May 2015 Review Issue
A Painfully Shy Life
Memoir and Self-Help Guide
Copyright 2015 by Helen Rivas-Rose
978-0-9827433-9-3 $7.99 Kindle $16.95 paperback
Brave: A Painfully Shy Life is "dedicated to shy people everywhere" and is a memoir documenting the author's personal struggles with chronic shyness.
While one might expect the audience for such a survey to be shy readers in similar situations, let's not forget its secondary audience: friends and family of the shy person who want insights on how better to support their loved ones, and educators and counselors working with shy clients.
Shyness is a condition that affects everybody involved, so it's fitting that Brave has an alluring title and a presentation that will involve the shy reader and those around them.
Helen Rivas-Rose may be writing about her personal struggles with shyness, but her memoir also reveals how courage and power lie at the heart of the shy person who would capitalize on traumatic experiences to become a fuller, richer person.
Inspirational chapters document this process, always using the author's experience to reveal common perceptions, misconceptions, and facts about shyness. But don't expect any quick revelations or pat formulas here: while Rivas-Rose maintains that she was able to overcome her shyness to build a rich network of relationships, there are no easy answers for those who would follow in her footsteps.
And perhaps this is Brave's greatest strength: by presenting her transformation in a memoir form, not as a self-help title, many more readers will feel compelled to read about her transition and, in so doing, will find food for thought on the processes involved in making their own changes.
From a lifetime of loneliness and pain to her determination in mid-life to take charge of her shyness and become something greater, Rivas-Rose uses her own emotions to help readers tap into their hidden strengths.
Any shy reader will readily recognize themselves in Rivas-Rose's experiences: "As most severely shy people know, one of the worst consequences of shyness is being unable to talk about yourself in a sincere fashion. If I’d learned how to get and be close to people, to make friends, my childhood pain almost certainly would have lessened years earlier. Not having these skills stunted my social and emotional growth more than anything else. And because I found no one to share my experiences with, I didn’t learn how to express myself, which in turn, decimated my self-confidence."
It's also important to note two appendixes: one consisting of a compendium of steps, ideas and articles outlining different approaches to eliminate shyness; the other presenting a talk the author gave at her Unitarian Universalist Church celebrating the concept of friends. Coming from one who didn't have friends for decades, it's quite an eye-opener.
Her journey is one many will be making: those who want to see change in their lives will find Brave: A Painfully Shy Life a powerful memoir documenting the process not just of one woman's blossoming, but the impetus involved in personal transformation as a whole.
This reviewer doesn't usually give star ratings but since Brave has already earned such elsewhere, suffice it to say that it's well-deserved.
Bravo!Brave: A Painfully Shy Life Memoir and Self-Help Guide
Husband Our Father: A Family's Walk Through the Storm of Grief in
Search of a
9781452517780 $15.99 Print $3.99 ebook
Autobiographies - especially family memoirs - hold the pitfall of often being too revealing; in effect telling strangers (i.e. the reading public) family secrets. Sometimes they tell too much. Sometimes they don't say enough. My Husband Our Father holds the unusual ability to walk the fine line between too much information and not enough; and perhaps that's because it's a family collaboration - not just one member's thoughts - and that's a rare asset, indeed.
It's about the loss of a husband and father from liver cancer; but most of all it documents the separate journeys through grief experienced by young widow Michelle and each of her four children in a process that unites the family and allows each member to survive, without patriarch Gus.
The writing of My Husband Our Father involved each family member producing an unedited, candid memoir of experience before sharing with the family - and the result is a gripping chronicle of how life goes on and how recoveries happen at different levels.
From online dating and geographical distances to stronger and finding hope in the face of tragedy: all these processes are documented in a survey that traces the agony of a cancer diagnosis, survival, and (most of all) the singular perceptions of different family members.
The result is a poignant and moving memoir, highly recommended for any who have struggled with grief during challenging processes and times, which documents the separate journals and experiences of a family connected by the bonds of love, pain, and survival.My Husband Our Father: A Family's Walk Through the Storm of Grief in Search of a Rainbow
from the Underworld
Ebook: $9.99 Paperback: $20.00
Most memoirs are autobiographical reflections on personal events that are pretty cut and dried: traumas happen, worlds change, survival mechanisms are developed, and life goes on.
But Out from the Underworld offers something different in the memoir world: its title sounds like science fiction, it reads with all the compelling drama of a thriller, yet it actually is the story of Heather Siegel, whose mother disappeared from the family and whose father abandoned his children: a story developed with all the trappings of a good mystery.
Forty years later she is still asking questions, and Out from the Underworld documents not only her survival of a broken childhood and family, but it's lasting (and surprisingly positive) effects on her own family: "I want her to know how loved she is. I want her to know that I will always be that single person in her life who will put her needs before my own, if only because, or especially because, I know too well how it feels to be without that person-- floating without a center when the gravitational force of the family disappears."
It's about how adults make choices, their effects on children, and in turn how further choices are made for future generations - and most of all, Out from the Underworld details not just survival, adaptation and healing, but how Siegel forged a life above and beyond any label of 'victim' or 'damaged' - and perhaps this is its greatest strength, setting the read apart from a mere story of struggle and survival.
Through Siegel's experience, readers learn about role reversals and maternal instinct and its applications and importance. Readers learn about behavior patterns both positive and negative and how what seems familiar isn't necessarily what's best. And, they'll learn about folk who just 'exist': something the author fears: "…many were just self-acknowledged failures who’d tried to make it “out there” and had fallen instead to the depths of the white goods department. People who accepted their misery as penance for not trying harder in life. And it scared the hell out of me."
The 'Underworld' in Siegel's story is more than the basement apartment that thinly veiled personal hells: it's about mental attitude and how lasting, positive change is achieved against all odds, and it's about accepting parents for who they are rather than who they "should" or could become.
Any who have struggled with their own family hell and idiosyncrasies (either minor or major) will find Out from the Underworld illuminates the course of one woman's transformation and, in the process, serves as a beacon guiding pathways of possibility for others to follow.Out from the Underworld
on Curves While Death Rides Shotgun
1300 Ordway Street, Berkeley, CA 94702-1124
Author Craig McLaughlin was born a hemophiliac. He's been 'riding shotgun with death' since birth, facing the risk of bleeding to death from common injuries. But rather than lead a life of caution, McLaughlin's purpose is a life well lived, and not necessarily one well protected. Passing on Curves While Death Rides Shotgun is a memoir replete in risk-taking adventures and living well.
Health threats are a fact of life as he defies the odds to live to adolescence, contracts HIV from contaminated blood, and struggles to care for a wife with breast cancer and a child facing two parents with fatal illnesses.
While issues of death, vulnerability and survival permeate McLaughlin's memoir, so does life - being connected and involved despite health challenges, and making decisions to live life fully. To understand his ride with death, he offers this telling reflection on the questions in his child's mind and his desire for a proper death: "…these were exactly the questions a boy might ask if he was ashamed and needed to justify being here. You see, I didn’t feel I deserved to stay in the life raft, not unless there was room for everyone else. The best possible resolution to my situation, it seemed, would be to die a noble death. I didn’t think about suicide—that would have seemed cowardly and pointless—but I did think about making the ultimate sacrifice. It would offer redemption, wash away my shame, validate my existence. These scenarios were my own test pattern, my own calibration."
This is a story about navigating life when the unexpected becomes normal. One doesn’t expect caring for exotic animals to enter into this picture - but, it does. One doesn't anticipate that a memoir so replete with medical challenge could also be steeped in hope - but, it is.
In an odd way you could say that Passing on Curves While Death Rides Shotgun is about a life well-lived, as much as it is about survival: "I, too, have character. I say that humbly. It’s not something I’m proud of. It is just something that comes with growing up with a chronic health condition and not wanting to be a burden. I have come to see character as a weakness as well as a strength."
