October 2017 Review Issue
978-1633843820 $19.99 Paper; $25.99 Hardcover
At first glance, Coaching For Life: A Guide to Playing, Thinking and Being the Best You Can Be looks like a how-to guide for living well; but it moves well beyond self-help as it combines an autobiography of coach and author Paul Annacone's life with a discussion of how the rules and methods of tennis apply outside of the sports world. Anecdotes of players and moves are thus paired with best practices firmly rooted in real-world encounters.
As chapters provide game descriptions and focus on how to bring excellence into general life decisions and efforts, readers are given a formula for success for everything in life. The process-oriented focus moves between the playing court and the greater world, linking tennis in particular and sports in general to wisdom obtained from learning discipline and applying its rules to life.
Paul Annacone adds anecdotes and his personal encounters to illustrate these points, immersing readers in his life experience as well as his methods: "The variety of shots, slices and angles you see in a player like Roger is strategically important to his game. But not initially. Not even for him. The mechanics of tennis, the building blocks of skill, come first. Once those are understood, then it becomes easier to understand how to execute the arsenal of shots that are the signature of the skilled player. But how can we—in any endeavor—move forward in a direct and uncomplicated way? Well, to put it bluntly, the more variables we create for ourselves at the outset, the harder it is to execute our plan. Repetition and well-designed drills are the answer. Strategy? As I’ve been saying, it must come later. First the body needs to learn how to think on its own, and this can only happen when the primary skill-set— the tool box, so to say—is put in place. With proper physical mechanics, good habits grow and become basic reflexes. Once the body has memorized the drill, then the mind can add an overall strategic plan."
This is not to say that his coaching perspective is just an ethereal commentary on life. Tennis is the foundation of all; and black and white and color photos of players and teams supplement tennis-specific assessments of success that players will appreciate: "However, there have also been great tennis players who seem to lack what most textbooks portray as “classical form.” These are players of very high quality who’ve handled pressure well due to the high level of shot repetition executed in practice after practice. Such players have their moves almost ingrained on the competitive match court. This repetition, combined with an incredible amount of focus and determination (and not to mention endurance), has helped these types of players develop tremendous self-confidence."
The result is thoroughly grounded in the sport but reaches out to athletes and general-interest readers alike, adding strong visuals to make it a top recommendation for sports and general-interest lifestyle collections alike.
Coaching for Life
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Softcover, $19.95, 978-1-63393-520-4
Hardcover, $29.95, 978-1-63393-523-5
Ebook, $9.99, 978-1-63393-521-1
Henry: A Polish Swimmer’s True Story of Friendship From Auschwitz to America comes from a journalist who interviewed eighty-five-year-old Henry Zguda after receiving a phone tip, discovering that his memory contained a treasure trove of experiences about the Holocaust and his world which needed to be written down and exposed to a wider audience than just herself.
And so, she did - and Henry is the result: an unassuming title for what evolves into a momentous series of sharp recollections about tumultuous times. What began as a series of twice-weekly interviews soon became a growing friendship as Katrina Shawver endeavored to understand not only the mechanics of Henry's transformations and survival, but his ability to live in the modern world without bitterness and anger about the past.
These are lessons and examples that could be employed by any survivor, revealing stories and encounters backed by images and newspaper accounts which are reproduced in this book for maximum impact, much as the author experienced in the course of her conversations with Henry.
Lest one think this singular experience was somehow inconsequential, given the bigger picture, it should be pointed out that not only did Henry possess a huge collection of original documents and images, but his encounters with others during his experience, paired with his struggles as a former champion swimmer turned political prisoner, make for an unusual perspective unequalled in Holocaust survival chronicles.
Henry's original photos and some unique documents, such as his letters, form the foundation of this account; but many of the other photos and documents included were the result of Katrina Shawver's substantial research. They come from multiple museums and other sources, many not seen elsewhere. The historical background that's included adds significantly to the context and setting, something else that sets Henry apart from most Holocaust memoirs.
Underlying this survivor's encounters is a sense of not just how he survived, but how he later lived his life; developing principles that continued to guide him long after the Holocaust was over.
It's these facets that all coalesce to make for a unique series of stories that form a different kind of story: one that takes the macrocosm of the greater Holocaust experience, synthesizes it into one man's life and perspective, and adds an overlay of life values that reflect a powerful saga filled with personal moments, vividly recalled: "We had a little freedom, not much, but we could walk outside the barracks. The Germans just watched as we gather a little wood, or catch a few frogs. I met my two good friends there Yost Slagboom and Hubert Lapailles. We have the nice frog legs, we cooked them in a small iron oven, cooked with wood from the forest. We take the frog legs, put them in red-hot oven, they are very nice piece of meat. So, I survived the quarry; I was strong from the milk and frog legs and bread."
The treasure trove of documents and images, from vintage photos from the Buchenwald Memorial to Henry's letters (some 70 original photos and rare German documents) is just one more thing that sets Henry apart from any other survivor's story, making it a top 'must have' acquisition for any collection strong in Holocaust survival accounts. Henry is especially recommended for any holding strong in Polish community heritage, World War II history, and the world of competitive swimming.
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Mother I Imagined, the Mom I Knew
Paul Alan Fahey
Mindprints Literary Press
978-0-9992092-1-9 (print) $14.99
978-0-9992092-2-6 (e-book) $ 9.99
The Mother I Imagined, the Mom I Knew blends a memoir format with fiction and poetry for an unusual multi-faceted discussion that carries readers through Paul Alan Fahey's life and his relationship with his mother, creating a fine testimony to single mothers raising sons on their own.
Fahey's mother died when he was almost fifty: an event that affected his life and led him into therapy, where he started a journal reflecting on his relationship with her and his memories of her life. These entries turned into vignettes, short fictional pieces, and insights surrounding the realities of the mother he knew and the mother figure he envisioned.
Perhaps of necessity, the structure of The Mother I Imagined, the Mom I Knew is a 'hybrid' creation that changes formats and perspectives in the course of its journey. As the story unwinds, starting in the 1950s when mother and son led a 'gypsy' life roaming the San Francisco peninsula as drifters, to how he came out to his mother as a gay man, her reaction ("I know,” she said, “and I don’t approve.” She got up and walked over to me with a slightly inebriated gait. I felt her lips brush my cheek, heard a whispered “I love you, that’s all that matters...”), and how he pieced together his mother's past from her stories, journals, and insights ("Mother told me stories mostly to entertain me, but also to take the edge off my nomadic childhood. Monday nights might have found us in a motel room with kitchenette, and a free continental breakfast, and then Wednesday we’d be in a furnished studio apartment. I never knew where we’d end up."), this story is filled with not just lifestyle and personality insights, but the evolving relationship of mother and son against the backdrop of cultural changes in the San Francisco Bay Area from the 1950s through the eighties and nineties.
The result is a vivid memoir of a mother's love and a freewheeling lifestyle that held both poignant and challenging moments, telling and how the author pulled together all the disparate strings of his and his mother's life to create a memoir that addresses both the realities and ideals of their world. Perhaps Fahy himself best sums up his own story: "Just memories about a woman and her son making the best of a miserable situation … and managing to find humor and love in those moments."
Intimate, vivid, and engrossing, The Mother I Imagined, the Mom I Knew is a memoir not to be missed by anyone who wants a road trip through an author's world and his mother's tenacity, and is highly recommended for any with a special attraction to coming-of-age stories set against the backdrop of the Bay Area.
The Mother I Imagined, the Mom I Knew
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of Young Genius
Joel L. Schiff
Marie Bashkirtseff was no ordinary 19th century woman. Her aristocratic Ukrainian family moved to Paris, where she was privately tutored and blossomed into a young woman who spoke many languages, played numerous musical instruments, and longed for a stage career, but turned her hand to painting. She soon began exhibiting her work at the notable annual Paris Salon, the premier venue for artists.
As if this weren't enough, she was also a philosopher and writer, and her journal of some 20,000 pages has been pared down here to supplement Joel L. Schiff's survey of her amazing artistic prowess in Portrait of Young Genius: The Mind and Art of Marie Bashkirtseff.
With such a palette of genius to choose from as far as what to profile, it must have been a real challenge to adequately represent Marie Bashkirtseff's many abilities in the confines of a single book. How many others dream of founding an art school for women (just one limitation of her sex that she railed against) in the 1800s, for just one example?
One doesn't expect fierce rivalries to enter the portrait of a woman of these times, but this, too, reflects Marie's abilities, fiery personality, and determination, fueling a biography that traces more than her genius alone and placing it in historical, social, and psychological perspective.
Given these disparate facets, it would have been impossible to adequately represent Marie's world through standard biographical third-person exploration; which is why Schiff adopts an unusual mode of presentation: he begins with the usual biographical survey of her life, but then allows her own voice to speak in a second section which profiles a single journal excerpt (in English translation from the original French) on each left-hand page, juxtaposed with one of her art pieces on its facing page. (It should also be noted that vintage photos and illustrations pepper the rest of the survey, as well, adding visual emphasis to an outstanding woman's world.)
While Portrait of Young Genius will undoubtedly find a place in artists’ collections, it would be a shame to see its audience limited to artists alone. Women's history holdings, especially those strong in biographical portraits of extraordinary individuals whose stories have largely been lost over time, will find Portrait of Young Genius a 'must have' addition, not only capturing this young woman's life, but synthesizing its meaning with a sense of her times and the limitations imposed upon women.
Portrait of Young Genius is very, very highly recommended for its multi-faceted approach and wide-ranging discussions, designed to keep readers immersed to the end and involved in the life of a woman they likely have never heard of before, but will come to intimately know and deeply admire.
Portrait of Young Genius
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of Salvia: Exploring Nature's Most Powerful Hallucinogen and The Fabric
Jason Cole, Publisher
Hardback ISBN: 978-1-945604-33-1 $29.99
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-945604-22-5
Summer of Salvia follows author Jason Cole into a drug-filled, changed world the summer of 2009, when he smoked Salvia divinorum, a powerful, naturally-occurring hallucinogen - but it offers an important difference in contrast to other memoirs about drug experiences.
It questions whether the revelations experienced 'under the influence' where truly illusionary or whether the drug penetrated an illusion of reality itself: "Rather than dismiss my salvia trip as a hallucination, salvia has forced me to consider dismissing my life as a hallucination—a mirage that salvia temporarily allowed me to see through."
Unlike other stories of drug-filled periods of time, these experiences led Jason Cole on a search for enlightenment and knowledge from various disciplines, from science and philosophy to religion, adding a healthy dose of history into the mix which, again, separates his account from most others and lends a scholarly perspective to the story of hallucinogenic drug experiences and the lasting changes they bring to one's life and perspective.
From summer concerts, sex, drugs, and alcohol to drug deals and bigger pictures gained from the salvia experience, Cole candidly relates his descent into "enjoying drugs and alcohol too much" which led him into a full-blown preoccupation salvia over other things in his life.
As far as the experience itself, the most powerful points of this story lie in personal and specific insights into the drug's lasting effects on his perceptions of the world and his place in it: "When I say that salvia divinorum made it impossible for me to trust reality, to trust my senses, I mean it. I’m not completely certain what’s real anymore. As I sat there, feeling like I was tripping out again, I thought that maybe the trip was finally ending and I was awakening to a reality more terrifying than I could fathom."
The risks are clearly outlined, the drug's effects are compellingly described, and readers gain a much better knowledge of how salvia impacts Cole's life: "When I first took Salvia divinorum, all I really knew about it was that it produced hallucinations, and that those hallucinations only lasted for five to ten minutes. I had no idea how intense those hallucinations would be, or that the drug was also a dissociative. I didn’t realize it would cause me to literally question the reality of my life every single day, eight years after I took it and counting."
The result is more than the usual memoir of a descent into a lifestyle and choices that lead to drug use and the effects of hallucinogens, but a powerfully written survey that considers the drug's ability to induce similar types of experiences in different users ("Sure, LSD causes people to reach similar conclusions about, say, the interconnectedness of humanity or the existence of other dimensions that we can’t perceive with our everyday senses. But to my knowledge, no other drug (with the possible exception of DMT), regularly engenders such strikingly similar hallucinations to such a narrow degree.").
Summer of Salvia is enlightening, powerful, and compelling' - a 'must read' for anyone seeking more than just a memoir of hallucinogenic drug use, but a probe of how chemicals can alter perceptions of reality itself and can last far beyond initial use.
Summer of Salvia: Exploring Nature's Most Powerful Hallucinogen and The Fabric Of Existence
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out the Light
John A. Brennan
Local Gems Press
In 1968, author John A. Brennan, a political and economic 'refugee' from Ireland, arrived in London as young man on the cusp of change. His only traveling companion was a carpenter's toolbox and a head full of dreams.
Why should readers care about a memoir that charts this individual's journey? Because it is a microcosm of social sentiments and changes of the times; and with its lyrical and impressive language, it traces the atmosphere and possibilities of both individuals and societies: "What struck me first about London was its size, it seemed enormous and daunting but thankfully this feeling soon passed when I began to look closer at my surroundings. Everyone was decked out in brightly hued shirts, dresses and pants and music was playing everywhere. People were happy and smiling, such a contrast from my hometown where a war was brewing and which would last for 30 years. Carnaby street and the King’s road were where it was happening; the mini skirt had just made its debut and all the girls wore them. I had arrived just as the summer of peace and love began and found that it was all about the music. In truth, the music saved me, literally. If I had stayed in Ireland I feel sure that I would have been caught up in the mayhem and violence as many of my contemporaries were. As I said, the music was my savior."
