January 2019 Review Issue
David Maier, Publisher
Balance is a strong military espionage thriller that revolves around the character of American agent Darick Triplett, who has just infiltrated a North Korean operation in the Middle East, only to find that a massive electrical event has knocked out power not just in Dubai, but the entire region.
Stranded without the high technology Triplett and his team rely on for sensitive communiqués, they must garner all their skills to cultivate non-technological ways of reaching out in continued pursuit of not just their original mission, but the world-changing political and military ramifications caused by an outage which affects the world.
Readers will find that the story actually begins not with these futuristic events, but with a prologue set in 1943 in which Nikola Tesla, an important but reclusive man of science, has just died, and his research on a "death beam" technology has gone missing. Several governments consider this research to be of vital national interest, as such a weapon could change the world; but Tesla's research notebooks are lost.
Fast forward to the novel's setting in 2065, where terrorist attacks are a way of life in the Middle East. Dubai has proved a relatively calm oasis in the midst of chaos—until now.
As Triplett and his team struggle to survive, handle dangerous information, make contact with their superiors, and keep their mission on track when their technological assets vanish, readers are treated to a combination of thriller, post-apocalyptic survival story, and military engagement piece that presents solid action, satisfying twists and turns, and alternating perspectives.
The gripping blend of investigative piece, survival story, political intrigue, and military battles keep the pace swift and involving, while characters are nicely drawn and provide vivid insights into 2065's confrontations between Western and Middle Eastern special interests.
Readers who look for espionage and military action reads that hold more than just descriptions of battle will find the multifaceted, absorbing survival elements of Balance to be captivating as the balance of not only political power but human life on Earth shifts in unpredictable ways.Balance
Return to Index
The Captive Girl
Ebook: B07KYVF3WC $.99
Website/ordering link: www.davidnees.com
The Captive Girl is the third book in the Dan Stone series, and continues to offer thriller and suspense readers an exceptional read. Evangeline, the heroine in this story, has lived with the presence of security in her rich world for all of her life. She's also lived with the notion of 'horrors in the basement' which have cost her mother's life on the day that begins this story, but successfully makes her long-planned escape through a tunnel that releases her to Zurich and the world.
The very next chapter introduces the son of a billionaire Saudi businessman who has inherited both the family's wealth and a commitment to Islamic terrorist activities. Rashid instigates bold moves to insert terror into Western lives. His latest big plans are his most decisive yet.
And then there's Pietro, hired to rescue Evangeline and kill the man presumed to have kidnapped her. Missing for two years and only recently located, Evangeline seems in need of rescue and revenge is in the wind. The problem is that Pietro is personally charged with a mission he wants to farm out to a third party.
Dan Stone arrives in the middle of these special interests and events. His work as a professional sniper involves striking targets from afar; but this latest mission will immerse him in close encounters he isn't prepared for, as a cat-and-mouse set of experiences challenges even his extensive training and familiarity with missions.
As The Captive Girl alternates perspectives, experiences, objectives and events, readers are treated, again, to a multifaceted thriller that requires no prior familiarity with Dan Stone's persona or prior missions in order to prove satisfying.
The degree of complexity in these evolving situations keeps readers on their toes as the story creates satisfyingly unexpected twists and turns. As Dan struggles with locating and preserving a missing ledger packed with key information; managing a team consisting of Dan, Jane, Marcus, Warren, and Evangeline; and facing treaties, international espionage, and the surveillance challenges of tracking terrorists, he encounters situations and people who may or may not support his charge to locate terrorists like Jabbar and take them down.
The dilemma of a possible romance which pairs Jane with a paid assassin who happens to be her own employee completes a spicy, action-packed read that promises to keep readers guessing about outcomes, motivations, and connections right up to the end.The Captive Girl
Return to Index
A Cold, Hard Case
A Cold, Hard Case is Book 5 in the Luca mystery series and opens with the re-emergence of a 25-year-old cold case involving a murdered teen; something outside of Florida homicide detective Frank's usual cases. As he begins to open files on Debbie Boyle's case, he discovers a string of oddities; not the least of which was that the case was closed as unsolved when a number of persons of interest remained uninvestigated.
As it turns out, this is the lesser of his concerns as Luca delves into a cold case that turns out to contain some red-hot circumstances and deadly associations. As the troubling case begins to distract him from his more ordinary pursuits, Luca begins to come into his own special talents and purposes as a homicide detective.
Dan Petrosini excels at pinpointing the special challenges involved in investigating a cold case ("This is twenty-five years old, with twenty-five-year-old evidence and memories.”). Everything proves difficult, and what would be easy to link up in an active investigation becomes a probe into history in this cold case, challenging Luca's ability to think about past events and connect them to present-day clues.
Luca knows Debbie's case went cold too quickly. But, why? His probe may also indict investigative processes gone awry and detectives who may or may not have had a motive for sweeping Debbie's demise under the rug: "Some people of interest could have been ruled out but not documented. I don’t want to bad-mouth a brother officer, but this looks like a textbook case on what not to do.”
Mystery readers are treated to a fast-paced story filled not just with intrigue, but with personal sights, smells, and sounds that continue to expand Luca's personal life: "I could hear Amy Winehouse singing from the garage. Opening the door to the house, I was greeted with the smell of mushrooms sautéing in garlic and oil. My stomach panged. Pasta and mushrooms were quickly climbing my favorite dish ladder."
These moments break up the story line and add details about his life, from his girlfriend Mary Anne and the question of children in their future together to social observations of Debbie's life and its challenges: "Look at the dirtbags in the Boyle case. Stark and Culver preyed on young girls, and Papadakis, who knew what he was capable of? Even the guys we cleared were no winners. If my daughter ever brought someone like them home, I’d stroke out. There were a lot of bad men out there. Men who wanted nothing but sex. Men who wanted to dominate their wives. Who’d suppress their dreams, kill their spark."
Readers looking for a full-flavored investigation of not just a young girl's murder, but a detective's process of discovery, will find that even though A Cold, Hard Case is the fifth book in an expanding series, it stands well on its own for newcomers while adding touches of detail that keep prior fans on their toes, thoroughly involved in Luca's latest case.
All audiences will relish a detective procedure that walks them through Luca's world and the special challenges of handling cold cases, and will find the story absorbing and hard to put down right up to a final, surprising series of revelations connecting past poor choices with present events that lead straight into further deadly danger beyond Debbie's grave.A Cold, Hard Case
Return to Index
The Curing Room
Michael Winn Publications
ASIN: B07KNB3B7S $8.99 ebook
The Curing Room crafts a suspense story strong in psychological foundations and riveting drama, and is a highly recommended pick for readers interested in the trappings of horror with a thriller overlay.
Ava Stassi is spunky, with a bright disposition, a blossoming career as an adjunct professor, and an attitude which is helping her recover from a recent breakup. With trauma newly past, Ava faces tragedy from an unexpected direction and adversity in the name of student Jared, whose actions force her to face her past, the future, and some long-buried feelings.
One of the main strengths of The Curing Room is its ability to cultivate a seemingly linear direction in its story line, only to make quick turns into the unexpected. These choices keep readers on their toes: a special delight in a genre where too many tales hold few elements of surprise.
The blend of horror and thriller is another exceptional approach that makes The Curing Room a winner, along with Michael Winn's attention to detail in character development, plot progression, and atmosphere. Winn knows just how much detail to provide, when to linger and when to run with the story line, and how to draw readers in with unexpected moments that give pause for thought.
From a moving memorial vigil and tribute to the cruelty of love, the worries of parents facing a missing child, and a new professor determined not to "push my career over the edge of a cliff," protagonist Ava faces many choices in just how she will interact with her students, her acquaintances, and adversity. Juxtaposing her dilemmas with the vioewpoint of student Jared provides a fine contrast in personalities, motivations, and impressions and adds depth to an already-intriguing story.
Psychological thrillers have a habit of focusing too intently on the psychology piece; but The Curing Room is an outstanding balance of thriller and psychology, drawing readers not only into a blossoming mystery, but the conundrums Ava struggles with as she considers options and deals with obstacles, only to be stymied by these same choices, much as in a chess match.
Readers of psychological suspense who often eschew the pat, predictable approaches of plot and character of too many other thriller novels will welcome The Curing Room for its edgy, realistic, involving, unpredictable read. Its volatile story not only keeps readers involved, but provides food for thought long after the story's conclusion. In some ways this brings Ava full circle back to the world of classrooms, students, and literary success; but in others, the wisdom she gains represents a divergence and new understanding of her life.The Curing Room
Return to Index
The Destiny Relic
California Coast Publishing
Hank is a graduate student whose main claim to fame is that he's suspected of stealing an ancient religious relic in the Middle East. This piece could start or end wars, and despite the fact that Hank is innocent, he's had to flee to Jordan with virtually every force in the world on his tail, from the Vatican to Muslim terrorists.
There's only one way out of his dilemma; but his further involvement with the relic promises complexity and more dilemmas (if such is possible) in The Destiny Relic, a thriller armed with more intrigue in its first chapter than most competitors feature in their entire book.
The first strength to note about this vivid story is that it's the fourth book in the Gold Lust series. While it supports prior action and events, it serves as a standalone thriller and opens with a list of characters divided by country and group to help newcomers get up and running.
Speaking of getting quickly into the story, Hank provides an assessment of his latest archaeological challenge that captures both his youthful enthusiasm for his chosen profession and why his pursuits differ from the norm: "This is not your grandfather’s archaeology expedition. We’re not looking for a city or a religious site mentioned in the Bible, or an old church or even a Roman battlefield. No, we’re doing what no one else has ever tried. We’re looking for the buried wealth of merchant clans strung across the Middle East 2,000 years ago. These clans were some of the richest and most influential in the region. They accumulated their fortunes by guiding camel caravans between Turkey and Egypt, and from the Mediterranean Sea to the Persian Gulf.”
The sense of anticipation powering The Destiny Relic is thus driven not just by unfolding events, but by Hank's own perceptions of the possibilities of and threats to his mission.
As circumstances carry Hank from an archaeologist's dream job to a foreign visitor's nightmare, clashing with political and terrorist forces, they successfully immerse readers with a combination of high-octane action, the promise of treasure and deadly danger, and undercover missions and encounters.
From surveillance missions and political clashes to Hank's efforts to survive, another big plus to this story is that it takes time to build a vivid atmosphere which brings readers directly into the Middle Eastern environment: "A green refuge of date palm trees and vegetable gardens filled the wide floor of the semicircle shaped canyon. Nearby, dozens of birds flew among the trees. Above the orchard, the walls rose two-hundred-feet, stripped with wavy bands of yellow, pink, and tan stone. Despite being protected by high cliffs, a steady breeze sank into the canyon and flowed out the entrance crack, keeping the oasis warm without being uncomfortably hot as in the scorched valley the men had left."
From issues surrounding the preservation and ownership of sacred texts to hacking and cyber-emergencies, the personal struggles of Oasis Jazir (senior field agent in the Israeli Mossad who hates Hezbollah), weapons traffickers and those who changed her family forever, and others who hold their own special reasons for struggle, The Destiny Relic is loaded with observations that lend insights into real-world forces, conflicts, and ideals.
This thriller embraces not just political but religious struggles, sacrifice, and belief systems. Its injection of an unexpected romance that somehow manages to blossom against the backdrop of continual life-threatening controversies creates a story that is dramatic, realistic, and hard to put down.
