June 2016 Review Issue
ISBN: 978-1-5043-3856-1 (sc) $22.99
ISBN: 978-1-5043-3857-8 (hc) $39.95
ISBN: 978-1-5043-3855-4 (e) $6.99
Most lives are a combination of pain and suffering juxtaposed with achievement and happiness; but for some, the weights fall more heavily on pain and loss. Such was the case for Cheryl Miguel, who found herself physically and emotionally in shambles after a series of onslaughts challenged her very will to survive against all odds.
I Am Enough chronicles a descent into hell and back into enlightenment, and opens with the author's sudden fall. Alone and living on acreage far from anyone who could hear her cries for help, Miguel reflects on the circumstances which have brought her full circle from health to in a life affected and changed by lupus.
Having watched the same disease swallow up her father's hopes, dreams and life, Miguel is now besieged by a diagnosis that includes increasing disability, family challenges, and more. How does one rise from the ashes of disaster, divorce, and declining health?
One might expect the trials and tribulations, but what evolves from I Am Enough is more than hope: it's a description of the healing and enlightenment process that moves beyond physical and emotional challenges and into the realm of spirituality.
As Miguel opens up to new possibilities, she finds the course of her life changing in unexpected ways. The process involves asking basic questions ("I understood life was always changing and our job was to go with the changes rather than resist them, but I continued to ask myself, How do I look forward if everyone is moving on except me?") and how she finds the answers provides the core of a memoir that goes beyond struggle and into the process of finding meaning in all that occurs.
Coping with chronic illness, the deaths of loved ones, and isolation, Miguel fights with those around her ("It was lonely suffering with a chronic illness. Coping with it alone—the solitude—was crippling….I did have the girls. But for how much longer? As soon as their lives opened up, they would be gone. In a sense, they were trapped too. I feared my future a little more each day, knowing that I eventually burned people out, becoming nothing more than a burden.") in an effort to battle the growing darkness seeping into her heart, body and soul.
How does a person evolve from this point? Where does one find strength for self, let alone family members? How do you move from being an observer in life to a participant?
I Am Enough is about the process, the journey, and overcoming impossible physical and emotional obstacles. How Miguel defies not only the odds of living into her fifties with a chronic disease but learns to live well, absorbing new lessons of healing and enlightenment, makes for a powerful spiritual and psychological read especially recommended for others struggling with issues of dependence, independence, deteriorating health, and who want to learn the path of creating a well-lived life from the ashes of angst.
I Am Enough
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High Prairie Press
Pilgrim Spokes: Cycling East Across America continues cyclist Neil Hanson's story of his journey across America via bicycle, and begins where the first book (Pilgrim Wheels) left off as he rides from Medicine Lodge in Kansas to Annapolis on the east coast.
At 60 years old, Hanson is beyond the age when most people would take on this sort of self powered cross country adventure. He averaged 100 miles a day in the course of his ride, traveled alone for part of his journey and then continued on with a fellow cyclist. Pilgrim Spokes delivers a delightful blend of travelogue, cycling insights, and reflections on his journey along America's byways.
Pilgrim Spokes and Pilgrim Wheels adopt such a similar tone that one might wonder why the two books weren't merely incorporated under one cover; but as Hanson explains in his introduction, “the complete answer revolves around things like taking the time for deep and meaningful reflection, transforming the pace of a bicycle ride into a book, and wanting to tell a more complete story.”
Not a hasty rush through America, his journey allowed a deep and meaningful embrace of the experience as he meandered from the Pacific to the Atlantic. It would have thwarted the spirit of this journey to have edited out many of these experiences for the sake of cramming them all into one book. Reflecting the slower pace of a bicycle ride, Pilgrim Spokes indulges the reader within a journey that fully explores the sights, sounds, sensations, and encounters of the road.
Readers need not be avid cyclists in order to appreciate Pilgrim Spokes. The focus is on the experience and the journey, not just the destination or the mechanics of getting there. Armchair readers will be as enchanted with this book as will be the cyclist who contemplates this sort of epic journey.
Hanson immerses the reader in the cultures and experiences of the communities who invite him in to their world: "It’s late in the night when the music gets underway down in the living room. The cool September night air feels good creeping in through my open window, the quiet disturbed only by wonderful sounds from the living room below, filling the air with the songs of musicians expressing themselves through the souls of their instruments. Their music drifts out through the windows downstairs, across the old porch, and folds itself luxuriantly around me in my bed above. Music has been an unexpected and delightful surprise to me as I’ve crossed Missouri."
The introspection prompted by Hanson's encounters is wonderfully done - "I lay awake, watching lights from outside the partially closed curtain playing across the ceiling. I’m a lucky man to have the solid oak planking of a friendship with Dave in my life. I’m a lucky man to have been part of a marriage that lasted 30 years. I hope to be wise enough to recognize and appreciate the wise and imperfect people I will cross paths with as I continue down this road I’m on.") They blend nicely with the pedaling progress of his road trip: "This old secondary road may very well be the OldOld National Road, hinted at by an old covered bridge sitting by itself in a city park in the town of Lewisburg. I ride over to and around the bridge, a feeling of disappointment hanging over me. The bridge is clearly out of place here in the dry park, like a once-proud lion panting on the concrete in a cage at the zoo."
While Hanson’s story shares many moments of joy and sweet reflection, there are also darker experiences, including physical exhaustion and pain, deadly attacks from passing thugs, and deep personal regret. Many of the obstacles that he discovers emerge as much from emotional psyche, the need for flexibility, and gaps in comfort as they do from physical effort.
Hanson’s story takes the time to capture subtle nuances within his journey, and this sets it apart from other travelogues. Pilgrim Spokes is a vivid read filled with personal reflection, philosophical insights, physical challenges, and a dose of spirituality that immerses the reader in an exhilarating ride.
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What is a 'global poem'? Perhaps it's best to let poet Helene Pilibosian define her own genre: this opens the collection and leaves nothing to question about the purpose and poetic structures of her work: "I hang a gauze curtain made of the verbs/from cultures all around the world./As it swings/lightly with every breeze,/it looks like a see-through image/to make sure Igor and Giovanni/can converse without anger."
With that intro, readers are off on a journey through different cultures and worlds in a poetic romp that "…juggles French food,/Egyptian sun, gustatory glitches,/perfume of foreign trees/standing on a harvest of harbors."
In order to traverse this world and bring armchair readers along for the ride, it's essential to capture sensory experiences; and Pilibosian presents these images in spades, steeping readers in the sensual tea of European and world travels: "Castles of kings welcomed her/as she bit the French language/like a crepe with its sauce."
This well-balanced poetic production explores not just sensory information, but plots, protagonists, and hearts and minds as well, as in the story of Here: "She meets old friends in a restaurant/in a square called There,/in spite of tiny typos that dance around/like mosquitoes in the evening/and wrap words around her emotions."
Peppered atop the production like sprinkles on icing are social commentaries, interpersonal interactions, and reflections on the dance that is life itself, journeying ever further on the trajectory of foreign soils and experiences: "His youth took her hand/and sprinkled its demands/all around the world/on a dizzying circumference:/the curl of Shell Oil,/the curve of a nose,/the verve of an African harvest,/the deserving Italian phrase."
In any successful poetry collection, it's the journey that counts. Candor Candy creates a global whirlwind of senses, sounds, emotions and clashes individuals who come together in a maelstrom of discovery. Poetry enthusiasts who love world cultural encounters will find that these experiences permeate powerful words juxtaposed with "you are there" tastes and smells.
Candor Candy: Global Poems
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What comes after a whirlwind poetic tour of Earth? The stars and planets are next on the journey, and narrative poet Helene Pilibosian is just the pilot to take readers there in Planet Tome Reborn, a driving dervish of a production that follows a family who journeys to Earth, there to explore love, life, and immigrant dreams from Boston to beyond: "My heels have/a Cambridge and Boston ring./They sputter, try to tell/a story that is/too long, too edgy for feet/that want to be free/to cross the boundaries/for a social pun or two."
Planet Tome Reborn is more centered in living and observing this daily life than her Candor Candy production, and after taking the whirlwind world tour offered there, presents both a celebration of homebodies and an observational piece on the lure of local places from a true foreigner's perspective: "I set the table again/for the din of discussions/on repercussions of the recession./The waiter floated the meal/that featured roasted new year/with sauce of coffee quotes/and the latest in jollity."
Just as immigrants rebirth themselves under new conditions, reflect their cultural origins, and remake their lives, so the observer in Planet Tome Reborn deconstructs the ironies and inconsistencies of the human race and concocts a formula for love and acceptance that embraces both worlds: "I turn on the radio—/intergalactic to be sure—/to flood the atmosphere/with the notes of Mozart…"
While the poem 'For Sunflower Sanity' explains much of the sci-fi setting of this collection (even though it appears much later), readers will have gleaned much from the Tome pieces before this point, and even newcomers without prior familiarity with Helene Pilibosian's otherworldly creation will appreciate both its narrative approach and attention to building the details of an immigrant's melding of experiences.
Fans of the poetic narrative format who relish evocative imagery and unexpected word constructions will recognize Planet Tome Reborn as an outstanding example of how two very different worlds collide and blend.
Planet Tome Reborn
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Fantasy & Sci Fi
Aaron Michael Ritchey
978-1-61475-349-0 $14.99 Paper; $5.99 Kindle
Dandelion Iron is Book One of The Juniper Wars and is set in 2058, when men have largely been exterminated by war and the remaining population is mostly sterile. Under these conditions, humanity's survival is in jeopardy. In this world, five U.S. states (now known as the Juniper collective) have banded together in a struggle to survive. Three spunky girls who are trying to save their cattle ranch stumble upon an oddity - a boy who represents one of the last remaining hopes for a new generation.
So what happens when three feisty girls find one boy? Trouble. One falls in love. One sees the profit in the matter and wants to sell him off. The other wants to get trouble out of their lives.
As if this weren't enough, an army knows about Micaiah and is searching for him, too. With four conflicting special interests surrounding him, action is swift and engrossing. And with spirited, largely-female characters running the show, there's a lot to like in Dandelion Iron.
Take a deep breath to absorb the smells, sights, and feel of Aaron Michael Ritchey's apocalyptic landscape, which is steeped in Western tradition and atmosphere: "Right then, it was as if such violence had never happened there. The morning air was heavy with ranch smells: three thousand head of cattle, fifty horses, pigs, chickens all created quite a bouquet. A gust of wind brought the smell of dry, winter grass and drying mud—the perfume of my homeland."
