July 2018 Review Issue
Jessica Mae Stover
978-0-9970544-1-5 (epub/ iBooks)
978-0-9970544-0-8 (mobi / Kindle)
When a war goes on for too long, it can become mundane, predictable, and perhaps even part of everyday life. That's what appears to have happened with the 100-year interplanetary war that is no longer receiving attention in Astral Fall.
The first thing to note about this military sci-fi read is that Jessica Mae Stover goes beyond capturing military strategy and hierarchies, including psychological details and tension designed to attract non-military buffs with a thrilling adventure story.
The opening line from a top-secret memo by media specialist Briar at first reads like a step-by-step play, but it quickly becomes evident that Briar is describing a horrible scene of ambush and death. A few paragraphs later, events are depicted from the third person perspective of the (now-old) battle logs of the Red Theater, imparting lessons for modern-day combatants in the field.
Intelligence recons gone bad, biomech transitions, terrestrial alien engagements, and deep space operations quickly enter a picture complicated by changing leader perceptions of past, present, and future engagements.
Several great military fighters have designs on
this century-long conflict. These broader-thinking individuals stand to
lose much as they dare to consider approaches no other leader has
will also change reader perceptions about military skills and their
Without providing spoilers, suffice it to say that Astral Fall
attempts to identify, address, and turn upside down
reader preconceptions of battlegrounds, conflicts, gender assignments,
nature of military sci-fi as a genre. And, it succeeds.
Prepare for many surprises in Astral Fall. Even readers who formerly believed themselves open to any possibility will find many presumptions challenged; whether it be concepts of aliens and humanity, military might, ethical and moral choices, or impossible hostage situations.
Think the classic Ender's Game, but without any attempt to mimic Orson Scott Card's scenarios or success. Think a military battle structure holding the epic confrontations of Lord of the Rings, complete with its promise of multiple series books; yet with an attention to intricate detail that belays the (too-often) hasty series production. There is no artificial division of action felt in Astral Fall: it's a complete story that may end with a cliffhanging bang; but it reveals a world readers will want to pursue. Why?
Because they'll have spent an unusually long period of time with a satisfyingly complex and lengthy read that takes the proper time to create not just a world, but a universe in which confrontations between alien and humanity have become more than commonplace and seemingly undeserving of obsession.
Suffice it to say that casual fans of military sci-fi looking for dramatic entertainment will find themselves challenged by such a winding plot, characters, and complex universe. This isn't for the light sci-fi reader; but for the fan of Ender's Game who appreciated that story for its intense moral and ethical surprises, and who will discover the same kind of attention to thought-provoking scenarios here, as an endless conflict unwinds to its final conclusion.
Astral Fall is highly recommended for any military sci-fi fan looking for superior writing and fresh, original plots.Astral Fall
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Aaron Michael Ritchey
978-1-61475-648-4 $16.99 Paper/$4.99 Kindle
Bindweed Highway is Book 4 of The Juniper Wars series, set in 2058 after a devastating epidemic has resulted in a mostly-female world. In this world, electrical failure has resulted in a five-state alliance, the Juniper, which is considered a deadly territory even to Cavatica Weller and her gunslinging sisters, who have carved out their survival niche in the face of ongoing threats and disasters.
The first powerful device to note about Bindweed Highway is the same atmosphere that makes the other books in this series compelling: Aaron Michael Ritchey's attention to language that is a powerful blend of vivid description and Western candor and lingo translated to a futuristic realm: "Holy Mary, Mother of God, you can’t help me with this next part of my story ’cause I don’t believe in you, in Saint Joseph, in Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a mule. When I was in the autumn of my sixteenth year, the silence of God drifted down upon me and I faltered. Micaiah and Pilate, the two men I loved to hate, and hated to love, had been stolen from us, or so we thought when we found the coffee mug and the bracelet outside of Glenwood Springs. The city was burning even as zeppelins shined spotlights down, trying to find us."
Part of the exceptional enchantment of this series lies this language, which injects unexpectedly vivid descriptors into the story line to create continual surprises and engrossing revelations: "Since Wren could heal at a preternatural rate, her muscles never started to atrophy. She’d grown stronger, faster, and more deadly. She’d put the beatdown on two grown men back in Aces’s gladiatorial games in Glenwood Springs. But now, maybe the Gulo Delta was mutating her on a more aggressive level. Her entire skeletal structure seemed to be thickening. Maybe it was the first part of her mutating. But mutating into what? A hog? No, that was prolly just gossip. The women in the Juniper loved rumors like they liked refried beans and queso dip."
This approach transcends the usual 'show and tell' method of other authors of apocalyptic scenarios to grab readers by the collar, gives them a shake, and drops them headfirst into a heady brew of clashing environments and personalities that quickly proves hard to stop imbibing.
One might anticipate that the fourth book in a series includes the prerequisite of prior familiarity; but Ritchey's ability to sum up past events and set the scenario and pace of his world makes for an unusual stand-alone read (although those enamored of this book will surely want to pursue the others, which hold different adventures paired with the same vibrant language).
As the Weller sisters battle their way towards frontier Kansas, they discover that their enemies may not just lie around them but are within their own ranks.
Blend powerful female protagonists, volatile interactions between them and outside forces, and a rich, first-person perspective that deftly observes this strange new world and how it came to be ("The mint passed on my right, a nice big park, the Capital building, but with the roof gone on account of the gold. The U.S. Military had come in after the Knockout to get the money in the mint and to get the gold on the dome ’cause Lady Liberty was funding a war with China and every bit of cash helped.") for an exhilarating, powerful saga that both stands nicely on its own and compliments the series.
It's rare that this can be stated; but steampunk sci-fi and Western fiction readers alike will relish Bindweed Highway and its kin, which represent an unusual marriage between genres that usually are widely separated.
Very, very highly recommended.Bindweed Highway
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Magic After Midnight
Publisher: C. Gockel
ASIN: B07CG36L43 $ 4.99
ISBN-13: 978-1717012326 $18.99
Magic After Midnight's paranormal romance revolves around a strange romance between individuals who are literally from different worlds, and is based upon a work Gockel originally wrote as a short story. While reference is made to events and people in the I Bring the Fire series, prior familiarity is not required in order to enter this piece as a stranger to Gockel's world.
Marcia lives in a modern Chicago filled with magic. She is raising three children, and to one of them at least, she's the wicked stepmother who needs to be overcome. Count Darerick Razvano ("Dare") is a Night Elf who appears half her age and is in command of a secret that Marcia inadvertently stumbles upon.
Romance may be in the wind for these two; but it doesn’t immediately ignite upon their initial encounter. There's a world of difference between them, special interests (children and world-preserving), and the satisfying challenges of a world both different and familiar to readers: "In the living room, the magical activity reporter on the local news is saying, “No trolls or wyrms have been spotted in Chicago today. The sea monster sighted in Lake Michigan was a partially deflated pool toy—” Since she’ll be driving a rental car tonight, the news that there won’t be any magical-monster related traffic jams should make her relieved, but she feels too sick to care."
When Marcia barged into the strange Night Elf Official Residence, she felt good: a new feeling, considering the illness that consumed her at the beginning of the story. Her world is finally opening up instead of contracting, and as she returns to the streets of Chicago and faces challenges apart from health concerns, Marcia brings readers along into the world of Night Elves, Dark Elves, Light Elves, World Gates, and much more.
C. Gockel is an expert at introducing background within a wider context of action and adventure: so much so that newcomers barely realize they're being given an introductory primer on this strange reality through Marcia's eyes as they follow her dilemmas and struggles.
This background shapes Marcia's world in such a way that entry into it is seamless, incorporating such specific questions as the notion that magic can either create or cure cancer; whether the royal factions of Earth and elves can find common causes and ideals; and if the age difference between two beings (Marcia's 50 years versus Dare's "three thousand and some odd centuries”) will hinder the development of their relationship and deeper connections.
There's also an unexpected and regular dash of humor added to events as Marcia faces both life-changing struggles and the antics of elves who unwittingly release magic onto the internet in the form of a dancing virus.
Changing atmospheres and encounters are very agreeably detailed throughout the tale ("Dinner is over, and in the museum wing of the embassy a group of Night Elves is playing on traditional instruments. Prince Rayne is teaching a Saudi Prince and the year’s Top Model a traditional dance. The floor is a moving tapestry of humans and Night Elves swirling together."), bringing this odd world to life through Marcia's eyes.
As adventure moves rapidly beyond parenting, ancient secrets, and modern struggles between these two very different worlds, readers receive a satisfyingly complex, multifaceted read that is engrossing, yet easy to absorb and nearly impossible to put down, once begun.
Magic After Midnight takes the ordinary trappings of a magical encounter and injects it with new life. With such a series of engrossing characters and conundrums, it stands out from ordinary genre reads with an original and lively flare and spark.Magic After Midnight
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Musical Road Kills
Just Ain't Right Books
Musical Road Kills is both a memoir and a caution, documenting alt rocker author Nevard Tellalian's career, her stormy love affair fellow with musician Joey Ramone, and her touring days with such big name musicians as Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon. The memoir part reviews her extensive experiences in the music world and includes ribald scenes of drug use and sexual encounters. The cautionary note lies in its outline for would-be musicians and groupies about the consequences of such a lifestyle. Understanding the pressures, forces, political, and psychological challenges of a life on the road will help educate those contemplating a similar lifestyle.
Part of the charm of Musical Road Kills also lies in a critique about its style and presentation: this is not a polished piece. Awkward phrasing ("If other members of your band sing, problems like this are not so looming."), the overuse of capitalization even mid-sentence ("If you're reading this, you might not know it really DOES take a while to set up, mic, and get the sound you're looking for on drums, but if you don't want to take the time required, it's just LAZY and sloppy, and I don't think a drum MACHINE belongs on a recording anyone will hear."), and minor grammatical issues throughout beg the point that a professional editor would have polished the story and made it more accessible.
However, this criticism begs the notion that if Musical Road Kills had been a more polished production, some of the passion might have been removed from the 'rants and raves' feel of Tellalian's story; and that would be a shame.
It's this combination of practical details about touring musicians, 'oh my god' moments of sexual harassment, copyright theft, and stormy interpersonal encounters, and insider exposes of industry experiences not commonly seen in the course of musical biography that make Musical Road Kills a standout despite the observation that better editing would have produced a more sophisticated result (sans the over-capitalization, for one).
You can't say that Nevard Tellalian doesn't tell it like it is. From moral challenges to how music is packaged and sold to audiences and how political and social issues influence the musical process, Tellalian addresses issues of dynamics, connections, and recording industry publicity alike, moving readers from the microcosm of her life in rock and roll to bigger questions about musician lifestyles and the evolution of popular music as a whole.
Readers should anticipate a zealous, commanding read that reviews the pros, cons, and special world of the touring rock musician and the values and lessons this lifestyle poses.
While editorial perfectionists will likely pass on Musical Road Kills, those interested in or involved in musical circles who look for honesty over editorial accuracy will find Tellalian a candid writer who challenges many common misconceptions about musical lifestyles and musician experiences on the road.Musical Road Kills
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978-1540493736 $7.99/Kindle; $12.99/Paperback
Please Stay: A Brain Bleed, A Life In The Balance, A Love Story is a poignant, striking story of a thirty-nine-year-old's life-changing brain aneurysm, and documents the struggles experienced by author Greg Payan's fiancée Holly, a vibrant, healthy, happy woman who found her world turned upside down overnight.
Readers might expect an overview of events from Payan's perspective; but one of the most notable features of Please Stay's choice of presentation is its narrowed focus on 24 days of ICU experiences and the correspondence that flowed between friends, colleagues, and family as Holly struggled for her life.
Romance and appreciation is a big part of this saga from the start ("If you’re lucky, one person like Holly might come into your life—someone who makes everything you do with them just a bit better than if you did it with anyone else. She forced me to think and made me care about things I’d never thought I’d care about. Holly made me live my life deeper than I ever thought possible, and she was everything to me."), but to call Please Stay a 'romance story' alone would do it an injustice.
In reality, it's a series of love letters reinforcing life connections, only available here because Payan solicited letters from Holly's family and supporters so he could read them to her whenever she became conscious, and kept these emails and notes for future reference.