This juxtaposition of personal perspective with bigger-picture thinking is firmly rooted in music and British culture in a slice-of-life vignette powerfully rooted in music, which uses the forms of black and white rock musician photos, letters from a fan, and poetry (and a series of letters addressed to particular musicians who made a powerful impact on his life, covering this impact and thanking them) to create a multi-faceted, involving chronicle.
Think of some of the biggest names in popular music history, from Bob Marley and young George Harrison to Janis Joplin and Brian Jones. Think of the impact these figures made on the world around them. Then turn to John A. Brennan's Turn Out the Light and its many nuggets of wisdom for a powerful tribute that follows each musician's achievements, impact, and place in Brennan's life. Take, as one example, his letter to Jimi Hendrix: "I had the honor of seeing you in London in January 1969, that magical year. I worked as a set carpenter at the BBC recording studios West London, in those heady days of the late sixties. You were there to record some of your “BBC Sessions” tracks. I was in your presence for perhaps five minutes, even though we never spoke, it was long enough to fall in love with you and your musical genius and become a life-long fan."
Many of these writings also incorporate powerful reflections on not only what was, but what could have been; as in the powerful concluding line in Jimi's piece: "Just imagine if you had gone to Vietnam, where would we be musically today."
Turn Out the Light celebrates bygone musical times, the lasting impact of popular music on listener lives, and the rise of an unprecedented musical renaissance that changed not only Brennan's life, but the world around him. Fans of popular, contemporary music history will find Turn Out the Light a music memoir like no other.
Turn out the Light
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Poet: The Life Of Alan Seeger And His Rendezvous With Death
War Poet: The Life Of Alan Seeger And His Rendezvous With Death offers the biography of an American poet killed during World War I in 1916. Never heard of Alan Seeger? Readers may likely recall the title of his classic poem ("I Have a Rendezvous with Death") more than his name; but Michael Hill's story should correct this, placing Alan Seeger's importance firmly back in the minds of those who recall this classic poem but otherwise know relatively little of his life.
In many ways, War Poet is as much a chronicle of military heroism as it is about literary prowess. Seeger's single effort elevated him to the status of a war poet whose observation was unparalleled in military or literary circles; but this wasn't the only thing he did with his life.
The story embraces his world, drawing on new archival material to offer a more well-rounded account than any prior reference, drawing together all the existing information to provide a complete portrait of the man and his influences and personality before, during, and after the war: "When not with Lippmann or Reed in the cafes of Harvard Square, Seeger would withdraw for hours or days at a time, taking refuge in the solitude of his room or the library, devoting long hours to his true passion: poetry. Although his journey as a poet had finally begun, these early days at Harvard were mostly a time of loneliness, frustration, and an almost daily “tearing up [of] verses, unseen by friends.”
From Cambridge honors, where he survived the "Jaws Of Harvard," to a synthesis of his battlefield writings and memoirs that captures his moment-by-moment observations ("The smell of pine branches packed in the dirt shelter above his head briefly reminded him of home and the “Christmas odors in American houses decorated with green things for the holidays.” But the ever-present smell of gun powder from German artillery shells “quickly kills the holiday reminder,” he scribbled in his journal."), War Poet achieves what too few biographies accomplish: introduces an atmosphere of immediacy and inspection based on the subject's writings, weaving them into an overall story that brings all facets of his world to life.
Black and white vintage photos peppered throughout complete the personal impact of a chronicle that is gently bittersweet as it captures the life force of the poet who penned these immortal words: "… I’ve a rendezvous with Death/At midnight in some flaming town,/When Spring trips north again this year,/And I to my pledge word am true,/I shall not fail that rendezvous."
It's hard to imagine a better tribute to Alan Seeger's life and times than War Poet, which places that single literary milestone in solid perspective to his life and times. Very, very highly recommended, War Poet should not be limited to biography or military history collections alone, but should be assigned reading in any literary class studying poetry and life connections.
War Poet: The Life Of Alan Seeger And His Rendezvous With Death
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Orbs of Trenihgea is Book 2 in the Rites of Heirdron duology, continuing the science fantasy as it follows the efforts of leader Zrahnz, whose awakening portends a shift in the galaxy and in military alliances.
The Sorcery of Orark and the Fridoan Order are as relentless in their pursuit of the powerful Orbs of Trenihega as Zrahnz is passionate about his newfound role, his mission, and more.
Even though Orbs of Trenihgea holds romantic elements, it should be cautioned that an affinity for galaxy-wide clashes and leadership challenges is a prerequisite for enjoying this multi-faceted story which laces a military sci-fi playing field with elements of love and hate.
There's no set path for the missions, changing attitudes, battles, and love and betrayal that evolve in Orbs of Trenihgea; nor any hint of the type of formula writing that could keep its action predictable - and this is its strength.
As readers walk through a universe replete with cross-species mating, tactical decision-making under a king's command that reads like a classic Star Trek space battle, the politics and processes of Seer and Guild strategists, and the mechanics of how a prophecy is interpreted, readers come to understand how coveted Orbs will shift the forces in the universe and change everything - and why they mean so much to all involved.
is swift, interpersonal relationships are nicely detailed, and the end
offers up more than romance in a universe-building collision of forces,
and individuals especially recommended for prior fans of Rites of Heirdron
in a duology that defies
easy categorization but reaches beyond genre definitions to entice
military sci-fi, and political sci-fi circles alike.
Orbs of Trenihgea
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Throne for Sisters
Morgan Rice, Publisher
$2.99 Kindle $11.99 Paper
A Throne for Sisters is Book One in a new young adult fantasy series that opens with two teens stuck in a terrible orphanage. Sophia and Kate long to escape, and though they have a mutual goal and the shared experience of being unwanted in the world, each harbors different dreams of how they will find love once they leave the confines of their prison.
Neither anticipates that the actions each must take to survive will bring each further from their objectives: Sophia's romantic dream of entering a privileged world, falling in love with an noble, and living the life of a court lady; or Kate's fiery passion to become a warrior woman, battling dragons and injustice alike.
In reality, what transpires places each at odds not only with her goal, but with the psychic link that joins their minds and enables them to feel connected to the only person in their lives who cares.
What they find in the world isn't hope, but a plodding form of despair that permeates the lives of people as much as overt oppression once ruled their own: "Kate guessed that Sophia was as caught up in her dream as Kate was. They walked along streets filled with people who seemed to know what they were doing with their lives, who seemed filled with a sense of purpose, and to Kate, it was unfair that it should be so easy for them. Then again, maybe it wasn’t. Maybe they had as little choice as she or Sophia would have had if they’d stayed in the orphanage."
Caught up in war, court drama, and separation, the sisters must learn their own lessons about this strange new world, which is trapped in its own turmoil and its own definition of oppression. Each must make decisions about the course of her life which would seem to run contrary to all their dreams.
The story line is reminiscent of Joan Aiken's Wolves of Willoughby Chase, with its brooding world of pain and change and the plight faced by two orphans who challenge both the outer world and themselves; but A Throne for Sisters is less black and white in its presentations of who is the villain and who the victim under such circumstances.
One very satisfying feel to the plot lies in how the sisters' relationship to each other changes upon separation; and how they form their own identities in response to the choices and circumstances they confront in the wider world.
Another fine element is how Kate and Sophia evolve in response to perceived methods of reaching their goals. Kate refines her observations of persona, for example, and this is very clear and well-described: "In that moment, Kate knew that this was even closer to what she wanted than life at the forge was. In the forge, she was getting to make weapons and learn about them, but these men got to use them. They had lives where they traveled and fought, worked together and got away from the mundanity of the city. More than that, if there was any path that might let Kate move closer to vengeance, this was the one."
Some other stories may sound similar; but in the end it's the evolutionary process of the characters and how they define and direct their positions in the world which makes the tale - and if A Throne for Sisters is any indication, this powerful opener to the series will produce a combination of feisty protagonists and challenging circumstances to thoroughly involve not just young adults, but adult fantasy fans who seek epic stories fueled by powerful friendships and adversaries.
A Throne for Sisters
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Mesa: The Final Report
Black Mesa: The Final Report is high-octane thriller writing at its best, and literally starts with a bang - the explosion of a nuclear bomb that takes out the American government in 2009. It's actually a double whammy, because the attack that destroys DC leaves plague and fallout as its secondary effects. The attack on the nation's capital eliminates its highest levels and leaves lower-echelon folk such (as Senate Foreign Relations Committee investigator-turned-spy Jackson Guild) searching for answers ... answers that are mysteriously quashed as soon as they are discovered.
For the truth of what happened behind this deadly attack, Guild is forced to journey to America's nuclear heart, the secretive Los Alamos National Laboratory, carrying an attaché case full of secrets; there to become involved with beautiful scientist Alessandra Almont, whose own investigation involves a new incarnation of nuclear weaponry that will make all prior bombs and efforts look diminutive in comparison.
Early on, Jackson has major concerns about the impact of the nation's pursuit of the truth: "The greater fear for me was how we would punish the nation that masterminded the bombing, because the answer would push the Pentagon to retaliate, goading awake the rough beast of nuclear war."
The destinies of Jackson and Alessandra are tied together because both paths lead to the implication of Modular Dog, a program to assassinate Russia's President Putin, who is believed to have ordered Washington's destruction. And that program will change everything, even if its participants are unwitting accomplices to what might become the end of the world.
Can a solution to end war forever change everything - and what are Jackson and Alessandra's moral and ethical choices as they are played as pawns in a greater game?
Few spy thrillers assume the epic proportions of Black Mesa: The Final Report. Part of the reason why this story is particularly compelling is its focus on the investigative aftermath of a nuclear attack which changes not only every American, but the goals of individual survivors.
Jeff Shear's particular brand of powerful characterization and an investigative thriller that embraces both short-term perspectives and bigger-picture thinking translates to a story that is emotionally involving and action-packed: a combination many strive for, but surprisingly few achieve.
With its twist on both its main characters and its objectives in identifying the perps involved in a devastating nuclear attack and a story line that goes beyond survival attempts, Black Mesa holds the ability to attract a wide range of readers. Audiences will range from those who enjoy political thrillers and international cat-and-mouse games to readers who look for strong characters and interpersonal relationships that snag and hold attention right up to the surprising conclusion, which ultimately questions acts of patriotism and the deadly traps they create.
Very, very highly recommended.
Black Mesa: The Final Report
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Hernes Road Books
Dark Network is the second 'Imogen Trager' suspense story, combining political intrigue and conspiracy investigations with a feisty heroine whose work swirls around a scenario that seems all too familiar: the possibility of determined criminal elements thwarting the Presidency of the U.S.
In the prior book, Faithless Elector, Imogen succeeded in preventing an Electoral College conspiracy; but this was only the beginning of her mission to save American political institutions. Here she joins forces with an FBI network specialist only to discover that there's a tangled web of conspiracy still in action, ready to attack and direct a country currently without a president.
Charged with keeping her composure in the face of unprecedented events and challenges, Imogen faces reporters, criminals, cyber attacks and political strife with a measured determination to keep her investigation on track and legitimate, fielding too many dangers in the process; from murder to corruption.
As she crosses the line between the need for action and her own morals and beliefs ("Imogen stared at the table top, wondering which Constitutional right she would be complicit in violating today. But just as quickly came a flash of anger. Deptford was engaged in a dark, murderous network conspiring to subvert the electoral process, and corrupt the Constitution. Now he wanted it to protect him?"), she begins to feel she's facing a juggernaut that nothing can stop: "Imogen, watching the proceedings and doing the same vote calculations as Calder, also felt the insanity of it all. If the goal of the conspiracy had been to undermine Americans’ faith in their electoral system, everything was going to plan. She looked down at her laptop. That destabilization had started with Illinois."
It's difficult to envision a more timely political thriller than Dark Network. Having a murder mystery tied into events that attack and displace the American election process only adds fuel to the fire of Imogen's interactions, promising that thriller and murder mystery readers alike will find her reactions, goals, and efforts exciting, realistic, and hard to predict.
The ultimate question becomes not how she will solve a wide-ranging cyber-conspiracy embedded in the fabric of the American political system, but what kind of America will remain, if she is successful.
Gripping and unpredictable, Dark Network could not have appeared at a better time. Its concepts and interplays often seem to represent the daily news in its scope and shocking revelations, making this story highly recommended for political thriller readers and mystery fans alike.
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Eugene T Schurter
Amazon Digital Services
978-0-9972522-0-0 (pbk) $11.95
978-0-9972522-1-7 (e-bk) .99
Imagine a day like any other. Except that it's not. Imagine a young hacker who succeeds in reaching his biggest dream - to hack the American government. The only problem is: his dream has turned into a nightmare. Then imagine his life on the run through a changed world where rumors of the Dark Web come alive to haunt him; and where a dark undercurrent powers a dangerous political force.
In today's world, darknets are networks which use the Internet but require specific software, configurations or authorization to access. They are secret and hidden networks running in sub-layers beneath what is well known.
Stewart's project opens this world to him, closes the door firmly behind him after he enters it, and creates a series of episodes that leads him and his team on a frantic run through government operations, internet espionage, underground hackers, and strange transmissions that even a coding expert like Stewart can't quite fathom.
Discovery is nothing without purpose - and Stewart is about to uncover not only his own motivations; but those of others.
The characters are young adult computer whizzes, but Dark Web Rising's scope and depth makes it quite accessible to adult audiences who relish stories of computer hacking, intrigue, and special interests that intersect in an under-the-radar secret world about to explode into what is above-board and well-known.