Then prepare for a rollicking good ride in a romance that deftly toes the lines between an odd version of a new morality, a romance, and a Western gun slinging adventure powered by female interests and perceptions and fueled with solid dialogue.
Under Ritchey's hand, the writing is compelling ("Cavatica, I’m in trouble. Real trouble. If your sisters get their way, I’ll either be dead in a week or sold into slavery. I need your help. What we had, well, it was powerful, unexpected, incredible, but I understand what you’re getting at. However good it was, we can’t be together under these circumstances.” Now I wanted to protest, ’cause, dang it, I wanted to kiss him again. “I’ll convince my sisters. You’re with us ’til the end. In Wendover, you’ll be able to catch a bus easy to Vegas, or a plane. And maybe you and I …” More dead syllables, scattered all around. Maybe you and I could go to Vegas together. Didn’t say it, only thought it—fell into a little fantasy, right there. He and I in a hotel suite, him respecting my decision to be chaste, and me wanting him more than I should."), the characters come alive, and the story line is engrossing and practically impossible to put down.
It's great to see another, different take on an apocalyptic scenario: one that takes 'woman power' to a whole new level, leaving them in charge and in defiance of some of the concepts and options in their new world. Dandelion Iron is a compelling read because of these powerful women and their different quests through a rugged, semi-familiar Western territory, making for a highly recommended pick for any who enjoy stories of survival against all odds.
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Repelling the Invasion
Hector is a career military man who finds himself pushing papers more than battling for what he believes in, while Catt ekes out a living and learns to survive through conducting commerce on the same mining moon that Hector's forces occupy.
When invaders capture the moon, destroying Hector's command and power and taking away Catt's only source of income, their lives and different goals become connected when Catt rescues Hector from the rubble of disaster.
Far from being grateful, Hector wants Catt to join him in a counterattack - just the two of them - but Catt hasn't planned on becoming a soldier anytime soon, much less one under the command of another. And both of their lives are in danger, not only from the new occupying forces, but from a notoriously fierce environment of eruptions and storms.
Given their fierce independence, disparate goals, and strong personalities, it feels inevitable that their differences would draw them together sooner or later; but the romance develops in a satisfyingly logical manner and offers a number of surprises along the way as each evaluate the other for more than survival purposes or military might.
Readers holding a special affinity for romances and military sci-fi will enjoy the blend of these genres and scenes which describe both love and battle: "Hector stabbed a finger at the map projected in the middle of the cabin. Then he glanced at Catt—Captain Sayer, that is—who frowned back at him. In the last two hours, she had frowned non-stop. Which did she regret—agreeing to take him to the enemy headquarters? Or the kiss?"
If love takes the reins, will survival and revenge take a back seat? A powerful story of invasion, destruction, newfound love and threats to life evolves in a story of strikes, counterstrikes, and just the right dose of romance to give it all a satisfying personal overlay. Military sci-fi readers who like romance stories will find Escapee: Repelling the Invasion an engrossingly satisfying read.
Escapee: Repelling the Invasion
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Ten-year-old Hansel is hungry and poor, his sister Gretel is an annoyance to him, and he overhears his starving parents talking about a famine that seems to have fallen not just upon their family, but over the entire realm.
Determined to save their children, his parents decide that abandoning them in the forest may be the only way of saving them - and yet Hansel keeps cleverly finding his way home, while his extraordinary ability to eavesdrop keeps him one step ahead of their plans.
Because this retelling stays true to its original story line, the inevitable happens, and Hansel must employ all his cleverness if he and his sister are to survive the evil Petra, who has entrapped many children before them.
It's no light task to take a well-known fairy tale and rework it in such a way that familiar, stale story lines become vivid with new meaning, especially with such a classic as Hansel and Gretel. Retellings often must stray quite far from their original roots to capture this sense of originality, but such is not the case with Hansel and Gretel: The Brothers Grimm Story Told as a Novella, and this is because Mike Klaassen's approach is to add a great deal of psychological insight to explain characters' choices and rationales.
From Hansel's changing relationship with his little sister ("Hansel couldn't stand to see his little sister abused, and he said, "Do as she says, Gretel.") to his problem-solving abilities ("He considered refusing to eat any more food, but then Petra would hurt Gretel again. He needed to find a solution to his problem, but he could think of nothing that would save their lives."), psychological depth brings this classic story to new life.
Why is Hansel so clever? What are the conflicts he faces between protecting his little sister and feeling that she's a stubborn obstruction in his life? Why would their parents consider that abandoning their children was a better option than all of them starving together, or searching out a different way of living? How does Hansel's ability to observe and analyze his world, both within the home and outside of it, open them up to new options?
These are just some of the ideas in a retelling that stays entirely true to its roots, but injects new understanding into a dark and otherwise-puzzling story line. Those with a special affinity for fairy tale retellings will quickly recognize that this Hansel and Gretel is more than a notch above the usual approach, remaining more connected to its original than most and yet offering something far more compelling. A reading of this novella along with other fairy tale reworks will quickly highlight Klaassen's unique strengths.
Hansel and Gretel: The Brothers Grimm Story Told as a Novella
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When the Alpha Centauri star system collapses, it creates a gravitational wave across space that changes everything when it hits Earth, but at fist these strange changes are viewed as localized odd phenomena. It will take a savvy scientist, such as Dr. Paulo Restrepo, to connect the dots and discover not only the problem, but a cure - if there is one.
Pulse: When Gravity Fails is Book One of an apocalyptic series, but unlike many of its genre peers; it's not an epic tome but a relatively quick, digestible read. While this fact may disappoint readers who like complex and lengthy stories, in fact its concise format makes Pulse far more accessible than many and allows for a series of adventures that aren't rooted in over-complexity or "filler" descriptions.
The opening examples focus on several vastly different scenarios. From a laundry room child's impromptu flight to a military pilot's unexpected plane crash and odd happenings in a remote Siberian outpost, the different events are connected together in a thrilling tale that moves from scientific impossibility to revelation. Earthquakes, satellites knocked out of orbit, a changing world, and different characters who struggle to understand and then survive all make for lively, engrossing reading that explores not only efforts to live, but connections between different cultures and characters.
What will the human race do if it has prior warning that its way of life will soon change? And what if that warning is incomplete? As efforts to survival emerge, the story line is fueled by believable protagonists who hold clear goals and face many challenges. Can peace and trust emerge from chaos and unprecedented disaster?
Pulse's strength lies in its ability to quickly immerse readers in several simultaneous scenarios revolving around the effects of changed gravity on the world. Characters and events in Russia and Arkansascreate satisfying contrasts of experience and perspective and juxtapose two stories under one larger umbrella of earth-altering disaster - all this completed in under a hundred pages of gripping description. Fans of apocalyptic scenarios will relish this concise, compelling story and will look forward to more books in the series.
Pulse: When Gravity Fails
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Finlee Augare Books
Both newcomers to and prior fans of Lance Erlick's Regina Shen series will find much to like about her latest adventure, Endurance, which portrays Regina as an outcast caught in a political struggle for a new world power.
As an outcast, Regina should be relatively immune to the twisting process of choosing a new World Premier, and should be better able to focus on using her skills to locate hidden ancient treasures and her quest to free her sister - but her life is anything but focused, and requires a series of deadly confrontations and battles to stay one step ahead of her pursuers, who covet her extraordinary DNA and its special abilities.
It's not that Regina doesn't want to help the human race solve its fertility crisis through her special genome; it's just that special interests are taking over both her life and the world order; and they don't hold the same view of life, death, and survival as Regina.
Once again Lance Erlick has crafted a powerful, compelling saga in Book 4 of a series which opened with a hard hit and just keeps punching. It's a difficult proposition to produce a multi-book series and have each book stand well on its own with new subplots, riveting adventures, characters that stand out, and a spunky young woman who refuses to give up or give in.
The family connections, social and political conundrums, and interpersonal relationships all come tempered with Regina's ability not just to find antique treasure, but to problem solve in the most impossible of situations.
When Regina is forced to make a choice between her sister and the greater good, something has to give - and it might not be what the reader anticipates, which makes for a powerful story leading right up to the precipice of good and bad choices and impossible situations.
Prior fans won't be disappointed with Endurance. The same attention to building subplots, crafting Indiana Jones-type encounters and dangers, and surviving impossible odds develops a story line that's gripping and hard to put down. At the same time, newcomers who may have walked into this story late will easily fall into Regina Shen's world and its various forces and influences, and will find it so compelling a sci-fi saga that they'll want to find the preceding books for more.
Regina Shen: Endurance
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Alaric Cabiling Limited (Ltd.)
ISBN: 978-1-5136-0959-1 $15.00 paper
eISBN: 978-1-945170-42-3 $2.99
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/
Author website: alariccabiling.net
Redefining Darkness is a short story collection pairing protagonist choices and experiences with solid plots representing vignettes of time and place, and demonstrates just how much can be accomplished within the short story format.
Ten circumstances of 'redefining' one's world are illustrated in stories that run the gamut in presenting characters of different ages, sexes, and approaches to life.
Take the opener, 'Day of Darkness', for one example. Seven-year-old Francis is confessing his little crimes, but a bigger one takes place instead. Instantly the scene changes to a police report on television, then to the reactions of the Church, both internally and externally.
Readers receive only four pages to this short story, which create the precise and concise staccato impact of a verbal photo shoot, the camera clicking along from scene to scene while viewers receive a dose of just one definition of a growing darkness.
'Cause of Death', the next story, takes longer to build and describe its particular brand of darkness: here the anniversary of a wife's murder thirteen years earlier brings with it the nightmare of a life lived in grief, among bodies and murders, fueled with the fiery results of vodka and horror.
Again, experience the staccato paragraphs of description that click from scene to scene with the clarity of a camera shutter capturing images and vignettes. Readers have no idea where the journey is heading: all they know is that it's going straight into the darkness of death - with a peculiar twist.
Suicide. Abandonment. Death. The pursuit of fortune and sex. Each short story expertly hones the knife of angst and moves between vastly different character perspectives; and each adds a piece to the evolving jigsaw puzzle theme.
The result is a powerful, gripping gathering that grabs readers and doesn't let go. How does darkness evolve and grow? Read these stories and find out.
That which doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.
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And Teeth: Ten Terrifying Tales Of Horror And Suspense, Volume 1
Darkwater Syndicate, Inc.