Months after Holly's unexpectedly complete recovery, an incredulous physician, who at first refused to believe that Holly's episode had taken place only five months earlier, said: "We say that eighty percent of people who have a grade IV brain hemorrhage die. And of those that live, eighty percent wish they had died.”
If love was restricted, or if Holly and Greg were less connected to others, her story would have been limited to their experience and relationship alone; but the fact that they have a wide circle of friends and family unafraid of responding with love and support is part of what makes Holly's story as exceptional as her recovery in Please Stay.
Readers not only receive insights into their lives and connections to it; but on the medical challenges of aneurysms and the recovery process and prognosis.
The result is a surprisingly invigorating celebration of life unexpected in a memoir that depicts a close encounter with death: one which pulls heartstrings, educates about aneurysm and disability, and is replete with emails, text messages, and a peppering of black and white photos throughout.
Readers who seek uplifting stories of recovery and life challenges will relish the tone, presentation, and surprisingly multifaceted story of Holly and Greg's journey from the brink of no return in a saga that proves hard to put down.Please Stay
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Stonedrift Press Ltd.
978-0-9949377-5-9 (paperback) $14.95
Buying link: https://www.amazon.ca/gp/
Readers might not expect a geologist family to become involved in detective work, much less international intrigue; but Blue Fire isn't the first to depart from the usual PI roots of its protagonist: it is Book 2 in a series in which geologist Alex Graham uses her rocky position to uncover clues to a dangerous international situation.
This said, thriller and detective readers should consider Blue Fire a fine stand-alone piece that needs little prior introduction to prove accessible to newcomers; while prior fans will relish a new adventure that again tests Alex's abilities on international turf.
How do events move from the discovery of a secret tanzanite mining operation to international terrorism? Because the earnings from that mother lode are being funnelled to terrorist groups in an untraceable way. Brian Graham and his geologist daughter split their teams into two countries to expose the truth in missions that move from Brazil to Tanzania, involving Tanzanian miner Mosi Ongeti in an experience that surpasses any mining expertise he's honed in the past.
Terrorists don't usually take kindly to their secrets seeing the light of day and so, perhaps predictably, Alex finds herself on the bad side of an arms dealer determined to stop her at all costs.
How can a rock expert nearly single-handedly thwart the savvy and wide influence of an international terrorist group? With the help of a few good friends, of course.
Any good geologist knows that surface appearances are only one layer of a complicated history that lies beneath appearances. One attractive aspect of Blue Fire lies in Katherine Prairie's attention to detail as she peels away various strata of deception, special interests, and secret connections and activities to keep readers on their toes and engaged.
As Alex candidly assesses her geologist abilities and her place in both the world of international intrigue and the science of geology, she embarks on another venture far from her usual comfort zone.
Tension is exquisitely drawn, the particulars of tanzanite and its mining and value are educational and true to real life, and readers receive a fine, realistic story that probes both dangerous mines and deadly times.
The result is a thriller that holds various strata of suspense and intrigue as Alex and Mosi race against time to stop the funding of a smuggling operation. Events swirl around mine break-ins, murders and threats, an arms dealer's involvement with the ubiquitous Tabitha Metals, and a missing father who leaves his daughter alone in struggles which are many, as she's been followed from Brazil to Tanzania.
Another thing to note about Blue Fire is that, like its predecessor, the story spreads like ripples in a pond. A singular investigation in South America turns complex as Alex faces kidnappers; murder, and assassins; missing friends and family; threats to safe places; and trapped miners and explosions. At the end of her resources and lacking support systems, can Alex nearly single-handedly resolve a complicated international situation?
Thriller and mystery readers will find this, like Prairie's prior Thirst, more than a cut above the usual thriller read both in depth and quality. Like its predecessor, Blue Fire is absolutely compelling and so nicely drawn in characterization, detail, and plot that it could have been streamed directly from real life and people.
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Gazelle in the
9780692112762 (Paperback) $11.99
9780692116500 (Kindle) $ 3.99
Elizabeth Booth is a young British college student studying Arabic at Durham University and has achieved one of the pinnacles of success: study abroad in Damascus, where she will continue her immersion in the Arab language and culture. It's the latter which involves her, next; and which creates the atmosphere and cultural exploration of Gazelle in the Shadows.
While this might seem a straightforward story of an extended education, Gazelle in the Shadows opens with the kidnapping of the former British diplomat which introduces her present-day dilemma before she begins to reveal her past and the circumstances which led up to it.
One important note is that this story line isn't about identifying criminal, terrorist, or political forces alone. Michelle Peach creates an atmosphere of cultural understanding and discovery in the course of presenting Elizabeth's dilemmas and challenges. This serves to both personalize proceedings and setting and educate readers about the various forces at work in the Middle East.
Even though she becomes immersed in a series of events that involve deception, murder, and life-threatening encounters, Elizabeth also cultivates trust among her female associates, is excited about exploring the region and its peoples, and uses diary entries and descriptions to consider the lives and social and political influences of those she encounters.
Her resiliency and attitude go far to help her survive when things turn bad, and readers receive a fine, multi-faceted survey of her world which includes her discovery that some of her initial friendships may have served political interests, placing her in a position of danger as she comes under surveillance by those she initially trusted.
Gazelle in the Shadows is a hard-hitting and vivid journey undertaken by a language student who finds herself captive in more ways than one. Elizabeth eventually discovers that her experiences are alienating her from everyone she once trusted.
Compellingly realistic and packed with both psychological and physical action, Gazelle in the Shadows adds an extra layer of cultural understanding to its espionage thriller theme, making it a recommendation for genre readers seeking more cultural insights from their fiction than others would offer.Gazelle in the Shadows
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Inside Sam Lerner
Fans of detective fiction who appreciate and look for psychological insights from their investigative reads will especially relish Inside Sam Lerner as it presents the dilemmas of a former homicide detective sidelined by his wife's death. Sam is on his way to once-familiar New Orleans; now a different world to him.
As readers venture into Sam's life, the first thing to note is Gwen Banta's propensity for using evocative language to capture the most minute life experiences in exact detail: "Sam kicked a rock out of his pathway and wondered how Dorothy would have felt if she had returned to Kansas to discover nothing but a parking lot."
All Sam wishes to do is go home to familiar territory and drown his pain in alcohol; but just as a blossoming new relationship with young Madsen Cassaise seems to offer a way out, death strikes again in the form of murder. Sam's past and present collide as his skills as a homicide detective are called upon to solve a series of New Orleans murders that have become too personal to ignore.
Again, it's Banta's descriptions of this process which grab and hold reader attention ("Sam stepped on the gas, enjoying both the surge of power and the numbing effects of the alcohol as he screeched down the highway to New Orleans, completely unaware that he was heading into an abyss far worse than the one he had left behind."). Protagonist Sam makes discoveries not only about New Orleans' new underworld and deadly dangers, but about his own evolving new life and purpose.
From voodoo beliefs and Haitian and African spiritual traditions—part of a New Orleans culture not typically experienced by outsiders—to Sam's struggles with other women and his personal trajectory in life ("...as he stood before her wanting answers in a game he didn't choose to be playing, he wondered why the paths in his life kept bringing him back to this woman."), Inside Sam Lerner is as much about a former detective's growth as it is about a puzzling series of murders that challenge even his professional savvy.
In the end, readers are given a real gift in the form of an expose that draws connections between relationship and life choices and the sacrifices that need to be made before Sam can stop the killers.
Psychological depth is well-drawn and compelling, the story line offers much insight into Sam's recovery and choices, and suspense is nicely designed to keep readers on edge and immersed as Sam makes his way through a mine field of options and makes some bad decisions.
All this translates to a story that is vivid, nicely portrayed, and unexpectedly filled with an atmosphere of New Orleans culture and a double-cross that holds satisfying surprises right up to the end.Inside Sam Lerner
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The Palm Reader
Softcover: $18.95, 978-1-63393-636-2
Hardcover: $26.95, 978-1-63393-638-6
eBook: $7.99, 978-1-63393-637-9
The Palm Reader provides a Jackson Walker thriller read to audiences with an affinity for fast-paced reads with strong regional roots and edgy, surprising conflicts.
In this case, Southern Florida's swamps provide the backdrop for a story that pairs the investigative lawyer's personal struggles with a case that mirrors his controversies and heightens his angst.
While the disappearance of a sleazy client specializing in taboo pornography might seem more like just desserts or possible flight than a real mystery that deserves attention, Jackson comes to find that far more is involved. The disappearance is actually careful bait designed to lure him into an Everglades Black Mass where he is slated to serve as the sacrifice in the Church of Satan's ritual.
Not so fast: Jackson may be relatively unfamiliar with the Church and its designs on his life; but that doesn't mean his ignorance will lead straight to disaster. Jackson is not only a savvy investigator; but he's faced demons in his life before. This isn't the first time that he's found past and future on a collision course of familiarity and repetitive patterns.
Meanwhile, a fortune teller's visions complicate matters for all, creating conundrums as she foresees a grizzly death as well as an alternative future in which the victim is destined for greatness. Lolita's connections with the spirits and her ability to tap into supernatural forces lend a mystical element to Jackson's life and endeavors. As her connection to Jackson evolves, she finds herself immersed in a situation beyond her usual fortune-telling interactions.
On one level, The Palm Reader is about one man's ongoing struggles to come to terms with his life and abilities. On another, it's about a woman with special talents who stumbles into evil forces beyond her control and ability to predict, the winding association they create as a subplot to the wider questions of justice, pursuits, and the dance between good and evil.
Thriller readers will quickly discover that many complex and involving insights are added into the mix; from cultural and social influences to the possible reality of spirits, good and bad karma, and Jack's ability to reconcile his hard-nosed reality with a more ethereal realm's influences.
The result is a gripping thriller which excels in unusual twists and turns, explorations of family heritage and truths, and one man's ongoing journey as he explores new connections and threats to his life.
Thriller readers who enjoy more than a light touch of supernatural discussion will relish The Palm Reader's ability to weave a delicate dance between different perceptions of reality and their ultimate influences on life and death as Jackson confronts his own personal devils.
The Palm Reader
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Wheels Up—A Novel of
Drugs, Cartels and Survival
Jeanine Kitchel, Publisher
ISBN: 978-0-692-06469-6 paperback $13.95
ISBN: 978-0-692-09721-2 e-book Kindle $ 3.99
ASIN (Amazon) B07CQDK8MY
Author website: www.jeaninekitchel.com
Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/
Imagine a jet loaded with two tons of cocaine careening over the Yucatan peninsula jungle, out of fuel and destined to crash, with helpless passenger Layla Navarro riveted at the window observing her own imminent, certain death. Wheels Up opens with a breathtaking fall into Mexico that carries readers and Layla into the story of how she arrived at this tipping point in her life.
Layla is no stranger to this dangerous world. Her uncle was a notorious drug lord and she took over the reins of his cartel; so it's not like she simply stumbled into trouble. Danger is her chosen profession.
Many novels would quit at this already-full plate of a female drug lordess taking over the family biz; but a powerful plus to Wheels Up is its nonstop, high-octane action that embraces not just drugs and female leadership, but Latino machismo, a sex trafficking ring, amigos, bandidos and terrorists, and a host of other characters' special interests, from pilot Donavon's involvement with Canada's big-time pot dealer Clay Lasalle to Layla's attempts to save a Guatemalan girl from Layla's own business partners.
One special note to this story is the ethical conundrums it considers and reviews. Layla is not a static, classic 'bad guy' figure but a woman who confronts not just the realities of drug trafficking and political and social strife, but her own choices in navigating this uncertain terrain.
Another strength lies in the discussions of Mayan locals and folktales about Yucatan inhabitants and their jungle survival skills. Mayan culture is presented in the wider context of a dramatic thriller story. This gives readers a background knowledge that sets the stage for Layla's interactions with Clay and her ability to survive under impossible conditions in the jungle.
The tale is replete with plots, subplots, vivid descriptions of cartel operations and maneuvering, and a strong protagonist who deftly navigates both her inherited profession and her human interest in the dilemmas and lives of those around her. Her love for her people nicely dovetails with her position of power and the choices it brings to make for a multifaceted thriller that prompts readers to dig deeper to think about choices and their consequences.
It's a fast-paced race through Mexican culture and politics, local struggles, and the complex operations of cartels that pulls on emotions by creating situations that hold no clear answers and no easy way out for an already-strong woman. Layla finds that her background has not fully prepared her for the kinds of decisions she must make about the course of her life and those it touches.
