantial evidence points to him as her murderer. Now, Paul is anything but an investigator - and this is anything but an ordinary case; especially since a hidden message in his artistic wife's last painting indicates that she faked her death so that her works will become famous.
And so the drama and comedy begin as Paul finds himself on the lecture circuit discussing his not-dead-wife's life and facing down a series of increasingly-impossible events, from a $5M life insurance policy she took out before her 'death' to a casino that claims she owes them big time.
Now you have three investigators dancing around trouble and stepping on one another's toes: poor Paul, the casino enforcer, and a suspicious insurance investigator; all of whom have their own reasons for questioning Marta's demise. Add in a new age woman who believes she has been sent on a mission to help Paul get over his dead wife and you have a truly unlikely cast of characters cast together in a charade of events: a game that has all contestants circling their chairs while music plays in the background, wondering who will be sitting when it stops.
On the face of it, A Study in Detail is a mystery, but the tongue-in-cheek humor creeps into even the most staid of encounters: "It's good coffee," I said. "Really, excellent coffee." "Not for someone from Portland that knows their coffee…Right now I'll bring you a nice up of herbal tea like your girlfriend is having." I started to ask for warm dishwater instead."
And Paul's form of 'moving on' is anything but simple as he uncovers puzzle after puzzle and comes to realize he never really knew his wife at all.
The dialogue throughout is fresh, original, and witty ("Everything comes so easy for you, doesn't it, with that James Bond confidence and the Robert Redford environmentalist thing and that little boy smile that can charm the pants of a-off a some body with pants that need to stay on.") and the twists of plot will keep even the most seasoned mystery reader thinking. Protagonist interactions take the form of a series of stumbles, falls, and encounters that just keep on getting crazier.
The result is
especially recommended for enthusiasts of the romance and mystery
seek stories that are a cut above your average whodunit approach:
with meat to it, and a game that can only end with the last one
Prism Book Group
Renee's favorite flower is the dandelion: fragile, ethereal - and not, technically, a flower. This she finds out during an audition for a role on a dating show: something she's perceived as one small step towards her ultimate goal of becoming a notable morning radio show host.
She appears to have ruined her audition and is slinking back to failure until the show's eligible bachelor insists she be hired against all odds, sparking a series of encounters that heads towards predictable romance via a different direction: that of a girl who can't seem to do anything right, and a guy who has it all in the way of charm, influence, and success.
What could possibly evolve from such a strange attraction? That's the meat of Accept this Dandelion, purportedly a romance, but in essence so much more.
It's stretching the imagination, initially, to believe that the successful Ben, who can have almost any woman he wants, would be interested in Renee. She recognizes that her initial performance has been anything but satisfactory and also hones in on the possibility that she's been hired for comic relief more than a serious ability to act: "As Renee reviewed her audition, an idea formed. Every dating program like this had characters, right? There were beauties, bad girls, and even fools. There were girls everyone loved to hate. And there were always girls that gave the audience a good laugh. Renee was cast as the fool. But that was okay for the moment. She was on the show. She didn’t have to play the part intended for her. She could still raise her public profile, and, with any luck, win the job at the radio station."
But one good thing about Renee (in addition to her lofty goals) is her ability to recognize and accept opportunity when it comes knocking, even if it's a different kind of opportunity than she'd anticipated. And by her taking the offer (even with its issues) and Ben accommodating her (even with her obvious flaws), the process of their acceptance leads to something far greater than either had in mind, either professionally or personally.
Acceptance is, indeed, at the heart of Accept this Dandelion: acceptance of self, others, and the paths life offers up, whether for good or bad.
As Renee makes her choices (and makes the best of things, tailoring dubious acclaim to wider goals in her life), so Ben learns that an impulsive attraction to something more obvious and less subtle than he's been used to may ultimately promise something deeper: "So she was wearing a bathing suit underneath her clothing. She was teasing him…for sure. She must be the type of woman who wanted to draw a man in only to push him away. He would have to be careful with her. The other women were slowly lowering themselves into the pool, taking precautions to keep their hair dry. They weren’t leaving anything to the imagination. Ben would be much better off with one of them."
Renee doesn't plan on dating her way to either fame or romance. Nor does she plan on pushing Ben in the pool. Or participating in a budding attraction that blossoms between two very different people.
But as Renee slowly comes to realize there's now more in her life than a coveted job promotion and Ben comes to understand the underlying influence upon his impulsive inclusion of Renee on his dating show, the two evolve both as individuals and, inevitably, move towards each other.
And that's what a good romance is all about: a process of discovery whereby two disparate souls come together.
Add a few passionate (but tasteful) romantic scenes (this is a clean romantic comedy, safe for any age to read), plenty of contemplative reflection, and a playboy intent on changing his reputation just as he meets a girl intent on changing her bumbling ways, and you have something just a bit out of the ordinary in a romance: a tour de farce that will delight with an ultimately-predictable course.
Royalty: A Romantic Comedy…of Sorts
Forrest Thompson Publishers
Paperback Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Almost-
Kindle Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Almost-
There's a BBC TV show airing with a very similar title - but don't mix up Courtney Hamilton's book with the BBC production: the only things they share in common is comedy and a part of a title; but the comedy’s especially well done in this book.
novel is set
in Los Angeles,
and Hamilton's ability to
use laser-sharp dialogue to strike at the heart of irony and upper
aspirations are captured in an unerring conversation between three
"I saw my
friends, Bettina and Marcie,
approaching. I got out of my car.“Hi you guys,” I said. “You
driving that, are you?” said Marcie. “What’s wrong with
it?” “It’s a
Honda,” said Marcie. “It’s ugly,” said Bettina. “It’s
paid for,” I
“Sure, but is that the statement you want to make?” said Marcie. “I’m not making any statement.”“Exactly,” said Marcie, “so why don’t you go move that around the block so no one sees you getting into it when we leave.”
Best friends facing adulthood and an elite Los Angeles atmosphere also face the consequences of being 'almost royalty' in their attitudes - all but one (the protagonist), who observes (as an outsider) the ironies of nouveau riche thinking and turns these viewpoints into hilarious dialogue that successfully nails the fallacies inherent in unspoken class systems and ideals of royalty among celebrities and non-celebrities alike.
Movements in such a world tend to assume a dance around taste, style, and perceived wealth. They tend to take the form of unerring examinations of attitudes; particularly when major events (such as a wedding) evoke a storm of resentment, expectations, and unrealistic pressures - all are captured, once again, in the protagonist's cutting-edge observations: "Unfortunately, this wasn’t just about Marcie becoming a bride. That would have been fine and I could have played along, doing those fake bride-friend type things like telling her that her butt didn’t look too big in the dress and pretending to like the groom. For Marcie, this was about her finally reaching her life-long goal: Marrying into L.A.’s Civilian Class Royalty and becoming part of that unique group of L.A. women who: (1) married well, (2) never again had to work, and (3) staffed the volunteer committees of L.A.’s most exclusive private schools."
Under Hamilton's hand, achieving status and success is analyzed for what it too often is: a game that revolves not just around money and its acquisition, but perceptions of what constitutes achievement.
Now, the protagonist is no street urchin: she's an attorney with power and status in her own right. Her childhood friendships have evolved much as her own status - in unexpected directions - and when she's pursued by an ambitious bachelor who presumes to know her own needs better than she, further conflict evolves.
Royalty is a tongue-in-cheek
observation of something
purported to exist primarily in Britain:
the class system. It's a different American kind of class system,
its own set of rules and its own approaches to life: "In Los
Angeles, a town with few
traditions, an unspoken class system existed. There was the Celebrity
Royalty—the multi-millionaire (and somewhat feral) first-generation
of the entertainment industry who behaved as if Los Angeles
existed for their benefit only. The rules, schedules, and boundaries of
civilized life existed for the others—the “Civilians,” those who were
multi-millionaire successes of the entertainment industry.