Imagine Indiana Jones-type action with more of a grounding in real-world events and a dash of religious inspection added into the conflicts, to get a sense of the gripping politics and plot of The Destiny Relic, a satisfying foray into Middle East affairs that is hard to put down.The Destiny Relic
Return to Index
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9791730-5-9 $12.99
Ebook ISBN: 978-0-9791730-4-2
Extreme Prejudice provides the second book in the 'Jinx Ballou, Bounty Hunter' series, and will attract political thriller and crime story readers to a saga that revolves not only around Jinx's pursuit of a killer; but her confrontation with her own past and near-death trauma as a teen.
Confronting one's assailant in the course of pursuing a different case would seem an unlikely coincidence, but Jinx's life is packed with such ironies. Suddenly, she's charged with not just tracking a murderer, but bringing two men to justice.
Because Extreme Prejudice does such a terrific job of focusing on Jinx's double challenges both to rectify her personal life's ongoing traumas and complete her professional tasks, the story provides a multifaceted set of circumstances which then develop to embrace bigger social issues and experiences than Jinx's activities alone.
The second thing to note is that Jinx's personality and reactions are very well detailed, linking her choices, responses, and special life challenges to the evolution of her psyche: "I should’ve gotten over all this shit years ago. My love for Peyton. His father’s brutality. And the deep wounds they both had caused me. It was so pathetic. I thanked the stars Conor wasn’t there to see it. A part of me wanted Conor to hold me. To reassure me that I’d get through this. That I was tough. And yet the thought of moving in with him triggered feelings of claustrophobia. His place wasn’t just a house, it was a bunker. A real bunker. A place of hiding. A place where he was hiding. And what was I hiding from? Why didn’t I want to move in with him? Was I worried he’d cheat on me as Wilson had?"
These moments, with their thought-provoking insights, not only create a deeper understanding of Jinx's world, but they contribute to the evolving series of events that allows readers to understand how and why Jinx is flummoxed by her latest experiences: "Memories of the shooting flashed in my mind. I kept hearing the one shooter shout “Fucking fairies” before the turmoil began. His voice sounded familiar. I’d heard it before and recently. I just couldn’t place it."
As she navigates through explosive situations that test body and mind, Jinx must summon all her background and resourcefulness to understand her unique situation of loving a wanted man, and all the implications this holds for her career and choices.
Readers familiar with Jinx through her previous adventures won't be disappointed by her latest conundrums, while newcomers will find the feisty, determined, and resourceful bounty hunter woman to be a compelling protagonist whose realistic dilemmas and personal challenges are as involving as her professional tasks.
Extreme Prejudice is highly recommended for prior fans and newcomers alike. It's a gripping thriller about a survivor's confrontation with both her training and the elements that make her human. The action-packed scenarios don't quit, right up to the story's unexpected, satisfying resolution.Extreme Prejudice
Return to Index
In the End
Dr. Michael Weisberg
Gabriel is having that nightmare again: the one in which he's trying to persuade son Ray not to take time off to pursue a girl in New York, but to realize his dream of completing medical school. It's a nightmare because Ray is actually dead from colon cancer, and this conversation was not limited to his dreams.
He's been angry with God and has questioned everything since his son's demise ("How could a wonderful, brave young man die at age twenty-four?"), with irony added because Ray's death was from a disease that lay in his physician father's area of expertise. Gabriel can't forgive himself for not being able to save his son, and the guilt and grief is ruining his life.
As Gabriel moves through Ray's life, death, and their relationship, readers learn there's more to Ray's world than cancer; and more to Gabriel's than being a doctor.
This isn't just a
medical novel, however; it's a thriller that opens along the lines of
Cook; but with more social and psychological issues, which are explored
greater, more satisfying detail. Its progression from a seemingly
experience to humanity's greatest catastrophe creates a fine
experience between medical novel, thriller, and sci-fi that keeps
their toes and neatly defies pat categorization.
From keeping a baby and a gay doctor's venture into coming out with patients and colleagues to gaining meaning from life by helping others, personal conundrums and experiences blends with new revelations about life and relationships in the face of death, winding nicely into a tale that takes off into space and features a probe of life that was once on Earth.
One doesn't anticipate the story line's move from the microcosm of a physician's experiences to the greater issues of extinction and interplanetary survival, but In the End does a fine job of providing many surprises about its real purpose and conclusions. It is a strong, compelling, multifaceted read that's perfect for those who like their stories unpredictable and thoroughly engrossing.
In the end, what matters isn't an individual life alone, but the entwined lives of millions and how they lived, loved, and, finally, let go.In the End
Return to Index
Not So Gone
Charles Levin, Publisher
978-0-578-41768-4 $16.99 Paper/$6.99 Kindle
Not So Gone is the new Sam Sunborn thriller that opens with a prologue from the near future about Frank, who reposes in a virtual world of leisure before his nemesis appears to murder him. But if everything is virtual, is he really dead?
This question continues in the first chapter, with the first-person impressions of Sam, who awakens in the same world where Frank is "alive." Sam, too, is dead; but his persona has been uploaded to the Cloud. He is "...able to ponder the question of returning to the physical world, although I am not living in it now." Although his very existence is theoretical, he's still able to exist (in a manner of speaking) and communicate with the non-virtual world he once inhabited.
This computer-held persona of memories and experiences is about to face its biggest challenge when a real-world psychopath threatens his son and adds a timeline to the efforts of scientist Frank Einstein, who is working on a way to release Sam back into the real physical world.
Who is real? Who is a digital facsimile? Immigration issues, SWAT team actions, global food crises, urban chaos and destabilization, and murder permeate a fast-paced story that is filled with satisfyingly complex twists and turns.
Add the specter of a world-wide disaster, an evil genius called The Cub, and a blend of threats to those Sam loves and to humanity as a whole for a thoroughly engrossing techno-thriller that begins with a high-tech dilemma and maintains a quick pace through terrorist and domestic crime.
Sam's potentially catastrophic failure to prevent attacks and keep The Cub from carrying out his deadly mission is only one highlight in a story that closely considers the sources of terrorist efforts and mental illness, a computer geek's most important task, and the foundations of science and technology as they apply to human psychology and endeavors to survive whatever way is possible.
When death itself becomes an experience to be relived and overcome, what meaning is there to life's battles and goals? Frank and Sam are evolving, and their journey provides riveting food for thought in a techno-thriller supercharged with action, confrontation, and struggle.Not So Gone
Return to Index
Mystery and thriller novels typically don't delve into wine industry operations; but Root Cause is an international thriller firmly rooted not just in the wine industry, but in author Steven Laine's personal familiarity with the wine business; thus including a slice of reality above the usual mystery genre approach.
Corvina Guerra harbors dreams of making a success of her family's vineyard in her native Italy; but when she visits the area, she discovers the vines are infested with the grape-killing Phylloxera blight.
As a 'flying winemaker', Corvina is used to troubleshooting other winery owners' vineyards and production challenges. What she isn't used to is an issue that strikes too close to home, and which leads to a discovery about her employer, Universal Wines, that could threaten not just a few vineyards or her own dreams, but the entire worldwide wine industry.
Readers of Root Cause should ideally have an interest in wines, grape-growing, and the politics of international grape industry management as well as an affection for stories of intrigue that surpass the usual whodunit murder or espionage focus.
From the economic impact of a worldwide wine industry collapse (hoarding, inflated prices, counterfeit wine) to multinational company involvements, CEO interactions, sommelier Bryan Lawless and his special knowledge of wine auctions and industry operations, and Corvina's ability to join her winemaking expertise with his background in viticultural history, chapters of investigation are nicely tempered by realistic industry encounters, operations, and threats.
When action moves out of the boardroom, Covina confronts a possible betrayal by her own boss and discovers that she already holds the keys to saving wine and lives through her special perceptions and actions.
Root Cause is as much about industry politics as it is about the roots of manipulation and greed. These elements combine with an exquisite flavor of special interests and hints of deadly consequences to create a multifaceted, engaging thriller that's hard to put down.Root Cause
Return to Index
Paperback: 978-1-7321332-4-2 $12.99
Amazon kindle ordering link (paperback to be up on 1/6/19; kindle up for pre-order):
An 8-day Alaskan cruise hitting some of the state's top attractions may seem ideal to adult passengers; but perhaps not to teens Navy, Isaiah, and Jesse, whose parents drag them along for the ride. Each teen holds resentments about the unwelcome voyage, but when a series of thefts occurs, they fall under suspicion due to both their youth and their obvious rebellious attitudes.
As chance encounters turn into camaraderie, shared adversity, and an uncertain friendship, the teens become investigators to clear their names, only to uncover a string of events that extends beyond simple pilfering into dangerous territory.
Truths, lies, and acts of self-preservation riddle the trio's movements and choices, highlighting the investigative operation and the events that unfold aboard the ship.
It should also be noted that although the main characters are teens, Triplicity should not be limited to young adult audiences. The depth of characterization, flavors of romance, adult confidences ("I drank my day away, and I plan to drink my night away. If I'm lucky, I'll drink this whole vacation away, and then maybe I'll be okay with what I'm going home to.”), and alternating viewpoints keep this story lively and involving for all ages.
From its elements of intrigue to its daily exposés and challenges, Triplicity is an engrossing chronicle that is recommended for mystery and thriller enthusiasts as well as those who enjoy strong, proactive, often rebellious teen protagonists more than capable of taking matters into their own hands.Triplicity
Return to Index
The American Duke
August Jade Sterling
Strategic Book Publishing
The American Duke: Crossed Lines, Twisted Faith is set in the 1800s just after a British decision to exert diplomatic pressures on American slavery dovetails with the reunion of two brothers separated by distance and estrangement.
Because the Sixth Duke of Westmoure’s future and fate is tied with his transplanted American brother Avery, he makes efforts to influence the abolishment of slavery in America, a move which will favorably affect his brother and his unusual chosen wife.
The Duke is successful at passing a British legacy to his American brother, but this is just the introduction to the challenges the family faces when a British-American lord who has inherited his brother's title also has a wife of another color and a son from that union.
A murder spree challenges everything when this mixed-blood son inherits a role previously reserved for the lords and ladies of British society. On the surface, Britain has refuted American slavery and prejudices; but underneath, its own social and class wars remain prevalent. The notion of a mixed-blood duke defies many traditions and perceptions of nobility and sets off a chain reaction that tranforms ideals and reality alike.
The American Duke does an outstanding job of considering the motivations, perceptions, and special dilemmas of all involved. As its subject expands from Avery, his brother, and their legacy to other outcasts of society who face their own prejudices ("Joycellyn was curious about these people. They were warm and eager for them to become a part of the family. Did they mean it? Didn’t they know what she was? Of course they did. They didn’t seem to care. As a child of an unwed woman, she was the outcast and was labeled all that was unholy. But the Duke and his family were Negroes. The old duke had told her how Negroes were treated in America. Were the indignities Negroes endured like that of being a bastard? The question hung in the back of her mind."), The American Duke introduces a cross-cultural dialogue. This leads readers to more closely examine their own concepts of history, social connections, and the roots of prejudice and decorum, on many levels.
Fueled by the reports of Society News, events move from murder to social propriety as the characters embark on their personal voyages of discovery: "Before now, she’d never realized how abnormal life was for those who were mixed blood. For those in America, it meant you didn’t have choices to do what white Americans did. You didn’t count. Here in England, no one cared what you were, unless you were an aristocrat. Bloodlines, purity of lineage, antecedents, that’s what counted."
The American Duke contrasts reports and perceptions, crimes evolving from dangerous games, issues of social acceptance, and questions revolving around the "sanctity of the aristocracy."