Price: $3.99 e-book / $19.99 paperback
Shadows And Teeth makes for exquisite reading for those who like dark stories filled with horror, bloodshed, demons, and the bizarre. The anthology delivers tense thrills. Each story excels in its craft and provides horror readers with twists and turns that are unexpected and engrossing.
Survival instinct kicks in both for protagonists and readers alike as terrifying scenarios are presented in which the unexpected turns deadly. In Rich Phelan's 'The Pied Piper's Appetite', a sadistic, psychotic man kidnaps and tortures women he deems to be whores, with the larger scheme in mind to involve an unwilling accomplice in murder. Mark Meier's 'The Final Spell' tells of a modern day wizard who hand-picks his replacement, and what terrible things befall his power-hungry protégé.
The only prerequisite for complete appreciation of this powerful collection is a penchant for the macabre. Each tale is a surprising celebration not of life, but of death and the things that genuinely frighten us. I recommend Shadows And Teeth for fans of a good scare.
Shadows And Teeth: Ten Terrifying Tales Of Horror And Suspense, Volume 1
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Lessons for Living Large in 90 Square Feet (...or more)
Ordering Link: http://www.amazon.com/
Author Felice Cohen lived in New York City in a 90-square-foot abode; a feat which demanded a high level of organization and a clutter-less approach to life. The last thing she planned to do was produce a book based on her ability to live in such a space; but 90 Lessons for Living Large in 90 Square Feet (...or more) evolved from a demand to know how this was achieved, in response a YouTube video profile of her tiny accommodation, and her book will be an invaluable map for any who would do the same.
That Cohen struck a nerve with her achievement and the downsizing of her dreams was evident when the video of her place took off: "After five years of living in a tiny space on the fifth floor of a former tenement building on the Upper West Side, I had arrived at the same conclusion: I had grown accustomed to an independence from stuff. Along the way, my fantasies of “one day” living in a large home with a voluminous foyer illuminated by skylights, had changed too. Instead, they were now of living with just the space I actually needed, preferably near a bike path. When I eventually showcased that independence–and my lean, mean, 12’ x 7.5’ Manhattan studio–on YouTube, the video went viral."
For the 'how to' details, there couldn't be a better book than 90 Lessons: it doesn't explore ideals, but shares actual techniques Cohen crafted from her years of living successfully (and uncluttered) in a tiny space. The idea is to help motivate readers to downsize, get rid of clutter, and live more simply.
In all fairness, Cohen was a professional organizer; so she wasn't exactly out of her league by contemplating living in an impossibly-small space.
Chapters follow her experiences as she decides to take the tiny space, grasps the concept of what 90 square feet actually translates to in living space terms ("Imagine the perimeter of a 2001 Honda Accord. That was the size of my new home. I know this because I had drawn the apartment layout in chalk on the driveway of my parents’ Cape Cod home the week before the move. Then, for fun, I pulled my car into the outline. It fit perfectly."), then faces her initial challenge of moving in and unpacking ("…my usual professional-unpacking routine–first empty every box–wasn’t going to work. There wasn’t enough room.").
The real meat of the title lies not just in following Cohen's life adjustments, but in her surveys of the attitudes that lend to downsizing: "Turning a “should” into a positive action and setting an intention can help you avoid entirely the “shoulda, coulda, woulda” syndrome. Then watch how quickly the burden of having to get rid of stuff becomes more about a gratifying goal."
Armed with the right tools for simplifying life, readers can adopt her strategies to any size space or lifestyle - and that's the real strength of 90 Lessons: its ability to translate Cohen's adaptations to a 'bigger picture' lesson plan for any who would look for keys on adaptation and change.
Readers who seek to downsize and simplify not just physical elements but attitudes revolving around possessions will find 90 Lessons a powerful starting point for success.
90 Lessons for Living Large in 90 Square Feet (...or more)
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Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves: Leadership the Antarctic
Dr. Roger Podell
What lessons do Antarctic expedition leaders have for any who would command a mission and assume responsibilities for a crew? While at first glance the subject of The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves: Leadership the Antarctic Way might seem unrelated to the topic of business management styles, Dr. Roger Podell shows, here, that in fact they have everything to do with the type of leadership that operates in relative isolation from support systems.
This information is imparted to both business managers and adventure story readers in a series of explorations of different Antarctic expeditions from 1897-1922, when some sixteen expeditions to Antarctica were captured in a series of diaries and first-person accounts.
Quotes from these writings pepper these adventure encounters, but the meat of the leadership lessons lie in each chapter's conclusion, which round up these experiences and the leadership concepts they illustrate.
From maintaining morale during impossible conditions to selectively sharing sensitive information, preserving optimism, and creating routines to improve satisfaction under challenging circumstances, the pairing of leadership lessons with Antarctic exploration adventure is very well done and makes for a vivid, engrossing account far more accessible than the average business leadership lesson plan. Business readers will relish the addition of history and true-life adventure into the mix.
The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves: Leadership the Antarctic Way
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Black Ten Commandments: National Warning Order
Tony Caligula, M.R.E.
The title of Tony Caligula's book The Black Ten Commandments actually comes from a quote by Ossie Davis, from a comment during the first Congressional Black Caucus dinner in 1971, which called for a black plan of action that eschews leadership in favor of personal responsibility The book offers an intriguing mix of military process and social insights on the black community and comes from an Army Captain who synthesizes some 20 years of research into his game plan.
What are the real roots of dysfunction in the black community? While many may claim that these lie in racism and heritage, Caligula maintains that in fact the high illegitimacy rate in the black community is one of the key starting points of poverty, crime, and repression.
While some single parents have defied the odds, statistical evidence points to an overwhelming disparity between the comparative statuses of two-parent, wealthier homes and those headed by a single, struggling parent - and since the latter is the norm in the Black community, it's a major problem that needs to be addressed and changed.
At what point does victimization become an excuse for repeating patterns that have historically lead to failure, and how has the Black community been steeped in following familiar but self-defeating paths? The purpose of The Ten Black Commandments isn't just to change the course of the Black community: it advocates creating an independent, economically powerful low-income Black United States of America sub country loyal to the U.S. constitution, but fiscally separate; and its startling opener is that Dr. Martin Luther King's vision and dream is officially dead - it's time for another game plan, which is covered here.
Chapters defy the usual statistics to strike at the heart of what keeps Black America in thrall and oppressed, and then they build this concept up by showing exactly how abuse can be identified, codependent actions eliminated, and mis-education processes thwarted.
Whether one agrees with the processes and procedures or not, the information is precise, strategic, and actionable - and these approaches are only one reason why The Black Ten Commandments is highly recommended for any who would consider causes, effects, and alternatives in building a more powerful Black community.
The other reason embedded in this process is hope, which lies in a specific model for change by an aware, much-decorated military officer.
The Black Ten Commandments: National Warning Order
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Helena History Press
Jaap Scholten's Comrade Baron: A Journey through the Vanishing World of the Transylvanian Aristocracy travels through the social and political worlds of Romania and Hungary's aristocracy as it probes events of 1949, in which nearly all Transylvanian aristocrats were arrested and taken away to forced labor in quarries and labor camps under the rule of Gheorghiu-Dej and (later) Ceauescu. Motivated by stories of the old country which the author learned from one Erzsébet, who related compelling sagas of a bygone, vanished world that has received relatively little mention and coverage, he embarked on a trip through Transylvania and Hungary, interviewing descendents of the aristocracy that was persecuted and almost wiped out under communism, whose stories stood on the brink of extinction until now.
Comrade Baron is essential reading for any who would understand the history and culture of Transylvania in general and, in particular, the stories of nobles who have nearly been forgotten. The author's promise to Erzsébet - that these truths would not be revealed until after her death - was kept until now, and so the life and experiences of a countess born in a beautiful Transylvanian castle blooms with passion and excitement as it presents a true story of a bygone world.
Interrogations, harassment, lush worlds, and Communism's impact - all are revealed in a personal saga that mixes the author's observations and story with those of the aristocratic peoples he interviews. His attention to capturing the sights, sounds, and political and social worlds of the region results in a captivating blend of history, cultural observation, and local color: "The villages I drove through this afternoon were holding street parties and funfairs, their lamp posts decorated with the Hungarian tricolour. The May Day celebrations are a legacy of Communism. There was always maypole dancing in the villages on International Workers’ Day, while in Budapest crowds of workers were delivered to Heroes Square to walk singing, waving red flags and banners, past the party leadership gathered on a high platform, and until 1956 past a large statue of Stalin."
Under his hand, political structures, women and men of noble blood, experiences in deportation camps, and the challenges of understanding other languages provide a blend of gripping narrative and an investigative piece that chronicles just how challenging it is to put the pieces of a puzzle of the past back together: "There’s one unfortunate thing: I can only half understand what she’s saying. She speaks Hungarian and no other language. I generally understand the Transylvanians better than the Hungarians, since they tend to speak a beautiful archaic Hungarian that I find easier to follow than the torrent of words in Hungary. A Transylvanian friend once told me that twenty years ago the old ladies often still spoke Hungarian with a French accent and enunciation, since French was the language of their youth, but this woman uses words I don’t know, and her sentences join themselves up into incomprehensible streams of sound."
Maps, vintage black and white photos, and candid observations from a range of viewpoints together capture the vast changes Transylvania and Hungary experienced under the hands of repressive leaders and Communism: "You might say that communism destroyed three generations here: the generation of my grandparents, that of my parents and my own. My parents’ generation had a great childhood and could learn languages, but had a tough time after that. My generation had a pretty tough time too."
The result is a powerful journey over a rough road that follows several countries' changes from wealth to poverty, telling of secret loves, flights, and the remnants of local aristocracy and its lasting impact generations later. No reader of Transylvanian history and culture should be without this magnificent, moving journey through the changed hearts and minds challenged by political forces.
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to Buy a Green Home
Ebenezer Real Estate, LLC
ASIN: B01CQWO4EM $7.00
What is the definition of a green home, how does it differ from a conventional house, and how can a new homeowner consider, purchase, and best use and maintain a green home?
Seth Asare answers all these questions and more in How to Buy a Green Home: A Step-by-Step Guide to Buying Your Green Home Without Losing Your Shirt, discussing everything from green-oriented mortgages and real estate agents and how the process differs from conventional homes to the pros and cons of buying a new or used green home, assessing it, and how to understand its systems.
Chapters cover why it's important to request a certified green home inspector, how to examine home warranties, and what to look for in the fine print as they promote the concept and realities of green home ownership.