The Civilians had their own Royalty: They came from business, oil, high tech, or real estate."
here is that much of the humor lies in bantering dialogue between the
protagonist and various friends, suitors, and acquaintances: an unusual
requires more than a degree of realistic back-and-forth that,
often more difficult to capture in dialogue than in text description.
Hamilton achieves this through precise plays on words is further
her skills at blending social observation and romance with fun
she’s getting the cobbler,
which I am going to split with her, to relieve her guilt,” he says.
you want it.” “Once upon a time, that would have been the way
to address a
different topic.” “Yes. But my feelings are the
same.” “You still
have passionate feelings for cobbler?”
“Very funny. No, for you.” I’m a little confused."
Values, goals, social status, and the ultimate influences on choice and consequences: it's what Almost Royalty is all about - and the addition of serious reflective tones that lead to the protagonist's ultimate revelations is what sets this book well apart from either romance or comedy genres, making it something greater than the sum of these parts, and a recommendation not for romance or comedy genre readers, but for those who consider these devices as side dishes to a more satisfying main course.Almost Royalty: A Romantic Comedy…of Sorts
Adrian Jones Pearson
Cow Eye Press
978-0-9909150-0-3 (pbk) $19.95
978-0-9909150-2-7 (hardcover) $34.95
978-0-9909150-1-0 (eBook) $7.99
Cow Eye Community College is a rural institution offering up a well-rounded liberal arts and technical education program and sporting a curious atmosphere promising hope and advancement while actually delivering despair - or so observes an educational administrator who finds himself in the back country of the rural Cow Eye community facing down its biggest problem: impending ruin.
Charlie had no idea his job description was to include miracles and leadership on such a grand scale - but then, Charlie actually mirrors the atmosphere of Cow Eye perfectly: he's down on his luck himself.
Can the blind lead the blind? Evidently - but not without a lot of stumbling, as the whimsical and testy Cow Country reveals in the course of its romp through the politics and social mores of academia.
It's hard to neatly 'peg' the reader of Cow Country. Certainly, a sense of humor is a prerequisite. Another 'plus' would be a familiarity with the inner workings (and ironies) of higher education (of which this reviewer has some light experience from decades past), which come to light in a series of encounters and vignettes that deftly comment on community college functions and institutional actions that alienate as much as they seek to unite: "Luke joked that the seats of the bus were not meant for two adults but that he and Ethel had done their best under the circumstances and that if implicated in any subsequent paternity test he would do the right thing and pay for the abortion, though he would also forward it on to the college as a reimbursable work expense. Dr. Felch laughed at all this and said, “That’s the price of teambuilding, my friends!”
As readers move through the dubiously hallowed halls of higher education, they will come to find that the initial prerequisite of some familiarity with a community college structure, though desirable, is not actually a prerequisite: those who have any kind of insights on institutional ironies and inconsistencies will relish Cow Country's hard-hitting observations about life in the slow lane of reluctant change.
As subtle digs and innuendos permeate the story, the comedy of trying to lead a dysfunctional institution comes to life: "…institutional accreditation is not the place for the expression of personal values. It’s not the place for intellectual integrity or unwavering convictions. It’s not a forum for your true beliefs to be laid bare. It’s not the proper venue for idealistic notions of propriety or even for pragmatic conceptions of justice. And please don’t use the accreditation process as a forum to stand up and scream at the top of your lungs: ‘Hey, look at me, world! I’m a free-thinking self-respecting human being with heightened moral sensibilities!” The accreditors just want to know how we assess our assessments, right?….so just answer the damn question!”
An affair with a math teacher (obviously from a different - and less romantic - world), an elaborate Christmas party gone awry, and a revolution that rests on the efforts of an accrediting process to either give life to a failing institution or take it away forever keep Cow Country fast-paced, ironic, and at times, downright hilarious: "I’m quite sure our students will have nothing but glowing things to say about their creative writing experience here at Cow Eye. And I’m sure they will be happy to tell you all the amazing things they’ve learned from such a mesmerizing, if inexplicably absent, creative writing instructor. And I’m sure the responses you receive will be almost universally similar in their positivity. Won’t they, kids…?” At this the surprised students nodded their consensus."
In the end, shelve any concerns that Cow Country will be foreign or indecipherable to any but the academic or institutionally-immersed reader: it's a story with universal appeal, and it's a tour de farce that opens with a downtrodden administrator facing the threshold of historic change in a small community, walking over the line, and continuing down the road into the sunset, concluding with a single vision connecting sex and enlightenment with the wider goals and struggles of a community college environment.
No spoilers here: for more, you'll just have to visit Cow Country and see for yourself.Cow Country
Deep River Burning
There are few people more alone in the world than Denver: she's recently lost her parents, the coal mines beneath her Pennsylvania home town have erupted and ruined her town, and she's dropped out of college (and life) to take refuge in North Carolina, prepared to make a new beginning in a very different, quiet community. It all sounds like a good choice until old acquaintances long forgot draw her back to the world she fled with enticements of new opportunities and romance.
The first thing to know about Deep River Burning is that it takes time to produce its poetic, majestic descriptions and is not a hasty plot packed with one-dimensional action; so if it's immediate gratification you're seeking in the way of a thriller/romance, look elsewhere. The real strength in a novel lies in its ability to build both emotional connection and a sense of place, and Dreese achieves this in a methodical manner that takes the necessary time to do both, aptly demonstrated in the opening act that is the very first paragraph: Rivers hold stories that sometimes lie beaded on the feathers of wild geese. Denver listened to the geese speak to one another in a language of deep throated murmurings as they bathed and fluffed themselves like peacocks on the surface of the water. She couldn’t help thinking how envious she was of those geese. They know where their home is, and they know where to stop and rest until they get there.
These poetic descriptions continue throughout and are simply outstanding embellishments to the plot. Again: do they slow down the action by focusing on description? Only a bit. Do they provide ethereal observations of environment and self that enhances the overall story line? Absolutely. Will they prove too thoughtful for those interested in a steamy, action-packed romance? Likely … but then, 'steamy' isn't a word to be applied to Deep River Burning, which takes love and conflict and moves them onto the higher grounds of ecological disaster and philosophical reflection.
If one single word were to be applied to Deep River Burning's unifying perspective, it wouldn't be 'romance' so much as 'reflection'. Denver reflects on all aspects of life and her conversations with those around her are infused with purpose and a drive to comprehend her own life's meaning and that of the wider world around her: They both sat for a moment thinking and watching a bird dive into the water and seconds later, rising with a fish in its mouth. “Is this where you find God?” Denver asked inquisitively. “God is everywhere, Denver, and in all things." It was one of those statements that however true, sounded so painfully cliché that it bounced off a road block when it entered her ear.
It's a rare pleasure to find a novel so infused with such depth and an effective, poetic delivery that translates emotional and philosophical insights into strong protagonist concerns that invite real audience connection.
Her hometown may have become an unstable, toxic place - but as Denver searches for ways to not have this influence seep into her heart, readers receive a gentle, flowing story line bereft of the usual tempests of overdone love and hate, filled with the recognizable flow of life's obstacles and its greater meaning in Denver's world.
For a deeper, reflective story that goes beyond the usual realms of linear thinking and reactive emotional pieces, Deep River Burning is a true standout. It won't prove everyone's cup of tea, of course - Lipton drinkers might seek more steam and passion - but those who look for the (rarer) depth and flavor of a fine Earl Grey will want to partake, and drink deeply, of this satisfying, warm saga.Deep River
Kidnapping of Jamaica's
Joe S. Davis
Creative Publishing Partners, LLC
No ISBN $3.95
The Kidnapping of Jamaica's Homeland Security is novel about terrorism at work on foreign soil, presents the perspectives of terrorists at work, and at first glance seems to tie into the blossoming genre of work surrounding terrorism which this reviewer is going to label 'terrorist fiction' - most of which focuses on the efforts of agencies and individuals to thwart a growing plague of terror.