Vivid in its twists and turns of plot, which toe the line between historical novel, comparisons of American and British social prejudices and perceptions, and struggles to fit into changing worlds, The American Duke offers a warm study of 1800s society on both sides of the pond. This focus is fueled by characters who skirt some major questions about the aristocracy as they search for romance, meaning, and acceptance.
Fans of historical novels, British romances, and stories of slavery will relish the depth and events that make The American Duke a compelling read.The American Duke
Return to Index
Driven: An Oaktown
New Heights Publishing
978-0-9969981-3-0 $12.99 paperback, $4.99 eBook
Author website: suzannefalterfiction.com
Driven is an Oaktown Girls novel that provides glimpses of urban life and connections, and is recommended reading for those who would absorb the lives, motivations, and impacts of women who operate outside of the norm.
It introduces Tenika, a dreadlocked and driven Oakland, California woman with a reputation as being "The Fixer" of broken things. Perceiving herself as a "life engineer," she stays true to her reputation and fixes many things around her.
Not only are Tenika and her neighbors busy reinventing themselves, but so is her world—sometimes with results that are less than effective, she thinks, as she observes a new business that holds mixed messages: "Six shiny, new massage chairs were lined up in front of the window. Behind them, a space barely recognizable as a garage sported gleaming painted concrete floors, impeccable lifts, and, yes, even a sushi bar off to the side. It looked more like a dealership than a garage. Or, hell, even some high-end boutique hotel lobby. There wasn’t even a single greasy tool lying around. In fact, there wasn’t a tool in sight at all. Tenika wondered where they kept them. Above them, the sign said it all: Mindy Rose’s All-Star Garage and Sushi Bar The Garage with Class."
As Tenika's own Driven Garage (woman-owned and woman-powered; once a draw for the community's lesbians, but now fading in the face of glitz and glamour offered by a high-end competing garage offering sushi and chair massages) involves a number of women in Lizzy and Tenika's dilemmas, readers gain a range of insights about the San Francisco Bay Area's changing culture. Readers already familiar with the area will especially relish a story that excels in this broader conflict between Driven Garage and nemesis Mindy Rose’s All-Star Garage and Sushi Bar. These business and personality clashes serve as a microcosm for a broader community-wide changes and struggles, making the story much more than a singular survey of women's lives and dreams.
This is the unexpected heart of a vivid story that doesn't just capture two women at the crossroads of their own business and personal transitions, but a community on the cusp of values changes. It's just one of the reasons why Driven stands out from most other novels centered in the Bay Area.
Its intense focus on
women's lives, the pressures of changing business environments, Kate's
into Mindy Rose's special brand of reality and the cost of seven years
devotion to Mindy's driven dream ("Kate
had been firmly in the Mindy Rose micro-bubble for so long she’d
about the rest of life."), and the costs of sacrificing a
spotlight which requires Mindy to hide her lesbian persona create a
multi-faceted, engrossing story that moves from individual and couple
to broader questions about the changing alternative community in the
Readers receive a lesbian love story, a tale of players in right and wrong games who come to realize their true strengths and desires, and a series of insights about the fearless pursuit of dreams and where ambition leads.
Driven's ability to highlight and immerse readers in Oakland's culture and social pressures both within and outside of the lesbian community make it a powerful production highly recommended for readers who want a purposeful sense of place, values, and changes in their fiction.Driven: An Oaktown Girls Novel
Return to Index
Who Chains You Books
ASIN: B07L3874CV $12.97 Paper/$3.97 Kindle
Andy's eclipse glasses allow her to view the sun through her personal darkness and the haze of the cigarettes she smokes. She's an adult now, with children of her own; but long ago, she gained notoriety in her small town for being "the little girl saved from aliens."
As an adult, she's lost all connections in her life with friends and family. There are only memories, today, and an eclipse which proves the impetus for memories about her past encounters with something extraordinary.
Although The Eclipse Dancer largely focuses on Andy's memories of what she did right and wrong when she was younger, it shouldn't be considered a read for young adults alone. As she processes a life-changing event that continues to affect her present-day isolated world, Andy captures accounts of trailer park living, a strange old woman who lives in a forest with cats, the truth about her father (who she knows as 'Tom' but who has a different persona, in the form of Ashigan River), and why she's attracted to night and the moon, and other strange facets about her life.
As Andy's story evolves and she delves into her encounters with beings who provide the truth about her family, her special talents, interests, and odd perspectives begin to suddenly make sense.
Readers receive a mercurial story that flows from adult to childhood perceptions and questions, leading to Andy's ethereal dancing, which reflects life itself: "...the cycle of intertwined life and death was an on-going act of creation that stretched backward and forward through time..."
Nature spirits are one expression of this existence, Andy discovers. As she draws connections between her world and another, finds her secret nighttime flying threatened by discovery, and battles with the notion that humans are dangerous, she evolves to think of herself as something neither human nor jiibay. As a hybrid, she must define her own life, its meaning, and its parameters. But even magic and longevity can't thwart death, and as Andy comes to accept the "two devils" of her "North Star and her Southern Cross," readers are treated to a delightful evolutionary story that blends fantasy with a different, broader interpretation of coming of age and growth.
As Andy comes full circle to realize "...that
the great cycle was larger
than the earth and much, much larger than her," readers will
in an uplifting stories of disconnect and newfound connections that
providing thought-provoking moments as they probe Andy's unusual
her ultimate confrontation with death.
Beautifully written and compellingly presented, The Eclipse Dancer is a winning celebration of life, death, and universal connections in the face of alienation and fear.The Eclipse Dancer
Return to Index
Eleos: A Book of
Trials and Secrets
D. R. Bell
ASIN: B07JMC4NW7 $2.99
Eleos: A Book of Trials and Secrets is a hard-hitting Holocaust novel of redemption and family secrets. Avi Arutiyan embarks on a wrenching journey when he discovers a valise of old letters written to his to his Armenian grandfather from an Auschwitz survivor. These are of special interest because his grandfather's life and death have never been fully explained, and are part of the reason why Avi embarks on a search for a truth that will shake the foundations of not just his family, but two others.
The first thing to note about Eleos is that it addresses the common image of good versus evil in the Nazi/German realm by creating special challenges on the sides of all who face impossible choices. Perhaps some might argue that exploring the murky gray area in decision-making is invalid, given events which clearly require people to make moral and ethical choices; but Eleos successfully adds a human element to conundrums over both poor and good short- and long-term choices, bringing to life the worlds and perspectives of different people.
It's all too easy to identify, after the fact, a group of individuals as pathological killers rather than human beings faced with not just unprecedented choices and decisions that few ordinary citizens faced before. Without excusing the long-term impact of life-changing decisions, Eleos paints a different portrait of the underlying dilemmas involved in interactions on all sides, focusing not just on what happened and why, but how these events came about.
As the boundaries of humanity blur in Eleos, readers are forced to examine their own reactions, limitations, and the underlying foundations of behaviors that lead to validating acts of genocide.
From contemporary neo-Nazi attacks to historical precedents of belief, Eleos offers no easy answers, no pat approaches, and no redemption for those who would consider themselves morally and ethically above those actions which history has judged to be reprehensible behaviors.
Perhaps this is the novel's greatest challenge to its readers, as well as its finest attribute. D. R. Bell crafts a set of circumstances that involve the protagonist in a sifting of blame, historical examination, and family attitudes, drawing in readers with a scenario that at first seems relatively black and white; then immersing them in decisions and outcomes that are satisfyingly complex.
As much as the narrator discusses attacks, recovery processes, and the basics of his quest and its rippling impact on everything around him, so there is an undercurrent of philosophical, psychological, and historical precedent and examination that leads to thought-provoking passages about redemption and modern perspectives in history: "Everyone wants to forget, nobody wants to hear about the righteous. They are like a mirror we don’t want to look into. Another ten years, and it will all be forgotten. Just like slaughtered Armenians of the previous war had been forgotten. People don’t even intentionally forget. They block it out. So it can be done again and again.”
Lest we forget, Eleos offers an examination that is at once an inspection of Jewish/German relationships, issues of racial purity and survival mechanisms, moral failures leading to tragedy, and the psyches of those who both survived and instigated atrocities. Holocausts can happen again, but as long as stories such as Eleos capture the progression of events with an eye to explaining how logic and action led to disaster, future generations at least have a road map to avoid the pitfalls that lead in these directions.
Towards the end, the novel poses the most gripping question of all in a succinct passage summarizing the compelling nature of this story: "They all had horrible choices to make in the grey zone of justice, compassion and revenge that went back to 1915. Are we really “borne back ceaselessly into the past”? Is it impossible to break its pull?"Eleos: A Book of Trials and Secrets
Return to Index
Hidden Colours profiles an immigrant circus in Berlin which operates year-round and which is designed to represent and bring together immigrants and Germans in an innovative, positive manner.
Ellie is drawn to these immigrants and their special lives and needs, but her passion for its presence and intentions is in direct conflict with her newspaper job, which vehemently opposes it and requires her to go against her nature in reporting it.
Yusuf is a Syrian refugee who has found a new community, opportunity, and hope in the circus environment; but when violence breaks out, both his position and new home are threatened.
As Ellie's work stands at the crossroads of fear, rejection, and assimilation conflicts, she finds herself a possible lynchpin in representing not just an incident which fuels the fears of anti-immigrant groups in Germany; but in the hopes and dreams of refugees who have escaped one form of repression, only to discover others in their new, possibly temporary home.
In many ways, there is no better time for the appearance of Hidden Colours, with its themes of intolerance, repression, prejudice, and communities clashing with each other as they assimilate immigrant newcomers. The stage is ripe for this story of different perspectives, desires for safety and community, and the issues posed by immigrants who are viewed as threats, and Nillu Nasser does an exquisite job of reflecting this environment and the social and political forces at work among all groups.
Precarious situations are balancing acts in more ways than one and the underlying concerns of immigrant and German characters alike are deftly and clearly explored in a story that adds psychological and social depth to political dilemmas.
The result is an engrossing portrait of clashes between cultures, shared bonds and points of contention, and how Ellie and Yusuf reconcile their lives with the impact and influence of changing social situations. Steeped in the cultures and flavors of Berlin, it's obvious that Nasser's story contains a personal familiarity and affection for the city's structure and peoples as well as many insights on xenophobia among and outside of immigrant groups. The issues surrounding refugee integration processes and descriptions of experiences and clashes of different cultures thrown together are astute, and result in new perspectives and challenges. The long journey faced by all isn't just about arriving in a new place: it's about making it home.
Any fiction reader interested in immigrant experiences and issues will find Hidden Colours the perfect vehicle for assimilating the passions, purposes, and disparate visions of all sides.Hidden Colours
Return to Index
A Lady in Havana
A Lady in Havana is set in Havana in the late 1950s and captures the culture and world of an era where elegant rich folk visit busy casinos run by gangsters despite government instability.
Dimple Duncan is a Southern belle helping her husband gain a business deal with the government in Havana, but when she meets a handsome Latin lawyer also involved in the effort, things begin to go awry.
However, to call A Lady in Havana a romance story alone would be to do this novel an injustice; for it's just as much about differing cultures, politics, and perspectives as it is about a proper Southern gal entering forbidden territory in more than one way.
As the story progresses, readers are treated to a good dose of Cuban history as Dimple encounters Fidel Castro at the early stages of his political life through her law firm beau. Because Dimple has no idea about Cuban culture, history, or politics, her journey is one of discovery that carries readers into this culture. No prior familiarity with any aspect of Cuba is required in order to follow Dimple where few Southern belles of her time ever thought to venture.