Readers who enjoy high-octane international thrillers may be used to the staccato pace presented in Wheels Up; but what makes this novel a standout over others is the pairing of an already-powerful woman's dilemmas as she finds herself entangled in a complex situation that demands every ounce of the kind of integrity she never thought she had.
Wheels Up is highly recommended for thriller fans who want their female protagonists already-powerful, their knowledge of Mexican culture expanded through the story's strong attention to history and detail, and the story's conclusion delightfully unexpected.Wheels Up—A Novel of Drugs, Cartels and Survival
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Battle at the Comic
Richard Andreoli, Publisher
$11.99 Paper/$19.99 Hardcover/$3.99 Kindle
Battle at the Comic Expo's audience is difficult to easily peg: take dark satirical humor, blend in action/thriller sci-fi elements, and add the specter of a comic convention threatened by forces of evil that move from comic pages into reality and from a zany romp into a world replete with dangerously obsessed fangirls and explosive, emotionally complex relationships. But somehow author Richard Andreoli makes all of this work in his fascinating, dramatic and chaotic novel.
In the story, Ron Lionel has created a blockbuster comic series - The Enduring - that is a monster hit. He is hugely popular (and arrogant) but far less successful is his approach to life, which involves manipulating others to get what he wants. Nonetheless, Ron is realizing his dreams. Joe, in contrast, has long ago given up on his artistic ambitions and just lives to get by. His role as Security Chief at the comic book expo gets him close enough to his goal of supporting justice and fighting for the right side.
When these worlds collide, they do so with a bang that's heralded by an obsessed fan searching for answers Ron can't quite provide.
Readers familiar with comic convention culture and proceedings will quickly recognize all the trappings of a real convention in Andreoli's dark, satirical production. He is clearly familiar with this realm and its quirky, passionate participants (he worked as a marketing writer at Comic-Con for years), and this knowledge imbibes Battle at the Comic Expo's events with a real-world grittiness and humor.
References to this world (Dark Horse Comics, new ventures and industry partnerships) juxtapose with the passions of notoriously believable quirky fans ("...people who got tattoos of The Enduring artwork, cosplayers who wanted him to settle arguments about whose outfit was more authentic to the book, and even a few Wiccans who believed the ceremonies in the books were based on ancient texts and wanted to find out how he’d learned the rituals.") to make for a vivid read that will be especially spot-on to anyone who has attended one of these conventions.
Another notable feature of Battle at the Comic Expo lies in its ability to take this bizarre-but-predictable setting and turn it on edge with larger-than-life events that are both mind-blowing and satisfying in their details. A fan's warped vision of what should be in the comics world may be the very force that destroys it, with only an egotist and a stalwart security guard standing between devastation and despair and the ultimate survival of the largest comic expo in America.
Can fangirl Velma discern between right and wrong? Can Joe prevent murder? And can he and Ron tap into Velma's obsession with Ron's fantasy world to draw her into different choices than the disaster she is careening towards ("...think about Myranda’s banishment to the netherworlds. She was condemned because she killed the Faerie Prince even though it was an accident. I made that quite clear.” “It wasn’t murder,” Velma gently explained to Joe. “Not really. The cycle brings us all back, better than before.” “It’s a fucking fantasy story,” Ron said, and Joe fumed at his inability to grasp just how dangerous their situation was.")?
Ron and Joe aren't friends; but they're about to share some of the same interests in a conjoined quest for survival not only of themselves, but the comic world that supports them both.
Take a highly successful egotist's irresistible fantasy creation, add a justice-believing outsider's quest to prevent disaster on his watch, and mix in underlying questions about good and evil, reality and fantasy, and good intentions gone awry for a powerful, multifaceted story that toes the line between fantasy, detective piece and comic world exposé.
Replete with tension, action, and anxiety, Battle at the Comic Expo's injection of dark humor permeates a gripping story that excels in the unexpected while remaining firmly based in comic culture. Readers will relish its ability to teleport at warp speed between various genres while retaining a sense of originality and drama that makes the story vivid, unpredictable, and nearly impossible to put down.
at the Comic
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The Bitterroot Mountains of the Northern Rockies may be the setting of a story that spans decades, but in this tale, it's actually the terminus of a story that began with a Scottish boy's migration to the U.S. in the 1800s, and thus a story that opens in 1956 and feels like a Western novel actually holds deeper roots that are unfolded as the tale evolves.
The first thing to note about Bitterroot is that it's a production whose atmosphere changes from a frontier Western feel replete with wranglers, ranches and horses to events that led to the family's settlement in the Bitterroot Mountains.
The family custom has long been for the youngsters to strike out in their own directions which have led far from home and family, and as Angus considers the Craddock family tradition and the possibilities for young Luke's future, he mulls over the events that have led generations to this point in time, carrying readers into the past on a journey that traces the family stories Angus has heard from his father and grandparents.
Another notable facet of Bitterroot lies in its ability to paint striking portraits of different settings from the eyes of different characters that reflect on and experience their worlds: "Jennings began to dream. He could at first see the clan’s plaid as it washed away, clearing the way for a bright light. His homeland came into view, as clear as if it were real. Jennings could smell the sea air and feel its relentless chill and see the lone, stone walled cottage with its high slated roof, and the smoke rolling from the chimney being blown horizontal by the brisk sea wind. The dwelling sat up in a cove, high on a rocky cliff overlooking the Celtic Sea."
These visionary moments help cement the changing sense of place that permeates the sweeping saga as the adventures of Jennings and Sky document the progress, dreams, and hopes of each new generation: "The prairie was dotted with a vast array of wildflowers, and swaying knee high grass, and the river which flowed through it was hemmed in by beautiful golden, flower weeping, trees. Everything was still as if it was a dream. Both exhausted and light headed they’d waited for the sound of their pounding hearts and breath to stop echoing. As they’d stood in tall green grass viewing the red setting sun, they’d stopped and clasped hands. Looking back over their shoulders, there were no monsters now."
As Angus, Luke, and others find their lives interconnected by shared experiences despite the passage of time, they come to find that the "nostalgia of the past" is with them in more ways than one. Strangers become family, family separates and rejoins, and the backdrop of the Bitterroot Mountains of Montana and the journey that leads to a farming lifestyle and deep roots in a strange land makes for a compelling, sweeping story that doesn't get lost in its moves between and connections to past and present worlds.
Bitterroot presents a solid novel of different generations who struggle to find their place in America and realize their desires for independence, and is a fine historical fiction piece that cements the initial immigrant experience with the efforts and psyches of future generations.
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In Search of Jimmy
In Search of Jimmy Buffett: Key West Revival is steeped in Jimmy Buffett music references embedded in the fictional story of Livie Green, a feisty North Carolina girl who stops toeing the line of proper behavior in high school and becomes known as 'Live It Up Livie'. Moving faster and further than her former clique of Baptist peers, Livie's life eventually comes full circle; but as the narrator of her story, Blair Chrisman (her best friend), demonstrates, her course is anything but predictable.
Events are narrated not only from Blair's observations but from letters and memorandums, emails, and third-person surveys of Livie's progression. The juxtaposition of these reporting devices lends a lively tone and differing perspectives on Livie's evolutionary process.
At some point in life, routine, ritual, and even success become jaded. Livie's newfound place in the world thus isn't the culmination of her explorations; but only a resting place that begins to unravel in middle age as she chafes at routine: "Grading papers had consumed Livie’s nights and weekends for the past decade, even though only a handful of her most industrious students bothered to read her meticulous and copious revision suggestions. The futility of it all piled on the most tender spot of her already shaky emotions."
A journey to meet her
idol Jimmy Buffett holds deeper questions of what Livie is really
her life. The formerly-feisty "girl with the answers" now has only
questions, and her path to wisdom and self-satisfaction seems
elusive even when she reaches what she thinks is a coveted destination
will reveal all: "You’re on the
right island to be lost. You can’t sail with your anchor down. You’re
something. Figure it out.”
While In Search of Jimmy Buffett can be chosen as a "beach read", it's anything but light and airy, weaving close ties between Livie's idols and dreams and the reality of failed efforts and destinations that actually don't provide the revelations or satisfaction she'd anticipated.
Although Key West is far from her North Carolina roots, Livie comes to realize that, in many ways, she never really left home, but brought the South along with her, with all its connections and conundrums.
Steeped in Florida locales and culture, Livie's ongoing quest to find purpose in her life, In Search of Jimmy Buffett brings readers into a world that is socially fluid, spiritually revealing, and psychologically powerful. Readers will benefit from many moments of surprise in a story that provides specific insights into the process of self-assessment, growth, and enlightenment: "By putting her worries on a shelf to collect dust, she birthed an inconceivable and splendid dream into reality."
The result is a compelling saga tracing one self-aware woman's journey. It's a vivid account that interlaces insights on music and pop culture, regional influences, and the process of making a "trip towards something better" in life. Readers will especially enjoy Livie's inquisitive and determined character and how she pursues even vague hints of happiness and life goals with determination and flexibility. Livie's process of figuring out the challenges, routines, choices, and ultimate progression of her life and values makes for a lively story and compelling reading especially recommended for fans of women's contemporary literature.
In many ways, Livie's journey is a manifesto for living life to its fullest. In Search of Jimmy Buffett isn't so much a blueprint as a road map. Women who appreciate stories of self-actualization and attempts to embrace life fully will delight in Livie's vibrant self-discoveries.
In Search of Jimmy Buffett
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The Lost Years of
Ronald E. Yates
Mill City Press
978-1-54563-281-9 $5.99 (e-book)/$18.99 (softcover)
The Lost Years of Billy Battles concludes the 'Finding Billy Battles' trilogy with an exploration of years of kidnapping, deception, political intrigue, and adversity in the early 1900s.
Billy Battles' story is taken from the meticulous journals he kept all his life. Billy bequeaths those journals to his great-grandson, Ted Sayles, who years later put's Billy's amazing life to paper. Billy indeed vanished for several years of his life, and was presumed dead for quite some time.
Many have dreamed of entering into an alternative life; but few receive the kind of phone call that Billy did, which lead him to become an undercover agent in Mexico during its 1910-20 revolution, challenged to maintain a secret identity under the turmoil of opposing political factions conducting their own undercover manipulations of events.
It was only when things went horribly awry that he vanished, and his family and friends believed he'd perished. These missing pieces are vibrantly detailed in a story which proves hard to put down and even more surprising given the roots of its events in reality.
One pleasure of this book (and the series as a whole) is that Yates doesn't just tell Billy's story. He recreates Billy's voice and perspective to craft a saga that is thoroughly engrossing and vivid: "You would think when a man entered the sixth decade of his life that he would be settled and reasonably contented. I thought I was that man. I was wrong." Its chatty, homespun narrator's voice cements events with an original perspective often tempered with a dose of humor: "I didn’t know it at the time, but, as my mother used to say, I was about to go up Fool’s Hill on the slippery side."
Another plus is that while the third title in a trilogy typically demands prior familiarity with past stories, The Lost Years of Billy Battles holds the dual ability to not just pick up where the last book left off, but to form a complete stand-alone story. Thus, this focus on these 'vanished years' requires only reader interest in life in a bygone era and the kinds of social and political forces that would lead a family man to leave his home, successful career, and life for something different. Few who choose to walk out of their worlds ever leave behind such a full accounting of their disappearance.
As U.S. special interests and Mexican forces clash, Billy finds himself in the center of an impossible situation and a terrible tragedy that brings him full circle from past to present. From Mexico to the Philippines and then to Saigon and beyond, Billy traverses a world of changing friendships, experiences, and purposes. His heady series of encounters with local peoples, politics, and intrigue make for compelling reading.
However, readers expecting a story of international intrigue alone will be surprised to discover that while Billy's saga embraces world experience, he actually does return home to Chicago (albeit with a mixed-race family, a secret, and much guilt over the carnage wrought in the course of his experiences and difficult choices).
Billy's story and his globe-hopping adventures, narrated in a series of candid, engrossing descriptions, will lead any newcomer to look for the other books in the trilogy while providing prior fans with a satisfying, gripping conclusion to the saga of Billy's life and its many unexpected turns.
