May 2019 Review Issue
Table Of Contents
Alan S. Kessler
Black Rose Writing
978-1684332205 $18.95 Paper/$6.99 Kindle
The Butcher is a post-apocalyptic
novel about the remnants of
society lead by one who encourages the ritual slaughter of pigs and
alike. Issues of murder, racial superiority, and survival's costs are
the story of those who remain and follow The Butcher, a survivor
his purpose is to lead and encourage a master race.
He's instigated Butcher Bargain Day, a day of ritual slaughter supporting Party principles and causes. He lives only for his people and his fiery cause in this strange new world; but teen Mikkel, raised as a member of the racially pure Scouts, may be the one force that will bring down his ambitions and relentless drives.
Of necessity, a certain amount of gruesome descriptions of various killings are part of the story. Readers who like their post-apocalyptic stories cleaner might look for less graphic reads (although it should be noted that the genre as a whole often pairs violence with survival).
Issues of leadership, duty and loyalty, connections between despised pigs and the Burner people who are similarly condemned by the elite, and the dehumanization process of victims ("Burners and pigs bleed the same blood.") are emphasized during Mikkel's growing realizations as he comes of age to realize that his favored position in this desperate social order may not be one he believes in maintaining.
Will Mikkel quit the Scouts and be deemed a coward? And if he does, will his newfound powerlessness lead to redemption, or his demise? His process of willingly giving up power when the truth about his heritage is revealed makes for engrossing reading as faith, prophecy, and possible salvation influence Mikkel's growth and choices.
Many a reader will reflect on similarities between these sub sects of society, who are neither true believers nor opposition, and the events of Nazi Germany and its struggles for a racially pure society. The racially pure group in charge is tall, blond, and blue-eyed while the Burners are physically far from this ideal. These connections are brought to light in the end, in an epilogue that reinforces this story's underlying historical roots.
From ideals of eugenics and political and social loyalty against moral and ethical beliefs to Mikkel's evolutionary process and his uncertain position as both a racially pure boy and one prone to visions, who holds an uncomfortable physical resemblance to Burner peoples, The Butcher provides a story that is philosophically a cut above a simple post-apocalyptic survival piece. It is especially recommended for those who enjoy thought-provoking insights on moral and political processes.The Butcher
Red Mango Publishing
978-0998761244 $14.99 Paper/$4.99 Kindle
Diondray's Roundabout is the third book in the Kammbia fantasy series, continuing the story begun in previous books about what happens when Diondray Azur discovers the sacred Book of Kammbi, which leads him to a renewed sense of purpose in his life and a spiritual quest to find his place in a wider world than he was raised to believe in.
Here Diondray struggles against seemingly everyone who doesn't believe in his newfound sacred calling and the prophecy which indicates he will be the one to bring peace to a divided land.
After being rejected by the North, he journeys to the South, where he has hopes of recognition, accompanied by two of the companions from his previous encounters. But the South is truly an alien land to him, with its different culture, belief systems and values, and even more closed minds about Diondray's possibilities. These prove even more challenging than the North's rejection of him, because the South doesn't even believe in the sacred Book of Kammbi; let alone his prophesied role.
As self-doubt enters into the picture, Diondray finds himself on not only an outward but an inward journey towards acceptance, which is key to fulfilling his destiny. But how can he fulfill his destiny if he doubts his own intentions?
Because Diondray's Roundabout continues to expand upon prior events and enhances the characters in Diondray's life, it's especially recommended for previous readers of the series, who will find this addition a powerfully expansive read. Diondray's coming of age process, his questions about his culture, spirituality, and place in the world, and the friendships which evolve in support of his quest create a vivid saga.
As he becomes more politically and socially savvy, Diondray faces further conundrums in how to get the sacred book and its message into hands that are in a position to further its cause: "Diakono Copperwith opened the Book of Kammbi and continued with his teaching. I had no idea how to make Reuel come to me. But I knew I had better find out, or Diakono Copperwith would not be able to share the teachings of the Book of Kammbi with anyone in this city."
His growing awareness of these influences on his goals offers many insights into his growth: "Disciple Gregory’s chapters read more formally, and with a more matter-of-act tone, than the chapters from the other disciples. He reiterated that being a believer and follower in Kammbi was a black or white proposition. I had to come to believe that Diakono Copperwith identified most with Disciple Gregory."
The task of understanding the kinds of connections that will lead Diondray to further his objectives makes for a riveting story that pairs a world-changing mission with a spiritual and psychological coming-of-age fantasy that is hard to put down.Diondray's Roundabout
9781791739713 $10.26 Paper/$6.99 Kindle
The Rhine is Book 1 in the Harmony sci-fi series and revolves around a Martian space colony that relies on an increasingly unstable Earth for support. In this future, pirates browse the asteroid belt, attacking ships in what might be a political ploy, and protagonist Matthew Middleton, an aptly-named hero, finds himself in the middle of an idealistic, political, and social battle on more levels than one.
Military sci-fi readers, in particular, will appreciate both the military and political focus of The Rhine, which sets its course in exploring a bid for independence by a colony which has always been dependent upon its home world for everything connected to its existence.
As mining consortiums and special interests entwine, a complex set of conflicts increasingly draw Mat into a frightening situation revolving around the Free Mars Now movement.
R.L. Dean takes the time to create a series of believable scenarios and atmospheres, whether it be mining ship or relationship: "Mat was worried about her, someone he didn't even know. It was that rare human kindness that made Misaki feel ashamed that she could not ... share, with him. She could not form an attachment. And sitting at the table in the galley beside him she felt a slight waver in her heart, because Mat's idea of a dinner from shipboard MREs was not food but family."
From how the FMN movement pulls new recruits into deadly situations to interactions with UN authorities and changing hearts and minds as confrontations escalate on all sides, The Rhine does a fine job of balancing between a military sci-fi read, a political sci-fi story, and a psychological inspection of motivation and action.
Be advised: there are many details added into the story line. Casual pursuers might consider this an overload of information. Dean's affection for detail-oriented description is offset by a talent for setting scenes that lends a "you are there" feel to the entire production.
Characters and causes are nicely developed and logical in their approaches to life and changing scenarios, which successfully draws the reader.
The result is especially recommended for sci-fi fans who enjoy detailed descriptions of environment and psyche alike. This audience will relish the time and attention Dean lavishes on a story that considers all options and players in the process of crossing the Rhine to effect lasting change.The Rhine
Enchanted: Things We Lost in the Night
Larry J. Dunlap
Claremont Village Press
Paperback: 978-0990627937 $17.99
Kindle ebook: 978-0-990627944 $ 7.99
Kindle eBook Link: https://www.amazon.com/
Trade Paper Link: https://www.amazon.com/
Enchanted, Book 2 of Larry J. Dunlap's romantic memoir series Things We Lost in the Night, follows the first book, Night People, in documenting his band’s continuing climb toward national recording success on the West Coast in the 1960s. To get a sense of the flavor of the story, think Kerouac's On the Road, then add the best elements of rock star memoirs to the mix. The final three years of Dunlap's band's successes and disappointments are charted with an attention to detail that gives you the feeling "you are there." Woven into the band’s journey is Dunlap’s personal love story beginning with an intense romantic encounter in Hawaii through marriage and fatherhood to the drama of the final chapters.
As their popularity grows, the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas builds a venue designed for them, the Sky Room, where international stars and celebrities turn up nightly. ("We’d begun leaning into ‘Five O’clock World,’ as the set opener, when Elvis Presley, Tom Jones, and Big Jim Sullivan arrived trailing followers like a mass of droning bees swarming their queen. The maître ds efficiently interceded and escorted them to a cordoned-off table about halfway back near ringside. Las Vegas royalty had deigned to visit the Sky Room.")
Readers anticipating a story of hobnobbing with musical celebrities should understand that Dunlap's personal life is as much in the spotlight, here, as his professional evolution. As he faces the challenges involved in balancing both parts of his life during the band's meteoric rise, readers receive solid insights into the costs and impact of fame and aspiration. They will appreciate the blended focus on public and private life which crafts a music memory more multifaceted than most.
Dunlap juggles family demands with career choices that range from personality clashes to the challenge of crafting an original sound in a sea of competing music groups. Musicians will well recognize many of the obstacles to success that face this group, as well as the author's determination to pursue new creative paths to take more control over their national recording goals. As the danger of losing his family looms, and the band threatens to implode, the author relates a trail of growth experiences, revelations, personal insights, and souvenirs of his life in a memoir that is especially recommended reading for anyone who wants a true-life story of a musician's growth both on stage and off.Enchanted: Things We Lost in the Night
Sandra Jonas Publishing
9780997487176 (hardcover) $28.95
9780997487152 (paperback) $16.95
9780997487190 (ebook) $ 9.99
Pale-Faced Lie is a riveting memoir of a Native American family raised on the Navajo Indian Reservation. It tells of an ex-con who raised his children to admire his military background and battle achievements. What only became apparent to David Crow later in his life was his father's questionable ethical and moral values, which not only justified lies and murder, but led to his father's abuse of his own son as he forced the boy to commit criminal acts.
Normally, a child raised under such abusive conditions will mimic his father's activities; but thanks to a few good mentors and a determination to be different, David Crow not only entered college and cultivated a non-criminal career for himself, but confronted his dangerous father's pursuit of revenge on the son who refused to follow in his footsteps.
This true crime memoir holds many appealing facets that will reach a wide audience, from those studying Native American family structures and peer relationships to leisure readers seeking gripping memoirs about struggle, change, criminal activities, and a race against time to outsmart a psychotic killer.
David Crow's writing is poignant and vivid, documenting both big and little acts of criminal behavior that challenge boys and men to slowly understand their father's approach to individual large or small events, as well as to life itself: "Dad loved rocks of all kinds but especially petrified wood. It was protected by federal law—signs along the road said so—but Dad told us that the law applied to Anglos, not Indians."
As a dangerous, violent father loses his ability to control his son and extend his criminal hand, readers receive a story steeped in Native American culture and landscapes. Strongest of all is a son's growing understanding, as he evolves, of his father's bitter roots ("I want a sackful of revenge for all I’ve been through. Life has cheated me. My mother killed my father. I didn’t get to eat right, go to school, or have a normal life. They worked me to death. People hate me because I’m Cherokee. Nothing about my life has been fair.") and their threat to his life.
The result is a hard-hitting, gut-punch memoir that should be on any reading list about family relationships and abuse, true crime, and Native American culture and interrelationships.Pale-Faced Lie
Cop or Killer?
Cop or Killer? returns Detective Frank Luca to the spotlight for prior fans of his exploits, yet does a fine job of creating a stand-alone story for newcomers as it portrays the dilemma he faces when Luca is accused of killing the man who has harassed his wife.
Revenge would be a logical response for most men; but Luca isn't most men.
The real story lies not just in a satisfying detective piece, but in the conundrum of a dedicated cop who finds himself on the other side of the line, suspected by friends and fellow law enforcement officials alike; his usual sources of support now missing. Derrick rats on him, Chester reports him, and a threatening message left on the dead man's voicemail becomes further evidence not just that Luca may be guilty; but that his fellow officers no longer believe in his innocence.
As evidence mounts and Luca struggles with the suspicions of even his wife Mary Ann, the story ramps up to become an investigative piece where the professional problem-solver must tackle his own big problems before his possible guilt becomes established as fact.
Sandwiched between his own investigators and an escaped serial killer, Luca finds all of his resources have vanished. His prowess is tested in a riveting story packed with action, first-person struggles, and a satisfying mystery that keeps readers guessing right up to the end.
Very highly recommended for prior fans and newcomers alike, Cop or Killer? is a compelling chronicle that's hard to put down, cunningly crafted to surprise and delight right up to an unpredictable conclusion.Cop or Killer?
E-book: 978-1-7335049-1-1 $ 2.99
Trade paperback: 978-1-7335049-0-4 $16.95
Hardcover: 978-1-7335049-2-8 $29.95
Barnes and Noble:
Jason Debord didn't expect to become part of a murder investigation when he participated in a television reality show; but when a costar mysteriously falls off a cliff, he finds himself cast in quite a different role in Cut Reality.