But wait, there's something different going on here: this isn't an outsider's perspective and story so much as an insider's series of revelations, it's set on foreign soil, and it poses the specter of international business involvements in the terrorist process as a way of examining not just personal motivation, but financial and economic connections.
In fact, the more one reads through The Kidnapping of Jamaica's Homeland Security, the more one realizes there's something unusual going on here; particularly in contrast with other terrorist fiction approaches their subjects from the perspectives of outsiders combating terrorist activities.
It begins with a disclaimer that at first glance appears both obvious and enlightening: "Kidnapping is a form of terrorism. Because of his vast travels and interest in social anthropology, Mr. Davis demonstrates in this novel that terrorism can be used by the least of us against an entire country’s democratic structure with few of its citizens being aware of either its presence or source in their political and commercial systems." One need only reflect on the events of 9/11 or (as presented in the rest of this Foreword by history professor Dr. Eugene P. Walker) on history as a whole to recognize the truth in this assessment.
The novel's opening scene documents a fictional kidnapping and in the process of describing such, probes the atmosphere of Jamaica (both uptown and down home) and sets the scene of kidnappers assigned to a particular task. Soon the perspective of small-time kidnappers assigned to a one task changes as further chapters introduce investigators who range from novice to seasoned; each with their own ideas of how to proceed: "If you’re trying to rescue someone and their captors are trying to kill one or both of you, you can’t take that split second to theorize his motive. It’s hard for a professional to be analytical about how his actions will be judged by a group of evaluators later who most times have never really been in the path of a bullet or machete. You have to make judgments based on experience and be prepared to correct even your own judgment to keep yourself alive and complete the mission the best way possible. But most importantly, stay alive!"
It's especially notable to find cultural observations tucked within the pages of action, because these economic and social facets are what ultimately contribute to the blossoming of terrorist activities throughout the world: "What was apparent in Montego Bay was that a middle class subdivision could be located next to a slum which might have a five star hotel as its neighbor also. Developments and condos were built as land allowed, not with ideas of urban planning. The dollar was king in Montego Bay and if a corporation could house tourists adjacent to a slum and make money by enclosing all the tourist features just for their quests, that’s the way it is done."
Relationships between victim and kidnapper, male and female, investigator and perp, racial issues and opportunity: all are well-drawn against the milieu of Jamaican society, with the focus remaining upon a bigger picture than a singular plot and its outcome (as the book's foreword predicted).
And this focus is what sets The Kidnapping of Jamaica's Homeland Security apart from many other terrorist fiction approaches. It won't delight those looking for simple action, singular events, and linear thinking about terrorism's roots: the meat of ordinary 'thriller fiction' that brushes the surface of meaning in deference to nonstop (often predictable) events. It will prove a superior, action-packed adventure for readers interested in absorbing the bigger picture of not only these proceedings, but the social, cultural, political and economic forces behind them.
Complex? You bet: the twists and turns are relentless and energetic, and they don't stop with political observation but weave in revelations about the hearts, minds, and motivations of individuals with larger concerns.
It's no easy task to simultaneously present the criminal's perspective and the investigator's side of matters: these are two opposite sides of the same coin that must always be balanced to achieve parity.
That Joe S. Davis achieves this dance - and does it well - is evidence that The Kidnapping of Jamaica's Homeland Security will appeal not so much to casual readers of terrorist action thrillers, but to those looking for more complex insights into the entire structure of terrorist activities. Thus, what begins with a simple kidnapping story evolves into something much more and, like a butterfly emerging, takes wing to fly into the complex realm of bigger social and political issues and, ultimately, the values that drive them.
It's a mark of greatness - and a reason why The Kidnapping of Jamaica's Homeland Security is a special recommendation.The Kidnapping of Jamaica's Homeland Security
9780978909338 $14.95 www.spnozapublishing.com
Nora's Notion is set in a small Idaho college town, revolves around one Nora, a young evangelical Christian who is involved in a romantic relationship with Zack, a non-believer. She is also seduced by her middle-aged boss. This novel is filled with a varied set of characters who find their long held beliefs and attitudes conflict with their lives - but it's as much about prophecy and each character's discovery of the spiritual and philosophical meaning in their lives as it is about Christian thinking, so readers who pick up Nora's Notion expecting a purely evangelical mindset might be surprised by the diverse threads running through its story line.
One could both applaud the disparate set of protagonists packed into Nora's Notion, or maintain that their diversity and volume are almost too much for the story line, which threatens to sag under the weight of so many personalities and special interests. It will take a reader used to the twists and turns of a series of characters - not just the main headliner Nora - to appreciate the directions that concurrently flow through Nora's Notion.
Based upon a mother's purported vision from God and a daughter's struggle to accept this vision, Nora's Notion is ultimately about the process of bringing together and integrating personal and spiritual concerns, and presents a lively set of discourses that use diverse characters to create meaningful dialogues about religion and personal directions. Chamberlin’s book shows us the danger of blindly following a religious faith tainted by other’s views instead of thinking for ones-self.
If you're not interested in religious and/or personal introspection, look elsewhere: this novel is replete with a series of conundrums and the events that lead to each character's confrontations with reality (in one form or another) and are those that tend to run through most peoples' lives.
Against the backdrop of family fantasies, illusions and changing relationships, Nora and Zack ultimately choose different paths than one might anticipate from the novel's opening chapters - and that's one of the major strengths in the story: to create a plethora of loose ends that at first seem to fly in all directions, but in the end neatly wrap them up not necessarily into predictable conclusions, but new beginnings.
And isn't that what life is all about? Choice, change, and spiritual connection are three driving forces that set Nora's Notion apart from your typical one-dimensional story of relationships and connections.Nora's Notion
A Tale of Supernatural Suspense
978-0-9910554-8-7 ASIN: B00PQZH8Y0 $2.99
Ordering link: http://www.amazon.com/RETURN-
Return To Mateguas Island, A Tale of Supernatural Suspense offers a satisfying sequel to Mateguas Island and delves more deeply into events, using the perspectives of different characters from young adults to a mother and her boyfriend, to probe actions of the past that hold dire implications for all involved.
At the heart of a maelstrom of horror that encircles this close-knit family is the unsolved disappearance of a father, an island's mysterious secret, and a mother's connections with supernatural forces which can keep danger at bay for only as long as her inquisitive eighteen-year-old twins can keep their curiosity in check.
All this is about to change with their return to the island, which offers re-connections with some unusual forces and exposes relationships that have kept long-held resentments at bay for years.
On the face of it, Return To Mateguas Island is about a missing father; but it evolves to be so much more. Misplaced legacies, hidden entanglements, simmering resentments, and strange powers all come to light against the backdrop of an island which holds the power to suck everyone back into a maelstrom of deadly forces.
Now, readers expecting a story replete with ghosts may be disappointed. The real power in Return To Mateguas Island lies not so much in its inclusion of supernatural rituals as in its exploration of simmering emotions that lay just under the surface of lives recovering from disaster. Thus, its power and strength are most evident in its explorations of interpersonal relationships: "Surprised by his gesture, Karen gazed into his eyes. They had both revealed secrets kept hidden for so long and it seemed as if in this moment they had taken a journey back in time - back to when they had once been so good together."
It's the reason why chapters are titled not by paranormal encounters, but by the events which transpire between selected protagonists ("Terri and Shawn", "Bill", "Karen and Dex"). It's the reason why the supernatural force described serves as a catalyst for events; not the end-all of these explorations. And it's the centrifuge of a whirlwind of emotional forces that swirl around all involved in the backdrop that is Mategaus Island and its mystical heritage.
