June 2019 Review Issue
Denver Moon: The
Saint of Mars
Warren Hammond and Joshua Viola
Print: 978-1-7339177-0-4 $14.99
Ebook: 978-1-7339177-1-1 $ 4.99
Denver Moon: The Saint of Mars is the second story in the Denver Moon series about a PI who lives on Mars, and takes place six months after the original story left Denver Moon the victor in a battle against the Minds of Mars, when she eliminated the threat of an alien mind control plot.
This time, Denver and her AI pistol Smith are tracking a suspect that has been involved in the disappearance of numerous Martian citizens. What begins as a search for a dangerous perp leads to a far greater threat as Denver faces the specter of an android revolt that will change the Martian world.
High technology permeates this satisfying sci-fi thriller, from the talking AI gun that works hand-in-pistol with Denver to crime-solving techniques that are part of everyday tools in the investigator's arsenal, such as facial recognition and the widespread use of all kinds of AIs in this society.
A wry sense of humor stalks Denver's footsteps and injects a delightfully ironic note into Denver's first-person observations as she considers possibilities, political and social alliances, and interactions between humans and artificial intelligence: "The Peerless Leader wouldn’t refuse my call. A bug had built a secret lab. The shapeshifter had kidnapped human subjects and popped their heads like they were cans of tomatoes. A human brain had been transplanted into an alien. Me ringing Hennessey was not a casual call. The lab cleanup and cover story was a high stakes operation, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to talk to some program that liked to be called Thomas. For some reason, Smith still had a soft spot for Hennessey’s AI, but I’d been burned by Thomas before. Never trust an AI that isn’t your own."
Perhaps the most commendable aspect of Denver Moon: The Saint of Mars lies in its especially notable and adept pairing of an investigative piece with elements of cyberpunk sci-fi, wound into atmospheric descriptions of place that help keep readers involved and impart the feel of a familiar setting with recognizable sights, smells, and sounds: "I pulled the lid off my sectioned tray deciding to dig into the dessert first, a sweetened soy curd. After a couple bites, my appetite fully triggered, and I devoured the spicy slaw, realizing I hadn’t eaten in more than a day."
The combination of wry humor (not overdone, and subtly planted and peppered throughout), excellent tension created by a mystery and a bigger picture challenge, and Denver's own investigative prowess as she navigates a territory which should be familiar but suddenly is replete with puzzles and danger, creates a gripping story indeed.
Having the attractive characters be less than human and the evolving situation comprised of more than a simple whodunit makes for a satisfyingly unique story that embraces readers with familiar technology and scenarios, but placed on an alien world where even artificial intelligence is subject to adverse influence and change.
Like its predecessors, Denver Moon: The Saint of Mars maintains a solid pace without being frantic, a sense of place that is both familiar and alien, and an evolving set of conundrums that continue to challenge Denver's abilities, connections, and cunning.
The result is a sci-fi PI piece that is not only a cut above most attempts at such genre blends, but is a winning addition to the series. It's one that will captivate mystery and sci-fi readers alike with a spunky, smart female investigator who grabs hold of a problem and refuses to let go.Denver Moon: The Saint of Mars
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Web site link: https://www.
End Times: More Great Adventures in Real America comes from a political journalist whose previous 2013 political satire The Execution Channel foresaw Trump's rise. End Times again toes the line between reality and dystopian fantasy as it continues the saga, following the rise of the white-run, corporate-ruled entity Real America, Inc.
The appearance of a good-sized glossary of terms right at the beginning may dismay readers who might anticipate that this read will be weighty and challenging; but in reality the only test will come from a compelling, too-realistic dystopian America which encourages them to think not just about end times, but about how they began and are perpetuated by forces at all levels of society.
Many elements in End Times set it apart from similar-sounding dystopian novels. One is its wry sense of wicked humor, which injects a toga-wearing Emperor for Life into the picture, documenting the rise of this new nation's sentiments and atrocities through news reports ("An editorial in the Bowie-owned Galt Street Journal praised the Galt’s Gulch 2 project as a “win-win” maneuver for the emerging nation of Real America, Inc. The editorial hailed the legal plunder as validation that the Galtian Imperatives “work as an efficient, well-oiled machine by proving that unrestrained greed and self-interest are virtues never to be doubted. We salute the Emper Bowie’s innovation of forcing moocher-liberals pay for the entire project. We can find no finer example of self-enriching double-dealing.” The editorial added the guaranteed success of Galt’s Gulch 2 showed that “zero-risk Super Duper Profit Capitalism was awesome” and proved “beyond a shadow of doubt that Real America is indeed the promised land with shining new free labor policies. By comparison, Old USA is an unimaginative, gutless, overregulated, and overtaxed burden to humanity.”) and successfully capturing both the irony and poignancy of a nation gone over the edge.
At one time, years ago, the world depicted in End Times: More Great Adventures in Real America might have seemed an fantasy scenario entirely. However, today there are enough roots in real events transpiring daily to make this story both hilarious and chilling: a fete that would not have been possible just a short time ago. As plunderer politicians, bullying businesses, the licensed crime of politics, and slave-labor kickback schemes take hold in this Real America Inc., readers receive a chilling glimpse of a possible future that could not have seemed so likely only a few years ago.
Michael McCord's ability to capture not only these changes but extrapolate them to their most outrageous and morally reprehensible outcomes is exquisite.
McCord creates more than a cast of characters that participate in a personality cult: he injects elements of a thriller, dystopian observation, political commentary and social conflict between the Liberal Moochers and agents of Real America Inc., adding the question: "Who can possibly understand the value of things these crazy days?”
There's plenty to engage the reader, here, from psychics to Russians and treachery in an environment where betrayal is the rule of thumb for daily survival. All these facets make End Times: More Great Adventures in Real America a standout in the genre of dystopian fiction, and one especially and highly recommended for readers who like their futuristic stories believable and replete with powerful social and political messages.
End Times is an extraordinary, balanced blend of wry humor and pointed political observation that will attract not just fans of satirical fiction or sci-fi, but those with a special interest in social and political science.End Times
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The Book Reality Experience
978-0-6484471-5-3 $4.99 Kindle
Invader crafts a series of subplots based as much upon intrigue and interpersonal relationships as on an alien invader who threatens two scientists marooned on a desert island, so readers anticipating a typical alien invasion story alone may be surprised to find that Invader's real strength lies in a multifaceted story.
At first, these threads are scattered and seemingly puzzling. Rose has been rescued from the ocean, and is without memory or purpose. Her rescuer, Thomas, seems at once benevolent and familiar, and increasingly dangerous.
Kailey is no stranger to abuse, and has recreated that pattern in adulthood with a love who leads her into a life of crime. Trapped, she sees no easy way out from her choices and the familiar patterns that have taken over her life.
The two women confront aliens both within and from outside, but their forms and purposes go beyond the usual image of an alien invader. This isn't to say that the story doesn't hold extraterrestrials: only that they assume natures that move well beyond the usual staid portrait of alien interactions with humans.
As Invader progresses, readers receive an engrossing story that keeps mercurial the thought of who the real monster is in this story. Is it one or a series of invaders who have a purpose dangerous to mankind—or does the threat lie within the hearts and minds of those who confront the impossible?
As the true connections between Rose and Kailey emerge, a horrifying scenario develops which solidifies the definition of 'invader' on several levels. And as Rose, Thomas, and Kailey interact and face their inner demons and outer nightmares, readers receive an alien invasion story far different than they might have anticipated: just as focused on the choices and impact of changing lives as it is on an extraterrestrial threat.
Tension builds exquisitely, but readers won't anticipate the emotionally charged conclusion which brings everything full circle in a satisfying, supercharged revelation.
Invader offers quite a different take on the traditional alien invader scenario. It is highly recommended for readers who enjoy surprising twists of plot, mysteries, and stories that quickly move into delightfully unexpected realms of psychological recovery and self-inspection.Invader
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The Nothing Within
978-1-7335676-4-0 (Paperback Edition)
978-1-7335676-1-9 (Hardcover Edition)
978-1-7335676-2-6 (eBook Edition - MOBI)
978-1-7335676-3-3 (eBook Edition - EPUB)
The Nothing Within is set in 2161 in the American Midwest, several centuries after a biotech disaster, The Reckoning, has rendered humanity almost extinct, replacing it with the chimera, which has also largely become extinct—until now.
Root of Surecreek is a young woman of Amish descent who witnesses the rise of the chimera in this post-apocalyptic world. It should be noted that her first-person story opens with a unique voice that readers will find compelling: "My name is Root. I was seventeen when I first heard the voice no one else could hear. I feared I might have the Nothing within me. But by the time my village burned me alive in the Pit? Well, gracious. By then, we was all pretty sure."
Juxtaposed with Root's experience are words and history from The Reckoning that brought humanity to this point. Andy Giesler does an outstanding job of outlining the events of the past with the same attention to drama that he created in Root's introduction. Captivated by Root's description, which segues neatly into a third-person narration of Lee and Morton's desperate and dangerous decision on how to save the human race, readers of dystopian fiction will find The Nothing Within nearly impossible to put down.
That's because each character is carefully crafted, descriptions set the scenes using a minimum of verbiage and powerful action words, and absorbing individual conflicts and dilemmas draw readers into the greater story: "This is our fault. You and me. We bought our own bullshit. All the safeties, all the controls. We were wrong.” He left that hanging. Almost a question. “True,” she agreed after a pause. “Your plan could go wrong. Mine could, too. Maybe everybody will die no matter what we choose. Everybody who’s still human, anyway.”
Chapter headings are also uniquely crafted to draw readers through Root's story (i.e. 'When I Was Twenty: My Wondrous Mistakes'), as is a narrative voice which enlivens in an almost casual, yet vivid, observational style. The story of the politics and processes of a much-changed world come to life: "If I cared to, I could imagine the village Elders saying, “Well, golly. With Deborah going along, they don’t hardly need but one runner. They’re more than safe in her strong and capable hands.” But just as easy, I could also imagine them saying, “Well, golly. If Outcasts or wolves or a chimera was to take our least able runner, or our valuable but frustrating woodsmith, or his downright troublesome apprentice…you know what? Sometimes misfortune hides a blessing. Let’s see what Grandmother Root decides.”
As stories and narrators entwine, readers will be delighted by the fresh, original take of this end-of-the-world saga, and will find The Nothing Within and its progression unexpectedly original, refreshingly revealing, and a standout compared to the usual dystopian exploration.The Nothing Within
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Christmas: A Battle With Dementia
978-1790751402 $5.38 Paper/$2.99 Kindle
Lynne's Last Christmas: A Battle With Dementia is the very personal story of Donald Hricik's struggles through four years of his wife's severe dementia, but it's important to note that most of this story was written within a few weeks of his wife's death.
Therefore, Hricik offers a personal memoir from hindsight, capturing the progression of Lynne's disease and the impact it made on their family and lives.
His introduction questions whether these personal experiences will be relevant to audiences outside immediate family—but they will be, because many are going through the same experiences and questions as this family faces as Lynne's dementia progresses.
Hricik succeeds in capturing not only Lynne's slow decline, but the vibrant parts of her personality and interests that contributed to her life, from her hope and faith to her knack for conversing with others and her highest priority in life: her family.
He also makes comments that offer pointers for others who either are confronting dementia or living lives without its presence, such as his observation that "If I had promised her to see the world after I retired, we would never have traveled anywhere. Lynne passed away one month before my planned retirement date."
Another valuable part of this physician's story of his wife's downhill spiral comes from his documentation of early symptoms that preceded her dementia diagnosis: hair loss, loss of appetite, and a tendency towards repetitiveness that her husband first attributed to a family trait.
As the family edges towards a diagnosis that holds little hope for recovery, readers receive information on testing processes and impacts of each progressive stage of dementia's relentless attacks. And as readers absorb the progression of Lynne's dementia, they become better educated about early warning signs, symptoms, and management choices at each stage of the disease.
Plenty of memoirs and books about dementia document patient and family experiences. Few hold the day-by-day assessments and impact of the disease as viewed by a husband and physician who finds even his skills tested by a deadly prognosis.