The Lost Years of Billy Battles
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Marriage By Fire
Big Table Publishing Company
978-1-945917-31-8 $15.00 Paper/$8.00 Kindle
Readers of women's literature who enjoy snapshots of life and relationships will appreciate the approach of Marriage By Fire, the story of an otherwise-rational woman who finds herself too readily accepting all the challenges of bad boy Mike.
Claire's husband Ben is attracted to both sexes and as they move through life together, a number of 'ambiguous circumstances' come to her attention that results in fights between them. Despite this, Claire is relatively happy (minus sexual satisfaction): she is busy with their kids, demanding jobs, and generally enjoys her life and the arrangement they have.
Divorce seems inevitable, given the opening pages of the story, and it's then that Claire's life really begins to open up.
Poetry and prose highlight chapters in which Claire embarks on her own journey, continually drawn to "men in trouble." Her conversations with men about relationships and marriage never quite seem to be in sync with her companions' views or willingness to examine their own mistakes and romantic prospects, and so Claire often finds herself on shaky ground with many of them ("Some days I felt in control. Then something would happen—a word, a gesture, an object carelessly dropped on the floor—and suddenly nothing made sense anymore. I felt as if I were planning my future on sand.").
With Mike, rationality and reasoning fly out the window. Claire finds herself in some questionable situations, and as the novella moves through her encounters, female readers are led to question their own concepts of romance, edgy relationships, and processes of seduction.
In the midst of a divorce, Claire finds herself searching for something different; and just what that difference will comprise is anyone's guess.
Women who choose leisure reads for their focus on relationships and life choices will find Marriage By Fire provides more food for thought than the usual light relationship probe. It considers connections within and outside marriage, the roots of infidelity and sexual identity, and follows Claire's myriad encounters with Ben, Mike, Charles, and others as she tries to figure out what she really wants from life and men.
The result is an account of ultimatums and transformations that will especially appeal to women's fiction readers who like to sample their scenes in small bites and learn from psychological insights as they consider Claire's evolution.
Marriage By Fire
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On Burning Mirrors
Jamie Klinger-Krebs, Publisher
Hardcover: $24.99; Paperback: $15.99; Kindle: 3.99
On Burning Mirrors falls into the category of books that are difficult to describe and 'peg' to a specific reader audience. On the one hand, it embraces elements of a romance as it discusses a forty-year-old woman's illicit affair with another woman and the fallout that occurs as tragedy strikes when a husband recovering from addiction finds out that his solid relationships harbor some surprising secrets.
As Will begins an investigation that will bring him face-to-face with his wife's lover and the kind of relationship she cultivated behind his back, he begins to confront some eye-opening truths not just about her and her lover; but about his own life and its assumptions.
One big plus to On Burning Mirrors lies in its ability to craft believable, multifaceted characters who don't neatly fall into preconceived categories either in appearance or through their lifestyles and actions. Erin, Jules, and Will have all faced their demons and seemingly carved out successful lives from the obstacles they've confronted; but in reality there's an undercurrent of secrecy that runs through their lives which brings them together in unexpected ways.
That's another positive attribute that sets On Burning Mirrors apart from other contemporary fiction reads: its ability to sprinkle surprising revelations throughout its story line, continually challenging readers to confront their own preconceptions, misconceptions, ideals, and ethical standards.
As a series of challenges continually threaten Erin and Will by exposing long-held secrets, they are forced to confront their own choices and consequences in life, and this is the third big plus in a story that excels in complex situations and family connections.
Readers who choose On Burning Mirrors for its insights into same-sex relationships and marital struggles will find it a powerful emotionally-driven exploration of love, friendship, closely-held memories and unexpected futures. The novel is particularly recommended reading not just for fans of gay fiction; but for those outside the genre who can anticipate an emotional story of the processes of coming together, moving apart, and forging new connections.
On Burning Mirrors
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The People's Crusade
Val Jensen II
Moonshine Cove Publishing, LLC
9781945181406 $14.99 paper, 6.99 ebook
In 1096, the Crusades fired up religious fervor among the populace of France. Their passionate call for action affected lives around the world; but in this novel, they especially impact a forbidden relationship between Jewish girl Channah and Anseau of Valois.
Book One of The Lotharingian Chronicles sets the atmosphere of these times, from politics to religious beliefs, and emphasizes that, in those days, Jewish people were viewed as alien entities and local relationships with the Church were more important than life or love. Battles in England between Normans and Saxons are depicted where Geoffroi, once a soldier in the battles in England between Normans and Saxons, is worried about his impressionable son from afar ("...we grow more worried about Anseau. He follows his heart and doesn’t listen to reason.”), and a monk's portent of terrible times ahead precede Anseau's journey.
This evolves into a quest which sparks a host of questions rather than leading to any logical resolutions ("Anseau unpacked the loaf his mother gave him and a pain of sadness swept over his face. It was only then that he realized how alone he was. Was all this happening? Nothing made any sense. Was it so bad that he loved a Jew? Was his love hurting anyone? He knew why Gile cared. Gile only wanted to see him suffer."). Not only is his love under attack by Church-backed ideals, but Anseau finds he must move away from his more passive role in life to become a leader in political circles and a champion of his heart's true desire.
Plenty of books have been written about the Crusades era; both nonfiction and fiction. Few succeed in capturing the atmosphere and purpose of the times like The People's Crusade, which juxtaposes the moral, ethical, and spiritual dilemmas of a young man's life with his initiation as an active participant in his world's politics and social mores.
Val Jensen II's descriptions of duels, battles, training, and the Church's powerful influence on faith and life decisions are detailed and exact. Readers receive a good amount of solid history which intersects nicely with Anseau's life and perspectives as he marches into both danger and transformation.
From sieges and encounters with inhabitants of other countries to Channah's trials as she loses family, country, and everything she loves in life, Marie, Geoffroi, Anseau, and other characters find their family ties torn and rebuilt, their purposes in life revised, and their beliefs assailed by guilt, self-doubt, and the swirl of religious fervor around them.
Anseau must decide who he is really fighting for: his bishop, or his freedom of choice. Channah must survive devastation to bring new hope into the world. As each character experiences their own trials against the backdrop of the Crusades era, readers become thoroughly engrossed in their different dilemmas; and that's the strength of a story that is vividly portrayed, steeped in well-researched fact, and which brings the Crusades era to life.
Readers of historical fiction will especially appreciate the reflective moments throughout the story ("He thought about all the choices he made so far – life and death choices, moral choices, choices he made because of the vow he took, and the very few choices he had left.") which provide the depth and emotional connections needed to make Anseau's world and saga completely compelling reading.
The People's Crusade
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Peregrine's Call is the fourth book in the Swordcross Knights series, is set in 1146, and tells of Robin, a homeless orphan in rural England. She survived by assuming the guise of a boy and hunting her food until she was rescued by a kindly family and raised to be a proper women, but Robin still maintains a wild heart in search of a cause. It's ironic that she endured starvation and threats to survival only to discover that her greatest challenge lies in her conflict between becoming a lady versus finding and championing a cause, but Robin's greater challenge lies in an uneasy association with a knight who might be the only thing that can either guide her towards domesticity or encourage her to finally accept a different destiny than keeping house.
Lady Robin makes for an attractive countenance: can she reconcile this with her Warrior Robin persona? And what about romance: is this goal outside of her comfort zone?
As she comes to realize that her traveling companion may be more than a fellow wanderer, and he gets to know Robin beneath her volatile exterior, both find their journeys increasingly treacherous and each other progressively more compelling.
Politics and confrontations, a trio that defies all definition and logic, and secret messages to kings that are worth dying for makes for a fast-paced saga that requires no prior familiarity with the Swordcross Knights series in order to prove immediately accessible and compelling.
Robin's character truly blossoms in this tale as she embraces all the possibilities of her life and looks for a kind of connection that defies death, duty, and social expectations.
Elizabeth Cole excels in providing a read that captures the atmosphere of the times, juxtaposing Robin's evolving sense of self with the greater concerns of the society around her. The result is an engrossing story of a journey that moves from physical to emotional, and which neatly concludes yet holds the door open for further adventures.
Readers of historical fiction, romance, and coming of age sagas will find Robin's character a vivid creation, her dilemmas compelling, and her world a lively set of choices that all hold lasting consequences and possibilities, and will find that Peregrine's Call is hard to put down once the journey is begun.
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Softcover: $16.95, 978-1-63393-544-0
Hardcover: $29.95, 978-1-63393-546-4
eBook: $7.99, 978-1-63393-545-7
Mark Gunther's hard-hitting novel Without Jenny presents the emotionally charged story of parental grieving over the loss of a child, yet is distinguished from similar accounts of parental grieving through the inclusion of Judaism and its rituals. These are fully explored in a fictional format that adds understanding as it captures the drama, pain, and conflicts of a young life abruptly ended.
Readers of literary fiction receive a story that begins with a happy, successful family headed by mother Joy. When ten-year-old Jenny is killed, Joy struggles with a level of grief that seems to hold no comfort; whether it be from the Jewish community, her husband, or surviving family members. Her downward spiral will feel more than familiar to any parent who has suffered the loss of a child, then faced the feelings of disconnecting from the values and purposes of life itself.
From puzzling visions that challenge her perceptions of her once-ordered world to specific challenges faced by couples who mourn differently, Without Jenny holds the ability to immerse its readers both in the process of grief and in the challenges to recovery. Joy’s husband can “ . . remember seeing my dad through the door of his bedroom, sitting on the bed with his head in his hands. That became what grief looks like to me. But it doesn’t work for me, putting my head in my hands. It doesn’t work for me to do what you’re doing, whatever it is. I don’t see how it isn’t just going to be there, every day for the rest of my life. It’s going to be a lot harder to manage if you go south on me.” Joys thought is “Manage. That’s it? She had nothing more to say...It’s going to be really, really hard, she thought, to get through this together.")
Jewish rituals, teachings, and insights are a big part of Joy's process; and while readers without spiritual inclinations might find these processes a surprising adjunct to the usual psychological approach to grief, they are a big part of the story that adds an extra dimension of understanding of the various ways of accepting the sudden death of a child.
Another device that might surprise or even stymie some readers is Joy's relationshsip with "Dead Jenny" and how this appears to guide her way: "Good. Cut yourself a little slack, said Dead Jenny. I like it when you’re nice to me, Joy told her." Those with specific spiritual belief systems might chafe at some of these perceptions; but they, too, are a powerful piece of the overall story, and ideally they won't dissuade literary fiction readers holding different belief systems.
How does the luckiest woman in the world face the dissolution of not just a child, but other pillars of her life? Without Jenny dives into a personal hell hole but shows how powerful rituals and examinations can bring a grieving parent out the other side to a brave new world.
Without Jenny is a highly recommended pick for literature readers able to fully absorb the story's various themes, character conundrums and growth, insights on Jewish rituals and philosophy, and how a family moves through a touch-and-go situation to embrace life once again.
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How to Revise and Re-Release Your Book
Penny C. Sansevieri
Author Marketing Experts, Inc.
In an ideal world, How to Revise and Re-Release Your Book: Simple and Smart Strategies to Sell More Books would be on the reading list of any self-published author considering a re-release or new edition of their book because in making such a move, a world of new marketing opportunities opens up that is too often missed.
Most believe that a daunting level of work is involved in a book re-release, but as Penny C. Sansevieri points out, there are different levels of re-releases and the work involved needn't necessarily be prohibitive or overwhelming.
There are different approaches involved in re-releases and different choices that come with each option; all of which are covered in this guide.
An author has many reasons to consider re-releasing a book, from books that have failed in their original goals and which need editing and revision to an author re-acquiring the rights to their book, looking for a better cover, or updating information contained in the original production.
The reasons for re-launching a prior publication can be many; but Sansevieri points out that the choices involved in these processes are similar and her book covers each option; from determining whether a new cover image would worth the new release effort to how to make a new version stand out on Amazon, how to bundle an older book with a newer one to revive interest, and how to promote the re-release differently and more effectively than the original production.
Many publishing guides gloss over the potentials of the re-release, but How to Revise and Re-Release Your Book's specific considerations show how to make the most of the effort and how to reach into areas the original publication might have missed both in audience development and marketing approaches.
The result should be a 'must read' for any author looking to re-release their book for whatever reason; who needs specifics on the special opportunities present in the re-release environment.