When the pendulum swings towards Castro, it carries Dimple into new territory that challenges her preconceptions, her mission, and her life. Dimple is not just in love with Roberto, but with her husband; and that poses a conundrum as she visits Cuba, relishes her time with Roberto, yet knows she will return to her old life despite having broken her vows.
Investments in time, love, and money change everyone as Roberto assumes a more important role in his old friend Fidel's life and a host of characters with their own special interests enter the fray of change.
On one level, A Lady in Havana is a romance; but as Dimple's eyes are opened wide by her experiences, it becomes so much more. Readers with an affinity for Cuban history and culture who are interested in international business pursuits that wind into affairs of the heart will find A Lady in Havana a moving and educational pursuit. It's a cut above the leisure beach read one might anticipate from its title, and assumes literary strength as it progresses from US soil to overseas entanglements.A Lady in Havana
Return to Index
The Misadventures of
Classic Day Publishing
The Misadventures of Rusty Kenneficke is the first book in the projected trilogy and introduces the character of Rusty, a frugal writer with two books to his name who experiences a midlife crisis at age 37 when his muse dries up. Obviously he needs some new experiences outside his usual quiet life to re-charge this muse, and so he sells what he owns and embarks on a road trip, leaving the culturally stimulating San Francisco to return to his Portland, Oregon roots.
That's the basic story, but what evolves is a lively romp through the ironies and inconsistencies of life as Rusty opens his tale with an unusual dilemma that leads him away from everything he's built: "Rusty Kenneficke was lost. Or at least his car was. He couldn’t find it. Driving from his home in San Mateo to San Francisco, he always parked under the same building on Market Street, down the ramp to the fourth level. Where was the car, and who was in his space? Did someone steal it? Probably not, because he had the ticket, and a thief would have needed to pay the maximum to get it out. Plus, it really was not worth stealing."
As Rusty reflects on the path that has led to this place in his life, readers receive a combination of biographical background and reassessment of the process of finding that final 'home run' influence that will carry his prior publications to new success. His publisher believes in his capability ("...we don’t know each other that well, but I do know that you have talent. It’s buried deep down in there somewhere."), but can't finance a roadmap to tapping this creative muse. It's up to Rusty.
And so the journey begins, including readers in a sometimes-elusive search for inspiration that begins with Rusty's dream/solution ("I’m going to move out of my apartment,” Rusty replied, “sell my car, buy a motor home, and travel the West writing about the people and experiences I meet along the way.”), is spiced by his editor's skepticism of this approach ("That’s not an idea—it’s a pipe dream. Not the idea of taking off—that sounds like something you might come up with—but the idea of finding a story out there in the wilderness is. "Tell you what, Rusty. You go find your story, write it, and then bring it in. If it’s worthy of our time and money, we will publish it. But there will certainly be no advance on a non-story. We have yet to make any serious money on your books, and I’m in no position to front you on this escapade."), and becomes a road trip not just to find inspiration, but to discover himself.
Keith Thye has revealed that the wellspring of this novel comes from his own experiences and choices. This personal familiarity pairs nicely with autobiographical roots lending consistency and realistic elements to a fictional life journey that many readers will readily recognize in themselves.
From lack of purpose and inspiration to a form of restlessness that leads to taking new risks and handling misadventures far from familiar routines, tasks, and choices, The Misadventures of Rusty Kenneficke isn't just about a road trip gone awry; but about a middle-aged man searching for revised meaning and newfound connections with family and friends.
The result is a powerful self-examination that draws readers into the prospect of self-assessment, travel, and the wellspring of inspiration and creativity. It's a story that begins with Rusty's seemingly-impulsive decision which nobody will fund or approve and which emphasizes the idea that Rusty's choices impact those he encounters: "Christ, Rusty, ya got a real problem with life, don’t ya? Yer probably more a screwup than me. How could ya have all them troubles in such a short time? Ya know, I’m not sure I should associate with ya myself. Yer just bad news."
Who hasn't felt this way at some point in their lives? More importantly, what can be done to change this perception?
The Misadventures of Rusty Kenneficke isn't just a comedy about a road trip gone awry: it's a parable for self-discovery, and is a satisfying beginning to a trilogy covering where life will ultimately lead. Novel readers who like a combination of comedy and thought-provoking reflection about creativity and change will welcome this story for its lively characters and the ironies of a road trip that challenges one man's set course in life: one which will either make or break his ultimate dreams.The Misadventures of Rusty Kenneficke
Return to Index
The Rigel Affair
L M Hedrick
Black Rose Writing
Author Website: https://lmhedrick.com/
Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.
Many novels of wartime romance and battle open with predictable scenarios, but picture an initial Huckleberry Finn-type feel of adventure in The Rigel Affair, and then be prepared for more. Its young protagonist faces big changes during his story, which is set in World War II and steeped in the atmosphere and world of both Mississippi and wartime America.
Hedrick first builds Charlie's character with an early portrait of the sights, sounds, and smells of his world ("Dry dirt boiled up from the wheels as a steady reminder of that waiting hoe. Timber buildings, lonesome in the vast landscape, stood in a row parallel to the track. The last building was Bill Rogers’ general merchandise store, adjoining the Bank of Falkner, with its wide-swept timber porch bearing the hopeful message of Welcome in the break of day."). She takes the time to craft a setting in which Charlie escapes a life of drudgery with his uncle, embarks on a cross-country journey with schoolmate Roxy, becomes a US Navy diver, and finds himself voyaging to New Zealand after Pearl Harbor is bombed.
Hedrick excels at bringing readers along for Charlie's ride, which is replete with observations of foreign lands and infused with national pride: "Hawaii: the very name excited the troops onboard, and the constant bouts of vomiting were soon forgotten as early morning brought the shores of Waikiki rising above the horizon off the port bow. A green land, thick with vegetation, ablaze with hazy pink and chocolate-colored mountains, drastically changed as the ship rounded the corner of Pearl Harbor and slowed to five knots. Charlie ogled the first fleet of battleships that circled Ford Island. The USS California gave reason to their mission. A feeling of respect unexpectedly fell upon him as he stood there in amazement, his eyes fixed on the strength and the size of the battleships. A symphony of whoops and hollers lifted from the decks surrounding him, men proud at the power before them."
Those who expect a quick read may find the buildup and attention to the details of Charlie's pre-war life to be slow precursors to the action; but this is a major attribute of a story which takes its time, resulting in the payoff of depth in a thoroughly absorbing read.
Romance takes an unusual turn as Charlie considers and contrasts different romantic possibilities, but becomes increasingly committed to New Zealand girl Mattie. Torn apart by war, Charlie and Mattie conduct much of their romance via correspondence until Charlie's letters stop, leading Mattie on a desperate search to find him.
Perhaps one reason why their story is so
hard-hitting and evocative is that it's based on real-life events. This
background, combined with well-researched information about events of
times, lends an authenticity and rich profundity to the story line.
this sense is transmitted through small details: "I saw you
looking around with your fork upside-down… not very
American.” “If you’d like to know,” Charlie scratched his head, and
act the perfect gentleman. “I eat with my hands. We all do on the ship,
We can’t keep cutlery, it’s not allowed. Shows up on Jap radar. This is
Graphic descriptions of battle and other encounters capture scenes and translate to descriptions of romantic connections and military associations alike: "Wipe that smirk off, Kincaid.” He twitched his crop. “None of you, and I repeat, none of you, have the balls to become a Navy Diver.” He paced and slapped the riding crop against his thigh, “That’s my job—to give you balls and turn you into the best. We will soon uncover the pussies.” The Chief pivoted again to Charlie, “Why did you come here?” “The Navy’s my home.” Charlie answered, and promptly wanted to erase the words."
Historical fiction readers who like more
than a light touch of romance in their wartime reads will find The
Rigel Affair a vivid portrait of the
times. Waiting, hoping, dreaming, and struggles to survive on many
permeate the love story of Charlie, who is torn between two lovers and
worlds. When even an engagement becomes bittersweet, what can mend the
heartbreak of loss?
The Rigel Affair is very highly recommended for its blossoming adventure, relationships, and characters who grow, change, and confront their worlds.The Rigel Affair
Return to Index
Secret Agent Angel
Black Opal Books
978-1626945722 $10.01 paper/$3.99 Kindle
Secret Agent Angel provides the literary story of Samuel, a 'secret agent angel' assigned to Earth to field whatever goes wrong. Forty years of successful missions don't prepare him adequately for confrontation with a 'fire demon' set on attacking one man's faith, bringing Samuel into a downward spiral of tests that come to rely on the spiritual strengths Samuel has brought to humanity.
One might expect that an angel endowed with gifts from God can defeat any force; but Samuel can't achieve his goals alone. The best he can do is exert pressure backed by the lessons he's imparted to humans both present and past; and thus his achievements as a secret agent angel are sorely tested by faith and its presence on the planet as a whole.
While the title Secret Agent Angel seems to promise a novel of intrigue, readers will quickly learn that it's a survey of spiritual foundations, Christian beliefs, and classic confrontations between good and evil forces that test religious values.
From primary goals of resolving ethical dilemmas to adventures and encounters that embrace police action, Samuel encounters a variety of individuals who each reflect, in one way or another, varying degrees of spiritual awareness. He himself experiences moments that lead him not just from journey to journey; but deeper into the activities and responses that comprise humanity and its flesh and blood.
As Samuel changes forms, faces different dilemmas, and even enters the dreams of some, readers learn that "the Boss" and his purposes can remain oblique even to an angel. In whatever form he takes, Samuel's job isn't to direct lives, events, and outcomes; but to 'nudge along' those he interacts with.
As stories are told and amends made in the right direction, a bigger picture emerges from these individual threads of controversy and achievement which lend to deeper inspection of the power of morals, ethics, free choice, and will against the backdrop of good and evil forces at play in a bigger arena.
Secret Agent Angel's varied stories and special blend of intrigue, action, and psychological and spiritual inspection makes it a fine recommendation for Christian fiction readers who will find Samuel's special purposes as a guidance counselor on Earth more than intriguing.
What can religion fix, and how does it interact with the challenges of daily living? Secret Agent Angel's encounters and lessons hold revelations for all Christians who would delve into Samuel's world and its decisions, choices, and consequences.Secret Agent Angel
Return to Index
The Sojourners is a sequel to Searching for Paradise, but it should be noted that no prior familiarity with its predecessor is required in order to appreciate the characters and continuing story of Mike Hogan, Decky Brady, and Luke Coppens, who are still pursuing dreams of music video fame.
Michael Hogan narrates his story of lost love, revised perspectives, dreams broken and renewed, and a journey from America to London using a wild blend of cultural observation and revelation reminiscent of Kerouac's On the Road. From Britain's music video production business and England's disorienting cultural differences to a group of friends who take a chance on making their dreams come true with a one-way ticket to a strange new world, the observations and challenges of "the sojourners" comes to life through vivid passages.
As the group experiences 1980s London street culture and embarks on a journey through Europe, their travels are punctuated with poetic interludes capturing their process of awakening: "As I sleep, I awaken./When I awaken, I sleep/I am spirit eternal/While life’s river runs deep."
Revised plans sometimes involve "losing the safety net of friends," creating more risks undertaken in the course of a journey that ultimately questions goals, belief systems, and the mercurial changes life brings: "Perhaps I would sleep on the street somewhere. Maybe I shouldn’t have turned down Larry Tate’s offer of a place to stay, after all. My situation turned from happy to sad, past the stroke of midnight."