He never wanted to be an investigator, and that's just one of the facets that separates Cut Reality from typical stories of ordinary individuals who become amateur sleuths. He thought the cast and crew would want to help him, but as he encounters resistance to his probes, Jason comes to believe that there's a conspiracy at work, and that a network of individuals are involved in the death.
To complicate matters further, a blossoming romance with a psychologist who faces her own mental challenges enters the picture to keep Jason psychologically at odds with his own evolving life and its values.
On the surface, Cut Reality is a murder mystery; but actually it is much more. Jason's dilemmas are steeped not in a whodunit environment alone, but in personal growth and hard questions that belay simple answers. From the start, he must re-examine his own perceptions and motivations for rejecting simple answers about the death: "Look, you're getting frustrated with the other cast members not believing you, but have you considered that maybe they're right all along? It's been weeks, and you're no closer to discovering anything. Don't you think you might be struggling to process what happened?"
Furthermore, Jason's relationship with Blake and the combined challenges of his career and pursuit test them both in different ways: "Blake was quiet. Jason studied her for a moment. She was never one to experience the anxiety he picked up in public spaces. Then again, a fan convention and charity event where they were the center of attention was next-level."
As he is challenged by writer Will, who is famous for his schemes, and Blake to put together the pieces of a mystery that at times appears to be fed to him purposely, Jason discovers a series of truths that pinpoint motivations, a reality show's intentional capitalization on the fact of Billy's death, and dangerous turns of truths. It turns out that Blake is spot on about wild conclusions and circumstantial events; but Jason doesn't believe her until it's almost too late.
Grippingly realistic in its portrayal of reality TV show approaches to life, Cut Reality will keep readers thinking long after its final, startling conclusion, and is highly recommended for those who like their intrigue steeped in psychological insights and dilemmas.Cut Reality
A Death at Tippitt Pond
Susan Van Kirk
Encircle Publications, LLC
Paperback: 978-1-948338-64-6 $15.99
Kindle: 978-1-948338-66-0 $ 2.99
Author website: www.susanvankirk.com
Encircle Publications: http://encirclepub.com
A Death at Tippitt Pond is a cozy mystery set in Sweet Iron, Illinois, where the wealthy Tippett family has had roots in the town's founding. Genealogist and historical researcher Beth Russell has a distant connection to this family and to Sweet Iron. When she journeys from her New York home to uncover more facts about a family mystery, she becomes involved in a dilemma from the past that threatens to spill into present-day lives.
The first thing to note about A Death at Tippitt Pond is that it poses, right from the start, the protagonist's mixed feelings about becoming involved in probing skeletons from the past: "In this small Midwestern town, she was pulled in opposite directions. Should she fly back to her New York home, leaving this mystery behind, or should she wait and appease her curiosity despite her uneasiness?"
The atmosphere created by a massive Tudor home that is the legacy of this family creates a fitting backdrop for a series of secrets that threatens not only Beth's investigation, but her life as she confronts her mother's death and her deeply held beliefs and hidden agendas. Beth's drive to "...just find some things out before I decide to leave town again.” becomes a complex mission she had never wanted.
A Death at Tippitt Pond is rich in Midwestern small-town atmosphere and place. Research deals in facts and information, but what evolves is also laced with an emotional currency that Beth finds difficult to value, much less understand.
As she faces the consequences of her decision to stay and bemoans her choices ("I should go back to New York. Leave this all behind. Go back to Gabby and my little apartment and go on with the life I’ve always known. It was life enough."), her motivation for pursuing not just a difficult truth, but a deadly one, falls under scrutiny.
The best cozy mystery genre reads are steeped in small-town atmosphere and interpersonal connections. A Death at Tippitt Pond cultivates these facets to create an absorbing mystery fueled by history, emotional attachments, and physical danger. It's highly recommended for genre fans who look for unlikely heroes in small-time operators, from librarians to researchers, to figure in a series of unfortunate, riveting events.A Death at Tippitt Pond
Paper: 9781999981709 $15.99
eBook:9781999981716 $ 2.99
Psychological suspense and thriller readers are in for a treat with Johan Fundin's Disorder, the story of a top fashion model with a rare disease who is being stalked by killers.
As if Catriona ("Cat") Milton's brain disorder doesn't make life challenging enough, she also is haunted by papparazi reporters who follow her every move. But these trials are nothing compared to her revised life when her efforts to confront a stalking situation land her in the crosshairs of a corporate plot involving a biotechnology institute.
Further complicating matters is a twin sister who is opposite of nearly everything that is Cat. She's ugly where Cat is beautiful, and works as a part-time pub waitress in comparison to Cat, who is commanding top dollar as a model. Jan hates Cat's beauty, but she hates herself even more. She views herself as a "horror creature".
As Fundin deftly contrasts the very different lives of the two sisters, he also adds elements of horror, sci-fi, and medical thriller tension ala Robin Cook into the story. The plot moves deftly between family dysfunction to a blossoming romance between Cat and Roger and a changing relationship between two very different sisters as it embraces medical experimentation, terrorism and conspiracy, a loving father's legacy, and a secret mission.
What sets Disorder apart from other thrillers is a multifaceted approach that keeps readers guessing and on edge, poised between insights on evolving relationships, subterfuge, hidden agendas, science, and human nature. Is Janice the twisted sister that Cat wants to love; or is it exactly the opposite?
Janice's reflection ("If I had Cat’s appearance and if I were as radiant as she is, I would have looked at society from a different point of view”) is just one of the themes distinguishing a thriller that is outstanding in its many connections, action tempered with psychological insights, and genre-busting approach.
Thriller, sci-fi, and psychological suspense fans will all find Disorder a gripping story packed with twists and turns that make it unpredictable and hard to put down.Disorder
ISBN (paperback): 9781642375824 $14.95
Mob Rules is the first Jeff Trask
book in the 'Kansas City Files'
series, and follows Federal Prosecutor Jeff Trask to Kansas
his team of detectives and FBI agents battle mob rule and drug
In order to address and possibly defeat this Kansas City Mob, Trask must first learn a set of approaches and rules that are foreign to him. To further complicate his learning process, his personal life is also fast approaching chaos, with its own set of changing rules.
As Trask struggles to survive on several fronts, readers are treated to a story that moves quickly in both directions. Life in the new subdivision isn't what he'd expected. Trouble comes from many different angles and sometimes stems from lack of experience with the neighborhood in more than one area of Kansas City.
Readers delve into these areas of misunderstanding and angst through Trask's efforts to adapt and change, and this adds a satisfying tension to the story line that keeps readers not just involved, but on their toes.
Marc Rainer's background in the military and federal prosecution arenas lends an authenticity to the story that comes from not just outlining proceedings, but placing them in logical order.
There's also a solid degree of management savvy involved, as Trask is tasked with building and directing a team navigating new ground as they face the special challenges of the Mob.
Add a fine attention to regional culture ("I know one thing,” Trask said. “I’ve been all over this country, and I’ve never heard anybody else, anywhere else, call a road, ’71 Highway.’ It seems to be something limited to this area. Why isn’t it ‘Highway 71’ like everywhere else in America?” “You’re in Missouri, not America,” Land quipped.") for a flavor that is engrossing and educational, all at once.
Mystery, thriller, and intrigue readers will be delighted with Trask's many challenges, which operate on more than one level.Mob Rules
Preacher Finds a
Gerald Everett Jones
LaPuerta Books and Media
Paper: 978-09965438-8-0 $15.99
EPUB: 978-0-9965438-9-7 $ 6.99
If you found your best friend dead in a cornfield from suspected suicide, then discovered the cause of death might not be so obvious, what would you do? In Preacher Finds a Corpse, lapsed divinity student Evan Wycliff's discovery leads straight into danger when a turkey shoot turns into a murder investigation.
But, what could a dispute over land ownership that holds two centuries of history have to do with his friend's demise? Evan uncovers a series of clues that indicates these centuries of battle are not over and that his friend likely got mixed up in the modern version of the war, complicated further by plans to turn an aging, abandoned facility into a tourist attraction.
The first thing to
note about Preacher Finds a Corpse is
that it comes steeped in Ozark culture. Against the backdrop of turkey
and rural personalities lies the efforts of a man who has not only
being a full-fledged preacher, but who feels he has botched being a
Among the puzzles he uncovers is the role wife Edith Taggart played in that life, the possibility of Cora's involvement with his quiet friend, and a series of convoluted relationships among small-town individuals who may have had special influences on Bob Taggart's life or death.
Each clue opens the floodgate to historical connections, small-town facts, and secrets that might be worth killing for. As Evan begins to suspect that something more than suicide has occurred, he finds himself in the crosshairs of the sheriff's department, suspected of being a thief and possibly worse, when he winds up in an ambulance, having been clobbered by an investigator who suspected him of looting the local pharmacy during a storm.
From the secret contents in a rusty tin fishing box to clues that lead Evan further into danger, Gerald Everett Jones weaves a tense thriller peppered with references to Evan's ongoing relationship to God and prayer.
When the clues boil down to a final surprise, will forgiveness be possible?
Jones does an outstanding job of crafting a murder mystery that romps through a small town's secrets and various lives. His main protagonist is realistic and believable in every step of his investigative actions and setbacks; but so are characters he interacts with; from his boss Zip to a final service which holds some big surprises.
With its roots firmly grounded in an exceptional sense of place and purpose, Jones has created a murder mystery that lingers in the mind long after events have built to an unexpected crescendo. Murder mystery fans will find it more than a cut above the ordinary.Preacher Finds a Corpse
Down & Out Books/Avendia Publishing
Like so many who survived the ravages of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, attorney Jonathan Brooks is desperate to rebuild his business and resume a normal life. The lack of local clients forces him to take on an unusual business deal in Ukraine, but when his client's executive vanishes, he finds himself in over his head, struggling with intrigue and death threats in The Pyongyang Option.
As if this weren't enough action, Jonathan's ex-wife, journalist Linda, is pursuing a dangerous international story that revolves around historic nuclear disarmament talks in North Korea. After she interviews local officials, she’s thrown into a web of hackers, spies, and assassins. Her discoveries draw Jonathan to Pyongyang as her investigation runs on parallel, dangerous lines.
The Pyongyang Option is the third book in the Jonathan Brooks series, but no prior familiarity with the others is required in order to become immediately engrossed by this stand-alone thriller.
It solidifies a sense of place by opening with street maps of Pripyat, Ukraine, and its proximity to the Chernobyl reactors; and Pyongyang, North Korea. The chapters that move between locales and characters are clearly marked, so readers will find it easy to follow changing scenarios and countries as the action heats up.
As Jonathan faces murky assailants in muddy waters, international surveillance operations ramp up on all sides as exclusion zones are breeched and CIA operations exposed. One quandary among many is Jonathan's role in an increasingly dangerous cat-and-mouse game of subterfuge.
By drawing together the events and secret operations of two very different nations, A.C. Frieden dares go where other thrillers would be hard-pressed to follow. In effect, Frieden creates two scenarios which juxtapose nicely on the thriller front, two main characters who each confront their pasts and futures (both separately and together), and two crises that move from simmer to boil with a blend of swift action and confrontational scenarios.
Thriller fans will be especially pleased with the detailed sense of place that Frieden crafts, which solidify the different special interests and their uniform threats to the world.
Fast-paced, engrossing, and steeped in the worlds of both Ukraine and North Korea, The Pyongyang Option excels in juxtaposing the personal and the political and holds a surprise conclusion that many readers won't see coming. All these facets make it a winning standout in the genre of espionage and thriller writings.The Pyongyang Option
Tigers Love Bubble
Baths & Obsession Perfume (Who Knew!)
Mary K. Savarese
$27.95 Hardcover; $17.95 Paper; $7.19 Kindle
If the title of this book doesn't attract interest right off the bat, its subject (a woman who forges a new life for herself as a nursing home recreation director, only to face charges of negligence and murder as residents begin to die under mysterious circumstances) will.
Tigers Love Bubble Baths & Obsession Perfume is billed as a cozy mystery, but under that headline lies a wealth of unique attributes of which the book's title is only the first indication that this is not your typical cozy mystery read.
For one thing, forty-eighty-year-old Angie Pantera, a self-proclaimed good-looker facing the ultimate betrayal by the love of her life, is reinventing her world under not just one cloud, but a new threat.