While lay readers might think that a green home loan and purchase process would mirror that of a standard house, it's quickly evident that there are many differences in the process which require additional information and understanding, provided in this book.
One of these points is that green inspectors are particularly well qualified to assess the green points of such a home, are better able to verify claims about materials and environmental-friendly features of the home, and are different from energy auditors whose job it is to assess the applications and results of a green feature.
Many pros and cons discussed are particular to the green home environment, while others (such as home warranties and the potential problems involved in making a claim) can be applied to any home purchase process.
The result is a 'must' review of all the features, qualities, benefits and detriments, and cautions involved in making a green home purchase. With this book in hand, no potential 'green' homeowner need enter the process uninformed.
How to Buy a Green Home
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of a Financial Aid Pro
15th Street Publishing
Hardcover: $25.95 Paper: $14.95
As kids near college age, financial planning for higher education becomes imperative; yet too many parents and students enter the process without all the tools they need to make reasoned financial decisions (or learn of their far-reading consequences).
Secrets of a Financial Aid Pro: Master the College Funding Process and Give Your Child Lifelong Financial Skills Without Losing Your Cool goes beyond the usual focus on how to locate loans or scholarships in offering a complete method of achieving this major task. The result is not a listing of financial sources so much as a strategy for college funding and beyond which can move into life and business circles just as easily as it assesses the college planning process.
Funding is a basic issue in any life endeavor, whether it be college, starting a business, buying a house, or achieving almost any big goal. That's why, in most cases, the bigger picture boat is missed in other college planners: and that is one of the basic process of gathering, assessing, and applying funding options across the board.
There are more than a few surprises revealed in this wider-ranging approach; among them the idea that such planning should ideally begin in middle school, and that middle school and high school student can possess the skills and information to make solid financial decisions about their futures (with a little parental insight and knowledge, the latter of which is provided here).
Chapters admonish parents to involve their kids more in major financial matters ("It’s important to start teaching your child about money, budgeting, and saving early in life. Giving your child responsibility for saving toward big purchases, like a car, or teaching them how to budget their allowance helps them understand the value of their money and how hard they have to work for what they want.") and emphasize the difference between a finite resource and no resources.
Step-by-step instructions for applying for funding (such as filling out forms for the FAFSA) juxtapose with life funding and money management tips and insights, such as why a student should understand how credit works and use it carefully and cautiously: "It’s important to teach your student about the implications of bad credit. Not making payments, paying minimum amounts, skipping payments, or having too much credit are all reported to the various credit bureaus. While this might not seem like a big deal to your student now, having a bad credit rating can cause a lot of harm later in life. It could affect their ability to rent an apartment, purchase auto insurance, buy a home, or get a car."
Secrets of a Financial Aid Pro's tone assumes that parents will be reading the book and working with their child: it covers the basic financial skills needed for life itself, organizing them into digestible bits that take college funding a step further, using it as a template for lifetime money management routines.
No parent should be without this essential guide, whether their child is going to college or not.
Secrets of a Financial Aid Pro
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Self-Publishing Safari: Navigating the Publishing Jungle for Authors offers an assessment many authors need: a reasoned survey of self-publishing versus traditional publishing and the strengths and weaknesses in each approach. With these tools in hand, would-be authors can enter the process with eyes wide open about not only which to chose, but how to navigate around the pitfalls and into the arena of success.
Many times the choices boil down to how much control an author wants and how much they are willing to be hands-on versus having a publisher take over some of the nuts and bolts. Other times, it boils down to time or money - major differences between self-publishing and traditional approaches involve all these considerations and more.
Self-Publishing Safari's goal is not to advocate one over the other, but to show authors exactly what they need to consider in each process in each process of self-publishing. Chapters define commonly-confusing publishing terminology and approaches (such as trim size or page design processes), cover the specifics of print versus e-book forms and requirements, and encourage authors to look beyond the writing process into the marketing world as they fine-tune their manuscript and consider how best to publish it.
Plenty of books offer an emphasis on 'do it yourself' or advise authors on how to get out of the slush piles of larger publishers; but the advantage to Self-Publishing Safari's approach lies in candid assessments backed by the author's own experiences. Screen shots and illustrations throughout emphasize the user-friendly approach to a guide that assumes absolutely no prior knowledge of the publishing process.
Not many can publish a book with only $500 in hand and say that it has gained sales and attention. L.A. Jamison did, and his tips on exactly how to do all this even on a strict budget, with a healthy dose of knowledge about how all the processes work, makes Self-Publishing Safari a 'must' read that should be 'first' on the list for any author interested in self-publishing.
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Publisher: A. Aboud
Holy Mirage is a book for any who have loved, lost, or found their faith misplaced or shattered - it's not for the true believer who harbor a faith unexamined. A. Aboud closely inspected the roots of his own faith, and Holy Mirage's opener outlines the results and moves on from there: "On the day when I came to understand that there was no God, I cried. I cried because I loved God. I cried because I had been wrapped in the softness of his spirit. I cried because I knew that I would never find him waiting for me after death; I cried to awaken from such a pleasant dream. But, then, I wiped away my tears and made ready for the new day. On this day, I learned to face the trials of life with my own strength. After this, when I woke to face each morning, sometimes I would smile, and, sometimes, I would cry once more. But it doesn't matter. I will be rational. I will take the world as it is. And, most of all, I will be free."
Holy Mirage offers more than an autobiographical account of this process. It considers how faith began, how it evolved into a doctrine that opened slowly and 'shyly' only to evolve into institution, judge and executioner all in one. Many wars have revolved around belief, atrocities have been committed in the name of conviction (or its perceived lack), and oftentimes, religious belief has redefined the nature of reality.
Holy Mirage creates its analysis using plain language which may sound simple and accessible, but which is actually hard-hitting (to believers who may bristle at its contentions) and thought-provoking (to those who would question and think about the real contentions, outcomes and controversies surrounding faith): "…the idea of God is an ancient carpet, borne aloft above the world by the winds of history. Its fabric, its color, its pattern - all are greatly changed by time and circumstance."
Chapters trace the history of this process from early to modern times, always with a critical eye towards showing how concepts evolved and were embraced, how different (and seemingly opposed) religions actually contributed to the evolution of not just their modern counterparts, but to society's perceptions and belief systems as a whole, and how much-embraced religious concepts represent extensions of human rituals and changes more than admonitions from above: "…the idea of Jesus sacrificing himself for humanity is also an extension of these old rituals, in which, sometimes, even humans were offered up as sacrifices."
From rituals of marriage and laws of worship processes to the real forces that dictate religious change ("The terms of reality are reacting with each other in a dynamic and continuous way, and that's why there is always a new reality. Religions are a part of this reality, and are engaged with the other terms of reality. Despite the existence of a tendency in religion against progress, reality requires, over the years, that religions change."), Holy Mirage leaves no stone unturned and no cows sacred in its steady, relentless, and unerringly candid critique of how religions have changed (and have changed their believers) over the centuries and why discrepancies between religious law and human behavior have created disparities between institutions and those they were designed to oversee.
Any who would think, question, and receive a different and critical angle on the nature and evolution of belief as a whole - whether it be Muslim, Christian, or otherwise - will find Holy Miragean excellent, hard-hitting and highly recommended discussion, filled with carefully presented ideas cemented by history, philosophy, and insights into the nature of reality itself.
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A Very Physical Spirituality: A Bridge Over the Divide Between Science and Religion draws important links between the spiritual and material world and, from the start, defines the roots of disparities which have divided the two: "While it's not possible to test the veracity of any other-worldly claims, the descriptions of this world by many religions have proved to be scientifically inadequate, and this has aroused suspicion of their other-worldly offerings."
The alternative idea of a sentient spirituality is presented, along with supporting evidence that examines the presence of patterns and their orders as one key to understanding the connections between spiritual and material forces.
Chapters consider how meaning can be derived from these patterns, show how a combination of scientific analysis and logic can be adjusted in order to allow a plausible context for spirituality, and present a brand of physics that requires no scientific mindset to prove accessible and understandable.
Make no mistake: just because it's accessible doesn't mean that Michael Abramowitz's discussion is easy. A Very Physical Spirituality is best digested slowly, in bits and pieces, because its concepts and admonitions present much food for thought for scientific, spiritual, and general-interest readers alike: "We construct our narratives, and the narratives of the people and things around us, on the basis of the meanings we comprehend. The mode of sentience we choose can determine the mode of the serial meaning in which the reality we are responsible for unfolds."
It should also be cautioned that believers in one God or one system will find many challenging points here; not the least of which is the presence of layers of Dieties: "The sentiences of these deities did not preceed the material world. From this perspective, the fundamental forces of physics are dumb natural spirits, the phenomena of connectivity and the architective constraining thereof are dumb natural spirits, the entire basic material universe is itself a dumb natural spirit while all sentiences, even spiritual sentiences, have arisen in it."
By now it should be evident that A Very Physical Spirituality requires more than a scientific or a spiritual mind: it demands of its readers the flexibility of belief and thinking to envision a different kind of connection between science, spirituality, and the material world. Readers who enjoy higher-level thinking about cosmic consciousness will relish a discussion which is semi-scholarly in tone but clear enough to educate and challenge readers looking at different kinds of connections and purposes between Heaven and Earth.
A Very Physical Spirituality
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Mystery & Thrillers
Amazon Digital Services
ISBN 978-0-9889347-5-7 (ebook) $.99
ISBN 978-0-9889347-6-4 (print) $17.15
Criminal defense attorney Sarah Knight has made a name for herself while spending over forty years in hiding from her own truth. Having just journeyed coast-to-coast to San Diego, she faces one of the most challenging cases of her life in representing a former Supreme Court clerk arrested for murder; but the process of her defense leads to an investigation of more than another's guilt or innocence in Dark Moon.
True to the rest of Deborah Hawkins's legal thrillers, Dark Moon injects more than a light degree of personal involvement into the story of a high-profile case where Sarah is advised to make only a mild defense effort for the sake of preserving her professional career.
The only trouble is: Sarah's efforts can't be bought with threats, and it can't even be swayed when she and her investigator, ex-FBI agent Jim, face death threats as their probes go too far.
Who would be willing to set up Alexa so that she's quickly sentenced to death for a crime she may not have committed, and who would be willing to risk the deaths of her defenders in a very high-profile, public case? The answer is: only someone with everything to hide and too much confidence that their road to success is virtually guaranteed.
As Sarah embarks on one of the biggest challenges of her professional career - one which quickly evolves to become a challenge to survive on more than one level - she faces losing everything she's built and the secret she's so carefully preserved all her life.