Lynne's Last Christmas: A Battle With Dementia should be at the top of any reading list for families facing such a diagnosis, who want a candid survey of what living with dementia really means.Lynne's Last Christmas: A Battle With Dementia
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Out of the Fire and into the Pan
Shannon O'Leary, Publisher
Out of the Fire and into the Pan is a sequel to The Blood on My Hands and will especially be appreciated by prior fans who enjoyed Shannon O'Leary's first memoir of how she survived a violent childhood in 1960s and 70s Australia. Out of the Fire and into the Pan continues the story as she moves into adulthood and finds ways to reconcile her life choices with her traumatic past.
Oftentimes, memoirs pack childhood and adult experiences under one cover. By separating these into two books, Shannon O'Leary provides the focus and detail lacking in similar-sounding accounts of recovery from childhood trauma, allowing for a closer inspection not just of events, but the process of coming to terms with them.
One notable aspect Out of the Fire and into the Pan is that O'Leary's father is an expert at gaslighting techniques. From a beloved dog's disappearance and his insinuation that the pet's safe return could be linked to behavioral changes on the part of his adult children to ongoing family connections as everyone attempts to achieve their own sense of peace and healing from the past, Out of the Fire and into the Pan does an outstanding job of charting not just changing relationships, but the quagmire of dysfunction that threatens them all.
In some ways, Out of the Fire and into the Pan offers hope. In others, it deftly pinpoints the types of reactions, social snafus, and insecurities that linger in heart and action long after the trauma has passed ("Why can't I just laugh sexual encounters off like everyone else?").
Against the backdrop of dysfunction, reaction, choices that lead to relationships with those who are neither compassionate nor kind, and self-examination ("I was still trying to comprehend why I behaved the way I did, living in the shadow of shame and trying to avoid little scenes of humiliation...") is the story of emerging from a cocoon of hurt and blossoming into something entirely different than an injured victim, against impossible odds.
Out of the Fire and into the Pan is more than just one woman's autobiography. It's an engrossing story of change, choice, and the lasting impacts of these behaviors. Its ability to capture moments of transition and their ongoing impact makes for a heady read that is not all sugar and spice, but filled with enlightening moments that hold valuable lessons for anyone struggling with the aftermath of childhood trauma.Out of the Fire and into the Pan
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Skin Horse Press
978-0-9855067-3-0 $12.99 Paper/$5.99 ebook
Stealing Home: A Father, a Son, and the Road to the Perfect Game documents an eleven-day road trip the author undertook with his Little League son, Nicky. It was not a trip to support his son's ambitions, but one to thwart the prospect of less than stellar parenting which he'd inherited from a father who committed suicide along with his relationship with Nicky's mother, which resulted in divorce.
On one level, Stealing Home is the perfect father/son road trip of adventure as the two share different experiences outside their comfort zones and solidify a bond that goes beyond parental support. On another level, it's about finding home: those roots, connections, and interpersonal methods of communication that move beyond the sofa and television set and into real life's shared experiences.
This kind of road trip is nicely documented, from the early structure of their interactions ("Whenever I talked with Nicky after days of not seeing him, our safe talk was about sports. Baseball became our glue by 1994, alongside a thicket of memorized dialogue from the Simpsons episodes, lines we traded back and forth as if they were baseball cards. I would tape the shows on Sundays after he’d left, so we could rewatch together on his weeknight visit. “I had no idea a father could be so important to a child’s behavior,” Homer would say, a line we’d repeat with snickers. Unsure what to say to my son at times, I’d fall back on TV’s smartest comedy.") to changes in communications that a baseball game can bring to observers and participants alike: "Nicky shifted in his seat and marked down another strike. Ballgames get slow. The scorebook always gave us something to do while we watched, waiting for something to happen. Baseball is best when things are close and the game slows down, everyone waiting for a mistake like a home run pitch or some batter fanning on a bases-loaded strikeout. I chose a baseball trip because of the time to talk that’s built into every game."
If Stealing Home had narrowed its focus to father and son alone, that would have been a shame, in many ways. The meat of any family exposé lies in tracing intergenerational patterns, and Seybold does a fantastic job of integrating his experiences with his father and their connections through baseball, moments which are very different scenarios than what he more mindfully cultivates with his son.
This background is also well detailed and is thought-provoking: "I’d watch the passions run across his face as I often did when he challenged me, the evil I would search out in his looks while we fought with words and worse. I looked out on the field as Bill Freehan, one of the heroes of that championship 1968 Tiger team, crouched behind the plate. The first few innings would draw nothing good from Dad but his shouts when two Indians struck out to wrap up an inning. He’d grouse about the Tiger pitcher Mickey Lolich—another Series hero and still wearing a gut like Dad once did—coughing up homers. There was a kind of quiet between us that I mistook for peace. There were no marks of age on his face, his chin bearing that tight-trimmed goatee that he sprouted as I turned into a combative teenager. That peace I imagined coming off Dad was different than his belly laughs at Shecky Green’s standup on the Dean Martin summer show. That absence of rage, the moments of his silence and long sighs, were marks of losses to come."
As road trip and baseball observations and metaphors permeate a jaunty yet introspective story of an evolving relationship between father and son, readers receive unexpected treats that move far beyond the physical journey and into the finer art of sharing not just love, but life.
Descriptions are always grounded in more than one facet of the story and are winning explorations of exactly what these revised connections look like, and how they are cemented by spending quality time together: "What is this Dead Head bus of which you speak?” I said, playing at changing the subject. Another line from the scripts of the Simpsons, where there was wisdom to inform any circumstance. Or a wisecrack to wrap around it. A couple of cans of soda later from the rest stop’s machine, we pulled away, riding behind a micro-bus. As we passed it, Nicky waved and toasted the Dead Heads, leaning out the window with his soda can. He’d already blasted through seven Goosebumps books and was taking his rightful place as a fellow traveler, not just my playmate."
Stealing Home deserves a spot in any good parenting collection. It will especially appeal to male readers seeking enlightenment and ideas for their own approaches to fatherhood. The book's backdrop of baseball lends to a rare accessibility for men who usually don't consider parenting books to be engrossing reading.Stealing Home
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The Devault-Graves Agency, LLC
Print: 978-1-942531-31-9 $18.99
eBook: 978-1-942531-32-6 $ 9.99
White Boy is a memoir of Memphis racism and family relationships and provides an unusually sharp inspection of how prejudice permeated the author's family and how his choices and relationships challenged the status quo. It's highly recommended reading for anyone interested in not just a social inspection of racism in the South, but how racist attitudes permeate family interactions to surface in the most casual of everyday situations.
To get a sense of Tom Graves' approach and presentation, consider his hard-hitting introduction, which succinctly captures the atmosphere of his childhood roots: "This being Memphis, however, the racism is complex, ironic, and like Einstein’s concept of time seems to fold in on itself. In my childhood the world seemed to be divided two ways: by gender and by race. There were men and there were women, and there were white people and there were black people. And that was all there was to it. I was only vaguely aware that there were others who fell outside those parameters. This state of affairs seemed logical to me. God created man and woman and he intended for them to have children, to be fruitful and multiply as the book said. People grew up, got old, died, and went to heaven, or if they were bad to that other place. And for reasons we didn’t really understand, he created white people to show black people how they should properly live. That white people were superior to black people didn’t even need suggestion. That fact—along with the word 'nigger'—was in the very air we breathed in Memphis in the ’50s and ’60s."
Then look at how
Graves integrates his family experience with this social overlay of
expectation: "I’ve not-so-jokingly
told friends I was the white sheep of my family. Both sides of my
family had an over-abundance of piety, bigotry, militarism, and an
for the losing side in the War Between the States. I saw my share of
Confederate flags growing up. I scandalized my family by rejecting
everything they believed in and prayed to. I openly disavowed the
and told my relatives I would have fought on the Union side, which is
only was slavery an abomination, but for dirt farmers of the South to
arms against their country to fight at the behest of profiteering
owners to me is the height of patriotic misdirection and proof of the
effectiveness of propaganda when it is drilled into the masses. My
were not amused. Not all of them disowned me, however."
As White Boy reviews the author's life and times, a hard-hitting memoir evolves that captures not just a singular life experience, but the milieu, history, and psychology of several generations of Memphis residents.
It's a relatively easy task to follow the course of prejudice in this country, but a far more complex endeavor to trace its specific presence in family and community relationships. With the personal overlay linked to historical fact, the logic, evolution, and attitudes of racism become much more personal than political.
Graves does a particularly notable job of following prejudice in not just his own family, but the Memphis City school system. These eye-opening stories will raise eyebrows not just due to their facts, but for their insights on race and gender differences alike.
The result is a powerful memoir that takes one man's life experiences, confrontations, and choices to craft a Memphis-centric story that holds universal connotations for anyone interested in how racism both evolves and can be challenged and ultimately changed.
No collection strong in Southern history and culture should be without this hard-hitting, candid memoir that asks hard questions and prompts readers to consider the roots of their own family prejudices.White Boy
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Ezekiel Blackbird is under the gun in more ways than one. He's a fresh law school student trying to start his own practice, he is newly employed by Alex, a defendant facing the charge of murdering a Hollywood actress at a party, and he is well over his head in more ways than one.
As Ezekiel probes events surrounding the party's tragic outcome and his client's involvement, he uncovers clues that not only indicate Alex's innocence, but test his loyalties and ability to be an effective criminal defense attorney.
The first thing to note about Blackbird is that it offers a satisfying probe of Zeke's personal life as well as his professional challenges. These facets keep the plot multifaceted as it flows through events, choices, and consequences on more than one level.
Zeke's love life is a mess, he's under pressure and threats from more than one angle, and he questions his own integrity and objectives even when he faces a kidnapper who removes him from a restaurant date or causes him to drop the ball with his client.
Another strong note to Blackbird is that events aren't always related from Blackbird's viewpoint. Readers enjoy the juxtaposition of proceedings from Victor's viewpoint, as well, which allows a dual-pane examination of both sides of the same coin as Zeke confronts one of the biggest criminal cases and puzzles in his career, which evolves from what he had perceived as an unsatisfying introductory case in his new practice.
Can Zeke absorb the kinds of life lessons that will lead him to become a better criminal attorney even as he fights for his own life and that of his client? Blackbird is an engrossingly changing read that tests readers' own ability to presume innocence or guilt. The cliffhanger conclusion promises more to those who find Zeke, Lexi, and others an engrossing set of characters.Blackbird
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Bonnie & Clyde:
Clark Hays and Kathleen McFall
Bonnie & Clyde: Radioactive adds to the series with a new story about the now-past-her-prime Bonnie Parker and her much younger sidekick Royce. As with the others in this blossoming series, a sense of humor is evident from the start: "Do you think those folks are the ones following us?” Bonnie asked, peeking over his shoulder. “Maybe the kids are packing heaters? Seems unlikely with those skimpy little swimsuits, but you can never be too cautious.”
The novel’s framing device is the now-elderly Bonnie who, in 1984, reminisces with Royce about her exploits with Clyde in 1945. In this modern era, Clyde is gone, and Bonnie contemplates joining him. But first she is charged with figuring out Sal's identity and the remaining mysteries (readers should ideally have prior familiarity with the previous, excellent series titles in order to easily continue the saga presented in this book. Past episodes had them tackling how the government faked their deaths, and who really died in the ambush).
As events move forward, Royce, an investigative reporter, and Bonnie find the final pieces of the puzzle even more difficult to put together as they face a bar robbery and obstacles to their investigation. Once again, unexpected humor is one of this story's driving forces: "A black sedan pulled behind their vintage car, blocking them in. Two men climbed out—both wearing cowboy hats. “Shit,” Royce said. “It’s Hall and Oates.” “Hall and Oates?” Randy asked, confused. “Why are the No Can Do singers following you?” “They’re not singers,” Bonnie said. “They’re hired muscle who’ve been tracking us for weeks. And what the hell is No Can Do?” “It’s a real catchy tune,” Randy said. “The girl who comes out to visit her Grandma played it for us.” “Can we focus, please?” Royce said."
Another compelling feature carried forward from previous novels is the story's winding progression, which keeps readers on their toes and guessing.
Action is constant, dialogue is fun and revealing, new dilemmas are added to the mix, and Bonnie and Clyde (in the 1945 timeline, Clyde is alive and still her sidekick) face many challenges as they take gun-toting outlaw behaviors to new, modern heights.