While newcomers can access and enjoy this sequel, it's especially recommended for prior fans of Mategaus Island who became involved with the protagonists and the mystery, and who want more. This audience will find the characters are flushed out and embellished, their motivations and lives are laced with more depth, and the compelling draw of the island and its mysteries create suitable devices for a novel that excels in emotional interconnections with a dash of supernatural suspense added in for good measure.Return To Mateguas Island, A Tale of Supernatural Suspense
on Her Heart
Paige Rion, Publisher
ISBN: 978-1497403314 $9.37
ASIN: B00JPOXIB0 $3.97
Book One in the Callaway Cove Series is about a dream and a romance. Andi has the big dream of becoming a published author: something she's wanted all her life. And Ford just as passionately has one purpose: to avoid his past. These are two trains on different tracks, so one might think there'd be little connection; but romance is about to take a turn in a different direction, bringing the two together like a pair of freight trains speeding towards collision.
The best romances are ones in which disparate purposes come together, either with accompanying fireworks or elements combining attraction and conflict.
Nothing is easy, here: Andi's path to success is fraught with both opportunity and risk, while Ford comes to realize that his initial drive to avoid elements of his past may just be the thing that threatens his future happiness both with Andi and in his other pursuits in life.
A good romance should be steamy - and Written on Her Heart is such a beast, without crossing the boundary between romance and pornography.
It should be filled with conflict - another purpose met, as the conflicts presented are not as simple as being between Andi and Ford alone, but including struggles with career objectives, uncertain auxiliary friendships, underhanded and above-board actions on the parts of all protagonists, and more.
Far too often a romance novel opts for the easy way out, choosing a formula that focuses nearly exclusively on the two lovers and the evolution of their relationship. But real life is not that cut and dried, and where other romance novels miss the boat, Written on Her Heart captures and rides the tides of emotional involvement as it trashes out the problems between not only the main characters but supporting actors and actresses in the form of friendships.
This creates a complex feel which readers looking for linear plots (and steamier sex scenes) may not wish; but that audience can look elsewhere (and there's plenty to find in this genre that take that approach). Those seeking more involved attention to detail and a wider-ranging approach romance will find Written on Her Heart to be engrossing and revealing: a recommendation for any genre reader seeking more depth than most romances offer.Written on Her Heart
Drake: Ancient Rising
Laura C. Cantu
Print: 978–0988585102 $15.99
Ebook: ASIN: B00BMBMF90 $9.99
Paranormal romance is a growing genre, but what's unusual about Xandria Drake: Ancient Rising is the dose of Ray Bradbury-type atmosphere which is thrown in for good measure, which Bradbury fans will recognize right away as an unusual carnival's arrival in town draws twenty-one-year-old Xandria Drake into a world of supernatural influences and mystery.
All the elements for a satisfying genre blend are here: uncertain romantic interests with two men who both hold sinister secrets, a curiosity (some might say a propensity for questioning and snooping) certain to get Xandria in trouble, and a rising power that turns out to be connected to vampires. (The last element could be considered a 'spoiler alert'; but it should be mentioned because if readers aren't anticipating a vampire factor, and actively avoid the popular trend to find them in many a fantasy, they may be disappointed.)
Indeed, if any criticism should be leveled here, it's that Xandria Drake: Ancient Rising draws from a wide range of genre methods and incorporates them under one umbrella to the point that at a few places, readers feel strands of all manner of methods pulling in disparate directions.
But it should be said that all these incongruent paths are successfully unified at the story's end, whether it be vampires, romance, mystery, or fantasy elements, leaving the main criticism (if it can be called that) to be that Xandria Drake: Ancient Rising won't neatly fit into any genre box.
It's especially notable that Xandria Drake: Ancient Rising creates powerfully visual scenes that draw readers into not just events and protagonists, but setting: "My jaw dropped. It was as if we passed through a film of stardust. On the other side of the mysterious veil, the night sky swirled with streams of pastel lights, like those of a multicolored aurora borealis. The forest around us came to life in an unbelievable experience of vivid green trees, flowering bushes, and overpowering scents of spring. The trees seemed to breathe, and the grass gently undulated as if dancing to an unheard song."
These moments are liberally peppered throughout and serve to bring the story line to life, elevating it beyond fantasies that don't take the time to fully inject life into their settings.
Another plus: the games played by two very different men in Xandria's life are well drawn and explored, making the romance element more than just a singular attraction. And as Xandria's powers come into their own, she finds within herself the ability to make choices that will help her define the boundaries of her attractions, her strengths, and her ultimate path in both her current lifetime and those created in lifetimes past.
So, expect not a singular approach to either paranormal fantasy or romance, but an all-encompassing story that is fast-paced, vivid, and fueled by a combination of various genre devices. Cantu's attention to detail melds them all into an engrossing story that delivers repeated surprises up to its satisfyingly-unpredictable conclusion.Xandria Drake: Ancient Rising
Days in Maui
Several current books invite readers to take a walk out of their world by following the author's own travels; but 21 Days in Maui: How I Gave Myself Permission To Be Free additionally shares the author's determination to use only three weeks in Maui to consciously change the patterns of her life, serving as an inspirational journey of reflection for all who wish to join her.
Now, three weeks isn't a long time, no matter how determined one is to change - but Day One begins with a bang, pairing an uplifting poster board sign in a store window with an unusual phone call out of the blue from a normally-reserved ex who wants to know what Como truly desires in a relationship.
The changes blossom from there, like a Hawaiian flower, unfolding daily as Como moves from an open-minded truth-seeker to a woman who actively embraces life.
Her ponderings are both personal and reflective of a wider perspective handed: "I do not believe we are here to stifle our innermost feelings and rationalize our desires until we can’t hear them anymore. I do believe that’s what most people do just to get by. I understand. I have a corporate job and I have to do that a lot—— stifle my innermost feelings five days a week. I’d always rather be walking my dogs."
Her ability to 'fly into the stratosphere' with bigger-picture thinking is evident from the start, but her intent here isn't to impress the reader with personal flights of fancy. Rather, it's to share her insights on how life's challenges and adversities actually work to ultimately create better paths.
Chapters blend autobiography and introspection with her special brand of 'bigger-picture' thinking. "Vivid is my word of the year, and I am finding that I’m using it a lot here in Maui. Must be because I have no set schedule and so much time to sink into the moment— a rare opportunity that must be seized on the merry-go-round we call life. Vivid is my code word for ‘be here now,’ where everything is more alive and colorful than any thought could ever be. It means that I’m not thinking or wishing or planning or fearing this moment away... that I am embracing it exactly as it is."
Part of her “flowering” can be attributed to the magical environment she finds herself in, and part of it is having gifted herself with unstructured time— no obligations, no commitments, no one to answer to or compromise with. This allows her to wonder, each morning, "…what will I create today?" Most of the time, she's creating new insights, new patterns of behavior, and new goals for her life; and, in the process, carrying readers along a journey of uplifting revelations.
One might wonder whether wide-ranging change is possible in only three weeks; but this journey through Como's world is nothing if not inspirational, and offers the keys for similar possibilities for the reader: "These are the thoughts I had back when I was a kid— 12 years old, pedaling fast on my bike, high on the pedals, hair whipping in the wind— free and open and available to hear, to experience, to be present to the moment. Enraptured. Is this life about finding our way back to that state of wonderment, no needs tugging at us... no thoughts weighing us down?"
Readers who harbor skepticism, angst, or have a vested interest in suffering need not look here for guidance: their patterns and interests are already set. But those seeking an uplifting, inspirational autobiography filled with light and life will find 21 Days in Maui is truly a walk out of this world, and onto a more positive path in life.21 Days in Maui
David W. Earle, LPC
9781500655822 email: email@example.com
Gilligan's Notes: Simple Communication for Complicated People offers a tool of connection for those who find safe haven in blaming others for an incomprehensible life. David W. Earle identifies the real culprit ("…audible clatter, distraction, demands, and expectations. Compounding these outside pressures are our own internal pressures to excel, to make our mark, be successful, and/or to seek our own fortune") as the source of miscommunication and alienation, and Gilligan's Notes is designed to help alleviate this situation - but don't consider this a singular approach. It should be viewed as just one more device in one's toolbox of coping - one dependent on a do-it-yourself attitude that embraces change, at that.