From youth hostels containing their own odd cultural clashes and milieus to encounters with various personalities and different countries, Mike and his gang's experiences are always presented with vivid descriptions of atmosphere and place, which are one of the strengths of The Sojourners: "It was a mad, windy morning in Ios. It brought tears to my eyes as we all stepped out into the day. “This damn wind would blow a dog off a chain!” Barry shouted as the four of us ventured down the long road through town. We would spend the next two days on and around the little coved beach."
People interact, grow apart, come and go, and develop romances, connections, and shared experiences as The Sojourners moves through revised dreams into realms that challenge not just professional and artistic visions, but their views of life itself: "Why worry about anything? What’s the absolute worst that can happen?” Terra had said on that first anxious night in Turkey. For she believed that even when we die, we go on living."
Readers seeking an evocative, thought-provoking romp through the psyches, atmospheres, and 1980s cultures of Europe will find The Sojourners a compelling, revealing story that stands nicely alone while complimenting its predecessor.
How the group members change both collectively and individually from these interactions and experiences makes for especially vibrant reading. The "whys of life" are considered by a young protagonist who sees his future as a series of changes as he solidifies what he does and does not wish to keep from a myriad of opportunities and challenges.The Sojourners
Return to Index
Trials and Trails:
Adventures and Unexpected Discoveries of Life
978-1-7326194-0-1 (paperback) $14.95
978-1-7326194-1-8 (eBook) $ 4.99
Trials and Trails: Adventures and Unexpected Discoveries of Life is set in the Reconstruction era of American history and tells of LeRoy, a black cowboy who faces prejudice in the West and who chafes under restrictions so numerous that he must select which injustices to safely confront. Johnny B, a young Sioux Indian, is similarly challenged by prejudice against his people. The two seem an unlikely duo for navigating the uncertain, changing Western frontier, but in Trials and Trails, their similar experiences actually create a bond that helps each to traverse the changing landscape of their times.
Readers expecting a light story of cowboy experiences and trail adventures will find Trials and Trails surprisingly thought provoking because it mixes social and political concerns into its story of frontier life.
From a basic description of the politics of an Indian and a black man eating with their fellow cowboys after a day's hard work ("Inside, mother and daughter also questioned Able’s decision. “Do we have to serve them in our house?” “Yes. Your father said we should.”) to their attempts to inject self-respect and value into their revised lives, LeRoy and Johnny B. find themselves not just on the trail, but facing legal challenges and a range of people who influence the course of their lives.
Light moments of good-hearted attempts to bring helpful attitudes into this world are peppered throughout ("Johnny B didn’t know what or why, but he was pleased to be helping."), but while they may seem innocuous points, their overall effect is to highlight how the two move beyond their roles in life and the forces of injustice to effect positive changes in the world around them.
Options, changing directions (both physical journeys and psychological changes), good causes, and attempts to bring better results into a sometimes-chaotic world of murderers, preachers, and gold-diggers makes for a frontier story that takes many unexpected twists as it follows LeRoy and John's evolution.
Trials and Trails is a Western novel that moves far beyond the usual trail encounters and trappings of the old West to probe the process of individual efforts to overcome prejudice and make their communities a better place. Western readers seeking more ethereal messages from their frontier settings will relish a story that is both astute in its observations and hard to put down.Trials and Trails: Adventures and Unexpected Discoveries of Life
Return to Index
That Zimbabwe Falcon is written by an author who is a historian is quite evident by his focus on the rich history of an ancient civilization, the Great Zimbabwe, built by black Jews. The British Rhodesian Pioneers took control of a nation that had seen Zulu rule for only sixty years, when they took it from the Shona tribe. The roots of these conflicts are deeply fraught with tribal struggles that aren't just limited to history, but continue to influence Zimbabwe's rule and struggles to this day.
Zimbabwe Falcon employs the drama and characterization of fictional characters in portraying the evolution of the nation, but stays true to historical facts as it surveys colonial times, families, and communities, contrasting three different cultures facing changing social, political, and economic conditions.
It would have been all too easy to choose a singular path to portray these events; but David Maring's attention to historical precedent and his depth of detail affords a deeper inspection of all facets of these cultural clashes and entanglements, crafting a story that involves journeys, confrontations, battles between warriors and families, and more.
By juxtaposing individual and family experiences with those of leaders, decision-makers, and special interests on all sides, Maring creates a multifaceted read that moves from Cape Town to Bulawayo and beyond, providing a close inspection of Rhodesia, a "place of divided loyalties."
Readers looking for a vivid historical novel that brings together past, present, and future influences on Zimbabwe politics and processes will find Zimbabwe Falcon rich in historical precedent and observation, and will savor its attention to how the nation evolved under many hands, despite ongoing clashes.Zimbabwe Falcon
Return to Index
Space Age Publications
Awakening Within: The Journey Back to Love and Freedom of Choice: A Conversation Between Dimensions provides a more thoughtful ecological view of life than most, maintaining that the notion of human beings somehow being elevated above or separate from other life forms is an illusion based on ego.
In fact, the reality is that 'life is within itself' and humans who awaken to these connections will find new possibilities within them that reinforce balance, relationships, and a sense of self based not on individuality, but upon a reawakening of human consciousness and world connections.
As Awakening Within undertakes this journey of connection and revision, readers are treated to a both the author's symbolic memories of his own awakening journey and a new philosophy of being based not on disconnection and separation, but the interconnectedness of all. In this new arena of awareness lie new opportunities that begin with a revised history of how humanity was 'knocked out' from its purposes and connections for thousands of years. It’s a proverbial Garden of Eden castaway story revised, where the notion of separation and the power of belief affect reality itself.
Chris Hawke doesn't just attack the artificial notion of division and separateness in the human psyche: he offers tools for achieving balance, reclaiming both individual and society-wide acceptance of 'oneness', and keys to opening doors to revised opportunities based on changing one's relationship with oneself.
At each stage, Hawke surveys metaphors, belief systems, and the journey using a series of question-and-answer sessions designed to address reader skepticism in a succinct manner. This makes it easy to absorb potentially complex ideas.
One example of this back-and-forth dialogue: "Physical reality is not real? Again, not in the way you mean it. It may indeed seem solid and real to your senses, but it is still, nonetheless, a projection of your consciousness...I’m dreaming, aren’t I? Yes, you are. You are within your own imagination, as I have said. That’s what a dream is, after all—a creation of the imagination. What will happen when I wake up? That is why I am here with you now. To help you awaken to your true Self so that your life can be as you imagine and believe it to be—consciously. You will discover for yourself that what you focus on and believe to be true for you out of infinite possibility is what you’ll find and experience."
Readers who have absorbed the Seth-channeled discussions between Jane and Seth may find an aura of familiarity in the tone of these dialogues, which provide accessible information in a manner all readers can easily understand.
Awakening Within is not a blueprint for awakening as much as a road map based on Hawke's own journey. It will require an inquiring mind willing to closely examine and contemplate the routines of life, reality, and purpose in order to prove a successful guide to something greater than a singular life.
Those interested in spiritual examination and a blend of autobiography and inquiry will welcome Awakening Within for its thought-provoking discussions of connection, disconnection, the polarity of life, and methods of real personal transformation. It's highly recommended for the inquiring mind who wants to follow the path to a higher consciousness and, ultimately, a new age for self and humanity as a whole.Awakening Within
Return to Index
Students of film history interested in changing forms of cinematic presentation and how they have evolved over the years will find plenty of history and food for thought in Brass Ring: Achievement, Error, and Amendment of the Hollywood Blockbuster; but it should be warned that this in-depth survey represents no light overview. It provides an in-depth, critical examination of film changes from analog to digital; examines changing viewer experience as a result of these departures; and considers the differences between traditional and modern productions.
Readers will ideally be college-level students or serious film critics and scholars who will appreciate Brass Ring's outstanding attention to detail, which demands no less than complete attention, a film background, and critical thinking skills from its audience.
Chapters are peppered
with black and white still shots and open with an astute observation:
is currently at a crossroads, facing the choice of either becoming a
mass art or being regulated to private screen productions.
Is mainstream cinema to be viewed as an entertainment form alone; or a form of protest, art, or social engagement? Can its current pop trends, format, and content be ascribed to Hollywood manipulations, technological advancement, artistic or social endeavors, or consumer demands? And can viewers and film producers at all levels contribute to the evolution of a greater screen culture, or is the form itself experiencing and reflecting a cultural crisis?
These and many other considerations mark a weighty and thought-provoking analysis that delves into the foundations of modern perception and production alike. Brass Ring is not the kind of production that lends to amateur pursuit. It demands a higher level of critical, analytical, artistic, philosophical, and social thinking from its readers, and requires the kind of background that a student of the arts will have firmly in hand.
Those with such experience will find that the heady blend of film history, critical analysis, and social inspection weaves an account that moves between past and present cinematic experience as it selects quotes from industry professionals and movies, considers past, present, and future forms of cinematic expression, and delves into the underlying historic technological, social, and artistic influences upon both producer and audience.
Using cinema's recent transition from analog to digital formats as a transition point, Brass Ring considers the extent of mainstream cinema's evolutionary process, building a case for why modern times represent a more crucial juncture to the survival and future of cinema than in the past.
In many ways, Brass Ring operates as a mirror between commercial interests and pressures and cultural reflection, considering such various facets as digitalization's attempts to reverse aging in actors, the illusions and dangers of CGI and CG representations ("One’s appearance at a given moment or stage in life isn’t simply a matter of height and the tautness of skin, but of the complexity of that person’s body in all its elements, in how these elements interact, within the body itself and in relation to its environment, visibly and invisibly, in the immediate sense and over extended periods. A world of dynamic materiality therefore stands against such effects – a materiality that viewers, particularly older viewers, are well aware of."), and how classic Hollywood principles of continuity, economy, and balance actually function in today's cinematic environment.
In other ways, Brass Ring's wider-ranging approach represents a departure from classical film analysis structures because it also considers the digital revision of classic films and film projects undertaken along with the writing of this book. These seek, through concrete projects supporting this analysis, to cement the connections between film commercial interests and cultural reception, response, and change.
At times, it feels like an overwhelming amount of information is provided. Time will be required to not just read through the wealth of information, but to properly absorb its critical perspectives. Specifics regarding medium choice, presentation, form, and contrasts between new technology and past devices provide thought-provoking scenarios that film students will find accessible and intriguing: "We often hear of movement being expressed in sculpture, but if a publicly displayed work is static (except for its decay by weather and other extraneous factors), how is this movement achieved? The simple answer is by movement elsewhere, at other moments, in objects and three-dimensional space that in some manner correspond with the piece at hand. The same applies to medium and form."
Perhaps the heart of the unique impact of this consideration lies in Stephen Rife's own active participation in the revisionist process in the projects that accompany this analysis. It is in his own notes reflecting on his cinematic effectiveness in light of new objectives that makes his book such a powerful, singular presentation: "If my alterations to the commercial materials were narratologically “true” to the films (i.e., if the alterations do not focus on mood, music, color, composition, etc., at the expense of narrative logic/legibility; as, for instance, an experimental short based on the same materials might be), and these alterations were subtle to the point of being undetectable (without the aid of ready comparison with the sources), then what could be admired as new, apart from a more convenient running time? Where is the achievement of the revision, if it says nothing – if no distinct voice is heard in critique, reflection, or repurposing? My only response to these questions was to reference the expository function of this book (at the time a work in progress). I argued that the revised ’Rings must be considered in the context of recent developments and trends in film, if it were to have any value beyond itself. A book, this book, might provide such a context. One could of course write a recent history of cinema unfavorable to consumer-authored, fundamentally reactive/derivative work, and the accountant’s history of commercial cinema, with its many decades of hits, sleepers, flops and blockbusters, seems destined to disfavor film art in its finer expressions – more so fan art, however fine. Odds are therefore against this project’s success, on the public screen it requires."