This leads her on a mission to clear her name, rebuild her life, and become an amateur sleuth in order to do so, bringing readers into the heart of a mystery that edges into questions of miracles as well as murder.
Readers thus receive a more multifaceted story than most cozy mysteries offer, with more twists and turns than the typical production.
From Church politics and involvements in the home they manage to the aftermath of divorce, the influence of serendipity and new obstacles to Angie's ultimate success, Mary K. Savarese writes with a warm, revealing hand. She deftly develops characters while painting a swirl of crisis situations that keeps readers not just involved, but emotionally connected to events. The ethical reflections are just as intriguing as the mystery itself: "Our residents asked for a final wish. God granted that wish. Why else would they die with smiles on their faces?”
Tigers Love Bubble Baths provides an engrossing saga of love, betrayal, murder, and underlying wishes and dreams about life's progression and end. These facets weave nicely into a story that will keep mystery readers engaged and thinking long after Angie's own dilemmas are resolved.Tigers Love Bubble Baths & Obsession Perfume (Who Knew!)
Johanna Kristin Ellerup
Barnes & Noble Press/Amazon
9781987041132 $11.40 print/$2.99 ebook
Barnes & Noble:
Transcendence is set in a fictional American town, blends occult drama with a psychological thriller piece, and adds a touch of murder mystery via an unexpected protagonist: the murder victim's spirit, which faces a question of purpose in its reincarnated life.
The fact that the pharmacist has been murdered in the process of investigating an international drug ring is only the beginning of a complex tale. Themes move through her revision of her goals in the afterlife, her venture into the lives of unrelated people (think Kate Atkinson's Life After Life, but with more of a philosophical hand), and her growing realizations about unconditional love and its purpose in the world.
This lends Transcendence a much more ethereal and spiritual tone than other stories of reincarnation. What do dogs and business interests have to do with this bigger picture? Johanna Kristin Ellerup weaves a tale that incorporates many unusual facets throughout. Readers should cultivate flexibility as they pursue a mercurial story that delves into these different lives and realizations. Any such effort will be well rewarded with a story that is poignant, revealing, and filled with evocative descriptions of not just the familiar world, but other dimensions: "I was somehow lost, and that feeling alone confused me. I spent my entire known existence within a human body yet spending a few years as some form of singular energy had such a profound effect that returning to a human body left me discomfited. As energy, I envied humans the ability to feel themselves, to feel their existence and yet now it only feels like a dead weight. A huge, confining barrier to all other forms of existence and intellect. I marveled at the energy expenditure required to do the simplest of tasks, like lifting my arm, or finger."
Those seeking a blend of mystery, reincarnation saga, and spiritual reflective piece will find Transcendence just the ticket with its occult story of psychological suspense and spiritual and philosophical growth.Transcendence
David Myles Robinson
Terra Nova Books
Pancho McMartin was once renowed as the best criminal lawyer in Hawaii. But in Tropical Doubts, he's lost his mojo and has faced three major guilty verdicts in a row. The last thing Pancho has in mind is to tackle a medical malpractice case involving one of his oldest friends; but he reluctantly steps out of his comfort zone due to this connection, only to find himself pulled into a murder charge against his friend's husband, who claims innocence.
As Pancho enters the murky world of medical treatments, malpractice accusations, and a situation that isn't as cut-and-dried as one might think, readers are introduced to a story packed with satisfyingly unpredictable twists and turns as Pancho navigates unfamiliar territory in a relentless pursuit of the truth.
Pancho McMartin's legal exploits have set the stage in previous books, but no prior familiarity with his persona or experiences is required in order for newcomers to delve right into this legal thriller.
Action is fast-paced, but not artificially supercharged, which lends the story a satisfying realistic touch as Pancho faces courtroom proceedings that center around the medical rights of patients and doctors alike: "Grimes hit hard on the need for confidentiality on the part of the hospital and the right to privacy on the part of the physicians..."
Tropical Doubts also incorporates regional, specific insights into court processes in Hawaii which furthers reader knowledge about medical malpractice approaches there and in different states: "Hawaii has joint and several liability. If Dr. Campbell is found to be liable for even a small percentage of fault, she will be jointly liable with the other defendants for the full amount of the judgment. Therefore, she has a very strong interest in protecting the integrity of the discovery process.”
Firmly rooted in a sense of place and a struggling criminal defense attorney's involvement in a case that hits too close to home for comfort, Tropical Doubts cultivates the kind of atmosphere that most legal thrillers strive for, but don't quite achieve. The juxtaposition of strong characterization, motives on the parts of not just the prosecutor but the defendant, and the threat of a murderer who may not be brought to justice in the courts makes for a compelling saga that moves between legal process and a whodunit with a deft precision that makes it nearly impossible to put down, or predict.
Tropical Doubts is highly recommended for murder mystery fans who usually don't delve into legal thriller territory, and visa versa.Tropical Doubts
The Wedding Crasher
978-0-9995487-3-8 $14.49 Paper/$2.49 ebook
Amazon (consumer): https://www.amazon.com/dp/
The Wedding Crasher introduces Sam
Tate, a county sheriff dealing
with a murdered fiancée, the return of a dangerous killer, and her
solve a long-standing serial murder case that defies pat answers or
The Wedding Crasher killer may have returned to her jurisdiction, but Sam is ready for the fight. The killer is an expert in both anatomy and the fastest, most certain method of death; but Sam is an expert at ferreting out the truth and containing disaster.
Nikki Stern doesn't provide a singular approach to crime and problem-solving. Sam interacts well with a host of investigative entities as she pursues clues that lead to not just a deadly killer, but a dangerous truth. Sam has lots of pieces to the puzzle: she just needs to put them together.
Readers who walk this
road of intrigue can expect a cat-and-mouse mystery that offers
twists and turns as Sam nears her goal, only to face new frustrations
barriers to understanding.
Equally powerful are subplots that delve into supporting characters' lives and jobs in their relationships to Sam, which provide outside viewpoints about her strengths: "Sheriff Tate was even and measured, a fair boss. She’d served time in the military and with two police departments. She’d seen death up close and worked with squads made up primarily of men. She took flak from no one. Tara aspired to her superior’s brand of confidence and cool."
As Sam directs others to help her probe, readers receive an exceptionally well-done story of integrated crime-fighting forces working together for the greater good. This gives The Wedding Crasher more depth than most mysteries, which often feature a protagonist who operates without the cooperative handshaking involved in real investigative processes.
Readers who love strong procedurals that integrate the lives and personas of the protagonist with others in their world will appreciate the detailed observations concerning the many facets of a murder investigation. The Wedding Crasher satisfies because it manages to be both nuanced and suspenseful. It lingers on the palate like a fine, full-bodied wine, long after the story reaches its startling conclusion.
Black Rose Writing
White Oaks is a gothic murder
story steeped in both Southern
tradition and humor, presenting an unusually multifaceted tale that
ability to prompt laughter from thriller-style tension. The premise is
siblings competing for their father's fortune face added pressure from
the designated saviors of Planet Earth.
Jill Hand has a unique talent for description. This comes across even in as ordinary a circumstance as a blend of cultural prejudice and car envy: "Haskins stood open-mouthed, staring at the yellow roadster. It looked like something from a future century, at once sleek and angular. “Hot damn,” he whispered, spying the orange and black New York license plate. A Yankee! Driving recklessly! Perhaps the Yankee speed demon was under the influence of drugs. From what Haskins understood, a large percentage of the Yankee population customarily went around hopped up to the eyeballs. If such was the case, he would soon be a very sorry Yankee indeed."
From a father's party, where funny tricks exist alongside mayhem, to secret societies and mysterious objects, a son who witnesses his mother murder someone, and a walk in the swamp that leads to more death, White Oaks constantly flavors its mystery and intrigue with a sense of irony and tongue-in-cheek humor. These forces pop up at unexpected moments, as when the executor of their father's estate is drowned. In what other saga, for just one example, does a child shoot down a helicopter containing thermonuclear weapon?
The flavor and nature
of the characters' interactions create a fun story flow that makes it
solid tale of intrigue and an engrossingly hilarious series of
encounters: "Benjamin blew up our lawyer. Is that
gonna make a difference in us
gettin’ our inheritance money?” Trainor asked after Blanton’s funeral. The guests had gone home, and he and Aimee and Marsh were in the gentlemen’s parlor, eating leftover canapés."
Special interests, murder, threats to humanity: what else could go awry? Jill Hand crafts a tale which is provocative, thought-provoking, and filled with so many clever twists and turns that readers will find that it defies both pat categorization and easy predictability: the hallmarks of a special, superior read, indeed.White Oaks
The Ascent is a sequel to Carmela Cattuti's first novel Between the Cracks and follows the story of Sicilian immigrant Angela Lanza as she builds a new life in America during the first half of the 20th century.
Many books about early immigrant experiences wind up sounding similar in their documentation of journeys to America and assimilation challenges and experiences in the nation's cities and small towns, but it's important to note that The Ascent differs from most in several key ways.
For one, Angela is just as concerned about preserving and cultivating her spiritual and artistic psyche as she is about adapting to her new country. Her journey isn't just about assimilation: it's about contribution and building a new sense of self.
The second thing to note is that Angela's life (based on the author's great-aunt's experiences) is one of constant turmoil and spiritual re-examination. She hopes to rid herself of some of this turmoil with a fresh beginning in a new land; but instead, it follows her. This contributes to a rich sense of immediacy and drama as she makes her way through this new world, continually confronting dilemmas.
Angela doesn't just face a new home; she confronts changing relationships and realities, as well: "Angela cried. It was hard for her to let go of her sadness around this relationship. She could see what would eventually happen and it created a deep sadness that she could not transcend."
Even her attempts to influence and change
those around her, whom she loves, are fraught with controversy and the
of failure: "Angela continued to sob and blame everyone for
and Alicia’s decisions. She needed someone to blame, but she felt her
was never noticed. “I worked so hard with Speranza and Alicia so that
would grow up and make good choices. It doesn’t seem to have mattered.
supported me in what I was trying to do.”
From political changes and Angela's uncertain position as war looms and patriotism rises to unseen friends who promise her a different destiny, The Ascent's special blend of spiritual and social evolution and Angela's confrontations not only with her new home but her own self makes for an engaging, thought-provoking story. It's especially recommended for readers who look for more personal and social insights than the usual immigrant story offers.
Banished From Memory
978-0-9826321-4-7 (Hardcover) $32.95
978-0-9826321-3-0 (paperback) $21.95
978-0-9826321-5-4 (ebook) $ 9.99
Banished From Memory is an example of 20th century historical fiction at its strongest, and revolves around the relationships and politics of 1960 Hollywood's entertainment industry during an era when blacklisting ran rampant.
Child star Dianna has grown up in the industry and is more than familiar with its atmosphere: "As a child, Dianna had believed that everyone got up in the morning and went to studios to pretend they were someone else. She’d been astonished to find that most people went to theaters to watch others do that. She came to believe her talent was for serving those other people and helping them escape, and improve, their lives trapped in reality. And because the Fletchers were famous, and possessed the power that went with fame, the kids were protected, breezing in and out of sets as if they owned them."
As she confronts a sudden dry spell in her acting skills and challenges to the movie industry as television begins to take hold, Dianna comes to discover that there's more involved than her personal obstacles to success.
Mary Sheeran captures the broader picture of the times within the microcosm of a young, already-accomplished girl's experiences. She uses Dianna's character to not only explore Hollywood's evolution, but creates a coming-of-age story subplot that is narrated from a different place than most, with an adult awareness of realities that have long negated childhood ideals and dreams: "She had better be good in what she had left to do if she wanted to stay in this shrinking business in a shrinking screen."
As the movie industry and politics grow increasingly entwined, Dianna's education continues in quite a different direction than she'd envisioned, moving away from talent and achievement and into darker realms of political and social influences. Her choice to sing for the Democrats leads her into precarious waters of division as she rebels against the notion that the Democrats are a dangerous force in the country, and that her choices hold dire implications for the nation.