Having good communication skills breaks the barriers of isolation, thwarts misunderstandings, and builds both individuals and communities. So many books have been written about this that one might wonder at the need for yet another, so let's begin with the elements that set Gilligan's Notes apart from other books on communication. Its introduction is clear: "There are three things necessary to escape the loneliness trap: a willingness, honesty, and the necessary ability. You provide the first two ingredients. Gilligan’s Notes provides the ability."
As with any good book, it's the 'how' that is the meat of matters, not the theory. Without application, there is no achievement, no success, and no change - and Gilligan's Notes is all about the application.
Now, everyone knows how to communicate; we do it all the time. But to communicate well … now, that's a different matter; and to do so, one must hone listening and comprehension skills - it's all part of the process.
Chapters outline a program of 'active listening' to encourage communicators to become better listeners. A series of 'listening lessons' outlines sample scenarios, their underlying messages, and how to better handle them.
Self-observation is encouraged in exercises paired with admonitions, so readers who expect an outside force (i.e. author David W. Earle) to provide all the revelations will be doing themselves a disservice: Gilligan's Notes is really a cooperative effort between author and reader, and without self-reflection and change, there will be no real lessons learned: "Observe your tendency to judge what the other people are saying. Are you labeling their message based upon who they are, what their meaning is, or from some other posture resulting in your rejection of the message? Listening without judging is very hard and is why Active Listeners are so valuable."
From increasing one's effectiveness and methods of giving negative feedback to applying communications lessons in a variety of scenarios, from business to parenting, this survey doesn't limit its communication revisions to one particular purpose, but offers up a program that can apply to all communication scenarios in one's life.
Alternatives to responding in ways that just increase the problem offer not only more effective communication opportunities, but the hopes of dissuading misunderstandings and aggravating alienation and loneliness.
Take the course, then apply its lessons. It's that's simple.Gilligan's Notes
David W. Earle, LPC
Is Iron Mask a self-help book? A collection of poetry? An autobiography? Or is it an instructional on facing down the aging process, interacting with family, and taking wing?
Some books are neither one thing nor another. Some straddle the finer lines between prose and poetry, fiction and nonfiction, autobiography and literary work. And some - like Iron Mask - simply defy categorization; which makes them a challenge to promote in a world where marketing relies on niches, boxes, and defining audiences.
In the ideal world, there would be room for such as Iron Mask - and an ability to say that its disparate elements hold attraction and insights for all kinds of readers. Fortunately, it's possible to change the nature of this reality through personal attention to not just writing such a piece, but bringing it to a wider range of readers than is usual for a specific genre read.
Each poem in this collection is prefaced by a personal reflection on its origins. You'll find works about abortion, death, transformation, and beyond - each with their own insights on place of origin. Take the early 'Teeter Totter', for example: here's a pairing of opinion piece with a wider applications of ethics and values: "I abhor the thought of taking the life of an unborn child. This poem, Teeter-Totter, represents my imperfect attempt to reconcile what I dislike most and the autonomy of the choice not belonging to me. ..Is abortion really the issue…or is it an ugly manifestation of something much deeper which we have not yet faced?"
Through this quote readers can see that the poems are very much free verse, that they are personal reflections, and that they follow the lines of self-inspection in many ways, from ethics and standards to the mechanics of grief: "She is drifting in life - no direction. My hand reaches out to her, statue behind the iron mask. She does not respond. I feel so alone. Today they are gone. On one side of life’s room, doors are closing. I hear a silent echo as each one slams shut."
The poems are divided into chapters by theme, making it easy to understand their place in the scheme of things. From 'Children' and 'Change' to 'Love', this is a psychological journey through not only the author's life and encounters, but through the human experiences that bind us all.
The poems were written over a period of some twenty years, which sets this collection apart from many singular creations. It thus reflects not just emotions but a journey through life, following the lessons and evolution of experience and encounters with the world.
There's a brutal honesty and self-evaluation here, as well as a self-centeredness that blossoms from bud to flower to embrace reader perceptions as well.
Iron Mask would not be what it is, were it not for the inclusion of explanatory insights for each series of poems. It is the icing on the cake of understanding and connection, and it's what makes Iron Mask an intimate, revealing glimpse into not only author David W. Earle's world, but that of his family and heritage, as well.Iron Mask
is Not Enough
David Earle, LPC
978-1499228915 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Love is Not Enough: Changing Dysfunctional Family Habits identifies dysfunctional family interactions and habits, categorizes them, considers their character roles in the greater circle of family dynamics and patterns, and then offers alternatives; in effect creating a 'course in a book' for those who would better understand how dysfunction actually operates between individuals in a family circle.
Now, this particular 'course' rests upon an interesting premise: "Most people have an understanding about how they were raised, how they cope with life, and how to love. After you finish this book you will “unlearn” information concerning these topics. Habits become rails where we ride our trains of life. Love Is Not Enough teaches habits that provide a chance to step back from our rails, view ourselves and others from a different perspective, and see if these rails are going toward or a way from our goals."
Readers must be ready for change, and ready to analyze their 'rails' to assess their solidity, effectiveness, and counter-productivity - otherwise, why pick up a self-help book that's all about change? And those who expect this process to be served up piecemeal, or in a manner that points the way to the path without requiring personal involvement, should look elsewhere: Love is Not Enough isn't just about changing the family structure - it's about changing the reader's habits as the first step. And this is no simple process.
Chapters offer a range of tested tools, from Mood Charts and exercises for self, couples, and family to breaking long-established habits that lead to distrust and alienation. Thus, inherent in the book's approach is somewhat of a basic willingness on the part of all or many family members to participate in the process - something that admittedly could be lacking in many circles.
There's always someone who won't try, who won't 'play a new game', and who refuses to self-inspect or change - and that's the downside of Love is Not Enough: while the reader may perceive its approach to be true, many a family is built on the very fact that love is enough, as dysfunctional as it may be.
Case histories, admonitions, and simple exercises serve to reinforce insights about the entire process ("You might be a Chaos Person if... growing up you always wanted to be somebody.Now that you are grown up you wish you had been more specific."). And while creating labels and descriptions are part of the process of imparting understanding, the non-psychology reader might initially balk at the approach of assigning a names to a particular type of dysfunction ("Chaos Person") or discussing some of the basic premises of the Twelve Steps which are woven into the healing approach (i.e. 'making amends').
Those who are truly committed to self-inspection and change should be the ideal followers of this book: in it they will find tools, admonitions, case history examples of exactly how dysfunctional patterns were identified and overcome, and keys to a better life: "No one escapes some degree of chaos for it is so ever prevalent; it is the human experience. This realization does not mean we can’t improve. It does mean we can accept our state of chaos, lighten up on ourselves, have fun, and work on improving…we are a work in progress. Enjoy the journey."
If life is a journey, so is this book. Those open to exploration and not content to remain on a prescribed (destructive) course of action will find it filled with keys to derailing the negatives while using positives to move on down the line.Love is Not Enough
David W. Earle, LPC
Professor of Pain closely follows What to Do While You Count to Ten, and continues the process begun in Love is Not Enough - for yes; by now it's evident that this series of interconnected books is about a process, not a singular subject. Although one could argue that the nature of this process could have been condensed under one cover, it will be fairly evident why this should not have happened when absorbing this book's weighty combination of case history examples, step-by-step program discussions, and literary admonitions that often take the form of free-verse poetry.
It's an unusual mix: poetry and psychology. The combination may disappoint literary bastions of the poetic form who seek precise iambic pentameters in their works and eschew the unrestricted flow of free verse: "A woman tried to mount the horse next to her daughter./She was a large pear-shaped person/and both her attempts/to mount her horse were met with disappointment./Her face contorted with despair,/anger, humiliation,/and shame."