To its credit, the espionage and action is tempered by doses of philosophical and ethical inspections throughout as the characters make decisions and participate in a deadly 'game': "I know what can happen, what the risks are, and what I could lose. My friend, you must understand, when I say I have nothing to lose, it is because I have everything to lose. If I do not act, if I turn away now when the game may finally become more than just a game, then I lose the one thing I care about the most, the entire reason behind my life. My wealth, businesses, even my name can be taken away but not my ideals, they can only be taken if I chose to give them up."
The story's near-future setting and familiar-sounding political special interests is part of a draw that deftly injects a strange sense of familiarity into a sci-fi story about a future world and a hacker's dilemma.
result is a vivid read packed with computer science, human special
intrigue, a winding cat-and-mouse game, and the scenario of a dark
to the Internet which reaches out to immerse not only its characters,
Dark Web Rising
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Jeffrey B. Burton
The Permanent Press
The Eulogist portrays the challenge faced by FBI Special Agent Drew Cady as he investigates the murder of U.S. senator Taylor Brockman, only to discover that the Virginia senator's death is linked not only to underworld operations, but to a deadly serial killer who has also killed a Baltimore junkie (leaving a similar typed eulogy note as a clue) in a plot that embraces drugs, a Mexican cartel, a breakthrough new medicine, and more.
As kidnappings, witnesses, investigations, and politics blow through Cady's world, he comes to realize that this case will be like no other, involving bribery and dangers that keep all potential witnesses shackled and his own efforts stymied.
Part of his challenge lies in an investigation that must continually probe behind public appearance to reveal underlying special interests and influences. Even Cady's investigative prowess seems no match for a mercurial situation that keeps expanding to involve more than individual purposes.
The Eulogist wraps a political thriller in the trappings of a murder mystery, then carries each beyond the borders of the U.S. in a manner designed to keep both Cady and his readers on their toes. The tension is well-done, the setting and progression of events is frighteningly realistic, and its cat-and-mouse games are nicely structured, whether they involve mystery men and bribes or villains well versed in taking advantage of legal systems.
The injection of Cady's thoughts throughout this third-person adventure is also well done, adding more than a light dose of personal reflection and insight into the investigative process and keeping readers involved not only in the mechanics of his work, but its psychological impact.
The result blends a political thriller with an investigative piece that does a fine job of adding enough unpredictable twists and turns to keep its readers guessing till the end, tempering the murder investigation with a solid foundation of psychological descriptions to encourage reader attraction to the characters and their dilemmas.
The Eulogist is very highly recommended as edge-of-your-seat reading for those who like their politics gritty and their murder mysteries compellingly complex.
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Amazon Digital Services LLC
ASIN: B073ZQ1S3P $2.99
Hungry Wolves is the sequel to a new Alex Siegel series begun in The Devil's Pets and continues the investigations and adventures of the Paranormal Enforcement Administration, a crack team charged with hunting down supernatural threats to humans and eliminating them.
This time the quarry is a renegade pack of werewolves in Chicago who are suspected when a mass gravesite of half-eaten remains smacks of their involvement.
Enforcement leader Stony has seen too many gory images to be impressed by these remains, and his professional detachment has been replaced by a weary sadness tempered with a keen, savvy instinct for crime-solving, whether the perp be from Earth or Hell. In this case he's not examining a mass grave but a load of leftovers and as his search reviews the werewolf's curse and history, his investigation into their forced cannibalism and stormy nature leads him into a clash that exceeds even the reputation of werewolves as fearsome adversaries.
Stony's team is extraordinary in more than one way: each harbors a special power. Stony can make his skin hard enough to stop a bullet. Maisma can exhale a volatile gas. Veronica has an unerring ear for discerning truth from lie, and Diana can turn into a panther. An ordinary agent seeking to join this elite super-force would seem to have no place in its fold, but new addition and overseer/chauffeur Bryce has a role to play that becomes apparent as the game evolves.
The force has battled vampires, warlocks, zombies and more - but this confrontation requires a degree of control challenging for many of the participants who are used to high-octane, almost instinctive responses to dangerous situations.
As Siegel's story unfolds, readers are treated to a combination of detective investigation and supernatural story more than lightly tinged with issues of ethnics, morals, and choice. How does Stony's goal of living a more peaceful life juxtapose with his latest mission as "...the guy they bring in when supernatural asses need to be kicked."?
As unholy alliances between supernatural forces build and Stony's group faces the challenge of being on good behavior in contrast to some of their own stormy past history, readers receive solid descriptions of their psychic and spiritual struggles - legacies from the Devil himself - and leading a life that requires special focus and solid interpersonal relationships on both professional and personal levels.
One reason why Hungry Wolves and its predecessor work so well is that while its action is swift and supernatural elements compelling, it also includes a healthy dose of psychological and philosophical reflection tempered by occasional dashes of wry observational humor. All these elements coalesce into a powerful story holding many twists and turns, which is satisfyingly engaging right up to its unexpected conclusion. The tale ultimately embraces high technology, the purposes of man and demon alike, and those who would tap the wolves within them for more control than ever before.
All this creates a multi-faceted, engaging read that includes thought-provoking elements going beyond the usual supernatural fiction thriller approach, neatly setting Hungry Wolves apart from standard genre reads and making for a top recommendation for audiences looking for a powerful cocktail of spiritual, psychological and social insights.
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in the Second Pew
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-0067002-6-9 $14.99
E-Book ISBN: 978-0-9967002-7-6 $ 4.99
Murder in the Second Pew is a Pastor Matt Hayden mystery that follows the retired cop/newfound pastor's cases; because sometimes a cop just can't let go of his true profession, even when his participation in a Witness Protection program leads him to take spiritual vows.
prior familiarity with Pastor Hayden's first appearance (in The Preacher's First Murder)
in order to readily absorb the background and perspective of this
investigator. From the very first sentence, Pastor Hayden's personality
experience are clear: "Hearing
gunshots, Pastor Matt Hayden hit the floor behind his office desk with
reflexes of the cop he'd once been. My God. Have they found me? He
glance at the two women−the matrons of the Altar Guild, no less−staring
from their chairs across from his desk, mouths agape."
The second strength of Murder in the Second Pew is K.P. Gresham's ability to inject powerful descriptive language into her story line, whether with character dialogue or setting: "She'll wrap herself around you like a sweet-potato vine, then slap you into next Wednesday when you get interested," Zach said angrily, but when Chelsea returned with the iced tea, his look turned lecherous."
Character's psyches, places, and dialogue are firmly rooted in a story that swirls around Matt's attempts to both solve crime and keep his real identity a secret, even though his methods and approaches are anything but those of a man of the cloth, leading to his real background coming under unwanted scrutiny: "We both know you've been somethin' other than a preacher in the past. The way you put together the murders last January, the questions you asked, the methodology you followed—it's clear you've been trained in keepin' the law." Matt knew that witness protection policy would dictate that he deny it, but he remained silent."
As religious questions, political issues, and dead bodies task Matt with impossible puzzles and attempts to keep his secrets, readers are treated to Texas atmosphere and an investigation that holds unexpected consequences for all involved.
Murder in the Second Pew's ability to attract newcomers and prior fans of Pastor Matt Hayden alike with its unique blend of religious, psychological, and investigative perspectives makes it one of the best new mystery series on the market. Well-done and involving, the story offers many satisfying twists right up to the conclusion, which paves the way for more.
Murder in the Second Pew
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2020 Press, LLC
9780999047200 $14.99 paper/$4.99 Kindle
Terminal Secret starts out with an intriguing statement that makes thriller readers want to continue, right from the start: "It's always easier to break the law wearing a tuxedo." Said guy in the tuxedo has just scaled a security fence. His latest case involves a congressman's wife who is justifiably afraid for her life - but not for the reasons she states.
Readers receive something different in Terminal Secret's investigative process, however, because this is not just a detective story (or two), but is woven into a political arena as an attorney's murder involves a P.I., a detective, and the evolution of two seemingly different cases drawn together by many connections.
From drugs and mysterious deaths with no clear motive to two different investigators who find themselves a team, this story starts out with intrigue and keeps getting more complex and engrossing.
What do medical records have to do with murders? Plenty, as events reveal a subplot that goes beyond murder and into some truly intriguing avenues involving payoffs, secrets, trials, and business relationships with drug cartels; all revolving around the pivot point of the terminally ill.
The plot is lively and filled with many unexpected twists and turns, the investigations are absorbing, and the characters well-written. The entire structure is designed to keep readers on their toes as events unfold, making for an engrossing story from beginning to end.
Terminal Secret is recommended reading for readers who enjoy a dash of Robin Cook-style medical ethics puzzles woven into a larger tale of intrigue and murder.
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Christine Connors is perfectly disguised, as she embarks on her latest shady deal. Her father is a well-known Texas prosecutor who joins her with a dubious determination to keep all the family skeletons firmly in the closet. When they encounter a woman equally determined to expose these secrets, all hell breaks loose both in the courtroom and in private life as Cal and Christine struggle to keep the lid on scandal and their lives out of the public arena.
From murder to trade secrets and dubious associations, The Weight traverses a world fraught with danger and deadly encounters, bringing readers along for a ride that takes Cal, a "man with answers to everything," into a world he is less prepared to challenge.
Readers of The Weight should be enthusiasts of the legal thriller genre prepared for a romp through exposés which move in and out of the courtroom. The legal drama is realistic and involving, tension is well crafted, characters nicely drawn, and the story line spiced with engaging dialogue and encounters. Added insights about shadowy ethics are very well done ("You may have one opinion and another expert an entirely different opinion. That doesn’t mean one of you is right and the other is wrong. You just see things differently. There is nothing unethical or illegal about that. Think about what I’ve said and let me know how you come out.”) and successfully involve readers on more than an "action story" level as the account of Cal's schemes and efforts to unravel them enters into the ethical realm of the difference between questionable and moral behavior.
From jury proceedings to legal profession interactions and associations, The Weight is a stellar account of a legal process gone awry and the seemingly impossible odds of fixing it, either inside or outside the courtroom. Its tension and unexpected twists will have readers on the edges of their seats right up to a conclusion which is both satisfying and startling.
The Weight is especially recommended for fans of John Grisham who like their courtroom dramas laced with surprise confrontations and their cases satisfyingly complex.
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Months in Vietnam
Black Rose Writing
The majority of Vietnam stories take place mid-war after the fighting has begun. Relatively few start in the early phases of the war, when soldiers were professional Army enlistees who viewed themselves differently, and whose experiences were substantially dissimilar from soldiers who followed in their footsteps. 13 Months in Vietnam reveals those early years as it follows a squadron who travels the country in 1963, before the major shooting begins.
The first thing to note is that because of this pre-war story, the action is quite different than the usual Vietnam-era saga. Although it is penned by an enlisted soldier who spent 13 months in Vietnam traveling from Saigon to near the North Vietnam border, and is thus based on true events, it also incorporates a sense of place, people, and social and political perspectives which are quite different from the typical in-country story line.
The soldiers who enter Vietnam in this story are teens on the cusp of adulthood: as such, they carouse, have ambitions and dreams about the wider world, and demonstrate a perspective that involves much more than their roles in Vietnam, which slowly unfolds as circumstances change.
In a way, 13 Months in Vietnam is more of a classic coming-of-age story than a tale of military experience: readers can see the protagonist and his buddies growing, learning, and changing before their eyes. Of course, Vietnam is their focal point, and there are battles and cultural conflicts; but there are also moments of comic interlude even in the heart of danger ("See anything?” Maserati asked in a whisper, as if it would make a difference. I heard the excitement in his voice. No one said anything as there was nothing moving. If the guy was there, he knew we knew it and was lying low. Schlock turned away from us and started urinating. “Jesus, Schlock, do you have to do that now?” Maserati complained. Several of us shook our heads but laughed.") and plenty of descriptions of evolution amidst a tour of duty that grows ever more challenging to the close-knit group.
At first the boys respond to the action with excitement: "More rounds exploded. I must admit it was both exciting and scary. To finally hear real war, albeit exploding artillery shells in the distance, made one’s imagination run wild. I had only seen combat in the movies about WWII and the Korean War. Was this like that? How many people were dying with the explosions?" It's almost like TV - immediate and interactive; yet seemingly distant. It takes a series of events turn the boys from a tight-knit group to a close-knit company where the reality of death sinks in, overcoming the thrill of seeing action: "We were pumped up and animated on the ride back through town, excited that the operation had been successful. “We’ve all been in combat now,” said Schlock, to no one in particular. He was sitting next to me in the back of the truck. He added: “Well, sortof combat.” He was quiet for a bit and then leaned toward me. “You know, Cool Guy, I might have fired the round that killed that VC. It’s a strange feeling, and I don’t think I’m going to dwell on it too much. It could make me depressed. I’m just glad Buttons is safe.”
As they imbibe and relive experiences, there are plenty of moments of reflection and growth: "Two Vietnamese had died in that incident, and neither death seemed to trouble me very much. I felt they had it coming. One could argue, I guess, that they were defending their homeland and that we were the intruders, which we were, but I carefully didn’t take my thoughts in that direction as it would be a dangerous place to go. So I just left it that the two men killed were soldiers and died. It could have been two of us."
Are they really protecting liberties and American ideals? Or is something else happening?
More so than most novels about the Vietnam era, 13 Months in Vietnam offers an often-intimate, realistic perspective of how boys turn into men and the thought processes that careen from excitement to hard realizations about individual choices and their impact and life and death.