How to Revise and Re-Release Your Book
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Ideas, Influences and
Greenleaf Book Group
Print ISBN: 978-1-62634-514-0 $21.95
eBook ISBN: 978-1-62634-515-7 $ 9.99
Ideas, Influence, and Income: Write a Book, Build Your Brand, and Lead Your Industry goes beyond most writers' guides on how to write to address the nuts and bolts of not just publishing, but successfully launching a book.
The meat of Ideas, Influence, and Income lies in the idea of creating a brand: something many authors should focus on; but few actually understand. This focus on gaining clarity about publishing choices, objectives, and the mechanics of building an author platform covers all the bases authors need to know to not just publish their book, but identify its audience, reach them, and assure success.
From protecting a book's content and copyright to considering the appropriateness and help of an agent, developing a unique book idea so that the author is perceived as an 'expert', and calendaring writing goals to stay on track, Ideas, Influence, and Income creates important links between initial book ideas, the road to publication, and the relationship between a book's appearance and its potential for growth and success.
The result goes well past what most books cover on the publishing process, providing would-be authors with discussions that assume no prior business or book industry knowledge. Ideas, Influence, and Income fills in the blanks by charting tested paths to achievement in the publishing world.
Ideas, Influence, and Income should not only be on the reading lists of aspiring writers, but should be required reading for anyone who would see their idea to fruition and their published book on the road to recognition and acclaim.
Ideas, Influences and Income
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Prime Time Rising
David H. Lewis
A celebration of 1950s TV programming and a selection of color ad images promoting the infancy of the television age introduces Prime Time Rising: Growing Up at the Dawn of Television, a history and celebration of early TV in America which includes many rare, hitherto-unseen images and references from The Museum of and Radio and Television in Beverly Hills (now named The Paley Center for Media), which offered David H. Lewis a treasure trove of early-day TV programming for this book.
From how Lewis initially fell in love with television (thanks to hospitable neighbors with the new technology) to other cultural pleasures of the 50s, including board games and a slower pace of life that actually involved sitting still, the atmosphere and attractions of these times are nicely portrayed.
Vintage movie stills and black and white and color images throughout nicely illustrate this discussion of favorite moments in TV shows such as I Love Lucy, Gunsmoke, and Ozzie and Harriet. Each review of show themes and approaches offers a contrast between the cultural and social milieu of the 50s and modern times; and each provides not a sage critique but a fiery assessment designed to capture a flavor of these times. They often conclude with an assessment of the lasting impact of TV shows on American society as a whole: "Gleason’s Ralph Kramden quickly grew suspicious of infidelities or betrayals, and his bellowing outrage could nearly blow the entire set into smithereens. Soon enough, finally faced with the truth, volcanic anger melted into contrition and humility, and he faced wife or best friend like a whimpering child. In its irascible way, The Honeymooners championed strong traditional values."
This is just one example of how Lewis employs vivid, scene-capturing language to introduce new audiences to these old-time shows, bringing them to life even for those without a prior familiarity with early television. The main audience for this discussion will, however, be media fans and those already familiar with some or most of the shows, who will especially appreciate the walk through time and comparative analysis that Lewis brings to the table.
The cultural reflections are astute, lively, and engrossing as they capture not only the overlay of television's rise to importance in average American living rooms, but the atmosphere powering these shows and their reception: "American hubris. Oh, what a show. The country became so full of itself, that being the best on the globe was hardly enough. We had to be better than best. Super good. Super right. Super smart. From eggheads to autos, ours, we bragged, were the brightest and the best in the world...Funny and yet so wholly appropriate that American bravado would end up facing its ultimate challenge — and a not very pretty outcome — on a TV game show set, where contestants from all walks of life sweated under glaring lights to answer erudite questions fit for practicing professors. Questions requiring them to recite phrases from famous poems; to identify inventors of popular products, to link places to events. On television, anybody could be an egghead, no entrance exam required. All they need do was supply the correct answers—or make it appear as if they were. Hordes of aspiring contestants lined up for the opportunity to be screened for the volunteer role of Very Smart Person."
As Lewis delves into political events and changing cultural perceptions, Prime Time Rising documents how television both influenced and reflected these changes in American society. It turns out that the earlier chapters discussing the rise of television programming and viewing in the country set the stage for a broader reflection on media influences on American perception and values. This adds an extra dimension to a discussion which at first seems a history of early television; but then moves into more compelling surveys of the changing nature and impact of TV's influence over the decades.
The result is a map of changing life which bases itself in prime time programming choices but adds a nice dose of drama and lively discussion into the mix. Having a cultural examination and media history under one cover may sound like daunting reading (and, under another hand or approach, it would be), but the special attraction of Prime Time Rising lies in its ability to retain and maintain a vividly engrossing atmosphere throughout.
Readers who want to travel through time to consider just how prime time evolved and its lasting impact on Americans will relish the facts, rare images and insights, and astute discussions in this all-encompassing survey of American television programming history and its cultural evolution.
Prime Time Rising
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Margot Jarvis Genger
ISBN: 978-0-9996325-1-2 (Create Space) $15.95
ISBN: 978-0-9996325 (Ingram Spark) $18.00
Publisher/Author Website: mjgenger.com
Amazon Ordering Link:
Shift Happens—Breakdowns During Life's Long Hauls is the memoir of a woman who decides to break with tradition and the confines of her 1970s lifestyle to become a long-haul trucker in a profession dominated by men and loneliness. At age 28, Margot Jarvis Genger stood at a crossroads in her life, hovering between a promising small-town California cheerleader's life after high school and down-and-out struggles with addiction and despair.
Not only did success elude her in adulthood; but Margot's psychotic breakdown precipitated an identity crisis that led her on an unexpected physical and mental journey cross-country to find not just herself, but the world that is America, and her place in it.
Readers might anticipate a memoir that largely focuses on cross-country travel adventures, but in Shift Happens, the inner journey and how it began is just as vivid and important as the outward trajectory of re-purposing one's life.
One notable aspect of this memoir is that it probes not just psychological underpinnings, but the mechanics of being a big-rig driver. Genger's trucker descriptions are well-detailed and capture the challenges and experience of learning to drive one of these big rigs: "I turned left to enter the freeway and the gears shifted up like butter. “This is so much easier than a 5x4.” “A 5x4! I’ve never even driven one of those. But, this trailer is empty. Shifting is totally different with a load.” Miguel’s calm presence felt the opposite to Dick Dart."
Just as clear-cut are the self-assessments Genger makes about her addiction, identity, and the realities of her life: "I didn’t drink near as much as Bobby or my mother or Ben. I’d never passed out in the gutter. I owned a house, was saving money, kept my promises. Fear didn’t run my life. I wasn’t a flake. Mostly, I had already recovered from this supposed “bottom” everyone in AA talked about. I knew I didn’t belong in AA. I wasn’t an alcoholic."
Her longing for real friendships, connections, and a different future are some of the motivators causing her to re-examine not just her goals and progression through life, but her perceptions of the realities of her choices.
This self-examining focus returns to her roots as she considers the influence of family patterns and her problems with AA's particular method of self-examination: "I’d heard volumes on the absurdity of adults blaming their parents for their own poor choices. Being raised by an alcoholic might be an interesting aside, but I could hardly blame my mother for my predicament. Besides, for being drunk every night of her life, she sure had plenty of people who loved her. She held a good job and never missed work. Who was I to cut her down in an AA meeting? And really, why would I blow the whistle on her when my mother was the one friend I had?"
By now it should be evident that Shift Happens is neither fish nor fowl: it's not a travelogue, a psychological inspection, or a survey of influences on poor choices and revised attitudes; but incorporates facets of all these approaches in the interest of bigger-picture thinking.
Readers interested in recovery, transformation, self-assessments, and landscapes of America and how Americans grow, change, and live will find Shift Happens a multifaceted memoir that takes personal experience and closely considers how deep connections are formed with a new 'tribe' committed to sobriety and living life fully.
Its lessons are poignant reminders of the journey, rest stops, and opportunities for change that life offers which, when grasped with both hands, can lead to the kinds of lasting connections that transform everyday patterns with new meaning.
Shift Happens is especially recommended for readers on the road to making such changes themselves.
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Wallace B. Mendelson, MD
978-1980438298 $15.77 Paper; $9.99 Kindle
Understanding Antidepressants tackles a big subject because there are many, many antidepressants on the market today, and their prescription and use have skyrocketed over the years. Readers new to the subject might find the array of products (and their potential side effects) confusing; but retired
In order to cultivate such interactions, it's up to patients and their loved ones to take responsibility for accumulating a basic understanding of antidepressants, how they work, and the pros and cons of their use; and that's where Understanding Antidepressants enters the picture.
Chapters provide basic biology and health information, discuss how different classes of antidepressants affect the body in different ways, consider their interactions with other drugs and possible side effects, and include discussions of alternative medications and what to do if the antidepressants don't work. While the focus is on the treatment of major depressive disorders, other related conditions are also covered.
The idea isn't to offer a substitute to consultation with a physician; but a supplemental study piece that gives patients the kind of knowledge and tools to ask informed questions and make savvy decisions.
From a quick review of the history of modern neurophysiology to how drugs accumulate in the body long-term and why effective treatment of depression relies on different factors, readers receive a thorough, professional foundation of insights based on history, research, typical medical office applications, and knowledge of dosages, overdoses and exactly how different drug classes work.
Millions of Americans currently take antidepressants. How many of them really know what they are taking? With the help of this book, which organizes technical information into a series of non-technical definitions, visual charts, and detailed discussions; they'd at least have the basic medical details at their fingertips.
While all this information is not unique to Understanding Antidepressants, having it all under one cover in a succinct, non-technical, accessible format creates a survey that should be given to any depressed patient and their loved ones who want to understand what they're being given, how the drugs work, and their potential benefits and detriments.
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A Beagle's First
Beaver's Pond Press Inc.
Special educators who look for easy lessons contained in subjects that hold near universal appeal will welcome A Beagle's First Christmas, the simple story about a little dog that will appeal from beginning readers into adult audiences despite its diminutive 29 pages.
These pages contain a gem of family story set in the countryside, are illustrated with color drawings by Mary Longley, and depict the intersection of lonely lives on a snowy country road during the holidays when a retired farmer and a lost dog find comfort in one another.
With Christmas serving as the backdrop, readers receive two perspectives: the struggles of a baby beagle puppy abandoned by its owner, and farmer Lloyd, a happily retired loner who welcomes the little lost dog into his life.
Besides the plus of covering events from two very different viewpoints, A Beagle's First Christmas cultivates an upbeat, positive perspective about life that permeates even potential disaster and gives this story a fun overlay of optimistic anticipation as the farmer gently trains his young charge and both adjust to changed circumstances that bring the spirit of Christmas into each of their lives.
As beagle and human review sweet memories and share them together, readers will delight in a story of renewed purpose in life created by the chance coming together of man and beast.
If it's a universal story of animal/human relationships, love, and heartwarming repurposing of life that's desired, whether for young chapter book readers or special education participants, then this holiday heart warmer will be the item of choice, going where other easy readers do not by creating a warm atmosphere of hopefulness revolving around the circumstances of life in general and Christmas in particular.
A Beagle's First Christmas
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Softcover: $18.95, 978-1-63393-614-0
Hardcover: $26.95, 978-1-63393-616-4
eBook: $7.99, 978-1-63393-615-7
Fast Backward takes a different approach to the threat of nuclear annihilation by directing its story to young adult audiences who experience events from fifteen-year-old paperboy Bobby Hastings' perspective as he witnesses the explosion of a nuclear bomb at a secret military base in 1945. Even more puzzling is the sudden appearance of a naked girl who speaks with a German accent and begs for acknowledgement that she's a time traveler with an important message from the future about a forthcoming war.
She's on a mission to change history; but can she be believed? And even if she is believed, can history be changed by a teenager?
Time travel and history-changing stories are nothing new in the YA world: the literature is so loaded with such tales that the 'time-slip' genre has been well established.
What is satisfyingly different about Fast Backward is not only its potential to provide an alternate history story to younger audiences who may not be prior fans of alternate history or timeslip sagas, but its marriage of timeslip sci-fi and historical issues.
David Patneaude chooses the first person as a method of delivering a "you are there" feel to Bobby's story, and this works particularly well to capture his challenges, the puzzle of Cocoa's appearance and message, and the larger question of what a teenage boy can do that adults cannot.