Readers won't anticipate the foray into Russian involvements, political observations, and challenges to ideals that is offered in Bonnie & Clyde: Radioactive, but these are just some of the unexpected delights in a story that excels in nonstop surprises.
With its thriller component tempered by mystery, historical fact, political interactions, and gunslinger intrigue, Bonnie & Clyde: Radioactive is a powerful series addition. It deftly evolves from a story of thieves and murders to an inspection of war, social issues, and second chances not just for the characters, but for America itself.
Readers seeking fiction that is difficult to categorize and refreshingly original will find Bonnie & Clyde: Radioactive a breath of literary fresh air.Bonnie & Clyde: Radioactive
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The Definition of
Available via Amazon Kindle & Smashwords
978-1-7338503-0-8: Kindle Direct Publishing
The Definition of Experience: Inside the Contract Electronics Manufacturing Services Industry blends thriller and business (financial and technology) fiction genres in a hard-hitting, racy, action-packed story that belays the usual staid development focus of a business novel. This succeeds in adding rich insights on the sales and manufacturing sector's process to expand the usual thriller focus into something more complex and educational.
A manufacturing supplier is pressed to reduce his prices to his customer to help keep them competitive in the marketplace, but ongoing challenges to business success keep Dan Gamble (the story’s protagonist), and others on their toes. When a top-level decision maker betrays his best employee, everything changes.
Unlike many business novels, Jim Adameit also takes time to build interpersonal relationships into the bigger picture of these business challenges, as when Dan reflects on the price tag of his demanding career: "The trip was familiar. Dan had made it dozens of times over the past few years. His mind began to wander, thinking about Lori back home and how his travel and work schedule affected her. How it seemed like all Dan did was work. There was no such thing as him being caught up, instead just varying levels of being behind."
Also a departure from the usual business novel focus on the rise or fall of a venture, The Definition of Experience's thriller components are on par with such authors as Crichton and Finder, cultivating the realistic atmosphere of a business milieu while adding a dash of intrigue and mystery into the story line. The result is a wider-ranging examination that moves from business to personal circles and back again.
Brian, Declan, and Dan navigate uncertain agreements and business decisions, each facing the promise of embarking on a different kind of venture. What does a new life created by the Witness Protection Program for Ralph have to do with these efforts? And what happens when expense-cutting decisions lead to questionable actions over sensitive company financial information and the notion that the end justifies the means?
This survey of choices, consequences, and lasting ramifications gives readers a solid thriller well steeped in the global contract electronics manufacturing industry in particular and international business ventures in general. (Lest readers unfamiliar with this sector wonder at its relevance, this is the same global industry that produces ubiquitous devices, such as iPhones, laptop and desktop computers, precision medical equipment and military hardware – which affects ALL of us.)
Business novel readers typically receive stories firmly rooted in particular industry ambitions. This thriller is broader in scope than most, adding intrigue above and beyond the business world of the electronics manufacturing industry alone. This gives it a fuller flavor to make it a vivid, realistic read for general-interest thriller readers who may harbor minimal interest in the typical business novel, but who will relish the story's focus on corporate espionage, situational ethics, high-level manipulation – all presented with clever, entertaining plot twists. Can a business that is at once legit and illegal be salvaged?
The Definition of Experience represents a solid meld of the business novel and thriller genres. It is highly recommended reading for those seeking something satisfyingly different: a story fueled by the decision-making challenges and personal ambitions of a group of would-be successful businessmen who toe a fine line between disaster and achievement.The Definition of Experience
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Dreamscape Adventures, Inc.
978-1092121354 $9.99 Paper/$3.99 Kindle
Dreamscape Adventures, Inc. questions the nature of reality and dreams, but couches these inquiries into an investigative piece that revolves around an insurance attorney who addresses a new company's need for liability insurance. Luke Darringer has everything he could have asked for in life, but these acquisitions turn into nightmares as he investigates a company that offers to make people's dreams come true.
As he and his administrative assistant Charlotte discover that Dreamscape's activities embed a glitch that threatens their lives, readers are brought into a world that demands much from its rich clientele; including possibility forfeiting everything.
Part of what makes Dreamscape Adventures, Inc. so engrossing is that the initial predicament of its protagonist is realistically portrayed. Luke's workaholic traits have led to his setting aside a venture he used to love—rock climbing—in favor of less appealing exercise that he dutifully performs, instead. Dreamscape offers him an opportunity return to this passion, but it comes with a big price.
As Luke's passion turns into a nightmare, he finds himself facing his deepest psychological challenges in a story that recreates a reality that too easily embraces death.
In this scenario, Luke is responsible for saving everyone. In this case, 'everyone' is not only himself and his assistant, but an autistic boy.
Another deeply evocative part of the tale lies in Luke's confrontation with his own limitations and failures. Dreamscape's latest adventure tests him on many levels, ties into his past failings, and tests his entrepreneurial spirit as he finds himself grappling with a liability nightmare.
As events unfold, Luke contemplates the wisdom of guaranteeing liability for a company where dreams can turn so horribly dangerous. His trusty assistant Charlotte, long his most reliable, brutally honest companion, may not support his perspective or company any longer. And what he ultimately gets out of his role with the group navigating the Dreamscape environment may change his life forever.
The satisfying mix of intrigue, interpersonal relationships, psychological challenges, and insights into love make for a fast-paced, multifaceted blend of thriller and fantasy which is strong in magical realism and one man's surprising investigation of a company's surreal offering which leads him to also probe his own life's challenges and his choices.
Thriller, fantasy, mystery and
readers will find Dreamscape Adventures, Inc.
powerfully absorbing. It's
filled with just the right blend of action, intrigue, and interpersonal
inspection to keep attention firmly in place right up to a surprising
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2048—Watching Big Mother
Poplar Leaf Press
Ebook: $9.84; Paperback: $19.84; Hardcover: $24.95
Reality™ 2048—Watching Big Mother is a dystopian thriller set in Los Angeles in the not-so-distant future, protagonist Vera faces the dilemma of personal ennui. Bombarded by advertising and high drama from high technology, Vera one day decides to distance herself from these devices and their crippling allure, only to discover a hidden layer of possibilities that recharges her energy and purpose.
Readers might expect Reality™ 2048 to be a novel of personal achievement and realizations, but it's actually more of a social and political commentary. It personalizes both as it reveals Vera's hollow feelings about life on the carefully regulated, ad-driven Magnificent Estates in her LuxureLife™ suites, which should mark one of the pinnacles of success—but doesn't.
When reality itself seems like one big promotional tagline, what is left of the world? Derek Cressman explores not only the nature of political purpose, but the perils of predictability and regulation as he surveys Vera's life and its transformation.
One of the strong points of the story is Cressman's ability to pinpoint exact moments in the process of this change where Vera realizes that her choices have been limited, and are being used by the very technology that promises her entertainment and an over dramatized form of reality: "For weeks, Vera had wanted to pull up the meditation video she had initially found in her MyndScreen search. She hadn’t done it because she was worried that repeated views would be more likely to trigger a metadata point. Maybe guided meditation would give her greater relief than she’d been able to achieve on her own. This antique item was not connected in any way to MyndScreen transmissions. Vera began playing a Big Mother Gets Real episode in another MyndScreen window so that she could safely consider the purchase. Chase had said that the key to avoiding SpeidrWeb tracking was to keep the Mynd-Screen occupied. She imagined that maintaining a regular pattern of purchasing would also keep her data looking normal."
Concepts of global connectivity, technology's manipulation of the masses, and ideas and ideals about who controls individual purpose in this near-future all hold powerful messages for contemporary audiences. When propaganda is carefully controlled and streamed directly into the brain, what happens to true freedom of choice?
Readers are presented with an absorbing, compelling plot that closely considers the nature of personal and political power, rebellion, and options. As Vera progresses deeper into uncontrolled territory, she uncovers plots, purposes, and manufactured blocks designed to thwart true democracy even as they purport to represent its apex.
The result is an involving, compelling read made all the more so by its strong connections to evolutionary processes of recent years, as much as by its revealing message to future generations. When reality TV becomes the stuff of not just entertainment but perceptions of reality itself, whence freedom?
Reality™ 2048—Watching Big Mother may be a dystopian thriller, but it shouldn't be limited to these audiences. Social issues and technology fiction readers will find plenty of shock and awe in Cressman's revealing portent of a possible social form of attack on a democratic, free, truly choice-driven life.Reality™ 2048—Watching Big Mother
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The River Rat Murders
Frank L. Gertcher
Wind Grass Hill Books
The River Rat Murders is a different kind of murder mystery set in Prohibition times Indiana and focuses on Madame Caroline Case, who becomes an amateur sleuth after her friend Alec is murdered. Caroline’s exploits are introduced as Volume 1 of her diary in this book. Her story is told in first-person, using Caroline's own voice to capture her observations and latest adventures.
She and her "girls" form The River Rat Detective Agency and go where no man can follow, solving a string of murders that have stumped local authorities.
Under another hand, this premise might have formed a singular focus on a given murder or investigative process; but Frank L. Gertcher is a retired senior scientist with a penchant for historical detail; and so Caroline's sleuthing is firmly rooted in the backdrop of an evolving gang war between Al Capone and those involved in black market booze.
Readers who like their sleuthing tales centered in real-life history will enthusiastically embrace The River Rat Murders for its exceptional ability to wind a murder mystery's superior tension and plot development into facts about the times.
The setting, too, appears unusually vivid and realistic. Perhaps this is because Gertcher was born and raised in Indiana, and is well aware, on a personal level, of its milieu and social circles, on more than one level.
Given the vivid presentation of these adventures, one might suspect that Caroline is a real figure. Not so: but the environment she operates in certainly is; and it's brought to realistic, compelling life. The story includes Caroline's consideration of moving into legitimate business circles, her foray into romance, challenging encounters with the law and criminals alike, and the pursuit of an elusive figure who turns out to literally be under their noses.
The River Rat Murders is at once compelling, historically well detailed, and hard to put down.The River Rat Murders
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The Serpent's Game
9780974793443 $10.99 Paper/$3.99 Kindle
The Serpent's Game is the second book in the Jonathan Brooks series and follows the New Orleans maritime lawyer who has been set adrift by failures in his life and career. Now he also faces Hurricane Katrina, with no choice left but to await the storm of the century amid the ruins of his world.
As if this wasn't enough to spark an interest in his story, A.C. Frieden adds a murder mystery paired with international intrigue into the plot, which surges from New Orleans to Central America as Jonathan follows a trail of espionage and crime that lead from his home to Russia, North Korea, Cuba, and beyond anything he's ever faced before.
Frieden holds a special ability to pack as much drama and tension into a few sentences as possible, both setting the stage for events to follow and crafting an atmosphere that is darkly compelling and nearly impossible to put down: "Silence is a lethal tune—Satan's anthem for those souls so bruised by this ruthless world that its steady carriage of melancholy and anger sends the mind into near-paralysis. Jonathan Brooks understood this too well. To him, silence was a ruse, oversold as peace. Hyped as longed-for solace. This morbid tune brought only maddening echoes of failed love, his soul bled dry by Linda's caustic slurs lobbed from afar."
This ability to cram as much atmosphere, history, and description in as little verbiage as possible is part of what makes The Serpent's Game so compelling. Not one word is wasted in the effort, which means that the hard-hitting, informational, atmospheric descriptions are hard to put down.
Readers who look for not just action-packed thrillers but emotional characters will find just the ticket in The Serpent's Game because the protagonist struggles with his life on many different levels, and solving mysteries is not the first and foremost passion in his world.
As events unfold, this quiet drama is supplemented by political intrigue that at times feels so complex that a better grasp of world affairs would seem a requirement for the successful appreciation of just how much historical and political detail Frieden uses in his story. Not to worry: the interrelationships and intrigue swirling around the protagonist is explained, and no prior knowledge is needed in order to appreciate either the connections between nations and individuals or the progression of events that keeps Jonathan facing life-or-death situations.
From the politics and challenges of natural disaster to the same facets reflected in political forces and special interests, Frieden keeps his characters alive and logical, his readers engaged in their actions and the consequences of their choices, and the story filled with twists and turns to keep everything on track as readers try to guess the outcome.