Readers with a special interest in 1960s Hollywood blacklisting processes will find Banished From Memory does an outstanding job of bringing these times to life. By observing them through the eyes of a young actress who is struggling to redefine achievement and prior perceptions, it provides a more immediate, personal, involving story about the times than most.
Banished From Memory is highly recommended for those who would absorb not just political undercurrents, but their impact on personal and professional choices alike.Banished From Memory
Lee Allen Howard
Three First Names
978-1733700900 Trade paperback: $14.99; Ebook: $2.99
Most bed wetters grow out of (or are trained out of) the habit before adulthood, but Russell Pisarek is almost thirty, and still wets his bed. Between a mother's brutal punishments and a spiteful high school classmate's exposure of his problem, Russell has developed a cruel streak himself, which only intensifies in brutality as he ages.
Readers of fictional stories of the creation of a psychopath will find that Bedwetter falls neatly into this category, exploring the evolutionary process behind Russell's progressive fascination for skinning things (first cats; now people).
There's also an unexpected light touch of humor that accompanies the story as Lee Allen Howard describes a 'Piss Fairy' that increasingly dictates Russell's darker choices in life.
The first thing to note about this story is the candid first-person voice in Bedwetter which sometimes brutally, but adeptly, captures the protagonist's feelings about his condition, his place in the world because of it, and life itself: "Even when I lived at home, I could go for months without wetting. Then I’d piss two or three nights in a row, skip a night, and piss again. Like, “Hey, it’s just my week to piss the bed.” I mean, girls get their period once a month like clockwork, and some of them rag on the sheets even if they’re wearing a tampon,right? But I’m the bad guy, the loser. Always the loser."
It's a confessional piece that is stark and often frightening despite the dose of humor provided by the Piss Fairy. Readers looking for a light psychological inspection should realize that the tone and first-person insights here place viewers directly in the mind of a budding psychopath. This is no comfortable spot to be in, even for an observer/reader.
The journey presented here is ugly, strange, revealing, and most of all, frightening. As Russell pursues relationships and his darkest dreams, admits his admiration for fellow serial killers, and cultivates a strange method for making friends, readers receive a harshly honest set of descriptions and insights which reveal what it takes for this man to feel like he's a winner in life, and the extremes he'll pursue to make that feeling happen.
Bedwetter is recommended for readers of novels about serial killers, psychopaths, and deep inspections of their evolving thought processes and actions. It's a deeply disturbing read; but, on the other hand, is highly educational for anyone who would more than lightly enter the mindset of a potential killer.Bedwetter
Syntell Smith Publishing
Ebook: 9780578465005 $2.99
Paperback: 9780578440521 $15.95
Barnes & Noble:
Call Numbers is set in 1994 in New York City and revolves around eighteen-year-old library clerk Robin Walker, who finds his career and identity in crisis when he is moved to a bigger branch with more opportunity for career and possibly personal growth.
One doesn't expect that the social and political interactions of a library system will prove engrossing, but Syntell Smith does an excellent job of synthesizing the individual personalities and broader interactions of a community of interconnected workers. This leads to an engrossing story of a young adult on the cusp of adulthood who explores not just career opportunities, but romance and new possibilities.
Call Numbers is steeped in both the brisk, gruff atmosphere of New York City and the conundrums faced by a young man who is uncertain of his place in the world. Robin has a reputation for getting into trouble and fighting—qualities one doesn't anticipate in a library employee—and the juxtaposition of his interactions within the library system with his urban encounters is very nicely done.
As readers absorb Robin's world and growth process, they receive a fine multifaceted story that moves through mysteries and investigations, the possibilities of love and career, and a series of hardships and adversarial encounters.
It should be noted that the story's conclusion involves a cliffhanger that paves the way for Book 2. By that point, readers will be more than intrigued by Robin's tumultuous journey, and will have plenty of reasons for pursuing his ongoing challenges in the follow-up Call Numbers: Loss, Pain and Revelations.Call Numbers
The Chocolate Shop
River Point Press
The Chocolate Shop opens with a wife's dream of killing her husband ("Laura wanted Mickey to die.Tonight.Now."), but it's not what a reader will expect, because this isn't a murder mystery or medical conundrum, but a novel that explores the boundaries of love and connection.
Laura Beckman is a wife who follows the rules. These rules don't involve murder. They do involve a reexamination of her relationship not only with her husband, but with her mother, an affair that has held many obstacles in the past: "Could her father’s death bring mother and daughter closer together? No. Too much time had passed, too many doors now locked from both sides for Laura to re-kindle a relationship with her daughter. Well, re-kindle was the wrong word; it assumed the relationship had been kindled in the first place."
Laura has not been a rule-breaker. So why does she careen towards disaster with Aunt Gracie, contemplating a sexual fling at The Stallion Corral? Why embark on a journey that makes her a participant in a passive suicide, assuming a role that could send her to prison? And why should she become involved in the healing promise and dangers of a venture called The Chocolate Shop?
The Chocolate Shop is about more than suffering. It's about rendering love and assistance, facing the legal consequences of moral and ethical choices, and new relationships that cause characters to reconsider their psyches and efforts in life: "Laura Beckman was physically attractive, but he knew that didn’t explain it. Maybe that was the point. He felt a connection to her that was deep, visceral. Something he hadn’t experienced since his early days with Lorraine. Laura didn’t want to change him, but she made him want to change himself to please her."
At this point, it should be evident that The Chocolate Shop is no casual leisure read. As it winds through Laura's present and past, considers her future choices, and presents many dilemmas based on moral and ethical decisions, it offers readers the opportunity to understand mother/daughter relationships challenged by more than one kind of pain.
Hypnotically compelling, evocative, and thought-provoking,
The Chocolate Shop follows Laura down some dangerous paths and is a powerful consideration of life, death, revised relationships, and everything in between.
recommended reading for those who look for a focus on changing family
and new perspectives on the levels and management of medical
and death, and healing.
978-1732472105 $14.99 Paper/$3.99 Kindle
Drawer #7 chronicles the journey Freddie embarks on when he meets an amnesiac woman in a strip club who has no memories, no name, and no ability to escape the strip club stage she abhors.
The story begins not with Freddie's fascination with her, but with this nameless woman's awakening to a life where she knows little but her disgust for strip clubs and the certainty that the face she wears is not actually her own.
'Star' thinks she may be dreaming. But now she's involved Freddie in her flight for freedom and the mystery of her lost memories. Once connected, the two enter worlds replete with weapons-carrying zombies and Army adventures, heroes and haunted men, ex-wives and danger, and the overriding mystery of memories which reveal even more mystery as they unlock. Action swirls around them as changing events keep challenging their objectives.
Jeff Wade's attention to detail and fast-paced intrigue keep Drawer #7 moving along nicely. Freddie faces pain, torture, capture, and danger without quite knowing where he's heading or why. When murder enters into the picture, he finds himself on his own peculiar journey, moving onto paths he has no experience navigating.
One doesn't expect his trek to lead to miracles, power plays, and scientific and spiritual revelation, but one of the strongest attributes of Drawer #7 is its unpredictability. Even seasoned readers of psychological thrillers or sci-fi romance stories will find its mercurial direction delightfully unexpected. Injections of alliteration and poetry support the story line's growing investigation of a conspiracy plot gone awry.
Drawer #7 is a compelling tale that's nearly impossible to anticipate, logical in its interpersonal connections, surprising in its conundrums, and the perfect read for seasoned thriller audiences who want to be surprised by a story's progression and outcome.Drawer #7
A Dream of Rescue
Elaine Bernstein Partnow
A Dream of Rescue is a literary novel of psychological suspense that focuses on Emilia, whose achievement of her childhood dream to pilot an airplane initially finds success with her own charter companybut ends when the landing gear on her new plane jams on its first flight, causing the death of her parents. Only she survives: a fact that continues to haunt her a year later.
Emilia is still wondering if she was at fault in the accident, while looking for a new career direction to move her life forward and away from the anguish with which she struggles daily.
As she becomes involved with Louisiana photographer Garland, who is realizing his own professional dreams and who has a grant that will take him away from her, Emilia is invited to step away from her world for a change—and it's the best thing that could have happened to her.
The culture and environment of New Orleans and Cajun country come to life in a story that is moving and absorbing. As soon as she arrives, Emilia encounters a series of mishaps; from almost being run over by a car and nearly falling from a pickup to someone shooting at her. And it's all connected, somehow, to her association with Garland.
As the pace picks up, past angst and present-day challenges collide in a tale filled with intrigue and atmosphere, which eventually comes full circle to lead Emilia to confront that childhood passion that nearly destroyed her life.
A Dream of Rescue is women's literary fiction at its best, and should be chosen both for its strong leisure read qualities and for its atmospheric survey of a young woman's revised world as everything changes not just once, but many times during the course of her decisions and choices.A Dream of Rescue
Daniel A. Willis
D. X. Varos, Ltd.
978-1941072509 $17.95 Paper/$6.99 Kindle
Immortal Revelation concludes the Chronicles of the Mages trilogy and follows the dual story of Sebastian's ascendancy to priesthood (a move dictated by his ambitious, controlling father) and the mystery surrounding his heritage. Sebastian is uncertain about the former move but is determined to solve this mystery. When he learns that the Vatican holds the key, he is more motivated than ever to make serious decisions to draw back the veil of secrecy.
So far, Sebastian's family connections have kept him out of trouble. But in his pursuit of the truth, he may be delving into areas best left alone: areas even his father's influence can't penetrate.
As Father Bartolo and others help Sebastian, and interactions between popes, cardinals, and other church members change the course of his investigation, readers are treated to an exceptionally strong portrait of events that move from the 1960s to the 2010s. Their guidance leads Sebastian on many new endeavors, including living as a Brit, absorbing new cultural perceptions, and ultimately confronting bigger discoveries concerning artifacts that can change the stature and nature of the Vatican itself.
The fact that some characters are entirely fictional and others based on real-world figures lends the novel a realistic tone and approach. This is a strong asset to an already-powerful, sweeping saga that crosses six centuries, weaving tales of immortal mages into the essential influencers of the course of world history.
Steeped in adventure, self-revelations, and religious inspection, Immortal Revelation is a fitting conclusion to a vivid trilogy and is especially recommended for prior readers of the series, who will appreciate the attention to detail given to winding up the disparate strings of Vatican involvements and political, social, and religious struggles both within the church and in Sebastian's life.
Immortal Revelation is very highly recommended, especially for historical novel readers with a special interest in Church affairs.Immortal Revelation
Amazon Digital Services
9781981051458 $3.99 Kindle
Keeper of Slaves is the second book in a series about the antebellum South, and follows the lives of not just slaves, but plantation owners and the changes they face from political and social strife.
It's important to note that, unlike most of the other books about the South during this era, Keeper of Slaves maintains a multifaceted perspective that focuses on the observations, feelings, and developments of different peoples affected by these changes. This makes for a more balanced, informational read than most: one that takes into account the motivations and emotions of all kinds of people who find themselves involved in an unexpected battle for more than just freedom.
From nervous breakdowns to revenge, illicit affairs, the threatened uprising of nearly a hundred plantation slaves, and near-tragic events that result in unexpected new connections, Keeper of Slaves more closely considers the relationship between slave and owner than competing novels.
It also provides an atmospheric read about healing on many levels, considering political entanglements and snafus, breached trust, the back-and-forth movements of businessmen and politicians vying for control and power in an increasingly unstable world, and more.
With all these historical facets entwined into the story, readers might expect that the plot will be convoluted and confusing: not so. Dickie Erman's attention to detail and exploring each character's connections makes it easy to follow hearts and minds to understand choices and consequences as new situations develop.
The result is an excellent book that doesn't require prior familiarity with the setting and circumstances of its predecessor; but which offers readers a fine opportunity to understanding changing relationships and even the romance which blossoms in these mercurial times.
Readers of historical novels about the period won't be disappointed with this blend of romance and history, and will find the characters captivating right down to the finish line.Keeper of Slaves
Jeannette de Beauvoir
Ebook: 978-0-9992451-7-0 $ 9.95
Jeannette de Beauvoir's background as a French student of medieval history lends nicely to Lethal Alliances, a story that takes place during the reign of King Phillipe le Bel in the 1300s.