Readers who seek a gritty, first-person perspective that fully embraces the evolutionary growth of boys to men under battle conditions, and who want a better-rounded view of the culture and experiences of Vietnam than battle scenes alone, will find 13 Months in Vietnam more than fits the bill for a thought-provoking, extraordinary survey of responsibilities, worries, and the culture and social atmosphere of 1960s Saigon.
13 Months in Vietnam
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Quintyn is a government worker on his honeymoon when he discovers that a fellow soldier left missing in Vietnam during the fall of Saigon may be alive, living in Laos, and struggling to return home. The decisions he's forced to make from this revelation change his life and world in The American Pearl, a hard-hitting novel of the ongoing aftermath of military service and its impact on a middle-aged, Afro-American, ex-soldier's life.
Patricia's ordeal and struggles to not just survive but to return home dovetail with Quintyn's ongoing, troubled world in a story that is hard-hitting, absorbing, and hard to put down.
Consider its opening: a black man is running along a public beach. His frantic movements portend danger in a description that succinctly embraces racism and perceived threats ("Follow me now: In a moment the man will be in front of you, still grimacing and holding his side. You’ll freeze then. Your world will shrink to the merest fraction. Just this man. He’s closer now. Looming even larger. The man notices you and seems to stagger toward you. He seems to scowl at you. Danger bells go off in your head—he’s violent, a gangbanger, has a gun, probably been shot."), but the heart of the story - his betrayal - lies not in the society he currently moves in, but in the actions of his government.
This is the heart of a story that moves between two lives changed by war and its aftermath, which surveys issues of racism and betrayal from different vantage points ("Her liberator’s lectures continued over the next weeks. Always the same. She could have repeated them from memory: How the American protesters at home—what he called ‘the Second Front’—were helping bring peace to the world. How American workers are starving because of greedy capitalists. How blacks are enslaved and forced to work in cotton fields. How the puppet government of South Vietnam could not defeat the righteous cause of the North.")
Patricia's desperate journey through a rugged country brings to life both Vietnam and the often-alien landscape that is America's involvement in it, both overseas and at home. Peter Gilboy's language is lyrical and intensely descriptive, imparting a "you are there" feel whether he's speaking of Patricia's journey or Quintyn's angst: "She journeyed through two seasons of monsoons. She drank from giant leaves. She drank directly from the sky. She had heard that there were tigers and wild boar, and watched for glowing eyes in the dark, but so far had been able to avoid them. Or they had avoided her. She came across places where nothing grew, still pocked from the war. She did not pray, except once in a forest of trees that towered so high that she recalled a cathedral; she imagined that the trees were the stilts of God."
The lasting effects of American government decisions on both their lives is nicely portrayed, with alternating character viewpoints clearly identified in chapter headings, following a path that intersects their lives and leads Quintyn back into a world he thought he'd left behind.
Life's misfortunes has a way of haunting us - and so these two very different protagonists find their worlds in collision in a story that embraces politics, racism, war, redemption, betrayal, and even love, on many levels.
Readers of fiction about Vietnam and its aftermath will find The American Pearl engrossing, thought-provoking, and filled with action that makes it a different, highly recommended read.
The American Pearl
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When You Close Your Eyes
Roxanne D. Howard
Loose ID LLC
ISBN Print: 978-1-5092-2360-2
ISBN Digital: 978-1-5092-2361-9
London fiancée Lark Braithwaite should be dreaming of her beloved and their new life together - not some sultry Irish stranger. But in reality, her betrothed, Charles, is already controlling and less desirable than the stranger in her erotic dreams: a fact that puts the damper on her marriage ideals.
When You Close Your Eyes traces the evolution of her mysterious dreams and how they juxtapose with the difficult realities in her life, bringing her to a slow, simmering reality that what she's experiencing with Charles is less than she might hope for.
As a busy businesswoman, Lark doesn't have time to make her dreams a priority until something changes, and suddenly she's called home to Oregon to attend her father's funeral; there to meet the elusive, passionate man in those dreams, handsome stranger Niall O’Hagan, in person.
Though it should be mentioned that When You Close Your Eyes is filled with graphic sexual scenes, these are part of a greater plot's appeal; not the heart of the story. Forced to confront family relationships and issues of the past, evidence of long-distance infidelity, and the rising need not only for a special, different kind of lover but the kind of lasting relationship that forces her to be more open and honest overall, Lark discovers that everything is changing in her life.
When You Close Your Eyes employs a combination of sexual power and emotional growth to fuel its special brand of intimacy and revelation, following Lark's progression and growth not only sexually and emotionally, but as a more engaged, active participant in life.
Opening her heart to Niall involves more than being exceptionally candid - it requires the kind of maturity Lark never experienced with Charles, and comes with a new set of decisions. Her journey brings readers along for a heady ride into these revised possibilities, creating a story that is high-powered on more than one level.
Sexually erotic, emotionally compelling, and spiced with evolving passion, When You Close Your Eyes is recommended reading for anyone who likes their romance stories steamy and powerful.
When You Close Your Eyes
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Brush with the Beast
Richard Sones, Publisher
A Brush with the Beast is a Christian fiction piece steeped in moral, ethical and religious insights, and follows powerful characters who make decisions that alter their lives.
IT executive Nick is both ambitious and saddled with relentless chronic pain, a condition which drives him into the arms and dubious ethics of The Order, who promises him both physical and emotional relief. There his weaknesses are exploited as he learns the seeming rewards of blackmail and embarks on an upward trajectory with a newfound goal: to rule the world.
Contrast this conversion from lower-level ambitions and a painful life with that of ex-con Sarah, who finds herself in a small Texas town with little future. She, too, is lured by promises of riches and recovery, and her downfall follows a path that takes her from a nowhere life to choices that both introduce her to God and attracts the Beast who would use her situation to further his evil plans.
Add to this mix the hopes, dreams, and certainty of a young, angry Palestinian whose shattered life comes to reflect the purposes of the Beast in a different way. All three individuals are on a course that changes not only their own lives, but those of others. (Interestingly enough, each character already has riches, pre-Beast: they just can't perceive them.)
Nick's early ambitions have earned him success, wealth, and a reputation as a genius. His physical and psychic ills are somewhat of a mystery. Desperate attempts to use this wealth to achieve relief have only resulted in a spiraling feeling of being out of control: "Though the pain was gone today, he knew that it might return tomorrow. He felt increasingly powerless over his fate."
Sarah's situation is similar in its underlying results, but also different; for hers is a long history of isolation, rejection, poverty and abuse. She also harbors big dreams - but they are only vague ambitions, in the beginning: "She only made minimum wage and rarely was allowed to work a full week, but she promised herself frequently that she would get her GED and get a degree in something."
She, too, comes face to face with a Pandora's Box that she doesn't know if she should even touch. And once it's opened to reveal an all-encompassing darkness, how do either of these individuals find the light again?
This quandary is at the heart of a story of struggle, belief, pain and redemption that Christian readers will find absorbing and compelling. A terrorist's perspective and actions add an action-packed thriller element to the story of two individuals who struggle to find their way, creating an absorbing, revealing plot replete with adventure and spiritual reflection.
The result is a story that is filled with as many changes as the characters experience in their journeys; all of which carry them (and readers) relentlessly towards greater decisions than individual pursuits. From business to politics, America to Russia, these journeys offer engrossing perspectives and swift action in a novel highly recommended for Christians seeking a combination of thought-provoking ethical and spiritual insights paired with well-done action; all tempered by the Lord's help.
A Brush with the Beast
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9780999120200 ebook $2.99, Print $12.99
One doesn't expect a story about war to begin when a family picks up a hitchhiker on the way to visiting Carlsbad Caverns, but Facing the Dragon excels in surprises, and the unusual lead-in to a military story about murder is only one of the unusual devices Philip Derrick employs as he reveals a very different kind of Vietnam experience.
In 1970, Jim is a high school freshman worrying about classes and tests. Mere days later, he's involved in murders, escapes his past, and finds himself in Vietnam, impersonating a U.S. Army paratrooper. An effort to find a killer results in his inadvertent involvement in the war and in a series of encounters destined to change his life forever.
Facing the Dragon combines a murder mystery with a military encounter and a coming-of-age story like no other. From a missing family report and a boy who would be considered a suspect (were he not considered 'vanished', along with his family) to graphic descriptions of the 'in country' milieu ("The repetitive days gave me time to acclimate to the combat environment. I was comfortable, or at least used to, sleeping and shitting outdoors, getting eaten by mosquitos, bitten by ants, having my blood sucked by leeches and being insulted by lizards. I was used to humping the countryside with ninety pounds of gear in my pack."), Facing the Dragon is a gripping page-turner filled with unexpected angles and an approach that belays its easy identification as a coming-of age-saga, a murder story, or a Vietnam novel.
The result is a gripping, very highly recommended tale that holds many surprises for protagonist and readers alike ("I would have been shocked except I’d already learned life isn’t always fair."), ultimately creating a powerful series of lessons that involves Jim and his readers in the roller coaster ride of his life.
Multi-faceted and often startling in its directions, there's no book quite like Facing the Dragon.
Facing the Dragon
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Fountain of Youth
The Wild Rose Press
Print ISBN 978-1-5092-1389-4 $15.99
Digital ISBN 978-1-5092-1390-0 $ 4.99
It's rare that romance novels include more than surface passions, and even less common that they embrace issues of dementia, moral and ethical questions, medical conundrums, or the struggles of Alzheimer's patients. Mix all these issues with love and you have a strange blend, indeed.
But one of the special features of The Fountain of Youth lies in its ability to deftly weave all these seemingly-disparate threads into a unified, precise, memorable story line, making it a top recommendation for not just romance readers, but anyone interested in issues of aging, changed capabilities, and the impact a small thing (such as quiz book) can have in one's life.
In this case, narrator Robert Glickman is determined to defy a family history of dementia and his seemingly-inevitable decline by using a quiz book to test his facilities so he can do something about any decline before it really takes hold. In the meantime, he also lives life in Youth Fountain Senior Living Facility (termed "The Fountain of Youth" by its residents - an aptly named old folks' home, where he has an apartment), holds an infatuation with a retired therapist, faces a neurotic and mentally declining sister, confronts a possible hiding Nazi, and interacts with a host of characters who each struggle with their own uncertain lives.
The characters who inhabit The Fountain of Youth are somewhat reminiscent to those in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, minus much of the insanity. They are quirky, obstinate, sometimes defiant personalities who have their own perspectives of their pasts, presents and futures; yet are somewhat to fully cognizant of the fact that the Fountain offers anything but youth or longevity - only a relatively safe haven at the end of the long road of life.
As events and lives unfold, the unexpected happens: Robert's gruff, observational voice becomes a compelling chronicler of the process of facing not only imminent mortality, but the decline of one's connections to life itself. What opens as and seems like an observational piece about an increasingly limited world and abilities becomes a special window into the hearts, minds, and ethical issues facing the aging and those around them at the end of life.
Who has power and control over one's life? What happens when circumstance limits, then takes away, not only abilities, but personalities? The psychological depth belays any possible description of The Fountain of Youth as a romance novel. While many a reader may pick up the story for this element, most will be delightfully surprised at the depth offered by the evolving story, the quirky and fun personalities revealed behind the closed doors of an elderly facility, and especially the story's important message about the right to live - and die - on one's own terms.
What begins as a seeming romance or institutional probe becomes something much more: a compelling, engrossing story fueled by the passions, perspectives, and worries of Robert as he seeks to take back power in his world, keep his promises, and exert control over his own destiny and the quandaries life and death poses. It's very highly recommended for audiences seeking depth and insights from fictional stories.
The Fountain of Youth
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978-1519301413 $24.99 Paper; $4.99 Kindle
The Kitchen Mistress is the third book in the Letter Series and continues the story of Katherine Arthur, who becomes a 'kitchen mistress' in charge of a hearth in the late 1800s. But there's more to Katherine than kitchen prowess; for she can see ghosts, and the inheritance that should make her family comfortable takes a different turn in a series of events that culminates in her job as a kitchen mistress for the wealthy lady next door.
But if one expects a supernatural story, be advised that The Kitchen Mistress is so much more. Katherine's abilities are only one thread to a story that includes romance, female friendships, family interactions, the mystery surrounding a recipe book found in a wall, among other things.
It would be fair to say that The Kitchen Mistress is a mercurial, changing story that rests firmly on family foundations and interactions, but lends a level of intrigue, romance, and thought-provoking drama as its relationships evolve: "I understand he’s a family friend, a close one. That you have a history. But there are two things you should understand—one: I’ve met many women who appeared naïve and were far less so in actuality. That type of trickery does not sit well with me. That kind of woman can’t be trusted. Two: women who find their hearts in the hands of a man, even a good one, lose their senses, their direction, and often the riches that had once been intended for them.”
Katherine's heart is on her sleeve for her readers to absorb as they follow her through the trials, tribulations, and passions of life: "I was so overwhelmed with contentment that I nearly burst into tears. It wasn’t joy, it certainly wasn’t sorrow or anything bad at all, it was sheer appreciation and peace, as if I’d died and found heaven waiting. How odd that this sensation could leave me breathless yet at peace at the same time."
Letters and love, surprising shifts in circumstance and economics, and relationships forged and altered come together in a work of women's fiction which is passionate and revealing of the tangled relationships between men, women, and peers.
Readers of women's historical fiction will find that The Kitchen Mistress stands nicely as both part of a series and on its own, revealing further details about the Arthurs and their world in a tale that's psychologically complex and hard to put down.