Readers interested in memoirs about personal growth, determination, family life in the face of devastating health challenges will find the book inspiring. Told through vivid personal essays about living life and facing death, Passing on Curves will be relished for its ultimate strength as a series of stories about what makes humans endure, thrive, and survive.Passing on Curves While Death Rides Shotgun
of Life: A Storyteller's Diary
Slices of Life: A Storyteller's Diary began at age eight, when the author was given a diary and discovered her true purpose in life: to chronicle events and be a storyteller. Her original impulse hasn't waned and her diaries and world are central to this collection of the big and small life events in her world.
The first prerequisite for appreciating her focus is, of course, an interest in both short stories and autobiographical vignettes. Slices of life aren't any good if one seeks more expansive, detailed works; but they are especially attractive to busy readers who can take each account and digest it in a relative few bites.
And what bites those are: packed with impressions, sounds, tastes, and scenes, Slices of Life is as much about the process of selecting and recording what holds meaning as it is about capturing stories that stand out from the crowd.
Here, a slice of the past in a reflection on the Mason jar, a staple of the Depression years when Victory Gardens returned people to 'the basics'. There, a slice of family life with new siblings, a bridge-playing mother, and family moments and connections that eventually scatters across the country."You only pass through once, memories will fade but words are forever": such are the insights of a wordsmith who captures these moments for posterity, shares them with readers who will absorb their underlying lessons, and who provides the whole pizza pie in digestible slices that are vivid and memorable meals, indeed. Autobiography and short story readers who love warm family memories are in for a treat.
Slices of Life: A Storyteller's Diary
Northern Star: The End
Ebook: $3.99/Paperback: $9.99
Author website: www.mikegullickson.com
The Northern Star: The End is Volume Three in the trilogy and wraps up events begun in the first book, which presented a human future stymied by its own drive to stay connected and buffeted by forces of good and evil which began to assume too-similar facades. The action started (and now ends) with the journey of bionic soldier John Raimey, who is a Hulk-like giant of a man enhanced for warfare but cursed as a harbinger of death to everything he touches.
In this final book, his creator rules with an iron fist and The Northern Star is everywhere, ruthless and controlling. A war brews in the Middle East and John faces his final mission - which he hopes will bring him the peace of death and one last chance to contribute something good to a world in which his presence has only meant evil.
But in between good and evil there's a lot of murky gray events - and between John's desires and his controller's efforts, there's all of humanity to deal with and political and social objectives that can change at a moment's notice.
Like its predecessors, The Northern Star: The End is military-based in its action, futuristic in its visions of society and evil controlling forces, and humanistic in its portrayal of a cyber-superman soldier who nonetheless harbors some remnants of humanity even though he's a Tank Major killing machine.
Descriptions of futuristic technology permeate this story and keep it from being a military focus alone ("We know the Northern Star is in Washington, D.C.,” Cynthia replied. “But we don’t know exactly where. That’s why we need Justin. I need you to escort him to the Data Sump outside the city.” “What’s a Data Sump?” Raimey asked. “It’s a satellite tower that transmits all data in the region to the ring in space,” Justin replied.).
Under a different hand, it would have been all too easy to portray the Tank Major is an inhumane killing machine: the fact that some humanity is left in John adds personal observation and meaning to even military confrontations: "The forest ended, and Raimey broke free into an abandoned Costco parking lot. The barrage had stopped. Raimey turned just as Kove emerged from the inferno. There was nowhere to run. They quietly regarded one another. Raimey almost thought to say something, but what would it matter? What would it do? They were soldiers on the opposite sides of war. Kove gave a curt nod, as if acknowledging the moment, and then the grenade launcher cycled up and pelted John, caking his legs and detonating him down to the ground. Raimey turtled, covering his face. This is it, Raimey thought. It’s over."
Futuristic technology, solid action, compelling characterization, military confrontation and social issues - it's all here, neatly wrapped up in a concluding volume that supports the contentions and characters of its predecessors while creating a solid, compelling ending to an all-too-possible world. Fans of military sci-fi, in particular, are in for a special treat with the three books in The Northern Star series.The Northern Star: The End
John R. Spencer
Print: 978-0-9863727-4-2 $15.99
Ebook: 978-0-9863727-5-9 $8.99
2 Glenwood Ct., Blue Grass, IA 52726
ReGeneration is Book Three of the Solarium-3 trilogy, so be advised: familiarity with the prior books will lend a continuity and a satisfyingly well-rounded feel to this latest addition to the sci-fi series.
Solarium-3, the first book, documented a basic struggle to survive inside the only remaining habitat for humanity, Solarium-3. Haeven, Book Two, documents what happens when they are forced outside their protective haven to see what has become of the planet. ReGeneration continues the logical progression of events, where the survivors begin to explore their strange new world and their new place in it, and is a 'must' for any who have followed the prior adventures.
In some ways, ReGeneration is both unexpected and predictable - and in the scheme of things, that's not such a bad thing. Its concepts juxtapose nicely with prior events, its images of this changed world are vividly portrayed ("Watching these strange images of light and color flood the sky, Bridget realized it was not normal lightning. The flashes were more brilliant than lightning, more brilliant than the waning sun that had begun its reluctant journey toward the western horizon, chased by these radiant arms of light that swallowed the sun’s beams."), and its ongoing mysteries fuel a combination of adventure exploration and sci-fi, a survivalist tale that's firmly rooted in solid character development and consistent action.
But the hallmark of an exceptional read doesn't necessarily lie in logic and predictability: it lies in an ability to captivate readers with a 'you are there' feel; to make one care about the characters' experiences, and to inject elements of surprise into the story line that keep it fresh and vivid - and here, too, ReGeneration achieves its goals.
The result is every bit as engrossing as its predecessors - and that's what a good trilogy should offer: continuity along with more than a small dash of mystery and surprise. The Solarium survivors have much to learn to get things right. That process makes for a fine exploration not just of changed environment, but changed peoples.ReGeneration
S.H. Jucha, Publisher
9110 Judicial Dr. Unit 8501, San Diego, CA 92122
Ebook: 978-0-9905940-1-7 $2.99
Softcover: 978-0-9905940-2-4 $13.99
Alex is both a space explorer and a space tug captain, harvesting ice asteroids for water-starved human outposts - but his prime motivation is curiosity and a drive to uncover new technology from space. So when he encounters a derelict alien ship, his first impulse is to board it to see what can be harvested for profit and new discoveries - but when he encounters surviving aliens, this isn't the least of his worries.
Although their technology is hundreds of years ahead of the dying Earth colonies, they've succumbed to a strange silver alien ship: and if they were unable to combat it despite their advanced equipment, how will humans stand a chance when the ship comes for them?
The Silver Ships is the first of a projected four-part series, so its follow-ups depend on the reception of this series opener - which, given its intriguing concepts, should be positive. There are solid protagonists and a loner in the form of leader Alex, alien encounters are believable and involving, there's a mystery involving advanced technology and a silver ship's powers, and added attention is given to political involvements and social settings. Add a dash of romance and a lot of intrigue and you have an engrossing saga.
There are several prerequisites for appreciating Jucha's approach, here. The first is an affinity for the adventure-packed format that defines the sub-genre of 'space opera', which eschews political intricacy in favor of involving descriptions and action less bogged down in minute futuristic detail and more filled with compelling drama (and, that's a hallmark of the genre as well as an appealing attribute of this book). The second is an ability to appreciate a pretty straightforward world that well supports its characters and action. The third is an ability to appreciate a rollicking good adventure story.
While, personally, I could have hoped for more character description and depth, the purpose of The Silver Ships isn't to shock and awe with intricacy: it's to provide its audience with an entertaining read that documents a close encounter of another kind. Its pairing of action and adventure with believable protagonists and settings contribute to a sci-fi read that is, plain and simple, a good, solid, entertaining read.The Silver Ships
Golden Panda Publishing
ASIN: B00UTNS8RK ISBN: 978-1508841128
Weird Tales revitalizes a genre which typically falls somewhere between horror and science fiction: the strange and eerie intersection between faith, fantasy, and disbelief, designed to chill with creepy twists and the unexpected.