As Cocoa faces interrogation and threats from the very government forces she seeks to influence and protect, readers are given a thoroughly engrossing story that centers on Cocoa's role as a possible historical time bomb: "After a flurry of farewells, McCloy and his driver are gone like a passing hailstorm, heading back to Albuquerque for the night before returning to Washington. The rest of us sit and wait. For what? Something from Cocoa? Nobody stares at her, but she’s the center of attention anyway. An encyclopedia. A time-bomb. A secret weapon harboring secrets not even she knows."
The inclusion of racy language should be mentioned for those who look for 'clean action'; but this is well-defined and is designed to add to the realism of Bobby's reactions and encounters as the plot embarks on a fast pace towards a riveting conclusion.
Its anti-war message is stark, engaging, realistic, and hard to put down; making Fast Backward a highly recommended read not just for young adults, but for adults seeking an unusually compelling alternative history timeslip saga.
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Finding Hope in the
Darkness of Grief
Finding Hope in the Darkness of Grief gathers Diamante Lavendar's own insights on how she charted a path through grief, and pairs free verse poems that double as uplifting admonitions ("There is so much more/To every instance/Than we can comprehend.") with prose and the author's lovely color art images.
From illusions of darkness and separation to the realities of harboring false beliefs and following the road to healing, Lavendar's verse and insights follow the process of not only recovery; but finding the kind of empathy and understanding from the healing process that strengthens other connections in life.
The juxtaposition of nature-oriented images and art with these admonitions lends a visual touch to the written word that enhances both with a structure and reinforcement that either alone could not have achieved.
Those who will benefit most from Lavendar's approach are readers who are seeking their own paths to healing and greater enlightenment, who can accept her candid assessments of what the process of grieving leads to ("Death is not an ending but a beginning to a different reality, not only/for the bereaved but also for those who have passed into eternity.").
This audience will relish the message of Lavendar's art and words and will discover not just a quiet comfort offered within the pages of Finding Hope in the Darkness of Grief, but a broader message that holds clues to finding strength from weakness and ultimately transforming grief into a growth experience.
Readers interested in finding opportunities from the great of adversities will keep Finding Hope in the Darkness of Grief close at hand for reflection, inspiration, and ultimately transformation.
Finding Hope in the Darkness of Grief
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Fresh Start: A Guide to Eliminating
Connect the Dots
978-1980919841 $7.99 Paperback/$0.99 Kindle
Amazon link: https://www.amazon.com/Fresh-
Plenty of books have been written about burnout, stress, and emotional challenges in life; but Fresh Start: A Guide to Eliminating Unhealthy Stress offers a difference in acknowledging these challenges to healthy living with an eye to addressing and reducing the sources of such stress.
From a basic definition of what constitutes stress to insights on its incarnation, management, and not just one but several different coping strategies, Fresh Start advocates the notion that stress can be put in its place to allow for a healthier, more active engagement with life.
As chapters survey the kinds of life events that are both intentionally and accidentally influenced by personal choice, they consider how negative cognitive patterns too often serve to reinforce, create, or add to stress to create a repetitive blueprint of negative actions, reactions, and choices. This in turn leads to major differences in the ways that people approach life and its challenges.
This is not to say that tension isn't useful, but that sometimes it holds value and, other times, it's unnecessary. Fresh Start shows how to differentiate between the two and how to mitigate the effects of everyday tension in favor of the kinds of challenges that encourage growth.
From cultivating healthier relationships through a variety of strategies to figuring out what triggers stress and how to cope with it, Fresh Start offers many different keys to better life experiences. It is especially recommended for self-help readers who know they are too often under the kinds of stress that doesn't lead to productive choices.
Fresh Start: A Guide to Eliminating Unhealthy Stress
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From Hell to
Happiness: How to Heal When Your Loved One is Terminal
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-692-10570-2 $22.00
Paperback ISBN: 978-1979335423 $14.00
Kindle ASIN: B07DHZHNQS
From Hell to Happiness: How to Heal When Your Loved One is Terminal charts the author's path through hell from the death of a loved one, but holds several differences from the usual account of grief and dying.
Christopher Cooper's counselor introduces his story, admitting that when he first came to her for help in accepting and living through his wife's imminent demise, she questioned her ability to help him. Unlike others in such situations, Cooper was only thirty years old and just beginning his life in many ways; not at the end of it, like so many who face the loss of a spouse from a terminal condition. He had babies to care for and a life to rebuild.
With this and other factors in mind, she began not at the usual first stage of the five stages of grief; but at the last: acceptance.
Cooper lived through his wife's agonizing cancer progression, her death, and beyond. His descriptions of this process pull no punches, it should be warned: they are brutal reminders of cancer's terrible toll on everyone involved: "After more than a year and a half of fighting, thinking we had beat her cancer, and then finding out it was back for good, that it would eventually kill her, after her struggling through countless rounds of treatment and the horrible side effects it caused, after all of that, she was exhausted. Jenn didn’t want to die, but she was ready. This spasm, which she described as exponentially more painful than child labor contractions, and which must have lasted for twenty minutes as we lay on the living room floor, she curled in the fetal position while I held and talked her through it, this was the thing that finally broke her."
From Hell to Happiness doesn't sugar-coat or gloss over a single moment of the experience; and that's the second remarkable aspect of its story. It lends a 'you are there' feel to events which go beyond following Cooper's life and experiences to delve right into the agony and ecstasy of love, loss, and survival processes.
A third note to his story is that no false hope is offered. There is no magic pill for grief and loss: only the experience of another man's journey through hell and back again, and some of the lessons it offers which may resonate with the reader: "By sharing my story in this book, I hope to help others who are going through their own devastation or grief. Cancer sucks. Any terminal illness sucks. You watch your loved one disappear one small piece at a time. Sometimes it takes a while before you realize, “Wow, they didn’t used to be this way.” It is hard. It is gut wrenching. How do you cope when the life you built with someone you love is falling apart? I offer no promises or easy answers. These pages do not contain expert opinions or science but my personal experience. You may learn more about your own journey by reading about mine. While everyone’s grieving process is different, many of the emotions and coping mechanisms are the same. What worked for me and my family might work for you and yours."
By now, it should be evident that Christopher Cooper writes with a remarkably candid, straightforward approach that pulls no punches. During his wife's initial treatment for an exceptionally aggressive form of breast cancer, Cooper mused on life without her, driven by the grim statistic that her form of cancer (triple negative) held a zero percent survival rate after five years. He envisioned a joyless future as a struggling single father trying to juggle family and career alone without his beloved partner and without all the dreams they held for their future. He wondered if happiness would ever return to his life. And he faced her ongoing battle, which wore both of them down and changed their strength, personalities, and relationship.
Throughout the remainder of her life, he cultivated new tools for 'living in the now', and after her death he was challenged to use these and the task of rebuilding his life without her. Her caretakers and family also weigh in, here, while color photos capture her journey to provide startlingly real reminders of the progression of not just her disease, but her connections and relationships to those in her life.
From Hell to Happiness offers others in similar situations a series of frank insights from Cooper's experience. While it can't be said to be a 'blueprint' in the usual sense because everyone's approach and lives are different, it does make for a remarkably astute, sincere coverage that others may use to help clarify and support their own choices, options, and lives.
Those struggling with grief, a new diagnosis of a terminal condition, or an end-of-life changed relationship should read From Hell to Happiness. Its lessons resonate in a voice that is strikingly clear, reflective, and specific about how Jenn and Christopher handled the end of her life and the advent of his revised goals. It was all about finding the 'silver linings' which made this transition not just survivable, but a gentler shift for the entire family. The experiences charted in From Hell to Happiness provide a invaluable lessons on better approaches to death and its aftermath.
From Hell to Happiness: How to Heal When Your Loved One is Terminal
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Angel Curs - The Trilogy
Michael Thomas Griswold
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B0749P389Z $0.99 Kindle
Angel Curs - The Trilogy is a sweeping story that embraces paradigms of reality and worldviews throughout society and religious groups. Of necessity, it requires an open mind and affection for complexity from its readers.
Familiar figures permeate Michael Thomas Griswold's history; from the specter of a dying Marcel Proust introduced in the first few paragraphs to Muhammad's dialogue about the history of Angels on Earth which offers questions, answers, and a startling alternative view of life on Earth: "Muhammad was confused. "If there are no gods, who made the earth?" "Who made the gods, if the gods made the earth?" replied Michael. "These are good questions but are circular and have no answers. The path the Angels chose was to love your fellow man, love the planet, and love all the animals and plants. These are the beliefs of the Angels." Muhammad also liked the stories about Noah and the fall of Atlantis, but couldn't understand how they lost the war since the Angels were the superior race. "It was their peaceful nature which led to their defeat; they were incapable of the violence necessary for victory." Muhammad thought that was foolish. "It was the duty of the leaders to protect their people." "When someone accepts and practices love there is no turning back. A person cannot love one minute and hate the next. The Angels simply could not change who they were and lost the war and their Empire."
As one can readily see from the dialogue above, one notable facet of Angel Curs - The Trilogy lies not only in its alternative history of humanity but in challenges to belief systems, perceptions, and events that lead to alternative interpretations of well-known episodes in human history.
This places Angel Curs - The Trilogy in a difficult position, marketing-wise. It can be deemed a fantasy or an alternative history; but either definition doesn't begin to describe the underlying complexity and spiritual and philosophical challenges that Angel Curs brings to the table. It can also be recommended for audiences who enjoy stories of revised worldviews, history, and stories of conflict between individuals and nations which move from past events into future experiences around the world.
It's political in nature but personal in approach, including a host of characters who each hold their own separate worldviews and struggles; and it jumps between nations (Paraguay, Jerusalem, Hungary, Russia, Washington DC) with a breathtaking connection of the presence of Curs in the world, and their perceptions throughout time and within other cultures.
Angel Curs is presented as a trilogy of three books under one cover. This approach allows for a careful move from foundation concept to epic spiritual fantasy that is weighty in content, but essential for crafting its building blocks of understanding.
While placing all three under one cover might prove daunting to readers seeking a lighter alternative history, it should be emphasized that Angel Curs is not your usual leisure adventure read but a serious work of literature. It asks questions about what constitutes historical perception and interpretation and how actual events may be interpreted by special interests, over time.
Because it's complex, weighty, and winding, Angel Curs is not recommended for the average reader of alternative history. However, it will prove an unmitigated delight to those who look for thought-provoking, multifaceted productions that reach far beyond their genre roots to offer something different in the way of philosophical, spiritual, historical and paradigm-changing, challenging reading.
Angel Curs - The Trilogy
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Contemporary Bloody Literature: Stories & Poems is a synthesis of literary reflections that excel in astute observation and thought-provoking moments: "The officer clearly lived in a world where numerals and data followed strict procedures and had meanings above and beyond the ken of the uninitiated."
That said, it should be mentioned that 'literary' in this case does not translate to linear narrations, but to a style and approach to its five short stories and eighteen poems that feels fresh and new. Poems are juxtaposed with prose stories and we encounter characters in situations which only initially appear diurnal and undramatic: an employment office interview waiting room, a hospital bed, a lecture theatre. Ironies, errors of perception and miscommunication abound.
These slice of life vignettes in prose and poetry provide not just literary perspectives, but thoughts about compliance, media and data manipulation, afterthoughts and observations on behaviour, and insights into complicated interpersonal relationships.
At first glance, the poems and prose seem to jump all over the place in terms of subject and style. As readers pursue Contemporary Bloody Literature, it becomes evident that the effort should be viewed in its entirety; with each piece becoming part of a larger literary puzzle and vision.
Through Martin Connolly's eyes, the world takes shape with all its underlying psychological facets painfully exposed and explored: "Separateness had been written into this vacation from the start. Sarah and her family prepared what they had brought and Michael prepared what he had brought, and never the twain did meet."
The logic surrounding such diverse topics as work, daily living, travel, war, reading habits and family relationships comes in for some interesting scrutiny, in a variety of situations: "This line of thinking brought Michael to wonder about other aspects of his behaviour, here and in Japan." This quote comes from a story which is set in post-9.11 America, and which provides a snapshot of life at that time.