The Kitchen Mistress
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A corporate retreat should be the last place where a single mother and an up-and-coming aggressive business manager would make a romantic connection, but Never Retreat demonstrates that high-stakes prizes and bonuses can attract disparate personalities from anywhere; especially when the big prize which only one can win results in a dangerous scenario where both might lose.
Corporate matters, investments in romance and the heart, and a locale and situation that takes two very different characters out of their familiar and powerful lives and sets them at odds with each other and their environment makes for a story line that will especially attract readers of women's fiction looking for something different.
The first thing to note about Bonnie McCune's approach is that her creation of these two feisty characters is specific and precise, cementing their personalities with dialogue and encounters that pinpoints psychological profiles, special interests, and approaches to life that cause them to both attract and clash: "Your stereotypes might help explain why you have a chip on your shoulder when it comes to me.” He pushed again, wondering how much she’d take and truly wishing he could disarm her well-disguised hostility to reveal the dynamic, alluring woman deep below her work persona. Evidently she’d had enough, for she said through gritted teeth, “Nope. Wrong. I have a chip on my shoulder because you assumed I wasn’t a manager. As soon as you saw me, you asked me to get you coffee. And now that I’ve noticed you on your motorcycle pulling into the parking garage, because you ride a hog.” “So you imagine I’m a wild and crazy guy. Beat people up on my off-hours. Binge drink and do drugs and women.” “Certainly some validity to that.” She turned and walked after Julia."
This sets the stage for events to come, juxtaposing business special interests and a surprising test that moves from corporate to outdoor environments, quickly turning into a match of skills in a survival effort that embraces more than business or social interests.
Few novels operate on such different levels, moving their characters to challenge not just each other, but their own perceptions and personal support routines.
Under less skilled hands the action might have wandered too far off-track, but McCune provides just the right blend of comic relief, interpersonal encounters, and outside environment changes to make her story a powerful blend of elements that moves readers along in logical and surprising progressions of plot. The elements of humor are a delightful surprise to what otherwise might be a serious story of love and growth: "Listen, buster,” she said. “You’re in the Wild West now, remember? I learned to throw a lariat at my father’s knee.” “You’re pulling my leg.” “Nope.” He tossed back his head and hooted so hard he nearly fell over. “You never cease to amaze me. Throw a lasso.” “Technically the line’s a lariat. Lasso is a verb. Hand over the ropes.”
From high-stakes maneuvers to issues of respecting women's independence, Des and Raye's story embraces corporate and personal growth alike, moving neatly beyond the personal perspectives of either to create a conjoined, powerful story of changed managerial approaches to boardroom and bedroom alike.
The real impact of the retreat, its underlying purposes, and the additional challenges introduced by Mother Nature wind up a powerful story fueled by two characters whose emotionally and professionally charged interactions will keep readers involved and guessing to the end.
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Available at Amazon and Ingram
Adam is a gunsmith in George Washington's army in the Revolutionary War when he loses his family not to war, but to gang violence. Broken, he leaves Pennsylvania and becomes a blacksmith in Tennessee, and it takes him ten years of recovery before he's able to set aside his involvement with guns for a new profession. This doesn't last long before he meets John Cabell, who secretly commissions him to build a technologically advanced rifle like none have seen before.
Fast forward two centuries, where a descendant uncovers this legacy and a manuscript that eerily parallels two lives, past and present, as it details family secrets, love, and the evolution of a weapon that changed the world.
The Rifling is historical fiction like few others because it creates a disparate story fueled by new territories, explorations of place and self, and the intricate story of a rifle's creation and its effects on not only the immediate world, but the future.
Its characters are well-done and compelling, romantic elements add compelling realism to the evolution of the plot, and the precise descriptions of weaponry creation, testing, and the politics and conflicts that run through lives are all nicely developed and woven into a plot that thickens and quickens.
The result is an engrossing story that successfully pairs historical perspectives with realistic, involving characters and their lives, making for a tale hard to put down.
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Douglas M. Hoy
Sojourn of Jake opens with Jake newly on the road in search of his beckoning destiny - an event that is threatened by limited time and a sense of urgency that negates any vision of carefree discovery. His dog Angel accompanies him on this journey down memory lane to places perhaps best left nearly forgotten or not completely remembered: "Yes, the world was much different than in every respect than now. During those years of Ike and just at the beginning of JFK and Camelot all seemed safe and serene. I suppose it was, with all of its post card appearances. But things do happen. Events, on almost every block, can take place completely un-noticed to the casual observer. But unsavory can happen, things do happen. A young boy was not sure why, or indeed if what had happened, was even wrong. Times and social standards change; guilt, shame, always remain. These feelings stayed to become my constants. The darkened thoughts and memories are still there, waiting, possibly to change my fate, to remind me of things you can never forget. Try as I might, run as fast and far as I can, no amount of laughter can ever change the lingering, whispering, voices of events best forgotten."
Where is Jake heading; and how is his journey viewed by an outsider, as he lets Mandi into his life and outlines some of the hurdles and obstacles he's faced which seem to be still ahead of him as he nears the end of the road? His reflections are nicely described, with a sad, philosophical, observational tone letting both Mandi and the reader into his past, present and future: "Sadly, now, I sense the thread of my life growing short for me at a very hurried rate. This seems to heighten by all my general questions from my best forgotten past. I am beginning to feel the only certain truth which may come to light for me now is there is no truth, no true answer. If those answers came forth they would only make way to more uncertainty of more questions setting in motion a non ending spiral of thoughts and emotions. There have been decades for me to be haunted, hindered, decades to keep the unsavory truth unto myself, my hidden personal thoughts. So these ghosts are up me to handle if I am ever to find any peace."
From encounters with long-time friends that change their lives to his continued connections with Mandi even after they part, Jake faces what he needs to; from the darkness in his mind and memories to a last-ditch attempt to rid himself of the demons he's carried around for decades.
His plans are "written in the sand" and are as mercurial as the relationships he revisits, the new ones he forms, and the specter of past, present, and future which leads him to review not only past challenges, but past happiness.
Sojourn of Jake is a life journey in more ways than one. Physically and psychologically, Jake is facing some of the biggest changes in his world. Accompanied by his faithful dog Angel, he leads readers through bygone times, hopes and dreams, and an ongoing desire to travel an unpredictable road.
Fans of Kerouac's On the Road and other road trips of self-discovery and Americana will relish the tone and insights surrounding Jake and his journey, and will find Sojourn of Jake a poignant, involving tale.
Sojourn of Jake
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Patricia V. Davis
HD Media Press
978-0-9899056-8-8 $15.95 Paperback $7.99 Kindle
Spells and Oregano is Book Two in 'The Secret Spice Café' trilogy, so the setting dovetails with and expands upon a story begun in Cooking for Ghosts - but that doesn't mean its audience should be limited to prior readers, because there are several main differences between Spells and Oregano and its predecessor.
For one thing, the story is as much about finding happiness as it is about spells, ghosts, or The Secret Spice Café, an establishment opened on the luxury liner Queen Mary. Its metaphysical and visionary elements fall more in the line of a quest for meaning than a mystery that involves its characters in a search to determine who means them harm.
Waking visions that portend ominous circumstances, spirits who beg the living to help, a man's special powers, and a homicide cover-up are only a few of the ingredients in this spicy, mercurial mystery that keeps readers on their toes and guessing. The supernatural elements permeating the plot dish up a wicked blend of romance and a dash of humor to keep the story line involving and fun.
Can Luca be saved by the ghost of his mother, who gets him into hot water?
This rocky, edgy search for happiness is highly recommended not just for prior fans or those who like supernatural elements in their story lines, but for readers who appreciate tales that include cooking references, exotic ocean liners, and accounts of evolving love against a backdrop of adversity.
Spells and Oregano includes a free, interactive Readers Guide.
Spells and Oregano
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The Welcome Home
The Welcome Home Diner threads different stories under one cover as it tells of two cousins who join forces to buy a new house and renovate a diner in a depressed area of Detroit, driven by dreams of personal and community change.
The only problem is that their ideals and approaches may not sync with those of a concerned community who views outsiders and gentrification as threats to their way of life. But these aren't the only things at stake: they are forging new ties with their efforts and soon find these, too, are endangered, because what they view as building a 'welcome home' atmosphere for themselves and others becomes the pivot point of controversy.
One thing The Welcome Home Diner deftly points out as events evolve is that whether one is serving up soul food, revitalizing a relationship or personal life, or changing a community, there's a big difference between ideals and reality, even if there's a lot of hope attached to both.
From activist principles and culinary ideals and descriptions to long hours that challenge Addie and Sam's relationships, their saga is steeped in Michigan atmosphere, dreams and heritage, and brings to life a struggling community's concerns and psyche.
The Welcome Home Diner is about everything that creates a home, from cooking, sweat, and tears to how challenges are faced and relationships changed, broken, or mended. With its detailed descriptions of a community rising like a phoenix from the rubble of disaster, this story's ability to trace the concurrent rise of several forces in the city makes for an involving multicultural encounter.
At times, the diner owners seem part of their own community; at other times, they're outsiders. These forces are convincingly depicted in notes that juxtapose the perceptions of owners and diners: "Welcome Home brings back the happy times when I was a boy and made supper with my folks. What about you? What brings you to this kitchen?” Good, I think to myself. I’ve been straining to hear their conversation and they’re closer to me now. I try making myself invisible, a grease mark on the wall. I rummage through our vast collection of recipes, intent on the pages, forearms pressed into the cool stainless table."
The warm descriptions and sensations that fill this story with evocative sensory images can also best be used to describe the heart of matters: "Pies are baking in the oven and the air is filled with their sweet and buttery fragrance." Chapters in The Welcome Home Diner are filled with sweetness. There's a perceptible crunch on one's lips as one partakes of these lives and these perspectives which bring a Michigan neighborhood to life like few other novels achieve.
Readers who like stories of activism, community change, and close but changing bonds will relish the depth in The Welcome Home Diner, which is far more than a culinary, small business or family relationship saga, but blossoms to embrace the entire microcosm of life representative in one struggling community's choices.
The Welcome Home Diner
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Loom: A Tapestry of Cats
C. L. Francisco, PhD
Price: $12.98 (paperback), $5.99 Kindle
The fifth volume in the Yeshua’s Cats saga adds to the story of Paul the Apostle (begun in The Cats of Rekem), expanding the Biblical perceptions of its times through the unusual vantage point of sentient cat observers.
In Yeshua's Loom, the young weaver whom Yeshua healed in Yeshua’s Cat embarks on journeys of her own, described by alternating cat narrators who find their own hearts (and those of their keepers) expanding as a result of Biblical events that unfold as one of the key elements in this cat-perspective survey of Biblical times.
While this reviewer seldom recommends that newcomers begin a series at any point beyond its opener, it should be noted that this fifth volume stands as well on its own as it does as an addition to the series, filling out events surrounding Biblical figures while creating new subplots and stories that all readers will relish.
One of the elements that will drive readers (even those who are not avid Christians) to this series in general and Yeshua's Loom in particular is C.L. Francisco's ability to bring to life a cat's perspective and the feelings, sights, and sounds of the times: "I sighed again and closed my eyes. The son of Earth had explained what it meant for a cat to bond with a human. At the very least he expected me to stay by Aeliana’s side. But more than that, I knew he was depending on me to help her find her way in this new life so far from the hills of Galilee....So I was stuck. No way out. I closed my ears to the crashing fury of the sea and let my mind sink into the nowhere place, where all beasts go when life spins out of control and no more choices remain."
evocative, lyrical descriptions permeate the story as it follows the
sometimes-puzzling choices humans make from the observations of
cats who follow in their footsteps.
Journeys and confrontations, spiritual and social changes, and cats who share in the adventure make for a story that excels in cat's-eye viewpoints of Biblical matters which are exquisitely portrayed, right down to reunions, joyful encounters, and celebrations: "Then, as we rounded a last corner, the fog swirled away and a storm of emotion broke loose, filled with many glad cries of greeting: my mate’s friend was the fabled Wind on Water, ben Adamah’s companion cat. The human female beside her turned out to be Maryam of Magdala, who had helped Aeliana settle in with Tirzah in Acco. A strange man emerged from the assembly’s depths to close the door on our noisy reunion, but I suspect Chariton and I were the only ones to notice. We stood to one side, a stolid male island awash in a sea of female enthusiasm."
Under another hand, having three different cats as narrator/observers could have been confusing; but chapter headings clearly follow changing cat viewpoints while visionary dreams, tragedy, and struggles to heal follow the experiences of Aeliana, who evolves to become Lydia, a seller of purple and a biblical character from the book of Acts, who offers Paul unique wisdom destined to change the future of Christianity.
One might believe, from such descriptions, that the audience for Yeshua's Loom will be limited to Christian followers or prior series readers; but this would be a shame. Its unique perspective, blends of philosophy and religious inspection, and astute observations of the puzzles of human faith, encounters, and dreams make it an attraction certain to grab any who seek thought-provoking accounts of Biblical times.
Yeshua's Loom adds to the series in a powerful story that is very highly recommended to all readers who like historical events narrated from different perspectives; particularly those who would discover portions of Biblical history and people who do not usually receive close inspection.
Yeshua's Loom: A Tapestry of Cats
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ASIN: BO7534Y6QZ ISBN: 978-0-9954568-4-6 $3.99
Zenka is a Hungarian dancer who devotes herself to a London mob boss when he saves her life - an unusual association, to say the least; especially since the last thing Jack Murray is seeking is a petite but stubborn woman tenaciously determined to return a favor.