Weird stories were first captured in the 1923 magazine of the same title as Murray's book, and made household names of such new writers as Ray Bradbury, Lovecraft and Merritt - names largely regulated to the files of bygone years' literary greats - so it's refreshing to see a compilation of stories in this vein that remind readers of exactly what made this niche genre so compelling and provide newcomers with stories that are more than a cut above 'ordinary and expected'.
In typical 'weird' format, these stories are steeped in the supernatural - but are something more. In typical fantasy format, they include many elements of other worlds and impossible encounters. In typical horror format, there's often a protagonist who unwittingly crosses the line between his staid universe and one where things are more than a little different. And in classic literary style, Murray takes all these disparate elements and weaves them together in a series of hair-raising adventures which bring to mind Hitchcock's classic 'Stories Not for the Nervous' collections.
Compellingly eerie images sprinkled throughout highlight the feel of these odd scenarios, bright to life in written word: "As Joe listened, he heard nothing, but one of two things for sure. Either it had gone away - OR - it had stopped and was listening, too. Joe liked the first option better, but the second was more likely."
Surprisingly little is written in the classic 'weird' vein nowadays. This collection is not just a throwback; it's a standout and a testimony to the 1920s approach that still - under the right hand, such as Murray's - can stand just as strongly to new generations, today, offering a subtler but equally powerful psychological brand of horror to those who would absorb more than bloodletting and staccato surface action.Weird Tales
Linda F. Palmer, DC
Sunny Lane Press
Baby Poop: What Your Pediatrician May Not Tell You ... about Colic, Reflux, Constipation, Green Stools, Food Allergies, and Your Child's Immune Health is recommended reading (and a recommended bookshelf reference) for any parent (especially new parents) who may find that baby poop actually is a better indicator of a baby's underlying health than any other diagnostic method.
What's in a baby's diaper can help parents differentiate between different kinds of illnesses and is just as important as paying attention to what goes into a baby's mouth; so before you toss that diaper without a second glance, consult Baby Poop - and then take a closer look.
Chapters discuss the basics of baby poop, from why early imbalances in a baby's flora can lead to serious intolerances and diseases later on to how parents can not only pay attention to warning signs, but interpret them for better medical assistance.
From serious diarrheal illnesses and new bacterial threats to common over-reactions to various forms of baby poop and how to differentiate the serious from the everyday, this book provides the basics and specifics that take into account all the factors affecting a baby's stool.
Medical discussions include assessments of normal infant health challenges and their benefits as well as their detriments, and provide quotes and research from other physicians and medical sources.
Add charts ("Are You Seeing Green?"), discussions of formula choices and dietary options and effects, and genetic inheritance considerations and you have a well-rounded discussion that all parents should be familiar with: one that links baby poop to all kinds of conditions, options, and health impacts both positive and negative.Baby Poop
1264 Old Alpharetta Road, Alpharetta, GA 30005
9780986090608 $14.95 www.booklogix.com
How well a consumer can understand health care choices links inexorably to the quality of such services, as HealthScare: Why Health Care is NOT About Your Health points out - and it provides a historical review that details the history of healthcare con jobs and the failure of government to properly control insurance industry involvements in the health industry.
One might anticipate such a damning account to come from a political or social activist: in fact, Fritz Scheffel is a pharmacist with over four decades of personal experience with the health industry, and here argues that the health system can be vastly modified to become more cost effective and better for all.
One might also think that such an admonition would have long ago reached regulators and industry professionals - but Scheffel deftly documents why this hasn't happened before, and how it can happen now.
What's happening with modern American health are, how did problems begin, and how can they be corrected by both industry changes and consumer attention? These questions lie at the heart of a slim but hard-hitting assessment whose most powerful chapter is 'Ten Tenets for Better Health', which maintains (among other things) that a better sense of personal responsibility is required in order for consumers to understand their role in the health care system.
Vigilance is required not just on the part of government and insurance entities, but healthcare consumers. How can this vigilance be recognized, cultivated, and applied? HealthScare: Why Health Care is NOT About Your Health is all about this part and thus is recommended not for the reader who would just condemn systems, but for those interested in actually taking charge of them.HealthScare
The Science of Turning Setbacks into Springboards
Claire Nana M.A.
Order link for Amazon:
Ordering link for Createspace store:
"Leverage" by Claire Dorotik-Nana M.A.
Leverage: the Science of Turning Setbacks into Springboards is all about using setbacks to create winning situations, and while this might not seem like a unique approach, it is more direct than others in its specifics on the process involved and how to hone it.
There's no shortage of adversity and sources of angst, and plenty of books discuss how to overcome and move beyond adversity. The point seems to be, in most of these treatments, that adversity is something to be avoided or confronted. Leverage is somewhat different: it outlines the inherent advantages in adversarial situations, showing how to take struggle and adversity and truly learn from it, and even welcoming these events as opportunities for positive change.
Trauma can lead to profound challenges and, conversely, profound growth opportunities: that's the message in a book that links distress with denial, and denial with suppressed feelings about loss of control and vulnerability and its lasting impact: "For people who avoid vulnerability, the real problem is trust."
What do setbacks take away - and, more importantly, what do they give? In such a scenario a setback is not just an obstacle to be overcome; it's a new challenge to inspire growth and learning - and Leverage is the place to turn for a blend of psychological insights, case histories, and tools and techniques for adjusting attitudes and making a new life from the ashes of the old.
What can be learned from this? That "Setbacks can ignite the desire for connection—to reach out, help others, and give back—all of which helps us heal." As for the 'how to use it' part - that's the point of Leverage, highly recommended for self-help and psychology readers interested in the processes of change.Leverage: The Science of Turning Setbacks into Springboards
Your Role: The Surprising Key To Relationship Harmony and Sizzling Sex
Park Ave Publishers, Inc.
Play Your Role: The Surprising Key To Relationship Harmony and Sizzling Sex goes where many other books on sex and relationship have attempted - but plays its role better than most, placing it at the top of the dance card of relationship 'how-to' guides.
There are several reasons why it's a standout.
For one thing, it's all about cooperation, not just landing the guy or gal. This focus allows for self-examination of what role the reader plays in expectations of ideals and what constitutes a 'match'. As readers learn about their unexamined assumptions and how those affect cooperative interplays in a relationship, so they learn how to tweak these attitudes for better results.
Secondly, it focuses on honor: personal honor, and honoring others. It creates a system for understanding this concept and applying it across the board; so a side benefit from Play Your Role would be having multiple keys that work not just in relationships, but for the rest of life.
Finally, Play Your Role is a cooperative experience. This translates to an interplay between the book's concepts, its exercises, and the willingness of the reader to embark on a journey of self-exploration before applying concepts to relationships. Any who expect information to be 'fed and absorbed' should look elsewhere: the book is intended for an audience willing to learn, work, consider, and change.
With these objectives in mind, all the tools and methods for focusing on one's soul are provided; from entering into a 'contract' in a relationship that defines boundaries and helps clarify paths to activities that can be sexually adventurous (and readers may have to look up some terms on that list!).For better sex and understanding, the concepts and self-examining approach of Play Your Role provide winning approaches.
Play Your Role: The Surprising Key To Relationship Harmony and Sizzling Sex
L. L. Spriggs
ISBN (paperback): 9780986121104 price $10.99
ISBN (eBook) : 9780986121111 price $ 2.99
It's not often that a solid mystery read comes from a source other than literary circles; but L.L. Spriggs is a retired teacher of anatomy, and writing The Dissector seemed a perfect extension of her background and experience. And, yes: the book's title reveals some of its graphic and horrifying events.
Readers will find the story opens innocuously enough, at a medical college where first-person narrator Dr. Sarah Whitley is entering into a new faculty-appointed position in the school's Department of Anatomy, putting a 'past life' behind her.
