November 2014 Review Issue
anticipated rise of a penniless Sicilian immigrant and his introduction
world of crime and money … and then there's the concurrent story of
familiar with quite a different persona: that of a kind, generous, and
soft-spoken, loving family man.
the author's grandfather; so Monastra is in a unique position to
provide a dual
view of his grandfather's heritage - but that's not to say he pulls
reviewing Brancato's powerful mob connections, either. Chapters
ruthless elimination of adversaries from small businessmen who refused
cooperate with the mob to those who would provide information to the
and FBI files combine with family memories in a biography that not only
Brancato's rise in the Mafia, but the group's overall rise to power
1920s to the 1970s.
duality is also
reflected in a more balanced view of Brancato's personality, which held
friendships dear, rewarded loyalties, and honed habits and values early
the longshore job that was one of the major influences on his life: "Frank learned at an early age it was better
to watch how people worked than to just open up his mouth and talk; he
always learn more this way."
biography in favor of dry facts, and those who want more of a lively
than history, may find Brancato: Mafia
Street Boss unexpected: it incorporates elements of each and
as a history with family recollections added in. This approach means
die-hards on either side will find elements not completely to their
but Brancato's real strength lies
this very approach, which melds the personal with the bigger picture of
newspaper reports and legal proceedings create insights on how Brancato
consistently thwarted the legal entities that pursued him: "Another article revealed that an order had
been given to reopen the Brancato deportation case, with hearings to be
Cleveland by the Board of Immigration Appeals, which had formed what
called a secret file on the Cleveland racketeer Frank Brancato that
how he had been heavily involved with the gambling across the state of
over ten years."
battles and the threat of deportation and Congressional hearings, and
the newspaper quotes and history begin to get dense, family routines
picture: "The FBI continued with
their extensive file on Brancato, updating it quarterly. He still had
every-Sunday-morning meeting at either the Damante’s barber shop on
Brancato: Mafia Street Boss had to come from a family member's hand:
there would be no other way to capture the subtler nuances of his life,
third-party investigative piece would have left out Frank Brancato's
connections: and in Sicilian life, that would be verboten.
in Italian culture (even if it's the mob's brand of 'family'). In
the pen of a family member writing a generation later, the history of
operations in Ohio will not only be told, but tempered by the 'other
life' Brancato held so dear.
is well-rounded writing - and a key attribute of this blend of history,
biography, and newspaper reports which is especially recommended for
Brancato: Mafia Street Boss
fantasy setting casts its net upon the waters of epic adventure,
it can either draw in riches or sink in a mire of predictability and
literary devices. Eye of Truth represents a real
treasure, and captures
this with exceptional prowess and vigor, at that. Think Dungeons and
Tolkien, throw in a dash of Patrick Rothfus, add a second book to a
high fantasy saga, add a quest for vengeance and sinister undead
stir. Now blend prophecy with an epic quest, a grueling life beset upon
murderous gnomes and deadly battle, and a female warrior who hasn't
recovered from her last challenging fight and you have a vivid story
indeed in Eye
thing to mention is that this sequel does not require any
prior familiarity with
means that readers new to Badzey's fantasies are in for a treat as
they absorb Dar and Andyn's encounters with gem-stealing thieves, face
betrayals and bounty hunters, sift through dragon treasure, and uncover
Rider enigmas that only deepen with their journey.
surprising moments of wry humor ("Connor held up his
black leather armor and made a face. He poked a finger
blackened hole and eyed the water stains. "Sure. I’m made of money.
just buy another set of enchanted leather armor") that blend
well with a story line steeped in vivid descriptions of place, people
creatures: "He waited in the shadows, secure in his spell but
nothing to chance. A troop of dark elves, twelve strong, marched down
ink-black passage, their forms bright in his heat-vision. They passed
an archway but he remained where he was. A few seconds later, two
spiders, each the size of a small horse, strode down the passage,
bright. The giant arachnids walked right past his little alcove with
faint clacking noise."
Badzey's guidance and prose,
readers can feel
the dripping walls, hear the 'click' of giant spiders passing close by,
become immersed in a world where elves and alliances are all to be
court cases and unjust accusations to magical examinations and
assessments, Andyn finds herself in increasing danger as she searches
and finds only convoluted lies and conflict. Is nothing safe?
Dar and Andyn ultimately uncover new truths that revolve around difficult choices, love, and redemption; and their journey succeeds in carrying readers through a fantasy world steeped in mystery and adventure. It's hard to go wrong with such a volatile mix; but it takes a skilled hand, indeed, to cast such a wide net, then (seemingly effortlessly) draw all the facets of special interests and personalities into a logical yet unexpected conclusion. Badzey is such a hand, and Eye of Truth is such an achievement, recommended for any reader who enjoys their high fantasy spiced with a bit of mystery.
Antonio Simon, Jr.
Darkwater Syndicate, Inc.
and humor don't often mix;
and when they do, it's with the spark and zest of good magic and the
of satire. Add a travel snafu to the mix and you have a fun saga that
just rely on swords and sorcery for its drama, but exposes the bumbling
of a young messenger who mistakenly chooses the wrong boat and finds
aboard a vessel bound for a country ruled by talking dragons.
might not be so bad were it
not for an ongoing drama that leads Marco to impersonate an ambassador
dinner date, only to inadvertently bring peace to warring kingdoms and
the attention of a powerful dragon daughter. Oops!
this brand of humor isn't
subtle: it's overt. It's based on a series of wordplays, ironies, and
observations and it doesn't take a genius to pick up these witty
pop up right from the beginning with a seaman's inability to perform
basic duty: produce a puzzle rhyme in response to Marco's simple
"So answer me this: where are the
ships headed for Avignary?” Turbo gnawed his reed. “That answer’s
hidden in an
old tale of the sea.” He cleared his throat. “The ship you seek flies a
blue as the sky on a summer day, red like the blood in your
and gold like, a... eh... Sorry, lad. I never was too good at rhyming
tales. Rhythmic pentameter’ll be the death me, if I knew what that
was.” “What does
this have anything to do
with my getting to Avignary?” asked Marco. “Rules of the sea,
my boy. An old
salt like me has to answer every nautical question by spinning a tale
sea on the fly. And they don’t have to be true.” Turbo held up an index
to make his point. “But they have to rhyme. That’s the important part.”
limited to street encounters, either, but stretches into the highest
the nation as a king afraid of battle tries to use overwhelming titles
frighten off opponents: "Consider
yourselves fortunate, you who would meet with our Most Wise and
Protector, he who is none other than His Luminous Preponderancy, His
Transcendent Imperial Majesty, His Lofty Sublime Grace, His Percipient
Magnificence, His Most Resolute Prominence, his... uh...”The retainer
off as his bluster of inspiration fell to doldrums. Hurried footsteps
hall preceded his appearance at the archway. “Have my many titles
off yet?” Rao asked. “No,” the retainer answered. “Then
make some up.”
plus of The
is its ability to incorporate a
series of misadventures and absurd yet appealing characters and stories
the main plot. There's a scardy-cat king, a bumbling messenger boy, and
fussy, obsessive-compulsive magician who can't serve his dragon lords
without a meal and drawer packed with silverware at every event.
Red Underwear Tuesday.
just wants what most people
want: a quiet, successful life. That all these other obstacles get in
handing him unwanted adventure and making him the victim of mistaken
with all its complexities, is just one of the approaches that sets The Gullwing Odyssey apart from other
fantasies and places it partially in the company of Tolkien's The Hobbit, where another unwilling
adventurer finds himself undertaking a monumental, world-changing task.
think The Hobbit with a heavier
dose of humor. Think of dragons that
don't conquer by fire and force so much as by a religious-type of
actually requires much study: "A rap
at the door snared his attention. Kuril stood at the threshold,
his eyes set on the book he held in his claws. “Good morning
or afternoon, sir or madam,” Kuril read
aloud. “Do you have a moment to discuss redemption of your
soul through the Good Master? Brief pause. If you would allow
inside your tent, shack, hovel, house, apartment, home, castle – select
appropriate dwelling – I can demonstrate to you the wonders of the
Verb, BECAUSE. Shut book and wait for a response.”…“I have been shown
Marco. And now it is my duty to show it to others. It’s all here, in
He proffered the miniature Glorious Verb with giddy claws, nearly
shoving it in
Marco’s face. “What is?” Marco asked. “The answer.” “To what?”
“Then what is the question?” “Everything.”
readers who don't anticipate, look for, or appreciate humor in their
should look elsewhere; because The
rests solidly on the shaking shoulders of a good laugh - and that's
it apart from ninety percent of fantasies on the market.
it accomplishes this humor
using a powerful hand, many unexpected moments, and an action-packed
the comedy isn't the frosting, but a major ingredient of the actual
itself, makes The Gullwing Odyssey
exceptional read and highly recommended for any who would laugh their
through a world of dragons, warring kingdoms, and a boy whose destiny
move from bumbling messenger to world-changer.
9780646901923 Kindle: ASIN: B00BH1O3U4
Archives promises two things: high fantasy and an ongoing
saga. The fantasy
piece is promised with cover art of a growling beast man, teeth bared,
up in armor, while the subtitle clearly outlines that this is the first
an intended series. So readers are clearly forewarned to expect an
of war and fantasy, at the least.
hunt for an important object
elusive quarries and changing goals. And, any good epic fantasy depends
number of devices to prove successful; while any good work of military
fiction or fantasy rests largely on the solid development of a
military framework upon which to build events and center characters.
Dane Richter's Hunt for the Star achieves this by placing its action squarely in a political quagmire as an aging warrior tasked with the challenging mission of retrieving a powerful crystal (the Eldon Star) must turn to the younger Ethan for youthful aid.
one major problem: it
has been foretold that if
Ethan continues on this journey, he will die. And Artos has already
deceitful means to lure Ethan into the undertaking.
Would Artos risk and sacrifice even his own family
for the greater good of the world?
isn't all that's going on:
of course, a disparate
set of forces are also searching for the Eldon Star. As wizards,
and dangerous soldiers interact in often-fiery conflict, think an
blend of Lovecraft combined with Tolkien's epic journey, mix in a
and sorcery action ala Marion Zimmer Bradley, and add smoky taverns and
clashing battles, and you have a story that rests on the laurels of
and family relationships tested by the trappings of magic and war.
story, it's the
characterization that ultimately
'makes it': here, as Ethan matures and becomes well versed not only in
of battle, but in the nature of uncertain diplomacy, courage, and wry
acceptance of life's little (and larger) challenges: "This
particular stranger, however, did not like the way that Ethan
looked at him. He boldly walked up to the human and grasped him by the
with such force that Ethan almost cried out. ‘Sorry friend,’ said Ethan
quickly, trying to remain composed. The grip loosened and Ethan heard a
hiss as the dark stranger let go and continued about his business.
now wary, Ethan swallowed hard. The volume of people was stifling, and
remained careful not to accidentally hit anyone else. Thinking it best
prepared for pickpockets, he closed his hand over the leather purse
from his belt. He could feel many eyes watching him, and he did his
keep his from wandering."
coming of age process be
so clearly defined if a
protagonist/hero was doomed to die? Obviously, Ethan is slated for
more: the question is, how will he accomplish his quest and stay alive
the inevitability of prophecy and a devious relative who will do
save the world?
come to enjoy Ethan's
journeys in more ways
than one, thrilling to the gory battles that permeate the story, mark
of his personal and political awakening, and lead to the inevitability
huge battle that will change everything for everyone.