Jack has other things on his mind, too: namely the discovery of a son
know he had - a young man who is a wimp; who is being bullied on
fronts. Between Zenka and the newfound demands of this unknown son,
between a rock and a hard place; especially since he never asked for
kinds of changes to his life and his position in it.
Nobody can ignore Zenka Valentina Varga - not Jack and certainly not the reader, who receives feisty introductions to her personality, her world, and her reasons for insisting that her new role in life is to become Jack's guardian angel.
As perspectives pivot between Zenka, Jack, newfound son Nicholas, and others, readers receive a multi-faceted viewpoint of the personalities, perspectives, and very different lives of all three, and those who are part of their worlds.
Each character has something to offer the other and has strong reasons for changing their world and those in it. Alison Brodie takes the time to fully develop not only their viewpoints but their logic and actions, resulting in a winning series of personalities that drive the story line whether one is reading about Nicholas' challenges, the interruptions to Jack's role as mob boss, or Zenka's newfound relationship with both father and son.
Dialogue is realistic and convincing as worlds collide and falsehoods spread: "'Ah, Penelope, have you met our cleaner? She’s Hungarian.’
He couldn’t say her name; it would sound too personal. “Cleaner” sounded efficient. A necessity.
‘Cleaner?’ Penelope’s voice hummed with disbelief.
Nicholas nodded vigorously. ‘Yes, we’ve been hard at it. I mean-’ he corrected himself quickly. ‘We’ve been spring cleaning. You won’t recognize Jason’s room, my G-o-d!’ Nicholas knew his laugh was shrill and unconvincing. ‘We thought we’d have to call in Porton Down, until Zen-’ he corrected himself, ‘until we got ourselves a cleaner.’ He saw Zenka’s bewilderment and felt the shame course through his body. He was such a coward he couldn’t even own-up to knowing her."
Jack has everything to lose as these relationships evolve. Nicholas has everything to gain. And Zenka, their shared connection, just made life a bit more complicated.
Spicy, replete with London lingo (which is nicely defined in the beginning) and personalities, and liberally laced with humor and irony, Zenka is a feisty, involving read that is made all the more powerful for the hot-blooded Hungarian passion running through its pages.
Readers of intrigue, family relationships, and women's fiction will find its brand of thriller, fun, and unusual interpersonal connections to be just the right recipe for a riveting read.
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Moon Willow Press
Rising oceans, a vastly changed environment, and people who struggle to survive in this new world are not unusual; but what is notably different in Code Blue is a survival account of this changed world as seen through the eyes of a teen who lives behind a barbed-wire fence that stretches some 28,000 miles, designed to either protect or barricade those within (she's not quite sure which applies).
Marissa Slaven's striking observational style captures Tic's world and deftly contrasts it with our own: "Looking at it from here, if you didn't know any better, it looks like hundreds of seagulls are standing on the water, walking around on it and building nests, but really they are on the roof of a submerged building. It's a big roof, almost one million square feet. It's the roof of what was once the largest shopping mall in New England. I know from watching old videos that it would have been a place where teenagers like me would have met, shopped, eaten, gossiped, hooked up, broken up…in other words spent a lot of time."
The visual images of what exists now, compared to their original appearance and purposes, are simply stunning, and are part of what captures reader attention and makes this future world seem so familiar and so alien, all at once.
Another important note is that the economic impact of the Change is also covered - and in intimate terms that reveals lifestyle impact; not the usual dispassionate survey of appearances. Perhaps this is because of Marissa Slaven's use of the first person, which imparts a "you are here" tone to her coverage and thoroughly immerses readers in Tic's much-changed world and its routines.
Dystopian fiction comes and goes, and too many assume the trappings of formula productions; but the test of any superior story line lies in its ability to draw readers with powerful characterization and associations that lend to a reader's emotional connections with events as they unfold. Code Blue holds a special ability to juxtapose both the bigger ecological picture with the microcosm of a young adult's personal challenges as she moves through this world.
the mystery of Tic's father's research, her determination to assume his
tackling global climate change by continuing his work as they strive to
off the effects of rising waters, and new clues about his project that
frightening impacts for her own studies and ideals and you have a young
story that should reach well into adult dystopian fiction reader
circles as it
leads to a critical moment in a complex situation: a tipping point that
change her family, her dreams, and her teetering world.
Code Blue is very, very highly recommended as a blend of sci-fi, eco-thriller, and coming of age story that's hard to put down, filled with satisfying twists, turns, and even unexpected intrigue.
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Poodles, Sweet Old Ladies, And Hugs: Veterinary Tales
P.J. Miller, B.V.M.& S., M.R.C.V.S.
There is no lack of interest in veterinary experiences, among the reading public; a phenomenon that began with England's James Herriot's country vet stories and which continues to this day with the plethora of veterinary shows on television.
Cute Poodles, Sweet Old Ladies, And Hugs: Veterinary Tales joins the literature for pet enthusiasts who want to read about vet experiences with animals and those who want stories about especially challenging animal (and their human) health cases, and comes from a vet raised in New York City who trained in Scotland.
The dual focus on animals and owners makes for a fun read that includes wry and insightful comments not just on pet owner personalities, but the good and bad decisions they make during the course of caring for their animals.
It also follows the making of Dr. Miller's veterinary practice using the same wry observational style and lessons he gains from furry patients and human keepers alike, offering a strong contrast between educational theory and veterinary practice: "Some professors don’t have the real-world experience and don’t approach things practically. They have spent their careers in the world of academia. Instead, some vet students are taught to run tests and approach cases in ways that wouldn’t work in general practice. At Edinburgh, we were taught, “This is the ideal way, but this is the way you are probably going to have to approach it in your practice.”
This thread of insight is a constant that runs through Cute Poodles, Sweet Old Ladies, And Hugs: Veterinary Tales to set it apart from other veterinary story collections, educating readers not just about fun animal and owner personalities, but about the very real challenges and decision-making process vets face on a daily basis.
The dialogue between pet owner and vet is especially well-done and thought-provoking as it considers the boundaries of vet/patient experience and how sometimes these lines are crossed.
This collection is highly recommended for anyone who likes stories about animals, their human keepers, and the physicians who are charged with keeping everyone healthy, happy, and well-informed. Unlike stories designed to entertain, this collection educates and offers a professional vet's perspective of what constitutes good animal care on all sides - an invaluable and unique aspect that sets Cute Poodles, Sweet Old Ladies, And Hugs: Veterinary Tales apart from pet stories largely created for entertainment value.
Cute Poodles, Sweet Old Ladies, And Hugs: Veterinary Tales
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Mesquite and More
Chelsea Green Publishing
At first glance, Eat Mesquite and More: A Cookbook for Sonoran Desert Foods and Living might seem a specialty cookbook for desert-residing readers only; but while its focus is specific to Sonoran Desert wild food usage, cooks, gardeners and landscapers, and urban designers alike will find much to relish about a cookbook that focuses on cultivating desert foods.
For one thing, it's loaded not only with new foods and flavors, but stories of the individuals and organizations fostering their cultivation and usage. This means that growing, harvesting, processing, and pairing flavors adds to what is more than a 'wild foods' or regional cookbook in a seasonal arrangement made all the more intriguing by its chapter separation by 'wet' versus 'dry' seasonal offerings.
Secondly, it comes with a manifesto that promotes sensitively to ecological systems and natural land processes; and this means a gardening and farming approach to these foods that results in as little impact to ecological systems as possible, from purposely 'planting rain' and capturing runoff and rain to not just looking for wild food sources, but replanting and replenishing them after harvest.
A cautionary note to this collection is that the majority of its readers will have never heard of such ingredients as mesquite, wild fruits, or cholla cactus buds; while a secondary note is that accessibility may be an issue for those far from this American Southwest region of bounty.
But it should also be mentioned that Eat Mesquite and More emphasizes its approach in its title, offering far more than a cookbook based on sometimes-inaccessible ingredients. It's actually a manifesto for trying new things, accepting new flavors, and above all, honing new approaches to gathering and using food from the land.
The recipes are a pleasing adjunct to such an approach, with creations such as Hackberry Milk, Prickly Pear Syrup & Jelly for pancakes, or Saguaro Seed Porridge with cholla seed buds adding a wealth of new things to try (over 170 recipes presented and gathered by desert dwellers on a mission to discuss desert food and its unique attributes).
Culinary, Southwest regional collections, and anyone interested in wild foods and land management will find the colorful Eat Mesquite and More a unique and exciting contribution to the literature of both wild food usage and ecological approaches to fragile land ecological management.
Eat Mesquite and More
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Under different a hand, Grappling with Legacy: Rhode Island's Brown Family and the American Philanthropic Impulse could have limited its focus to a single family's history, adding it to the chronicles of genealogical studies holding specific interest primarily to other family members or local historians.
But Sylvia Brown's approach goes further as it picks a family compulsive about philanthropy and considers not only its evolution, but how the Browns of Rhode Island excelled in business and social good alike, maintaining that tradition for over three hundred years.
It thus quickly becomes evident that Grappling with Legacy holds a wider-ranging interest as it considers not just Brown family activities, but the bigger picture of the history of philanthropy in America, changing feelings about its actions and impacts, and how social issues weave into charitable giving and community support to change the nature and perception of giving.
Many family members ran complex, risky businesses in difficult times. Others became involved in changing political perspectives governing philanthropic efforts, participating in these processes as the nation veered from slavery and moved into arenas where ideals produced a conflict of interest; particularly when the abolition movement erupted in the early 1830s after lying dormant for some thirty years.
At each step of the way, connections are made between family bonds, philanthropic choices, and changing perceptions of social good and its impact.
The result is a powerful survey not just of the Brown Family's choices, but of the evolution of philanthropy in the country as a whole. Grappling with Legacy should be on the reading lists of any American history class regardless of their proximity to Rhode Island.
Grappling with Legacy
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International Family Guide to US University Admissions
Jennifer Ann Aquino
John Wiley & Sons
At first glance, The International Family Guide to US University Admissions would seem to only duplicate information in similar books about getting into college; but it's important to note that this one comes with a big difference: it's the only title directed to foreign university applicants who need to understand everything from SAT scores and finances to international applications and student status. It thus adopts a different approach and perspective than books which assume a foundation of familiarity with the American college system and domestic processes.
chapter opens with a case history example, making it easy for
quickly relate to the different issues being explored from a
From documents and paperwork particular to visas and getting enrolled as an overseas student to assessing, long-distance, the cultural atmospheres of different campuses and considering how one's nationality will fit into the mix, The International Family Guide to US University Admissions includes many tips and perspectives not seen in any other college-bound guide.
International families receive not only the nuts and bolts of admission processes, but the tools which are key to understanding different colleges; contrasting their offerings, and considering ways in which their programs and approaches may or may not work for a particular student.
Perhaps this book could not have been written by a US educator - even one with an insider's savvy about the system. Living in Singapore, Jennifer Ann Aquino launched her own private educational consultancy for secondary students and their families, and her expertise and perspective represents her own brand of insider's knowledge not just about American colleges, but about the special concerns and options for foreigners considering them.
Packed with advice that transcends paperwork requirements ("The human process means it’s not perfect. There’s no science behind it and there’s really no way, ever, to find out why you were accepted or why you were rejected. Commit now to letting this go. And, to control what you can control and leave the rest . . ."), this is the item of choice for any overseas family examining American universities.
The International Family Guide to US University Admissions
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the Lucky Rabbit
David A. Bossert
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: The Search for the Lost Disney Cartoons presents a history of the origins of the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio and the hit they had in 1927 with Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, whose history has, surprisingly, been 'lost' until now.
Basically, if it weren't for Oswald, Disney may not have evolved to become the powerhouse it is today - but that journey was anything but linear. It involved Oswald's initial rejection, his eventual acceptance, and how Disney lost the contract to their first major character; only regaining the twenty-six Walt Disney created Oswald cartoons (and returning Oswald to his proper place in Disney history) six decades later.
happy-go-lucky demeanor and his clever ability to come out on top of
situation predated Mickey's evolution and reflected creator Walt
approach to life itself.
So how did Walt's first major animated success result not only in losing the contract, but in Oswald's journey into animation obscurity for so many years? Disney fans will quickly come to realize this story isn't just about Oswald's evolutionary process, but about Walt Disney's own evolution as he furthered his animation efforts and created the foundations of what was to become his more famous Mickey Mouse character.
From legends and realities to common animation practices of the day and how cartoons are 'lost' over time, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit packs in visual embellishments, from animation frames to vintage photos, in its efforts to trace Oswald's history through copyright synopsis, surviving film documents, and episode reviews.
Packed with illustration as it is, readers almost don't need the rare vintage Oswald film in order to enjoy this recreation of historical record that offers such in-depth discussion about Oswald's adventures and evolution.
Recommended for Disney fans, prior Oswald enthusiasts, and animation history readers alike, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: The Search for the Lost Disney Cartoons fills in many blanks and offers specifics about animation processes, legalese, and the process of researching and recapturing lost cartoons, and is a 'must' for any collection strong in Disney characters and history.
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit
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978-0-692-87694-7 $9.99 Kindle, $11.95 Print
Website/Ordering link: pre-order until Oct 1, 2017 (book publish date Oct 1, 2017)
Who Controls America? is a political, social and economic history of the often-hidden influencers on American political processes, pairing brief reviews of how the federal banking system works with closer inspections of how Wall Street banks control not only business, but politics, in America.