Students, contemporary film producers, critics, and industry analysts will find it's worth the time and effort to read Brass Ring's 700 pages of dense, reflective history, analysis, and insight. By couching its wisdom in real-world efforts, productions, revisionist approaches, and cinematic observation, Brass Ring offers a rare opportunity to formulate an informed protest against the trends of modern cinema in lieu of passively watching and accepting its demise.Brass Ring
Return to Index
Jo M. Sekimonyo
Venus Flytrap Press LLC
Ethosism is a pragmatic map to revolution that avoids the usual routes of linking itself to an 'ism' (i.e. socialism or communism) and comes from a self-proclaimed non-conformist of Congolese roots with ideals bred in America and steeped in intellectual purpose and analysis.
The first thing to note about Ethosism is its attention to social and political detail that combines autobiography with close social inspection using an often-passionate voice: "...once I reached dry land, my saneness and veracity did not make my life easier. I was always hunted down like a witch by mobs of sophists and anarchists. They sought to castrate and then burn me on a cross for my public plea to get rid of capitalism and my enmity for socialism and communism. I have come to expect that even people whose beliefs differ from strict economic orthodox views and Islamic economics shenanigans will find my voice to be exceedingly radical, but heresy?"
Jo M. Sekimonyo's narrative is powerfully written as he surveys basic principles of power. While better editing would have produced a smoother, more accurate presentation, what is lacking in grammatical preciseness is offset by a strong voice that clearly outlines issues of race, class, economics, and politics: "Individuals who see all the arguments for the free-market become blind to the arguments against it. To break the poor solidarity and to canonize moneyers, the new breed of slave traders has kept up with their mission of exorcising emotion out of people head. These deductions leave out the fact that sympathy toward the less fortunate is the human traits."
Some of Sekimonyo's perspectives neatly capture the Millennial perspective of the value of labor and the current system: "By lumping the poor together, poor countries in one pile, every side propaganda machine was able to paint out and sell stories of tragedy and triumph. The hoi polloi sleepwalked to a factory and performed a limited number of tasks. For their pathetic contribution, they received a minimal means for remaining in existence until their productivity mileage ran out. After what they were sent home with a bouquet of flowers to wait for the impendent death. The cycle made life a pointless charade."
The ideals and rise of an alternative system which is posed and identified in Ethosism is worthy of not just intellectual discourse, but classroom debate and attention from students of social, political, and economic systems. Ethosism offers a different perspective on business and society, with revenue and wages receiving top billing in contrast to capitalism's focus on production. Its possibilities as a new, socially-based revamp of economic and social perspectives will especially be welcomed by new generations who view the current system as flawed, repressive, and tainted by greed.Ethosism
Return to Index
How to Lie With
Charts, 4th Edition
Gerald Everett Jones
Public speakers, presenters, statistics students, and anyone who wants to understand how numbers translate into effective charts must make How to Lie With Charts part of their education. More so than any general book on statistical processes, uses, and translation, How to Lie With Charts provides a thorough understanding of the process of interpreting and compiling numbers. It creates a foundation textbook on data visualization that is central to understanding the abuses and uses of data; especially important in a world that increasingly focuses on such data as both essential and suspect.
One would expect Gerald Everett Jones to maintain that chart representations are ultimately positive; but the contention here is that charts (whether they be pies, radars, XY, or dashboard displays) all hold intrinsic opportunities for perpetuating lies.
Chapters probe how each type of chart lends to manipulation, from outright distortion to how different interpretations can lead to different results from skewing or alternately analyzing an apparent trend.
From basic underlying influences on choices of color representation to applying short-term trends to long-term projections, chapters outline just how various types of charts can be manipulated both overtly and covertly.
Flags accompany discussions to highlight paragraphs of explanations specific to 'Liar's Tricks' and 'Investor's Tips,' while visual light bulb drawings are employed to draw connections between subjects under discussion and those to be approached in forthcoming chapters.
Additionally, this new fourth edition covers social media disinformation and misinterpretation of metadata.
The result is a powerful, critical analysis that offers the specifics that consumers, businesspeople, and readers need in order to understand not only the contention that visuals and charts can be erroneous (either deliberately or unintentionally), but exactly how this happens.
How to Lie With Charts is very highly recommended as an essential, clear, thought-provoking text, and should be required reading not just for math or business courses, but for anyone interested in critical thinking and basic data analysis skills.How to Lie With Charts, 4th Edition
Return to Index
Lasting Happiness: Secrets of the Heart, Mind & Spirit Revealed offers a step-by-step blueprint to creating a better, richer life, making a clear statement of intentions in a foreword that leaves no room for doubt about the book's focus: "Your actual needs are few, and in your heart you know what you really want in life. But that's not what you work towards every day. You ignore the quiet inner voice of your true self. Instead, you listen to the much louder voices of your loved ones, of advertisers, and those in power, who push very different visions of what brings happiness. Your inner self tries to remind you of what matters, telling you the suggestions of those other voices lead away from your deepest desires. But you listen and follow them anyway, because of the benefits they give you, ignoring the costs. And so you fail to find happiness."
It would have been all too easy to proceed with a set of text instructions, but T.M. Hoy's tools and techniques for building a better life rest on visual photos that embellish a blend of how-to, historical, physiological, and psychological insights, pairing these with personal details of the author's own experiences.
This blend of approaches reinforces the concepts being presented, emphasizing lessons on everything from methods proven successful at bringing love into life to managing relationships with self and others and encouraging new experiences and connections that promote flexibility and expand one's capacity for love.
As readers move between admonition, scientific research, and psychological revelation, they begin to understand the unique approach of Lasting Happiness as a blueprint to not just survival, but for thriving.
There is a difference between existing and purposeful, joyful living. Hoy brings this disparity to life through examples, references, and identifying those factors and approaches that create flow, excellence, and revised perceptions of reality and possibility.
Lasting Happiness requires not just an open mind; but one committed to change. Its readers will range from new age to psychology and self-help students seeking to expand the possibilities of love and fulfillment in their own lives.
An index, extensive chapter notes and bibliographic references, and concluding discussions linking personal transformation processes with planet-wide social issues makes Lasting Happiness a powerful message highly recommended for anyone who would change the world, beginning with their own lives.Lasting Happiness
Return to Index
The Learning Project:
Rites of Passage
Mind Strength Balance
Print: 9781775288008 $24.95
ebook: 9781775288015 $ 8.99
Book website: http://www.mindstrengthbooks.
Distributors: Ingram, KDP
The Learning Project: Rites of Passage reinvents the basic concept of becoming human and growing from life learning approaches, collecting interview stories from those who have adopted different approaches to this evolutionary process, as outlined in The Learning Project.
Discussions of mind/body healing and psychology too often tend to become singular as they represent accounts from subjects all too similar in their perspectives. One of The Learning Project's strengths lies in its focus on dissimilar individuals who come from diverse walks of life, cultures, and backgrounds, who arrive at similar results and key decisions through very different paths.
From artists and psychologists to scientists, medical professionals, everyday blue collar workers, and sports personalities, these individuals provide stories on how to take control of life. The individuals interviewed for this book were each asked three basic questions: What are the most important things you've learned, how did you learn them, and what do you hope to accomplish?
Their answers illustrate different approaches to and perceptions of success and failure and offer a blend of philosophical, psychological, and spiritual insights that help pinpoint the roots of effective, life-changing lessons. As individual as these insights might be; together they serve as a blueprint especially recommended for readers embarking on their own lifelong growth process.
The format of The Learning Project is particularly notable. One might expect an interview structure, but Stoller also includes black and white photos of each subject, an introductory history of their lives, and concludes interviews with notable roundups that help readers hone in on why each person is exceptional, as in the example of the interview with the late Jerome Lettvin, a university professor and a famous neurophysiologist, engineer, and psychiatrist: "... you’re asking me how I go about things. I go about things in a way that has nothing to do with what universities teach. It’s very different from what universities tell you to do, what teachers tell you to do. You make it up as you go along, and god knows how it comes out; you don’t know…I’m a garbage picker-upper as a mode of science: I focus on the garbage truck. I look at the parts that others choose not to pay attention to. It’s interesting the number of things that are not paid attention to… absolutely astounding.”
Another subject, Nancy White, has ADD and remarks on how her learning abilities, albeit different from the norm, were powerful avenues to individuality and achievement: "My purpose was set in the womb, and my purpose was learning. That’s always been my identity. I’m interested in so many things, and my ADD contributes to that by giving me this open focus in which everything catches my attention. I want to know about everything, and I want to do it. As I went to school I found that I didn’t function like everybody else. My learning was unique and my thoughts were unique. Luckily this was in a world before the classrooms were large and the teachers were impatient. It was before they thought teaching had to do with how well you did on a test. I wanted to be constantly engaged and stimulated, and my ADD expressed itself by my talking and interrupting."
The Learning Project is no droll compilation of student experience, but a thoroughly engrossing exploration of the kinds of learning that stem from a blend of personality traits, life experience and challenges, and different approaches to how adversity is handled.
Anyone interested in the actual mechanics of lifelong changes, success, and growth will realize that The Learning Project offers an unprecedented, invaluable key to achievement that no growth-oriented learner should bypass.The Learning Project: Rites of Passage
Return to Index
1633937429 Softcover $18.95/hardcover $26.95
Author website: athinkingpatient.com
Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/
Barnes and Noble link: https://www.
Because Regression is told from the point of view of an autistic woman and author who struggled with her condition for years before the medical community caught up with her situation and special needs, it should be forewarned that its descriptions and insights will pose a challenge to some readers.
The challenge lies not in understanding, but in the vivid recreation of memories, experiences, and perceptions that form a visceral, immediate series of encounters more heavily laced with description than most accounts of autism: "Miss Teacher was saying something about how Jesus commands us to love everyone like they’re our brothers and sisters. I’d been told I had a brother. My mother said the screaming creature in the bayonet was a brother. I only had the vaguest idea of what brother meant. The piercing cries that came from the bayonet made me run outside to hide. I listened to Miss Teacher say how Jesus said I was supposed to love everyone like I loved the creature in the bayonet, but I didn’t love that creature at all. It was loud. Its skin smelled like puke, poop, and cigarettes. Everything in the house smelled like cigarettes, but when you put puke and poop smells on top of cigarette smells, it’s too much. I didn’t want to go anywhere near the creature." This description is just the opening act of an autobiography that represents one of the most starkly compelling accounts of the autistic experience in print.
From her clashes with various levels of work and society ("We’ve decided not to move forward with your training. You won’t be going to the management course in Michigan.” My eyes widened. “Whaa—” “You’re no longer a candidate for promotion, is what I’m saying. It has nothing to do with you going to the hospital. Nothing at all. We’re just changing course with our goals and needs as a company,” he added without taking a breath. “We’re going to assign your team to Travis. He’ll be going for leadership training; you’ll be going back to the floor. “You know, you really just have to pick yourself up and get over this. Shake it off. Pull yourself together. I’ve had problems with anxiety before and I pulled myself together, because that’s what people have to do.”) to Twilah Hiari's push/pull confrontations with life and self, episodes create vivid portraits of the author's confrontations with therapies, diagnoses, medications, and a medical community that tends to misunderstand and add to Hiari's various life challenges.
From PTSD and cognitive assessment testing to restoring abilities lost during crippling regression processes, Hiari's life is under the microscope—and so is the reader's perception of autism, mental illness, and treatment programs.