What makes Dark Moon such a standout (much like the author's other legal thrillers) is the concurrent themes of personal challenge and achievement which run through the story line with a powerful ability to draw in even readers who usually eschew this genre for its too-common over-reliance on legal process over character development.
Interactions between characters are vividly portrayed and readers become drawn to the story by many personal moments and connections: "I’m serious, Sarah. You look as if you’re burning up from the inside out.” And maybe I am, she thought. Maybe I’ll be a pile of ashes by morning, and I’ll be free of you and Alexa and the torment of this case."
The result is a gripping study in psychology and legal process wound deftly into the footprints of a legal thriller that is hard to put down, holding the rare ability to immerse both genre readers and more general-interest thriller and mystery enthusiasts, alike.
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Murder Mystery Press
978-0-9847825-7-4 (paperback) $17.95
978-0-9847825-9-8 (hardback) $26.95
978-0-9847825-8-1 (ebook) $2.99
The time is 1953: the place, Cook County Hospital of Chicago where a gifted intern, Dr. Henry Mason, hangs himself, shocking his colleagues. Why would he commit suicide when he seems to have everything?
The quick answer is: he didn't. But embedded within the question of how Dr. Mason died is the bigger question of who in the medical community might have had a reason to want him dead, and as puzzles increase and attention focuses on Henry's ground-breaking research, disparate and powerful forces coalesce to gain control of what will be one of the biggest discoveries in the history of medicine.
Fatal Formula is a riveting story that will appeal to fans of Robin Cook and other medical thrillers. It crosses the line into the mystery realm yet focuses on a discovery that could change the world and those forces that would do anything to control it.
But unlike many of these thrillers, which focus on discovery, treachery, and murder, Fatal Formula also includes the formulas of people's relationships, from their professional associations to their love lives, considering how these forces enter into the equation of innovation and confrontation.
Readers who normally eschew some of the medical thrillers on the market for their formula approaches will find something different in A.J. Harris's production: a survey of the fundamental forces affecting forensic pathology resident and investigator, Dr. Sam Davis’s life, an examination of romance, flings, and the primary foundations of lasting relationships, and a detailed examination of formulas for greed, success, love, and lives well lived.
As Dr. Sam Davis edges ever closer to a dangerous truth, so he uncovers the kind of relationship that will support rather than injure him - if he can navigate the obstacles that threaten to inject defeat and danger into a formula that negates success.
Does Dr. Henry's find promise miracles, or is it a recipe for disaster? And will Dr. Sam learn the difference in time? The result is a powerful, compelling, and revealing story line that adopts a winding, twisting approach through all kinds of possibilities and takes no linear path in its journey. It's the kind of medical mystery thriller that will keep readers guessing about love and loss right up to its unexpected conclusion.
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More Deadly Union
Dancing Corgi Press
978-1-943654-07-9 (ebook), 978-943654-08-6 (paperback)
$3.99 (ebook), $13.99 (paperback)
A More Deadly Union
Peri Minneopa's in a bind in more ways than one: her detective boyfriend of 10 years, Skip, is in a coma in a hospital after being shot and she can't even visit him (since they're not married), while her client is facing a deadly stalker.
Blinded by grief and thwarted by an impossible task, Peri looks at death from both sides of her desk as she struggles to make sense of her life.
The reality of hospital limitations on non-relatives ("Um, I’m sorry. This group is for relatives and spouses only.” “But I’ve been dating him for ten years.” Peri reasoned with her. “We lived together.” “I’m sorry, Ma’am.” The nurse sounded contrite. “We have rules. Confidentiality, you know.”) comes to life in the saga of a police office down and sends Peri into a tailspin; specially since her client's case keeps conflicting with police investigations.
It may take more than a bullet to bring Skip down, but his greatest challenge in life is well on its way to making a direct hit on his home turf at the time as he faces his own struggle for survival.
This riveting saga will engross any interested in police procedural mysteries, adding a powerful sense of purpose and angst between two protagonists who must not only face the demands of their jobs; but their own relationship.
Can Peri investigate a shooting she's been giving a "hands off" order to avoid when new clues falls directly into her hands? Can friendships prove harder than being alone? And what happens when the hunter becomes the hunted?
As the detective and P.I. struggle to regain their lives and find new purpose in them, readers are swept along in a mounting story of intrigue and strange associations in a satisfyingly complex, engrossing mystery from start to finish.
A More Deadly Union
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B.A. Sherman, Publisher
Paperback: 978-1530616039 $11.65
Ebook: ASIN:B01D3HQIWA $ 2.99
Amazon Website: http://www.amazon.
Author Website: www.basherman.com
The One presents the second book in the Greg Dorn series and opens with a dream by Mica, who has returned to her family home mourning the absence of partner Greg, who left her long ago. Now he's dead and gone forever, killed, and Mica must close the book what could have been - or should she?
It's not often that a thriller begins with the death of the main protagonist, but The One is filled with surprises, and this opener is only one of them. Is Greg Dorn dead, or is there an insidious plot underway with new and dangerous scheme? Under what circumstances can a family man dedicated to justice become a killer, and what would it take to twist that man to change his most basic impulses?
As Greg navigates unfamiliar surroundings and is primed for a mission far beyond anything he's considered a part of his psyche, he finds himself literally and figuratively speeding on a fast train to nowhere, immersed in lives and circumstances designed to remake all his abilities to point them in an entirely new direction.
In the end, all he may have are dreams of what was, to guide him to a different path as he rampages through his new persona: "Greg flashed awake, breathing heavily and sweating. He could feel that he had been crying and still felt the sadness from his dream. All he could remember was Daddy, please help us, and it echoed in his head making his ears ring. “I have to leave this place, I need to be with them,” Greg said out loud as he lay in his bed looking up at the ceiling in the dark."
Can Greg Dorn ever return to his real self; and will his newfound mission and direction return him full-circle into his familiar world? These are just a few of the questions readers of this psychological thriller will relish as they follow the transformation of good man into killing machine.
Readers of psychological thrillers and intrigue are in for a treat with The One.
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Jaguar Publishing Inc
eBook: 9780990881179 $3.49
Paperback: 9780990881148 $13.99
Amazon (USA): http://www.amazon.com/SPIDER-
Spider 2-3 is the kind of thriller that takes the familiar theme of international espionage and elevates it to a whole new level. Within this genre lie the usual suspects: murderers, kidnappers, traitors and spies, and intelligence games played on all sides of the international arena.
If it's nonstop, staccato action that's desired, readers should definitely choose Spider 2-3 above others: the adventure starts with cool observation ("The elevator doors opened. The night receptionist looked up from her keyboard and glanced at the man. She noticed the light brown coat, the dark shoes, the grey hair. No-one important. She put away her empty smile. It would be the last smile he’d ever see.") but moves quickly to the streets of Berlin and the mission of a man who walks - then runs - straight into darkness.
Fast forward to the Caribbean three weeks later for a change of scene that at first seems unrelated to events in Berlin. The beaches of paradise are the last place one would expect to find the intrusion of international intrigue - but JP and Stella head into the heart of danger when a disappearance brings heartache into the picture: "Those emotions were fighting the strong practical approach that he knew he had to maintain."
Readers easily follow the give-and-take action, largely because of Robert Vallier's attention to exploring emotion, motivation, and the complexities of international affairs that enter into the story line and give it added flavor and a logical progression of events : "In discussion with the Chief of Police, JP pointed out that when the kidnappers make contact it would be with Stella’s family in South Africa and so he should leave the island immediately to be with them. The Police agreed - if there had actually been a kidnapping. So far there was only a missing person, and so they were understandably reluctant to let JP off the island; what if the woman turned up dead? There would be a murder investigation and the prime suspect would then be JP himself."
As international agents and confrontations rise to the forefront, a myriad of subplots engage in satisfyingly vivid descriptions that wind a series of events around the Spider, whose actions represent larger threats.
As heroes and villains clash and the killings escalate, a desperate race against time ensues, with subterfuge and secret motivations powering events surrounding nuclear weapons, espionage, international money matters, and more.
Thriller readers who appreciate a blend of nonstop action and a romp around the world chasing Muslim extremists and facing chess-like moves on an international playing board will findSpider 2-3 a powerfully moving read that's hard to put down.
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It's not often that a mystery is based on real-life events; but Tell My Dad presents such a thriller in presenting a child's kidnapping and the kind overture that truly turned deadly in theCalifornia scenario which plays out in this book.
The opening seems an unlikely setup for crime: Amanda, a senior in high school, is on top of the world about her Stanford admission and shopping habit. But when she is abducted in broad daylight, shock waves hit the community and immediately involves the law in a desperate search for a serial killer who is an expert at snatching and murdering girls with wanton disregard for any witnesses.
Inspired by a late-night internet chat, the perp has hatched the perfect plan - but something goes awry. Someone has quickly found him, and plans on exacting their own revenge for his crimes. Readers won't expect what happens next, which is one of the specialties of Tell My Dad: it takes a murder mystery and twists its scenes so that what is seemingly inevitable becomes a big surprise.
Having a vigilante killer who takes on the chore of doing the police's job is nothing new; but what is new is a professional approach to the task that sets up and perhaps even creates kidnappers.
The dangers of internet interactions with strangers, the culpability of teenagers to dangerous online situations, and the determination of a killer who has serious intentions of reducing the number of kids kidnapped in America all intersect to make for a gripping study in tension.
Why is the killer so seasoned and expert at his tasks? How can the savviest of detectives be thwarted, and who will track down this vigilante hero?
Add a healthy dose of ethical conundrum on the parts of the investigators charged with bringing him to justice ("I still think that whoever killed these monsters is a good guy. If not for him, these monsters would have killed even more children.”) for a mystery packed with satisfying scenes and many a surprise to keep even seasoned thriller readers engrossed to the last page.
Tell My Dad
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Nicholas has just been reunited with his estranged lover when they are invited to go to Las Vegas. There they imbibe a lush and lavish lifestyle by friends whose newfound lottery wealth leads them to embark on a pleasure-filled and lavish whirlwind trip.
All is not hedonistic enjoyment, however, for embedded in this journey is the reunion and slow evolution of Raoul and Nick's relationship, the realities that are revealed when wealth strips away illusions and true desires are uncovered, and the injection and influence of drugs and fast living into the mix of interpersonal growth and connections.