Without venturing into a spoiler, let it be said that Ethan's ultimate goal doesn't prove to be what he set out for in the first place; but something greater - and something that demands an ultimate sacrifice.
Star is shrouded not only
in blood, but in secrets
that will be given up only a few at a time. And as Ethan's connection
reveals messages he's unwilling to accept, his life and those around
changes - not necessarily for the better: "The
more days that passed, the more Ethan kept to himself. The burden
of leadership seemed to be taking its toll. ‘Are you all right, Ethan?
distant,’ said Keral. ‘I feel …’ Ethan sighed heavily. ‘I don’t know …
if I am beginning to feel a part of this guidestone. I sense when it is
to talk to me and I know if the news will be good or bad.’ ‘That has to
good thing though … doesn’t it?’ said Keral cautiously, looking down at
hand, tightly clasped around the black rock. ‘I suppose, only lately
are just too mixed up to draw anything decisively.’ He gestured for
ride nearer and lowered his voice to a whisper. ‘The last two days I
been following this river and … and while I know something is there …’
shaking his clasped hand, ‘… I don’t really know what it is trying to
hunt for an important object
elusive quarries and changing goals. Hunt
for the Star's powerful saga is all about transition points,
and its strong
characterization will hook fantasy readers and leave them longing for
continuation of the story, already promised in Book Two.
ISBN-13: 978-0692287170 ISBN-10: 0692287175
Price: $2.99 digital/$9.99 paperback
to be afraid. Be very afraid. Because even seasoned science
fiction readers well versed in stories of military conflict and
will enjoy something different in The
Northern Star: Civil War.
Mention the word 'Civil War story' and most Americans have instant visions of a historical novel; but in the case of The Northern Star: Civil War, that presupposition couldn't be further from the truth.
cyberpunk through and
through and at its best,
is set in 2068 in a world where humans live more in cyberspace than in
reality of their ravaged, resource-depleted world, and provides a
sequel to The Northern
Star: The Beginning (an
introduction not seen by this reviewer) which depicts such a world at
odds with splinter groups and factions vying for power.
futuristic setting seems relatively common; but let's add a mentally
soldier who is at once a hero and a killer, a mystery surrounding a
adults are murdered and children kidnapped, and a world driven by
greed carried to its nth degree of logic and you have a truly gripping
read that moves far beyond any civil war re-enactment that one could
adventure, here. Part of what makes The
Northern Star: Civil War so disturbingly compelling is that
its roots are
solidly implanted in events of modern times. So take greed, corporate
maneuvering and political manipulation and then extrapolate them to a
world where one reluctant, rebuilt soldier finds himself adopting the
position of protector rather than fighter.
where giant manufactured
men can become Tank
Majors or Tank Minors with unique high-tech battle gear designed to
invincible, all supervised by a non-bionic who distrusts the very
he's been assigned to oversee: "Boen
may have controlled the bionics’ operations around the world, but he
didn’t trust the technology. He’d observed how, in today’s military,
a caste system that didn’t exist before: the bionic and the soft
had created an unspoken rift between soldiers, one that superseded even
The Tank Majors—goliath bionics—and the Tank Minors—infantry
flesh-and-blood men into children."
trends of today, such as
with the Internet, and depict a world where this preoccupation of the
has been encouraged by a few determined to control everything - then
what happens when the addictive switch of cyberspace is turned off: "We can’t access our money. We can’t order
food. People can’t work. No games, no friends. The only thing that
is the phones.”
have it, in a nutshell:
the crux of why the
events of The Northern Star: Civil War
ultimately prove so compelling. It's because they aren't unbelievable,
logical possibility based on modern scenarios. It's because the
whether they be bionic fighter-soldiers with their own agendas and
or the common man, are portrayed as well-developed individuals
a world that is only half-real.
turn to The
Star: Civil War for a glimpse into one possible future and a
re-defines the meaning of sacrifice and obedience. Then prepare to be
be very afraid. With its cornerstone foundations rooted in perceptions
patterns of modern times, it's military sci-fi and futuristic
Kathleen Ripley Leo
978-1499230871 $10.99 paperback $2.99 Kindle
Author website: http://www.northvillelibrary.org/NAC/krleo.php
immersed in a feud that stretches from the beginnings of time,
linked to Earth and romance, are nothing new. What is
different is the
premise of how they came to be linked to human affairs; for The
Universe was created with purpose in mind - and that purpose has always
for magic to protect the affairs of humans.
a delicate balance, indeed, when not two, but three fairy
communities intersect. And it's a balance where human affairs don't
precedence - especially when romance is involved.
'Romeo and Juliet', add fairy magic, and then pose the
possibility of a forbidden passion's ability to affect not just
worlds, but the entire human and faery realm alike, and you have just
component of The Seamless Universe; a saga that
grips and involves.
don't take one reviewer's word for this passion: dive into
passages that inject a sense of magic into every event: "Colors
flaring and spiraling all over the place, and out of control.
from the minor to the major keys blared and blatted. Light spectrums
apart, crashing into each other as the colors flared as brightly as
strength and as muted as muddy river bottoms. Candela everywhere were
bile. It was horrible to hear from the lips of their beloved Regent
very essence of Candela
dependent on their sworn enemy."
world spiraling rapidly out of control (and away from preconceived
notions of how the world is and should be run), two individuals hold
to change everything. It's the ultimate story of actions and
a decisive portrait of how individual choice can change entire worlds.
heart of this story lies magic - and that's where fantasy
readers will find the story line at its strongest: in its ability to
magical events with a stunning backdrop of imagery and vision: "Gathering
up sweet grass was a good first task. Both fey used it to fashion
utensils, and weavings for their homes. After that, it would be picking
berries and cutting boughs of fragrant wormwood. Harvesting prairie
been considered, but discounted since prairie smoke bloomed and gave
out their tendrils
in the spring, many months ago."
too often that good writers omit detail for the sake of the
action and plot – and, that’s a shame. The Seamless
Universe’s poetic attention
to depth and detail just goes to show that it’s a powerful vehicle for
transporting fantasy readers into another realm - and herein is the
heart of a
superior fantasy read; one that soundly beats promise and passion
juxtaposing adventure and believable characters with a powerful setting.
O. E. or
Searchers of Ex-O-dá
David D. Tracey
Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
ASIN: B00KZZBPUO $7.00
of aliens sent to Earth from their homeworld Exoda are tasked
with an assessment operation: determine if the Earth should be
harvested by the
fleet behind them, or let the planet pass.
harvesting operation was already conducted by aliens some
sixty-five million year ago; but this time the human race is in charge
thus the planet is the subject of even closer scrutiny.
O. E. or Searchers of Ex-O-dá evolves, there are points of
reference that are fun and odd: for example, the aliens sport human
(Cecil Patrick Randolph, for example) which seem incongruous for an
fleet from beyond the stars.
curious note: the fate of the Earth (as well as other worlds)
actually depends on the destructive actions of these aliens. Much as
to clear the way for new life, so have the aliens' past actions paved
for what is to eventually become humanity. And that's just the
beginning of the
into the human realm, where individuals are just discovering
their extraterrestrial origins and truths, which sometimes become
complexity: "This is complicated. I must tell you first that
those two people
who we were led to believe are our parents, are not our parents. Our
the brother of our real father. Our mother, she is the sister of our
mother. " "My head is spinning Royal. It is royally spinning.
Anyways, why is that?"
his other book, a cartoon-drawing cover hides the fact that its
real audience is adult, while a smattering of grammatical errors
could have been eliminated with a professional editor's assistance.
from these observations, be prepared for a hilarious comedy of
errors that's worth pursuing despite any small copy glitches; for S.
or Searchers of Ex-O-dá is a comedy of errors and ironies,
talking about plots to break away from alien prisons, muddled heritage
strange genes, or the odd habits of fearless leaders with a passion for
and an inability to resist the possibilities offered by a spaceship's
corridor: "He again floors his cart to its maximum speed. This
panic throughout the long crowded passageway. He does this from the
starts his trip to the time he gets out of it at his stateroom. He
needs to take these kinds of trips on a regular basis. He realizes he
witness the horror in his crewmates faces as the try in panic to avoid
mowed down. There is a speed limit throughout the ship. As the official
Commander of the ship, he knows, even though he can be held responsible
other types of crimes, he is immune from any type of vehicle
holds true should he even kill someone with his cart."
this is the strongest piece of S. O. E. or Searchers of
Ex-O-dá: its ability to imbibe even the most serious of plots
with a zany
sense of whimsy and humor that adds an element of unpredictability to
entire story line. Whether it's science fiction or fiction, real
unpredictability and humor is surprisingly rare and a refreshing find.
end the fates of human and alien worlds will become entwined in
more ways than one. Without spilling beans, it should be noted that
looking for a voice that's truly different will find it in only a few
in Christopher Moore's successful tales and, now, in David D. Tracey's
fast-paced story of Searchers who uncover more than they bargained for.
Golden Goddess Press
No ISBN $TBA
for baby boomers, most come to realize (as author Donna Davis did) that
are not financially prepared. With no 'game plan' in place and
surrounding social security payments, 401K plans, and IRAs, it's more
for a book on the subject directed specifically at this age group,
making Retirement Basics: Help for Broke Baby
Boomers the item of choice for those approaching retirement
years who aren't
already well versed in options.
in the title isn't 'baby boomer' - it's 'broke'. This means that
cover the usual subjects of social security, Medicare, and supplemental
they also include some surprise topics from living in the
security: that's the foundation of many a retirement plan.
dispelled and specific information is provided; but even more
information is clearly presented and easily digested: "I
always thought that everybody collecting
Social Security got the same monthly amount. I thought it was a set
that is not the case. The payment will be different for everybody and
dependent on how much you have put into the system over your working
survey isn't just about financial security, either. A chapter covers
maintaining one's health in retirement helps decrease medical expenses.
Davis addresses how food additives and advertising affect eating habits
contribute to nationwide obesity which may lead to a number of
illnesses and the need for increased medical services and prescription
covers living wills and inheritance issues and emphasizes that making
future inheritance part of one's financial plan is never a good idea: "Inheritance is not a
good retirement plan. Things change. People can get
married, divorced, have fights—anything can happen. People are living
longer now and may outlive their finances. If long-term or nursing home
needed, the expected giver may deplete their funds before they pass on.
point is inheritance is never a sure thing until the money is actually
bank account. Don’t count on it. Consider it a nice bonus should you be
fortunate to receive one."
career in retirement?
step of the
way, Retirement Basics offers a
cover most of these nuts and bolts, but use dense language and
doesn't make for a smooth, flowing read.
Retirement Basics: Help for Broke
Baby Boomers is different: its purpose is to cover a range of
offer explanations that are easily digested, and reach baby boomers in
particular, with their special retirement issues and options. With its
of possibilities, anyone nervous about their upcoming
retirement will come away from Retirement
Basics feeling better
informed and more confident about all the positive signs on their
Fear: The Good Girl's Guide to Saying What You Want
ES Scott Publishing
Price: $4.99 Kindle/ $12.99 print
Fear: The Good Girl's Guide to Saying What You Want addresses a
common problem many women face: not just saying what is wanted; but
this as separate from what others want. And readers
who believe that
this perspective will come from an 'outsider' versed in psychology over
personal experience should think otherwise: warning is given before the
chapter even unfolds, in a pointed, fun, and compelling 'disclosure': "Any
resemblance to actual fears you have in your head is entirely on
in your brain, and that’s why I know this book is going to help you."