Unfortunately, long-held dreams are often less promising than they could be and, as Dr. Whitley comes to find, they can too easily turn into nightmares. In this case, the job hides an undercurrent of greed and lurid unprofessional activities that lead to the most horrific discoveries she could imagine - and the need for either silence or retribution.
The joy of The Dissector lies not in graphically violent scenes, as one might expect, but in a quiet buildup of psychological tension and a series of revelations that prompts Dr. Whitley at every turn to not just solve a mystery, but to consider the ethical ramifications of her decisions.
Much more than a 'whodunnit', The Dissector posits what happens when discoveries are made that go well beyond social or professional indiscretions to enter the realm of psychopathic behaviors and horrible threats, and in the course of building and examining the back rooms of what seems a venerable social institution, the story line provides a compelling search that is engrossing, unpredictable, and always fueled by Dr. Whitley's self debates and choices.
All this makes for a standout mystery in the genre, backed and fully supported by the anatomical expertise of its author: something most mystery writers can't claim, and a facet which makes the way the story proceeds all the better!The Dissector
Spade: Dream Detective
Carl A. Chase
Jack Spade: Dream Detective arrives just in time to provide a different premise to mystery readers, and presents one James Harper: a divorced, unemployed P.I. in his waking hours, but a successful San Francisco detective in his dreams.
This, in itself, wouldn't be so strange; except that it happens time after time and transports him in time and place to 1940s San Francisco, where his cases involve many challenges.
His latest case has he and his partner chasing down a beautiful girl with a secret - who then vanishes - and it's one that challenges all his skills and connections.
Adding the timeslip element to a detective story is intriguing. Having that detective take on some of his most demanding cases through his dreams is something different. And contrasting stories of blackmail, love, and investigation within two very different lives and worlds inhabiting the same body makes for a device that under a different hand might have proved confusing; but here, becomes an exquisite dance of intrigue.
Murder, blackmail, amnesia, and mixed-up lives: all these entwine in Jack Spade: Dream Detective and make for vivid stories where Jack's life and James's world move ever closer together.
It doesn't take a crystal ball to see that this combination will win over many hearts and minds; especially readers who are used to typical genre progressions, and who seek something different both in premise and plot and in approach.Jack Spade: Dream Detective is that difference, and offers an engrossing adventure mystery with added value.
Jack Spade: Dream Detective
Five Star Publishing/Gale Cengage Learning
9781432830083 $25.95 http://www.cengage.com/search/
Arctic Shadow provides Book Two of the Watch Eyes Trilogy and is set in 1909 Alaska, when the grueling three-day race is over and the Siberian huskies face deadly danger. Something has murdered one of their pack members: something or someone strong enough to threaten all of the Chukchi dogs imported to America’s last frontier.
It should be evident, by now, that Arctic Shadow comes from animal perceptions; but its unique blend of historical and fantasy genres is something few readers will anticipate, making its audience as mercurial and unique as its arctic setting.
Fans of history should be prepared for the feel of London's Call of the Wild, while fantasy readers will discover the book features many unexpected historical elements. Because this is Book Two of a series, it continues the story of the Siberian huskies and their young human guardians, Native-Chukchi, Anya and Viking-descended Rune.
move adding these human elements to the huskies' story: by choosing
from many perspectives; not just one, and holds the ability to involve
audience than those who seek stories told from animal viewpoints alone.
The origins of sled dog racing and its rich culture, the unexpected triumph of the Siberian husky over mixed-malamute teams, the coming-of-age story of a girl and a boy committed to saving their dogs, and the challenges of life in rugged Nome around the turn of the century: all these elements create an adventure story that weaves romance and courage into its mystic plot.
It would have been all too easy for Arctic Shadow's action and drama to have superseded its historical value. The fact that Sundell presents a good deal of Alaskan culture and history with her story of two young people who love their animals and each other sets it apart from others and adds value and depth to the events that unfold. Arctic Shadow will immerse readers in its white land of turmoil.Arctic Shadow
1264 Old Alpharetta Road, Alpharetta, GA 30005
9781610055789 $12.95 www.booklogix.com
Big Sky: A Story of Faith and Forgiveness tells the story of author Deborah Miller, who traveled to Montana to research her latest novel and unexpectedly found her first love in loner, Will. When that love ends in tragedy and ongoing challenges part them, her life is forever changed.
Big Sky, however, is not a romance so much as a novel of faith and God: this is evident in passages filled with references to God's intervention in the face of tragedy and protagonist entreaties for guidance and help in the process of facing life. So if it's purely romance that is desired, move on: Big Sky is so much more, despite its relationship focus, and considers a relationship with God as much as those between people.
Now, to call it a 'religious story' also isn't quite correct: Deborah doesn't look to God to guide on her everything; she tends to be proactive as well as faithful, and her course in life brings her a renewed sense of purpose as well as a changed feel for new priorities and purposes in living.
This blend of spiritual and psychological romance makes for a novel that promises more depth than most. It builds a story not just around two people and their interactions, but upon the physical and spiritual facets of their decisions.
Reunions, torn emotions, weddings, and reflective writings all join in a saga exploring self and greater questions; especially recommended for spirituality readers who seek more than a touch of the divine in their stories.Big Sky
SL Hutchinson Publishing
Ebook- $3.00 Paperback- $12.99
April isn't even out of college yet, but she seems to have achieved her life's dreams: a big house, a handsome boyfriend, and more. If it all seems too perfect - it is, and as her relationship with her boyfriend begins to fail, so her attraction to his opposite, the boy next door, increases.
This is contemporary romance with a twist: it's complicated … more complicated than a boy-meets-girl or even an affair, though it begins with a bang (the bang of a slammed car door and rejection) and a snicker (the snicker of the boy next door, who is out working on his car when everything comes down.)
One big pleasure in this romance is the realistic schoolgirl chatty style that marks an exceptional attention to first-person psyche. It's not hard to believe the protagonist is a spoiled, flighty college girl; not with dialogue like this: "I check my phone, just in case. Nope, no apology. I don’t know what I was expecting. I love the kid to death, but would it kill him to admit he’s wrong? I clearly saw him flirt with that girl with the obviously enhanced chest right in front of my face!"
Because opposites tend to attract, even in times of adversity, it's also not difficult to imagine what could be or what is to come, even though April is hard at work making some changes to her life ("Trust me, Ro had said repeatedly, she better not make me regret this! This is not something new April, or childhood April would have done. Actually, childhood April would have probably been doing flips across the scaffolding below us.").
The 'voice' and experience of April is compelling, offering romance readers who enjoy college student growth stories the story of a fighter who battles for her life, her loves, and even, unexpectedly, her self-growth - and that's the real crux of Discovering April's strength.Discovering April
Louise and her sister observe the pain of an elderly aunt in a nursing home and make a pact at a young age in the 1950s, to not live past eighty years old. What seems an impulsive childhood agreement takes on a life of its own with a special challenge nearly eighty years later, chronicled in Eighty and Out, a hard-hitting assessment of choices in aging, living, or dying wrapped in a novel format.
The plan could have seemed naïve and impossible decades later: instead, it took on a life of its own, and the narrator has decided to keep her end of the bargain while reflecting on the events, ideals, and realities that brought her to this point.
As with any novel, it's a combination of plot, characterization and dialogue that makes a piece memorable and compelling - and Eighty and Out has these elements, in droves. The sisters are close, realistic, and likeable and their pact strengthens their relationship and objectives as the years pass.
Social reflections on aging, choice, and life's ups and downs, from first dates to broken hearts and beyond, make for realistic portraits of life's slings and arrows. The series of small dramas that make up living are deftly presented and the story becomes hard to put down. In short, the reader falls in love with the families and characters of Eighty and Out, making its progression and central theme all the more poignant and moving.