Expect a rollicking ride through drugs, Vegas, and the glittery attraction of self-indulgent and materialistic living ("Fat Tuesdays would never run out of drink! They had enough booze and slush to last lifetimes, and we would see how many of those lifetimes we could go through before we ran out.") set against the backdrop of a journey exploring the pathos and angst of modern America.
From poetry and passion between men to coming to grips with life and self ("When I began to take account for myself, I found a great peace because I could forgive everyone who’d transgressed me, or anyone I may have been angry at. I began to see a lesson in altercations, and they became less and less and less. I found myself more at peace, more at peace. I found it easy to let the energy flow; I didn’t attach myself to things or people as much, though that isn’t to say storms didn’t brew, because when they did I let them blow over methodically.") to the promises and possible failures of returning to a once-failed relationship to retry and jumpstart it, The Distance To The End offers a compelling journey into hope, awareness, empowerment, and ultimately, forgiveness.
The path to these places is what makes The Distance To The End shine in a revealing, passionate read that takes the glitzy impersonal backdrops of Vegas, sex, and relationships and elevates them to new levels as Nick winds his way through changed worlds only vaguely familiar from past encounters.
The Distance To The End
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Amazon Digital Services LLC/Eastlake Publishing
Ebook: ASIN: B01CL4WAAK $3.99
Kitty is being transferred to a different section of the hospital where her ex works - and she's certain she can't do this. Her parents want her to live at home and go back to school to gain better skills that would lead her away from dead-end jobs, but Kitty has other ideas, and Fated Memories probes these choices which lead her from a limited world into the full blossoming of war.
As a timeslip saga blends with a girl's struggles to gain meaning from her life, Fated Memories brings with it a unique brand of time-travel lessons as it uses a journey into the past to reveal not just romance and war, but how meaning can be gleaned from everyday life, choices, and circumstances.
In the beginning, Kitty feels her options are very limited ("If I quit the hospital I’ll have to go back and live with my parents. I’m such a loser.”) while her good friend tries to make her see that adversity can translate to opportunity with just a small attitude adjustment ("Life is all about changes that’s what makes it interesting. You’ve always known you were too smart for that job. This is your chance to break free, turn the negative into a positive. Spread your wings. Grow.”). Neither expected that such opportunity would come in a very different way, or that Kitty would find herself on the cusp of self-growth even as the world around her falls apart.
Where has the time gone, and what are her choices in navigating between two very different worlds? As Kitty finds within herself new resources she didn't know existed, she also hones a new purpose in life and a new set of abilities that brings with them not just adversity, but unexpected love.
Is she really stuck in time and place, and does she really have choices? Fans of Time and Again and other timeslip romances and classics will love the twists and turns presented in Fated Memories, which provides a different kind of coming-of-age saga of growth and revelation.
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Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B01D5R0WSY $2.99
Once again angels and demons that inhabit the world powered by The First Circle Club are facing an adversary that may move in circles beyond Heaven and Hell when a series of disasters affecting a football team toes the line between a losing streak and a curse. Why should a supernatural vigilante team become involved in a football team's dilemma? Because it's not just the team that's endangered, as club leader Virgil comes to realize in a progression of deadly encounters and bloodshed.
The second scene opens with the admission that Virgil has no heart. Literally. But this doesn't mean he can't enjoy a good heart-pounding game of football on TV at the headquarters of theFirst Circle Club which he leads. It's there that he first learns about the string of amazingly deadly events affecting his favorite team - and since he's the leader of a group charged with investigating and resolving supernatural possibilities, the task seems right up his alley in more ways than one.
The problem is: that alley is, in actuality, only one long, winding road in a dangerous journey, and Virgil's initial interest has just sent him, unsuspectingly, straight into the heart of a new danger. News of the curse actually feels like a set-up by the perp, using a personal lure to beckon him to investigate; and when Virgil grabs the bait, eternal punishment seems like a picnic in the face of this new danger.
One of the pleasures of this ongoing series is that the multiple, action-packed books allow readers to enjoy characters that become more developed with every book.
From FBI involvements to visions of monsters chasing Virgil and a bet with gambling and the gaming community that turns deadly, Gambling Demons moves swiftly beyond its initial scenario and premises to grab and absorb readers with another supernatural battle involving insanity, mythical demons, the murder of a master, and scenarios even demons find impossible to comprehend or predict.
Readers should be forewarned that familiarity with the prior First Circle novels will contribute to a smooth transition into this latest novel (although Gambling Demons opens with enough of a bang to immediately draw newcomers as an undercover cop meets his maker).
Combine a 'whodunnit' with a healthy dose of supernatural intrigue and a conflict brought to the gates of Heaven and Hell themselves and you have a riveting read that's hard to put down, especially recommended for prior First Circle Club fans who will find this latest struggle knocks on the door of Heaven itself, begging for God's involvement.
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Amazon Digital Services
978-0 -9974530-0-3 $2.99
Life for Parkhill Mays has been on a downward trajectory since he flunked out of medical school, so landing in a mental hospital after a failed suicide attempt seems like another logical point of failure. But Parkhill is different, as a fellow Bellevue patient T-Bone immediately sees: his skills, under the right hands, can add high technology to his pursuit of selling body parts and drugs.
And so Mays moves ever downward in a spiral that embraces not just mental illness, but the seedier underworld of a life in which abilities are honed and used for dangerous purposes.
May's Landing is a dark story about one young man's spiraling descent into not just madness, but a mad world where special abilities translate to opportunity, for those who would see and exploit them.
Readers follow Parkhill's descent with bated breath as a series of incidents neatly thwart any desire on his part to rise above his mental condition and his situation. In a manner true to some of the best novels of intrigue and mystery, twists and turns permeate a story line that excels in keeping its readers guessing.
Because there's no linear direction to his course, some readers may find Parkhill's progression challenging or disturbing: this is not a light and breezy read, nor does it promise a swim through placid waters. Turbulence is embedded into the story line and the reader's emotions are constantly tweaked as Parkhill (and the reader) struggle to make sense of his evolving world and its implications.
The characters Parkhill encounters are also different on varying degrees of disturbing levels: "I tried my best to think of something life-affirming to say but, of course, being death’s unofficial champion, came up with nothing. “You don’t think every day is like some miracle?” Audrey asked. Even if our opposite life views weren’t a good omen for our long-term prospects, I was heartened by the fact that I had met someone potentially even more damaged than myself."
As Mays searches for the meaning of life and a way out of the warren of underworld encounters he's chosen in an experiment gone wrong, a vivid story emerges that is especially recommended for fans of evocative, emotionally-charged novels.
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The Power & Money Sisters
MuseItUp Publishing: https://museituppublishing.
When Beth and her best friend Elaine decide to form a women's networking group called the Power and Money Sisters (PMS) in 1998, the last thing they expect to find is a powerful set of female friends who share not just business interests, but life experiences.
But as events over the course of a year center around not just individual business pursuits but romance, breakups, pregnancy and health concerns, the women's group comes to realize that their most powerful allies may not lie in family foundations, but in friendships with each other.
One might expect the casual interplays in such a story, but these protagonists are deadly serious not only about what they've achieved against all odds, but the costs of success and the lifestyles they have chosen: "Lately she felt the lure of marriage and motherhood tugging at her, perhaps because she’d already achieved her career goal, the presidency of a bank. Seeing women her own age shopping with teenaged children made her realize how much time had already passed."
Against the backdrop of success lies the reality of diverging paths and failures along the way, brought to light and examined by PMS members who use the bonds of affection to form new associations and handle the breakups and dissolutions inevitable in life, love, and business: "Breaking up is hard to do, even if it’s just business, not love."
Fans of women's fiction will find a lot to like in a story that explores the foundations of friendships and love alike: "Men come and go,” she said, “but girlfriends are forever.” It's refreshing to see these women's bonds center around personal power over male interactions. Even when the women speak of lovers, partners, and male associates, it's always tempered by their own strong interrelationships with each other and other facets of life.
As each woman faces the opportunities and limitations of her life and choices, sharing the results with others, a subtheme of growth and change emerges which offers candid assessments of the special challenges facing women who dream of both careers and family: "She was thankful he seemed oblivious to the implications of her question, that what she really wanted to know was if he wanted to have children with her. She wanted to kick herself for so badly misinterpreting his proud fatherhood. He’d already produced his progeny; he was done, while she was eager to begin."
Women's fiction readers will relish these empowering encounters between business professionals who each have a foot in the trials and challenges of daily living.
PMS: The Power & Money Sisters
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Harmony House Productions
Price: $14.99 print, $4.99 electronic
Julia's gone into hiding in response to her terrible childhood experiences - not in a usual secret place, but in full public view. As one of the top cellists in the country, her ambitions and work assures that she won't become involved in any pressing or dangerous relationships, and won't have to face either her own sexuality or the ghosts of her past.
But fellow musician Jeremy has broken down these barriers, and Julia finally feels able to trust, open up, and move on from her past, since she's now found the right person to help - or, has she?
Reverie is a powerful story about hiding and dangerous patterns, it's about playing from memory and turning those memories into powerful instruments of change, and it's about what happens when that determination to succeed against all odds is attacked by something different.
It's not that Julia doesn't have friends - Matthew and other musicians are some of her biggest fans. It's that she hasn't let anyone get close, until now. And her hardest decisions may be yet to come.
Reverie focuses on the demanding world of professional music, the opportunities it holds for success and safety, and what happens when someone breaks through professional boundaries.
Julia didn't expect a charming and complicated guy to penetrate her well-honed defenses. She didn't opt to fall for someone who gets along with few people in her world. And most of all, she didn't expect that the techniques she carefully put into place to survive would all come crashing down around her the instant she relaxed.
Jeremy, too, is in for more than a few surprises ("I’ve been blindsided, that’s what happened. And I don’t do blindsided.") What evolves is an increasingly complicated example of what happens when different worlds - and relationships - collide. What makes a stalker or contributes to the relationship between stalker and victim? What happens when others get in the way of carefully-laid plans?
As perspectives change between Jeremy and Julia and immerse everyone around them in music and personal worlds, the story becomes a riveting example of what happens when things fall apart. The story revolves around a competition in more ways than one, and its outcome will surprise and delight readers looking for a blend of professional music world insights, romance, and psychological tension. Most of all, Reverie profiles dreams, shattered visions, and survival. Tenacious and absorbing, Reverie is a story hard to put down.