Fans of political thrillers and disaster recovery stories who enjoy intrigue and mystery will find The Serpent's Game both satisfyingly complex and psychologically well-detailed, probing the roots of conflict both in the world and in Jonathan's own heart.The Serpent's Game
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Sherry V. Ostroff
KDP - Amazon
9781090763723 $13.99 paper; $8.99 ebook
Ordering link: https://www.amazon.com/s?k=
Caledonia opens in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1696 and tells of the uncertain fate of 15 year-old Jewess Anna Issac, who is slated to marry a Frenchman that her spiteful brother has selected for her. Her choices are to either embark on an unhappy relationship or run away with a Scottish Highlander, an action which will lead her into a world filled with prejudice against Jews.
This story isn't just about Anna, however: it's about two very different women—one modern; one from the past—whose lives become connected when an old key and a safe deposit box's contents lead Hanna, whose father died in the 9/11 events, to uncover Anna Duncan's role in the creation of Scotland’s only colony.
A family heirloom handed down for decades, a mysterious object that reveals a nearly-forgotten history, and Anna and Hanna's involvements in family animosity and Scottish history make for an intriguing story.
Part of what contributes to Caledonia's unique approach is that this adventure is rooted in facts and geography. It's evident from the peppering of references throughout that Sherry V. Ostroff has not only done her research into ancient times, but has a personal familiarity with the geography, peoples, and politics of present-day Scotland.
This lends an authoritative and evocative structure to a tale that embeds compelling descriptions into a story replete with two womens' connections, aspirations, and struggles.
Lest readers think that such history might be dry, it should be advised that there are quirky and fun references throughout which provide delightfully light moments as serious romance, confrontations, and thriller elements are juxtaposed with real facts: "Believe it or not, the sausage plays a part in the history of the Inquisition. Once the Inquisition arrived in Portugal, Jews were given a choice of expulsion or conversion. Those who converted were forced to prove their devotion to their new religion. That included the Portuguese custom that all housewives hang their freshly stuffed pork sausages in the communal smokehouse. Any who were identified as Conversos were scrutinized to make sure they did as well. So they wouldn’t go against their religious dietary laws, the hidden Jews secretly stuffed the sausage with duck, chicken, or veal. In this way, they could join in the custom and go undetected. Ironically, later the Portuguese Christians liked the Jewish recipe better, and they adopted it. You can now find the sausage in certain areas of Portugal, especially in the city of Mirandela, in the northern part of the country."
These elements set Caledonia apart from and above many timeslip or historical mystery reads, creating a compelling saga that is infused with Scottish history and culture, yet not so heavy on the brogue dialect as to prove confusing.
As Anna faces an epic journey to New York, a separation that tugs at her heartstrings, the possibility of a new family, and the ship Caledonia, which carries her to new worlds and a great loss, readers will be thoroughly immersed in a saga that shifts in time and place, introduces many differing viewpoints from a cast of believable characters, and documents the birth of a colony as Jews escape the Spanish Inquisition and seek refuge in Scotland.
Fans of historical novels and romance will find Caledonia exquisitely compelling.Caledonia
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9780999168998 $10.99 Paper/$3.99 Kindle
"They say knowledge is power. Those people must never have gotten a PhD." This wry observation introduces protagonist Doctor Rowena Halley, who has had the unfortunate luck to receive her doctorate at a time when jobs for PhDs are at a minimum.
Unlike most, she lucks out and accepts a one-semester teaching position at a New Jersey school. Despite her fortune in finding a job at all, Rowena embarks on a chaotic journey as she confronts prejudice against Russians, interdepartmental bickering, the pressure of family to settle down with a husband, and an ex-boyfriend in trouble with the Russian government.
From changing Russian-American relationships on both personal and political levels to Rowena's confrontation with a blackmailer, drugs, and the results of crippling student loans that enslave students before they've even made money, Sid Stark successfully captures a realistic slice of life as campus life, politics, and student and professor angst are viewed through Rowena's eyes.
Rowena has developed a talent for talking her way out of trouble, but even she may not be up to the challenges that stem from Russian and American interactions and the collisions their special interests create on campus. Rowena starts off wanting to save the world, but it feels like she's doing anything but. Can her goals come full circle to change harsh realities well embedded into social and political systems?
Campus Confidential is a witty, thought-provoking romp through not only academia, but the halls of political and social strife. As the story documents Rowena's struggles over career, idealism, and student and faculty special interests, it creates a charming blend of academic inspection and social commentary that weaves an engrossing personal perspective into a blend of social observation and evolving romance.
Female readers who like their protagonists professional and divided in loyalties will relish Rowena's dilemmas and evolutionary process.Campus Confidential
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Crowning Glory: River's Journey
Bright Blacklight Publishing
Print: 978-0-9822400-4-5 $15.00
Crowning Glory: River's Journey is a novel that centers around River, a girl who grows up in a small town in Texas in the 1950s. As an adult black woman who has survived a heritage of oppression and gender inequality, she faces racism, bigotry, and challenges with romance and culture.
That's a lot to pack into one story; but Taylor Thompson excels in crafting a story of how a girl evolves into a woman who takes charge of her life and removes herself from the status of a victim. This focus drives a story that is replete with strong observations as River copes with many relationship challenges: "River still feels as if she's performing a balancing act that's about to collapse, juggling Adam, Alpha, and Daryl who, at any moment, will come crashing down on her."
This sense of struggling to maintain balance and sanity while moving forward with building a stronger identity than childhood has prepared her for keeps River's journey a positive one. Readers learn how adversity and strife can lead to both pluses and minuses in developing strength, resiliency, determination, and growth.
As Crowning Glory follows River from childhood to becoming an adult who manages many different kinds of relationships simultaneously (some socially accepted; others less so), readers receive a story that comments on violence, recovery, socially acceptable and unacceptable perspectives, and romantic triangles and entanglements that pose constant dilemmas and challenges to all involved.
In a way, River's uncertain path to recovery and identity lies in not just her choices, but the people that come into her world either through circumstance or deliberate choice. Against the backdrop of the Crowning Glory building in Chicago there evolves hope for a better life. This powers the story through River's struggles and captures her pain and pleasure at different levels.
Through River's eyes (and those of Adam, Alpha and Daryl, as well), readers are provided a journey through sexual discovery, social and cultural challenges, and the process of awakening which probes adversity and response on all the characters' parts.
The result is a story at once powerfully thought-provoking and attractive to leisure readers, who will find River's world firmly rooted in the real struggles of her times and places.
Fiction readers seeking uplifting stories of awakening, struggle, and ultimate rebirth will find Crowning Glory: River's Journey both enlightening and engrossing.Crowning Glory: River's Journey
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From Peasant to
Emperor: the Life of Liu Bang
Victor Cunrui Xiong
978-9866286711 $15.00 Paper/$9.99 Kindle
From Peasant to Emperor: the Life of Liu Bang is a novel about a peasant who sets out to conquer the world even though he's only a few years shy of fifty (ancient, for his Han China era).
Readers with a prior interest in Chinese history will find that the fictional overlay that Professor Victor Cunrui Xiong brings characters and events to life by no means belays his solid research into the history and politics of the Han era. This story is steeped in and backed by these well-researched facts, but rather than choosing the dryer methodical presentation of nonfiction, Xiong's fictional choice adds the kind of drama that brings events to life for modern readers.
As descriptions follow Liu Bang's rise to power, they deftly follow not just physical confrontations, but the psychological assessments that must be cultivated in order to understand his various enemies and maintain his position of power.
History and politics are about lives, ambitions, struggles, and achievements. Too often, the human facets of these quests become lost in the focus on facts, dates, statistics, and research. From Peasant to Emperor returns the human element back into the story, opening up Chinese history even for casual readers who may have a prior interest, but little familiarity with Han-era events.
Professor Xiong not only conducts his own research into ancient records, but draws links between Han China history and Western events, helping Western readers understand the subtler nuances of Liu Bang's perceptions, astute analysis, and social and political choices.
Machiavelli's The Prince created a portrait of an unscrupulous politician's viewpoint of the world. Victor Cunrui Xiong's historical novel is a similar classic examination of authority and rule from a Chinese perspective, and should be a 'must read' not just for fiction readers interested in Chinese history; but for nonfiction bookworms who will find absorbing this portrait of how one man succeeds in changing the course of Chinese history and culture in ancient times.From Peasant to Emperor: the Life of Liu Bang
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ASIN B07QYH3CD4 $ 3.99
Author’s website: http://www.kaylinmcfarren.com
Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/
Imagine an adrenaline junkie (addicted to heart-stopping challenges and potentially life-threatening activities) who discovers the lure of flying. Skylar Haines isn't just addicted to passion: she makes choices that involve cutting herself, trying to get a handle on the darkness of her past and in her soul.
When a near-miss at an air show sends her literally into a spiral, she flies outside of herself and into the past in a surprise move that changes an introduction that sounds like an exploration of bipolar disorder into a rare opportunity to change a past which has not just influenced but destroyed her life.
It should be advised that High Flying is not a 'timeslip' story, per se. Kaylin McFarren crafts a close inspection of a young woman flying on the edge of disaster, then adds a fantasy element in which Skylar has the opportunity to change everything if she accepts the greatest dare in her life.
From an unexpected friendship opportunity to new revelations about past, present, and future and the choices she has over her life and matters of the heart ("She looked down at the faded scars on her arms, reminding herself that despite everything that had happened in her life, she would never regret what she had done in the future, only the things she didn’t do in the past…when she had the chance."), this hard-hitting story begins with anger, self-destruction and responses to murder; then evolves into a psychological inspection that follows Skylar to new heights of development.
She may be the last person in the world to save anyone outside of herself, but as purpose supercharges her life and lends her unprecedented strength, so Skylar discovers the paths that ultimately lead to redemption, healing, and solving a puzzle that has changed everything.
The result is a timeslip-style tale that is nicely steeped in psychological introspection. High Flying is particularly highly recommended for readers who like to follow their characters on the evolutionary path towards better life choices.High Flying
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Mystical Embrace: Our
Marlene F Cheng
Paper: 978-1-7752477-0-8 $14.99
eBook: 978-1-7752477-1-5 $ 3.99
Author Website: https://marlenecheng.
Ordering Link: https://www.amazon.com/author/
Mystical Embrace: Our Rekindled Bond is the third book in the "Bond" series. Prior fans familiar with the characters and setting of its predecessors will find that this new addition vastly expands the story, adding further developments that profile the results of a romance between NHL hockey player Y, who has a family in Sweden but tours the world, and Geneva, an emergency room doctor who falls in love with him.
Now Y has two families—and when the media exposes his affair and the child which has resulted, lives are changed and hearts are broken. Can love emerge victorious from such adversity?
Mystical Embrace's special talent lies in its ability to closely examine not just the choices of its characters and the consequences they face on many fronts, but the added challenges of a health crisis and the social issues that swirl around them.
It should also be noted that events and mysticism are steeped in First Nation references right from the start, from Cloud's crushing grief and discovery of a farewell note from Raven Sings to Geneva's 'mystical home' and connections to not just her child and lover, but the world.
Marlene Cheng's voice is evocative throughout as the characters view their world, return to their roots, and steep themselves in their chosen lives and cultural inheritances: "...in keeping with Island ways, I shared with them what had happened to Krys and how I was handling it, in bits and pieces, at opportune moments: while walking the beach, keeping an eye for interesting drift-wood garden statues; over warm, buttered, lemony scones and lattes while waiting for the moon to be eclipsed, hoping for the clear night to hold; when thoughts were triggered. They never pushed, realizing that some details were difficult in their coming. Some were even too sensitive for their empathetic ears."
With her slow, lazy prowess at painting scenes with words, Cheng draws readers into lives unexpectedly entwined not just by life circumstance and choice, but by mysticism and fate.
Because multiple lives are explored in the first person, Cheng is careful to include the names of each character when changing perspective. This makes it easy for readers to follow their evolution and changes.
Warm, psychologically introspective, culturally and spiritually revealing, and filled with the gentle flow of interconnected lives, Mystical Embrace: Our Rekindled Bond enhances the series by pursing the threads of previous books as it contrasts the life and adrenaline rush of a NHL hockey star with the gentler perspective of characters who move beyond the lure of considering life as either a win or lose proposition.