Love, infidelity, betrayal, friendships and families blossoming like flowers - and before you know it, it's time to leave. The 'how' is the point here, and one of the many elements that keeps Eighty and Out an involving saga that reveals worlds of little lies and death.Eighty and Out
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B00VKVKMEM $2.99
As the last book in 'The Counterpoint' trilogy, The Outer Circle will best be enjoyed by prior readers who will find the initial premise, characters and setting all play out to a gripping conclusion, here. Such an audience will find The Outer Circle draws together all the events of the prior stand-alone novels, is set in the near future of 2024, two years after the second book The Great Game concluded. The story opens with the scenario of the 'big three' (the U.S., Russia and China) locked in a deadly game of international struggle as the U.S. Presidential elections loom.
But those who come upon The Outer Circle and presume its timeframe translates to a dystopian science fiction piece might be surprised to learn that it's actually more of a political thriller, taking today's circumstances and moving them outward to their logical conclusions.
In March of 2024, Jeff and Jennifer live in a world of death threats, talking refrigerators which can place orders for groceries, countries that struggle for independence and against dependence, and elusive financial issues that even big nations and politicians can't solve.
Even promotion and marketing is frightening familiar: again, a logical extrapolation of current political posturing and events: "We craft your speech short and sweet. Not as short as the Gettysburg Address, but keep it under a thousand words and fifteen minutes, don’t get bogged down in details, look solemn and presidential.” “And which themes do we hit?” “The same we’ve been hitting all along: the greatness of America, why our enemies hate us, dealing with them from the position of strength, restoring our natural right to lead. Positive, memorable soundbytes, ideal for the internet. You, looking strong, humble, servant of the people with understated sex appeal. We don’t need a lot of people; just have FreedomShield bring in enough of their ‘volunteers’ to fill the video frame."
Bell's ability to take the ordinary facets of modern times and translate them into one future possibility is part of what lends The Outer Circle such realism and strength. The other lies in its political savvy, which deftly outlines high-level national associations, rationales for actions, and individual choices in the matter; all based on historical precedent: "Comrade Secretary, I consider the geopolitical situation to be in our favor now. We always knew that the American strategist Brzezinski was right: the key to the world supremacy lies in ruling the Eurasian continent. Since the 1990s, we fought the “cold war” against the Americans for control of Eurasia. We won. We secured our continental borders. We welcomed the Russians when the Americans ignored them. We then saved the Russians when the Americans tried to choke them with economic warfare ten years ago.”
As FreedomShield's purposes become clear and Jeff confronts assassins, the manipulations of electoral processes come to light as a grand scheme with its roots in decades of planning.
Without giving away the story line, suffice it to say that as a political thriller steeped in action and insight, The Outer Circle's story is difficult to put down. Just when the reader believes they have the entire picture, something else enters to give everything a twist and a new perspective.
The Outer Circle still works as a stand-alone, but because the characters and story are well flushed out and set up in the prior books, those who enjoy its action will want to pick up the others; particularly since it is the concluding volume and ties the story together in satisfyingly unexpected ways.
Political thriller readers will find its premises realistic and the characters believable as they roll through an involving story packed with underlying messages on privacy, surveillance, interconnected worlds and uncertain political and economic world alliances.The Outer Circle
Shot of Malaria
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohcken, PA 19428-2713
9781495801471 $20.95 www.buybooksontheweb.com
A Shot of Malaria presents a drug addict in the form of Daniel, who is hooked on heroin and alcohol and lives on the streets of San Francisco in the nineties. That's just the outline of the story - and so far there's little to indicate that this book is anything exceptional, or will be anything but grueling read of degradation and survival.
But to call the novel a junkie's story alone would be to limit its depth and perspective, for Daniel experiences love, musical interludes, and life; and his first-person perspective embraces so much more than where to locate the next fix (though, obviously, this is a major focus).
San Francisco's neighborhoods come alive: it's obvious the author well knows his city and the types of people who live there, and ably captures this feel through Daniel's eyes: "The gist of the song was how depressing and meaningless life was, walking among the hookers and winos of the Mission District at midnight." (He's talking about inner Mission, most likely, and the culture of the adjacent SOMA district: quite a different vibe from the Latin section.)
As with any gritty coming-of-age saga intended for mature teen to adult readers, there's a healthy dose of sex, various encounters with women, senses of loss, and contemplating suicide (via jumping off Golden Gate Bridge). Throughout these stories lies a peppering of the angst underlying Daniel's decisions: "Tragically, in the real world of trying to make it in life, these dreams were crippling me."
Can Daniel find the kinds of care and connections between people that fuel his search and his feed his angst when they fail? There are no predictable paths in A Shot of Malaria; no easy answers, and in the end, no obvious conclusions.
The thread that does run through this isn't linear, either: it’s the ups and downs of a roller coaster ride through adolescence that ultimately bring both character and reader closer to the goals of connection and some form of resolution. And a shot of dark humor runs through it.
Happy endings don't apply here. What does apply is a gripping search for self and love, the choices made in that process, and what happens when an addict becomes fed up with his life and chooses a different destiny. Haunting as all get-out, it's a read for any who want to journey through the world and eyes of a heroin addict to see that, sometimes, there is the possibility of another life.A Shot of Malaria
Humanity 2.0: The Transcension
Amazon: $19.95: http://www.amazon.com/
New age, spirituality, and science too seldom cross paths - or, if they do, they tend to head in opposite directions entirely, with conclusions that don't connect. For something different - and an approach that requires an open mind of scientist readers and new age thinkers alike - take a look at Humanity 2.0: The Transcension.
Here is a wide-ranging discussion that includes: DNA, the cosmos, angels, messengers, evolution, psychology, energy sources in the universe, and visionary thinking. And, by the way: the latter is a key to appreciating just how vast and all-embracing is the universe of Humanity 2.0.
Readers can anticipate a whirlwind of ideas, and should be prepared to give this book a lot of time; not just for reading, but for absorbing many new, enlightening concepts.
From how to recognize and use options provided by the universe to how to acknowledge the presence, effects and purposes of synchronicity in one's life, why the human species as a whole is transcending (and into what), and how personal growth insights and opportunity are linked into this process, Messenger uses posts from her meditations and angel encounters to get her point across.
If this all seems ethereal and new age - it is. If it seems to hold a high level of transcendent thinking in and of itself - well, don't expect easy reading, here. Some things are handed to readers on a plate and others require further contemplation (which is encouraged, here). An openness to channeled spiritual messages is a prerequisite to appreciating these insights.
Humanity 2.0: The Transcension is both a journal of discovery and a blueprint for reader change. It offers the unusual opportunity to draw together disparate threads of science, self-inspection and spiritual understanding and it covers both Earth change transitions now taking place and the process of individual and species transformation.
Humans have many innate, unused abilities, and there are many methods of drawing them out. Humanity 2.0: The Transcension is one such resource: I found it a lively and thought-provoking read, and recommend it for any new age reader open to a multitude of spiritual insights.Humanity 2.0: The Transcension
on Being: The Holy Book of Religious Leaders, Followers, and
Codrin Stefan Tapu
"The New Faith is not yet another faith. It is a new way of living the old faiths." This admonition opens Teachings on Being and presents the very basic premise of a book designed to bring together faiths; not alienate based on tenants or differences.
It maintains, simply, that all faiths are important and valid, and its intention is to provide the tools to bring these faiths together. In order to appreciate the approach of Teachings on Being, it's first essential that the reader accept admonitions that impart basic ideas on how to live life and experience faith.
These easily-digestible sentences are arranged under subject headings but proffer advice and ideas intended to guide questioning readers on matters of heart and soul: "To want to make the others be like you, because you think that’s the right thing to do, that’s not a duty, it’s not a proof of love, it’s showing off your vanity, and a it’s sign of unhappiness."