Intrigue, murder, political passion, and social and political drama are the hallmarks of a read that requires no prior familiarity with the politics and history of the times in order to be satisfyingly accessible and dramatically absorbing.
Handsome princes and aristocracy hated because of unfair taxation, damsels who dream of romance at high levels but who confront palace intrigue instead, and blossoming romances between princesses and lords contribute to an evolving story of relationships both personal and political.
The three girls bethrothed to Phillipe’s sons aren't expecting these sub layers of palace politics to change their lives; but their worlds and romance are vastly changed by them. As Princess Isabelle faces the death of a royal family member and the subterfuge that threatens her own life and its tenants, readers are treated to a fine layering of historical fact and description and intrigue designed to keep them engaged and guessing.
The richness of detail and authenticity of the times may be attributed to de Beauvoir's background, but it truly takes a literary hand to capture these historical nuances in such a manner that the fictional side of the story remains completely engrossing even to those with no prior knowledge of or interest in French history.
Lethal Alliances crafts an engaging account that is as much about French politics of the times as it is about romance and intrigue. Winding these into the historical facts surrounding the political forces that clash with one another creates a moving, absorbing account which is educational, riveting, and hard to put down.Lethal Alliances
Mother Love, Willow Lane, Book Two
Paper: 9781797891354 $14.95 Paper
e-book: 9750999341520 $ 3.99 Kindle
Book Two of the Willow Lane series provides a warm saga that requires no prior familiarity in order to prove accessible and charming. The introductory chapter reviews Barbara Malone's marriage to Bill, her transition from a naive bride to a stoic wife determined to avoid confrontations with her husband, and the forces that brought them together, then tore them apart.
At age 52, Barbara Malone is widowed and alone. It starts on quiet Willow Lane in a small town in Pennsylvania as she embarks on a new career with the Peace Corps, which changes everything. One door has closed, but another is opening on her life, expanding it to include her interactions with the poor peoples of another country.
From Peace Corps training to experiencing another country, Barbara finds her world opening up even as her children and family back home in Pennsylvania cultivate new ways of relating to one another without her.
Chapter headings move between characters and make it easy to move between their lives, as well, lending a simple structure to what could have otherwise proved a complex series of examinations of entwined lives, choices, and consequences. Through her eyes, readers are swept into a cavalcade of emotional connections and growth experiences that lend Mother Love a quietly evocative atmosphere.
Readers of fiction that centers on evolving family ties, changes, new connections, and new opportunities for all ages will relish the lovely evolution of Mother Love, which explores circumstances of connection and healing across cultures, and the aftermath of one woman's commitment to a difficult marriage.
Under another hand, this would have been the entire story— and the end of matters—but widow Barbara is more than a wife and mother, and her life continues to blossom and expand.Mother Love, Willow Lane, Book Two
Swallow Tail Press
Parole opens with a shooting spree against two men paroled that morning from San Quentin prison, then delves into their lives as they move from the prison system into society convinced that they soon will return to what has become the familiar norm.
Kenny Ruffin and Cat McGrath are only beginning to figure things out about building new lives on the 'outside', but old habits die hard and they struggle not only with threats to their new lives, but the knowledge that their old relationships and status have dissolved while they were away.
But if nobody cares about them, then who is trying to kill them?
As Parole winds through changing lives and newfound threats to life and freedom, it crafts a markedly mercurial story line that moves from the two parolees' struggles to pistol-packing nuns, homeless encampments, McGrath's crazy schemes, and Ruffin's inadvertent role in them. At each step, Parole marks their progress and charts the hits and misses that change their lives.
A comic undertone to some of their experiences is notable and offers a satisfyingly fun juxtaposition to the confrontations, big ideas, and life-threatening choices they navigate: "Maybe us older guys need to set an example.” “Set an example? An example of what?” “Not being an asshole.” McGrath slammed on his brakes and screamed at a white-haired old lady in a Mercedes: “Learn to drive, bitch!” Then he turned his head around to look at Ruffin. “What are you talking about?” “You know,” Ruffin said. “Showing them the right way to act.”
schemes, assassination plots, and unlikely friendships and encounters
story which illustrates that getting out of jail is not without its
creates a winning romp through crime, redemption, and life.
a zany tinge of humor and many dramatic moments to both entertain and
Those interested in crime stories will find Parole's premise and its characters more than a cut above the ordinary. This creates a memorable read, indeed, which will appeal to and hold many surprises for readers anticipating the ordinary course of a parolee's life, only to discover a focus that goes beyond predictable dilemmas. These elements create a tale that is hard to put down and satisfyingly original: a standout in its genre.Parole
A Puff of Silk
978-1720073635 $9.99 Paper/$3.99 Kindle
A Puff of Silk is Book One in the Bridal Shop Series set in New York, and tells of famous dress designer Amelia Pettipiece, whose career has taken off. She has a successful, great life until one of her classic designs falls apart on a bride on the day of her wedding, changing her career completely.
Amelia goes into hiding at her grandmother's house, trying to figure out the disaster and the next moves she should make, but then finds herself confronting her family, past, and those who are interested in taking advantage of her Gram.
The last thing she expected was to again become involved in a dressmaking challenge, especially since disaster is now a possible result of her efforts. However, Amelia discovers that the process of repairing her reputation, career, and skills also involves the same skills that will repair her life. The relationship between Gram and herself becomes part of the healing process during a shared recovery effort.
This effort also leads her to reconsider all of her life choices and many moves she took for granted, including romantic connections: "She’d been under the impression he was buried under his work as well, that he lived and breathed it the same as she did, that when they came together in bed it was like surfacing on a little private island, to relish each other before submerging into their work again. Had he tried to talk to her and she’d ignored him?"
A Puff of Silk is a novella steeped in intrigue, romance, and twists of plot. It is a quick read designed for busy readers who want the most action and emotion packed into least number of pages than a usual novel poses, yet it doesn't sacrifice complexity and drama in the process.
It's chick-lit with a flare for exposing dilemmas, problem-solving, and family conundrums. The fact that it achieves all this in under 200 pages makes it a top recommendation for leisure pursuit, whether it be a beach read or take-along vacation tote.A Puff of Silk
The Strongman &
978-1731561138 $15.99 Paper/$3.99 Kindle
The Strongman & the Mermaid is a historical novel based on past and present events in Donora, Pennsylvania, a small town that once represented the dawn of the industrial age in America. From the Polish community which attracts Polish immigrant Lukasz Musial to a coveted mill job and leads him to dream of a family and roots in the new country to loner Mary, who meets the unexpected man of her dreams, this story is both a romance and a saga of an immigrant's long journey, fueled by dreams of a mermaid and new opportunities.
Kathleen Shoop does a fine job of contrasting lives in new and old countries like. Under her hand, readers learn about the immigrant experience from the eyes, ears, and heart of a man about to see his dreams both realized and challenged. The promise and overwhelming pressures brought about by opportunities in a new land are presented even before the adventure begins ("You’ve got passage to America. Freedom. You can be anybody, do anything. No more kings to tell you who you are.”).
Mary and Lukasz don't come together immediately. Each must endure different prospects that aren't a good fit (the dance oaf Samuel; Aneta's fiery distain for a man who would spend his extra hours hard at work rather than learning English in his new land).
Different worlds of past and present are brought together by an old, dusty attic book that holds the power to transport its readers to a bygone world, introducing truths of the past and connections to modern lives.
As Lucy, Owen, and their Gramps come closer to these truths, the story develops in a compelling manner and proves difficult to put down, fueled by the passions and experiences of a range of modern and old-time characters.
The result is an engrossing story that succeeds in highlighting myths, legends, and lives in a manner that will appeal not just to historical novel readers, but to any with an interest in immigrant experiences and the evolution of family ties that begin with an unexpected romance and ultimately questions if love will be enough.The Strongman & the Mermaid
Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd.
9781528912631 (Paperback) $21.95
9781528912648 (E-Book) $ 4.64
Traveller Inceptio, by researcher and storyteller Rob Shackleford, offers a different, more complex time travel novel than most as it documents a new time machine invention that, upon its discovery, accidentally sends a traveler some 1,000 years into the past, to Saxon England.
The opening chapter follows Michael as he moves through a forested world and faces the threat of a wolf pack, but doesn't indicate, straight off, that his movements through this environment are actually those of a time traveler new to this primitive world.
Chapter 2 leaves the forest to introduce the initial assembly of a university's technologically-savvy Special Forces team of Travellers who are charged with journeying to the past on a research mission. It sets the stage for a dilemma that challenges their both perceptions of corporate support for research and their own individual abilities and research focuses.
The first thing to anticipate about Traveller Inceptio is that this is no linear production, but a slowly-building collection of personalities, history, and encounters. This format is a bit confusing in the very beginning, as Rob Shackleford introduces and sets up the story line and moves between past and present events.
As readers absorb the backdrop of these extraordinary Travellers and their experiences, however, it quickly becomes evident that any initial confusion is well worth it, because Traveller Inceptio takes some unexpected turns in comparison to typical time travel reads, and this element of surprise is delightful.
It's obvious that Shackleford has conducted much research on the times. He does an outstanding job of contrasting the technological world of the present with the very basic one of some 1,000 years ago. It should be noted that the facts are intricately detailed. This will especially delight historical fiction readers who typically don't read time travel pieces: "In Saxon society, the request to inspect a sword was a mark of respect he was fortunate to have thus far avoided. Godric hadn’t seen Michael with his swords, but had been entertained with his mandolin, while Ricbert, thegn of Deor-lean, had been too self-absorbed. To inspect a warrior’s sword was a chance for the telling of tales, and was an important part of concourse between warriors."
Casual readers not necessarily interested in history will find that this extensive description supplements the action and strong characterization which keep the story line moving along nicely (though readers who seek nonstop action and high drama may chafe at this attention to detail). Readers will, however, remain engaged in the story of the Travellers and their different challenges.
Shackleford's effort is a classic example of factual complexity tempered with strong literary devices which follows the growth of both the team and its individual participants. Occasional bog-downs in structure are offset by enough strengths to keep the story fresh, original, and engrossing.
From an invention that becomes an academic hot potato to experiences that move from wondrous to deadly, Traveller Inceptio explores the changing perceptions and attitudes of everyone who enters the past. These are strongly presented, logical, compelling features that enhance the action.
For those who don't want the journey to end, it should be noted that Traveller Inceptio is the first in a projected series; but unlike other series productions, it is a powerful standalone story and doesn't read, nor is presented, like an artificially-divided tale.Traveller Inceptio
Two 'Til Midnight
Bernard L. Dillard
Two 'Til Midnight opens with a series of disparate images and personalities as chapters cover the shocking observations of Tario about 'Dr. G' (Garnet) and give subsequent descriptions of her world.
Garnet is focused on "living the Word" of belief. She is also committed to little acts of kindness that "let her light shine amid a callous and everything-goes world." Motivated as she is, belief appears in all facets of her life, right down to culinary efforts.
Two 'Til Midnight isn't just a novel about one woman's faith and approach to life, however: it also reviews the perspectives and actions of demon entities as committed to havoc and destruction as Garnet is to injecting belief and love into the world. Thus, the actions and perspectives of Mictian, Belial, and others who affect the world from the dark side are injected into a story that turns out to be about a struggle on more than one level.
As Dr. Gibbs, Tario, and various characters interact on the world stage, they confront some life-affirming truths that lead them (and the reader) to a deeper perspective.
Christian readers, in particular, will find the discoveries, confrontations, and revelations in Two 'Til Midnight make for thought-provoking reading that couches its spiritual and philosophical insights into life's meaning with a plot that drives home lessons for all involved: Nick, Giselle, Garnet, Tario and others.
Crimes, punishment, trials of a legal and spiritual nature, and a war between demons and angels all play out in the human realm, which may make Two 'Til Midnight challenging reading, in the beginning. Readers who stick with the myriad of characters, special interests, and blend of supernatural influences, daily life challenges, and confrontations between Christian and secular worlds will find Two 'Til Midnight an engrossing, multifaceted story. It discusses everything from spiritual interests to issues of diversity, patriotism, and socially and psychologically dangerous situations.Two 'Til Midnight
Parenting Guide to Screen Use
#LookUp: A Parenting Guide to Screen Use should be required reading for any parent concerned about their child's online habits and access. However, its subject isn't as anticipated (a discussion of how to monitor or limit activities). This book broadens the subject by considering how media actually changes family interactions and relationships and perhaps physically harms childrens' developing brains. It also discusses this physical and mental erosion process with an eye to enlightening parents about all the dangers of screen use.