As chapters carefully construct connections between banking processes and political influence, readers are treated to a discussion of not just how banks rule Washington but, more importantly, what can be done about it.
Each chapter of information concludes with a section questioning 'how do we get control,' and here's where the real meat of the title lies: in actionable reviews of processes backed by historical experience and political and economic savvy.
Take, for example, the chapter on education, which points out that a population educated enough to employ critical thinking processes is a threat to power. What's best for the future of America? Surprisingly, it may not lie in the ideal of college educations for all: "Still think college for all is a good idea? Universities are currently failing a majority of their graduates. Why would we want to grow the number of young people with college debt and a degree that does not provide graduates with the skills they need to move into the workforce?"
Instead, the solution may lay in better preparations for economic success that link education to real-world achievements and takes elite and political control away from the process. Solutions recommended by the author range from deferred tuition with zero percent interest loans, eliminating course requirements not related to a field of study, to focusing on ONLY reading skills from kindergarten to grade 3, and revitalizing trade school programs.
Each chapter is packed with statistics, and each presents keys to making the kinds of changes at the local and political level that eliminate controllers from American society. "What we think, what we are taught, what we are paid for our work, when and where we go to war, and who wins political office have all been staged by men and women we have never heard of." It's time for a change. Mark Mullen's blueprint pinpoints problems across various sectors of society and, more importantly, offers a foundation for making these changes.
Who Controls America? is very highly recommended for social issues, political, economic, and American history collections and classes alike.
Who Controls America?
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Beach: The Luminous Island
John F. Blair / Beach Glass Books
The 10th anniversary edition's release of Wrightsville Beach: The Luminous Island represents in milestone in several notable ways. First, the reissue itself has been physically expanded: it's 35 percent larger, doubling the number of images to approximately 150 and increasing the size of others, it includes a new afterword by author Ray McAllister, and it includes a new foreword by book editor Ben Steelman of the Wilmington Star-News, a major voice in North Carolina literature.
These changes will make this new edition of special interest to collections and readers who have shopworn older copies and who will find this not only offers a sturdy replacement, but added value.
The second thing to note is that Wrightsville Beach captures the landscape, evolutionary process, historical importance, and lives on an island which enjoys one of the largest populations of any island along the North Carolina coast.
This process is significant because development began late, and so the area retained much of its beach cottage/small town vacationer atmosphere right up to modern times.
As chapters trace the forces that affected and changed the island, from hurricanes to entertainment and cultural transformations and challenges to lifestyles, they pair vintage black and white images with candid assessments of these experiences: "It takes work to keep a paradise a paradise these days."
It also takes work to adequately capture the process of retaining a paradise in the face of change: much research has gone into the preservation process, with materials coming from archival records and libraries, the author's own collection, and even museums of natural sciences.
The result is a wide-ranging survey of all the disparate forces that have shaped Wrightsville Beach and made it what it is today.
Why should non-North Carolina collections be interested? Because the microcosm of this community's experience and evolution holds lessons not only for understanding the region, but the pressures and places of small town America as a whole, making this a powerful recommendation for any library strong in regional Americana.
Wrightsville Beach: The Luminous Island
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Girl with Stars in her Hair
Razor Street Publishing
Paper/ISBN number: 978-0-9960892-4-1 $14.99
ebook/ASIN number: B0743B7TJH $ 3.99
Ordering link: https://www.amazon.com/Girl-
If the title alone doesn't grab teen readers, the story line will: in 1919 in Hermosa Beach, fourteen-year-old Cassie is facing the death of her father from a killer Spanish flu when a doctor unexpectedly visits with an unbelievable cure that leaves her father changed. Something is not right. A miracle has occurred - but some miracles can come with a price tag.
Fast forward to the same locale, in 1925. Cassie's four-year-old brother is kidnapped, and she undertakes a search to get him back - one that will take her to the boundaries of time, space, and supernatural influences.
As Cassie Goodlight faces not just the price of her father's recovery, but its potential impact on the future, she embarks on a paradigm-shifting journey that involves a shape-shifting being and a task that comes with a deadline.
Both she and her mother are part of the search for a 'gremhahn', armed with a secret compass and a 'finder' that can only help when they are physically close to their goal.
The first thing to note is that this is not a read that should be limited to young adults. Anyone who likes fantasy will find The Girl With Stars in Her Hair an engrossing read that captures not only the quest, but the flavor of 1920s America: "The band was launching into a Dixieland piece and I’d barely sipped my drink when a tuxedoed man with a pencil moustache jumped onto the stage and motioned the band silent with his hand. “Ladies and gentleman,” he called in a loud voice. “I do apologize, but we’ve just been notified that some uninvited guests of the law enforcement type are on their way. If you would kindly exit.” He swept his arm to indicate another man, who pulled a curtain aside to reveal a door. The door wasn’t far from the bar. Moira swallowed down the last of her gin rickey, grabbed my hand, and with the rest of the crowd we sidled out of the building."
This historical note juxtaposes nicely with the story's fantasy elements as Cassie makes her way through the world as a new adult on an impossible mission.
The interludes that revolve around this world immerse readers with a realistic sense of place that captures the dance, music, and social atmosphere of the times as much as the underlying mystery and supernatural forces that work within it: "The band—a drummer, saxophone player, pianist, and a short man on a double bass that was bigger than he was—struck up an instrumental version of “I Wish I Could Shimmy Like My Sister Kate.” I felt a touch at my elbow and turned to see a nice-looking man about my age mouth the word dance? I nodded, and followed him onto the dark wooden dance floor. I saw that his friend had taken Moira’s hand and was leading her to the same place. A few couples were doing the Charleston, but my partner led me in a lively foxtrot. The tension of the past days, weeks, months, years fell away, swirled up and swept clean by the music and pure joy of dancing."
Levitation spells, seaside dangers, folk stories about the sea (which may be too true), and a growing number of friends who help Cassie along the way make for an engrossing story filled with twists and turns, powered by a delightfully strong protagonist whose heart's desire carries readers of all ages into an engrossing world that is familiar, yet strange, all in one.
The Girl with Stars in her Hair is highly recommended for any reader who looks for solid fantasies powered by realistic characters, semi-familiar settings in the real world, and a sense of purpose tempered by an evolving romance and powerful realizations about the world's shifting boundaries.
The Girl with Stars in her Hair
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Great Snapping Turtle Adventure
The Great Snapping Turtle Adventure's title doesn't adequately reveal the wonderful read in store for young teens. Though billed as a mystery, it's actually a powerful ghost story - and young teens with affection for ghosts will find this a compelling story indeed.
It begins when Fred takes his stepsons Max and Charles to an island for a day of crabbing. While this doesn't seem to portend much of an adventure, it turns into one when a strange old woman gives them a giant snapping turtle to sell, and when they stumble over her hidden grave and realize they may have just interacted with a ghost.
Every little town may have its own ghost and haunting story, but Max and Charles didn't expect their own encounter or the mystery it brings up, which leads them on a chase through a small Eastern Shore water community and into the heart of both local environmental issues and a problem that tests two young detectives.
Middle school readers will find the Maryland seaside setting, the challenges the two boys face, and both the mystery and the ramifications of the changing world around them to be thoroughly engrossing; a fine early introduction to the genres of mystery and environmental fiction.
The Great Snapping Turtle Adventure
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of the Lambergoon
Howl of the Lambergoon is Book 1 of Gad the Zig, and gives picture book readers a lively blend of rollicking rhyme and adventure as it recounts the story Gad ("In the Hebrides, in the olden days,/When Flatnose ruled the sea,/A servant boy called Gad the zig/Gathered clams by Loch Buie."), embellishing it with lovely colorful drawings by illustrator Marta Stawska.
It should be mentioned that Howl of the Lambergoon is no light-hearted romp, but a complex and well-developed story that follows Gad the Zig and his Shetland pony Lully through a lagoon where he encounters the dreadful "fork-tongued lambergoon."
As they make their way through a dark and dangerous forest tailed by the lambergoon, pony and boy flee for the safety of their master's house - but just as they reach sanctuary, it turns out that the goon holds a message for the boy, about pride. And what of Master Hoon, who has defied it and lived to tell the tale?
Between the complex, winding, 76-age picture book story and its fine rhymes, adult assistance for young readers is recommended. The nature of a story which revolves around confrontations with a monster would also make it a recommended pick not for the very young, but for older picture book readers likely to find the beast interesting and not intimidating and the series of encounters and tales to be engrossing rather than overly demanding.
Also be forewarned: there's blood and darkness involved in these encounters ("Lull was first to catch the scent—/The reeking of the dead./They found a cavern stained with blood/Where the lambergoon had fed."), reinforcing that this is a pick not for the fearful youngster, but for older picture book readers able to absorb the subtle nuances of a vivid rhyme embracing a series of confrontations with horror that offers a truly surprising twist to its tale.
Highly recommended for its lovely drawings and original, unique turn of events, Howl of the Lambergoon is a powerful, enjoyable read many adults will find involving.
Howl of the Lambergoon
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Lighthouse Christian Publishing
God's only son is watching, and his message is one of love. That's the foundation of Christian picture book Jesus Loves You, a primer for the very young that pairs a simple message with large-size, colorful drawings that could have been done by a child, appealing to young peers reading this story.
From the time young readers were babes in the womb (a time when "God was knitting you together") to the first day of school, a first class presentation, first date, first conflict with a parent, the milestones of childhood are linked to Jesus' love in a story that moves from childhood to adulthood to reinforce the simple idea that every step in life is accompanied by Jesus' help and love.
Kids receive confirmation that there is no step in life where Jesus is not 'there' beside them, bestowing love and support. Where other books would go into indicators or signs, Christine Topjian's message is far simpler - and thus, more acceptable to the very young: Jesus loves you. There could be no easier message than this, presented in a picture book that surveys one child's life and the major hurdles and successes it brings. It concludes with a final emphasis that will pave the way for dialogue between the very young and their read-aloud adults.
Jesus Loves You is highly recommended as a 'first primer' introduction to Jesus for the very young.
Jesus Loves You
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Xina Marie Uhl
The King's Champion represents Book 1 in a sword and sorcery fantasy series that revolves around seventeen-year-old Lance, who dreamed of participating in epic battles until the loveliest girl in the village turned her eyes upon him. His initial dreams seem to have gone by the wayside until savvy village elders send him on a mission to find his calling in life, leading him to the king's court, an unanticipated friendship with a prince, and a conspiracy that involves not only their blossoming friendship, but the fate of the entire kingdom.
The King's Champion's plot may feel familiar, but it's anything but predictable. The first special thing to note about this story is an undercurrent of wry observational humor that stems from a first-person protagonist who offers witty inspections of his world from the very first sentence: "Take it from me. Adventuring all by yourself sounds better than it really is. First, there's the hunger. Just how many rutabagas and strips of dried pork can you carry? Not more than a week's worth. Hunting and gathering may yield a scraggly bunny or two and a few handfuls of raisins shriveled and dried on the vine, but that's nowhere near enough. Then, there's the confusion. I lost the trail several times despite the map Father had scratched out on a deer hide back in my village. I hardly need to mention the general discomfort of sore feet, attacking chiggers, rancid waterholes, and the disturbingly close howls of wild beasts as I tried to sleep."
It's this sense of fun, combined with a fast-paced series of adventures, which constantly place Lance in dangerous situations, lends a surreal atmosphere to the story, and leads readers to become more than casually involved in the outcome of his quest.
As readers pursue the saga, it's evident that the initial thread of humor doesn't vanish under any circumstances; even when the captured Lance attempts escape ("With my hands tied behind my back, I couldn’t mount a horse, so I did the next best thing. I ran. Well, all right. I lumbered and staggered in something approximating a run."). But all is not fun and games in The King's Champion, because Lance is also undertaking the serious mission of discovering what manner of man constitutes the kind of king he can respect and follow; and these discoveries, set against the backdrop of action and a dangerous journey, make for a compelling read.
So, while the plot may appear to be a familiar fantasy like many others (protagonist embarks on quest and encounters a situation that threatens his life and his kingdom), the proof of a superior production lies in how the story line, character development, and action are handled. These are all powerfully and creatively depicted in a story packed with satisfying twists, wry humor throughout, and the coming of age of a young man just beginning to realize his strengths and weaknesses.
Young adult through adult readers will relish this original, lively story.
The King's Champion
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G. Rosemary Ludlow
Comwave Publishing House Inc.
E Book 978-0973687163 Price: US$4.99
Preteen fantasy fans ages 8-12 years old will relish the third book in the Crystal Journals series even if they don't have prior familiarity with its predecessors, and will readily absorb the medieval setting and story of Susan, who is still coming into the powers bestowed upon her from a crystal she is given, because it's chosen her, at a flea market.
Uncertain of how her powers or the crystal works, Susan discovers (in previous books) that she is the Guardian of only one of four crystals, charged with the task of correcting unfairness in the world and helping others. Her timeslip adventures in the prior books are deftly summed up in a preface chapter that neatly and succinctly sets the stage for her medieval encounter in Lady Knight, so newcomers will be up and running quickly as Susan enters medieval Europe with too many candidates for her aid, including a runaway Lady and a group of young peasant children camping in a forest.