Under Marlene Cheng's hand, everyone wins in different ways. And so does the reader, for pursuing an evocative story of magic, change, and the concurrent challenges of ALS and a legacy of love.Mystical Embrace: Our Rekindled Bond
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The Reluctant General
eBook: 9780997023152 $3.99/Kindle
Readers of Biblical fiction will find The Reluctant General just the ticket for a novel that stays true to ancient history as depicted by the Bible, yet extrapolates enough to fill in personalities, motives, and issues of the times. The setting and customs are historically accurate, but events surrounding Deborah, the lead judge of Israel, and Barack (a farmer who organized an army of 10,000 farmers against the most experienced, successful army of the times, the Canaanites) contribute fictional drama to a gripping saga that is hard to put down.
Both Barak and Deborah must face their own self-limiting perceptions and fears in order to move away from inherent comfort zones to become reluctant leaders under impossible conditions.
For Deborah, this translates to trying to convince her people to become involved in a war most perceive as unwinnable. To Barak, this means an even greater stretch as he evolves from farmer to warrior/politician.
When powerful military commander Sisera exercises his might to force the Jewish people to not only pay heavy taxes to a foreign king, but to offer up their own people as sacrifices to that king's god, Ba’al, rebellion (however impossible it may feel) seems the only path to freedom—even if it leads to genocide.
The Reluctant General documents the main characters as they struggle with personal and political choices far outside their experience. This creates a spellbinding story that moves beyond historical precedent and statistics to bring readers right into the daily lives of the early tribes of Israel: "How can I lead them into a battle from which I know they may not return?” he said more to himself than to Deborah. Then he looked up at her and asked, “Will you be accompanying the army?” She shook her head side to side and smiled. “There is no place on the battle field for a woman. I am no warrior.” “The men will feel comforted if you are with them.” “The men?” Deborah asked with a knowing look on her face. “Yes. And me. I will feel better if you come along.” “I cannot provide faith for you,” Deborah chided. “I’m not asking you to provide faith, I’m asking for the calming assurance of your presence.” “All you need is the presence of the Almighty Jehovah.” Barak’s face dropped. “If you are there, I and the men will know that God is there."
Herb Sennett excels in cultivating this ongoing sense of personal dilemma, growth, and conflicted choices in the face of military and political changes. This helps drive both the religious force of the story and its psychological depth, lending it a realistic, compelling atmosphere that brings a complex world and situation to life.
Some readers might presume that a profound familiarity with the Judges section of the Bible is a prerequisite to appreciating what Herb Sennett has crafted with The Reluctant General, but another pleasure of the story is that it really requires little prior knowledge of the Bible at any special level.
Students of the Bible and historical novel readers with a special interest in ancient times will both relish a vivid story that brings to life not only early Israel, but the peoples who find themselves struggling with both faith and nearly impossible situations.
This approach makes for a very highly recommended saga that injects just enough drama to contrast the very real feel and facts of Biblical times with spiritual dilemmas.The Reluctant General
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ASIN: B07QGG5BB8 $0.99
Rescue is the third book in the apocalyptic survival series After the Fall, and once again finds leader Jason in the crosshairs of action when his desire for a peaceful life is challenged by Knoxville's kidnapping of two town citizens who are his good friends.
Forced out of retirement and the dreams of settling down to confront another evolving battle, Jason finds himself on a rescue mission that leads directly into a clash with Knoxville that promises wider ramifications for the peaceful existence of both towns.
After pursuing Jason's evolutionary process in After the Fall and Uprising, readers might anticipate that here is a reluctant leader who will never completely let go of his role as a hero, leader, and fighter in a newly fragile world. At any moment, carefully-wrought independence and freedom can be quelled by forces beyond his control.
This dilemma lends a measure of déjà vu to the story because, once again, potential tyrants plot to enslave the remnants of humanity, requiring Jason and his friends to fight for not only their own freedom and what they've built, but others threatened by the Chairman and General McKenzie's ambitions.
Rescue focuses on an impossible rescue mission and the toll it exacts from its participants, but also considers the rescue process of humanity itself, and nature of desperate times that still translate to the fragility of the democratic process.
Readers looking for a dystopian seat-of-your-pants read that is nearly impossible to put down will find Rescue just the ticket.
Suicide missions, physical and mental challenges, and the determination of one man to subjugate not only Jason's town of Hillsboro but the world create a compelling story which is a fitting expansion of the struggles of America after the fall of civilization documented in previous books.Rescue
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A Thread So Fine
Ebook: 978-1-7338485-1-0 $3.99
Paperback: 978-1-7338485-0-3 $16.99
Sisters Shannon and Eliza have a history of relying on each other in the face of a distant mother and fragile family connections. Throughout childhood, life is better together than apart: "If Shannon had been with her sister, they’d have walked arminarm straight through campus across the street and into the house they’d lived in since birth, chatting like two birds on a wire, and Shannon would never have met the boy with a tilted grin and a mess of curly black hair who showed up in front of her while the unlit cigarette still hung between her fingers."
As adults, things change as Shannon and Eliza develop different goals for their lives, and as physical and mental challenges drive them apart.
The connections that lend to their closeness and separation alike are considered in A Thread So Fine, a compelling saga that reveals not only the roots of these connected lives and the tenacity of dreams and goals, but the ability of sibling survival connections to continue past childhood.
As romances, politics, and trauma arise for each sister, patterns of the past threaten to overwhelm and separate their connections: "Eliza pulled the receiver away from her face and brought it to her chest, her mind reeling. Again, Fa was asking her to bury her needs in the shadow of Shannon’s trauma. Again, pushed aside by Shannon’s neediness."
Can the ties that bind prove changeable rather than breakable? Some things never change, and readers who undertake the journey of this evolving relationship between two sisters from childhood to adulthood will find that A Thread So Fine lassos the heart with stories of close connections tested by life's progression.
Readers of women's fiction who especially enjoy stories of sister relationships will relish this engrossing saga of change and survival.A Thread So Fine
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Through Each Other's Eyes
9781797799056 $7.99 Paper/$4.99 Kindle
Through Each Other's Eyes represents historical romance at its best as it probes the life and times of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, who are frustrated with each other and uncertain about the course of their relationship.
Matters come to a head after a ball when a shooting star prompts a wish on each of their parts that comes all too true, in an ironic manner. Each wished to better understand the other; but the reality which transpires is that their minds switch bodies so that they literally must navigate the other's perceptions, thoughts, and reactions to life.
Other books have centered around mind/body exchanges; but few hold the connected romantic element already in play. This provides a comic and pointed sentiment to conflicts that evolve from this switch as two very different people attempt to understand not only their new selves, but each other.
It should be pointed out that switching genders comes with its own special demands in describing the different bodies and minds of each character. Aleena Ashe does a fine job of emphasizing this in descriptions which give pause for thought, but quickly make sense: "Why Lizzy, I may have to frame this and place it in my study to add a sense of decorum.” Though he teased, Darcy knew Mr. Bennet would likely do just that because his Lizzy had made it. For a brief moment remembering how his father had been much the same with him pained him but he quickly shook it off to enjoy the reverie."
There are also dilemmas created by experiences and knowledge that don't automatically stem from a given gender role: "Suddenly Darcy realized that he was utterly incapable of trimming a bonnet. Perhaps he could sneak some of the needed materials out with him on his walks and then Elizabeth could teach him some basics when they met."
Through Each Other's Eyes excels in crafting a Regency-style romance remake of Pride and Prejudice which is easier to digest than the original, making it more accessible to audiences who might balk at the original classic, but who will find this take-off compelling.
At times, this excellence is tempered by a light peppering of errors which would have been caught and fixed with better editing or a final proofread: "Drat. I am trying too hard to manly."
This note aside, the characters are nicely drawn and stay true to the original creation and the scenes are fun and equally well crafted, designed to intrigue prior readers of Pride and Prejudice as well as newcomers less familiar with the classic.
Historical romance fans receive an unusual approach and treat with this romp through the very different minds of individuals who confront both their attractions and their ultimate life goals.Through Each Other's Eyes
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Winds Across Beringia
Benjamin H. Barnette
Fans of Ice Age prehistoric fiction settings ala Jean Auel's 'Earth's Children' series will relish the setting and events in Winds Across Beringia, which is set in the last Ice Age on a narrow channel connecting Alaska with Siberia.
Mammoth hunter Harjo sets off on an arduous journey to the country of the Sea Mammal Hunting folk where he meets Onna, who was taken captive from an unfamiliar country. As in Auel's story, the girl is fair-skinned and of a quite different, foreign ancestry than everyone around her. Unlike Auel's titles, however, this is as much a story of Harjo's evolution and romance as it is about this unusual stranger, and focuses on his choices, experiences, and adventures as they embark on a journey together.
While in some ways Winds Across Beringia's setting gives a nod to Auel's influence, readers receive far more historical references (and accuracy) from this survey. The novel opens with nonfiction notes setting the background for these times and what is known about them; so while the characters are entirely fictional, the author's attention to detail creates a fitting exploration of real peoples, how they survived, and how they lived, and comes from many years of his personal research on the times.
Benjamin H. Barnette's employment of this information-filled introduction (and later appendices of details on the animals, plants, and birds referenced in the story, that he believes would have lived in the Beringia area) makes for a satisfying juxtaposition of fact and fiction, placing said facts in easily-accessible sections that can be referenced quickly. This results in a fictional story that is unimpeded by too much factual detail; yet remains supported by solid research.
As for the tale itself, readers should expect a quest story as filled with psychological inspection as adventure that stems from encounters with environment, prejudices, and other peoples. The Ice Age world comes to life under Barnette's hand, while the emotional connections between characters keep readers engaged.
Environmental descriptions are very nicely done and capture the setting on more than one level as the two struggle to survive: "Harjo had told Onna that the caribou sense of smell was very keen as are so many animals of the steppe, but caribou do not have intelligent vision. “I believe they see about as good as we do,” he said, “but they do not have smart vision. They are easily fooled. Hunters can employ unsophisticated disguises and approach with the wind, well within killing range of the herd. You and I would see them and easily recognize them as hunters, but the caribou do not.”
Better editing or a final proofread by a qualified editor would have caught the grammatical and punctuation issues lightly peppered throughout, but the story line and history are impeccable, making Winds Across Beringia a superior read that is especially highly recommended for fans of prehistoric fictional adventure stories.Winds Across Beringia
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Author Your Life: How
One Writer Changed Her Life through the Power of Storytelling, and How
978-1791984090 $7.99 ebook / $12.99 paperback
Author Website: www.authoryourlifenow.com
Website Ordering Links:
Barnes and Noble: B&N
Author Your Life: How One Writer Changed Her Life through the Power of Storytelling, and How You Can, Too comes from the author of six published books, who well knows the power of the written word. Writing not only led to literary success, but that same power was used to turn around her life. Lara Zielin captures and recounts that approach in a book that advises a much wider audience on how to apply storytelling techniques to make life changes.
The story begins with Zielin's introduction to an episode of Spooked, which told the story of a mural that mirrored and altered reality. The epiphany she arrived at (that "...something about the mural had impacted reality for Jane and Ted. The artist’s creation of the saloon scene had, in some way, brought forth that art into actual real life. The fabric of time and space had been altered that night…because of a painting. Art is powerful. It changes hearts and minds all the time. I get that. But this was the first time I had considered whether art could literally change the course of things—if it was powerful enough to create an entirely new reality that we humans could actually experience.") transformed her own life, and is shared in this guide.
Zielin's story is about improving one's life through a specific storytelling technique. You don't have to be a great writer: even affirmations or scraps of thought can work, for this process. The only story that's being improved is a personal one.
Chapters apply these personal revelations to bigger-picture thinking. Take the reflections on political anguish for one example of how a personal process can hold broader implications for social change: "I could see the political anger taking down close friends, who were becoming rage monsters, building walls, screaming into the void, and destroying themselves in the process. I realized that in order to be the most effective in the fight for the values and beliefs I had, I couldn’t meet angry hate with angry hate. I couldn’t wait for major political wrongs to be righted until I told my heart it was okay to stop being bitter."