Perhaps the strongest piece in this collection is both the concluding account and the one that contributes the title to the entire effort, ‘Contemporary Bloody Literature’. In this story, an eminent professor voices some strong opinions about contemporary literature in a public venue. He believes in the literary icons of the past and sees what is on offer now as a poor imitation, in a system run by people who know nothing of art. Later, Professor Gallagher comes into contact with a young female fan, one he finds alluring. He soon discovers that she is also a writer. Here, Professor Gallagher unwittingly enters terra incognita, a place of possibilities and… of dangers, too.
Literature readers who appreciate poetry and prose alike and who want a well-seasoned literary gathering of diverse perspectives and lives will relish the approaches and unexpectedly diverse scenarios of Contemporary Bloody Literature.
Contemporary Bloody Literature
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Home of the Damned Ltd.
Kindle: B07CHVFL1K $ 2.99
Ordering links: https://www.amazon.com/
If the name Midsummer's Bottom doesn't lend a clue that Shakespeare somehow inspired its proceedings, consider the fact that events are introduced in a play format which stays true to the Bard's initial creation while offering a satisfyingly whimsical embellishment on the theme.
The Midsummer Players re-enact the Dream outdoors, every year, in a forest at night. This year they're joined by the fey folk, who add an extra element based on the deal Shakespeare struck with them long ago, which returns to haunt the living in both worlds on this special eve.
A prior familiarity with (or re-reading of, if too much time has gone by) Shakespeare's masterpiece is in order for proper appreciation of Darren Dash's tongue-in-cheek approach in Midsummer's Bottom. This will provide added familiarity with the foundations of the story and a renewed appreciation for how Dash moves from Shakespeare's foundation to his own take-off, set in modern times with contemporary characters.
Shakespeare's key characters return in the beginning (Puck, Oberon), but Midsummer's Bottom isn't a verbatim re-enactment of events. Chapters leave the dramatic format for the usual trappings of prose after setting the act and scene, moving into the life of Del, who has "...sold his soul – temporarily! – to the horned devil of paid employment."
As themes of magic, chaos, fairy involvements, and mundane lives converge, readers are treated to a lively romp through modern times and enchanting influences that capture the ironies and drama of adventurous encounters between fairies and humans with very different goals in life: "Have you ever been in a plane?” Ingmar asked. “Never,” Finn said sadly. “I could take you up one day,” Ingmar said. “I have a friend who’s a pilot. I could wangle a couple of seats for us if you –” Finn gasped, grabbed Ingmar’s hands and kissed the knuckles as fairies in his world were wont to do. “If you could truly take me there, Ingmar of the Dorslaer, you would have my love from now until the cessation of time.” Ingmar stared at the thrill-struck banker, then at his saliva-shined knuckles. “I’ll see to it as soon as I can,” he gurgled."
Shakespeare fans in particular will find the atmosphere and humor exquisite. While they stay true to some of the Bard's ironic contentions and satirical approaches, they also add embellishments unique to Darren Dash's style and contemporary approach to Midsummer's spectacles.
The result blends mythology and folk stories with a satirical overlay and contemporary observation style that toes the fine line between an original work and a literary parody.
Readers who love Shakespeare in general and his Midsummer production in particular will well appreciate what Dash has done here. He combines past and present themes and settings to create a lovely synthesis of human and magical worlds as a play's recreation goes awry in unexpected ways.
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Odysseus in Absaroka
John David Muth
The Aldrich Press
Amazon.com: %22kelsay books%22
When a poem (in this case, intriguingly titled 'Her Tight White Blouse Made Me Do It') introduces a book, the reader (rightly) anticipates a poetry collection despite a title that references Odysseus, lending to anticipation of an odyssey. It should be cautioned that Odysseus in Absaroka blends the poetry format with the structure and content of a literary reflection on travel's ironies, oddities, and challenges as John David Muth embarks on a sojourn from New Jersey to Wyoming on a mountain-hiking vacation. In the course of his experiences, readers receive his vivid awakening and realizations about life in general.
To call Odysseus in Absaroka a travelogue, however, is to do it as much an injustice as to call War and Peace a military exposé. There's much going on underneath the trappings of travel description, wrapped in the metaphor and the succinct form of poetic structure. Readers interested in life experiences captured in free verse will relish the observational style and progressive understanding that gives Odysseus in Absaroka a special atmosphere and flavor not seen in other poetry collections revolving around journeys and discoveries.
Take, for example, the poem 'Benadryl and Whiskey'. On the surface, it's about checking in luggage at the airport. But under the description of a slowly-moving waiting line are subtle insights on addiction, inhumanity, and the modern ennui and cruelty which underlies too many ordinary transactions in modern America: "We stand for hours/in the baggage check section/silent and forlorn/like ancient Egyptian slaves/sealed into a pharaoh’s tomb/waiting to die from starvation...."Slowly moving airport employees/sip Benadryl and whiskey/from large metal cups/as they scribble signatures/on boarding passes/stifle laughs as the elderly/try to lift their suitcases onto the scales."
Contrast this beginning of the journey to later experiences for a satisfying juxtaposition of man and nature in 'First Night at the Absaroka Ranch': "The sky is scattered with stars/diamonds in the black gloved hand/of a TV movie cat burglar./There isn’t a streetlight or multi-story building/for over twenty miles./I dream of a fully loaded tractor trailer/skidding on the Turnpike/during a winter storm/and awaken to the howling of a wolf."
Succinct, attention-grabbing, and thought provoking, every piece in Odysseus in Absaroka is a gem: just what poetry readers on their own physical and philosophical journeys will want to reflect upon!
Odysseus in Absaroka
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Take It Back is the first short read in a series by the same name, pairing action with unexpected humor in a story designed to attract and hold the interest of busy readers who look for entertaining, absorbing tales without the demanding complexity in so many modern productions.
In order for a quick
read (under 100 pages) to prove engrossing, every word counts; more so
with longer stories that have more room for description and forgiveness
passages fail to compel. Thus, Take it
Back is packed with moving moments in nearly every paragraph;
not the least
of which is a opener that demands pursuit from the start: "I
was being held at knifepoint—always knifepoint. Why, I had no
idea. I was a big guy. I could see over the crowds at Walmart. People
aside as I walked down the street. You’d think I’d warrant being held
gunpoint. But it was always knifepoint. Always. Dammit."
Douglas Gage has exposed his assailant's scheme to defraud unsuspecting health insurance recipients, and for this, he faces a con man's knife and an attack on his quest for justice for the average guy who, as it turns out, doesn't quite believe that Douglas has actually saved them. Gage is fighting for the poor, lowly man who doesn't always seek a champion or appreciate that Gage is such.
Unforgiving victims with a vested interest in remaining conned, clever men who gladly step into roles of taking advantage of others, and a special kind of Lone Ranger who attacks stupidity as well as greed contributes to a fast-paced read nicely steeped in the atmosphere of small-town lives, poverty, fights and plots, and confrontations with not just one but four conmen.
Rural Georgia comes to life in just a few pages: proof that a short piece written by a talented hand can prove just as engrossing as any full-length novel. Readers who enjoy crime stories that are specific and nicely embedded with humor and action will relish Take It Back not only for its intrigue, but for its purposeful consideration of life values.
Take It Back
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Regular readers of Nigerian fiction know that a form of renaissance is taking place around the world: African-centered literary works are on the rise. Walking Shadows: Stories of Tragedy, Love & Triumph is just one example of a form of contemporary fiction that winds Nigerian social reflection and issues into a literary work designed to appeal beyond Nigeria's borders.
Each story in this nine-piece set outlines a different facet of social struggle through the eyes of a very different protagonist, from campus lovers affected by both a love potion and a professor's lustful envy to a young boy's journey to the Kingdom of Animals; a place from which no human returns.
It's important to note that no prior familiarity with either Nigerian literature or the nation's social issues is required in order to find these stories enlightening, educational, and compelling. Chijioke Dikeocha outlines universal experiences of love, struggle, change, and survival; and these are themes any reader can readily understand.
Greater issues embrace each individual story; from the speed of life that leads an inquisitive young mind to confront a tortoise's choices and style of movement through existence and a lesson in diplomacy in 'My Journey with Tortoise to the Animal Kingdom' to the lessons learned outside of school in 'Hard Times Never Last' as Chuks at last takes an exam cancelled previously due to violence, only to find his dreams shattered by their results.
As with most writings
from those who don't claim English as their first language, at times
phrasing or punctuation in these pieces gives pause for thought ("He
was honest in the school as a teacher."). But it also should
that while better editing might have smoothed these moments, they could
have detracted from the atmosphere and voice of the author as he
various scenarios with honesty and humor. There is a brief explanation
non-English words and expressions used in my book in the Notes section
at the end of the book.
Readers of African literature will find these stories reflect the social atmosphere and culture of Nigeria, providing enjoyable works that nicely describe the dilemmas and struggles of individuals who strive for circumstances beyond their stations and sometimes beyond their control.
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Everything can change in four months. In July of 1938, young Austrian Kurt Reiner, one of the authors of Counting on America, was a 25-year-old newlywed and Jewish engineering student at Vienna’s Technical College. On November 10, 1938, Kurt was arrested by the German Gestapo and wound up in the brutal death camp Dachau. Thus began an eighteen-month journey of escape, terror, flight, romance, internment in France as an “enemy alien,” and a series of tangential events of serendipity as raw grit and divine intervention bring Kurt and his bride to America.
If this sounds like fiction, be advised that every event is real, endowed with a ringing truth that eschews the typical approaches to escape and survival and instead opts for a survey embedded with the hope and ideals that America represents.
As chapters and experiences unfold, Hennie and Kurt's son (and co-author) came to realize the unique aspects of their experience, which documents the powerful obstacles involved in coming to America; from financial hardship and blocked immigration attempts to life lessons learned from their experiences.
Their story is packed with scarce photographs and documents that can be used in classrooms and other educational settings to help students and historians visually absorb these harrowing experiences, from the camps to the long and often seemingly-impossible journey to America.
There are so many Holocaust survivor stories already on the market that one might wonder at the need for yet another. A number of features separates Counting on America from others; from struggles between hierarchies in the camps ("As I made my way into the warm refuge, I attempted to make myself as unobtrusive as possible. I had hoped to be disregarded by those wary of an unfamiliar face. As per policy, I removed my shoes before entering. I then positioned myself close enough to the stove to absorb its warmth. Unfortunately, it was not long before my presence was discovered. I was challenged by a Jewish inmate who had advanced to the assistant of the Stubenältester; he questioned my presence. In Dachau, the hierarchy of inmates was Blockältester (block chief, an inmate in charge of one block), the Stubenältester (room leader), and third, the block Schreiber or assistant Stubenältester responsible for the paperwork.") to attempts to obtain visas and emigrate under conditions that separated husband and wife: "Personally disheartening was not hearing back from the United States for months on end, as well as our concern of finding a way to afford the exorbitant travel costs to America should our visas be approved. These challenges plus dependency on small sums of aid from our limited resources made it increasingly difficult to remain optimistic. In addition, communication between Hennie and me was typically restricted to letters and postcards. The situation was made even more forlorn by the scarcity of our personal interaction accentuated by other difficulties."
From the camps to America and the realities of living in a small Portland Jewish community and becoming noted as a Holocaust survivor, the authors provide a powerful documentary of not just two lives saved, but tests of faith, acts of individual heroism, and the realities of efforts made by Jewish and non-Jewish peoples both during and after the war: "The reality that many non-Jews were sensitive to the Jewish plight during the Holocaust is important to acknowledge; however, many non-Jewish persons were either not in a position to help or were too frightened to act."
While no Holocaust collection should be without Counting on America, it is hoped that its themes and approach will also reach into general-interest collections interested in accounts of immigration challenges and the ideals of what America actually offers to refugees seeking peace. Highly recommended.
Counting on America
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They Must Be Monsters
Matthew LeRoy & Deric Haddad
The Manor Publishing House
Anyone who grew up in 1980s America likely recalls the explosion of allegations and information surrounding a California preschool sexual abuse case that hit the newspapers and resonated throughout society with long-term impacts on social systems, psychological processes, childcare standards, and parenting approaches alike.
They Must Be Monsters: A Modern Day Witch-Hunt: The untold story behind the McMartin Phenomenon—the longest, most expensive criminal case in U.S. history documents the McMartin Preschool Trials. It weaves a narrative nonfiction prose with authentic records to tell the perspective of a schizophrenic mother whose perceptions of 'monsters' running her son's preschool instigated a process that changed the awareness and lives of those around her in a prestigious Manhattan Beach community, much as the Salem witch hunt events achieved in early American history.