Susan really needs to learn more history. She has no idea of how these disparate forces will interact, and it takes a while to learn out medieval history, which may provide clues as to why she is there. The details about the real-world Children's Crusades of the times are neatly woven into this fantasy and successfully bring the era to life.
kings, crusades, and a daring plan are soon revealed: "He told us what the popes had
promised the kings and
their knights. Riding to the liberation of Jerusalem was a sacred duty,
said. These heroes, they said, were holy pilgrims and protected by
All their sins forgiven, all their afterlives blessed in the wonders of
But they failed, Nicholas told us...Then
Nicholas laid out his plan. Innocent children would succeed
mighty had failed. We would be the holy pilgrims and travel to
What is Susan's place in this world, which seems to need her so much? As she comes to learn the political struggles in the Holy Roman Empire, the family struggles of rulers, and the fates of stalwart adventurers who sojourn into danger with her, Susan begins to realize that her task is far greater than she'd thought.
G. Rosemary Ludlow does a fine job of entwining the lives and perspectives of a host of characters surrounding Susan, from a royal runaway, Katerina, to Griswald, Jason, Watt, and others. Part of what helps cement these character developments is her concurrent attention to the sights, sounds, and smells of the times, brought to life in casual moments, such as a welcomed meal: "He held out a trencher to her. Chicken juice had seeped through the bread. Susan took a deep breath. It smelled wonderful. Sautéed onions, just the way her mum made them, lay on the bread under the chicken. She took her first bite of chicken. Wonderful."
While the meat of the story lies in the puzzle of Susan's role in this world and the experiences and intentions of those who surround her, it's these details that bring the story to life, supporting Susan's exploration of a history she knows too little about.
The result is an engrossing timeslip saga that will delight young fantasy enthusiasts of the genre and newcomers alike, who will find Susan a realistic, believable protagonist who continually faces challenges and overcomes obstacles in the year 1212, when "...thousands of children took to the roads of Europe, all travelling to free the Holy Land."
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Pecki Sherman Witonsky
Monarch X-Ing is a butterfly picture book like few others because it not only focuses on one type of butterfly (the monarch), but its relationship to milkweed - a plant which is popularly viewed as a pesky weed worthy only of eradication from one's garden.
Students in an elementary school will learn about monarch history, biology and conservation in a book filled with bright, full-page color photos. These supplement pages packed with detail about the butterflies with an exploration of students at Cape May Elementary, who learn about gardens and fields especially made for butterflies.
There's a lot of detail here, along with a seasonal arrangement that follows both the milkweed's cycles and the butterfly's reliance on them.
Kids with good reading skills or parents who assist in this project will find plenty of well-researched natural history details that pair well with an ecological message. The color close-up details of butterflies and plants are particularly notable and well-done, making the whole production a top recommendation for any student or classroom interested in how a successful Monarch program was created by kids in Cape May, New Jersey; and how its results can be replicated elsewhere.
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Don't Bite Me
Tumblehome Learning Inc.
Mosquitoes Don't Bite Me presents an unusual protagonist in the form of half-Kenyan seventh-grader Nala, whose mother is in a wheelchair. Nala has an unusual condition: mosquitoes don't bite her - ever.
This, in and of itself, wouldn't seem to be a big deal; but her friend's father is head of a large drug company, and when he discovers the truth about her during a school project, she becomes involved in a mosquito research effort that brings her to her family homeland, Kenya, to consider mosquito reactions in her father's family.
A kidnapping, the plight of peoples affected by deadly mosquitoes that carry malaria, and the quest for a new insect repellant that holds the power to change lives contributes to a book that reaches far beyond the story of one girl's strange condition and into the social and political struggles of an African nation.
Mosquitoes Don't Bite Me may sound complicated for a middle-grade read, but its insights are perfectly tailored for ages 9-12; from its discussions of sickle cell anemia and other health challenges to circumstances of poverty, health, and a personal hunt for truth and identity.
also excels in painting a vivid portrait of desperate people who will
anything to save the lives of loved ones, blending family encounters
with bigger questions of economics and problems which arise when
interests clash with social conditions.
Heady reading for kids? Yes; but when packaged in the form of an adventure and exploration, these issues come alive, making Mosquitoes Don't Bite Me an unusually thought-provoking read highly recommended for young fiction readers who will receive more than action alone.
Mosquitoes Don't Bite Me
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Available at Amazon and Ingram
Ninth Grade Blues takes an unusual approach for a young adult piece, in that points of view change between four characters, keeping readers on their toes as they absorb the story of four students experiencing their freshman year at high school.
Each student expects something very different from high school, and each provides a story that contrasts well with and provides a different experience than the others.
For shy Luke, a hard-working poor boy who is mediocre at almost everything in his life, high school is the place when he discovers hidden talents in more than one area. His polar opposite is Marcus, who plays varsity sports and is on the fast track for a college scholarship, with almost too many choices in life - certainly too many to allow high school studies to interfere.
Mia is also college-bound, and is dedicated to achievement even as her Mexican-American parents try to look for a suitable mate for her, directing her abilities towards home and family instead of higher learning. And Elly, also a top student, wants what Mia is trying not to become tied to so early in life - a home and family, despite her blossoming intellectual skills.
Each finds that high school challenges them socially and intellectually, and seeming-set trajectories in their lives actually are up for question, changed by the ups and downs of their educational year.
More so than most stories about high school (and perhaps this is because of the constantly-shifting perspectives) this story outlines the maturity process like few others, doing a great job of illustrating how ninth graders face some of the most unpredictable growth spurts not just physically, but mentally.
Ninth Grade Blues keeps readers on their toes because each individual evolves nicely beyond their ideas of what their future will be. Nothing is set in stone. And neither are the stories in Ninth Grade Blues, recommended for anyone who would understand or recall what ninth grade is all about.
Ninth Grade Blues
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Stone Mountain Publishing
Matthew Mitchell is only eleven years old; but he's certain he's about to die. Keep in mind that Matthew, though young, has faced an uncertain future from birth, because he floats in defiance of gravity; and raising a floating child is a challenge.
His parents have learned to keep his unusual ability hidden. Like any new parents, they knew their child was extraordinary; but just how special remains to be seen as Matthew grows and his ability changes with him. The older he gets, the higher he levitates; and the more of a challenge it becomes keeping this floating secret from all but his concerned physician (they don't want to frighten people or attract unwanted attention).
When the doctor's brilliant friend becomes privy to their secret and scientific genius enters the picture, Matthew is put into gravity booties to keep him anchored to the planet. Better ways for him to cope with his strange, unique ability evolve, and better scenarios for his future are developed; but as the wry Ethan Furman notes: "The best-case scenario would be for Dr. Bell to discover the cause of the floating and, in turn, find a way to cure it and make Matthew just like every other gravity-obeying boy in the world. But that is an awfully tall order. If you go around expecting the best-case scenario to happen in every situation, you’re setting yourself up for an awful lot of disappointment, I’m afraid."
What transpires will challenge everything his parents and physician have struggled for and will change not only the quality of his life, but life itself.
The Nubivagants may seem an odd, complex-sounding title, but it assumes the feel of some of the old-fashioned Danny Dunn science mysteries in a fun story that advanced elementary to early middle school readers will appreciate.
As Matthew's journey takes him literally out of this world, far from home and parents and into peer relationships, his growth and maturity become part of the process of his struggle with his odd power, involving young readers in many conflicts of interest and special challenges that go beyond feeling rooted in community, family, or even the planet itself.
Unique and well-developed, The Nubivagants offers a fast-paced and unpredictable leisure read that belays its confusing-sounding title and makes for an engrossing story of a young boy finding his place in the world in a recommended read kids will find satisfyingly different.
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the Wild Goose Knows
By now, it should be evident that the Max and Charles Nature Adventure stories are ongoing, with Only the Wild Goose Knows another addition to a series that combines environmental experiences with an underlying mystery.
Here, Max and Charles are on a getaway with their stepfather Fred, undertaking a journey that leads them through communities on the Eastern Shore of Maryland for Veteran's Day weekend as they explore historical sites and visit friends.
An underlying purpose is to locate a new home for a wild Canada goose who was rescued and raised by their grandparents. The one thing not on the itinerary was adventure; but advanced elementary to early middle grade readers will discover this in abundance as a journey through Maryland's counties leads to shared meals, experiences with grandparents, and even spooky stories that could turn out to be true.
As with the others in the series, the realistic environmental encounters and descriptions nicely compliments the action described throughout. Another 'plus' to this evolving series is that readers need have no prior familiarity with the other books in order to immediately grasp the characters, setting, and atmosphere of these stand-alone pieces. They're nicely interconnected and yet hold no prerequisites for enjoyment.
The dual focus on nature and mystery bring youngsters into the fold of environmental appreciation and adventure making for an engrossing, involving saga.
Only the Wild Goose Knows
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Christa M. Miller & Christian Barratt
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-9945690-7-3 $12.99
eBook ISBN: 978-0-9945690-9-7 $ 2.99
Christian Barratt provides the engaging drawings for Raccoon Rescue: Living Wild Side by Side, a chapter book primer for grades 3-5 which follows the life and challenges of a raccoon family. This family fishes streams, muses on the odd habits of "flat faces", and experiences the usual sibling rivalry when they encounter a young human child.
Raccoon and human habits are nicely contrasted as they observe the odd creature from a satisfyingly different perspective than kids may be used to ("No, we can’t raise it,” Mama said.“Roxy is right. Not only aren’t humans nocturnal, but they also don’t hunt. Not like we do, anyway. And their mamas don’t leave their babies behind any more than we do. That means she can’t be far.”).
Moments of levity are embedded into the story as the raccoons observe the odd habits of humans and make pointed remarks about their possible origins: "You always blame me for everything!” the shorter human screamed. Before long, the entire family was shouting. “See,” Roxy snorted. “They do have rabies. The whole family. Listen to them snarling like wolves.”
Kids with any familiarity with raccoons (and even urban dwellers who do not) will find these young raccoons both hilarious and thought-provoking as the wild/human encounter leads them to learn more. The juxtaposition of human and raccoon observations about each another provides a nice contrast in perspective as both 'wild' creatures observe habits odd to them, and interpret their causes.
Families separated, conflicts that surround them, and a rescue effort make for a story line that is adventurous and which reveals raccoon natural history and human intervention in nature's processes.
The fun drawings throughout make Raccoon Rescue the perfect next step for nature-loving readers who still enjoy pictures, but who are ready for the structure of a chapter book complete with plot and animal insights. This audience will love this gentle, fun tale of animals learning to get along both in the wild and with the puzzling humans around them. As an added bonus, the book is designed to be dyslexia-friendly, using the Dyslexie font to encourage its wide accessibility.
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Meets Some Two-Legs
Virginia Strong Newlin & Pecki Sherman Witonsky
Samantha Meets Some Two-Legs features lovely color drawings by Gary Undercuffler and a picture book story that requires good reading skills from grades 2-3 as it describes a playful sea lion, Samantha, who journeys with dolphin friends brave enough to meet some children ("two-legs"), who interact with them.
Samantha is not sure she wants to meet humans. She's heard spooky stories of how two-legs like to capture and cage sea lions. But as she comes to learn they won't hurt her (the human mother is a vet who runs a marine rescue center nearby), Samantha finds that their friendship evolves into something more important when trouble strikes.
A gentle story of animal and human interactions, play, and the plight of a sea lion who has gotten into Florida's waters makes for a fun story that also discusses the effects of climate change on animals.
How animals play and learn and how different species interact is engagingly presented in a story that holds wider ramifications than fun alone, making it a recommendation for any elementary-level collection that would add stories about sea life, changing sea environments, and climate's impacts upon all.
Samantha Meets Some Two-Legs
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Will It Happen?
Twelve-year-old Max and nine-year-old Charles are vacationing on an island that poses a welcoming cabin and a strange riddle they are immediately charged with solving. When Will It Happen? is a mystery that draws these youngsters into the world around them as it introduces a mysterious girl from the island.
One special pleasure of this novel (and the others) is that Max and Charles are not too consumed by the puzzle to acknowledge and appreciate their environment. Descriptions embrace blueberry fields, hikes in the woods, encounters with nature, and beauty, which is acknowledged by the boys in the course of their explorations.
Too many novels about young people don't incorporate this sense of environmental recognition and experience. The fact that Max and Charles are aware enough to observe, acknowledge, and interact with not only people but the environments they move through adds an extra dimension of realistic ambiance and a depth to their story that most children's mysteries don't incorporate.
The result is a compelling story that is engrossing for more than the mysterious events that emerge: one highly recommended for youngsters just beginning to probe the mystery genre, and for adults making leisure read recommendations to kids, who seek a more fully developed story line than intrigue alone could provide.
When Will It Happen?
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Been Stealing Grandpa's Fish?
Fans of Max and Charles will enjoy several more books in an evolving series, with Who's Been Stealing Grandpa's Fish? introducing another adventure when Charles and Max decide to visit their grandfather for breakfast, only to find a mystery surrounding his missing pet fish.
While a pet fish may not seem cause for high adventure, the pleasure in Susan Yaruta-Young's approach lies in her ability to craft the surrounding characters and scenery so well that readers are drawn into the playful, wildlife-filled environment as much as the unfolding mystery.
Charles and Max interact well with their world, observing nature, playing on a rope swing, and more. It should also be noted that chapter headings are particularly compelling in their makeup ('No! Not the Attic! Anything but the Attic!') and add interest to the story line, which includes solid, realistic interactions with adults and nature alike (and that's why the subtitle bills it a "Max and Charles Nature Adventure").
It's unusual to see a focus on nature and the environment woven into the wider context of a mystery structure, but Who's Been Stealing Grandpa's Fish? does an outstanding job of creating a story that is compellingly realistic and absorbing, recommended for advanced elementary to early middle school readers.
Who's Been Stealing Grandpa's Fish?
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