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Rose Within - A Gothic Romance
978-1-911357-00-1 $5.99 GBP
Envision Henry James' classic Turn of the Screw melded with Brontë's Wuthering Heights with a touch of Jane Eyre thrown in to a novel of mystery and uncanny supernatural romance and you begin to get a taste for what's being served in The Rose Within, a delicious gothic romance that emphasizes elements of horror in a winding, subliminally appealing story line.
The time is the 1920s and the setting is England, but the protagonist is male - one Jonathan, whose infatuation with Selina draws him into her world at Winter Grange, an estate permeated by ghosts and mystery.
In great literary classics, time and place are well detailed. Using a similarly-compelling approach, Sana Pirzada blends a diary format and Jonathan's observations to capture, in exquisite description, the sensory impressions which bring this world alive: "I remember seeing a long hallway with white marble floors and white Roman columns. White curtains of a sort of delicate, translucent fabric gently fluttered in the winds, and tiny bells chimed. In the background, I could hear one large bell ringing. It was a church bell, I was certain, and the purity of the mise en scene suggested this was the interior of a convent, perhaps somewhere in Italy. Amidst the muffled noises in the background, I faintly heard a Gregorian chant. The soft and sensual voices, combined with the sound of the subtle winds, built up to a gradual crescendo."
Drawn in by setting, readers then receive a taste of mystery ("There, standing in front of the altar, was the figure of a woman in a long, pure white dress, her head covered with a white hood. At first, I took her for a nun, but then she turned around and walked in the direction of the hallway; though her attire was graceful and noble, I realised it was not a nun’s raiment. As she passed me, I smelled the sweet scent of roses, and when she lifted her sapphire eyes demurely, they glowed like fireflies in the night sky. Without thinking, I gently put my hand on her supple arm to feel whether she was real or a fairy. But she walked on as if I was never there, as if I had never existed."): one not just appropriate for its murky dream world, but which sets the stage for similar encounters presented in a different reality.
These are the kinds of devices great novels are made of: atmospheres of dread and evolving tragedy, a reflective inspection (via hindsight) of how events have transpired to reach this moment; and most of all, the urges of a man who longs for love and mystery outside of his circles of experience ("I too have always dreamt of travelling to a faraway castle and encountering a mysterious supernatural being; reading of the isolated glaciers in Frankenstein, I too want to witness nature’s deadly beauty and seclusion.").
Pirzada admits an obsession with Phantom of the Opera, and elements of this passion and pathos are reflected in proceedings that swirl around Jonathan like a thick London fog; but to call The Rose Within a modern take on Phantom would be doing it a grave disservice.
Embedded in a rich tapestry of mystery, supernatural encounters and love is a story line that also features a spiral staircase into what might be the pits of Hell itself; and as readers follow the protagonist into these murky depths, unexpected encounters and tension give The Rose Within its own, uniquely powerful take on life, love, and everything in between these passions and the final throes of death.
Fans of supernatural fiction, romance, and gothic horror will find much to like in The Rose Within: its attention to atmosphere and detail will leave them riveted as Jonathan descends into horror on the journey of his life, with a first-person description blending observation and reflection creating a powerhouse of a read that's nearly impossible to put down, holding many surprise twists of plot throughout. A five-star production, The Rose Within is very highly recommended.
The Rose Within - A Gothic Romance
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Too often road trips conclude in California; but the protagonists in Searching for Paradise are already in California - and they want to get out. Thus begins a cross-country journey that, from the start, redefines the traditional notion of 'paradise' as its characters leave the Golden State for New England and points beyond.
But that's only one note in a series of adventures that begin in 1984 with three friends who each find themselves at a crossroads in life. Mike Hogan left the East Coast at the age of twenty-five in search of the dream and promise that was California; but now he's escaping Eden after three years of struggle and hard work.
Short-lived rewards, meager paychecks, desperate times, and unrealized goals have sent the California dream into the realm of a nightmare, and "life is still one big riddle that needed to be solved". Part of this search involves a dream job or career, and plans are made to leave the U.S. and backpack around Europe in an effort to realize this elusive goal.
And so readers embark on a rollicking ride permeated with musical references, new experiences with family and friends, and the quests of a self-proclaimed "beat generation of the 80s" as they take the road trip of their lives and revisit places and people they'd left behind.
Tom Wolfe's admonition that "you can't go home again" is belayed by the experiences in Searching for Paradise. Sure, you can go home again - and re-view it from the vantage point of new insights and life experiences. Connections between past and present are well done in a story that reveals just where this paradise is to be found.
Readers interested in novels about old roots, new beginnings, and a coming-of-age saga revolving around three young adults in their 20s who live out the dream of a life-changing road trip will find much to like in Searching for Paradise, which creates outstanding connections between past, present, and future choices.
Searching for Paradise
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of the Blackbird
Dream Tower Publishing
There are plenty of romances on the market and plenty of novels about prison experiences; but combining the two under one cover in a prison romance is a different approach, indeed, and soSong of the Blackbird provides a powerful saga of the unexpected.
Romance doesn't flare between prisoners, but between a prison doctor who has taken the job in hopes of reconnecting with a family member and a formidable warden who rules his kingdom with a firm hand.
Prison life is deftly portrayed as naïve, newly-graduated doctor Emma finds herself in a strange world she can barely navigate: one in which her physician training and her inclination to do good is continually confronted by physical and psychological traumas she can't heal.
DB Michaels does an excellent job of portraying both this world and an outsider's attempts to navigate it, using an evolving romance as just one of the subplots in a story of personal and professional discovery.
As Emma grows, learns, and becomes more flexible rather than more jaded, so those around her grow, in turn. Doors open (and some close) during the course of Emma's evolution both as a physician and through the zigzag paths of first impressions and evolving love.
Romance readers who look for more than surface passion in their stories will find the complex world of a prison environment an intriguing, satisfying backdrop for an unusual connection between two very different people. The emphasis on medical procedures, heartbreak, and different kinds of love is well done and creates an intricate maze of encounters that are believable and involving.
Those who want more than a bodice-ripper from their romances will relish the well-developed protagonists and backgrounds presented in Song of the Blackbird.
Song of the Blackbird
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Fans of novels that feature high-octane action and powerful female protagonists will quickly realize that the characters and nature of Throw Away Girls represents the embodiment of passion and purpose in the form of reporter Jaycee Wilder, who sets out to snag a big story and a bigger career in Los Angeles.
She gets more than she bargained for, however, when a series of murders draws her from her safe role as a reporter into the more dangerous world of an involved investigator edging ever closer to a clever killer.
Throw Away Girls doesn't open with Jaycee's perspective, however: shockingly, it documents a murder in progress, immediately letting readers know that violence and danger will permeate the story line, which is not a powder-puff piece for light mystery readers.
This killer specializes in the seedy kinds of girls who frequent nightclubs; so in order to break the story, Jaycee must track dangerous, savvy killer whose methodology and expertise in murder is only part of his cunning in knowing how to disappear and how to observe, from a safe distance, Jaycee's increasing involvement in the hunt.
At times it feels like the roles of predator and prey is continually switching, and that's because each protagonist faces a worthy, equal opponent in the other. And so a cat-and-mouse game evolves that keeps Jaycee - and readers - on their toes as a dangerous romp through the seedy side of life embraces agony, awareness, and the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde life of a family man by day, who is a passionate killer by night.
Is Jaycee about to become a "Throwaway Girl" in the killer's limelight? Evidence warns her of the danger ("If she wasn’t in the throes of a big story, using insider information, and about to reveal even more about a killer on the loose, she’d consider this a coincidence. Some crazy guy letting her know he thought she was hot. But then she flipped the picture around and all hope of bad cosmic timing was lost. No, this was intentional, a killer’s way of telling her to back off in bold red pen."), but her response is to not only persevere, but adopt a level of cunning equal to that of her opponent.
In such a game, who will win? There are no pat answers and no quick solutions, and readers of detective fiction who like well-developed characters, twists of story line, and engrossing moves and counter-moves will love the approach of Throw Away Girls, which takes a brutal vigilante's personal quest for justice and blends it with a savvy reporter's passion for her job.
Readers enthusiastic about smart, successful, creative female protagonists will find themselves rooting for Jaycee's ultimate success and chafing at the many obstacles and increasingly insurmountable hurdles she faces in the process of playing a dangerous game.
Throw Away Girls
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on a Tree
eBook: 978-0-9962582-4-1 $2.99
Teen Aimee has a lot on her plate at Christmas time: she's ill, her father died in a car accident the previous year, and her only wish for Christmas is to turn back the hands of time. Her family is outside playing in the snow, yet Aimee is not only ill, but can't bring herself to act as though nothing has happened to change her life - not at Christmas, when her broken family should be together.
As Aimee discovers the truth about Santa and Christmas magic, she uncovers a magical mess that leads her deeper into strange worlds she never knew existed.
Christmas magic, yetis, reindeer and quests, and the legacy of Santa are all wound into a revealing adventure story centered upon a girl's recovery from trauma. What is magic all about, and how can belief be cultivated in impossible conditions?
Things on a Tree is an evocative, involving journey through magic, control issues, challenges to trust and belief systems, and what is to be scarified in the name of survival.
Can time be turned back? Not without many changes and revelations, the process of which will keep middle school grade readers involved in a fantastic journey offering many surprising twists and turns.
Things on a Tree
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Brandi Megan Granett
Triple Love Score tells of Miranda, a poetry professor in a small town whose life seems set and quiet, until suddenly everything changes. This is a challenge for a woman who has purposely built this life based on something she knows well - writing - but when she decides to move beyond conventional approaches to use a Scrabble board as the foundation for her works, she begins to not only think outside the box, but acts outside it, as well.
Conventions and long-held patterns are all called into question as Miranda embarks on a journey that reveals romance, and a change in a process that will transform her life and her perceptions of how to live it.
There's nothing new about Miranda's revelations; but what is refreshingly different are descriptions of how and when convention fails, what causes a very quiet life to evolve into something different, and how the soul can be awakened to new opportunities.
As Miranda takes the kind of baby steps that lead to new horizons, she faces some truths about her choices and world that lead to a closer examination of 'poet words' and revised relationships with men and women alike.
Women seeking a solid story of a poetry professor's awakening will find Triple Love Score a delightful romp through options Miranda never realized she had.
Triple Love Score
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The Vatican Protocol
Fans of intrigue rooted in religious tradition and history and steeped in the mysteries of sects, discoveries, and ancient texts will relish Brian Gallagher's The Vatican Protocol, a novel based on real events.