The popular notion is that autism is a medical condition independent from environmental and medical influence. Hiari refutes this and other lies as she pursues the process of surviving not just her condition, but the medical community's misunderstanding.
Any reader interested in autism experiences, diagnosis, and life changes must include Regression on their reading list. No, it's not an easy read. It's one to be digested slowly, because it's guaranteed to dispute popular perceptions and snap assessments of autism's reality.Regression
Return to Index
Lymer & Hart/Garden Oak Press
All veteran teachers have gone through substitute teaching years, so Andy Palasciano's incidents and encounters in The Warrior: Tales of A Substitute Teacher and Job Coach will well resonate with the experiences of many. But, wait: what is that 'job coach' reference tacked onto the title? This is what elevates the memoir The Warrior to more than another teacher's story, because it tackles much more than adolescent angst and instructive conundrums.
Palasciano actually faces two problems: wanting to be liked by his students, and a spiritual crisis that thwarts many of his efforts in life; teaching included. It's the spiritual aspect of his journey that's charted here, and which leads to his new identity as a job coach.
The road to that unexpected career is laced with humor, gratitude, growth, and observations about the process of learning and changing, bringing readers along for the uplifting, challenging ride. The message is clear and illustrates many thought-provoking moments about the wellspring of instruction and its authenticity. Teachings transmitted with faith-based conviction tend to reach students, while those which are imparted without foundation tend to be refuted or rejected.
Palasciano captures these poignant thoughts and moments with an uncanny flair for not just description, but psychological and spiritual enlightenment laced in more than a light dose of humor: "When I said things that weren’t guided by God, the kids would act as though I hadn’t said anything at all. I began agreeing with them. Why should they pay attention to anyone but God? I should have listened to other teachers who tried to give me advice on how to control a class. When I first started, a teacher told me, “You can’t show fear. You have to believe in what you are telling them.” Fear was all over my face. I refused to bribe the kids with candy bars (one teacher’s suggestion), and I couldn’t keep threatening them with detention (another piece of advice). “I’m going to give them the choice to listen to me," I told myself, "or run rabid.” The kids chose the latter."
Guided by his belief, Palasciano evolves beyond his expectations and perceptions of being a teacher and enters the uncharted territory of life coaching as he hones his skills, tackles his students and his faith, and ultimately arrives at paths which make sense to him.
Identifying those elements that stimulate him are just part of this process, which Palasciano documents with many insights and reflections on the building of life, career, and goals: "I kept trying to avoid boredom. Ironically, thinking a lot withers the mind, while boredom and downtime preserve it. My whole life had been downtime, so being a Job Coach sent my mind into uptime."
From surfing to bailing out, using comedy as a "way to shut doors" and absorbing dreams to represent turning points in life, the author's journey is at once whimsical, memorable, and packed with lessons.
Readers seeking a memoir imparted in a light-hearted, accessible manner that ultimately captures life-affirming methods, movements, and memories will relish The Warrior for its moving account of being lost, finding purpose, and the recurring theme of 'coolness' that permeates a life well lived.The Warrior
Return to Index
Garden Oak Press
What Luck contains 85 poems that represent a series of contrasts not just in subject, but in tone and style. With such diversity under one cover, it might be easy to say that the result is scattered and not uniform. However, the connecting point to this collection lies not in subject or format, but in Suzanne O'Connell's unique way of tying in seemingly disparate topics to create a broader perspective than the individual writings could have achieved using a more singular approach.
Take the first poem, 'Chances Are', for example. Two mothers are portrayed, sitting in a living room, taking a break from the rigors of parenting. They are not in a bar, and this is a 'slice of life' observed by an stranger outside their window; but their attitudes and life are deftly captured: "The mothers pile up their regrets/like unpaid bills./They want someone to look at them/with stars from the skies in their eyes." The ghostly observer looking through the window ultimately can't discern whether these mothers are being loved or killed by their offspring in this powerfully-written observation of parenting.
Contrast this with the first-person approach of 'Conversation at Musso and Frank's.' Here the observer is also participant, and as the narrator shares lunch with a companion and asks "what kind of train" each can be, she also hones an astute observation of the weight of dreams, reality, and connections.
Each poem offers a contrast in lives and sums up its observations with astute, rich, diverse conclusions. Each creates a dialogue between reader and first-person narrator, and many are complimented with black and white photos that visually embellish some aspect of the poem.
The result is a collection that is ripe in imagery and experience, from a description of a "bucket of sighs" to connections between romantic partners, friends, and strangers.
Poetry enthusiasts seeking descriptive connections will relish What Luck, which operates in a powerfully evocative, visual world that often concludes with especially poignant food for thought: "I wish things were different,” he said. “Me too,” I said. He thought I meant I wanted to become a better listener."What Luck
Return to Index
Yoga for Writers: Quick and
Easy Fitness at Your Computer
e-book: 978-1-988904-20-7 $ 4.99
Print book: 978-1-988904-19-1 $18.99
Nook - Barnes and Noble
Author Website: www.tayloredaniel.com
Yoga for Writers: Quick and Easy Fitness at Your Computer addresses a common complaint among not just writers, but those who have desk jobs: the lack of activity and the concurrent dearth of time that lead to an inability to perform typical yoga or exercise regimens.
Taylore Daniel has crafted an alternative that leaves little room for either excuse: a series of yoga exercises that can be inserted into a busy sit-down day at computer or desk.
Daniel observes that "more and
more of our lives are automated" and notes not
only that "...there’s a paradox at
work, because the more 'ease' we have in our lives, the more 'dis-ease'
in our bodies," but that "According
to recent studies, 'Sitting is the new smoking.' That is, it wreaks
havoc on our health."
With these thoughts in mind, all desk-bound individuals (not just writers) should keep Yoga for Writers close at hand. It offers an alternative that is easy, achievable, and requires no special time commitment, exercise equipment, or prior yoga savvy in order to prove accessible.
Chapters offer not only the anticipated step-by-step written instructions, but include a handy line drawing of the pose being described and introduce each with a "Why do it?" exploration of the pose's benefits.
60-second "micro-break" instructions offer additional instruction on duration, while a peppering of quotes from doctors and professionals reinforce health ideas.
The routines are organized by chapter heading covering health purpose and yoga stance, and each makes the most of 60-second “micro-breaks” that not only improve health, but supercharge the writer or worker’s creative impulse.
The result is a book that can be used by any reader, but which is especially recommended for those who want to expand the notion of 'break time' to include productive revitalization.Yoga for Writers: Quick and Easy Fitness at Your Computer
Return to Index
The Adventures of
Fawn: The Ona Pendulum
Al E. Boy
Al E. Boy, Publisher
978-1979055529 $14.99 Paper/$3.50 ebook
The Adventures of Fawn: The Ona Pendulum returns Fawn and her friends to a second book and a new adventure revolving around a mission to save a magical device that allows Santa to remain ageless.
While this holiday theme and the animal characters would seem to indicate The Ona Pendulum is a read for youngsters, it should be mentioned that its complexity, length (over six hundred pages), and insights lend to its recommendation for all ages; not just kids.
The fundamental concept behind this adventure is Santa's motivation for being who he is and doing what he does. This focus is not only the heart of the inquiry, but provides much food for thought throughout as Fawn and her friends absorb the history of Santa legend and assess the talents of Kris, elves, and a patchwork of problems that challenge Santa's mission and Fawn's efforts to support him.
In a way, The Ona Pendulum serves as a beacon of hope and change as they confront a pendulum capable of redefining the aging process. What is set in motion by a toy maker and a young wizard may soon prove greater than their efforts, with consequences that cannot be reversed: "Before the Ona Pendulum is set in motion you must decide if you want to undergo this change to your lives. I must warn you. It is irreversible. If you do not wish to do so--you must leave now!”
From issues of staying young forever to maintaining the ultimate goal of helping others, Kris and his companions each tackle the special challenges of keeping elves safe and the Christmas spirit intact. A series of tests to the safety of the Ona Pendulum and those who seek to use it create adventures that ebb and flow from one conundrum to another.
Black and white drawings pepper the story and lend to its feel of appeal to children rather than adults; but the story line itself poses adventure, action, and much food for thought, creating a contrast between the characters designed to appeal to youth and the philosophical approaches that will resonate with older readers.
Can people, elves, and animals all live together in peace and harmony? How can Fawn continue to grow in a way that expands her potential and her connections with her community? The Adventures of Fawn: The Ona Pendulum concludes with questions that will leave all ages thinking long after the possibilities and promise of the Ona Pendulum have been thoroughly explored.The Adventures of Fawn: The Ona Pendulum
Return to Index
Audrey’s Magic Nine
Book 2: The Pencil and the Dream
Courtney Huddleston and Michelle Wright
Young Audrey Hinkle is on a quest to locate nine magic puppets to defeat a queen in another realm in this middle grade fantasy story. The Pencil and the Dream is the second book in the series, continuing her explorations with a tale that works well both as a sequel to the first adventure or as a stand-alone read.
First, it should be noted that this novel differs from other fantasy reads in many ways. It's told in over a hundred pages of full-color graphic illustrations that will appeal to kids who like visual embellishment to accompany their stories; it features a dynamic black female protagonist whose grit and determination fuels an epic story of achievement; and it holds many underlying messages about perseverance, creative problem-solving, unconditional love, and broader issues that embrace the well-being not just of the protagonist and her circle of friends, but all around her.
Audrey is not just a 'do-gooder' but is a savvy child able to perceive the underlying motivations of others and the problems these may represent: "...Tabitha and Jonathan will be sooo disappointed in me." "Oh lass, I know they’re good people, but I think they run you ragged just to impress their “friends”…and by friends I mean a pack of jackals. Nasty critters."
Humor and wisdom runs alongside Audrey's quest as events unfold and lead to questions about her choices, motivations, and those of both realms who help her both willingly and because they've been compelled to ("I do not know you, yet you have awakened me into a world of cruelty.").
Another note is that many of the action panels are wordless, leading young readers to fill in blanks and draw connections between words and actions and results which need no text to prove evident and obvious.
With the magical Asa in tow, Audrey romps through her quest and brings young readers along for a colorful, action-packed ride.
The Pencil and the Dream is a fantasy that holds many powerful attributes, especially the colorful cartoons that draw attention to a story that neatly moves beyond a fantasy quest alone to delve into issues of understanding, ethical behavior, choices and consequences, and kindness to others.
Advanced elementary to middle grade fans of the graphic novel format will relish the many levels of magic in Audrey's journey, which pairs beautifully-drawn art panels with a story steeped in truths and much food for thought.Audrey’s Magic Nine Book 2: The Pencil and the Dream
Return to Index
The Black Cloud Blues
Christine A. Emery
Koehler Kids – imprint of Koehler Books
ISBN 978-1-63393-819-9 (soft cover) $16.95
ISBN 978-1-63393-821-2 (hard cover) $24.95
ISBN 978-1-63393-820-5 (eBook) $3.99
The Black Cloud Blues is illustrated by Kellie R. Emery, who brings to life the dark story of a youngster who feels a 'black cloud hanging over me' which he inherits from his father, who got it from his dad. This 'cloud of doom' has passed through many generations; but the uplifting message here is that the cloud can be lifted. But, how?
As the young narrator reviews why positive thinking is so elusive and considers some of the many worries which keep that black cloud active, young readers receive an enlightening account of which efforts can thwart the cloud and why some just don't work.
"Woe is me!" the character cries as his various creative approaches fail. When he encounters a savior that actually can make a difference, a lighter, brighter story emerges that, while a fantasy, offers hope and a real-world approach to ending depression and negativity.