Fear isn't for the
public speaker or for the person who wants tips on how to
better engage: it's for the timid woman who struggles to
fully engage; who usually lets
others do her speaking for her. It's directed to the "good girls" of
the world who always place others' interests above their own, and it
something that sounds simple but is truly difficult for this group:
one's innate needs and wants, and how to get them.
use personal stories to identify this process of uncovering
not just one's voice, but one's real needs and wants in life; and they
breakthrough moments, how they were achieved, and (more importantly)
served as an impetus for lasting change in both action and word.
expect the usual trappings of a self-help psychology piece
(readers who approach Strip Off Your Fear expecting
such an approach
will be disappointed): it's firmly rooted in the author's experience;
better to deem it an 'autobiographical self-help' work, because here's
its passion and insights set it apart from a typical genre read: "I
living the life of my dreams, out and proud in front of everyone, and
detailing my worries and feelings on the blog for the past two years. I
longer hiding behind my hair, and it was the first time I realized it.
was worried about changing my career, and now I didn’t even have one!"
note: readers will expect fear to be the main issue here - but
surprisingly, it isn't. The problem doesn't center on developing a
life (such isn't possible); it focuses on creating a game plan for
these fears and turning them into strengths and advantages; and this is
Off Your Fear really shines!
where to begin, if one has never spoken up before? With something
as simple as going to lunch. As readers learn about common techniques
defaulting and deflection, they learn to recognize the behavioral
have led to engrained denials and lack of self-confidence - and how to
solid techniques for changes that are achieved in little bits and
the Army's mottos for recruitment is "Be the person you
were meant to be". This phrase also nails the motto of Strip
Fear; because when self-confidence is boosted, all manner of
take place that decommission behaviors reinforcing hiding, apologizing,
deflecting the most important thing of all: one's true self.
Don't expect Betsy Talbot's book to do everything for you. She's just the messenger, providing the message and the tools. The real work is just beginning, for women who are shy, retiring, and used to not making waves in their lives.
offers tools and an easy structure for using them. Any who
struggled to identify their 'voice' and desires will find this packed
step-by-step details on exactly how to find it - and what to do with
it's finally set free.
978-0-9909192-0-9 e-book version: 978-0-9909192-1-6
is recommended for
working mothers and HR professionals who would understand the
breastfeeding a child while remaining employed, and comes from a
thirty-something working mother of two who has used these techniques
so it's an authoritative text that actually represents methods that
personally tried and tested.
isn't talking about ordinary clerical positions, either: much
of her work involves international globe-trotting business trips; and
applicable to all levels of career working mothers.
think the subject would open with a positive reflection on
the freedoms and potentials of breast milk pumps: instead, it provides
reality from the start: "Here’s an idea: let’s use machines to
breast milk from our bodies several times a day, while we are working
jobs. Let’s do this when we are already exhausted, anxious, stressed,
overwhelmed – and trying to prove to our employers that we’re “back”."
and breastfeeding her baby proved one of the most difficult
tasks Jessica Shortall had ever attempted: "…it produced more
and guilt and feelings of being overwhelmed than any other part of
It was a very physical job, in the midst of an already physically
in my life – the lugging of the equipment and the milk, the running
meeting to pump and back again, the finding of private places in which
It was also an emotional job, and one filled with second-guesses. It
time-consuming, draining (literally), anxiety-producing, and stressful.
someone’s sole (or main) source of nutrition is hard work."
outline points of conflict, stress, and what can be done to
alleviate common problems, providing bulleted paragraphs that make for
and easy browsing for busy working mothers who want to tackle one point
specifics on ideals versus reality, there are tips on how to
handle timing for baby needs and business pursuits alike, there are
of machines, methods, and psychology - and most of all, there's a
text that brings together all these common problems and how to overcome
anticipate the baby-oriented focus here; but what is even
more surprising is the healthy dual focus on business concerns that
incorporate office politics: "First, you: You have to keep
a pro. Even the most supportive managers, leaders, and even some
will be watching you when you come back. I heard this from several HR
They’ll be looking at you, wondering, “Is she really the same as
before? Is she
as committed, and is she really back?”
such scrutiny one's professional and business reputation is often
on the line, requiring absolute attention to prioritizing AND
image as a committed professional and a mother: "Like it or
those looking for confirmation that you’re not fully “back,” everything
at work related to your new baby can add up: Every early departure for
kid, every time you leave a meeting to pump, every time you pull out
pictures to ooh and ahh with your work friends. This doesn’t mean you
these things – our HR experts stress this point – it just means you
an eye on these activities, and prioritize what’s most essential (like
to business travel with breast milk and pump are invaluable
and even take into account TSA procedures and how frozen milk can be
escorted through security: "…what do you do when a rumpled TSA
(who, just before you walked up, touched his 1,000th traveler of the
without washing his hands) wants to open a bag of your frozen breast
wave a little slip of paper in there?"
tips aren't limited to successful travel arrangements or tips for
successful work, but move beyond these areas with their acknowledgement
special challenges facing a working, professional, breastfeeding new
result is a solid advice guide that should be on the shelves of any
woman who enjoys a career and who wants to return to it while
nurture her child: a guide very highly recommended for its exceptional
and well-rounded discussion of the realities of the venture; right down
politics of asking for employer concessions: "Ask yourself the
kinds of questions: what will make them confident in your abilities to
What personalities are you dealing with? What’s the business case? What
drawbacks will this scenario have, and how will you address them? Tone
important: you are not begging, but you are also not “owed” this. Build
strong a case as possible, and present it confidently."
Take a wealthy real estate developer whose son has disappeared, have him persuade a deputy sheriff to conduct a missing person search beyond the usual police efforts, then pair said deputy with a feisty female P.I. who has her own ideas of how to conduct a search and you have the framework for an involving detective story that revolves as much upon protagonist head-butting as it does around the process of mystery-solving.
just the opening salvo of
action that permeates Detective
Lessons, lending it an atmosphere and approach that moves
an investigation leading to the father's own lair of activities, which
some unexpected clues.
plenty of detective novels
that center on
developing relationships between investigators: that's nothing new. And
take unexpected twists and often come home to roost - that's also par
unexpected - and unique - in Detective
is a series of twists of plot and character which seem to lead in a
direction, only to take a 360-degree turn towards something entirely
story of a missing son
and a touch of spark and possible romance between two very different
investigators turns into an exploration of how directions change in
ideals of duty are challenged in the course of a professional career,
trust slowly evolves from situations that test endurance, values and
don't forget the touch of
humor that runs through
even the simplest of events: "Hotchkiss asked, “Schmitty,
trying to figure out how to write this report without using the word
it's not just about the
mystery, how it's
solved, or how people come together or break apart in the course of an
investigation. It's about how law enforcement struggles with internal
external forces beyond the facts of an investigation to arrive at
it's about how individuals grow and change in the course of police
it's about how the bad guys handle revenge, deceit, and complex games
likely to weave webs of entrapment around themselves as around their
is filled with lessons beyond the
usual investigative piece: teachings about psyche, interpersonal
evolving relationships, presumptions and the finer art of deciphering a
of puzzles both professional and personal. These lessons are embedded
observations between protagonists that add satisfying complexity to the
plot: "Megan had known him for at least ten years and she’d
the man to grieve, but he remained tense and distant. A driving thought
underneath. Singularly focused on finding his son alive. She felt he
really with them in the car."
approach, Detective Lessons
is especially recommended for genre readers who look for more than a
casual mystery; and who delight in complex psychological interactions
Digital ISBN: 978-1-62929-159-8 $5.95
Print ISBN: 978-1-62929-160-4
pivot points in life that
take even the most
fiercely followed course and wreck havoc with it, turning dreams into
nightmares to create either new dreams or dead-end roads. These are the
where life-changing avenues are chosen; the points where bad encounters
questionable decisions lead to either new beginnings or sordid endings.
can take even the most seasoned and wisest of men and turn their lives
down. Such is the case for the protagonist of Flash
Blood, who is about to go up against something unprecedented
in his experience.
Detective James Arklow is no rookie and no newcomer to the investigative process and all its nuances; so when he leaves the police force to become a private investigator, he brings with him years of knowledge and savvy.
All this is
about to be put to the
test in Flash Blood, the story of
when a man is pitted against the impossible.
Arklow is a
investigator: this means that
his character is fully developed above and beyond your usual singular
focus. His ultimate ambition is to not just be a cop or a detective
especially, not a teacher), but to
a successful mystery writer: a believable, involving pursuit given the
of his background and his drive to become something more than his
"If I made it as a mystery writer,
he could rent the space forever-or burn down the building itself if it
his fancy. If the doings of my private eye alter ego did not provide me
enough income, I would return to my real life job as a detective."
truth is, his instincts for
detective work have long
been honed by street savvy, and whether this will translate
literary excellence has yet to be proven.
And so Flash
is a test, on many levels: a test soon to embrace every skill Arklow
developed as he faces some of his biggest challenges yet.
One of the
first things a thriller
reader will note is Flash Blood's
attention to detail, right
down to the sights and smells of atmosphere that impart a 'you are
to almost every page: "Disguises
hung in a plastic laundry bag—which had been hanging for so long that
outfit would probably have to be washed before as well as after it was
worn…I hopped down, my Hush Puppies crunching the gravel as I landed.
spat a wad of tobacco off to his side, in the direction of the smoking
backdrop of intrigue and
stands the lone figure of a detective pitted against the sobering
the drug world and its dangerous lure: "He
also said nothing, nothing,
feels better than an overdose. He said he was being hugged
by the warm
arms of God.”
As his real
case takes over and
mystery writing takes a back
shelf, Arklow finds events too puzzling to even contemplate
a literary effort: "I certainly
didn’t want to let my mind wander back to what I was supposed to be
my meager literary talents right now. I would finish this case and then
fictive detective through his procedural paces again. It didn’t occur
that my present case could serve as grist for my next potboiler. It was
too weird to inhabit any space in even my melodramatic literary universe."
Faced with a
new substance that
removes all pain and agonies
(past and present) from real life, Arklow gets it, but good: "His blood took away other pains, too, the
hidden accretion of years as the senses deadened, as colors shined less
brightly and food tasted bitter, as the vibrancy of seasons and their
faded, no matter what one did in an effort to rekindle whatever
childhood contained. That was what it was, what was in the blood and
in the needle, and what was now traveling through me. It was childhood."
How does a
practical man face down a
drug with the promise
of changing reality itself? Arklow's increasingly personal connections
poppy promise brought back from the war could change the course of his
ambitions and dreams: "Men destroyed
their lives for sex, for love, for women all the time,
and what was in that bag made me feel better than anything a woman ever
Or, they could transform his life into something greater than he's ever
represents a pivot point in Arklow's life, plain and simple. As such,
immerse readers in a world of good and bad choices, and it powers all
choices with a potent protagonist whose ultimate goals and reality
subject to change without notice. Detective novel genre readers, take
this is a far more complex scenario than your usual 'whodunnit' - and
therefore, far more satisfying a read.