From ideals of 'heroes' and 'friendship and love' to 'The Guide to Life', these are pointed insights designed to provide food for thought on not just the process of daily living and faith, but the personal choices inherent in behaviors and belief patterns: "Behave as if the fate of the whole world depended on your behavior."Readers of any faith interested in adopting a perspective of interconnected spiritual support systems will find Teachings on Being an encouraging guide pointing the way to a new perspective embracing not just all faiths, but even those without.
Teachings on Being: The Holy Book of Religious Leaders, Followers, and Non-Believers
Mater Vol. 2: The Northeast This
adds to Aidoo's 'Alma Mater' series of poems celebrating colleges and a
of place, and assumes much of the structure of the first collection -
its location is now the Northeast. It's arranged by state, presents
within each state, and captures the nuances and feel of such venerable
institutions as Yale, Howard
first thing to
know is that this is a poetry
collection, not an essay assembly. It's unusual to have college
provided in poetry format, but as Aidoo demonstrated in his first
genre works well for capturing and transmitting the individual feel of
works are as
evocative and varied as 'NYU-Poly', which captures the school's
focus ("We have
engineered a new
name/for ourselves with deactivators of the nonactive and
who/have left this nest to/transform the web.")
contrast, 'the United States
which assumes the give-and-take marching cadence of a military school ("Attack the Navy, rack the
score/(Attack the Navy,
rack the score)/Take them on punishment tours…"). Each
psyche and atmosphere is very different, as these poetic celebrations
demonstrate. One might think the over-riding purpose of a higher
learning is just that - learning - but within each is a culture and
is deftly captured in each poem. Alma
Mater V. 2 is not only a strong
complement to the first
volume, which focused on the Midwest; it's a succinct representation of
school's underlying purpose and culture and is a collection that should
consulted by any prospective student pouring over college
Original Clyde Aidoo
Real Print for Real People
Mater Vol. 2: The Northeast
This second volume adds to Aidoo's 'Alma Mater' series of poems celebrating colleges and a sense of place, and assumes much of the structure of the first collection - albeit its location is now the Northeast. It's arranged by state, presents colleges within each state, and captures the nuances and feel of such venerable institutions as Yale, Howard University, Loyola University, and Amherst College.
The first thing to know is that this is a poetry collection, not an essay assembly. It's unusual to have college insights provided in poetry format, but as Aidoo demonstrated in his first volume, the genre works well for capturing and transmitting the individual feel of each institution.
Thus, works are as evocative and varied as 'NYU-Poly', which captures the school's engineering focus ("We have engineered a new name/for ourselves with deactivators of the nonactive and Twitterers who/have left this nest to/transform the web.") or, in contrast, 'the United States Military Academy', which assumes the give-and-take marching cadence of a military school ("Attack the Navy, rack the score/(Attack the Navy, rack the score)/Take them on punishment tours…").
Each school's psyche and atmosphere is very different, as these poetic celebrations demonstrate. One might think the over-riding purpose of a higher institution of learning is just that - learning - but within each is a culture and feel that is deftly captured in each poem.
Alma Mater V. 2 is not only a strong complement to the first volume, which focused on the Midwest; it's a succinct representation of each school's underlying purpose and culture and is a collection that should be consulted by any prospective student pouring over college descriptions.
Alma Mater Vol. 2: The Northeast
Foundation of Summer: New England
Eric D. Lehman
The Foundation of Summer: New England Stories opens like a fine wine: take a sip of a slow, hot, New England summer with its spicy overtones of self and place.
Open the experience with 'Last Walk on Silver Lane', which tells of a long-time Silver Lane resident whose life has blossomed in one place for decades, and whose perceptions capture that sense of place for readers who are strangers to it: "She loved the long swing porches of the Victorian houses, the way the town’s macadam slowly faded into gravel, and the otter-shaped mailbox at the Tompkins house."
As the story evolves, Lisle sees changes come to her small lane and her beloved, familiar places: changes that bring with them noise, contention, new buildings and attacks on quieter ways of being - and she decides to fight back by taking her homespun café to a new level: "Donutlicious would do more than just draw crowds, it would suck their money straight out of the village economy, leading to more intrusions, more changes, and the death of their current way of life."
Ways of life in New England and how they change are, indeed, the crux of matters in The Foundation of Summer, and as a first sip becomes a seasoned, smooth appreciation of taste and life, stories zip by with varied themes imbedded in the smells and feel of New England's small towns.
Here is a drug dealer involved in a mystery. There, a mistreated wife, a wanderer, and a tavern that nearly kills them all. From the injuries and lies of Vietnam to wild places that "feel like home", The Foundation of Summer is replete with diverse lives, settings, and worlds replete with autumn paths of discovery.
It's hard to take just a sip when the entire bottle is here for the taking: readers who love short stories with a sense of place and small-town personalities will want to move slowly until the last drop of the slow, lazy habits of a New England Fall replete with color, deep flavors and rich experiences is absorbed.The Foundation of Summer: New England Stories
Alaric Cabiling Ltd.
Modern literary short fiction is not unusual: many attempt it; relatively few do it well - especially in the style of the gothic horror approach so aptly explored by Poe, Hawthorne, and other greats. That's why it's such a pleasure to read Insanity by Increments: it takes some of the methods and madness of these greats and moves a step further, presenting nine short stories of contemplation and quiet horror.
Take 'Once Found, Once More Forsaken', for example (the first story in the collection). The protagonist has slept through a storm and is expecting the arrival of his brother, a wealthy wanderer, that morning; but his chance encounter with an old schoolgirl introduces a sense of danger ("The air had an unusual odor, one that seemed to have followed the storm, with the rising waters replenishing the stagnant pools of the bog."), and what transpires next is anything but a congenial family visit.
Surreal moments, gently simmering mysteries, a woodland replete with death and growing horror - all this is gently woven into a story that opens with a receding storm and evolves into exquisitely challenging horror.
'Omens of Winter' is another heart-pull: it opens with a family dilemma and, once more, time is taken to paint scenes properly, right down to the creak of a door as a last generation stands strong against what is to come: "The ancient door still made a ratcheting sound at a point in its arc, and I was careful to not let it alarm them, sliding from behind it as I escaped into the hallway and up the stairs towards my room." When the family structure changes, the kids face many new choices - and dangers.
All are well-done, replete with psychological tension throughout. If it's nonstop staccato action that is desired, look elsewhere. If it's the slow simmer of a buildup that injects readers into the sights, sounds, and circumstances of all kinds of horror and insanity, choose Insanity by Increments: it's a deliciously complex treasure trove especially recommended for fans of literary Gothic fiction who want modern scenarios and representations in the context of a genre that receives (regrettably) little attention these days.
Insanity by Increments
The Strange Metamorphosis of Fact and Fiction in Today's World
Daniel M. Harrison
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B00VKLHA9W $4.99
There's no denying the challenge inherent in picking up such a book as Butterflies: it's not just a call to action: it's a hard-hitting assessment of why society has become so complacent and content to accept 'facts' without thinking and investigating, and it's a book that any thinking American should consider.
For one thing, Butterflies comes from a leading journalist whose focus is on how such a mindset of complacency develops and is nurtured by forces that would stand to benefit from sheep-like obedience and a lack of analytical abilities and critical thinking.
For another, Butterflies documents as much as it presents arguments, supporting its rationales while tackling such wide-ranging issues as sexuality, spirituality, and how an increasingly connected world promises much but often leads its participants away from the direction of true engagement.
What do Bitcoin, individual choice, institutional edicts, fictional approaches, and scientific advancement have to do with personal transformation and an increasingly interconnected world replete with both opportunity and oppression?
Daniel M. Harrison interviewed numerous professionals in the scientific, medical and general academic and commercial fields and harvested their thoughts for Butterflies, blending statistical surveys and studies with discussions of mainstream thinking and its dangers.