Adults and kids who share this story will benefit from a tale that doesn't deny the strength of depression; but offers a way out. The lively format and realistic descriptions stay true to real life, embellishing just enough to provide entertainment as well as enlightenment. Adults looking for insightful and involving psychology reads to share with the very young will find this survey of confronting depression to be compelling, educational, and fun all in one.The Black Cloud Blues
Return to Index
The Crowns of
The Crowns of Croswald will appeal to readers ages 9-12 who like solid fantasy, strong female protagonists, and tales of magical realms. Ivy Lovely has lived her sixteen years unaware of the magic inside her, consigned to the role of a drudge, working the kitchen with dragons. When her own powers begin to emerge, she discovers strange new forces afoot outside the Halls of Ivy, a school designed to help hone magical abilities and protect those within from the dangers of the world.
Young adults will enjoy this complex world where dangers lie beyond the magical barrier that has protected Ivy all her life. There are dragons and a myriad of strange creatures, royalty, different stones that produce magical connections, and a different form of magic that stands out from other young adult fantasies.
D.E. Night crafts a rich world filled with interesting characters, special interests, and a feisty young protagonist new to many concepts of the world around her, and this draws in readers with an easy hand despite the potentially confusing complexity of such a rich tapestry of images and backgrounds.
In order to build such a world, details are a necessity: many of them. Young readers seeking a quick adventure read might at first chafe at the depth of description and the many characters and subplots running through The Crowns of Croswald. There is also more than mild similarity to the Harry Potter series; but rather than being a detriment, these just lend to the story's appeal to Potter fans craving more than the Potter background, because Ivy diverts from Harry in many different ways even as her adventures and encounters are just as full-flavored.
Not all potential avenues are fully explored, here. A hint of possible romance, for example, is unrequited between friends. This means that some developments simply don't happen the way readers might anticipate, and this is another plus to the story: its many unpredictable choices. Ivy thinks she "didn't do anything" when in fact her choices and actions mean she is doing so much more than anyone around her believes possible. Nonstop action and confrontation power Ivy's quest in a manner that makes The Crowns of Croswald nearly impossible to put down and a compelling young adult fantasy that excels in all the trappings of a fine quest/magic saga.
Ivy is a believable protagonist who evolves from drudge to heroine, confronts a set of challenges to her awakening powers and possibilities, faces down a Dark Queen whose evil affects the world, and makes a seeming-futile attempt to save Croswald before it becomes buried in deception.
Fans of Harry Potter who want a read-alike that is both similar and divergent in its structure and world will relish The Crowns of Croswald as an exciting, challenging magical adventure whose greatest asset is the story of a young heroine whose courage and daring powers a compelling journey to not just save the world, but discover herself.The Crowns of Croswald
Return to Index
The Crowns of
Croswald: The Girl with the Whispering Shadow
The Girl with the Whispering Shadow is the second book in the series and is especially recommended for prior fans The Crowns of Croswald. This is because D.E. Night creates a rich, complex world whose foundations are nicely laid out in the prior book, and those with this foundation will find renewed and easy access to the events befalling Ivy Lovely on her latest quest to locate the last pieces of the Kindred Stone which will save Croswald from the Dark Queen.
In this surprise sequel, Ivy finds her destiny lies not at the school she loves, but in the secret town of Belzebuthe. At this point, her quest becomes two-fold: to find the rest of the Stone and save the world, and to return to her beloved Halls of Ivy school. At this point, these seem to be impossible goals.
Ivy's nightmares about the Dark Queen's threat spills into her walking life as she is charged with new tasks, reunites with the now-older Fyn, confronts her feelings about her own growth and mission, and tackles a mystery that returns favorite characters to the foreground and adds new challenges.
Obviously, Ivy has matured, but her journey of self-discovery is no less vivid in this sequel. It's this growth process and journey which fuels the magical action and encounters with good and evil in The Girl with the Whispering Shadow, which really comes into its own as Ivy confronts more trouble, is deemed "strong even though she is small," and confronts a school curse that began the prior year and has gained in strength.
As Ivy comes to grasp the Stone itself and realize its long-hidden truth, so she begins to realize her own powers, her resources, and the ultimate consequences of her actions.
Once again, the story is directed to ages 9-12; but many an adult who appreciated Harry Potter's stories and who also seeks a story spiced by a feisty young protagonist's journey will find that The Girl with the Whispering Shadow gives Harry a run for his money both with a complex, involving, believable background story and in a tale that is filled with action, revelation, and satisfyingly unexpected twists and turns.
Ivy is growing up; and she's bringing her readers along for the wild ride into maturity, magic, and achievement.The Crowns of Croswald: The Girl with the Whispering Shadow
Return to Index
978-1790192960 $9.99 Softcover/$2.99 ebook
Picture book stories based on Buddhist tales are relatively rare; much less those whose illustrations are inspired by the cave paintings of Mogao at Dunhuang and Kizil. Adults who choose Dragon Girl for its read-aloud potential and appropriateness for young readers might initially think such discussions are beyond the scope of a child's imagination. However, Dragon Girl is perfectly couched in the terminology, bright drawings, and perspective of a child, and thus brings the basic concepts in the Buddhist Lotus Sutra story "Devadatta" to life in an evocative manner.
A wise, kind princess, Dragon Girl, lives in a palace under the sea. She has all the toys and riches a young princess could desire; but she still feels that something is missing in her very privileged life.
Another rarity for a book for children's audiences is its focus not just on stating emotions, but exploring how they feel. The princess thus feels "like she was sleeping" or "trapped in a dream," and when she comes to realize that nobody perceives a world outside her palace, she suddenly understands that physical riches are merely "distractions."
By now, it should be evident that parents who choose this lovely book for its read-aloud enlightenment should be prepared to engage with their young picture book reader on many levels (psychological, philosophical, and spiritual) to explain and explore concepts typically limited to adults.
Where others might be lulled into complacency by riches and a sense of ennui, Dragon Girl wants to be awake. The process which defines awakening from sleeping states is clearly outlined. Reading, contemplation, meditation, and self-examination are all paths which lead her to the Buddha, the first to wake up, who chooses to visit and help her.
From the prejudice she experiences from monks who believe a kid and a girl cannot top their own sage efforts to awaken to how her awakening changes the world and its perceptions, Dragon Girl is rich in spiritual understanding. It's narrated using a compelling story line and a tone and richness of word and character that will appeal to any child, as well as to adults looking to introduce basic Buddhist concepts to the very young.Dragon Girl
Return to Index
Diane Merrill Wigginton
Jeweled Dagger Publishing Company
eBook ISBN: 978-1-946146-09 $ 7.99
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-946146-90-8 $19.95
Publisher Website: www.jeweleddaggerpublishing.
Barnes and Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.
19th century Irish lass Lara Flannigan seems firmly rooted in her home, surrounded by loving family; but when tragedy strikes, she embarks on a journey that leads her to another country, family, and a life that crosses not only oceans, but social class.
Becoming a high-society Philadelphia girl holds heartbreak as much as opportunity as Lara is forced to shed her childhood connections to assume a role she doesn't quite fit into: the new daughter of a posh couple.
In Ireland, Lara notes: "Our days were long and our lives were hard, but our nights belonged to us. I never knew life could be anything other than what I had experienced. My world was very small in those days, so I never missed the things I didn’t have." America is quite different, however, and she arrives at her new home at age 13 as a grieving, disillusioned child angry about her losses and changes. She doesn't view America as an opportunity, and because she's been transplanted as a blossoming teen, she'll hold memories of the 'old country' all her life: "Oh, I have everything a person could ever desire. Enough food to ward off hunger for a lifetime. Good health, a beautiful home, fashionable clothes, and the love of my family. I truly have every comfort one could want at my disposal, yet still, I long to recover the missing pieces of myself torn from me the day I left my native land of Ireland. A loss that can still be keenly felt whenever I lay my head down upon my pillow at night. And even though I am far from familiar old haunts, I swear I hear the land beckoning to me in my dreams, calling from across the ocean, summoning me home to the cliffs of Dunmore Head on the westernmost shores of Ireland. Closing my eyes now, I can still recall the smell and taste of the breeze on my tongue and the tangy feel of her salty sea air as it mixes with the sweet scents of wildflowers growing on her craggy cliffs..."
As Lara opens a Pandora's Box of memories for her fiancée, she invites readers to enter the panorama of her past, present and future. This unleashes a treasure trove of experiences that embrace both personal challenge and evolving American and Irish history.
Lara's Story is a young adult historical fiction read well steeped in the cultures and young challenges of two evolving nations which come together in Lara's immigrant experience. Diane Merrill Wigginton excels at bringing this world's sights, sounds, smells, and texture to life through Lara's eyes, lending a personal touch to historical events that includes astute observations of social classes, differences, and struggles.
In 1840, Lara has a foot in both the common lives of ordinary people and the elevated experiences and expectations of her adopted family and world. These clashes and contrasts make for a vivid story line powered by personal perspectives. Lies, truths, love and death, and the wrenching choices of poverty which lead to secrets and closely-held passions create a vivid, memorable saga that readers of all ages will find hard to put down.
Spiced by spunky Lara's determination and challenges, Lara's Story offers up a treasure trove of immigrant experience from both countries, weaving them into a vibrant tale that is evocative, thought-provoking, and nicely steeped in the cultures, economics, social issues, and history of its times.
The concluding section of 'True But Interesting Facts About History' will especially delight teachers who choose Lara's Story for its combination of historical insights and leisure reader appeal.Lara's Story
Return to Index
Robert Anning and the
Robert Anning and the Almanac gives middle grade readers a detective story with a twist: unlike Encyclopedia Brown and others who readily receive and solve cases, Robert struggles with shyness and a resistance to public speaking. This impedes not only his schoolwork, but threatens his goal to become an investigator like his father.
Few other middle grade detective works draw close connections between school ambitions and life purpose. Felix Ang's story presents a multifaceted conundrum where Robert's decisions, perspectives, and struggles operate on many levels, and this is one of the facets that make Robert Anning and the Almanac such a vivid, engaging read, and a standout above more singular detective stories for kids.
The opening of this story immediately sets the stage for something satisfyingly original because the introduction is made not from Robert's perspective, but from the chatty, confiding tone of a narrator who tells a story about the Anning family, whom he met "quite a while back."
Robert's father Thomas, a detective, is looking into the murder of a singer. Fast forward some years, when the town of Hurgleight seems to have largely forgotten these events. Robert is now eleven years old.
His biggest problem isn't his ambitious dream to emulate his father, but getting through a public speaking class successfully, which is key to being able to enter the detective academy next year. His wise father advises him to break his big problem down into small segments; but Robert seems unable to make any headway in class.
Problem-solving puzzling cases, however, is another story: at this, Robert excels. A major heist tests these abilities but heaps additional challenges onto Robert's already-full plate. The puzzle over a missing museum Almanac, a kidnapper, and an astute young investigator who may have trouble with public speaking, but has no limitations in problem-solving creates an engrossing story that should interest readers far beyond the middle school grade level.
Robert Anning and the Almanac is an engrossing story of a young investigator's can-do attitude against all odds. Robert's investigation of the real power of the Almanac and the truth about its value creates a vivid romp through a small town, fantastic inventions, and a world akin to our own, albeit with some frightening differences.
From why Mr. Shutter's class proves such a challenge, and its real purpose, to Robert's struggle with his own evolving abilities, Robert Anning and the Almanac is a delightfully original, fast-paced, engrossing read packed with unexpected twists and turns that will keep all ages immersed right up to its unexpected Christmas conclusion.
Very highly recommended!Robert Anning and the Almanac
Return to Index