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B00NYJVXU0 $.99
in the Grey Spear Society series, Alex Siegel is taking a break; but
the kind of break that involves not writing a book; it's the kind that
new series - and, a very different one at that. So hang on to your
and be prepared for a venture into sorcery and magic which begins with
college man's romance with a secret master sorcerer and involves him in
government agency tasked with protecting the special 'seams in reality'
allow magic to seep through.
that's just the
beginning: Seams in Reality sets
stage for what evolves into smorgasbord of action that prompts an
actor to play one of the most demanding roles of his life. In any good
production, actors wait for cues to provide performances that accent
character with compelling stories, sweeping audiences along dual paths
probability and the unexpected.
in Reality presents
a showcase of incongruities,
beginning with a middle-aged woman in her fifties who would seem too
become involved with a young college man. Tonya's interest in Andrew
innate talents in a direction other than what Andrew has studied for,
a scholarship deal turns out to be an introduction to extracurricular
Andrew finds the world far more complex than he'd ever imagined.
the concept of magic, he has to recognize his own uneducated abilities;
order to survive what's to come, he'll have to become knowledgeable
in Reality offers
all the elements of a superior play
or story: create an accessible, interesting protagonist, add romance
intrigue, wrap everything in magic - and then let the fun begin by
an evil sorcerer into the mix, who harbors a thirst for power and a
to Andrew's family.
prior series, Seams in Reality
appears directed to a young adult audience (its protagonist is just
the adult world); but that doesn't mean it should be limited to a
tantalizing explorations of Andrew's process of accepting and using his
and the honing of survival skills that ultimately translate to enough
save not just himself but the world around him make for a vivid
events to involve all ages.
greatest skill of Seams in Reality
lies in its exploration of crime, definitions of 'good' and 'evil', and
of ethics and morality that blur during the process of social and
interests. One doesn't expect a criminal investigation to be a part of
sorcery story; but this is just one aspect of a multi-faceted read that
fully developed as Andrew learns to 'think like a magician', Tonya
trust his innate senses, and even the resources of a federal government
vested in the idea and manipulation of magic becomes strained.
explore themes of coming of age, sorcery, and even government
magic. Few take the time to intricately bind all of these aspects
together in a
story that ultimately revolves around treachery, lies, and portable
reality that can be used for ill under the wrong hands.
complete wrap-up here, either: Seams in
Reality is first in a series: as such, it leaves the door
wide open for
more action even while exiting stage left.
Penelope Pipp Publishing
ISBN: 978-0-9882369-2-9/0988236923 Pbk $9.99
ISBN: 978-0-9882369-3-6/0988236931 E-book $4.99
for some, is anything but ordinary: Sam was orphaned as an
infant, grew up on a pharmaceutical research mission in the rain
Torundi (where she learned to harvest local resources and identify
and fauna), and is sent to an American boarding school in Malaysia upon
It's there that her life really begins to evolve (or, unravel: take your pick) as she searches for the reason why she was banished from her beloved rainforest home, only to uncover corporate greed and manipulation lies behind her exile.
it's more than personal (and even more than political): it's
one teenager on the cusp of adulthood fighting for her beloved home,
suddenly intrigue and espionage writing at its best.
its best'? Because any good thriller is cemented early on by
solid psychology and characterization; and (more so than most) The
Torundi demonstrates the importance of these devices by
well-rounded protagonist whose blossoming love, passion for home, and
over her life's course and its origins become entwined with a bigger
McCreedy achieves this depth in part because of the nature of
protagonist Sam, who harbors an inquisitive nature, an innocence about
affairs, and a passion for truth and understanding that serve as the
forces behind her investigations.
there's the cultural setting: Sam's experiences are steeped with
the atmosphere and culture of
thrillers, whether they be adult or young adult, gloss over
either setting or psychology. By placing her story in an exotic albeit
believable location and making Sam's experiences a series of
observations, McCreedy achieves the feel and intensity of a first-rate
solid approach that lends to The Orphan of Torundi's
strength is that readers of all ages are invited into Sam's thought
she struggles to understand her vastly-changed world: "I think
Jean, of the days and nights we’d spend pouring over a single idea.
What do we
do when we don’t know how to make sense of a subject? We reorganize and
at the beginning."
lives are anything but ordinary; but it's a challenge capturing
their progression with all their psychological facets. And in the heat
thriller writing (or in writing with young adult audiences in mind),
too easy to become immersed in the story line without building the
psychology that makes for a superior read.
Orphan of Torundi holds both is testimony to its
strengths. Add further details on Torundi law, a deeply held secret
reaches out from beyond the grave, and a series of changes that
love and you have a read that seamlessly invites readers into another
smoothly, compellingly, immerses readers in the sounds, flavor and
that world: "The air smells saltier all of a sudden, the wind
harder and the sound of the boat returns with a rumble in my ears. Far
right, the shores of
seventeen years Sam's life and world have seemed 'set', even with
the mystery embedded in it. All that's about to change. And with its
descriptions and involving protagonist, readers can expect to hop on
departing train of adventure for an invigorating, can't-put-it-down
Robert Hale, Publisher
chilling scenario: what if a sniper launches a
series of deadly attacks on
Such is the
setting and premise of Random Targets,
where killings are only
the introduction to a
deeper, larger danger.
If its plot
was a more
one-dimensional story line, the
action would center on solving a single crime, criminal, or circle of
Were it a more predictable story, the sniper's identity and location
its main focus. And were it a standard story line, the psychological
would revolve around problem-solving; not a 'bigger picture'.
be told, it's the wider
focus which separates a
low-level thriller from something truly outstanding; and in this case Random Targets fits the bill of
tension, for example. What
lends to such tension is one simple premise outlined in the very first
sentence: "no one saw it coming."
Expand on the theme: nobody understands
more than a dash of intrigue:
it makes no sense. And then add the
coup de'etat … when the puzzle unwinds, it's worse
than anyone could have expected.
Add the factor that all the events are ultimately possible in real life and you have a gripping thriller that slowly reveals the goal of an impossible endgame, presenting the sniper's perspective as he slowly inches towards this deadly purpose: "As he raised the rifle he felt completely at ease. These killings had become routine. He was just going through the motions; one deadly step at a time until he’d reached his goal. He didn’t feel a thing for his victims. He didn’t know them. They were just a means to an end."
case, it's hard to use
individual quotes to fully
capture the underlying horror and tension steeped in Raven's novel from
very first page. And the identity of the elusive killer is only the tip
story's iceberg - another truly memorable device that keeps it
the account, another
sentence says it all: "
you have it in a nutshell,
straight from the
characters' mouth: Random Targets
excels in building assumptions and then knocks them down until there
more clues or assumptions left. It's then that truth is exposed - a raw
that will leave even the most seasoned genre reader on edge.
thriller story of exceptional
note, it's how the
'bigger picture' is handled that makes it a top pick. That Raven holds
punches until an unexpected conclusion is reached is tribute to his
grab attention with nonstop staccato action, then evolve the plot to
in unexpected ways.
conclusion winds up to be more
than one man's
investigation, but a portrait of a chilling new world's evolution. And
perhaps, is Random Target's
achievement: it makes its readers want to give up their car keys.
Always Come in Three
Black Rose Writing
airplane ride always begins at the gate. The plane taxis to the runway,
there's liftoff, flight, and touchdown. Everything's smooth and
works, in an ideal situation. But what if one airline begins to suffer
but a series of devastating crashes? What if the usual path of taxi,
flight, and touchdown doesn't end safely at the gate? And what if a
force is involved in a series of events that bring airline safety
Always Come in
Three profiles such
plane crashes, weaves in
conspiracy theories, and highlights the efforts of two investigators to
the bottom of these deadly of events. It's a recommended pick for
readers who want more than the usual atmosphere of fiction in their
here because author E.L. Crenshaw happens to be an
aviation professional himself; so his observations of what can cause a
crash are based not on fictional possibilities but upon reality. Backed
reality, They Always Come in Three
assumes a life of its own and as engines rev, a plane crashes in its
chapter, and an investigation immediately kicks in.
followed; but that routine is shattered by not one but a series of
test the investigative department's capabilities and place two men in
pursuit of the truth. The problem is: when they get too close to that
they are assigned elsewhere - which means there's a traitor in the
lies in the disasters. Their flight path criss-crosses special interest
tests the skills of two men determined to reveal the heart of the
and takes an uncertain course as a cross-country search evolves into a
desperate mission of danger.
anticipated smooth flight becomes bumpy with complexities and
Thriller readers will find the investigation process precisely
down to the serial numbers of plane modifications: "Speed
handed the aircraft modification folders to Cyrano, and then he
examined the serial numbers on a list of fuel switches. After several
Speed turned to Cyrano “Do the airplane numbers match with the fuel
numbers,” he said."
Always Come in
Three comes up to
speed, the investigators find their probe leads them in different
from a Naval air station to a militant group and into the heart of
investigative proceedings and politics.
increases, agents and police officers clash, and prisoners are taken.
potential for great change or great corruption - in the Department of
its conclusion, readers are brought on board for a surprising outcome:
neatly wraps up loose ends and provides a bit of a twist.
was the long flight worth it? With sterling onboard entertainment,
intrigue served up a piece at a time, and a series of precise
associations that test even the seasoned talents of Speed and his
Cyrano, it's difficult to predict where this flight will wind up.
open at journey's end, readers will have enjoyed a rollicking ride and
journey that leads to a crescendo of surprising truths, all wrapped up
intricate formulas for discovery and realistic aviation insights
powered by an
author who has had extensive industry experience.
ISBN 978-0-9938093-0-9 (pbk.) $15.95
ISBN 978-0-9938093-1-6 (html) $4.99
revelation holds within it a possibility of letting go the past -
and each 'goodbye' is really a invitation to new opportunities and new
That's the underlying, compelling message of After Helen,
novel with an unusual story to tell: one that isn't limited to the
remarkable to find a novel that not only has survived the test of
time (it's been some ten years since its original publication in
like the proverbial phoenix of myth, rises to commendation a decade
later as a
reprint redesigned for global audiences. This first novel received a
award, earning author Paul Cavanagh the first 'Lit Idol' award at the
International Book Fair in 2004: this alone should be enough to entreat
of 2014 to add After Helen to their reading lists.
this background wasn't so. Say that After Helen
appeared for the first time today (…and that wouldn't be far from the
its original audience was largely limited to Canadian readers). Say
attracts a powerful wave of readers in those who look for novels
psychological depth, tension, and personal revelations ala writers such
Nicholas Sparks. Now develop the character of a history teacher (who
on his late wife Helen and the aftermath of her demise) and you have
evolving, compelling story that is After Helen, as
much an ongoing pick
for modern audiences as it was a decade ago.
course, there are long-buried family secrets
it all is the specter of ongoing grief that permeates
faces character Livingston and uncovers more hard questions,
he provides astute observations about narcissism and the lasting
selfishness and its impact on those around them, even in circles that
oblivious to its incarnation or effects: "I can see now that
has left such a trail of discarded women in his life because they could
with his most ardent lover—himself. Women were simply pleasingly
mirrors in which to admire his own reflection. Unfortunately, they all
often bent the light to his advantage, mistaking his bloated ego
single parent facing a lonely future, the mystery surrounding
Helen, Livingston, and others grows larger than life and threatens to
and consume his attention - and as it unravels, it exposes itself to
"I realize that they’re the photos
unusual to find a novel where the main character is deceased.
end, it's about journeys, resolution, and new lives based on
acknowledging (and then avoiding) destructive patterns of the past.