The first thing to note about They Must Be Monsters is that its format lends to pursuit by readers looking for entertainment value as much as education.
An introduction cements the personal experience the authors had with these events and their early awareness that these would not only set but define the stage for broader issues: "Ironically, I’m afraid, with all of our progress and advancement, we’ve devolved in the most subtle ways. A simple accusation, true or contrived, enters the news cycle and moves across the airwaves before facts are verified, destroying reputations before due process takes form. False narratives incite angry mobs into the streets, where they loot and burn down businesses in some misguided act of retribution. Across the globe, our fellow countrymen are beheaded by zealots, and yet our interest wanes as the next newsflash hits our smart phones. Sadly, after so many volumes of history as our reference, common sense and decency continue to take a backseat to a salacious story. People hear what they choose to hear. They believe what they choose to believe. There is no defense against a wave of passion. There is no reasonable defense."
It's the birth, evolution, and process of this 'wave of passion' that proves so riveting in a book that, ironically, may be especially relevant in modern times with the advent of 'alternate reality' and 'fake news' scenarios. Previously unpublished real facts in this particular case provide the backdrop for the heart-stopping implications of social hysteria as the story moves from singular experience to social change, following how insanity can spread even over a long period of time, such as the thirty-year period documented herein.
After introductions provide historical perspective and discuss interview processes, ensuing chapters present the creative non-fictional overlay of preschool figurehead Virginia McMartin and the determined passion of a mother who becomes convinced that her boy has been raped by authorities at school.
The choice of using creative dialogues and inconsequential embellishments is a solid one because it lends a gripping drama to real events and allows for expanded descriptions and perceptions that strike at the heart of what forms a belief or conviction, how it grows, and how it expands beyond the participants to become part of society's popular mythology.
As events embrace death threats, a dissolved marriage, an unhinged mother who pursues both justice and her own personal demons, court proceedings, and children removed from their homes, it's easy to trace how one mother's passion becomes a society's flashpoint for change.
At each step, Matthew LeRoy & Deric Haddad document the perceptions, logic, illogic, and influences that lead to each character's perceptions, choices, and decisions that in turn hold a lasting impact on everything around them. They researched both the original events in the 1980s and their impact on modern times, interviewing those on all sides, from accusers to defenders, spending three years doing so in order to tell both sides of the story from different perspectives. Their account not only documents the origins of social hysteria, but shows how these generate their own definitions of reality and revised values throughout society.
As social workers, law enforcement entities, and individuals become caught up in something far greater than a singular possibility or event, Matthew LeRoy & Deric Haddad offer perspectives on various possibilities through a research-supported account that injects questions, answers, and ideas to supplement actual events and their interpretation.
Satanic cults, law enforcement raids, spiritual, social, and political perspectives, and child abuse task forces charged with investigating similar crimes enter into the overall story's evolution, creating a multifaceted analysis that moves unexpectedly far beyond a singular perspective to embrace a wide range of issues.
Anyone who lived through these real-life events, and generations that came after who live with their results, will find They Must Be Monsters a vivid account not just of one community's eye-opening changes; but of a process that affected American perceptions and reflects ongoing ideas of monsters and saviors today.
Very, very highly recommended not just for its detailed background research and approach; but for its ability to tailor a wealth of information into a digestible, understandable narrative non-fiction format that will hold readers riveted to the end, highlighting lasting questions about the underlying causes of community hysteria and its implications in modern times.
They Must Be Monsters
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of Redemption: Setting the Eternal Saga
William E. Jefferson
Hybrid Global Publishing
Divine Choreography of Redemption: Setting the Eternal Saga in Time considers the idea, incarnation, and spiritual and philosophical mechanics of redemption; but it does so using fiction, not nonfiction analysis; and this makes the study much more palatable and accessible to general-interest readers despite its complex-sounding title.
On the Storied Sea on the ancient Isle of Estillyen in the 17th century lives a troupe of Message Makers who have traveled time and space, charged with bringing the concept of redemption to contemporary audiences too infatuated with the modern and distracting devices of their world.
The story opens in this Estillyen world, where the troupe celebrates its members and long history and faces the fact that time is about to exact its worst toll. They need to prepare for new stages upon which to bring their message of redemption. Their background is nicely synthesized in an introduction which neatly sets the stage for their next incarnation: "On February 4, 1637, as the record shows, Bevin Roberts and his troupe set foot on the Isle of Estillyen. There time moved at a slower pace. Months gave way to years, and years to decades. Eventually Bevin Roberts, like his voice, faded into time. One by one, the original troupe followed suit, yielding to the future present. Yet their storytelling ways carried on, rooted deep in Estillyen soil. Today, the Message Makers of Estillyen dutifully carry on the work of Roberts and his troupe. The ancient texts of Scripture propel them. They have a way of becoming the message."
The narrator, Story, speaks of fellow monk Brother Narrative as he reviews his purpose in life, struggles with a dry phase which thwarts his usually-effortless ability to capture events for posterity, and becomes both witness and participant in a series of events that begin with the author of an odd book and concept (Platform Building in the Age of Technopoly) and moves into realms he'd never before considered.
As the story unfolds, a classic battle between technology and spirituality unfolds which considers not just the trappings of high-tech, but its approaches to life and relationship to myths, reality, past and present, from Dante to Christ. These images and experiences portend a divine covenant and the troupe's personal encounters with figures from heaven and hell.
In some ways, Divine Choreography of Redemption reflects a journey akin to Inferno re-imagined for modern thinkers. It recreates the methods of historical reenactment, the drama of mythology and religion, and key struggles over belief systems as deftly as it weaves a narrative about a troupe's determination to make spiritual and philosophical inquiries. Most of all, it captures the underlying drama behind Scripture and the process of bringing it alive and applying it to modern life.
The troupe doesn't just re-enact Biblical concepts and scenes: their mission is to weave a thread of connection between characters, choices, and resulting miracles. These receive winning description by wordsmith William E. Jefferson in a vivid spiritual approach that will delight readers of religious literary pieces: "...thus they carried on, with Inquisitor reading names written in the ribbon of gold and Voice winding them round the staff. Up, up, the gold ribbon spiraled. Damsel, daughter of Jairus, Lazarus whom Jesus loved, the man among the tombs that everyone feared . . . around the shepherd’s staff, Voice wound them in. The exercise had a spellbinding effect on the crowd. Certainly no one had ever seen costumed men winding a gold ribbon of miracles round a shepherd’s staff. I thought, “The novelty of the act forces the mind to embrace what’s known in patterns new. Nothing is one-dimensional, flat and factual. I’m watching something very rich taking place upon the stage.”
Readers of Christian works will appreciate the revelations the narrator experiences as he observes the troupe's methods in action and considers how miracles are woven into everyday affairs and how they reflect redemption’s divine choreography.
The entire piece becomes a spiritual dance; one that Christian readers will find particularly lively, moving, energetic, thought-provoking, and unique; whether the story is speaking of past, present, or future; monks; high technology; or dramatic devices designed to reach Everyman with carefully choreographed messages of divinity.
collection should be without this theological examination of spiritual
connections, mankind's struggle for balance and redemption, and blend
allegory and metaphysical inspection that leaves readers thinking long
the story's conclusion.
Divine Choreography of Redemption: Setting the Eternal Saga in Time
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A Letter to the Pope
Dr. Jennifer Wortham
New Insights Press
978-0-9995801-0-3 (print book) $14.95
978-0-9995801-1-0 (eBook) $ 2.99
A Letter to the Pope: My Journey of Forgiveness, Faith & Love is an autobiographical piece based on true events and Dr. Jennifer Wortham's journey under the influence of the Catholic Church, and provides an unusual discourse that ends up advocating for the Pope's recognition of victims of child abuse.
Here Dr. Wortham discusses issues of parish priests and young children, her spiritual awakening, her eventual meeting with the Pope himself, and her newfound mission to help him transform some of the Catholic Church's processes and perceptions.
Readers won't anticipate such a wide-ranging journey from the title of this book; but one of the notable attributes of its approach lies in its ability to take personal and family experiences and traumas and transform them into not just life-changing paths, but religion-changing influences that reach into the depths of Catholic traditions themselves.
Dr. Wortham experiences not only spiritual and psychological conflict but confrontations with love and God's purpose for her. She finds that her choices lead to revised paths in both spirituality and romance, and that these paths, in turn, embrace a bigger picture than she'd originally perceived or intended.
Catholic audiences who find themselves torn between a fundamentalist approach to the church’s doctrine and the style of compassion promoted by Pope Francis will readily recognize and acknowledge Dr. Wortham's struggles to bring her message to a leader who holds the power to enact changes for the greater good. They will, especially, be fascinated by the process of how Dr. Wortham gained an audience with the Pope after sending a letter detailing her family's anguish upon discovering that two of their own had been molested by one of the Church's priests.
One anticipates either a correspondence format or use of the first person; but another surprising aspect to A Letter to the Pope is that it's presented in the third person with an attention to description and situations which reads almost like a novel complete with drama, characters, and psychological examination and insights.
This usage succeeds in capturing the unique aspects of Pope Francis and the Catholic world through an observational style of different approaches and connections between God and humanity, whether it be Jennifer's observations of the Pope's reactions to an unexpected circus act ("Perhaps it was his way of bringing light to the tragedies of the world, by reminding us that comedy and circus make us laugh and we are but mere mortals all. If anything, it reminded her how unique Pope Francis is, not hiding behind the curtain of religion to love everyone.") or her chance, newfound love and discussions with her mother ("Whatever happens between Stephen and me, I’ve come to realize, Mom, that things change all the time. The only constant we have in life is God. It’s our faith in God that we can always count on when everything seems to be changing around us. I know it’s God who can help us get through the hard stuff.”).
Catholic readers who maintain strong connections with the Church despite ever-changing pressures and revised perceptions of spirituality and the Church's place in the world will relish Jennifer's journey, the descriptive form Dr. Wortham uses to describe her world, and the messages in an autobiographical piece that deftly probe the underlying healing message of religion, Catholicism, Pope Francis, and how love, faith and family join together.
A Letter to the Pope
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Maurice A. Williams, Publisher
ASIN: B01LZYNRRL $2.99 Kindle/$8.50 Paper
Maurice William's essays comparing concepts of evolution to those of creationism are directed to a younger audience (ages 9-12) than that which usually receives such considerations, and this offers the possibility of a dialogue between adults and teens over the topic, using Questioning Evolution's writings as a foundation for debate.
No matter what side the reader is on, it should be mentioned that the structure, contents, analysis and foundations of not just intelligent design but belief itself are analyzed using a blend of philosophical and spiritual inspection.
Despite Questioning Evolution's stated age range on Amazon, it should be mentioned that this is no light discussion, and doesn't adjust its tone or contents for a younger audience. From references to mutations and extinction-level events to how and why it is possible to misunderstand the physical origins of the universe itself, Williams applies physics and spirituality with an eye to exploring and explaining contrasting belief systems and approaches to both.
He also succinctly outlines the differences between different, seemingly-opposite perceptions and why it's important to consider them both as valid: "There are two worlds I am immersed in: the physical world and the spiritual world. I need to come to terms with both worlds. One can be investigated through observation and experimentation; the other can only be approached through faith in the testimony of someone who knows."
These introductory passages lay the groundwork for essays which range from a consideration of what is faulty about Darwinist thinking to human choices involved in going to Hell, the existence of extraterrestrial beings and their place in God's plan, a simpler perspective on what constitutes good and evil, and the hurdles of pride in a personal relationship with God.
Williams provides many thought-provoking insights that move from scientific discussion to an analysis of the mechanics of belief. Therefore, Questioning Evolution is a thought-provoking read best served up in religious settings not just to teens; but to a mixed group of adult and teen thinkers who will find in this collection a solid foundation for debates and personal analysis.
It cements its approach with author perspectives and insights to lend a personal touch needed not just for acceptance of its concepts, but how they can be digested and analyzed. The wide-reaching topics in these essays will surprise those who anticipated a survey centered on evolution; but the process is clearly more complex than a singular perspective about what constitutes evolution, embracing many different interpretations and approaches.
The heart of the discussion lies in what can be accepted on faith alone. Adult and teen audiences alike will find much to reflect upon, here.
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