There's more spirituality in this leg of the journey; more of a reflective tone than in Earle's prior books. The author has stepped up to a different level in Professor of Pain and his search for the choices, attitudes, and perspectives that translate to true emotional and spiritual freedom bring him full-circle to the poetic form, which is here used as a catharsis to observe and comment on life.
Much of life is an illusion (the author maintains) with its associated paradoxes. The mind fosters deceptions that are comfortable to live with and, ultimately, self-destructive.
Professor of Pain aims, through a combination of poetic observation and psychological insight, to break through these paradoxes and reveal the underlying layers of intimacy and spirituality that are often glossed over - and dominated - by destructive family additions, habits, and dysfunction. Embracing the recovery process can also threaten loved ones who have a vested interest in (or too-comfortable familiarity with) those engrained routines, as Professor of Pain teaches.
It's almost as though author David W. Earle has left his 'psychology body' to embark on something more ethereal, here - and his return to the poetic form for expression should be one key to this leg of his journey (which also rests upon Twelve Steps concepts.)
As much as it's about his personal journey of transformation and his changing relationships with his children as a result, Professor of Pain is about observing the angst and learning opportunities given to all who would embrace it.
Poets seeking solid poetic structure will be disappointed in the loosely structured free verse intended to reveal and focus on emotion, while psychologists looking for a linear program outline will be dismayed by Earle's winding blend of autobiography and reflective thinking - but those experiencing their own form of self-confrontation and change will find Professor of Pain an unassuming, precise definition of this process, and will be drawn to it like moths to a flame.Professor of Pain
Roses 'n Pinstripes
With six books to his name following the same/similar thread of self-exploration and cathartic inspirational blends of self-help psychology and poetry, one might question the need for all the volumes: couldn't the information have been synthesized into just one or two books?
But, look at it this way: would you take a complex process that had numerous steps and possibilities of detours and derailment along the way and condense them into one short treatment? What about the readers who then become 'lost' on a path that moves from step-by-step to moving in leaps and bounds?
The first three books combined the structure of epic (albeit freelance) poetry with emotional self-inspection, the later books moved past the poetry platform more into the realm of self-help observation and admonitions, and now this the final Red Roses 'n Pinstripes narrows the focus even further: to romance and its accompanying inevitable burden of lost love.
If these productions seem like disparate gatherings of philosophy and emotion woven together under the auspices of poetic structure and psychology, well, this can be said to be true. Readers looking for the classic epic poetic structure defined by rules and strict beats will want to look elsewhere (perhaps Beowulf?) for their more seasoned literary approaches, while those who seek serious psychology without the self-inspection piece will also wish to look elsewhere.
Red Roses 'n Pinstripes, as with Earle's other books, is instead a welding of the personal and the political self, fusing the literary word with a psychological journey. As such, it's intended for readers undertaking their own such travels; not for the neo-psychology student or the bastion of literary excellence; either of whom could find the series and its personal approach not to their liking.
And so the two primary elements readers should have to appreciate Earle's series in general and this conclusion in particular is an attention to examining one's personal perspectives (here, on love) and a fondness for free verse poetry which captures a consideration of his insights: "From the poems found in Part II – Love Lost, you will read me lamenting the agony of the rejection and the guilt when rejecting another."
As for the poems themselves, they are expressions of pain and loss: "Soul-stars are white hot/sparkling and twinkling/ crisscross heavenly trails/creating a star ... a super nova/the wonder of the heavens./She wouldn’t lie here anymore."
Now, if this were all the collection was about, that wouldn't be enough to attract interest. Frankly, this collection's power lies in the juxtaposition of the poetic expression and its psychological analysis: prefaces to each lend spiritual and emotional insights that are essential keys to understanding each poem's approach: "With divorce, a living death, seldom does the bereaved receive this needed support – cards are not sent, families do not meet for memorial, no gifts are given. The sufferer must go through a tremendous life upheaval often without the comfort so desperately needed. Non-Occasion bemoans that distinct difference."
Red Roses 'n Pinstripes is as much about saying goodbye as it is about saying hello. Those who seek the free verse poetic structure for its more accessible thoughts, who want their psychology couched in reflection over professional inspection, and who look for personal, revealing collections rather than emotionally-distant self-help titles will find Red Roses (and its predecessors) an accessible, emotional, involving key to a journey that never ends.Red Roses 'n Pinstripes
to Do While You Count to Ten
David Earle, LPC
978-1491221440 email: email@example.com
What to Do While You Count to Ten provides a program for anger management: and while this is another topic that would seem to have been 'done' time and again, - David Earle manages to provide some differences that distinguish his approach from others on the topic.
The opening line offers one such revelation: "When anger is used correctly, it can have positive results!" Now, other books may conclude as much; but only eventually - not in their introduction. It's taking somewhat of a risk to produce an anger management book that opens with reviewing the positive results of anger; but then What to Do While You Count to Ten is for the risk-taking reader seeking something different on the subject.
Earle had a long history of 'blowing his top', and with his short fuse he succeeded in alienating friends and family alike. His review of coping strategies that work highlights his own work as a therapist with clients looking to manage their anger, rounding out the personal approach and adding authority to a survey that is all about techniques of transforming anger and negativity into positive pathways of interaction.
Case histories and 'Anger Management Model' diagrams foretell that Earle must have some business grounding as well, because the feel of the visuals is 'business', while the personal stories are pure psychology.
Statements explaining the process draw connections between addiction and emotional roller coasters ("When a person’s emotions are in control, it is very similar to a person who is inebriated."), recognizable as concepts from 12-step program approaches which are also included as 'solutions' to help better understand anger and its functions.
Chapters take the form of a series of counseling sessions between therapist and client, with the back-and-forth of such sessions providing the framework for discussing basic anger management techniques.
Psychology students should take note: this isn't your usual Freudian approach which leaves revelations to the client and has the therapist subtly encouraging: direction is created by the therapist who uses allegories and concepts to 'teach' his client: "When emotions are not dealt with they are exhibited in unintentional and destructive behavior." Because the interactions between client and therapist are more give-and-take, adopting a kind of Adlerian approach to cooperative problem-solving, readers are drawn into a process whereby the client peels back his emotional layers and examines the wellsprings of anger and its lack of management.
Many believe that anger should be 'controlled'; but notice that Earle's terminology advocates 'management' here. There is a difference; and one which readers learn about more easily through the eyes of this therapist/client interactive process than your usual approach of pairing exercises and psychology alone.
With its charts, exercises, and personal give-and-take reinforcing basic concepts, it's hard to become lost or confused about the program being presented in What to Do While You Count to Ten - and it's easy to apply it to one's own experiences and belief systems.
And that's the greatest strength of this book: its ability to link behavior patterns to belief systems, examine their inconsistencies and where they don't serve a greater good, then provide recommendations and suggestions for change.
Now, that's effective self-help reading!
What to Do While You Count to Ten
554 Canyon Drive, East Wenatchee, WA 98802
978-0971353084 $14.99 262 pages
Young adult fiction revolving around a superstore's mysterious new aisle is something relatively different in the scheme of things (although Zilpha Snyder did write a department-store neo-fantasy decades back, the plot digresses heavily from this one's focus), which will delight teens looking for something new.
Meet the Maxfield superstore - super-predictable in its layout and canned goods. Teen Mary should know: she practically has the chain memorized, thanks to her father's job as its manager - until she stumbles on Aisle 17, which is notable not only for its mysterious appearance, but for its glaring absence of merchandise.
Indeed, the only two constants in Mary's life since her mother's death have been visiting her mother's grave and hanging out in her father's workplace. Now that connection is about to get a little stronger - and not necessarily in a good way; because as Mary explores the presence and limits of the impossible Aisle 17, she comes to understand that its appearance brings dangers to her world that only she can address.