978-0-9908342-1-2 $14.99 paperback, $5.99 ebook
Catalain Book of Secrets
opens with a bang and
keeps on firing off the unexpected: "Ursula was twelve years
her mother asked her to murder a man." Think Charles DeLint
Hoffman in this book, which will appeal to any reader who enjoys
magic and mystery.
so secret are the
magical gifts the Catalain women harbor, the lengths they will go to
their heritage, and a sticky past that reaches out to grab and immerse
Catalain woman who dares leave her ancestral heritage to strike out
case with Katrine, who
managed to escape the
Catalain legacy by moving overseas, marrying, and honing a coveted
magazine job … until everything falls apart and she returns to the one
she knows best: the family fold.
where things get
interesting. That fold harbors
more than a few secrets and dangers, and the grip on family members has
tightened with her decision to return home.
talented herbalist able
to concoct nearly any
potion as if by magic, but she's never thought of using her abilities
before: not until her mother Velda schemes a perfect murder that only
can pull off. And the aftermath holds both promise and disaster; for
longs to leave the ancient family house that Ursula has treasured all
to a very different
future: one in which Ursula
remains haunted by her younger years, even as she still lives in the
loves and even as the soul of the man she murdered reaches out beyond
to inhabit her life.
daughter who eschews her
magical heritage in an effort
to hide her own closely-held secret, the aforementioned Katrine's
return to the family fold, and magical connections between past,
future as they incarnate in different Catalain women's lives and you
read that smoothly moves from character to character, purpose to
perspective to perspective with the smooth skimming expertise of
champions who glide over turbulent waters with seeming ease.
ancestry, shared secrets,
shared magic and shared
responsibilities for bad choices permeate a story line that also holds
promise of romance and redemption. Ultimately, it's about each
recognizing who they are and how they fit into the family's labyrinth
puzzles and connections.
event and a dying man's
threat ("I will take
your power when the snakes rise. Your children will pay for this, and
children.") demand that the
secrets that bind them all must be confronted, aired, and ultimately
any of the Catalain women are to ever lead peaceful lives that accept
and integrate the present.
tend to assume a similarity of theme and perspective. What makes for a
in this genre is an attention to how characters evolve, change, and
choices surrounding family connections and personal direction. Perhaps
biggest secret of them all is closely held by the unexpected moments
Catalain Book of Secrets,
making for a compelling read for any seeking spell-binding reading.
On the Edge Books
Website, Price TBA
headline news reports of the intifada in the Middle East, add
deeper social concerns, and then focus on the political awakening of an
idealistic pre-med student and you have a novel replete with insights
the political becomes the personal and vice versa.
just completing her studies as a pre-med student at
growing political awareness and criticism of Israel's policies
bring her into conflict with family and friends, but woven into her
political growth is a humanitarian goal to bring health clinics to
need in other countries. Against this backdrop, Rachel makes choices to
healthcare to Palestinians: something her own physician father was
before his death.
now, all seems fairly predictable - but at this point the plot
adds a satisfying twist and what seems like a set path involving
social and political awareness turns into a dangerous course as
political connections are exposed. For Michael is proud of being an
fighter in a deadly game - so proud that he will do anything for the
even sacrifice his love for Rachel and for the ideal of the healthcare
that is one of their shared passions.
comes to know more of Michael, she begins to realize how
little she actually knows - and observes how little he seems to have
the usual childhood pleasures. Still, she sees him as different from
militant personas of the
and mindsets are explored and exploded, romance is tested to
its limits, and ultimately both Michael and Rachel face world-changing
decisions that rest squarely on the political and social interactions
conflicts between Jews and Palestinians.
must consider a basic question when she's forced to fully
comprehend the nature of Michael's involvements: "Would a
hater fall in love with her?" And
on Michael's part, he struggles with a
lifetime of deception that moves from childhood to adult concerns too
to allow for any real analysis.
of straight romance stories might find more political
reflection than is usual for a romance, while those following thrillers
novels of intrigue might be surprised that romance occupies such a
of the story line. But, in fact, it's personal connections that bring
political ideas: that, and the determination of what to do about one's
How far should one travel in the pursuit of faith and political change,
it sacrifices love?
deadly game, fueled by romance and belief systems. Readers can
expect a story of international politics, intrigue, and romance all
with social commentary and driven by the passions of two powerful
who each learn something more about themselves and their world through
shared concerns over conditions in the Middle East.
Alex Chu, H.W. Vivian and Beth Kallman Werner
ASIN: B00LQU6PFW $3.99
& Associates is a successful software company with one major
difference from any other: its employees are aloof, lazy, and
uncommon characteristics for a company approaching its first IPO. Even
of system hacks doesn't shake employee complacency - until a senior
analyst's drunken exit prompts the jaded group to rethink their
this sounds ribald, incongruous, and with potential for more
than a touch of humor throughout - well, it is. Anticipate a fun read
an uncommon scenario in which the business structure supports a playpen
dysfunction and the key protagonists are out to lunch - all day long.
who anticipate the usual 'business novel' are in for something
different, here. Gone are dull, dry or predictable business challenges;
their place is a series of encounters that border on the zany: "When
Gordon reached the conference room’s wood-paneled door, he slapped the
handle down and swung it open, shouting, “Someone’s been stealing our
seven suited executives, six men and one woman, who were all seated
white circular table. The executives stared at Gordon in silence, their
raised in stunned disbelief, thus making the senior risk analyst feel
idiot. “Ah, Gordon,” welcomed one of the men cheerfully in his booming
It was Aaron Amber, founder and CEO of the company. Aaron looked in his
mid-fifties; had the broad build of a pro-wrestler, with white bristly
atop a shiny, peach-colored oval scalp, and bright eyes that were as
the ocean he enjoyed sailing upon. “So nice of you to join us. We
possibly go public without you scrutinizing, well… something.”
business readers looking for serious lessons embedded in the
structure of a novel may be disappointed at this light-hearted
there's plenty of that to be found elsewhere - and not enough of the
brand of tongue-in-cheek observational humor that permeates Days
first prerequisite to its complete enjoyment is a sense of
humor, and the second is an interest in business pursuits that don't
usual definitions of company structures and professional attitudes.
are realistic and well-developed, but again - if you're
looking for a typical business novel packed with real-world insights,
elsewhere. The intention here isn't to present a logical progression of
business decisions, but to poke fun at the often-incongruous business
personalities that inhabit software environments.
the ideal reader of Days of Amber should have some
experience with Google-like companies and software start-ups to
level of dysfunction many of these organizations seem to cultivate.
it's a case of linguistics: many passages are fun plays and pique the
imagination with unexpected references: "After more than
of loyalty and commitment to his best friend’s company, Gordon was
replaced by a group of ambitious, know-nothing business posers, thrown
like an obsolete VHS player."
is certain: readers who approach Days of Amber
anticipating your traditional business novel will likely be
those who seek something light, refreshing, and truly different will
not an educational business pursuit so much as a fun leisure read that
up some unexpected twists and turns in the course of an IPO pursuit.
Monster: Half Dead
David D. Tracey
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B00M8UFMQM $7.50
a cartoon-like cover drawing initially indicates that The
Death Cliff Monster: Half Dead could be slated for younger
beware: the writing is for an adult or advanced teen reader, as its
sentence quickly indicates: "In Carl’s normal early morning
he sees Joan’s burnt, mangled, and dried up face. Carl has a difficult
believing her once beyond beautiful face now look like this. He then
hand come up from its laying position as she hands him her high school
friendship ring back; though, he knows in his dream—she no longer is
the thought that The Death Cliff Monster: Half Dead is
for middle school readers, ignore the crayoned appearance of cover art
indicates a younger audience, and be prepared for a complex, whimsical,
surprising read about a son's return to the prodigal farm homestead to
an aging father, only to find that a monster which lives nearby has
stolen the souls of his mother and high school sweetheart.
comparison were to be made between David D. Tracey's writings and
that of a more famous, successful writer, think the early works of
C. Moore, which embed elements of the zany with impossible scenarios
opening acts of illicit affairs, this whimsical side shines
through; whether it be in descriptions of events or in dialogue between
characters: "I have a gig working for a stunt outfit. I figure
the angle and distance their ramps have to be for their tricks, along
speed they need to get to in order to reach their landing ramps
do you use a slide rule or computer? Personally, I’d never accept a
taken from a computer, not with life at stake. What if a virus were on
computer? That would make for a very unhappy client. In your case, one
could come back and haunt you.”
of 'haunting', the action lies not so much in family
interactions and affairs as it does in Carl's discovery of the monster,
abilities, and the number of tragedies that pile up as danger hungrily
on its rampage: "It seemed two others who enter the steak
them also love steaks. They sit at a table that is not next to Carl’s
Rita’s but close enough that they can observe them. These two men order
steaks. It seems they can’t help but make a grueling sound when they
causes an elderly man with his wife to turn around to them to protest
sounds. This man, however, never says a word to these men when he sees
these men’s wild looking orange eyes staring back at him. The older man
calls the waiter over. He asks this waiter for what he and his wife
bagged. As soon as their food is boxed, both leave in haste not often
people their age. These two elder people didn’t go far; at least their
as two more of those that prefer their steaks raw are waiting for this
couple in the back seat of their car."
be noted that some editing would have produced a more
polished saga: there are minor grammatical errors sprinkled throughout
would have benefited from an editor's final touch ("two human
figures", "We have called the hotel we sent you too…").
said, those who can overlook this sprinkling (and, they are minor)
and, especially, readers who enjoy a touch of tongue-in-cheek humor
monster tales ala Christopher Moore will find Tracey's approach is very
- and totally engrossing.
ramp up towards a grand finale, Chris finds himself helping
Rita and those who suffer from disabilities, and facing down the thing
The Death Cliff that threatens everything he holds dear.
It's all about action, human interaction, and a quest to confront The Half Dead Thing before it becomes unconquerable. But the true heart of any drama lies in its characters and presentation: Tracey's ability to add wry twists to his plot makes for a compelling and fun read recommended not for the young so much as the young at heart.
Christopher Moore, make room: there's competition in town!The Death Cliff Monster: Half Dead
A superior historical novel tackles past events from different perspectives, injects an intimate feel of bygone years (from sights, smells and sounds to the political and social interactions between individuals), and synthesizes all this using characters lifted from historical fact and personalized so that they are real living, breathing people.
have examined various facets of Christ's life from different points of
while movies duplicate the effort and have even tackled this
examination from the
perspectives of others who were related to or interacted with Jesus.
surprising to note yet another approach that has hitherto been
the fictional format: a record of events captured by an anonymous
saw all, wrote about his observations, and left only his legacy behind.