The interconnected process of writing and growing is explored, along with the links between both: "True health and body acceptance will fuel relationships, while the inability to love and accept ourselves will disconnect us and distance us from others. This makes it critical for us to write a better story for ourselves in this area, because without healing, we risk damaging friendships, marriages, and any of our most precious relationships. To try and heal this area, I wrote a lot in Lara’s Life about how connected Rob and I felt to one another."
As her story unfolds, Zielin makes a strong case for crafting a better story. Her book draws exact connections between the storytelling process and the trials that come from trying to revise and revamp life's stories and pursuits.
The result is a powerful key to personal success. Author Your Life outlines common obstacles, revised approaches to handling them, and the efforts of recreating what life is and what it should be for each individual pursuer.
The Hero's Journey never stops. By putting pen to paper and tapping into one's true voice, potential becomes reality. Author Your Life is a powerful key to change that should be on the reading lists of anyone interested in the cathartic experience and potentials of the link between self-examination and storytelling.Author Your Life: How One Writer Changed Her Life through the Power of Storytelling, and How You Can, Too
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Belgian Shepherd Publishing
978-0-578-48838-7 $14.95 Paper/$7.95 Kindle
Getting There: Profiles in Overcoming Obstacles and Connecting with Success comes from a business coach and speaker who advocates a program of cultivating strategic growth connections as a way of fending off adversity and business challenges. Because his program and approach is filled with case history examples from successful businesspeople in all walks of life who have used this technique to advance their professional careers, Getting There is especially recommended for business collections (though its principles can, in reality, apply to any personal improvement endeavor).
As chapters explore stepping out of one's comfort zone and setting and going after goals, they support such efforts with interviews and case history examples from successful business leaders who faced much adversity along the road to their success.
Readers learn from example (of which there are many, here), and will also absorb a good deal of insights on how hard work and determination eventually pay off (but not without some savvy sidestepping along the road to success).
What keeps Getting There on track as more than just a collection of business biographies are the 'Takeaways' at the conclusion of each exploration of individual success. These summaries drive home the points of each interview, providing readers with succinct admonitions that can apply to virtually any endeavor: "New ways of thinking will always bring criticism and doubt. If Dr. Atala listened to his doubters, he would never be in the position he’s in today."
Another feature that differentiates Getting There from other business books is its focus on not just ideals, but strategies. Every interviewee adds another unique insight to this 'how-to' puzzle: "For me, I like to go out and study the competition. That’s how I reinvent myself. I study businesses that aren’t exactly the same but they run their business with a set of ethics and a set of principles that are second to none. And they can be in a space that is completely different from mine, but I learn something from them.
The result is a series of lessons from life from the mouths of those who have not only been there and done that; but have proven that their approaches resulted in rich dividends and rewards.
It's a blueprint for success modeled not by the experience of one, but of many. This makes Getting There a standout for business readers, in addition to anyone aspiring to succeed by creating, honing, and following their own unique identification of achievement.
Getting There is highly recommended for anyone—especially those who feel 'stuck' and who want concrete lessons on how to move forward.Getting There
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The Intrinsic Self
The Intrinsic Self: How Defining Yourself And Your Worth By Your Achievements And Usefulness Is Undermining Your Happiness And Serenity is about redefining self-worth outside of achievements and social and family expectations, and should be required reading for anyone seeking to develop self-affirmation rather than defining success by the standards of others.
Through identifying and challenging core assumptions about life and one's role in it to developing better boundaries and coping methods for stress, Dennis Portnoy's thirty-some years as a psychotherapist lends to wisdom gained not just from life experience, but from many of the shared struggles and journeys of his clients.
From choosing to pursue excellence over perfectionism (there is a difference!) to the unique challenges and pressures men face with equating their self-esteem with their performance when they are taught to equate their self-esteem with physical strengths and abilities, The Intrinsic Self goes beyond simply increasing self-esteem –it reveals how the very ways that we define ourselves is often the source of our unhappiness. It probes the foundations of life pursuits gone awry, suggests remedies for the dysfunctional or false perceptions that thwart who we are rather than what we do in self-worth/recognizing our true value, and tackles common erroneous core assumptions that develop from both childhood and adult experience.
Case history examples permeate Portnoy's words of wisdom, linking psychological, philosophical, and social objectives to real-life experience.
Many books seek to help readers develop authenticity and inner resilience and strength and build a more purposeful life.
The Intrinsic Self provides a focus in keeping with these goals, but delves deeper into psychological and personal growth process to pinpoint common misperceptions stemming even from altruism and apparent success.
Unhappiness comes from many levels and in different forms. The Intrinsic Self offers the kinds of insights that promote self-examination and growth. It's a highly recommended pick for anyone who would consider embracing different values, tackling long-held assumptions and redefining core purposes and reframing how we define ourselves and measure success.The Intrinsic Self
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Solve the Divorce Dilemma
9781733569521 (Ebook) $ 6.99
9781733569538 (Paperback) $12.99
Amazon Sales Page: http://bit.ly/get_off_
Universal URL: https://books2read.com/u/
Sales Via Author Website: https://www.soniafrontera.com
Solve the Divorce Dilemma: Do You Keep Your Husband or Do You Post Him on Craigslist?: Get Clear, Get Strong and Get Off the Fence. A Roadmap to Freedom ... Sister's Guides to Empowered Living, Book 1 may sound like a whimsically accessible read, but the sense of fun in the subtitle is actually an invitation to enter a serious exploration that provides women with keys to assessing the viability and potential of their own marriages.
Sonia Frontera maintains that divorce, while an option, should be approached with an active awareness of underlying attitudes about relationships that may have contributed to stagnation or dangerous situations. Readers are encouraged to self-analyze their marriage's dynamics and their own attitudes. This approach requires a strong ability to self-assess and a desire to consider changes not only within the relationship, but in one's choices, attitudes, and decisions.
Solve the Divorce Dilemma is not a pro- or anti-divorce treatise, but one which encourages readers to enter this analysis with eyes wide open. One might argue that this approach is best utilized with the aid of a licensed therapist, but Frontera's book is meant to supplement professional help; not replace it. Think of it as a self-study workbook of exercises and tools that can be utilized either at home or with the assistance of a professional.
The processes of getting clear, getting strong, and perhaps getting out are outlined in chapters that cover everything from the fallout from social programming and its impact on womens' lives to what constitutes awareness, and how to cultivate it on many levels.
Women who have traditionally led unexamined lives will be surprised at many of these insights, while those committed to real self-examination and change will be the best beneficiaries of a book that guides them through common pitfalls and obstacles to paths that lead in a more positive direction.
Another important facet of Solve the Divorce Dilemma lies in its many important daily insights, from missing or ignoring red flags about caustic behaviors in relationships to weighing the consequences of divorce and possible regret over decisions leading to it. In order to mitigate such regrets, it's important for women to assess all reasonable opportunities for change within the relationship as well as outside of it (abusive situations being the exception to this rule).
From cultivating forgiveness to approaching one's spouse with a request for divorce and handling the fallout from different kinds of reactions, Solve the Divorce Dilemma covers the entire emotional process. It is highly recommended reading for anyone interested in making lasting changes in their psyches and lives. These keys to change go beyond a singular relationship to probe how to make choices, react to adversity, and, ultimately, envision freedom and self-love.Solve the Divorce Dilemma
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“St. Clive:” An Eastern Orthodox Author
Looks Back at
C.J.S. Hayward Publications
9781794669956 $9.99 Kindle / $49.99 paperback
“St. Clive:” An Eastern Orthodox Author Looks Back at C.S. Lewis adopts an unusual perspective because most examinations of the spirituality of C.S. Lewis come from Western spiritual perspectives, and few adopt the approach of C.J.S. Hayward, who opens his book with a Lewis-type series of letters to a guardian angel, "The Angelic Letters," a heavenly analogue to "The Screwtape Letters." The book is even more distinctive in reflecting back on Lewis from a perspective meant to be thoroughly Orthodox.
Readers might anticipate a dry analytical style typical of too many Lewis analysis and assessments, but Hayward includes a wry sense of observational humor, evident in the first lines of his survey where a reflection on scholarly footnote traditions ventures into comedic cultural inspection: "As it is now solidly established practice to add an a footnote skittishly defending one’s own choices regarding “gendered pronouns,” I would like to quote a couple of tweets. In response to a fellow user tweeting, “Nobody is safe in today’s society, man. It’s like walking on eggshells constantly. Someone will be offended, will be out to get you. It’s exhausting… and, I think somewhat that social media is to blame,” Titania McGrath coolly answered, “The phrase ‘walking on eggshells’ is a microaggression against vegans. Reported and blocked. [Emoji depicting a white woman tending to her nails.]”
This said, Lewis was a huge influence on Hayward's Evangelical upbringing and religious perspectives and the starting point to his "pilgrimage from Narnia" (as one of his poems is titled) into Orthodoxy. St. Clive is not to be considered another scholarly inspection rehashing familiar spiritual pathways, but a unique compilation of Lewis-like reflections steeped in Orthodox beliefs and inspections for everyday readers. It produces a compilation of pieces that attempt to sound like Lewis himself, but which are original works meant to directly address these reflections and beliefs. This book is exciting, almost as if a hitherto unknown book of original works by C.S. Lewis had suddenly come to light.
The writings are presented in four sections that hold distinctly different tones and objectives. The first "...quotes him, builds on him, and challenges him to draw conclusions he may not have liked." The second focuses more on Hayward's writings and style, but with a nod to Lewis' influence. The third section addresses Lewis' affection for the book The Consolation of Philosophy and offers perspectives from Hayward on how its ideas and Lewis's expand different aspects of spiritual reflection; while the fourth section offers bibliographic keys to further pieces in the Lewis/Hayward tradition for newcomers who may be piqued by this collection's lively inspections, and who want more insights from other sources.
As far as the core concerns themselves, “St. Clive” is a masterful venture into the traditions of the Orthodox Church and its relationship to mysticism. It provides a lively set of discourses considering such varied topics as using technology in ways that are genuinely helpful and the notion that science is just one of the "winnowing forks" available for denoting pathways beneficial to mankind (natural selection being yet another; especially as it applies to diet choices).
By now it should be evident that a series of dichotomies exist surrounding this effort, which is 'neither fish nor fowl' but a delightful compendium of reflections that represent something new. It's not a scholarly work per se, but its language will appeal to many in the scholarly community (particularly since any discussions of Lewis usually embrace this community more or less exclusively). It's also not an attempt to channel Lewis' approach and tone, though these reflective pieces are certainly reminiscent of C.S. Lewis. And it's not a singular examination of spiritual perspectives, but offers a wider-ranging series of discussions that defy pat categorization.
Indeed, this is one of the unique aspects of “St. Clive.” What other treatise holds the ability to reach lay and scholarly audiences alike, creates a wider-ranging series of connections between his works and similar writings, and expands upon many concepts with an astute hand to spiritual, philosophical, and social reflection?
None: and this not only sets “St. Clive:” An Eastern Orthodox Author Looks Back at C.S. Lewis apart from any other considerations, but makes it accessible to a lay audience that might have only a minimal familiarity with Lewis or the Orthodox Way.St. Clive:” An Eastern Orthodox Author Looks Back at C.S. Lewis
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The Sustainable Endowment
James E. Demmert
New Insights Press
Hardcover: 978-0-9995801-4-1 $24.95
Trade paper: 978-0-9995801-8-9 $14.95
Kindle eBook: 978-0-9995801-5-8 $14.95
The Sustainable Endowment: 10 Principles to Make Your Foundation or Nonprofit Last for Decades is a specialty business title covering foundation and charity endowment investment processes. It is highly recommended for business collections and individuals who have an interest in the structure and investment growth of endowment monies.
Nonprofit executives receive a primer that assumes a certain level of authority and familiarity with the nonprofit world. This includes a detailed discussion of setting up a nonprofit from the ground up, from selecting an effective board of directors and supportive staff to committee development, to the basics of writing the two key documents nonprofits should have for legal compliance—the Spending Policy and Investment Policy Statement.
The Sustainable Endowment then details the nuts and bolts of long-term investment strategies from a wealth manager and founder of wealth-management firm, Main Street Research, who sports some 30 years of experience successfully advising nonprofits on endowment-building procedures.