As Judy Stoffel surveys the risks, she also addresses how families can work together to both understand them and create a cooperative game plan for limiting screen time.
Parents are encouraged to "be nosy" and understand where their children are attracted to, in the digital world. Chapters include Judy Stoffel's personal reflections on these dangers and the challenges of managing them: "...we micromanage where they are physically all day long, but are hands-off when it comes to the powerful computer in their hands that can cause damage in almost limitless ways. They are never more than a few keystrokes away from all the filth you could possibly imagine. Am I the only one that finds this troubling?"
From managing physical dangers without actually banning cell phone usage ("Your best option is turn the phone off when you don’t need it. Don’t bring it with you every single time you leave the house. The next-best option is to keep it on airplane mode most of the time. As long as your phone is turned on, “it emits radiation intermittingly, even when you’re not actually making a call.") to addressing habits that affect interpersonal relationships and creating solutions all ages can use ("Have your heard of a phone stack? Some teens are starting to put their phones in the middle of the table at restaurants so they’re not distracted and can enjoy each other’s company. First one to give in and touch their phone pays the bill. I don’t know many teens who could afford to pay for all, but I love that they recognize the distraction and have found a clever solution. Great idea—an even better enhancement would be to put the phones out of sight so they’re not screaming your name. You can still have the rule that whoever touches their phone pays—just don’t leave them visible."), #LookUp does more than identify physical and mental threats.
It provides the tools needed to understand, address, and change these threats for all ages, from families to friends, and is a key acquisition that's very highly recommended for consumer health, computer, parenting, and sociology collections alike.#LookUp: A Parenting Guide to Screen Use
Tarot of Hate, Volume
Antonio Simon, Jr.
Darkwater Syndicate, Inc.
Ebook: $2.99 Paperback: $9.99
Tarot of Hate, Volume 2 continues the approach created in the first volume, gathering an additional eight stories of horror and linking their circumstances to tarot cards. Accordingly, each chapter opens with a full-sized color image of a card from the 1910 Rider-Waite tarot.
The stories feature in macabre twists that excel in not just portraits of gore, but psychological suspense. A superior horror piece is as much about building psychological tension as it is about events that take dark routes of revelation. Each tale in the collection stands out in this approach, which places the entire anthology more than a cut above others which equate horror with bloodletting alone.
Take 'Where Did You Go, Craig Sheehan?', for example. Here a practiced antiques thief decides to go for the big time by locating and plundering the Ark of the Covenant, but vanishes during the process. The mystery of his disappearance assumes a cautionary lesson in the perils of ambition and the pitfalls of too much knowledge and too little prudence.
This story is recounted from changing viewpoints as observers absorb the pieces to a bigger puzzle about not only where Craig Sheehan (a man of many names) wound up, but the religious significance of the Ark to various religious communities and the impact of its discovery.
Various religious figures view the Ark's importance in very different ways ("...the biggest danger the Ark represents comes in the risk of losing it forever to history. It is a universal treasure that belongs to all mankind. It must be preserved."), but only Craig has made the leap from its religious significance as an ethereal ideal to its physical presence in the world; and he pays dearly for this knowledge.
Readers might anticipate a murder mystery; but the atmosphere is more reminiscent of an evolving Raiders of the Lost Ark atmosphere of horror as the truth emerges.
A very different atmosphere is cultivated in 'The Confession of Pompeius Postumus', set in 1st century AD Rome and revolving around the confession of a man who decides to do something about his housemate's dangerous habits, with devastating results.
Pompeius has long observed something brutally sinister growing in Caninius, but the man's increasing power, influence, and wealth belays his darker passions. Pompeius can only helplessly watch the evolution of evil until he decides to do something about it–something that requires just as dark a response.
Each tale of hate holds a lesson and a message, but their diversity approaches keeps each fresh and unexpected even as they are linked by a sense of dark psychological horror that emerges differently under each author's hand.
The result is a gripping study in pathological development and horror that will especially please readers who look for solid psychological inspection in horror scenarios.Tarot of Hate, Volume 2
Turn Your Happiness
Spring Rain Publishing
978-1-7326090-0-6 - paperback $15.99
978-1-7326090-1-3 - ebook $3.99
Turn Your Happiness On: How to Light up your Days and Fill your Life with Joy is a celebration of life that does more than extol its virtues, but focuses on how to get to a place where happiness is an automatic response to daily events.
It's meant not just for those already on the path to joy, but especially for readers who feel overwhelmed, exhausted, and frustrated, providing a roadmap of scientifically proven strategies for attaining the ultimate goal of happiness.
One hears the admonishment to 'cultivate positive attitude' all the time; but seldom are tips given on how to achieve this goal. The specifics presented in Turn Your Happiness On go beyond most books on positive thinking to show how to build a progressive 'happiness ladder' to re-fire endorphins and help distinguish between "... what makes us happy, what we think should make us happy, and what others tell us will make us happy. As we grow older, it becomes more confusing because we barely remember what used to make us happy."
Action steps and admonitions to think about the roots of happiness require an engaged reader who is willing to think about these things and commit to the steps necessary to achieve true happiness: "How do you feel about your life right now? Are you on the right path to happiness and success? Are you feeling good and happy throughout the day? If you are, congratulate yourself; that’s wonderful. If you are not, write down when—during which activities and at what times—you do not feel happy. This is an indication that you need to make some changes during these times. Think if there is anything you can do to change those situations.
The author backs up these exercises and reflections with examples from her own life and approaches to it. The Chapter Summaries and Action Steps are one key to success.
Turn Your Happiness On is highly recommended both for self-education and as a gift to those who would take charge of their own happiness rather than letting world events influence either happiness or sadness. It's a proactive road map that, supported by science, clearly points the way for those who may have lost their ability to experience joy in daily living.Turn Your Happiness On
The Chalk Canoe
Stick Pony Press
The Chalk Canoe captures the life of 13-year-old daydreamer Cat McCloud. Although young, Cat is already an outsider in her small town, shunned for her emotional connections to people and nature, her odd perception of danger and reality, and her exceptionally talented (but equally strange) obsession with carving tiny canoes from sticks of chalk: an endeavor that too often winds up in broken failure.
New girl in town Dee-dee is perhaps the only peer who can shake Cat from her latest fixation, but in many ways Dee-dee isn't anything like Cat. Where Cat seeks perfection and control in her life, Dee-dee is unkempt and unrestrained. The passion they share for a good mystery creates and strengthens a connection between their otherwise-disparate personalities. But when a shared obsession with magical possibilities leads them from hope to tragedy, Cat must summon all of her powers to find a way back from the brink of despair.
The Chalk Canoe is a young adult novel of time-travel, intrigue, and magical realism. The latter genre represents a blend of real-world settings and scenarios with just a touch of magic added into the mix, setting it apart from fantasy's heavier hand.
Genre definitions aside, The Chalk Canoe is steeped in atmospheric descriptions which are one of the powerful strengths that set Heidi Arneson's story apart from any other: "I‘d laugh, if laughing didn’t quicken my death. I’m buried waistdeep in muck under all the waters of Little Rose Lake, with ten thousand crayfish nibbling at my buried parts, and a huge snapping turtle about to bite off my face. The more I struggle, the deeper I go, and even if they could find me, none of the neighbor kids could pull me from this muck-hole. You know that feeling like you’re dying when you’re really only just waking up? That pain in your pumper like your insides are about to turn inside out, and the dams of your arteries are about to give way, and all that you’ve been holding in is about to explode into the unknown? Death has a taste. It bubbles up from the inside, black and green, thick and sour, a grainy mush."
Cat's voice is uniquely compelling, lending a fire and spice to her story that makes it virtually impossible to put down. From her introductory fascination with the possibilities of different kinds of death in the world and in her short life experience to plots with her new friend to make time-travel potions, family breakups, and portents of danger which are surprisingly ignored by one so attuned to possible disaster ("We should have listened to what those hollowed eyes were telling us. We should have listened to those hard faces. But we didn’t listen, and we had no idea what we were getting into as we lay down at the lake covered in Coppertone with our stacks of history books, no idea what we were stirring up with our peeks into the past, and no idea what else was brewing that summer with the Poison Pen."), the story line virtually bristles with a snappy, evocative and unique observational style that keeps it grippingly fresh.
At times, Arneson's story has a few long paragraphs of flashback descriptions. Breaking up these longer paragraphs would be easier on the eye and mind (as in the inches-long paragraph that begins with "At the head of the stairs I felt for the light switch.").
This note aside, The Chalk Canoe excels in an original first-person observational style, the unique and quirky personality of a young dreamer's confrontation with adversity and magic, and a descriptive focus that keeps plot and environment interconnected and thrilling.
While young adults will be the most likely audience of The Chalk Canoe, this evocative story is a powerful, reflective piece that includes themes that may be considered more appropriate for mature readers (Cat's blossoming sexuality is tempered with a wry sense of humor, while the hidden prejudices of her neighbors is ever-present).
The Chalk Canoe is highly recommended reading for all ages seeking a young pioneer's confrontation with both the impossible and her own choices and powers, and is a compelling saga that stands head and shoulders above most other coming of age or magical realism accounts.The Chalk Canoe
The Gondoliers: The
Secret Journals of Fanticulous Glim
The Gondoliers: The Secret Journals of Fanticulous Glim is set in turn-of-the-century Venice, Italy and follows a young treasure hunter who stumbles on a secret that is far greater than riches and wealth.
Paolo Mazzucato does an outstanding job of capturing the atmosphere of a bygone era and Venice's canal community: "Whether it’s the way the late afternoon sun is glistening on the water, or the faint hint of an old Italian melody drifting in the air, or perhaps just simply the way the gondolier’s outstretched hand is welcoming you into his world, a place afloat between the past and present where reality seems that it might melt away and make anything possible, you nod and step off the stone walkway and into the gently bobbing embrace of Venice." These evocative descriptions bring the time and setting to life, which is one of the captivating facets of a story that revolves around intrigue, discovery, and a young girl's adventure.
The prologue places readers on a gondola ride, with all its sights and smells, creating a backdrop of Venice that holds the power to captivate both those who have never visited and readers who may have traveled to the city. The gondolier opens the story with an ethereal description that captures the mystery underlying Venice's present-day appeal: "There is something...charming, you know—something that swirls unseen through the day and night and protects the city from harm. A kind of enchantment that, if you believe...well…” He sweeps his oar back and forth a few times as he angles the gondola into the flow of boat traffic. Then he begins. “Let me tell you a story of a time long ago—a memory of a fanciful world now forgotten, when Venice, this city we have all come to know and love...was almost destroyed.”
His focus is on a teenage protagonist who, in 1902, is a new arrival in town and a stranger to the gondolier community. Young traveler Fantina already stands out from the norm, but truths that her father has woven into his stories and memories of the city fuel her ambitions and create legends that Fantina follows with an eye to exploring the extraordinary facets of this world.
The sense of adventure is nicely augmented by an attention to detail, creating an atmosphere that is engrossingly realistic: "Finally, high above the rooftops of Venice, Fantina and Enzo looked out from the towering campanile in piazza San Marco as the afternoon sun began to sink toward the western horizon. Venice was stunning, Fantina thought. Her first day had been…extraordinary, and more than ever before, she wanted to stay and just be surprised by what might happen tomorrow."
The inspiration for “The Gondoliers” sprang from Paolo Mazzucato’s many trips with his family to Venice, Italy over the years. His familiarity with the town and its culture is a powerful asset to a story that is packed with surprises and revelations. The black and white photos that introduce each chapter also enhance the story line by providing visual emphasis.