It's hard to neatly 'peg' Aisle 17 - and this is one of its pleasures. Thrillers in the usual sense usually aren't offered to teen readers, while fantasy and paranormal themes are typically replete with predictable paths and, at worst, one-dimensional heroes or heroines.
Not so Aisle 17: Mare's concerns are realistic and vivid, her first-person observations of her world are astute and immediate, and her assessments of her strengths are realistic: "One of my other personality quirks: a heightened sense of observation. For whatever reasons, I can pick out detail — a handy trait if you’re the only child of a store manager."
Her handy talents are about to ramp up a notch in importance, though, as she faces down the dangers and mysterious cans of Aisle 17.
It's hard to describe this story without giving too much away; hard to skirt the mystery without dipping into the fantasy world a bit too much. And that would be a shame; because as the boundaries and challenges of Aisle 17 are revealed, the crux of its story line comes to light: that of a teen facing some of her biggest challenges.
And, she's not alone in her quest: a new friend enters the picture and lends strength and as the two explore together, the hopes and promises of Aisle 17 slowly become clear both to Mare and the reader.
And this is one of the strengths of Aisle 17: its ability to surprise. Mare's revelations come slowly, interspersed with stories about her new friendship and her relationship with her father. It's not a 'thriller' in the usual sense of nonstop staccato-type action; and in this case, that's a bonus, because care is taken to build up details about Mare's personality and approach to life (and death) which prove key to the story's outcome.
Again, it's a dance to not create spoilers. Suffice it to say that Aisle 17 is a fantasy/thriller for teens that poses different questions and answers. While it's unfair to bill it as a 'thriller' and predispose its audience to expect fierce, nonstop action, it's more than fair to say that its attention to detail and to evolving a three-dimensional protagonist who finds herself wound up in issues of life and death against the unusual backdrop of her father's store is a unique approach that will attract and engross any who want more than the typical thriller or fantasy offers - and this means many an adult reader, as well.
The plot is anything but 'canned', though cans are a recurrent mystery and theme. For more, you'll just have to walk Aisle 17 and see for yourself.Aisle 17
$12.99 Paperback $2.99 Kindle
Sheryl Newcomb is coming of age as a high school senior - only it's not your typical experience: something different is waking up inside of her and coming to deadly life - something that threatens a bloodbath in Locasia County, Mississippi. That's the face of the story: horror coming to life in a backwoods area … nothing new here.
But, in fact, there's a number of new approaches presented beyond the story of a monstrous force emerging in a teen's body and life - and that's the essence that makes Growl a different kind of beast than your usual monster/horror account.
One of these approaches involves a focus not just on Sheryl's emerging powers, but deep-held family secrets that delve into alternative cultures, perspectives, and battles. And it should be cautioned that this horror novel is, at times, a bloodbath of violent confrontations. Its psychological depth is spiced by these encounters, which may give pause for thought to readers who usually avoid bloodbath scenarios or who associate such interludes with shallower plots lacking depth.
Not so with Growl: its violence is just another supportive device of a greater story - and it's woven simply and easily into the story line with attention to making these events part of the action, not the entire action - which really takes place in Sheryl's mind as narrated through her first-person account.
Throughout the story, Sheryl is attentive to making personal progress: first in understanding the dormant forces that are awakening within her, then in accepting her family history, and finally in acknowledging and overcoming a virtual storm of possibilities and scenarios in which her control (or lack thereof) over supernatural forces can determine the fate of her world and her psyche.
It's as though all her most beloved connections are breaking so that a greater good (or evil) can be released - and these passages are perhaps the greatest strength of Growl: "I needed the connection with him to get through this. The need to pull from the depths of his strength, to explain the unexplainable and downright unbelievable to my family, raced through me….For me to transform, he would have to pass the gift, which meant his physical body would die."
It's usually the case that personal transformation involves loss - but not on this level. It's usually the case that coming of age necessarily means coming into one's powers and acknowledging their strengths and weaknesses - but not in this manner.
As Sheryl is drawn ever deeper into the truths about her life and powers, so readers are drawn into the sacrifices and threats of her world as she determines that much as she has evolved into a monster, there's a greater monster that needs to be killed: one only she can handle; and one which is gutting her love. Can Sheryl consider changing into something evil to tackle evil?
Anticipate character interactions that include local Southern dialect, bloody confrontations with inner and outer monsters, and a plethora of choices faced by a teen who ultimately must consider the real consequences of accepting her powers and using them to kill.
Without introducing spoilers, suffice it to say that Growl is all about accepting one's inner forces and melding them with life's choices. The rest is about family, love, and survival - it's all here in a dark horror coming of age story that throws in a disparate number of elements but in the end produces a unified theory of everything, recommended for mature teens into adult audiences.Growl
Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing
25515 Hillsdale Drive, Novi, MI 48374
ISBN: 978-1939769688 ASIN: B00LLPLP5W $13.00
Barnes & Noble: http://smarturl.it/
Book One of The Morus Chronicles, The Hunter Awakens, provides a middle grade fantasy centered around the experiences of thirteen-year-old Ethan Morus, who uncovers a family legend while staying at his grandparents' old farm.
But where other similar-sounding fantasies evolve predictable paths, The Hunter Awakens is just ramping up; because events that unfold aren't entirely fueled by Ethan's evolving curiosity and investigations, but evolve from the fact that he's being watched by sorcerers who know, better than he, the extent of his latent abilities and their importance in a bigger picture.
Few young readers can resist a good treasure hunt story; and while many a middle grade read might attempt to include this in their plots, it's rare to see such a hunt actually driving events. But without motivation and the glitter and lure of actual riches, many an adventure falls apart - and that's just one facet that keeps The Hunter Awakens a compelling middle school read: promised riches are always just around the corner.
It takes a solid, talented storyteller to bring to life what sounds like a too-familiar scenario: Roper is such a talent. It takes an attention to detail to build a young protagonist who is not a one-dimensional, singular figure or a hero, but a living, breathing boy faced with social and ethical issues along the way who is always challenged to make the best choice. And it takes a pragmatic approach to build a story line that begins with a seemingly-normal boy's concerns and evolve it so that he begins to recognize and accept his unique skills and make decisions on their applications.
As chapters unwind with the grace and power of an epic, middle school readers will find themselves swept away by a wave of intrigue, fantasy, mystery, and most of all, by Ethan's believable dilemmas as he faces a world he never knew existed.
Part of the reason why Roper achieves this so easily is that his scenarios juxtapose psychological insight with the touch, feel, and smell of place and setting. Thus, a few deft sentences may build such a character ("Ethan strode toward his mother’s bedroom, the one place he wasn’t allowed. With Mom, being sneaky got you caught. Act normal and she was blind to mischief.") while the next few capture Ethan's daily world ("He lifted the heavy lid and inhaled the cedar that accompanied the worn leather journal. He tucked the journal beneath his shirt and walked out. Around the corner, the living room was clear. To the right, the kitchen TV buzzed with the evening news. Herbs and garlic hung in the air. Italian food tonight.")
Later on, as he moves among friends, his sleuthing skills haven't ended: if anything, they have become well honed and especially suited for probing relatives' secrets: "He crouched as he entered the porch. The surrounding windows would give him away if Uncle Nero came to the house…At the bottom was a large piece of black cloth that had been wrapped around something hard. He stretched out the cloth like a kite opening in the wind, and out slipped a small black book. As he flipped through tattered pages, he realized it was a diary. Wondering if it were Dad’s, he looked inside the front cover."
Especially with teen writing, characterization is the key. As a savvy creative writing teacher once said: if the reader doesn't care what happens to the character, he won't care what happens in the story. Roper creates this sense of intimacy and, as a result, readers follow Ethan's movements and decisions with bated breath.
The plot may sound predictable: all the elements are there for formula writing - a treasure hunt, latent powers awakened, a journey, sorcerers, good and evil - but it's what an author chooses to do with these elements that makes the difference between sub-par, acceptable and superior writing.