At each step of the discussion, James E. Demmert focuses on the critical choices specific to the nonprofit culture, supporting his introductory intention: "The core of this book is about how nonprofits can learn to invest their endowment to maximize profitable results while limiting their risk."
The book is no light review of investment principles. It outlines many major pitfalls nonprofit executives need to understand in order to carefully assess financial markets and invest to keep their ships afloat. Demmert warns about the consequences of bad investing: "In addition to the loss of growth in value or income in a down market or during a recovery, the math gets even uglier when nonprofits need to make withdrawals during that time to use in their operations or to fund their causes. Each time you withdraw, you reduce your capital base — and that creates a “double whammy.” Furthermore, the effect of taking capital away from your portfolio while it is in a downward trend or in recovery mode adds tremendous pressure on the percentage of market increase you now require to attain the full recapture of your original investment amount."
Charts are peppered throughout the book to provide support for the analysis and recommendations, along with textual explanations about historical approaches to investment management versus the needs of modern nonprofits. Demmert offers many insights specific to economic trends that impact nonprofit endowments.
Even more important, The Sustainable Endowment juxtaposes its recommendations with supporting statistics, historical precedent, and examples of investment fallacies and truths. This creates a powerful connection between "Smart" investing savvy and the specific concerns of nonprofits to remain sustainable to achieve their laudatory missions.
With its core of seven basics of investment management geared to the structure, purposes, and special requirements of the nonprofit, The Sustainable Endowment creates a clear blueprint for executive success and is a top recommendation for any business reference library where nonprofit leaders are patrons and readers.The Sustainable Endowment
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Edith Brady-Lunny and Steve Vogel
978-1-54396-200-0 (print) $18.99
978-1-54396-201-7 (ebook) $ 8.99
www.stevevogelauthor.com and www.edithbradylunny.com
Just because The Unforgiven: The Untold Story of One Woman's Search for Love and Justice is a true crime exposé doesn't mean that the drama and tension of fiction aren't present. Under the dual pens of Edith Brady-Lunny and Steve Vogel, more than just the basic facts are covered. The emotional impact and anguish of a mother whose three children drown in the back seat of a car driven by her boyfriend when it plunges into the river makes for a case that wavers been a murder plot and a terrible accident.
As police interviews
were conducted with a cooperative, anguished mother without benefit of
and were used against her, years of abuse translate from victim to perp
the criminal justice system to change not just the lives of all who
but an entire community.
It's these broader
questions of abuse, crime, justice, and redemption which galvanize a
even more powerful (if that is possible) by the personal involvement of
author/reporter Edith Brady-Lunny, who witnessed much, if
not most, of what’s described in this book.
The story opens with Amanda Hamm screaming for help as rescuers desperately try to reach and save her children from a watery grave. It follows doctors who almost immediately question the facts of the tragedy, as their medical observations don't jive with what the mother has reported, and carries this line of doubt through the story as more people also pick apart the sequence of events, truths, and realities.
This process of prying fact from fiction and truth from lies reveals a disturbing undercurrent of abuse that ties a search for justice to Amanda's sense of guilt. Police efforts to reveal the truth sometimes involves recreating a likely scene, then convincing a wavering woman of what must have transpired.
Photos (black and white in the print version; color in the ebook), from pictures of the deceased kids to those of Amanda, Maurice, and the crime scene, liberally pepper the story, emphasizing the reality of events lest readers lose track of the fact that this is nonfiction.
From the wide-ranging social and legal ramifications of this particular case and its impact on a community to state social worker concerns over Hamm's future family makeup and her children's safety, The Unforgiven goes beyond crime and punishment to consider what constitutes either redemption or a criminal act that can and should never be forgotten or completely forgiven.
True crime readers interested in confessions, court proceedings, police procedures, and a political and public relations furor within a child welfare agency will find The Unforgiven goes far beyond the usual 'whodunnit' true crime approach, offering pointed considerations of justice and forgiveness.
That it moves beyond the usual documentation of events to consider not just motives but the hearts of all involved places The Unforgiven in a highly recommended category of its own in the true crime field. It deftly employs the high drama of fiction to weave a compelling, can't-put-it-down story that considers different viewpoints as events unfold to an unexpected, riveting conclusion.The Unforgiven
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Why Do They Hate Us?: Making
Top Reads Publishing, LLC
Paperback: 978-0-9986838-6-7 $18.99
Ebook: 978-0-9986838-7-4 $8.99
There perhaps could have been no better timing for the appearance of Why Do They Hate Us?: Making Peace with the Muslim World than in these modern times, because there are so many Western misperceptions about Muslims that it takes an entire book about the roots and fallacies of hate to even begin to understand a peaceful resolution.
Other books address Muslim relationships around the world, but Steve Slocum here focuses on everyday Muslim lives over extremists who often make the headline news. He probes the attitudes, beliefs, religion and culture of Muslim believers in an effort to understand and address basic misconceptions whether they are about jihad, Sharia law, or the role of women in Muslim circles.
Background history and politics are provided, but the heart of Why Do They Hate Us? lies in chapters which examine everyday Islamic teachings and practices, then point out the political events and choices that have created extremists, fostering their activities and resulting in a damning smear of the Muslim community as a whole.
As fallacies and misconceptions
sides, Slocum points out not just errors but the lasting impacts of
and misunderstandings. The roots of radical Islamist terrorism are
some surprising results that will cause readers to think about how
to radicalization and why foreign intervention in local affairs and
has fostered and furthered extremist attitudes that Muslims are accused
supporting in their own communities, from their own faith and beliefs.
Such fear can only be overcome not by fighting, but by talking. Slocum encourages a broader acceptance and understanding of Muslims through face-to-face interactions between all faiths. He supports this in his own book by juxtaposing historical and political examination with stories of Muslim individuals and his own experiences from his time in Kazakhstan.
Islamophobia is a present and rising force in the West. Why Do They Hate Us? takes a stand against this prejudice by advocating a different approach to not just tolerating Muslims, but getting to know them on a personal level. In this case, familiarity does not breed contempt. It leads to a level of understanding that holds the possibility of rippling from individual experience into society-wide sentiments and real, lasting changes.
Why Do They Hate Us? should be in the collection of any library strong in Muslim topics, prejudice, faith, or social issues. It stands out from the crowd in offering a powerful blend of historical, political, and personal perspectives on a very complex issue, indeed.Why Do They Hate Us?: Making Peace with the Muslim World
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Berry Face adds the second volume to the 'Sharp Teeth/Flat Teeth' animal fantasy series, pairing color illustrations by Deg Philip with a fine story of California Fur Clans that have evolved to interact with their environment and each other. (Think Watership Down, but with a focus and presentation that elementary-level children just past the chapter book stage will appreciate.)
Berry Face returns Flitter the pack rat, Three Paws the Beaver, and others to prime time with a new story based on their interactions, the threat of 'Long Claw' (a monstrous eagle), and other challenges to their relationships and lives. Old, sightless she-bear Berry Face and the human girl Wazi are the main characters in this world, and young readers with an affection for fantasy animal stories will find the action compelling, from an initial confrontation with Long Claw and Berry Face's relationship with mean brother Prank to the threat a fire brings to her and her cub.
Bob Jenkins excels at creating not only interactive animal relationships, but a sense of their personalities and interactions with their environment. Young readers of all ages will appreciate his attention to detail, which nicely juxtaposes action and survival issues with moments of peaceful appreciation of and interactions with environment: "There is something nice about the sound of rain if you are warm and dry inside a cave, but never in the bear’s life had she imagined the sound could be this wonderful. She listened … and listened … until … she drifted off again into the dreamland of bears, which is quite colorful and full of gooseberries."
These delightfully evocative passages (especially when supported by Philip's peppering of color-packed images) makes for an engrossing story of Flat Teeth and Sharp Teeth's interactions and struggles. Berry Face's magical dreams and waking moments reveal how the bear earns the respect of all the animals in this world, who gather to hear her Speak as she becomes the oldest bear in the world.
Berry Face is particularly recommended for prior fans who enjoyed the setting and approach of Three Paws. This young audience will note that Berry Face dovetails nicely with the setting and characters created in the first book. The focus on an aging bear's value to her community creates a thought-provoking animal fantasy adventure that can also be utilized by adults to foster discussions of community, elder value, and personal growth.Berry Face
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Bobby Ether and the
R. Scott Boyer
$18.95 Paper/$26.95 Hardcover/$7.19 Kindle
Bobby Ether and the Jade Academy is the first book in a projected series for young adult fantasy/thriller readers, introducing the thriller genre to a younger audience than usual. Bobby is kidnapped and taken to the Jade Academy in Tibet, where monks encourage him to access his potent inner metaphysical powers.
However, monks aren't the only ones in control of his life. Bobby discovers that other forces are at work within the Academy. Their plans are to use the research and efforts of the monks to create a new breed of metaphysically-powered superhumans.
As Bobby uncovers plots and subplots and comes to realize that his abduction is part of a whirlwind of conspiracies and lies, he finds himself entering physical and mental realms he never knew existed; from an "underground Bermuda Triangle" filled with relics representing the strengths of various cultures to monks who have dedicated their lives to uncovering the truth behind legendary secrets.
At the center of this whirlwind of intrigue is Bobby and his abilities and investigations. This draws the reader into an unusual blend of fantasy and thriller that evolves into a battlefield set in dreamscapes beyond Bobby's ability to control.
The balanced blend of
fantasy and action is superb, as is R. Scott Boyer's ability to
discovery, tension, and struggle. Even young adults who may have only
familiarity with either fantasy or thriller genres will find Bobby
Ether and the Jade Academy
fast-paced and thoroughly absorbing, making it a top pick for
seeking genre-busting, action-packed adventure stories ala Indiana
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The Library of Secrets: The
Planet Zoe d.o.o.
Hardcover: 978-953-357-025-9 $16.99
Paperback: 978-953-357-026-6 $ 9.99
It's been said that books open portals to other worlds, but in The Library of Secrets: The Giant Mistake, twelve-year-old Sophia and her younger brother Mark discover this to be a literal truth when a book they check out of the library brings them to the world of Almation.
As is typical in interdimensional or time travel experiences, the children become trapped in this world and must search for the way home. Unique to this story, however (and one strength that sets it apart from similar scenarios) is Zoe Penn's focus on the greater life lessons embedded in these puzzle-solving attempts.
From learning when and how to take risks and assess their consequences and impact to accepting responsibility for making big mistakes, saying goodbye, and following clues that seem to lead straight into further danger, The Library of Secrets reads like an Indiana Jones story for a younger audience, but embeds life lessons into its action.
From dark hallways and diamonds to jungle caves, hidden keys that promise to unlock freedom, and motivational speeches from talking monkeys, Sophie and her brother embark on a journey to reveal the truth as well as riches.
Advanced elementary to middle-grade readers who like their adventure stories packed with action and puzzles will relish this read, but adults who oversee or assign the book will especially appreciate the underlying messages it holds and the insights that it provides about growth, courage, responsibility, and determination.
The Library of Secrets: The Giant Mistake provides solid characterization, fast-paced action, and a logical series of progressive questions and answers, all wrapped up in an engrossing adventure that will keep advanced elementary to middle grade readers on their toes and thoroughly engaged.The Library of Secrets: The Giant Mistake
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The New Self-Reliance
G. V. Loewen
Austin MacCuley Publishers
9781528964463 (ePub e-book)
The New Self-Reliance, the second book in the Kristen-Seraphim saga, continues the story of a high school student who has lost her family and friends in a struggle documented in previous novel Forgetting the Dreamtime, retaining only her soul mate Mike as her connection to life.
Both are still recovering from mental and physical wounds, leaving Kristen needy and Mike dependent upon her help. At first glance, this is not the plucky heroism she demonstrated under impossible conditions that have led to both their survival and injuries; but The New Self-Reliance is as much about the recovery process as it is another step in Kristen's evolutionary process. As such, it documents her changed life and ongoing struggles as she faces both outer demons and inner growth potential.
The New Self-Reliance is a mature young adult study in independence and romance, among other things. As the characters recover from their wounds and explore their newfound connections, they review choices good and bad made in the previous adventure and come to realize that their own alternate images of themselves is part of what threatens their safety and lives today.