Although this tale is directed to middle-grade readers, a wider age range will relish this story. The story neatly crosses over from middle-grade through young adults and up to some adult readers, as well. Those familiar with Venetian gondoliers and history will find Paolo Mazzucato's language and description simply enchanting, and will appreciate the mystery, drama, and tension that are nicely woven into a vivid story of courage, adventure, and secrets uncovered.The Gondoliers: The Secret Journals of Fanticulous Glim
Last Girl Standing
The Book Reality Experience
978-0-6484471-4-6 $12.99 Paper/$4.99 Kindle
17-year-old Sierra Mendez doesn't ascribe to her mother's convictions that the tap water from the Los Patos Water Company is dangerous to drink...not until she discovers the body of the water district manager floating in the river. When her neighbors and the town residents begin exhibiting signs of confusion, she finally admits that poisoned water is not an impossibility. But that's before the robots showed up.
Last Girl Standing is an apocalyptic young adult thriller that begins where many superior reads start: with the basics of daily life which, one by one, are set aside for impossible developments.
The story's trappings are familiar (a small town isolated by sinister forces, a mass contamination leading to its demise), but Last Girl Standing makes some forays into unfamiliar territory and this lends it an unpredictability that results in a read that will appeal beyond the usual teen dystopian audience and into adult circles.
As the 'last girl standing', Sierra is not only a survivor, but possibly the last one with a human component to confront this strange disaster that nobody could have anticipated. Her ability to be flexible, tap the innate rebellion which began with defying her mother, and tackle the terrible remorse over her father's death and her role in it makes for a powerful first-person narration that's fueled by her resolute personality.
Where other dystopian stories focus on the progression of events and sketch skeleton characters, Marjory Kaptanoglu creates a realistic, spunky, memorable girl who is as filled with regrets and fear as courage and determination. This makes her not only human, but a fine contrast to the forces she struggles against.
As she and a few brave surviving teens tackle a force the adults couldn't handle and resist being 'stupified' like the other adults, they are tested not only by the evolution of artificial life, but by their own limitations and abilities.
Action-packed, engrossing, and satisfyingly unpredictable, Last Girl Standing is highly recommended reading for mature teens to adults. This audience will appreciate the willpower, angst, and struggles of a determined group of teens who are exposed to the impossible, and one girl who faces the choice of murdering the most special thing in the world or sacrificing the human race so it can live.
Absolutely riveting.Last Girl Standing
for Police Officers! Theo Gets Lost (The Pom Tales Series)
978-1-950028-04-7 $16.49 Hardcover/$9.99 Kindle
Thank Goodness for Police Officers! Theo Gets Lost adds to the picture book series The Pom Tales and gives a bow not only to dogs, but to the police officers who help and work with them.
Cathy Kosterman & Nadya Ilchuk provide gorgeous Pomeranian drawings for a story that teaches kids not only about dogs, but about the community service efforts of police officers. To reinforce this exploration and its ideals, the authors and illustrators are donating some of the book's proceeds to worthy organizations supporting both: "For every book sold, 10% of the proceeds is being donated to the American Pomeranian Club to support its shelter and health research and 10% of the proceeds is being donated to the American Kennel Club Reunite Program, Canine Support and Relief Fund, to aid and support canine search and rescue teams. We will provide a donation to the Officer Down Memorial as well."
The introduction presents a banner of vocabulary words and talking points before moving to the heart of the story: a little Pomeranian's birthday and the accident that places him at risk when curiosity blends with an uncommon opportunity to explore the wider world.
C.H. Harrison's ability to move beyond the usual story line to review the logic behind the dog's choices and actions lends a credibility and insight to this tale which helps kids understand why canines behave the way they do.
Why would Theo run away from his beloved home? The answer is more complex than might be anticipated in a picture book story; yet it's simply described so that young minds may easily grasp the explanation of Theo's behavior.
Harrison also gives information about different dog breeds in the course of presenting Theo's story, reinforcing the young reader's knowledge about dogs.
The lovely, realistic, colorful paintings of dogs and people provide exquisite embellishment to a warm, positive story that revolves around a little dog's dilemma and the help provided by community and canine police officers alike.
Parents seeking an engaging picture book story with a dog hero at its center will appreciate the different perspectives and astute observations of Thank Goodness for Police Officers! Theo Gets Lost, which should be in the hands of any young dog enthusiast and parents who want to reinforce additional messages about police officer benevolence.
Highly recommended as an uplifting story of understanding on more than one level.Thank Goodness for Police Officers! Theo Gets Lost
Zip's First Dog Show
(The Pom Tales Series)
Hardcover: 9781950028016 $19.99
Paperback: 9781950028009 $12.99
Ebook: 9781950028023 $ 9.99
Zip's First Dog Show excels in colorful Pomeranian dog drawings by Cathy Kosterman & Nadya Ilchuk as it blends an entertaining leisure read with messages for young critical thinkers.
The educational features of this picture book include an introductory section of Words to Know that introduces new words and their meanings for better comprehension, Essential Questions presented at the beginning of the story to encourage critical thinking skills, and Comprehension Questions at the end to reinforce reading comprehension. Fun, realistic dog drawings and charts illustrate dog breeds and parts of the dog, as well.
As for the tale itself, puppy Zip is excited, but tries to obey his training to be still as he participates in his first dog show, which requires dogs and humans to work together as a team.
The realistic drawings of dog show events are both stunningly colorful and solid embellishments that enhance the descriptions of that absorb Zip and those around him.
Good reading skills will enhance young reader understanding of each page, which holds several sentences of detail, but adult assistance will both make this story accessible to younger canine fans and will help reinforce its educational lessons.
The result is a picture book that is very highly recommended over most other 'dog stories'. It holds exceptional drawings and realistic connections to real-world experiences and life lessons as it follows Zip's new experiences and his award-winning attitude.Zip's First Dog Show (The Pom Tales Series)
Dr. Eugene Charles has been teaching Applied Kinesiology for over 30 years, and is the perfect expert to explore Applied Kinesiology’s vast potential as a growing member of the integrative medicine pantheon in Journey to Healing: The Art and Science of Applied Kinesiology.
Most medical approaches consider health challenges and illness as individual symptoms needing to be analyzed and cured. Applied Kinesiology (AK) focuses on the whole body, whether healthy or in disrepair, as a unit. It considers not just the condition, but the person as a whole, and the unique environmental, physical, and psychological factors which cause system imbalances and ill health.
That's the basic premise of Applied Kinesiology, but what Dr. Charles does in Journey to Healing is to meld the ideals of this whole-person analysis into an overall therapeutic approach that considers where AK's concepts fit into the traditional healthcare system and individual choice.
There are several keys to understanding the differences between AK analysis of ill health and traditional diagnostic and treatment procedures. One is its emphasis on non-invasive diagnostic and treatment protocols. Another is its focus on movement and muscles as key indicators of conditions.
As Journey to Healing progresses, readers receive not just an overview of Applied Kinesiology's history and a contrast between its methods with those of traditional medicine, but a series of case histories that illustrate its successful applications for anything from low back pain to heart palpitations and asthma.
Each condition receives an overview, a survey of traditional approaches, a consideration of how AK would view the issue differently, and an in-depth case history example that follows a patient from struggle to successful recovery. It should be noted that these case histories also differ from the usual medical exploration in that they involve many paragraphs of description of not just of attempts to solve the problem in the past, but exactly how Applied Kinesiology was used.
The result is a thorough survey of the promises of Applied Kinesiology that is an integral, successful exploration highly recommended for physicians and patients alike. Its detail and accessibility makes it a top recommendation for any consumer health library.Journey to Healing: The Art and Science of Applied Kinesiology
Care—Lost and Found in the Alzheimer’s Forest
Ruth Dennis with Velma Arellano and Luke Nachtrab
Golden Word Books
978-1948749145 $17.95 Paper/Kindle
Mindful Dementia Care—Lost and Found in the Alzheimer’s Forest is a book of stories about caregiving and the process of not just dementia's progression, but the equally relentless pressures placed upon caregivers to respond in different ways.
Many books have been written about dementia and caregiving, but Mindful Dementia Care transcends the usual focus on case histories and patient experience to incorporate mindful philosophy and techniques that caregivers can apply to dementia's particular progressive challenges.
The ideas from this book didn't stem from a personal belief system so much as Ruth Dennis's participation in the International Eden Alternative Conference On the Arts and Healing in dementia care. Connecting with Eden (which occurred 6-7 years before the author spoke at the conference), fostered connections with people who shared the same concerns and goals. This motivated the Vista family as they ventured into unfamiliar territory.
Readers who think their lives are currently exempt from concern about this subject should pay close attention to the statistics Dennis presents in her introduction: "The National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP released a joint study in 2015 that found 43.5 millin people in the United States were caregivers; of those, 33 million were caring for other adults, and 6.8 million were caring for both children and adults. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.7 million people face Alzheimer’s disease, and 16.1 million people provide unpaid care for them, which is valued at more than $232 billion per year. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that 70 percent of all adults in the United States over the age of 65 will need hands-on care in their lifetimes, and the World Health Organization predicts that the number of people needing daily hands-on care will triple by 2050."
These facts only serve to emphasize that the mindful approach of this book will prove key to an increasing number of caregiver audiences.
She provides tips and examples from professionals and participants in all walks of life, specific and filled with insights based not on philosophy but upon statistics and experience: "A burned out caregiver is a danger to themselves and to the person in their care. I encourage people to look before they are desperate, to visit places and ask questions. In a wonderful Alzheimer’s caregiver guide, Dr. Ruth Westheimer makes the point over and over to “gather information before you are at wit’s end.” This is good, sensible advice. Desperation allows for guilt, fear, and frustration to be the decision-makers instead of weighing pros and cons in a loving, positive way."
It cannot be emphasized enough that Mindful Dementia Care pinpoints both common struggles and how to evolve solutions; it doesn't just list solutions themselves. More so than most books on the subject, this approach gives readers not just listings of resources, but the actual mindful tools for assessing situations and arriving at their own conclusions based on their own research.
Facts about dementia's progression are woven into reactions to this information, which also prove useful for self-analysis: "Highly structured—even secure—environments with round-the-clock nurses and doctors in the building are not always restrictive, as someone without dementia may perceive. Sometimes the structure is freeing for the person with FTD, allowing them to be grounded in ways that they simply could not be in a looser setting. FTD tends to progress in drops and plateaus. An elder may seem stable, functioning at a certain level for months, and then go into what feels like a freefall, only to plateau again. This is hard. There is grieving at each drop, and anxiety at each plateau. Caregivers need support at these times."
Dennis points out that "...caregivers do get miracles, but mostly small ones." Moving outside this discussion of celebrating the small everyday moments of lucidity or wonder, the publication of this book is one such a miracle, allowing readers to better understand not only the dementia environment, but their loving role in it.
Mindful Dementia Care should be given to any newly diagnosed patient and their family members. It's that specific and important, and is all about maintaining and supporting love during what is, effectively, a mental war.Mindful Dementia Care—Lost and Found in the Alzheimer’s Forest
'Til Health Do Us
(Hardcover): 9781642373721 $32.95
(Paperback): 9781642373738 $15.64
'Til Health Do Us Part: One Woman's Extraordinary Story of Healing addresses the problems of over-medication and drug interactions and follows author Julie Rooney's downward spiral from a series of debilitating diseases, charting the even more debilitating side effects caused by the many medications she was prescribed.
Given modern concerns about drug interactions and impacts, the timing of this story could not be better. An increasing number of patients are finding that the side effects of supposedly-benign treatments cause major problems. The question then becomes one of what to do, and Rooney maintains that patients can actually be empowered to take back their lives (albeit, not haphazardly).
Her process of investigation, information, and recovery will serve as a blueprint for others facing similar issues, even if their diagnoses are different. Hers is not a generalized discussion, however. Chapters pinpoint specific drugs prescribed for specific problems even as she notes that "...long before my list of medications lengthened, the drugs I was taking had begun to cause problems of their own. But that’s the great thing about Western medicine. There’s always something else to take for that."
From her step back from steroids even in the face of a medical emergency to the confusion resulting from trying to decide what to do ("My body’s telling me one thing, while each of the many voices in my head is telling me another. And they’re all squawking like mynah birds trying to make themselves heard. So which voice am I supposed to listen to? Which voice am I supposed to believe?"), readers receive specific details that juxtapose Rooney's life, choices, and struggles with information about popular medical treatments and lesser-known alternatives.