Don't expect a dull read, either. Harrison packs his account with metaphors, images, and bright discussions of the 'millennial mindset' that make for vivid reading. Perhaps it's his choice of language, which sets aside the usual plodding nature of inquiry in favor of a lively, engaging approach packed with supercharged examples: "…the message that Satoshi was sending that day to the whole market along with his source code for bitcoin’s currency was clear as the bright spring morning that lit up London’s four century old spiral towers as their steeples reflected and then disappeared in the yellow-white sunlit glare of the River Thames. That message went something like this: If there’s a multi-trillion dollar bailout for the plutocracy going on right now, then here is a multi-trillion dollar bailout for the people."
Intellectual? You bet. Packed with hard science and difficult concepts? Absolutely. Tempered by human experience, fictional depictions, and personal accounts? That's one of its points. If journalism's true purpose is to expose fraud, pinpoint evolutionary processes, and challenge readers to think about the bigger picture, then Butterflies is the epitome of this process, and recommended for any who would don wings.
If it's a grounded, less passionate analysis that is desired, move on. Butterflies is for any who would take these expansive worldviews and run with them - even fly. That's its strength - and thus its appeal - to any who would break free from society's comfort-oriented cocoon and soar.Butterflies: The Strange Metamorphosis of Fact and Fiction in Today's World
Between the Bettys
Email contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Prepublication Manuscript: Estimated pub date: Fall 2015
Caught Between the Bettys tells of courageous women - female rebels who wore pearls in the 1940s, 50s and 60s - and the culture and changes introduced by two very different cultural icons: Betty Crocker and Betty Friedan.
Both women wrote deceptively simple handbooks that changed women's lives and perspectives, and both battled stereotypes. The impact of both on Alice Borodkin is chronicled in a memoir that is as much about women's cultural changes as it is about Alice Borodkin's life, providing a read key to any who would understand the evolution of women's liberation and women's thinking.
From how and what Borodkin learned from her own mother to the 'evolution of a diva' and changes that led from kitchen revolutions to the streets, the story of how Borodkin became socially and politically aware in an era of homemakers and male power is actually an account of how she 'made her own history'. Such history evolved from a house filled with love, caring, good cooking, and a mother invested in living a life that represented a perfect image.
When this persona cracked, so did Borodkin's world - and everything that was 'good' and 'perfect' revealed an undercurrent of depression: "This house was great for flowers and plants. At times not so great for humans."
Caught Between the Bettys is all about the process of pushing ever outward, which makes it a perfect introduction to feminist thought as it relates to an evolving woman: "I was always looking for more. More opportunity to pursue where it was I would fit in, trial and error, and then learning about how much I could do and how far I could go. Pushing the boundaries, they call it."
As such, it's an evocative, highly recommended pick for any woman who wants insights on the process of self-realization and change.
Caught Between the Bettys
Brave: Earthquake at the Taum Sauk
Goldminds Publishing, LLC
1050 Glenbrook Way, Suite 480, Hendersonville, TN 37075
Publisher email: email@example.com
ISBN (print): 978-1-942905-00-4
ISBN (eBook): 978-1-942905-01-1
Price: $14.99 (print), $6.99 (eBook)
Crystal is about to turn thirteen and her archaeologist parents have left for a day's journey studying petroglyphs at Taum Sauk Mountain. But timing is everything: that's the day the New Madrid fault shifts and a major earthquake keeps them from returning. The devastation means no communications, but Crystal has access to a horse and sets out on a trek to the mountain, following the path of family tradition in undertaking brave explorations with fierce self-determination.
Pre-teens, teens, and adult audiences alike will readily come to recognize that Crystal's adventures are compelling and anything but predetermined.
Her interactions with her parents prior to the event are remarkably realistic, as she resents their outside interests and an expedition that seems to precede her birthday in importance: "You care more about those dumb petroglyphs than you do me! I’m only turning into a teenager once, and you’re going to miss it because of your stupid job.” Crystal plopped down on the couch, her arms crossed and angry tears welling up in her eyes."
It's lucky that Crystal has experience trail riding and camping in the wilderness. It's lucky that the adult family friend that comes upon her and could stop her, decides to let her go based on Crystal's competence and the devastation from the quake, which limits other options. And it's refreshing to see self-determined courage in a young protagonist who is not being foolhardy, but logical in her quest.
Middle-grade preteens, teens and many an adult will find Crystal Brave: Earthquake at the Taum Sauk an absorbing adventure story with a satisfying difference: no world issues or cussing mar the saga. It's an old-fashioned wilderness adventure which, as Crystal Brave demonstrates, doesn't need social issues or urban angst to draw in readers of all ages and keep their attention.Crystal Brave: Earthquake at the Taum Sauk
Brave: Treasures of the Current
Goldminds Publishing, LLC
1050 Glenbrook Way, Suite 480, Hendersonville, TN 37075
Publisher email: firstname.lastname@example.org
978-1-942905-02-8 164 pages
$5.59 Kindle $27.99 Hardcover
It's one year aftehttp://www.defender.com/product3.jsp?path=-1|328|2289986|2289987&id=51768r the earthquake that led pre-teen Crystal into the wilderness to rescue her parents, and she's finally allowed to accompany her parents on her first archaeological dig at a grave in the Ozarks. Her friends are with her when a new natural disaster strikes: this time, in the form of a wildfire.
Now it's not just her parents who are endangered; it's the priceless relics, a horse, and the lives of everyone around her - and once more, it's up to teen Crystal to save the day.
Familiarity with the prior Crystal Brave adventure is not so much a prerequisite for enjoying this sequel as a likelihood that it, too, will prove of interest to any who enjoy this saga.
As before, Crystal's character is spunky, self-assured, and self-directed - yet, believable. Crystal's observations of human conditions are astute and represent her evolving maturity: "She is rough on the outside, Crystal thought, but she has a soft spot on the inside."
From the mechanics of conducting field research to the history and politics surrounding wild horses, there's a range of issues explored here which makes the story line compelling, realistic, and packed with depth: "Where did the wild horses come from?” “We aren’t exactly sure,” Ed explained, “but we think they may have started out during the Depression when people were abandoning their horses. Sometimes people have released horses in with them, which is a terrible idea. Living in the wild is a different set of skills than being tame. A lot of the tame horses don’t survive.”
It would have been too easy to create a one-dimensional character, add a wildfire, and watch the sparks begin: Bradshaw's attention to such details makes for a middle-grade level adventure that delivers so much more, and is a pick for any who want their females spunky, their action well-balanced with attention to character development, and their stories filled with both action and insight.Crystal Brave: Treasures of the Current
Doris Free: A Harvest
Goldminds Publishing, LLC
1050 Glenbrook Way, Suite 480, Hendersonville, TN 37075
ISBN (print): 978-1-942905-18-9 128 Pages
ISBN (eBook): 978-1-942905-19-6
Price: $14.99 (print), $6.99 (eBook)
Life on a 1930s Wisconsin farm during the Depression isn't easy, but young Doris Free finds family and small town life to be both challenging and rewarding even as everyone around her struggles, until the arrival of a new black shopkeeper in town adds social struggle to the task of economic survival.
Doris had never seen a black man before (indeed, most in her small town haven't, either) and her first impression of the stranger in town is that he is 'covered in mud' but incongruously appears clean. After all, their isolated small town hasn't been exposed to much of the outside world - and neither has she. All this is about to change in a big way, illustrating how the Depression led to not just economic hardships, but social transformation as people moved out of familiar places and settings and interacted with each other on new levels.
Many books for all ages have been written about the Depression years, but it's this emphasis that is one of the exceptional features of the middle-grade read Doris Free: A Harvest of Friends. The other is an attention to realistic detail. As the young folk observe a changing adult world, they continue their childhood pursuits; and events integrate and translate themselves into a child's perspective rather than taking the usual approach of observations far beyond a child's maturity.
Thus Doris interacts with the newcomer with an impulse generosity tempered by caution, she absorbs adult perspectives on the new arrival and filters them through the lens of childhood, and she leads her life of hard work with plenty of child's play: "After hours of planning, the girls finally had everything just right. Playing school was one of their favorite summer pastimes, which made Ma laugh. “You girls spend the entire school year longing for summer vacation, and the entire summer vacation playing school!” she always said."