Christianity's Origins is such a beast, but make no doubt
about this: this
is no 'Life of Brian' light presentation, but a serious historical
in an ancient world that captures not only the advent of Christianity
rise of a religion, but the heart and soul of its times. As such, it's
satisfyingly meaty, dense reading packed with detail and recreations of
warfare and strife rampaging through Christ's era.
martyrs, the uncertain
soldiers and believers, the sacking of Jewish enclaves and lives - all
vividly captured in a readable story that reaches out to grasp readers
immerse them in the baptismal waters of ancient times: "Below
them the city burned, everywhere aglow
with fire. Ahead was the red moon’s baleful gaze. They ran through the
now bent and twisted, and passed between two gigantic pillars. Inside
of Gentiles was a hell of noise and fire; helter-skelter with Roman
bodies laying everywhere. Jacob’s eyes were blurred by tears, his heart
novels portray sacking,
pillaging and destruction
so vividly, with their social and political underpinnings exposed and
this backdrop of ending worlds lies the hope of miracles and faith; and
these ruins the phoenix that is Christ's legend emerges: "Jacob
woke in the dark and realized the pain
was gone and he was healed…Above the distant range he saw the thin
sickle of a
new moon and a smattering of stars. Above more stars shone brightly.
was quiet. He felt invigorated, alive and well for the first time in
weeks. Yet his mind was a chaos of conflicting thoughts. He understood
backdrop of hatred, racial tensions, and political interventions in
lies the legend and mystery of a leader and efforts to capture these
posterity. Our anonymous writer didn't realize that his words and works
have a world-changing impact on centuries of mankind - and that's yet
revelation, here: the lasting legacy of a single observer who charts
disintegration, rebuilding, and perspectives of his world.
feature here is that perspective changes. Thus, readers view this world
Roman eyes, Jewish eyes, and from different angles: "This wall
circumscribed the seven hills, then the entirety of the city, with
and troops,” Marcus said. “Now
Without such changing viewpoints, Logos could all too easily have become a one-dimensional survey, even given its important focus. That it seeks to be a more multi-faceted production with layers of insights honed from diverse experience just lends to a bigger picture of Christianity's evolution than most novels would attempt.
as this form the
foundations of our lives and
all too easily become legends, told and retold until nuggets of truth
are glossed over. Logos returns the
rough, gritty, realistic feel of its times to modern readers and
capturing extra dimensions of Christ's life and times which aren't
historical novel tackles
historical events from
different perspectives, injects an intimate feel of bygone years, and
implants these facets into characters taken from historical fact and
personalized so that they are real living, breathing people.
shines. Historical novel readers are in for a treat.
and Precious Lives
Red Skye Press
any life there are defining
moments. In any historical era there are key transition points. The
challenge of the novel writer is to capture those moments, recreate
lend both insight and reality to events linking past, present, and
novel set in 1960 Cold War
Germany doesn't sound like an auspicious beginning for a young adult
do the protagonists, who are teenage Army brats used to relying on one
for support and companionship. But an adult-sounding setting and
is exactly what sets Our Wild and
Precious Lives apart from other young adult reads and makes
it a vivid and
different story that will reach into adult circles even as it remains
rooted in the perceptions, experiences, and reactions of teenagers.
and Melly worry about
adjusting to a strange foreign country and entering yet another new
they also face problems at home with an abusive, controlling war
and his domination over their lives.
rare to see a supportive,
genuine love between brother and sister depicted against the backdrop
military life with all its challenges. It's also rare to find the
feel of post-World War II woven into a story line that brings to life
key moments in the international world of the 1960s, but the
military families stationed abroad.
a novel filled with such
political and family insights is a dance. Of necessity it must move
logically and precisely between two very different atmospheres that
necessarily sync up easily: that of a military family's interactions
psychology, and the bigger picture of world events.
dance begins at home and
paints a solid portrait of four very different individuals with their
methods of living their lives and their own methods of coping with
a series of observations
and experiences, the personality of each family member is flushed out
they become living, breathing individuals that interact and grow as
environment changes. And through their eyes and experiences, what
home have followed in the news becomes vivid, real, and filled with
for danger: "This is a land grab,
with the Russians thinking if they occupy the territory, they own it.
boys and girls, is why this crisis is important. We're here, or rather,
fathers are here, because of the Domino Theory, which says that if one
falls to the Soviets, the rest will fall like dominoes, and there will
nothing to stop the Communists from taking over Europe."
of what makes Our Wild and Precious Lives so
compelling is Russo's focus on emotional growth and understanding. This
realistic feel to the entire endeavor, brings political events to life
revealing their impact on daily lives, and makes each protagonist
and compelling: "Melly didn't
understand herself why she felt everything so deeply. Tom said she was
oversensitive. So it must be some fault of hers, yet she found life
cruel, not happy-happy like some people."
real strength of a good novel
lies in its ability to view the world through others' eyes. As the
mature (and as events concurrently mature in
the ultimate power of Our Wild and Precious
Lives lies in the
evolution of the army brat protagonists into passionate people
their parents' decisions, but ultimately leading their own battles and
undertaking their own life journeys, fueled by separate beliefs,
family connections: "Normally people
adjust to grief because they live among people they've known all their
but Army brats have no such attachments, no lifelong friends to support
only each other. Now they would all go their separate ways. How could
share their reality with others? How could anyone else possibly
spilling beans, suffice it
to say there are some unpredictable surprises along the way that make
novel's conclusion anything but inevitable.
any life there are defining
moments. In any era there are key transition points. Our
Wild and Precious Lives captures and syncs both in a story
that is, in itself, a wild and precious read that, in the end, offers
of deeper understanding between all protagonists.
Sons of Annie McKenna
modern times where unemployment is high, it's
hard to imagine the lengths that the early Irish went through as they
extreme economic hardship and starvation in 'the old country'. Little
American experience mirrors those days in early Irish history where
starved in the streets and would go to extreme measures for economic
but this feel can come close (and does) in Steel
Sons of Annie McKenna tells of a widowed farmer and father of
moved his entire family from
portrays this experience through the perceptions of Hugh's widowed
daughter-in-law Annie and her two sons. And to its credit, the
doesn't just focus on economic hardship: civil war, floods, political
corruption, labor disputes … all the trappings of hard times are woven
story of the McKenna men and their mother. They are powerful
struggle to rebuild lives in a strange new world.
family and soldier during
wartime to waning confidence that love will overcome all, portraits of
individual interactions, purposes, and struggle are the centerpiece of
saga, as a good historical story should be: "As
Meade pressed his pursuit of Lee through the Maryland countryside
and into Pennsylvania, his army was greeted by nearly one hundred
children singing the Star Spangled Banner and other patriotic songs. Also turned out were
enterprising, if not
generous, civilians selling bread, pies, cakes, and bottles of milk.
nudged his comrade in the march.
"Now look at these fellows, Charlie. Many seem young and
fit. Shouldn't they
be defending their homes and
to say that Steel
Shamrocks isn't steeped in real history: it is. Many
paragraphs are devoted
throughout to interpreting background events with historical
insights on battles and other proceedings; so if it's just a casual
read with a light history background that is sought, look elsewhere for
historical writing: as such, it seeks to pair the drama of fiction with
facts and background, and both captures the experiences and feel of its
and provides the necessary supportive platform of history upon which to
of the novel's strengths. Steel Shamrocks
stands apart from other
stories of the early
experiences of Irish immigrants in
imagine the lengths that
the early Irish went
through, both in the 'old country' and in the new
home is a small Massachusetts town that, along with three
others, stands in the way of progress when water-starved 1927 Boston
aquifer that will supply all their needs - if they can just move or
valley has been home to generations of farmers, artisans and more;
all of which is slated to all be washed away in the special interests
bigger town Polly has never even seen. Thus opens a story based on the
events of the Massachusetts Quabbin Reservoir project: a
scenario that has
played out time and again across
tale begins, Polly is but a girl facing the impossible
destruction of everything she knows, and everything that has involved
of Americans in the pursuit of progress.
story has been told time and again in fiction and nonfiction;
but what makes Swift River exceptional is an
writing style that mirrors the overwhelm of engulfing waters. Even the
first observational paragraph proceeds to wash the reader away with
experiences: "I keep thinking about the dog. The one who
just before we heard the news. For a while I figured he was killed by
automobile, then I decided he left us to stay with someone he liked
even later, after that, I wondered if he knew. Somehow knew
coming. And maybe got clear away—you know I raised him, not them—out of
valley to someplace safe."
perspective is presented in a series of observations and
journal entries that captures not only the events affecting
life's educational process involves 'accepting the things we
cannot change' and understanding what constitutes inevitability versus
the good fight. It's something all
novel is all about rebirth and how memories and influences of
the past can be washed away to make room for a different future, don't
River to be about a singular event: this simply serves as the
exploring Polly's wider world and the secrets she closely guards. Even
pointed are passages that explore the 'why' behind these secrets and
decisions surrounding them, providing answers that can be extrapolated
causes of inaction and victimization: "Because I fear the very
simply can’t afford to know."
wider world converges on
deluge and war encroach, Polly finds reason to amend her life's
vision, purpose, and experience into this newly-born world. Her
are the flow that cement an engrossing story and effortlessly carry
through the quickening currents of her life: "…there is this:
can harm you. No sudden hurt, no disappointment can ever worsen your
Valley gone, loved ones gone—what small distinction shall I make? The
gradation of my losses over time is a game, a purposeless folly; in the
doesn’t matter. A life begins and goes on and at a certain time is
then it simply never was. This is the source of all grief."
should ideally open with
a bang, drawing in
readers from its very first paragraph, and Tuning
In's prologue achieves this with a deft, precise hand that
questions and invites readers to pursue answers: "I
am young on the run and I love it! As a man in his early twenties
most consider me uneducated, self-absorbed and essentially useless. I
admit I encourage these perceptions to give me an advantage in life.
the two guys with guns chasing after me didn’t care about my age at
an interesting way to start the day. At least I would get some good
should be noted that there
are punctuation errors in
this work-in-progress that hopefully will be smoothed upon publication
("Goodness child you shouldn’t scare people
like that.” or "I don’t know why?"):
commas are missing and there are very minor points that need cleanup.
But the action, characters, and, most of all, the humor shines forth in a story packed with fun observation and lively events, as when the amnesiac 'Michael' develops a list of responses to medical questions he's more than tired of answering: "RESPONSES TO THE STUPID QUESTIONS OF THE DAY
• No I Do Not Remember;
• No I Do Not Know Who You Are;
• Yes, I Remember Your Name Now That You Have Introduced Yourself;
• Yes, I Know Your Name. It’s On Your Name Tag;
• I Will Go To The Restroom When I Need To;
• No I Do Not Need Assistance To Go To The Restroom;
You Have Graduated From
• When I Ask For Food Then I Am Hungry;
I Hope You
Billing Me For Every Stupid Question."
struggles with absent
memories, filling in the
blanks, dealing with relatives and associates, and not a small level of
intrigue, Tuning In becomes more
the simple act of re-creating one's past: it becomes a story of
escape plans and backup
schemes, there's an
ultimate power the protagonist calls 'Tuning In' (which enables him to
into the mental traffic of those around him) and there are (of course)
would circumvent even these abilities: "I
anticipated getting a good look at what was on this guy’s mind. Yet
when I shook his hand, the most unusual sensation went through my arm.
even get a whiff of what the guy was feeling. Physical contact always
a link of some type. I got nothing."
after mystery blends into
a novel that at times
reads like a noir detective story and other times like a science
readers are treated to an evolving set of circumstances that are
unpredictable. Even the romance piece is filled with thoughtful
above and beyond the relationship's evolving connections: "I didn’t want to tell her. I would save her
the pain of this revelation. I took a different approach that felt
despite the pain. “Do you want to know or should I keep it to myself?”
wasn’t really a fair question. The real problem was a selfish problem.
a brutally honest relationship. My life and what I was intending to do
would only accept an honest partner. Everyone else was a target, an
participant, or a chump. I didn’t have friends or casual acquaintances.
was no real in between with me. If Amber and I couldn’t discuss the
topics or if I couldn’t tell her the hard truth and survive, then I
know now. This was indeed selfishness despite the wisdom in the action."
special abilities led
directly into a den of
danger posing as a corporate entity? What if others who knew of these
have corruption in mind? Does real empowerment lie in one's abilities,
actions, or one's choices in life? And, what ultimately matters in an
battle between two very different purposes? The protagonist uncovers
and more: "Something clicked into
place. All the half answers and words of wisdom left. I was holding my
to live and my reason to fight."