Sean O'Shea is researching clues pointing to alien life; but the last place he expects these clues to lead is to a cover-up involving the Vatican. His journey to a secret UFO crash site in Germanystarts the clock ticking over the Vatican's most closely-held secret: one that will shake the foundations of religion, humanity, and perhaps reality itself.
The Vatican Protocol opens with a bang - the bang of a crashed aircraft in Germany - and creates a tense thriller that begins with events in 1936 and immediately moves to 2014, where Sean, who has lost nearly everything in a financial meltdown, has cultivated a goal-oriented approach to life that has returned his world to a semblance of stability.
His desire to probe mysteries and create a great book in the process leads to an obsession with history and supernatural forces that swirl into intrigue, death, and some hard truths that rival anything he could have dreamed about aliens and mankind.
Black operations groups, old wars between popes and Catholic hierarchies, heretics and philosophies challenged, and castles, labs, and dangerous discoveries all blend in a thriller centered on religious secrets.
Readers will find The Vatican Protocol follows no predictable paths and involves an unusual kind of power struggle that sharply redefines Sean's life, purposes, and the extent he will travel in his search for the truth. There are many surprises along the way, embedding the story line with a progressively tense atmosphere to keep readers guessing about the truth.
Any who have enjoyed The DaVinci Code and Indiana Jones adventures will find The Vatican Protocol a hard-hitting novel of intrigue and adventure whose protagonist crosses continents in a quest to reveal an increasingly challenging truth.
The Vatican Protocol
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Eric M. Gore
Green Ivy Publishing
When an Army Sergeant begins raving about devils, angels, God and apocalypse during an interview about events that transpired around 'cleaning house' during a surprise party for GAIA, that's unusual enough: but the interviews of witness involve over ninety individuals who all say the same, impossible things have happened. What's going on?
Vengeance Obtained creates an unusual kind of apocalyptic scenario and Judgment Day in which a quantum computer, aliens and vampires, and proof of all manner of magical beings from legend erupt and threaten to change the world.
As the military probes further, events leading back to Nazi times reveal the evolution of a series of apocalyptic events that have gone largely undetected by mankind. Nazi attempts to raise evil have succeeded beyond their wildest dreams ("To my horror, I could see the creatures ripping open the chests of some of the soldiers and entering them, wearing them like suits, while the terrified soldiers were somehow still alive. The worn ones then began to attack the soldiers that were still themselves. They now had to deal with the krauts as well as these creatures."), and a book made of flesh seems to be the key to raising this army of supernatural forces.
In any scenario of dark forces there are also conveyers of light, and such a benevolent force is Marcel Dekrey: "I am an angel of the Lord, who has been charged by God to observe and report the day-to-day occurrences in this treacherous world of vampires, werewolves, wizards, witches, and many other supernatural beings."
How a nine-hundred-year-old night- and day-walker who leads a clan of varied forces against the darkness can make an impact in what is to come is only one facet of a story line that will delight readers who enjoy a blend of military encounters and a very different breed of vampires, werewolves, and creatures who, until now, have managed to coexist largely secreted away from humanity.
Insights on reality, supernatural battles, and a different interpretation of Judgment Day are nicely portrayed ("You cease to exist, because you are no longer recognized by reality. Those who may have known you previously will eventually lose their memory of you, as your place in existence has been lost.") and action heats up from the initial military report and doesn't let go. Readers enter a battlefield where manmade monstrosities designed to eliminate supernaturals turn on their makers, where first contact between humanity and these disparate forces is made only on the eve of humanity's elimination, and where gifts from God come from strange places and assume even stranger countenances: "They seemed to be getting a handle on the situation, and Turk knew that it wasn’t the weapons. It was the faith. The thing with his hand had worked two more times since the first, and it seemed to be getting easier to use the more he tried. It was the faith."
Readers of Vengeance Obtained will have to accept a good number of violent encounters and descriptions, discussions of God, faith, and darkness and light forces. They should harbor a penchant for supernatural and vampire themes that run through a winding story line that deftly moves between good and evil and blurs the lines of who occupies which side.
Eric M. Gore's Judgment Day story has roots in Biblical tradition but takes its scenarios far beyond the Good Book, injecting a good degree of urban fantasy into the mix. From the foundations of faith and belief to God's role in what looks to be an unholy evolution of forces on both sides, Vengeance Obtained is recommended reading for any who would take Christian horror and urban fantasy one step further than most in a series of clashes and revelations about the real meanings of faith, good and evil forces, and survival.
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David John Jaegers
Book One of the Astrotheologian series tells of teen Robert, who undergoes a vast change when he moves from a comfortable suburban prep school world to the country, where an eccentric uncle's passion for astrology rubs off on the impressionable young man.
But what seems a crazy passion turns into something more deadly as Robert begins to discover that his uncle's special brand of spirituality holds some insidiously-dangerous results.
It's difficult to easily brand this story: with elements of a coming-of-age saga mixed with Christian and new age overtones and spiced with the overlay of a thriller tempered by moral and ethical questions, it holds the ability to cross genres and appeal to a wide range of audiences, from readers seeking stories of young adult personal and spiritual evolutions to leisure reading audiences who want elements of theological discussion in their reading.
Astrologer's Apprentice skirts the edge of a variety of genres, but its overlying Christian theme will especially attract and interest those who like more than a light hand on the spiritual tiller. Connections between astrology and conventional religion are explored ("Astrology has offered me a framework for understanding what God wants me to do with my life. When I was born, I was given gifts, attributes, qualities, talents. That can mean strengths, and depending on how I handle it, can mean weaknesses. So how do I use that knowledge to help me praise God? By realizing that my share of the gifts is only a very limited part of the total gifts that God bestows, I embrace humility. You and your father also have your own limited parts of the total gifts. Each person’s obligation to God is to do his best with the gifts he has.”) as Robert searches for answers, asks questions, and questions his uncle's path in life as well as his own future.
From the sacrifices involved in a collaborative research project and a treasure hunt across some fifty states to the kernel of sane truth in seemingly mad pursuits, Astrologer's Apprentice calls much into question and uncovers the basic elements in lives well lived, their underlying belief structures and influences, and most of all, the choices involved in accepting the gift of transformative knowledge.
Robert finds his life changed by his pursuits, and readers along for the journey - particularly those who enjoy theological discussion and astrology mysteries - will relish their travels inAstrologer's Apprentice, a hard-hitting novel wrapping elements of a mystery and thriller with greater questions about morality and belief.
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Conductoid opens with a typical student soccer game in which player Jack declines team celebrations at the end of a successful game to examine an illuminated device on his ankle in the privacy of the still-empty locker room, then flees. But there's something extraordinary in the method of his flight and in his ride home, implying that Jack is not the ordinary soccer-playing schoolboy he portrays.
Not every boy has a secret compartment in his closet and a jetpack accompanying his lunch bag. No normal boy can rocket into the sky through his rolled-back bedroom ceiling. And what boy can face his greatest enemy with nary a quiver? Nobody, it turns out - not even Jack. But, a boy can dream!
In a world that constantly challenges Jack to be extraordinary, he consistently fails. His performance in class, in P.E., and in life are all met with obstacles and his best intentions to do better send him into a dream world filled with creatures more realistic than his own life. In contrast, his twin Phoebe is a winner at nearly everything she does. Even worse, his mother is about to become his teacher at school.
What are left to enjoy are dreams, which sometimes come with nightmares attached. And in this world, he shines.
Conductoid is a super-hero story, a saga of dreams and reality, and tells of a boy who shifts between the persona of a failure and that of Conductoid, a superhero with extraordinary abilities who saves lives and faces down challenges. What, exactly, is a 'conductoid'? It's "A being who can have another’s powers transmitted through them."
As Jack faces strangers, transformations, and challenges even in his super-world, he finds that the very qualities that limit him in one world come back to haunt him in the one place he feels powerful: "'In the short term, the danger is more pronounced,’ replied the man grimly. ‘If you wish to proceed, you will need to listen to my instructions carefully and follow them—a task that may be beyond your capabilities.’
Not everything in Conductoid focuses on Jack's changing worlds: in between there are family encounters and relationships, field trips, and revelations about the underlying meaning of being powerful ("…he was a Conductoid. With great power comes great responsibility.").
Readers move between fantasy adventure and Jack's real world as Jack explores his position in both. Do the stories Jack creates have their roots in reality? While readers are treated to a satisfying intersection between fantasy and reality, the real questions lie in Jack's ability to move between two worlds and face the consequences of his choices in each.
This gripping saga will especially delight advanced elementary to middle grade readers who secretly dream of being heroes even as they struggle with being human.
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Lump and the Blanket of Dreams
978-1-4602-6438-6 (paperback) $11.49
Numerous adaptations of folk tales from other cultures appear as children's picture books, yearly; but few are as compelling and highly recommended as is Lump Lump and the Blanket of Dreams.
Perhaps this is because its full-color illustrations are simply gorgeous, eye-popping productions that truly stand apart from what is normally presented in a picture book to captivate both children and adults reading aloud to their kids.
Or maybe it's because of the story line, which takes certain motifs from Navajo culture and folklore, and weaves them together to create an original tale. Not only did Navajo weaver Barbara Teller Ornelas contribute a blanket to the story line for illustration, but she served as a consultant for the story, helping to fine-tune its Navajo cultural insights. (Ms. Ornelas' weavings are in the Smithsonian, the British Museum, and many other galleries.)
Maybe it’s the story line, which tells of a winter's approach and a little bear, Lump Lump, who just can't seem to go to sleep despite all preparations. His task is to gather materials from the forest, with the help of his animal friends, so that Spider Woman can weave him a Blanket of Dreams to help him sleep.
Or maybe it's the evocative, soaring, image-filled language which will attract all ages with stunning metaphors and visual and verbal beauty: "Later that morning, Robin returned with a piece of the white light of morning, and Mother Bear and Lump Lump gave her the grass they had gathered. All the way home, Lump Lump munched on his honeycomb and sang, “The white light of morning, the red light of evening, the falling rain, and the r-aa-iii-nnnnbow.”
Yes, parental assistance will be required for the young picture book reader: there are paragraphs of description, dialogue, and many insights that will not only benefit from numerous nights of read-aloud pleasure, but which invite kids and their parents to learn about Navajo culture.
The result is a delightful, very highly recommended story: a 'must have' acquisition that will easily move beyond the category of 'picture book folklore read-aloud' and into the realm of Native American studies (especially as the author intends to support it with lesson plans and ESL materials, produced in conjunction with language arts, wildlife biologist, and Native American cultural specialists).
Lump Lump and the Blanket of Dreams
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