Her impulse is to help - and sometimes that gets her into trouble and leads her into adult worlds, with their confusing prejudice and reactions: troubles that are always tempered by family support - which is another refreshing perspective in Doris Free: "We understand it’s a serious problem,” Pa said when she frowned at their laughter. “But it’s important to find the funny parts of life even when things are difficult. It helps a person stay calm and think of all the possible solutions.”
Doris Free does a fine job of realistically portraying a myriad of personal and social changes through the eyes of a young girl who learns what it means to truly make a difference.Doris Free: A Harvest of Friends
Paperback: 978-1-942111-15-3 $12.99
Electronic: 978-1-942111-14-6 $4.99
It happened again: high school senior Hanna has suffered a blackout - this time, in front of her classmates. Her last blackout was when she was eight, and now she's had two in one week.
The school nurse, used to handling minor first-aid issues, is anything but helpful and is even somewhat hostile in her comments ("As far as I can tell, Miss Loch, there’s nothing wrong with you,” the nurse said condescendingly. “But since you’ll probably want a second opinion, I suggest you go see your family doctor.”), sending her back to class after her episode (really?? Most modern schools would seem to err on the side of caution in the wake of lawsuits and medical repercussions from unexplained loss of consciousness, so an unsympathetic nurse's condescension and blasé attitude feels somewhat unrealistic.), and it's up to Hanna to solve a growing mystery which leads in an unpredictable direction.
Here's where any anticipation of a story of possible epilepsy turns to acceptance of a riveting fantasy, instead, as Hanna comes to realize that her blackouts are actually indicators of a greater danger, and as she discovers not only the prodigy of dark villain, but finds herself aligned with his purposes.
Ignoring her inner voice ("So you’re a villain, William?” she said bravely, ignoring the voice in her head that said to get away from him. “Well, just in case you didn’t know, villains don’t save lives. And they definitely don’t stick around to make sure someone’s okay.”), Hanna embarks on a journey that will change them both and possibly alter the world.
Similar themes have appeared in similar-sounding books. What sets Golden apart from most is its focus on a villain who may not be all that bad, a girl who may not have the magic that circumstances indicate, and the point that evil (and good) may not be as obvious as they would seem.
An appreciation for young adult fantasy and romance with a twist will lend to enjoyment of a story line that is unpredictable and more satisfyingly complex than at first glance, and which brings Hanna's world to life through an ordeal that makes for an absorbing YA adventure read.Golden
Key: A Taylor and Alan Adventure
Jackie Mae & Alison Taylor
Jackie Mae, Publisher
978-0-9916149-6-7 (paperback) 150 Pages
978-0-9916149-7-4 (ebook) $3.99
The Key: A Taylor and Alan Adventure presents Volume 2 in an adventure series (Volume 1 not seen by this reviewer), and focuses on a brother/sister team who are eagerly awaiting the release of a summer movie at the mall which brags it holds the 'theater to end all theaters'.
Movie fantasies quickly end, however, when the two stumble into the wrong movie theater - and into another world.
Now, perhaps the author didn't intend this - but moments of comic relief lightly pepper the story; because the first reaction to their slip into another universe is indignation that, once more, they have left their world - and their intended pleasures in it; "Oh no, here we go again,” I shouted to the universe. “Not today, today I want to see my terrific movie, eat my delicious popcorn, and drink my icecold soda!”
Black and white photos also pepper the story, but its strength lies in dialogue and plot that provide advanced elementary to middle school readers with a solid adventure in the 'Land of Baltimore'.
No reader can easily resist a treasure hunt. Few can turn away from the prospect of siblings who challenge catacombs, tombs, unicorns, and mystery, either!
The dialogue is convincing, the story realistic and engrossing, and The Key provides a well-done adventure that needs no prior introduction to its predecessor to prove engrossing.
Combine siblings with another world and an adventure filled with the trappings of magic and problem-solving and you have a compelling story with enough twists and turns to keep it memorable and engrossing, even for selected adult readers!The Key: A Taylor and Alan Adventure
Weird Adventures of the Inman Twins
Betty Inman Shortt
Goldminds Publishing, LLC
1050 Glenbrook Way, Suite 480, Hendersonville, TN 37075
ISBN (print): 978-1-942905-14-1 104 Pages
ISBN (eBook): 978-1-942905-30-1
Price: $14.99 (print), $6.99 (eBook)
Twins Betty and Bev are more than double trouble: they have knack for investigating odd situations; so when strangers come to town, the two have an immediate sense of "something wicked in the air" - verified, of course, by their investigations.
So far, nothing new here: many a middle grade children's book has featured young sleuths with a nose for trouble and oddities.
But The Weird Adventures of the Inman Twins holds something just a little different, as young readers will discover; and that takes the form of a 1950s rural setting and kids who are uncommonly savvy about adult psychology: "Shhh, don’t let Mom hear you, or she might not let us take the cherries to her. Mrs. Clemens sure seemed interested in him, and I still can’t believe she didn’t speak to us,” Bev whispered, as she popped a cherry in her mouth and spit out the seed."
As investigative pieces for middle grades go, this may seem milder than some amateur detective stories: that's because Shortt takes the time to build atmosphere and relationships rather than charging full speed into the mystery itself.
For younger generations used to quick action and immediate gratification, the story may seem slow at first - but as characters develop and realistic settings spring to life, The Weird Adventures of the Inman Twins becomes more compelling, less predictable, and better-rounded than most young reader's mysteries.
Sometimes its action seems nearly adult in its presentation, which might lend to older middle school grades ("Richard lay for a few seconds waiting for his pain to dull. It shocked him to realize the person he once thought he loved, had tried to hurt or even kill him. He raised his head and saw her taillights fading into the Ozarks’ night."); at other times the psychology is so well detailed as to also presume a nearly-adult level of perception on the part of readers and protagonists alike: "She seems to love intimidating people, especially ones smaller and weaker like us, thought Betty. The girls knew Ruth could be very dangerous, and she enjoyed every minute of her control over people."
What this really means is that The Weird Adventures of the Inman Twins holds an unusual capability of appealing to adult and pre-teen through teen readers - and that's a unique feature in a story centered around twelve-year-old protagonists.
Can two young girls confront a dangerous woman and win? The tale line starts out slowly and simply, but weaves a compelling plot that is satisfyingly different from your usual 'Encyclopedia Brown' style approaches for this age group, making it a recommended pick for a wide audience.The Weird Adventures of the Inman Twins
Xs and Os for Gabby Ann features warm, full-color illustrations and provides the unusual picture book story of a girl who loves bedtime: a refreshing change from the flood of titles covering those who don't.
Parents conducting read-alouds will appreciate this positive focus on Gabby's rituals and appreciations, along with the delicious descriptions that evoke images of delight: "She loved bedtime even more than strawberry ice cream with sprinkles on top."
As readers progress, they learn that Gabby's father is far away, and while her mother gives her kisses and hugs, she must imagine her father's presence and involvement in her life. From "far across the sea" her father blows 'x and o kisses and hugs' her way, and these assume a life of their own as they cross oceans and forests to get to their intended destination.
A host of happy animals are encountered and all help the Xs and Os reach their destination: the turtle carries them on his back, and the giraffe on his long neck as he romps through the grass. A pelican brings them to land, a helpful dog crosses yards - everything and everyone in this book is bright, cheerful, and willing to lend a hand in the process of getting her father's love safely to her.
The result is a warm story not just of a happy bedtime, but of a young child's ability to feel her father's love even from afar; and that's a positive, healthy message; especially when paired with vibrant color images throughout. Xs and Os for Gabby Ann is highly recommended as a choice for any parent handling another parent's absence in a child's life.Xs and Os for Gabby Ann