Everyone is involved in the outcome, from Ethan's savvy grandparents to Mel, who has a vested interest in manipulating Ethan because she's long ago given her powers to the dark side. And there's a reason why Ethan's treasure hunt becomes more than just a search for riches. The rest lies buried in the pages of The Hunter Awakens, just waiting to be discovered.The Hunter Awakens
It should be noted that The Little Parrot and the Angel's Tears is a bedtime story passed on between generations in the Asian author's family, and represents not only family connections but the author's first book - a creation she also illustrated herself.
All that said, the story line (a simple account of a small bird's bravery) especially lends to parental read-aloud and interaction both because it holds more words than an easier picture book, and because it holds the opportunity for parent/child dialogue on the underlying concepts of courage and fortitude.
The story is narrated in rhyme which is smooth for the most part, although at a few points it could have been tighter, as in the less-flowing last line completing an otherwise-well set paragraph of poetic description: "A parrot once lived far, far away,/Where he and his friends everyday did play./…“I wish I were bigger and taller like them all./ I’m so tiny, I may as well be just a doll.”
Iambic pentameter is a fairly precise form; so much so that the inclusion of just one word (in the above case, 'just') can throw off the beat.
The drawings are simply beautiful … full color illustrations filled with bright, unexpected embellishments are the driving force of any superior picture book - and The Little Parrot and the Angel's Tears more than delivers quality in this regard, visually carrying any 'bumps' in pentameter that the poetic rhyme occasionally experiences.
Friendship, courage, and strength: by exploring these traits in an accessible animal story, young listeners receive a supportive, enlightening and uplifting lesson in life that many a parent will want to choose, no matter what culture they are from.The Little Parrot and the Angel's Tears
Chapter Two Press
P. O. Box 870, Safety Harbor, FL 34695
ISBN Number: Hardcover: 978-1-942679-00-4 $19.99
Paperback: 978-1-942679-01-1 $12.99 327 Pages
E-Book: 978-1-942679-02-8 $9.99
As this is quite possibly the first and only novel about synchronized swimming (indeed, it's a fading art that many adults may not know much about), Out of Synch is, right away, in a class of its own. The story focuses on the efforts of thirteen-year-old Katie, who dreams of competitive synchronized swimming while her parents want her to choose the more lucrative competitive racing.
Her swim team coach believes synchronized swimming is well on its way out, her parents want Katie to focus on a swimming approach that is more of a guaranteed success, and pressure is applied to drop out of synchro. Katie has her hands full trying to convince the adults in her life that her real love in life is both viable and important: “I love doing synchro, and I’m not going to give it up just so I can swim more laps like a—like a stupid robot.” “It’s those laps that’ll improve your times. Repetition, repetition, repetition. When I was a kid, we had practice every day, and, sure, sometimes it wasn’t fun, but I knew it was necessary because I wanted to get to the next level.” “You weren’t even a swimmer,” I point out. “You played baseball.” “It’s the same in any sport. If you want to get your skills to the point where you can compete nationally, you’ve got to put in the time. Remember, your body is nothing more than a vessel for your willpower.”
While the opening chapters solidify Katie's love for synchro and detail how her passion is increasingly getting in the way of everyone else's push for her to perform in the (more boring) world of competitive swim racing, this is just the setup for the big dive to come. Katie's determination is the only thing that stands in the way of others' dreams - and it's a fight she's going to win, even if it means she's out of sync with the rest of the influences in her life.
Chapter after chapter add more detail and complexity as her synchro partner is injured and Katie faces further challenges to her dreams.
Middle school readers (especially those familiar with the world of competitive sports in general and competitive swimming in particular) will relate to Katie's efforts, which are tested when she has to replace a familiar and loved routine without her swim partner's support. It's a far different approach to swim a solo routine - a learning experience which Katie is forced to keep secret from her parents.
Part of the joy of reading Out of Synch is that it exudes passion and struggle. Even readers with no prior familiarity (or interest) in the world of competitive swimming can easily relate to Katie's feeling of being pulled in all directions, most of which oppose her love of one (less promising) choice in particular.
It's a familiar scenario: does one follow one's heart, or acquiesce to the pressures and (supposed) insights of those older and wiser? Does one continue the struggle against seemingly insurmountable odds, or make the kinds of decisions that lead to new opportunities? And where is the intersection between personal goals and belief and the bigger picture of success?
Middle school readers should be prepared for a lot of description of swim competitions and pressures, and they should ideally have some prior insights on performance and goal-setting. As Katie brings her dreams to life, this kind of audience will relish her process: “This is the first time anyone other than Donna has watched me do this routine. As I perform my first few maneuvers, I can feel my hands shaking, but my nervousness soon disappears. I’m in my own little bubble, just me and the music. I try to focus on the routine. Every time I rocket up to the surface after an underwater stunt, I plant a big smile on my face, just as if this was a competition. I make sure to project as much energy as possible. When I come up from a backflip pike, I think I can actually hear applause.”
That Katie will succeed, with her drive, determination and vision, is a given. The story line lies not in the fact that she will ultimately succeed, but in how she becomes a winner. Details on the sport of synchronized swimming are specific and real, teammate and family interactions are realistic and absorbing, and readers will find in Katie an inspiring figurehead for their own desires to buck outside pressures and understand the differences between realizing a dream and tackling impossible odds.Out of Synch
Rabbit Ate My Homework
Rachel Elizabeth Cole
Tangled Oak Press
#130-13819 232nd Street, Maple Ridge, BC, Canada
ISBN 978-0-9917667-2-7 (pbk.)
ISBN 978-0-9917667-3-4 (ebook)
Price: $3.99 (ebook) $8.99 (print)
There are some book titles that just make you smile from instinctive memory of fun times, similar experiences, or near-universal jokes - and The Rabbit Ate My Homework is certainly one of these. A book which makes the soon-to-be-reader smile before they even crack the cover is certainly an asset; especially when you're talking a middle school grade audience, as with this one, which almost requires a standout title or cover art in order to even be chosen for leisure pursuit.
And speaking of 'cover art', there's also an exceptionally, bright, compelling illustration of a bunny with a homework paper in its mouth, a bright red background, and a backpack behind it (undoubtedly fodder for foraging, to the rabbit's mind). Kudus to Deanna Dionne for providing fun interior black and white drawings, and to Littera Designs for creating the complimentary, striking cover: all this adds to a 'standout title' and will invite all ages to partake.
The story opens with a father/son bike ride planned for an unusually nice day after much rain - a bike ride thwarted yet again by the demands of household chores, leaving Drew to decide to head out on his own. His solo bike ride is used to describe his neighborhood and sets the tone for what is to come. A bike accident in the woods (where he isn't supposed to ride) poses more problems. And there's no rabbit in sight - yet.
But scenes need to be set, personalities explored, and setting created before the bunny enters front stage center - and Rachel Elizabeth Cole takes time and care to fine-tune the scenery before her opening act is introduced, creating a compelling scene when siblings discover an abandoned pet and conspire to thwart their parents' rigid 'no pets' rule to save it.
From the start, the bunny is trouble. As usual, the children have always wanted a pet and the objections come entirely from parents with too many concerns and not enough interest in looking after an animal. The problem is - the kids have never wanted a boring rabbit. All that's about to change - including the perception that bunnies are boring.
Chapters weave an inviting story that's hard to put down, injecting many elements of light intrigue along the way. From school bullying and revenge to an unexpectedly destructive Tiny, to involvements with girls, the story line and dialogue are unexpected and thus delightful: "Yes, embarrassing as it is to admit, I, Drew Montgomery, scream like a little girl and start running for the library doors, Ally and her spray can hot on my heels."
It's hilarious, it's realistic, it's involving: what more could one ask for in a story recommended for advanced elementary to early middle-school grade levels?The Rabbit Ate My Homework