it all comes full-circle
to a combination of
faith and self-discovery: "This
great world is beyond your understanding and abilities. Governments
and money that can destroy you in thousands of ways before breakfast.
power you have is to try and then you will find out exactly what your
sci-fi elements are simply
frosting on the cake of
greater purpose - and all this culminates in a surprise conclusion that
makes Tuning In a fast-paced,
with an ability to draw in diverse audiences, from sci-fi readers to
enjoy a high-tech detective saga with the spice of romance added for
ASIN: B00O1B1J6S ISBN: 978-1502591524
List price: eBook $5.99 paperback $12.82
expect, from the question
posed in the title and
by its subtitle 'Book 3 of the Olivia
Series', that familiarity with
is set in relatively
modern times - 1967 - so
don't expect the frontier mentality and setting of the prior books, but
new production fueled by Charlene Connor, descended from the Killion
who faces many similar issues as her ancestor - albeit with a modern
lawyer enters her confused
life, bringing new
writings from her long-gone great-great-great Aunt Olivia Killion, she
this as an opportunity to finally learn more about what happened to
in the process, gain insights about her heritage, legacy, and her own
Happened to Mourning Free? promises prior readers a
continuation of past
events, it's important to note that those who hadn't anticipated the
present-day character of Charlene, and who eagerly awaited more Olivia
may find themselves disappointed, at first. (Those seeking such a
can always skip ahead by using a specific text string [such as
Michigan – May 24, 1843'] as a search tool.)
take the time to absorb
Charlene's search and
perspective will find here a wonderful dovetail with the original story
that links her discoveries of the past to her present-day life.
not to say that Olivia
doesn't feature in
anything other than journal entries: such is not the case at all.
juxtapose Charlene's life with Olivia's and provide a satisfying sense
continuity and interlinked family heritage as they explore both of
And there's more: Charlene's review of Olivia's decisions and the birth
half-black child may lead to a fiery inheritance of her own: something
too-savvy Reeves realizes before she.
segregation and the history and
living legacy of Freedom Riders to prejudice which emerges when
reveals facts to even her close friend Kim, Politis deftly captures the
and sentiments of the times and immerses readers in the living legacy
Charlene's ancestor Olivia and all their choices: "Charlene
stood up. “Unfortunately, I couldn’t sell to a negro if I
wanted to because no negro in his right mind would want to live here.
if one did, no realtor would have the guts to show him a house, knowing
would be the last listing he ever got.” Her voice gained volume. “So
stop worrying. Your street’s not going to be anything but lily white
to come.” She turned her back on her friend and started for the
followed her down the back door steps in her nightgown. “You act like
different, but you always asked your mom for nigger-in-the-box
like the rest of us,” she said loudly, referring to what they used to
Jemima pancake mix. Charlene stopped and said, “I did a lot of stupid
when I was a kid and didn’t know any better.” Her voice had returned to
normal tone. “And then I grew up and am trying to find other ways to
Mourning Free? asks a question, and in the process of
answering it, probes
the underbelly of prejudice and the lasting, rippling effects of
in the past and their effect on the present.
every good series title
should be: a stand-alone
read that smoothly connects past events with present-day decisions, and
fitting addition that both enhances the overall series and stands
firmly on its
own two feet. Its ability to immerse newcomers and old fans alike is
series title addition,
that's really saying
Dalton: and Other Stories
Amazon Digital Services
ASIN: B00NUE4T4G $3.88
is a passionate woman
trapped in a marriage with a selfish, unfaithful husband; so when
professor and cousin Carson and his wife offer her a lifeline of
grabs it and moves in with them. There's only one problem: she's a
woman who soon tempts
Dalton: and Other Stories takes this central theme and
a series of short
stories based on various events stemming from the central theme of this
It examines acts of selfishness on many levels and how it affects and
the lives of different protagonists.
there something wrong
with being happy?"
the question is
asked from the beginning. But in the end the very selfless act of
happiness becomes its own threat in a story of how different
is no instant torrid passion:
the attraction between Ellie and her cousin begins slowly with a touch
a look there. But as events in Ellie
Dalton: and Other Stories progress, Ellie finds herself
language makes it very
apparent from the start the route Ellie and Carson will take: there are
'fogs of desire' and 'caressing
seductive smiles'. Both
protagonists find in each other what they have lacked: one completely,
other in exciting transgression from marital vows and moral fiber.
easy to see how Ellie falls
in love with
Dalton: and Other Stories could easily have taken the form of
novel: the fact that
it's presented as a short story and that Ellie serves as an
introduction to a
series of stories about other characters facing selfishness,
moments, and angst makes it all the more powerful for its surprise
and searchlight on everything in a marriage which brings love - and
The Shadows of a Strong Woman'
follows, telling of Rita, a competitive woman and scholarly bookworm
who now is a divorcee, veteran, and the mother of a lazy 22-year-old
a son's selfishness and proposed marriage emerge, Rita finds herself
interfering in an affair that could change all their lives.
Ellie, Rita is headstrong -
but in very different ways. Where Ellie is needy, Rita is controlling.
Ellie immerses herself in love, Rita has never let herself be swept
much in life. And as Rita makes decisions for herself and her son that
change all their lives, the contrast between her approach to romance
Ellie's is strikingly depicted.
didn't raise you to be
Rita cries at her
son. But, she did. And both of their selfish acts are what drives the
a conclusion similar to Ellie's, but with a different twist.
each story evolves, McCoy's
focus is revealed in a precise series of explorations of fires of the
fires that ultimately consume passions and life itself.
and injustice, crime and
punishment, and the consequences of self-centered perspectives all come
in a collection of interconnected jigsaw puzzle pieces that offer
drama and analysis of good intentions gone awry.
solid short story
collection, the protagonists
are all different and settings vary widely; but kernels of truth are
that offer up compelling vignettes. Readers looking for short stories
centered around powerful women and their perspectives will find Ellie Dalton: and Other Stories a fine
Kadalu, an imprint of PeakPublish
No ISBN $6.30
would think that a short story collection set in Sicily would
arrive steeped in a culture and flavor of place: not so with The
Defence - but that's not to say this is a black mark on the
Luque himself admits that the stories aren't as much about culture and
life (they could have been set in any country and any place) but
revolve around themes of life, death, and moral and political choices.
Decline of the Don Juan', for example. Now, here's a tale
that opens with a suave Italian man's reflection on women and
a staid, older voyeur-type Don who advocates (among his manly circle) a
revolution as observations are made that women are little more than
manipulators: "For centuries, women have been subject to
humiliation and subjugation," adds Muscarà in a scholarly tone.
"Later, like she-wolves in sheep's clothing, they’ve kept on assuming a
subordinate role, a relatively subordinate role, let's be clear, but
enigmatically taking control of the house, the family wealth, as you
know, dominating the children's affections and all the rest.."
will this revolt take? Why, the classic form of withholding
affection and attention; but this time, evolving from a male
"So this revolution you're talking about, what form is it
take," once again Scannapieco.
"In us declaring a strike. In us not paying them attention
forgetting about them. In cutting out all the compliments, all the
all the oohs and aahs! In biting our tongues when we run foul of them.
withdrawing all our admiring glances. Just like they don't exist," says
classic dilemma which evolves from this idea is presented in a
flowing descriptive story packed with metaphor and imagery: "The
conversation starts to flow off in varying directions, like a piece of
jazz, where every soloist does his own thing, trying to form an amalgam
phrases and grooves, each one reeled off amongst coughs and the clunk
signet ring, never seeing the light or following any real course. It is
which serves as breakfast lunch and dinner in this prison without walls
bars, this paper ucciardone where we are born and where we will never
readers follow each (very different) tale, they begin to get a sense
of Sicilian psychology, rules of engagement over issues of sacrifice,
and love, and, ultimately, the finer art of lying, loving, and living.
herein lies the heart of The Sicilian Defence: its
to capture exquisite bits of everyday life and times, to inject each
story with blossoming hearts and minds, and to ultimately create a
Sicilian psychology within the confines of stories that, yes, could
set 'anywhere', but that ultimately capture the essence of the Italian
perhaps this is The Sicilian Defence's greatest
of all - and why this short story collection is especially recommended
readers of fine literature over those seeking light, casual stories.
H. W. Vivian
Lulu Publishing $19.99
ISBN: 978-1-4834-0918-4 (sc)
ISBN: 978-1-4834-0919-1 (hc)
ISBN: 978-1-4834-0920-7 (e)
Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/chasers-h-w-vivian/1119024559?ean=9781483409191
shining example of the unexpected occurs when 'special' teen May
goes missing, prompting her close friend Gary to enlist help from an
adversary (May's bully Shelby) who holds the wits and aggressive
to track down what really happened to May.
important to note that Chasers is narrated in the
first-person, from a teenager's perspective. This means that her
are suitable reflections of her age and concerns, that they often read
teen's journal of her life and challenges (which tend to be
the beginning before they expand outward to include mystery and
greater 'truths'), and that adult readers may find such a perspective
the approach of an adult thriller.
- adults aren't the intended audience, here; and what's
lacking in nonstop action is more than adequately
made up for in
attention to a teen's perspective and concerns, which will delight the
adult audiences this book intends to reach. 'Nonstop' is emphasized
this isn't to say there's no action: indeed, Vivian's descriptions are
satisfyingly vivid representations: "As I stepped carelessly
soil, a sinking feeling prompted me to jerk my leg back immediately. I
down at the ground and found it eerily rippling, like water in a bath
watched as it ebbed and flowed and rose into pillars that shifted and
like enchanted clay, and started gathering up toward the sky." They just don't assume the
relentless proportions of most adult titles…and that's a real 'plus',
especially for teen readers.
'condition' of many of these small town 'special children' is
rare and unusual - but, that's just one of the delights of a novel that
provides a truly unique focus and develops it well, involving very
young adult personalities in a dangerous game linking their lives and
ultimate reason they were born 'special'.
the tiptoeing around this definition. That's because Chasers
holds many surprises, this is just one of them, and it's unfair to give
one of the main shockers before readers have a chance to discover this
satisfying device: the three teens involved don't get along.
Their 'special' connections don't handily translate to instant
shared adversities; and considering the fact that many books use danger
create near-instant (and often unbelievable) connections, H.
is the more
satisfyingly-realistic approach here.
result is a young adult story that's truly original, pragmatic, and
Barnes and Noble: http://ow.ly/yLiLC
the whole becomes greater
than the sum of its parts. Individuals meet, collide, fulfill vacancies
other, and then evolve to become something greater; sometimes staying
sometimes separating. It's much like the explosion of a supernova; this
and separation course. And it's a process made even more intense by the
trappings of special abilities, teen struggles with maturity and
time-traveling Romeo, and a girl's growing sense of her place in a
which she was formerly alienated, on so many levels.
protagonist Echo doesn't view
her amazing supernatural
abilities as talents: in fact, they're wrecking her life - every bit of
wonder at how special
benefits translate to
liabilities: a few examples from her daily life include a teacher's
aura reflecting his disappointment at her failure, which makes her
the more unbearable; classmate strife which psychically blasts her
her on-edge emotions which involuntarily translate into telekinetic
born talented: a bullying
episode that landed her
in the hospital in a coma led to the emergence of these unwelcome
powers - and
now they are, increasingly, destroying her life and proving ever more
to control. It's only a matter of time before someone finds out about
secret abilities. They're nothing but trouble … but Echo doesn't know
meaning of real trouble; it's just beginning.
gorgeous fellow teen who
emerges from nowhere, has
his own exceptional abilities, and promises to teach and lead her
hasn't dared to explore. Conner is just what Echo needs: someone who
understands the isolation brought about by her powers, and someone who
guide her in their growth and use.
really guide her in the
right direction, or are
the choices they face ones that won't benefit either them or their
romance is nothing new: in
fact, it's a standard
in many adult supernatural reads these days; and plenty of teen
include a dose of fantasy as well. Quite often it boils down to the
there's always some kind of quest, whether it be psychological or an
journey) and its presentation of possibilities - and it's here that Echo Across Time shines in its
divergence from anticipated paths.