Anyone who has dealt with the medical community may be already familiar with this progression of events; but the element of informed discovery is what keeps Rooney's story from being just a singular experience, in effect creating a game plan for anyone facing similar circumstances.
As Rooney charts the progression of her changes and their emotional and physical impact ("The afternoon passes very slowly. It’s amazing how much time frees up when you don’t have to spend almost every waking moment treating your illnesses. I know I need to do something. Not just sit around and think."), readers receive keys to how to take charge of their own medical care and choices.
Patients would do well to read this title and follow the example of this ordinary individual, whose increasing medical challenges required a different approach not just to single drugs, but to healthcare as a whole.
'Til Health Do Us Part is very highly recommended for its astute observations and blend of personal and medical revelations.'Til Health Do Us Part
New Meridian Press
Creek Bait's short stories are iconic slice-of-life representations; but aside from being literary productions that are a cut above leisure pursuit, they don't neatly drop into a given genre—or even a set perspective. Whether Richard Lutman is creating stories using humor, a Western theme, or a quasi-allegorical fantasy/romance about two star-crossed Chinese lovers, one thread is common to all these productions. They each provide thought-provoking glimpses into characters who escape from ordinary life to discover new realities about themselves and everything around them.
Take 'The Butterfly Lovers' (the introductory story to the collection), for one example. Star-crossed lovers and a butterfly collector who is determined to preserve his love forever create a multifaceted tale that roams from the remnants of a cultural folktale about butterfly lovers to a modern man's love for an Asian woman.
Gloria Wong loves a butterfly man, but she belongs to no one, and her perception of how he kills the most beautiful things to preserve their beauty forever leads to insights of exactly how she wants to be loved.
The title story, 'Creek Bait', tells of a rundown New Jersey bait shop, a filmmaker narrator tortured by both pleasurable and painful images of the past, and how he captures, shares, and processes the intimate moments of his relationships in life.
If his life was actually a film, things would be different. As it is, his observations of his existence are filled with 'what ifs' and connections between life's revisions and the work of a film artist and editor. Filmmaking is all about "...the frame, the shot, and the story." Life, in this case, is similarly depicted as a series of choices and challenges that lead the protagonist to reflect on outcomes and impacts.
Each story unfolds like a butterfly's wing: delicate, observational, and ultimately thought-provoking. Even those which are whimsical in nature contain a depth of experience that leads readers to reflect on accidental meetings, marriage and aging, journeys begun and concluded, and the nature of existence between life and death.
Literary readers seeking accessible stories that represent slices of life and emotional introspection will find these characters' escape routes to be absorbing, different, and ultimately ironic.
Creek Bait is perfect reading for those who would consider the love of God, self, and the process of growing and changing.Creek Bait
Garden Oak Press
Intellectual Suicide's subtitle is 'Poetry to Die For', and with this choice Crystophver R promises a radically different approach to the form that most poets don't approach. For one thing, the originality of topics and their hard-hitting impact is unexpectedly delightful.
Take the poem title, for a second example. One doesn't expect such descriptors as 'Hunni-Do Fixes the World!', 'No Twix, Santa's Tweet ' or 'This Party Sucks!'. And if the jovial presentation offends the serious-minded poetry reader, it's time for them to look elsewhere. This isn't a collection of mundane reflections or staid reflections on the meaning of life, but a blend of 'shuck and jive' lingo and sassy observational style that also promise unique inspections and creative use of the free verse poetic form. Again: this is a special, winning collection for poetry readers who do not confine themselves to iambic pentameter and academic reflection.
The upbeat tempo and streetwise observational style of Intellectual Suicide is as demanding a read as it is a satisfying, fun, reflective work: "We be glammin' the Apple,/cruizin' the land o' darkness,/checkin‟ the main kicks at the Apollo/to mitt poundin‟ resound,/jivin' with the jitterbugs and jazzy jeffs,/and kickin' it killer-diller,/'til I lamped a chick in a lead sheet,/latched onto her licks,/I‟m dreamin' my main queen."
In particular, this is inspiring reading for any young person who might have previously viewed poetry as dry, staid, overly intellectual, and inaccessible.
Crystophver R's style and approach to life is rollicking, startling, candid, and fun. He rocks and rolls through experience, bringing the streetwise free verse reader with him on a journey that proves just how alive and accessible poetry can be under the right hand.
High school teachers encouraging reluctant young urban poetry readers should especially consider Intellectual Suicide for its surprising form and contents, even if its observations foray into the mature side of description and events.Intellectual Suicide
The Waiting Child
Garden Oak Press
The structure of the Japanese tanka form is rigidly defined, much like the more diminutive haiku. It consists of five lines, the first and third of which have five syllables and the others, seven, making 31 syllables in all, used to capture a complete picture of an event or mood. The Waiting Child wields this strict form with aplomb, using it to deftly capture such broad themes as patience and waiting, new relationships and "promiscuous hearts", and expressions of the effort to cultivate a "waterfall spirit" of giving.
Although readers with an affinity for free verse and perhaps little familiarity with the tanka form may think that this structure might translate to a strained effort to marry art with form, Mel Takahara's talent lies in crafting a flowing marriage between poetry and reflection that imparts a seamless feel to what must have been hours of diligent creative musing.
Newcomers to the form will find it summarized in an opening poetic sidebar of description that eschews technical definition in favor of poetic example: "Tanka are remnants/Ikebana of discourse/multifaceted/fruit of the gem-cutter's craft/blossoms reflected in stone/"
These tanka capture a range of scenarios, but a notable aspect to nearly all of them is that inner emotion is tied to the greater universe in an absorbing, ethereal manner: "Cast from the garden/they could not hear the father weeping/his heart bereft of the beloved/this new emptiness reminiscent of/the void before creation/but it hurts/the weeping becomes groaning/that fills the universe" and blends with the sidebar forms that further expand the subject: "sleeping cat hops off the morning bed my feet slide/into warmth he left/when I hop out of this life/will I"
Perhaps Mel Takahara's own explanation for how he came to write such visual pieces lends some insights into his approach: "The tankas were the result of a conscious effort to use poetry writing as a self-healing exercise for my damaged brain. The brain activities required to compose poems are precisely appropriate to help the brain repair itself."
The overall theme of the collection is about the "waiting child" within us all. In this case, the "waiting child" is a series of ethereal works presented in a chronological arrangement, from present-day to past poems produced by the author during the course of his recovery, and captures the essence of not just waiting, but blossoming.
Avid tanka readers, as well as newcomers to the form, can expect to be enchanted not just by the language and style, but by the overall impact of this collection.The Waiting Child
ASIN: B07NS3G5V9 $0.99
Woman is a short story collection that will appeal to feminists who enjoy short works with an international flavor and social commentary. It excels in cultivating different atmospheres and exploring women's cultures, from Asia and Africa to Western nations.
The idea is simple: to tell the stories of survivors of social, physical, psychological and cultural abuse, documenting not just their struggles, but their ability to rise above social repression to realize their own strengths.
Curiously, the chapter headings are letters of the alphabet and no more, giving readers no clue as to the subject or ethnicity of each story's protagonist. Thus, readers can approach each individual unit freshly, without prejudice, and learn from them with no prior assumptions in place.
Take 'O', for example, which documents the process of becoming a woman. Young Jasmine is on the run from both her mother and social restrictions placed upon her as she comes of age, and recounts her flight and capture with first-person immediacy and detail.
The description of the pagne she wears gives the first clue of the West African setting of this story. It's the tale of a girl who faces her 'fate' due to being born female and provides riveting insights into not just her struggles, but the certainty of women around her who are supporting damaging rituals and the idea that physical mutilation will somehow give her freedom from shame, men's violence, and slavery.
By now, it should be evident that these are not light reads or casual social commentary, but vivid impressions capturing the hearts, minds, and social constraints of women from around the world.
'N' depicts quite a
different world in which Thai woman Kanya accepts her role as a
rich tourists, but dreams of a different life for her little sister
is destined to follow in her footsteps.
Shame, dishonor, betrayal, and punishment dog her footsteps and life as this story traverses her choices and a possible alternative option posed by a foreigner and magazine photographer sent to visually capture their world.
Each story is a hard-hitting testimony to women's resilience, bids for freedom, dreams of escaping or overcoming oppression, and desires to be more than what their cultures have dictated as their role in life.
Feminist literary readers and collections catering to them will find Woman's astute blend of psychological and social inspection to be thoroughly engrossing and educational.Woman
High On God - There's No High Like The Most High
The Fire House Projects Ministries & Publications
978-0-578-45770-3 (paperback) $15.99
978-1-68454- 153-9 (ebook) $ 9.99
High On God - There's No High Like The Most High is, unabashedly, a celebratory promotion piece for attaining a 'God high' through Biblical readings and spiritual reflection. It advocates building lifestyle based on joyful spiritual living and will especially appeal to those who are already religious, but who want to feel and reflect it in a different manner.
As chapters explore the foundations of this reflective process, readers receive a combination of strategies, testimonials and case histories, and "beyond the Christian box" thinking that will enable them to consider alternative methods of expressing and living their beliefs.
Perhaps most tangible of all is the focus on reflecting the Holy Spirit in physical interactions and mental approaches to life. If the magnitude of enthusiasm expressed here sounds akin to a drug 'high', be advised that High On God does advocate being part of a community that lives in a 'continuous altered state' of spiritual ecstasy.
Not only does Matt Spinks examine the elements of bliss, but, more importantly, he discusses how to translate these elements to daily giving, caring, and serving one another, with love as the foundation of all actions. Enlightenment of this order may sound idealistic, unattainable, or simply unsustainable; but High On God's purpose isn't just to express or explore this form of 'high'. It shows how such a state of mind can be attainable, sustainable, and realistic when applied to daily life challenges.
Spinks pairs his exuberant descriptions and discussions with a down-to-earth attitude about the practical applications of joy. This makes for an enlightening and encouraging book that is grounded in beliefs about God and Jesus, but which takes this belief a step further, into community interactions conducted with a sense of ministry and purpose.
Christians who want to live revised lives will find this exploration of the intersection of faith and community to be joyful, thought-provoking, and challenging reading, all in one (challenging because it encourages a different perspective and approach to living and reflecting one's beliefs).
No Christian library should be without this celebratory tool.High On God - There's No High Like The Most High
Afterlife Beyond Our Fondest Dreams
C. David Lundberg
$17.95 Paper (ebook also available)
Our Magnificent Afterlife: Beyond Our Fondest Dreams compiles information and excerpts from dozens of afterlife sources. It examines the promise of the Heaven World, how souls spend their time, the incredible beauty, soul bodies, mind power, judgment, purgatory, halls of learning, government, and numerous other afterlife aspects in its 55 chapters.
It's a celebratory, passionate examination of everything from motive to soul groups, considering both questions about and common misconceptions of that afterlife.
Many of these questions might feel unexpected to readers anticipating a usual discussion of afterlife spirituality. Such questions include whether individuality is maintained after death, whether or not the afterlife is shadowy or boring, and how self-image and divine purpose enter into afterlife experiences and concepts, making for thought-provoking reading.
C. David Lundberg examines different facets of the afterlife based not on casual research, but a lifelong passion of spiritual research. Over 170 quotations in the book come from souls who have lived a relatively pure life and telepathically sent their afterlife reports to associates on Earth, as well as from select near-death experiences.
Lundberg's mission statement is in his introduction ("My mission became to discover and share the best and most reliable descriptions about the afterlife and the best explanations for how it all works."). It synthesizes, under one cover, a treasure trove of knowledge based on dozens of different sources reporting about the many beautiful, loving, logical and just aspects found in the Heaven World.
It isn't uncommon to have a book compile many such instances; but what sets Our Magnificent Afterlife: Beyond Our Fondest Dreams apart from others on the subject is Lundberg's inclusion of telepathic reports from souls who actually live in the afterlife in addition to select near-death experiences. It is also his attention to detail and bringing all these experiences together in a uniform manner to answer basic questions about the organization and purposes of the afterlife itself.
No reader who believes in the afterlife should be without this thorough overview that describes the afterlife's organization, promises, and overall significance. This work offers hope, comfort and essential afterlife information for all who have concerns about what follows their lives on Earth.Our Magnificent Afterlife Beyond Our Fondest Dreams