Concepts such as that of a cycle of souls that re-insert themselves into living bodies to wreck havoc and change, and matters of chance (such as the existential congruence of the four young women who join forces to save a failing world) sometimes require advanced intellectual prowess from young adults. This effort is rewarded with a story replete with action, danger and confrontation, self-growth, and bigger-picture thinking that requires each character to confront their deepest fears.
On many levels, The New Self-Reliance is a demanding yet exciting read that expands the characters created in Forgetting the Dreamtime, adding moral, ethical and spiritual conundrums alike into a vivid story that rests on the actions of young adults who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time. (Or, is it the right place?)
Mature teens, particularly those who have a foundation to begin with from Kristen's previous adventure, will find The New Self-Reliance complex, compelling, and hard to put down.The New Self-Reliance
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No Bears Allowed
Blue Whale Press
978-0-9814938-9-3 (hardcover) $16.99
978-1-7328935-0-4 (paperback) $10.99
Rabbit is timid about most things in life, but he's most afraid of bears. They are big, scary, violent creatures, and there are many warnings about encountering one.
Rabbit knows plenty about bears and their big, pointy teeth and sharp claws. After all: he's read all about them and thinks he already knows everything important.
But, nothing can prepare him for the reality of encountering one in the woods, and for the very different circumstances that challenge everything he believes. As Rabbit gets to know one real Bear, he discovers the roots of prejudice and changes his mind about generalizations.
These excellent revelations encourage kids to face their fears and think about not just the reality of danger, but different personalities and choices involved in interacting with the world with notions that don't stem from personal experience.
Tara J. Hannon's whimsical, fun, colorful drawings enhance a fine picture book story highly recommended for either independent pursuit by ages 4-7, or read-aloud pleasure.No Bears Allowed
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Farmer in the Dell
Clear Fork Publishing
Other ordering links:
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The Real Farmer in the Dell excels in lovely color illustrations as it redoes a classic children's rhyme with an exciting new twist.
The song begins as usual, but is quickly halted by a savvy little mouse who knows the truth. As the mouse points out the lies in practically every sentence of the song (the farmer didn't actually live in a dell: he was a rancher who lived on a ranch out West), young readers and their read-aloud parents are treated to a rollicking rhyme that relates the "real story" ("The rancher on the range./The rancher on the range./Off to the rodeo,/the rancher on the range.").
As the tale progresses, kids receive an enlightening saga that not only places ranchers in a different light, but explores gender roles. Each panel explodes the original piece, but offers a substitute that is not just thought-provoking, but cheerful and fun.
The new cast of characters and a slew of animals all have a fun time and this enthusiasm is translated well by artists Chantelle Thorne and Burgen Thorne, whose drawings are an intrinsic part of what makes this redo so compelling.
It's rare to find the pairing of artist and writer so solid and effective, but The Real Farmer in the Dell achieves this and more with a remake on a classic which successfully confronts stereotypes and allows girls and boys to realize both the strength and fun in being more flexible and empowered.
The Real Farmer in the Dell is a top recommendation: a witty, original, thought-provoking survey of how gender roles can be enthusiastically expanded for the benefit of all.The Real Farmer in the Dell
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978-1-7923-0231-2 $16.95 Paper/$4.95 ebook
Teen Lacey Freshet and her friends have lived at the Jersey shore all their lives, immersed in a world that replete with the usual angst and teen concerns. This milieu pales in comparison to true disaster when Hurricane Sandy takes apart not only a famous New Jersey roller coaster and beach community, but everything stable and familiar in their lives.
Mura excels at capturing the 'before and after' environment of physical and mental connections and changes experienced by an entire community. The initial chapters of Stronger Than the Storm capture a survival attitude about another storm's arrival and a sense of distain, held by some, for those who would flee its might: "This wind’s been crazy. I was at ShopRite this afternoon, and the parking signs were slamming against the blacktop and then popping back up.” “That’s why you weren’t around when the fire department came through announcing a voluntary evacuation,” Polly Freshet said. “Exactly,” Laura Peterson said. “You should have seen people packing up their cars and heading out like a bunch of Okies,” Lacey said."
In the face of what happens next, this attitude changes vastly as the community's heart is destroyed in an unprecedented disaster. The fact that Debbie Mura is a New Jersey local lends to her ability to capture what other fictional accounts of the disaster often miss: the real attitudes and challenges of the Jersey shore community both before and after the storm.
What also makes this story exceptionally powerful is the juxtaposition between naturally self-centered teen interests and a disaster which forces them to reach beyond their prejudices and interests to interact with their community's survival and rebuilding efforts. As they and their families face a vastly changed world and goals in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, young adults are treated to a story that goes beyond survival and individual interests alone.
Lacey's family's much-changed concerns are captured both in major confrontations and small moments such as these: "Very funny,” her mother had said that day and shoved her nose back into some FEMA or insurance paperwork. Too bad, Lacey had thought, we were kind of having fun there for a minute. It’s like we never have a minute to just talk and joke around."
Proceeds from Debbie Mura's novel are being donated to real-world communities affected by the storm (The People's Pantry, Toms River, And Helping Hands, The Food Pantry At Brookdale Community College). The connections between these relief agencies and efforts and the fictional challenges faced by Lacey and her friends are well drawn in a coming of age story about surviving an unprecedented natural disaster.
A final proofread and editing job would have made this story a more even read, but the grammatical snafus peppered throughout are minor and don't detract from Stronger Than the Storm's underlying power and meaning.
Anyone seeking a teen read that offers a perspective of natural disaster from a young survivor's point of view will find
Stronger Than the Storm an inviting saga of change and recovery.Stronger Than the Storm
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978-1797437880 $9.99 Paper/$2.99 Kindle
Raindrop blends thriller and romance genres with a deft hand, but it's also important to note that this is a literary work filled with compelling, evocative descriptions as it tells of a shy, deaf mute college girl who hides herself in library work, and Chris, who falls in love at the first sight of her.
Chris is largely used to "living in his mind" as a writer and dreamer. The last thing he expected was to fall in love with a vision of damaged loveliness. The last thing he wanted was for something extraordinary to break into his carefully-ordered world and objectives. It was always his biggest desire to tell his stories. Now it's his biggest desire to explore hers.
He's been a "lucky dreamer" in his life, becoming rich with a best-selling novel and a blockbuster movie. Now he's about to enter and explore Sofia's very different course, with less predictable results and a steeper learning curve than he's ever encountered before.
On many levels, Raindrop is an unexpected work of art. From how Chris confronts the fact that gaining access to Sofia may be filled with obstacles as simple as not having a library card to his need to become proficient in a whole new language (signing) just to talk to her, Chris's journey is anything but predictable or ordinary.
Readers gain entry, through his eyes, into the world of the deaf and its many challenges. Money certainly can't buy love, as Chris continually discovers when he keeps getting in trouble with Sofia over actions he believes to be supportive and altruistic.
Driven by Sofia's compelling effect on him, Chris discovers within himself a courage and perception of which he'd never imagined himself capable. Lessons about loneliness, signing's potential issues, courage, and resilience in the face of adversity enter into this romantic thriller to not just engage readers on not an entertainment level, but to educate them about many of the concerns of the deaf community.
Love makes people do crazy things. Chris is no longer the wealthy dreamer he was when he met Sofia. And his relationship with her powers a tense account of confrontation and danger which provides a delightful literary touch, making Raindrop highly recommended for anyone looking for an evocative, thought-provoking story that is more than a cut above most novels.Raindrop
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Vernon Hall &
Book Empire, UK
Paper: GBP 9.99/Kindle: GBP 3.05
Ordering Link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/
Vernon Hall & Other Stories is a fiction collection that excels in literary approach, surprises with a peppering of black and white drawings by Jelena Zibert, and provides a delightful compendium of interconnected, darkly evocative pieces steeped in Gothic perspectives.
'Lord Ravenson' opens the collection with the tale of Meriweather Willoughby, a storyteller who tries to help others, but is mocked for his dark literary creations which don't appeal to the average reader.
There's relatively little a heart of gold can accomplish with empty pockets, but when Meriweather runs into the legendary Sir Charles Haley and learns his dark secret as a reward for helping him, newfound opportunities and riches emerge... but they come with a steep price.
Can Meriweather help rid this man of a curse when the cure involves death and horror? Meriweather comes full circle back to his betrothed as this story evolves.
'Madame de Quincy' follows, telling of eight-year-old Penny Brown, who escapes the challenges of her world by visiting a magical meadow of butterflies and light. Butterfly Meadow is said to be a haunted, cursed place, and is shunned by fellow villagers; but Penny has made it a place of refuge where none dare follow.
All this changes when
she makes a special wish and a strange enchantress invites her to leave
dark world of the village for something different.
Penny rejects the notion, but she can't escape its allure. Years later, when she grows up, she faces a similar choice; and this time escape holds even more appeal. A magical butterfly again provide an impetus for change.
Or take 'The Withered Mistletoe', for the next example. It presents a sad young man's infirm mother, a family's struggles to care for her, and what happens when a stormy night brings him to a strange old house, Thorn Manor, where anything is possible.
At first Horace only seeks shelter from the storm, but his encounter with a supernatural force leads him to an unusual connection with a spirit who is as injured as his mother. When an act of kindness goes awry, truths are revealed that affect the trajectory of his life and everything around him.
The story becomes an especially revealing piece as Ezekiel Lloyd's visit to Vernon Hall results in a rendezvous at his cabin with the young, naïve Eleanor, who escapes Bertha's watchful guardianship to enjoy a beautiful night tinged with romance and sadness.
The story embraces rhyming descriptions at intervals, and at other times relies on solid prose as it moves through Vernon Hall's inhabitants and their interconnected lives and ghosts as romance blossoms against impossible odds. The moral lessons that are embedded in each piece are a consistent thread linking the stories and giving them unified value.
As each story unfolds its compelling probe of various forms of darkness both psychological and paranormal, readers will find these pieces to be solid reflections of the Gothic literary spirit.Vernon Hall & Other Stories
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Meryl Davids Landau
Alignment Publishing Co.
Lorna Crawford is a happy married mother pregnant with her second child. She has everything one could wish for in life, including a spiritual foundation rooted in yoga and mindful behavior. All this is shaken when she discovers that something may be wrong with her unborn child.
Warrior Won is a powerful novel about adversity, but it doesn't take the usual psychological inspection approach of similar-sounding novels. Instead, it embarks on a spiritual path that follows Lorna as her already-strong beliefs are shaken by a revelation that changes everything.
Meryl Davids Landau dubs her story "mindful women's fiction" and, with that title, creates a subgenre of books on mindfulness that tend to be largely nonfiction and certainly not rooted in women's lives.
Having Lorna already be a practitioner of yoga and mindfulness techniques rather than a newcomer who stumbles into them through adversity (which is actually the plot of Landau's first book featuring Lorna, Downward Dog, Upward Fog) lends to a situation that is more thought-provoking and revealing, especially since Lorna uses not one but a variety of techniques to address her crisis and work through it. Landau thus creates a novel that surveys how all these techniques work under duress, painting a realistic story of a woman under siege who must call upon all her carefully-tuned resources to confront a dire situation indeed.
There are many powerful women leading the mindful thinking movement, but this book is one of the first to use the vehicle of fiction and the backdrop of life-or-death adversity to thoroughly explore how these techniques actually work in the real world beyond any idealistic vision of their applications and strengths.
One might anticipate a depressing examination from all this, but a surprising note is that this story of extreme adversity actually supports an uplifting atmosphere based on Lorna's search for the kinds of answers that help energize her body and mind.
Her explorations impart a moment-by-moment sense of how she mindfully approaches life: "I cock my head, thinking about the blood test. Then I catch myself. I have wandered from experience into the land of thought. Not even a thought about the present, but anxiety about what might come. Stay in the moment, I remind myself."
Warrior Won is one of the strongest spiritual women's fiction pieces to appear in recent years. It is unabashedly and highly recommended for a range of women, from casual chic lit leisure readers to those from all walks of faith who like spiritual-based fiction. It successfully creates its own supportive fiction subgenre of mindful approaches to life in the course of exploring Lorna's ongoing ability to recognize amazing gifts in life in the face of a brutal health crisis.Warrior Won
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