Does Connor live in the future? Why has he entered her life? Who is apparently murdering those with paranormal powers, and why could this be part of a bigger picture? Relationships are kindled on need, learning, change, and challenge: certainly, all the elements are here for Connor and Echo to embark on an intense relationship.
expect the specter of
psychic terrorism to rise
in the course of such events, but it does. And readers won't expect the
accompanying twists and turns in their relationship as teacher becomes
and student evolves into something beyond what either could have
haven't vanished, either.
As old experiences resurface
to become new threats, Echo is kept on her toes as she walks the line
two very different, equally dangerous worlds in a story line which
just psychic abilities, but various kinds of powers and the choices
wielding them for either good or evil.
the focus on personal
choices and what's involved
in making them becomes the real heart and strength of this saga, with
themes of romance and supernatural abilities ultimately proving only
wrapping around the bigger picture.
state the usual (which
is in the subtitle, and
obvious): this is Book One of an 'Echo Saga' and, as such, doesn't
neat wrap-up, but leaves the door open for more. In fact, it leaves off
one door closes and another opens…but no spoilers: it's up to readers
determine the nature of these doors, and to wait for the next
the Ninja Wind
Leza Lowitz + Shogo Oketani
you win a game when you are weaker than your opponent? ow Teen protagonist Jet
Black is a
ninja - but she doesn't know it. In fact, she doesn't begin to realize
extent of her abilities until her mother dies and she is tasked with
to her family's homeland,
Black and the Ninja Wind is a glorified treasure
hunt with a martial arts and Japanese theme? Not quite: there's a lot
going on than a one-dimensional mystery, even if it is spiced with
culture and martial arts insights.
thing, Jet herself is being pursued by an assassin. And it's
never a smart thing to fall in love with your killer - so Jet struggles
both facets of this complex scenario. She is weakened by her love.
there's Japanese culture, threats to sacred places, and the
mission of uncovering who Jet really is; all woven into an action-based
filled with demanding encounters, history, and cross-cultural
every point Jet is challenged to reassess her self, her potentials, her
and her place in the world - and at every point Jet succeeds in taking
another step towards the ultimate goals of staying alive and being an
force in her own life. She is weakened by her ignorance of the wider
it's this crux of the story that makes Jet Black
the Ninja Wind a recommendation above and beyond its intended
young adult readership: any who enjoy complex coming-of-age stories
that add in
history, cultural examination, and moral confrontation will readily
be noted that in many ways this is not a light pursuit.
Chapter titles are presented in both Japanese and English and there are
fifty of them (although the total page count of over 300 doesn't make
tome, by any matter of means).
protagonist and her world are also definitely teen-oriented from
the first sentence: "The party had just started, and Jet stood
Williams’ kitchen, wearing the two-dollar black dress she’d bought at
thrift store. “That’s such a cool outfit,” Amy told her, pushing a
her hand. The girls gathered, staring as if trying to remember whether
seen the dress in a catalog or a store window. Still, Jet knew it
cooler to have a date or to buy clothing that hadn’t belonged to
in an old folks’ home.").
So adult readers who venture into Jet's
world should be prepared for teen-oriented concerns as well: Jet isn't
sassy neo-adult, as some coming-of-age novels depict (likely with adult
in mind) but a genuine teenager whose seemingly-average world is about
turned upside down.
she chooses to do with these series of world-altering events
that is the pulse of Jet Black and the
Ninja Wind and the driving
force that keeps it both vivid and unique: qualities surprisingly rare
adult leisure reads.
Take the source of her training, for example: it's not just about martial arts prowess, but underlying messages: "Suddenly, the image of her mother returned to her, on the mountain that night, the last night of the game. In a flash, she understood. That had been her final lesson. Satoko hadn’t had the locket. She hadn’t needed it. She’d been born into her tradition, and her powers were her birthright. She’d been trying to teach Jet her true power— that they were women, and brute force wasn’t their skill. It wasn’t going to be possible for her to beat Takumi like this. Her mother had been sick and frail, yet had still won by being totally present.
using everything, the moonlight and the wind, her awareness of the
harness her last remaining power. Now Jet understood that what her
taught her in that last game on the mountain was how to fight when you
weaker than your opponent."
to add elements of history and international intrigue into a
novel for any age group; but add wider issues of environmental and
preservation, greed, and choices about direction and how to handle
motivations, and that's where the real essence of a quality piece has
opportunity to evolve, separating it from the deluge of shallow leisure
dominating young adult fiction these days. So don't look here if it's
entertainment that's desired: such entertainment is embedded in an
multifarious story line that pulls no punches and just keeps hitting.
Black and the
Ninja Wind stands well on its own as a powerful blend of
leisure, mixing a compelling, feisty protagonist and a series of
nearly-unbelievable adventures with a Japanese flavor that is made all
authentic for the fact that this book was some 15 years in the making.
already won numerous awards - and it's easy to see why. With its
taste for action and adventure tempered by historical and cultural
powerfully-drawn protagonist whose motivations and concerns are clearly
inspected, and a story line replete with 'bigger picture' world
Black and the Ninja Wind is a truly satisfying read
for many audiences
operating on many levels.
Mystery of King Tutankhamun
curses that reach from the
past into modern times, a
missing tomb, and battles with tomb-raiders for treasure…these are all
of a superior fiction read. They're also key elements in King Tut's
was shrouded in mystery long before Howard Carter uncovered the truth.
fiction should ideally
envelope all the elements
of fact, but embellish them with the trappings of drama, action, and
intrigue. This is even more essential in a piece intended for boys and
who might normally eschew standard, dry historical discussions.
hold a similar
fascination with the Egyptian
mystery of King Tut, and thus The Mystery of King Tutankhamun
example of a historical piece that successfully uses all these devices
create a compelling, involving read for elementary to middle school
1909, when archaeologist
Howard Carter and
aristocrat George Herbert joined forces to investigate Egypt's 18th
the mystery that revolved around three missing royal burial sites; one
being that of the famous King Tutankhamun.
re-creates the dialogue and
perspective of Carter
and Herbert with a deft hand, bringing to life their goals and
the deals and passions of the times from robberies of tombs to
an ancient mystery
begins as all good stories
should: at the beginning of the time, when King Tut's reign is
conspiracies to kill him off: "Tutankhamun announced a grand
for his family, friends, and members of the government. Ay, Horemheb,
Nakhtmin feared Tutankhamun might use the banquet as an opportunity to
announce that he was going to take full control of the kingdom. It was
to them that the time for their coup had come."
given throughout to the
motivations of all
involved; from the enemies of Tut to Carter's financiers: "Carter
Carnarvon a generous offer: He would pay for one more season of digging
his own pocket, even to the point of depleting all the money he had in
world. “If I find the tomb,” he said to Carnarvon, “it will still
you, since you still own the digging rights.” Carnarvon was impressed
Carter’s determination and, being a sporting man, he couldn’t possibly
a challenge when faced with one. So, a deal was struck, and Carnarvon
finance one more season of digging, at his own expense. He only hoped
wouldn’t be spent in vain yet again."
of mishaps befall those
who worked on the
excavations, the real possibility of an ancient curse that reaches its
hand into modern times is explored with a presentation of the tragedies
begin to befall those involved with Tut's tomb: "Dr. Douglas
anatomy expert, died soon after Tutankhamun’s autopsy from a
disorder. Alfred Louis, a chemist who assisted Dr. Derry, died of a
attack shortly after the autopsy. Ali Kemel Fahmy Bey, an Egyptian, was
his wife in the
With chapters steeped in the sights, sounds, politics and magic of both ancient Egypt and turn-of-the-century times, any with an interest in King Tut's tomb will become immersed in events that make The Mystery of King Tutankhamun a page-turning exploration that begins with one mystery and concludes with an even greater one: "…did Carter, the man who unearthed King Tutankhamun, die a slow death because of a curse he did not believe in?"
subject and such a vivid
re-enactment of events
in hand, readers will find it an engrossing history story that splices
with drama and insights and assumes no prior knowledge of Egyptian
general or King Tut in particular.
Biblio Publishing/The Educational Publisher Inc.
No ISBN $9.95
stories are usually pretty straightforward and even hold quite
plots: girl loves horse (and/or boy), girl longs to ride/own horse,
overcomes adversity, and in the end girl gets horse (and/or boy). Not
so Racing to Heaven, which is a
another color and provides a heart-pounding race into and outside of
keep young adult and adult readers guessing.
racetrack saga and yes, it revolves around a young female jockey. But
those elements and run with them; because that's what Harriet
Tramer does as she presents
the story of an
unstable teen who demonstrates an innate talent for psychic
story opens with a bang (but
is it set in heaven, hell, or somewhere in between?): "The
place where I am now goes by so many
different names – nirvana, heaven, paradise - that I long ago gave up
to decide what name fits it best. And I also gave up trying to figure
something else: how long it has been since I fell off a horse just
after I won the biggest race of my life and ended up here. It might be
years, my best estimate. But then again it might be a much longer or a
shorter period of time. There is no way to know for certain, because in
realm nobody keeps track of those things the way they do on Earth.
There are no
clocks, calendars, computers or cell phones I can use to check the time
it's a new age novel about the
supernatural, right? Not really…because the protagonist and her equine
are firmly rooted in the vivid reality of horse racing circles. Then,
horse story, right? In a manner of speaking - because the progression
anything but your usual horse saga.
'magic'. Think 'spiritual
connections'. Take a classic good-versus-evil story and then turn it on
with a splash of intrigue and action. Stir the cauldron of complexity,
season liberally with discussions of how the protagonist comes to
being a jockey is in her future (hint: via supernatural means).
social commentary ("Nobody seemed the least
bit bent out of
shape when members of that association forced a woman to dig up
hundreds of begonias she had planted next to her house because they
wrong color. It seems that the flowers in question were an off shade of
and only pink flowers were allowed."), there are moments of
accompanied by moments of down-to-earth reality ("I
could not help figuring that despite the hard travelling he had
endured Roberto was luckier than me in a way. He did not owe anybody
because he was getting precious little from them. That man was free,
certainly was not because my parents remained convinced that I owed
great deal. They expected me to be a dutiful daughter fixated on her
work in return for their having given me the “luxurious” life I was
was figuratively if not literally shackled by their expectations."),
and most of all, there's a teen's growth and coming of age, whether it
place on Earth or somewhere else.
So don't pick up Racing to Heaven expecting your usual teen horse saga: readers who do so might be disappointed if they're expecting a horse-centric, predictable formula plot. DO choose Racing to Heaven for its unique brand of coming of age story paired with horse-oriented action and social and spiritual reflection. When other horse books are simply pounding around the same track, this one's heading full speed to the winner's circle, spirits flying high.Racing to Heaven